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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Boehner: Immigration Delay Obama's Fault; "I Don't Need Him Campaigning For Me"; Subway's Bread: Same Ingredient As Yoga Mats?; Leno's Long, Long Goodbye

Aired February 6, 2014 - 16:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The "Politics Lead" now, don't expect to see lawmakers doing any bipartisan trust fall exercises in the halls of Congress anytime soon. The speaker of the House came out swinging today, grilling President Obama on his trustworthiness and suggesting any delays on immigration reform deal will be caused by the new White House strategy of using executive orders and executive actions to go it alone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: I was running around the country telling everyone that he's going to keep acting on his own, keeps talking about his phone and his pen and he's feeding more distrust about whether he's committed to the rule of law. Listen, there's widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws and it's going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Joining me now to talk about this is CNN chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash and Robert Costa, national political reporter for "The Washington Post." Dana, last week the Republicans had their retreat. They put out this list of principles for immigration reform. You and I had breakfast with the speaker. He talked very clearly that he wanted immigration reform. So what's going on?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What's going on is that a week has passed and now he feels comfortable, maybe even pressure to say what he said because it reflects the reality that is happening behind the scenes. I went to the retreat that you talked about last week and it was clear from the get-go after they had the one meeting inside the Republican conference that the votes simply weren't going to be there.

Never mind the votes, there wasn't a desire to move forward and it wasn't just from the conservatives opposed to the policy, a lot of people who just thought politics were bad. But I think what was fascinating about the speaker's comments today was, as you say, how he was putting it on the president. But to be fair, on the one hand, the speaker is telling the president, back off, don't get involved because it will hurt the process because you're too -- TAPPER: Radioactive.

BASH: -- radioactive, exactly. On the other hand, he is saying get involve. So if I'm at the White House, I would be saying, which is it?

TAPPER: It is confusing. I did find something very illuminating. Bob, you have this quote in your "Washington Post" story, Congressman Patrick Tiberi, the Republican of Ohio, a good friend of Speaker Boehner, that he says, "Right now, Jesus himself couldn't be the speaker and get 218 Republicans behind something so I think Speaker Boehner is trying his best to come up with a plan that can get close to that. Whatever we move there will be critics everywhere, but at the end of the day, we still have to govern."

Unpack that for me. I'm a little bit confused. Here is where I disagree. Jesus could get 218 votes. But is he blaming it on the president there? That seems to be blaming it on the caucuses, the Republicans.

ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, I think Speaker Boehner right now is torn on immigration and speaking of Jesus, when I was at the capitol today, I saw retired Cardinal Theodore McCarrick leaving a meeting with Speaker Boehner, talking about the immigration, actually praying about the prospect -- for immigration reform.

TAPPER: Yes, the church wants immigration reform.

COSTA: And I think Boehner's deep Catholic faith does inform him on this issue. I think he wants to get something done. He's hired staffers to move in that direction. But as much as he wants to see some momentum, he knows as Dana said, that the Republican conference wants to do very little on immigration this year ahead of the midterm elections.

BASH: Let me give you a cynical answer. This is an election year, as you said. By putting out the principles, by saying that they want to do something as far as legal status, they are on the record with that. The expectation has been since really, frankly day one, that despite what the speaker said publicly, they are likely not to get past that.

And they are hoping that that is enough at least the beginning of enough political cover with Hispanic voters that they are trying to court for this year. But the real problem is going to be 2016 because in the short term it doesn't matter so much when you're talking about electoral politics for Republicans in the House.

TAPPER: Yes, they don't care about the presidency.

COSTA: I think you're right. The appearance of action on immigration reform is important for Republicans and I think they will sit on the side lines when it comes to immigration reform, but they have to do something and this is the speaker's perspective on immigration. So look for piecemeal reforms, the Republican version of the dream act to come forward this spring, a flurry of bills that are not something that the Senate produced, but something that they can talk about in these campaigns in some of these purple states.

TAPPER: Let's turn to the Democrats right now. President Obama spoke to Senate Democrats at a retreat yesterday. He basically told those vulnerable Democrats, I'm cool not coming to your states. Dana, refresh the memory of our audience about what Republican senators have told you when you've asked -- Democratic senators have told you when you've asked, do you want Obama to campaign for you.

