Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview With Tennessee Senator Bob Corker; President Obama Speaks out on American Prisoners and Bill Cosby; Donald Trump Releases Financial Information; Inside El Chapo's Escape Tunnel; Why Won't Mexico Accept U.S. Help?; The Donald: I'm Worth More Than $10 Billion. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired July 15, 2015 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:00]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: President Obama with a hard sell on Iran and the hard hit on Bill Cosby.

I'm John Berman. And this is THE LEAD.

The world lead. Republicans have caused it dangerous and a death sentence for Israel. Today, President Obama addressed his critics and the nation, saying, you can have this Iran nuclear deal or you can have war.

His most surprising language, though, came on Bill Cosby, reacting to the allegations against the comedian. Hear how the president defines rape.

And the politics lead. Donald Trump says he's so freaking rich, that he almost broke the Federal Election Commission. The current front- runner -- yes, front-runner -- in the Republican race releases his financial statements, and warns that this report was not designed for a man of his massive wealth.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm John Berman, in for Jake Tapper today.

We begin with the world lead. "Without this nuclear deal, we risk more war," that from President Obama today, putting that ultimatum directly on the doorstep of Congress as he tries to sell the historic nuclear agreement with Iran to many skeptical and some flat-out furious lawmakers in both parties.

In the White House East Room this afternoon, the president took questions from reporters and, oddly, himself. He said he hopes Congress will make a decision based on the facts, the facts he says will achieve the goal of Iran not getting the most destructive weapon ever developed, and not a decision based on politics or lobbying. He also told his critics if you have a better alternative, bring it.

CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta live at the White House today.

It was a long and fascinating news conference, Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John.

Today was the president's turn, and sounding supremely confident, President Obama dismissed all of the criticisms about his nuclear deal with Iran. That is not likely to quiet his detractors. Even some of the president's fellow Democrats are far from sold on the deal.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Answering a chorus of critics, President Obama came out swinging, insisting his nuclear deal with Iran was never designed to solve every problem with Tehran.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This deal is not contingent on Iran changing its behavior. It's not contingent on Iran suddenly operating like a liberal democracy. It solves one particular problem, which is making sure they don't have a bomb.

ACOSTA: The president brushed off the celebrations of the deal as a victory in Iran and even Syria.

OBAMA: It does not give me pause that Mr. Assad or others in Tehran may be trying to spin the deal in a way that they think is favorable to what their constituencies want to hear.

ACOSTA: And he hit back at opponents in Congress, demanding that they read the agreement.

OBAMA: And I think that if Congress does that, then in fact, based on the facts, the majority of Congress should approve of this deal.

But we live in Washington, and politics do intrude.

You'll hear some critics say, "well, we could have negotiated a better deal." OK. What does that mean?

ACOSTA: The president bristled at one question of why Americans currently detained in Iran were not freed as part of the deal.

OBAMA: The notion that I'm content as I celebrate, with Americans citizens languishing in Iranian jail jails, Major, that's -- that's nonsense, and you should know better.

I have met with the families of some of those folks. Nobody's content.

ACOSTA: Mr. Obama also touted the agreement's complicated and controversial inspection process, dismissing doubts that Iran would get away with cheating.

OBAMA: Suddenly, some is missing on the back end, they got some 'splainin to do. This is not something you hide in a closet. This is not something you put on a dolly and kind of wheel off somewhere.

ACOSTA: But the president knows he has a lot of explaining to do, which is why he sent his vice president up to Capitol Hill. JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm here to answer

questions and explain what the deal is, and I'm confident they will like it when they understand it all.

ACOSTA: The deal's toughest critic, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, argues Iran will never change.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: So, I think is, well, at least we get them away from the bomb, no, you don't. You at most might delay it, but I don't think you will, because they could cheat.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, besides the Iran deal, the president raised some eyebrows when he conceded he won't defeat ISIS or settle the Syrian civil war while in office.

And when pressed on whether he would revoke the Presidential Medal of Freedom for Bill Cosby, the president said he did not have that authority -- John.

BERMAN: Yes, we're going to talk much more about that, because when he went on, he said some incredibly interesting stuff there.

[16:05:02]

Jim, you played some of that moment between Major Garrett and President Obama, when Major basically asked if he was content to celebrate the nuclear deal while there are hostages there. It was very tense.

I wonder what it was like to be in the room during that exchange and if you have ever seen this president quite like that.

ACOSTA: Well, he can get testy at times. Clearly this question got under his skin.

I don't think slamming reporters is going to solve any problems for the president. It clearly shows that there's a weakness in this deal in the fact that he was not able to secure the release of those Americans who are being detained in Iran. And it's going to continue to be a pressure point for this president for his detractors up on Capitol Hill.

