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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

How Should Republicans Take on Hillary Clinton?; Winter Weather; The Return of "Monicagate"

Aired February 11, 2014 - 16:00   ET

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


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Atlanta, I hope you handle this better than you did last time.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The national lead, remember that storm, the one that crippled the Southeast two weeks ago? Well, meet its bigger, meaner older brother, a storm of potentially historic proportions about to clobber the region. Is it prepared? Because it sure wasn't last time.

The politics lead, she is public enemy number one for some Republicans, at least as they look to 2016. So, why are others in the GOP not happy about these attacks on Hillary Clinton? Is a battle brewing within the Republican Party?

And the buried lead. In 1975, a pair of young sisters disappeared, never to be seen again. The case remain unsolved. But now today, 40 years later, a break in the case may have led them to the last man to see the sisters alive.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD.

We're going to start with some breaking news, the money lead, the closing bell on Wall Street just seconds ago making the close of the fourth straight day of rallies on Wall Street, the Dow climbing close to 200 points after remarks by the brand-new chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, who was just sworn in last week.

Let's go straight to our Zain Asher at the New York Stock Exchange.

Zain, explain this big bounce and the Yellen factor.

ZAIN ASHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, first of all, I hope that you can hear me because we have some noise in the background.

But, yes, Yellen spoke before the House Financial Services Committee and basically giving investors an excuse, investors who were sitting on the sidelines an excuse to buy in. (INAUDIBLE) first of all her outlook overall in the U.S. was very positive. But she did also talk about the fact that even when the unemployment rate falls below 6.6 percent, she said (INAUDIBLE) they are going to raise short-term rates as well.

Also, Congresswoman, New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney pressed her about the last two jobs reports that we have gotten in December and January. They were relatively disappointing. She asked Janet Yellen about that. And Janet Yellen actually came back and said, listen, those jobs reports surprised me as well. They were obviously disappointing, but let's not jump to conclusions. It doesn't necessarily mean that the trend here (INAUDIBLE) cold weather was certainly a factor as well. Overall, though, her stance was very accommodative. She said that we're not on a preset course in terms of tapering. It does depend on how the economy is doing -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Zain Asher and Paul Rodgers, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: Now for the national lead.

Could it happen all over again? Last time, it took fewer than three inches of now to paralyze Atlanta. It made the roads look like the bobsled track at Sochi, if everyone got in their bobsled all at once and tried to race home. It was only two weeks ago, but the memories are fresh, children stuck on school buses all night, drivers behind the wheel for more than 24 hours praying not to run out of gas, praying to get home.

At least eight people died in traffic accidents in the Northeast. Right now, an even bigger storm, one the National Weather Service says could rise to historic proportions, is roaring into the same region and officials say the region will not be caught with its snow pants down again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. NATHAN DEAL (R), GEORGIA: We're not kidding. We're not just crying wolf. It is serious business and it is something that the greatest cooperation that we can receive from the public will be our best asset.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That's Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia taking much of the blame last time for the debacle in Atlanta. His office either ignored forecasts last time or did not take them seriously enough.

The state of Georgia is responsible for clearing the interstates where so many drivers got stuck and had to abandon their cars. This time, rather than waiting for the storm to shut down the Atlanta metroplex, the metroplex is shut down before the storm. Schools were closed today and they will be closed tomorrow. Crews started sanding and salting the road after rush hour yesterday. Stores are emptying out.

If you haven't stocked up yet in Atlanta, you may find nothing but cans of boiled peanuts on the shelves. This storm is already destroying travel plans, more than 1,200 flight cancellations already. Millions of people could lose power.

Let's get to our own Ed Lavandera standing by outside in Atlanta.

Ed, how is it looking on the roads?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, it's looking good to far. We have seen kind of a steady mist and drizzle throughout much of the day in Atlanta, but it really hasn't slowed things down here.

This is one of those interstates that was essentially a parking lot just two weeks ago, where you saw so many people stranded along the roadways. Things moving along just fine here as we start approaching the rush hour traffic, but I don't think we will see what we saw last time.

That is because, as you mentioned, Jake, a lot of schools, businesses, government offices have already announced in anticipation of this storm they will go ahead and shut down for tomorrow. And many of them did so today as well.

