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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview With Presidential Candidate Donald Trump; Interview with Governor Terry Branstad of Iowa; Sean Penn Breaks Silence on Visit with "El Chapo". Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired January 15, 2016 - 16:00   ET

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


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: To paraphrase "Field of Dreams," is this heaven? No, it's Iowa, where I just sat down with Donald Trump.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Opening a rift as wide as Niagara Falls. The gloves come off between New York's Donald Trump and Canadian-born Ted Cruz. I will ask the GOP front-runner whether he came out of last night's debate even more powerful.

They were told to act happy -- brand-new, potentially aggravating details on the capture of 10 U.S. sailors and the making of an Iranian propaganda video that followed. It turns out everything wasn't as hunky-dory as it seemed.

[16:00:05]

Plus, the Sean Penn interview about his interview with a sociopath drug lord on the run, why he says it was not about himself at all.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper coming to you from Iowa, where I just sat down with Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump. We will bring you some of that interview in just a second, but, first, some breaking news, another brutal day on Wall Street.

Let's go right to CNN's Alison Kosik in New York, who has all the latest -- Alison.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, on a very busy trading floor here at the New York Stock Exchange, we have just heard the closing bell ring and stocks got crushed today. No doubt fear is ruling Wall Street these days.

During today's session, we saw the Dow and the S&P 500 fall below levels that we haven't seen since August. The Dow -- you look at the year so far, the Dow has fallen already 8 percent for the year. And we're only about two weeks into 2016. Part of the reason we're seeing this dramatic fall in stocks, oil prices, oil prices also falling, hitting 12-year lows, falling below $30 a barrel.

The particular move in oil today happening because sanctions against Iran are expected to be lifted, and that's expected to unleash more oil into an already oversaturated market, where you see an oversupply of oil and less demand.

The crash in oil is happening so much and so fast, it's really spooking investors. And the thing is it's not just oil. China is also spooking investors as well. There are a lot of worries about China's slowing economy and affecting the U.S. The sell-off actually happening today actually started in China, went to Europe and then here to the U.S., even today in the U.S. getting some disappointing data on retail sales, certainly not helping the trade.

Retail sales fell in the crucial month of December. That's the holiday shopping period where retailers hope to make out a win. That didn't happen. Also, a regional manufacturing index falling to a level that we haven't seen since March 2009. That was during the recession. Today, we also saw investors dumping stocks because it is a weekend, and not just a weekend, but a long weekend.

The stock market is closed on Monday, so a lot of times, you don't -- these investors don't want to hold onto stocks, especially when the Chinese markets will be open on Sunday night, Jake.

TAPPER: Thanks.

With just 16 days to go until the first presidential contest of 2016, the Iowa caucuses, Donald Trump had a lot to say when I sat down with him earlier today about the debate and about where the race goes from here.

But, first, let's go to our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, who has all the highlights from last night's debate -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the Iowa caucuses are two-and-a-half weeks away, so most candidates have already done what is a rite of passage in Iowa presidential politics, stopping at a pizza ranch.

But Donald Trump did that for the very first time today, not surprising since this campaign is anything but traditional.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): Energized by a strong debate performance, Donald Trump rallied for votes in the first caucus state Trump-style.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People say, oh, well just say you want to do well in Iowa. Just say you want to do well. That way, at the end, if you come in second or third or fourth, you know, you can say -- I said I want to win Iowa.

BASH: He is neck and neck in Iowa with Ted Cruz, a political death match that spilled onto the South Carolina debate stage last night.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald's mother was born in Scotland. She was naturalized. Now, Donald...

TRUMP: But I was born here.

CRUZ: ... on the issue -- on the issue of citizenship, Donald...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Big difference.

CRUZ: On the issue of citizenship, Donald, I'm not going to use your mother's birth against you.

TRUMP: OK, good, because it wouldn't work.

BASH: Cruz tried to turn the tables on Trump, who has been questioning the Canadian-born Cruz's eligibility to be president.

CRUZ: Back in September, my friend Donald said that he had had his lawyers look at this from every which way, and there was no issue there.

