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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Democrats Tiptoe Around Criticizing Clinton; Can Elizabeth Warren Be Convinced To Run?; Report: TSA Let Convicted Felon Through Pre-Check; Toddler Revived After 101 Minutes Of CPR. Aired 4:30-5p

Aired March 20, 2015 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:00]

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JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): -- as he left the talks.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: We'll be back next week --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here in Lausanne?

KERRY: -- made a lot of progress, yes, here.

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ACOSTA: The WHITE HOUSE has said before Netanyahu's victory that the president would not meet with the prime minister just weeks prior to an election but with the voting now over, aides to the president say they won't rule out a future meeting, noting they still have a lot to discuss -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you so much.

In our politics lead today, they have a huge way to go in the polls, which is why some Democrats are getting a head start on Hillary Clinton and the 2016 presidential race such as the former governor who is already in Iowa, armed with his guitar. That's next.

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TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Time now for the Politics Lead, today, the ghost of the '90s that will not go away for the Clintons, Monica Lewinsky re-emerged to give a ted talk about cyber-bullying.

While her words were not aimed at Clinton world, assuredly everyone in Chappaqua was probably grinding their teeth over this sound bite.

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MONICA LEWINSKY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE INTERN: Anyone who is suffering from shame and public humiliation needs to know one thing. You can survive it. I know it's hard. It may not be painless, quick or easy but you can insist on a different ending to your story.

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TAPPER: Monica Lewinsky taking her life back, owning it.

Also today, House Republicans say Hillary Clinton needs to fork over her e-mail server, the server on which she housed all those e-mails when she was secretary of state.

Both of these things are just a couple of the reasons why behind closed doors, there are many Democrats who are nervous about making Clinton their standard bearer in 2016.

Yet still, Hillary remains the number one seed in these brackets because would-be Cinderellas with presidential ambitions remain on the bench. Let's bring in CNN senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.

Jeff, you would think the last couple weeks there would be Democrats jumping into the fray. Now's a good time, but they are so reluctant.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. The reason is the Clintons are like royalty in the Democratic Party. Many potential candidates, of course, are afraid of crossing them even though there's a hunger among many Democratic voters for an alternative. So far it's been a sleepy contest, but don't expect a coronation just yet.

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ZELENY (voice-over): As Democrats get ready for Hillary, a handful are quietly saying not so fast. Call them campaign long shots, trying their luck at running against the Clinton juggernaut.

There is Martin O'Malley, a former Maryland governor, Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Jim Webb, a former senator and decorated war hero from Virginia.

This weekend, O'Malley is off to Iowa, his latest visit to the state that kicks off the road to the White House.

MARTIN O'MALLEY, FORMER MARYLAND GOVERNOR: It's wonderful to be here in Des Moines.

ZELENY: He may be even better known on this stage. Armed with a guitar and his own band, O'Malley's march, they performed last night at a Washington fundraiser. He is not only warming up these crowds, he is subtly reminding Democrats they have a choice.

He called for Wall Street reform in an op-ed in today's "Des Moines Register," a recurring theme of a potential candidacy. So far, he and other potential Democratic hopefuls are tip-toeing around the elephant in the room. They are warning against a coronation but fearful of criticizing Clinton. A new CNN/ORC poll shows an opening, 68 percent of Democrats say the party's chances are better with Clinton on the ticket, but 30 percent say they are looking for an alternative.

The loudest liberal voices are urging Senator Elizabeth Warren to run, even though she has made her position known again and again.

SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I'm not running for president. I am not running for president. I am not running for president.

ZELENY: And this week, a new draft movement surfaced, trying to persuade Vice President Joe Biden to jump into the race. He's not entirely ruled it out, even fueling the speculation with recent trips to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

But as Clinton prepares to launch her candidacy next month, the question still remains will anyone join her on the debate stage? Even in the 2000 campaign when al gore was the sitting vice president, Bill Bradley stepped forward to challenge him.

Speaking of Gore, his name is resurfacing at least among Democrats craving a competition. He's heading to Iowa in May to fire up activists about global warming.

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ZELENY: Now there's a lot of chatter recently in some Democratic circles about a Gore return, but I'm told by a person close to the former vice president he has no plans of running 16 years after he fell short. It's a sign that at least part of the Democratic Party is still interested in a few more options for 2016.

TAPPER: Jeff, stay right there. Let's bring in CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Al Gore? Al Gore?

TAPPER: Gloria, but you heard Jeff mention 30 percent of Democrats are out there saying they want an alternative. Is that opening? Are their voices loud enough for one of these guys to toss his hat into the ring to take on Hillary Clinton?

BORGER: Maybe, you know, you saw Jeff's piece talking about Martin O'Malley, who really seems to be tip-toeing into this. But there's another number in our poll that all these Democrats are paying attention to, Jake, and that is that 86 percent approval rating among Democratic voters for Hillary Clinton.

