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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview With Ben Carson; Battle for Wisconsin; Fighting ISIS. Aired 16-16:30p ET

Aired April 1, 2016 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:02]

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But our people do share common aspirations to live in security and peace and to be free from fear.

The fight against ISIL will continue to be difficult, but, together, we are making real progress. And I am absolutely confident that we will prevail and destroy this vile organization.

As compared to ISIL's vision of death and destruction, I believe our nations together offer a hopeful vision focused on what we can build for our people.

With that, what I would like to do is ask the press to depart. We will then be showing a video that focuses attention on possible scenarios that might emerge with respect to terrorist networks. It will give us a good opportunity to test those areas where we still have work to do and how we can strengthen our collective efforts against these networks.

So, if I could ask the press to depart promptly, please.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We're beginning today with, as you just heard from President Obama, the threat of terrorism, more specifically nuclear terrorism, President Obama just addressing leaders from across the globe about the ongoing threat from ISIS and his serious concerns about what might happen should ISIS be able to manufacture at the very least a dirty bomb.

Let's get right to CNN White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski. She's live at the nuclear summit here in Washington.

Michelle, President Obama says progress has been made in defeating and destroying ISIS on the battlefield, but that's just on the battlefield, obviously lots more to be done, especially when it comes to fighting ISIS as it makes its way into the United States, Europe and elsewhere.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and, in fact, after the Paris attacks, we heard a lot of talk from the U.S. government on accelerating and intensifying the fight against ISIS. And the White House is also quick to point to progress on the

battlefield, how much territory ISIS has lost in both Iraq and Syria, but are we really seeing an intensifying and accelerating pace? Not necessarily.

I mean, day to day, the bombing rate is about the same. Other countries are still not contributing so much more that it's making an enormous difference in this fight, so that discussion is to go on. You heard the president too say that there is more work to be done in intelligence-sharing among these countries.

We saw the shortfalls in action in Belgium, and also stopping that flow of foreign fighters, Jake. Also, shortfalls highlighted in that attack.

TAPPER: All right, Michelle Kosinski, thank you so much.

Let's turn to our politics lead now. All eyes are zeroing in on Wisconsin, where voters will head to the polls in just four days. Senator Ted Cruz is riding high there with his big endorsement from the governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker. And Cruz has a healthy lead in the polls. His rivals have noticed both Donald Trump Governor John Kasich attacking Cruz today in an increasingly pitched battle for every last delegate.

CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash joins me now here on set.

Dana, Wisconsin is a big, big prize. Do you think Trump's week -- and I'm hesitant to call it a shaky week, because he's had what we thought in the media were shaky weeks, only to go up in the polls -- but do you think this possibly shaky week will have a possible impact on Tuesday in the Wisconsin primary?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It could because, as you mentioned, Donald Trump is lacking behind Ted Cruz. He already was before any of this happened in some polls by double digits.

And I was actually in Wisconsin earlier this week. Based on just anecdotal conversations I was having with voters, especially women, it's going to be hard for Trump to come back there. But, today, he started.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): When all else fails for Donald Trump, he tries to change the subject, like he did today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ted Cruz was my roommate. I did not like him at all.

BASH: Slamming Ted Cruz in a new Instagram video after one of the billionaire front-runner's worst weeks since the campaign began, causing a bipartisan firestorm with these comments when asked if women should be punished for having an abortion if it became illegal.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.

MATTHEWS: For the woman?

TRUMP: Yes. There has to be some form.

BASH: That, Trump recanted within hours and later added this:

TRUMP: It could be that I misspoke, but this was a long, convoluted subject.

BASH: But he has not taken back what he said at CNN's town hall, advocating for more nuclear weapons in Asia.

TRUMP: At some point we have to say, you know what, we're better off if Japan protects itself against this maniac in North Korea.

BASH: Now Trump is refusing to rule out using nuclear weapons in Europe.

TRUMP: Europe is a big place. The last person to use nuclear would be Donald Trump. That's the way I feel. I think it is a horrible thing. The thought of it is horrible. But I don't want to take anything off the table.

[16:05:04]

BASH: Trump's rivals continued to blast him, including John Kasich, who until this week mostly held his fire.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The problem for him with town halls is he actually has to answer questions in a specific way.

BASH: Kasich also went after Ted Cruz for having a thin leadership record.

KASICH: His record is shutting down the government and making everybody he works with upset.

BASH: As Trump sees his unfavorable ratings rise and support among women fall, he's quick to point out that he is still the front-runner by a long shot and that even if he arrives at the GOP convention in July without winning the nomination, if he is close, it should be him.

TRUMP: I really think that whoever has that kind of an advantage should get it.

BASH: But the first-time politician is also learning that seizing the Republican nomination takes more than just winning contests. It takes winning over delegates in some states where rules vary.

Sources tell CNN that educating Trump about the complicated delegate process was the subject of Trump's meeting this week with Republican Party chair Reince Priebus as RNC headquarters in Washington.

TRUMP: Very -- actually a terrific meeting, I think. And it's really a unity meeting.

BASH: CNN is told that Priebus used the meeting to ask Trump to ease up on trashing the RNC, as Trump did this week at CNN's town hall.

TRUMP: I have been treated very unfairly. I will give you an example.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Unfairly by who?

TRUMP: I think by basically the RNC, the Republican Party.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: I'm also told that Reince Priebus told Trump in this meeting his disparaging comments about the RNC made things difficult with donors and activists and the party apparatus, because Trump would need that to be very secure and solid if he does become the nominee.

And I am told that Trump said he understood, he agrees and he's going to push for unity, which he then, of course, tweeted and has been talking about since.

TAPPER: Well, that should take care of that.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: Dana Bash, thank you.

Let's talk now with one of Donald Trump's former rivals who's now campaigning for him, Dr. Ben Carson.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Dr. Carson, thanks for coming on the show.

BEN CARSON (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Always a pleasure.

TAPPER: So, Dr. Carson, we have seen a lot of concern this week expressed by Republicans about how tough the general election might be for Donald Trump because of how many voters, according to today's polls, view him unfavorably.

For example, he has a very high unfavorable rating with female voters. Are you concerned about whether he's going to be able to drawback these voters who right now seem so strongly opposed to his candidacy?

CARSON: Well, of course, you would be concerned about that.

But I think there's going to be a lot of changes. There's going to be a lot more tacking to policy issues and the kind of things that a lot of people are concerned about, the safety of themselves, of their children, the financial well-being of the country.

You know, we really haven't touched very much on these kinds of issues lately. It's been all about personalities. TAPPER: Well, is that because of the media or because of things that

Mr. Trump says that get a lot of media attention, such as when he seemed to be suggesting that Ted Cruz's wife would be a campaign issue? He said he would spill the beans about her.

CARSON: Well, I just think it would be a wonderful thing if the media didn't bite on those things and said, you know, guys, we need to talk about things that are important. America is on the brink of disaster financially, on the world stage. We have people trying to kill us.

I mean, we need to be talking about this stuff and not get dragged into the mud. I mean, the media does have some responsibility there.

TAPPER: I don't disagree that the media has some responsibility, but don't the presidential candidates have responsibility to talk about these issues, instead of talking about things that a lot of people think are below the belt, such as going after somebody's wife?

CARSON: Sure. I would much prefer that.

And you will notice, when I was in there, I didn't do that. But you will also notice that that didn't get me a lot of attention. So, I think, sometimes, people do what they think brings them attention. And that's what I'm talking about. Maybe don't pay them quite as much attention when they do those things, and maybe pay them a little more attention when they start talking about what's important to the people.

TAPPER: One of the -- one of the issues that has hit close to home here at CNN , because it involves one of our contributors, conservative commentator Amanda Carpenter, is this smearing of conservative women.

"The National Enquirer" suggesting that Ted Cruz had multiple affairs -- Donald Trump's social media director who works for the Trump campaign retweeted a video trying to suggest that Amanda Carpenter, who is married and faithful and has two children, had had an affair with Ted Cruz. Does it make you uncomfortable when the campaign does that?

CARSON: Well, it makes me uncomfortable when we pay much attention to those kinds of things, when we have such important issues to deal with.

[16:10:02]

You know, when you go back and you look through the annals of presidential relationships, there's a lot of stuff there. And I'm not condoning it, but I'm just saying maybe it is not the critical issue right now in terms of what is going on with our nation and with our future for our children.

I'm much more concerned with the fact that we have a $19 trillion national debt, which is going on $20 trillion and $21 trillion the year after with that, with no end in sight to the escalation, recognizing that at some point, somebody is going to have to pay to the piper.

TAPPER: Do you think Mr. Trump has put forth any sort of responsible fiscal plan for how to reduce the national debt or the deficit?

CARSON: Well, yes, he has talked about that.

But I think there's going to be a lot more talk about that, but I'm just hoping people will force that, that talking, because he does understand business. You have to give the man credit. Even though his father left him a lot of money, he was able to build a very substantial empire.

And what's important is, I have talked to a lot of people who work for him or who worked for him in the past. It's very hard to find anybody who has anything bad to say about him. That really speaks volumes.

TAPPER: I want to ask you about a group backing Hillary Clinton which filed a complaint with the Justice Department this week after you said you -- quote -- "weren't going to reveal any details" about any discussion you and Donald Trump may have had about any role you might play in his administration.

What do you think of them lodging that complaint and, more broadly, did you and Trump talk about a role in his administration in exchange for your endorsement?

CARSON: I guess they're getting fairly desperate there.

The fact of the matter is, we agreed that we both had the same goal, and that is to save this country, particularly for the next generation, and that we would work together in the process of doing that.

In terms of talking about any specific role in government, that was not done, nor am I interested in that, quite frankly. But I do have a lot of ideals. I have a lot of contacts. And I'm willing to use those to make sure that we are successful as a nation.

For some strange reason, there's a bunch of people who think that working in the government is like the epitome of life. I have got to tell you, it is not.

TAPPER: Dr. Ben Carson, always good to see you. Thank you so much for coming on the show, sir.

CARSON: You too. Thank you, Jake.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Turning to the Democrats now, Hillary Clinton saying that she is sick of the Sanders campaign -- quote -- "lying" about her record and now Sanders says Clinton is the one not telling the truth about what he believes.

CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny is here with me to talk about the new tone on the Democratic side. Jeff, in the immortal words of Nelly, it's getting hot in here.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Very hot in here.

And it's not just the candidates themselves. You go out to these rallies, the Sanders campaign rallies in particular, including one I was at last night in New York, so struck by the mere mention of Hillary Clinton's name, it produces the loudest boos, even louder than Donald Trump.

The biggest reason is the length of this race. After Clinton lost in New Hampshire, her campaign urged supporters not to worry because the nomination wouldn't be won in February, it would be all but sealed in March. As the calendar turns to April today, the race is hotter than ever.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY (voice-over): Hillary Clinton just can't shake Bernie Sanders.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is really personal for me.

ZELENY: Their Democratic fight isn't winding down, but ramping up and expanding to new fronts.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Secretary Clinton.

ZELENY: Sanders and his supporters keeping alive their criticism of Clinton receiving contributions from the oil and gas industry. This confrontation with a climate change activist going viral.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not -- I have money from people who work for fossil fuel companies. I am so sick, I am so sick of the Sanders campaign lying about that. I'm sick of it.

ZELENY: The outburst offers a fresh window into a rising frustration with Sanders. The Clinton campaign accepts money from people who work for oil and gas companies, not the companies themselves. Sanders called it a distinction without a difference.

SANDERS: If people receive money from lobbyists of the industry, I think you're receiving money from the industry. And these are not just a little worker there. These are lobbyists who represent the oil and gas industry.

ZELENY: But today in New York, Clinton struck back, saying Sanders isn't pro-business.

CLINTON: I just go crazy when I hear Senator Sanders and the Tea Party Republicans railing against the Export-Import Bank, like it's some kind of evil presence.

ZELENY: The Democratic rivals are also tangling over abortion, Clinton accusing Sanders are not properly denouncing Donald Trump's assertion women who have abortions should be punished.

CLINTON: Senator Sanders agreed that Donald Trump's comments were shameful, but then he said they were a distraction from -- and I quote -- "a serious discussion about the serious issues facing America."

ZELENY: Sanders cried foul.

SANDERS: What Secretary Clinton did is take things out of context. I am 100 percent pro-choice.

ZELENY: The root of the tension is the length of the race. The Clinton campaign once assuming the contest would be all but over by now, as campaign manager Robby Mook noted in this memo, writing, "The nomination will very likely be won in March, not February."

Sanders has an edge in Wisconsin and is fighting hard on Clinton's turf in New York. He drew 18,000 supporters last night to a rally in the Bronx.

SANDERS: My father came to this country at the age of 17 from Poland without a nickel in his pocket.

ZELENY: Sanders is well behind in the delegate race, but money is keeping him in the game. His campaign says it raised $44 million in March, fortifying it for the final two months of the long Democratic primary.

SANDERS: Let's take this fight to the White House! Thank you all!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: But for Bernie Sanders to take this to the White House, he needs to keep winning and winning big. His first target is Wisconsin. He's camping out there all weekend long. A top Clinton advisor tells me they believe Wisconsin is basically out of reach, that's why they're focusing so much on New York.

But judging by the sight of last night's crowd in the Bronx for Sanders and the populist streak alive in New York, the Clinton campaign is taking it very seriously. Jake, a loss there would up-end this entire nominating fight, if should happen.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: You can't lose your home state, look at Marco Rubio.

But let me understand this. You just pointed out that after Hillary Clinton lost New Hampshire, her campaign manager said this nomination would likely be decided in March. It's April now.

ZELENY: It is April. April --

TAPPER: That didn't happen.

ZELENY: It didn't happen because of Sanders has become a lot stronger than they ever thought he would be. This race is going to go until June. TAPPER: Jeff Zeleny, thanks.

The upcoming calendar might help explain why Clinton sounds more like a New Yorker these days. Look at what's at stake, 86 delegates next week in Wisconsin compared to 247 in New York. Is this just the beginning of pointing fingers between Clinton and Sanders?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:20:59] TAPPER: If you have children watching, I want to caution you because Donald Trump has been called many, many names. He's been called the chaos candidate, a bully, a buffoon, unstable, unserious, but until now, has never been called this. Let's roll that tape.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's no doubt that Donald Trump is the Kim Kardashian presidential candidate. He sits on Twitter and makes a lot of noise, but he has no solutions to fixing the problem.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TAPPER: I apologize for that.

Joining me now to talk about all of this, editor of "The Weekly Standard", Bill Kristol, CNN political contributor and Donald Trump supporter Kayleigh McEnany, and campaign director for the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Emily Tisch-Sussman.

Bill, the Kim Kardashian of the presidential race? That is below the belt.

BILL KRISTOL, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: That's a little unfair to Kim Kardashian, don't you think? She seems like a nice, well-meaning person, you know? Doesn't denigrate other women. Doesn't denigrate minorities. Or attack -- make fun of people's disabilities --

TAPPER: I guess his larger point is that he's shallow and he just sits on Twitter. And he's like this -- your reaction?

KRISTOL: I don't know. Donald Trump is good at name calling and I don't think it's good for our politics. But he's been effective at it.

I'm not sure name-calling in response is exactly the way to go. I think Ted Cruz is doing pretty well. He's likely to win Wisconsin with a pretty big margin and I think the reason is people are saying, wait a second, can we have Donald Trump as president?

So, my advice -- my advice to Ted Cruz would be, there's no need to imitate Donald Trump, just be yourself and be a serious conservative.

TAPPER: I want to give you an opportunity to respond to the Kim Kardashian insult. But first I want you to listen to what John Kasich had to say in Pennsylvania. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me warn you of something. You nominate the wrong Republican candidate who divides the country, we'll lose the United States Senate, as well as the White House. Because I can tell you, extremists, and I'm not calling these people, but people who are dividers, people who are firm ideologues, they will not win Ohio.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: It's kind of a neat trick to say extremists but I'm not -- I don't mean that applied to either of my opponents. Obviously he did, but then he regretted it.

But what's your response?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: You know, I understand Kasich and Cruz going after Trump because they are in a race. I think everyone could benefit from turning to policy, that includes Trump.

That being said, the establishment, they -- they spend more time going after Donald Trump than stepping back and asking, why is he mobilizing people to the polls? Why are union leaders now afraid their members will defect to Donald Trump?

I think the establishment could benefit from taking a breath, stop attacking Donald Trump, step back and ask, why is Donald Trump popular? And they'll see that he's expanding the party rather than contracting it.

TAPPER: Are you at all concerned about that? I've heard this argument put forward not just from Trump supporters but others who say, look, maybe he is remaking the map. Ron Johnson, the senator from Wisconsin, says maybe there are going to be benefits to this. Trump will bring out white working class voters that maybe wouldn't come out to vote.

EMILY TISCH SUSSMAN, HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTER: And we do see it in the numbers. I don't know that it's necessarily Trump specific. I think that there has been a move of white working class men in particular. Trump has abominable numbers with women.

But 70 percent of Republican women in Wisconsin of the upcoming primary saying they would never vote for him. So, it is particular with men. Although that being said, it's not that he has good coattails.

I think Kasich has a very good point. That with Trump at the top of the ticket, it's going to be very tough for senators to build off of that momentum.

