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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Politics Discussion With Co-Author Of "Double Down"; New York Says Bye To Bloomberg; Colorado Voters Take On Pot Tax; Paul Faces New Claims Of Plagiarism

Aired November 5, 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: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is speaking after finally coming clean about smoking crack. Let's listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

ROB FORD, TORONTO MAYOR: -- what I have gone through.

I know what I did was wrong and admitting it was the most difficult and embarrassing thing I have ever had to do.

Folks, I have nothing left to hide. I would do anything, absolutely anything, to change the past. But the past is the past and we must move forward.

I want to be clear. I want to be crystal clear to every single person, these mistakes will never, ever, ever happen again. I kept this from my family, especially my brother Doug, my staff, my council colleagues, because I was embarrassed and ashamed.

To the residents of Toronto, I know I have let you down and I can't do anything else but apologize, and apologize, and I'm so sorry. I know -- I know I have to regain your trust and your confidence.

I love my job. I love my job, I love this city, love saving taxpayers money. I love being your mayor. There is important work that we must advance and important decisions that must be made. For the sake of the taxpayers of this great city, for the sake of the taxpayers, we must get back to work immediately. We must keep Toronto moving forward.

I was elected to do a job, and that's exactly what I'm going to continue to do. In 2010, I made a commitment to Toronto voters. I have delivered on that commitment, and I will continue to deliver on that commitment of saving taxpayers money.

But they have a choice. We live in a democracy. And on October 27th of 2014, I want the people of this great city to decide whether they want Rob Ford to be their mayor. Again, I sincerely, sincerely, sincerely apologize. God bless the people of Toronto. Thank you very much.

TAPPER: That's the mayor of Toronto in Canada, Rob Ford, who recently admitted smoking crack cocaine while in office. He blamed it in no small part on drunken binges, if that's any sort of excuse.

Let's bring in CNN's political director in Washington, Mark Preston. And Mark, can any politician anywhere bounce back from an admission like this with just a simple apology? I was surprised. I thought he was leading up to a resignation. But he said no, let's go back to work.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: You know, Jake, a defiant Toronto mayor right there, Rob Ford, who has denied smoking crack cocaine for several months now until the police acknowledged it late last week after a drug investigation.

We have seen this happen before. Although it takes some time to rehabilitate yourself here in Washington, D.C., we saw Marion Barry back in 1990, the mayor of Washington, D.C., arrested for doing the same thing. He did make a political comeback in 2004 to serve on the city council here in Washington, D.C. and continues to do so.

However, I don't know if Bob Ford can actually survive this scandal, major scandal up in Canada, Jake. And you have to say is he smart at this point to put it in the hands of voters, and will there still be pressure building up for him to have to step down?

TAPPER: We have been covering this story for several months. It started when local newspaper and Gawker watched the videotape -- Mayor Ford, of course, was denying it. As you say the police got their hands on it yesterday as part of a prosecution or investigation into extortion. The police said, Mark, that they did not have enough from the videotape to charge the mayor. They couldn't prove presumably what he was smoking. Why -- what would the strategy be of admitting something that he did not have to admit? He really feels like by admitting it, he can move on even though it's an admission of smoking crack cocaine?

PRESTON: You know, I just think the evidence at this point, Jake, was mounting to a point where you actually have the police say that what was - Gawker had been seen as well as "The Toronto Star" seemed to be consistent with smoking crack cocaine.

The bottom line is at some point, you have to say mea culpa. Voters tend to be a very forgiving kind. I think Bob Ford decided at this point he had to give in, he had to throw himself on the sword, he had to ask for forgiveness. For him to continue to put up a fight publicly would not be the smartest political thing to do.

The question, though, remains, Jake, can he survive? Will there be pressure from the city council and from voters for him to resign, and I believe we will see that pressure continue to mount.

TAPPER: All right. Mark Preston, thank you so much.

When we come back, it's his book that surely made for awkward conversations among Obama and Romney insiders this week. So what other bombshells have you not yet heard about? I will talk to one of the authors of "Double Down," coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper in Asbury Park, New Jersey, covering Governor Chris Christie's campaign on Election Day. Just behind me is where he will make his speech, whether he gets good news or bad news. Just a year ago, both President Obama and Mitt Romney were in the same situation as Chris Christie, waiting for the polls to close, the votes to be counted and a winner declared. Of course, we all know how that turned out. Spoiler alert, Obama won. But what we did not know was all the behind the scenes drama, like how President Obama's mock debate performance, his rehearsals were described by one of his debate coaches as "creepy," according to the coach. And it led to an intervention.

It's all in our latest lead read out today, The book is called "Double Down: Game Change 2012." The book's co-author, John Heilemann , joins me now from New York. Mark Halperin I believe will be on Anderson Cooper later today.

