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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Sources: Law Enforcement Thwarted July 4 Terror Plots; U.N.: Four Million Syrians Are Now Refugees; New Image Shows Young Girl With Ear Piercings; Girl's Body Discovered On Boston Harbor; Trump: Priebus Didn't Tell Me To Tone It Down; Tom Selleck Accused Of Stealing Water During Drought. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired July 9, 2015 - 16:30   ET

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


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: -- to terror attack on U.S. soil so that threat remains even after the July 4th holiday.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Jim Scuitto, thanks so much.

I want to bring in the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Republican Michael McCaul. Congressman, thank you for joining me. Chairman McCaul, I know you've been briefed about these thwarted attacks. What can you tell us in terms of details?

REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL MCCAUL (R), HOMELAND SECURITY CHAIRMAN: Well, you know, I was up in New York not too long before the 4th of July meeting with counter terrorism officials. We had several arrests, one in Boston, North Carolina, but more major arrest in New York that we believe led to a cell that we disrupted and thwarted that plot.

As you know, the 4th of July weekend was of high concern to counterterrorism officials including myself. I think that the FBI and Homeland Security and NYPD and New Jersey Police Departments did a fantastic job stopping what could have been a disaster.

TAPPER: As far as you know, were any of these attacks imminent?

MCCAUL: I think that the New York/New Jersey cell was the one that we were most concerned about in terms of explosive devices. Remember, the -- the threat here or the internet communications from overseas in Syria and Iraq to potential operatives in the United States.

I think we were concerned at the time and we were able to stop it, would be persons with explosive devices at 4th of July parades, perhaps next to military officials. I tell you what. This is a good news story, Jake. A lot of times we talk about the threat and how scary it is, but this is where law enforcement worked.

TAPPER: Are these instances of self-radicalized lone wolves or are these people that were actually being told by ISIS to do certain things?

MCCAUL: It's a combination. You have the lone wolf self- radicalizing, but remember at the same time, I think the greatest threat to the homeland right now are these internet missives coming out of Syria by these operatives, telling them to attack military installations, to attack police officers.

And I think the greatest threat over the 4th of July were to attack parades. The great news is that it went by without incident, and we feel very fortunate, but as your commentator made, we're still in the holiday season of Ramadan, which is important to them, and we're still in a little bit of a high state of alert.

TAPPER: We heard from the FBI Director James Comey about how tech companies have been reluctant to give national security and law enforcement what is called back-door access to this -- these encrypted communications. You and I have spoken about this on the show before. You think that is something that the FBI, the NSA should have, something with which they can be trusted access to these encrypted communications?

MCCAUL: Well, you know, what's happening is they're able to communicate what we call dark web space, right? You have thinks ISIS individuals in Syria talking to Americans, followers in the United States over Twitter accounts.

And if we can't see those communications, that's a threat to the homeland. I think the solution, as the director mentioned yesterday, I think very skillfully is that it's got to be more technology-based.

So we want to protect the privacy of Americans, but we also want to look at a solution where technology companies can basically shine a light on the darkness of these communications of ISIS operatives talking to people in the United States.

Right now, if they're in dark platforms, we cannot follow what they're saying, and therefore we can't fully stop terrorist plots.

TAPPER: All right. Chairman Michael McCaul, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it as always.

Turning now to our World Lead, it is the biggest humanitarian crisis in a generation, and it's only going to get worse, much, much worse, that's the word from the United Nations today as a report puts the number of Syrian refugees, people forced to seek asylum in other countries.

People simply trying to escape the violence brought by Bashar Al-Assad and terrorist groups such as ISIS, the U.N. puts the number of people fleeing Syria, refugees, at more than 4 million.

It is a crisis that spans the entire region, 1.8 million refugees in Turkey, 250,000 in Iraq, 600,000-plus in Jordan, nearly 1.2 million in Lebanon. In Lebanon, Syrians now make up one fifth of that country's population.

With the Syrian conflict showing less than zero sign of stopping soon, the day-to-day reality for these 4 million people is nothing short of hellish. They survive on fewer than $4 a day. Many do not have homes, living instead in makeshift tents.

Those who do have food are in danger of get hungry joining hundreds of thousands of Syrians, who already do go hungry. The world food program could be forced to cut all help to Syrians surviving in Jordan as soon as next month.

[16:35:04] The number of refugees does not include the 7.6 million people driven from their homes, who remain inside Syria. The Syrian conflict itself is said to have cost some 235,000 lives.

Who is this little girl? Police are desperately searching for clues after her body was found in a plastic bag in Boston harbor, now that nearly 50 million people have viewed or shared her picture, are police any closer to solving this horrific mystery? That story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. In our National Lead, do you recognize this little girl? This child, her remains were discovered on the shore of Boston harbor exactly two weeks ago today. Massachusetts State Police this morning distributed this updated image of what she may have looked like.

The new computer generated photo put together by the National Centers For Missing and Exploited Children shows Baby Doe with pierced ears, this photo and an earlier version of what she may have looked like have been circulated across the country, viewed online more than 45 million times.

