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Egypt's Future; Gun Responsibility; July 4th Cancelled, Thanks Washington; Interview With Mark Kelly

Aired July 4, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Cheer up, England. We eventually became friends again.

I'm Jake Tapper. And this is a special Independence Day edition of THE LEAD.

The world lead, Egypt, where many are celebrating their own independence day of sorts, but what comes next now that the president has been overthrown and members of the former ruling party are being rounded up?

The money lead, what's a Fourth of July without the rocket's red glare? No fireworks for many of our troops and their families on bases across the country because our leaders in Washington could not get their act together.

And in national news, tougher background checks, limits on high- capacity magazines, would any of that have stopped Newtown, Aurora or Tucson, where Gabby Giffords was shot? I will ask her husband, Mark Kelly, as the couple begins a new push for what they are calling gun responsibility.

Hi, everybody. I'm Jake Tapper. Welcome to THE LEAD.

And happy Independence Day to all of you. Thanks for spending part of your holiday with us.

We will begin with our world lead, the fallout from the military coup in Egypt, a key U.S. ally. Just as Americans celebrate July 4 here in the United States, someday Egypt might celebrate July 3, that is if this new revolution takes hold this time around and it all works out for the best, fingers crossed, knock on wood.

Live pictures now from Tahrir Square a little more than 24 hours after Egypt's military removed President Mohammed Morsy from power. Morsy is reportedly under arrest and he is still is refusing to step down voluntarily, not that he ever had a choice. And he's also rejecting an offer from the military to leave Egypt for Qatar, Turkey or Yemen, according to Egypt's state-run newspaper.

Members from Morsy's deposed group the Muslim Brotherhood are being rounded up and arrested, including the group's supreme leader. The head of Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court, Adly Mansour, has been installed as the country's interim president. Egypt's constitution has been suspended until a new one can be written. On the short list to eventually take over permanently is Mohamed ElBaradei, opposition leader and former head of the United Nations nuclear agency. ElBaradei spoke today with our own Becky Anderson.

And while he would not call it a coup, he said that Egypt has reached a tipping point.


MOHAMED ELBARADEI, EGYPTIAN OPPOSITION LEADER: It was a very painful decision to make, either to continue and risk a civil war situation or take some exceptional measures to make correction of the uprising of 2011.


TAPPER: Now, Morsy's presidency was a result of Egypt's first stab at democracy. And we all saw how that turned out.

I want to bring in senior international correspondent Ivan Watson live in Cairo.

Ivan, thanks so much for being here.

One of the big questions here is where exactly is the now former President Mohammed Morsy? What have you been able to find out?

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's a good question. A lot of people are asking that.

And that's what I asked a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood in the north of Cairo at a huge camp-out, a protest sit-in that is being conducted by Muslim Brotherhood supporters and surrounded by quite literally a ring of steel of Egyptian military armored personnel carriers and soldiers who are surrounding the entrances to that area.

Take a listen to an excerpt of the conversation I had with this Muslim Brotherhood spokesman.


WATSON: What is the situation right now of Mohammed Morsy himself? Do you know where he is and what condition he's in? Have you spoken to him?

GEHAD EL-HADDAD, MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD: We have not spoke with him. We have no direct lines of communications with him. But there are sympathizers inside the military that are giving us pieces of information, primarily to other Muslim Brotherhood leaders that have relayed it to me.

And I have shared them on social media. As far as we know, he was detained at the presidential palace and then taken to the presidential guard -- Republican Guard headquarters and then afterwards, last night, closer to the palace time, about 5:00 a.m., he was moved to the Ministry of Defense and separated from his presidential team. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WATSON: So, Jake, that's the latest we have gotten on Mohammed Morsy. Dozens of his aides and fellow Muslim Brotherhood top officials also we're being told are currently in detentions or facing travel bands, including the father of that man I was talking to right there -- Jake.

TAPPER: Ivan, at least 32 people were killed in Egypt yesterday.