Since September, the Constitution hasn't changed.

(LAUGHTER)

CRUZ: But the poll numbers have.

NEIL CAVUTO, MODERATOR: Why are you raising this issue now?

TRUMP: Because now he's going a little bit better.

BASH: But Trump got the last word, going after Cruz for disparaging his -- quote -- "New York values," by invoking 9/11.

TRUMP: And we rebuilt downtown Manhattan, and everybody in the world watched. That was a very insulting statement that Ted made.

BASH: For that, Trump got rare backup from New York Democrats, former New York Senator, now Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted, "Just this once, Trump's right. New Yorkers value hard work, diversity, tolerance, resilience and building better lives for our families."

"The New York Daily News" was more blunt, saying, "Drop Dead, Ted," with the Statue of Liberty giving him the one-finger salute. As for Trump and Cruz, their scuffles would be standard fare had competitors not been embracing only months ago.

[16:05:11]

CRUZ: Donald Trump has been tremendously beneficial to our campaign.

BASH (on camera): Why do you have this bromance?

TRUMP: Well, it is a little bit of a romance. I like him. He likes me. He's backed me 100 percent.

BASH (voice-over): That was then. This is now. TRUMP: So, I guess the bromance is over.

BASH (on camera): Do you see Ted Cruz as your biggest competition right now?

TRUMP: No, not really.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, a former presidential candidate who Trump sparred with a lot, Lindsey Graham, threw his support behind Jeb Bush today

Graham, who is the senior senator from South Carolina, which, of course, holds the first-in-the-South primary, said he believes Bush is best prepared to be commander in chief. He also said he likes Marco Rubio too, but at age 44, he's just not ready to be president -- Jake.

TAPPER: Thanks.

Earlier today, I sat down with Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump to talk about last night's debate and to talk about the Ted Cruz challenge to the New Yorker at the top of the heap.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: You defended New Yorkers after Senator Cruz said that you embodied New York values.

You were insulted. Governor Cuomo said he was insulted. Some New York pundits, including from FOX and FOX Business Channel, said they were insulted.

There are some observers out there who think that when Ted Cruz talks about New York values, he's invoking something else. He's talking about, in their view, ethnics, Jews. What do you think he means?

TRUMP: I'm not sure that he knows what he means, to be honest with you. I thought it was very -- he should have never said it. I thought it was very insulting to a lot of people, including Maria, who was asking the question. I thought it was very, very insulting.

And I immediately thought of the World Trade Center and the bravery of New Yorkers and the genius of New Yorkers to be able to take that whole section and rebuild after the tragedy, the worst thing that ever happened to our nation in terms of an attack, worse than Pearl Harbor, because Pearl Harbor, they were attacking the military. Here, they are attacking civilians having breakfast and being in offices.

And, frankly, you had two 110-story buildings fall down, thousands of lives, death, and the smell of death, I mean, the smell of death. And to see what happened, that resurrection, that whole thing take place, New York has gotten tremendous credit for it. And I thought it was disgraceful that he brought that up.

TAPPER: What -- do you think he was going after something, a dog whistle of sorts, talking about ethnic people? TRUMP: Well, probably you would have to ask him. I don't know what he was thinking about. I think he came across badly.

I mean, some people gave him pretty good reviews in the debate. I think he came across very strident and not a nice person. And people don't like that.

TAPPER: The issue about his constitutional eligibility for the office, he brought up an extreme example, an extreme interpretation of natural-born citizen, one that wouldn't even allow Marco Rubio to be president.

I know that you have been talking about this challenge as something that legal experts and Democrats might invoke. What do you think, though? Do you think that Ted Cruz is constitutionally eligible? Do you think Marco Rubio is?

TRUMP: So, it's a very, very simple subject in one way.

When I say simple, it's simple in that it is a cloud. You can't have a cloud. You can't pick a candidate that may have a 5 percent, 10 percent, 25 percent chance. By the way, since that happened, there have been lawsuits filed. You know that. It's been filed.

And I said lawsuits are going to be filed. The Democrats are going to file lawsuits. They filed lawsuits.

