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Markets Sink; Hundreds Die in Egyptian Violence; "Please Don't Let My Daughter Die, Governor"; Great-Grandmother Accuses Mayor Filner

Aired August 15, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: So, should the U.S. keep supporting an Egyptian government that just killed hundreds of its own people?

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The money lead. Apparently, those Wal-Mart rollbacks can apply to stock prices as well. The markets taking a nosedive today, why the world's largest retailer has to accept part of the blame.

The world lead. President Obama today announcing the U.S. is canceling joint military exercises with Egyptian forces after the Egyptian government killed hundreds of people in clashes in the street. But USA to Egypt, $1.5 billion, that's still flowing.

And the national lead. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has a medical marijuana bill on his desk. We will talk to the desperate father who publicly confronted Christie, begging him to sign the bill on behalf of his ailing young daughter.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. We will begin with the money lead.

You hear that? The closing bell on Wall Street and not a moment too soon. The Dow fell off a cliff today, plunging more than 200 points before it was all said and done and a big part of the blame goes to the world's largest retailer.

I want to get right to our Alison Kosik.

Alison, thanks for joining us.

What is behind this and what does Wal-Mart have to do with it?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know what it was, Jake? It was a perfect storm of lousy news today that pushed off deep into the red.

Investors reacted to disappointing deadlines from two big Dow companies, one of them tech company Cisco Systems saying it's cutting 4,000 jobs, in an economy that the CEO called challenging. Cisco said it was cutting those jobs because it's trying to save money. It's really not something you want to hear from a company with such a massive customer base. Similar story from Wal-Mart.

Its chief executive also referring to the economy as challenging, cutting not only its earnings but its sales outlook because of that. And then you go ahead and you pile on a disappointing reading on regional manufacturing and those ongoing worries about how much the Fed is going to keep stimulating the economy, it all combines to drag stocks way down today.

Today is the third biggest loss for the Dow this year -- Jake.

TAPPER: Alison, just for the average viewer at home, not for a major investor, how worried should he or she be?

KOSIK: You shouldn't be worried. One day is not a trend. August also is a notoriously weak month for stocks, so the pullback not so unusual.

You look at the run-up that the major averages have had, the Dow is up 15 percent so far this year, the S&P up 16 percent this year. Not so bad considering. Also, look at the economy. There still is improvement there. We found out today that first-time claims for unemployment benefits fell to the lowest level in six years.

The housing sector is doing better as well. So you know what? It's not all doom and gloom, even though we look at the board and see all that red up on that board.

TAPPER: Alison, thank you so much.

Now to our world lead. Many of the dead lie in white sheets. The names, if they're known, are written on the fabric enshrouding the bodies. At least 525 people killed in a single day in Egypt, according to the country's health ministry, a staggering number, the bloodiest day since the 2011 revolution.

The scene from Cairo today where a curfew just went into effect an hour ago. The capital once again at a brink after a day filled with images like this one. Forces of Egypt's interim government stormed two camps filled with supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsy and the result, a slaughter.

Members of Morsy's party, the Muslim Brotherhood, are retaliating. They stormed a government building in Giza and set it on fire. Morsy supporters also reportedly torched a number of Coptic Christian churches. The mass demonstrations show no sign of stopping. A sea of pro-Morsy protesters filled the streets of Alexandria, Egypt, today.

The State Department has issued a warning for all Americans living in Egypt or planning to even just travel there. And the U.N. Security Council is holding a closed-door meeting on Egypt at 5:30 p.m. Eastern.

President Obama has been watching this all unfold during his vacation on Martha's Vineyard. Here's a picture of him on the phone with his top national security advisers earlier today. The president today gave his first public remarks on the Egyptian crackdown, condemning the violence on both sides.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: While we want to sustain our relationship with Egypt, our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back.

As a result, this morning, we notified the Egyptian government that we are canceling our biannual joint military exercise which was scheduled for next month.


