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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview with Congressman Seth Moulton; Expert: Rio "Inside the Heart" of Zika Outbreak; Zimmerman Tries To Auction Gun Used To Kill Teen; Baseball Cards, Foreign Intel: How The U.S. Uses Drones To Kill. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired May 12, 2016 - 16:30   ET

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


RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, FORMER MEMBER OF THE 9/11 COMMISSION: There is a substantial jump to suggest that somebody who had a job in a consulate is a representative of the Saudi government.

[16:30:06] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): However, Lehman says that the commission's conclusion intentionally left open the possibility that lower level government officials or employees may have played some role, even if they were not instructed by Saudi leadership, an it is that lingering question that he hopes that the 28 pages release and further investigation will answer once and for all.

The 9/11 investigation was terminated, Lehman told CNN, before all of the relevant leads were able to be investigated.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: Now, Lehman says the FBI dropped its investigation of these individuals because they said they had insufficient evidence to indict. That is a pretty high legal bar.

To be clear, though, I should say that the Saudis actually joined Lehman and others saying, go ahead, release the 28 pages and let them be investigated. As recently as last week, the Saudi foreign minister said the same thing.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Interesting. Jim Sciutto, thank you so much.

Turning to Iraq now, where ISIS is continuing its deadly rampage. More than 100 people have been killed in several attacks over the last 48 hours, this as a sitting congressman and marine is blasting President Obama, the leader of his own party, for his ISIS strategy or lack thereof, and blaming the White House for the death of his friend.

Congressman Seth Moulton tweeted this photo of himself with his Iraqi counterpart, who was killed in an ISIS attack last week. Moulton added, quote, "Just to be clear and to contradict the White House, this is a combat mission in Iraq."

And joining me now live is Democratic Congressman Seth Moulton, who serves on the Armed Services Committee and deployed four times while in the Marine Corps. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

So, you blame the Obama administration's failed ISIS policy for the death of your Iraqi comrade who you described as your, quote, "closest friend". Why?

REP. SETH MOULTON (D), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: He was my closest friend in the Iraqi army. The bottom line is, we have a military strategist to defeat ISIS, but we don't have any no long term political strategy to ensure the peace. And that's why we find ourselves back in Iraq again today, refighting the same battles that I and my fellow marines and soldiers fought just eight or ten years ago.

TAPPER: And what needs to change, sir?

MOULTON: We need to have a clear mission for the troops, a clear end game, a clear goal that they can achieve, and then a strategy to maintain the peace once we defeat this terrorist group, because, look, we already fought these same battles against al Qaeda, but then when we pulled out of Iraq so quickly, not just pulling out the troops, I'm talking about pulling out the diplomats, the people who are working in the prime minister's office, in the ministries, the Iraqi government just went off the rails and as a result created this political vacuum that ISIS came in to occupy.

We cannot keep repeating this mistake in Iraq going back again and again and again.

TAPPER: Now, there are more than 4,000 U.S. personnel, military personnel in Iraq right now but the White House argues this is not a combat mission. Do you think that the Obama administration is misleading the American public?

MOULTON: That's just simply not true. This absolutely is a combat mission. In 2004, I had an advisory mission as a marine with my platoon in Iraq. We were advisers to an Iraqi unit and when that Iraqi unit started to get overrun, we went to their assistance and started the battle of Najaf, which was some of the fiercest fighting of the war until that time.

So, there's a very fine line between an advisory mission and full- fledged combat and it's very clear from the death of a Navy SEAL just last week that is absolutely a combat mission.

TAPPER: And why do you think that the White House is pursing the strategy that they are pursing, calling it an advisory mission, not a combat mission, not pursing the line of attack that you are suggesting that they need to in terms of a clear strategy with an end game, why?

MOULTON: I don't know. I mean, some would say that this is trying to do war on the cheap, just like the Bush administration when they got us involved in the first place. Let's not forget that we wouldn't be in this mess at all if George Bush hadn't invaded Iraq with faulty intelligence back in 2003. This is a president who promised to get us out of Iraq and promised to use the tools of diplomacy to prevent wars from happening. And that just hasn't happened. You know, if you think about what

happened when ISIS swept into Iraq from Syria, they didn't just defeat the Iraqi army. The Iraqi army put their weapons down and went home because they lost faith in their government. And yet, our solution, our strategy is to train Iraqi troops. Well, you don't fix Iraqi politics by training Iraqi troops and Iraqi politics are broken. That's the fundamental problem in Iraq that we need to fix.

TAPPER: Congressman Seth Moulton, thank you so much.

And our deepest condolences on the loss of your friend.

MOULTON: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Postpone or move the Summer Olympics. That's what our next guest says needs to be done because of the Zika epidemic. That story, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:39:13] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

In our health lead today, an urgent plea over Zika. One that leading Western expert says the biggest sporting event in our solar system should be postponed or moved. The Summer Olympic Games just 85 days away, they will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the same country considered the epicenter of the global Zika outbreak.

In fact, these new numbers just released, Brazil has at least 1,326 Zika-linked cases of microcephaly, that's the potentially deadly birth defect and that's more cases than any other country in the world.

Joining me now to discuss this is University of Ottawa professor of public health and law, Amir Attaran, who is urging the delay or postponement or movement of the games in his news report published in the "Harvard Public Health Review".

[16:40:07] Professor, thanks for joining us.

AMIR ATTARAN, PUBLIC HEALTH AND LAW PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA, CANADA: Thanks, Jake. Happy to be here.

TAPPER: So, more than 10,000 athletes from around the world have been training for this event for four years. Explain why you think the crisis is so severe that the games have been postponed or canceled?

ATTARAN: Because right now, according to Brazil's own statistics, and Brazil, as you know, is going through political storm right now, the Brazilian government itself says there are no parts of Brazil with a higher number of Zika cases than Rio de Janeiro. Rio is the top of the list for Zika cases. It's the heart of this epidemic.

And that epidemic has already caused, your viewers have seen this, an epidemic of children being born with small heads, with brain damage. Brazil is right now investigating 7,000 cases of these children being born with small heads and potentially brain damage because of Zika. Do we need 500,000 tourists going into Rio, the heart of the epidemic,

potentially becoming infected and then going home and taking that virus with? Because that's the seed for other epidemics elsewhere.

TAPPER: Do you think that your proposal, sir, is realistic? And what are the odds, do you think, that it will be -- your advice will be taken?

ATTARAN: Well, it's totally realistic. I mean, you can easily move the games to other venues. You could also postpone the games by a year. There's precedent for this. I mean, the schedule of the Winter Olympics was shifted. And it's always the case that the Olympics may have to be juggled somehow.

I mean, imagine the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. You could have had an earthquake the day before and then you'd have to go to plan B. So, there's always a plan B.

The question is, really, and it's an ethical one, is it worth having the games in Rio when you can have perfectly good games somewhere else or just delay your pleasure a little bit, delayed gratification, so as not to run the horrible risk of an outbreak of, I hate to say it, shrunken brain babies? Because that's what we're dealing with. And we also now know that Zika is related to another adult condition called Guillain-Barre syndrome that can in very rare cases be fatal and we are, in fact, seeing some Zika deaths now.

TAPPER: You've had some harsh --

ATTARAN: Is it worth running this risk?

TAPPER: You've had some harsh words for the International Olympic Committee and the World Health Organization. You say they are, quote, "in deep denial."

We reached out to the IOC to get response to your criticism. They told us, quote, "We are working with our partners in RIO on measures to deal with the pools of water around the Olympic venues, where the mosquitoes breed, to minimize the risk of visitors coming into contact with them."

I assume, sir, you don't think that's enough?

ATTARAN: Well, you notice the IOC is not saying that we're going to eliminate the risk, and you notice they're not saying that I'm wrong. In fact, today, the World Health Organization came out with new advice, the very first time, Jake, the WHO has ever said anything about Zika and the Olympics was today. And that advice says, avoid crowded places and avoid places where sanitation is bad.

You don't think the Olympics are crowded or that the slums of Rio have bad sanitation, do you? I mean, that's half the city and that's describing the Olympics.

So, when the WHO says avoid the crowds, avoid places with bad sanitation, really, why are we talking about having these games in Rio de Janeiro right now?

TAPPER: Sounding the alarm.

Professor Amir Attaran, thank you so much for your time, sir.

ATTARAN: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: George Zimmerman trying to cash in on the weapon he used to kill Trayvon Martin. But the auction for his gun -- well, it's not going exactly as he had planned.

As you plan your summer vacation, could baggage fees be a thing of the past? Why some Congress are asking the airlines to waive the fee and it's not because they want to save you money.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:33] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. The nerve of George Zimmerman today. He appears to be desperate to auction off the gun he used to kill Trayvon Martin back in 2012. Zimmerman calls it a piece of American history.

Opening bids for his .9 millimeter pistol started at $5,000 but his first attempt to sell this gun didn't go quite as planned. I want to bring in CNN's Polo Sandoval.

Polo, you've been texting with George Zimmerman this afternoon. What did he tell you about moving his gun auction from one website to another?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the first question, Jake, why was did he do that. We do understand that Zimmerman is at odds with gunbroker.com, which was the initial web site that listed this weapon that he allegedly used in that shooting right there.

Zimmerman actually sent me a message saying that, quote, "Unfortunately, Gun Broker was not prepared for the traffic and the publicity surrounding the auction of my firearm." That's why he eventually went to another web site.

