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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Sanders and Clinton On Super Tuesday Warpath; SNL Sketch Shows Clinton Morphing Into Sanders; Sanders Sharpens Tone Against Clinton; Sanders Slams Chicago Mayor Ahead Of Illinois Primary; Putin Orders Russian Troops Out Of Syria; Thirty Plus Killed And More Than 100 Wounded In Ankara Car Bombing; Trump, Kasich Battle To Win Key Ohio Primary. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired March 14, 2016 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:02]

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's important because Hillary Clinton has done very well with public sector unions.

He's about to take the stage, Sanders is, in just a minute here. And he started out today in Ohio, Columbus, Akron, and he's going from here to Chicago -- back to you, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Joe Johns, thank you so much.

Did Hillary Clinton just write some attack ads for her opponents in a general election?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because we're going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: The Clinton campaign doing damage control because of that sound bite. We will ask one of her surrogates what Clinton meant. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATE MCKINNON, ACTRESS: And, luckily, I, Hillary Clinton, share all of your exact same beliefs, and I always have.

[16:35:05]

Since the beginning of my campaign I have constantly said we need a revolution in the streets, millions of people coming together, because America should be for everyone, not just a handful of millionaires and billionaires.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Paid for by Hillary Clinton. Feel the Bern for her. MCKINNON: I'm whoever you want me to be, and I approve this message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

"Saturday Night Live" keying in on what the Sanders campaign says is painfully obvious ahead of Super Tuesday 3.0, that Hillary Clinton, as this campaign goes on, sounds more and more like their candidate on every single issue pretty much.

Joining me now, Hillary Clinton supporter, Congresswoman Marcia Fudge of the great state of Ohio.

Congresswoman Fudge, obviously just a joke, but does "Saturday Night Live" have a point? Hillary Clinton has modified her stances on some things since joining this race and modified and run to the left a little bit, no?

REP. MARCIA FUDGE (D), OHIO: I don't think so.

I mean, certainly, she always has been a progressive. I don't think that the messages are that very different. And I don't see that she has in any way morphed into Bernie. So, no, I would disagree with that.

TAPPER: It seems to be a real dogfight in Ohio, with Congressman -- I'm sorry -- with Senator Sanders rising in the polls in that state. Obviously, I'm not asking you to predict what's going to happen tomorrow, but what are some of the factors that make the state so competitive?

FUDGE: Well, we're probably one of the very few true purple states, and that's why we are involved in every single presidential election.

You have got to win Ohio to basically go to the White House. And so it's a very important state. The other thing is that we are a very true primary voting state. Unlike Michigan, which allows non- Democrats to vote in a Democratic primary, not in Ohio.

In Ohio, only Democrats vote in the primary. And when Democrats vote in a primary, they will elect the only Democrat in the race. So, I think it's very different.

TAPPER: So, Secretary Clinton spending the day in Illinois. She might lose that state, and her supporters say that's because of her close ties to the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, who's quite unpopular in Chicago right now.

Sanders is even running ads in Illinois attacking Rahm Emanuel and featuring the candidate who ran against Emanuel in the primary. Clinton can't credibly distance herself from Rahm Emanuel and she can't embrace Rahm Emanuel, so do you think this is smart politics by Sanders, or is it unfair?

FUDGE: Well, I think it's unfair. But, more importantly, this is the same Sanders who said he would not go negative. That's really what my concern is.

I mean, here's a guy who's supposed to be this wonderful, honest, hardworking guy, I'm not going to go negative, I'm not going to do this. And he's done all the things that he said he wouldn't do.

Now, is Rahm Emanuel fair game? He may be. But I don't know what his actions have to do with a presidential election.

TAPPER: So, I'm assuming that Hillary Clinton, you think, will win Ohio tomorrow. Why do you support her?

FUDGE: I support her because I believe very, very strongly that she is the best candidate on either side of the aisle to be the president of the United States.

When you look at their histories, people's history is a very good barometer about what they would do in the future. And if you look at her, she doesn't just talk the talk. She walks the walk. And so I am very, very proud to say that I'm a supporter and a surrogate. And I believe that she will be ready on day one. I don't think there's another candidate in this race that can say that same thing.

