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Interview With Texas Congressman Michael McCaul; Kenya Attack; Hillary Clinton for President?; Overdosing on Acetaminophen; Clinton "Wrestling" With Idea of a Run

Aired September 23, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The world is watching. How will the Kenya mall terrorists exit, in custody or in body bags?

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The world lead. No escape. The exits are sealed off. Some of the terrorists who seized a Nairobi shopping mall are still believed to be inside, and there could be Americans involved.

The politics lead. It isn't just bored pundits talking about Hillary Clinton running for president. She's now on the cover of a magazine openly discussing it. Her message, she has learned the mistakes from her last failed campaign, but has she?

And the money lead. If you can't trust the opinions of total strangers on the Internet, then by God, what can you trust? A lot of those reviews on sites like Yelp, well, it turns out they are totally bogus, but now the authorities are actually doing something about it.

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

We will begin, of course, with the world lead. It's now long past sundown in Nairobi, Kenya. We are not likely to hear an all-clear from security forces at the Westgate Mall before the sun rises again. A senior Kenyan official tells CNN that several gunmen are believed to still be in there and the sweep will continue tomorrow.

The building is a viper's nest of sorts with all kinds of hiding spots for the snakes inside. Almost at the very moment Kenyan police said they were in control of all the floors, more gunfire rang out. Members of the al-Qaeda linked terror group Al-Shabab overtook the mall on Saturday. It's not hard to put yourself in the victims' shoes inside the Westgate Mall.

Imagine you're at a mall, you're grabbing lunch, suddenly all sense of normalcy is shattered by 10 to 15 men firing AK-47s, some of them lobbing grenades. Some Americans were inside, including this woman from North Carolina.


BENDITA MALAKIA, WITNESS: While we were back there, they were methodically going kind of store to store, talking to people, asking questions, shooting, screams, and then it would stop for awhile and then they would go to another store.


TAPPER: At least 62 civilians were killed. More than 200 escaped alive, according to Kenya's military. But the Red Cross says 65 people are still missing.

Kenya's Interior Ministry says three of the terrorists have been confirmed dead since this all began on Saturday. It's unclear how many could still be left inside at this time or how many hostages they may still be holding, for that matter. Al-Shabab claims three Americans are among the attackers, but U.S. officials say they do not have any confirmation of that.

In the states, Al-Shabab doesn't have the name recognition of al Qaeda so just who are they and what do they want?


UHURU KENYATTA, KENYAN PRESIDENT: No family should have to receive news that their loved ones have been killed by a criminal bunch of cowards.

TAPPER (voice-over): But tragically, the families of dozens of victims are mourning their losses today after gunfire echoed throughout the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, this weekend, a favored destination for Westerners.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bullets were running over my head, but God protected me.

TAPPER: The deadly aim of up to 15 armed militants was reportedly targeting non-Muslims. Among the killed and wounded, innocent citizens of America, Canada and France. And even for those lucky enough to escape, the terrifying ordeal was traumatic. The terror group Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the carnage Saturday afternoon.

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: It represents the seriousness and the breadth of the challenge that we face with ruthless and completely reckless terrorists.

TAPPER: So who is Al-Shabab? A Somali terrorist organization sharing al Qaeda's perverse belief that targeting innocents is the way to fight in the name of Allah. The group is thought to consist of thousands of fighters and formerly allied itself with al Qaeda in recent years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are simply fighting for the sake of Allah and we're defending the religion of Allah.

TAPPER: Al-Shabab has proven particularly adept at recruiting American-born jihadis and the terrorist group claims three of them participated in the attack. U.S. officials say they are now combing through evidence to see if that claim is true, noting the presence of some Americans in the group. Law enforcement officials are especially worried about a strike here by Al-Shabab terrorists, some of whom have American passports.

KENYATTA: We will punish the masterminds swiftly and, indeed, very painfully.

TAPPER: In Kenya, Al-Shabab is a familiar foe. Kenyan soldiers were among the United Nations-backed forces that helped to push the terrorists out of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, in 2006.

