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Cheney: U.S. May Suffer Terrorist Attack Worse Than 9/11; Interview with Rep. Adam Schiff; Obama Renames Mt. McKinley "Denali"; No Settlement Between Brady, NFL; Horror Director Leaves Behind Legacy Of Screams. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired August 31, 2015 - 16:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Topping our national lead, the U.S. may suffer a terrorist attack possibly worse than 9/11. That is the dire warning coming from none other than former Vice President Dick Cheney.

In an interview with CNN's Jamie Gangel, the former secretary of defense yet again taking aim at President Obama, claiming he's directly responsible for the rise of ISIS. Cheney and his daughter Liz, a former deputy secretary of state during the Bush administration, are out with a new book titled "Exceptional: Why the World Needs a Powerful America."

Here's a portion of what he had to say.


JAMIE GANGEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You in the book blame the spread of ISIS on President Obama. He says it's your fault, that Bush-Cheney left the region unstable.

DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think he's wrong. Look at the record. We had a situation in which, by the time we got through the surge in '07 and '08, President Bush made a very courageous decision, a very correct decision, and Iraq was in good shape when we left office.

And Barack Obama said as much. What happened basically was they failed to follow through. They withdrew as quickly as possible and left no stay-behind force there. They created a vacuum and the vacuum was filled by ISIS.

GANGEL: How dangerous do you really think ISIS is now to homeland security, American soil?

CHENEY: I think extraordinarily dangerous, partly because of their ability to recruit from the United States people to become members of ISIS to go to Syria, Iraq and so forth. I think the danger of having those people return, having trained, for example, over there or their ability to motivate people in the United States and elsewhere in other parts of the world to become ardent followers, if you will, of that ideology and sacrifice themselves in the name of the killing infidels, I think that possibility is increasing.


And I think ISIS is very dangerous indeed, especially if you think about the prospects of nuclear weapons being developed in the Middle East.

GANGEL: Do you think we could see another major 9/11-style attack on American soil?

CHENEY: I think we could see another 9/11-style attack with much deadlier weapons. I worry if they use chemicals or biological agents or nuclear weapons.

Remember, the weapon they used on 9/11, airline tickets and box cutters. That was a difficult, terrible day for us, 3,000 casualties. It will be a lot worse if they find deadlier weapons.


TAPPER: Our thanks to Jamie Gangel. And you can see Jamie's full interview with former Vice President Dick Cheney and Liz Cheney on "A.C. 360" tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. right here on CNN.

Let's talk about the battle against ISIS with Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, who is the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

Your response to these dire warnings from the Cheneys?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, first of all, you have got to give the vice president credit for being able to say these things with a straight face, particularly to lay responsibility for the growth of ISIS and, before ISIS, really al Qaeda in Iraq, at President Obama's feet, when there's probably no one who was more of an architect of the disaster in the Middle East than Dick Cheney.

But, nonetheless, in terms of the threats that he's talking about facing the country, ISIS has really more focused on the quantity of attacks, rather than the quality of attacks. They have not as yet tried to mount a major 9/11-style assault. That doesn't mean that can't change.

And, obviously, we're very vigilant to any change in the nature of their plotting and planning. But I still worry more about al Qaeda, the remnants, the franchises like AQAP, that have shown more sophistication than ISIS in trying to pull off those big kind of attacks.

TAPPER: The vice president expressed concern about ISIS getting its hand on chemical weapons, nuclear weapons. Now, we have reports that ISIS used a mustard gas, a known chemical weapon, on Kurdish fighters in Northern Iraq.

Is there any intelligence that you know of suggesting that ISIS is trying to acquire nuclear or biological weapons or chemical weapons to use in the United States?

SCHIFF: Well, you know, I think that the public reports of ISIS obtaining chemicals or using chemicals are very plausible.

Certainly, this is a group that's shown its brutality in countless ways. And if they can get ahold of chemical weapons either from Saddam Hussein's old stock or part of Bashar al-Assad's stockpile before he destroyed much of it, then they will certainly use them.

Would they use them in the United States? If they had the opportunity, I'm sure they would. But that's a pretty difficult assignment to not only get ahold of those, but transport them in a way that would clandestinely get into the United States. So, it's certainly something that we're going to make sure doesn't happen, do everything possible.

But if they had the opportunity, they certainly have the will.

TAPPER: Is ISIS capable of carrying out a large-scale mass-casualty attack in the U.S.? You said they're focused on quantity, not quality. Could they do quality? Could they do a big, large-scale attack if they wanted to?

SCHIFF: Well, at present, I would say probably not.

The part of our infrastructure I worry about the most is still our aircraft. I don't think our aircraft are anywhere near as secure as they should be. So if you define one of those mass attacks, 9/11- style attacks, as in bringing down aircraft, then we're still, I think, vulnerable to al Qaeda and potentially to ISIS.

In terms of a massive coordinated attack involving multiple aircraft, multiple targets, I don't think ISIS has that capability yet, mostly because they're so focused on trying to grab territory, hold territory. They're in the midst of a multifront war right now.

But if they're allowed to hold that land unmolested, if they're allowed to feel secure in their presence in these countries, then they will have the time and opportunity to plot a more large-scale attack.