TAPPER: Why?

SUSSMAN: If they're showing up for Trump, they may not be voting down the ticket at all. They may not think their candidate lines up with Trump. They don't think that he shares the same values.

This is a very tough senatorial map for Republicans in general. The senators up for re-election are basically in purple states. They were elected in the Tea Party wave of 2010 and they're basically too conservative for their states already. I mean, we're talking about Illinois, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania. So it's a tough map already.

TAPPER: Do you agree with that, Bill?

KRISTOL: Look, I mean, I just look at the data. Two months ago, at the beginning of all of this.

[16:25:00] I think in the national polls, Hillary Clinton was ahead of Donald Trump by three points. Nationally, she's ahead by about 11 points in the averages.

What's happened over two months, Hillary Clinton has not run a particularly inspiring campaign. She's had trouble with Bernie Sanders. I think an awful lot of swing voters have looked at Donald Trump and said, not for me.

And so I am as a Republican, as someone who would like to see the Republicans win the White House and hold the Senate, I do think Trump gives us the worst possible chance to do either.

TAPPER: Kayleigh, Rush Limbaugh, who has said some very nice things about Donald Trump, also said the Trump statement on abortion the other day at the MSNBC town hall, when he said there has to be some sort of punishment for women who get abortions if it's made illegal and he's since walked that back, but he did say it and he said it on camera. Rush Limbaugh said that will be hugely damaging in a general election, that Trump harmed his potential to get Democrats to cross over.

Are you at all worried?

MCENANY: It was definitely a misspeak. It was not a good momentum. There's no doubt about it. But the point is he quickly came back, he retracted the statement or at least revised the statement and said what he truly meant. So, I don't think it will harm Republicans generally because Donald Trump did clarify his position.

You know, that being said, you're point to numbers and Hillary Clinton's unfavorables and Donald Trump's unfavorables, and general election polls, things are going to change. This is April.

You know, look back at Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. There were at times 30 points separating the two of them. That changed. There's a lot of room to change.

And it's worth mentioning, Bernie Sanders said from the very beginning I'm not going after Hillary Clinton's darn e-mails. She's got a slew of negative attacks coming her way starting very soon. Donald Trump has weathered the heat. She still has the heat to face.

TAPPER: That's not a bad point, Emily. I mean, Bernie Sanders has not been launching the broad sides that Donald Trump or even a Ted Cruz would launch against her.

SUSSMAN: That is totally fair, but I think it's the difference between Clinton as a candidate and Sanders as a candidate. She's been doing this for decades. She's been under attack for decades. And she is --

TAPPER: So you think it's baked into her poll numbers?

SUSSMAN: I think it's all in there. I think it's in there already.

And, look, to the point that Trump was able to come out with a new statement after he made the comment saying that women should be punished for getting abortions, I think that in itself is problematic. I think that is problematic with women. I think it is problematic with a lot of people.

But, actually the bigger problem is how he makes decisions and how he responds under fire. If he doesn't have something ready to go, he just blames them all and I think that's the bigger problem for a lot of people.

TAPPER: I think a lot of people -- and I let you have the last word here -- I think a lot of people think that Donald Trump was really just in real time thinking through what he thought about this philosophically and then realized afterwards, oh, maybe that's the wrong political response, but he was trying to come to terms with it. That he wasn't prepared for the question.

MCENANY: I think he was prepared. I think there was a lot of moment. To Donald Trump's edit, he's given 100 minutes to "The New York Times." He goes on MSNBC, "Hardball with Chris Matthews" --

TAPPER: He gives a lot of interviews, there's no question. He does more than anybody else.

MCENANY: Absolutely. And you could see the wheels moving in his head. He was trying to think crime, punishment. I think he was answering a different question than what Chris Matthews asked. I think it was just a moment of confusion. And to his credit, he goes to these places, Hillary Clinton would never go to the alternate network, I don't want to name, but --

TAPPER: It starts with an F. We call it the F-word.

All right. Thank you so much. I appreciate it. Bill, Kayleigh, Emily, appreciate it.

The genius mind behind "Dilbert" comics has consistently cut through the antics of this race and given a concise and interesting take on Donald Trump. Scott Adams will join me next. How he' comparing Donald $ Trump's bumpy week to a drama movie featuring a Victoria's hero.

And today's national lead, an explosive device left on a school bus for students with special needs. Why the CIA is taking the blame for this one. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)