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Iraq in Crisis; Redskins' Trademark Canceled; Interview With Maryland Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger; Will Maliki Go?; Identity Crisis for "Redskins"

Aired June 18, 2014 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Iraq today formally asking the United States government for airstrikes on the militants swallowing up their cities. Your move, Mr. President.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The world lead, behind closed doors, President Obama about to finish a meeting with the top four leaders of Congress. Will he emerge with a strategy to stop the bloodshed before it can reach Baghdad?

The money lead. What does the government do when an NFL team clings to a name that many find racist? Well, I suppose hit them right in the trademark -- how a rare patent ruling, of call things, is putting pressure on Washington, D.C.'s football team. And the politics lead. To hear some tell it, Democrats will have a

choice in 2016 between Hillary Clinton and Hillary Clinton, but there is a danger to being a likely frontrunner this early, even if you're not officially running for anything yet.

Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Jake Tapper. Welcome to THE LEAD.

We will begin, of course, with the world lead, the most powerful people in the United States government in a single room right now, the dilemma before them, how to respond to the chaos seizing Iraq. The top four members of Congress could emerge from the White House any moment now after a private meeting with the president on Iraq, the president weighing his options for days now on what action to take, if any, against ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but we know exactly what the Iraqi government would like the U.S. to do. Deliver death to the terrorists from the air.


GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CHAIRMAN: I suspect -- well, first of all, we have a request from the Iraqi government for airpower.



GRAHAM: Do you think it's in our national security interests to honor that request?

DEMPSEY: It is in our national security to counter ISIL wherever we find them.


TAPPER: A video posted on a jihadist Web site has called for attacks on U.S. embassies if the U.S. goes ahead and drops bombs on ISIS in Iraq. CNN has learned there is a list drafted up of potential ISIS targets the U.S. could strike and that Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey and top military commanders that reviewed the list in detail, according to a U.S. official.

But the list is just a what-if. It does not mean strikes are imminent. The latest battleground, Iraq's largest oil refinery, about 140 miles north of Baghdad -- at one point, it seemed that extremists were overtaking the facility, but the Iraqi military now says it has the situation in that area under control.

As for the rest of the country, though, ISIS fighters have taken over a number of Iraq cities and they're now threatening of course to descend upon the capital, Baghdad, the scenes out of Baghdad, tense with major fighting going on. Fewer than 40 miles away, Iraqi counterterror officers are out in force patrolling the streets.

How close will ISIS get to Baghdad before President Obama makes his decision?

Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland. He's the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee and received a classified briefing last night from the administration on the situation in Iraq.

Congressman, thanks so much for being here. We appreciate it.


TAPPER: With ISIS inching closer to Baghdad, is there a timetable on when President Obama needs to make this decision?

RUPPERSBERGER: Well, first, let me say the president has some very difficult decisions.

We have ISIS. It's a terrorist group. They're very violent, so violent that traditional al Qaeda had literally expelled them from al Qaeda because of their tactics in killing Muslims. The issue is whether or not we will get involved from an airstrike point of view. At this point, it's too soon to tell.

There -- we have Maliki, who is president. One -- of Iraq -- one of the reasons he has the problem now is that he excluded both the Sunni and also the Kurds from his government.

TAPPER: Right.

RUPPERSBERGER: Now, the second thing that he's doing is, he's calling out for help for us, but also Iran.

And, you know, we want to make sure that we don't get in a situation where we don't look like we're against the Sunni population and working with Iran. So there are some very difficult decisions to be made here right now.

TAPPER: You're the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Right now, the congressional leadership is in with President Obama talking about this.

In meetings like this, are members of Congress there just to learn information or are members of Congress also there to make their case, to say what they think should be done?

RUPPERSBERGER: Well, I'm a member of the gang of eight. And we get the most sensitive information. And when we get contacted and briefed, they tell us what the classified information is, like the bin Laden situation and that type of thing, and then they ask our advice.

