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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Refugees Break Out Of Holding Area In Hungary; Woman In Nepal To Help Earthquake Relief; Colbert Premieres New "Late Show" Tonight. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired September 8, 2015 - 16:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:33:14] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

We're going to stay with the politics lead.

You heard it here just a few minutes ago, the chair of the Democratic National Committee defending the current debate schedule.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the congresswoman from Florida, says the current schedule, six debates, four before the primaries and the caucuses, gives voters ample time to hear from the candidates.

Let's get a response from one of the candidates who is aggressively pushing back on that idea.

Joining me now, Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley, former two-term governor of Maryland.

Thanks for joining me.

MARTIN O'MALLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Do you think specifically that the DNC leadership has stacked the deck in order to help Clinton?

O'MALLEY: I do.

TAPPER: You do?

O'MALLEY: Who else will this help?

When I made the call, when I told the DNC members that we're being limited to just one debate before Iowa and one before New Hampshire, I got a standing ovation from the members, who had never, ever been consulted.

TAPPER: One in Iowa before Iowa, one in New Hampshire before New Hampshire.

O'MALLEY: Correct.

TAPPER: Yes.

O'MALLEY: And that has never happened before.

And the exclusivity clause, which the chair didn't mention, is that any candidate that participates in debates other than these sanctioned debates is going to be excluded from others. That's a very undemocratic way to run the Democratic Party. And that's why the members were so outraged when they were presented with this fiat.

TAPPER: Hillary Clinton over the weekend saying she would welcome more debates with enthusiasm. Do you think she's sincere?

O'MALLEY: I hope so. And I think that -- I think she has the ability, and I think all of us together should be asking the chair to reconsider.

Apparently, this was a decision made simply by the chair, without consulting the members of the DNC. I think we're making a huge mistake for the fall, Jake, when we listen to -- let the Republicans have the microphone and talk about their ideas, and we don't introduce our candidates to the American people.

The country's looking for a new leader, and I believe it's important that they find that new leader in the Democratic Party.

TAPPER: Well, one of the people that is gaining steam is Bernie Sanders, independent from Vermont.

You have criticized him for identifying as a independent socialist, or a socialist Democrat, for not identifying as a capital-D Democrat.

[16:35:07]

Do you think that his not being registered as a Democrat, for not having been a member of your party should disqualify him for running for the nomination?

O'MALLEY: Well, I think he identified himself as an independent socialist.

TAPPER: Right.

O'MALLEY: So, we're a big tent party. And that's why having the debates are important. That's why Bernie Sanders' ideas...

TAPPER: But you don't think it's disqualifying for him to seek the Democratic nomination?

O'MALLEY: No, apparently not.

TAPPER: Right.

O'MALLEY: And I think that he represents for a lot of people the anger that the public is feeling towards our established leaders in both parties. And I think that is what you see in this summer.

But once the debates happen, we have to ask ourselves as voters, which of these candidates is best for my family? Which of these candidates has the best ideas for getting wages to go up in our country, instead of down, for affordable college, for a better U.S. foreign policy?

So, that's why these debates are important, time-honored. We have -- candidates that don't have the -- that they're reluctant to debate probably shouldn't be running for president. We need to have more debates, not fewer.

TAPPER: Let me ask you a question about one of the ideas you have proposed. We have all seen these horrifying, tragic images from Europe of refugees fleeing Syria, fleeing Iraq, trying to make a better life for their families.

You have said that the United States should consider taking in 65,000 of these refugees. There have been some people who have said, that's a lot of people that we can't handle. And don't forget ISIS might be trying to get into the United States by using these refugees, hiding among them. Are you not concerned about that?

O'MALLEY: Sure. You're always concerned about security.

But let us be also concerned about the humanitarian crisis. I mean, look at those images that people are seeing on their screen right now. We're a nation that leads by way -- best when we lead with our principles. And for us to sit back and do nothing and say, oh, we can only accept 8,000 people as part of this crisis, I think, is morally indefensible.

We need to remember that our enduring symbol is the Statue of Liberty. We need to be a leader among nations when it comes to alleviating this crisis; 65,000 is not too large a number for a country as strong and as big as the United States.