What are supporters of Morsy and the members of the Muslim Brotherhood planning? Are they going to resist? Are they going to be peaceful, as Morsy seemed to suggest they should be?

WATSON: They say they are going to resist, that they are going to fight using legal means, every means possible, but only use force if attacked.

And the Muslim Brotherhood is calling for marches tomorrow across Egypt, what they're describing as legitimacy marches. Meanwhile, I don't know if you can hear behind me, but the fireworks are still going off in Cairo's central Tahrir Square, not for American Independence Day of course, but people continuing to celebrate the toppling of Mohammed Morsy.

The crowds aren't quite as big as they were last night, but they're pretty huge. Thursday night is the beginning of the Egyptian weekend, so that may be contributing to some of the euphoria here, and really a straight sight throughout the day today, Jake, Egyptian air force jets flying in formation over the Egyptian capital, making the signs of a heart with their vapor trails, also carrying the colors of the Egyptian flag, this patriotic display by the Egyptian military.

I was seeing some of these soldiers on the ground, many Egyptians coming up to take souvenir photos and waving victory signs with them and it shows you how polarized the society is right now.

TAPPER: Fascinating. Ivan Watson, thank you so much.

The White House measured each and every syllable of its response to the Egyptian coup -- I'm sorry -- to the Egyptian very fluid situation, as President Obama's statement puts it. President Obama and Morsy were not the best of friends, but the U.S. did continue to send a substantial amount of aid to Egypt during Morsy's reign.

And it could be by problematic for the Obama administration to publicly support the overthrow of a democratically elected country. For those reasons and more, the White House is treading very carefully.


TAPPER (voice-over): As the protesters roared in Tahrir Square in Egypt, President Obama and his top national security advisers were hunkered down in the Situation Room of the White House, trying to game out an incredibly volatile and complicated situation, the vanilla statements coming from the State Department podium notwithstanding. JENNIFER PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: We are monitoring it very closely and continue to believe that, of course, the Egyptian people deserve a peaceful political solution to the current crisis.

TAPPER: Hours after Egypt President Mohammed Morsy was removed from power by the military, President Obama released a carefully worded statement. And what he did not say might have mattered most. He avoided using the word coup.

He didn't call on the Egyptian military to restore power to the democratically elected civilian, but rather to a democratically elected civilian government, in other words, not necessarily President Mohammed Morsy's government.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They are new government that is trying to find its way.

TAPPER: The president has yet to appear before the cameras or comment publicly on this Middle East maelstrom, but back in September the president highlighted the rocky relationship with the Morsy government in an interview with Telemundo.

OBAMA: I don't think that we would consider them an ally, but we don't consider them an enemy.

TAPPER: The thinking of the president now, according to a knowledgeable source, is that while the administration is not explicitly supporting the removal of Morsy from power, they hope they can push the military in a new direction. If the president had used the word coup, there might be legal ramifications, the legal requirement to eliminate U.S. aid, as General Martin Dempsey explained to CNN's Candy Crowley just before Morsy was deposed.

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CHAIRMAN: If this were to be seen as a coup, then it would limit our ability to have the kind of relationship we think we need with the Egyptian armed forces.

TAPPER: Currently, the U.S. gives $1.5 billion to Egypt annually, mostly in military aid. In his statement, the president said he directed a review of the implications under U.S. law for our assistance to the government of Egypt. Could that aid disappear? He never says. He just raises the subject and then leaves it there.

And that may be the point, to push the Egyptian military to hold new elections as soon as possible, a process that should include, the president said, supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.

FOUAD AJAMI, HOOVER INSTITUTION: A coup by any other name is a coup.

TAPPER: So while what happened in Egypt fits the military definition of a coup, don't expect to hear that four-letter word from President Obama, or at least not yet.


TAPPER: All this hedging by the Obama administration may not matter much ultimately to the anti-Morsy crowds in the street. They viewed the relationship between the I and Morsy's government as too cozy, which is why anti-America and anti-Obama signs popped up at protests over there.

He is, as far as we know, spending America's birthday in Moscow's airport, but Edward Snowden might not be there for much longer. A lawmaker from Iceland has been confirmed via Twitter that Iceland's parliament has proposed laws to grant Snowden asylum there.

It will need the support of other political factions to pass. The man who has been spilling U.S. intelligence secrets applied for asylum in several countries, including Iceland, but the U.S. has warned countries about taking in the indicted NSA leaker. Just today, France and Italy both turned him down.

But this might change Snowden's mind about wanting to leave Russia. Remember Anna Chapman, the former Russian spy and "Maxim Russia" model who was deported to Russia in a prisoner swap? Well, she's found a way back into the headlines. And we're glad to welcome her back by tweeting a marriage proposal to Snowden.

But, careful, Anna. Didn't you hear how he left his last girlfriend?

Coming up on THE LEAD, as President Obama and the rest of Washington get ready for a spectacular fireworks shots evening, military families at several bases across the country will be celebrating in the dark. What happened to their fireworks displays?

Plus, the prosecution is suggesting George Zimmerman's legal training gave him an idea of what to say to detectives the night he killed Trayvon Martin. How well is that argument taking shape?


TAPPER: This just in, a follow-up to our world lead.

Egypt's top prosecutor has just issued an order preventing ousted President Mohammed Morsy and 35 others, including the top leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, from leaving Egypt, this as authorities investigate allegations they -- quote -- "incited to commit violent crimes and kill peaceful protesters," according to the state media, citing the prosecutor's office.

And now we turn to the money lead. Anyone who has ever been a child knows that there is nothing quite like Fourth of July fireworks, the awe, the excitement, the united American community congregating and looking to the skies. Many of us outgrow that sense of wonder, but for children and their parents, it is nothing short of magical.

For the children of members of the military, that feeling can be even more intense and familial because what members of the military and their families do for our country, what they sacrifice, constitutes a bit more than listening to a recitation of the Declaration of Independence on National Public Radio once a year.

But this year, because of Washington, D.C., dysfunction, because of the failure of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, to arrive at a budget compromise, there will be no fireworks for the children at several military bases from Hawaii to North Carolina. Now, not to worry. President Obama, Speaker Boehner, other members of Congress, they will be treated to some of the most spectacular fireworks this nation has to offer, from prime viewing spots at the White House and at Congress.

But because of those forced and careless budget cuts called sequestration and because of the way administration officials are implementing those cuts, troops and their families across the country will tonight stand on base, look up in the sky and see nothing.

THE LEAD's Erin McPike is here with more -- Erin.

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the Fourth of July actually is one of my very favorite holidays, so happy Fourth to everyone and to of course you, Jake.

But that's right. Because of forced budget cuts, we will not see fireworks at some of the bases, or I should say troops and their families will not see fireworks at some of the bases, but the celebrations will still continue.


MCPIKE (voice-over): They fight for our freedom. They sacrifice for our liberty. They are among the patriots we salute today, but there will be no fireworks for some military families tonight.

This year, sequestration has lowered the boom on Independence Day by eliminating the boom from Ft. Bragg, Camp Lejeune, Pearl Harbor and several other U.S. bases across the country.

At Camp Lejeune, where 20,000 people gather for the Fourth each year, fireworks represent only about a quarter of the $100,000 celebration costs. The bulk of the budget goes toward overtime for vendors, security team and clean-up crews.

At nearby Fort Bragg, the figure is even higher.

THOMAS MCCOLLUM, FORT BRAGG GARRISON PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICER: We were paying over $20,000 in overtime alone in overtime pay for the civilian workforce. That is one area that we cannot go back and get reimbursed for.

MCPIKE: The entire defense budget is about $525 billion. Scrapping fireworks displays at just a few military installations saves just a few hundred thousand dollars or a very tiny percentage of the overall funds.

But, of course, every dollar helps. Defense budget analyst Todd Harrison says fizzling the fireworks is just one of the many budgeting measures sequestration necessitates and one of the easiest.

