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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Bringing in Big Money for GOP; Nugent: Obama is "Sub-Human Mongrel"; CBO: Minimum Wage Hike May Cost Jobs; The Party The 1 Percent Doesn't Want You To See; Is Fallon's "Tonight Show" Built To Last?

Aired February 18, 2014 - 16:30   ET

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


JEFF YARBROUGH, FORMER NORTHAMPTON PLAYER: You know, I didn't think about the rest of my life at 18 or 19. Again, I just thought about playing on Saturdays. But the fans, they just see Saturday. They see football on Saturdays. They don't know everything. They don't know the years after football.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

GANIM: So, Jake, this hearing all boils down to this, whether or not this judge thinks that these players can be considered employees of the university. Now, Northwestern says no, they're students first.

The players say that's not true, football is their first priority. There was a lot of testimony today about the amount of time, the rigorous schedules that goes into playing football at a Division One school, between 12 and 60 hours a week year round, and very few vacations.

And if the judge agrees with them and says they are employees, then they can move forward and unionize.

TAPPER: And Sara, you've just left the hearing.

When could all of this be decided?

GANIM: So this hearing is actually expected to last four days. It will run through the rest of the week. And then the judge has 30 days to make a decision. But then, of course, after that, there are appeals. The appeals could go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. So that could potentially take years before we have a decision. You know how fields work, Jake. So it could take a really long time.

TAPPER: Sara Ganim, thank you so much.

In politics, he may be swarmed by scandal, but he's still a potent rainmaker for the Republicans.

So how is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie suddenly breaking fundraising records for the Republican Governors Association?

And in our Money Lead, when you crash a Wall Street party, you might be hoping to find good cigars and expensive booze. But I'll talk to a reporter who saw a lot more than that at a secret fraternity ceremony on the Street.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

The Politics Lead now.

Sure, he's still mired in scandal back in New Jersey, but that has not stopped Governor Chris Christie from making it rain for the Republican Party. The Republican Governors Association has reportedly raised at least $8.5 million this year, with Christie as chairman. And Christie helped bring in $6 million in January alone.

That's double what the RGA says they've ever raised before in the same time period.

Tonight, Christie heads across the Hudson, to New York's storied Harvard Club, where he'll meet with more donors at the National Republican Senatorial Committee's Majority Makers policy retreat. He'll make the case that the GOP can take the Senate and make inroads everywhere, even in blue states.

Is it possible?

Well, let's talk about it.

Joining me now is CNN's chief Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, and from New York, Jim Rutenberg, chief political correspondent for "The New York Times Magazine."

Jim, you are not super impressed with these numbers in terms of whether or not you think they prove, as many of Christie's supporters argue, that this scandal has really gone away because he's able to raise so much money?

JIM RUTENBERG, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE": Yes, I don't think they prove that at all, not to say that they don't -- they're not meaningful. It's a great bit of news for Christie in the middle of this storm. But this is, after all, his constituency, has been these big donors. And they're giving money for governor's races, not a presidential run for Chris Christie.

TAPPER: And what do you think -- Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT:

I think Jim is right. I do also think that there's some voyeurism going on, is that, you know, these guys and women have an interest in seeing whether they believe that he's telling the truth. They want to, you know, sort of feel it, see it, taste it, because they want to know if that's where their investment is going to be in the future.

So I do think that's a big part of it. The event that he's doing tonight, interestingly, as you've pointed out, isn't so much to raise money, but it's donor maintenance for a lot of the donors who have already given to Republican candidates. But there are also going to be a fair number of Republican senators and Republican challengers there, who want to learn a thing or two from Christie about how to win in a blue state.

TAPPER: Speaking about competing and competitions, some news from the Lone Star State today. Ted Nugent is campaigning with likely Texas GOP gubernatorial nominee, Greg Abbott, the state's current attorney general. And Abbott makes no apologies for inviting Nugent to appear with him.

Nugent told Guns.com recently that President Obama is a, quote, "subhuman mongrel."

