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Interview With Texas Senator Ted Cruz; Interview With Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange; Pope Says He Won't Judge Gay Priests

Aired July 29, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: If you listen to the speculation in the press, Hillary Clinton practically took paint samples and carpet swatches to the White House today.

I'm Jake Tapper and this is THE LEAD.

The national lead, if Clinton is the front-runner for 20016, on the left, then our first guest, well, he may be the front-runner on the right, especially after this weekend. Outspoken Texas Senator Ted Cruz joins us. And he has a dire warning for his own party.

The world lead. Judge not, lest ye be judged. Maybe Pope Francis was reading the Book of Matthew on his flight home from Brazil -- his surprising comments and what they could mean for the church's stance on gays.

And also in world news, together, they became household names, Bradley Manning, the Army private who allegedly stole a treasure trove of U.S. intel, and Julian Assange, who posted it all on WikiLeaks for the world to see. Hours before Manning learns his fate, the verdict coming down tomorrow, Julian Assange himself joins us from seclusion in his safe house.

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

We will begin with the national lead. Did you miss her? Wouldn't she actually have to have been gone for that to happen? Hillary Clinton hasn't exactly laid low since stepping down as secretary of state. This afternoon, she returned to the White House for a power lunch with President Obama.

The purpose is anybody's guess so everybody is guessing. Among the prevailing theories is that it had something, something to do with Clinton's oft-rumored run for the presidency in 2016.

Let's assume for the sake of argument that Clinton is the Democratic nominee. Who would she presumably face? There's a major power struggle going on about the direction of the Republican Party over everything from foreign policy to the role of national security to defunding Obamacare.

And Texas freshman Senator Ted Cruz, well, he is right smack dab in the thick of all of it. He's only served in the Senate for less than eight months and he's brushed aside talk of 2016, but he may have an early edge anyway. The Tea Party favorite has been serving up more red meat than the Salt Lick -- the Salt Lick, that's an amazing barbecue joint in his home state if you haven't had the pleasure.

Over the weekend, Senator Cruz won one of the first GOP straw polls for the 2016 race.

And Senator Cruz joins me right now in studio, so exciting. Welcome to THE LEAD. Good to have you here, sir.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Jake, it's great to be with you.

I have to say, by invoking the Salt Lick, you're making me hungry and wish I were back in Austin right now.

TAPPER: Well, we all wish we were in Austin right now.

I want to start right now. The pope sat through 82 minutes of direct questioning, answering every question. And I'm hoping we can get through eight minutes of it right now with direct answers. You're known for your candor.


CRUZ: And I can promise you, there will be nowhere near the wisdom that came from the Holy Father.

TAPPER: Or from me as well.

Your father is a preacher. He said in an interview that he used to tell you that God has destined you for greatness. I know you're going to tell me that you're focused on your work in the Senate. I understand that. But in the name of candor, tell me, what are some of the things going through your mind as you decide whether or not you're going to seek something else, something greater, as your father might say?

CRUZ: Well, Jake, look, I love my dad. He's been my hero my whole life, but I suspect I'm not the only person who has had an overeager parent.

And what I can tell you is what I'm trying to focus on right now is I think this country is facing enormous challenges, fiscal and economic challenges, where a great many Texans, a great many Americans are worried about the direction we're going, are worried about the stagnant economic growth.

For the last four years, our economy has averaged 0.9 percent growth a year. People are hurting. They're not getting jobs. And the people who have been hurt the most by the Obama economy have been the most vulnerable among us. They have been young people. They have been Hispanics. They have been African-Americans. They have been single moms.

And so my focus every day is trying to get back to the free market principles and the constitutional liberties that made America that great land of opportunity.

TAPPER: But your focus right now is trying to defund Obamacare. And, in fact, you're pushing a strategy, you and some other senator, where there will be a showdown and ultimately it could come down to shutting down the government if the Democrats in the Senate and the president don't agree to defund Obamacare.

I don't know. Well, first of all, how would that help all those vulnerable people that you talk about, many of whom are benefiting from Obamacare?

CRUZ: I think the top priority of every elected official, Republican or Democrat, should be restoring economic growth. And nothing is hurting economic growth more than Obamacare.

Look, there is bipartisan consensus this bill isn't working. The lead Senate author of Obamacare, Democrat Max Baucus, described it as a -- quote -- "huge train wreck."

TAPPER: Well, I think he was talking about how people weren't prepared for it and people weren't ready, and that's one of the reasons why the mandate, the employer mandate, has been delayed.


CRUZ: And let's take, for example, even the unions are starting to turn on President Obama.

James Hoffa, the president of the Teamsters, said Obamacare is destroying the 40-hour workweek that has been the foundation of the American middle class. This thing isn't working. It's killing jobs. It's causing people to have their hours forcibly reduced to 29 hours a week.

And, as you noted, the president unilaterally, contrary to law, decided to give a waiver to giant corporations.

TAPPER: Right.

CRUZ: Now, in my view, hardworking American families deserve that same waiver, because it isn't working and it's hurting people. And we should stand up and defund it.

TAPPER: But the strategy you're talking about, though, I want to read some of the reviews from your fellow Republicans.

Congressman Tom Cole calls this a suicidal political tactic, the political equivalent of throwing a temper tantrum. Senator Richard Burr, a conservative from North Carolina, "the dumbest idea I have ever heard of," he says. Senator Tom Coburn in an interview with Byron York said, "I would be leading the charge if I thought this would work, but it will not work. It's not an achievable strategy. It's creating the false impression that you can do something when you can't and it's dishonest."

They're saying this wouldn't work, the Democrats control the Senate and the White House, and that you're giving false hope to conservatives. Your response. CRUZ: Jake, there is frustration all over this country with career politicians in both parties. Why? Because they focus on maintaining power, rather than standing for principle.

We have a fight we can win. If Obamacare isn't working, this is our single best opportunity to defund it in the next 60 days.

TAPPER: The president will veto it.

CRUZ: If 41 Republicans stand together in the Senate or if 218 Republicans stand together in the House, we can win this fight.

Here's what I think should happen. I think the House should pass a continuing resolution that funds the entire federal government except Obamacare and that prohibits spending federal government money to implement Obamacare because it isn't working.

The next step, we know what will happen. President Obama and Harry Reid will scream and yell, those mean, nasty Republicans are threatening to shut down the government. And here's where Republicans have to stand up and win the argument and say, look, we voted to keep the government open. Why is President Obama threatening to shut down the government in order to force Obamacare?

He's granted a waiver for giant corporations. Why not give the same waiver to the American people?

TAPPER: You know what else the House and Senate voted for? Obamacare. They passed it. It's the law of the land.

CRUZ: Well, they did.

But the great thing about the Constitution is there are checks on an overreaching executive. President Obama in moving the employer mandate for big corporations until after the next election, number one, it's a heck of an admission that this law isn't working, because if it were good, he'd want it to kick in before the next election.

But, number two, there's nothing in the law that gives him the power to do that. And when you have an administration that's picking winners and losers, that is playing Chicago-style politics, the most powerful constitutional check that Congress has is the power of the purse, the ability to defund it. And all we need for this to happen is 41 Republicans in the House to stand up together or 218 Republicans in the House.


I want to move on to another topic, which is...

CRUZ: Let me briefly mention one thing before we move on, which is if it depends upon politicians in Washington, it ain't going to happen.

The only way this is going to happen is if an army of grassroots Americans stand up. It's why this week a national Web site was launched,,, because if we see thousands or millions of Americans calling their senator, calling their elected representatives saying don't fund this train wreck that is killing jobs and hurting our health care, that's the only way to get the elected representatives to listen to the people.

TAPPER: I want to talk about a couple of other topics before I let you go.

There's this debate, this other debate between Republicans about the direction of national security in the Republican Party. Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, had this to say.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: The strain of libertarianism that's going through both parties right now and making big headlines I think is a very dangerous thought.


TAPPER: The strain of libertarianism. I imagine he's talking not only not just Senator Rand Paul, but also you. Being a dangerous thought, what's your thought on that?

CRUZ: Well, look, Governor Christie is certainly entitled to his views. He is entitled to respect his views.

He mentioned the idea of protecting our privacy he thought was esoteric. It seems to me that the Fourth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment to our Constitution, the protections of the civil liberties of Americans, they aren't esoteric. They're the foundation of this country.

Principles of liberty in the Constitution are the foundation of this country. One of the things that's been so dismaying about the Obama administration is we have seen a consistent onslaught on our constitutional rights, whether it's the First Amendment and they're targeting reporters like the AP, like FOX News.


TAPPER: More so than Bush?

CRUZ: Absolutely yes.

TAPPER: Really?

CRUZ: The degree of hostility to constitutional rights demonstrated by this administration is unprecedented.

You can go through literally one amendment at a time. First Amendment, targeting the press. I suspect you're not thrilled about targeting the AP.


CRUZ: I'm not. But I just think that when you look at what the Obama administration in relation to what the Bush administration has done, you can say that there are a lot of similarities.

And I don't know what you were doing during the Bush years, but perhaps you were raising the same kind of protests about these things then.


TAPPER: There was warrantless wiretapping.

CRUZ: Let me answer your question what I was doing the Bush years.

I was the solicitor general of Texas, the chief lawyer for the state in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. When President Bush was president, he signed an order that purported to order the state courts to obey the world court, and on behalf of the state of Texas, I went before the U.S. Supreme Court and argued that the order from President George W. Bush was unconstitutional, that he had no authority to give away U.S. sovereignty, and we ended up winning 6-3, with the Supreme Court striking down Bush's order and concluding the world court has no authority over our U.S. justice system.

TAPPER: I have many more questions. You're going to have to come back, Senator Ted Cruz. We really thank you for coming and sharing your views.

CRUZ: Good. Enjoyed it.

TAPPER: Coming up next, two major stories in our world lead. In a long chat with reporters, the new pope makes some surprising comments about gays. What exactly did he say and how will American Catholics be with it?

And, tomorrow, a verdict is expected against Bradley Manning. How does that sit with the man who WikiLeaked the data Manning allegedly stole? We will ask Julian Assange himself. He will join us live.


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

Now it's time for the world lead.

On his flight back from Brazil today, Pope Francis gave a rare 82- minute press conference with reporters right there on the plane. And even more rare, he said he would not judge priests for their sexual orientation.


POPE FRANCIS, LEADER OF CATHOLIC CHURCH (through translator): If a person is gay and accepts the lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge them?


TAPPER: Now, this seems, seems to be a significant shift from his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who signed a document in 2005 saying that gays should not be priests.

Italian media have reported that a so-called gay lobby secretly pulls strings at the Vatican. When asked about that, Pope Francis today said gays specifically are not the problem. Lobbies of any kind are.

Let's talk about the importance of the pope's remarks with Father James Martin, a Catholic priest and editor at large at "America," a national Catholic weekly magazine, and of course with Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League, the largest Catholic civil rights organization.

Gentlemen, thanks for being here. Father Martin, I want to start with you. Some are saying that what the pope said today is more a change in tone than in actual substance. What do you think?

FATHER JAMES MARTIN, CATHOLIC PRIEST: Well, it is a change in tone but it's also a change in substance. I mean, to go from saying in 2005 gay men cannot be admitted to seminaries or religious orders to the pope saying, "Who am I to judge?" is an enormous change. And I think it's an outrage not only to gay priests but more specifically gay people. He said in that comment, we heard persona. You know, person as gay, not just a gay priest.

TAPPER: Phil Donohue, what did you make of the pope's comments today and the idea of gay priests?

BILL DONOHUE, PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC LEAGUE: Well, first of all, I would take issue with Father Martin and with your introduction. The Catholic Church under Benedict never said gays can't become priests. What he said explicitly was that those people who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies should not find a home in the priesthood. In another words, the priesthood is not a place for somebody to act out. But whether you're straight or gay, you have to be able to put a lid on your libido, you have to be able to have a vow of chastity.

So, to that extent I don't think there's anything remarkable about what he said. There's a change in style but there's no substantive change here at all. Gays have been joining the priesthood for the last several years, and they should continue to do so as long as they can follow their vow of celibacy.

TAPPER: Father Martin, you want to respond to that?

MARTIN: Well, yes, I would say that most people interpret that Vatican document, deep-seated homosexual tendencies as being simply gay. So, a lot of archbishop and bishops have said that, you know, if you are gay, if you have a homosexual orientation, you cannot be admitted to the seminary. So, I do know that that document has kept a lot of men who are gay who wanted to live celibately out of the seminary.

So, I think to hear this from the pope, I think he's going to make a lot of people think a little differently about that issue.

TAPPER: I want to move on to another topic, about the role of women being ordained as priests. The pope said today that door was closed. Father Martin?

MARTIN: Yes, that's right. He was very clear and he said that, you know, John Paul had decided that question. But he also said that he wanted to see a deeper theology of women in the church, which, you know, leads one to believe that he thinks the theology about women in the church is not as deep as it could be. And he also talked about women in leadership roles in the church.

So, both of those things are very significant. I think this is a very sort of pastoral moment for the pope. I think it's unexpected for the reporters and also for the Catholics at large.

TAPPER: Bill, what do you make of Pope Francis so far compared to his predecessor? Do you think he's turning the Catholic Church in a dramatic new direction or is it just style?

DONOHUE: No, I think there's somewhat of a new direction. I mean, his predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict were both first class intellectuals. Pope Francis is a very bright man, and I love him just as much as Father Martin does. But he's not an intellectual though in that strict sense. What he has over his predecessors is this ability to touch people, to put his arms around people. He's real, he's authentic, he's very simple and I mean that in the best sense of the word.

So, I think he's dramatic different. Maybe they'll be substantive change. I'm not opposed to any substantive change that the Catholic Church wants to make on its own volition. I do have a problem with people who are not Catholic foisting their agenda on to the Catholic Church.

TAPPER: All right. Bill Donohue and Father James Martin, thank you so much. We appreciate you taking your time to talk to us today.

MARTIN: Pleasure.

DONOHUE: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up next, hero or traitor? As the military judge decides the fate of Army private Bradley Manning, we'll hear from the man who helped Manning pull off the biggest leak in U.S. intelligence history. That's right. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is live coming up. And a massive FBI sex sting targets dozens of cities and what they uncovered will leave you cringing. That's coming up in national lead.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. You're looking at live pictures of the Lincoln Memorial right now.

The national news, people here in Washington are stepping -- police here in Washington, D.C. are stepping up their search for a vandal who struck the Lincoln Memorial after more national treasures today were sound dripping with green paint. A spokeswoman for the Smithsonian Institution tells us that green paint was also found on the statue at the Smithsonian Castle today.

The National Cathedral also reported that still-wet green paint was found splattered all over an organ at that holy site. These are photos of exclusive to CNN of the mess there. This comes just a few days after the Lincoln Memorial was closed to clean up green paint that was splashed all over Honest Abe. U.S. Park Police will try to figure out these are all linked or if a copycat is out there.

Speaking of green, let's check in with our political panel in the green room. Guys, I'm about to interview Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks. He spent the last year in a safe room at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Paul Begala, you spent 20 minutes in CNN windowless green room, what do you think is more antsy for some press air right now?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Need to come up for air, yes. Although I think we could just eliminate the middle man and you can e-mail your questions and the NSA could read it and WikiLeaks could leak it.

TAPPER: It's getting very complicated.

Stick around for Julian Assange and our political panel when THE LEAD continues.


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

In world news, if he steps one foot outside, he'll be arrested immediately. Julian Assange joins us live from his sanctuary inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London with his thoughts on the eve of the Bradley Manning verdict.

In national news, kidnapped -- forced into a life of prostitution. More than 100 American children, the youngest 13 years old, all of them freed today after the largest child sex trafficking crackdown in U.S. history.

And the pop lead: start measuring Diane Lane for the pantsuits right now. The actress just got the nod to play Hillary Clinton in an NBC mini-series and it's scheduled to air just before the 2016 election. I'm sure that's entirely a coincidence.