TODD HARRISON, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND BUDGETARY ASSESSMENTS: I think people have to put in perspective that, you know, do you want to complain about not having a fireworks display on July 4th when roughly a third of the Air Force, its squadrons, are grounded right now because of sequestration.

MCPIKE: Still, on such a patriotic day, the frustration over this particular budget restriction is palpable.

JOYCE BURNETTE, MILITARY VETERAN: It really kind of pisses me off because, you know, they serve their country. And like for them to cancel the displays I think is un-American.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's disappointing to see that cut. I grew up watching fireworks. So, I love them. And it's a real shame that they're cutting that.

MCPIKE (on camera): Donations offers are pouring in but any money donated to a military installation must instead be sent to the U.S. Treasury and it can't be earmarked for specific events like firework displays like these for the troops.

Why can't people donate and want to help out certain things? I mean, we have that much red tape?

HARRISON: The problem is you as an individual can't make a donation with strings attached and tell the government how they have to spend that money. Only Congress can do that.

MCPIKE (voice-over): Instead, nearby communities have stepped up to the plate to throw modified celebrations off base. Corporate and private donations have ensured this Fourth of July will boast games, music and food for our armed forces, even if fireworks are furloughed.

BENJAMIN COHEN, STUDENT: The only value that they really provide are aesthetics and the Fourth of July isn't about fireworks. It's about celebrating freedom and democracy.


MCPIKE: OK. So, there is a group that had this contest. It's called Destination America and they asked for submissions for towns that aren't going to have fireworks and they're sponsoring it. So, two of the winning submissions, one is where Hurricane Sandy hit, Union Beach, and they won a fireworks show for tonight.

TAPPER: Right.

MCPIKE: And also Fayetteville, North Carolina, where Ft. Bragg is also won this contest out of 3,500 submissions.

And I want to read one of the comments because someone from Tennessee entered this contest three times for his town and he says after reading the other entries, I am very thankful that Fort Bragg was picked instead. I have a soft spot for our military heroes and American citizens bright lights in their life.

TAPPER: All right. God bless.

Thank you so much, Erin McPike. We appreciate it.

Now, it's time for our hashtag game for all our friends on Twitter. You're it. If life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are among the unalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence, as it's written among, what are some of the others? Buy one, get one free? Super size it? Hit us up @TheLeadCNN. Use the #unalienable.

Now to our "National Lead", we'll start with a brief history lesson. Did you know John Adams thought we would celebrate Independence Day on July 2nd? That's when the Second Continental Congress approved the resolution that declared we were free from Britain's rule. He also had some ideas on how to celebrate and it did not involve powdered wigs, so I double checked.

He wrote, quote, "It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations." He got the parade part right, illuminations, too, if your town can afford fireworks this year. But what about guns?

Here's former Democratic Congresswoman Gabby Giffords this week, shooting one for the first time she herself was shot two years ago. She and her husband Mark Kelly are gun owners, but they are also advocates for more restrictions on guns.

And this week, they are launching a cross-country tour with their advocacy group Americans for Responsible Solutions, aiming for what they call a soft approach in pushing for more restrictions on guns. I spoke with Mark Kelly earlier about their tour.


TAPPER: Captain Kelly, thanks so much for joining us.

Before we begin, how is your wife, Gabby, doing?

MARK KELLY, AMERICANS FOR RESPONSIBLE SOLUTIONS: You know, Gabby's doing great. She continues to improve. She's got a great attitude. She's working really hard. And, you know, she's doing really well. Thanks for asking.

TAPPER: Americans for Responsible Solutions, your organization, is launching a campaign. Telling me -- tell me what it is exactly.

KELLY: So, this summer, we're launching the Rights and Responsibilities Tour. We're going to travel around the nation to certain states that have been critical in this debate on gun violence, to keep the discussion open and ongoing and to, you know, to try to get members of congress and the community to work hard, to get some reasonable gun legislation passed at both the state and federal level.