TAPPER: According to reports, ISIS has destroyed parts of a historic temple in Palmyra. In addition, we hear from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that ISIS forces are on the move in and around Damascus and getting closer to the city center.

How concerned are you that ISIS could eventually take control of the Syrian capital?

SCHIFF: I don't think they will take control of the Syrian capital unless there's a collapse of the Assad regime.

And that's a concern that many of us have. And that is, we all want to see Assad go. But it's important that there be a transition away from Assad, that it not be an utter collapse of the government, because, in that kind of environment and that kind of chaos, anything is possible. It's possible you could see elements of ISIS in Damascus. You could see obviously groups like Jabhat al-Nusra, the al Qaeda franchise, as well.


So, we don't want to see those scenarios. Obviously, there are people we are supporting. And we hope to preserve some remnant of the civil service and the infrastructure of the Syrian government absent Bashar al-Assad. That really is the best-case scenario, a diplomatic, a negotiated resolution, not a pure collapse and the chaos and mayhem that may result.

TAPPER: Yes, from your mouth.

Congressman Adam Schiff, thank you so much. Really appreciate it. I hope you're enjoying your district work period.

SCHIFF: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: When we come back: President Obama heading into the wilderness for Bear Grylls' newest TV show, but the Secret Service would not let him do everything the reality star's team had hoped. That's next.

Plus, a Hollywood shocker -- the movie you may have never heard of that beat Tom Cruise at the box office this weekend. That's ahead.


[16:45:02] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. In our National Lead, let's start with a trivia question. What is the highest peak in North America? Did you guess Alaska's Mt. McKinley?

I'm sorry. That answer would have been correct until today. Why? Well, today President Obama officially renamed the 20,000 foot natural wonder which until today honored William McKinley, our 25th president.

It's now named Denali, which was its original name and what native Alaskans call it. This comes as the president pushes a climate agenda during a three-day swing across the last frontier, the first visit to the Arctic by a sitting president.

Not everyone is pleased with the name change. Let's get to CNN senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, who is traveling with the president in Anchorage.

Jim, Mr. Obama catching a lot of heat from politicians in McKinley's home state of Ohio.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. A different kind of warming here in Alaska, President Obama began this trip with a splash by renaming Mt. McKinley Denali in honor of the native people this state. The administrative move going around Congress was announced ahead of the president's three-day journey to Alaska. It's aimed at sounding the alarm on climate change.

But Jake, there's no controversy here in Alaska. The state's two Republican senators as well as the governor have all endorsed renaming this mountain Alaskans have fought for this to happen for years, knowing that it was a gold prospector who named it after President McKinley who never set foot in the state.

But members of Congress from McKinley's home state of Ohio don't see it that way. House Speaker John Boehner released a statement saying, "There is a reason President McKinley's name has served atop the highest peak in North America for more than 100 years. That is because it is a testament to his great legacy. I am deeply disappointed in this decision."

Just a few moments ago, Jake, I heard from the interior secretary here. Sally Jewel, she said her department will do everything it can to honor McKinley in other ways and the president will be moving on to his message on global warming once he arrives here in Anchorage later today.

He'll be seeing the effects of climate change firsthand, touring a glacier here before heading to Northern Alaska where he'll become the first sitting U.S. president to travel to the Arctic.

TAPPER: Jim, even though the vast majority of climate scientists say that climate change is real and it's at least partly caused by man. There are so many skeptics in Congress. How big of a challenge is that for President Obama and the administration?

ACOSTA: It's a challenge because they have to do everything administratively, diplomatically. You know, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, other Republicans running for president, have their doubts about global warming.

And we sat down with Secretary of State John Kerry ahead of a conference on climate change here in Alaska. He said that science cannot be disputed and sort of went after Trump and Cruz saying they should come up to Alaska and see it for themselves. Here is what he had to say.


ACOSTA: How do you take on an issue when the other side doesn't agree?

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: That's one. Reasons we're in Alaska because it's pretty hard, ask any Alaskan, I think people in Alaska will tell Donald Trump and tell Ted Cruz, it's happening. All they have to do is come here and open their minds and their eyes and their ears, listen, look and they will see the impacts of what is happening.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ACOSTA: Now, the president has come up with a unique way to hammer home this message of climate change while he's touring some of the glaciers here outside of Anchorage, Jake. He's going to be linking up with reality TV star, Bear Grylls, who has that reality show "Running Wild."

I suppose the president will be testing his survival skills with Bear Grylls. I'm not sure there will be grizzly bears around. I'm sure the Secret Service will be a little nervous when the president goes out into the wild.

It's all a part of the White House approach to try to get the message out there on climate change and they're going to be doing it on reality TV as well as on the news as well -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jim Acosta, thank you so much. Now to our Sports Lead. No deal on the deflated footballs. A judge announcing hours ago that Tom Brady and the NFL Players Association could not settle if Brady had anything to do with those underinflated pigskins and how long he will sit out or not sit out for his role or non-role in the deflate-gate episode.

But for better or worse, for Patriots super fan, John Berman, he won't have to wait for long to find out if Brady will ride the pine. The judge could announce his decision tomorrow.

