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Interview with Brian Fallon; Navy Commander Felt Pressured to Apologize on Camera; Official: Iran Nuke Pact To Come As Soon As Tomorrow; CNN Documentary About BASE Jumper, Carl Boenish. Aired 4:30- 5p ET

Aired January 15, 2016 - 16:30   ET


[16:30:00] MATTHEW BELLONI, HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: -- 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.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Matthew Belloni, thanks very much for walking us through. It's really fascinating interview to watch.

Well, Hillary Clinton is telling Bernie Sanders in effect to show her the money. Sanders under pressure to dish details on his universal health care plan as Clinton watches her lead evaporate like it's 2008 all over again. That's coming up right after this.


SCIUTTO: Welcome back to "The Lead" and more in our politics lead now. With just two weeks and two days until Iowa, some heated Democratic in-fighting to match the battles inside the GOP. Hillary Clinton is trying to show just how different she would be as president compared to her Democratic rival Senator Bernie Sanders.

[16:35:00] She is pushing Sanders to explain his grand plan to simplify health care across the country. Would it scrap what is now known as ObamaCare? Would it mean more taxes for you? For now, it means escalating attacks between both candidates certainly.

CNN's Brianna Keilar joining me now. So, Brianna, I was coming close, Hillary Clinton's polling not looking great. She's reaching out to her husband, is this a sign I think desperation but it's a sign that they're -- it's sinking in they may be in trouble?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is something that I think was probably in the works as they got closer and the polls did tighten. But, you know, what's really striking, Jim, is that in the past Bill Clinton has been one of Hillary Clinton's biggest defenders. He's defending her for sure, but he's not as sharp tongued this time. He's really shoring up support for his wife, but he's leaving that criticism of Bernie Sanders to his wife and even his daughter.


KEILAR: Hillary Clinton's so-called not so secret weapon stumping in Iowa today.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: She's the best -- knowing how to find common ground. And then if you make her, to stand her ground.

KEILAR: As the race tightens, Bill Clinton so far is staying away from attacks like the ones he leveled at Barack Obama in 2008, an approach that ultimately backfired.

B. CLINTON: This whole thing is the biggest fairytale I've ever seen.

KEILAR: But Hillary Clinton is unleashing a blitz of criticism calling Sanders plan for a single payer health care system unrealistic and expensive. Today, Clinton accused Sanders of purposely withholding details about how he would give all Americans health coverage through medicare effectively eliminating private insurance companies.

HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Basically, what he's doing is saying, "Hey, we need to start all over again. Let's tear it up and replace it. Details could be forthcoming." And another big national divisive debate which I just don't agree with.

KEILAR: Sanders says he does not want to scrap ObamaCare.

BERNIE SANDERS, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Clearly despite the gains of the Affordable Care Act we have got to build on it and go much further.

KEILAR: Some estimates say Sanders plan will cost taxpayers $15 trillion. So far he hasn't offered specifics on how to pay for it. But he says those details are coming before the Iowa caucuses.

SANDERS: We will come out to that. We'll have an outline for that certainly before Iowa.

KEILAR: With the race in Iowa a dead heat and Sanders commanding a big lead in New Hampshire, he's dismissing Clinton's stepped up rhetoric as sour grapes from her campaign.

SANDERS: They're mad at me today. They're mad at me yesterday, mad at me tomorrow. They're going to be mad at me for a long time.

Will they like me? No.

KEILAR: They're mad because of this.

SANDERS: There are two Democratic visions for regulating Wall Street. One says it's OK to take millions from big banks and then tell them what to do.

KEILAR: An ad highlighting Clinton's ties to Wall Street and his promise to break up the big banks. The Clinton campaign accusing Sanders of breaking his pledge not to run negative ads, a charge Sanders rejects. SANDERS: You're looking at a public official, a U.S. senator, who has won elections and lost elections, been in a number of elections. I have never run a negative radio or television ad in my life.