That's kind of hard to challenge and there is also a sense in the Democratic Party that while not everybody loves Hillary Clinton, there is a sense that she keeps humpty-dumpty together and she keeps certain factions of the party together, that if Elizabeth Warren ran, she would split the party. More people are running away from it than running to it. [16:40:02]TAPPER: Jeff, speaking of Elizabeth Warren, 80 people from Hollywood, actors, directors, musicians, people who give a lot of money to Democratic campaigns, wrote an open letter supporting Elizabeth Warren, the senator from Massachusetts. What are the odds do you think on any sort of serious draft campaign dragging her into the race?

ZELENY: I think they are pretty low and they get lower as the weeks and months go on. If she was going to, she would have taken advantage of this opening that we have seen, this vacuum over the last few months. I check in with her advisors from time to time.

I know Gloria does the same thing. Her position has not changed. But there is still that hunger out there and there is going to be that hunger out there for the rest of the year. I don't think she will change her mind, but she has left the door open maybe a touch.

She usually answers the question as she did with Gloria before in the present tense, "I am not running for president." We know she is not running for president, but we don't know that she definitely won't be.

But everyone I have talked to in her orbit from donors up in Boston to her staff here say look, guys, she's not running. She wants to be a good U.S. senator. I think we should take her at her word.

BORGER: Can I just say, I did ask her I think maybe a dozen times using every possible tense I could imagine. She is not overwhelmingly in love with Hillary Clinton. That's clear. She thinks Clinton has a problem with Wall Street.

But I think the women's groups are a very important constituency in the Democratic Party, saying Elizabeth Warren, no. We have one candidate in this race and it will be Hillary Clinton.

TAPPER: I want to play some sound for you on another topic on the question of Netanyahu. Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King, who is certainly no stranger to outraging liberal Democrats, told "Boston Herald" radio this earlier today, he was talking about Jewish Democratic members of Congress boycotting the Netanyahu speech. Take a listen.

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REPRESENTATIVE STEVE KING (R), IOWA: Here's what I don't understand. I don't understand how Jews in America can be Democrats first and Jewish second and support Israel along the line of just following their president.

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TAPPER: Gloria, your thoughts?

BORGER: Well, it's kind of stunning. I didn't know you had to choose between one or the other. I think he's clearly looking for Jewish voters in the Republican Party and so, you know, I just think it's kind of an odd and weird statement. ZELENY: It's definitely the latest in a string of groups that Congressman Steve King has potentially offended. I thought we were sort of -- had all the groups lined up. Add one more to the list.

BORGER: Right.

TAPPER: But it certainly -- the Republicans are certainly making a play for Jewish voters and trying to use this chasm between Obama and Netanyahu to try to appeal to Jewish voters saying they are -- Republicans are bigger supporters of Israel.

BORGER: Right. I think if you sort of take this down the line, are Jews who are Democrats anti-Semitic then, because they may disagree with what the congressman says or they may disagree with Netanyahu on certain issues?

TAPPER: Interesting.

BORGER: That's a question.

TAPPER: Gloria Borger, Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much. Have a great weekend to both of you.

Coming up next, it's being called a major airport security breach. A convicted killer and a domestic terrorist allowed to take the quick lane through security. He was only caught when an agent recognized him.

Plus, if you didn't happen to be in Europe this morning to catch the full solar eclipse, do not worry. We will show you what you missed coming up.

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TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Our Money Lead today, all young parents do it, you strap your kid into a car seat and expect they will be safe, but now one of the largest manufacturers of car seats is getting slapped with a massive fine for potentially putting children at risk.

Today, the U.S. Department of Transportation hit the company, Greco, with a $3 million fine. The government says Greco was too slow to recall a car seat whose buckles would get stuck when parents tried to undo them. Grayco could also face an additional $7 million fine unless they dole out some more dough to improve child safety.

Let's turn to some other national news now. It's a frustrating and frightening discovery. A convicted murderer with former ties to a domestic terror group got the OK from the TSA to skip those long airport security lines that the rest of us go through for the express pre-check lanes designed for low risk flyers.

The breach was revealed in a new report released by an inspector general from the Department of Homeland Security. It found that even when one alert TSA agent flagged the guy to his supervisor, he was overruled.

CNN aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh is live in Washington. Rene, with this kind of criminal background, how would he or she, be able to get this fast track through security?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, you laid out some of his -- this person's background, but this felon's criminal activities, we want to add, involved explosives and includes murder.

Yet the felon sailed through pre-check that means shoes, coats, belts, all were allowed to stay on. They don't have to remove certain liquids and gels from their luggage. There are two ways you can get pre-check status either apply or you are randomly picked.

We know in this case the felon was randomly picked. That means the criminal background was not checked, no fingerprints were provided, but we should point out the name was matched against a terror data base and we know that the name did not appear in the terror data base.

That being said, I spoke with a former TSA official today, who says look, this really highlights the weakness of pre-check. As this watch dog report states, just because someone is not on a watch list does not make them low risk -- Jake.

[16:50:08]TAPPER: Rene, how did this investigation get started?

MARSH: We know that a whistle blower came forward. We should also point out that there was a TSA officer there at the airport, recognized the felon, flagged a supervisor, but the superior essentially gave the okay, gave the clear for this traveler to go through.

