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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Clinton to Turn Private E-Mail Server to DOJ; Jimmy Carter Admits to Cancer; Ukraine Accusing Russia of Ceasefire Agreement; Series Of Explosions Rocks Chinese Port; Official: River Safe After Sludge Spill. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired August 12, 2015 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The server contains personal communications from my husband and me, and I believe I have met all of my responsibilities, and the server will remain private.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRSCORRESPONDENT: Today, the Republican chair of that committee was unimpressed.
REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: About damned time was my initial reaction. We asked her in March to turn that server over to a neutral, detached, independent arbiter.
LABOTT: This amid new disclosures from the intelligence community. Two of Clinton's e-mails contained top secret information, the highest classification, but the info was never marked classified by the State Department, and Clinton may not have known it should have remained on a secure server.
She has long said she handled all information properly while using her private account.
CLINTON: I did not e-mail any classified material to anyone on my e- mail. There's no classified material.
LABOTT: Clinton told CNN last month the controversy would not damage her presidential campaign.
CLINTON: I trust the American voter 100 percent, because I think, you know, the American voter will weigh these kinds of accusations.
LABOTT: But as the e-mail probe expands to her former State Department staff, a new Monmouth University poll finds that more than half of registered voters think Clinton's e-mails should be subject to a criminal investigation; 38 percent thinks she has something to hide.
An opportunity for Republican contenders to excite their base, Governor Scott Walker saying -- quote -- "Hillary Clinton put her own personal convenience ahead of the safety and security of the American people."
(END VIDEOTAPE) LABOTT: And, tonight, the Clinton camp sent out a message to supporters, trying to clear up what they call misinformation, and asking them to help set the record straight. Clinton has said she wiped the server clean. That does not mean there is not recoverable information. And that's what the Justice Department wants to determine, as well as what kind of system it was, and whether there was any indication any information was improperly secured.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. Elise Labott, thank you so much.
Let's talk about this now with Democratic pollster and co-host of the podcast "The Pollsters" Margie Omero, and CNN political commentator and former senior adviser to Mitt Romney Kevin Madden.
Margie, you just had a baby seven weeks ago.
MARGIE OMERO, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: That's right. Thanks.
TAPPER: Look at you, already in the studio, you look fantastic.
TAPPER: Congratulations. I appreciate it.
TAPPER: Let me start with you. Do you think the Clinton team has handled this well?
OMERO: Well, I think they have handled it well now.
You see them cooperating with the FBI. You see them being open and talking about it. I think the challenge here, I think a lot of folks want to tie what's happened today with what's going on with polling numbers, and what is going on in New Hampshire and what's going on with Bernie Sanders. I'm not sure they're all related.
I think a lot of voters are looking at this story and saying I have to be an I.T. expert. I have to know the difference between all these kinds of documents. It's not really how a lot of voters are processing the race.
TAPPER: Kevin, you would disagree, I imagine?
KEVIN MADDEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: They are absolutely related. They have handled this terribly.
Look, when Hillary Clinton, when this news first broke, Hillary Clinton was riding high. She was not even the presumptive nominee. She was the guaranteed nominee. What have seen steadily, the trend line has been that more and more Americans question her trustworthiness, more and more Americans are questioning whether or not she's hiding something.
As a result, you see Bernie Sanders leading in the polls.
TAPPER: In one state, in New Hampshire.
MADDEN: In one state, but the state where voters are paying attention the most.
The Clinton campaign has done two things from the very beginning. They tried to demonize anyone who was a critic, and then they have tried to distract, saying that Americans don't care. Look at the polls. Americans care about this. That's why her poll numbers are hurting.
TAPPER: Margie, I just spoke with Donald Trump. He said he would be Hillary Clinton's worst nightmare. Who do you think would actually be -- well, maybe it's Donald Trump. Who do you think she would least like to face, assuming she does end up getting the nomination?
OMERO: I don't know. I think right now you have a field that's having a hard time getting traction.
You have Donald Trump leading. It's just a sign of how unhappy people feel with the field, is -- the fact that something who has no experience, a former Democrat who says completely outrageous things about women, recently, regularly, is leading the field just shows how lackluster the field currently is.