BASH: Well, most of them say -- won't answer yes or no. The most illuminating was what Senator Mark Begich told us the two of us on "State of the Union" night which is, sure, I want him to come campaign with me up in Alaska so that I can tell everybody how much I think his policies are terrible, which is really remarkable.

TAPPER: let's play that bite.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: If President Obama wanted to go to Alaska to campaign with you, would you want him?

SENATOR MARK BEGICH (D), ALASKA: I'll drag him around. I'll show him whatever he wants to see, but I want to convince him and show him that some of his policies are not in the right direction. So I don't need him campaigning for me. I need to change some of his policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That's not really what President Obama really had in mind.

BASH: By the way, the next day, Mark Begich put out a campaign press release with quotes from that interview to tell everybody how much he trashed the president. He said, I get it guys, I was told it was more tongue in cheek. I understand. I get politics.

TAPPER: Bob, he obviously won't go to Louisiana, Arkansas, Alaska, but what about the purple states and what about the blue states? He went to Wisconsin, which is where we did the interview with him last week, and the Democratic governor was on the other side of the state campaigning.

COSTA: You know, that's exactly right. I think the president is going to have a mixed approach to 2014. He knows there are some senators who really want him there, some governors who really want him there. But it's really actually the Clintons who I'm looking at. Bill Clinton in places like Kentucky and some of these Senate races that are really up in the air, where is Clinton going to go? Where is Hillary Clinton going to go ahead of 2016? The president holds back. He knows his polling number could be a distraction sometimes to vulnerable Democrats.

TAPPER: All right, Robert Costa of "The Washington Post," and our own Dana Bash, and look who just showed up, Wolf Blitzer. That's very nice of you to come. I appreciate it. You're going to be on air in 21 minutes. Who do you have? WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S "THE SITUATION ROOM": Well, we've commissioned a test. We've heard a lot about these toothpaste explosive devices. What kind of damage could it really do? We've commissioned a test to see how potentially they could be. We put one inside of a car. Wait until you see the destructive power of explosives in a toothpaste --

TAPPER: That small amount?

BLITZER: Yes. It's really pretty shocking. We're going to show our viewers what we have discovered and that's coming up at the top of the hour.

TAPPER: Did you hear the Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein was on and saying, if you want to go to the Olympics, watch your back and avoid crowds.

BLITZER: Right.

TAPPER: What crowds in the Olympics? We'll be watching, Wolf. Thank you so much.

Coming up next on THE LEAD, Subway makes some major changes. Next, I'll talk to the blogger who exposed the real ingredients in Subway bread, including a plastic additive found in yoga mats.

And getting in on the television game, Amazon announces several new pilots and lets the viewer decide which will make it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. It's time now for our "Money Lead." They are the fast food chain with Olympic athletes as their spokesman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Always served up fresh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a simple way to enjoy eating better. You've got to try it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: But does bread with the ingredient with yoga mats and the soles of shoes count as fresh? We are talking about a chemical known as, get ready for it, azodi-carbonamide, and that's used to strengthen the dough which is used in Subway's 9-grain wheat Italian and sour dough breads. This chemical is banned from being used in dough in Europe and Australia but not here in the U.S.

Here in the U.S., the FDA says it's fine, but food blogger and Subway customer got Vani Hari got involved, starting a petition to get the chemical taking out of Subway's bread. The petition now has nearly 70,000 supporters and Subway has released a statement that says they are in the process of having the chemical removed as, quote, "part of our bread improvement efforts, despite the fact that it is USDA and FDA-approved ingredient. The completed converse to have this product out of the bread will be done soon," unquote.

Vani Hari joins me now to talk about her efforts. Bonnie, good to see you. How did you find out that this ingredient was in the bread to begin with?

VANI HARI, BLOGGER, FOODBABE.COM: Well, back in 2012, I did a thorough investigation of Subway ingredients because I wanted to really know if we were eating fresh and what I found out was horrifying. Not only does their bread have this ingredient in it, but it had close to 50 ingredients in a typical Subway sandwich roll. And I wanted to know what these chemicals were and one of the chemicals I couldn't even pronounce or spell was this azodi-carbonamide.

