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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
No Justice In Benghazi Deaths; Divided Over Guns; Adios "Carlos Danger"; Fourth Place Yanks Face Record Luxury Tax; "Breaking Bad" Spin Off Happening
Aired September 11, 2013 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
In world news, one year ago, terrorists attacked U.S. diplomatic posts in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans were killed. The public heard contradictory -- and as we later learned -- blatantly false explanations. But the next day, in one of the most heavily scrutinized speeches of his career, the president vowed he would get to the bottom of it all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today we mourn for more Americans that represent the best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: But today, we have little indication of what that justice might look like. The White House and the State Department struggled to give the public an explanation, but ultimately labeled the attack terrorism. although several suspects in Libya have been charged, no one is currently in custody. Four State Department officials originally on administrative leave have returned to their jobs with no other punishments. The lack of answers has become a partisan debate, and four separate congressional committees will hold hearings investigating what happened in Benghazi in the coming weeks.
But for family members of those who died, Benghazi is not just a headline, not just a partisan story. Pat Smith, mother of Sean Smith, joins me from San Diego. Pat, thanks for joining us. Again, I am sure that every day of the past year has been difficult for you, very difficult. But I'm wondering what did it feel like when you woke up this morning, this horrible, horrible anniversary?
PAT SMITH, MOTHER OF SEAN SMITH, KILLED IN BENGHAZI: Well, I was hoping to get some relief by now, but so far it hasn't happened. Benghazi and 9/11 seems to stick around so hard, so much.
You know, it is funny. I just realized this afternoon that my son, the one killed in Benghazi, was actually the one that took over the airplane when they were grounded when the original 9/11 hit the buildings. He happened to be in the right place at the right time with the right classification. And he called me and says, "Hey, mom, just think, if the president wants to go flying anywhere, he's got to ask me." So, I have had a connection with him for quite some time, I guess.
TAPPER: When you say you thought you would have relief by now, what do you mean? Do you mean you thought you would see justice to the perpetrators? What exactly were you looking for?
SMITH: Answers. I am so afraid that nobody has come up to take responsibility for what Hillary did, that she will become president, and more of our people are going to be murdered and thrown to the dogs because nothing has happened. Nobody has done anything. Everybody says what difference does it make anyway?
TAPPER: President Obama said that justice would be done. What does justice look like for you?
SMITH: This isn't justice. I am sorry. It is the wrong word. That's is the wrong word. It is not justice at all.
TAPPER: CNN's Arwa Damon was able to track down one of the suspects charged in the attack. He said the U.S. government had not been in touch with him. Let's play some of that
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (through translator): Did anyone from the American or the Libyan government side try and get in touch with you?
AHMED ABU KHATTALA, SUSPECTED TERRORIST: Never.
DAMON: And if they tried, are you ready to meet with them?
KHATTALA: Yes, no problem. But not as an interrogation. As a conversation, like the one we're having with you now.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
TAPPER: So Ahmed Abu Khattala is one of the chief suspects in the Benghazi attacks, and nobody from the Libyan government or the United States government has had a conversation with him. What's your response?
SMITH: I heard this months ago. I heard this interview months ago. And I have been waiting for something to happen, and as previous, nothing happened. They don't want to do anything. They don't want it shown, they don't want it talked about, they don't want it mentioned. All they want to do is cover their own butts. And I don't think it is very fair to the American public in any way, shape or form.
TAPPER: You are going to be speaking on Capitol Hill at a government oversight and reform committee hearing. What do you plan on seeing?
SMITH: I don't know. I just got the invitation, the actual invitation today. And -- I don't know. I have no idea what I will say. Whenever I talk, I speak from my heart at the time, and I don't know how I'll feel. I want Hillary to come up and stand up for what happened. I want her to do that. I want the government to make her answer. Just answer the simple question she was asked. She won't do it. I don't know why. In fact, I don't even care why anymore. I just want her to do it: stand up, and admit when you blow it.
TAPPER: And she blew it, in your view, because there wasn't adequate security for your son and the others at the compounds in Benghazi? Is that how she blew it?