MADDEN: And you have a socialist, an avowed socialist leading the Democrat field in one state.
So I'm actually surprised that I think most of the Democrats are actually worried about Marco Rubio. Hillary Clinton seems to be trying to put together that '08 coalition that Obama was so successful with, younger people, Hispanic voters. I think Marco Rubio would probably be the one that would present the largest challenge.
TAPPER: Kevin, you're something of a Washington Republican establishment figure. Let me ask you, what's going on? Donald Trump is cleaning the clock of everyone. You saw all the Republican consultants going off, oh, I'm going to work for Walker, I'm going to work for Jeb, I'm going to work for Rubio.
And like all of them must be sitting here going, what in heck is going on?
MADDEN: Yes, you mentioned it at the top of the show.
It's anti-politician. So many voters right now, they want something that's counter to the status quo. The other thing, too, is they're putting a premium on someone who is a fighter. Right now, Donald Trump seems to have the most fight in him. He seems to be the most disruptive to the political system that many Americans right now look unfavorably upon. I think he's feeding into that.
TAPPER: Do you think this is part of the Sanders phenomenon in places like New Hampshire and in places like where he's drawing the biggest crowds of any candidate in America?
OMERO: So, there are a couple things, right?
The CNN poll that just came out, 15 percent of Republicans say they have decided. There's still a lot of time for people to move around. If you look at the "Boston Herald"/Franklin Pierce poll that came out in New Hampshire among Democrats, there, it had two-thirds of Sanders voters say they support him because they support his positions on the issues.
I don't think that's why Trump is doing well. The other polling I have seen, it's really the attitude they like about Trump. For Sanders, I think people, at least from the polling I have seen, they like his position on issues.
MADDEN: Yes. I think they feel he's more of an authentic progressive, obviously, as an avowed socialist, than Hillary Clinton is, I think, given the fact that she spent the last year giving speeches on Wall Street at $150,000, $250,000 a pop.
She has a hard problem right now getting to the relatability and connecting with a lot of Democratic voters and the Democratic Party, where the energy is on the left.
TAPPER: Let me play a little bite from Donald Trump. He was asked about the incident over the weekend when two Black Lives Matter protesters interrupted a rally in Seattle. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Would you ever give up your microphone to a protester, like Bernie Sanders?
TRUMP: I would never give up my microphone. I thought that was disgusting. That showed such weakness.
The way he was taken away by two young women -- the microphone, they just took the whole place over. I felt badly for him. But it showed that he's weak. You know what? He's getting the biggest crowds and I'm getting the biggest crowds. We're the two getting the crowds. But, believe me, that's not going to happen to Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: I don't know that Donald Trump is feeling the burn, as they say, but going after Bernie Sanders pretty hard there.
I think, look, Sanders had -- he wanted to be inclusive. Trump is looking at this in terms of who's got the power in this interaction and what's my media strategy and what's my tactic, which is not really how voters want their president to be. They want when they're looking at whoever the candidate is, Sanders or Clinton, folks on the right who are going to be wanting to hear what other people have to say, wanting to hear what the voters have to say, rather than make it all about them.
TAPPER: Margie Omero, Kevin Madden, thank you so much. What an interesting election season we're having.
OMERO: Thank you.
TAPPER: Breaking news now in the world lead. Some new images are just coming in from China showing the force of a major explosion. We know one strong blast triggered a series of others. Now we are learning of several people hurt, if not worse, the latest information coming into CNN on this horrific accident coming up next.
TAPPER: We have some breaking and rather somber news just into CNN.
A former president now facing a potential health crisis; 90-year-old Jimmy Carter says cancer has spread to other parts of his body. In a statement, the president said doctors operating on his liver discovered that the disease, cancer, had radiated outwards. He did not give an indication of just how serious this cancer is, but the former president did say he is shuffling his schedule so he can undergo treatment at Emory Healthcare.
Carter says he will reveal more details about his latest fight possibly next week. For now, our prayers and best wishes to former President Jimmy Carter and his family.
In our world lead today, with the political world consumed by discussions of a theoretical war with Iran tied to the debate over the nuclear deal with that country, there's an actual war going on that our political leaders seem to be ignoring. And it's heating up right now.
Ukraine is accusing Russia-backed separatists and Russian forces of launching dozens of attacks over the past two days, in direct violation of the February cease-fire. The escalating violence is sparking fears of a full-scale confrontation between Kiev and Moscow.
Let's get to CNN's chief security national correspondent Jim Sciutto.
Jim, the chief of staff of the Army, General Ray Odierno, today talking about this at length. What did he have to say?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question. Here is a guy who served over the last 10 years in Iraq, commands dealing with Afghanistan, certainly the ISIS threat. But when we asked him what he thinks the number one threat is, he's not talking about terrorism, he's not talking about Iran. He's talking about Moscow.
Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. RAYMOND ODIERNO, U.S. ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: I believe Russia is the most dangerous because of a couple things.
They have shown some significant capability in Ukraine to do operations that are fairly sophisticated. And so, for me, I think we should pay a lot of attention.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: They call this hybrid warfare, where basically they're not rolling tanks across the border, but they have those troops that are Russian, but they're not wearing their uniforms. They're backing separatists. They're doing a propaganda campaign.
What is worrisome, he says, that only a third, one-third, 33 percent of U.S. military brigades are currently up to the task of fighting that kind of war, deterring that kind of war with Russia.
TAPPER: Obviously, Jim, this is a very serious situation, even more serious for those countries around Ukraine. And the United States has a deal with the NATO countries, an attack on one is an attack on all. How much of a risk does this situation pose to NATO and its European members?
SCIUTTO: Well, this is the thing. To this point, it has been talked about theoretically. Could Russia potentially use the same kind of tactics it's using on the ground in Eastern Ukraine against the Balkans, like a Latvia, an Estonia? These are, as you say, NATO allies.
We have a defense pact with them. If they're attacked, we defend them. I asked him is he concerned about Russia using those same tactics there? Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Do you have any evidence that the strategy, the administration policy in terms of deterring Russia, is working?
[16:45:00] ODIERNO: We have a long way to go. I think there's -- we have to continue to increase our ability to move quickly there, because a true deterrent is one where people are worried that, if they do conduct operations, there -- there will be some level of response.
I think we have to continue to improve what level of response might look so we can deter. (END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: In his words, he said that he greatly concerns him that Russia may use those same tactics against those NATO allies there. He says that the U.S. and NATO are taking steps. They are tripling the size of a rapid reaction force.
But in his words today, he says that the U.S. deterrent is not up to speed. In his words, we have a long way to go to deter Russia from taking that kind of action.
TAPPER: Very concerning. Jim Scuitto, thank you so much.
The National Lead, the boiling anger after toxins turned a river in the U.S. bright orange. The possible long-term damage once the water clears as the communities demand someone pay for this disaster.
Plus a series of powerful explosions in China lighting up the night sky and now word of a number of deaths as a result, we're back with this urgent situation happening now.
[16:50:06] TAPPER: A mushroom cloud of fire. That's breaking news in our World Lead today. A series of explosions have rocked China's eastern coast. This is happening at a container port that store flammable material.
CNN's Will Ripley is headed in that direction. He joins me live on the phone -- Will.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Jake, as daylight starts to break here, we are -- a very grim scene in a constituent of some 15 million people hours in Beijing that was jolted awake overnight and rocked by this huge explosion.
You're seeing the videos that people are posting on social media, but to give you a sense of the scope of this. This explosion didn't happen in a very densely populated part of the city.
There are potentially hundreds of people in hospitals right now. Not necessarily from the blast itself, but because of the glass in their homes smashing in and being blown violently inside.
At least seven people are reported dead now from Chinese state media. Eighteen firefighting teams are still trying to put out the flames from the chemical fire that sparked this series of explosions. We think there were they at least three, possibly more, and the cause of this is still unknown right now -- Jake.
TAPPER: Will Ripley, thank you so much.
