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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Obama Focuses on Security Loose Nukes; Trump Calls for Japan, South Korea to Obtain Nukes; Alabama Governor Admits Mistakes, Denies Sexual Relationship; Report: Melting Ice Sheet Could Drown Cities By 2100; "M*A*S*H" Finale In 1983 Was Most-Watched Ever. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired March 31, 2016 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[16:32:37] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
Tapping today's world lead, fears of loose nukes getting into the hands of terrorists. More than 50 world leaders have gathered today in our nation's capital at a security summit to discuss reducing the world's stockpile of nuclear weapons. This as Republican front-runner Donald Trump calls for more countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Japan or South Korea to develop their own nuclear arsenal.
Let's get right to CNN's White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski.
Michelle, how is the White House responding to these comments from the Republican front-runner?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we've already heard them call it incredibly destabilizing. His ideas, but here we are at this summit talking about some of the biggest threats facing humanity. I mean, the risk of nuclear materials falling into the wrong hands.
And the first question, the first question for deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes at the press briefing today was about Donald Trump and his words this week multiple times on why he might not mind proliferation. Here's his response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN RHODES, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: It would be catastrophic were the United States to shift its position and indicate that we support somehow the proliferation of nuclear weapons to additional countries. It also flies in the face of decades of bipartisan national security doctrine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOSINSKI: So, in some of Trump's words, he talks about why Japan should have nuclear weapons to counter North Korea's threat and today, there was a trilateral meeting -- President Obama and the leaders of Japan and South Korea. We've confirmed that Trump's words didn't come up in that meeting, but a spokesperson for the Japanese foreign ministry said, of course, they and in fact the rest of the world are very closely watching the American campaigns -- Jake.
TAPPER: Michelle, concerns about ISIS possibly obtaining nuclear material to create a dirty bomb. I imagine that's a major topic of conversation there as well.
KOSINSKI: Yes, it really is, but it was interesting to hear the White House downplay the threat from the Belgian attackers, at least from the aspect of we know there was some surveillance of a top nuclear scientist in Belgium and possibly a threat against nuclear facilities there.
The White House says, look, a country like Belgium has incredibly tight security around its nuclear facilities. We know that ISIS would like to get its hands on nuclear material but they didn't see that sort of surveillance necessarily as a significant risk. But experts say the bigger threat, the broader threat, could be radiological material that's in hospitals and industries around the world, about 130 countries, thousands of facilities, Jake.
[16:35:10] TAPPER: All right. Michelle Kosinski, thanks so much.
Joining me now to discuss this all is James Woolsey, former CIA director under former President Bill Clinton.
Director Woolsey, thanks so much for being with us.
R. JAMES WOOLSEY, CHARIMAN, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES LEADERSHIP COUNCIL: Good to be with you.
TAPPER: How likely is it that ISIS or a group like it could actually make a nuclear weapon?
WOOLSEY: They could make a nuclear weapon if they had the right handful of scientists. They could make a simple one such as the one we dropped on Hiroshima 50, 60, 70 years ago.
TAPPER: That was a simple one?
WOOLSEY: That was a simple one.
TAPPER: Pretty devastating.
WOOLSEY: Indeed, that particular weapon we dropped on Hiroshima in war time without it ever having been tested in the history of the world. What was tested Alamogordo the month before was a different kind, a plutonium weapon that was somewhat more sophisticated and more complex. But the weapon itself is probably not going to be obtained by a terrorist group very easily because they have to a bit of fissile material and they have to assemble it and be able to work with it and so forth.
It's far more likely that they would come up with radiological material such as 20 percent enriched uranium from a hospital or something like that and blow it up, scatter it around and that would keep people from wanting to work or live in that area for many, many years.
TAPPER: For decades, yes.
