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Could Zimmerman Face Federal Charges?; "Should I Stay Or Should I Go?; Citizenship Scam; Summer of Duds At The Box Office

Aired August 2, 2013 - 16:30   ET


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

The national lead: they want the opportunity to face George Zimmerman down again in a courtroom. But will they get the chance? The parents of Trayvon Martin learning what kind of civil rights case the feds might have against the man who was already found not guilty of murdering their son.

The politics lead: a key staffer has pled the burning building that is the Anthony Weiner for mayor campaign. Nobody wants to be on the losing side, but is it ethical to kick your candidate when he's down by abandoning him?

And the "Pop Culture Lead," are you looking for some time alone this summer? Try going to a theater that still showing the "Lone Ranger," after a string of flops, audiences seem sick of these over the top spectacles. But will Hollywood get the message?

Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Now it is time for the "National Lead. While George Zimmerman is out there somewhere trying to put his high profile murder trial behind him presumably in some sort of disguise, the parents of the teenager he says he killed in self defense are holding out hope that his legal woes are far from over.

Zimmerman as you know was acquitted on second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the death of Trayvon Martin, but the "Miami Herald" reports Martin's parents met this week with Justice Department prosecutors and FBI agents about the possibility of a criminal civil rights case against Zimmerman.

The Justice Department has said in the past that it would look into whether Zimmerman violated any federal hate crimes laws when he shot the unarmed teenager, but if a jury agreed that Zimmerman killed Martin in self defense, how? How would the feds be able to somehow prove otherwise?

Joining me now live from San Francisco is veteran prosecutor, Paul Henderson. Paul, thank for being with us. Is it unusual for federal investigators to consider pursuing charges against someone who has already been acquitted by a jury of his peers?

PAUL HENDERSON, VETERAN PROSECUTOR: Well, it always depends on the facts and circumstances surrounding each case. In this case, there are some unique issues that have come up because the hate crime allegations and the hate crime charges might be limited by the ruling in a state court, which has already affirmed a self defense. Because what the feds will have to do is really focus on how they can prove intent.

But there are a couple of ways that they can do that separate from the ruling. So if for instance there is a civil case and more evidence comes out or different testimony comes out that helps affirm those charges then there are more and more possibilities. You know, I got to say one of the things that I am encouraged by is how closely the Martin family is participating in this process even after they've had the verdict.

So the fact that the feds are bringing them in, they are sitting down with them, that have started an investigation, which is what they've asked for and keeping them updated, I think, it's encouraging not just for them, but for a lot of communities who want to know what's the next step, where do we go from here.

A lot of people feel frustrated or a lot of people feel now informed about the process associated with the state court ruling. So the fact that there are ongoing conversations and ongoing options, I think is better because people feel empowered by having this information.

TAPPER: Well, how much longer do you think we can expect this investigation to last? Is this going to go on for months and months or do you think this will be relatively quick?

HENDERSON: Well, the investigation now, I'm presuming the update that they give them is where they are now. Here's where we are and here's what he have to work with. It is hard to answer that question because we don't know what the likelihood is of a civil case that comes forward that may give them more information and more evidence.

But, you know, we don't know if that's going to happen at any time in the near future. I'm sure they know already what information they have. We have been provided with a lot of testimony and a lot of evidence that we all saw in the state courtroom. I presume that's the information that's being provided with the parents about where they are now and what they may need in order to move forward.

TAPPER: All right, Paul Henderson, thank you so much.

Coming up in the "Politics Lead," their fearless leader turned out to be none other than Carlos Danger. So what do Anthony Weiner staffers owe the candidate now in terms of loyalty?

And our "Pop Culture Lead," the best thing about going to the movie theatre this summer may be the air-conditioning. We'll take a look at the titanic flops Hollywood is seemingly churning out en masse. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. The "Politics Lead," perhaps nobody posed the question better than the late great saint of punk rock. Should I stay or should I go? If I stay, there will be trouble. If I go, no one will ever hire me again or something like that. But the age old question become newly relevant when 31-year-old campaign manager, Danny Kedam, made headlines this week by jumping ship from the fast sinking Anthony Weiner as the mayoral candidate floundered in yet another digitized sex scandal then slipped into fourth place in the polls. But do campaign staffers have a duty to go down with the ship? One thing is for certain, Anthony Weiner is not running for the lifeboats.


ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK MAYORAL CANDIDATE: I did that. It was wrong. People have every right in the world to say that it disqualifies me, but I'm not going to quit based on that.


TAPPER: Let's bring in our political panel, CNN political contributor and Republican strategist, Alex Castellanos, host of "Cross Fire" and Democratic strategist, Stephanie Cutter and CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. Gloria, let's start with you. How much do staffers owe it to stay with the candidate no matter what?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all, the staffer that quit Anthony Weiner's campaign, nobody will ever say how could you leave the Anthony Weiner campaign? Nobody will ever say to that him. And secondly, I think if you have a problem defending your boss to the press or you feel that you'd have to lie if you were defending your boss to the press then you shouldn't be doing that job. The clear implication is that he felt that he was misled by his own candidate and could therefore no longer defend him.

