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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Update on Germanwings Crash; Deadly Shooting On NSA Campus; Ex- Intel Official: U.S. Foreign Policy "Willful Ignorance"; Iran Warns U.S. To Stay Out Of Yemen. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired March 30, 2015 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:07] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Let's bring in CNN's Tom Foreman.

Tom, the reinforcement on these cockpit doors, it makes them nearly impossible to destroy, I guess.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, nearly -- nearly impossible is right, especially if you can consider whatever they would have had at their disposal on a plane like this to go after this door.

Let's take a look at the architecture of the door, because that's what we're really talking about here. From the cabin area, you can see the keypad that a pilot would use to get in if it's not locked from the cockpit, and it was.

But let's flip it over and look at the architecture of this door. Yes, there's an emergency panel down here for escape from the cockpit, but that really only works from the inside the cockpit. So, that's no good. The hinges are reinforced over here. There are three electronic bolts going down the side here that go into the frame of the airplane. And this will be in general most commercial jets out there.

There's also a manual bolt up here that can be thrown. So, even if these are not working, that would work. This is a tremendous amount of holding force on the door, but inside the door, there's also an awful lot of resistance. If you can't go around the edge, you try to go through the middle.

Well, yes, the vinyl on the outside, that's easy to get through. Maybe you can get through this layer of honeycomb material here that keeps down noise and shapes the outside door. But this part in here, the gray part, Jake, the part you can't see in the middle of this door, this is sort of like Kevlar. It's a very, very tough material.

You can pound away at this very hard and you're not going to break through, Jake.

TAPPER: What would it take, Tom, to actually break down such a door?

FOREMAN: Well, you mentioned 9/11. That's really the standard they're looking at here.

If you had a pistol, you could shoot at this door, at the joints and everything else, and it still would not give way. It's designed to resist that. If you had a grenade, and you set it off out here, the shrapnel wouldn't cut through the door, let alone blow it off its hinges.

And if you think about a battering force, if you had an NFL linebacker, a guy who weighed 250 pounds who was running at Olympic speed and he hits this door with, say, 1,500 pounds of force, even that won't break it down. The simple truth is, Jake, what it would take to break down this door is a lot more than anybody would have at their disposal in 10 frantic minutes of flight -- Jake.

TAPPER: Tom Foreman, thank you so much.

In our national lead today, one person dead and two others hospitalized after a car tried to ram through a security gate at NSA headquarters. Now a law enforcement source is saying that the two men in the car were wearing wigs and were disguised as women -- that bizarre story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:36:08] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

In our national lead today, a deadly shooting at one of the nation's most secure spy agencies this morning. Authorities say two men disguised as women wearing wigs tried to ram the front gate of the National Security Agency headquarters outside Washington, D.C. An NSA police officer killed one of the attackers. The other was seriously wounded.

Joining me outside NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland, is CNN's national correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux. Justice reporter Evan Perez is also here.

Thanks both of you for being here.

Suzanne, take us through what exactly happened.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, it's a rather bizarre story.

We're on the west side of the NSA headquarters. It happened on the east side. As you can imagine, it's a super secret place, so they're not letting us close to the actual site. But I want you to take a look at these aerial shots. It gives you a birds-eye view, but it gives you a pretty clear sense at what happened.

I had a chance to speak to one of the Defense Department officials here who was on site, who actually was privy to what had happened. He told me it happened just after 9:00 in the morning. You had two men. They were wearing wigs. They were dressed as women. They were inside a blue Ford Escape. They approached the entranceway. This is when they were warned not to come closer.

That is when they hit the acceleration, went through that initial barrier and ended up hitting a police officer. These two men -- they then opened fire on these two men inside, NSA officers. They shot one of the men point blank. He died on the scene. You could see for many hours this morning the body under a tarp. You also saw it was a dark object that was on the street next to the vehicle where it had crashed into an officer's vehicle, the wig that one of the gentleman wore.

The second gentleman was also shot in the chest. He was taken to the University of Maryland in Baltimore, their trauma center. An officer, NSA officer was shot and he was wounded. He was hit by the vehicle and he was wounded and he was also taken to that trauma center. All of this happened very, very quickly, Jake. It was quite confusing.

What we have learned is that that vehicle that they were driving was stolen. That's confirmed by Howard County police. And that was registered to another man that they believe those two men were with the earlier day.

TAPPER: And, Evan, at this point, do officials believe that the motive was at all terror-related or do they have any idea what happened?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, they don't think it's terror-related.

I think Suzanne just introduced one part of this that perhaps might point to what exactly -- when they finally get to the bottom of this. It appears these two men were under the influence of drugs. And they were coming down G.W. Parkway, the highway that connects Baltimore and Washington.

And there's a ramp that really looks like a highway exit. So perhaps, perhaps this is what they were doing. They were under the influence of drugs, they came upon this entrance and they accidentally ended up at the NSA and then made a series of very bad decisions. Instead of trying to get out, they ended up ramming what -- according to the NSA, ramming against a police officer.