KEILAR: Maybe these two campaigns will just have to agree to disagree on that, but both candidates are spending some time getting ready for the next debate. That's this Sunday in South Carolina, and everyone is going to be watching to see if this new combative tone that we're seeing between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders finds its way on to the debate stage.

SCIUTTO: Nice fight since I vote parties. Brianna Keilar, thanks very much.

Joining me now is Hillary Clinton's press secretary Brian Fallon. Brian, thanks for joining us today. It's good to have you on.

I want to ask you about a particular argument, Hillary Clinton going after Bernie Sanders saying that his plan threatens ObamaCare. But in reality his plan being a single payer health care system is frankly bigger, more expensive than ObamaCare, which many in the Democratic base wants.

So isn't that in some ways ultimately a failing argument to criticize him for having a bigger idea in effect for health care?

BRIAN FALLON, HILLARY CLINTON'S PRESS SECRETARY: No. Here's where the disagreement is, Jim, on this issue. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders strongly support universal health care as does President Obama. This is something that the Democratic Party has fought for decades. And with the Affordable Care Act we made a tremendous advance towards that goal.

I think that the debate in this campaign right now is over the fact that while Hillary Clinton has put out a detailed proposal on how she would build on the affordable care act, Bernie Sanders has gone around suggesting that he's for a single payer system that he won't put any details out to describe. And so ...

SCIUTTO: So it's not the idea it's that he hasn't given specifics how to get to that goal. That's what you're saying.

FALLON: Well, if he puts forward the details and again this is a signature policy prescription that he has he talks almost every campaign event so it's quite strange two weeks before Iowa he's unwilling to release the details. As Brianna just detailed, it's likely to cost upwards of $15 trillion, and that in turn would necessitate tax increases on middle class households.

[16:40:05] So just in the spirit of a fair exchange and debative ideas the voters of Iowa should have the opportunity to see the impacts that it would have on their tax bills and make a judgment whether they think it's in their best interest or not. SCIUTTO: OK, let's get a little bit to the poll numbers for Hillary Clinton. You heard in Jake Tapper's conversation with Iowa governor Terry Branstad. Granted he's Republican, but he blamed Hillary's slide in the polls on the ground game, it's not genuine, too orchestrated.

The reason I ask is that is a criticism not just from the Republican Party, you've heard it from some inside the Democratic Party as you watch those numbers. What's your answer to that criticism?

FALLON: I just don't think it's true. And we'll see when the Iowa caucuses take place. But I'm confident that the ground operation that we built in Iowa is second to none. We were there earlier than anybody else. It's more intense than anybody else's ground organization. If you sample Democrats in Iowa, they will confirm that they get more phone calls and door knocks from the Clinton campaign than anybody else.

SCIUTTO: But the numbers don't reflect that hard work if the hard work is true. And I know Hillary Clinton called the early polls that the numbers have now dropped off, her support has now dropped off from, she's called them artificial, but it's a momentum game, is it not? And the momentum as you head into Iowa and New Hampshire does not appear to be with your candidate.

FALLON: Well, the race has been pretty consistently tight in both Iowa and New Hampshire, Jim. And this is a natural thing. If you looked at the polling back in April even when the lead was much vaster for Hillary Clinton mostly based on the fact she was a known quantity and had just come off of her tenure as secretary state and not yet viewed in a political context, even back then Democrats were consistently saying they wanted to have a competitive process. They didn't know who would be ...

SCIUTTO: But who wants to see ...

FALLON: ... they didn't know who ...

SCIUTTO: ... who wants to see their numbers drop ...


SCIUTTO: Who wants to see their numbers drop as you get closer to the key beginning primaries?

FALLON: Well, this is a natural tightening that's going to take place whenever you get into the closing weeks and voters pay more attention. We're confident at the end of the day that Des Moines register poll that showed a two-point lead for our campaign showed I think 40 percent of folks are still deciding even those identified as supporting one candidate or the other making up their mind.

And we're confident that in the closing weeks the final consideration for the voters will be who can best take on the Republicans not just in November but as president to get things done in Washington. And I think that the more that that consideration enters into their mind, the more they're likely to side with Hillary Clinton who can get things done. So the high stakes I think will factor into voters decision making in the end.

