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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Interview With Kentucky Senator Rand Paul; Virus Spreading; Water Crisis; Trump Skipping Debate; Trump Voters: Anti-Obama, Anti- Immigrant; One Killed, Several Arrested by Police and FBI. Aired 4- 4:30p ET
Aired January 27, 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: Only Donald Trump can pass off center stage and still command all the attention.
THE LEAD starts right now.
It's a move that should be political suicide, taking his ball and going home just days before the Iowa caucuses, which is exactly why skipping tomorrow night's debate will probably hurt everyone except for Donald Trump.
Also, Flint, Michigan's, own Michael Moore, we will talk to him about the bizarre 2016 race and the tragedy of kids being poisoned by the water in his hometown. Why does he say this is a racist crime?
Plus, new fears about a virus possibly passed from mother to baby. The unknowns just as terrifying as the very visible birth defects. How can pregnant mothers protect themselves and their future children?
Hello, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper, five days until Iowa.
And we begin with our politics lead, of course. Just as it seemed Donald Trump was finally making peace with the establishment, the billionaire businessman declared war again, this time with the premier conservative media organization in the nation. Trump is refusing to participate in the FOX News Channel debate, saying instead he will host his own event in Iowa for veterans.
Not surprisingly, he has generated a surge of coverage for himself in these tension-filled days before the first votes are cast.
CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is live in West Des Moines, Iowa, covering Ted Cruz.
Sunlen, how are Cruz and the other candidates responding to this event?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, tonight one campaign telling me they feel like the state of the race is now in limbo and that's largely reflective in the candidates' responses we have seen today, including from Ted Cruz, now challenging Donald Trump to a mano a mano debate between just the two of them.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think they could do a lot better than Megyn Kelly.
SERFATY (voice-over): The GOP front-runner going rogue.
TRUMP: I probably won't bother doing the debate. I see they picked me as number one, not only number one, but number one by far. But, probably, I won't be doing the debate.
SERFATY: Claiming unfair treatment from FOX News and its moderator Megyn Kelly, the Trump campaign saying no bluffing here, Trump will not be at Thursday's debate.
TRUMP: I said bye-bye.
SERFATY: The final straw, according to Trump, a tart statement from FOX News issued after Trump expressed concern about Kelly's bias against him including this snarky dig -- quote -- "We learned from a secret channel that the ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president. A nefarious source tells us that Trump has his own secret plan to replace the Cabinet with his Twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings."
Trump now pushing ahead with his only counterprogramming.
TRUMP: We will have our own event.
SERFATY: What he claims will be a televised event in Des Moines, Iowa, to raise money for wounded veterans, the same night in the same city as the debate.
FOX News saying they can't give in to "terrorizations towards any of our employees," insisting Trump is still welcome at the debate, but he can't dictate the moderators or the questions.
TRUMP: I don't know what games Roger Ailes is playing.
SERFATY: The Trump campaign saying no dice.
COREY LEWANDOWSKI, TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: My guess is that people who bought advertising time thinking that Donald Trump was going to be on that stage are going to be very disappointed when nobody decides to watch that GOP debate tomorrow night.
SERFATY: And Trump returning even more fire, calling the network a disgrace to good broadcasting and journalism and renewing his taunts of Megyn Kelly, tweeting that he refuses to call Megyn Kelly a bimbo, because that would not be politically correct. "Instead, I will only call her a lightweight reporter."
SERFATY: Ted Cruz looking to turn the feud to his advantage, sending out a fund-raising e-mail to supporters depicting Trump as money- loving Scrooge McDuck for ducking out on the debate.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Apparently, Megyn Kelly is really, really scary. Donald is a fragile soul.
SERFATY: And issuing this challenge to his rival in front of Iowa voters.
CRUZ: If he's unwilling to stand on the debate stage with the other candidates, then I would like to invite Donald right now to engage in a one-on-one debate with me any time between now and the Iowa caucuses.
SERFATY: And the Trump campaign not taking the bait on that one. They say that they will only debate Ted Cruz alone if it comes down to a two-man race -- Jake.
TAPPER: Sunlen Serfaty, thanks so much.
Joining me now, the candidate who boycotted the last Republican debate, Kentucky Senator and Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul, who didn't go for the FOX Business Channel's undercard debate, a different situation.