TAPPER: Congresswoman Marcia Fudge from the great Cleveland, Akron, Ohio, area, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

FUDGE: Thank you.

TAPPER: We should note that we invited a member of Congress supporting Bernie Sanders to come on today, but none were available this afternoon. We will bring you one later this week.

When it comes to the general election, they say the way Ohio goes, so goes the nation, but this primary nation, the Buckeye State is already playing a key role for Republicans -- why losing Ohio may be worse for Trump than Kasich actually winning the state.

And breaking news in our world lead, Vladimir Putin is at it again -- why Russia is now suddenly withdrawing from Syria.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:42:59]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

We have some breaking news for you in our world lead now, a major about-face for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is now ordering Russian forces out of Syria immediately, the Kremlin claiming the main tasks behind of its mission are complete, but what's really behind this abrupt decision?

Let's get right to CNN's Barbara Starr, live at the Pentagon.

Barbara, how are U.S. officials reacting to this surprising news?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, as they look at it, and we talk to U.S. officials, what they are pointing out is, even if Russia is just doing a very limited withdrawal, the real question now may be, what does it mean for Bashar al-Assad's ability to survive?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): A stunning announcement from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I believe our armed forces have fulfilled the goals we set. That's why I have ordered the Ministry of Defense, starting tomorrow, to begin the pullout of the main part of our military forces from Syria.

STARR: But there is more than meets the eye. Within minutes of the announcement, U.S. officials said they think it's inconceivable Moscow will give up two crucial military assets, the naval base at Tartus, which provides the Russian navy access to the vital Eastern Mediterranean, and the air base at Latakia. The Russians dug underground fuel tanks, signaling a long-term operation for both airstrikes and resupplying the Assad regime.

Russian air defense missiles have also been put in, and Russia could still continue its operations, launching long-range strikes with ship- launched missiles in the Caspian Sea or bomber aircraft out of Southern Russia, crossing over Iran and Iraq into Syria.

The announcement came after Putin spoke by phone with Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian president now in a much stronger position after months of bombing opposition and civilian targets by Moscow to shore up his once teetering regime, the regime able to participate in peace talks in Geneva now from a position of strength.

Since the temporary cease-fire agreement two weeks ago, Russian airstrikes have diminished, but certainly not stopped, numbering now about 30 a day, instead of a hundred.

JOHN KIRBY, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Mathematically it's beyond dispute that they have made an effort to abide by the cessation of hostilities.

STARR: But the Syrian regime, still backed by Russia, continues dropping bombs on civilians and opposition groups. More than a quarter million Syrians have died in the last five years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: And if these peace talks succeed and it really does provide a path for Assad to leave power, what is left? Russia will still be in Syria. They'll have a seat at the table and be able to deal with whatever regime comes next and deal with them directly -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Barbara, an American claiming to have fought with ISIS in Iraq has turned himself over to Kurdish authorities there. What can you tell us about that? STARR: Well, some very interesting video emerged of that. This man basically walked out of what the U.S. says was ISIS-held territory, walked up to the Kurds at a guard tower and said he wanted to turn himself in.

They spoke to him. He said that he is an American that his father was Palestinian, his mother was from Mosul, Iraq. The U.S. still trying to figure out exactly who this man may be. He is in Kurdish hands undergoing questioning.

A lot of mystery about all of this. But the U.S. has long said in recent weeks that they have seen some evidence, some intelligence that some ISIS fighters are very discouraged and are fleeing the ranks of ISIS. This may be visual evidence of one of them -- Jake.

TAPPER: Let's hope so. Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon, thank you so much.

Staying with our World Lead today, 11 people now in custody in connection with a car bomb attack that tore through the center of the Turkey capital, Ankara. At least 37 were killed and more than 100 wounded on Sunday.

Turkey, a key U.S. ally in the war on terror is responding aggressively, launching air strikes in northern Iraq against a Kurdish separatist group believed to be responsible for the deadly terrorist attack.