TAPPER: Well, OK, who did he think he was working for? I mean, like it's not like --

BORGER: He thought the sexting had stopped when Anthony Weiner resigned from Congress and that he was rehabilitated and they were moving on.

TAPPER: You guys as political consultants, you worked for Bill Clinton for eight years. When you started working for him, you maybe knew a couple of things about him that you didn't care for, but did it ever occur to you -- I don't remember resignations from the Clinton White House at all?

STEPHANIE CUTTER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: There weren't any. That's a good example of every situation is different. In the Clinton administration, there were a lot of us that were working for Bill Clinton. We believed in him. We believed in the things they were fighting for. We stuck with him and over the course of the entire impeachment.

Now remember, we were also fighting against a Republican Party that was trying not to take the president down, but our entire agenda. That had a unifying force. I do remember some very tough conversations happening with friends and colleagues about whether we were going to stick by the president and we did.

I'm glad for it. I think it is very circumstantial. I think it depends on your relationship with the candidate. I don't know what this person's relationship was with Anthony Weiner was, how far back they went, whether there was any pre-existing loyalty there. It doesn't sound like there was.

BORGER: Bill Clinton was president though. The stakes are differently.

CUTTER: They were higher. It is pretty clear that Anthony Weiner is not going to win.

TAPPER: Alex, I don't know if you have any experience like this in particular that you want to share, but is there not a certain --

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: We're too dull to have these kinds of problems.

TAPPER: There are quite a few Republicans. I remember someone resigning from the staff of Mark Sanford.

CASTELLANOS: You know, I think Stephanie is right. Most of the time, we fall in love with our candidate, but that's not why we work for them. There's a purpose larger than the candidates. Candidates think the elections are about them. They're not. They're about the country and the voters. We usually have a higher purpose. Something we want to do and we don't ask for perfection. All we ask is if we can vote for you, we can work for you. I think Anthony Weiner, that's a different food.

TAPPER: Why is it different? How is it any different than, say, John Edwards?

CASTELLANOS: Because he's still addicted to whatever he is doing.

TAPPER: He said he stopped last year.

CASTELLANOS: Which is what he said when he stopped last year so apparently he is still at it, there are some self destructive craving for attention here. This is one sick puppy. You're loyalty is to your country always. To your government and your candidate, that is earned. There is a purpose larger than the candidate and as long as you can serve that nobly, you go to work every day.

TAPPER: As long as you feel like there is still this purpose --

BORGER: Right. It's not as if Anthony Weiner has no opponents. It's not as if the city of New York would go down the tubes if Anthony Weiner didn't become the mayor of New York City. At a certain point, you have to say, look, I cannot live with myself anymore if I do this and I just have to move on. CASTELLANOS: I have a clear feeling here that this is about his redemption not about the city of New York.

TAPPER: Not about the city of New York --

CUTTER: He lied to the city of New York twice.

TAPPER: We have only about 45 seconds, but I want to say you and I knew a lot of people who worked on the Edwards' campaign. Some of whom are currently employed at the White House. Others were employed at other places. Is there a sense of -- at all of when running against somebody and their candidate like implodes like this or is it just empathy with the staffers? A lot of these politics have crazy business going.

CUTTER: There is some crazy business going.

TAPPER: Not anybody you have worked for recently.

CUTTER: There was a lot of loyalty to the Senator Edwards. People felt very close to him. They believed in the cause from the beginning. When all that began to unravel, they stuck with him to see if they could get him through it. There was lots of reporting if he won the Democratic nomination, they were going to sabotage it.

TAPPER: We could do a whole show on this. Alex Castellanos, Stephanie Cutter, Gloria Borger, thank you.

Coming up in the "Buried Lead," a bizarre immigration scam is on the rise and it involves tricking the government with a snookie sunburn. We'll explain up next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Now it is time for the buried lead. That means it is a story that should be getting more attention. For some people, the pathway to citizenship to the United States does not involve years of patience and paper work. Also it takes really bad sunburn and these three little words. Cubans who set foot on American soil get put on a fast track to legal status. It makes it easier for Cubans to flee from Castro's socialist regime. Now it turns out immigrants from other countries want in on that fast track too. So they are pretending to be Cuban to get a green light for their green cards. CNN's Sara Ganim reports.


SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We aren't showing this man's face because he says he fears for his life. So desperate this illegal immigrant believed in a man who said he could become American by simply pretending to be Cuban.

ALYSA ERICHS, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, DHS INVESTIGATIONS, MIAMI: Individuals claim false Cuban citizenship in order to get the benefits from the Cuban adjustment act, which is essentially a fast track to naturalization. GANIM: The act gives Cuban nationals and their children access to all kinds of benefits, medical, food stamps, even a green card after just a year in the United States, three years faster than most other immigrants.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said because my grandfather was a Cuban, maybe he can come in Cuba.

GANIM: He paid $10,000 and got his name on a Cuban birth certificate. It worked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got my driver license. I got my social security and that's it.