TAPPER: Very bizarre. Evan Perez, Suzanne Malveaux, thank you both so much.

Yes or no? Just hours away from a deadline to reach a nuclear agreement with Iran, there is new fear that talks could completely fall apart.

Plus, in pop culture, Comedy Central says they have their guy to replace the guy who turned "The Daily Show" into an institution. Who is Trevor Noah and why is he the right guy for right now?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:43:40] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

In other world news today, the deadline for that nuclear deal with Iran is just one day away. And it seems as though the deal is in danger of falling apart. CNN's chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, joins us

live with the latest.

Jim, what are the major sticking points here?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Some pretty major differences with just 24 hours to go.

Among them, the pace of sanctions relief -- Iran wants those sanctions lifted right away. The West wants to phase them out. Iran's ability to continue nuclear R&D under the deal. And a new one in just the last 24 hours, Iran's new refusal to ship its stockpile of enriched uranium out of the country, could be posturing or real gaps. But both sides do have a great deal to lose without an agreement.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO (voice-over): With just 24 hours to the deadline in Switzerland, America's top diplomat has only questions, no answers on a final deal.

QUESTION: Did you think you will be able to get a deal by the deadline?

JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Good question.

SCIUTTO: Russia's foreign minister left the talks for home.

SERGEI LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: I'm not paid to be optimistic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, everybody, very much.

KERRY: You're not paid enough to be optimistic.

(LAUGHTER)

SCIUTTO: And Iran supplied an 11th-hour surprise, rejecting an oft- discussed plan to ship its stockpile of enriched uranium out of the country for reprocessing into a safer form.

[16:45:00] A senior Iranian diplomat told CNN -- quote -- "That's true. We do not intend to ship our material out. The stockpile is one of the subjects of our discussions, and we will deal with it in the talks."

U.S. officials insist that shipping the material abroad possibly to Russia was always only just one option. The deal's most skeptical observer, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, believes the talks are headed in a dangerous direction.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): This agreement as it evolves is fulfilling our deepest fears and even worse.

SCIUTTO: Sending what experts say is Iran's nine tons out of enriched uranium out of the country is one way to insure as its so-called breakout time. The time Iran would need to build a nuclear weapon extends the Obama's administration's goal of one year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are other options under discussion, I'm sure, but the best approach would be if Iran were to agree to ship out its stocks of enriched uranium to Russia.

SCIUTTO: Other remaining sticking points, how quickly the west lifts economic sanctions and how much nuclear research and development Iran is permitted to do while the deal is in effect. Republican lawmakers make it clear who they believe will lose out in the last minute wrangling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It doesn't seem to be headed in the right direction and clearly, with a deadline of Tuesday, I'm concerned with what we might give away. The Iranians don't seem to want to conclude this.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: As the senior Iranian diplomat about Iran's resistance on these remaining issues, he countered, it is not Iranian resistance, but western including American intransigents. We will know in 24 hours.

TAPPER: All right, Jim Sciutto, thank you. So much a potential deal with Iran comes at the same time that Saudi Arabia and other Arab states have launched air strikes against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen further destabilizing an already quiet combustible part of the world.

Iraq, of course, the battle to recapture Tikrit from ISIS terrorist is stalling according to the Pentagon. Let's take a look at the bigger picture here with James Jeffrey, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq under President Obama and deputy national security adviser to President George W. Bush.

Mr. Ambassador, thanks so much for being here. We appreciate it. In a recent political peace on the Middle East, you said, quote, "We're in a God damn free fall here." What did you mean by that?

JAMES JEFFREY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: What I meant was that you look at Afghanistan, Iran, what you just showed, Syria, Yemen, Tunisia, we have a variety of forces that are basically fundamentally opposed to the international order that are on the march. And we, the United States, who have traditionally been the balanced force maintaining this order including through the threat.

And use of military force seemed to be drawing back not supporting our friends and allies putting all of our cards on this Iran deal while the regions burn all around us and as a result you have the Saudis and others acting on their own. This isn't a good thing.

TAPPER: There's also been criticism saying that the president is allied with Iran whether or not we want to be fighting ISIS, trying to come up with a deal with Iran having to do with the nuclear program. Then, of course, nominally on the side of the Saudis who are fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Lieutenant General Michael Glenn told Chris Wallace this patchwork of alliances we're in, in the region is, quote, "Almost a policy of willful ignorance."

Here we are talking to Iran about a nuclear deal with this almost complete breakdown of order in the Middle East. Do you find it confusing? Do you see a coherent foreign policy here beyond just whack amole?

JEFFREY: First of all, in fairness to the Obama administration, this is a very dangerous area and it has been so for a long time.

TAPPER: For centuries.

JEFFREY: It's really gotten dysfunctional the last few years and that's somewhat beyond the scope of American abilities. Nonetheless, our response to it can be somewhat contradictory on the ground tactically supporting the same goal as Iran to crush ISIS in Iraq. That's an understandable goal.

