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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Clinton Outlasts Marathon Benghazi Grilling; Delta Force Soldier Killed In Iraq Raid; Accused Former Assistant Coach Resigns; Strongest Hurricane On Record Nears Landfall. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired October 23, 2015 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: Kevin, this was supposed to be an all- star panel of Republicans and a great opportunity. Did you see a missed opportunity there to really make this stick?
KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICS COMMENTATOR: Well, I think when Trey Gowdy had the gavel and Trey Gowdy was leading the inquisition, it was probably much more focused on the substance and much more focused on the truth. I think if you were a Democrat watching those hearings yesterday you thought Hillary Clinton did brilliantly.
If you were a Republican you thought the Democrats finally held Hillary Clinton's truth to the fire. I think the big middle electorate that's watching I don't think it changed their mind. I think it changes the atmospherics in a way that helps Hillary Clinton temporarily.
But Mo is right the fundamentals with the FBI investigation provide, I think those are the bigger issues that are still never going to go away during this campaign, and I still think are troublesome for the Hillary Clinton campaign.
MO ELLEITHEE, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: The fact that after 11 hours she did come out head high, walking tall and probably changed perception a little bit. I don't know how much, right. And she is going to be asked again. But will she be asked the same way over and over after yesterday? I don't know.
SCIUTTO: Hard to imagine another 11-hour session. Mo, let's talk about the fact of Bernie Sanders where does that leave him after the debate performance after she survived in effect the minimum this test. Do you think he's going to be able to keep building his momentum or has that reached a cresting point?
ELLEITHEE: The thing you have to realize is that Democrats do this almost every election cycle. In 2000, it was Bill Bradley versus Al Gore. In 2004, it was Howard Dean versus John Kerry. We have a tradition in the Democratic Party having a strong sort of anti- establishment candidate who takes on that establishment front runner.
And actually helps make them better. Bill Bradley made Al Gore a better primary candidate. Howard Dean forced John Kerry to become better. I feel like that's happening now. I'm not belittling Bernie Sanders. He's run a phenomenal campaign. SCIUTTO: And still a very fervent supporter. Kevin, just before we go because we're running out of time, I want to ask you about the Carson-Trump polls. Significant jump for Carson in Iowa and do you see as a significant challenge for Donald Trump?
MADDEN: I think Carson always has a natural constituency. He has sort of emerged at the values voter right now and so many Evangelicals figure so prominently in the Iowa caucuses, I think you're seeing a manifestation of that.
I think one of the other things to note is that the club for growth went in and did negative advertising on Trump. It happens to work. The lesson for the other campaigns is start to draw contrast on Donald Trump and numbers go down. Watch and learn.
SCIUTTO: Fair enough. Kevin, Mo, thanks very much for joining us as always. One of the Pacific Coast best known tourist area is bracing for the worst right now. The fiercest hurricane ever recorded driven by 200-mile-per-hour winds is about to slam into land. We're going to go right back to that location live right after this break.
SCIUTTO: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jim Sciutto in for Jake Tapper.
New questions surrounding a dangerous operation in Iraq that resulted in the first American combat death there since 2011. The 39-year-old Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler was killed during a mission that rescued dozens of hostages believed to be facing imminent execution.
The raid was led by Kurdish commandos with U.S. Special Forces from the Delta Force serving in an advise and assist role, but when the situation escalated the Americans were forced to engage the enemy.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): Faced with the first U.S. combat death in Iraq in four years, today Pentagon Secretary Ash Carter made clear that U.S. troops will continue to face danger there.
(on camera): The administration has taken great pains. The president in various permutations to say it's not a ground combat. It's not a major combat role.
ASH CARTER, DEFENSE SECRETARY: They will be in harm's way. There's no question about it. I don't want anybody to be under any illusions about that.
SCIUTTO: A U.S. military official confirms to CNN that Master Sergeant Joshua L. Wheeler, 39 of Oklahoma, a 20-year military veteran was a member of the elite Delta Force. The deadly battle was the first time U.S. forces have directly engaged ISIS fighters on the ground in Iraq. In a joint operation with Kurdish commandos, U.S. special operators from the Delta Force raided an ISIS compound. Rescue hostages thought to be in imminent danger of execution. U.S. warplanes bombed makeshift ISIS training camps, staging sites and bridges in the area.
And five helicopters brought in nearly 30 U.S. Special Forces and 40 Kurdish troops. The U.S. forces were not meant to enter the walled compound or directly engage the ISIS fighters.
But when Kurdish forces inside the compound were overwhelmed, the U.S. commander made the decision to enter the fire fight. Master Sergeant Wheeler was shot inside the compound and died later after being transported to a military hospital in Irbil.
When the mission was over, the U.S. aircraft overhead destroyed the compound. U.S. troops are deployed to Iraq on a train, advice and assist mission. However, under current rules of engagement they are allowed to return fire when they or their partner forces come under attack.
CARTER: When a fire fight ensued, this American ran to the sound of the guns and all the indications are it was his actions and that of one of his teammates that protected those who were involved in breaching the compound.