You've bee a critic of the Iran nuclear deal. President Obama's attempt to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. I'm sure you applaud the goal but, you know, disagree with the deal. President Obama in a "Washington Post" editorial said the Iran nuclear deal, quote, "closes every single one of its paths to a nuclear weapon and Iran is now being subjected to the most comprehensive inspection regimen ever negotiated to monitor a nuclear program."
Do you disagree with that?
TAPPER: You do?
WOOLSEY: Pretty much every word, including the A's and D's, as someone once said.
First of all, the provisions about inspections are awful. If I am an inspector and you are the Iranians and I say, I would like to look here, you can say, no, I've just decided to designate that a military facility so, Woolsey, you can't go there.
TAPPER: Has that happened yet that you know of?
WOOLSEY: Not that I know of yet. But the agreement, another problem with the agreement is that the paper, the material, the appendices that the statute requires be transmitted to the other people -- other countries in the negotiation has not been transmitted. And so, the agreement really is not under way legally.
Now, they've, I think, avoided so much of the legal requirements in putting this together that that shouldn't be too surprising.
But another thing that they have done is said that if -- again, let's suppose that I'm an inspector and you're the Iranians, and I say, I really would like a sample drawn from this square kilometer up in your northern desert, because I've got some information I just want to look into there. They say, we'll provide you with a sample, and they go down to their southern desert and provide a sample.
They do whatever they want and that's the way the agreement is structured. It's fundamentally an awful agreement.
TAPPER: I want to get your reaction to Donald Trump's reaction or Donald Trump's response when asked about nuclear proliferation, the number of countries that have nuclear weapons. Take a listen to what he had to say to Anderson Cooper earlier this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It's been a U.S. policy, though, for decades to prevent Japan from getting nuclear weapons. DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That might be policy, but
maybe -- can I be honest with you? Maybe it's going to be time to change because so many people, you have Pakistan has it. At some point, we have to say, you know what, we're better off if Japan protects itself against this maniac in North Korea. We're better off frankly if South Korea is going to start to protect itself.
COOPER: Saudi Arabia, nuclear weapon?
TRUMP: Saudi Arabia, absolutely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: I have never heard a politician call for more countries to get more nuclear weapons than fewer. What is your response?
WOOLSEY: Well, I agree with you and not Mr. Trump.
I think there are some countries we'd worry about more than others. Japan getting nuclear weapons would probably be somewhat like France having gotten them. It's not a fundamental -- likely to be a fundamental enemy of the United States.
TAPPER: Saudi Arabia?
WOOLSEY: But once you start expanding the numbers with the Saudis and others, the next time you have a crisis in the Middle East, instead of one country perhaps having nuclear weapon, you may end up with two or three Sunni states and two or three Shiite states and the passions and angers in some parts of the world have deep historical roots.
I would just as soon not have a situation where more and more countries are getting nuclear weapons and a crisis could go really haywire rather than just be an angry confrontation.
[16:40:00] TAPPER: Ben Rhodes called it destabilizing. You agree with that?
WOOLSEY: I essentially agree with that.
TAPPER: All right. Former CIA Director James Woolsey, thank you so much. Appreciate your time. I always good to have you here.
Up next, dirty talk caught on tape. A red state Republican admits it's his voice fantasizing fondling a female. Now, can the Alabama governor survive calls for his resignation?
Plus, I pity the foul who didn't wear 26 gold neck chains or cruise around in a Pontiac that talks back. It's the '80s on TV. A CNN special looks at all the laughs, cheap explosions and big, big hair.
And we're going to have a star from an '80s TV show. Who's it going to be? You'll see, coming up.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TAPPER: We're back with today's national lead. A sex scandal rocking politics in the Deep South. There are growing calls for Alabama's Republican Governor Robert Bentley to resign amid claims that he had an affair with an aide. That aide rumored to be Rebekah Mason. She resigned just yesterday.
The latest in the drama that began unfolding after Bentley's wife of 50 years sought a divorce after Bentley fired his law enforcement chief and after titillating voice recordings surfaced. The governor has denied any sexual relationship with the aide.
Let's go to CNN's Alina Machado. Alina, Governor Bentley might face impeachment over this scandal?
ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. He might face impeachment on grounds that include incompetence and moral turpitude. That last one deals with adultery. Again, some lawmakers believe these could be used to impeach the governor who now finds himself involved in a sex scandal.
GOVERNOR ROBERT BENTLEY (R), ALABAMA: Today, I want to apologize to the people of the state of Alabama.
MACHADO (voice-over): Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, under fire after sexually explicit recordings of him became public.
BENTLEY (via recording): When I stand behind you and I put my arms around you and I put my hands on your breasts and I put my hands -- and pull you real close, I love that too.
MACHADO: The governor doesn't deny the legitimacy of the recordings, but said they were made two years ago. We don't know who he was talking to.
BENTLEY: It was a period of time in my life that I have made inappropriate comments.
MACHADO: He also maintains he never had a physical relationship with the woman at the center of the scandal, top aide, Rebecca Mason.
MASON: I have never had a physical affair with Mrs. Mason. I can assure the people of Alabama that as their governor, I have never done anything illegal.
MACHADO: Last week, Spencer Collier, the governor's former law enforcement chief, held a news conference to accuse the governor of having an affair and inappropriately using resources to cover up that relationship.
Collier was fired last week, the day before the governor spoke to reporters about the allegations. Now there is mounting pressure for the governor to step down and at least one Alabama state lawmaker, Ed Henry, says he intends to start the impeachment process next week. Mason, meanwhile, resigned from her post Wednesday, saying in a statement my only plans are to focus my full attention on my precious children and my husband, who I love dearly. They are the most important people in my life. Thank you for your prayers for our family.
MACHADO: Now, Governor Bentley and his wife divorced last week according to al.com. The recordings were made by someone in the Bentley family to figure out if Bentley was involved in a relationship. An attorney for the governor's ex-wife did not respond to our request for comment.
As for the governor, he is denying any wrongdoing. His press secretary told me this morning he has no plans to step down -- Jake.
TAPPER: Alina Machado, thank you so much.
In other world news today, a new study suggests that young people watching me right now could see the city they're watching me from potentially flooded. Why? Because of the West Antarctic ice sheet, which is bigger than Mexico.
New research finding that it is disintegrating so fast your kids and your grandkids, well, they might not be able to dream about living in New York City or Philadelphia or Washington or Miami because there might not be a New York City or Philadelphia or Washington or Miami at the turn of the century.
Tom Foreman is in the virtual room. Tom, this sounds really stark. How seriously is the study being taken?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very seriously by scientists out there, Jake, and because the Western Antarctic ice sheet is a big deal. As you noticed, it's huge. They have noticed warming there since the 1970s.
And long said if you had significant melting by the end of the century you could see water levels rise 6 or 7 inches around the world. They have already recorded melting there, as you can see.
But this new study by Robert Decanto (ph) and David Polard (ph) from UMass Amherst and Penn State says what if it happens a whole lot faster? What if you see a lot more than this, and this is why they think that's possible?
They came up with a computer model that basically combines all the different things we've tried to measure out there. The heated air up here that's making things melt above. The heated water that's chewing away at the edge of the continent out there and then of course the caving that results.
And they said when you have all this happening as you can see in pictures from other parts of other polar regions, the big chunks of ice falling into the sea, if you put it altogether, yes, it could happen a whole lot maybe twice as fast as we've seen so far -- Jake.
TAPPER: So how deeply might that affect coastal regions, and what happens if the world cuts way back on greenhouse gases to stop the warming, could that have an effect?
FOREMAN: These scientists say, first of all, this is just a possibility. They're not saying it will happen, but they think you have to take seriously the possibility it could happen. What does it mean?
[16:50:05]Look at this NASA image. Every place that's red on here is already under some threat from rising sea levels. Yes, cities like New Orleans and Venice and New York can put up levees and dikes and dams and water diversion projects and they can slow it down or maybe fight back against it.