TAPPER: And the things that you have been pushing, the items that you have been pushing in the past include criminal background checks for all private sellers and gun shows and the Internet included, limiting high capacity magazines, limiting assault weapons and stiffer penalties for gun trafficking and straw sales.

Would any of those steps have stopped what happened in Tucson or Aurora or Virginia Tech or Newtown?

KELLY: Well, maybe. Absolutely. Especially when you talk about Virginia Tech. I mean, it was very clear that the shooter in that case had -- he was adjudicated as mentally ill. If that information was in the national criminal background check system, he wouldn't have gotten a gun.

The same thing is sort of true with Tucson. It's a little more complicated. The shooter in that case passed a background check but people knew, even the U.S. government knew that he had a history of drug use. The school he attended knew about his mental illness. That could have been in the system.

The problem is, then, if he -- if he was denied a gun from a federally licensed dealer, he would have gone to the gun show or to the Internet and got a gun without a background check. So we need to close those loopholes to make it much more difficult for criminals to get access to dangerous weapons.

TAPPER: After the Newtown shootings, President Obama and the White House talked about how the problem of gun violence needed to be addressed holistically, not just pertaining to restrictions on guns, but also mental health issues. Also, the glamorization of gun violence in the media.

But I haven't really heard much about those last two. I haven't really heard the White House or even organizations such as yours talking about mental health issues or even Hollywood. Do you think that video games or Hollywood movies are part of this problem?

KELLY: We talk about the mental health issue all the time. I mean, I was talking about it just last night with a group of supporters. I mean, it's something that I talk with members of Congress with -- you know, members of Congress frequently about mental health issues. I was recently, you know, texting Senator Begich about it, Mark Begich in Alaska, which is one of the states we're going to visit. I mean, it is a critical issue.

With regards to, you know, Hollywood and the movies, you know, that's something I think that can be looked at as well. I mean, this is a complicated problem. I mean, there's not one simple reason why we have 20 times the death rate from guns than other similar countries. I mean, it's complicated, but there are some common sense things we can do to address this problem, and we need to pass some sensible gun laws.

TAPPER: Your wife was reportedly furious when the Manchin-Toomey amendments on background checks failed. She said in "The New York Times" op-ed, quote, "Mark my words, if we cannot make our communities safer with the Congress we have now, we will use every means to make sure we have a different Congress, one that puts communities' interest ahead of the gun lobby's."

What does that mean exactly? What does that mean in terms of consequences for the 2014 election? Will you guys be -- will your organization be supporting people to primary Democrats who were not supportive?

KELLY: Well, the gun lobby has been incredibly effective over the last 40 years, building an enormous amount of influence in Washington, with nobody on the other side that's asking for some sensible and reasonable gun legislation. So, Gabby said we will do whatever it takes to make sure that we get a Congress that will pass these sensible bills. That's going to take a little bit of time.

With regards to primarying, you know, a Democrat, you know, we don't rule out any option that gets to a place where members of Congress will do what the Americans are asking. With regards to the Manchin- Toomey bill, that's supported by 90 percent, I think 90 percent of Americans agree that that was a right to do. Congress failed to act.

You know, I think it's -- I mean, it's pretty sad that we have 20 first graders that are murdered in their classrooms and the response at a national level to that tragedy so far has been nothing. So if this Congress won't do it, we'll find one that will.

TAPPER: All right. Captain Mark Kelly, thank you so much and please send our best wishes to your wife.

KELLY: You're very welcome. Thanks for having me on.

TAPPER: There's no rest for the weary or taking off holidays for journalists. But that doesn't mean our political panel can't celebrate the Fourth of July in style.

Ramesh (ph), do you have big plans for the nation's birthday? By the way, in case you're wondering, we have a hidden stash of sparklers downstairs if you need to borrow (ph) out there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're all set. I'm going to rooftop fireworks to celebrate with my family.

TAPPER: Very nice. Good traditional celebration here in Washington.

Coming up on our show, we'll talk about President Obama's response to Egypt. That and much, much more in our political lead, coming up.