SCIUTTO: This risky mission was launched say U.S. military officials after U.S. surveillance spotted freshly dug mass graves inside the compound. U.S. officials say that 70 prisoners were rescued, 20 Iraqi security forces as well as Iraqi civilians and interestingly ISIS fighters accused by their own group of spying. Missing, however, were the Kurdish captives, they were originally sent in to rescue.
[16:40:06] SCIUTTO: Joining me now is Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger served in Iraq and Afghanistan as a pilot. Congressman, thanks very much for being here.
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: Yes, thanks.
SCIUTTO: So you have an elite Delta Force special operator unfortunately killed in this raid. They went into a fire fight inside a walled compound, granted their beginning role was advise and assist, but when Kurdish partners came under attack they went right into fire fight. How is that not a combat role?
KINZINGER: I think it is vaguely a combat role. Special Forces, special operators and Delta, you don't hear a lot about them but these are among the best of the best. These are heroes. They're great at what they do.
But when you think of a Special Forces mission or special operations missions, we think about direct action, capture or kill mission. These guys -- their bread and butter, though, is in training and building up local forces as a force multiplier. SCIUTTO: That's one thing. I think when Americans at home think training, they're thinking back at the base and teaching how to tactically do this and fire weapons. These guys helloed in nighttime to a fortified compound and even before they went to the fire fight only a few yards away. That's more than training.
KINZINGER: It is. It is. It's a train and assist, and frankly I personally believe that we need to do more of these missions. When I was in Iraq I was part of, you know, finding these targets for the special operators to come in and take them out. We were constantly cutting the head off the beast.
But the new head that would grow, the new person that would step up to lead the organization was not as good as the previous and we'd get more intel and unwrap the networks quickly. It was good the president and DOD made the decision to do this. We obviously mourn the loss of this brave, brave man.
But I think we can't be too risk averse when it comes to defeating the threat of ISIS and frankly saving, you know, 70, 90 people in this process.
SCIUTTO: There was a moment yesterday when the White House said, though, it was not the president's decision to OK this mission, it was the defense secretary's because it fell under advise and assist. Did you bristle at all when you heard that?
KINZINGER: A little bit. Maybe the president didn't specifically push the button or pull the trigger on this mission. He obviously has people under him for a reason. But the president should take ownership. It's his mission.
And so I think at the end of the day it's the old buck stops here. And I would like to see the president come forward and say we mourn the loss of this person, this was the right thing to do. And if we find ourselves faced with this again, we'll do it again.
SCIUTTO: Final thing, they went in to rescue Kurdish hostages that they were believed were there. That's why Kurdish commandos were in the lead. They get there it was actually Iraqi security forces, some Iraqi civilians and also actually ISIS fighters who had been accused of spying. And they were going to be executed as well. You're risking your most elite force but it appears intel was wrong.
KINZINGER: And that's why I think the intel is very important. This is a piece that we've got to do better at and that means human intelligence, which we don't have a lot of. But look, these men of Delta Force or any of these other Special Forces, special operations group, they are trained well to do this.
They're very good at this and you'll have an unfortunate situation where a man was killed, but I'll tell you I guarantee if we could have shown up on that bat battlefield and watched them, they would have performed marvelously.
We want to use them sparingly, but when we use them we have to unleash the beast.
SCIUTTO: Briefly before we go, is this happening more than Americans realize? These kinds of ground operations like this?
KINZINGER: It's hard to tell. I don't know of any besides what we hear about. But look, there's always a, you know, CIA aspect of what's going on, always special operations. But at the end of the day, look, we trust the president.
We trust these people to do the best to execute this mission. And I frankly think it needs to be bigger and bolder if we're going to defeat this enemy.
SCIUTTO: Bigger and bolder on the ground?
KINZINGER: I think we're going to have to have a force on the ground, more direct action missions, but nobody's talking about 200,000 troops in the Middle East. I don't think we need it.
SCIUTTO: Congressman Kinzinger, thanks very much.
KINZINGER: You bet. Thanks.
SCIUTTO: In our Sports Lead, shocking allegations that a Louisville coach paid for sex and parties with strippers for players and recruits. Now just minutes ago a surprise resignation.
Plus, wind's picking up on the Mexican coast. First signs of Hurricane Patricia as it approaches. We'll go live there right after this.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Our Sports Lead now, the former assistant coach at the center of the University of Louisville sex allegations has now resigned.
This comes after a former escort made claims that Andre McGee paid for strippers to attend dozens of parties at a dorm between 2010 and 2014.
The university has one of the largest and best known college basketball programs in the country led by an iconic head coach. CNN sports anchor, Andy Scholes has the story -- Andy.
ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Jim, hall of fame coach, Rick Patino, denies knowing anything about the alleged sex parties that former self-described escort, Katina Powell, says went on at a campus dorm.
The University of Louisville and the NCAA are now both investigating the program. And Patino and the Cardinals could be in for some severe penalties.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SCHOLES (voice-over): The University of Louisville is one of the most successful college basketball programs in the country. They won a national championship in 2013, but now the program has a dark cloud hanging over it.