Now, he's got a problem. He was born in Canada. He was a Canadian citizen until 15 months ago, I mean, if you can believe that.

TAPPER: He had dual citizenship, yes.

TRUMP: Yes, but he was a Canadian citizen. And 15 months ago...

TAPPER: He says he didn't know.

TRUMP: He didn't know? Well, he didn't know about his financial papers either. You know, how are you going to be about president if you don't know about a million-dollar loan from Goldman Sachs, and you said it's something you don't know about?

Now he doesn't know that he was a Canadian citizen? I mean, that's, in a way, maybe worse than all of the other things we're talking about.

TAPPER: Do you think that cloud...

TRUMP: But here's the thing.

We have a man that didn't know about his financial statement. We had a man who signed an agreement saying that you know everything. You know, he's signing -- you're signing an oath, and he didn't put it down.

TAPPER: The FEC papers, yes, filing.

TRUMP: A very serious thing.

I have almost 100 pages, almost 100 pages, and billions and billions of dollars that I'm talking about, and I'm signing. And he's got a very small amount of money, relatively, and he makes a mistake. I don't know. That's a pretty big mistake to make.

TAPPER: Lindsey Graham, former presidential candidate, endorsing Jeb Bush. Your response.

TRUMP: Jeb has no chance. Jeb has no chance. Jeb is spending so much money.

Think of it. He spent $69 million. I spent nothing. He's at the bottom of the pack. I'm at the top of the pack. That's what we need for our country. Now, I'm going to start spending money, really, for two reasons. Number one, I feel guilty, because I'm $35 million...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: You don't mean literally nothing, just not compared to $69 million.

[16:10:02]

TRUMP: No, no. Well, no, like, practically nothing.

But if you look at it, he spent $69 million, and much more than that, I think. He's much higher than that. He's at the bottom of the pack. And I spent practically nothing.

Now, I'm going to start spending money for two reasons. Number one, I feel guilty, because I'm $35 million under budget. I do. I actually feel guilty.

TAPPER: Right.

TRUMP: Number two, I don't want to take a chance. OK? So we're starting -- as you noticed, we started an ad campaign.

TAPPER: TV ads, yes.

TRUMP: I think it's good. Let's see what happens. But -- so...

TAPPER: What about Lindsey Graham endorsing...

TRUMP: Well, I think it's incredible.

First of all, Lindsey Graham got out with zero. He had zero. He had nothing. That's number one. So, he's not going to get any voters. And I think it's a very bad thing for Lindsey Graham. And I think it shows -- I mean, why is he endorsing? Jeb has no chance.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: You can see much more of my interview with Donald Trump this Sunday on "STATE OF THE UNION" at 9:00 a.m. and Noon eastern. Coming up next, I sit down with the governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad.

He will give us the inside scoop on what he sees on the ground here, which candidate has the best ground game? Which candidate has the most momentum?

That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:15:14] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper in Iowa, the center of the political universe where in just 16 days voters will actually start this process and the decision will be in their hands.

Just a few minutes ago, I sat down with the longest serving governor in American history, Terry Branstad, who gave us the inside scoop on who he thinks has the best ground game and who he thinks has momentum.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Governor, thanks so much for doing this. Really appreciate it.

GOV. TERRY BRANSTAD (R), IOWA: You're welcome, Jake. Welcome to Iowa and to the Machine Shed Restaurant.

TAPPER: From what you see on the ground, which Republican do you think -- which campaign has the best ground game? Because I don't need to tell you, that is so important in terms of getting people to the caucuses and actually winning.

BRANSTAD: Got to probably say Cruz has the best ground game at this point in time. Every caucus we've gone through, a lot of people make their decision up late, so it all depends upon who finishes strong. At this point in the campaign, last time, very few people were predicting Santorum would win Iowa. And he did.

TAPPER: Right, he did.

BRANSTAD: And Huckabee came from behind to win the time before. So, we'll see what happens. I know that Huckabee's already been to all 99 counties, and he's putting an extraordinary effort in here at the end. You know, Trump is getting huge crowds. And a lot of people are saying the question is, can he turn those turnouts at his rallies into people that actually go to the caucuses? But I think a lot of these people are really committed.