And, yes, we should screen the people that are coming in. We should make sure we take the security precautions, but we can't sit back and do nothing in the face of these images. That little boy washing up on -- the boy's body washing up on the beach, there is a fount of goodness and generosity and compassion in our country.

But leaders need to speak up, speak the truth and call our country forward according to its truer principles. And I think we have a role to play here in alleviating this human suffering.

TAPPER: Governor Martin O'Malley, see you on the campaign trail. Thanks for coming in. We really appreciate it.

O'MALLEY: Thank you.

TAPPER: And this programming note.

You can catch the next Republican presidential debate right here on CNN. That's coming up a week from tomorrow, next Wednesday, September 16, at the Reagan Library. And believe it or not, I will be moderating that one.

And I am looking for your questions for the candidates. You can tweet them at me using #CNNdebate. In our world lead, as we were just discussing, free and on the run,

refugees breaking through police lines leaving their few belongings behind carrying children in their arms.

Plus, she went to help after a devastating earthquake, and now police are looking for answers after this young American woman was murdered by a man she trusted.

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[16:42:31]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Our world lead now, as we were just discussing, a humanitarian crisis in Europe. Earlier today, hundreds of refugees, including children, broke through police lines in a sprint towards the border between Serbia and Hungary.

CNN senior international correspondent Arwa Damon was along for the run.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The police are literally right behind -- I'm CNN.

The police are literally right behind a man in front, trying to bring them under control. There are hundreds of them that staged this breakout because they were fed up at the conditions they were being held in. They couldn't take it anymore, young, old, men, parents, and families all breaking through, and now also being pursued by the police force.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Arwa Damon joining us now live from Budapest.

Arwa, a lot of these refugees you have been meeting for the last few weeks, tell us who they are. What are their backgrounds?

DAMON: Well, Jake, there's the father who has carried his girl on his shoulders the entire way because back home she was his princess, and he can't give her that life anymore.

These are mostly families, people who are fleeing the bloodshed in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. And they come from all sorts of different backgrounds. You have a lot of young men who were in the middle of their university careers, a lot of people studying to be doctors, architects and engineers.

You have successful businessmen that saw everything stripped away from them due to the war. You have a lot of middle-class families from cities like Damascus, Aleppo and the coastal city of Latakia. These are people who were professional back home. These are people who, when you speak to them, say, look, we have lost everything to this war. We have lost our cars, our homes, our businesses.

In many cases, they have also lost loved ones. And now they're coming here all the way to Europe, putting themselves through a journey that they never could have imagined that they would have to endure. And then they say they're being treated like this at the doorstep of Europe.

It's very psychologically difficult from the get-go, because you have to make that very impossible decision to accept that you will never be able to go back to your homeland, at least not in your lifetime. And that is the belief of most who are fleeing from Syria and Iraq.

You have to accept the risk that you are putting yourself and your children through. And many people say that they're doing that because they believe that, if they stayed back home, their children would end up dead anyway and wanting to find security.

It's not just physical security from the bombs and the ISIS threat, it's also security in the sense of being able to secure and provide your children with a future because that is what we all deserve and that is why they make this incredibly difficult journey.

They are not coming to Europe because they expect free handouts or to live off the system or the society, the country they're going to be trying to integrate. They're going to Europe at this point they believe that only in Europe, can they really try to secure that future.

Only in Europe, do they believe they can try to obtain those opportunities that no longer exist for them back home. Basic simple things many of them do take for granted. Things like access to an education, a job.

But also the very basic simple things and that is access to a dignified life where your very basic human rights are being respected.

TAPPER: Arwa Damon, thank you so much.

And if you want to learn more about how you can help in this crisis, don't forget to visit cnn.com/impact, cnn.com/impact for advice on how you can help in this refugee crisis.

Coming up next, a 25-year-old American woman went to Nepal to help after the disastrous earthquake there. Her family is in mourning. That story is next.

Plus the late night wars got a new contestant, comedian, Stephen Colbert launches his first show tonight. We'll go live outside Ed Sullivan Theater were the crowds are already lining up.

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[16:50:42]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Now, it's time for what we call our Buried Lead, that's what we call stories we do not think are getting enough attention. We learned more today about that 25-year- old American woman who went to Nepal to help after that devastating earthquake this past spring.