Let's get right to CNN's Arwa Damon live in Ankara, Turkey. Arwa, police have swept up a number of people in anti-terror raids. What's the latest on this investigation?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, among those 37 dead are the two attackers. One of them identified as being female, Turkish media quoting local security sources saying that she was born in 1992. The other a male.

They are right now trying to figure out exactly which network, especially the female, may have been a part of. The Turkish government spokesman saying that it was a separatist terrorist organization.

Alluding to the fact that they do seem to believe that it is the Kurdish separatist group, the PKK, whose strongholds they have been bombarding.

So far Turkish authorities say that they have ten people in custody in direct relation to this attack with another 10 they believe to be on the run.

But this comes at a time when Turkey really already was on edge, feeling very vulnerable, because it was less than a month ago that there was another attack here in the capital, Ankara.

And prior to that twin suicide bombings targeting a rally back in October causing the highest number of casualties in Turkey's modern day story.

Security here was supposed to be tight. Agencies were supposed to be on high alert. This is a country that faces not just a potential threat from the PKK that Turkey deems to be a terrorist organization.

But also from ISIS that has carried out numerous attacks here, not just targeting the Turkish population but visiting tourists as well.

The population here right now hearing very brave words from their leadership. The president coming out and saying that they will be the ones to bring Turkey to their knees.

But what Turks really want to see at this stage is a lot more than just rhetoric to reassure them. They want to see guarantees because they don't know exactly where their country is heading at this stage -- Jake.

TAPPER: Arwa Damon live in the Turkish capital. Arwa, thanks.

It's John Kasich's best hope to stay in the race, but the winner-take- all state of Ohio may actually be more important for Donald Trump. How? That story, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:53:32]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Let's go back to the Politics Lead and the pressure on candidates to win the buckeye state of Ohio. In that state, Democrats will split 143 delegates proportionally.

Republicans are fighting for 66 delegates in a winner-take-all brawl. A win could close the gap for all candidates trailing the frontrunners, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Let's bring in two CNN political commentators, Democratic strategist, Paul Begala, and S.E. Cupp. S.E., let's start with you. Trump and Kasich locked in a battle in Ohio just after Kasich finished a distant third in Michigan after he had hoped to do better there.

Obviously it's his home state, not Michigan, but still was that a harbinger of bad things to come do you think?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: If you're Kasich, not if your Trump, look, I thought what was interesting in Michigan is that Trump won a place like Oakland County, which is very affluent, very well educated. I know I spent some time there.

Not a place that Donald Trump is supposed to win. If he matches that in Ohio in places like Cuyahoga County, wealthy suburbs, if he can match that, then yes, there's nowhere trump can't win in a state like Ohio. If Kasich isn't winning there, he's probably not winning elsewhere.

TAPPER: Is it over tomorrow if Kasich doesn't win -- if Trump wins Florida and Ohio, is the race over? PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, as a practical matter. There's still the math and there's a lot of barriers, but yes. This is what's so astonishing. John Kasich was re-elected a year and a half ago in a landslide, won by 32 points. He carried 86 out of the 88 counties.

[16:55:03]And in 47 of those counties he got 70 percent. He's a colossus of Ohio. This is Republicans only and he might lose. That's how phenomenal the Trump phenomenon is. It's really impressive.

Sometimes it's useful to pull the lens back. This is not some weak sister. By the way, he's endorsed by Urban Meyer, which might win the race for him. The beloved Ohio state --

CUPP: The Ohio state coach.

TAPPER: John Kasich is out there. He has Mitt Romney campaigning for him in Ohio --

CUPP: Endorsing.

TAPPER: Not endorsing but saying he wants Kasich to win Ohio. John Boehner, former speaker of the House, also from Ohio, also endorsed John Kasich. This is a tough question. Does this help him or hurt him?

CUPP: Right, it's not a tough question actually.

TAPPER: I feel bad saying it.

CUPP: I know, but that's the reality. Mitt Romney and John Boehner are exactly why Republicans are voting for Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

TAPPER: Are they kryptonite basically?

CUPP: They're not kryptonite. Look, Mitt Romney still has supporters. I don't know that John Boehner has supporters. That wasn't really his role as speaker. But I don't think -- I don't think that Mitt Romney and John Boehner are what is going to keep John Kasich from winning in Ohio. The Trump phenomenon, as Paul said, it's larger than life. It's overtaken every -- all other physical energy.