But, John, it was interesting to watch this news conference unfold. At the very end there, you said, well, maybe it looked like the president was answering his own questions. As a matter of fact, he was taking questions from people in the room, including one from me, but we didn't have the chance to grab the mike. We were just shouting questions at him, and he was answering those questions.

He was really relishing this opportunity to fire back at his critics. And you could tell that a lot of this has been welling up in him for some time. And I think that pressure valve was released when Major asked that question. I don't think it was an unfair question from Major, by the way. I think it was on a very important topic, and the president chose to use that opportunity to slam Major, but really it's not going to put that issue to rest, John.

BERMAN: All right, Jim Acosta for us at the White House, thanks so much, Jim. Appreciate it.

ACOSTA: You bet.

BERMAN: Joining me now to talk about the president's new conference, Senator Bob Corker, Republican from Tennessee, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, honestly, one of the key members of Congress over the next 60-plus days, as Congress weighs in on this decision.

Mr. Chairman, the president said today that this deal blocks all Iranian paths to a nuclear weapon.

Do you believe that to be true?

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: Well, John, that's why we're having the 60 days that you just alluded to. And we will take our time and go through it.

I know that we obviously have the 159-page document that came over yesterday. There will be a U.N. Security Council resolution that will be public, if it's not already public in the last hour, very soon.

There will be hordes of annexes, and through going through all of that and asking questions of relevant witnesses, we will figure out whether that is the case or not and people will vote based on what they feel is the case. Will it keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon or not?

BERMAN: I appreciate you don't have yet all the annexes, and I think the American people respect the fact that you want to read through the whole deal.

Based on what is reported right now, based on what you know today, do you have confidence that this will at a minimum slow down Iran's path to a nuclear weapon?

CORKER: So, as I mentioned when it came out, I approach this with a great deal of skepticism, for a lot of reasons.

But, again, I want to honor what we have set in place. I want to ask questions. I want to obviously understand the full context. But, look, when we signed the interim agreement and we moved beyond dismantling their program to what has now become managed proliferation, the room for error is minor, and the length of time that they're going to be in any way on pause, just actually on a few elements on pause, is much shortened.

So, look, we're going to look at all of those things. We're going to look at what an alternative might be, but, John, I really just don't want to prejudge. I approach this, as I think most members do, and that is with skepticism because of the country that we're dealing with, that we know has a habit of cheating by inches, right?

They just do enough not to create overconflict, but they do enough just to move along. And when you have a country like that that cheats by the inches, is smart enough to do that, over time, they are able to achieve a nuclear weapon.

So, we're going to look at this. The only thing that's bipartisan right now, John, is a sense of skepticism. It's now up to the administration to come in and to tell us, to share with us. Let us go through all of these issues that they have been going through now for almost two years and cause us to believe what you just said, and that is that this is something that actually keeps them from getting a nuclear weapon.

BERMAN: Bipartisanship is so rare. I think everyone would applaud the fact that even skepticism is bipartisan at this point.

Senator Corker, today, the president addressed one of the big concerns from some members of Congress, and that's the idea that there would be a 24-day pause to inspect anywhere, anytime military facilities, facilities that maybe the Iranians are using to get around the monitoring system in Iran, the nuclear monitors there.

The president said he is not concerned about that, because he has people, he will have people everywhere looking at nuclear development, and that the 24 days may be a little bit of a misguided concern.

CORKER: Well, I talked with someone yesterday about that very topic, someone who nationally is well-respected on these issues, and knew a lot about what happened in Iraq.

[16:10:03]

As I understand it, these provisions are even weaker than what we had in Iraq. And so there is a lot of concern. As a matter of fact, people on both sides of the aisle are really going to be probing this issue, because after the 24 hours, there is also -- it's very questionable as to how you move ahead when there's a dispute.

And so there's vague language. Hopefully, some of these annexes that we will get in a classified setting will spell that out in a little bit more detail, but I can assure you, that is an area where people on both sides of the aisle are going to be probing.

BERMAN: And we know you will be asking questions in the weeks ahead.

Senator Corker, thanks so much for being with us.

CORKER: Thank you, sir. Thank you very much.

BERMAN: I want to go back now to another moment not about Iran at the news conference that a lot of people are talking about right now.

The president used some very, very strong language to address the issues surrounding Bill Cosby and the allegations of rape.

I want to bring in CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter.