Dahlia Yehia kept in touch with her family while she was in Nepal. After a message went unanswered on August 6th, her family began to worry, and then a few days ago, her family received the news they had always feared.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER (voice-over): It was an act of altruism that ended up costing a young woman her life. In April, devastating images of the earthquake's aftermath in Nepal inspired a young American artist, 25- year-old Dahlia Yehia to come to the region to try to help with relief efforts.

Instead she became the victim of a gruesome crime. Her family posted the news of her death Friday on this "Find Dalia" Facebook page. Local police in Nepal say she was killed by a man she had met on couchsurfing.com, a site that connects travelers with local hosts.

The man with whom she was staying recently told authorities he beat her to death with a hammer reportedly for her iPhone and cash and dumped her body in a river. Police are still searching for her remains. He was arrested on Friday.

JOHN KIRBY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: You don't typically see threats to Americans in places like Nepal. It doesn't mean it isn't possible, but you just don't see that.

TAPPER: The crime is all the more shocking in a region known for its hospitality.

KIRBY: American citizens are some of our best ambassadors and we encourage people to explore the world. You have to be smart about that.

DAHLIA: My name is Dahlia Yehia, I'm an oil painter.

TAPPER: Before traveling to Nepal, the Michigan native was exploring career paths. According to LinkedIn, she lived in New York as a video producer, in Arizona as a woodworker and teacher and in Texas as a high school art instructor. That Austin school posted these photos in tribute.

ERIC ALBURTUS, PRINCIPAL, PORTAGE CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL: Dahlia had an amazing ability to be really smart, insightful and thoughtful, without taking herself too seriously.

TAPPER: Dahlia Yehia's willingness to volunteer in Nepal was no surprise to her former high school principal.

ALBURTUS: Her passion and compassion for other people put her in a place where she could do everything she could to help other people.

TAPPER: Her last adventure included travel in the region to Thailand and Katmandu through Nepal with a group and then out on her own to Pokhara. Her family says she stopped responding to messages on August 6th. The next day, a small withdrawal was made from her bank account.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: And our thoughts and prayers go to Dahlia's friends and family.

Coming up, we are now just a few minutes away from the first taping of Stephen Colbert's "The Late Show." What's in store, we'll go there live next.

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[16:57:45]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought it might be called the led, because you have so much gravitas. You have to be the heavy one anchoring it, if it doesn't work out, watch it sink to the bottom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. That was a bit of hosting advice from one anchorman to another prior to this show's launch about two and a half years ago, which aptly brings us to our Pop Culture Lead today.

Stephen Colbert, the man not the character he played on Comedy Center, but the actual guy is going to take the helm of "The Late Show" on CBS this evening. He's not really straying too far from tradition.

CNN senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter is live outside the Ed Sullivan Theater. Brian, the crowds already lining up behind you, what can we expect to see from Colbert tonight?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Most of the fans just headed inside for the 5:00 p.m. taping. We'll hear about it in the next couple hours. We'll find out what Jeb Bush says. Bush is one of the first guests on the first Colbert late show.

George Clooney is the other A-list guest. He actually arrived around noon for some pre-taped segments. This Colbert late show is not going to be what we've seen from David Letterman for decades.

Obviously thanks to Letterman, this show is an American institution. Colbert is trying to make it a little more what we saw on cable. Not with his blow hard ponding character, but with unusual guests, for example, Supreme Court Justice Steven Brier next week, and also, the CEO's of Uber and Tesla later this week.

But I think the most interesting guests right now are these political candidates and possible candidates. We know Vice President Joe Biden will be here on Thursday, and Bernie Sanders next week. It's also interesting to think about who's not showing up. This show really wanted Hillary Clinton for the first night, but Clinton turned the show down. She's going on the "Tonight Show" with Jimmy Fallon next week instead.

Donald Trump is also choosing Fallon. Perhaps some of the thought process here was, people don't know which Colbert they are going to get. They don't know how Colbert is going to be as an interviewer.

Maybe candidates like Clinton wanted to wait and find out. But Jeb Bush taking the plunge tonight, we will see how it goes with the new Stephen Colbert.

TAPPER: All right, Brian Stelter, thank you so much. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I turn you over to one Mr. Wolf Blitzer. He's right next door in this place we like to call "THE SITUATION ROOM."