But Al-Shabab still controls portions of Somalia and continues to recruit its fighters from outside that country. Some Al-Shabab fighters were radicalized right here at home in the U.S., including a number of young men from the Somali community in Minneapolis.

Among counterterrorism officials, perhaps the best-known American to join Al-Shabab is Omar Hammami, originally from Alabama. The young radicalized recruit was an occasional rapper on YouTube and was on Twitter and was reportedly killed during fighting between Shabab factions recently.

As Al-Shabab tries to glorify Saturday's attack to build its violent reputation, the international community vows to make sure it does not attack again.

KENYATTA; We shall hunt down the perpetrators wherever they run to. We shall get them. And we shall punish them for this heinous crime.


TAPPER: And joining me now is Republican Congressman Michael McCaul of Texas.

He's the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

I want to start off the bat with this...


TAPPER: There's -- there's a lot of conflicting reports about whether or not Americans were any of the gunmen in this attack.

Do you have any updated information on that?

MCCAUL: Well, I know that three reported. It has not been confirmed. We've been following Al-Shabab for quite some time. And we do know that 40 to 50 Americans have gone over there to join what they call "the fight." So it's not -- certainly, it's very plausible that three of them could have been Americans.

TAPPER: And, Congressman, having 40 to 50 Americans as part of this group that is -- has a formal alliance with al Qaeda is there any known threat inside the U.S. at this point from this group?

Are there concerns about the many soft targets we have here in the United States?

MCCAUL: Well, I think their focus has been more regional -- Somalia and Kenya.

However, I think when you have 50 Americans -- up to 50 Americans trained to fight the war in terrorism the idea that they could come back into the United States is a real valid concern, as the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, that we have. And we've been tracking this for several years to try to get the identifying travel information, to ensure that these Americans don't come back into the United States, and if they do, they'll get picked up immediately at our airports.

And so we've had several successful cases with the FBI recently, within the last year, picking up Al-Shabab members in the United States who have actively tried to recruit and train in the United States and then send them overseas to Kenya and Somalia.

TAPPER: But the 40 to 50 individuals from the United States who have gone over to join the -- quote, unquote -- fight," on behalf of Al- Shabab, you're confident that if they came back to the United States, they would be immediately caught?

MCCAUL: I'm concerned. I think we have a pretty high degree of confidence as to who they are, but there -- there possibly could be Americans over there that we do talk about. And I think that's one of my biggest concerns.

Now, they are going over there to fight the fight for Somalia for the Al-Shabab movement. But the idea of that being -- coming back into the United States is a very real threat that we have to prepare ourselves for. And I think, obviously, federal law enforcement and Homeland Security, we're working very hard on this, to make sure that they don't come back in the United States.

And if they do, they'll -- they'll be apprehended.

TAPPER: And, Congressman, I want to ask you about two other incidents. Unfortunately, it's been a very bloody week. In Northwest Pakistan, a church was bombed over the weekend. More than 80 people were killed. A splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility. And they said that they did it because of the drone strikes being carried out by the United States.

Is there a point in time where someone like you wonders whether these drone strikes are motivating more attacks and causing more deaths, in a way, than the strikes are preventing?

MCCAUL: Well, nothing can justify the act of terrorism they perpetrated on Christians...

TAPPER: Of course not.

MCCAUL: -- in Pakistan...

TAPPER: Of course not. MCCAUL: -- having -- and -- and, of course. Now, having said that, I've said, over the past year, that drone strikes alone are not going to win this war. I think that's the president's sole use in the war against terror, drone strikes. And that cannot kill an ideology. And I think in many cases, you're seeing what we're seeing in Pakistan, is it's inflaming locals.

And so I think we need to have a -- a more comprehensive strategy and not just using drone strikes alone. I think -- I think you're right, Jake, I think there is a variable there that it just inflames the region.

Now, drone strikes have been very effective and I support them. But it's not sing -- the single solution to this problem that we face.