Brand-new images to show you in the National Lead, this is the sort of that river that turned bright orange out west. That's the problem, toxins flowing right into the fresh water. Now the outrage directed at the federal agency that could soon be forced to pay up. That's next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. The National Lead now, it looks to be returning to normal, but questions linger whether this river in Colorado, which turned a shade of orange because of a toxic waste spill earlier this week is actually safe.
A short time ago, the administrator of the EPA said the agency takes full responsibility for the spill. Parts of the river are getting the all-clear today after preliminary tests show the water in Durango, quote, "doesn't appear to pose any health risks."
But would you want to be the first to take a sip? Dan Simon is in Silverton, Colorado, following the story for us -- Dan.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Jake. The community of Silverton is closest to the mine. This creek has a bit of that familiar yellow hue to it because it's closest to the mine. What is really dramatic is we took a drive up there and we saw all that water still spewing out. The takeaway is the EPA still that is a significant challenge on its hands.
SIMON (voice-over): New images of water still rushing from the mine. The volume is breathtaking as EPA contractors work to treat and contain the flow of contaminated water.
(on camera): We're about a mile from the mine. You can see the water is continuing to pour out at a very steady phase. It's absolutely amazing to see this.
You could see it has that familiar yellow mustardy color that we've seen. What the EPA is doing is they're collecting all the water, and putting it into these holding pools, and the idea is to treat the water, get rid of all the toxins before all the water eventually winds up downstream.
(voice-over): It's not clear how or when this steady flow will be subside.
GINA MCCARTHY, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: We know how serious this issue is and how much EPA is working hard throughout the night and days to actually take responsibility for this action.
SIMON: EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy tried to quell the anger directed at her agency after it caused 3 million gallons of spill wastewater to contaminate Colorado's Animas River.
A week ago, crews unleashed a flowing toxic sludge turning the river into a murky yellow mess. But officials are voicing optimism about the public health threat, saying heavy metals in the river near the city of Durango have returned to pre-spill levels. DR. LARRY WOLK, COLORADO DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH: We are getting close with regard to crossing off those first couple things on the list as it relates to human health and use of the river as it relates to recreational purposes.
SIMON: The potential though for long-term danger remains. Many residents are still concerned. Lavine Tenorio from nearby Farmington, New Mexico says she's staying clear of city water even though officials have assured the community that the Animas River pumps were shut off before waste reached the reservoir. She's now getting her drinking water from a community center.
LAVINE TENORIO, RESIDENT: We're being cautious. I've had containers, so I said let's go and get some water.
SIMON: Now one positive sign, Jake, that things might be safe is that officials have been looking for any signs of dead wildlife. They haven't seen any. We've been looking around and we haven't seen anything. Toxicologists worry about the long-term impact of having all those heavy metals in the water -- Jake.
TAPPER: I bet they do. Dan, where do we go from here? What's next for the members of the community? What's next for the EPA?
SIMON: Well, the EPA is pledging total transparency. They have taken in hits in terms of public opinion, in terms of not disclosing things quickly enough. They say that they're going to try to get this area as cleaned up as fast as they can.
And they also say plans to clean up other abandoned mines will be on hold while they're investigating this incident. Of course, that may make residents feel a bit better, but we'll have to talk to them -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Dan Simon, thanks.
Our Money Lead today, you could be at around airport sitting with a bag that you pray isn't too big to put on and waiting for your plane, and waiting, and waiting. Guess what is taking off?
Passengers' complaints are up 20 percent in the first half of this year, despite better airline performance. The Department of Transportation says more people are complaining about cost, up 194 percent, misleading ads up 42 percent, customer service up 35 percent, and of course, those flight delays up 15 percent.
In terms of which airline grinds the most passengers' gears, it is Spirit Airlines. According to the monitor, Spirit had the least flights get travelers to their destination on time in May and in June.
Spirit's CEO tells the CNN the tropical storm that slammed Texas caused the majority of those delays. The airline with the least complaints is Southwest Airlines. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I am turning you over now to one Brianna Keilar, she's in for Wolf Blitzer next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM."