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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

New Questions Over Clinton's E-Mails; Trump's New Targets; Official: Istanbul Explosion Was A Bomb; Alaskan Mayor Found Dead Weeks After Election. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired December 1, 2015 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:03]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Also in the batch, an e-mail sent just hours after the attack from Clinton to Diane Reynolds, actually a pseudonym used by her daughter Chelsea, telling her, "Two officers were killed today in Benghazi by an al Qaeda-like group."

In a public statement that same night, Clinton raised the possibility that inflammatory material posted on the Internet, a reference to a video portraying the Muslim Prophet Mohammed, was a precursor to the attack.

Five days later, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice expanded on the inaccurate assessment when asked about reports that Libyan officials had arrested suspects in the attacks.

TAPPER: They're saying that some people involved were from outside the country, that there might have even been al Qaeda ties. What's the latest information?

SUSAN RICE, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: What this began as was a spontaneous, not a premeditated, response to what had transpired in Cairo.

KEILAR: Republicans have seized upon Clinton's e-mails to claim she was covering up the cause of the Benghazi attack for political reasons less than two months from President Obama's reelection.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: You tell the American people one thing, you tell your family an entirely different story. You can live with the protest about a video. That won't hurt you. But a terrorist attack will.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Clinton later explained that the discrepancy is confusion during a chaotic time.

The fog of war is what she called it back in October. Republicans, though, Jake, say that she was lying to protect the administration's narrative that terrorists were on the run right before the president's reelection. TAPPER: That's the second time this narrative of terrorists on the

run have come up during the show. Brianna Keilar, thanks so much.

In our politics lead, it not something you generally hear on the campaign trail, a candidate talking about his own romantic life, sex life, if you will. But rising Republican Ted Cruz, he did just that. What did he say? That's next.

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[16:35:54]

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

We're going to stay with our politics lead. It's just two months until Iowa voters go to the caucuses and pick their nominees. A lot could change in that time. Republican front-runner Donald Trump has stayed on top this long, in part by attacking or counterattacking any rival who threatens him in the polls. And now the race may be shifting. Trump maybe has some new targets.

CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny is live for us from Waterville Valley, New Hampshire, where Donald Trump will hold a rally this evening.

Jeff, Trump is coming to New Hampshire in the wake of a big endorsement coup for Chris Christie.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, that's absolutely right.

Chris Christie won the coveted endorsement from "The New Hampshire Union Leader" the key newspaper here, and that's put him in Trump's crosshairs. But with 61 days to go before Iowa voting begins, the field is increasingly Trump and the rest of the Republicans. But the rest of the Republicans are getting restless. And Ted Cruz is trying to break out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY (voice-over): Donald Trump is urging his rivals to bring it on.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So far, now, let's see, Christie hasn't hit me yet. He will. At some point, Rubio's got to hit me.

ZELENY: Bravado from the Republican front-runner, exactly two months before the Iowa caucuses kick off the 2016 campaign.

TRUMP: Even, I think, Cruz is going to have to hit me, because he's a nice guy.

ZELENY: After defending Trump for months, Texas Senator Ted Cruz is suddenly on the rise and may not be a nice guy in Trump's eyes much longer. TRUMP: He's been so supportive. But at some point, he's going to

have to hit me, right? It's going to be a sad day, but we will hit back, I promise.

ZELENY: Hitting back has become a Trump trademark. Few Republicans have escaped his buzz saw. Cruz is running neck and neck with Trump in one Iowa poll and already making a bold prediction.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me be very clear. I don't believe Donald Trump is going to be our nominee. I don't believe he's going to be our president.

ZELENY: Cruz appears to be taking a page from Trump's playbook, making attention-grabbing comments of his own. Asked about birth control in Iowa, Cruz says he knows of no conservatives who flat-out oppose contraception. He said he and his wife do not, sharing they were happy they had two girls, not 17.

CRUZ: Last I checked, we don't have a rubber shortage in America. Like, look, when I was in college, we had a machine in the bathroom, you put 50 cents in and voila.

ZELENY: But many religious organizations are opposed to birth control. He also told radio host Hugh Hewitt Democrats commit more violent crimes in America.

CRUZ: He's the simple and undeniable fact. The overwhelming majority of violent criminals are Democrats.

ZELENY: And he took the media to task by reporting the suspect in the Colorado Planned Parenthood shooting reportedly said no more baby parts as he was arrested.

CRUZ: It's reported that he was registered as independent and as a woman and a transgender leftist activist.

ZELENY: Aides said Cruz was trying to make a point against rushing to judgment. But sorting out fact from fiction has become a full-time task in this presidential race. Trump is still standing by his assertion that he saw thousands of Muslims celebrating in New Jersey on 9/11, even though no one has produced video evidence to support that claim.

On CNN's "NEW DAY," former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said small pockets of cheering took place in the city, but he accused Trump of exaggerating his claims.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Let him deal with it. Let him explain to people. Let him show the evidence of it. If it shows up, it will corroborate him. If it doesn't show up, it's going to make him look really bad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: But so far, nothing that Trump has said actually has made him look bad. He's campaigning aggressively this week in Georgia last night, here in New Hampshire today. He's off to Virginia, then North Carolina and then Iowa, one of his busiest weeks yet.

But, Jake, I'm reminded by something. As we are two months out from the beginning of the campaign, the beginning of December, four years ago, Newt Gingrich was ahead of Mitt Romney by 17 points in national opinion polls.

[16:40:00]

So, it's a clear sign anything can change. But this year, we're not sure if it will -- Jake.

TAPPER: We're not sure about anything. Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much.

Joining me now to talk about this all, CNN political commentator 2008 Hillary Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle and Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor of "The National Review."

Ramesh, the Iowa caucuses, two months, coming up. Is Donald Trump going to win?

RAMESH PONNURU, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE NATIONAL REVIEW": You know, I -- if I had to bet now, I would say he's not going to win Iowa. I would think he is more likely to win New Hampshire than Iowa. I don't think his profile is all that great for the social conservatives, evangelical conservatives who tend to dominate the Iowa caucuses.

But, as you were just saying, anything can happen. I suspect his people going to be less motivated to actually show up and vote.

TAPPER: Why do you think that?

PONNURU: I just think that he's picking up a bunch of voters who are relatively low propensity, who have all the demographic characteristics associated with not actually showing up to vote and who are alienated from the political process in a way that also is part -- is also correlated with not showing up to vote.

TAPPER: Patti, let's dive a little deeper into some of the things that Mr. Cruz has been saying, when he said to Hugh Hewitt that the overwhelming majority of violent criminals are Democrats.

We reached out to the Cruz campaign, where did you get this from? This is based on a study by researchers at Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania looking at three states, New Mexico, New York, and North Carolina, and in those states, ex-felons overwhelmingly registered to vote as Democrats.

PATTI SOLIS DOYLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I think, as you pointed out, the Iowa caucuses are in 60 days and Ted Cruz is running for the anti-establishment nomination.

And he's running against Donald Trump and Ben Carson. So he's amping it up. We have a very short window before Christmas where people tune out. And the next three weeks, people are going to amp it up. They're going to -- and I predict that this debate that CNN is hosting on December 15, you're going to see a lot of attacks, you're going to see a lot of rhetoric, and Ted Cruz is amping up his rhetoric right now.

TAPPER: Ramesh, the language that we heard from Ted Cruz about sex, and contraception, and condoms, and that could theoretically, even though I know he has very strong support from evangelical and religious voters, that could theoretically turn some of them off, maybe, no?

PONNURU: I'm sure that neither they nor voters at large want to hear him talking about sex all the time. But I think actually he speaks for a lot of conservatives who would say, look, there's been no crisis of contraceptive access in the country, so why are we doing things like forcing the Little Sisters of the Poor to cover it?

That's I think the underlying point he's trying to make.

TAPPER: Patti, let's turn to Clinton's e-mails for one second.

One of the things that struck me is that Clinton, like many politicians, surrounds herself with people who are telling her flattering things all the time.

DOYLE: Brownnosers.

TAPPER: There seemed to be a lot of that, a lot of brown in those e- mails.

But I guess my question is, does she have anyone around her who can say, you know, that's not such a great moment or maybe you should stop linking Wall Street contributions to 9/11 or anything along those lines, or is it just a bunch of people who say, you killed it at the hearing?

DOYLE: Of course she does. You know, she wouldn't be where she is today if she didn't have people who spoke to her honestly and gave her their honest opinion of what happened.

You know, but, like everybody, I mean, who doesn't kiss up to the boss every now and again? And I think that these e-mails are very small window into some of that, but I think when they're sitting with her in a meeting and right after it, they said, look, you did well here, you didn't do so well there, and she takes advice.

TAPPER: I want to bring up something that's very interesting on campuses right now. We see a lot of discussion about protests and political correctness and all sorts of things on college campuses.

Here's Everett Piper. He's the president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University telling students -- quote -- "This is not a day care. It's a university."

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. EVERETT PIPER, PRESIDENT, OKLAHOMA WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY: This is not a safe space. It a place to learn. And sometimes learning is uncomfortable. Sometimes learning involves being confronted when you're wrong and challenged to think higher and better ideas, rather than accepting those self-centered ideas that lead you to narcissism.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: I haven't heard a professor or a university president say something like that in such a way, but certainly there are a lot of people, a lot of alumni who want people like that, presidents, to say this to students out there.

PONNURU: I think so.

And I think that it's worth saying, because there has been this attempt to suggest that, you know, if you're offended, you must be right and whoever is giving you offense needs to stop saying whatever it is that he's saying.

You can't run a college or university or any institution devoted to learning and education on that principle.

TAPPER: Although, Patti, the struggle is, of course, that there are students and professors who want to rid their campuses of, you know, bigotry, racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, et cetera.

[16:45:11] But where's the line between that and people who I don't want anything that makes me feel uncomfortable to be in front of me?

DOYLE: You know, I -- I don't agree, actually. I think a university is a place of learning and a place of being with people from all walks of life, from different ideas, people with different opinions. And I think it's very hard to say we are not going to talk about this or we are not going to express this opinion. I don't think you can do that in America.

TAPPER: Yes, I mean, I want -- my kids are too young for college right now, but I want them to occasionally be offended. It was a vital part of my college career, Dartmouth review and activists on the other side of the aisle offended me all the time and that was part of it.

DOYLE: And to be offended also gives you courage to speak out. If you're offended, you should speak out against it and you should be given opportunities to be able to do that. You do that in college.

TAPPER: Some fogies unanimous and people should be offended. Ramesh, Patti, thank you so much.

CNN, as Patti mentioned, will host the Republican candidates for the next presidential debate. That will be in December 15th, Tuesday, in Las Vegas. It should be exciting.

In our National Lead, police investigating the mysterious death of the mayor of a U.S. capital city, who took office weeks ago. Was foul play involved?

Plus an explosion heard at a subway station in Istanbul, Turkey. Now the mayor there is saying it was a bomb. We will go live to Istanbul coming up.

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[16:51:04]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Our World Lead, dramatic video coming in from Turkey, where officials say this explosion that rocked an intersection near a subway station in Istanbul was a bomb. The blast came at 6:00 p.m. Turkey time, the height of rush hour.

CNN's Ian Lee joins me now from Istanbul. Ian, what are you learning about the investigation at this hour?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the bomb blast was heard across Istanbul, and we are learning from state media, they believe that it was a bomb that exploded. Earlier they thought it could have been a transformer.

If you look at this video, we're also hearing that they believe they know the target of this bomb. Before the blast goes off, you can see a vehicle moving by. They're saying that that was a bus carrying riot police. They believe that is the target.

One person was injured, they suffered minor injuries. Police are also looking for a suspect, but this is a country that is very tense. Last July there was a bombing on the Turkish/Syrian border that killed more than 30 people.

In October, twin suicide bombings killed over 100 people in Ankara. No one has claimed responsibility for tonight's bombing. In the past two bombings ISIS was blamed by the Turkish, very much still ongoing -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Ian Lee in Istanbul, thank you so much.

Also in national news today, a bizarre and tragic mystery as the brand-new mayor of a capital city is found dead in his home just weeks after taking office. Now police are being forced to address rumblings that perhaps the mayor did not die of natural causes.

CNN's Randi Kaye has been working on the story for us. Randi, the speculation that this mayor may have been attacked?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Jake. We are talking about the death of the mayor of Juneau, Alaska, and his death, Jake, was so sudden that, of course, people have a lot of questions. They are speculating about what happened.

But the police are calling those rumors of assault, at least for now, purely speculation. Detectives, we're told, actively investigating the death of Mayor Greg Fisk, who is 70 years old. He was only sworn in five weeks ago.

So they're carefully going over the scene, preserving any evidence that they think might be key to the investigation. But here's what we know as of this hour, it was the mayor's only adult son who found him Monday afternoon in his home, where the mayor lived by himself.

Neighbors described hearing his son screaming about 3:30 in the afternoon, just before he called 911 to report that his father was dead. Juneau police and rescue teams raced to the home but the mayor was pronounced dead there at the scene.

Police, at this point, Jake, have no idea how long the mayor was dead before found. What makes this case more bizarre is that police have already concluded that there was no sign of a break-in and this was not a suicide. The question remains, what happened, Jake?

TAPPER: Have police figured out who the last person to see him or speak to him may have been? Was there any clue of any trouble?

KAYE: Well, they're talking to everybody that knew this mayor, anybody who they can speak to at this hour about it. The deputy mayor, now overseeing things, told Juneau radio station KTOO that she had spoken with Mayor Fisk by phone on Sunday night, hours before he was found dead.

She said that he had asked her to lead Monday's meetings and they talked about the agenda. She described limb as upbeat, he didn't sound strange in any way. That shows he was still alive at some point Sunday night, but it doesn't offer too many clues.

The mayor's son who found him, went to check on him, Jake, after people were having trouble reaching the mayor on Monday. We could have some answers in the next few days. An autopsy has been authorized so that will be underway. Hopefully will bring some answers -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Randi Kaye, thank you so much.

Again, do not miss Randi Kaye's full report this evening on "AC360" at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

Up next, she was married to one of the most wanted men in the world, and now she's free. Let out of jail in a prisoner swap. Why was the ex-wife of the head of ISIS released?

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WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, more U.S. troops in the surprise announcement the Pentagon reveals a special U.S. targeting force is going into Iraq and Syria, its orders, go after ISIS leaders and rescue hostages wherever they are. Is this a further escalation in the ISIS war, despite President Obama's promise not to put more boots on the ground?

Matter of time, chilling words from a man who just left a top U.S. defense intelligence job, he says a Paris-style terror attack here in the United States is just a question of time. His dire warning comes as we learn new details about the Paris terrorists.

Coalition crumbling? Russia's leader may be sending his jets to bomb targets in Syria but President Obama says he personally warned Vladimir Putin against getting involved in Syria's civil war. Will U.S. and Russian differences crack that global coalition against ISIS?

And releasing Mrs. Baghdadi, the ex-wife of the world's most wanted terror leader is freed in a prison swap. Is the U.S. losing a key intelligence conduit in the war on terror?