SCIUTTO: You probably heard last night the Republican candidate Carly Fiorina very critical of Hillary Clinton. Not the only one. But listen to part of her opening remarks. I want to draw attention to this. Have a listen.


CARLY FIORINA, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not a political insider. I haven't spent my lifetime running for office. Unlike another woman in this race, I actually love spending time with my husband.


SCIUTTO: Oouch. I mean, what else can you say? But let's be honest, it's likely a taste of things to come if she makes the general election. How do you handle those weaknesses? How do you handle those arguments? We've already seen people dredging up, you know, the history from the early to late '90s, Monica Lewinsky, et cetera. How do you handle that?

FALLON: Well, I think all that comment last night by Carly Fiorina speaks to is the fact that she's very -- been struggling now for a couple months ever since that first debate.

SCIUTTO: But she's not the only one to be bringing it up.

FALLON: No, but she's -- it's something that Donald Trump has now caused a race into the gutter from all the Republican candidates and talking about. I think it's crass. I think the voters recoil at it. I think it was something tried throughout the '90s and didn't work. President Clinton today in his post presidency is as popular as ever. So I think they can try it, but I think it will be a dead end.

SCIUTTO: Brian Fallon, we appreciate you taking the hard questions. Thanks for coming on.

FALLON: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Forced to smile, the 10 American sailors detained by Iran were told to act happy. What would have happened if they didn't go along with those orders?

Plus, it is arguably the most dangerous sport there is. So why do so many BASE jumpers risk their lives to do it? We find out in a sneak peek at a new and exciting CNN film.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: In our World Lead now, new details today about those disturbing, some in the military have told me humiliating, images of American sailors detained by Iran. We are learning these sailors may have been told to look happy and their commanding officer may have been pressured to apologize, feeling he had no choice but to say that he and his crew made a mistake.

This new information comes days, perhaps hours before the nuclear deal with Iran could take effect giving the country access to tens of billions of dollars in frozen assets and much more.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): Tonight, new information that the capture of ten U.S. sailors by Iran was at times stage managed by their captors. The Americans told to smile and look happy while they were being filmed. Their commander, U.S. military officials tell CNN, felt he had no choice but to apologize for entering Iranian waters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a mistake. That was our fault and we apologize for our mistake.

SCIUTTO: Despite images that many inside and outside the military find humiliating, administration officials continue to argue that the final result, the sailors' release within less than 24 hours was a successful end to what could have been a far worse situation.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think there's any reason for anybody to be embarrassed. If we followed the advice of some of the Republican critics or the administration, you know, we'd probably be in a bloody war with Iran right now over our sailors.

SCIUTTO: The images stand in sharp contrast to the expected implementation of a nuclear agreement with Iran, which U.S. officials tell CNN could come as soon as this weekend.

Implementation means the end of punishing economic sanctions. Iran will be able to sell its oil and gas more freely on international markets, European and American firms will have many restrictions on doing business with Iran lifting.

[16:50:01]And Iran will regain access to some $150 billion in assets frozen overseas, though, U.S. Treasury officials estimate Tehran will only net about a third of that amount.

The administration contends it is all worth it to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and that it will continue to closely monitor Iran's compliance.

EARNEST: We do have the ability if we detect that Iran is not fulfilling all of their commitments that we can snap sanctions back into place.

SCIUTTO: Still, critics say that recent steps by Iran including test firing ballistic missiles in violation of U.N. resolutions show why the U.S. should be wary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They took ten American sailors and they were supporting the genocidal regime in Syria. So it's deep concern that this regime is going to get hundreds of billions of dollars to support violence and future terrorism.


SCIUTTO: It's a bird, it's a plane, no, it's some really crazy people. Look at the man who strapped a video camera to his back and jumped off a cliff to create one of the most dangerous and deadly sports in the world.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. In our Pop Lead now, why would any perfectly sane person parachute off a cliff? That's what people asked BASE jumper, Carl Boenish, all the time. Now, a new fascinating film makes its TV debut on CNN this Sunday is exploring the life of the man considered to be the father of BASE jumping.

Check out these daredevils. Every week about 1,000 of these people jump off from buildings, antennas, spans and earth, hence the acronym BASE for BASE jumping, an incredible rush, but it's also extremely dangerous.

CNN correspondent, Martin Savidge, joins me now with a look at the evolution of the world's deadliest sport. Martin, explain to us why would someone do this when there's clearly so much risk?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Jim. Good to see you. I mean, this is the question I asked BASE jumpers over and over. Why in the world do you do it? Two reasons, you're either crazy or an adrenaline junkie, but it turns out there's a lot more to it than that.



SAVIDGE (voice-over): BASE jumping is the world's most extreme and forbidden sport. No wonder Hollywood loves it. In the newly released Warner Brothers movie "Point Break," six BASE jumpers jumped 60 times to create one amazing scene.

JEB CORLISS, "POINT BREAK" TECHNICAL ADVISOR: It doesn't look real, but it's almost too spectacular, but it is all real. When you see a person a foot off the ground, it's because they're a foot off the ground.

SAVIDGE: It's a long way for the late 70s when the father of BASE jumping, Carl Boenish, strapped a movie camera to his head and dove from a cliff in Yosemite.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Back in the day, you know, you jumped this on your head.

SAVIDGE: Three things are fueling the sports popularity, two of which had nothing to do with jumping. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now we can put forward facing. You can do what's called the unicorn cam where there's a pole you can film your head and body flying through stuff.

SAVIDGE: Relatively inexpensive mini-cameras such as GoPros allow BASE jumpers to capture their stunning death defying stunts. And thanks to the internet they share their video with the world.

BASE jumping's thirdly forward, the wing suit. The wing suit gives modern BASE jumpers much more maneuverability transforming what was once falling into flying.

JIMMY POUCHERT, BASE JUMPER: You're flying at 100 miles an hour down through the trees and over the ground and out into the beautiful Swiss valley, there's nothing like it.

SAVIDGE: All three advances have made more people want to take up the sport. And as its popularity rises, so does the death toll in what was already perhaps the world's deadliest pastime.

DR. OMER MEI-DAN, ORTHOPEDIC SURGEON, UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO: Almost eight or nine out of ten BASE jumpers who would die in BASE jumping would be -- that would be associated with wings of flight.

SAVIDGE (on camera): Adrenaline isn't the only thing propelling some BASE jumpers. There's also the lure of big money from corporate sponsors.

(voice-over): Companies like Brightling and Red Bull pay these extreme athletes to push the envelope helping to fund jet propelled wingsuits. And perhaps the most extreme jump of all, from the edge of space.

Carl Boenish who started all of this died on a jump in 1984, but BASE jumper, Jimmy Pouchert, thinks he'd be thrilled to see how the sport he started has taken off.

POUCHERT: Carl would love where it's gone. I think he'd also be very interested to see how many people are in it and how many people want to do it.

SAVIDGE: Those who do it say BASE jumping is not about living life on the edge, but going over it.


SAVIDGE: One of the fascinating things when you talk to these BASE jumpers, they notice and say to you, it's the peacefulness of it, which is something I never thought about. But they say, look, you jump out of a plane, there's wind, noise. Jump off a cliff at least for the first five or six seconds absolutely silent. And they say it's almost spiritual -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, those images are just incredible. Just quickly, is this something really anybody can do?

SAVIDGE: No, no.

SCIUTTO: You just buy a wingsuit and jump?

SAVIDGE: No, no not by any means. You need years of training, you should do at least 100 to 200 sky dives before you consider BASE jumping. Those people you see have years of experience, not a weekend warrior thing.

SCIUTTO: Important to know. Martin Savidge, thank you. You can watch this incredible film "Sunshine Superman" this Sunday at 9:00 Eastern Time right here on CNN. I'm going to be watching for sure.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jim Sciutto in today for Jake Tapper. I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer where you normally find him, in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, mid-air collision, a desperate search underway right now for any trace of survivors after --