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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Shutdown Battle; Iranian Overtures; Interview with Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan; Reports: Navy Was Told Alexis Heard "Voices"; Cantor Calls Out Endangered Democrats

Aired September 20, 2013 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Are they heroic crusaders leading the charge for you or are they villainous gremlins ripping the wings off the plane? Well, for now, I'm just going to call them House Republicans.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The politics lead. House Republicans just voted again to get rid of Obamacare, but this time, they tied funding the government to their effort. Now Washington is poised to close for business. I do not remember this verse from "Schoolhouse Rock."

The world lead. He blames Israel for everything and he seems a little fuzzy about whether the Holocaust happened, and yet many say he is what qualifies as a moderate in the Iranian government. Will President Obama actually meet with Iran's new president? Should he?

And the pop culture lead. He has been satisfying our morbid curiosity for eight seasons. Now, nearly 100 episodes and three times that many plot twists, Dexter himself, Michael C. Hall, drops by to tease Sunday's series finale.

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

We will begin with the politics lead. Start the countdown. In just 10 days, a big part of Obamacare becomes reality. That's when the government will launch its insurance exchange marketplaces. Some of the country's biggest employers are already taking drastic measures to prepare for the bill's requirement that big companies provide health insurance for full-time employees.

This week, Home Depot announced it is shifting part-time workers off of the private health care plans and on to these new public marketplace exchanges. And pass the two buck chuck. Trader Joe's is telling their 20,000 part-time employees that they will soon be on their own. They will get a $500 stipend to help themselves find coverage under the president's plan.

All this uncertainty, it is all fodder for House Republicans, who today for the 41st time voted to defund the Affordable Care Act as part of their government funding bill. Even if the Senate passed this bill -- and it almost assuredly will not -- President Obama has pledged to veto it. So here's why this seemingly incremental Beltway back and forth matters for you. Your government will shut down on October 1 if Congress cannot come to some sort of an agreement. Republicans in the House, well, they're standing defiant.

And Republican Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio joins me now.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

You were a "yes" vote today?

REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: Yes.

TAPPER: The bill now goes to the Senate.

I want to play you something that Senator John McCain, your party's 2008 nominee for president, told me just yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: In the United States Senate, we will not repeal or defund Obamacare. We will not. And to think we can is not rational.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: He's saying you're not rational, Congressman.

JORDAN: Well, I would just point out, Jake, there were a lot of Republicans just two weeks ago who said we were going to go to war with Syria and today we're not. So, look, the -- when the American people get engaged, they have a way of making elected officials see the light, find the lord and do the right thing.

This bill is the right thing. I mean it funds the government. I don't see the Democrats introducing a bill that funds the government. This bill funds the government, and more importantly, it delays and stops a law everyone in the country, everyone knows is bad, including the president, who's delayed parts of it for big business, including James Hoffa, who's called this thing a bill that's going to -- a law that's going to harm working Americans, change the work week, I mean everyone knows...

TAPPER: Congressman...

JORDAN: -- this is bad.

TAPPER: -- it's just not accurate to say that everyone knows it's bad. I -- I think the latest polling that CNN has, 42 percent or so of the American people approving of the law. And of the 51 percent who disapprove, 16 percent think that it isn't liberal enough. So actually, not only...

JORDAN: Jake...

TAPPER: -- does not everyone agree with what you're saying...

JORDAN: Jake...

TAPPER: -- there are -- a majority of the country either likes the law...

JORDAN: -- you...

TAPPER: -- or they think it's not liberal enough.

JORDAN: Jake, even you know this bill is not ready. You know this law is not ready. In Ohio, the seventh largest state, 11 million people, our state law requires the navigators, the people who are supposed to go out and assist people signing up in the exchange, signing up for Obamacare, not one single navigator has been licensed by the state insurance commissioner, as required by Ohio law. Not one. And we are 10 days away from this thing starting.

