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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Would Clinton Administration Be Transparent?; High Lead and Arsenic in Soil in Indiana Town; NBA Great Calls Quarterback's Sit- Down Protest "Patriotic"; Big Apple Reveal?; E.T. Phone Home?. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired August 30, 2016 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:00]

RON FOURNIER, "THE NATIONAL JOURNAL": Don't buy that. The only vote you throw away is one you don't cast.

But do be conscious of the fact that, depending on what state you live in -- like, I will be voting in Michigan.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: That is a potential -- potentially a battleground state.

(CROSSTALK)

FOURNIER: ... candidate, I could be helping Donald Trump. I don't want to do anything that would help Donald Trump. I can't see Donald Trump being president of this country.

TAPPER: OK. Let me play devil's advocate here.

We just learned from the State Department there might be 30 Benghazi- related e-mails that she didn't turn over to the State Department, though the State Department said they're still waiting to confirm that. This is just the latest story like this. What kind of administration do you think Hillary Clinton will run?

FOURNIER: Well, if a campaign is a test of a presidency, which they are, she's going to run a secretive, lack of transparency, dishonest presidency.

The problem with the Clintons, for all their strengths -- and this has been a problem going back to their days of Arkansas.

TAPPER: Where you covered them.

FOURNIER: Where I covered them, right.

They're so committed to their righteousness, that they don't think the rules apply to them.

If all that this election is about is winning, well, they're in position to win it, because they're up against a guy who most Americans -- doesn't think is qualified to be president. But for her be able to lead -- yes, we're all going to have to vote for somebody. So, she may be president. But the problem is, how do you do lead? How do you change this country in the way it has to change? How do you the kind of things that she's going to be promising if 11 percent of the American public trusts you? And that low trust number, she has earned it, in the way that she has handled Benghazi, in the way that she has handled the e-mails.

TAPPER: So you said she would have a dishonest and untransparent administration.

So, what kind of administration would Trump have?

FOURNIER: Well, that's the thing. It's a choice between two, I don't want to say evils, but very, very bad candidates.

Trump would have a lot -- if you look at what he's said and what he's done, it would be bigoted, it would be sexist. He would punish his enemies. He would incite violence of people who protest against him.

It would be lacking of any understanding of policy or any interest in policy, because so far he has shown no interest or understanding in policy. And the remarkable thing, when you look at the column, when you write down -- when you take the time to write down everything he has said and done that has raised people's...

TAPPER: Very long list.

FOURNIER: It's one after another after another. And it just wears you down with the morass. And you realize there is just no way that this man can represent our country.

TAPPER: It sounds like you're saying she is horrible, but he is unthinkable.

FOURNIER: He certainly is unthinkable.

TAPPER: And you basically just said that you can't vote third-party because in Michigan, voting third party might help...

FOURNIER: Personally, I haven't decided that. One thing I'm going to have to think through and one thing all voters are going to have to think through is, OK, if you're like me, and you don't think Donald Trump can be president, how is your vote going to reflect that?

And if you vote for a third-party candidate, are you going to be helping Donald Trump? That's something I'm going to have to think through. I don't want to vote for either one of them, but I -- this decision I have made. I'm going to not do anything that helps Donald Trump.

TAPPER: Very interesting.

Well, stay in touch. It's been great reading your column.

FOURNIER: Thank you, man. I appreciate it.

TAPPER: I don't want you to stop writing your column. I enjoy reading your column.

FOURNIER: I'm going to do a little bit still for "Atlantic" and Detroit.

TAPPER: All right, please do.

Ron Fournier, thank you so much. Best of luck to you, and hi to your family.

FOURNIER: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: With the election just 70 days away, CNN is taking a closer look at both of the major party candidates.

Don't miss "Unfinished Business: The Essential Hillary Clinton" and "All Business: The Essential Donald Trump," personal stories about the presidential candidates from the major parties from those that know them best. That is 8:00 and 10:00 on Labor Day right here on CNN.

Coming up: poisoned and kept in the dark. Government tests show their yards were contaminated with toxic levels of lead. So why did it take almost two years for the government to warn the people who actually lived on this land? That story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:37:48]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Let's turn now to our buried lead. That's what we call stories that we don't think are getting enough national attention -- in this case, a shocking and upsetting revelation for more than 1,000 residents of a town in Indiana now forced to leave their homes because the soil in their neighborhood is poisoned with dangerously elevated levels of lead and arsenic.

Even more outrageous, documents show that local officials, including some in the EPA, have known about this danger for some time without alerting the public. So, all the while, the residents, including children, were being poisoned, possibly exposing themselves to a lifelong physical damage.

CNN's Rosa Flores pushed for answers. Here's what she found.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Samira Allen looks like a healthy 2-year-old, but a poison lurks inside her body. Her blood lead levels were 6.6 times above the upper level of concern set by the CDC, and her mother says she had no idea.

SHANTEL ALLEN, MOTHER: It was kind of terrifying.

FLORES: Shantel Allen says she learned of her daughter's alarming blood lead levels last month in a letter from the Indiana State Department of Health, saying her daughter was tested more than 17 months ago.

ALLEN: I just wanted to know, why didn't anybody tell us sooner? Why didn't they warn us?

FLORES: CNN asked the Indiana Health Department. And while its says it can't speak about specific cases, it maintains: "It's the responsibility of the local health department to convey test results to patients and follow up," and that if the state department communicates with patients, "it is intended only to supplement the work of local health departments."

The EPA sent her a separate alarming letter last month too, saying the water in her yard is 66 times above its lead limit and 55 times above its arsenic limit. And look at the date on the test, end of 2014, more than a year-and-a-half ago. To make matters worse, Allen says the inside of her house was tested recently, and it is also highly contaminated.

[16:40:00]

ALLEN: We are sitting on contaminated furniture. Our kids are walking barefoot on these contaminated floors.

FLORES: Turns out her entire West Calumet complex in East Chicago, Indiana, is contaminated. Public EPA documents show the complex was built in 1972, where an old lead company once stood.

City officials notified 1,000 residents, including about 670 children last month, that they needed to move out immediately.

(on camera): Signs even went up in the area saying do not play in the dirt because hear this. When the EPA tested this neighborhood, at least one result came back more than 220 times above the lead limit, and more than 130 times above the arsenic limit set by the EPA.

(voice-over): The complex is now set for demolition, according to city officials.

CNN followed the paper trail to find out who dropped the ball, the EPA, the state health department, or the city. CNN obtained documents where East Chicago's mayor says EPA Region 5, which includes Flint, created a public health disaster in Indiana due to its history of incomplete and ineffective work which failed in its duty to protect human health.

(on camera): I was hoping to speak with the mayor.

(voice-over): The mayor would not talk to us on camera, but CNN obtained this scathing letter to Gina McCarthy, the EPA administrator.

The mayor writes: "Region 5 received soil sampling data in December of 2014, yet failed to share such data with the city until May 24, 2016."

CNN made repeated requests to interview the EPA's Region 5 administrator. But those requests were denied. They sent CNN this statement instead. "In retrospect, with spikes in the preliminary data, we realized that with increased scrutiny of that initial data, it could have triggered action to be taken sooner, instead of having to wait until the data was fully assessed. EPA will institute a process to review preliminary data to flag the need for immediate action."

State Senator Lonnie Randolph is determined to hold the responsible parties accountable.

LONNIE RANDOLPH, INDIANA STATE SENATOR: Someone dropped the ball.

FLORES: And says he needs the help of top brass in Indiana, including the governor and Republican V.P. candidate, Mike Pence.

RANDOLPH: I would like to see the governor come here. And I would talk with his office. And they have been here. And they indicated they're going to provide whatever we need and all that. But I think...

FLORES (on camera): Has the governor visited?

RANDOLPH: Not yet. Not yet.

FLORES: What would you tell the people who knew that this area was contaminated?

ALLEN: Shame on you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FLORES: Now, within the hour, we received a statement from the city, where the city is actually pointing the blame back at the state health department, saying that the state withdrew funding for blood lead testing back in 2011, which then led to cuts within the local programs, and also said -- quote -- "The state Department of Health notified the city for the first time on August 25, 2016, that blood lead testing information was not in the state database."

And, Jake, that was the database that local authorities say they were checking.

TAPPER: As that mother in the story said, shame on you.

Rosa Flores, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

One of the most accomplished NBA players of all time standing up for Colin Kaepernick's decision to sit down during the national anthem, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar explaining why he believes the quarterback is being patriotic.

Plus, astronomers detecting a signal from another solar system. Could E.T. be trying to phone home?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:22] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Let's turn to the Sports Lead now. New criticism directed at NFL star, Colin Kaepernick after the 49ers quarterback refused to stand for the national anthem played at Friday's pre-season game. Donald Trump is among those describing the move as unpatriotic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (via telephone): Maybe he should find a country that works better for him. Let him try, it won't happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Today Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is among those pushing back. The basketball hall of famer wrote in "The Washington Post" op-ed, "One of the ironies of the way some people express their patriotism is to brag about our freedoms, especially freedom of speech, but then brand as unpatriotic those who exercise this freedom to express dissatisfaction with the government's record in upholding the Constitution."

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, one of the greatest NBA players of all time and a provocative thinker and writer joins me now. He's also author of the new book "Writings on the Wall, Searching for a New Equality Beyond Black and White." It's a great honor to have you here. Thank you so much for joining us.

KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR, AUTHOR, "WRITINGS ON THE WALL": It's a pleasure to be here. Thank you.

TAPPER: So in your op-ed in the "Washington Post" today, you compare Kaepernick's protest to the Army reservist in the Olympics who stopped in the middle of his pole vault to honor the flag during the national anthem. You say Kaepernick is also acting patriotically. How so?