Let's bring in CNN sports anchor, Rachel Nichols. Rachel, great to see you. Both Brady and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in court this morning. How close did they get to settling this?

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Judge Berman certainly tried. Not only did he haul Brady and Goodell in there for talks, he also brought New York Giants owner, John Mara in against the NFL's wishes by the way. I guess this is like you or me we go to a store, don't like what the clerk says and say excuse me, can we talk to the manager?

[16:50:01] The judge not getting any real settlement push from the Goodell side so I don't know maybe he wanted to go to one of his bosses, but that didn't work either so they went out of court today. They said settlement discussions are over. The judge is going to be forced to rule on this.

TAPPER: Rachel, when the judge announces his decision, is this finally going to be over and what do you think could Brady be suiting up for the start of the season?

NICHOLS: Our long national nightmare, we are into month eight of this, but unfortunately the problem with a decision as opposed to a settlement is that decisions can be appealed and we expect that whoever loses this to go right to the court of appeals.

Even if the NFL wins this round Tom Brady could apply for a stay basically and get to play in those games while the appeals court considers this. We don't know that he'll get injunction, but you could see him lose the case and still be on the field a week from today. Who knows what's going to happen? He could win this thing but then I would expect the NFL to go back to court.

TAPPER: What is the status as of right now if everything stays the way it is, what happens to Tom Brady?

NICHOLS: Well, he would not be allowed in the Patriots facility starting on Saturday, that's the beginning of, quote, "week one" and for a month he won't be allowed anywhere near Gillette Stadium, won't be allowed to play in any games and because of a bi-week that the Patriots have.

If the suspension does hold the next game that he would be back for would be against who, the Indianapolis Colts, which is the opponent that they had in the game where deflate-gate started in.

TAPPER: Cool irony of football. Rachel Nichols, thank you so much.

Coming up, he turned idyllic suburban neighborhoods into nightmares, but the late Wes Craven also had an eye for new talent. Which major actor can thank the director's teenage daughter for his first big role? That story next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Our Money Lead, "Straight Outta Compton" is marking a major movie milestone surpassing "Walk The Line" to become the highest grossing musical bio pic ever. The movie about rap group NWA spent a third week atop the box office bringing the film's total to more than $130 million.

Also filling the seats "War Room" a little known film taking many by surprise, the Christian drama took second place this week with $11 million from just 1,100 screens. Fandango sales indicated a higher number of tickets sold per transaction meaning moviegoers bought in groups, possibly church or community groups.

That might help explain the unexpected numbers. We are told today Sony is looking to add hundreds of screens for the film this weekend. Sony, ye of little faith.

Staying with the box office in our Pop Culture Lead today, moviegoers everywhere have lost a writer, director, producer, who got audiences to hold onto those armrests for dear life.

Wes Craven passed away Sunday from brain cancer. He was 76 years old. The horror maestro managed to make Freddy Krueger's fedora scarier than almost anything else.

Maybe it was that glove, too. Beyond the nightmares and the screams, Craven leaves behind a legacy that will frighten and delight film fans for years to come.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TAPPER (voice-over): It's a simple question but made all the more difficult by legendary writer, director, Wes Craven, the horror flick phenom with dozens of writing, producing and directing credits to his name gave us a cast of cringe-worthy characters to choose from, from "Scream's" ghoulish ghost face to Freddy Krueger on the "Nightmare on Elm Street" franchise.

Craven created killers that got under your skin in more ways than one. The Ohio native turned sleepy suburban streets the kind his fans called home into tension terror filled factories that were anything be comfortable.

"The Scream" franchise alone banked more than $600 million worldwide, not bad for a Cleveland kid who had never seen a scary movie until he was in the middle of directing one.

WES CRAVEN, WRITER/DIRECTOR: I was raised in a fundamentalist household so going to movies were considered to be evil works of the devil.

But after building his empire on so-called evil work such as "Last House On The Left," Craven told CNN his films helped people to exorcise their own demons, the common fears that haunt us all.

CRAVEN: Audiences don't pay me to scare them so much as address their fears. Somebody will say you scared the oomph out of me. I say good now it's out of you.

TAPPER: Craven had a talent for discovering fresh faces, an unknown Johnny Depp reportedly landed this nightmare role in 1984 because craven's then teen daughter found him dreamy. Fans of Sharon Stone and Bruce Willis can thank Craven as well. He's behind their first prominent roles in "Deadly Blessing."


And the "Twilight Zone" TV series.


TAPPER: But Craven didn't only work on fright, the former college professor and cab driver wrote novels and recently began writing a bird watching column for a local Martha's Vineyard magazine. But it's Craven's kindness that's being highlighted in Hollywood.

Freddie Krueger himself, actor, Robert Englund, described the director as a brilliant, kind, and very funny man, tweeting, "A sad day on Elm Street and everywhere."


TAPPER: As we noted, Craven's talent extended far beyond the flicks. He directed "Music of the Heart" which got Meryl Streep an Academy award nomination for best actress.

That's it for THE LEAD today. I'm Jake Tapper. I am now turning you over to Brianna Keilar is right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching. --