TAPPER: Do you think that the people that are turning out to see Trump will actually devote the hours necessary to caucus for him?

BRANSTAD: Well, I think he's doing some training sessions and making extraordinary efforts. So, I wouldn't discount the fact that he could bring a lot of new people in, just as we saw in the Democratic side, Obama did eight years ago. And this time as I travel the state I see a lot of Bernie Sanders bumper stickers and yard signs.

TAPPER: Really?

BRANSTAD: So I think on the Democratic side I think sanders has real momentum. On the Republican side, you know, Cruz was ahead, but his stand on renewable fuels I think could really hurt him here.

TAPPER: Ethanol.

BRANSTAD: Yes, ethanol. Wind energy, he's opposed to the wind energy tax credit. He's opposed to ethanol and biodiesel. And we have tens of thousands of jobs and a lot of farm income dependent on that. And I know there's a lot of people working in those ethanol refineries and farmers that are not going to vote for somebody that opposes something that's so important to our state's economy.

TAPPER: Let me ask you a question, every four years I come here, I've loved coming here. But every four years I get asked the same question from people who are not from Iowa, why does Iowa get such a strong voice in this? The last two Republican caucuses, Santorum and Huckabee, won and they didn't go onto get the nomination. Not even really close.

BRANSTAD: Yes, but the last two presidents got their start in Iowa. Both Barack Obama and George W. Bush. So don't discount Iowa.

TAPPER: Your fellow governor, Nikki Haley from South Carolina, did the response to the president's State of the Union address. One of the things she did was take on Donald Trump not by name but did say she was talking about him when she said voters should resist the, quote, "siren call of the angriest voices". Are you with her on concern about that?

BRANSTAD: Well, first of all, I say I love Nikki Haley. I think she's a great governor.

TAPPER: What did you think about that part of her speech when she talked about the angriest voices in reference to Trump?

BRANSTAD: Well, I think there has to be division for the future as well. In defense of Donald Trump he says let's make America great again. So, he's angry about the mess that we're in, the lack of leadership from the Obama administration in dealing with the Islamic militant threat and the killings that are going on in our country and throughout the world, and also just the financial mess we're in and the lack of respect that America now is getting in the world.

So, I think he's voiced that. And he's really tapped in to a great level of discontent among Americans in the direction the country's going. Iowa's going the right direction. America's going the wrong direction. We need new leadership.

TAPPER: You have a feel for the Democrats in this state as well as the Republicans. You've been re-elected many, many times.

BRANSTAD: Yes. That means a lot of Democrats have voted for me. And I appreciate that too.

TAPPER: Right.

What is it do you think that has Iowa Democrats doubting Hillary Clinton? She's in a very tough race here. She came in third in Iowa in 2008. What is it about her that isn't connecting here?

BRANSTAD: She's not genuine. It's all orchestrated situation.

The way she started her campaign in Iowa, handpicked groups, not taking questions from the media. Bernie Sanders on the other hand has been out there, has made a great impression, he's gone from virtually nowhere. He's building enthusiasm among new caucus goers and young people.

[16:20:02] He's beating her better than two-to-one. I just think the momentum is with him.

If you look at what happened eight years ago, she was the front-runner and she blew it. And I think she's in panic mode at this point.

TAPPER: Governor, thanks so much. Really appreciate it.

BRANSTAD: You're welcome, Jake. Thanks.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Coming up on THE LEAD, Sean Penn talks about his regrets about that "El Chapo" interview. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper in Iowa where in just 16 days voters will actually take over this process and start making their actual picks.

Just a few hours ago I sat down with Republican front-runner Donald Trump. You can see the rest of that interview this Sunday on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION".

But right now, I want to throw it back to my colleague Jim Sciutto in Washington for more of today's breaking news stories -- Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Jake Tapper.