ABDUL-JABBAR: Well, I think the best way for me to describe it is he is doing just what Thomas Jefferson said should be done to speak out. Jefferson said that it was important to protect the speech of people that you don't agree with, not the ones that you do agree with.

Because freedom of speech is what helps make our country the greatest place on earth. We have to protect it for everybody. Mr. Kaepernick has some issues that he wants discussed. Maybe people don't like his style or timing, but he is trying to call attention to issues that are important to him. I think he has the right to do that.

TAPPER: I don't think anyone is disputing that he is the right to do it, but I guess, the question is, is he doing it in the best way possible. Yesterday, I had the mother of a fallen soldier here on the show. Her son was killed in Afghanistan.

I want you to take a listen to how she responded to Kaepernick's refusal to stand and honor the country and the flag.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The flag that I see is the flag that draped my son's casket in honor.

[16:50:04]And I see the flag that was handed to my husband and I, with deep respect from a grateful nation. When I look at the flag, I see the best of us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: It seems like a lot of people in the military community are having -- not all, of course, but are having a visceral reaction to what Kaepernick decided to do. What do you make of it?

ABDUL-JABBAR: Well, I understand their displeasure with his choice of venue and you know, you can argue with him about that. But what he is doing, calling attention to something that is important to him, I think it is also equally important to him at least.

And you know, the whole idea is to establish a dialogue. Maybe he can, next time, figure out way to do it without stepping on so many people's toes.

What he is doing, using his position to call attention to something is I think something that we should respect even though we don't necessarily agree with his timing or tone.

That is something for him to work out and hopefully, he will work it out as a professional athlete. He has a great platform and I hope he puts it to good use.

TAPPER: Is there a better way he could do it do you think?

ABDUL-JABBAR: I know there is a better way that, for example, a gold star mother knows better ways. Maybe it is time for people like her to talk to Mr. Kaepernick. I'm not condoning what he did, and I have only seen the still photographs of him sitting down.

But you know, when we're at war, and people are dying for that flag, I understand the sensitivity of people who paid such a heavy price for their patriotism. I understand where they're coming from.

TAPPER: In your op-ed, you write about other black athletes protesting similar issues. These from the 1960s, Muhammad Ali, and of course, the Olympians Tommy Smith and John Carlos, and you say, quote, "What should horrify Americans is that nearly 50 years later, athletes like Muhammad Ali and Kaepernick still need to call attention to the same racial inequities."

And you write, quote, "Failure to fix this problem is what's really un-American here." Clearly more progress needs to be made, but I want to make sure I understand what you're saying correctly. Are you suggesting that you don't think any progress has been made in the last 50 years?

ABDUL-JABBAR: No, there's been a lot of progress made, but we still have work to do and over that period of time, a whole lot of people have died unnecessarily because of improper training for some of our police. And I think that that is what Mr. Kaepernick is referring to

and you know, I understand where he's coming from. That has caused a lot of outrage so, you know, there are two sides to this.

I'm sure if we examine sides of them, we can find common ground to make the progress. That we need to make his type of sentiment unnecessary. That is where we should be headed with this.

TAPPER: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, it is an honor to have you on the show. Thanks so much for being here.

ABDUL-JABBAR: Nice talking to you.

TAPPER: Coming up, signs, scientists detecting a strong signal from a far, far away star. It might mean we're not alone and we are not nearly as cool as we think we are. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:58:03]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Time for our Money Lead. Mark your calendars, about a week from now, Apple is expected to unveil its next generation iPhone. Invitations were sent out to Apple's annual product launch in San Francisco on September 7th.

In true Apple fashion, the iconic tech company is keeping things mysterious and vague. Not revealing a lot of details. Not that it's stopping rumors about the iPhone 7. We could also get a sneak peek into the new operating systems as well as possibly a new version of the Apple Watch and Macbook Pros.

Apple should hope the new products will bring in a lot of money since it may have to fork out nearly $15 billion in unpaid taxes to Ireland. The European Union ruling that Apple got a sweetheart deal from Ireland, which resulted in paying little to no taxes there for more than 20 years.

Under E.U. rules, member states such as Ireland cannot give tax benefits to specific selected companies. Apple and Ireland are both denying doing anything illegal. They are planning to appeal that decision.

Finally today, I guess, let's call this our out of this world lead, astronomers looking for evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence have received what they say is a very strong signal detected by a Russian telescope.

An international team is now examining the radio signal and the star from where they believe it came. The sunlight star is around 94 light years away, we're told, with at least one planet. Could it be a signal from aliens? Probably not.

Researchers point to potential technological interference, but scientists do say if it is in fact aliens, the signal indicates that their civilization is way more advanced than ours. So you're telling me there is a chance?

Be sure you follow me on Facebook and Twitter @jaketapper or tweet the show @theleadcnn. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to new grandpa, Wolf Blitzer, who is right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM."