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Dems Looking for Clinton Alternative?; Ben Carson: Rising Political Star; Sixteen Killed in Eastern Ukraine; One of the Biggest Art Heists Ever

Aired May 22, 2014 - 16:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Now for the Politics Lead. Is there any hunger on the left for an alternative to Hillary Clinton? As of now, so many potential presidential hopefuls are just waiting to see what she does and if she runs, they will not, but should they be thinking that way? Take a listen to Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren at the new Populism Conference today in Washington, D.C.


SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I appreciate the thought. I am not running for president.


TAPPER: What you can't hear there is that there were a lot of booing in the audience. The Clinton coronation does indeed have some liberals nervous. They see Clinton as too pro-Pentagon, too pro-Wall Street, and they are not so quietly searching for candidates that come at Hillary from her left plank.

Joining me now is CNN political analyst and senior political writer for "Politico," Maggie Haberman. Maggie, great to have you as always. Elizabeth Warren says she's not running, she's said it many, many times, but they are printing bumper stickers for her. Do you take her at her word that she's just not going to run?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I do. I take her at her word that she's not running. I see a scenario where Elizabeth Warren does run. She's not doing much to tamp down the chatter. On the other hand, when she launched a book, questions that were handpicked from the audience were allowed to go on. She's not exactly totally shutting this down. I think that she enjoys the attention. It's good for her brand. I don't think she runs.

TAPPER: Hillary, when she ran in 2008, something of a moderate Democrat, it's fair to say, especially the Iraq war vote, helped ruin her campaign. Another name out there floating is Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. How much of this is a reflection of Schweitzer wanting to increase the speaking fees and just get his name out there for whatever reason and how much of this is legitimate desire by liberals for someone like him and a serious consideration by him? HABERMAN: I think maybe 62 percent on his part about speaking fees and increasing his name I.D. The rest is very legitimate. There are liberals who are looking for an alternative to Hillary Clinton. There are issues with her especially as it relates to big banks and speaking fees. Issues that came post fiscal crisis. That was after she was out of the race. In Schweitzer's case, he passed on running for the Senate. It's hard for me to see him running for presidency.

TAPPER: Mother Jones has a great story yesterday about all the groups she spoken to including KKR and Hillary's people obviously really preparing for her run if she chooses to run. She has not decided. Your colleagues reported this morning for "Politico" that Hillary Clinton's world was so worried about a Republican investigation to the Benghazi attacks, they sent a message to House Democrats, we need backup.

Do folks inside the Clinton orbit really think like that? Democrats didn't want to participate. They thought going on to that committee would lend it legitimacy. Do Clinton people really get them to change their mind?

HABERMAN: People I spoke with who are in touch with Clinton world absolutely came away with the impression. They wanted people on. They wanted representation. Nobody felt leaving the playing field empty was a good idea. That story was 100 percent solid.

TAPPER: Why are they so worried? Just because they think Benghazi could be damaging.

HABERMAN: A, generally, yes. They absolutely despite what they will say, do you think that Benghazi could be damaging. Not because of the facts per se but of how the facts get presented and how this hearing goes. But it's really out of your control if you don't participate and that's more what they were concerned about.

TAPPER: Very quickly, some Republicans making hay out of Marjorie Margolis who is Chelsea Clinton's mother-in-law losing a congressional primary earlier this week saying it's a reflection of the Hillary brand, the Clinton brand is dead. Fair or not fair?

HABERMAN: I don't buy it. I think there was very little they could do, essentially short of strapping her on their backs and carrying her across the finish line. She was not a new face. She did not run a great campaign. There are legitimate complaints about them politically. I don't think this is one of them.

TAPPER: Maggie Haberman, always great to have you especially in town. Thanks for being here.

Yes, there are other political stories that don't involve Hillary Clinton, such as President Obama being yelled at in a parking lot.




TAPPER: The White House posted this video of the president taking a random stroll through Washington on his way to the Department of the Interior. And everybody walking around town trying to get recognized in public, it was a fun day for the president. This one, not so much.


DR. BEN CARSON, FORMER DIRECTOR OF PEDIATRIC NEUROSURGERY, JOHNS HOPKINS HOSPITAL: It's not my intention to offend anyone. People walk around waiting for you to hear, did you hear that and they can't hear anything else you say. The PC police are out in force at all times.


TAPPER: That was last year's National Prayer Breakfast where Dr. Ben Carson then director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins gave an impassioned speech that many took as a slam against the current state of politics in America and the Obama administration. All with the president sitting just a few feet away.

Earlier I spoke to Carson about his political future, his surprisingly shrewd take on campaign strategy and his new book, "One Nation."


TAPPER: I want to get to your book in a second. But first, a lot of losses for the Tea Party and primaries this week. Do you think the Tea Party is still a faction that can win primaries and races, or is the success of the Tea Party that it's already succeeded in moving the Republican Party closer to its positions?