And if I were in that room, in leadership, what I would advise the president is that, number one, the most important issue is to bring a coalition together.

TAPPER: An international coalition.

RUPPERSBERGER: International, but more of the Arab League, who are really very much involved, the Gulf states that are right there. They have a lot to lose here.

We have a lot of dominance there with Saudi Arabia, who is Sunni. So we have to make sure that they are involved and that we separate the Sunni situation from the terror situation. You know, ISIS is bad and they have to be stopped.

And the reason they have to be stopped -- because not only are they in Iraq now, but they're in Syria, one of the most dangerous countries in the world. You have Americans, you have Europeans who are fighting for the bad guys, who they're extremists.

We have a situation where an American actually was a suicide bomber. We have another situation like that in France. But the problem they have, they have USA or they have European passports, so they have the ability to go back and forth.

If they are radicalized, they could be very dangerous to our country and to the citizens we are here to protect.

TAPPER: Do you think that there should be airstrikes against ISIS? Is it even possible? Are there even good targets, given that they're terrorists, they blend in with the local population?

RUPPERSBERGER: Before you even consider that...

TAPPER: Right.

RUPPERSBERGER: ... again, I believe, number one, there needs to be a coalition.

TAPPER: Right. RUPPERSBERGER: We just can't be the sheriff of the whole world. And

then we can't get back in with another type of Iraq situation.

TAPPER: Would that coalition include Iran?

RUPPERSBERGER: Well, now, you know, I have a concern there.

I think Iran has -- exports terrorism. I wouldn't trust Iran at this point, but they do have a close relationship with Maliki. And if -- for a sidebar conversation or whatever, that they can influence Maliki to bring the Sunni and the Kurds back into the tent to really de- escalate what is happening, we should at least use them for that point of view.

But I would have a very difficult time trusting or working with Iran at this time.

TAPPER: How concerned are you about the chatter in insurgent Web sites or terrorist-supporting Web sites about if the United States does do airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, there will would be an order or a fatwa to attack U.S. interests, to attack embassies?

RUPPERSBERGER: You have to always be aware of threats, but you can't be intimidated by the threats.

We're the strongest country in the world. We're going to stand up and protect all Americans wherever they are in the world. And we're not going to be -- we're not going to be influenced in any way by these threats, whoever -- wherever they come from.

We, again, have to get intelligence and check this out. And we also, by the way, when it gets back to Iraq again, you -- we need more intelligence. And by coming together with a coalition, we get hopefully our Arab states, who have people and relationships in Iraq who can let us know where people are, because you don't just go in and use airstrikes and kill innocent people.

That's not who we are and what we do. We have to make sure they're focused and you're going after leadership in ISIS.


TAPPER: How much do you think this is blowback as a result of the United States not taking more of the initiative in Syria, not supporting more of the moderates in Syria, so that ISIS was able to grow, and strengthen and thrive and now they're going into Iraq?

RUPPERSBERGER: Well, ISIS is just a small part of what's happening in Syria.

TAPPER: Right.

RUPPERSBERGER: It's a very dangerous area.

I think, looking back, maybe we could have been aggressive, but that's looking back and let's learn from that. I think what we need to do now, again, from a coalition point of view, do whatever we need to do to get the intelligence and find a way to de-escalate what's happening in Syria.

Syria is the most dangerous place in the world, because that's where the jihad, the extremists are there. And they're being trained and radicalizing people to come in and attack, whether it's Europe, the United States or whatever. That concerns me a lot.

TAPPER: Congressman...

RUPPERSBERGER: You have got to stand up to ISIS.

TAPPER: Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger from Maryland, thank you so much. Really appreciate you being here.



TAPPER: Coming up next, Iraq's prime minister defiant as his military battles terrorists moving toward Baghdad, but is he ultimately to blame for this mess?

Plus, was General Motors alerted to ignition switch problems nine years ago by one of its own employees? New questions are being raised after a leaked e-mail shows the employee herself experienced the problem and said she thought big recalls were necessary.

