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Interview With Senator Lindsey Graham; Controversial 'Rolling Stone' Cover; Either Pay or "Get Killed"

Aired July 17, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: When Dr. Hook sang about the thrill of getting your picture the cover of the "Rolling Stone," he probably wasn't talking to would-be terrorists.

I'm Jake Tapper. And this is THE LEAD.

The national lead, in another exclusive with CNN, Juror B-37 calls on those in power to change the laws that let George Zimmerman walk, even after saying that Trayvon Martin -- quote -- "played a huge role in his own death."

Our other national lead, if it was a "TIME" magazine cover, no one would bat an eye, then again, "TIME" but probably use a picture of Dzhokhar doing a blue steel pose at the camera, like he's the sixth member of One Direction. Is there some real harm behind the shock value of this "Rolling Stone" cover?

And the world lead. Russia mulling over asylum for NSA like Edward Snowden, but should team USA's bobsledders have to pay the price for it? Senator Lindsey Graham joins us to explain his discussion of a possible Olympic boycott.

Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Jake Tapper. Welcome to THE LEAD.

We will begin with the national lead.

She has got the most famous silhouette since Air Juror. Known as only Juror B-37, she was one of the six women who found George Zimmerman not guilty in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. If you're angry, and many, many people are, she seems to be saying don't blame her, blame Florida law.

Juror B-37 today gave an exclusive statement to CNN that reads in part -- quote -- "My prayers are with all those who have had the influence and power to modify the laws that left me with no verdict option other than not guilty in order to remain within the instructions. No other family member should be forced to endure what the Martin family has endured."

She doesn't specifically mention Florida's stand your ground law, but she did tell our Anderson Cooper that the jury did consider the law during its deliberations, even though Zimmerman's attorneys never invoked it in the courtroom. She may want to see the laws change, but in her exclusive two-part interview with Anderson,, she did not let Trayvon Martin off the hook. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel bad that we can't give the verdict that they wanted, but legally we could not do that.

COOPER: Do you think that Trayvon Martin played a role in his own death, that this wasn't just something that happened to him, that this is something he also...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I believe he played a huge role in his death. He could have -- when George confronted him and he could have walked away and gone home. He didn't have to do whatever he did and come back and be in a fight.


TAPPER: Her first interview was also apparently her last, according to her statement today.

Most of her fellow jurors are now distancing themselves from B-37. Four of the remaining five jurors put out a statement that read in part -- quote -- "We ask you to remember that we are not public officials and we did not invite this type of attention into our lives. We also wish to point out that the opinions of Juror B-37 expressed on the Anderson Cooper show were her own and not in any way representative of the jurors listed below."

You may have heard that B-37 had a book deal. Well, that went bye-bye after a public outcry. In her statement to CNN today, she explains it like this. "The relationship with the book agent ceased the moment I realized what had been occurring in the world during the weeks of my sequestration."

Also in national news today, the latest issue of "Rolling Stone" is being accused of looking more like "Tiger Beat" for terror suspects. And Boston's mayor is outraged. The cover features Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect, in a soft touch glamour shot that is more reminiscent of Jim Morrison than the man accused of the horrific bombing that killed and maimed so many on Boylston Street.

Walgreens, CVS Pharmacies, and the New England grocery chain Tedeschi Foods are now boycotting "Rolling Stone" in their stores. The grocer said on Facebook: "Music and terror don't mix."

Tommy Vietor, former national security spokesman for President Obama and a native Bostonian, joins me now.

Tommy, you were not happy about this cover?


I think, first of all, give "Rolling Stone" credit for doing the article. I read it today. I think the question is how does a normal kid do something this evil is the essential question.

TAPPER: That's their justification for the cover. This is a normal- looking kid.

But what is your concern as somebody who has worked in national security?

VIETOR: My concern about the cover vs. the article is you look at the cover, this is a kid who looks like John Lennon without the glasses or Jim Morrison, as you said. He looks cool. This is something you might aspire to.

A lot of what you do to try to prevent people from getting self- radicalized here in the U.S. undercut the al Qaeda narrative, the extremist narrative that there is something noble behind these sort of actions. Right? We all know, as reasonable people, that these are nihilistic, self-destructive, murderous actions that will lead to nothing good for you life, but when you see something like this immortalized for lack of a better word on the cover of a magazine, I think that's appealing to young people that are depressed or disaffected or looking for some meaning.

TAPPER: "Rolling Stone" actually put out a statement.

Here's part of it. "The fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is young, and in the same age group as many of our readers, makes it all the more important for us to examine the complexities of this issue and gain a more complete understanding of how a tragedy like this happens."

Do they have a point or are they underscoring your point?