And the real question will be, what will things look like here, when most of Georgia and North Georgia wakes up Wednesday morning? Just how bad will the conditions be? And it will be those power outages that I think will affect people the most with ice accumulating on trees. That brings the weight down, knocks over power lines and leaves a lot of people in the cold. So that will be one of the big stories heading into Wednesday and just how long it will take to recoup rate from that -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Ed Lavandera, thanks in an Atlanta that seems to be much better prepared.

As we mentioned, 2.6 inches of snow shut down Atlanta.

(WEATHER UPDATE)

TAPPER: Turning to the politics lead now, did you hear that Governor Chris Christie flew in a helicopter over Fort Lee, New Jersey, in September, supposedly to view the handiwork of the minions who created a traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge out of political spite.

Well, it turns out, it was just that, a rumor, at least according to New Jersey State Police, who issued a statement today, saying that none of the three chopper flights that Christie took during that time period went over or near Fort Lee, New Jersey. But the stink from Bridgegate remains following Christie all the way to Chicago today. He spoke there about his handling of the controversy during an appearance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: If you're a leader, you have to try to get a handle on the story and then take divisive action, which what we did by letting people go and talking to the public about it.

We're in the midst of an internal review now and whatever that internal review discloses, we're going to release to the public and if there's more action that needs to be taken, I will take it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: Christie is in Chicago to raise money for the Republican Governors Association, which he heads.

How is Bridgegate affecting that? Well, not as much as Democrats would like, apparently. The RGA says it set a fund-raising record of $6 million in January.

Let's get to our own chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. She's in Chicago.

Dana, Christie's opponents are pushing this idea that he's a pariah in his own party. How true is that?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly was proven false today, at least with one of the candidates who is running to be the governor of Illinois, and that is a man by the name of Bill Brady.

He actually came to this public event and made a point of doing so to show support for Chris Christie and told me point blank that he doesn't see why he shouldn't come. That kind of flies in the face of what Democrats are saying.

But I think big picture what was fascinating about this hour-long discussion that Christie had at the economic forum was that he only had one question about the scandal that has embroiled him and his administration. More generally, he talked about things that have made him a national figure, including hitting Washington.

But also it was pretty clear, Jake, that even when he's talking about things he talked about the past that make him different, they have a little bit of a different context now.

Listen to this and you will know what I mean.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: Voting, especially for an executive, a governor, or a president is a visceral action. People look at the person and say, do I like the person? Do I trust them? Do they care about me? Do they understand my problems? Do they understand what I want from government? Are they honest? Can I trust them?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Are they honest? Can I trust them?

Of course, those are things that Christie was sky-high on in terms of support from within New Jersey and even from Republicans around the country that is in question right now, and obviously it's something that he's continuing to battle even as he discusses things as he did today that make him an interesting figure, about George W. Bush, praising him as a president and even as a former president and talking about what the party needs to do, the Republican Party needs to do in more practical terms to get back the White House, although he was very careful not to talk about himself in those terms. TAPPER: Dana, let's turn to your normal beat covering Capitol Hill and the debt limit.

The House Republican leadership today announced that they would vote on a clean bill lifting the debt ceiling, no longer insisting that they include provisions that they had been trying to attach, such as reversing a cut to veterans' benefits. They passed that, but in a separate bill. Construction on the Keystone pipeline, repealing Obamacare's risk corridors. Those are the reimbursement for insurers who may have been hurt when fewer healthy people signed up for Obamacare than expected.

But, Dana, House Republicans will need help from Democrats to raise the debt ceiling. Will that happen?

BASH: Very likely it will happen. We will know in a few hours when they actually vote.

Look, Jake, you and I had breakfast with the House speaker the day of the president's State of the Union address. He made it extremely clear he doesn't want to have a fight over raising the debt ceiling because he does not want the Republicans -- he doesn't want his party to be blamed for the country defaulting on its debt.

Republicans inside the leadership pretty much had a good understanding for the past week or even two weeks that they weren't going to be able to attach anything to the debt ceiling, because, in order to do that, they would need to have pretty much all of the Republicans voting for it and they already knew that they had probably about a dozen or even two dozen Republicans who aren't going to vote for any increase in the debt ceiling, no matter what was attached to it, because they were fundamentally opposed to it.

But -- so what you saw, the list of attachments that Republicans were discussing, frankly, were them going through the motions, having these discussions to kind of get it out of their system, which you have seen John Boehner do many times before on other issues, because he knew and his aides privately were telling us, or people in the leadership in general were telling us for the past two weeks that they thought that this was the way that it was going to end up because they simply would not have the votes to do it any other way.