TAPPER: The president today also referred to the change in power in Egypt as the military's intervention, the military's intervention. There's another word that could be used to describe the act of a military overthrowing a democratically elected leader and installing a new government in its place, a coup, but you will not hear anyone in the Obama administration use that word. If they did call it a coup, the law dictates the U.S. would have to stop sending aid, specifically $1.5 billion in annual aid to Egypt.

So the State Department has decided it simply will not decide.


JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: The law does not require us to make a formal determination. That is a review that we have undergone as to whether a coup took place and it is not in our national interest to make such a determination.


TAPPER: Today, the State Department said it is reviewing aid to Egypt in -- quote -- "all forms." But keep this in mind. Of the $1.5 billion the U.S. gives Egypt every year, about $1.3 billion of it goes to the Egyptian military and a lot of that is actually spent right here in the U.S. on weapons, fighter jets, et cetera, et cetera, which are then sent to Egypt.

Our own CNN international correspondent, Arwa Damon, is standing by live in Cairo. She's been reporting from the middle of all of this.

Arwa, what's been happening today?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you compare it to the levels of violence that we saw taking place yesterday, it most certainly has been relative speaking fairly quiet.

Earlier in the day we actually went down to one of the churches that had been looted and burnt by an angry mob of Islamists, as eyewitnesses were describing them, as being the actions of the government when it came to deciding to send its security forces in and its policemen in to use violence to clear out those two sit-ins as having a very significant ripple effect here.

You have these increased attacks on the Christian community. You also have these attacks against police forces. Morsy supporters refusing to go back home. A lot of people very concerned about where this is all going to go. And this is why even here on the ground there were those who were advising the government against taking this kind of action. Using violence to go in and clear those demonstrators out was only going to create the kind of situation we have right now. And any sort of political resolution moving forward is going to be very, very difficult and very challenging, Jake.

TAPPER: Arwa Damon, thank you so much. Please stay safe.

The president condemned the violence. But is there anything he can actually do to stop it?

Joining me, my own little kitchen cabinet, former State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley and CNN military analyst, a former U.S. Army General Spider Marks.

I'm going to pretend you are the secretary of state and you are the secretary of defense. And I want you to talk about in our own little cabinet meeting here what would you advise the president? A senior White House told me that discussions about canceling Bright Star, the military joint military operation, those discussions began in June, about the time the Obama administration canceled the delivery of four F-16 fighter planes to the Egyptian air force as a way of putting pressure on the military.

Here's the question. Is that move, the suspension of the planes and the suspension of the joint military exercises, will that be enough to convince the "Egypt government" -- quote, unquote -- the Egypt military, they need to change their actions, P.J.?

P.J. CROWLEY, FORMER U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS: We're dealing with decisions made by Egyptians and mistakes made by Egyptians.

The United States has limited influence. I do think canceling the Bright Star exercise is a strong statement. That may well be heard by the Egyptian military. The real dilemma for the United States is what kind of message do you send to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is now outside the political process? If our objective is to bring civilian rule back to Egypt and an inclusive democracy as part of it, how do you get the Muslim Brotherhood back in play where their list of grievances, beginning with a coup, and now this violence, those grievances continue to rise?

TAPPER: General, explain to me and to our viewers why these joint military exercises are important.

BRIG. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: They have been important since 1980, which is the first year we did Bright Star.

What it does is it allows friends and allies in the region to achieve interoperability. We can do this in command post exercises and we can do it on the ground with field training exercises. Those are extremely important trust-building factors and steps that are necessary in order to have a stable and a secure region. Without the exercise, we will be fine. The real issue is, how does the United States going forward continue to try to establish some degree of influence? What we say and what we think is not relevant. We parse the words pretty well. It's our actions that are extremely important. So the cancellation is I think fine, not sufficient. It's what do we do with $1.5 billion, because the real cost will come down the road, Jake. If we allow this thing to spin out of control, we're going to have a Syria in about another 12 months present in Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt. That's not a good thing.