TAPPER: And, Paul, you know Pennsylvania because that was one of your big claims to fame before Bill Clinton was running a winning Senate race --

BEGALA: Five campaigns there.

TAPPER: And there's an interesting thing going on with the Kasich campaign. There's a technicality that might keep him off the ballot. He -- 192 signatures on the ballot petition to get him on the ballot in the Republican primary in Pennsylvania were not valid.

A challenge to the petition was filed 13 minutes too late. This is now playing out in court. Do you think this is going to play out in a way that actually removes Kasich from the ballot? BEGALA: It could. I hate to say it, but having run a lot of campaigns, shame on that campaign staff. Donald Trump, they filed 6,000 petitions, 6,000 signatures. You need 2,000. Kasich campaign filed just over 2,000. So if a few get knocked out, so it's bad staff work.

It's a shame. I think people should have easier access to the ballot, but I didn't write the laws in the great commonwealth of Pennsylvania. So he could be in big trouble.

CUPP: Donald Trump is now tweeting, of course, that Kasich is no longer eligible in Pennsylvania, which is not true. We don't know that yet. Doing the same thing he accused of Cruz of doing to Carson. If I were Kasich, I'd sue Donald Trump.

TAPPER: Because what he's saying is not true.

CUPP: Yes.

TAPPER: The decision hasn't been made yet.

CUPP: Exactly.

TAPPER: So let's also talk about the Democrats and Hillary Clinton could lose Ohio.

BEGALA: Yes, and you know, I advise the pro-Hillary super PACs. I love her. And yet I'm telling you, she could be in real trouble in Illinois and Ohio especially.

TAPPER: Even Missouri.

BEGALA: And Missouri definitely. I think Missouri is going to be Bernie's strongest state tomorrow. But in Ohio and in Illinois where she grew up, you know, it's just tough. The demographics are, I think, such that where she will win, and where Bernie wins, he's likely to win pretty narrowly.

So it's really a delegate fight more than a state fight. So I don't diminish it. Sanders is running a great campaign. But he's going to show some real strength in the Midwest tomorrow.

TAPPER: And S.E., a judge's decision will allow 17-year-olds to vote in Ohio tomorrow. Theoretically helping --

CUPP: Bernie.

TAPPER: Bernie.

CUPP: Yes. If enough of them show up.

TAPPER: Drop the Nintendo.

BEGALA: As a Hillary guy, I think we should raise the voting age to 40, 45. CUPP: Look, in the last Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama by nearly 10 percentage points. Democrats in Ohio like Hillary Clinton. So even if all of the 17 and 18-year-olds in the state of Ohio come out, I'm not sure that it's going to be enough to take it away from Hillary.

TAPPER: Clinton people are worried about Ohio.

BEGALA: Yes, they should be. It's trade. Young people love Bernie and that's great. But the anger on the left about trade, and some of these trade deals, 20 years old and they're still angry about them.

TAPPER: The jobs are still gone.

BEGALA: Well, that's the thing. There's a lot of anger on left that I think a lot of elites in my party did not see. I have to say I was there, I was in the room. Hillary was against NAFTA.

TAPPER: She was against it.

BEGALA: Yes, she was privately. I was there. She counseled against supporting NAFTA. It was her husband's administration, he made the decisions. She supported it and went along as everybody did. But she's always been more of a trade skeptic frankly than her husband. But you've got to take the good with the bad, I guess.

TAPPER: And you know the person who ran NAFTA through from the White House through Congress, a young staffer named Rahm Emanuel.

CUPP: I've heard of him.

TAPPER: Who is the mayor of Chicago and Bernie is running ads against Rahm Emanuel and might win Illinois because of that.

BEGALA: Congresswoman Fudge made a good point. Bernie promised not to run negative ads and those ads are very negative.

TAPPER: Paul Begala, S.E. Cupp, thank you so much. Super Tuesday is going to be tomorrow. It's going to be very exciting. Please tune in.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper, turning you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."