TAPPER: They needed Democrats and Democrats wouldn't do anything other than pass a vote for a clean debt ceiling.

BASH: Precisely.

TAPPER: Dana Bash in Chicago, thank you so much.

Coming up on THE LEAD: the Hillary Clinton attack plan dividing the Republican Party, as some Republicans go all in on the Lewinsky strategy. Others say, hold on a second.

And, later, two employees called out by AOL's CEO for having babies that cost "a million dollars each" in health care coverage, but how did he know that? And what private information does your insurance company share with your boss about you?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Now, it's time for the politics lead.

She traveled nearly a million miles, the secretary of state. But now with 2016 presidential speculation at a fever pitch, many Republicans are suddenly talking about Hillary Clinton's political baggage, specifically, her husband's relationship with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern in the late 1990s. Some of you may have read about that.

Although, not everyone in the party thinks that rehashing Monica-gate is an effective strategy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: He took advantage of a girl that was 20 years old and an intern in his office.

KARL ROVE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Rand Paul is spending a lot of time talking about the mistakes of Bill Clinton does not look like a big agenda for the future of the country.

REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I think we're going to have a truckload of opposition research on Hillary Clinton and some things may be old and some things might be new.

(NED VIDEO CLIPS)

TAPPER: Joining me now from New York to talk about all things Hillary are Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, the authors of this new book, "HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton."

Guys, it's great to see you. Congratulations on the new book.

JONATHAN ALLEN, CO-AUTHOR, "HRC: Thank you, Jake.

AMIE PARNES, CO-AUTHOR, "HRC": Thank you.

TAPPER: Obviously, most of your book is about her tenure as secretary of state and I want to get to that in a second. But you do make some Monica Lewinsky references because, obviously, it's a part of her history. What do you make of this new line of attack and why do you think there is such a divide in the Republican Party over it?

I'll start with you, Jonathan.

ALLEN: Look, I think the play is clear from Rand Paul. Republicans are looking to reach out to younger voters, in particular with some of his policies against drone strikes, things like that. He's had success with Republicans and libertarian-leaning Democrats. I think he wants to bring the subject (ph), if you're voting in 2016 and you're 18, 20, 30 years old, you probably don't remember the Monica Lewinsky affair. It's not part of your real experience. And I think the reason he's getting push back on that, it wasn't an effective attack on Bill Clinton. You remember that after all of that, Democrats picked up a seat in the House. Newt Gingrich was forced out of the speakership by his own party.

So, it didn't work against Bill Clinton then. It's a question whether it has traction with the younger set but certainly something that I think Republican elders fear could backfire on Republicans again.

PARNES: So, I think Republicans want to seize on a lot more. They want to talk about Benghazi. In our book, we talk about how Sean Spicer, the communications director, says get used to seeing these ads on Benghazi over and over again.

So, I think that's one tact they're taking. I think they are also going to use her -- and you're seeing this -- as a result of our book, that people are lobbying on to health care as an issue to pin her to. So, I think that's another issue, you know, Republican see as something that they can hold her to.

TAPPER: A new report from House Republicans today on the Armed Services Committee blames the White House and the State Department for ignoring heightened threats to Benghazi. The military is basically cleared of any wrongdoing.

What did you learn in the course of your research for this book about the decisions that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was involved in when it came to Benghazi? Amie?

PARNES: Well, I think that's a big question. I mean, expeditionary diplomacy is something that Republicans are going to look into right now and they're going to say, is it worth having these diplomats in these risky spots. And I think that's something that we explore in the book.

We talk about Representative Jason Chaffetz who actually takes issue with that, and I think that's something you're going to be hearing a lot from them.

ALLEN: Jake, that's an important point that Amie brings up about Congressman Chaffetz. There's no evidence that Hillary Clinton was being apprised of the security situation on the ground in Benghazi as it was getting worse or certainly of the security decisions at the embassy in Tripoli, which also served Benghazi.

But what we do in the book, and I think it's a benefit to readers is we really go back and look at the philosophy of putting together the mission against Gadhafi, knocking him out of power, of having diplomats in dangerous place, Hillary Clinton screened for her age in 2010, images of an attack on a diplomatic compound in Peshawar, Pakistan.