And here's Nugent in January.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TED NUGENT, GUN RIGHTS ADVOCATE: He's obviously failed to galvanize and prod, not shame, enough Americans to be ever vigilant not to let a Chicago communist raised, communist educated, communist nurtured subhuman mongrel, like the ACORN community organizer gangster Barack Hussein Obama, to weasel his way into the top office of authority of the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Insane and racist talk from Ted Nugent.

Back in 2012, Nugent was interviewed by the Secret Service after saying he'd be dead or in jail by this time next year if Obama was still in office.

An aid to Abbott says, "We're not endorsing. His supporting us.

Jim, kind of surprising, I think, at least on one level, in a state that is turning from red to purple, that Abbott would do this.

RUTENBERG: Yes. It's kind of -- Abbott has a great personal story. He suffered a grave accident and rallied back to be a huge figure in his state. It's not the kind of publicity he needs. Wendy Davis was in the middle of her own (INAUDIBLE) -- that's his Democratic likely challenger -- was in the middle of her own problems. Now he's taken the attention off of her and put it onto himself with Ted Nugent.

Can I sing "Cat Scratch Fever" now?

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: Please, at the commercial break, if you would.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can't even believe that he brought this...

TAPPER: That's nice.

BASH: -- he pulled that.

Where did he find that footage?

TAPPER: And, Dana, you talked to the Abbott campaign.

BASH: Yes, I did. And they are unapologetic about it. But I think that you might -- you might ask the question, is this if this is hate- mongering or savvy politics?

I think that the disturbing thing is that it's both. They are absolutely open about the fact that Ted Nugent helps bring Republican voters to their candidate in the state of Texas, that he is incredibly popular, not despite the things that he said, but because of the things that he said.

And that should be disturbing to everybody, because it is sort of the cynical politics that everybody out there says that they hate, but it actually works for them.

TAPPER: One other note. Kathleen Willey, the former volunteer and aid to Bill Clinton, who says she was sexually assaulted by the president in the '90s, she says that her story is still relevant today in regard to Hillary's potential bid for the the White House. And she told WABC Radio that Hillary Clinton is the war on women.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATHLEEN WILLEY: She enabled his behavior instead and attacked all the women who just made the mistake of walking in front of him, crossing his path. And this is the Hillary that I went and a lot of these women do -- you know, this is the stuff that people need to hear. This is of her doing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Now, obviously, many Democrats and liberals have questioned Willey's credibility. But she's appearing on Fox News this everything.

Jim, this comes at a time that we've heard a lot about the Monica Lewinsky scandal from Republicans and from conservative media.

What do you make of all of this?

RUTENBERG: I don't know. I have to say, I am so surprised that this is continuing to be a story line. You know, I think we -- those of us in our 40s should have the benefit of feeling younger if we're going in the past like this.

That said, it's going to be an issue that Hillary will have to contend with once again if she decides to run.

TAPPER: All right. Jim Rutenberg of "The New York Times," Dana Bash, thank you so much.

BASH: Thank you.

TAPPER: We appreciate it.

When we come back, the CEO of AIG, the founder of Home Depot, even Michael Bloomberg -- their roll call is a who's who of power players. But wait until you her what they do when they want to cut loose. The reporter who snuck inside a secret fraternity on Wall Street joins me after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Now it's time for the "Money Lead." It's not hard to understand the gripes of minimum wage workers, but if they got what many of them want, a raise, some of them might not I can look the end result. The Congressional Budget Office issued a report today claiming that if the federal minimum wage were raised to $10.10 an hour, like some Democrats want to do, it could pull an estimated 900,000 of them out of poverty. But the CBO also says that could result in anything from a small reduction in employment to as many as a million jobs disappearing from the market.

In other money news, letting the booze flow, telling sexist and homophobic jokes, forcing pledges to dress in drag. Yes, I'm talking about a fraternity here, but not one composed of 18 to 22 year olds. I'm talking about the most powerful people on Wall Street. Members of a secret fraternity called Kappa Beta Fi.

