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Republicans Slam Christie; Dennis Rodman: "I'm Truly Sorry"; Chris Christie Leaves Fort Lee, New Jersey; Insane Clown Posse Fights Gang Label

Aired January 09, 2014 - 16:30   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Take this tweet from Glenn Beck, giving the New Jersey governor the fake movie foster treatment with the #fatandfurious. Christie did find a sympathetic voice in South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley who wrote on Facebook, quote, "I've watched my friend work through a difficult situation today he did the right thing in taking responsibility in a tough situation. That's the kind of leadership that earned him the huge level of trust he has in New Jersey."

Let's talk about this. Joining me now is CNN chief national correspondent, John King, who was in the room for that marathon press conference, asked one of the questions, and CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

John, I'm going to start with you. What are you hearing from Republicans in New Jersey about how they Christie handled the press conference?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, what they are saying is the governor handled himself pretty well today assuming that the facts support him when he said he has zero to do with this, zero knowledge of it, that he was totally cut off guard yesterday morning.

They say if that turns out to be the case after these investigations, then he handled himself well, but they are also saying there is no question these investigations are legitimate, both by the legislature and it looks like now perhaps the federal and maybe even the state and criminal investigation.

So on this day, Christie gets high marks assuming the facts in the end support what he said about his non-involvement.

TAPPER: Now CNN caught up with Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky outside the White House a few moments ago. Let's listen to what he had to say about why so few Republican colleagues are standing shoulder to shoulder with Christie today.


SENATOR RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: You know, I don't know. Sometimes when an issue is specific to a local area, people don't want to comment on the fact that they don't know all of the details that are going on. It's presumptuous to comment. I don't know who e-mailed who. I've been in traffic before and I'm always wondering, who did this to me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think it had something to do with his leadership style that you didn't know.

PAUL: Other people will have to judge that.


TAPPER: Other people have to judge that. I hate traffic. Obviously the context here, there has been bad blood between Rand Paul and Chris Christie. They are two very different Republicans and they may be facing each other in the Republican primaries in 2016, but that was not a defense of Chris Christie.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No. I hate when I get stuck in traffic and I always wonder who is to blame for that. It's not a defensive. There are people who don't like him. There are people like Rand Paul who are probably going to run against him. There are people who don't know him very well. I mean, a lot of his donors are kind of nervous I'm told.

You know, there is new support for Chris Christie, but it doesn't run that deep, right. So I think a lot of people are taking a look at this and saying, wait a minute, we are just at the beginning of a discovery period with him, but you know, there are people who have their reasons to dislike him.

There are people who believe that they haven't been treated well by him. He is somebody who has a lot of enemies out there and a lot of political enemies as well who want to beat him and don't want him to be the nominee.

TAPPER: Now of course, one of the main selling points of a Christie 2016 campaign would be his ability to raise funds from establishment Republicans who made a big push in 2012 for him to run. John, do you think some of those donors would be a little bit more hesitant now should Christie decide to run?

KING: The early reaction from people close to him is no, Jake, but that's the defining question. One we'll get the answer to pretty quickly. Here we have just won the big victory. He thinks he has a mandate for a second term. The state address is next week. Let's see what happens.

To your fundraising question, he's the new chairman of the Republican Governors Association and very soon within weeks and over the next several months he's expected to travel the country helping those Republican gubernatorial candidates and those governor races are so critical to GOP chances in the House and the Senate this year.

So we will know -- it's still a cold thaw here in New Jersey. We'll know by the early spring whether people out in the country think he has put this behind him because are they showing up for the fundraisers and are those gubernatorial candidates whether are willing to stand next to him at press conferences or are they worried they are going to be asked about being stuck in traffic. TAPPER: Gloria, very quickly, putting on your analyst hat, what grade would you give him? Did he do what he needed to do?