And I wanted to find out really what this chemical did and what I found out was shocking. I found out the World Health Organization has linked it to lung problems, skin irritation and eye irritation and as well as finding the study that shows when it's heated it can reduce down into compounds that are carcinogenic, things that cause cancer.

I was really upset about this. I wrote about it in 2012. I wrote about it again in 2013 and even filmed a photo of me eating a yoga mat to make a point and to explain to the public that they really shouldn't be eating this ingredient and I even contacted Subway ten days ago to ask them about this ingredient once again after Michelle Obama made the announcement that she was endorsing Subway.

I thought, for goodness sakes, they must be taking out this ingredient. They not only didn't respond to me, but the people I talked to, a customer service had no idea about this ingredient.

TAPPER: To play devil's advocate, it's a common ingredient for breads in the United States. The USDA says it's fine. The FDA says it's fine. Critics of yours say you don't have a degree that gives you an expertise in this. How do you respond to that?

HARI: Well, let's just use common sense here. Do we really need to be eating plastic in our bread? I mean, this is something that almost every country around the world has banned. The World Health Organization has deemed it an asthmatic trigger. This is something that we're not supposed to be eating. It's the same stuff that makes the foam in a yoga mat, the little air bubbles you see in a yoga mat, it makes into bread.

This is definitely not real food. And if it's not real food and there are these risks, I don't see what's the harm in asking Subway to take these ingredients out. I'm absolutely stunned at how fast my petition was circulated across the web in 24 hours. We had over 50,000 concerned citizens as well as the Food Babe army, the people who care not only about what they are eating.

But they care about what everybody else is eating and how to change the food supply. So I am just absolutely thrilled to be part of this momentous occasion that Subway has decided to finally take out this ingredient. TAPPER: Vani, again, playing devil's advocate, organizations that say it's not safe, they more seem to be focusing on not being safe in a workplace environment as opposed to being ingested in small portion. Now I agree on its face, why would you want to put this chemical in the bread? This isn't necessarily evidence that anybody has been hurt from this bread in any way, right?

HARI: Well, the problem why there hasn't been any evidence is because there haven't been any long-term human studies. The Centers of Science and Public Interest came out with a statement saying that this compound does release other compounds that are carcinogenic. There is a small cancer risk. So if there is some type of risk, the FDA should not allow this ingredient in our food.

Especially a companies like Subway, who has already reformulated their products for everyone across the globe, already selling this product without the ingredient and they are selling us this ingredient? This is not fair. This is why so many people have signed the petition at foodbabe.com/subway and why over close to 70,000 people are still logging on and signing because they really want this chemical out of their bread asap.

And I don't recommend anybody eating Subway until they do get it out and after they reached out to me yesterday telling me that they apologized for not responding to me and saying that they are going to take this ingredient out soon, I asked for a timeline and I asked to meet with them and find out what ingredients are they going to be using, are they actually going to be making bread now that is fresh? I'd really like to know and I hope Subway responds.

TAPPER: Well, if nothing else, it shows the activism and passion you have and the idea that bread is more natural is one that we can all get behind. Vani Hari, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.

HARI: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up next, he famously battled David Letterman and won, and Conan O'Brien and won. So what is Letterman doing as Jay Leno vows out of late night? Well, Letterman is just going to be hanging with the Beatles. No big deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN: Nice to have you here, as always. Are you having a nice summer?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Time for a little Pop Culture Lead now, he's been number one for two decades, but you wouldn't know it if you ever use social media or listen to the critics or some of his old friends from the road, though he is the undisputed ratings' champ, Jay Leno has had a controversial reign as kind of late night.

Tonight he will say goodbye to "The Tonight Show" for the second time and we're told the final time. He will hand the keys over to Jimmy Fallon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER (voice-over): Jay Leno leaves "The Tonight Show" this evening occupying something of an odd perch in the entertainment world.

JAY LENO, COMEDIAN: We've all fought, scratched and kicked to get this network up to fifth place. Jimmy, don't let it slip into sixth.

TAPPER: He is critically often a sales but he is an undisputed number one as he hands the show off to Jimmy Fallon. Fallon was just 17 when the now 63-year-old Leno got the full-time job as "The Tonight Show" host.

JIMMY FALLON: This is your last week. It means a lot to me.