[16:40:03] And yet still her real name, her age, what happened to her, all of it remains a mystery, at least, to law enforcement and the public, obviously someone out there knows who she is. That's what police want to know. CNN's Alexandra Field joins me now. Alexandra, police says they are getting leads, yes?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are getting hundreds of tips. Look that face has really gripped the country, millions and millions and millions of people looking at it, trying to help.

What we know is that police have actually gone to check on more two dozen children believing that they could have a lead that would help them discover this young child's identity. So far they still don't know her name.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FIELD (voice-over): Her image is haunting hearts, her name is unknown. The mystery, how a little girl's body was found on the Boston harbor shoreline and why no one has stepped forward?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we all can agree she is precious and she really deserves the dignity of a funeral and a burial and a name.

FIELD: Police call her Baby Doe. A computer generated picture shows what she may have looked like, a 4 year old with big brown eyes, long brown hair, polka-dot leggings and a zebra striped blanket for with her. Her body discovered discarded in a trash bag along the shores of Deer Island, a place where wastewater is treated just east of Boston's Logan Airport. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We appeal to the caregivers, the parents, please step forward, clear your conscience, no child, no person deserves to be discarded like this. At the same time, I do worry that there may by other children in this home that need our attention and our protection.

FIELD: Online tens of millions are sharing her story, sharing their grief, and searching for answers. In early flood of tips suggested Baby Doe could be Aleya Lonsberd (ph), a 3-year-old who went missing from West Virginia in 2011. Police have since ruled that out. The National Center For Missing and Exploited Children still pouring off its database looking for a match.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lots of people are calling in with tips and leads and we want that to continue with that information, we're going out and checking on the welfare of a lot of children. I think there have been 24 welfare checks on children who resembled Baby Doe.

FIELD: Police haven't said precisely when Baby Doe died. Toxicology tests will show if she was poisoned or given drugs. There were no visible signs of trauma to her small body. Baby Doe, 3 1/2 feet tall, weighing just 30 pounds.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FIELD: Along with all the tips that have been coming in from across the country, there have been countless offers to help, funeral homes, churches, individuals offering to provide burial service, but Jake, what authorities are focused on now is finding out who was responsible for this little girl.

You've heard the DA say it's imperative because they've got to determine who is responsible for her in order to prevent something happening to another child, another child being put in harm's way.

TAPPER: It's a tragic and heartbreaking story. Alexandra Field, thank you so much.

Let's talk more about this with John Walsh, host of "The Hunt" here on CNN. That show returns on Sunday. John, great to see you as always. You helped create the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children after the death of your then 6-year-old son, Adam, almost 34 years ago.

The organization created this computer-generated image of Baby Doe. It's fairly descriptive. It shows her hairline and facial structure. How accurate have these printouts proven to be in the past?

JOHN WALSH, CNN HOST, "THE HUNT": Well, the center is very good at making these computer printouts and they have been very accurate. We've covered kids alive from computer aging and age enhancement done by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

I think that when we find out who this girl is, it will be pretty uncanny how much she looked like the girl that we're looking for. Jake, I've learned over the 25 years of doing "America's Most Wanted" and doing this last year on "THE HUNT" that people don't want to call police.

So I'm saying to the people out there somebody knows who this little girl is. If you're not comfortable in calling the police, the Massachusetts State Police or the FBI, the marshals, call me. I've caught 1,400 bad guys on "America's Most Wanted" in five last year on "THE HUNT" because people didn't want to call the cops.

Call me 1-866-thehunt. Go to my website or CNN.com/thehunt. We don't care about your name, maybe you're an illegal alien, maybe you're somebody who shouldn't be in the country, but you know who this girl is and are afraid of revenge or retribution.

Just make that call, do the right thing, call crime stoppers in the Boston area if you're afraid to go to the police. We really need to find out who this little girl is, and what if she has a sibling who is in harm's way? We need to find out who she is, bury her with a dignity she deserves, and find out who killed her and who threw her away like a piece of garbage.

TAPPER: And the number again, 1-866-the-hunt to talk to John Walsh. John, you launched "America's Most Wanted" in 1988, do these kinds of cases, identifying remains, tracking down bad guys, are they easier to break today with social media or are they tougher because of the increased number of leads, most of which don't end up being accurate?

[16:45:13] WALSH: No, I do think it's easier, Jake. I think it's easier with social media. We've had great success on our website. People really, really care, it's a way to get involved, and with the new technology, with the new tools that the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children are using, I think it's easier now.

It's just they're so traumatic, so tough, and I did several cases on "America's Most Wanted" that we never really found the parents. We never found who killed that child. So those are the most heartbreaking, the ones that disturb the public, but the outcry to find out who this little girl is unbelievable.

When I started "America's Most Wanted" there was no social media. There were no smartphones that you could download amber alerts in 2 seconds. Facebook does it, God bless Facebook. They put amber alerts on their phones and they put this little girl's picture out there right away.

Forty five million people have seen this picture, but I know somebody knows who she is. You just have to have the courage to make that call or go online. We need to find out who this beautiful little girl is.

TAPPER: John Walsh's number again, 1-866-the-hunt. If you have information and you don't want to deal with the police, 1-866-the- hunt. John Walsh, thank you so much. And of course, a reminder, John's new season of "THE HUNT" premieres Sunday night at 9:00 Eastern here on CNN, a staggering success, five bad guys nabbed from last season alone.

In our Politics Lead, fans of his say they like his blunt talk, but the head of the Republican National Committee is reportedly telling Donald Trump to tone it down. Trump is responding, that story next.

Plus, a big named Hollywood actor accused of stealing water, truckloads of it to water his ranch, tens of thousands of gallons, during a drought. Who is this mystery man? That story is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:50:58]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. In our Politics Lead, is Donald Trump having something of a disagreement with the Republican National Committee? It all started for the Republican presidential hopeful with his announcement speech when he said this --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When Mexico sends its people they're not sending their best. They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists, and some I assume are good people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Some are good people. His characterization of undocumented Mexican immigrants as largely drug dealers and rapists has been called racist and wrong and now the Republican National Committee is getting involved and may be asking Donald Trump if he can try to be a little less, you know, Donald Trump-y.

CNN senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns joins me now. Joe, what has been going on between the RNC and Donald Trump?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Jake, Trump has been dominating the news cycle with interview after interview. Now there are mixed messages about whether the chairman of the Republican National Committee asked him to tone down his rhetoric.

It comes a few couple days ahead of an expected visit by Trump to the state of Arizona, which has been ground zero in the debate over immigration.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS (voice-over): One call, two very different stories, Donald Trump pushing back against reports that Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus asked him to back off his rhetoric about undocumented immigrants.

TRUMP (via telephone): No, we didn't discuss it. He did say perhaps you could tone it down a little bit if that's possible, but I know it's your personality and you are who you are, but that's the way it is.

JOHNS: Trump says the call was quick and positive.

TRUMP: It was a very brief call, a very nice call. It was more of a congratulatory call than anything else.

JOHNS: But a Republican source tells CNN's Dana Bash that Priebus talked with Trump about a range of issues and voice concerns about the damage he's doing to the Republican brand.

TRUMP: They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists and some I assume are good people.

JOHNS: According to the source, Priebus told Trump, look, I got to tell you, I've spent four years trying to make inroads with the Hispanic. How we address illegal immigration is very important to winning back Hispanics politically. Republican rival and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham agreed in an interview with Jake Tapper.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: My party is in a hole with Hispanics. The first rule of politics when you're in a hole is stop digging. Somebody needs to take the shovel out of Donald Trump's hands.

JOHNS: Meanwhile, Trump not backing down in an interview with CNN Wednesday.

TRUMP: We bring them back and they push them out. Mexico pushes back people across the border that are criminals, that are drug dealers.

JOHNS: Trump's defense comes as protesters descend on the site of his news Washington, D.C. hotel, just blocks from the White House. Trump told CNN's Anderson Cooper he could not guarantee all his employees are in the country legally. After "The Washington Post" reported some workers at his D.C. hotel acknowledged they were undocumented.

TRUMP: I can't guarantee it. How can anyone? We have 34 million in the country.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: Now the real fallout at the hotel in D.C. has more to do with Trump's business partners on the project who are backing out. The latest one to do so is Jeffrey Zakarian, who is the culinary director of the Plaza Hotel in New York, which Trump used to own but sold to a business group from India.

Zakarian was teed up to put a new restaurant in the new Trump hotel in D.C., but he put out a statement saying Trump's statements don't align with his personal core values and he wasn't able to move forward.

TAPPER: All right, interesting. Joe Johns, thank you so much.

Coming up, exactly how much water does it take to maintain the greatest mustache in television history? "Magnum PI" busted by a real life PI. Was Tom Selleck stealing truckloads of water while the rest of his state literally dries up? That story is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. We are using our Pop Culture Lead in a sneaky way today. You can tell from the "Magnum P.I." clip we ran before to bring attention to the horrific drought in California. What does it have to do with "Magnum P.I.?"

Well, lawmakers in California have ordered everyone to sacrifice and cut back on using water, but Magnum apparently will not be denied. This is an aerial shot of the house actor, Tom Selleck, shares with his wife.

It's an oasis or green in an otherwise dusty land. The veteran actor has now been accused by a municipal water district of stealing truckloads of water from a public hydrant in another district.

According to the complaint filed Monday, the district spent $22,000 on a private investigator to investigate the man who played a P.I. on TV. CNN did reach out to Tom Selleck's representatives. We were told they were checking to see if any comment would be made. We will check back.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter @jaketapper and also @theleadcnn. Check out our show page at CNN.com/thelead for video and extras. You can also follow me on Facebook.

That's it for THE LEAD.