John, good to see you. Thanks so much for being here. I spoke with Governor Christie, who said it was disappointing that his vetting process, some of the documents were leaked to you. How do you know when you're writing a book like this whether or not sources are trying to settle scores? Obviously, somebody would do that if they were trying to hurt Governor Christie. Or does it even matter -- the truth is what the truth is?

JOHN HEILEMANN, AUTHOR, "DOUBLE DOWN": Well, Jake, first of all, thanks for having me on. I'm not sure how many times you made the joke so far today that you're live from Asbury Park, but I'm happy to see you that you're live from Asbury Park.

We did 500 interviews for this book with more than 400 people. Mark and I have both been in the business for a pretty long time. There are clearly people who have agendas, they cut in every different possible direction and ultimately, our job is to sort through people's agendas and try to get at what's true.

And in the end, I think your last part of your question is what really matters, the question of what actually happened and what didn't happen. In the case of Governor Christie and the vetting report, as you know, we quoted extensively from the final vetting report as it was written. And so in some sense, the motivation of the source or sources of that document is kind of irrelevant. It's on paper what the vetting committee was concerned about and what its worries were about Governor Christie's, the unanswered questions from his vet, the matters that were in the public record but not widely known in the national political or press corps, and that they conveyed to Governor Romney those concerns. Governor Romney pulled the plug the next day, and that is the fact of what happened. And I think in some sense it speaks for itself.

TAPPER: One of the things I found so surprising, we touched on this in my show yesterday, is in your first book with Mark, "Game Change," bestseller, HBO Peabody Awards, Emmys, there was not a lot about President Obama in the book. The Obama campaign, first of all, wasn't as interesting as the McCain campaign. But also, I don't think they cooperated as much.

HEILEMANN: I was stunned at how much Obama aides shared with you, to the detriment of in some cases, President Obama, Vice President Biden, former president Bill Clinton. Were you surprised that they talked so much more this time?

You know, Jake, I never like to take exception to the question but if you go back and look at "Game Change," the vast majority of the book was about the Democratic nomination fight between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. There was very little relatively speaking in terms of page quantity, there wasn't nearly as much about the Republican race or Sarah Palin as there was about the Obama and the Clinton campaign --

TAPPER: No, no, I guess I just mean there weren't as many skeletons is what I mean.

HEILEMANN: Well, there were some pretty interesting material in there, but we're here today to talk about "Double Down" today, so we'll focus on that. Look, we got a wide degree of cooperation from people inside the White House, from people in President Obama's re-election committee in Chicago. We also got a wide degree of cooperation from all the Republican candidates and from Governor Romney staff. Governor Romney encouraged his people, as did - well, Governor Romney encouraged his people to cooperate with us. And though the White House was very helpful throughout, you know, we also had the benefit of time in this case, right? We both, Mark and I both cover the White House on a regular basis, so that book "Game Change" was kind of turned around in about year-and-a-half. We had three years to work on this one. And over the course of time, we were able to get pretty far inside. We're pretty proud of that.

I don't think there were people in the White House who were setting out obviously to make the president look bad, but one of the jobs of reporting as I said before is to kind of get at the truth. When you're talking to enough people, eventually the truth comes -- starts to make itself known. And sometimes that's not totally flattering, but in some cases, it is humanizing for a president that for a lot of people still remains a kind of distant and somewhat remote figure.

TAPPER: Some incredible stuff in the book "Double Down." John Heilemann, thanks so much. Congratulations to you and Mark on the book. I'm sure it's bound for the bestseller list.

Coming up next, could a nail-biter election battle in Alabama tell us everything we need to know about the state of the Republican Party? We'll take a look at why some key state races are getting national attention.

Plus, if imitation is the highest form of flattery, it seems Rand Paul has been busy flattering writers all over the country. Hear about the latest plagiarism claims against the senator and how he responded today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Live in Asbury Park, New Jersey, where I have been getting exclusive access to Governor Chris Christie's re-election campaign. There are also mayoral elections happening from Miami Beach to Seattle today. In New York City, he was the man who helped the city weather the aftermath of the attacks after 9/11, the financial collapse, Hurricane Sandy, and all those sodas that come in cups you could wear as helmets.

Today New Yorkers head to the polls to replace Mayor Mike Bloomberg. According to the latest polls, Bill De Blasio is set to clobber his Republican opponent, Joe Lhota. Some of the polls have him up by more than 40 points. The race could decide the future of New York City's controversial stop and frisk policy. Its supporters say the policy has driven down crime. Its critics, including De Blasio, say police are unfairly targeting minorities.

There's an old school versus new school showdown going on in Alabama that could give us the first glimpse into what kind of impact, if any, the government shutdown has had on the Tea Party brand. Tea Party candidate, Dean Young, is taking on a favorite among the GOP establishment, Bradley Burn, in a House special election. It's a smaller race but could have huge implications in the battle for the soul of the Republican Party some say.

