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Putin's Next Move?; Interview With California Congressman Kevin McCarthy; Trevor Noah's Debut; Can Obama and Putin Tackle ISIS? Aired 16-16:30p ET

Aired September 29, 2015 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: So, I don't know if you knew this, but to prepare for his role in "House of Cards," actor Kevin Spacey followed around House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is now running for speaker. So, just what are we getting ourselves into here?

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The politics lead, he is the man who wants to replace Speaker John Boehner and be second in line to the presidency. We will ask Kevin McCarthy about the battle for the soul of the Republican Party and why he thinks anything will change under his leadership in a rare CNN interview.

The world lead, blurred battle lines. President Obama now trying to sort out the chaos in Syria and defeat ISIS with Russian planes about to drop bombs in country. Can Obama stop Vladimir Putin from pushing his way into the Middle East and nudging out U.S. influence?

Pop culture lead, his first night is being called everything from smooth and solid to crude and clumsy. We will look at Trevor Noah's debut as host of "The Daily Show" and whether America will learn to love him.

Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Our politics lead, he will be a little less tan, probably a little better at keeping his tear ducts from overflowing, but is Congressman Kevin McCarthy, Republican from California, really different enough from suddenly retiring House Speaker John Boehner to get dissatisfied conservatives in the House on board? What will make McCarthy any different than his predecessor?

Will he be able to do the job Boehner once described as keeping 218 frogs in a wheelbarrow long enough to get something passed?

CNN senior political reporter Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill, where the behind-the-scenes battle to become the next speaker has the halls of Congress buzzing.

Manu, Leader McCarthy sat down with me for his first CNN interview since tossing his hat into the ring in the race for speaker. We're going to air that in a second. But what are you hearing in the halls right now from Republicans? Do they want a conservative to challenge McCarthy?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, right now, I'm standing outside the Republican Conference meeting, where they're actually going to have their first extended discussion about the way forward for their party after that sudden resignation of John Boehner.

Right now, there's only one Republican who has stepped up to challenge Kevin McCarthy. That's Daniel Webster from Florida. He's a conservative Republican, but he really does not have wide support, not even among the conservative wing of the party. He just got 12 votes when he ran against John Boehner himself in January.

And Republicans, particularly the House Freedom Caucus, which holds roughly 30, 35 votes on the House floor, and could be influential if they stick together, has decided not to endorse anyone at the moment. So, right now, what we're seeing is McCarthy and people who are vying for other leadership posts to begin that courtship and to sell a lot of these conservatives and other members of the House Republican Conference on how they envision Republicans could advance their agenda.

Today is the beginning of that process.

TAPPER: And what do rank-and-file Republicans want the new leadership team to do?

RAJU: Well, it depends on which pockets of rank-and-file Republicans we're talking about. If we're talking about those conservative groups, the House Freedom Caucus, for instance, they want a bigger say in leadership the table. They want to have the opportunity to be involved in a lot of these strategy decisions and decision-making processes.

Kevin McCarthy has not yet met with that group, but he plans to, probably later there week, I'm told. But there are also more moderate segments of the Republican Conference. One member, a leading member, Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, told a few of us outside an earlier meeting today that what he expects the next leadership team to do is to avoid these crises-type situations of legislating, these things we have been seeing time and time again since 2011, to vow to avoid those type of things, and support bills that will keep the government open, and raise the debt ceiling, for instance

Those are the big questions that McCarthy is going to have to deal with as he continues to meet with these groups.

TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

This afternoon, I spoke with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy for his first interview on CNN since announcing his bid to replace Speaker Boehner when he leaves Congress next month.


TAPPER: Congressman Tom Massie of Kentucky, one of those leading the charge to vacate Speaker Boehner, he says moving the leadership -- quote -- "up one notch" shows the party is -- quote -- "tone-deaf."

Now, you have been Speaker Boehner's number two for years. Specifically, what will be different under Speaker McCarthy?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, it's a generational shift.

And the one thing, how I deal with it is bottom up. I don't view myself as a team manager, but a team captain. I'm part of the team, but everybody else as well.

When you get beyond the Beltway and you listen to what's going on, this is time that we have got to bring back -- that we're closer to who we represent, that they feel that this is their government, that they're in charge, and that we're here to serve them.


TAPPER: So, tangibly, what would that mean, though? Would that mean putting a spending bill on the president's desk that defunds Planned Parenthood, even though the president's going to veto it? Is that the tangible...

