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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Bush And Obama: Allies On Immigration?; Are Bush And Cheney Still Close?; A Spy On American Soil?; Eagles Player Robbed Of $225,000

Aired October 24, 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. In the "Politics Lead" now, I cannot stand to even look at you, no, not you, dear viewer, never you. But that quote is what's being peddled around town this week as a verbatim insult supposedly hurled by one Republican House leader at the president of the United States in the midst of the heated debate over the debt ceiling at the White House.

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin made waves by posting the comment on his Facebook page and asking incredulously what are the chances of an honest conversation with someone who just said something so disrespectful, which would be a fair point if it were true, if that comment had been made, but the White House now says that that exchange never happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The quote attributed to the lawmaker was not accurate. There was a miscommunication in the readout of that meeting between the White House and Senate Democrats.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So then who started this weird game of Washington telephone? Let's bring in our political panel, former Virginia congressman and former chair for the National Republican Congressional Committee Tom Davis, CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and former Democratic congressman from Texas, Martin Frost. I should mention you were also the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

MARTIN FROST, FORMER CONGRESSMAN (D), TEXAS: Different times.

TAPPER: I don't want to take away your title when I gave it to him. So a source tells me or sources tell me that the deputy chief of staff told the story about this congressman who he identified as Congressman Sessions of Texas. He told it to the Senate Democratic leaders, then Harry Reid went into the Senate Democratic caucus and proceed to tell 55 or whatever Democrats the story, then Dick Durbin posted it on his Facebook page, then the White House denied that it ever happened.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I know. This is high school. These people are in the middle of a huge fight. The president had to meet with the Democrats and the Republicans separately. This is during the shutdown. So then after he met with the Republicans, somebody in that meeting passes along a comment that was not said, now, we believe, and someone posted it on his Facebook page. He happens to be a ranking Democrat in the Senate. It's kind of crazy, but it just shows you how these guys don't trust each other and they don't like each other, and they don't talk to each other.

TAPPER: Congressman Davis, you said something very interesting when we were discussing this earlier. Who knows what happens, it doesn't sound like something you know, Congressman Sessions --

TOM DAVIS, FORMER CONGRESSMAN (R), VIRGINIA: It doesn't sound like anything he would say to the president.

TAPPER: But you also say even if it had happened, it's obligatory the White House would deny it.

DAVIS: Absolutely. Look, it's nobody's interest, but you have no corroboration with it now. So you best put it in a desk bin. But remember this, this is a town where you can get up and yell "you lie" at the "State of the Union" and raise $1 million online the next week. It's still a poisonous atmosphere. I think that underlies all of this.

TAPPER: So let's turn on to -- I'm going to exempt Congressman Frost since he and Congressman Sessions ran against each other. I'm sure you have nothing but wonderful things to say about him.

FROST: No comment.

TAPPER: We will move on to Maryland, Attorney General Doug Gansler is in a little trouble. He's running for governor. He wound up at a high school party at the beach in Delaware in June. He apparently stopped by to talk to his teenage son. Somebody snapped a photo that was posted on Instagram. Gansler said it's not his job to break up a party of underage drinkers, though in the past, he has done public service announcements on the dangers of teen drinking.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOUG GANSLER, MARYLAND ATTORNEY GENERAL: Parents, you're the leading influence on your teen's decision not to drink.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That's a little bit different from what he said today at his press conference.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GANSLER: If you look at the picture, not right where I was, but there are some kids, one or two kids holding red cups and generally, you know, there could be Kool-Aid in the red cups but there's probably beer in the red cups. That wasn't -- I didn't go over and stick my nose in and see, and maybe I should have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Wait. Congressman Frost, he's in the middle of a primary. This is not going to help.

FROST: No. This is not helpful at all. When I was in Congress, and I won't mention which of my three daughters, because I have three, one of my three daughters had a party at our house while my wife and I were out of town. And we came back and we saw the remnants of the party and it obviously had involved drinking. That daughter was in a world of hurt for a long period of time.

BORGER: But he's a law enforcement official. As a mother, I would have gone in, said to my son you have 2 minutes to meet me outside and we're going, OK, or I'll make a scene. Take your pick. There were parents there, apparently, chaperoning this. So as a law enforcement official, isn't it your responsibility to talk to those parents and say I'm giving you 15 minutes before I call the cops?

TAPPER: He is the attorney general of Maryland, this apparently was taking place in Delaware so it's Beau Biden's fault.

FROST: The drinking age is 21, not 18.

DAVIS: This has been a terrible rollout for his campaign. He paid a speeding ticket belatedly last week. He has to get some grounding pretty quickly or this campaign will dissolve.

TAPPER: When you did that with your daughter, were you at all -- were you a member of Congress?

FROST: Yes.

TAPPER: How much does it go into your head when you're a member of congress and you have a child that does something that is clearly against the law --

FROST: It has nothing to do with my being a member of congress and everything to do with being a parent. In fact, we called some of the other parents after the fact to let them know what had gone on. You have to take a firm position with your kids. You can't tolerate this, and he'll be explaining this for months now. I don't wish him any ill. He's a good public servant, but this is a real problem.

TAPPER: We only have about a minute left in this eclectic mix of stories and I want to go to Hillary Clinton, who was heckled at a speech Wednesday in Buffalo, New York.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: We have to be willing to come together as citizens to focus on the kind of future we want, which doesn't include yelling. It includes sitting down and talking with one another.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So she handled the heckler like a pro. Benghazi is a story that's not going away.

BORGER: No. Benghazi's a story that's not going away. She's going to continue to have hecklers. She's going to continue to have to discuss her foreign policy experience and her role as secretary of state. In this particular incident I think she handled it well, particularly as a woman. Part of her stick I think will be I can get people together to talk, because that's what women do, that's what women in the Senate said they did last week, remember?

TAPPER: Have you guys ever been heckled like that?

DAVIS: Many times at town meetings, but it goes with the territory. But she's a pro. She handled it well. Benghazi is not going away. Congress isn't going to let it go away.

FROST: There will be other hecklers for other candidates, too, not just her, but she is the consummate professional. She can handle something like that.

TAPPER: All right, Congressman Frost, Congressman Davis, Gloria Borger, thank you so much for being here. We appreciate it.

Coming up on THE LEAD, is this man recruiting Americans to spy for Russia just blocks from the White House? Details on why the FBI thinks he's planning more than cultural exchanges next.

Plus, what is that? A mystery substance in the glove of one Red Sox pitcher has some asking was he cheating? Our sports lead coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. In other political news, President Obama today renewed his push for immigration reform in a speech. This time, no one fainted in an attempt to mute the partisan bickering. The president wanted to remind us of a Republican ally in this cause.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I know that there are some folks in this town who are primed to think well, if Obama's for it then I'm against it. But you know, I would remind everybody that my Republican predecessor was also for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Yes, you heard that right. President Obama is connecting himself to President George W. Bush, and Bush's policies, although he's not ready to actually name drop Bush 43. It's just the latest example of how the Bush legacy continues to develop since he left office in 2009.

Our lead read today. It explores the relationship between Bush and his vice president, Dick Cheney. It's called "Days of Fire, Bush and Cheney in The White House." It was written by the "New York Times" chief White House correspondent, Peter Baker, who joins me here on THE LEAD. Peter, it's good to have you back. Congratulations on this wonderfully received book. It's getting great critical reviews. Tell me, there's been a lot of speculation, lot of people talking about what drove Bush and Cheney apart.

PETER BAKER, AUTHOR, "DAYS OF FIRE": Right.

TAPPER: What was it?

BAKER: I think it begins with Iraq. Obviously Iraq, the war starts to go badly, there are no weapons there and Bush begins looking at a second term. He's got to make a case to the American public. Cheney offers to drop off the ticket. Bush thinks about it and decides no, I'm not going to but he's beginning to think how do I begin to reshape my administration? What do we have to do for a second term, more diplomacy, less bellicosity? That takes him away from Cheney. There's a series of events afterward that drive them further apart.

