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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Romney Questions Hillary Clinton; Baltimore Protests; Foreign Donations Raise Questions for Clinton Campaign; Baltimore Police Update on Freddie Gray's Death. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired April 24, 2015 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Baltimore police giving a press conference any second now. Will the family of Freddie Gray finally get some answers?
I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.
The national lead: Baltimore's mayor just hours ago saying her police department needs to explain what happened to Freddie Gray. Will the Baltimore police commissioner meet her challenge? We will bring that to you live.
The politics lead. Mitt Romney says -- quote -- "It looks like bribery." Serious questions today about the Clintons and the bundles of cash given to their foundation. Did fat cats see this as a way to curry favor?
And the world lead, Italian police busting down the doors of accused terrorists this morning. Prosecutors say these al Qaeda operatives could have been planning to stick a suicide bomber in the middle of Saint Peter's Square.
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
You're looking at some live shots in our breaking news in the national lead, the Baltimore Police Department expected to hold a news conference any minute now to provide an update on the investigation into the death of Freddie Gray. It comes as community leaders, protesters and others expressing growing frustration of what they see as the snail's pace of the investigation and the scant details that have been provided on what happened to Gray while he was in police custody.
It has been 12 days since Gray's arrest landed him in the hospital. He died earlier this week of a spinal cord injury. A police spokesman admitted today that the police did not strap the seat belt over Gray after petting him in the back of a police van, fueling speculation that Gray was perhaps the victim of a so-called rough ride, a tactic allegedly used to intentionally injure someone while in police custody.
Just a few hours ago, the mayor of Baltimore meeting with community leaders and pleading for patience and calm as the solution to this mystery is pieced together. She also expressed her own dissatisfaction that so many questions about what led to Gray's death remain unanswered.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE (D), MAYOR OF BALTIMORE, MARYLAND: I still want to know why the policies and the procedures for transport were not followed. I still want to know why none of the officers called for immediate medical assistance, despite Mr. Gray's apparent pleas. The one thing we all know is that, because of this incident, a mother has to bury her child.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Let's go live now to CNN's Miguel Marquez, who is in Baltimore awaiting the police news conference.
Miguel, this comes amid growing calls from protesters for the police commissioner, Anthony Batts, to step down.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's not clear it's going to come to that, at least not that quickly, but very critical days ahead. The next few days are going to be absolutely tough for Baltimore.
This is Western District police station. This has been ground central for the protests. We expect more here tonight. They probably will not be as vociferous as they were in the last couple of nights. You have seen scenes of hundreds, in some cases, at least on Tuesday night, thousands of protesters out on the streets testing police very heavily.
And the police have stood back and let protesters for the most part have at it, get it out of their systems. In some cases, they swarmed police cars. In other cases, they went through to the barricades, forces themselves in some cases over it, very few arrests, despite all of the nasty rhetoric and the anger that has been leveled at police here.
On any other day in these neighborhoods, people saying these sort of things to police officers would probably be arrested. In the last week, that has not happened. We will see what happens tonight. We expect another vigil/protest to be here at this police station tonight and then on Saturday the big concern. They expect as many as 10,000 people to march from here to City Hall, blocking traffic, having their way with the city, trying to provoke police in some ways into a response.
Police so far being -- keeping control of the crowds, keeping things safe, no one injured, but this city very, very, very much on edge -- Jake.
TAPPER: Miguel, the protests this week -- and I was up there a couple of days ago -- seemed to have mainly been people from Baltimore and the surrounding area.
Are demonstrators, organizers expecting people from out of town tomorrow, given that it will be a weekend?
MARQUEZ: This is the biggest concern, I think, outside groups coming in. I know that the Reverend Al Sharpton has been speaking directly to the Gray family, asking him if he can bring his supporters down from New York, Black Panthers, Nation of Islam, Lawyers for Black Justice coming up out of D.C.
They're trying to organize buses to come in from out here. Organizers from Ferguson also may be coming into this area, all of them wanting to voice their concerns about police brutality. The concern that pastors and the local authorities have right now is that it going to be highly charged here. Mr Gray's -- the funeral is on Monday.
There will be a viewing on Sunday, his body right now being subjected to an independent autopsy. It's a very, very tough time for the family, for this community, very, very close community here. They don't want to see the outside what they call instigators in some cases come in here and disrupt what they feel is the progress they're making -- Jake.