VIETOR: Oh, they totally have a point. The article does that. It's important. It's a great piece of journalism. I credit them for that.

I'm not attacking "Rolling Stone." I just think the cover was probably ill-conceived. When you step back and think about the real concern of self-radicalized people in the United States, and the critical work the government and people in communities, in churches, in mosques do every day to sort of undercut the extremist messages they see on the Internet and other places...

TAPPER: What they're saying is, it's not glamorous, don't do this, you are not going to become a big celebrity, and this magazine cover seems to send a different message.

VIETOR: This magazine cover says, you know, terrorism can get you sort of rock star treatment or status, and I think that's a bad message.


TAPPER: Your former mayor is outraged.

In his letter to Jann Wenner, the publisher, he writes -- quote -- "Your August 3 cover rewards a terrorist with celebrity treatment." He says "To respond to you in anger is to feed into your obvious marketing strategy." He suggests that "Rolling Stone" do covers, stories about the victims. "The survivors of the Boston attacks deserve 'Rolling Stone' cover stories, though I no longer feel that 'Rolling Stone' deserves them."

You're a Bostonian, you're going there tomorrow, you're in touch with a lot of people there. Have you heard from people who are upset about this?

VIETOR: No. I think most Bostonians will do what I will do tomorrow, which is drink some Dunkin' Donuts coffee, brag about the Red Sox and go on with my life and not think about these two punk kids another minute.

But we should absolutely, as the mayor says, care for the victims, never forget them, make sure we take care of them for as long as they need it.

TAPPER: We asked our graphics department to envision a "Rolling Stone" cover that might be more suitable. Here are the four victims, the four people who were killed. There are obviously dozens more who were maimed, but the four victims who were killed. There's Martin Richard, the young boy, in the corner there.

That would be our "Rolling Stone" cover, I suppose.


TAPPER: But, in any case we should also point out this is not the first time "Rolling Stone" has put somebody accused of horrific crimes on their cover. They had this Charles Manson cover in 1970. That was an issue and article that won journalistic awards.

I'm sure I don't remember. I was 1 at the time. Your parents hadn't even met, but do you think it's similar? Here is a horrific crime that everybody is talking about, and they're not glamorizing it, but they do do serious journalism.

VIETOR: Yes. No, I think it is similar. This is why your job and the job journalists do is tough, because you deal with these delicate issues like suicide or simple things as when a fan runs onto the field at a game. They don't show that activity because they don't want to get people to mimic it.

So these are tough things you journalists weigh when you look at really different important issues and how to cover them, but making sure we're not giving the people who do bad things what they want, which is publicity.

VIETOR: All right, Tommy Vietor, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Fenway Strategies, we should say, the name of your organization named after some baseball park somewhere? I'm not really sure. But there's a team involved with it, I think.


TAPPER: Coming up, should athletes that train for years give up their Olympic dreams because of Edward Snowden? One Republican senator says yes. Boycott, possibly. I will talk to Lindsey Graham next. Plus, is she hoping for a prince or princess? Queen Elizabeth gets asked touch questions. We will tell you how she responded.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Our world lead now, yes, Edward Snowden, as far as we know, is still sitting in the transit zone of the Moscow airport, but after three weeks of looking time, Snowden's lawyers say he could leave the airport in the next few days after some paperwork has been cleared up.

Just a fun fact, the U.S. does not have an extradition agreement with Russia. They have FBI agents sitting in Moscow, but cannot make an arrest on Russian soil. Snowden has applied for temporary asylum with Russia. And while President Vladimir Putin has not said yes, he has not said no either.

So when Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, was asked if he would consider boycotting the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia, Graham said it should be on the table.

The U.S. Olympic Committee released a statement that said boycotts don't work and -- quote -- "While we acknowledge the seriousness of the issues at hand, we strongly oppose the notion of that boycott of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is in our country's best interests," while White House Press Secretary Jay Carney had a more, let's say, pessimistic response.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You guys aren't jumping to a superficial headline, are you?


TAPPER: And Senator Lindsey Graham joins me now from Capitol Hill.

Senator, welcome.

In terms of putting this on the table, a boycott of the Olympics, your own friend, Senator John McCain, disagrees with you.

And take a listen to what House Speaker John Boehner said about it this morning.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I love Senator Graham. We've been close friends for 20 years. But I think he's dead wrong.

Listen, why would we want to punish U.S. athletes who have been training for three years to compete in the Olympics over a traitor who can't find a place to call home?


TAPPER: Your response, sir?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, John is my good friend, but it's not just about Snowden. Russia has aligned themselves with Iran to keep Assad in power. And here's my question to the Congress and the president.

What does Russia have to do before we push back?

And do I want to cancel the Olympics from an American point of view?


But would I go to Moscow a year and a half from now if they were continuing to support Assad and 200,000 Syrians had been killed, the king of Jordan had been toppled because of the civil war in Syria, Iraq is falling apart, the arms that the Russians are selling Assad falls into Hezbollah's hands to be used against Iran, they give Snowden asylum and they help the Iranians march toward a nuclear weapon?

Would I accept an invitation sent by Putin?

No. I don't want to boycott the Olympics, but I want a policy that will get the Russians' attention.

President Bush, when he looked into Putin's soul, made a mistake. I see a pretty dark figure. And at the end of the day, the Obama administration's policies, Jake, whatever it is about Russia, is not working.

To John Boehner and John McCain, my great good friends, we have to up our game when it comes to Russia for -- before it's too late.

TAPPER: So Senator, is this more about Snowden or is it more about Syria, this -- this discussion...

GRAHAM: It is...

TAPPER: Of boycotting the Olympics?

GRAHAM: It's all about Russia and what they're doing in the world at a time when it matters.

Would Assad stay in power if Russia stopped selling him arms?


If he left, would the world be a better place?

Yes. There would be a mess to follow in Syria, but the king of Jordan would not be toppled because of the war within.

If they gave Snowden asylum, a man that's been charged with serious crimes, it would be an affront to us as a nation. At what point does the president, who has a policy I don't understand regarding Russia, and the Congress begin to push back?

Should have we gone to the Olympics in Berlin in 1936 and give Hitler a propaganda platform to sell his regime?

TAPPER: Listen --

GRAHAM: Russia is not Nazi Germany.

TAPPER: Right. You're not -- you're not comparing --

GRAHAM: No, I'm not.


GRAHAM: But what I'm saying is would you have the Olympics in Iran?

TAPPER: Well --

GRAHAM: I -- I don't think most people would.

Is Russia Iran? No, but they're heading in that direction.

TAPPER: On the Snowden subject, Russian President Vladimir Putin today addressed some of these concerns.

Let's take a listen and I want to get your reaction.



PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): Bilateral relations, in my opinion, are far more important than squabbles about the activities of the secret services. We warned Mr. Snowden that any action by him that could cause damage to Russian-American relations is unacceptable for us.


TAPPER: So, Putin is warning Snowden against any -- making any further leaks. He says that the U.S.-Russian relationship is important.

Does that alleviate any of your concern?

GRAHAM: I guess my view toward President Putin is not a very good one right now. If he really wanted to change relationships between us and the -- Russia, send Snowden back. That's the right thing to do -- to stand trial for the crimes he's been accused of.

Bush got it wrong with Putin. Obama's got it wrong with Putin. Congress is doing virtually nothing. And if a year from now, there are 200,000 dead in Syria and weapons begin to proliferate that Russia has sold Syria throughout the Mideast, Iraq goes up in flames, I guess we should go to Russia and have a party and celebrate the Olympics.

That just seems disconnected to me.

TAPPER: Senator, before I let you go, what is the status of the Obama administration's attempt to provide more military-related assistance to the rebels?

I've heard and been told that Congress is really holding it up.

GRAHAM: If Congress is holding it up, I want to know who is. I was in the Mideast about two weeks ago. There's no activity I can see on the ground where we're flowing arms in to the rebels.

But, at the end of the day, if talking about sports would focus the nation's attention on Russia, who is up to no good all over the planet, then I welcome this discussion.

I want to change Russian behavior, not boycott the Olympics. But in September, the G-20 meets in St. Petersburg.

Mr. President, President Obama, should you go to St. Petersburg, Russia for the G-20 Summit if they give Snowden asylum and they don't change their policy toward Syria and continue to help Iran?

Should you go?

My advice to you is I wouldn't go to St. Petersburg, I would ask for a change of venue.

TAPPER: All right, strong comments from Senator Lindsey Graham.

Thanks so much for joining us today.

GRAHAM: Thank you.


TAPPER: In other world news, he's been as hard to kill as Rasputin over the years, but it seems luck may have run out for Said al-Shihri, the number two man for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Jihadi Web sites have announced that al-Shihri is dead, claiming that a U.S. drone took him out sometime after the first week of April.

The thing is, the U.S. already had al-Shihri once. He was a prisoner at the U.S. detention camp in Guantanamo until he was released in 2008. But then he promptly disobeyed his conditions by fleeing to Yemen and he rose to number two in the ranks. Al-Shihri did manage to survive a number of drone strikes in the past.

It's Nelson Mandela's birthday tomorrow, but it's family members and supporters around the world who feel like they're the ones getting the gift. According to Mandela's daughter, the South African civil rights leader's health is dramatically improving. Mandela has been hospitalized since last month. At one point, he was even put on life support, but his family says he's gaining energy and strength and could go home any day now. Mandela will turn 95 tomorrow.

There's only one person in the world who can keep the queen waiting and get away with it, and that person is taking his or her sweet little time, emerging from the womb of the duchess off Cambridge. Queen Elizabeth II isn't necessarily shy about the fact that she's growing impatient as the countdown counts down to the arrival of Prince William and Catherine's baby.

Listen to what she said during a lighthearted exchange with kids during a public outing.


UNIDENTIFIED KID: Do you want Kate's baby to be a boy or girl?



I would very much like it to arrive. I'm going on holiday.



TAPPER: If this goes on much longer, the royal baby may be in a lifetime of butterscotch candies, and free hug coupons at Christmas from great grandma as payback.

We're not sure exactly when ultimate duchess was expected to go into labor, but royal aides have said she's due sometimes in mid-July.

Coming up, when Whitey Bulger sticks a gun in your face and tells you he wants $400,000, you don't go to the cops, you go out and you find $400,000. That is if you want to live. We're hearing more horror stories in the trial of the notorious mob boss.

And later, 400 Picassos disappear and nobody notices for five years? That's next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Now, it's time for the buried lead. These are stories we think are not getting enough attention.

For the families of the victims, their real life horror stories for James "Whitey" Bulger, their glory days. The man who allegedly ran south Boston's crime scene for two decades is now 83 years old. He's standing trial for his alleged involvement in 19 murders, not to mention charges of drug dealing, money laundering, extortion, and essentially terrorizing an entire city.

Today, witness Michael Solimando testified that back in 1982, during the heyday of Bulger's reign of terror, his friend was murdered. A few weeks later, the mob boss lured Solimando to the Triple O's, that's a dank bar in Southie. He stuck a gun in his face and demanded $400,000. That's how much the dead friend supposedly owed Bulger. Solimando paid up. He says Bulger told him, "If you're going to go to law enforcement, we're going to know the minute you open your mouth." Prosecutors say Bulger got away with it all for so long because he was in cahoots with corrupt agents in the FBI.

We'll continue to bring you the latest on this trial in the days to come.

Also in buried, in the immortal words of Ron Burgundy -- stay classy, San Diego.

They were all set to give San Diego Mayor Bob Filner lifetime leadership award for his work on female veterans issues and sexual harassment, until Filner found himself facing allegations of, you guessed, sexually harassing young women.

The National Military Women Veterans Association of America sent out a statement saying, "We do not tolerate discrimination at any level within our society." Ten they turned around and asked the mayor to come back for the keynote speaker at their event, according to KGTV.

Now, as far as the allegations against Filner levied by former city hall employees who say Filner made inappropriate comments, groped, hugged and kissed them against their will, acts described by former allies as reprehensible, if not illegal, a chorus of Filner's Democratic officials has been calling for Filner to step down, but the mayor says he will not and that he does not believe he's guilty of sexual harassment, and that a full presentation of the facts will vindicate him.

He did, however, acknowledge being a hugger.


MAYOR BOB FILNER (D), SAN DIEGO, CA: I express myself demonstrably. I'm a hugger of both men and women. And if it turns out that -- well, as it turns out, that those are taken in an offensive manner, I need to have a greater self-awareness of what I'm doing.



The mayor is expected to address the accusations in his speech slated for August.

They also blame the help. Catherine Hutin-Blay, the daughter of Pablo Picasso's second wife, says she thinks a handyman stole over 400 paintings by the creator of cubism. The paintings were supposedly being stored in a castle in the south of France that Hutin-Blay inherited after her famous parents died. The irked heiress thinks the thief occurred between 2005 and 2007, but she did not report the alleged crimes until 2011, when a couple of Picasso originals were going up for auction. Seriously? When somebody's eats my sandwich out of the break room fridge, I notice immediately. How do you not know this 400 missing Picassos? And to my producers listening in the control room, you know who you are.

#tag you're it, it's been less than a week since the instant classic, "Sharknado" debute on Syfy and created a feeding frenzy on social media. Now, Syfy says a sequel is already in the works and we'll be set in New York. Now, we know "Sharknado 2" is coming, what's the second part of the title? You know, like "Sharknado 2: Electronic Bogola" or "Sharknado 2: The New Batch". Send your best suggestion to @TheLeadCNN. Use the #nextsonsyfy.

Coming up, do section scandals leave a dent anymore with the voters after the tabloid headlines have died down? Maybe not if you believe the latest polling that puts Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner on top in their respective comeback bids.

And, the first lady may be pushing healthy eating, but we'll show you how the farm bill is larded with subsidies for the key ingredients in your favorite junk foods.

Stay with us.