Topping our world lead today, actor Sean Penn breaking his silence about his controversial and/or outrage inducing meeting with the drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

The Academy Award-winning film star telling CBS's "60 Minutes" that he did not lead Mexican authorities to "El Chapo", insisting that the purpose of his visit was to spark a conversation about the U.S. war on drugs, and not to seek his seemingly favorite drug attention.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[16:25:18] SEAN PENN, ACTOR: There is this myth about the visit that we made, my colleagues and I, with "El Chapo", that it led -- that it was as the attorney general in Mexico has quoted, essential to his capture. We had met with him many weeks earlier.

INTERVIEWER: On October 2nd.

PENN: On October 2nd. In a place nowhere near where he was captured.

INTERVIEWER: So as far as you know, you had nothing to do and your visit had nothing to do with his re-capture?

PENN: The things -- here's the things that we know. We know that the Mexican government, they were clearly very humiliated by the notion that someone found him before they did. Well, nobody found him before they did. We didn't -- we're not smarter than the DEA or the Mexican intelligence. We had a contact upon which we were able to facilitate an invitation.

INTERVIEWER: Do you believe that the Mexican government released this in part because they wanted to see you blamed and to put you at risk?

PENN: Yes.

INTERVIEWER: They wanted to encourage the cartel to put you in their crosshairs?

PENN: Yes.

INTERVIEWER: Are you fearful for your life?

PENN: No.

INTERVIEWER: You have said to "The A.P.", and I'm asking you.

PENN: Uh-huh.

INTERVIEWER: You have no regrets?

PENN: I have terrible regret.

INTERVIEWER: What are the regrets?

PENN: I have a regret that the entire discussion about this article ignores its purpose, which was to try to contribute to this discussion about the policy in the war on drugs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Joining me now is Matthew Belloni. He's executive editor at the "Hollywood Reporter".

So, first, Matthew, if I could begin, there have been some -- and not just in my business -- who might say have its own issues who look at this as a Sean Penn vanity project, this interview. How do you -- how do you see it?

MATTHEW BELLONI, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: Well, I think that that's a legitimate argument, but it ignores the fact that Sean Penn has been an activist in addition to an actor for many years now. He's been very involved in Haiti. He's been writing on different subjects. He's just a very curious and kind of worldly guy.

So, yes, there may be a vanity element to this, wow, I get to meet with the most wanted man on the planet. But I think there really is an effort on his part to get this conversation going.

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: I mean, it's one thing to be active in for instance Haiti earthquake relief. I mean, he met a murderous drug kingpin who was being searched for by Mexican authorities. And he sort of went around that process to go meet with him himself. That's different from your typical Hollywood aid project.

BELLONI: It is. But it's certainly got a lot of attention. And I think that, you know, if anyone can recognize the power of attention on the subject it would be a Hollywood actor, he knew that going and talking to this guy -- and at the time he didn't know if he would be captured by the time this article came out. In fact, the plan was to put the article in the magazine and online before he was captured.

So, you know, he knew that it would bring attention to this subject. So I do at least understand the argument that he's making that this was part of a larger effort to get a conversation going on this issue of the war on drugs and the cost of the war on drugs.

SCIUTTO: Let's set aside the moment how you get that conversation going and whether that includes going after a guy who's in hiding here. But let me ask you this, in that Charlie Rose interview he makes a pretty strong and alarming argument, and that is that Mexican authorities are making it up that he helped lead them to "El Chapo" on the idea. And you heard him say it there and Charlie asked him a couple of times, that they almost want to help get a hit out on.

I mean, do you think -- I'm not going to ask you whether you believe if that's true, I'm just going to ask you whether you believe that Sean Penn believes that's actually true?

BELLONI: I don't know how Sean Penn can know that that's true. I mean, he's not a member of the Mexican intelligence group there. He's not a member of the DEA. I don't know how he would know that his appearance there with "El Chapo" did or did not assist their effort to apprehend them. In fact, we've seen reports that "El Chapo" was nearly captured, you know, in the days and weeks after that meeting, suggesting that perhaps it did lead them to where he was and he just managed to escape again.

So, I don't know -- I understand his fear. And I understand, you know, why he wants that message out, but I don't know how he would know that.