TAPPER: Let's talk about the $1.5 billion. My source in the White House, a senior White House official, told me the decision is obviously a very, very difficult one. He said -- quote -- "We have national security issues in Egypt, the Sinai, the security of Israel, the Suez and other regional issues. At the same time, it's difficult to continue a relationship with a government engaging in crackdowns like we saw thanks ."

What would you advise the president? Should we really seriously talk about pulling the plug on these funds?

CROWLEY: Well, I think there's more than one way to attack this.

I think we missed an opportunity six weeks ago to call it a coup. The fact that we haven't undermines the credibility of the United States in the region. I do think that I would have suspended military aid six weeks ago to get the Egyptian military invested in their own road map and said, look, we're going to suspend it. By law, we have to.

On the other end of the spectrum, once you restore civilian rule, all the funding will be there. In the meantime, I would have found a way to actually increase civilian assistance; $250 million is a paltry sum and right now what is the real danger is not only violence, as Spider just talked about, but it the collapse of the Egyptian economy.

The longer this crisis goes on -- tourism is a major element of the Egyptian economy. That's been absent now for two years. The Morsy government and the United States and international community were negotiating economic reforms that were vital to getting Egypt moving forward and creating job opportunity for a restive a young population. That's all now forestalled by the crisis we have.

TAPPER: Quickly, General, what would you advise President Obama to do to avoid this becoming the next Syria?

MARKS: Isolation of Egypt is not a good deal. We have to stay connected. If we do that with our $1.5 billion, we should continue to do that.

This could really spin out of control and you end with you have a radical Shia Iran and you could have a radical Sunni Egypt, with Israel right in the middle. That's not a good outcome.

TAPPER: All right, Spider Marks and P.J. Crowley, thank you so much.

Coming up on THE LEAD: a plea from one father to another. Please don't let my daughter die. Why did New Jersey dad Brian Wilson say our governor, Chris Christie, needs to act now to save his 2-year-old daughter's life. Well, he will join me next.

And, later, a former first daughter known for keeping her privacy now opens up. Barbara Bush, the young one, surprising everybody with her pick for the 2016 presidential race.


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

In our national lead, a father pleads for his young daughter's life to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The father is talking about his 2-year-old daughter, Vivian. Here she is on the couch playing with her mom and sister. Vivian suffers from what is called Dravet syndrome. It's a severe form of epilepsy that causes seizures.

And we need to warn you, we're about to show you what it's like for Vivian to experience these seizures and that may be difficult to watch. She experiences these types of seizures on average every four days. She sleeps with a heart and oxygen monitor and she wears an eye patch because looking at certain patterns brings on more seizures. She's on a diet that helps, a couple medications but it's clearly not enough. She's already suffering developmental issues and has the functioning ability of a 1-year-old. Her parents want to give her a form of medical marijuana, which has decreased seizures for other children.

Vivian's parents have lobbied state legislators in New Jersey but the bill has been sitting on Governor Christie's desk for nearly two months.

So, Vivian's dad, as any dad would, Brian Wilson, he decided to ask Governor Christie about it face to face during a campaign stop yesterday.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: These are complicated issues.

BRIAN WILSON, VIVIAN'S DAD: It's very simple.

CHRISTIE: I know you think it's simple and it's not.

WILSON: Please don't let my daughter die, Governor.


TAPPER: Governor Christie said he'll make his decision on whether to sign or veto the bill tomorrow.

Vivian's father, Brian Wilson, joins me now from Beach Haven, New Jersey.

Brian, thank you so much for joining us. First of all, I'm sure I speak for all of our viewers that our hearts go out to you. Talk to us first about Vivian and the struggles she faces with Dravet Syndrome.

WILSON: Oh, you know, every day is a struggle with Vivian, not knowing what kind of seizure she faces for that day, if she's going to have one that sends her to the hospital. Wondering what our day is going to be like. Are we going to be calling 911? Are we going to be just having a fine day?

