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Interview With Rep. Keith Ellison; Obama's "Grand Bargain"; San Diego Files Cross Complaint; Love Letter To The Boss; Driver On Phone, Train Going 119; Arrest In National Cathedral Vandalism

Aired July 30, 2013 - 16:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

It's time for the Money Lead. $7.25 an hour and a French fry smell you can never get out of your hair. It's not hard to see where striking fast food workers are coming from. But what would a quote, "living wage" mean for the price of your Big Mac? And would you pay it?

The Politics Lead. He already says he needs help after several women have accused him of sexual assault and he tried to use pickup lines that even Lenny and Squiggy wouldn't have tried. Now the mayor of San Diego, Bob Filner, a Democrat, he's asking the people at his city for patience. Oh, he also wants them to pay his legal fees. And the Pop Culture Lead. We say that this is Springsteen like you've never seen him before. But many you have. It's a rockumentary about The Boss shot by his own fans.

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

Now it's time for our Money Lead. Some fast food workers say raking in $7.25 an hour is not exactly their idea of having it your way. From New York to Kansas City, workers are walking off the job, asking fast food chains to, as some protestors changed, supersize their wages.

They say doubling the minimum wage to $15 an hour is the only way they can realistically make ends meet. And you don't have to be an economics whiz to know that if those wages do go up, they're going to come from somewhere, perhaps out of your wallet.

There's one member of Congress who not only supports the workers in their fight for higher wages, but he plans to join them on the picket lines. And now joining us live from Capitol Hill is Minnesota Congressman Democrat Keith Ellison, co-chair of Congressional Progressives Caucus. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.


TAPPER: So, I get that it's tough if not impossible to make ends meet at $7.25 an hour, the federal minimum wage. But some economists say a hike in the wage will reduce hiring or at least reduce hours and that the recovery right now is too fragile to start that chain reaction that will ultimately hurt workers. Your response?

ELLISON: There's a lot of economists who disagree with that, but funny how the economy is not too fragile for CEOs to be paid, like, $49 million - no, $4.9 million in four months. The CEO of Wendy's where I was standing with workers yesterday made that amount. That's a substantial amount of money and a significant amount per hour. We can pay CEOs, but we won't pay people who actually make the hamburgers and say we just can't do it -- we would but we just can't do it because the economy is too fragile? If the economy is too fragile for exorbitant CEO pay, the economy - I mean, to raise workers' pay, it's too fragile for exorbitant CEO pay, too.

TAPPER: But Congressman, what about concerns that imposing higher wages, a higher minimum wage, federal minimum wage, will speed up plans to phase out workers altogether in some roles? There was a study I heard, an individual from a pro business group talking about how workers are going to be replaced with computer technology. I think the group, EPI, the Employment Policies Institute, they said some chains are already experimenting with electronic menus where you can order on an iPad device, and that this move could hasten that, meaning fewer workers altogether.

ELLISON: You know, technology in our economy is a reality. They've done it with parking lot attendants and things like that. But I still don't believe you're going to able to have a fast food restaurant that relies on people to serve, to welcome, to make proper food, to make sure it's made in a quality way, to make sure that the place is clean and well-managed and in good working order. You need people for that. So I doubt that that is true.

I will tell you this, though, there are ample number of economists who have said if you increase the minimum wage, it would significantly improve our macro economy, not to mention the individual budgets of the people who work there. As I said before, you know, the executives are getting paid record amounts. So why not something for the people who actually do the work on the ground?

TAPPER: Congressman, President Obama has talked about how he wants the minimum wage to go up to $9. Are you seeing enough action from the White House in this shared goal that you have for an increased minimum wage? Has the president put any skin in the game on this?

ELLISON: Well, the president did a great job with his economic policy speech just a few days ago. I really want to commend him for that. But because we don't have an increase in the minimum wage yet, no one, including me, has done enough, including the president. We all got to do more to make sure that these jobs pay livable wages.