They were aware of the dangers of the world. They wanted American diplomats to be out there trying to sell America and not always being able to do it in a place with a heavy military presence. Remember, the president didn't want boots on the ground in Libya. So, I think what we do is we really lay out the philosophy that Hillary Clinton had and also having talked to Jason Chaffetz and others in the Republican Party, the counter philosophy. And I think if she runs for president, and we expect she probably will, that that's going to be something that gets debated out. What is the nature of the American foreign policy, where do we get ourselves involved? Are we leaving ourselves vulnerable and our diplomats vulnerable to an attack and, you know, in some cases, is the calculated risk worth it?

TAPPER: Amie, do you think that she was a good secretary of state? What was her most successful accomplishment?

PARNES: You know, it's a mixed bag. We talk to some people who say Republicans are saying what is her big accomplishment? Burma? And, you know, we actually quote people saying that in the book. But I think, you know, she was a hawk and she really backed President Obama on several things, on Libya, on the Afghan surge, on getting bin Laden.

We have a scene in the book where then-CIA Director Panetta has to talk to her and get her buy-in on the bin Laden raid because he knew that she would back the president.

So, I think that -- I think these are things that she's going to point out should she run for the presidency.

TAPPER: One of your early leaks about the book, not leaks, I should say, but excerpts, was that it begins in the wake of the 2008 campaign for Hillary, in a chapter you call "Hillary's Hit List", the first chapter, the Clintons keep a favor file of saints and sinners so that friends could be rewarded and enemies punished. John Kerry, Jay Rockefeller, Bob Casey, Pat Leahy, Claire McCaskill, Ted Kennedy, these were all sevens, the top score in terms of their portrayal, they back Obama over Clinton.

You know that all politicians do this to a certain extent but do the Clintons do this -- the Clinton aides -- do they do this more than your average politician's aide? Jon?

ALLEN: Well, it's -- you know, they are much more clinical about it. They are keeping Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. I think part of that is because they have come into contact with so many people over so many years that you couldn't keep it all in your head.

You know, one of the things we do in the book is go through -- that excerpt doesn't talk about it but the rest of the book does. We go through some of the people that Bill Clinton went after on the campaign trail in 2010 and 2012, Democrats where he backed their primary opponents. One of my favorite stories of the book is that of Howard Berman, a Democrat who backed Barack Obama, and when came up for a primary challenge in 2012, Bill Clinton went and gave an endorsement statement for his opponent.

And Howard Berman launched a campaign to get Bill Clinton to stop, to call off the dogs, to not do a fund-raiser for Sherman, he's not coming to the district. He even went to Hillary Clinton to directly when she was lobbying him on trade votes and said, you know, he thinks it's ironic that Hillary Clinton is asking for his vote while Bill Clinton is out there campaigning against him, and Hillary Clinton just laughed and told him she was out of politics.

And as it turns out, Howard Berman is in the private sector now.

TAPPER: Yes. He was out of politics pretty soon as well.

One last, your book has faced harsh criticism from Washington D.C., reporters like Jon Karl at ABC and Mike Allen at "Politico", who say you've been -- you fell in love with your subject. Clearly, you had some unprecedented access to Clinton Land. What are the parts of the book that Clinton and her aides have complained to you about?

PARNES: Well, you just mentioned one, Jake.

TAPPER: Right.

PARNES: I don't think they are happy about the hit list. I think there are other parts of the book they are not happy about either. I think we took a very impartial role in this. And we basically -- you know us, we're Washington journalists, we cover the White House, and we've been very fair about the way that we've presented this book.

ALLEN: Jake, this is a comeback story. It's a story of how she went from pretty low to the estimation of the American public back to a high point. Part of that is telling the story of what she did to do that, why the public regarded her so well as secretary of state, part of which is being above the political fray.

Now, she's getting back into the political fray. You see her numbers declining some. I think you should expect if there's an election in 2016, it's going to be very hard fought.

TAPPER: The book is "HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton." Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, thank you so much for coming on the show and good luck with the book.

PARNES: Thanks, Jake.

ALLEN: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up next, the menu, caviar, the entertainment, Mary J. Blige. But who will and will not be attending the big state dinner tonight?

Plus, someone got away with it for nearly 40 years while one family grieved. And police never gave up. Now, a potential breakthrough in a cold case involving two missing sisters.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)