Return to Transcripts main page


Interview With Rep. William Keating of Massachusetts; Troubled Waters For Chris Christie; "Concerned By The Inhumaneness"; Super Bowl Tickets Ridiculously Priced?

Aired January 21, 2014 - 16:30   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD, live from beautiful, toasty Trenton, New Jersey.

In our world lead, threats of terrorism hover over the Russian city of Sochi, just a little over two weeks away from the start of the Olympics there. Recent video posted on a well-known jihadi site show two young men taking the responsibility for two December suicide bombings in the Russian town of Volgograd. They make an ominous threat.

Quote, "If you hold the Olympics, you'll get a present from us from the Muslim blood that's been spilled," the video said.

U.S. law enforcement had been working with Russian officials in putting the emergency plans in place in case the evacuation of the U.S. citizens becomes necessary in the event of a terrorist attack. Two congressman on the House Homeland Security Committee are currently in Sochi right now examining Russian security protocol.

I spoke today with one of them, Democratic Congressman Bill Keating, Democrat of Massachusetts.

And Congressman William Keating joins me now from Sochi, Russia.

Congressman, how capable do you believe the Russians are in tracking down these black widows and keeping the Olympics safe?

REP. WILLIAM KEATING (D), MASSACHUSETTS (via telephone): What is happening here is the greatest security effort ever implemented in the Olympics. There's 100,000 estimated law enforcement agents here, 40,000 police officers, 30,000 active military people. There are six different systems for military missiles guard (INAUDIBLE), there are troops patrolling the seaside and there's what President Putin calls his ring of steel, which is a concentric area of concentration, making access here without proper credentials and background checks nearly impossible.

So, with that kind of difficulty in terms of security, we still live in a world where the lone wolves who might have embedded some resources here or during some of the processes that this building occurred where they can move the goalpost, where they can move as they did in the last several of weeks, and have three suicide bombers claim responsibility and point to Sochi and these Olympics. There's a reason they are doing it. You have the black widows where in the papers here, there are reports that there are people that have breached some of the security and now are in this area. So this is dramatic view you have here this evening and it's one that has implications. It has implications, can we in this day and age carry out a world event and do it securely? And despite all of the complicated differences with Russia and the U.S. right now, everyone hopes for a safe and secure Olympics. Everyone hopes that this could be another avenue or window for the U.S. aside from the Boston Marathon bombing, where we can show some cooperation and information sharing, and where we can move forward.

TAPPER: Are you confident that the Russians have killed the black widow and other terrorist leaders that they say they have?

KEATING: No, I think those insurgents are still tracked (ph) and still exist. I think that we learned a lesson in the United States with the Boston Marathon bombing where something that we never anticipated, terrorist activity with some linkages to the north caucuses will affect the U.S. on their homeland. Here, we're right next door. Here, we're in an area where the assimilation can be done more easily.

But I'm must tell you, we've learned since we've been here how extraordinary the efforts have been. They have literally -- the Russians have gone in a way they could never do in the U.S., house to house through this area, knocking on doors and removing people that they think could be a problem. So they also do not have the constraints of human rights and civil rights that we have in the United States when they are doing these things.

TAPPER: Congressman, the individuals whom Russian law enforcement is pursing, are these the kinds of people that Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev was talking to when he was in Dagestan?

KEATING: He met with insurgents. He met with - at some length - he met with one person who was called a presenter or a recruiter, Mamoud Nidel (ph). And, you know, he was, I think, exploring joining him. But you know, that's the process that (INAUDIBLE) -- my thinking that in the months that he was here, two things happened. One is, the two people that he knew, that we knew that he knew, (INAUDIBLE) Bolonikov (ph) who was a boxer from Canada and Mamoud Nidel, were both killed.

And I think we also know that he was having trouble passing the muster to be accepted by these people. So he went back home, and when he went back home, there were red flags that were missed by our government. And in Homeland Security in our committee in the next few weeks, we are going to be issuing a report and our review of the Boston Marathon bombings where we will explore not only the good practices but also looking at lapses and trying to move forward to see where we can improve.

And I think the inability to share information, not only country to country but within our own domestic law enforcement unit, I think present the real security risks.

TAPPER: All right, Congressman William Keating, Democrat from Massachusetts and a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, speaking to us from Sochi, Russia, thank you so much for your time, sir.

KEATING: All right. Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up on THE LEAD, temperatures continue to drop drastically, something that my poor crew here can attest to as we stand here in Trenton, New Jersey. We'll get an update on this winter storm slamming the East Coast, next.