SMITH: That's one of the reasons. That's the main reason, yes.
And it was her department. All she ever says is nobody told her or she didn't know what happened. I know for a fact now that she was on the telephone with one of our people in Tripoli when this was happening. So, why couldn't we send somebody to help these poor people that are stuck on the roof? Glen and Ty, they were just sitting there -- not only as sitting ducks, but -- I don't know. I don't know. I don't know how to answer that.
TAPPER: Pat Smith, again, our condolences. Thank you for joining us.
SMITH: Thank you.
TAPPER: Coming up next, they took a stand against guns. and it cost them their jobs. Why voters in Colorado booted two Democrats out of office even after New York mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to come to their defense.
And in sports, grand slammed. Why the New York Yankees were just hit with a penalty bigger than the Houston Astros' entire payroll.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
Now it is time for the Politics Lead. It's a state that has witnessed two of the worst gun violence tragedies in U.S. history: the Columbine High School shooting and last year's Aurora theater massacre. But fter passing stricter gun control earlier this year, gun rights activists vowed to make some Colorado lawmakers pay the price at the polls. And it didn't take long for them to make good on those threats.
TAPPER (voice-over): An historic and first-ever recall vote in Colorado pitted citizen against citizen as well as two of the nation's post powerful gun lobby groups against each other. Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns versus the National Rifle Association. Both groups spending millions to sway voters. Ultimately, Colorado voters sent a stern message to two state senators, both Democrats, who supported the new gun laws. You're fired.
ANGELA GIRONE, FORMER COLORADO STATE SENATOR: I love you.
TAPPER: State senator Angela Girone, who represented a mainly Democratic district, and Colorado State Senate president John Morse were both booted.
JOHN MORSE, FORMER COLORADO STATE SENATOR: If passing gun safety legislation in Colorado cost me my political career, that is such a small price to pay. Because the families of gun violence victims pay a huge price every single day.
TAPPER: Among the laws that caused such a backlash, one limiting ammunition magazines to 15 rounds, another requiring universal background checks, and a third which required gun purchasers to cover the costs of the background checks.
The NRA, which helped local groups in Colorado mount the recall effort, celebrated the results as a major milestone. "NRA-PVF is proud to have stood with the men and women in Colorado who sent a clear message that their Second Amendment rights are not for sale." Supporters of the Colorado laws argue that following tragedies in Aurora and Newtown, stricter gun laws make Coloradans safer.
Opponents fought the laws fiercely and viewed them as an infringement on their constitutional rights. They also see the victory in Colorado as a pivotal moment in the nation's gun policy debate.
TAPPER: Let's now hash this all out with Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America and Jim Kessler, co-founder of Third Way, a group that wants to see tighter gun control laws.
Jim, I will start with you. In the latest polling, 51 percent of Americans still think gun laws should be tighter. But gun laws, politicians supportive of them, keep getting voted down. Why?
JIM KESSLER, CO-FOUNDER, THIRD WAY: Gun laws are notoriously hard to pass.
KESSLER: After the Hinckley assassination, it took 12 years. Look, we have a constitutional amendment on guns. We're a freedom-loving country. And I also think that when we try to pass gun laws, a lot of times gun control activists, they go too far. That's what happened in Colorado.
TAPPER: That's what happened? Colorado.
LARRY PRATT, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, GUN OWNERS OF AMERICA: As we found out in Colorado, the only poll that counts was the one that was held on election day.
PRATT: The polls were all over the place as is frequently is what goes on, and the intensity of people whose freedom is being threatened was manifest during that election.
KESSLER: Well, I don't know. We talk about freedom, the freedom being threatened. Look, that is something the gun rights groups bring up all the time. The truth of the matter is when you talk about background checks, it is popular 90 percent to 10 percent. If you look at Colorado in 2000, it passed by 700,000 votes in that state, it is such a popular idea.
KESSLER: But when you get to the bans on things like (INAUDIBLE), that when it goes too far --
PRATT: Following the NSA scandal, I don't think it is as hard a sell as it was before that happened. Now we know the government cannot be trusted. It is not paranoia. It is to point to what the government says.