Young is considered quite a hardliner even by some Tea Party standards. He has not received the backing of national Tea Party groups like Freedom Works or the Tea Party Express. Still, early polls show the candidates in a neck and neck race. Exit polling in Colorado could come down to counting the number of discarded red vines bags outside each precinct.

Voters will weigh in on a plan to tax the sale of marijuana by 15 percent. The money would be put towards school construction and enforcement of marijuana related laws. The measure has the support of some of the same groups that backed legalizing weed in the state to begin with but some opponents say the tax is too high, especially when compared to so-called sin taxes on things like alcohol.

Coming up next, lifting lines from news articles or a Wikipedia page is often enough to get a freshman booted from college. What will allegations of plagiarism mean for the political future of Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD live from Asbury Park, New Jersey, where we have been getting some exclusive behind the scenes access to Governor Chris Christie's re-election campaign. Meanwhile, back in Washington today, Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, another possible 2016 presidential hopeful, announced he is restructuring his office and he's not talking about moving the furniture in that case.

The changes to his staffing come after yet another accusation of plagiarism as buzzfeed.com reports, he allegedly lifted lines from this piece written by Dan Stewart who back in September wrote an op-ed that contained sentences such as quote, "by design, mandatory sentencing laws take discretion away from prosecutors and judges so as to impose harsh sentences regardless of circumstances."

Those exact same words with the exact same punctuation were then published under Rand Paul's name just six days later. I want to bring in Buzz Feed political reporter, Andrew Kaczynski, who spotted this duplication as well as some others. Andrew, thanks for coming in. Congratulations on the scoops.

Paul says he's restructuring his office as a result of these allegations and others. That would lead one to believe that he's possibly blaming staffers for these instances of alleged plagiarism as opposed to blaming himself. Is that your read of that?

ANDREW KACZYNSKI, POLITICAL REPORTER, BUZZFEED: I think he's actually sort of maybe protecting his staffers. He said before on this week that a lot of people and a lot of different voices went into all the speeches so I think he's sort of defending his office and it doesn't look like anyone's going to be let go.

TAPPER: How many allegations are we now talking about? I know you've reported on at least, at least two. How many are there? Rachel Maddow did another. How many in total?

KACZYNSKI: Rachel Maddow reported on him copying lines from a movie, "Gattaca." We reported on him copying from "Stand and Delivered" and three occasions from a Heritage Foundation report. He had plagiarized in the op-ed you had talked about and we also reported he plagiarized just this morning in a "Forbes" article.

TAPPER: So we saw accusations of plagiarism really, really hurt Vice President Joe Biden's run for the White House back in 1988. You might be too young to remember that. But I remember it very vividly. He got hammered. He was chased out of the race in 2008. However, then Senator Obama faced accusations of lifting lines from Massachusetts Governor Duval Patrick. Do you think Paul is going to be able to bounce back as Obama did, or is this going to hurt him like it hurt Biden?

KACZYNSKI: You know, we can't really remember anything that happened 2 minutes ago in politics, let alone three years from now in the 2016 election. I don't really think this is going to hurt Paul, especially because we're not really seeing, you know, getting flak from Republicans for this. Democrats and journalists noticed he has been plagiarizing.

But I don't think he will really have to answer for this fully until you have sort of the Republican base making an issue with Paul. And maybe people will do that in a Republican primary but right now, Paul has sort of either side-stepped the issue -- he hasn't totally taken accountability just yet.

TAPPER: No, he's blamed it on hacks and haters. Hacks and haters he said to George Stephanopoulos.

KACZYNSKI: He challenged me to a duel, hypothetically.

TAPPER: Do you think you would be able to win such a duel? Are you handy with a musket?

KACZYNSKI: I never miss.

TAPPER: How easy is it to spot repetition like this?

KACZYNSKI: It's not really that hard, when you search through the speeches. There is the pattern of writing that's sort of in Paul's voice and then you'll see when they are maybe writing about something that -- using like facts or maybe the tone has changed a little bit and it's pretty easy to search that and come up with something else.

TAPPER: Do you think Paul's whole body of work is going to be sifted through for any similarities to other people?

KACZYNSKI: You know, I think the book is pretty serious, but the publisher didn't care. The publisher said, he said in the back that he didn't, you know, he didn't individually research each case and I think with the op-eds, if we find it in his op-eds, it's going to be an instance where these outlets are going to say -- are going to be upset that Paul plagiarized and wrote in their outlet. I think people are going to look through the whole body of work, especially people who might be concerned that Paul plagiarized when he wrote for their specific publication.

TAPPER: All right, thank you so much for coming in. Senator Rand Paul will join Wolf Blitzer in the next hour of CNN. You should stay tuned for that. I will be back at 11:00 p.m. Eastern or 8:00 p.m. Pacific with a live special on the election results from across the country.

For now, that is it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Turning you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.