Plus, new 2016 polls just released show Chris Christie has apparently taken a hit from the Bridgegate scandal. How far is Hillary Clinton ahead of him now in a hypothetical match-up?


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper live from Trenton, New Jersey, where the conditions are right for us to shoot a remake of Fargo, if anybody is so inclined to finance such a project. A winter storm is making its way through the East Coast, bringing blizzard-like conditions to some areas. We're talking wind gusts as high as 35 miles per hour.

Let's go live to CNN's Athena Jones, who's down in D.C. where the temperature and the snow are falling fast. Athena, tell us about the conditions where you are.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Jake. Well, if you're a snow lover, then today was your day here in Washington, D.C. We've been seeing the snow falling steadily since 10:00 a.m., and it's not expected to stop for several more hours. We're going to see accumulationS of between six to 10 inches of snow. That's great news for some of the folks we've seen out here having snowball fights and trying to build snowmen and make snow angels.

But frankly, it's pretty dangerous conditions. The federal government is closed, many schools are closed. The Supreme Court was opened, has been opened today as has been Smithsonian museums. But overall, the idea is to try to keep as little traffic on the roads as possible. The National Weather Service issuing their winter storm warning and their wind chill advisory, said that temperatures could fall as low as between five and 15 degrees below zero tonight. They say that this storm is making for very dangerous travel conditions, and they are asking that folks only travel in an emergency. If they do get in their cars and drive, they are saying that you should keep a blanket, a flashlight, food, and water in your car in case something goes wrong.

Of course, the city of D.C. was prepared for this. They had 200 snow plows out on the roads as of 8 a.m. this morning. And we've lost count of the number of trucks that have gone back and forth behind us, laying down salt to try to keep these roads as safe to drive on as possible, Jake.

TAPPER: Athena Jones, thank you so much. And speaking of storms -- yes, I'm going to do it. A weather transition. We continue with the Politics Lead. He didn't mention the allegations swirling around his administration when Governor Chris Christie earlier today gave his second inaugural address just a few hours ago, just a few yards behind me here in snow- covered Trenton, New Jersey. But that doesn't mean the unanswered questions are not blanketing the national conversation about Christie and his future ambitions. The question, can he weather the storm?

That's it. Three and I'm out, I think.

Joining me now to talk about it, political reporter for Politico, Katie Glueck. State house reporter for "Politicker NJ" Matt Arco, and CNN political commentator and Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker," Ryan Lizza.

Folks, thanks for being here. We appreciate it. Ryan, let's start with you. You talked to former New Jersey governor Tom Kaine, a mentor of sorts to Christie. What did he say to you?

RYAN LIZZA, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORKER": Yes, he was one of those people who was up on stage. It seemed like everyone in this drama was up on the stage today. He was the guy that got Christie into politics. Christie's sort of birth story when it comes to politics starts with this legend in New Jersey politics, Governor Kaine.

And I asked him, I said, is this spat between you and Christie overblown in the press? Is it real? He said, no, it's not overblown as all. He said, he tried to take out my son. That was his quote. For viewers that don't know, Christie tried to remove Kaine's son, who was the Senate minority leader --

TAPPER: From the position of power, not from this earth.


LIZZA: Not from this earth, right.

TAPPER: Well, we're in New Jersey.

LIZZA: It is still politics.

TAPPER: We just need to be clear here, that's all.

LIZZA: And I thought that was interesting, he had a couple of other things to say. He also thought on the Democratic side, he thought that the Democrats were in danger of overpartisan-izing this process, and had a warning for them as well. But he was very clear that he has still not gotten over the little spat that he got in when Christie tried to take out his son.

TAPPER: Sure, Tom Kaine, Jr.

Matt, you spoke with the president of the state Senate, a Democrat who has worked well - Sweeney -- with Governor Christie in the past. How are they now, and is Christie going to be able to work with the Democrats in the future? MATT ARCO, STATE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICKER NJ: So, you know, I sat down with Senate president Sweeney after the speech, and he said we have a job to do in the state of New Jersey, so of course I'm going to work with the governor. We pass laws. He's the one that has to sign them. We have to work with them.

But look, this is the first time in four years that the Democrats, who have been gnawing at Christie, trying to get something to stick, really found something that could snowball into something serious -- sorry.

TAPPER: That's my fault. Let's be honest.


ARCO: You know, so -- and not to mention that the Senate itself is leading this joint investigation. So, I have to imagine that it's going to be a little icy there. But if you take the Senate president at his word, they still need Christie there to get things done for the state.

TAPPER: Katie, it's probably our penance for talking about 2016 presidential polls that we have to stand out here. And perhaps that should be a rule from now on. For all pundits, you have to brave weather like this if you're going to talk about a 2016 -

LIZZA: Or like a jar of money -

TAPPER: Or snow. OK.


TAPPER: But I will say that Christie, in the hypothetical match-up with Hillary Clinton, against Hillary Clinton -- and they are both the front-runners right now in their respective parties, he's down eight points. And there was a point where he was either tied or above her.

GLUECK: Right.

TAPPER: How long lasting do you think this damage is going to be?

GLUECK: That's one of the really big political questions that we're taking a look at because it was just actually just last month that he was up one point, I believe, above Hillary Clinton. A lot of people in at least some corners of the Republican Party have sort of looked to him as one of the best opportunities to be competitive with her should both of them choose to run.

And so I think the long-term political fallout so far is unclear, but that poll today does give us a snapshot that perhaps this narrative over the last several weeks does seem to be breaking through in some corners.

TAPPER: And I think, Ryan, one of the problems is people are still just nationally still getting to know him. LIZZA: Yes. I think with these polls this early they don't really matter that much. They can be a little flaky. They are not predictive of what is going to happen in 2016.

TAPPER: Right. Just ask President Giuliani.

LIZZA: Exactly. But if you're Chris Christie and you have ideological problems in your party, if you've taken some stands that are not popular with the base, one of the things you need to do to overcome that is you have to become the electable guy. You have to be the person that sort of comes into the field and just dominates it right from the get-go. Similar to the way George W. Bush did in 2000. And to introduce himself to the American people. That's what this year was supposed to be all about.

With this scandal, rather than with bipartisanship and his success of New Jersey, you know, it's obviously 180 degrees from where he wanted to be.

ARCO: And you hit the nail on the head. Because that's it, right? We have the state of the state address just a couple of weeks ago. We have the inaugural - we were supposed to have this big inaugural bash at Ellis Island. What an iconic moment. I mean, Ronald Reagan kicking off a presidential campaign from the Statue of Liberty, Chris Christie going to Ellis Island. So this is absolutely the last thing I think that he really wanted to be -- having to counter at this moment.

TAPPER: Katie, how much do you think Republicans in Washington, D.C. who have really locked horns with Governor Christie on issues like Sandy funding, how much do you think they are kind of secretly happy about all of this?

GLUECK: Well, I think a lot of this is going to be tied to kind of how this end up playing out for him going forward. There's been a lot of people who have remained quiet on the issue. At the same time, others have, of course, expressed some sorts of concern just because it is such a controversial subject, and so I think that as we are continuing down the road and these questions may give us a little bit more insight into what this means for him and kind of what this has in the rest of the party.

TAPPER: All right, great. Katie, Matt, Ryan, thank you so much for joining. Go get warm. Have some hot chocolate.

When we come back, it's too late for dozens of dolphins killed or sold into captivity after being hunted and trapped in a cove. Now supporters of the killing are calling Caroline Kennedy a hypocrite for speaking out against it.

Plus, the Patriots will not be playing in the Super Bowl, but don't tell that to one sports store who bet on a Patriots' win.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD, live from Trenton, New Jersey, where they have 100 different words for snow. The Buried Lead now, in a country fascinated by Camelot, she made a regal arrival completely with horse and carriage when she became the ambassador to Japan this fall, but Caroline Kennedy is now stirring up controversy after expressing her concern over the slaughter of dolphins in Japan.

Now the Japanese governor is firing back. The ambassador took to Twitter last week saying she was deeply concerned by the inhumanness of drive dolphin hunting, that annual event. That ended this morning after 250 dolphins were herded into a cove and trapped for four days without food according to the activist group, Sea Shepherd who monitored the hunt.

The group says that 52 dolphins were taken captive to be sold to marine parks and aquariums and 41 were slaughtered for their meat. The Japanese government fired back at Kennedy's tweet saying, quote, "Dolphin fishing is one of the traditional fishing forms of our country and is carried out appropriately in accordance with the law."

The mayor of Taiji, further argued, quote, "We have fishermen in our community and they are exercising their fishing rights. We feel that we need to protect our residents against the criticisms." So could Kennedy's comments complicate relations between two vital allies?

Joining me now via Skype from Yokohama, Professor Kyle Cleveland, the associate director of Temple University Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies. Professor Cleveland, thanks for joining us. Was this over the line criticizing what is a way of life for these fishermen?

KYLE CLEVELAND, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, TEMPLE UNIVERSITY INSTITUTE, CONTEMPORARY ASIAN STUDIES: It may be a way of life for these particular fishermen, but many Japanese are not very much aware of this and really did not become aware until this became a much larger public issue through the release of the movie "The Cove." So I don't know that this necessarily represents all of Japan and the way that most Japanese think of this issue but rather a particular interest group.

TAPPER: Interesting. Kennedy was warmly welcomed as ambassador. Is anything on the line here in terms of U.S./Japanese diplomatic relations? Has this changed how the Japanese people view Ambassador Kennedy and the United States?

CLEVELAND: Well, keep in mind that Ambassador Kennedy has only recently come to Japan and been sworn in as ambassador. So it's quite interesting that she would lay down a market on this issue just really right out of the gate after becoming the new ambassador. I think the larger issue here is not really just about the dolphin drive and this particular issue, but it's a larger issue of Japanese nationalism.

You know, in recent weeks and recent months, there's been an issue that many people, particularly in Asia, Chinese, Koreans, and others are very concerned about because of the wartime legacies so I think there is a larger issue here about Japanese conservative nationalism and this is representative of that particular issue.

TAPPER: Interesting. I spoke with Louie Psihoyos yesterday. He's the director of the documentary "The Cove," which brought international attention to this dolphin hunt in 2009 when it won the academy award for best documentary. Here's what he told me. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOIUE PSIHOYOS, DIRECTOR, "THE COVE": The fishermen claim that they are using it for food. They issued a statement two days ago that it was being used to feed their grandmothers and poor families. None of the fishermen there are poor, by any stretch of the imagination. And this meat that they are using, all of it is toxic.


TAPPER: He's talking about a mercury level that he says is 2,000 times what's allowed by Japanese law. Could it be argued in a way that Ambassador Kennedy has a responsibility to raise these kinds of issues?

CLEVELAND: Well, I don't know if that is the only issue. Certainly it's an important issue about the fact that this dolphin is being released into the Japanese marketplace. What "The Cove" revealed is that this was really relatively unknown and that this was being done without public scrutiny. Some local city councilmen in the city stood up on record in the movie about this because they were very concerned about dolphins being used in public school lunches.

And so this is a public health issue. I don't know if it's necessarily the U.S. ambassador's role to police the public health food safety of a country like Japan that has some of the strictest rules in the world. There are really two issues here. Ostensibly it's the issue of food safeness and people concerned about dolphins and whales being hunted and Japan is a real exception to this, compared to other countries.

And so for people who feel that dolphins or whales are being killed in this really brutal kind of way, I think that's the real issue that caught everyone's attention through "The Cove." This other issue of public food safety is a genuine concern, but there's a larger issue here about how people think about dolphins and whales.

TAPPER: All right, Professor Kyle Cleveland, thank you so much. We appreciate your time.

Coming up next, how much have you netted off your March Madness bracket in the past, a few hundred bucks? Does a billion dollars sound better? Well, what you'll have to do to get it after the break.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Live from Trenton, New Jersey, where they practice for the Iditarod. Speaking of sports, the Sports Lead now, we all know that the rent is too damn high in New York even a $1 million parking space in the bid apple. So fans of the Broncos and Seahawks should not be that shocked at tickets to the Super Bowl at the home of the Jets and Giants are the most expensive in the history of the game. The cheapest seat in the house on the secondary market is going for about $3,000 right now and that's to sit outside in the nosebleeds during what could be the coldest Super Bowl ever. The most expensive seat along the 50 yard line will cost you more than 25 grand.

And then there's a ticket to the fancy catered Clyman controlled commissioner's club for more than $800,000. The New England Patriots will not be playing in the Meadowlands, regardless of what this shirt says. This was being sold on Saturday, the day before Peyton Manning took them apart in the AFC title game. The shirts ended up on Twitter and now Modell says those shirts are heading to a developing nation. The risky gamble to get a jump on the competition cost the chain about $500,000.

Warren Buffett usually doesn't take a bet he can lose. This is probably no exception. Buffett's company, Berkshire Hathaway has teamed up Cleveland Cavallers owner and Quicken Loans founder, Dan Gilbert, to offer the biggest NCAA challenge ever $1 billion to the person who can fill out the perfect tournament bracket.

The winner has an option of being paid out in 40 annual instalments of $25 million or take a $500 million lump sum. By the way, the chances of that are one in 9.2 quintillion. It has 18 zeros. So pencil me in right now. Make sure to follow me on twitter @jaketapper, that's all one word and also at @theleadcnn. And check out our show page at for videos, blogs, extras.

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