TAPPER: He didn't pardon Cheney's top aide, Scooter Libby. That obviously upset Cheney quite a bit. He talks about it publicly, but they were splitting before then, when bush started to rely more on Condi Rice than Dick Cheney.

BAKER: He elevates Condi Rice as secretary of state to begin moving in this different direction so they are trying diplomacy with North Korea, Syria, Middle East peace, Iran, things that Dick Cheney finds troubling. He believes that they are beginning to drift away from the principles they shared in the first term. So by the end, they're on opposite sides of all sorts of issues, not just those, but also climate change, gay rights, gun rights, auto bailout, so on. It's a very dramatic evolution, almost a Shakespearean evolution over eight years.

TAPPER: There's a great story on the PR nightmare of when Dick Cheney accidentally shot his friend in the face. First Lady Laura Bush played a role in the story getting out?

BAKER: She did. She was overseas, ironically, in Italy at the time. She hears through the Secret Service what's gone on. She has her top aide call back to the White House, call to Scott McClellan and the others, what's going on. T he first lady wants this out right now because she understood what a PR disaster it could be and the only answer to that would be to be as transparent as possible.

TAPPER: They clamped down at first. They didn't take any questions. They hid it from the public.

BAKER: They didn't announce it as quickly as they now believe they should have. It came, the president himself was asked by his aide you need to intervene with the vice president to get him to go on television to address this, to apologize, and that lanced the boil as soon as he did it but it took four days.

TAPPER: The book is right down the middle. It's not overly praise-worthy for President Bush. It's not overly critical, but one thing that's interesting is you do praise him for some leadership decisions that were difficult for him. We all know of leadership decisions that were not the best ones in the world. But you praise him for the surge in Iraq and also for TARP, for the troubled asset relief program, to help out Wall Street, very unpopular but you basically argue the right decision.

BAKER: Look, he took on conventional wisdom, he took on popularity, he went against all political instincts and his own conservative instincts in the case of TARP to do what he thought was the right thing. Look what happens now. President Obama tries to fix his health care program, he uses the term surge. We'll have a surge to try to fix it. You talked about the connection and how he's now citing his predecessor. That's one example, something that lived on past his administration as a concept.

TAPPER: When the book begins with an aide, President Bush comes back to Texas and an aide says you left office incredibly unpopular, one of the most unpopular presidents in history and he responds.

BAKER: He says I was also the most popular president in history. You kind of get at this moment a sense of what might have been. Iraq took such a toll. He had so many other things he could have been known for, saving people with aids in Africa, Medicare Part D, expanding coverage, no child left behind, tax cuts, all sorts of things he wanted his presidency to be about, immigration, and in fact, became subsumed by the overarching terror and wars that took over his presidency.

TAPPER: Lastly, what's the relationship between Bush and Cheney now? Are they friends?

BAKER: Today, they wouldn't describe themselves as friends so much as partners or professional colleagues. I asked Vice President Cheney about this during interviews for the book. He says we were never buddies. They didn't socialize together. President Bush didn't have him up to Camp David for weekends. So they have a proper relationship, but is somewhat distant. They don't talk very often today.

TAPPER: May you be on the "New York Times" best-seller list for many, many weeks, my friend. Congratulations on the book and all the great critical reviews of it.

In more world news, sure he may look like a mild-mannered Russian diplomat, but in the eyes of the FBI he's a cold, calculated spy. Hard to know what to take away from the latest round of spy games between the U.S. and Russia where inquisitive young Americans were allegedly used as pawns.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER (voice-over): You are looking at a Russian spy on American soil, or you're looking at Yury Zaytsev, a Russian bureaucrat who runs an exchange to bring Americans to Russia. It's one of those two, or maybe both or maybe neither.

YURIY A. ZAYTSEV, RUSSIAN CULTURAL CENTRE: I think it's a stupid situation because it's like a cold war.

TAPPER: The FBI seems to think that he has been using the Russian Center for Culture trips to assess and recruit intelligence assets for Russia. That information first came to light in a report from the progressive magazine "Mother Jones." This morning, Zaytsev vigorously denied it to CNN.

