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Shutdown Threatens Fishing Industry; Obamacare: "Worst Thing Since Slavery"; Senator Ted Cruz Heckled At Conservative Summit; "Talks Have Been Constructive"; Warning Signs About Edward Snowden?

Aired October 11, 2013 - 16:30   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: So I know in this town, we debate tactics and procedures and we talk about well, the House Republicans shut down the government because they want to defund Obamacare and President Obama doesn't want to defund Obamacare or doesn't want to dismantle it in any way, and right now this is back and forth going on about the debt ceiling, but they're still not talking about opening up the government, the house Republicans.

How are people in Alaska and Washington talking about -- is it -- do they care about the point of ending Obamacare, or do they just want the government open so they can get about their lives?

KEITH COLBURN, DISCOVERY CHANNEL'S "DEADLIEST CATCH": You know what? I think I'm probably just like everybody else. You know the side I'm on? I'm on the side of Americans. I'm on the side of the economy being thriving, commerce working and our government helping us to do our job. Not shut our jobs down. And yes, I don't know. It's hard to follow the news because every day the story changes. Every day there's a new reason why there's a shutdown or the ceiling.

And all these other things that are fast approaching that ultimately have catastrophic consequences for the entire economy. Right now, the shutdown is having catastrophic consequences on my fishery and we're just the first of many people that are going to be impacted as this starts to mushroom out.

TAPPER: I don't expect you to pick sides one way or the other, but the bottom line is you just want the government back open.

COLBURN: I would like to -- you know what? I would like the government to open so I can go back to work.

TAPPER: All right, Captain, good luck. Thanks so much for stopping by.

COLBURN: Thank you.

TAPPER: Defunding Obamacare may be off the table in the budget battle, at least right now, but it's still a rally cry at the Value Voters Summit.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.


TAPPER: The worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. OK, we'll be right back.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. The "Politics Lead," there were hecklers, Obamacare barbers and a comparison of Obamacare to slavery. That was just day one of the annual conservative gathering known as the Values Voter Summit, the annual convention of like-minded conservative activists and elected officials, the GOP base.

Sure, Republicans are taking a beating in some polls over the ongoing government shutdown, but these activists aren't about polls or pleasing we in the media. They're about pursuing down the path of a cause they believe is just and righteous.

And THE LEAD's Erin McPike is live outside the summit with more on some of today's key moments.

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, once again, Texas Senator Ted Cruz was leading the charge for conservatives vowing to fight Obamacare despite the angst over the shutdown and he was acerbic at times. Take a listen.


SENATOR TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: So this afternoon, President Obama has invited the Senate Republicans to the White House. So after leaving here, I'm going to be going to the White House. I will make a request if I never am seen again, please send a search and rescue team. I very much hope tomorrow morning, I don't wake up amidst the Syrian rebels.


MCPIKE: Now, of course, Cruz has been very vocal like that for the past couple of months and as such, he drew some protesters. Watch this.


CRUZ: Government will always continue to grow and freedom in America will always recede and yet what we saw across this country -- Ma'am, thank you for being here. I wish you would participate in the democratic process through speaking respectfully.


MCPIKE: Now, maybe a tough act to follow, but Senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul did speak directly after Ted Cruz and of course, they're potential competitors to him for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, but interestingly, Jake, they chose not to talk about Obamacare or the shutdown today. Listen to what they had to say about those who love and hate their colleague.


SENATOR RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: And I am in a Toyota Prius. I'm not sure if I can take all the supporters with me, but if you need a ride back to the White House, we do have a Prius. We will take you along.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I hoped someone would heckle me so I can sip some water.


MCPIKE: Now, Jake, you remember of course Ben Carson, he is that surgeon who has become a leading critic of Obamacare. Here's what he had to say today. This might have been one of the most memorable moments of the morning.


BEN CARSON (RETIRED) NEUROSURGEON: Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.


MCPIKE: So even though a number of Republican lawmakers are starting to want to move the fight over Obamacare to another day and not make it part of this shutdown anymore, it's not enough for this crowd -- Jake.

TAPPER: Indeed. Thank you, Erin McPike at the Value Voter Summit.

Coming up, years before he made headlines for divulging top secret domestic surveillance programs, was Eric Snowden already on the CIA's radar as a potential security threat? Edward Snowden, I mean. A new revelation about the NSA leaker/whistleblower and how may have slid through the cracks.

And of course, our "Politics Lead," GOP versus GOP, once the dust settles, which faction of the conservative party is best positioned to come out on top? Our panel will weigh in up next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Now it's time to continue our politics lead. Well, at least they're talking.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We think that Republican leaders are looking for a way to extend the debt ceiling and to fund the government. You know, we just need -- they need to continue talking. There needs to be continued discussions on Capitol Hill and we'll see where we get.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: I just heard Jay Carney say the Republican leaders want to raise the debt ceiling and fund the government. That's the nicest thing I've heard him say about the Republicans in a long time. But we are of course on the brink of a debt ceiling crisis. Question is, is talk getting cheap?

Let's bring in our political panel, columnist for "The Washington Post" Dana Milbank, CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger and editor in chief of, Terry Jeffrey. Thanks to one in all for being here.

Gloria, has the ball been moved at all since this morning when House Republicans put forward an offer for a debt ceiling bill that still didn't open the government?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Isn't it clear to you what's going on here? It's totally clear to me.

TAPPER: As clear as Jay Carney wanted it to be.

BORGER: Just sort of parsing the words which is all we can really do at this particular time is the latest thing seems to be the White House says if you only want to raise the debt ceiling for six weeks we can't make budget negotiations part of it because we'll be right back at it in six weeks and that doesn't make any sense.

TAPPER: What's your view of where we are right now?

TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, CNSNEWS.COM: Jake, if you look at this from a conservative point of view, I think you see the Republican leadership in the House in a long retreat march. It started out September 20th, pass the C.R., defunded Obamacare. The 29th, they passed the C.r. that said delay it for a year. The 30th, they passed the C.R. said well, let's get rid of the special privilege for Congress and delay it for a year. Now they're not even talking about Obamacare. So I can tell you, conservative activists around this country are irate at what John Boehner has done.

DANA MILBANK, COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": You can see where it's going. They're caving. It's just a matter of time very slowly. The ball is moving, but you need scientific instruments to measure it at this point.

TAPPER: I would say though House Republicans, as you say, are caving, giving in, and they have been since that original bill. But if the White House position was we are not going to negotiate, what the heck's going on?

BORGER: They're negotiating.

TAPPER: That seems to me like it's negotiating.

BORGER: They're negotiating.

JEFFREY: Maybe they've already gotten what they wanted. The key point is whether or not we are going to implement Obamacare. It seems from what we know now that Boehner capitulated on that, which was the core of what the president wanted.

BORGER: I think it's not so much that Boehner capitulated, but the fact they picked up the "Wall Street Journal" the other day and saw their poll numbers going downhill and fast, and are worried about control, perhaps, of the House.

MILBANK: I don't think the White House is necessarily negotiating or capitulating. They will give him a little cover, yes, we're talking --

TAPPER: And will have some sort of discussion. I know you guys feel strongly about the fact that Sean O'Malley of Boston wants a freedom of religion amendment attached to this government spending bill. It would exempt employers and individuals from being forced to buy or provide coverage for things that go against their conscience such as some forms of birth control or maybe all forms of birth control, depending --

JEFFREY: Artificial birth control.

TAPPER: OK. You want that attached to it as well?

JEFFREY: You know, that bill they passed at 12:16 a.m. on Sunday, the 29th, it was in there. They took it out. Catholic bishops asked them to put it in. You had a very powerful story with that crab fisherman from Alaska and what's happening to him on a personal basis. Right here in this town, three miles down north Capitol Street, you had Archbishop Carroll, Catholic high school,

Cardinal Wirld who is the archbishop of this city two weeks ago filed a new suit against the Obama administration, literally saying and they're right, that by being forced to buy, among other things, abortion inducing drugs for the faculty and administrators of that school and other employees the Catholic church is being forced to act against the teachings of the Catholic faith. President Obama's responsible for that on a personal basis. Are we really going to say Catholics cannot practice their religion?

TAPPER: It's a debate worth having, but why attach it to a government spending bill where these passions on both sides of this issue will affect the crab fishermen?

JEFFREY: I think this is the reason. Because when they first came out, the Catholic bishops, for example, the head of the archdiocese for military services, read a letter that he wanted read to troops all around the world, he said we will not, we cannot comply with this unjust law. Many other catholic bishops said that. It's almost two years ago.

In the final regulation, the administration is not only coercing the Catholic Church and catholic institutions but individual Catholics. If it's not attached, either to the C.R. or debt limit, it takes effect on January 1st, 2014.

TAPPER: We only have about a minute left. I want to move to the Value Voter Summit. Dana, what struck you when you watched it today? For me it was just the hero welcome for Ted Cruz, the senator from Texas, who started much of what's going on right now.

MILBANK: Yes. He's almost single-handedly responsible for this. I would say the whole Republican Party has been Cruz-ified at this point. He's losing clout here, among his colleagues here. He's done terrible things to his party and to his cause, but he's going to be a hero. It's a heroic failure now and I think his reputation with the Tea Party is better than ever.

TAPPER: Gloria, we've interviewed one of the leading religious conservative activists who said Ted Cruz is the leader of the Republican Party right now.

BORGER: Well, I think there are a couple Republican parties. He is the leader of one wing of the Republican Party, but I don't even know if you call it wings anymore, because I just think there are separate parties. You have disdain for the Republican leadership you say they're in retreat. They're saying we tried it your way, but we actually have to pass this debt ceiling and we have to keep the government running. I don't see any reconciliation between these two sides.

TAPPER: To be continued. Gloria, Dana, Terry, thank you so much for being here.

Still ahead in our "Buried Lead," desperately seeking Snowden. We're talking with two men who say they met with the NSA leaker/whistleblower this week.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. In our "Buried Lead," new evidence of a warning sign about NSA whistleblower/leaker Edward Snowden's penchant for mischief. We learned in 2009 while working for the CIA in Geneva he accessed his personnel file and tried to change parts of his evaluation, but the CIA said in a statement they did not file a report on Snowden at the time that indicated he tried to break into classified computer files.

This latest revelation, however, is part of the ongoing investigation into how Snowden accessed and shared classified information from the National Security Agency. Meanwhile, Snowden has been settling into his new life in Russia. His lawyer says he's soaking in Russian culture, learning the language and enjoying asylum.

Apparently, he also has a girlfriend. Hopefully one who loves to blog as much as the last one. His father, Lon Snowden, arrived in Russia yesterday and according to the Russian news agency had a quote, "emotional reunion" with his son. Snowden has just received a prize, a whistleblower award that was presented to him this week by a group of former U.S. intelligence officials.

And joining me now from Moscow are two of the men who met with Snowden, former NSA official and whistleblower Thomas Drake and former CIA analyst, Ray McGovern. Thank you to both of you and for staying up so late. We appreciate it. You met with Snowden for about six hours, that's something a lot of people, especially members of the U.S. intelligence community, they would really like the opportunity to do. What is his life like now and how would you describe how he's living? Ray, and then Tom.

RAY MCGOVERN, FORMER CIA ANALYST: We wanted to show support for him and show him that a lot of people back home as well as people visiting him knew what he did and knew the tough circumstances that he faced. He appeared quite well. He was very articulate, very well up on things like the suggestions by the head of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers and former CIA director Mike Hayden that Snowden might well be put on the kill list for assassination. When I asked Snowden about that, he just shook his head as if to say my goodness, what have we come to?

TAPPER: Tom, I read a comment --

THOMAS DRAKE, NSA WHISTLEBLOWER: By all accounts he's settling quite well.

TAPPER: Tom, I read an account and Ray, please join in as well, that the laptop computers that he carried, he told you were actually empty. They didn't have intelligence information in them at all.

DRAKE: You don't need to carry a laptop computer to carry out information. Laptop computers just are the place in which you look at things. I believe that's largely a myth. There are a lot of myths and a lot of misinformation perpetuated as a result of his escape from the United States and disclosure to the press.

TAPPER: And Tom, were you told not to go to Russia by the Obama administration? Did they weigh in at all?

DRAKE: That's another myth, no way, shape or form. There was no communication at all, nothing to prevent me. There was no other request for interviews or why are you going, not at all.

TAPPER: Ray, what are his concerns right now? Is he worried about that he will have to live in Russia for the rest of his life, is he worried about bodily harm coming to him?

MCGOVERN: What we saw was a man at peace with his decisions. A man who is proud of doing what he did, a man with no regrets. It was quite remarkable, a young fellow like that willing to pay the price, as he said initially, for releasing these documents. You know, it sounds a little corny, but he swore the same solemn oath to protect and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, as Tom and I did.

Some of us take that more seriously than others. And when he was in the position of doing what he did, seeing gross violations of the fourth amendment, Fifth Amendment, first amendment, you know, you have a choice there. You could keep silent, you could hide behind a promise on a piece of paper to keep secret, even gross crimes and misdemeanors, or you can speak out. What we admire in Ed Snowden is he chose to do the latter. He chose to speak out expressly so that the rest of the Americans could know what was being done to their civil rights under the bill of rights of the constitution.

TAPPER: And Tom, I know you have strong feelings about claims being made by the Obama administration that what Ed Snowden did made it more difficult for the U.S. government to protect U.S. citizens from terrorism and other threats. Why are those officials wrong?

DRAKE: The officials are wrong because the secrecy is subverting our own security. They do not want the truth about their conduct, violating the constitution, violating the sovereignty of individuals, not just U.S. citizens but also citizens in other parts of the world, and that they are also violating existing congressional legislation, including the FISA amendments act as well as the patriot act. If truth be told.

TAPPER: All right, Ray McGovern and Thomas Drake, thank you so much. I know it's late in Russia. We look forward to seeing you at a better time zone for you than the current one. Thanks so much again.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Make sure to follow me on twitter. Also check out "The Lead" show page. I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Mr. Blitzer.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jake, thanks very much.