So everyone knows this thing isn't ready. Everyone knows this thing has problems. Even the folks you cite who say, oh, well, we want this thing to happen, they still know it's not ready.

What's wrong with delaying a bill that even the president has delayed for big business and Democrats, like Howard Dean, say it's going to lead to rationing of care.

The AFL-CIO just voted last week and said, hey, hey, fix this thing or repeal it. Even the labor unions know this law is not ready.

So...

TAPPER: Well, you're talking about -- first of all, I don't know what you mean when you say even I know. But in terms of the details of the law, we can get into those. I agree with you that there are questions. And as you note, President Obama himself delayed one of the provisions, the employer mandate provision.

But let me -- let me read something to you from Karl Rove, who wrote in "The Wall Street Journal" -- quote -- "Even the defund strategy's authors say they don't want a government shutdown. But their approach means we'll get one. Going down that road would strengthen the president while alienating Independents. It is an ill-conceived tactic and Republicans should reject it."

In actuality, what we're talking about here is a government shutdown. You are tying funding the government to defunding Obamacare. There are not the votes...

JORDAN: Jake...

TAPPER: -- to support that in the Senate and the president says he'll veto it. That means the government would shutdown. Karl Rove says your party is going to be blamed.

JORDAN: Jake, have the Democrats introduced a bill to fund the government?

TAPPER: Not that I know of.

JORDAN: No. We have, right?

They haven't, we have.

TAPPER: That's true.

JORDAN: Fund essential services and says this law, which is a big problem, which, in my words, everyone understands that it is a big problem and shouldn't be enacted.

So we're the only ones that have introduced a bill to fund the government. Democrats, put up a bill. Tell us what you want to do. And we don't know. The people have a way of weighing in on these debates and changing the minds of politicians.

I think there's guys in the Senate -- I think there are senators who are going to find Jesus and do the right thing. We've got 10 days to run this campaign.

(CROSSTALK)

JORDAN: I don't know how it's going to play out.

TAPPER: I assume you're saying find Jesus in a -- a metaphorical sense, not...

JORDAN: A -- a...

TAPPER: -- not a -- not a literal sense.

JORDAN: Well, of course. I mean, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Sixty-seven percent, I mean, of the Senate would need to agree with you. Sixty-seven senators would need to agree with you, because President Obama says he'll veto this. You need 67 votes to override it.

JORDAN: I...

TAPPER: This is not going to happen. There just aren't 67 votes...

(CROSSTALK)

JORDAN: The president has threatened to veto before and we find things -- we find things become law. The Senate -- back at the start of this session, we said if you don't do a budget, you won't get paid, a bill we passed, no budget, no pay. And the Senate said, oh, we're not for this. And somehow they -- they decided, oh, you know what, we are for it, and they passed it.

So they say that all the time. Let this play out. Let this debate happen.

What's wrong with that?

The House took a position today, bipartisan, I might add. There were some Democrats who supported it. A bipartisan bill. Send it to the Senate, let the debate play out, let the American people weigh in. That's how our great form of government works. Let's let this play out and so what happens in 10 days.

TAPPER: All right, I...

JORDAN: But what we do know happens in 10 days...

TAPPER: Yes.

JORDAN: -- is Obamacare starts and it is not ready.

TAPPER: Well, I have no issue with a -- a debate taking place in the Senate, certainly. And you're right, there was a bipartisanship vote in favor of defunding. There also was a bipartisan vote against defunding.

One quick question for you, though. If Obamacare would be scrapped, where is the Republican health care plan to help all those uninsured Americans and whatever...

JORDAN: You know...

TAPPER: -- happened to Republicans who thought that freeloaders, people who used emergency rooms as their primary care physician, putting the charge onto you and me and all your voters who have insurance, whatever happened to those individuals being held responsible and being required to have some sort of personal accountability?

JORDAN: We're all for personal accountability, Jake, and there's lots of things we can reform in our social welfare system that will actually help people in need but encourage more responsibility. I'd be glad to have that -- that full debate.

