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Interview With Iraqi Ambassador to the United States Lukman Faily; Serena Williams Drops Out of Wimbledon Due to Illness; Who Pays for the Trips Congress Takes?

Aired July 1, 2014 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Arthur could be the uninvited guest who the ruins your July Fourth barbecue. Arthur, you know Arthur, Tropical Storm Arthur?

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The national lead. So you're telling me that July Fourth is finally going to land on a Friday, but we're all going to be stuck inside? Millions on the East Coast now watching what is officially Tropical Storm Arthur that could slam the East Coast as Hurricane Arthur on the biggest beach day of the season.

The politics lead, critics say they basically gave the finger to transparency, with no press release, no record of it, without telling anyone, the House Ethics Committee deciding they can be a little less transparent about all-expenses-paid trips around the world.

And the sports lead. All of a sudden, something looks very, very wrong. Serena Williams walking off the court, crying at Wimbledon. What sucked all the strength from the world's best female tennis player?

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

We will begin with some breaking news in the money lead. Porterhouses, multiple sides, expensive champagne, it could be a "Wolf of Wall Street" kind of day in Lower Manhattan with the Dow busting a record and flirting with a milestone number it has never seen before, 17,000.

CNN MONEY's Alison Kosik is live in New York with details of a record day for investors -- Alison.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Jake, there were new records for the Dow and S&P 500. But as far as Dow 17000 goes, it was close, but no cigar; 17000 is a nice round number, but to traders, it really doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot.

But they did tell me that they did watch the Dow instead of the World Cup more today. But to average Americans, seeing that 17000, even seeing the Dow get close to that, really gives confidence, and why not? You look at stocks, they have been on fire, breaking milestones at a clip. It was just over -- a little year ago that the Dow crossed the 15000

mark for the first time. And it took just seven months for the Dow to cross 16000 for the first time. Why did it get so close today? Part of it was low volume. Fewer were in the game today. That causes exaggerated moves in the market.

But there were some hard numbers. Car sales numbers came in for June and they were good. But no doubt about it, Jake, there is this disconnect still between stocks and the economy. Millions are out of work. GDP in the first quarter came in subpar. So, those things were not good, but what you're seeing investors do is latch onto the thinking that it's going to get better. That's what moved the Dow higher today -- Jake.

TAPPER: Alison Kosik in New York, thanks. Almost a tale of two economies.

The national lead now. It's something you should worry more about on Labor Day, not Independence Day, but millions on the East Coast, some who may be packing the "Family Truckster" right about now, could have their July Fourth weekend plans ruined by the first named storm of the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season.

Tropical Storm Arthur has now formed off the East Coast of Florida. Some forecast models say it could become the season's first full-blown hurricane on the Fourth of July, as it makes a head-on collision with the Outer Banks of North Carolina and could making it too windy and way too soggy for fireworks shows in the nation's capital, Philadelphia and New York City.

Sunlen Serfaty is here with more -- Sunlen.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, the storm right now is about 95 miles off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida. And it did pick up speed during the day today. It was upgraded to a tropical storm, but it's that potential H-word, hurricane, that is putting fear into hopes of a festive Fourth of July.


SERFATY (voice-over): It's under a tropical storm watch, the first of many weather advisories expected along the East Coast this week, but it's this track over the next 72 hours that's so concerning, moving through nearly every beach destination up the Southern East Coast, and leaving behind dangerous rip currents.

CHRISTOPHER VACCARO, NOAA: Starting on Wednesday through the Fourth of July, we're looking at a severe weather threat, we're looking at a flash flood threat with heavy rain on Thursday.

SERFATY: And if it picks up enough steam, forecasters predict it could form into a Category 1 Hurricane here potentially just off North Carolina's Outer Banks in the early morning of the Fourth.

VACCARO: It looks like Arthur might track pretty close, if not over the Outer Banks of Eastern North Carolina on Fourth of July and possibly as a low-end hurricane with top winds around 75 miles per hour.

SERFATY: Bad news, Fourth of July travelers, it's the busiest week of the summer travel season. (INAUDIBLE) million Americans will travel, 85 percent by car.

The busiest getaway day of the year is Thursday, putting many drivers on the road during the soggiest stretch of the storm.

YOLANDA CADE, AAA: They are potentially staring down the barrel of a loaded gun. But it has the potential for cancellations and delays possibly if they're traveling by air and for rainy and slick road conditions if there's inclement weather and rain if they're traveling by car.

SERFATY: The rain potentially washing out Fourth of July celebrations and fireworks, perhaps even all the way up to Boston, where officials say they're not sure yet if the big show will go on.

TIMOTHY ALBEN, MASSACHUSETTS STATE POLICE: I think we're going to defer any conversation about the weather or decisions about the weather at least until tomorrow.


SERFATY: The system will likely clear out by the weekend. But even when it does pass, the forecasters say you might not be safe to go into the beach water. The storm, unfortunately, will leave behind very dangerous rip currents -- Jake.

TAPPER: Horrible news for vacationers on the East Coast.

Sunlen, thank you so much.

Right now, it's not clear where it will go, but the storm could have an impact on shorelines from Central Florida all the way up to Long Island and Cape Cod, more than 1,500 miles of coast on a day that could make or break the economies of these coastal areas.


TAPPER: Turning to our world lead, with the terrorist group ISIS seizing wide swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq and declaring an Islamic state, plus fears that Baghdad might fall, the Pentagon announced that 300 more American troops are now in Iraq to help secure the American Embassy.