BORGER: think he did what he needed to do. I would give him a B, B plus. It was high-risk, high reward. The reward side of it is that he said, I'm sorry. I apologize. This shouldn't have happened. But he also put himself out there because he was pretty specific about what he knew and when he knew it. So the risk there is that if one e- mail pops up.

TAPPER: Right.

BORGER: If there's any amount, any iota of information that actually he did know a little more, that maybe he didn't know why, that he did talk to some of these staffers. I'm assuming he was protected by his lawyers. So this is risky for him. In terms of delivering a press conference where he took responsibility, I think he did -- I think he did a good job of that.

TAPPER: Gloria Borger, John King, thank you so much.

Coming up, Democrats react to the Chris Christie apology. But first, another apology today, this one from Dennis Rodman. He says he is sorry for suggesting an American held in North Korean prison for a reason. Does Kenneth Bae's family accept Rodman's apology coming up.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Now it's time for our World Lead. We asked does Dennis Rodman plan to leave North Korea at least any time soon? One of the former NBA players who was on the trip with Rodman flew back to Beijing today, but Rodman and others appeared to have stayed behind.

There are reports they went skiing. It's been a disappointing trip for "The Worm." His team lost the exhibition game against North Korea and he gave an explosive interview to our own Chris Cuomo in which Rodman seemed to criticize the American who has been detained in North Korea for over year, Kenneth Bae.


DENNIS RODMAN, FORMER NBA PLAYER: Do you understand what Kenneth Bae did?


RODMAN: You guy behind the mic right now. We're the guys who doing one thing. We have to go back to America to take the abuse.


TAPPER: OK. Rodman has now apologized for that interview releasing a statement that said in part, quote, "I had been drinking. It's not an excuse but by the time the interview happened, I was upset. I was overwhelmed. It's not an excuse. It's just the truth. I want to first apologize to Kenneth Bae's family at this point. I should know better than to make political statements. I'm truly sorry," unquote.

The Bae family released a statement a short while ago saying they accept Rodman's apology. They want to ask him, has he hurt the chances of Kenneth Bae's release? Let's bring in Christopher Hill. He is a former ambassador and assistant secretary of state. He was also the lead U.S. delegate during the six-party talks with North Korea from 2005 to 2009.

Mr. Ambassador, simply put, do you think what Rodman said hurts the State Department's efforts to get Kenneth Bae released?

CHRISTOPHER HILL, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: It's hard to say. Usually when you work on these releases you work as quietly as possible and at the end of the fray you may have a public statement of some kind. So this is not the usual way to get these people release, but I'm not prepared necessarily to say it's been -- his chances of being release have been hurt or anything. It's too early to say that at this point.

TAPPER: Although, playing devil's advocate here, here you have Dennis Rodman talking about seemingly to suggest that Kenneth Bae deserved to be in prison. That would give Kim Jong-Un some cover for what the U.S. government believes is completely unjustifiable imprisonment.

HILL: That's right. That was an extraordinary statement and I'm glad he apologized for it. I mean, that was really over the top. You know, one has to keep in mind that what really is going on here is the North Koreans are using him and others as an internal propaganda show. They don't really care too much what we think.

It's more to do with their internal issues. So I think that comment by Rodman was very useful to them. If they want to release him, they will release him. If they don't, they won't. I wouldn't worry too much about the specifics of what Rodman said. A couple of times I had discussions with North Korean officials were saying. He said don't look at me, that doesn't really matter.

TAPPER: Do you expect the State Department to debrief from Rodman, to ask him and the other players what they saw, what they heard, and what they were told?

HILL: Well, I don't really know about Rodman personally. Listening to him on your program or your colleague's program, rather, I'm not sure that there's not much to be debriefed from. But I suspect that some other members might be -- might be people that you want to debrief. Not necessarily that they are North Korea watchers in any sense of the word.

But they may have observed some things that we don't get a close-up look at the North Koreans. They may have something to say in that regard and since we know so little about the North Koreans, it would make sense to have a conversation with them.