I mean, as a matter of fact, the president could really do something big now. The federal government is the largest funder of low-wage workers in the country, more than what Wal-Mart and McDonald's, that's from a DEMOS study recently published. In fact, he could issue an executive order which would significantly increase the pay of these federal workers -- these workers who work for federal contractors. I'm talking about at the Smithsonian, federal buildings like Union Station here in D.C. -- TAPPER: Right. He could do that tomorrow, but he hasn't.

ELLISON: He could do it tomorrow, and I think he should do it tomorrow. And I think that would be a great place to start and send an awesome signal.

TAPPER: All right, Congressman Keith Ellison, Democrat from Minnesota. Thank you so much for joining us.

ELLISON: Thank you.

TAPPER: Health officials have now found the cause of a rare stomach bug that has sickened hundreds in the Midwest. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services says prepackaged salad mix is the source of the cyclospora outbreak, which has infected 353 people there and in 13 other states. This is a small parasite that can cause intestinal infections and all kinds of symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting and many other flu-likeother symptoms. Officials still don't know where the contaminated lettuce came from.

It's not such a grand political bargain when you hear about it in a news wire. That's at least how Speaker Boehner's office says they learned of the president's offer of a compromise on the economy. Doesn't anybody talk anymore? We'll hear both sides of the story.

And they got her. But is the alleged perp who threw green pain on the National Cathedral the same person who splattered on the Lincoln Memorial? The mystery continues. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

In politics, it was pitched by the White House as a new grand bargain from the president. But Republicans say it's neither grand nor much of a bargain. Here's the sales pitch.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here's the bottom line. I'm willing to work with Republicans on reforming our corporate tax code as long as we use the money from transitioning to a simpler tax system for a significant investment in creating middle class jobs.


OBAMA: That's the deal.


TAPPER: So, that was the president today in Chattanooga in front of the cameras. But I want to give you a behind-the-scenes look at your government at work. After the story of this "grand bargain" came out this morning by the AP, House Speaker John Boehner's press secretary Brendan Buck tweeted, "In case you were curious, we heard about this grand bargain offer from the AP wire." But prompted by troublemaking me, White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer then tweeted that wasn't true. And a senior White House official elaborated in an e-mail, saying the White House called Speaker Boehner's office yesterday and they left a message. One that the speaker's office did not return until around noon today. This is like asking a girl to a seventh- grade dance.

Let's bring in our panel. Former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and founder of Carly Fiorina Enterprises, Carly Fiorina. CNN contributor and Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen. And CNN contributor and Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker," Ryan Lizza.

Ryan, the president's grand bargain today. How much of an offer could this be if there wasn't even this connection made until noon?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, something has to get this off the ground, right? And we all know that Obama and Boehner have not been talking. Boeher has said publicly -

TAPPER: As opposed to the Israelis and the Palestinians.


TAPPER: They're talking.

LIZZA: That's easy compared to this!

TAPPER: They're talking!

LIZZA: Look, I think Boehner last year or earlier this year said he was done having one-on-one negotiations with the president. So I think this is Obama's attempt to jump start this with a public speech, get the conversation going, get Republicans and Democrats back and forth saying what they like, what they don't like. And see if they can get this thing off the ground.

Remember, in the Senate, it like springtime in the Senate. There are Republicans now who are negotiating, there are conversations. The Senate is actually a semi-functional institution this year. I think he's trying to give the House a little nudge here.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: And that's key because remember, John Boehner actually publicly announced he didn't want to talk to the president anymore about economic grand bargains.

TAPPER: Not solo. Yes.

ROSEN: The president has been meeting very regularly with bipartisan groups of members and even Republican House members. Look, we're only six months into the second term. So --

TAPPER: Is that it?


ROSEN: We should stop talking about 2016 -

TAPPER: Oh, my Lord.

ROSEN: -- and reelections and all of that. The president has a job to do, and he's trying to get it done. What he did today was he said you guys want tax reform, we still want investment in jobs and infrastructure and education. Let's work together and figure this out. And Republicans ought to take him up on it.