Driving Iranian-back Houthis back from once they came in Yemen is another goal that looks contradictory. But if it fits in a larger policy, it makes sense. That policy has to be predictable and consistent.

That's what people in the region are not seeing. They don't know whether America will fight if necessary to support the nation's faith system in the region.

TAPPER: What should we be doing? What should the United States be doing that it is not?

JEFFREY: It's about five things. President Obama tomorrow says I will keep troops on if needed beyond 2016 in Afghanistan. He starts letting our Special Forces and four of air controllers go out with Iraqi forces rather than --

TAPPER: Fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

JEFFREY: We start providing air support and other concrete visible support to the Saudis and the fight against the Houthis. We work with the Turks on either a buffer or no fly zone or something to start changing the skills in Syria and try to get a negotiated result.

[16:50:10] And we make it clear from Israel to Turkey to Riyadh that whether we like what they do sometimes they're our allies and we stand by them.

TAPPER: We are seeing Arab countries stepping up against the rebels in Yemen. How do you view these shows of force? Is it out of necessity because the United States has been stepping back?

JEFFREY: It's a little bit of all. First of all, in and of itself it's not a bad thing for allies and friends to ban together. I know their military capabilities. Even in the air they're limited and on the ground, they are very weak.

TAPPER: This is for the Saudis you're talking about?

JEFFREY: The Saudis, all of them, in that region. Regular armies are not good fighting committed insurgents. Look what happened in Iraq last year. Secondly, if we're not there, we're a balancing force not just militarily but politically.

We tend to limit the objectives and balance them with the military realities. These people are liable to go off on their own and demand not just the Houthis in Yemen negotiate with the other side, but that they surrender.

That Assad and all of the (inaudible) who back him, this Shiite group in Syria basically be driven away. We have introduced the Balkans or elsewhere a sense of moderation in these goals. These people won't be restricted to that without us.

TAPPER: I know you worked for both President Obama and President Bush. What do you think about those such as of former Vice President Cheney who says this is a perfect example of why we should have been siding with the dictators as the Arab spring erupted?

JEFFREY: Well, it's interesting because I work closely with him, but I also work closely with many others in the Bush administration, who thought exactly the opposite and that we should do all we could to throw them overboard and introduce democratic forces including Islamic forces.

Nobody has the answer to this. This is a very, very complicated problem. When you don't have the answer to things, they are certain to fall things you do. Keep your powder dry and be sure you're respected and even feared, and support people who supported you.

TAPPER: And you still think we're in a free fall here?

JEFFREY: Until I see otherwise. We'll see.

TAPPER: All right, Mr. Ambassador, Ambassador James Jeffrey, thank you so much. Appreciate you coming in.

Coming up, he's about to take over the thrown from funny man, Jon Stewart, but the odds are you've never heard of him. Just who is the new host of "The Daily Show?" That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:56:59]

TAPPER: Welcome back. In the Pop Culture Lead today, there is a new player in the 2016 contest. He's not a Republican or a Democrat. He is not even an American. He is comedian picked to replace, Jon Stewart, on "The Daily Show." Who is he, a biracial charismatic unknown, come on a guy like that could never win.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is my first time in New York and I'm loving it.

TAPPER (voice-over): This is Trevor Noah and today he has officially arrived. Comedy Central just announced that after only three appearances on "The Daily Show," the 31-year-old comedian from South Africa will replace Jon Stewart.

Stewart announced his departure just last month when Noah had logged fewer than 12 minutes on screen with his future predecessor.

I lived a dream after his first appearance more like a fan than a protege. The dream of hosting the show with more than 1 million regular viewers is one many fans hoped would be fulfilled by a woman.

"Daily Show" correspondent, Samantha B., they were widely discussed as break through options. What NOAH has going for him is he's a huge star in South Africa, but his new arrival to the United States may be his biggest challenge. Noah must quickly learn the rhetoric of Washington as well. He joked about his upbringing on the late show with David Letterman in 2013.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You do not want to speak a language of, it's magic. It sounds like Chinese in your mouth.

TAPPER: Fresh face, good jokes, a bright future, it sounds like what we thought of Jon Stewart. Stewart also appeared with Letterman just before he was called to suit up for "The Daily Show" in 1996.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's my first day. I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been on the daily show more than you have.

TAPPER: Noah has a big leg up on some competitors. He's at least been on TV before. When Conan O'Brien started hosting NBC's late night in 1993, he had written plenty of jokes but had scarcely any on camera experience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the nicest reception I've had.

TAPPER: It seems like Comedy Central executives are praying the parallels will be profitable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys are fantastic. Thanks for having me. Good night.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[17:00:04] TAPPER: Check out our show page at CNN.com/TheLead for video blogs, extras. That's it for THE LEAD today. I am Jake Tapper, tuning you over now to Wolf Blitzer, right next door in THE SITUATION ROOM -- Wolf.