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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

More Charged in Steubenville Rape Case; Weather Impacting Holiday Travel; Israel Criticizes Iran Nuclear Deal; Diplomatic Fallout Over Iran Nuclear Deal; Steubenville Schools Chief Indicted

Aired November 25, 2013 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, I would like to tell that you won't be having Thanksgiving dinner at an airport Sbarro's. I would like to, anyway.

I'm John Berman. And this is THE LEAD.

The national lead. A special welcome to everyone watching us on an airport television during a flight delay, a cold blast putting the freeze on travel ahead of Thanksgiving and the worst, folks, is yet to come as this killer storm aims for even more Americans.

The world lead. Historic or historic mistake? Just how Israel characterizes the deal aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions. And as long as the U.S. had Iran at the negotiating table, why not secure the freedom of this man, an American pastor held captive in Iran? Did the administration leave him behind? His wife joins us live.

And also in national news, the story does not end with these two high school football players convicted of rape in a case that seized the nation's attention. Today, new charges reach deep into their school system. Wait until you hear how high they go.

Welcome to THE LEAD, everyone. I'm John Berman, filling in for Jake Tapper today.

And we do begin with our national lead. I would like to tell you that you will all get to your destinations without a hassle this holiday. I would like to tell you that you won't have to eat Thanksgiving dinner on top of your own luggage. I would like to tell you all that, but I can't, because take a look at this.

This is what's happening right now in the Southwest, this car just flying off the road and you can see this all over that part of the country. A killer storm system hitting the region right now, already being blamed on as many as 12 deaths, and the way this storm is moving, it could wreck your carefully laid travel plans or even worse.

(WEATHER UPDATE)

BERMAN: So now this holiday stretch that already has named days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday can add terrible torrential Tuesday and wicked weather Wednesday to the list. In fact, many early bird holiday travelers are already feeling the pain. Nearly 200 flights were canceled today out of Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport, which, of course, is a major hub. That's on top of almost 300 flights canceled there yesterday.

Our own Nick Valencia is in the middle of all this pain.

And, Nick, the Thanksgiving travel getting off to a rough start there already.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, absolutely, John.

It was a mess here earlier this morning, with passengers showing up hoping that their flights weren't delayed or canceled. You see behind me there's very few people here. A lot of that has to do with the combined 480 cancellations you were talking about over the course of the last two days. Part of that was the airlines doing a preemptive move to try to limit the amount of passengers that were stranded in the airports and it worked. But it's caused a lot of mess for thousands of people.

Those flights, if you add up the totals, 300, 480 flights, about 115 passengers on average for those flights, you can just do the math, John. It's created a lot of problems for those that are trying to get home for the holiday season. It's not going to get any better for those like Chad was saying in the Northeast, but for now, earlier when I spoke to the Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport spokesman, he says he believes the worst has passed here, though there has been especially angry travelers here.

Not thinking they're getting much communication from the airlines -- John.

BERMAN: Yes, travelers are always so calm and collected at airports, Nick.

Any sense -- you said they think the worst has passed where you are. Any word of cancellations yet tomorrow or will the cancellations be over?

VALENCIA: So, John, I asked the airport spokesman about that, if we can anticipate further cancellations. He says no. It could have been a lot worse here in Dallas.

We were expecting freezing temperatures. We were expecting that temperature to drop below -- well below 30 degrees. We got yesterday some slight mixture of light rain and sleet. But airport officials here, they feel they like dodged a big bullet, even though some passengers may be a little bit angry than others about missing their flights and missing their connections.

There was one couple I spoke to earlier that was coming from Mexico actually and had a connecting flight here. So much of what happens here has a ripple effect coast to coast, but the big problem, the big problem is going to be as this system moves east and goes towards the Northeast, especially towards Upstate New York, where -- pretty close to you, John.

BERMAN: Yes, we appreciate that. Nick, thanks a lot. We're bracing for it here. Nick Valencia in Dallas, thank you so much.

In the money lead, gas prices have been steadily dropping all fall, but that appears to be over now, right before millions hit the road for Thanksgiving or at least try to, with the weather. The average price for a gallon of regular rose more than three cents in the past two weeks to $3.25 per gallon. That's according to the Lundberg Survey.

But there may be an upside now, thanks to the deal cut over the weekend in Geneva about Iran's nuclear program.

Our Zain Asher joins me now.

And, Zain, as we all know, one of the things that Iran has is oil. So the question is, how might this affect gas prices?

ZAIN ASHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right.

If you look at crude oil prices today, they are already falling on the back of this deal. Earlier this year, crude oil prices reached about $110 a barrel. Right now they are roughly around $94 a barrel. You have got to remember that crude oil makes up the biggest component in terms of price of gas prices. So, eventually, if we see crude oil start to fall, we will see an impact on gas prices as well.

But I do want to emphasize though that the sanctions against Iran, especially oil, remain very firmly in place. It's not as if we will see downward pressure on oil overnight. I also want to emphasize that Washington has come out and said several times that this deal doesn't necessarily mean we will see a flood of Iranian oil into the markets either.