But if it's happening faster, they have to do it faster, which means it probably costs more, which means more places can't really do it necessarily very well.
As for stopping it, this has always been the concern with the Western Antarctic ice sheet. Scientists say they fear that if you get into a broad collapse down there like this, if you see a lot of this happening, they think it will be catastrophic.
It will happen very quickly in geologic terms and recovering from it could take thousands of years, even if global warming has been stopped entirely -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Tom Foreman, thank you so much.
Today's Pop Culture Lead, it was the most watched TV show ever and one of the most popular critically acclaimed series of all time. Our next guest was one of the stars. Mike Farrell also as B.J. Hunnicutt joins me next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Choppers, just call me Jake "Radar" O'Tapper. Of course, you're hearing the theme song from "M*A*S*H," one of the many TV shows that will be discussed in this evening's CNN documentary series "The Eighties."
"M*A*S*H" lasted three times as long as the war chronicle. It was influential, critically acclaimed and its final episode in February, 1983, was watched by a record-breaking 105 million viewers. Here is a little bit of the final scene of that show.
TAPPER: Yes, Captain B.J. Hunnicutt saying goodbye to his friend and comrade, Captain Benjamin Franklin Hawkeye Pierce. More than 60 percent of American households tuned in, not including Super Bowl, that show remains the most watched show in history. Joining me now is B.J. Hunnicutt himself, actor and activist, Mike Farrell. Thank you so much for joining me. It's an honor to have you on the show. Did you realize at the time how iconic and well watched that show would be?
MIKE FARRELL, PLAYED "CAPTAIN B.J. HUNNICUTT" ON M*A*S*H: We had no idea. We knew the show was popular but we had no idea what the audience reaction was going to be. We hoped it would be good, and it was.
TAPPER: Can you believe it, that it's still, not including Super Bowls, the most watched show in history?
FARRELL: You know, I love it. I just love it. I love doing the show, I love being part of it, I loved what we were saying and the fact that it registered that way to the audience. It was astonishing then and is astonishing now.
TAPPER: A few casts, if any, seemed to have had the chemistry you guys seemed to have, even through so many changes of the cast. Was the chemistry as good when the cameras were off? Were you guys having as much fun as you seemed to be having?
FARRELL: We had more fun than you can imagine. We had more fun. People always ask me was it as much fun as it looked like and we always say it was more fun than you can imagine. The relationship has continued today.
TAPPER: You still talk to Alan Alda and Loretta Swift and the other cast members?
FARRELL: Sure, yes. We're in regular touch. We're involved in different things in our lives, but that experience has welded us in a way that will never be broken, I think.
TAPPER: You're probably the most politically active former cast member. The show evolved over time. It was always funny but it took on almost a darker tone towards the end. Why do you think that happened?
FARRELL: Well, I know we all were aware of the fact that the show any issues that the public was concerned about. We wanted to show that war hurts, you know, that blood isn't spilled without cost.
That there was a reason for people to go and do what the characters we portrayed were doing. But also that the decisions that were made that put people in those situations are not always the ones that you want to encourage.
TAPPER: What was your favorite moment from the show?
FARRELL: When my agent called me and said you've got it. I think -- I think we did an episode called "The Interview," which was sort of an Edward R. Murrow episode and we were invited by the writer, producer, directors, to essentially write our own versions of the interview for our own characters. That was really a salute to each of us and it was also an extraordinary opportunity, I think. But, you know, that hug with Alan is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
TAPPER: The character of B.J. Hunnicutt, who you played, he evolved to a degree. He became -- he was so charming and fun and then at the end when he has to cut a rope and leave somebody behind from a helicopter, his character changes forever.
FARRELL: Yes. One of the things we wanted to show and that was part of the -- I think the ongoing theme in the last episode was the cost. People pay a price for that experience and it's not something that one should take lightly.
Major, you know, Colonel, I say, colonel -- Father (inaudible), he lost his earring --