TAPPER: Miguel, stand by.
Again, if you're just joining us, we're going to bring you the Baltimore Police Department conference to you live when it happens.
But until that happens, let's bring in Mary Koch. She's a lawyer for the family of Freddie Gray.
Thanks for joining us.
We're hearing growing calls for Police Commissioner Anthony Batts to resign. Does that family went that?
MARY KOCH, ATTORNEY FOR GRAY FAMILY: I think that the family wants what is best for the investigation of the death of their son.
I think that the family wants what's best for the city of Baltimore. And I think that those are decisions that the city -- that the family hasn't commented on. And so I think that that's something that's left to the people who are in a position to make those decisions and best appreciate what the commissioner has done and what he has not done and why they believe he may or may no longer -- may or may not have the support of either the rest of city government or the police department themselves.
TAPPER: Earlier today, we heard from the mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake She once again asked for protests to remain respectful as politics investigate this case.
Does the family think that the mayor is pushing as hard as she should be pushing to get the answers as to what happened to Freddie Gray?
KOCH: I think that the -- this is what the family is most concerned about. The family is most concerned about that we get answers as quickly as possible.
And that's because we don't want this to happen to another young person in the city. That's the first concern. But the primary concern of the family is that we want to make sure that this investigation is done properly, that everything is considered, that when the city comes to the people of Baltimore and to the family with an answer or an explanation, that it has been done thoughtfully and has been done with the consideration of all evidence, so that whatever happens, for example, if there are charges, that those charges are appropriate, and if they result in prosecutions, that those prosecutions stand.
We want a thoughtful, well-considered, complete investigation.
TAPPER: So no specific feelings about whether the mayor or the police commissioner are not pushing hard enough?
KOCH: I think that the -- I think that there are some questions about how hard they are pushing and what they are doing at this point.
But I think, you know, these investigations, they take time and they take time to be done properly. And at this point, Freddie is gone and that can't be changed. And the family is going through the grieving process and only hopes that, at some point, and hopefully sooner rather than later, the answers are given to them and they are the correct answers, and the right things are done, and that no family ever suffers this again.
TAPPER: OK. So, there are some questions.
What can you tell us about the independent autopsy the family is conducting of Freddie Gray? We know that there's going to be a viewing on Sunday, a funeral on Monday. One presumes that the autopsy will be completed before Sunday. Is that true? And when will the results be released?
KOCH: So, let me just -- let me start by saying that the autopsy that's done by the office of the medical examiner's is the autopsy that is done on behalf of the people of the state of Maryland.
The autopsy that is being done, the independent autopsy that you referred to is being done on behalf of the family. And so it's a very different situation as to releasing results of an independent autopsy. That's the first thing.
The second thing is, is that this autopsy is going to be in stages. The medical examiner's office did their initial review of Freddie Gray's body. When I say they did their initial review, I will tell you that there are parts of his body that need to yet be examined and that takes time. It takes several -- a couple of weeks for the brain and the spine actually to be in a position where they can be examined.
And so the autopsy is going to come in stages through the state government, through the office of the state medical examiner. So the autopsy is not going to be completed anytime soon, because then that information is looked at neuropathologists and by the medical examiner and they make their determinations after they gather that information.
The other issue is going to be is that we are missing -- we have not -- no one has yet received, as far as I know, any of the medical records from the University of Maryland Shock Trauma. And that is relevant because that's necessary information, because you need to know what was done at the hospital, how was the body manipulated, what changes were made to the body after it arrived at the hospital, so that you can reconcile what you see on autopsy with what you see -- you know, with what was done at the hospital.
And those -- under the state law, they have 30 days to get those medical records together. So, I don't know if the University of Maryland is going to move quickly to get those records or if anyone in the city government has asked them to expedite that process. We have asked for those records. We want to see those records. We have not received those.
I will tell you that there are other things that we have asked for that we have not seen either that are part of our process of conducting our ongoing investigation. And one of those things are the notes that were made the medical examiner at the time that the medical examiner actually examined Freddie's body for the first time, because that can never be -- those are the original notes.
We don't have access to those notes. We were not at the autopsy. We would like the see those as well. Then that's part and parcel of our investigation. And we have been assured that those notes at some point will be available, but we don't have those yet.