TAPPER: And, lastly, sir, one week ago today, of course, the horrific Navy Yard shootings.

Your colleagues, two of them, Henry Waxman is one of them, have sent a letter to the FTC and the Commerce Department asking about reports that first responders at the Navy Yard had faulty radios. They had to rely on their personal phones to communicate. And then, of course, there's the police union calling on Congress to investigate whether a tactical team from the U.S. Capitol Police was turned away from responding to the shooting.

What can you tell us about these two issues? And how concerned are you about these first responder issues?

MCCAUL: Well, this long after 9/11, the idea that we're not interoperable is really inexcusable. And so we will be investigating that. I plan to hold a hearing on the House Homeland Security Committee on this issue and the clearances.

I just happened to bump into one of these SWAT team members outside the classified briefing room in the Capitol. And he told me about how -- and I heard this firsthand -- that his commanding SWAT team officer told them to stand down, that they were there eating breakfast and that he told them to stand down.

And that's obviously of great concern when you have a SWAT team that close by that could response to the situation.

Now, I need to verify the veracity of that statement, but I have no reason to believe he was simply making this up. And so that's something, obviously, Jake, we're going to be investigating and looking into.

TAPPER: Congressman Michael McCaul, thank you so much for your time.

MCCAUL: Thanks for having me.

TAPPER: Coming up next, could you or someone you love have come close to overdosing without even realizing it? A new investigation on the real risks from something you might take every week. And, later, what if the guy who wrote the rave online review of your neighborhood joint is actually living in Bangladesh? Which companies are paying to play on Yelp -- when we come back.


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

In our national lead, it's one of the most popular pain relievers in the United States, but one new report by ProPublica says the active ingredient in Tylenol may have caused the deaths of more than 1,500 people over 10 years.

Listen to the parents of 12-year-old Davy. His father took him to the hospital after treating him for a sore throat for a week with Maximum Strength Tylenol sore throat medicine.


DAVID BAUMLE, FATHER: And he took this little light thing -- little light thing in his eyes and he looked at me. And that's when he asked me if he had been exposed to poisonous mushrooms or Tylenol.

And I says, yes, he'd taken Tylenol sore throat medicine.

He's got liver damage.

I says, from what? He says from acetaminophen.


TAPPER: Davy was declared brain dead a few days later. It's called acetaminophen. And when taken in larger than recorded doses, it can damage or destroy the liver.

One of the report's authors joins me now, "ProPublica's" T. Christian Miller.

T., good to see you. So, basically, break it down to our viewers. What is the key issue of acetaminophen?

T. CHRISTIAN MILLER, PROPUBLICA: The key issue is really what they call the narrow margin of error. It's the narrowest margin of error between the dose that can hurt you and the dose that can harm. So, most folks tell us -- if you take the recommended daily dose, that's fine. It's a pretty safe medicine. But if you go over that and not too far, you can get in trouble.

TAPPER: Just to clarify, I think you misspoke, the dose that can help you and the dose that can harm, there's a very narrow margin.

MILER: Right. I'm sorry. Yes, the dose that can help you and the dose that can harm you, there's a very narrow margin of error, according to the FDA.

TAPPER: And, T, how does this compare to other pain relievers? MILLER: So, most other pain relievers and most other drugs, in fact, have a larger margin between what can do that damage and what can't. What makes Tylenol kind of unique is it's really a pretty safe medicine, most folks tell us, at the recommended doses, but if you go over two pills, four pills, six pills, eight pills, over a number of days, depending on your condition, you can get into trouble with things like liver damage and even death.

TAPPER: Most people probably wouldn't think twice about popping an extra pill or two. How much over do you have to go over the recommended dose for it to be seriously detrimental?

MILLER: So that's a question that the FDA is struggling to get a full number on, even today. But the number they put out right now is studies show that anywhere from about four pills over to eight pills over taken -- of extra strength -- taken over several days can get you into trouble. A one-time dosage of about four times can also get you into trouble in terms of liver damage and fatality.