CARSON: Well, I'm not exactly sure who the Tea Party is, to be honest with you. Other than groups of citizens who feel like they need to have a say in what is going on. I think a lot has been made of the Tea Party trying to make them into an entity that can be talked about but I'm not sure that they are really are that.

TAPPER: Do you think it's more of an organic group of just individual citizens here and there?

CARSON: Absolutely.

TAPPER: Do you support Republican Monica Wehby, she is a neurosurgeon and won her primary in Oregon. She says she was personally against abortion, but she did not want the government involved in a woman's decision on whether or not to have one. That's controversial among many conservatives. You wrote that in Oregon, quote, "she would not be a viable candidate if she maintained a pro-life stance."

CARSON: I think you have to be savvy. If you just do everything based on your principles in a political world, you'll always be doing it from the sideline.

TAPPER: So it's important even if it means selling out something you feel very strongly about?

CARSON: I don't know if it necessarily means selling out, but it perhaps means rearranging your priorities. If the ship's about to go off to Niagara Falls, which is the analogy that I like to use, you probably shouldn't spent all of your time dealing with the barnacles on the side. What you need to do is get the ship turned around first and then once it's sailing in the right direction, that's when you begin to concentrate more on the other issues.

TAPPER: Let's turn to your book, "One Nation: What We Can All Do To Save America's Future." This is your sixth book. At your prayer keynote speech, many saw it as a critique of the Obama administration. You write that the reaction you got from the president, you write about it. What happened?

CARSON: Well, you know, he came over to me afterwards, thanked me for coming and speaking. Didn't necessarily say he enjoyed it, but he did thank me. He was quite gracious.

TAPPER: Have you heard from him or anybody else in the White House?

CARSON: Well, I heard from the organizers of the prayer breakfast about 15 minutes later.

TAPPER: What did they say?

CARSON: They said that the White House was very upset and that I needed to call the president and apologize. And I said, I didn't get the impression that he was upset and therefore I don't see any reason to do that.

TAPPER: There's a lot of speculation on whether you are going to run for president in 2016. What do you think you are going to make that decision?

CARSON: I would certainly not do it this year. I would wait until the end of this year, the beginning of next year to make that judgment. My hope would be that someone who really wants to be president and has been gearing themselves for that for a long time would come along with a message that would really be appealing to the American people and that would stimulate a lot of interest.

Somebody who understands the importance of the constitution adhering to it, the importance of personal freedom. If somebody can do that and generate a lot of excitement, I would be delighted.

TAPPER: Is there anyone that comes close to that?

CARSON: Well, they really haven't had a chance yet. We need to give them several months. You know, people haven't even decided whether they are running yet. We'll give them a chance first.

TAPPER: The book is called "One Nation." Dr. Ben Carson, always a pleasure. Thanks for joining us.

CARSON: My pleasure, thank you.


TAPPER: Coming up, 16 dead, dozens wounded in a new wave of attacks and Ukraine says there is evidence that Russia is behind the escalation in violence. Plus, measure once, cut twice, maybe someone should have followed that old proverb. Which train company just spent $20 billion on a new fleet only to find out later they are too big to fit into the stations?


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. In other world news, the deadliest day for government forces in Ukraine today where 16 people were killed in Eastern Ukraine at least 14 of them Ukrainian soldiers. The surge and violence comes three days away from Ukraine's presidential elections. Ukrainian prime minister has called for an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting accusing the Russians of trying to disrupt the elections. Is he right?

CNN's chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto joins us now live from Kiev. Jim, Ukraine's Central Election Commission said that 13 out of 34 local election commissions are under the control of pro- Russia militias or are being blocked. What impact will that have on the elections on Sunday?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It seems that the Kiev area has turned out to being down in those two areas that have been hit most by violence, Donetsk and in the west, other parts of the eastern region be high enough to create a result that is credible and will be accepted not only by Ukrainians but the foreign players who have a stake in this game, including, of course, Russia.

And that remains to be seen. Of course, the violence, the worst single day involving the Ukrainian military is a bad sign because it's that kind of violence that could potentially, particularly in the regions in the east, keep voters away from polling stations.

TAPPER: Jim, the Ukrainians are complaining that Russia is meddling with their elections. Do they have evidence for this? Do you think that their charges are fair?

SCIUTTO: They do say that they have evidence. Listen, it's not just the Ukrainians that have evidence. European officials have said this out front many times that these pro-Russian separatists, even if they are not the little green men that you and I talked about before who were actual Russian troops operating in Crimea, even if the separatists are Ukrainians, the Ukrainian government and U.S. officials believe they are being directed by, encouraged by and even supplied by the Russians.

And they have evidence, based upon the equipment that they are carrying around and the communications between the separatists and Moscow. They have been making this charge for some time and they are not the only ones making it. You'll hear the same thing in Washington as well.

TAPPER: Of course, Russian President Vladimir Putin insists that they are pushing back from the border. Is there any evidence of that, Jim?

SCIUTTO: No evidence of a pullback, but you heard for the first time from NATO officials that they at least see evidence of troop movements, possible preparations for a pull back. They have heard this before and it hasn't been followed through on. They are going to believe it when they see it, but they at least saw the first clue today, but it's 40 to 50,000 some odd troops.

TAPPER: If they actually do try to move them. Thanks and stay safe. Wolf Blitzer is here with a preview of the situation room. Tell me about this particular nightmare.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": There is infrastructure security in the United States, including a very alarming report about the nuclear missile sites in the United States, how vulnerable are they. Barbara Starr has the details and we'll review that.

Also, separately, power grids in the United States, utility power grids. Could they be hacked, for example, causing widespread destruction? Brian Todd has new information on that. We'll go in depth and take a look at that and the other important news.

TAPPER: Wolf Blitzer, we'll be watching in 10 minutes in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

Premiering next Thursday on CNN, the space race, Vietnam, free love, the British invasion, all chronicled in "The Sixties" by Tom Hanks. Don't miss the premier one week from today 9 p.m. Eastern and Pacific on CNN

Coming up next, it's the biggest art heist in U.S. history and the FBI says the mob may have been behind it. Now twenty four years later, there's a break in the case and sources say that they have spotted the masterpieces.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. The Pop Culture Lead today. It's the biggest art heist in American history. In 1990, two men disguise police officers tied up the security guards at the museum in Boston and boosted 13 masterpieces by the likes of Rembrandt and Monet. Now, 24 years later, the paintings have been spotted by what they call credible sources. And that the persons of interest in the case just happen to be linked to organized crime. The only problem is that two of those possible three suspects are reportedly dead.

Let's bring in Jerry Saltz. He is a senior art critic for "New York" magazine and a friend of the show. Jerry, how important are these stolen paintings?

JERRY SALTZ, SENIOR ART CRITIC, "NEW YORK" MAGAZINE: If they came back to the family of art, I think we would all be thrilled. Some of these paintings are irreplaceable. There's one Vermeer's. There are only 35 Vermeer's on earth. There are several Rembrants, Van Gough, Monet's, it would be incredible. I don't care what happens to the people who took it. We just need this work back.

TAPPER: And yet you say that there's reason to question how sophisticated the thieves were because they left another big piece of art work behind?

SALTZ: They did. They left a Michael Angelo, a Frangelica, they left some major work and took some kind of Chatski's too. Also, interestingly, the robbery took place the day after the St. Patrick's Day in 1990. When there was a big flurry of activity around Van Gogh and certain impressionists and you also sense that that is what they were trying to go after.

And they really smashed these paintings around to get them out. They smashed glass, they cut them out, they rolled them up, they took them away after duct taping these two guards, one who said he might have been stoned and we've never seen the paintings again. Had a few leads.

TAPPER: They've gotten away with it so far for 24 years. Does that happen a lot in art heists, gone forever?

SALTZ: I'm afraid, I hate to say it, but yes. About 5 percent some people estimate of how many returned paintings there are. It's just sort of tragic. Mr. Evil can only sell it to another Mr. Evil because the paintings can never be seen in public again because they would be recognized instantly.

TAPPER: The museum has offered a $5 million reward for the return of the stolen works. That's obviously not what they are worth. It's almost never recovered or is it just rare?

SALTZ: It's rare. The Mona Lisa was stolen in 1911. It came two years later. The "Scream" picture has been stolen twice. So these guys they go right after the stuff and we don't even care about any other conditions at this point.

TAPPER: A message from Jerry Saltz to the Mr. Evil watching at home with those paintings. Thank you so much. Good to see you as always.

SALTZ: Thank you.

TAPPER: Airport walls, usually home to innocuous ads for smartphones, picks of exotic vistas and terrible art, but one poster has travellers doing a double take at the San Diego Airport. It's an anti-local attraction ad for SeaWorld, the theme park that has been swimming in bad PR ever since the CNN documentary, "Black Fish" aired. It's a poster from animal rights group, PIA, featuring actress Kathy Nijimi to tell us incoming tourists, if you like animals like I do, please avoid SeaWorld.

Originally the airport did not want to put up the poster, but PETA themed up with the ACLU and sued. When they tell you to watch the gap between the train and the platform, they don't mean this. It turns out some new trains in France are too wide to fit in hundreds of stations across the country, but they didn't know that until it was too late until after the country spent $20 billion on the new fleet.

Apparently the mix-up happened because the French rail company was working off dimensions for newer stations, much like the modern human, had bigger waistlines. It's now going to cost close to $70 million to upgrade all of those platforms so that the trains can fit.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter @jaketapper. That's all one word and also @theleadcnn. Check out our show page, for videos blogs, extras. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I now hand you over into the evil hands of one Mr. Wolf Blitzer. He is right next door in THE SITUATION ROOM -- Wolf.