We have introduced a bill this week, House Republicans, Steve Scalise and members of the Republican Study Committee, members not of the Republican Study Committee have signed onto a bill with several doctors who are -- who are part of the House Republican Conference, as co-sponsor to that legislation, which we think is a good alternative to this bill that has all kinds of problems and the American people know is not ready for enactment.

TAPPER: Congressman Jim Jordan, I'd love to have you on to talk more about this issue.

I know you have to run back to your beautiful Buckeye state of Ohio.

JORDAN: Right.

TAPPER: Thanks for joining us.

JORDAN: You bet. Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up: Iran's new president is coming to the United States next week, and he may get something that his predecessor never even came close to, a handshake from President Obama. And not many actors could make viewers root for a serial killer. There's Anthony Hopkins, Michael C. Hall. Well, that's about it. The star of "Dexter," Michael C. Hall, joins us right before the series finale in our pop culture lead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. It's time for our national lead.

You know those "days without an accident" signs that you see at factories and warehouses? Well, if the United States had one of those for mass shootings, it would have read three days yesterday.

But now we are going to have to change it back to zero after the events in Chicago late last night. At this hour, there are no suspects in custody after police say someone shot up a park on the city's South Side; 13 people were hurt, including the youngest victim, a 3-year-old boy.

President Obama's adopted hometown has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation, banning some kinds of semiautomatic rifles called assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Yet just this week, the FBI released data showing Chicago to be the murder capital of the United States.

I want to bring in our national correspondent, Deborah Feyerick.

Deb, where does the investigation into this shooting stand right now?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, the investigation, police are questioning members of various gangs in the area. You mentioned the area, the South Side. It was a place called Back of the Yards.

People were gathered together for a basketball game on a warm September night, and that's when a gunman about 10:15 yesterday walked on with a high-powered assault rifle and simply opened fire; 13 people were hit, the youngest you mentioned, a 3-year-old Deonta Howard.

Also hit, two teenagers. They -- everybody in serious condition, but stable. Miraculously, no one died, but you can imagine the pandemonium, the chaos as people just fell to the court injured by gunshot wounds, others just running for cover. Police believe thins is part of an ongoing gang war in this area.

The uncle of the 3-year-old boy, Jake, he was killed in gang violence just a couple months ago. I spoke to a local pastor here. He says the shooter has to turn himself in, because if he doesn't, he, his friends, his family, once he's identified, all of them are as good as dead. This is about retaliation. This is about gang war.

Right now, police looking into who killed or who opened fire -- excuse me -- on all these people. And, Jake, the community's mobilizing. There's going to be a march here from this church tonight. There's another vigil that's going to be held, people just calling out against the violence that has simply rocked this part of Chicago. TAPPER: And, Deb, what's been the response from Mayor Rahm Emanuel? Earlier this year, he was talking about how crime had been going down in Chicago because of increased presence of police. Has he had a response to this shooting?

FEYERICK: Well, he did. And, as a matter of fact, he was supposed to go to Washington, D.C. He actually changed his plans, returned to Chicago to be here.

And he said, look, these sort of senseless, brazen acts of violence simply have to stop. And the top cop here also said it's crazy that an assault rifle should be on the street and aimed at people who are simply out playing basketball late one night.

The park would have closed about 45 minutes later, so the gunman knew exactly who was going to be there and what they were going to be doing, got in, got out, and now we're left with the ramifications, Jake.

TAPPER: Horrific. Deb Feyerick in Chicago, thank you so much.

Of course, this mass shooting in Chicago happened just three days after a gunman killed 12 people inside Washington's Navy Yard, and we seem no closer to understanding the motives of the killer, Aaron Alexis. He was a contractor at the Yard who used a valid I.D. to bring in a shotgun and blast away inside Building 197 for a full half- hour.

Questions remain. How did a man with so many personal demons get clearance? How did he get inside the Navy Yard?

I want to welcome Rear Admiral John Kirby. He's chief of information for the U.S. Navy.

Thank you so much for coming in, sir. We appreciate it.

So, "The New York Times" is reporting that Alexis worked for this Hewlett-Packard subcontractor called The Experts, and that The Experts called his hotel, Alexis' hotel, on August 7th and said he was unstable and they were bringing him home. Did The Experts ever let the Navy know that?

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY, CHIEF OF INFORMATION, U.S. NAVY: We are asking that same question right now. I don't have any indication that they did. As a matter of fact, we'd like to understand that a little better, too. If they brought him back from Newport saying he was unstable, what's he been doing since then. Looks like he had access to other naval installations including the Navy Yard, of course, so we would like to better understand exactly what happened between then and Monday's shooting.

TAPPER: It's also been reported that police in Newport, Rhode Island, told the Navy about that incident in August 7th when he was hearing voices, saying that people were using a microwave, clear delusions, clear paranoia. The police say they total the Navy Yard in Rhode Island. What happened after that? Did the Navy in Rhode Island ever let anyone else know?

KIRBY: Right now -- and we're looking at this, too, Jake -- but right now, it doesn't appear as if the security officers there at the Newport Naval Station did anything in terms of raising it up to the chain of command. So, we're asking those very tough questions, too, about why that didn't occur and whether it should have occurred.

Now, he was only in Newport for a couple days, best we can tell. A short time -- short slice of that time, he actually did stay at the naval station in one of our on-base hotels as well.

TAPPER: The government contractor USIS did the background check --

KIRBY: Yes.

TAPPER: -- on Aaron Alexis. They also did the background check on Edward Snowden who while what he did can't be compared at all to what Aaron Alexis did, I think we can agree he should have had no access to classified information.

Why does the government still use USIS? It seems to me like they are not doing a very good job.

KIRBY: Well, as you know, they are being investigated for exactly that right now. I'm not -- I don't know how the contracting system works between the government and USIS, but clearly we have grave concerns. Now, this is as you pointed out, the second one. So, it does raise some serious questions and those questions are being asked.

TAPPER: "The Washington Post" reports that investigators are looking into whether some sort of workplace dispute had anything to do with this shooting. Do you know if any of the individuals that Alexis killed were targeted specifically or is it thought that they were all random?

KIRBY: I don't have any sense of the motive or how he went about killing who he went about killing. I think the FBI said yesterday that it appeared to be that he was almost on a hunting spree, but the degree to which -- I just don't know who he was going after or why. That's all motive and that's all what the investigation will try to turn up.

TAPPER: Are all of the 12 victims who were killed and the three who were wounded, were all of them shot only by Aaron Alexis, or is it possible that there was friendly fire as well?

KIRBY: I see no indication of any friendly fire. That everything I've seen -- and again, I'm not party to the investigation -- tells me that Aaron Alexis was the shooter.

TAPPER: And the last question, as you know I reported a couple days ago that the Navy in 2007 knew about Alexis' incident in 2004, when he shot out the car tires and claimed that he had had an anger-fueled blackout. Why would the Navy let him in? That would seem to be the first red flag, this guy should not be trained by the U.S. military, he should not be given access to weapons, he should not be representing the United States in the world.

KIRBY: That's a great question, Jake. Again, we have been looking very, very hard. Secretary Mabus ordered a deep dive into Aaron Alexis' whole service record. So, we're about ready to wrap that up, so no final conclusions.

What I can tell you is, it's unclear right now the degree to which we had all the details about that the shooting. As you pointed out, the police report made it clear that he had shot using a hand gun, shot the tires out of that car. I'm not sure, we don't know right now how much of the details, the specifics of that shooting incident, the Navy was aware of when they granted him the security clearance.

TAPPER: I know it's only been four days and you don't have a lot of answers to my questions today. I do appreciate you coming here.

Are you frustrated at all that some of these answers haven't come to you and therefore, to me and the viewers?

KIRBY: No, actually not, Jake. I mean, as you said, only four days. This is a very complex situation. We obviously have a disturbed individual at best, a below average sailor. Clearly, there's incidents in his service that are questionable. We're trying to get the answers to this.

And I think it's important that we don't rush to judgment here.

TAPPER: OK.

KIRBY: It's important that we take the time and really do the home work to figure out what happened and more importantly, to your questions, what didn't happen that might -- that should have --

TAPPER: When you have answers you will come back and share them with our viewers?

KIRBY: Yes, sir. Absolutely.

TAPPER: Thank you for coming in, Rear Admiral. Appreciate it. Rear Admiral John Kirby, of course.

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

Gloria Borger, on a lighter note, Senator Rand Paul just channeled Charlie Sheen.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: He did.

TAPPER: He said Republicans are winning. You think that analogy will hold true if we hit a government shutdown in 10 days?

BORGER: I don't think so. I remember Charlie Sheen also said that he had tiger blood. Remember that?

TAPPER: You can't prove that it's not true.

BORGER: Didn't turn out that way.

TAPPER: I don't -- I don't -- you have no evidence to prove that that's not accurate.

BORGER: We'll do the DNA, we're going to do the DNA.

TAPPER: All right. The politics lead coming up. Stay with us.

Thank you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Now, it's time for another politics lead. It's a high stakes showdown in Congress and Majority Leader Eric Cantor just burst through the swinging saloon doors, to call out four endangered Senate Democrats by name, asking whether they stand with him in trying to defund Obamacare or face the consequences.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: I want to know where Senator Pryor stands on protecting the middle class. How about Kay Hagan in North Carolina. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. What about Mark Begich of Alaska.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Let's bring in our political panel -- senior writer for "The Washington Examiner", Philip Klein, CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger, and syndicated columnist for "The Chicago Tribune", Clarence Page.

Before we get to the discussion, Gloria, just a quick translation for people who aren't familiar with the names of all the senators like dorks such as the four of us are. What is the significance of naming --

BORGER: Dork?

TAPPER: Pryor -- you excepted. Me, Philip and Clarence.

BORGER: Thank you.

TAPPER: Pryor, Kagan, Landrieu, Begich. What do they all have in common?

BORGER: Is that a trick question? Because how about 2014, OK. Did I win?

TAPPER: And? BORGER: Up for re-election. Conservative states.

TAPPER: Yes.

BORGER: Endangered species.

TAPPER: Nice. That's it.

BORGER: Is that good?

TAPPER: That's all I wanted, that's all I wanted.

So, Philip, I want to start with you. Fifty-one percent of Americans say they're going to blame House Republicans if the government shuts down. Is this a good idea -- what House Republicans are doing right now? Forgetting about whether or not Obamacare should be law, which it is, this as a political ploy, do you think it's smart?

PHILIP KLEIN, SENIOR WRITER, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, look, I mean, you just played the clips of Eric Cantor and a big reason why he's majority leader is because of Obamacare and the reaction against that in 2010. I think the problem is, is that now, because of all the focus is on government shutdown or not, it's distracting from a lot of the really bad news that we have about Obamacare.

Just this week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services came out and said Obamacare is going to increase health care spending by over $600 billion relative to what was status quo beforehand.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: You're stepping on your own argument.

TAPPER: You also had the news from Trader Joe's and others, people who are taking drastic measures with their employees' health care plans.

KLEIN: Yes. And today, "The Wall Street Journal" reported that the exchanges aren't even ready, they're having problems --

TAPPER: Glitch.

KLEIN: Glitches.

TAPPER: Yes.

KLEIN: Just the latest glitch is that they don't know how to give out the prices of people's health care plans.

BORGER: So, why not make that argument instead of the government shutdown?

TAPPER: That's -- I mean, and why aren't they, Clarence? Why aren't they?

CLARENCE PAGE, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE: They are. Nobody's listening. That's the problem.

Lot of reasons why the exchanges are having trouble is because Republicans in Congress are sending demands for paperwork and other various gimmicks.

KLEIN: That's ridiculous. We have known for years --

(CROSSTALK)

PAGE: You know it's a fact. You know it's a fact.

We also, I'm old enough to remember Medicare. When it came (INAUDIBLE), Medicare, too, Obama and Biden have said all along there are going to be problems. This is what we're seeing.

Trader Joe's is not necessarily a bad thing. You don't know what the consequences --

(CROSSTALK)

PAGE: Don't talk while I'm interrupting. Trader Joe saying, for example, we don't know whether it's going to be good or bad because the fact is that's a private exchange. That's really the way a lot of businesses were going anyway. We are going to find out after it's in operation.

TAPPER: Philip, make your point.

KLEIN: I was just going to say, what Obama was saying is we'd have an exchange that would be like Orbitz or Expedia. Imagine if you went on Orbitz and Expedia and they couldn't tell you what the cost of the airline was. And this going to happen -- this is going to go online in a week and a half. So, this is what we're talking about.

BORGER: But the reason Republicans are doing not because of the reasons you're listing, which are substantive. The reasons they're doing this is what they went home this summer and they got pummeled in their home districts by conservative Republican ads pummeling them for not taking on Obamacare more directly, and they're afraid of being primaried on the right, so lots of these people are saying OK, we have to take this stand or by the way, it's going to hurt us back home because we're going to face tough --

TAPPER: And also --

BORGER: So, that's why they're doing it.

TAPPER: If I can just say, it's also not just that -- there are employers who have been expressing concern about this.

BORGER: Yes.

TAPPER: And that's the reason why President Obama delayed the employer mandate by an extra year.

BORGER: Right. But the reason they're making this particular fight right now is they decided to attach it to this important piece of legislation to get the notice so nobody can say to them you haven't tried to really get rid of Obamacare.

TAPPER: Let's play some sound from President Obama today talking about this fight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Republicans in Congress, they've tried to repeal or sabotage this more than 40 times. They've had these repeal votes. Every time, they failed.

This law that is in place is already providing people benefits. It's not holding back economic growth. It's helping millions of Americans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Gloria, do you think that President Obama is succeeding in this fight, or is it just the Republicans are hurting themselves? What's your take?

BORGER: In the short term, I think he's OK. In the short, because he's talking to independent voters out there who have questions about Obamacare, but they don't want to shut down the government. So, I think he's doing fine right now. I think the short term, Republicans could lose on this one.

I think they have a decision to make. Do they want to be a presidential party and win independent voters or do they want to be a congressional party and win in conservative Republican districts?

TAPPER: Clarence, you will grant that some of the substantive complaints or issues that we have discussed at this table are real and need to be resolved.

PAGE: Right.

TAPPER: President Obama speaks --

PAGE: I think you're also correct. That's not why Republicans in the House are voting this way.

TAPPER: Fair point. The question I have is, President Obama acts as if nothing to see here, everything is fine.

PAGE: That's right. And I disagree with that strategy. He believes that once this is in operation, people are going to like it. And I think he's right in the long run, but in the short run, he's getting pummelled daily by something that LBJ didn't have in the Medicare days, that is cable TV, the internet, all these other media.

There are anti-Obama campaigns going on like the anti-Obama presidential campaign and he's not really speaking up, and this is a state issue. Let me just say quickly. In states that are run by Democrats that are pro-Obamacare, it's working very well, New York, California, Illinois, et cetera. KLEIN: Oregon just had a delay --

PAGE: That's a good thing, delaying.

TAPPER: We'll end it on that note. We're not going to resolve Obamacare right now at this table, but thank you so much, Gloria Borger, Philip Klein, Clarence Page. Appreciate it.