KESSLER: So, you are saying there should be no background checks buying a firearm -
KESSLER: -- even at a gun store?
PRATT: Yes. (INAUDIBLE) roll that back and they're abuse it like they did with the IRS, like they did with the NSA. We don't trust them and we have very solid, tangible --
TAPPER: So, Larry, let me ask you a question. How do we keep guns out of the hands of people like the Aurora shooter?
PRATT: You don't. The question ought to be how do you get guns into the hands of people who need to be able to defend themselves? Aurora was a gun-free zone by law. Columbine was a gun-free zone by law.
TAPPER: But I am talking about mentally unstable people.
PRATT: If they're criminally inclined, they will get a gun anyway.
KESSLER: So we should just give up?
PRATT: -- if I am in a place I can't legally have a gun, I can't protect myself because guys like you won't let me have a gun.
KESSLER: We are fine with having a gun if you go through a background check and pass it.
PRATT: Don't trust what your government is going to do to those of list of names, NSA, IRS. We now have the smoking gun if you will. KESSLER: We can take it to the absurd question we should do nothing about anything and shouldn't walk through a security check zone at an airport.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Let me ask you a question about specifically about Colorado. Mayor Michael Bloomberg was very active in trying to help --
PRATT: I am glad he was.
TAPPER: Well, that's what I wanted to ask you about. Did his involvement backfire? Did it hurt his cause?
PRATT: I would like him to get involved in any campaign we're interested in, in the future.
PRATT: Because first of all he is kind of an arrogant twit who has a nanny state mentality and I think one headline I saw was, take that, big gulp. The guy is sticking his nose into things where government has to business being and he got his come up yesterday.
TAPPER: Does the involvement of somebody like Mayor Bloomberg who does have a reputation for government overreach for nanny state, banning big gulps, or that's a simplification, but you know what I'm saying. Does his involvement hurt the cause?
KESSLER: Look, I think the gun rights side has come up with a good talking point against Mayor Bloomberg and I think that's been effective, but I would say this. The gun safety side does not do a good job politically as the gun rights side, and it has happened for decades. Unless we learn these lessons, we're going to have more defeats than victories and we need those victories.
TAPPER: Why doesn't the gun rights side do as well? Why does the gun rights side, why are they so much stronger than the gun control side or the gun safety, whatever you want to call it?
KESSLER: If you look at the NRA, which is by far the largest gun rights group out there. They are an organization that's been out there for 100 years or more and then you look at the major gun groups today, the gun safety groups, Bloomberg, Gabby Gifford's group, the Sandy Hook group, combined they have been around for about ten years.
PRATT: The gun rights people have a grassroots. You guys frankly don't. We are right of center country. A right of center country does not like nanny staters like Mr. Bloomburg coming in to tell us what's good for us. We can figure that out ourselves.
TAPPER: We only have 30 seconds left. Larry, you guys have the momentum, your side in this, the groups, the activists and the grassroots. What's next? Where are you turning your attention?
PRATT: Well, we have to get rid of the gun free school zone. That's a magnet for murder. If you have in your evil heart to kill a lot of people, it is a great place to go. It is just disgusting we continue to disarm people who would otherwise be able to protect themselves and stop these dirt bags from doing these kinds of terrible things.
TAPPER: Jim, quickly.
KESSLER: I think that is insanity. My child is in third grade and having guns in her school will not make the place any safer.
PRATT: You like bodies piling up, I see.
KESSLER: No, no, that's ridiculous.
PRATT: Good move.
KESSLER: That's what --
PRATT: All of them.
TAPPER: We're not going to resolve this issue right now. Larry Pratt and Jim Kessler, thank you so much for coming. We appreciate it.
When we come back, Anthony Weiner flashes the finger to the press as he exits the New York City mayor's race. I guess it could have been worse. Where have you gone, Carlos Danger? The "Politics Lead" is next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD and other political news. When former Congressman Anthony Weiner entered the New York City mayor's race no one was happier than headline writers with dirty minds. But now, sadly, they must bid adios to Carlos Danger. Weiner came in fifth place in last night's primary election after realizing his mayoral dreams had gone limp, he let his inner Carlos Danger shine by flashing reporters the only body part he had managed to keep under control for all this time, his middle finger. THE LEAD's Erin McPike has more.
ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Anthony Weiner could have been the perfect New York mayor, obviously photogenic and generally beloved by all.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have some self respect.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you vote for someone that has done what you have done?
MCPIKE: Well, this is New York after all. After losing the race last night and coming with just 5 percent of the vote. Weiner let us in on what went wrong.
ANTHONY WEINER, FORMER NEW YORK MAYORAL CANDIDATE: We had the best ideas. Sadly, I was an imperfect messenger.
MCPIKE: So that's what it was. Well, one of his other imperfections reared her head last night.
SYDNEY LEATHERS, WEINER'S FORMER SEXTING PARTNER: Apparently he doesn't think he can handle confronting me or me being in this presence.
MCPIKE: Sydney Leathers, the 23-year-old woman Weiner used to enjoy sexting with. But she shouldn't take all the credit. Sure, the sex scandal was a hiccup, but there was more.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is wrong with you?
MCPIKE: MSNBC put it bluntly.
WEINER: What is wrong with me that I care so much about the issues I fight for every day.
MCPIKE: What is also wrong is that he doesn't seem to get math.
WEINER: I am trying to get one person's vote. I'm trying to get many people's vote.
MCPIKE: It is an old campaign rule. You have to get one vote before you can get two and so on.
WEINER: Can I have your vote in 20 years?
MCPIKE: This vote would be too young to count.
WEINER: It is not for you to judge my friend.
MCPIKE: And this might not be the wisest way to rack up more. There are some that stood by him, defiantly supportive.
HUMA ABEDIN, ANTHONY WEINER'S WIFE: I love him. I have forgiven him. I believe in him.
MCPIKE: And when it came time to thank his wife, Huma Abedin, last night --
WEINER: Thank you very much and God bless you.
MCPIKE: He didn't. Oops. OK, so better luck next time. Surely for his next campaign Weiner will flip the script and stop flipping out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are the type of people you surround yourself with.
MCPIKE: But for now the imperfect part of his personality keeps getting in the way.
MCPIKE: Now it was a bad night for comebacks all around because Eliot Spitzer lost his own race for the New York City comptroller as well. Scott Stringer won with 52 percent of the vote and he got just 48 percent. Not as bad as Weiner's loss, of course.
TAPPER: All right, Erin McPike, thank you so much. Coming up next on THE LEAD, we'll be right back after this message.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Our Sports Lead now, at this point, they are like that old car. You keep sinking money into hoping to recapture some of the glory days before the intake hose was a Pringles can. "USA Today" reports that the New York Yankees will pay a record $29 million luxury tax this season. That is a lot more than the Houston Astros current payroll.
The Yankees currently have $236 million payroll for purposes of the luxury tax and way over the $178 million threshold. They have been trying to work within a budget to get under the line next year. With A-Rod it could be a problem.
The Buried Lead, that's we call stories not getting a lot of attention, maybe the closest to finding out which came first, the chicken or the egg because we now know eggs don't need chickens at all apparently. A new product is hitting the market called chickenless eggs. They won't look like what you see here. It will be a plant based mixture that tastes just like the real thing. A company called Hampton Creek Foods makes the product and it is attracting high profile investors like Bill Gates.
The Pop Culture Lead, there are only three episodes left at ANC's hit show, "Breaking Bad," but this should help with the withdrawal. Today, ANC announced a spin off starring Bob Oden Kirk's character. The morally flexible attorney at law, Saul Goodman, that doesn't necessarily mean that Saul will survive the end of "Breaking Bad." The new one hour show is billed as a prequel to the series. The working title is, what else, "Better Call Saul."
That's it for THE LEAD. I am Jake Tapper. I will be back later tonight at 11 p.m. Eastern, 8:00 p.m. Pacific for one hour live special "Crisis in Syria Decision Point." I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."