Also, Western energy investors aren't going to be allowed into Iran either, but what it does do is, it does freeze the sanctions against Iran further down the line. And so people are hoping -- what people, investors are saying and what they're watching is if Rouhani sticks to his side of the agreement, then eventually we might see lesser sanctions, perhaps possibly in a year or two, more oil supply in terms of the global market and that eventually could put downward pressure on oil prices -- John.

BERMAN: So, change the tenor of the markets, but not the supply just yet at least.

ASHER: Exactly.

BERMAN: All right, Zain Asher, thank you so much. Great to see you here.

When we come back, Americans might eventually see their gas prices drop after this deal with Iran, at least in a couple years, but Israel not so convinced that this was the right way to go, to say the least. Was the deal worth risking our friendship with our biggest ally in the Middle East?

Plus, how hard is it to get John Boehner on the phone? Just ask an Obamacare representative, who was stuck on hold for more than 30 minutes when he was trying to help the speaker sign up. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm John Berman, in for Jake Tapper today.

And in the world lead, some called the deal to curb Iran's nuclear program an historic accomplishment. But one of America's closest allies, Israel, which Iranian leaders have said in the past they would like to see wiped off the map, Israel is not among them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: What was concluded in Geneva last night is not a historic agreement. It's a historic mistake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So why is the Israeli prime minister so miffed? The deal demands that Iran freeze its nuclear program for six months while negotiators try to hash out a longer-term agreement. In return, some $7 billion in sanctions will be temporarily lifted off of Iran's shoulders.

Israel says that is simply too generous. Today, in a tweet, the prime minister reiterated his concerns. He wrote: "The agreement reduces the pressure on Iran without receiving anything tangible in return. The Iranians themselves say the deal saved them."

So now Israel wants a seat at the table and they're sort of getting it, though some say it might be a bit after the fact. An Israeli team led by the country's national security adviser will soon come here to the U.S. for talks over the permanent plan for Iran.

Now, I want to talk about all this with Richard Haass. He's president of the Council on Foreign Relations. I want to get Richard's reaction to this.

And I do want to start with Israel, because earlier today I had a chance to speak to Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, and I asked him if he really thought that today after this deal that the world is less safe, that Israel is less safe than it was a week ago. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK REGEV, ISRAELI GOVERNMENT SPOKESPERSON: I think the world is less safe. That's the unfortunate reality, because this deal that was achieved over the weekend has created a situation where you have removed the pressure on Iran. That pressure has been eased, the sanctions have been started to being lifted, and we're concerned that without that economic pressure, the Iranian regime won't make the decisions it's required to do to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Richard, I'm wondering if you can respond to what Mark Regev said and also the rhetoric from Israel in general. Did this deal actually go backwards?

RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: No.

And I think, to give some perspective to this, John, this deal is neither an historic achievement, nor is it a historic mistake. It's something in between. It's an agreement of limited duration that does a few limited things. And that's about it.

I think in general, what it does is it relieves some, and I emphasize the word "some", and a small percentage of it, the economic pressure on Iran. And in return, the world gets some positive things.

It gets greater access to what the Iranians are up to through inspections. It puts many road blocks, if you will, on the path of modernization of their existing capabilities. It does do away with some of their capabilities but it also leaves many of them in place.

So, does it dismantle what the Iranians have? No. Could that have been negotiated? The answer to that is no as well.

BERMAN: You do seem to support the deal and you think the critics are being too harsh.

HAASS: That's true. I think what the critics are doing is making two mistakes.

One is they assume the alternatives were available again to have negotiated something much more ambitious, plus more important, I think you hear it in the comments made from the Israeli spokesman, they're reading the worst possible case into things. They're assuming that all the pressure's gone. That Iran is going to get out from under all the sanctions, that this is the beginning of the end of international controls on Iran's nuclear program.

Now, if that turns out to be the case, and it's possible, then the West has all sorts of options or the world has all sorts of options, including reintroducing even tougher sanctions or even using military force. It's also possible, though, in the comprehensive agreement that's meant to follow this one, the world will be able to get through negotiations and an acceptable outcome. It won't get the Iranians down to zero, won't get them out of the nuclear business, but it will establish a sufficiently low ceiling on what it is they're allowed to do that it should give us quite a lot of security.

BERMAN: You seem to think it's worth a try.

You know, there's an expression with arbitrations and negotiations, people say you know it's successful when everyone leaves unhappy.

The thing is, with this negotiation, it seems the only ones unhappy are U.S. lawmakers and Israel. It's the Iranians that seem thrilled. People on the streets there, according to our reporters, seem very, very happy with this. The Iranian leaders are clearly very, very happy with this.

Is this in and of itself indicative that the U.S. may have given up too much?

HAASS: No, I don't think so. The Iranians set their goals fairly modestly and they have achieved them. They are allowed to continue enriching, though they really can't increase the size of their stockpile and some parts of their stockpile have to disappear, and they got a little bit of economic relief which is obviously very important to them.