In general, her day is sitting in the house all day. We don't go out. We don't do things with her. She doesn't do things with her sister because there are just too many things in the natural environments that can trigger seizure for her.

So, it's just kind of her sitting around the house and we try to entertain her as much as we can, keep her as happy as we can, but it's just kind of, you know, always sitting and waiting for the next one.

TAPPER: Explain to us what you meant when you said, "Please don't let my daughter die, Governor." If she does not get this THC, this medical marijuana, it's a strain, it's low in THC, I should make sure to note, would that save her life? Why do you say this is a life-and- death issue?

WILSON: Well, if Dravet Syndrome and all forms of severe epilepsy, these seizures can be life ending. They're extremely taxing on your heart, on your respiratory system, on your brain. Vivian has stopped breathing twice during the course of extended seizure. She has seizures that will last sometimes 45 to 60 minutes, like the kind you saw in the video.

So, she's undergoing a lot of physical duress because of this. She's being mentally -- her development is slowed down and additionally children with Dravet Syndrome have a risk of SUDEP, which is sudden unexplained death of epilepsy patients. This is -- no one quite knows why it occurs, but it's another one of the risk factors in this. And without us being able to control her seizures and pulling her out of that zone of constant seizure activity in the brain, she's constantly at risk. As I said, she's stopped breathing twice and had to be resuscitated during seizure at times.

So, her life is at risk every day. Kids die all the time from this. There was a week -- there was a four-week period in April where four children with Dravet Syndrome died. So, it's one of the realities we face unless we can get this under control.

TAPPER: So, Brian, it seems like a kind of a tense conversation between you and Governor Christie. I mean, obviously I've seen worse. But what was your impression of your conversation with the governor? Do you think he heard you? Do you think he listened to you?

WILSON: I don't really think he particularly listened to me. I mean, I knew going in that he had no desire to talk to us. We tried to arrange some conversations with him ahead of time. We called the office, we tried calling -- we tried setting up an appointment. So, based on the conversation and the way he tried to get past me right away, I kind of knew he didn't want to have this conversation with me in the public forum. That's -- you know, that's again why we tried having conversations with him not in the public forum so we could have a real conversation. But we were kind of left with the last few days, we were coming down to the wire, he was in my hometown and I had to go talk to him and try to convince him to sign this.

TAPPER: I want to bring in CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, you profiled an almost identical case to this in your documentary "Weed," which is going to run again and we'll promo that in a second. But in your documentary, you talked about a 6-year-old girl with Dravet Syndrome and her parents saw a vast improvement with this strain of medical marijuana. Vivian, however, is two, not six.

Is there a difference -- is there any research on the difference that it might have, the different effect it might have on a 2-year-old versus somebody a little bit older?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't think so. I don't think there's a lot of research in that area. I think frankly the Figis, the parents of Charlotte, if they could have made this happening and actually gotten her the marijuana earlier or learned about the marijuana earlier, they probably would have given it to her earlier as well. As Brian pointed out, there's not a lot of options here.

So, you know, we do think about the brain development and people's brains develop certainly as children all the way up into the mid 20s and you want to be more judicious, obviously, in those situations. But here, you know, I know in Charlotte's case, I'm not sure how it is with Vivian, but Charlotte was on seven different medications at one time, Jake, and they were even thinking about using -- compounding a veterinary medication because they had run out of options.

There aren't a lot of studies on Dravet Syndromes. There are studies looking at seizure disorders overall and the use of cannabis, specifically. But again, you know, this is one of those situations where we know what the options are and none of them really work, besides high CBD cannabis.

TAPPER: And, Brian, I want to close with you. Obviously, first of all, just for our viewers, we're not talking about smoking marijuana. We're talking about lozenges and other edible forms of marijuana.

WILSON: Right.

TAPPER: Brian, what will you do if Governor Christie vetoes this bill, doesn't sign the bill tomorrow?