But then you hear from gunbroker.com, who are also weighing in with a statement of their own that they posted on their web site. Here saying, quote, "our site rules state that we reserve the right to reject listing at our sole discretion and we have done so with the Zimmerman listing. We want no part with in the listing on our web site or any publicity that it is receiving."

Which is important to mention that that is what makes this difference. Meanwhile, you have unitedgungroup.com, which is a web site that is currently listing Zimmerman's pistol.

[16:50:07]And I can tell you that really just a few moments ago that the actual web site went down. I checked online a little while ago to try to access it.

I spoke to the owner of that web site and he says that they have seen more traffic in the last 15 minutes than they have seen in the last several months.

You're looking at the posting right now. In it, you can see that he lays out the details of it. The owner of this web site telling me that they are working right now to try to restore that web site so that they can get the auction back up and running -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Polo Sandoval, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Flying to your summer vacation destination this year could be a little cheaper. Plus, the airport security lines could move a little faster if some lawmakers get their way. How? We'll explain next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:11]

TAPPER: Welcome back. I'm Jake Tapper. In our Money Lead today, could airport security lines move faster by temporarily eliminating baggage fees? Two Democratic senators sent a letter this week to airline executives asking them to stop charging bag fees during the summer.

They say if people can check their bags for free, there will be fewer people with carry-ones and eventually fewer hold-ups at security lines. Just to show how much of a problem this can be, nearly 7,000 American Airlines flyers missed their flights during just one week this year because of those long lines.

Airlines collected $3.8 billion in baggage fees last year. They claim getting rid of the fees would force them to raise ticket prices.

Turning to our Buried Lead now, that's what we call stories that are not getting enough attention. On March 7th, the Obama White House promised to reveal, quote, "In the coming weeks just how many people its drone program has killed."

It's now May 12th and we have yet to see that report. It wasn't until whistleblower leaked classified government information late in 2015 that we even knew how the United States decided who should die in places like Afghanistan or Iraq. But does the administration really even know whom it's killing?

Joining me now is Jeremy Scahill, an investigative journalist, co- founder of the web site, The Intercept, and he and his colleagues collaborated in a new book called "The Assassination Complex, Inside the Government's Secret Drone Warfare Program."

Jeremy, thanks so much for being here. Really appreciate it.

JEREMY SCAHILL, FOUNDER, "THE INTERCEPT": Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: So your book has a lot of disturbing details about the process there which the United States legally executes people with drones, legally, in the United States point of view. How does the process of killing someone with a drone begin? SCAHILL: It's actually quite a labyrinth process that often begins with foreign governments that are allies of the United States providing the initial intelligence on people that it alleges are involved with terrorism or maybe connecting with terrorists.

So, for instance, in Yemen, the Saudi government provides the United States with a lot of the intelligence that is used to develop profiles of people that the United States wants to take out.

The African union countries in Somalia -- there is part of a peacekeeping force provide a lot of the intel there and then the U.S. uses networks of spies and other informants around the world.

That information gets fed into a system. It's sifted through by U.S. intelligence analysts and then they develop what are referred to internally as baseball cards or BBCs.

Jake, this is very similar to what we had as kids when we were collecting baseball cards where you would have your favorite baseball player, their RBIs, their homeruns, et cetera.

Except these are profiles of people that the U.S. is contemplating killing and they have their statistics. They were connected to the Mumbai attacks. They have been on the telephone with x, y and z people.

And it goes up the chain and then one of the secret documents that we got shows how the president, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense and various military and intelligence officials, all are part of a process that ends up on the president's desk with an up or down on whether or not this person is going to die.

TAPPER: And tell me about this disparity between the number of people that the president authorizes to kill and the number of people that drone strikes have actually killed?

SCAHILL: Right. And for years, major U.S. newspapers were reporting that President Obama personally signed off on each strike. What we learned is that President Obama signs off on each target, meaning he gives authorization for a particular individual to be killed.

But oftentimes in these drone strikes, even though only one person is the objective of each strike, other people are killed and what we learned is that the military in particular, when they kill ten people in a drone strike and they say, well, we've got our jackpot, the person we're looking for.

The other nine people that are killed are automatically classified as EKIA, enemies killed in action, unless they are visibly identifiable as a woman or a child.

And really it's sort of like a reverse due process system where if you're killed by the U.S. military or the CIA in a drone strike, you're presumed to be a terrorist unless someone posthumously proves otherwise. And so that's part of how the administration is able to say, well, we haven't killed that many civilians. It's because they have killed a tremendous a number of people whose identities they don't know that they have labeled enemies killed in action.

TAPPER: All right, Jeremy Scahill. The book is "The Assassination Complex," it's great. Every American should read it. These deaths are happening in your name. Jeremy Scahill, thank you so much.

SCAHILL: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @jaketapper. You can tweet the show @theleadcnn. We really actually read the tweets.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I turn you over now to one Mr. Wolf Blitzer. He's right next door in "The Situation Room."

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, party divided.