Stay with us.

RUPPERSBERGER: OK, Jake, see you.

TAPPER: Thank you so much. Appreciate it. Good to see you, sir.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Staying with our world lead right now, the U.S. handed him the keys to Iraq when it pulled out combat troops in 2011 and asked him not to scratch it, but Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has since lost control of a wide swathe of the country.

And now some, like the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, are wondering aloud whether it's time for Maliki to hit the bricks.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: It seems to me that Maliki has to be convinced that it is in the greater interest of his country to retire and to -- for this newly elected government to put together a new government.


TAPPER: Joining me now is Robin Wright, senior fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center, and Daniel Benjamin, who was the principal adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on counterterrorism and is now with the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding at the magnificent Dartmouth College.

Daniel, you just heard the Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman, Dianne Feinstein, say that Maliki needs to go. Is that really the key? Is that what needs to happen?

DANIEL BENJAMIN, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT COORDINATOR FOR COUNTERTERRORISM: Well, there needs to be a change at the top in Iraq, but we have had changes at the top before, and we also got sectarian.

So I'm not sure that we are going to get much better. Maliki has strong support in his Shia constituency, has strong support from Iran. And, frankly, I fear that we don't have the leverage to get the kind of government we'd like to see in Iraq.

TAPPER: Always bring back Chalabi. Just joking.

So, I -- do you think that Maliki needs to go? Is that the key, or is he the best asset that we have? I know you have a lot of reporting when it comes to Iran and the role that they can play.

ROBIN WRIGHT, SENIOR FELLOW, WOODROW WILSON CENTER: I actually think that, at the end of the day, there are no military solutions in Iraq.

We can certainly push back or eliminate fanatics, but we can't eliminate fanaticism through military force, that we have to look for a political solution. We have to deal with problems that we haven't been dealt with over the past eight years.

And that is coming up with a power-sharing agreement, that the Kurds, the Shiites and the Sunnis all feel as if they are invested. And only when they feel that they're part of a country are they are going to be willing to put their lives on the line to protect its territorial borders.

And we are at the point now that, after eight years of failing to get that agreement, that the country is fragmenting, and I think already the Kurds are -- could use this as a pretext to leave, and we may be headed to a sectarian conflict that cannot be solved easily.

TAPPER: You were in charge of advising Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on counterterrorism. How grave a threat do you think ISIS is, not to Iraq, but to the United States?

BENJAMIN: At the moment, it's not a very big threat to the United States. What is a threat is that we are seeing the creation of a durable safe haven for terrorists, an ungoverned space that really stretches from Aleppo in Syria to Fallujah in Iraq, and this is going to be a profound problem. This is bigger than any ungoverned territory we've had to deal with before, whether in parts of Yemen or the federally administered tribal areas, the Fatah in Pakistan.

We wouldn't be having the problems we have in Iraq without the civil war in Syria and that was clearly a decisive part of it and the ability of these groups to go back and forth to knock over banks in one country or the other to attract more refugee -- excuse me, more foreign fighters to this area, clearly is making them bigger and stronger and more capable and more attractive to potential followers and that is really what we have to worry about.

TAPPER: Robin, how much can Iran solve the problem instead of exacerbate it if it wants to?

ROBIN WRIGHT, WOODROW WILSON CENTER: Well, Iran has enormous influence on Prime Minister Maliki. Iran is (INAUDIBLE) to Shiite power. Maliki is a Shiite, and when it comes to prodding him to deal with these core political issues, Iran arguably has more influence than any other countries and that is where this -- the kind of consultation we've had between Tehran and Washington played out Monday in Vienna and possibly elsewhere may be instrumental in kind of suggesting to the Iranians that they talk to Maliki because I think the Iranians also recognize that they're not easy military solutions.