TAPPER: I want to play something from another couple you and your colleague Jeff Gerth spoke to. The parents of 5-month-old Brianna who was given Tylenol. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The doctor comes in and says I figured it out. She's been poisoned by Tylenol. Her liver is failing. Her enzymes are high.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did this happen? How did she get poison from medicine that's always given, that we were told to give?


TAPPER: T, tell us exactly what happened with Brianna, because this is an interesting story and a tragic one, obviously, when it comes to children's Tylenol versus infant's Tylenol and counter intuitively, the infant's Tylenol is at a higher concentration.

MILLER: Right. This is one of the more interesting aspects of the story for me. What happened is the major manufacturers of acetaminophen like Tylenol and others were selling two different concentrations of infants and children's and the infants was three times more concentrated than the children's. So if you mixed up the dosage, in other words, if you gave your infant baby infant's Tylenol at a children's Tylenol level, you could end up poisoning them completely accidentally. And that happened a number of times over 15 years and that's what happened with that Haddows (ph), is that she accidentally overdosed her child, Brianna.

And so both the FDA and McNeil, which is the manufacturer who makes Tylenol, both these organizations were fighting over how to fix this problem but it went on for 15 years. And during that time, we know some kids died while they were debating how to fix this problem.

TAPPER: And as our medical team points out, if taken in recommended doses, you are safe to take Tylenol. This is not just a Tylenol problem. Acetaminophen is in hundreds of other medications. Tylenol has a new cap that warns about the ingredient and to use it safely.

We want to also read this statement from the producers of Tylenol. "As the makers of Tylenol, we understand that consumers have a need to know about the medicines they take and we have the responsibility to help them make informed choices, including helping them to understand both the benefits and the risks. When taken as directed, acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, has one of the most favorable safety profiles among over-the-counter pain relievers. However, when an overdose is taken, it can result in serious liver damage. Consumers should always read the label on the medicines they take, never take more than the recommended dose and talk to the doctor if they have any questions or concerns. Visit us at for more information."

So, T, I think we need to put this in context for people at home with Tylenol, with children's Tylenol, with infant's Tylenol, how concerned should they be?

MILLER: Well, today, they made only one concentration, but there's still no instructions on the label on how to take it. So you can't double-check yourself. So, if you're a parent at home, the number one thing is to follow what the label says. As of now, that label is, if you have a kid under 2, call your doctor for recommendations.

So, that's what parents should do right now, follow the label as it's labeled and be careful when administering doses to their kids.

TAPPER: And be sure to read T. Christian Miller and Jeff Gerth's story on about this study. Thank you so much, T. Really appreciate it.

MILLER: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Also, a retirement is reportedly coming to Lois Lerner, that's the former IRS official at the center of the sprawling Tea Party targeting scandal. Lerner, if you remember, headed up the IRS division that handles applications for tax-exempt status, the same division that admitted that Tea Party groups had been put through extra scrutiny when they applied for tax exemption between 2010 and 2012.

Lerner was put on paid leave in May. She also infamously pled the Fifth during a congressional hearing citing her constitutional right not to incriminate herself. Many Republicans called for her to be fired. She could still be called back to testify even though she is resigning from the IRS.

For a look at what's ahead, let's go to the political panel in the green room. Terry Suffle (ph), his town has been playing the will she, won't she game for five years about whether or not Secretary Clinton will make another run for the White House. You're kind of in the inner circle. Can you kindly end the speculation so we can all move on with our lives? Is she running?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jake, I think the only proper answer here is for me to burst into tears.

TAPPER: I don't know what that means. Bu we'll get to the bottom of it coming up next, when we tackle the politics lead.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Now, it's time for the politics lead.

In Hillary Clinton's first interview since leaving the State Department, she is finally coming clean. Yes, she admits she's wrestling with the idea of running for president. Now, it's taken awhile for her to get there.

Let's recap. In 2011, the question got an emphatic no.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you run for president in 2016?



