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New Details on Alleged LAX Gunman; Game Changed; Dishing Dirt & Settling Scores

Aired November 4, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: In this case, some clear red flags were not ignored, yet the LAX shooting happened anyway.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The national lead. It came down to a matter of minutes, but it did not go the LAPD's way. A police chief who warned the Los Angeles force from three time zones away about the LAX suspect joins us in a matter of moments.

The politics lead. A new book claims the Obama/Biden campaign was a Taylor Swift song waiting to happen. That's just one of the juicy insider details from the 2012 election. Obama and Romney campaign officials dishing dirt and settling scores.

And the sports lead. One NFL player is out and another suspended for what? A late hit? A helmet-to-helmet tackle? Nope. Allegedly, it's for the same type of behavior we usually attribute to mean girls in high school.

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

We will begin with the national lead. Just moments ago, the head of the union representing officers with the Transportation Security Administration issued a statement calling for some of those officers to be armed in the aftermath of Friday's shooting at Los Angeles International Airport.

The statement reads in part -- quote -- "At this time, we feel a larger and more consistent armed presence in screening areas would be a positive step in improving security for both TSOs and the flying public. The development of a new class of TSA officers with law enforcement status would be a logical approach to accomplishing this goal" -- end quote.

Security at airports across the nation will be reviewed on orders from Attorney General Eric Holder in the wake of the LAX shooting. A gunman killed one TSA officer as you recall and wounded two other officers and a passenger. The suspect, 23-year-old Paul Ciancia, is still listed in critical condition at this hour.

Earlier, an attorney read a statement from his family in New Jersey offering condolences to the victims and begging for privacy. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN JORDAN, ATTORNEY FOR PAUL CIANCIA: "Paul is our son and brother. We will continue to love him and care for him. We will support him during the difficult times ahead. While we do not mean to minimize the grief and distress experienced by many other families, we hope that the public will understand that this is a very difficult time for our family, too."


TAPPER: Police say the gunman was specifically targeting the TSA, according to a note he had. Working for the TSA seems like it's often a thankless task. Much of the time, you are an object of contempt for passengers as they watch you confiscate their toothpaste and if you blink too long, you risk letting something or someone dangerous through.

But now, three days later, it's still unclear what the suspect's beef with TSA could have been, as our Stephanie Elam reports.


SCOTT GREEN, WITNESS: We were up in security at the time of the shooting and we heard the initial gunshots.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Police say alleged gunman Paul Ciancia entered Los Angeles International Airport's terminal three Friday morning armed with an assault rifle and five magazines of ammunition.

The FBI says it recovered a handwritten note on Ciancia that made it clear he was out to kill multiple TSA officers. Authorities say he shot TSA officer Gerardo Hernandez at point-blank range, sending passengers in the security screening area running for cover. Investigators say then Ciancia went up an escalator, but after apparently spotting Hernandez still moving on the floor, he doubled back to shoot him again, killing Hernandez.

GREEN: There was a pause and so I looked down the escalator and I saw the gunman. He had his gun trained on the guy on the wall there and he shot him twice.

ELAM: In the end, two more TSA officers and a traveler were hit. LAX police shot Ciancia several times in the face and neck. He's alive, but in his condition, he remains unresponsive.

Earlier Friday morning, Ciancia sent his family in New Jersey rambling text messages. A woman who says she knows him says Ciancia said he was going to commit suicide. The family alerted authorities, who then asked LAPD to do a welfare check.

If only police had gotten to his place just 45 minutes earlier, they might have stopped the rampage. But Ciancia was already gone. He demanded a ride to the airport from one of his roommates. CNN's Miguel Marquez spoke exclusively to the woman who knows Ciancia and his roommates. She says the roommates were handcuffed and questioned.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At that moment that they're seeing this on the TV, their third roommate comes back and said, I just dropped off Paul at LAX. He had to go home. And they just knew. I think that you just dropped off Paul to a shooting.

ELAM: Describing Ciancia as socially awkward, the woman also said he expressed strong feelings about the government.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All the NSA findings that came out this year that he was very upset about it and he thought that TSA abused their power.

ELAM: In light of the shootings, some are asking whether TSA officers should be armed.

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The function of the TSA is to ensure that people can board planes safely, take flights safely. The responsibility for protecting airport security is not a TSA function, but something that I think we need to certainly examine, given what happened in Los Angeles.

ELAM: With beefed-up security, officials are focused on how to avoid scenes like this from Friday, passengers running for their lives.


ELAM: And I can tell you now that they have beefed up their security here at LAX.

And I also want to update for you, Jake, the status of the people who were shot. We know that the two other TSA officers who were hit, that they have been treated at the hospital and released, and that the one civilian traveler who was shot in the leg, his status has been upgraded to from fair to good today, so a slight bit of good news there.

TAPPER: Stephanie Elam, thank you so much.

And as we just heard, Ciancia's father called the local police chief, Allen Cummings, and after getting troubling text messages from his son. Cummings then called the LAPD and asked them to check on Ciancia. Officers arrived, but they reportedly missed Ciancia by less than an hour.

Joining us now, Pennsville, New Jersey, Police Chief Allen Cummings, the man who tipped off the LAPD.

Chief, thanks so much for being here. What did Paul Ciancia's father say to you when he called you on Friday?

ALLEN CUMMINGS, PENNSVILLE, NEW JERSEY, POLICE CHIEF: Well, Jake, I received the call about 12:30 on my cell phone, and he wanted to show me a text message that his younger son received from Paul Ciancia in California. So I responded to his residence. And I was able to take a look at the text message, at what point I felt that it was pretty serious. It sounded as if Paul Ciancia in California was thinking about harming himself, so obviously I knew I needed to make a phone call to the LAPD and have a well-being check done there.

TAPPER: Obviously, you don't want to tell us the content, but it seemed suicidal in nature, the text message?

CUMMINGS: Well, obviously, it's an FBI investigation, but the text message itself I believed was -- the context was that he was thinking about harming himself, yes.

TAPPER: So you have known Paul Ciancia's father for some time now, I believe?

CUMMINGS: Yes, about 20 years.

TAPPER: OK. When did Ciancia's father call? You said around 12:30 on Friday? And how much time between you coming by his house and reading the text message, how much time elapsed before you called LAPD?

CUMMINGS: I got to his house about 12:45, looked at the text message, made a decision and we contacted LAPD, at which time I spoke to a lieutenant there who was very helpful, of course.

She explained to me that they were in the middle of a shooting at LAX. I told her I was aware of that. At this point, we weren't connecting the dots, of course. I asked her if she could conduct a well-being check at a residence for me. I received a message from a father in New Jersey that is concerned about his son's health, or well-being, I should say, and she said that they would make an attempt to go by and check the residence.

TAPPER: And I just want to make sure I understood. The text message from the suspect, it talked about harming himself. It did not say anything about harming anyone else, is that right?

CUMMINGS: That's correct. Yes.

TAPPER: So you called them at around 12:45 or so and, by then, the shooting was around 12:30 East Coast time. At what point did you realize that the man you were trying to help find was the man who had been involved allegedly in the shooting 25 minutes or so before you made that phone call?

CUMMINGS: Well, Jake, I got back to my department after speaking to the LAPD.

And, obviously, the last conversation I had with the lieutenant there was she would contact me as soon as they made some contact with somebody at the residence. She did call me back and told me that they met with two roommates there and both roommates stated that he wasn't there today, he was there yesterday, at which point I contacted Mr. Ciancia back and told him that the LAPD did make a well-being check and he's not home.

I hung up the phone. Probably about 20 minutes later, so we're talking maybe 1:30, I get a phone call from a reporter from the Associated Press and he wants to interview me in reference to the LAX shooting involving a Pennsville resident by the name of Paul Ciancia.

So that was the first time I received the information. And I would say about -- I hung up from him because I needed to get our officers in position to get some surveillance around his house here in Pennsville. I knew the media was on their way there, at which point, Paul called me -- and I'm talking about the father. Paul Ciancia, the father, contacted me on the cell phone again and his comment to me is, "Chief, is this what I'm seeing? My son, is the shooter at LAX?"

And my reply to him was, "I'm being told that, Paul, but I haven't confirmed it. I will check into it and I will let you know." And he was very emotionally upset and then obviously, things started to roll along and the FBI came down to Pennsville and we continued with the investigation there.

TAPPER: Obviously, the investigation is ongoing. Do you think -- I know you have heard of suicide by cop, where somebody does something hoping that the cops will kill him because he or she doesn't want to actually -- wants to be dead, but doesn't want to do it to him or herself. I know it's asking you to speculate.

Do you think that's possible here, if he was talking about harming himself, and then goes and does this?

CUMMINGS: That's possible.

I mean, like you said, I'm speculating on that. That's not part of my investigation. It could be anything. We were all wondering back in my department, you know, what was the beef with the TSA guy? I don't understand that.

And none of us really know. And that's where we are right now. Right now, I think in our town, we're trying to kind of get the community back together. Obviously, we're supporting the Ciancia family. They're having a rough time with this. This is just like any normal family, you know, in your community and your son goes away and decides he wants to move on in his life and try to create a business or start something business-wise, and next thing you know, you get this phone call and this is what you hear. So it's shocking to everybody.

TAPPER: And everybody did what they were supposed to do, but just ultimately, the clock ran out. Pennsville Police Chief Allen Cummings, thank you so much. We appreciate your time today.

CUMMINGS: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: So what's the next shoe to drop in the evolving story over the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare? Well, CNN has obtained notes from one week ago from the Obama administration's self-labeled war room, where officials focus on implementing the law. And their concern is that once the Web site glitches are worked out, some consumers will go online and be disappointed with high prices and limited choice. According to the notes from October 28 -- quote -- "Mike described a general concern of P.M.," or project management, "getting to the point where the Web site is functioning properly and individuals begin to select plans. The media attention will follow individuals to plan selection and their ultimate choices and in some cases, there will be fewer options than would be desired to promote consumer choice and an ideal shopping experience. Additionally, in some cases, there will be relatively high cost plans."

Project management is a reference to those individuals in the Obama administration tasked with standing up the affordable health care law at the center for consumer information and insurance oversight. The discussion appeared to be in reference to an October 24 story by "The New York Times" titled -- quote -- "Health Care Law Fails to Lower Prices For Rural Areas" -- unquote -- which states that "while competition is intense in many populous regions, small towns have fewer carriers offering plans in the law's online exchanges.

"Of the roughly 2,500 counties served by the federal exchanges, more than half or 58 percent have plans offered by just one or two insurance carriers. In about 530 counties, only a single insurer is participating. The analysis suggests that the ambitions of the Affordable Care Act to increase competition have unfolded unevenly at least in the early going and have not addressed many of the factors that contribute to high prices."

Other notes from that war room meeting describes specific problem plans, and a problem with the site that prevents certification perhaps due to a misspelling on the Web site. The Obama administration has not yet responded to our request for comment.

Coming up next on THE LEAD: What happened to the cone of silence? A new book tells us what really happened on the campaign trail in 2012, but why were so many, including those close to the president, willing to spill secrets this time around?

Plus, for weeks, he denied a video existed of him smoking crack, allegedly. Now Toronto Mayor Rob Ford admits he made mistakes. So, how does he explain the video -- coming up.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

The politics lead now.

There are a truckload of juicy nuggets in "Double Down", the new book about last year's presidential election by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, the authors of "Game Change." We have been hearing about them and talking about them and we will continue to do so, including tomorrow, when we speak to one of the authors.

But one of the most interesting subtext of the book has not yet received much notice, and that is the motivations of the sources for the book -- the folks in the Obama and Romney worlds who dished and dissed.


TAPPER (voice-over): When Mitt Romney was looking for a running mate, his top aide, Stuart Stevens, was bullish on Governor Chris Christie.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I had no conversations with Governor Romney about the vice presidency. We didn't talk about it. He didn't bring it up.

TAPPER: Romney, of course, ultimately went with Congressman Paul Ryan. But Romney continues to talk up the New Jersey governor, just yesterday saying this to "Meet the Press."

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's a long list of very capable people but Chris Christie stands out as one of the very strongest lights in the Republican Party.

TAPPER: But not everyone in the Romney campaign was so enamored. And, stunningly, one aide leaked to the authors of "Double Down" personal and private vetting information acquired while considering Christie for the number two slot, including concerns regarding Christie's health -- a shocking breach of protocol in what is supposed to be a very discreet process.

CHRISTIE: I have a great relationship with the Romneys and the campaign, and it's all just, you know, trying to make sure they sell as many books as possible.

TAPPER: These are the kind of details that those in the political world are most surprised by, not whatever outstanding follow-up questions that the Romney vetters may have had about Christie but the fact that they would serve up those concerns as dish.

Perhaps even more surprising, the amount of leaks from SS Obama. Ones that portrays senior Democrats, including the president, in not such a favorable light. When "Game Change", the authors' first book, came out, lost in all the drama about the McCain/Palin campaign was the fact that team Obama did not dish all that much.

There was a game change for the second book. When it came to leaks, the White House was a veritable colander. President Obama is depicted struggling rather sadly with debate prep as his advisors are described losing their patience with him. "I just don't know if I can do this," the president says at one point, according to the book.

On ABC's "This Week", George Stephanopoulos seemed stunned that the president wasn't upset at the amount leaked about him by trusted aides.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: I can only imagine what he's thinking as he sees all these details in this book. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, look, we are not the first White House to deal with leaks. Every White House has dealt with it. I think we have been more leak-free than most and where we find them, we try to stop them.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is he angry about this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president is always frustrated about leaks. I think anyone who leaks has to pay a price. I don't know who leaked in that book.

TAPPER: Other senior Democrats embarrassed including Vice President Joe Biden. The book reveals that the Obama team explored with focus groups in polling replacing him with Hillary Clinton.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I know for a fact that President Obama never considered this, never thought about it, never entertained it.

TAPPER: In another scene, President Obama, after golfing with President Bill Clinton, sneers to an aide, "I like doses."


TAPPER: And we'll pose many of the questions you're asking yourself to John Heilemann, one of the authors of "Double Down: Game Change 2012", when as we mentioned, he joins us tomorrow, the same day the book comes up.

But joining me now to talk about all of this, and, of course, there's also an election tomorrow, I think, former chief speechwriter for the president, Jon Favreau, reporter for "BuzzFeed", Kate Nocera, and editor of "The Weekly Standard", Bill Kristol.

So, guys -- first of all, Jon, let me start with you. You and I say this and I'm not happy about it, you never leaked me anything when you were on the inside. You really didn't.

JON FAVREAU, FORMER CHIEF SPEECHWRITER FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA: I hope my colleagues at the White House hear that.

TAPPER: Well, no, but it's true, you never did.

BILL KRISTOL, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: But he talked to me all the time.


TAPPER: (INAUDIBLE) 'The Week Standards" do.

KRISTOL: He's a great source for "The Weekly Standard", but yes.

TAPPER: But who does it possibly serve to have a story about President Obama coming off the golf course, other than Mark and John, obviously, coming off the golf course and Obama disses President Clinton? It makes Obama look bad, it makes Clinton look bad, and it makes whoever the aide who Obama said it to. I'm stunned. You guys had a pretty good hold on these things. But now, it seems like an explosion.

FAVREAU: It's incredibly disloyal. It's not helpful. It's stupid. I have no idea.

There's one -- you know, there's a reason to talk to others to try to get, you know, give a broad story what happened in the campaign. But talking about what the president thought, what he said, making him look bad, making Bill Clinton look bad, Joe Biden, whoever it is, there's just no point to it.

TAPPER: It's not policies really in a lot of ways.

FAVREAU: No, it's gossip. It's like high school. I mean, it's terrible.

TAPPER: But we love it.

KATE NOCERA, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, BUZZFEED: We love it. We can't get enough of it. I can't believe we're still talking about Biden and Hillary.

This has been a rumor basically since President Obama took office, right? People have big -- can't stop talking about it, yet it comes up again and again and again and we can't stop talking about it now.

TAPPER: I am surprised I have to say about the vindictiveness of leaking the vetting document, the Romney team leaking the vetting document about Chris Christie. I know there was tension between the camps but at the end of the day, Christie campaigned for Romney, Romney said nice things about Christie. Somebody said I hate Chris Christie, here's all the stuff we didn't.

And it turns out, they were right to have -- the Christie people were right to not answer the questions, the follow-up questions the Romney people had because they can't keep a secret.

KRISTOL: Yes, good point.

The Christie thing is a little different because he's a guy who obviously is the leading possible presidential candidate for 2016. So, it's one thing if you're in the second term of an administration, you leak stuff about what President Obama said last year, he's not on the ballot again and it doesn't really make much difference. Some aides have left the White House or whatever.

But the Christie thing is a little more purposeful, maybe. You can call it vindictive. Maybe some Romney aide thinks he's doing the country a service. I don't know.

TAPPER: Oh, you're right. I shouldn't ascribe motive. You're right. Maybe he's trying to help Christie. Get it out ahead of time.

KRISTOL: In terms of the Obama White House, if you have friends, you know, if they want to continue being vindictive and leaks, it's We'd be happy.


KRISTOL: Next time, Bill Clinton and President Obama play golf, anything, whichever each one -- whatever they each say when they --

TAPPER: I don't think there's going to be a next time. But there is also a 2016 manifestation to this. A Democrat said something, Hillary is probably going to run and if she does, the tension between the Obama and Clinton camps is still there.

You know, President Obama and Secretary Clinton have managed to become friends and have a good working relationship, but President Obama and President Clinton having this anecdote, "I can take him in doses," that's not -- that's not helpful, Jon.

FAVREAU: I can only speak to what I experienced with him and President Clinton, and I know that obviously when they first got to the White House, you know, things could have been strained from the campaign but I saw them get along quite well and when they were working, you know, they consulted together on the speech he gave at the Democratic convention, towards the end in the last stretch when Bill Clinton did all those events with us.

NOCERA: There's that hug, the big hug.

FAVREAU: Well, the president and Bill Clinton after events would hang out after all the events were over at the end of the day and he would give him advice and they would talk. So, I think it's a little overblown. I think they're still pretty good friends.

KRISTOL: Bill Clinton told me he liked Jon. He can only take President Obama -- he can only take President Obama in doses but people like Favreau, he thought they were good guys --

TAPPER: By the way, Favreau, in the book, described as dashing, by the way. Just an adjective in here, dashing.

NOCERA: Fact check.

TAPPER: Who knows who his source was?

Kate, let's turn to tomorrow's election instead of last year's. Is there anything, obviously governor's race in New Jersey, governor's race in Virginia, mayoral race in New York City. Is there anything you're particularly looking at that you will be paying attention to?

NOCERA: Yes. Well, tomorrow we're going to be looking at, you know, Chris Christie probably going to win, probably going to win by a landslide. I think that what a lot of people are looking towards to see if he can get that same momentum to go into 2016. If he can convince people, he said it I think the other day, you know, this is a Republican winning and winning by a lot in a very blue state and there are lessons to be learned.

Ultimately, if we look at Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli is probably more likely going to lose.

TAPPER: At least according to polls, right.

NOCERA: Right, according to polls. Very conservative candidate. So I think a lot of people are going to be watching and seeing what lessons they can take away from who they end up nominating.

TAPPER: Bill, do you think ideology is an important part of the Virginia race?

KRSTOL: Sure, but I think Cuccinelli didn't run a good campaign. He was very much hurt by the governor, McDonnell, who was very popular, won by 17 points or something three years ago, having all these ethics problems, which made it hard for the Cuccinelli campaign to raise ethics issues about McAuliffe, which are certainly there to be raised.

Cuccinelli has closed some, though, in the last week. I think and that was now running on Obamacare, probably should have done that earlier. He's been critical of Obamacare. He wants to limit the effect of it in Virginia. Terry McAuliffe embraced Obamacare.

I think if this race closes down to five, four points, or possibly a tie or tiny Cuccinelli victory tomorrow, that will show how potent Obamacare is. But I'm told by people, I talked to people close to the Cuccinelli campaign, they do think the Obamacare thing is now cutting in their favor. It may be a little too late but I think he has an outside shot to nip McAuliffe at the end.

TAPPER: Jon, one quick last word on big boy, as he's called in here, Governor Christie, think he's the best one the Republicans could put up in 2016?

FAVREAU: I think he is. If he can get out of that primary, I just don't know if he can. Tomorrow, we'll find out if there's more Cuccinelli Republicans or more Christie Republicans in the party in 2016.

TAPPER: All right. Thank you so much, guys. We appreciate it -- Kate, Jon, Bill.

Tomorrow, I will be on the trail with Christie for his final day of campaigning and we'll have an exclusive behind-the-scenes sit-down with the governor that will air here on THE LEAD at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Tuesday. Make sure to tune in.

When we come back, they're tired of being ignored so they are taking drastic measures to secede from their home state. Could a vote tomorrow mean that we will soon have 51 states?

Plus, today is D-Day for BlackBerry. But instead of announcing a buyer, the company seems to be giving up. What does it mean to you if you are still holding on to your BlackBerry?