But I think we got a lot of things as well. The problem is, if you hope that we were going to eliminate the problem, then, yes, you're going to be disappointed. But if you think that we have made our situation better and we have, if nothing else, we have given ourselves considerably more warning time so if Iran wakes up tomorrow and if the leaders decide to make a so-called dash or race to nuclear weapons, we'll probably have several more months of warning than we would have had otherwise and that again gives us all sorts of time to react.

BERMAN: You have a lot of experience in the world of diplomacy, and I want to ask you about something that many people believe should have been involved with the diplomacy here. And that's the American pastor Saeed Abedini, who is a Christian being held, his family says, for his religious beliefs in Iran. He apparently did not come up during the nuclear discussions, the negotiations.

Is that something that you believe should have come up, would it have been constructive to discuss his fate at the table in Geneva?

HAASS: In any negotiation, you have to decide how much you're going to try to accomplish, and just tackling all the dimensions of the nuclear agreement is ambition enough. But there's everything from Iran's treatment of its own people to individual human rights cases, to what it's doing, say, in Syria, to what it's doing in Lebanon, its support for Hamas, what it does in Afghanistan. I could go on and on and on, including state support for terrorism.

We've got a host of concerns that are legitimate. We just can't satisfy them in one negotiation. The most urgent is the one that this negotiation focused on which is the nuclear dimension of Iranian policy.

BERMAN: And it seems like a lot more talks will be going on very soon with Israeli coming to the United States and Representative (INAUDIBLE) to forge ahead.

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate it.

HAASS: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: And coming up on THE LEAD, as we just talked about, the one thing missing from that deal with Iran, freedom for an American pastor in prison there for the last 18 months. The question is, was he forgotten? I will speak to his wife, straight ahead.

But, first, two football players have already been convicted of rape. But did school officials in Steubenville, Ohio, know more than they admitted? We'll have all that and more, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to THE LEAD, everyone.

In national news, new charges of a sexual -- in a sexual assault case that captured the nation's attention not against the two Steubenville, Ohio, high school football players convicted of rape, but against the educators that prosecutors say looked the other way. This reaches into the highest offices of the school system there.

Now, you may recall that Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond were found guilty in March of raping a 16-year-old girl at a party in August 2012. The case became infamous over social media. The public saw and heard evidence that in the past it would have really only come out during trial.

Now, Steubenville's superintendent Michael McVey has been indicted in connection with that case on a number of counts, including tampering with evidence and obstructing justice. Also charged, an elementary school principal, a wrestling coach and a volunteer football coach.

CNN legal correspondent Jean Casarez is standing by in Steubenville.

And, Jean, this seems like a sweeping indictment of the system, almost.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, John, there's really three themes I would say of the charges today. First of all, the cover-up. Second of all, allowing underage children to drink and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. And, finally, for school administrators and teachers, failure to report when you suspect child abuse.

Now, of course, the superintendent, he is facing the most serious charges. They are three felonies there. The attorney general's office now says that he could face five years in prison. You have a wrestling coach, failure to report suspected child abuse, not necessarily at the school at all. You also have a young man who was an assistant football coach who is charged with allowing underage teens to drink.

This is what we've learned from the attorney general's office. It's his parents' home, they own the home, he lived there. Apparently, one of the parties took place there and he witnessed it that night. We're talking August 11th and 12th, 2012. So, now, he's been charged with that. One of the most interesting things we found out today has to do with the school principal of the elementary school. Her name is Lynnette Gorman. She has been charged with failure to report suspected child abuse.

But it was from April 2012 and, John, what we're learning is that they were investigating two rapes. One that culminated in the conviction, but one that was never charged, and the school principal is the one that they said failed to report that.

Well, I just spoke with her attorney minutes ago and he said that this is a 30-year educator. She's been a principal for four years. She has done mandatory reporting numerous times, and he is really, I would say, appalled at this point that she was the one that happened to be charged. Yes, it's a low level misdemeanor but it could take her administration credential and her teaching credential and she could lose it after 30 years of what he says is a stellar record.

BERMAN: Quickly, what's happening to these employees right now who are mentioned in the indictment and charged? Are they being placed on leave?

CASAREZ: Well, they went to work this morning, not knowing anything was going to happen, including the superintendent. Obviously, they were given notice of the charges. They are to appear in court in December, December 6th, but the school board is meeting this afternoon to determine whether they will take paid leaves of absence until these charges are culminated which will be in a trial.

BERMAN: All right. We'll check back in when new information comes from there. Jean Casarez, thank you so much for joining us. A lot of information there.

CASAREZ: Thank you.

BERMAN: Still to come, she feels her imprisoned husband was forgotten during U.S. talks with Iran. Now, she's afraid another eight years could pass before she sees him again.

And the new "Hunger Games" movie filling up the seats, racking up the cash and setting a box office record. That is our pop lead "Catching Fire", quite literally, later.

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