TAPPER: Let me play devil's advocate on the other side of this in defense of Dennis Rodman. I want to play another part of that interview with a man called "The Worm." Let's roll that tape. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RODMAN: One day, this, too, is going to open because these same guys here, all of us, Christie, Dennis, Charles, all of these -- I mean, everybody here, if we could just open the door just a little bit for people to come here.


TAPPER: Are we opening the door just a little bit? Is there something he's accomplishing here?

HILL: Well, I really don't see it. That said, I do believe that sports diplomacy has a real role to play. There have been numerous examples through history, most famously the famous ping-pong players in China where sports diplomacy has led to better things. I can see some of that happening in a place like Iran.

With respect to North Korea, I don't see it yet. I think it was a propaganda show for Kim Jong-Un in trying to consolidate his position and especially most recently when he perp walk his uncle and took him out and had him shot.

So I think it's -- we really -- it's kind of hard to grasp at straws here at this point or find a silver lining to this. I don't think this is a good day for "The Worm." He's had other bad days and I'm sure he'll be back.

TAPPER: Ambassador Chris Hill, thank you so much. We always appreciate your views.

Coming up next on THE LEAD, more reaction to Chris Christie's traffic jam, we'll ask Democratic New Jersey Congressman Russ Holt how much damage he thinks this may have done to Christie's political future.

Plus, they have a devoted fan base, but are their followers criminals? Why this rap duo is suing the FBI.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. You are looking at some live pictures of Governor Christie in Fort Lee, New Jersey having just exited the city hall building or city hall type building where he met with the mayor. He is talking to citizens there of Fort Lee. Many of whom were probably upset at the severe traffic jams caused by apparently members of his staff seeking political retribution against the mayor of Fort Lee.

Here are some of the tape from just a minute ago exiting the building, a bad day for Chris Christie. Back to our Politics Lead, let's stick with this story. Chris Christie's full-throated apology for the actions of members of his own senior staff involving lane closures in that town, Fort Lee.

Let's bring in Democratic Congressman Rush Holt of New Jersey to get his reaction. Congressman Holt, what did you make of Governor Christie's press conference? He was certainly apologetic.

REPRESENTATIVE RUSH HOLT (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, it was a masterful performance I think of damage control and if this were the end of the story I think a lot of people might be satisfied, but I suspect it's not the end of the story. By the way, I'd be curious to know if all of the press caused traffic jams in Fort Lee this afternoon.

TAPPER: We tend to do that, sir, and proudly so.

HOLT: The people around the country who have found Chris Christie an attractive, plain speaking presidential-type candidate are really projecting their own hopes of what a politician with integrity would look like. They don't really know him. We in New Jersey have said for years that he has a bullying streak. He said in his press conference today he's not a bully.

But now people around the country, the first thing they learn about him, other than his reputation, is that at least he either took part in petty, vindictive payback or vendettas or created a climate where that could take place. I don't think people are going to like that.

TAPPER: Congressman Holt, stay with us for one second. I just want to play the sound that we just got in of Governor Christie talking about the meeting that he had with the mayor of Fort Lee and then we'll come back to you.


CHRISTIE: I have great respect for the mayor. We had a very good conversation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell us what was said, Governor, during the meeting?

CHRISTIE: I just did.


TAPPER: Congressman Holt, let me tell you something that I'm hearing from a lot of Republicans who I know and also it's all over social media. People praising Governor Christie for how he's dealing with this crisis, dealing with this scandal. They say, look at how Governor Christie is handling this. He accepts responsibility. He has press conference which he enters every single question almost two hours long.

He fires two people that in their view, they compare him favorably against President Obama who they say has had scandal after scandal and has not done the same thing. I'm sure you disagree with that, but what's your response?

HOLT: Well, I think it's vintage Christie. He comes off as straight talking. He appears to accept responsibility. Of course, one might ask, well, what about a month ago, what about two months ago? But as I said a few minutes ago, I think if this were the end of the story, a lot of people will say he dealt with it. I suspect this is not the end of the story. You know, there's a truism in politics. It's not the action that gets you. It's the cover-up.