TAPPER: Then in 2012, a slight tweak in the verbiage.


CLINTON: You know, I've said I really don't believe that that's something I will do again.


TAPPER: Finally, this year, in an interview with CNN --


CLINTON: I am not thinking about anything like that right now.


TAPPER: But now, in an interview with "New York" magazine's Joe Hagan, Clinton says this: "I will just continue to weigh what the factors are that would influence me making a decision one way or the other." I'll translate that in my Hillary Clinton to English, English to Hillary dictionary. She is thinking about it.

THE LEAD's Erin McPike is here to break this down.

Erin, she also said this is a decision she doesn't want to make too soon, or too lightly.

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, there's a good reason for that, Jake, because not only is there this big story out with this Clinton interview, there is another story out today, 13 pages long, dripping with characters and anecdotes for Clinton world. So, she's opened the flood gates and her supporters can start to try to get some bundlers to get some donors. I'm sure they're very happy about that. But I think some of her supporters may not be happy about the attacks.


CLINTON: We will some day launch a woman into the White House.

MCPIKE (voice-over): The Ready for Hillary super PAC will release this video on Wednesday, a sort of celebration for the group as Hillary Clinton confirmed what they have been hoping for. She's considering a second run for the White House.

(on camera): Does this have the effect of really shutting down Democratic donors in terms of other potential candidates?

PAUL BEGALA, FORMER BILL CLINTON STRATEGIST: The honest answer is I don't know. It might. There's enormous support for any potential Hillary candidacy. Enormous.

MCPIKE (voice-over): Of course, now she'll have to gird herself for another onslaught of attacks.

In a brand new interview with "New York" magazine to discuss her intentions, she and her associates are already pressing the case that she's more prepared than ever to be commander in chief. "I've had a unique, close and personal front row seat and I think these last four years have certainly deepened and broadened my understanding of the challenges and the opportunities that we face in the world today," she says. Because as secretary of state, she gained experience she didn't get as a first lady or a senator, like pushing to overthrow Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, strengthening sanctions on Iran and cutting a deal between Israel and Hamas.

There is also the experience of facing congressional heat over the death of four Americans in Benghazi.

BEGALA: This kind of scrutiny, some of it fair, some unfair, goes with the territory.

MCPIKE: But not everyone in Clinton's orbit is happy that the wheels are in motion so soon. Here's a glaring example why. Another magazine cover making news, this one detailing how a single long-time aide to Bill Clinton, Doug Band, creates headaches for the family because the firm he founded, Teneo Holdings, is rife with conflicts of interest. The former president was a paid advisor to Teneo and has since stepped down.

Clinton's Republican critics say it's politics as usual for the once and maybe future first family.

TIM MILLER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR ,AMERICA RISING PAC "STOP HILLARY 2016": "The New Republic" article points to two trends that have followed the Clintons as long as they have been in politics. The first is that they are addicted to drama and have internal campaign dysfunction and in-fighting, and the second is they just can't help themselves but give political favors to their cronies.

MCPIKE: Clinton world is sprawling. There's no shortage of people or issues to probe and now that Hillary Clinton may return to the political arena, Republican super PACs like America Rising aren't waiting for her to announce before they attack.

MILLER: What that has done is given people like us in the Republican Party and on the right an opening to discuss her record and to discuss her deficiencies on issues in the news.

MCPIKE: There's no denying that. But Clinton aides do have a retort to the complaints of drama and dysfunction. Hillary Clinton doesn't repeat her mistakes.


MCPIKE: Now, Jake, there's one other big take-away I think from these two articles and that is Clinton orbit has gotten so huge, there was a really interesting anecdote in the Joe Hagan story this weekend --

TAPPER: The "New York" magazine, yes.

MCPIKE: "The New York" magazine story -- and that is that Bill and Hillary Clinton were both in Bogota separately last year, they had dinner together and then they went back to separate hotels with their huge entourages.

TAPPER: Two huge international celebrities. Erin McPike, thank you so much.