TAPPER: But, theoretically, one would think Iran must have known that this outcome was very predictable as soon as Maliki started undermining Sunnis, undermining moderate Sunni leadership and that there was going to be a vacuum, and something like this was going to happen. So, where was Iran then?

WRIGHT: Well, I've been to Iran twice in the last six months and beginning in December, I was told over and over, that the big threat to Iran and the region was the rise of Sunni extremism, and many officials including the man who was the ringleader of the takeover of the U.S. embassy in 2009 said this is a moment that Washington and Tehran can cooperate because we have the same fear of this growing threat.

I think the Iranians were also surprised by the speed at which this happened, but they've been much more aware, I think, than we have that this is a real possibility.

TAPPER: Do you think there should be air strikes or surgical counterterrorism strikes or do you think the U.S. military has any sort of role will to play in the next -- in the coming days in terms of trying to stop the disaster that seems to be headed towards Baghdad?

BENJAMIN: First, let me just say that while Iran has a lot of sway, I'm not sure any outcome that we would want would be acceptable to Iran and I don't think that they're really --

TAPPER: Or vice versa.

BENJAMIN: -- that they're really looking for a pluralistic, comprehensive sort of Iraq. So, I think at some point in the not too distant future we will see predators flying over this ungoverned space, looking for targets that are involved in plotting against the United States. I think that's quite probable. This is a big terrorist problem.

At the same time, it's not clear to me that any of our air power will be good against the Toyotas that these guys with machine guns are driving around with, and that we can do much that wouldn't cause more damage that is through civilian casualties and at the end of the day, I'm just not sure it's in our interest to really address the symptoms of the disease of Iraq, which is sectarianism, without really going at the cure, which means a different of government, a different kind of approach than we've seen.

And I'll be very frank, I'm skeptical that we'll get the new approach out of the current government.

TAPPER: Very quickly. If you have a final thought.

WRIGHT: Yes. I -- my great fear is that the U.S. does get involved in some kind of military operation, drone strike or whatever, that we get sucked into a conflict that for us may be against barbaric jihadism, but for them it goes sectarianism and goes back 1,400 years. That's something we can't solve.

TAPPER: And all of a sudden, the United States is on one side of a sectarian civil war.

Robin Wright, Daniel Benjamin, thank you so much. Really appreciate.

Coming up next, he's vowed never to change the name, but will Redskins owner Daniel Snyder change his mind now that his merchandising empire could be threatened.

Plus, another online tech company gets in the phone game, but are Amazon customers ready to make the switch. We'll take a closer look at brand new Amazon phone coming up next.

Great job. Thank you so much.


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

Time now for the money lead. The good news for the Washington Redskins, they can keep their name. The bad news for the Washington Redskins, everyone else can now have it, too. The United States Patent Office has canceled the team's trademark registrations which had protected one of the most valuable sports brands in the entire world since 1967. Not only did the patent office say the name Redskins is patently offensive to Native Americans, they also said the trademark should have probably never been granted in the first place.

Our Pamela Brown is here with more.

Pamela, so the name which some consider racist is not going away just yet.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It's not going away. In fact, we still have to go through a lengthy appeals process before anything happens, Jake.

But the bottom line -- this is a landmark decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. They said that while the decision to cancel the team's federal trademarks can't legally force the Redskins to abandon its name, it's already putting more pressure on the team to do so and it could raise the financial stakes down the road, not only for the team, but the entire NFL as well.


BROWN (voice-over): The Washington Redskins sacked by the U.S. government, stripped of its trademark protection for things like jerseys and hats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ho, ho, this racist mascot's got to go!

BROWN: The big winner, Native American groups who have been fighting the Redskins name for decades even airing this TV ad during sport events.

NARRATOR: Native Americans call themselves many things. The one thing they don't --

BROWN: The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Wednesday canceled six trademarks federally registered to the Washington Redskins, saying they're disparaging to Native Americans at their respective times they were registered.