TAPPER: Major controversies have shadowed him, though, he is and up from his bootstraps American success story. Evolving from hard- working standup to a frequent guest on "Late Night With David Letterman" to the host of NBC's most bankable late night franchise. "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" draws nearly four million viewers a night, the highest ratings in its timeslot. But to many of his comedy peers including Jimmy Kimmel who I spoke to last year, Leno sold out.

(on camera): You said that he's like a master chef who now works at Burger King. Do you think he's capable of being a brilliant comic and --

JIMMY KIMMEL, COMEDIAN: I do think he's capable. I've seen him. The guy is one of the great comedians.

TAPPER: But you think he's dumbed down his material?

KIMMEL: Yes, I think that's fair to say.

TAPPER (voice-over): But Leno's controversies go far beyond his humor. After all popularity is hardly a crime in entertainment. Some of the more infamous stories about Leno began when both he and critical darling, David Letterman, competed to replace the legendary, Johnny Carson.

LENO: You think they can just flip a coin?

TAPPER: The jockeying and in fighting became legendary, as captured in Bill Carter's bestselling book "The Late Shift" made into a 1996 HBO movie, which featured this portrayal of a true story. Leno hiding in a closet eavesdropping on a meeting of executives discussing who would replace Carson showing Leno's tenacity or ruthlessness, depending on your point of view. Leno, of course, ultimately got the gig.

LENO: The toughest part of the job is writing the jokes. It's trying to find a joke that is both appropriate and funny.

TAPPER: But the real maelstrom began in 2009 when NBC moved Jay Leno to primetime. Conan O'Brien then took "The Tonight Show" spot, a deal that had been announced five years before.

DAVID LETTERMAN, COMEDIAN: So they went to Jay "Big Jaw" Leno and said, Jay, we're taking your show away from you --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

LETTERMAN: And Jay said --

TAPPER: Much drama followed which competitors like Letterman had a lot of fun with. But Leno at 10:00 p.m. didn't work and Conan complained that that show hurt his ratings. Ultimately Leno went back to his previous job and a very angry Conan O'Brien left NBC with a $45 million buyout. He jumped ship to TBS, CNN's sister network. Both Letterman and Kimmel had field days mocking Leno for duplicity. Trying to be a good sport, Leno invited Kimmel on his show.

LENO: What's the best prank you ever pulled?

KIMMEL: I told a guy that five years from now I'm going to give you my show and then when the five years came I gave it to him and took it back almost instantly.

TAPPER: And yet despite the controversy and bad press, Leno returned and so did his ratings at 11:30. Punch after punch, Leno stayed standing and winning.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Leaving his show does not mean that Jay Leno will do without laughs. The millionaire jokester has maintained a steady standup routine that he's pledged to continue a little side gig that reportedly earns him a healthy $20 million a year.

If you're not scrambling to find Valentine's Day reservations on open table, you probably already have a Netflix date with "House of Cards." All 13 episodes of the series' second season go live February 14th meaning you can binge watch Frank Underwood's monologues while binge eating the chocolate samplers.

But 2013 saw the debut of another hit political series, Amazon's "Alpha House" written by Pulitzer Prize winner, Gary Trudough and starring John Goodman. Now the online mega company is hoping to replicate its success with another slate of original series. Amazon Studios will release ten new shows and just like last year, user reviews will help the tech giant which shows get picked up for a full season. This year's crop of pilots includes two-hour long dramas and features stars such as Ice Cube, Michael Strahan and Jeffrey Tambler.

Just days before the 50th anniversary of the Beatles debut on American television, the band called "Pussy Riot" is bringing their message to the U.S. for the first time. the Russian punk rockers were sent to prison after they criticized Vladimir Putin who evidently wished they were more like quiet riot. Putin let them out a few weeks before their two-year sentences were finished.

The ladies have been making the rounds in New York slamming Putin and raising awareness about human rights in Russia. Madonna introduced them at a benefit for Amnesty International and they dropped by to see the laugh riot Stephen Colbert. They told him their release was a PR stunt to make Russia look better before the Olympics. They also said the stunt did not work and that maybe Putin should pack them off to Siberia again.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter @jaketapper and also @theleadcnn. You can check out our show page at CNN.com/thelead. We put videos and blogs and extra stuff. That's it for THE LEAD today. I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer. He is right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

BLITZER: All right, Jake, thank you.