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North Korea Purge; Jewish Community Centers Under Threat; President Bush Speaks Out. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired February 27, 2017 - 16:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, thanks so much for joining us today.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: He was the president on 9/11. What George W. Bush has to say about President Trump's travel ban, that story is next.


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

Let's stick with politics.

We have lots to talk about with my panel.

We have with us Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm.

So, President George W. Bush was on "The Today Show" this morning. he was talking about the White House's travel ban. Take a listen .


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A bedrock of our freedom is the right to worship freely.

QUESTION: For or against the ban? You're against the ban?

BUSH: I am for an immigration policy that's welcoming and that upholds the law.



TAPPER: There's obviously a big division between George W. Bush and Donald Trump on this issue, Senator.

RICK SANTORUM, CNN COMMENTATOR: Look, there is a difference between me and George Bush on this. George W. Bush was for immigration reform. It's that wing of the party that has shrunk dramatically over the past few years.

And, look, as far as the travel ban is concerned, to me, it's very simple. I think the Trump administration played it out badly. There is absolutely sufficient reason to suggest that, in the countries that they put forward, you can't do proper vetting because there is no nation-state to get the proper vetting done, and that to hold and suspend immigration from those countries until we have the resources to be able to do proper vetting is a very practical approach to take.

JENNIFER GRANHOLM (D), FORMER MICHIGAN GOVERNOR: That's so interesting. I was wondering about that myself.

So these seven states, you say, cannot provide proper vetting, right, for anybody coming over. And I bet you there's a whole bunch of other states that also cannot provide proper vetting.

So, you would suggest that he roll out an immigration ban that comes from any state that does not enable us to provide proper vetting and forget the Muslim thing altogether?

SANTORUM: I would say, well, there's two things, number one, proper vetting and secondly a place with jihadist activity, where you have terrorist activity.

I mean, if you go to a state, I don't know, pick a state maybe in Africa, Southern Africa, where there might be a problem. If there is not a lot of terrorist activity that threatens the United States, no, I wouldn't be worried about it. But if it's in North Africa, yes, probably is a problem.

GRANHOLM: That would be a significant expansion of the travel ban, if, in fact, that were the plan.

And we all know that what these seven states do not provide are people who come to this country and commit terrorist acts, or at least that's been the history. And we all know that the Department of Homeland Security did a whole internal assessment which completely pushed back against the need to have these seven states be the states.

And so it will be interesting to see -- I know it's supposed to come out this week -- exactly how he refines it. Stephen Miller, his guidance at the White House basically said that the outcome will be the same. If the outcome is going to be the same, he is going to get the same results in the courts.

TAPPER: I think there's one thing that's going on that the White House is trying to push back on, which is the idea of defining terrorist activity as only meaning somebody who has come from that country and successfully killed somebody, because they are looking for a broader expansion that doesn't seem actually that unreasonable, including any time you try to commit a terrorist act.

For instance, there was a Somali who at Ohio State last fall tried to mow down with a car and kill with a knife 13 people, wounded them, didn't kill any, thankfully. But that wouldn't count under some of the definitions that the U.S. government has now. GRANHOLM: Right. Right.

And so the question is, what are the guardrails around it? How far out do you go? Is it somebody who has not taken any action at all, but maybe has a tweet or has some sort of social media presence? It's just so hard to know exactly how far out you go and which countries you include. It's a dangerous thing, but we will see. The court obviously is going to be very interested in what happens.

TAPPER: Tomorrow night, we are going to hear from President Trump on what -- presumably, we will -- who knows until it actually happens -- but on what will replace Obamacare after it's repealed.

One of the White House spokespeople was on some of the Sunday shows, except for the one Sunday show that they boycott every week, and they were not really able to answer the question about, can you guarantee that those who now have insurance because of Obamacare, especially through Medicaid expansion, will have it again?

That seems to be a real thorny issue for the Trump people and for the Republican Congress.

SANTORUM: Well, just remember, the Republican Party has always been -- conservatives have always been about making sure people have the opportunity, as opposed to making sure that there is a program in place that everybody is going to be fed into.

So, I think what we need to say is, yes, everyone will have the opportunity, whether through tax credits...

TAPPER: Access.


SANTORUM: It's access, as opposed to everybody is going to be in the Medicaid program.

I think a lot of Republicans would like to see the Medicaid program actually shrink down and more people move into private markets, but they are not going to guarantee that everybody is going to be shoved in there with an individual mandate or something like that.

It's a hard question to answer, but it's the difference between opportunity and access, as opposed to mandates and costs.

TAPPER: And it's easier to give an entitlement program than to take it away, whether it's Obamacare or the Bush drug prescription drug benefit.

GRANHOLM: Right, of course.

And so this is going to be the Republican challenge on this. They have put out some principles. Every one of the plans that are out there will guarantee that people will either lose health care or lose benefits. Can I just say one thing, though, Jake? They keep saying that -- and

the president said it again today -- that Obamacare has been a dismal failure. If you look at the rates of increase under Obamacare overall and the rates...

TAPPER: The premium increase.

GRANHOLM: The presume increases, and the presume increases before Obamacare, in the five years before Obamacare, increases went up 32 percent.

In the five years before that, it was 63 percent in the private market. Obamacare's increases since 2011 have gone up 20 percent. So, it's been much better.


Medicare -- Medicare's increase has gone up 1.4 percent. So, it begs the question, why don't we consider using a program that works, that people appreciate? It's Medicare. Lower the age of Medicare eligibility, and you might in fact get a lot of people happy and cause the premiums to stay flat.

TAPPER: I know you want to weigh in. Go ahead.

SANTORUM: Look, the Democrat answer is always put everybody in a government program.

GRANHOLM: And that government programs happens to work. And that government program works with the private sector, too, by the way.


SANTORUM: It does work with the private sector.

And one of the areas that actually that I supported was the Medicare prescription drug, which has actually been the most successful program.

GRANHOLM: Well, why don't we expand it to everybody, and cut the investments that he's going to be putting into the military by just, you know, a little bit, and allow for an expansion of a program that only has very narrow band of increases?

SANTORUM: And the answer to that is that what we need to do is, we need to push on innovation.

Medicare piggybacks off a lot of innovation that goes off in the private sector. There is a lot of cost-shifting that goes on with Medicare and Medicaid onto the private sector plan that allows them to hold down their costs.


GRANHOLM: So, let's just have that continue.

SANTORUM: But it doesn't work. It doesn't work unless you have a private sector system that can off-load some of these costs.

GRANHOLM: But the private sector is engaged in Medicare. That's point.

SANTORUM: But it's not, because the government fixes the amount of money that can be put into it. The better approach is -- and I am advocating this to the Trump administration if they're listening.

TAPPER: He watches cable.

SANTORUM: Well, hopefully. I think he watches CNN enough to know whether -- what you guys are reporting, because he comments a lot on it.

TAPPER: Yes, he sure does.

SANTORUM: So, look, what we did in the 1996 welfare reform is the most popular thing Republicans ever did in this town.

And what we did is, we took general principles, block-granted this money to the states and said, states, innovate. We are going to cap the money. We are going to give you enough to cover your folks, but we're going to cap it and allow innovation. That should be the Trump proposal.

TAPPER: Senator, Governor, always great to have you here. Thank you so much.


GRANHOLM: We didn't cover even half of what we're thinking.


TAPPER: OK. Thank you so much for being here.

Bomb threats reported at several Jewish community centers in multiple states today, and now one governor is calling for an investigation.

And then lie to the boss and be executed. South Korea says North Korea reportedly killed five senior officials because they misled Kim Jong-un.


[16:45:00] JAKE TAPPER, CNN THE LEAD ANCHOR: We're back with our "NATIONAL LEAD". A Kansas man is facing murder and attempted murder charges for last week's bar shooting outside Kansas City. Adam Purinton made his first court appearance a short while ago for allegedly killing Srinivas Kuchibholta and injuring the victim's friend and another bar patron. The victim was originally from India. He was an engineer for GPS maker Garmin. He was having a drink after work with his friend, also from India, when the shooting occurred.

As the FBI continues with the investigation, the suspect could also fake -- face hate crime charges. Witnesses told our local affiliates before firing his god - gun, Purinton told the men, quote, "Get out of my country." Also, across the nation today, what is becoming a disturbing trend of violent threats and vandalism targeting Jewish communities from coast to coast.

Today, at least 16 Jewish Community Centers and schools in 11 states reported bomb threats according to the Anti-Defamation League. Some had to evacuate their buildings and move children to safe zones. This comes after vandals toppled dozens of headstones at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia. This is the second act of dead -- grave desecration at a Jewish cemetery in a week.

CNN's Alison Kosik joins me now live at the grave site in Philadelphia. Several JCCs and schools in the area were targeted as well, Alison?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN REPORTER: That's exactly right, Jake. And at this cemetery, authorities aren't ready to say that this is a hate crime, though you look at what's happened behind me here, at one of these desecrated tombstones, very troubling to say the least. One thing to keep in mind, just across the street at a Christian cemetery, that remained untouched. And detectives tell us the vandalism was limited here to this Jewish cemetery. So, there is concern about this troubling trend that seems to be growing across the country of these incidents against Jews. You mentioned the dozens of bomb threats against JCCs and day schools happening today, not to mention last month as well, similar bomb threats at JCCs.

And then, less than a week ago in St. Louis at a Jewish cemetery there, vandalism similar to what we're seeing here in Philadelphia. Jake?

TAPPER: Alison, we are seeing - we should point out the larger communities rallying around these targeted populations, including - we've seen many Muslim-Americans helping to rebuild the Jewish cemeteries.

KOSIK: You're exactly right. People from all faiths are coming together to support the Jewish community. You mentioned the Muslim community, they are especially coming out. You think about what happened in St. Louis, a Muslim community activist started a crowd- funding site and raised $130,000 so far to go toward restoring that cemetery in St. Louis. And some of that money is expected to trickle down here in Philadelphia.

I talked to one Muslim-American today who travelled two hours from New York to Philadelphia, not necessarily to lend his money but to lend a hand in the clean-up. Listen to what he had to say.


SALAAM BHATTI, MUSLIM ACTIVIST: This could be our cemetery, this could be our grandparents who have been attacked, and they are defenseless. We pray that justice is brought here so that the Jewish community not only here but throughout the country where they're being attacked everywhere can move on and prosper.


KOSIK: And Salaam told me that he and his friends were ready to actually guard this cemetery from more vandals if that was necessary, saying that an attack on one faith is an attack on all faiths. Jake?

[16:49:50] TAPPER: Alison Kosik in Philadelphia, thank you so much. By now, you've seen the worst mix-up in Oscar history, but that was not the only flub at the Academy Awards. What you didn't know about last night's Oscars, next.


TAPPER: In our "WORLD LEAD" today, new signs that North Korea's leader may be continuing to terrorize people within his regime and abroad. For one, Kim Jong-un completed a new round of purging according to South Korean officials. He apparently ordered the execution of at least five senior officials in his own government for allegedly making false reports to him. And then, of course, there is the murder of his estranged half-brother Kim Jong-nam.

This morning, a South Korea spy agency said that the hit was ordered from the top, calling the assassination, quote, "a state-sponsored act of terror" by the North.

Let's bring in CNN International Correspondent Matt Rivers who joins us now live from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Matt, why does South Korea believe that the North Korean government ordered the assassination of Kim Jong-nam?

[16:55:01] MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, South Korean intelligence officials, Jake, say that it was two different ministries from North Korea operating here in Malaysia that actually carried out this attack. So, it would be the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and also of state security. And while they didn't provide any evidence backing this up, any independent corroboration that CNN could see. What intelligence officials say happened here is that both of those ministries each set up teams of two men.

What those two teams then did here in Malaysia was recruit the two female suspects that are really at the center of this, because as you can see an CCTV footage from the airport, these two females, one an Indonesian woman and the other a Vietnamese woman were actually the two people who allegedly smeared this VX nerve agent, this really deadly chemical on Kim Jong-nam's face that then led to his very swift and sudden death shortly thereafter.

Now, the North Koreans have denied having any role in this. And the Malaysian police have not gone so far as to say that the North Koreans had any involvement in terms of orchestrating this from a governmental level, but the intelligence officials in South Korea do believe that these orders came from Kim Jong-un himself.

TAPPER: Matt, as you know, Malaysian authorities have said that a nerve agent called VX is what killed Kim Jong-nam. Experts say that even just a drop of VX is lethal. Are Malaysian officials certain that there's no more threat to the country from this nerve agent? RIVERS: Well, what they say they are certain of is that there's no more threat inside terminal 2, this area -- part of the airport where this attack actually took place. They sent in hazmat teams over the weekend to check if there was any contamination left over. And they say they didn't find anything, which is a good thing.

What they can be less certain of, though, is the threat to the rest of the country. At least, publicly, they haven't said how this VX nerve agent got to the airport. Was it manufactured here in Malaysia, was it trafficked in from somewhere else? But the fact is, no matter what the answer is, it is certainly not a good thing for Malaysians that an internationally banned substance of this level is so deadly that it made its way into the country.

And you can see it in the autopsy results, Jake, that were released. You know, a health minister here in Malaysia said that Kim Jong-nam's death was painful and it was incredibly swift. And it shows you just how deadly this chemical can be, and the threat that it could pose to ordinary Malaysians and also people transiting through a very busy international airport.

TAPPER: And Matt, quickly if you could, Kim Jong-nam's body still in the morgue, what's next for that?

RIVERS: Well, what Malaysians are -- the Malaysian officials are saying is that they won't release the body until his next of kin provides a DNA sample to prove his identity. But North Korea apparently not playing ball there, so it really isn't clear how long Kim Jong-nam's body will remain here in Kuala Lumpur, Jake.

TAPPER: Matt Rivers, thank you so much, appreciate it.

We would be remiss today not to mention the "POP CULTURE LEAD". It may go down as one of the biggest blunders in Oscar history.


JORDAN HOROWITZ, LA LA LAND PRODUCER: This is not a joke. "Moonlight" has won Best Picture. "Moonlight", Best Picture.


TAPPER: That, of course, after "La La Land" had been announced as the Best Picture winner. But the "La La Land", "Moonlight" mix-up overshadowed other moments of last night's Academy Awards, including a different "oops" moment during the In Memoriam tribute. The Oscars tried to note Australian costume designer, Janet Patterson, but the image in the video montage showed Australian producer Jan Chapman who she assures us is very much alive.

Also worth noting, a new record was set for the most African-American Oscar winners in a single year, with five taking home awards in four different categories. "Moonlight" became the first film with an all- black cast to win best picture, and its star, Mahershala Ali is now the first Muslim actor to win Best Supporting Actor. Now, the Pakistani Ambassador to the United States originally tweeted

a congratulatory note, the first Muslim-American actor winning an award. It's great. But then, she deleted it. Why? Well, almost certainly because Ali identifies with the Ahmadi Muslim sect, which is persecuted in Pakistan and several other majority Muslim countries. Pakistan declared the sect non-Muslim in 1974.

In another interesting story, Iranian director Asghar Farhadi won for best foreign language film. He boycotted the Oscars in protest over President Trump's travel ban. Iran's first astronaut to space accepted the award on his behalf. And Iran's foreign minister, Javad Zarif, tweeted, "Proud of cast and crew of 'The Salesman' for Oscar and stance against Muslim ban. Iranians have represented culture and civilization for millennia." What Minister Zarif did not mention in his tweet was that the Iranian government regularly jails its filmmakers and artists in kangaroo courts for various imagined crimes against the government.

In other words, they're trying to tell the truth about what's going on in Iran. Somehow, that didn't make it into the Zarif tweet. I guess that 140-character limit could be a problem.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Turning you over to Wolf Blitzer.