That TSA agent didn't feel he or she had the power to override the supervisor but that has all now changed in light of this report. TSA says that if an officer at the check point feels as if someone should not get that expedited screening, that person can be sent to the standard screening line -- Jake.

TAPPER: Rene, what does the TSA have to say about this?

MARSH: Well, the agency is really standing firm on the fact that this person's name did not appear in a terror data base. The argument is that if authorities thought that this individual was a threat that their name would be on a list like the no-fly list.

The agency's also pointing out that they have a multi-layer approach, but you know, there are some people who say this is just not enough, it shows that there is a weakness in their process and the report itself is calling on them to do something about it.

TAPPER: The government, as always being, defensive instead of admitting a mistake and trying to learn from it. Rene Marsh, thank you so much.

Wolf Blitzer now here with a preview from "THE SITUATION ROOM." Wolf, you are focusing today on these latest ISIS terror attacks.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": We are, what's going on in Tunisia, in Yemen. Remember, Yemen, that's the home of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which represents according to U.S. intelligence analysts, one of the greatest, if not the greatest terror threat to the U.S. homeland right now.

And the U.S. embassy several weeks ago was evacuated from Sana'a, Yemen. We will go in depth on what's going on there, what it means for the United States, what the terror attack apparently by ISIS in Tunisia means.

And we are also taking a closer look at President Obama's decision to launch this formal reassessment of the U.S./Israeli relationship in the aftermath of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's victory. We have two key members of the Senate who will be joining us to discuss this reassessment. Lots coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

TAPPER: All right, Wolf Blitzer, "THE SITUATION ROOM," that's just about 8 minutes from now. Thank you so much.

When we come back, he was not breathing, he had no pulse for nearly two hours but now, just days later, this toddler is smiling. No signs of any permanent health issues. That incredible uplifting story next.

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TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. In more national news, what started as a parent's worst nightmare is now being described as almost a medical miracle. A toddler who was found face down in an icy creek was pulled from the water without a pulse, his body temperature, 20 degrees below normal.

But the emergency workers were determined and they performed CPR on the little boy for one hour and 41 minutes and what happened next took even the doctors by surprise. Let's bring in Shasta Darlington for the rest of this unbelievable story -- Shasta.

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It really is, Jake, and when you talk to the doctors you realize how remarkable this little boy's recovery was. His family's calling it a miracle. The doctors say he was just incredibly lucky that so many elements lined up in his favor. Let's take a look at this.

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DARLINGTON (voice-over): A happy toddler, it's hard to believe Gardell Martin was technically dead just last week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were no signs of life for an hour and 41 minutes.

DARLINGTON: But rescuers and doctors wouldn't give up, performing non-stop CPR. The 22-month-old Gardell was playing with two brothers on the family property in Pennsylvania when he fell into this icy creek. He was swept downstream about a quarter of a mile. A neighbor discovered him caught by a branch.

ROSE MARTIN, GARDELL'S MOTHER: I knew there was help on the way and I just gathered the rest of the children around me. We prayed.

DARLINGTON: An ambulance rushed to the scene and Gardell was airlifted to the pediatric wing of the Geisinger Medical Center.

DR. RICHARD LAMBERT, GEISINGER MEDICAL CENTER: As soon as he arrived and we were able to get him from the stretcher on to the table, everybody just began to work.

DARLINGTON: Doctors told us his body temperature was 77 degrees.

LAMBERT: He did not have a pulse and he wasn't breathing on his own. He had no neurologic function. All those things were being done for him.

DARLINGTON: Technically, he was dead, but the boy's profound hypothermia saved him.

DR. FRANK MAFFEI, GEISINGER MEDICAL CENTER: His organs were in a state of protection. They had very little metabolic needs.

DARLINGTON: Knowing that, doctors took turns doing CPR for more than an hour and a half while they warmed his body and his heart restarted. But even they were surprised by Gardell's complete and very quick recovery.

MARTIN: I just can't thank them enough. We feel very unworthy and very grateful.

DARLINGTON: Gardell's mother tells me he is now back to his happy self with just a slight cough.

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DARLINGTON: It was really these two elements, the fact that when he fell into the water, it was so cold that he went into hypothermic state before he had cardiac arrest. That means that his organs didn't need as much oxygen and blood.

And also, the fact that the emergency medics were there the moment he was pulled out of the water. He was getting CPR uninterrupted. By the time he got into the hospital, he had been getting CPR for over an hour.

So the doctors there just had to take over and start to warm his body up. They say it's not impossible, but really rare that you get all of these factors working in your favor -- Jake.

TAPPER: Very incredible, Shasta. Thank you so much.

Now for our Buried Lead today, so it's the first day of spring and the sun disappears, kind of freaky. Millions of people across Europe and the Middle East were treated to an out of this world show today, a rare total solar eclipse which happens when the moon entirely blocks the sun from the earth's view.

You are not supposed to look directly at this, of course, but we have cool photos for you to take a look at on TV. It's perfectly safe. A satellite capturing the incredible phenomenon from space as did a Russian charter plane flying over the Arctic.

Twitter lit up with pictures of the total eclipse, which has not been seen in nearly two years. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Turning you over now to Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.