TAPPER: And Carly, the president, the White House says look, Republicans I know they want a comprehensive tax reform that includes individuals. But that's a nonstarter because the president wants to raise taxes on upper-income individuals; the Republicans will never do that. So let's talk about where we can work, and that's why he's taken the position he's taking. Republicans don't see it that way, though.

CARLY FIORINA, FOUNDER, CARLY FIORINA ENTERPRISES: Well, here's what I would say as someone who has negotiated a lot of deals in my life. There a couple of cardinal rules for getting a negotiation done. First one is you have to actually want a deal. It not clear to me Obama wants a deal. It's very clear to me that he wants to be able to blame Republicans for the lack of a deal.

Second, you need to flatter your counterpart, not insult them. That's just sort of basic deal making 101.

Third, you need to know what your counterpart's red lines are and respect.

And, fourth - and fourth, most importantly, you don't negotiate in public actually. Even in politics. If you really want a grand bargain, Boehner and the president are going to have to actually sit down in private and try and work something out. And you announce it when it's done, not before you've begun.

ROSEN: And in the past, the president has met every one of those (sic). And first of all -

FIORINA: He's met none of them. He's met none of them.

ROSEN: The president is not running for reelection.

TAPPER: In the last five year, I think is what you're saying. Not in the last day.

ROSEN: But the president is not running for reelection. He has no reason to say, oh, I'm going to do better if we fail. Then I can blame you. What he wants very much to keep this economy moving and moving more quickly. And it is John Boehner who has said I can't do this with you.

TAPPER: I want to give Carly the last word, and then I want to move onto another topic.


FIORINA: I hope you are right. I hope he wants to deal. The only past relation I would put forward in suggesting he may not is President Obama may truly have decided that the most important thing he can do for his legacy is to get a Democratic House in 2014 and to do so, he must continually blame Republicans for all problems.

TAPPER: I do want to move on to one other topic and that an even more dysfunctional government scene playing out, of course, in San Diego. Do you remember, Bob Filner, San Diego's Democratic mayor is not stepping. He's doubling down. He is asking the city of San Diego to pick up the tab for his growing legal fees after seven women have come forward accusing him of sexual harassment. T he city is actually filing a cross-complaint asking that he pay them for their legal fees. Ryan, this guy is not taking a hint.

LIZZA: No. I mean, this is when you know you've been in government too long, you expect the government to pay for everything. The least he could do is if he maybe wins the case then the government with pick up the tab. But when you're credibly accused of those accusations, it seems like you have a responsibility to pay for your own legal fees.

TAPPER: This is the first Democratic mayor in San Diego in decades, Carly.

FIORINA: Well, I don't think it's a reflection on the party.

TAPPER: It could damage the party.

FIORINA: Well, yes, this guy is a disgrace. He ought to go away like a couple of other guys we've talked about on this show.

TAPPER: And McDonnell should just be pointing to these guys, Weiner, Spitzer, Filner.

ROSEN: Take your choice with these male politicians.

TAPPER: There is a former city councilwoman in San Diego who said that she had heard these stories and she warned people about it and nothing ever happened with it.

ROSEN: I had dinner this weekend with some female members and former members who said this guy has been this way all along, that everybody thought he was a little creepy.

LIZZA: When he was in Washington?

TAPPER: When he was in Washington they had heard stories like this?

ROSEN: You know, not necessarily official sexual harassment, but just a guy they never trusted.

TAPPER: Creepy. All right, Carly Fiorina, Hilary Rosen, Ryan Lizza, thank you, great panel today. Really appreciate it.

Coming up, when they're not launching hunger strikes in their cells, some of the guys in Gitmo like to kick back and relax by reading "50 Shades Of Gray." I am being completely serious that's coming up.

Later, Governor Chris Christie, I hope you've set your TiVo, sir, we'll tell you about the new movie that die hard Springsteen fans have put together with their own concert footage. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Now it's time for the "Pop Culture Lead. I'm going to gush a little bit here so excuse me. He's an American poet, a working class hero. Few performers have ever connected with their fans on a level like the boss. Many Bruce Springsteen fans have been to hundreds of shows, legend has it, but none has ever heard the same song list twice. So perhaps it's only fitting that a new rock-mentary is using crowd source footage to capture the thing that drives their obsession. Is this the future of concert films?