GANIM (on camera): You got all your paperwork. You thought this is great. I'm legal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I'm legal. I received a green card.

GANIM (voice-over): He started a business, got married, built an American life, but four years later, Immigration and Customs Enforcement began a crackdown.

ERICHS: They're supposed to correspond to the book and page in Cuba where their actual birth is recorded

GANIM: Immigration agents should know that's not real. She says they noticed a spike in Cuban applications and found an underground world of both fake and smuggled Cuban birth certificates.

ERICHS: In some cases there are individuals who will coach people on what to say.

GANIM: Like this man. An undercover agent caught him on camera coaching potential immigrants. Eris Cubano, he says, you are Cuban. He is now in federal prison convicted of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud. Prosecutors say he even told clients he was an immigration agent who would help them with their asylum interviews. Interviews meant to catch imposter by listening for the distinct Cuban accent, the full service price up to $20,000.

ERICHS: In one instance, they actually had a person saying we're going to get you really sunburned and drop you off in the water and someone is going to rescue you.

GANIM: Wilfredo Allen is a Miami immigration attorney who has represented many caught up in this scam.

WILFREDO ALLEN, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: This is a desperation act. It is never a good thing to present fraudulent papers. They lose everything.

GANIM: The immigrant we introduced to you in the beginning would probably have qualified for amnesty under Obama's immigration reform. Not now with a fraud mark on his record. ALLEN: They are all residents now and they're moving guard to naturalization because they did things right. He didn't do it right and he is paying a very heavy price.

GANIM: Facing deportation, he left for Venezuela where he said he was kidnapped and robbed. Fearing for his life, last month, he snuck back through the Mexican border into the United States still worries about the Venezuelan gangs.

ALLEN: Even if you are bad here, illegal is better than there.


GANIM: Jake, ICE agents tell me that for many years, they simply rubber stamped applications from people who said they were fleeing from Cuba. It's not that easy to check records in Cuba because we don't always have a great relationship with the government there, but officials see this loophole has a significant national security risk. They don't know who these people really are.

They have made about 40 arrests in the last year in the Miami area. They're starting to see people trying to submit fake Cuban paper work along the Mexican border too. Some of these fakes are so good that people are even fooling the Cuban government by using them to get real Cuban passports.

TAPPER: That is fascinating. Sara, thank you so much. There was once a time when all it took to make a hit movie was to put a buff A-lister and blow up some landmarks. After a summer of big budget flops, could Hollywood be getting a much needed reality check? Our Pop Culture lead is up next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Now it is time for the Pop Culture Lead. August is generally a no man's land for the summer box office. It is where Hollywood dumps movie once it can't find the audience among reboots and remakes of June and July. A smaller movie, blue jasmine, scored the best limited opening of the year despite showing in only six theatres. It is opening wide today and it is getting rave reviews. It was made on a shoe string.

We're coming out of a dismal July for movies. "White House Down, The Lone Ranger, and RIPD," they all flopped. Even the "Wolverine" underperformed, are audiences finally sick of the bloated blockbuster?

I want to bring in Dave Itzkoff, he is a cultural reporter for the "New York Times." Dave, good to see you again, my friend. I want to start by talking about the two Stevens. There's Soderberg and Spielberg. Soderberg says he is done directing movies. In June, Spielberg predicted an implosion that a half a dozen megabudget movies are going to crashing into the ground. Is that what we just saw in July?

DAVE ITZKOFF, CULTURE REPORTER, "NEW YORK TIMES": You never want to bet against Steven Spielberg, right? I mean, that prediction did more or less come true, but I think what Spielberg was hoping for was that studios would look at those results that so many of those movies, you know, failing or falling short. And say we have to start making more mid range movie, more movies we can make for a little bit less and make more for them. The studios are going to put what few eggs they have into fewer and fewer baskets. There will be fewer tent poles that will probably cost even more.

TAPPER: Would that more of these mid range movies or just fewer movies all together?

ITZKOFF: The big announcement of comic con is the next Superman movie is going to be Batman and Superman together at last. They want to take characters and put them together and front load them so they seem like no fail propositions.

TAPPER: One of the reasons for the phenomena is the Hollywood's focus on the foreign Box Office. It is now all spectacle all the time. Is that your diagnosis as well?

ITZKOFF: My mother would love to hear you say that. I can give and take that quote. There's always been spectacle. That's where we've been at for quite some time. The foreign markets to some extent have followed the U.S. to see what the American audiences are getting excited about. You have these out liars that did so-so in the U.S. it is doing really well right now relatively speaking in the Asian markets.

TAPPER: All right, Dave Itzkoff, thank you so much. We appreciate it. We continue to read your work in the "New York Times."

ITZKOFF: Thank you so much, Jake.

TAPPER: Make sure to follow me on Twitter @jacktapper and also @thelead cnn. You should check out our show page at lead. You can find videos, blogs, extras. That's it for THE LEAD today. I'm Jake Tapper. Have a wonderful weekend. I turn you over to Mr. Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Mr. Blitzer, take it away.