MCCARTHY: Why wouldn't we challenge it? To get it to the president's desk, would you first start with a select committee to win the argument, then win the vote?

There's so many things we can do. But it's more bottom up, have the committees do more of the work, have everybody engaged in the process, have more of the regular order. I think that's a healthier way for the House to work.

But everybody has a say, everybody has a voice, because everyone that comes to the House had about 750,000 people they're representing . And you want those voices heard.

TAPPER: Right. But you would be working with the majority leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell. He called the defunding Planned Parenthood idea an exercise in futility.

So, before you get through the obstruction that is President Obama, you have to get through the obstruction that is Mitch McConnell.

MCCARTHY: Well, no, what you first have to do is lay out a plan. I'm willing to fight, but I want to fight to win.

So, it's not just a policy. It's also a media. And people have to join that. So, that's why, within a select committee -- think of this. When you look at poll numbers of Hillary Clinton, they have dropped.

TAPPER: Right.

MCCARTHY: Unfavorables pretty high, because people say they don't trust her.

They don't trust her because of what they found out about the server and everything else. Would you ever have found that out had you not gathered the information from the Benghazi Select Committee? So, if we really want to be able to show what this Planned Parenthood has done, you see a few videos, so there's real question.

Have the select committee get all the information, all the hearings, so the public can see that. That's what -- you win the argument to win the vote.


TAPPER: Speaking of votes, do you have the votes? Will you be the next speaker? Have you locked up it up?

MCCARTHY: I feel very good about where I'm at.

TAPPER: That sounds like a yes, that you have the votes.

MCCARTHY: I feel very good where I'm at.

TAPPER: You have committed to no government shutdowns. Are you similarly committed to no defaulting on the debt? And how do you deal with the part of your party, House Republicans, who want these showdowns, who want to shut down the government?

MCCARTHY: What people want to have is a change of Washington.

Too many people in Washington care about power institutions, not caring about changing the lives of everyday Americans. So, what you want to have is, you don't want to have a cliff. You want to make that argument ahead of time, make your case, and put your ideas and your bill forward.

TAPPER: But then the president vetoes it, and then you have another bill ready to go?

MCCARTHY: You know, welfare reform got vetoed a few times, didn't it? And then the president, after he signed it, claimed it was a great bill and helped transform this country, put us on a better path.

It's not a problem to send a bill to the White House a couple times.

TAPPER: In terms of your personal priorities, your district, California, is 35 percent Latino. And you have, as a lawmaker, a more moderate position on immigration reform than many of your colleagues. How important is the Latino vote to your party taking the White House next year?

MCCARTHY: Latino vote, the Asian vote, all the vote is important.

This is a microcosm of America. And we have to be able to expand. But that does not mean that you shouldn't have your borders secure. What it means, from a perspective, if you want to reach out to people, you treat everybody as an American. You talk about how it changes the average American's lives every day, be it the economy, education. Those are the things that you actually bring the party stronger in.

TAPPER: But you have talked about a path to legal status for illegal immigrants.

MCCARTHY: I'm opposed to amnesty, because we are a country of rule of law.

And if you break society down, where a new generation comes in breaking the law, you will break society. So, you have to start with a secure border. Our border is broken; 51 percent of everyone that is here illegally came here legally on a visa. We have to change the visa program.

So, there's a lot of things you can do within immigration to make it -- and I believe America is a melting pot, but we want to make sure that we do it right.

TAPPER: Senator Ted Cruz has had a lot of influence when it comes to conservatives in your caucus. Speaker Boehner famously called him a jackass.

How would you describe Senator Cruz and the role he plays with House Republicans?

MCCARTHY: Well, I'll tell you this.

I believe in Reagan's 11th commandment. I don't speak ill of anybody. Ted Cruz is a friend of mine. He's a senator. I talk to Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz is healthy for this party, just as every other Republican is healthy for this party.

And I want more people to be part of the Republican Party. You know what is interesting? Today, we're looking too much and dividing about what type of Republican you are. When Reagan ran, we talked about the Reagan Democrats. So, we want everybody to be a part. We want to be inclusive.

That's going to be a fundamental difference of a change. Look, a speaker sets a culture in the House. And the culture you're going to have is bottom up and everybody gets the voice.

TAPPER: How do you make the case that you, who has been part of the Republican leadership for years, and been the number two for a year-and-a-half, how do you make the case that you represent a change, other than generationally?


MCCARTHY: Because we don't get elected as a ticket. It's individual.

If you come back here and you watch where I came from, right, I came in '06. Paul Ryan and I and Eric Cantor created Young Guns. I went out recruiting candidates different than Washington had looked like to elect new people and get a majority.

I have fought hard for that. Look at my background. I'm not an attorney. I'm not a poli-sci degree. I started my first business when I was 19. You know the values you learn when you're a small business owner?

You're the first one to work. You're the last one to leave, and you're right last one to be paid. So, you know what? I want somebody in Washington looking out for me, and that's the person I look out for.

TAPPER: Conservative radio host Mark Levin said the following about you -- quote -- "Kevin McCarthy is Eric Cantor with 10 less I.Q. points."

And he added that you're -- quote -- "not a principled conservative."

Now, you're going to be hearing that kind of rhetoric from the conservative media wing for as long as you are seeking the seat or hold the seat. Is it just water off a duck's back? How do you deal with that?

MCCARTHY: Well, you know what? Give me time.

It won't change in one day. But my mission is to change the culture of Washington. And that's part of the job. Give me a moment to show if I can govern, and then you can come back and judge whether I have done well or not.

TAPPER: Thank you so much. Really appreciate your time.

MCCARTHY: Thank you.


TAPPER: In our world lead, despite having the same goal, taking out ISIS, President Obama and President Vladimir Putin cannot seem to agree on just how to do it. And the main sticking point that led to a tense confrontation behind closed doors -- that story next.


[16:15:57] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Our world lead now: the United States is losing the battle to stop Americans from traveling abroad to join ISIS. That at least according to a report released by a bipartisan congressional task force today which call for an overhaul of the strategy in the fight against ISIS. Exactly what that strategy should be is a major point of contention between President Obama and Russian President Putin. Let's get right to CNN's Jim Acosta at the White House.

Jim, President Obama does not like what Putin is doing to help Assad defeat ISIS in Syria. But can President Obama point to any success for his strategy?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the president has pointed to successes in military campaign against ISIS, insisting the group has been driven out of territory once held, but there's a lot lacking. And I think the president almost acknowledged that.

President Obama is back at the White House today, after a tense 48 hours of clashing with President Putin over Syria, and ISIS. And if there's one takeaway from the president's trip to the U.N., is that his plan for ISIS just got more complicated.


ACOSTA (voice-over): With his strategy for defeating ISIS coming under fire from Russia, President Obama conceded at U.N., his approach will take time.


ACOSTA: Leading a summit of more than 100 countries on the battle against the terror group, the president defended his plan for beating ISIS that includes removal of Syrian President Bashar al Assad, a move that puts the U.S. at odds with Russia's Vladimir Putin.

OBAMA: Defeating ISIL requires, I believe, a new leader. We are prepared to work with all countries, include Russia and Iran.

ACOSTA: It's a heated debate that played out behind closed doors, as Mr. Obama and Putin locked horns for 90 minutes over Assad's future.

The White House and Kremlin released photos of the confrontation, each side showing its leader in command. Putin was unmoved.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I relate to my colleagues, the American and French presidents, with great respect, but they aren't citizens of Syria and so should not be involved in choosing leadership of another country. It is Syria's business.

ACOSTA: Putin insisted Russia's buildup in Syria won't lead to ground forces battling ISIS, and White House officials said it would work with the coalition to avoid military accidents.

Analysts still see huge risks.

WILL POMERANZ, THE KENNAN INSTITUTE: The Assad forces are in retreat. So the question becomes, if indeed a retreat becomes a rout potentially, is that when Russia decides to enter the fray? ACOSTA: Putin is entering the scene just as the U.S. is halting

its program to train and equip Syrian rebels to fight ISIS. And there are more problems, namely, a new congressional report finding U.S. and its partners are struggling to control the flow of foreign fighters joining up with the terror group, 25,000 since 2011, 7,000 in the last 9 months, including an estimated 250 Americans.

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX), HOMELAND SECURITY CMTE CHMN: I think that most importantly we lack a national strategy to deal with this problem.

ACOSTA: Critics of the U.S. policy say the president's unwillingness to take on Assad especially after he used chemical weapons tempted Putin to intervene.

NICHOLAS BURNS, FMR. U.S. UNDER SECRETARY FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS: He's in effect has left a vacuum there, and President Putin, ever opportunistic, has filled it, at least for the time being.


ACOSTA: Now, White House officials aren't as gloomy about the battle against ISIS, noting the president did pick up support of more countries to stop the flow of foreign fighters. And when it comes to the future of Assad, aides to the president said Putin did agree that some kind of transition out of power for the Syrian leader is necessary. At this point, Jake, that's progress.

TAPPER: All right. Jim Acosta, thank you so much.

Coming up, she says the videos are doctored. Republicans say a picture is worth a thousand words. The president of Planned Parenthood defending her organization and it got heated during a hearing on Capitol Hill. That story next.

Plus, Donald Trump says his tax plan will make the economy take off like a rocket. Some tax experts and his Republican rivals are now weighing in. What do they have to say? Stay with us.


[16:24:26] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

The politics lead: if you thought the race for speaker was getting tense, a clash on Capitol Hill over Planned Parenthood, the provider of women's health care and abortions, lawmakers question whether taxpayers should get money.

Today's House oversight hearing coming after a series of hidden camera videos, ones that seem to show executives of Planned Parenthood discussing selling fetal tissue and organs sometimes rather flippantly.

But Planned Parenthood today pushed back, as president of the hearing calling the recordings deceptive and highly doctored.

[16:25:00] She also said anti-abortion activists behind videos, they should be the ones being investigated.

CNN's Tom Foreman joins me now.

Today's hearing quite combative.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yes, it was -- it was something else they went at each other over and over and over again, and it just never let up from beginning until the end.


FOREMAN (voice-over): The president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, came to the capitol to make one clear claim about those undercover videos that show her group supposedly selling fetal tissue.

CECILE RICHARDS, PRESIDENT, PLANNED PARENTHOOD: The outrageous accusations leveled against Planned Parenthood based on heavily doctored videos are offensive and categorically untrue.

FOREMAN: She was met by a Republican buzz saw.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: Here's the troubling truth, pictures worth a thousand words.

FOREMAN: GOP members ripped into her testimony, suggesting they are not satisfied with her explanation of what is on the videos and furthermore, they don't think she's being entirely candid about how her group makes and uses all its money.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: If you want to be a private entity, be a private entity. But you don't need federal dollars in order to do this.

REP. CYNTHIA LUMMIS (R), WYOMING: Why do you need federal dollars? You're making a ton of dough.

FOREMAN: Democrats storm to the defense, saying the anti- abortion rights activists who made the videos are the ones who ought to be investigated.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: Do you really want to do this? Do you really? Do you want to line yourself with radical extremists who manipulate facts?

REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D), NEW YORK: Make no mistake, despite what we hear from the other side, Republicans are doubling down on their war against women.

JORDAN: Are you kidding me? We simply want to shift the money from an organization caught doing what they were caught doing and give it to the community health centers. Take the money from the guys doing the bad things and give it to the ones who aren't.

FOREMAN: As the fight tore through the day, Republicans zeroed in on the idea that Richards was defending her budget more than patients.

REP. MICK MULVANEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You spent $21 million on lobbying in the last couple of years. You spent zero dollars on mammograms. Why is that?

FOREMAN: While Democrats asked, wasn't the hearing supposed to be about those videos?

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: We have been mixing more than apples and oranges, it might be apples and potatoes.


FOREMAN: As you may have noticed there, Jake, the answers from Ms. Richards pretty soon were beside the point to the committee because both sides were really just waging this war. They stopped talking about the videos altogether, frankly, and it was all about this question of public funding going to these clinics.

And the Republicans clearly are picking away at the financial structure of Planned Parenthood, saying, look, if we can show this is an organization that's not using public funds well, it won't matter what they're using them for, we can shut them down in some fashion. That clearly was the goal of some of the people here, where some of the Democrats are very much weary of that and saying, look, this is something that is legal. We question how these videos were made.

It was really quite a fight up there. For the moment, funding we should note, is safe, because they're moving forward with other votes on the budget where that funding will not be touched for the moment. But it was very clear today this battle is really lively and has some strong underpinnings right now.

This isn't just the noise we've heard in recent years. Some people out there who really actually trying to do something right now and that's exciting emotions very much on both sides.

TAPPER: All right. Tom Foreman, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, Donald Trump saying his tax plan will save millions of Americans on their tax bill. But can the nation afford it? The experts and the other candidates react, coming up.