TAPPER (voice-over): Born in the USA and raised in the arms of his fans for more than four decades. Bruce Springsteen is not just beloved, he's the boss. But it's the legions of fans, young and old, corporate and blue collar, who are the heart of the Springsteen empire and this month that empire expands to film. The documentary "Springsteen & I" had just one screening worldwide, July 22nd.

The documentary is marketed more like an event, like a concert with specific dates and online ticket sales. But this Springsteen event is not so much about the man on stage as it is about the scores of us who sing along with him, about the Facebook and YouTube devotees.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I used to hold this picture up to my son and say "daddy."

TAPPER: And about the proud owners of more than $120 million Springsteen albums sold worldwide. That's because for this documentary, British Director Bailey Walsh asked fans to submit their own material and to explain to us all what this man means to them.

Among the first of its kind, the film weaves together more than 2,000 submissions, all relaying the stories of real fans and their very real connection to the music. The end result is a film that the "New York Daily News" described as having the specificity, humor and unexplained earnestness of one of Springsteen's own songs.

And the Springsteen team has funnelled this pandemonium into something called "Springstream," a one-stop-shop for all things Bruce, from videos, to pictures to tweets. It's where the boss brings people together online. If you're skeptical that Springsteen enthusiasts can fill two hours successfully, just remember they filled the oval office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the most important forces in American music --

TAPPER: More than once. A diehard fan leads Springsteen's home state of New Jersey.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: If you go on hold, you're going to hear Bruce Springsteen while you're on hold. TAPPER: And another host, the "Daily Show."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you sign this?

TAPPER: So it seems Bruce fans are everywhere and in theatres across the country tonight, they will be the stars.


TAPPER: Up next, here is a tip. If you're running around Washington D.C. sliming national treasures with green paint, you might want to bring a change of clothes. How police say they nabbed the green bandit green handed next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. In "World News," investigators have learned two key pieces of information that could help explain why the train flew off the tracks in North Western Spain killing 79 passengers. Not only was the train going twice the speed limit, but the driver was on the phone when it happened. No matter how many times we see this video of the train's final moments, it does not get any easier to watch.

According to a Spanish court, black boxes recovered from the crash site show the train was traveling at 119 miles an hour just before it derailed. They also show the driver Francisco Jose Garzon was on the phone with railway staff. Garzon has already been charged with 79 counts of homicide.

A bizarre story now out of Guantanamo Bay, Democratic Representative Jim Moran who was a member of a congressional delegation that toured the prison camp last week told the "Huffington Post," that the book requested the most by the high-value terror detainees is "50 Shades of Grey." No, not the Koran, "50 Shades of Grey." He also said even though many detainees were able to read the entire mommy porn trilogy in English, we were there to translate it for them. The lawmakers were there to monitor things after reports of a long hunger strike, which began over the alleged desecration of a Koran.

And in more national news, police in Washington say the person responsible for splattering paint inside the National Cathedral got caught green-handed. A 58-year-old woman is in custody charged with defacing property. Police say she had green paint on her clothes and shoes, along with several paint cans. They think the case is connected to similar cases of vandalism at the Lincoln Memorial and on a Smithsonian statue. A forensic team is testing her clothes to see if the paint matches the splatter found at other locations.

In the "Sports Lead" today, they are accused of helping a monster hide in plain sight on the Penn State campus and now they will face trial for it. A judge ruled today that prosecutors have enough evidence to move forward with a criminal trial against former Penn State President Graham Spanier and two of his top administrators, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz. They are accused of covering up allegations against convicted child molester, Jerry Sandusky, Penn State's former defensive coordinator for the football team. All have pleaded not guilty.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter @jaketapper and also @theleadcnncom. Check out our show page at lead for videos, blogs, and extras. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I turn you over now to Wolf Blitzer. He's in "THE SITUATION ROOM" right next door -- Mr. Blitzer.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jake, thanks very much.