Brian, the president was asked flat-out if he would revoke the Medal of Freedom that had been awarded to Bill Cosby some years ago. He said he didn't have the power to do that, but he said much more as well. Let's listen to the clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: With respect to the Medal of Freedom, there's no precedent for revoking a medal. We don't have that mechanism.

And, as you know, I tend to make it a policy not to comment on the specifics of cases where there might still be, if not criminal, then civil issues involved.

I'll say this. If you give a woman, or a man, for that matter, without his or her knowledge, a drug and then have sex with that person without consent, that's rape.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Now, Brian, the president said he didn't want to comment on an ongoing case, but the president also used the conditional if, if you give a man or a woman drugs, and then have sex with them, that's rape. He used the conditional there.

Nevertheless, that's what Bill Cosby is accused of. When the president of the United States say that is rape, those were stunning words.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely stunning.

It is in some ways the end of the last chapter of this Bill Cosby story, because for the last seven, eight months, we have heard from so many victims, so many people telling stories of these alleged rapes. We have heard almost nothing from Bill Cosby. We have heard a couple of kind of strange defenses, half-defenses or deflections, but almost nothing from him.

And now the president of the United States, the first black president of the United States, commenting on one of the most famous black entertainers in our nation's history, one of the most famous men in the whole world.

I thought it was notable that Beverly Johnson, one of the alleged victims here, one of the accusers, tweeted during the press conference -- we can put on screen what she said. She wrote: "President Obama states on TV that drugging and having sex with a woman after is called rape." There's three exclamation points right after.

Look, John, who she copied on the tweet, Whoopi Goldberg, and Whoopi Goldberg one of the few people out there sort of defending Bill Cosby until recently. She this week came out and said she's kind of giving up on that defense as well.

BERMAN: To be clear, the president didn't have to say anything today. He chose to answer this question in this way.

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: That's right. I'm not sure he necessarily wants this to be distracting from his message about the Iran deal.

And there's going to be a lot of headlines about Cosby. He wants the headlines to be about the Iran deal. This is really notable for the accusers in these cases. Some of their stories were not believed for years. They were not given a lot of attention until recently. And to have the president at a press conference acknowledging them, hearing their voices, I can only imagine how people like Beverly Johnson feel today.

BERMAN: Brian Stelter, great to have you here with us. It was really interesting to see that.

STELTER: Thanks.

BERMAN: The world lead, brand-new video inside the tunnel that the most notorious drug lord used to get to freedom right under the nose of Mexican officials. We have new details today of El Chapo's incredible escape.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:18:18] BERMAN: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm John Berman, in for Jake Tapper.

More news in the world lead. New details emerging on the escape from the prison in Mexico. The video released overnight shows Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman in his cell moments before he made a break for it. Prison authorities say the cell had 24-hour monitoring, a lot of good it did, but there were two blind spots and El Chapo exploited them. He slipped out of a cell into a tunnel and off to freedom.

Nick Valencia is in Mexico -- where, Nick, you got an inside look at that tunnel.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, for days, we've been trying to gain access into that home where El Chapo is said to have escaped. Today, we were allowed inside. We were escorted by members of the Mexican military, as well as the attorney general's office, first ushered into a room that essentially acted as a work shed for whoever was building that tunnel. There was a room full of cinder blocks, power tools still plugged into the outlets. It seemed as though they were done building it, they gave El Chapo the signal and he escaped.

It was a very small hole, just a couple feet wide by a couple feet long. In it, a ladder that dropped about 10 feet. We walked another couple of feet to a second ladder that drops us 20 feet down towards the main tunnel. And there, we saw that magnificent feat of engineering by whoever built that.

It's a crew job but professionally down. It had electricity line running along top of it, as well as a very thick PVC pipe to provide ventilation. Tossed on the ground things like a screwdriver, a wrench, as well as a battery to power that modified motorcycle that we also saw. The room smelled of gasoline, in fact that motorcycle still had half a tank of gasoline in it.

[16:20:03] Incredibly small space, I stand about 5'10", and I couldn't stand up all the way or stretch my arms out, but for a man like El Chapo, I'm sure he had plenty of room to stand tall -- John.

BERMAN: Nick, it's just amazing to see a motorcycle in a tunnel with a ventilation pipe dug under a prison, one of the most high-profile criminals in the country there.

Nick Valencia in Mexico, thanks so much.

Since El Chapo's escape on Saturday, the Mexican government has conducted an exhaustive manhunt, they say, interviewing dozens of prison employees and offering nearly $4 million for his capture. But one thing Mexico is not doing is accepting help from the United States in this manhunt.

I want to bring in CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott.