WILSON: Well, you know, we're kind of prepared for that. We've already started looking into neighborhoods to move in Colorado. We really don't have a choice except to leave our family, friends, grandparents, leave everything we've known and grown up with and have to vacate our state and be kind of run out of town, if you will. It's either that or stay in New Jersey and continue to suffer.

So, we're really looking at the truly compassionate states that are medically advanced in this and weighing our options of leaving, especially of this doesn't pass through.

TAPPER: All right. Brian Wilson, thanks so much for joining us. Our thoughts are with you and your family and, of course, your daughter Vivian.

Thank you, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

You can watch his documentary "Weed" this Friday night at 10 p.m. It's excellent. You should definitely watch it.

I want to take a moment now and update you on one of the families most devastated by the terrorist attacks at the Boston marathon, the Richard family. They put a new post on their Tumblr page today marking four months since that terrorist attack. It shows a picture of 7-year-old Jane Richard who lost her leg in the blast, standing with her prosthesis and wide smile.

Jane was in the hospital for three months and her family refused to sleep in their Dorchester home until she was discharged. Her mother Denise was also hospitalized with head injuries. And, of course, her brother 8-year-old Martin Richard was the youngest victim to die in the attacks.

We wish the Martin family the best as they continue to recover from that day. What a remarkable picture of that young girl.

Next on THE LEAD, fresh off his abbreviated stint in rehab, Mayor Bob Filner is facing sexual harassment accusations once again. And his latest accuser has an almost unbelievable story to tell.

Plus, what's August like on Mars? You could be one of the first team to find out if you're willing to give up one not-so-small thing. Our buried lead is coming up.


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

Now, it's time for the politics lead. By now, you're probably aware that San Diego's Democratic Mayor Bob Filner has been accused of throwing himself at women with a subtlety rivalry only by Pepe La Pew.

A 16th accuser today came forward to accuse Filner of sexual harassment and she is -- wait for it -- a 67-year-old great- grandmother who volunteered at city hall.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mayor Filner started coming by my desk several times a day. He would take my hand and talk about us getting together the next weekend. I knew he was engaged and I felt very shocked and upset that he would think I would go with him. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: If all of this is true, the guys in "Porky's" showed more respect and decorum. Hooters, of all restaurants, is refusing to serve Filner at its San Diego area location, because, you know, when it comes to knowing how to respect women, the guys who own Hooters franchises immediately come to mind.

Filner, of course, entered a two-week behavior therapy program but left Friday after only five days. He has brushed off repeated calls for his resignation, many from members of his own party. A recall effort is underway and investigators are looking into whether Filner misspent funds by taking women to a hotel. The story just keeps getting classier and classier.

Barbara Bush, George W. Bush's daughter, isn't someone who seeks out the spotlight. She's not on television like her twin sister, but Barbara talked with "People" magazine about the non-profit she started to fight global hunger and disease. You can read all about that in the article. We thought it was interesting that she doesn't profess any political affiliation but said she thinks Hillary Clinton should run in 2016. But she was coy about whether she would vote for Hillary Clinton, saying it would depend upon who else was running.

Bush also gave some details about her Panamanian boyfriend and how her dad has taken a shine to him. The BF is an artist and as we've seen dad is, of course, pretty handy with a brush himself.

Let's check in with our political panel in the green groom.

Guys, President Obama apparently dealt with the stress of the bin Laden raid by dealing cards, more than a dozen hands of spades, according to his former body man Reggie Love.

You're on live TV. It's a stressful gig. Kevin Madden, how do you relax? Texas hold 'em, crazy 8s?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, I used to be a bit of a poker player but now that I have kids, it's mostly slapjack. And I still lose.

TAPPER: You still lose. Intentionally or just to be a good dad?

MADDEN: No, these guys are good, they slap everything.


MADDEN: He's got four sons, Kevin Madden.

The politics lead is ahead. Stay with us.