Every year they induct new members at a black tie ceremony, which is of course, off limits to the likes of you and me, but "New York" magazine's, Kevin Roose," crashed the party two years ago while researching his book "Young Money," which hits the shelves today.

This is the scene Kevin saw inside the exclusive party, inductees dressing in drag and performing skits. It's blurry but you take what you can get when you're snapping these photographs secretly. It seems as though they are exactly the kind of cave mannish behaviour one sees in college fraternities except, you know in this case, they are grown men, who in some cases fuelled by greed helped bring the U.S. economy to its knees.

Kevin says he saw millionaires and billionaires joked about receiving bailouts and he heard more than a few mean-spirited one-liners directed at Democratic politicians. Take this one accredited to Paul Queally, a private equity executive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL B. QUEALLY, GENERAL PARTNER, WELSH, CARSON, ANDERSON AND STOWE: What's the biggest difference between Hillary Clinton and a catfish? One has whiskers and stinks and the other is a fish.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Charming. Watch out. The party crasher, Kevin Roose, joins us now to talk about his book. Kevin, I do want to talk about your new book called "Young Money," in which you follow around eight millennials as they enter the finance world. The book comes out at a time, however, when some of the richest Americans, the so-called 1 percent, are complaining about society scapegoating them. And in the context of this party that you crash, you argue that some of this is their own doing as exemplified by this party.

KEVIN ROOSE, AUTHOR, "YOUNG MONEY": Exactly. Well, I heard about this party, which happened in January 2012 and I thought, well, I have to go see this. I was writing a book on young Wall Street bankers at the time and wanted to sort of see what happens to these people when they grow up and make it.

This group, Kappa Beta Fi has some of the most successful people in finance and on Wall Street in it and so I wanted to go try to see. So I rented a tuxedo. I found out where and when it was and I walked in and nobody stopped me at the door and pretty soon I was inside this event that in 80 years of thing's existence no one from the outside has ever seen firsthand.

TAPPER: Look, I'm not going to defend the humor that was told at this party, but this is a roast atmosphere, right? I mean, what is a roast without some cutting zingers here and there.

ROOSE: Right, it's a roast. But the people they are roasting are not only their fellow private -- you know, barons of industry. It's also people like Hillary Clinton, Barney Frank. It's people like the "Occupy Wall Street Movement." You have to remember, this was taking place in January 2012, just a couple of months after the "Occupy Wall Street Movement" had sort of risen up in resistance to the activities of the financial titan.

So this was -- I mean, it's almost comically tone deaf that you would have the titans of industry putting on drag and doing skits and musical numbers and mocking people who aren't in their group. It was like "The Wolf of Wall Street" on steroids.

TAPPER: Exactly. I mean, if you -- if this were a novel and that was a scene in the novel, people would be like, Kevin --

ROOSE: Got to cut it. I was there and I was sitting at a table and there was a going along swimmingly until I got outed as a reporter and then pandemonium broke out.

TAPPER: This brings me to the subjects of your book "Young Money," 22, 23, 24-year-old kids. Are they a different breed than who you observed at this party?

ROOSE: They are. So I followed these guys around for three years. They are junior analysts at Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, all of the big banks and they do have moral compasses. Part of what I wanted to know is do those go away as you go along on Wall Street?

And I think actually that the Kappa Beta Fi dinner will be if this thing still exists in 20 or 30 years and it's still going strong, then maybe Wall Street hasn't changed at all since the crash. But I think and I hope that today's young bankers, at least the ones that I followed, will keep more of a sort of ethical center.

TAPPER: Kevin Roose, a great book. I'm looking forward to the great follow up in 25 years when we see what happened to these eight kids. Thank you so much, best of luck with "Young Money."

ROOSE: Thank you.

TAPPER: Wolf Blitzer is here with the preview of "THE SITUATION ROOM." Wolf, we've been looking at these stunning images coming out of the Ukraine and Venezuela. You've covered a lot of these stories. Are you surprised to see the situation in the Ukraine escalate this month?