Elise, you would think that Mexico would want help from anywhere it could get.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, to be clear it's not as if they're not accepting all help. You know, the United States offered everything in its arsenal. We're talking marshals, we're talking, you know, drones. I mean, it's not the Mexicans are not rebuffing everything. And you heard the interior minister come out and said, we're not doing anything that's already been planned. But there is already cooperation, the U.S. is trying to use its wiretap services. They think El Chapo could be in Guatemala or Belize where he was significant resources.

You know, I think this is a huge arrest that actually happened between cooperation of Chapo between the U.S. and Mexico. Officials think that the Mexicans are kind of embarrassed about this, so they do want U.S. help, but they really don't want this to be a big U.S. show. The Mexicans want to be in the lead here to see if they can re-arrest them.

BERMAN: Yes. They want to do it themselves. The question is, are they capable of such a thing. And, look, the U.S. apparently wanted him or at least discussed having him brought to the United States, extradited here last year. Is this something of an "I told you so" moment to the Mexicans?

LABOTT: Well, a little bit, because tThis is what the U.S. fever all along. Chapo escaped from prison in 2001, rearrested with the cooperation of the U.S. and Mexico. But the U.S. has been warning all this time about a possible escape. They knew he did it before, he could do it again.

When you see what happened in the prison, this realizes their big fears about corruption in prison, you know, the security of the prison. But I think it's larger, more emblematic of the issue between the U.S. and Mexico.

This president, Enrique Pena Nieto, has been a little bit less aggressive than previous presidents with the U.S. on the drug cartels. President Calderon and President Fox were very aggressive in going after their cartels. There was a lot of drug violence.

This president has come in, take a less aggressive stance, has reduced the violence, but that's led to less cooperation with the U.S. on the drug cartels, and some people in the U.S. government are very upset about it, but this president appeals to those Mexicans who say, we are more concerned about the violence than we are about one narco trafficker in jail, John.

BERMAN: It is a notable policy shift. Elise Labott, thanks so much.

The politics lead. Just how rich is he? Donald Trump says really, really rich. And now, Donald Trump wants to show you his massive wealth, revealing his financial records.

And the national lead -- an undercover video gone viral, showing a top official at Planned Parenthood discussing aborted fetuses over a glass of wine. Today, the organization responding to accusation that it is selling body parts.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:27:25] BERMAN: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Our politics lead -- Donald Trump kicked off his campaign by saying "I'm really, really rich". Now, he's telling the Federal Election Commission, you can't handle the rich.

That's right. Just a few minutes ago, he filed his personal financial disclosure papers with the FEC, complaining that the forms can barely handle a man of his massive wealth. Those were the words from his campaign.

Now, the money figure not the only number Trump is bragging about. In a brand new poll, his popularity has skyrocketed, hitting 57 percent among registered Republicans.

Let's get right to CNN chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash.

Dana, you know, the Trump people say he's worth more than $10 billion. What do the numbers actually show?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the truth is, John, what we have is a press release from Donald Trump about what he says he filed with the Federal Election Commission. We haven't actually seen that financial disclosure form with our own eyes. It could be probably up to at least a week before the FEC makes it public, but, yes, according to him, it appears according that Donald Trump is really, really rich.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's an unbelievable company, far greater than what -- I built that. I built it.

BASH (voice-over): A new financial disclosure puts Donald Trump's net worth at more than $10 billion, and made more than $362 million last year alone, staggering figures released to prove --

TRUMP: Way ahead of schedule.

BASH: -- Trump told CNN that he is serious about his presidential run.

And it seems the more GOP voters see Donald Trump --

TRUMP: The silent majority is back and we're going to take the country back.

BASH: -- the more they like him. His favorability rating among Republicans, a key indicator for any candidate, more than doubled from just 23 percent to 57 percent in a new ABC News/"Washington Post" poll. Four in ten still say they still have an unfavorable view. Still, these latest numbers may indicate that unlike flash in the band GOP candidates who surged in 2012 --

HERMAN CAIN (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Nine, nine, nine.

MICHELE BACHMANN (R). FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: God bless you, everyone!

BASH: Donald Trump may have some staying power.

TRUMP: I respect Mexico greatly as a country, but the problem we have is that their leaders are much smarter, sharper and more cunning than our leaders.

BASH: But trump is tough, at times politically incorrect talk is mainly resonating with a certain segment of the Republican base.

In a Suffolk/"USA Today" poll that showed Trump for the first time leading the large GOP pack. Those who identified as very conservative view Trump most favorably, 47 percent. Those self-described very conservative voters are unlikely to support Jeb Bush in the GOP primary, and he is now trying to use Trump as a foil to appeal to more moderate Republicans.