In a new book titled "Breaking Cardinal Rules, Basketball and The Escort Queen," Katina Powell, gives the sorted details of more than 20 different recruiting parties that took place at the athletic dorm between 2010 and 2014.
[16:50:04] On ESPN's "Outside The Lines," Powell said former Louisville Graduate Assistant Coach Andre McGee would pay her to bring strippers to the parties and in some cases the dancers, including Powell's own daughters would have sex with the recruits.
KATINA POWELL: He would start the music and usually girls would come out one by one and dance for the recruit. He'd ask me if there's any girls that want to make extra money, pretty much side deal with the players. And I was like I'll ask. So I asked the girls, you know, anybody want to make extra money and their eyes just lit up like, well, yes.
SCHOLES: Powell says she would even have sex with the recruits' parents and guardians in order to get players to sign with the school. On "Outside The Lines" Powell said it's hard to believe that Patino didn't know what was going on.
POWELL: Four years, a boat load of recruits, a boat load of dances, loud music, alcohol, security, cameras, basketball players who came in at will. You got players that are so loyal to Patino, who wouldn't go back and be like, we got dancers and sex and all that going on. My thing is how could he not know?
SCHOLES: At Louisville's tipoff luncheon, Coach Patino, said he knew nothing about the allegations, but he would get to the bottom of it.
RICK PATINO, LOUISVILLE BASKETBALL HEAD COACH: If there was any wrongdoing, it's a big if, and people have to pay for their crimes, and that's an if, I hope those ifs are not true because that building means a great deal to me.
SCHOLES: Patino has since said he has no plans to step down. In a public letter to fans he said, quote, "I will not resign and let you down. Someday I will walk away celebration of many memorable years. But that time is not now."
While the allegations at Louisville are shocking, former Blue Chip recruit, Jalen Rose who ended up signing with Michigan says this type of activity is not uncommon on recruiting trips.
JALEN ROSE, FORMER COLLEGE AND NBA PLAYER (via telephone): What you see at a bachelor or bachelorette party is what happens on a recruiting visit. And as a 17-year-old kid first off if I'm not getting laid, I'm not coming. I'm not signing.
SCHOLES: Coach Patino has called for Andre McGee to come out and tell the truth. So far McGee has declined to comment on the allegations, but his attorney says they are untrue.
SCHOLES: Jim, the big question remains if the allegations are true, where was the money for all of this coming from?
SCIUTTO: And over so many years, Andy Scholes, thanks very much.
Back to our top story now, a monster storm, Hurricane Patricia Category 5 about to hit Mexico with 200-mile-an-hour winds and pounding rain. Meteorologists say it is the strongest hurricane ever recorded.
Let's get right back to CNN's Martin Savidge. He is live in Puerto Vallarta right in the path of this storm. So, Marty, as it gets closer what conditions are you seeing on the ground there? Are they changing?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are. You can feel it and it's maybe not in the way you can see on camera. The rain is definitely intensifying. You can feel the temperature of the air has dropped. The wind is starting to pick up. And all indications are that something's coming this way.
The streets out here absolutely deserted. This would normally be prime party time Friday in Puerto Vallarta, but no, everything's closed. The major hotels have been evacuated.
Let's show you a camera. This is important to know because Hurricane Patricia is in between these two points. In other words Puerto Vallarta and where you're looking at now. The fear was the storm is going to make a direct hit in that area.
Hopefully that is not going to happen. This storm is very powerful, but not really big. Think of it as kind of a 20-mile-wide F-4, F-5 category tornado and you're talking winds that are just horrific.
So the conditions are going to continue to worsen here for throughout the evening and into the nighttime hours. But it should go quickly away. But people here you can tell are really scared of this one and rightfully so -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: No question, a 20-mile-wide tornado. Martin Savidge right in the middle of it for us.
Still ahead on THE LEAD, the forgotten American campaign to air drop beavers into Idaho. We'll be back before you can say, wait, what'd he say?
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Our Money Lead now, Bill Gates is known for many things, but he may no longer be the richest person in the world, at least depending on who you ask. Bloomberg and Forbes both track the top moneymakers.
While Gates still holds the top according to Bloomberg, Forbes says Zara founder, Amancio Ortega, is actually the new number one, but it's been a great year for Amazon's Jeff Bezos as well.
After its stock soared yesterday, Bezos climbed to third richest spot in the U.S. The surge bumped Bezos' overall wealth by almost $5 billion overnight. Not so bad.
Turning to our Buried Lead now, it's not quite pigs flying but beavers parachuting. Close enough, right? Footage once thought lost for decades has been unearthed and released back in the 1940s and '50s certain parts of Idaho were once overrun with beavers.
So the State Department of Fish and Game came up with an idea, the relocation, they were trapped in boxes, loaded up into planes, and well, just listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The plane makes a careful approach, ready for the drop. Now into the air and down they swing. Down to the ground near a stream or a lake. The box opens and the most unusual and novel trip ends for Mr. Beaver.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Mr. Parabeaver. All beavers believed to have survived that. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jim Sciutto in for Jake today. I'm going to turn you over to Wolf Blitzer. As always he's in "THE SITUATION ROOM."