TAPPER: So Sir, are you saying that you believe that he knew?

HOLT: I'm saying I -- you know, I'm not going to speculate on what has yet to come out. I just think we haven't heard the end of the story.

TAPPER: The U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey, an office that Christie used to hold is looking into whether any federal laws were violated. Do you think Congress needs to be looking into this or is it OK to just keep it in New Jersey?

HOLT: You know, Congress is so quick in this current Congress to go on investigations I'm not sure I want to encourage more such investigations. But if the facts warrant it and there are a lot of facts that are only now beginning to come out, up until now it's been suspicious that this was politically motivated action to cause traffic jams in Fort Lee.

If it turns that there are still more facts that come out, if it really did create true damage, you know, of responding to important things, health-related matters and so forth, well, then it maybe deserves further investigation. At this stage, no. Let's -- let the facts come out.

TAPPER: Obviously, sir, there is retribution in politics and people seek revenge. You may not end up on the committee that you want or your bill may get scuttled, et cetera, et cetera. Could you explain why anyone would think causing this traffic jam would be retribution against the mayor of Fort Lee? I'm still just stuck on that point.

HOLT: It doesn't really make sense. Somebody obviously thought so because the e-mail said, well, it's time to create some traffic problems in Fort Lee. They obviously thought they would teach somebody a lesson obviously the people who pay the price were not the elected officials of Fort Lee, but rather the innocent public.

And it sounds like, you know, school children and others. So I can't imagine why anyone would do it. It certainly seems petty. The mayor, who was a Democrat, why Christie would even expect that the mayor should or would endorse him, I don't know.

TAPPER: Right. And of course, Governor Christie said today that he wasn't on his endorsement list, but as you say, there's plenty of information that we're still waiting to hear. Congressman Rush Holt, thank you so much for your time.

HOLT: It's good to be with you, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up, guilty of bad taste maybe, but guilty of gang activity? Why followers of the Insane Clown Posse are on the FBI's radar.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Time for our Pop Culture Lead now, if you've never heard of the Insane Clown Posse, they inspired an often unruly fan base, which the FBI is so concerned about it has labelled them a gang.


TAPPER (voice-over): So first off, for the uninitiated, who or what exactly is the Insane Clown Posse? Well, ICP mixes rap, heavy metal, and heavy makeup. Their songs often focus on homicidal things. The Detroit-based duo, Violent J and Shaggy Too Dupe formed two decades ago and they have sold millions of albums.

And they've inspired an intensely loyal following among their fans who call themselves Jugaloos and share a subculture, and love of face painting. Every year since 2007, fans have gathered for a week-long summer festival, the gathering of the Jugaloos in Southern Illinois.

The event attracts about 10,000 people and heaps of trouble. There have been several deaths in recent years and dozens of arrests, according to the Illinois State Police.

VIOLENT J, INSANE CLOWN POSSE: We're the most hated band because people hate and people fear what they don't understand, you know, and there's a lot more to us than what you hear on the surface or even just hearing one of our songs, you know.

TAPPER: Those songs are often profanity linked, fictional narratives that the band says actually have an underlying positive message, but the FBI disagrees. In 2011, the Jugaloos ended on the National Gang Threat Assessment as, quote, "A loosely organized hybrid gang." Quote, "A small number of Jugaloos are forming more organized subsets and engaging in more gang like criminal activity, the FBI says.

VIOLENT J: They are not Neanderthals. They know not to murder someone because of our music. They are human beings.

TAPPER: Now the members of the Insane Clown Posse and several Jugaloos have partnered with the ACLU to sue the FBI saying that designation has led to police harassment and denial of employment.


TAPPER: The FBI and the Justice Department told CNN, they are aware of the lawsuit, but they decline to comment on the pending litigation.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

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