TAPPER: Mary, how is the family doing?
KOCH: They are devastated.
You know, in a lot of these situations, people have the strength to be able to face, you know, the public and to participate in the process and to vocalize how they feel. And I can tell you that Freddie's family is just so devastated and clearly they haven't spoken to anyone outside of, you know, the people who they go to for their religious consolations -- consultations, the preachers that guide them.
They have come to us as their attorneys and they have relied on each other. But they're just -- they're devastated by his loss. He was a major part of their lives. And just, again, I have said this many times and I will say it again. To lose a young man like that is one issue. To lose a young man under these circumstances in the hands of the people who are supposed to keep him safe is beyond devastation.
TAPPER: It's a horrible, horrible story. He was just 25.
Attorney Mary Koch, the attorney for Freddie Gray's family, thank you so much for joining me.
We're going to take a very quick break.
When we come back, we expect to have that press conference live from the Baltimore Police Department. Stay with us.
[16:16:31] TAPPER: Welcome back to the lead. I'm Jake Tapper.
We're standing by for a news conference by the Baltimore city police commissioner. Anthony Batts is expected to give us an update on the investigation into what happened to Freddie Gray. Freddie Gray, of course, the man, 25 years old, who died after being injured while in police custody. As soon as the conference begins, we will bring it to you live.
While we're waiting, let's go back to Miguel Marquez. He is in Baltimore, right outside Western Police headquarters in Baltimore.
Miguel, you've been in the neighborhood all week interacting with people. These are tense times for people in the community.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Incredibly so. They're looking very much, very closely at every word this government says. There is very little trust for the government among the people here for the police, the mayor, the police commissioner. The police commissioner, by the way, going to great length to meet with members of the public, to try to meet as many family members of the Gray family or at least the distant Gray family and friends in his office. Yesterday, he held a meeting for over an hour with the Gray family.
And what people on the street is watching for is whether or not those officer are charged. If it comes back and there are no charges for the officers, you know, in the words of one guy I met today -- that's going to hurt. It's going to be very difficult for them to take that and believe that they are getting any sort of justice out of this, no matter how good the investigation is.
So, this is a police department with a long history with the people here, not a very good history in many cases. There is very little trust and they're hoping that they get some very hard answers -- questions answered. And if they don't see some convictions or at least some of those officers charged, they are going to have serious issues with it. And what we have seen so far may pale in comparison, they say, to what we'll see if there are no charges -- Jake.
TAPPER: And, Miguel -- I mean, one of the things that I think is so problematic is there hasn't been a hint of an explanation as to what might have happened, not even there was an accident while Freddie Gray was being arrested, or he accidentally hit his head or he hit his neck. Just nothing. Zero coming out.
Six police officers in question here.
MARQUEZ: Yes. This is the Gilmore home section of Baltimore. It is a tough area. There are a lot of housing projects here. On every single corner, there are cameras.
I think people find two things inexplicably difficult to believe, that those cameras didn't catch more of their officers doing anything out there, and that the police have already come forward saying that their officers didn't cause any of the issues. That's obviously from the police union here.
The other thing that's interesting, though, is that people were complaining about the way the police were at first staffing the protests when they would break out here because people would come up to the barricades and go out to the police. And then there was another line of officers behind them and then horse officers behind them.
In the meetings with the police commissioner and others, they've asked police here to stand back a bit more and to let protesters be more -- as literally as flagrant as they want as long as they're not throwing things or striking officers or doing anything else. And that, you know hard situation has pretty much kept here almost every single night.
[16:20:02] Tonight, we expect a sixth night of protests in this area. And you know officers at this point are trying to keep a lid on it by letting them have their say -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Miguel Marquez, thank you so much. We're going to keep on eye on the story and we're going to continue to bring you that press conference to you live when it happens.
But in the meantime, let's turn to the politics lead.
Money, of course the root of all evil and the root of the problems shadowing Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Reports in "The New York Times" and many other media outlets say the Clintons took large sums of cash for their foundation, undisclosed donations from foreign donors, and there are questions about whether any of those donations resulted in any favorable treatment by the U.S. State Department.
Let's bring in CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny.
Jeff, Clinton's team vociferously saying these allegations constitute a smear by the now familiar vast right wing conspiracy.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I mean, incredibly complex, made even more complex by an unwillingness to answer any of these questions. But, now, nothing illegal has been alleged at the foundation at all. The most serious and perhaps most relevant question is whether Hillary Clinton kept her pledge that the Clinton Foundation would disclose all of its foreign donations when she became secretary of state.
As we still learn more here, there are areas to keep in mind -- foreign contributions, Bill Clinton's speaking fees and why tax returns at the foundation suddenly need revising. It's all added up to an early headache for the Clinton campaign.
ZELENY (voice-over): Hillary Clinton was hoping to wind down the second week of her presidential campaign like this.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: These have to be America's fights and the world's fights.
ZELENY: But a different fight is consuming her campaign, a controversy showing no signs of going away.
The Clinton Foundation and its foreign donations are drawing headlines and raising questions.
Did contributions come with strings attached? The U.S. government approved a sale of Iranian mines to a Russian company that donated $2.53 million to a Clinton charity.
Should President Clinton's speaking fees be scrutinized? A Russian bank promoting the uranium deal paid $500,000 for a speech, part of what "The Washington Post" calls $26 million in speeches from foundation donors.
Why there the Clinton family charities amending tax returns? Some foreign donations were not properly reported.
HILLARY CLINTON: How are you?
ZELENY: Clinton allies dispute the allegations, some of which are from a new conservative book "Clinton Cash."
Chelsea Clinton defended the foundation's humanitarian work.
CHELSEA CLINTON, CLINTON FOUNDATION: We will be even more transparent. We'll disclose donors at a quarterly basis.
ZELENY: But concerns were first raised six years ago, during Clinton's confirmation hearings as secretary of state.
SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R), INDIANA: The Clinton Foundation exists as a temptation for any foreign entity or government that believes it could curry favor through a donation.
HILLARY CLINTON: There is not an inherent conflict of interest in any of my husband's work at all.
ZELENY: She pledged to disclose all foreign contributions. But that $2.35 million Russian donation was not. It was discovered by a "New York Times" investigation.
All of this has created a political firestorm. Mitt Romney offering one of the most blistering assessments.
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was stunned by it. I mean, it looks like bribery.
ZELENY: The Clinton campaign said she had nothing to do with approving that uranium sale at the State Department.
But there's also criticism from the left. "The New York Times" editorial page said today, "Accusations will only fester if straightforward answers are not offered to the public."
ZELENY: Now, Hillary Clinton addressed this early in the week, when I was with her in New Hampshire. She called it a distraction by Republicans. A campaign aid said there are no immediate plans to have her answer more questions.
But if this doesn't already have something familiar of a ring to it, an e-mail went out this afternoon to Clinton supporters saying, if we don't fight back now, we send a signal to our opponents the that we'll shrivel in the face of whatever will follow. Then you can donate money to her campaign -- Jake.
TAPPER: Disclosed money, of course.
ZELENY: Disclosed money.
TAPPER: Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much.
Coming up, we're still waiting on that press conference out of Baltimore with the police department. They're going to give an update into the investigation into Freddie Gray's death. And we'll have that live when it starts. Stay with us.
[16:28:08] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
We're standing by for the press conference in Baltimore where we expect to hear from the city's police commissioner and maybe get some answers on what exactly happened to Freddie Gray. We're told that the press conference could happen any minute now.
Let's take a quick moment to talk to Miguel Marquez who is -- never mind. The police are stepping up to the podium. Let's listen in.
ANTHONY BATTS, BALTIMORE POLICE COMMISSIONER: Good afternoon.
Over the past few days, we have been seen the public expression of private grief of the loss in the Gray family. The demonstrations have been largely peaceful and respectful. But there are some who characterize the protesters as wanting a confrontation or wanting a fight.
We know this simply isn't true. The vast majority of the protesters there are sharing their position, their thoughts, their feelings to us as a whole. We will remain steadfast in ensuring they have the right to express their constitutional rights to the First Amendment.
We are a city that faces many struggles and we have many challenges. We're also a city that has had peaceful demonstrations for more than 40 years. To any and all that would seek to bring chaos to our city, the people of Baltimore will not tolerate you hurting our community where we live, where we worship and where our kids go to school.
The real chance for reform should not be lost to those who would find joy in destruction or harm to this great city.
We're also a police department that faces many struggles and many challenges. Over the years, we have had a number of incidents that have tarnished this badge and the reputation of this department.