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S "THE SITUATION ROOM": And look how dramatic. It's reminds me sort of a Tahrir Square in Cairo. It's really exploding right now. On the one hand you have those who want to maintain a close relationship with Putin as opposed to those who are out there on the streets who want to have good relations with the E.U. and the United States, for example.

It seems to be another one of these proxy wars that going on and it's a real battle between the Putin forces shall we say and maybe the Obama forces on the other side because it's a real struggle. The nation is at risk right now.

TAPPER: And you're taking a deep dive on this on your show.

BLITZER: That's right. Chris Hill, the former U.S. ambassador who is now at the University of Denver, we're going to be speaking to him about this. We're also going to be talking to him about Iran. Mohamed Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister spoke to students at the University of Denver today via Skype. And we are going to get the latest on that.

TAPPER: That sounds great. Wolf Blitzer, thank you so much. "THE SITUATION ROOM" coming up in 9 minutes.

Eleven million people tuned in to watch Jimmy Fallon make his "The Tonight Show" debut, but will his school boy charm be enough to win over fans for the long haul? That's our "Pop Culture Lead" and it's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. It's now time for the Pop Culture Lead. Imagine the butterflies that Jimmy Fallon must have had swirling around his stomach when he heard the announcer belt out these words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: From Studio 16 in the heart of New York City, it's "The Tonight Show" starring Jimmy Fallon.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: He officially took over as the host of "The Tonight Show" in a star-studded debut that drew more than 11 million viewers. While it was important to come out of the gate firing at all cylinders, many wonder if he can make the magic last.

Christopher John Farley is editor of the "Wall Street Journal's" entertainment blog, "The Speak Easy," also has a new book out called, "Game World." Christopher, good to see you. Chris, the tone of the show was extremely humble right from the beginning. Listen to Fallon during his monologue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": I remember being the kid and asking my parents, can I stay up to watch Johnny Carson. That was a big deal to stay up late. They would let me watch the monologue and then I would pretend I wasn't there so they would let me watch until they went to the first guest. I think there's going to be a kid asking their parents to stay up to watch me. I hope I do well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: It's a nice guy kind of vibe. That's kind of his thing. Do you think that is possible that it will win over skeptics and win over some of the older viewers of "The Tonight Show" who are not familiar with him?

CHRISTOPHER JOHN FARLEY, EDITOR, WSJ ENTERTAINMENT BLOG, "THE SPEAKEASY": Well, we got to breakdown the numbers. His initial show seemingly strong numbers, the second best ratings that "The Tonight Show" has gotten since 2009. Unfortunately, the best ratings since 2009 were when Jay Leno said goodbye on February 6th. You want to have the guy coming in to have better ratings than the guy going out.

So that could be a concern going forward for NBC. Plus, these ratings are inflated. They are kind of like performance-enhanced ratings because they are all coming after the Olympics. So the Olympics are going to make everything seem bigger. We won't get a sense of how well he's doing until the Olympics are over.

TAPPER: Of course, they've worked hard to make sure his guests in these first few weeks are really strong. Will Smith was the very first guest on the show. Check out this dance number he did with Fallon in the evolution of hip-hop dance.

We get these jokes because we are under the age of 65, but I do wonder how many of Lenos normal viewers understood what was going on there or was part of the whole night trying to bridge the generational divide.

FARLEY: Well, that's the whole thing. Fallon wants to hang on to Leno's viewers, immediate age to 58 and get younger viewers, too. Going viral is really the name of the game these days. He has a bigger social media footprint than leno and the video you just saw has gotten 1.7 million views on YouTube so far. So that's almost half as much as "The Tonight Show" typically gets in viewers on TV. He's on the right track. He's got to keep on doing that. That's what comics have to do these days. They have to have bite-size portions that are put on vine or on YouTube or on your Facebook feed, anything that people can pick up on and say that this guy is out there and making some funny jokes.

TAPPER: And of course, Jimmy Kimmel, his competitor at ABC does a lot of those viral videos as well. Christopher John Farley, thank you so much. We'll have you back soon. I'm sure. Make sure to follow me on Twitter @jaketapper that's all one word and also @theleadcnn. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer. He is next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Wolf.