ZAYTSEV: I am not recruiting. Welcome to Russia.

TAPPER: In the past two years, 128 young Americans have taken the all expense paid fact-finding trips that the center sponsors. The FBI has been interviewing people who have taken the trip, such as Richard Portwood.

RICHARD PORTWOOD, CENTER FOR AMERICAN-RUSSIAN ENGAGEMENT OF EMERGING LEADERS: They wanted to know how the trip was organized, who we visited on the trip, what type of activities we did while we were in Russia.

TAPPER: Portwood is a graduate student at Georgetown University who heads a group aimed at overcoming cold war stereotypes.

PORTWOOD: The FBI told me that Mr. Zaytsev is a member of the Foreign Intelligence Agency whose mission is to build relationships with Americans and part of the way that he does this is by organizing these cultural visits to Russia where members, participants, allegedly are spotted and assessed for future intelligence purposes in Russia.

TAPPER: The FBI is not talking, but a law enforcement source confirms to CNN the FBI's investigating the cultural center, specifically digging into the types of activities engaged in during the trips. The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement the allegations, quote, "contain nothing in common with the reality."

While the cold war officially ended some years ago, the U.S./Russian rivalry and spy craft, well, that's thriving. In May, American Diplomat Ryan Fogle was detained in Moscow with some terrible wigs, dark glasses and foreign cash. The Russian counterintelligence agency claimed he was trying to recruit spies.

He was deemed persona non-grata and sent packing, sans wig. Who can forget "Operation Ghost Stories," a Russian spy ring broken up by the FBI that introduced the world to Anna Chapman, the sultry red- headed spy who is now a popular talk show host in Russia. Yuriy Zaytsev insists she's not his comrade and he's no spy.

ZAYTSEV: Russian Cultural Center is open. Welcome. We have special exhibitions.

TAPPER: But just in case, he's planning an exit strategy.

ZAYTSEV: I think maybe I go to Russia to vacation after several weeks.

(END VIDEOTAPE) TAPPER: The "Washington Post" reports that if the spy claims were true, there is no evidence that the program was successful in converting the American travelers into intelligence assets.

When we come back, don't they know Tim Tebow is still looking for work? Proof there really is a quarterback shortage in the NFL. Now the Rams are reportedly asking a grandfather to suit up. Our Sports Lead coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Now it's time for the Sports Lead. Call him the Michael Corleone of pro football, just when he thinks he is out, they pull him back in. According to a report from ESPN, the St. Louis Rams reached out to 44-year-old grandfather, Brett Favre to be their quarterback after their franchise, Sam Bradford, went down with a season-ending knee injury. But in a radio interview, Favre said this time, there's no way in hell. Favre's last NFL season was in 2010, when he played for the Minnesota Vikings.

The Philadelphia Eagles used to have a courtroom built into old Veterans' Stadium so they could process all the hooligans. Too bad they don't have it anymore for this guy. A parking lot attendant is accused of robbing Eagles offensive lineman, Todd Herremanns of almost a quarter million dollars, a little bit at a time over the span of four years.

The feds say the suspect, who was paid to watch the Eagles cars, lifted the player's checking account number off documents in his car and withdrew money from the account from 2009 to 2012 to pay off his own credit card bills. He is now facing bank fraud charges.

It's a tradition as old as the national past time itself. Pitchers using any substance they can to doctor a baseball. But it was a lot easier to spit a glob of tobacco juice on to the ball when the only footage available showed Babe Ruth running really, really quickly around the bases.

Last night, as Red Sox Starter Jon Lester was filleting the Cardinals in game one of the World Series, the minor league pitcher in the Cardinal system noticed something suspicious inside the mitt and tweeted out a photo. His tweet has since been deleted, but the video caught him rubbing the spot where the possibly suspicious goo was.

Major League Baseball responded to us saying there were no complaints from the umps or Cardinals and you can't draw any conclusions from the video.

So that's it for THE LEAD today. I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer who is right next door in a place I like to call "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Mr. Blitzer.