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Hillary Commits First Gaffe Pre-Book Tour; "We Are In Hell," No "Fault In Our Stars"; Chrome's Co-Owner Sorry For Complaining

Aired June 9, 2014 - 16:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. The Politics Lead. Two hundred thousand dollars isn't a pittance. It was also Bill Clinton's annual pay during his tenure as leader of the free world. But when he left the White House after eight years, Hillary Clinton says the first couple was "dead broke."

That's the latest tidbit from the former secretary of state's interview with ABC News. Clinton telling Diane Sawyer that she and President Clinton were in debt when they moved out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The former first couple has since raked it in with some speaking fees and publishing deals. The president collecting more than $100 million on the lecture circuit, and Hillary herself banking more than $5 million giving speeches just this past year. And she can expect a good deal more, of course.

Her memoir, "Hard Choices," already pre-sold 1 million copies. It hits shelves tomorrow.

CNN senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar joins me from Washington now. Brianna, Clinton talked about not being able to afford her mortgages. Mortgages. There's a plural there.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. More than one. And the was in debt, actually, the family was. The Clintons were in debt until 2004, according to her congressional financial disclosures.

But two houses, indeed. One in New York, one here in Washington, D.C. Not unusual for an ex-president, a senator, or perhaps secretary of state. But most Americans don't enjoy multiple residences, and Republicans are making sure to highlight what some are calling her first gaffe of this highly anticipated book rollout.


KEILAR (voice-over): Hillary Clinton in an interview with ABC News found herself in the awkward position of defending her wealth.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt. We had no money when we got there, and we struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages for houses, for Chelsea's education.


KEILAR: Houses, plural. Clinton's opponents jumped on that. "Shamelessly out of touch," the RNC declared. America Rising, the leading anti-Hillary super PAC, tweeted pictures of the Clinton's multimillion dollar homes and their Hampton's vacation rental. Republicans trying to use Clinton's two houses against her the way Democrats used John McCain's seven houses against him.


ANNOUNCER: When asked how many houses he owns, McCain lost track.


KEILAR: Not to mention errant comments made by Mitt Romney.


MITT ROMNEY, FORMER GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Rick, I'll tell you what. Ten thousand bucks? $10,000 bet?

Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs, actually.


KEILAR: Fifty-five percent of Americans believe that Clinton understands their problems, according to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll. So Republicans will have a lot more work to do if they hope to paint Clinton as elitist. Still, it's the kind of misstep Clinton needs to avoid as she gears up for a gauntlet of interviews.

Asked by ABC News's Diane Sawyer if there was anything that she should have done differently ahead of the terrorist attack in Libya that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, Clinton again suggested the mistakes have been made by others.

DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Is there anything that you personally should have been doing to make it safer in Benghazi?

CLINTON: Well, what I did was give very direct instructions that the people who have the expertise and experience in security apply it --

SAWYER: But personally --

CLINTON: Well, that is personal, Diane. I mean, I am not equipped to sit and look at blueprints to determine where the blast walls need to be or where the reinforcements need to be. That's why we hire people who have that expertise.

KEILAR: Clinton extended her deadline for considering a presidential run into 2015, saying she's focused for now on her book tour.

CLINTON: I just want to king of get through this year, travel around the country, sign books, help in midterm elections in the fall, and then take a deep breath and kind of go through my pluses and minuses about what I will and will not be thinking about as I make the decision.


KEILAR: Now previously, Clinton had said she would decide this year, 2014, and now she's saying that she'll be well on her way by the end of the year but not necessarily decided. In 2008, she officially launched her - for 2008, I should say, Jake - she launched it in early 2007. It made for a brutally long primary battle, and that it went so long and started so early is really something that she really lamented.

TAPPER: Brianna, thanks.

Let's bring in editor-in-chief for Buzzfeed Ben Smith and national political reporter for "The New York Times," Amy Chozick. So Amy, Hillary Clinton talking about financial hardship and more than one house. Is it fair to say that this is a gaffe? It does invoke -- although, McCain had seven or eight houses -- it does invoke that, well, I have a lot of houses kind of thing.