Senator Paul, thanks for being here. Appreciate it.
You are going to be back on the main stage tomorrow's debate. What do you think of Donald Trump, the front-runner, deciding to skip it?
SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, you know, most of his life, he's been a Democrat. Maybe he will go to the Democrat debate instead.
He's somewhat mercurial and unpredictable, so maybe he will show up at the Democrat debate. No, but, for me, it's a double win. We will be on the main stage talking about ideas. And I think I have a unique presentation, a unique place in the party, and that I'm one of the few Republicans on the stage, if not the only one, that says that the government shouldn't be collecting all of our phone records, our credit card statements, and that we do have a right to be left alone.
I think that's an important voice. I think I'm also a voice of reason when it comes to foreign policy in the sense that I don't think that making the sand glow or carpet-bombing in the Middle East will make us safer. And, in fact, I think we may create more terrorists than we kill.
TAPPER: I don't want to ask too much about your prediction for tomorrow night, but do you think it's better off that he's not on the stage? Will that change -- obviously, you will have a little bit more time, but will it change the tenor at all?
PAUL: I think Donald Trump's main addition that he's brought to the debate this year has been silliness, bombast, and empty rhetoric and calling people names.
And so I don't think he's added much of substance the whole year. So, I don't think that he will be missed. In fact, I really don't think Donald Trump is a conservative. I think he's a fake and a charlatan. And really what he presents is not conservative at all. He says, give me power. He wants power, but I don't think he understands that most of us who are conservatives want to limit how much power is in Washington, and we want a smaller government.
From what I hear from Donald is just he wants the reins of power. He doesn't necessarily want to lessen the amount of power in Washington.
TAPPER: Ted Cruz is the other front-runner in Iowa, where you're competing right now. A source told CNN that Cruz now expects he will become the main target on stage.
You have questioned Ted Cruz's authenticity. Are you going to talk about that tomorrow night?
PAUL: Yes, I think what's important is, you know, Ted says he was for the NSA reform, the right to be left alone, which I championed. But then on the stage recently, he said to Marco Rubio, he said, oh, no, no, the reason he voted for it was, he wants the government to be able to collect 100 percent of your cell phone records.
Most of those from the liberty wing of the party don't like that. They wonder why he didn't show up to vote for audit the Fed.
And they also wonder about carpet-bombing in the Middle East, whether or not indiscriminate bombing and laying waste to whole cities, whether that will make us safer or whether or not it just adds to the chaos and adds to the encouragement for more terrorism.
So, we have a lot of differences with Ted Cruz, but I think the liberty movement is sensing that there is a lack of authenticity with regard to Cruz.
TAPPER: Some in the Republican establishment have been urging candidates who do not perform well in Iowa or New Hampshire to drop out, given the dynamics of the race.
Where do you think a candidate has to finish in Iowa and/or New Hampshire in order to credibly continue? Top three?
PAUL: Yes, you know, I think the first thing is we shouldn't pre- decide it, so we do need to let the voters in Iowa and New Hampshire cast their votes.
Our team in Iowa right now has made 800,000 phone calls, so we really want to know how the Iowa voters vote. We have done a lot of work. We have 1,000 precinct chairs. We think we're going to outdo all expectations, but it's hard to say exactly what place, this or that.
I grew up in competitive swimming, and we never went into a meet saying, oh, you know, I think I will try for third place or sixth place. It's just hard from a candidate's point of view to think that way. We think about winning. And we think we have actually got the ground game to win.
It would be a shocker to the media, but we think that the polls really are not very accurate anymore, because so many people have cell phones, that we think the younger vote is not counted, and we think we're going to do really well with the younger vote.
TAPPER: All right, well, we will see on February 1.
Senator Rand Paul, thank you so much. Good luck out there. We will see you on the campaign trail.
PAUL: Thank you.
TAPPER: Trump says his supporters are so loyal, he could shoot somebody in the street and he would not lose voters. Is that true? Well, we talked to more than 150 voters to see just what is behind the Trump phenomenon -- that story next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
In case you somehow forgot, we have got five days, people. CNN, taking the average of the last four credible polls in Iowa, finds a race that is tighter than a tick. So Hillary Clinton is busy today retail politicking in Iowa.