DOMENIC ROMANO, SPORTS ATTORNEY: It's a lightning rod. This is a perfect storm. I think change is inevitable and at this point, the resistance doesn't make sense. Now, you've got an additional economic reason to move forward.

BROWN: And the tidal wave of mounting social and political pressure to lose the name, experts say this landmark decision ratchets up the pressure even more. And if the ruling is upheld after the appeals process, legal analysts say it would make it harder for the team to claim ownership of the brand, meaning the team could lose millions of dollars a year in royalties for merchandisers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It hurts owners. It hurts players who in their latest collective bargaining agreement get a percentage of jersey sales and product sales. It hurts a lot of people from an economic standpoint. Most of all, it hurts the perception that the league is stubborn.

BROWN: Legal analysts say the team could still argue it owns the brand under common law since the team has used it for more than 70 years. The Redskins are firing back in a statement saying the ruling makes no difference and we've been here before referring to a prior trademark lawsuit brought against a team in federal court which the team ultimately won.

A plaintiff in this most recent case tells CNN in a statement, "It's a great victory for Native Americans and for all Americans. We filed our petition eight years ago and it has been a tough battle ever since. I hope this ruling brings us a step closer to that inevitable day when the name of the Washington football team will be changed."


BROWN: And it could still be a tough battle ahead for the plaintiffs in this case. The team says it will appeal, Jake, and the appeals process could take years, as we said. In fact, the last case took 17 years.

TAPPER: Seventeen?

BROWN: And nothing is going change as far as the redskins trademark until the appeals process is over.

And something else that's interesting about this as we talked about is this could have the opposite effect from what these Native American groups want to accomplish here because this means the Redskins will have a harder time stopping the import of counterfeit goods with the Redskins name. So we could see --

TAPPER: More Redskins items.

BROWN: -- more Redskins items all around. Right.

TAPPER: Pamela Brown, excellent, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

In other money news, General Motors CEO Mary Barra was back on Capitol Hill today because she's a glutton for punishment actually. The real reason was to give a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee an update on how the company is addressing its ignition switch defect that is linked to at least 13 deaths.

Barra announced the changes the company was making in the aftermath of the investigation, firing 15 employees, rolling out a plan to compensate families of the dead, and creating a program to encourage employees to speak up about safety issues.


MARY BARRA, CEO, GENERAL MOTORS: While I want to solve the problems as quickly as possible, I never want anyone associated with G.M. to forget what happened. I want this terrible experience permanently etched in our collective memories.


TAPPER: But Barra seemed to be having some memory problems of her own.


REP. G.K. BUTTERFIELD (D), NORTH CAROLINA: How many actually have been recalled since February of this year?

BARRA: I have to add up the count. I don't know if we have that information.

BUTTERFIELD: Hundreds of thousands?

BARRA: It's several millions, in the tens of millions.


TAPPER: The hearing also revealed that the G.M. employee warned engineers back in 2005 about an ignition issue with the 2006 Impala that may require a recall. A recall that did not happen until this week.

But if G.M. wanted some company in the bad P.R. department, they got it. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is now investigating Chrysler vehicles for an ignition problem. Sound familiar?

TAPPER: Soon, you could be streaming a show on Amazon Prime while ordering a book for your Amazon Kindle, all on your Amazon phone. Amazon challenging Apple and Samsung by unveiling its very own smartphone today.

So, how is it any different from every other phone on the market now? Well, the Amazon Fire phone has a 3D display. It also comes loaded with new apps and services that even lets you call someone and actually talk to them, if you're still into that kind of thing. The Fire phone will cost $199 with a two-year contact only available through AT&T right now. It starts shipping July 25th.

Coming up, any Democrat considering running for the presidential nomination in 2016 might not want to look at the recent polls. Hillary Clinton ahead by a mile and a half. But is there a danger of being so far out in front right now?

Plus, a 100-year-old secret revealed, but the discovery is leading to more questions than answers. Why did Picasso paint over one of his own paintings and who is the mystery man underneath?