AMY CHOZICK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Right. Well, I've been writing about Hillary Clinton's paid speeches for almost a year, and the question that keeps coming up is why do the Clintons need so much money? And people always say, well, it's expensive being a Clinton. You know, she has a personal staff she pays. They support some of their extended family and multiple houses.

And so -- but I think that when you live that rarified lifestyle, it does open you up to criticism that you're out of touch with regular Americans.

TAPPER: And Ben, this new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows what we all thought, Clinton has really no rival. And yet 58 percent of those surveyed also want someone else to run. Explain this.

BEN SMITH, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, BUZZFEED: There's been a lot of political reporters in that --

TAPPER: But explain the disconnect. They want her to be president, they prefer her --

SMITH: People like her, but it's just sort of unclear whether she is intensely popular, whether there's s a group of people for whom - and this is going to emerge as the central question of the campaign, of the primary, of the general - is there going to be a group of people who are really devoted to her, who turn out for her? Really the question will be whether the women in their 30s, their 40s, their 50s feel like she represents something new as the first woman candidate, or whether she's just a throwback to another dynastic politician.

TAPPER: Amy, did you hear what Ben just said? The primary if there is one. Said the primary if there is one. There might not be a primary, just a coronation automatically. There was another thing that struck me in Brianna's piece from the ABC

News Diane Sawyer interview, and that was Clinton's response about Benghazi saying she's not equipped to look at blueprints to determine where blast walls are. Is that the answer, if you were advising her, you would say, that's dynamite, that's the right answer on Benghazi.

CHOZICK: Well, it seems like their whole approach to Benghazi right now, post-book, is to kind of treat it as a conspiracy theory and that they are not really arguing the facts anymore. They are just kind of making it look like Republicans are politicizing this attack and sort of we take the high read. And so could that answer have been better? Maybe. But I think the whole approach is to not really consider it a real thing. I mean, they're thinking of this as a conspiracy theory.


SMITH: What's so interesting is both of these gaffes you mentioned or heard, like, saying things that are indisputably true. She is not an expert on blueprints. She left the White House broke because there were some legal issues associated with some marital problems.

TAPPER: Is that right? I don't recall that.

SMITH: Well - you may remember that?

TAPPER: No, they are factually true.

SMITH: They are factually true.

TAPPER: It's a (INAUDIBLE) definition of a gaffe.


SMITH: Absolutely.

In 2008, Hillary would have never done that. She emerged sort of with robotic talking points from (INAUDIBLE). And this Hillary Clinton is in fact seem as little more closer to speaking the truth and saying relatively unscripted things. These do not sound kind of like the poll tested answers you got from her in 2008. I don't know; I think it's a different moment. It's interesting.

TAPPER: I have only red part of the book. I have not read the entire thing yet. But it's getting a lot of attention. Obviously it's pre- sold a million copies; it hasn't hit the shelves yet.

One interesting item, maybe the most candid moments that I have heard of so far - and again, I haven't read the whole book yet -- Sarah Palin coming up in the book. Clinton said she disagreed with the Obama campaign reaching out to her after Palin was named to the Republican ticket, asking her to attack Sarah Palin. Palin, using her words, Clinton's words, "to turn the war on women" mantra upside its head, she tweeted, quote, "Look who fired the first shot in the real war of women. Hint, it wasn't the GOP." Interesting. Amy?

CHOZICK: I would expect Sarah Palin to seize on that moment. And I agree. I read the book, and that was a line that stood out. You know, in a book without that many surprises, especially when it comes to daylight between Obama and Clinton world, that line definitely stood out.

And I also thought that line stood out in the broader book of when she's presenting herself as this global feminist. There is a lot of kind of ra-ra, I am woman in the book that, again, you did not see in 2008. In 2008, it was "I'm a strong commander-in-chief." She talked about her honeymoon, she talked about her nail polish. There were these moments, and I think that Sarah Palin line was one of them in which she acknowledges the female factor.

SMITH: And this is one of the most cringeworthy things in American politics. You get these press releases whenever the RNC, DNC attacks a female politician, it is always a female press secretary whose name gets attached to it. It's just a rule.

TAPPER: It's interesting though. I mean, there was a weird detente between Palin and Clinton in 2008. You might remember right after Palin got name, she said great things about Hillary Clinton. She wanted those dissatisfied Clinton voters.

SMITH: It turned out mythical, dissatisfied Clinton voters. It wasn't detente.

TAPPER: Well, I don't know about mythical or Obama won them over. But either way. Anyway, Amy Chozick, Ben Smith, thank you so much. Great to have you.

CHOZICK: Thanks for having me.

TAPPER: Coming up, the city so decimated not even bugs can survive. A firsthand look at the aftermath of war in Syria as president Bashar al-Assad offers a deal to those fighting against him.

Plus, sore loser or does he have a point? California Chrome's owner whines about the competition after his horse fails to capture the Triple Crown. Today he's talking about it again. That's ahead.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. In other world news, newly elected Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad -- and we use the term in the loosest sense possible. Most of the western world calls an election with no real opposition and voting limited to government-controlled areas rigged.

In any case, Assad announced that he is granting amnesty to criminals in his country commuting death sentences, reducing sentences such as life in prison to 20 years and he is offering amnesty to foreign fighters attacking his regime if they turn themselves in within the next month.

Now this is not a new sign of charity. There is no new Assad. He's offered amnesty before and critics argue it's had little impact and prisoners continue to be tortured and the fighting in Syria drags on. CNN senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh has covered the war in Syria extensively. He revisited the ravaged city of Aleppo after nearly two years. Nick, tell us what you saw.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, remarkable really to see how the regime are moving in to encircle those parts of Aleppo where rebels can still function, where there are still civilians trapped, but the most shocking thing is the tactic of barrel bombs.

These are huge, crude devices, barrels filled with explosive and shrapnel dropped on groups of civilians that these helicopters see from the sky. And then remarkably, Jake, followed up by a second bomb aimed trying to kill those people who rushed in, leaving a city, which many there say simply ground to dust.


WALSH (voice-over): The scale of the catastrophe quickly daunts the future. Today, something is that you just survive. This is what the edge of humanity looks like. Ground, dust, the smell of burning plastic at every turn.

(on camera): The Syrian regime is trying to encircle those remaining areas of Aleppo still held by the rebels, but months of pounding by heavy artillery and barrel bombs mean that in streets like this, the life has already been extinguished.

(voice-over): Here's how. This building was hit in the dead of night by a barrel bomb. Huge, crudely made with scrap metal and TNT randomly dropped from a helicopter. Survivors look up fearing them and look through what they have done. When there is so little left to live from, even the remains of murder are prized.

Seven died here, we're told. Hours can pass before rescuers arrive because over the months the regime has learned to bomb twice. This attack shows the second time to catch those who come to help. They are hearing the helicopter again. Aleppo is dying, a city of 2 million now in rebel areas down to mere thousands.

We meet a British doctor working in Syria for two years and now with severe burns to his leg from being bombed six weeks ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): A helicopter in the sky. We ducked down and it just hit us with a bomb. I didn't feel anything. The next thing, I was waking up and I couldn't feel my leg. Everything was burning around me. They took me to a hospital and the next thing I realized, it was the whole skin, the whole leg.

WALSH (on camera): Can you describe the pain?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's unbearable. I can't sleep, eat, I can't do anything. There is no people anymore. If you can go around the city, you'll see there's no people. No cats, no insects, nothing left. WALSH (voice-over): Some are so young, this will be among their first memories. Why a sniper shot 5-year-old Mohammed, he will never know. He was sitting, watching cartoons on TV in his home at the time. What can his mother say?

What's wrong with the sniper's eyes, she says, could he not see it was my child? The bullet in here and out here. On the out skirts, trash burned, the smoke of a city rising leaving behind those who cannot leave, who must find life in its embers.


WALSH: Jake, people like to talk about ghost towns and this used to be a city of 2 million people, a commercial and cultural hub of Syria. Half of those people have left. The vast majority staying behind in the Syrian regime-controlled areas. Only 300,000 now in those areas controlled by rebels. The fear, you mentioned Bashar Al-Assad offering an amnesty stay. Well, no one really takes that seriously.

The same day, 20 people were killed in regime prisons. The fear is given international diplomacy has failed and Damascus is forging ahead with their own political solution and that is about imposing their will to seizing areas. We saw the city of Homs besieged. Many worry that's what is coming now in Aleppo.

They are beginning to encircle it. The one remaining road in and out potentially cut off in the weeks ahead. A huge concern, humanitarian catastrophe that could ensue there -- Jake.

TAPPER: Nick Paton Walsh in Beirut. That was a very powerful report. Thank you so much, my friend. Stay safe.

Wolf Blitzer is here with the preview of "THE SITUATION ROOM." Wolf, you're going to have more on the undocumented children being sent to Arizona. Tell us about that.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": It's really an amazing story over these past several months. There's been a dramatic uptick in the number of young kids, illegal immigrants simply crossing into the United States from Mexico without parents, without adults. They are just coming in in big numbers.

The Obama administration is trying to figure out now what to do with all these young children. Apparently, there have been rumors in Central America that if these kids came into the United States, the president would allow them to stay. It's a big problem right now.

We're going to be all over this story, among a lot of other stories coming up at the top of the hour in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Wolf Blitzer, thank you so much.

When we come back, another big weekend at the Box Office as a couple of relatively unknown actors take on a Hollywood heavyweight who came out on top.


TAPPER: The Pop Culture Lead now. All need is love and, of course, two attractive looking leads in a story adapted from a best-selling young adult novel. That's how "The Fault in Our Stars" stole the hearts of movie goers across the country this weekend. The film took home $48 million and caused bucket and bucket of tears to reign down the mascara-stained faces of tweens and malls from Portland to Portland.

Worldwide, the Tom Cruise sci-fi epic "The Edge of Tomorrow" produced by our sister company, Warner Brothers, raked in $111 million, proving Cruise is still one of the most bankable movie stars on the planet.

The Sports Lead now. The race horse, California Chrome, was allowed to compete in the Belmont Stakes with his signature nasal strip. Now will someone get his co-owner a Kleenex, please? After finishing in a tie for fourth place on Saturday and failing to complete the first Triple Crown in more than three decades.

Chrome's co-owner, Steve Coburn, went on ABC and apologized through his tears for complaining that one of the most difficult ruling in challenging feats in sport history is hard.


STEVE COBURN, CALIFORNIA CHROME'S CO-OWNER: I am very ashamed for myself. Very ashamed. I need to apologize to a lot of people including my wife, Carolyn. First of all, I need to apologize to the winners. They ran a beautiful race. Their horse ran the race. They deserve that. I did not mean to take anything away from them.


TAPPER: If you weren't paying attention, here's the backstory. After Tonalist claimed the final leg of the Triple Crown, Coburn took the attention away from the winner circle with this rant.


COBURN: Those 20 horses that start in Kentucky are the only 20 eligible to run in all three races. This is the coward's way out.


TAPPER: Just 11 horses have won the Triple Crown since it was first pulled off in 1919. All three tracks are different lengths and require different strengths and trainers and owners who can nurture those talents and build new ones. There are different fresh challengers along the way. This is why we remember the names like Secretariat and Affirmed, the last horse to do it in 1978. Horses that had it what took to go to the big apple and eat it right out at an open palm.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. You can catch me tonight on "Late Night with Seth Myers" at 12:35 a.m. on ABC I now turn you over to my friend, Wolf Blitzer. He is in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Wolf. BLITZER: Jake, thanks very much.