Why -- with so little time to claw for every last vote in Iowa, why did Senator Bernie Sanders spend part of his day in Washington, D.C.? Well, he met with President Obama.
CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny is in Des Moines.
Jeff, President Obama gave an interview to Politico's Glenn Thrush and many people who listened to what he said thought he was not so subtly pushing Clinton. Sanders addressed that today. What did he have to say?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: He sure did, Jake.
But just the image of Senator Sanders standing in front of the West Wing of the White House sure was a sight to behold for a lot of his supporters here in Iowa. He was asked if he asked the president for an endorsement. He said, no, he did not. But Senator Sanders also said he thought the president had been treating him fairly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Some discussion the other day about a Politico interview where he was tipping the scale towards Secretary Clinton. I don't believe that at all.
I think he and the vice president have tried to be fair and even- handed in the process, and I expect they will continue to do that. (END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: So, I think that is just a bit of optimism there from Senator Sanders.
If you talk to his advisers, they believe privately, of course, the president and more importantly a lot of the people in his administration are siding more with Secretary Clinton. Not a surprise. She, of course, was a member of the administration.
But voters here in Iowa, Jake, and as well as other states are going to make up their own minds here, so it was definitely worth a detour to Washington for Senator Sanders to talk with the president. I'm told that they talked about specifics of his own 20 -- his own campaigning in 2008.
[16:15:01] Of course, he won here in Iowa. So they talked about how he won and some strategies going forward. But at the same time, Hillary Clinton started a new ad here in Iowa today urging voters once again to elect someone who can actually get things done.
So, Jake, experience versus enthusiasm, five more days, as you said.
TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much.
Donald Trump, we've pretty much emptied the tank in ways to describe just how shocking his presidential bid has been, both for his astounding ability to attack sacred cows and insult key demographics while also continuing to dominate in the polls. So many people have speculated what is fueling his success.
CNN national political reporter Sara Murray is in Des Moines.
Sara, you and a team of other CNN reporters, you talk to Trump supporters across the country. What did they tell you?
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right, Jake. People have been stunned and even baffled by the amount of support Donald Trump has drawn. And that's why my colleagues and I talked to more than 150 voters across 31 cities about what kind of person is fueling this extraordinary support we've seen for Donald Trump.
CURT HENDSCHUG, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I actually voted for Barack Obama four years ago -- biggest mistake of my entire life. And now it's either -- it's Donald Trump or nobody.
MURRAY (voice-over): In an extraordinary election year, Donald Trump is drawing them by the thousands.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to show the tremendous crowds that we get. It's not really a silent majority. It's a noisy as hell majority.
MURRAY: Frustrated voters, mostly white, unhappy with elites from both parties and the media, and fearful of immigrants taking their place. Above all, they're longing for an America that used to be.
TRUMP: We are going to make America great again. I love you.
MURRAY: Their distrust of President Obama runs deep. Some question whether he's a Christian, others whether he was born in the U.S.
PATRICIA SAUNDERS, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I just think he is pro-black. I don't know. I hate to say he's a racist, but I really believe he is.
MURRAY: Some sense racial tension in America, but believe it's white Americans facing discrimination.
SAUNDERS: White Americans founded this country, but we are being pushed aside because of the present administration and the media, the liberal media.
MURRAY: They feel left out of the economic recovery and worry about immigrants taking their jobs and getting ahead at Americans' expense.
HENDSCHUG: If he can bring middle class jobs back to America, that's what resonates with me. We do have an immigration problem in this country. You know, the fact that we can't -- it lowers the wages.
MURRAY: And in the wake of terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, they're nervous.
SAUNDERS: Nine hundred ninety-nine of them could be good people. It only takes one terrorist to blow this whole place up.
MURRAY: Trump's explosive rhetoric speaks to those anxieties, labeling undocumented immigrants as dangerous criminals.
TRUMP: They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists, and some I assume are good people.
MURRAY: Even suggesting America ban Muslims.
TRUMP: Is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.
MURRAY: He's taken what was once seen as impolite conversation and made it socially acceptable to some.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm afraid to say what I really feel, you know, because it's not politically correct.
MURRAY: But his crowds are also raucous and sometimes violent. Trump's words have garnered a following.
TRUMP: There's a movement.
MURRAY: But there are millions who don't agree with him. They have their own fears.
ALI ALI, MUSLIM-AMERICAN, DEMOCRAT: Being Muslim today is not easy. They are doing to Muslims today what they have done to the Jewish in 1938.
MURRAY: Now, Jake, there's no doubt that Donald Trump has drawn more support in a Republican primary than we ever expected, but it's how his rhetoric sits with voters like that last person you heard from. Democrats, independents and some Republicans that could hurt him if he is the nominee in a general election -- Jake.
TAPPER: Sara Murray, thanks so much.
A virus that is being linked to serious birth defects hits the U.S. and nobody seems to know how to stop it. Could it become a pandemic?
Plus, they vowed to go down shooting. Now, one is dead and several others have been arrested during a shootout between the FBI, police and armed anti-U.S. government protesters who have been standing their ground on federal land for weeks. That's next.
[16:23:49] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
Making headlines in our national lead today, one person dead, one injured, several others in jail after a dramatic confrontation between the FBI, Oregon state police and armed anti-government activists at a wildlife refuge that began late last night when Ammon Bundy and several of his supporters were pulled over on the highway and arrested. These militia members have been occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for 26 days, protesting what they describe as government overreach on federal lands.
Let's get right to CNN's Dan Simon live outside the refuge in Oregon.
Dan, what do we know about the person who was killed?
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Jake. The person who was killed was a 54-year-old Mormon rancher from Arizona. But before we get into it, before we talk about the arrest, I want to tell you that the situation still remains very tense. You still have a number of armed occupiers at the refuge. And at this point, it's anyone's guess how this is going to end.
Now, in terms of the arrest, it's clear that authorities wanted to do this in a way where community bystanders could not be hurt. Well, that much they accomplished. Of course, you have the one occupier who was killed. Authorities say this did not have to happen.
SIMON (voice-over): More than three weeks after armed militia took over a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon, a deadly shootout between militia members and the police.
[16:25:07] GREG BRETZING, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHIARGE, PORTLAND DIVISION: Yesterday, the FBI with our partners took the first steps to bring this occupation to a conclusion.
SIMON: Group leader Ammon Bundy and seven others were arrested Tuesday night after the FBI and Oregon state police pulled them over on their way to a meeting with community residents. Bundy's brother, Ryan, was shot and suffered minor wounds. But a spokesman for the armed occupiers, LaVoy Finicum, was killed.
SHERIFF DAVID WARD, HARNEY COUNTY, OREGON: It's time for everybody in this illegal occupation to move on. There doesn't have to be bloodshed in our community.
SIMON: Bundy's father says his son called him from the back of a police cruiser moments after the shootout.
CLIVEN BUNDY, AMMON BUNDY'S FATHER: My son, Ryan, had been shot in the arm. LaVoy Finicum, they cold-blooded killed him. They said he was out, had his hands in the air. They said he wasn't armed, he wasn't any threat and they cold-blooded just killed him.
SIMON: Authorities say Ryan Bundy and Finicum did not obey orders to surrender and shots were fired. The armed group took over the refuge on January 2nd in part to protest the sentencing of two ranchers and make a stand against what they called government overreach when it comes to federal lands.
AMMON BUNDY, PROTEST LEADER: They continue to ignore us and push us to the point where we felt we had to make a stand to defend our rights.
SIMON: Finicum previously told reporters he was willing to give his life for the cause.
LAVOY FINICUM, PROTESTER: There are things more important than your life and freedom is one of them.
SIMON: The sheriff says he'd been trying to work with the group to find a peaceful solution, but in the end, he just couldn't meet their ultimatums.
WARD: We don't arm up and rebel. We work through the appropriate channels. This can't happen anymore. This can't happen in America and it can't happen in Harney County.
SIMON: Well, we don't know how many armed occupiers are left, but clearly, law enforcement is a bit anxious. We just saw a number of vehicles speed down this highway. I should tell you that this road right here remains closed to the public, so clearly something may be in the works, but we don't know, of course, what law enforcement is going to do or how this is going to end -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Dan Simon, stay safe. Thanks so much.
It causes serious birth defects and there's no vaccine. The dangerous mosquito-borne virus that's spreading with new cases now in the United States. So, can it be stopped? What should you do? That story next.