And when you add the U.S. troops already there to assist the Iraqi military and government, the total number of American forces on the ground in Iraq is just under 800. Doesn't that sound like mission creep?


REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: There's no mission creep. The missions haven't changed. I think expect and should have a measure of flexibility on how we manage the resources available to us.


TAPPER: Iraq's parliament met today in the hopes of forming a new government and then the parliament postponed that meeting for another week when too many members skipped out after a half-hour morning break. It's a critical step in the eyes of the Obama administration which has been pressuring the Iraqi government to form a new government before committing to military action such as airstrikes.

Joining me is the Iraqi ambassador to the United States, Lukman Faily.

Mr. Ambassador, thanks so much for being here. I appreciate it.


TAPPER: So the Iraqis have been asking the U.S. for action for some time now. Can you understand that some might be frustrated that the Iraqi government wants the Americans to help with airstrikes and other things and then your parliament takes a break? Why should the U.S. act quickly when the Iraqi government won't even act quickly?

FAILY: The parliament brought the first session was today. They were supposed to talk about the speaker and later on talk about the president and then a new cabinet be formed.

So, today was the first session. There is a discussion going on as a package solution to all three positions. That's why I think the delay was taking place.

TAPPER: The U.S. government sending -- the Pentagon sending 300 more troops into Iraq to help secure the embassy there on top of the 500 or just under 500 that are already there to help the Iraqi government and the Iraqi military.

It sounds like the United States government, without saying it, is very worried about the security of the U.S. Embassy. How close is ISIS to Baghdad?

FAILY: I think that the issue is not the protection of Baghdad.

It's more to do with eyes on the ground to get a better perspective of the threat to the whole region, and primarily within Iraq, and also to get a better understanding of the U.S. need to support us.

We have called for United States to support us in our air supremacy to defeat that immediate threat of ISIL to the integrity of Iraq.

TAPPER: How close is ISIL or ISIS to Baghdad, though?

FAILY: How close is ISIL or ISIS to Baghdad though?

The north is -- in the northern provinces, they have pockets in the Diyala and they have pockets now in the Salahaddin near the Tikrit and so on. We're talking about something like 100 miles away. TAPPER: One hundred miles.

You said this morning that it's unfair to blame Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for what's happening, that he's not the problem. But can you not understand the argument made by many in the Obama administration, as well as world leaders all over the world, saying that this maybe could have been avoided if Maliki had been more inclusive and brought more Sunnis into the government? Then there wouldn't have been this vacuum for ISIS and other Sunnis to spring up and gain power.

FAILY: We have a democratic process. Election just recently took place; 60 percent of the people participated.

And within that context, I think the formation of the government will take place soon. Who's the prime minister is an issue to be discussed at the parliament. If prime minister is elected again, that's democratic. If not, then...

TAPPER: So if someone else is picked as prime minister, Maliki will step aside?

FAILY: It's democratic. The formation of the government is elected by the parliamentarian.


FAILY: The prime minister's bloc is about 100 out of 328 seats. So he still have a good chance of getting it.

I think the issue doesn't need to be personalized. The threat is immediate to Iraq integrity, which means that the region, and, therefore, the globe will be threatened as well because of the importance of Iraq geopolitically and in relation to energy.

TAPPER: I talk to a lot of troops and a lot of troops who have served in Iraq. And many of them are frustrated.

They say why should any more Americans go back into that country when the Iraqi people can't even come together to form an inclusive government? Why should our lives be on the line when Iraqi leaders won't even put any political risk out there?

FAILY: We're not asking for boots on the ground, nor we're asking for combat troops.

What we're asking for support in provision of anti-terrorism capabilities in relation to our own military capabilities, in relation to air supremacy. That's the key focus we're talking about. We're talking about things like drones, F-16s and so on.

The threat is not just to Iraq. It's in the region. And the investments of United States over the last 10 years need to be looked after. We think that our corporation working together to defeat al Qaeda and ISIL should be the main objective here. TAPPER: What was the problem with the battalions, the Iraqi military

battalions that basically turned tail and ran away from ISIS?

FAILY: There are issues with our military capabilities. There were issues with that.

Now it's being addressed. We have drastically changed our leadership. We're changing the combat, the mobilization of the people. We're looking at that. There are lessons to be learned there certainly, but the need from U.S. is not for combats, nor we're asking -- we usually pay for these services anyway. We pay for all the FMS and so on.

So we're not asking for military aid. We're asking for supporting us in our fight against terrorism, our common fight.

TAPPER: What kind of help are you getting from Russia and Iran?

FAILY: The Russians have been supportive. They have listened, and they have been sort of appreciating the situation we're in.

TAPPER: Have they sent any hardware or any helicopters?

FAILY: They have. They have sent hardware, armored helicopters and also fighter planes. More are coming in.

Obviously, their advisers will accompany that. And as far as Iran, we have more -- requested support in their anti -- what they have learned in Syria in relation to their experts, in relation to how to combat ISIL and so on.

TAPPER: There are about 800 American troops in Iraq right now. I understand that these are not so-called boots on the ground. They're doing other things. They're protecting the embassy. They're offering advice. They're providing intelligence. But would you not call 800 American troops a military presence?

FAILY: Yes, but we have a strategic format agreement between the two countries which talked about security cooperation. This was signed in 2008 during President Obama's time.

TAPPER: President Bush's time.


FAILY: No, no, President Obama, actually in 2008.

TAPPER: You're talking 2010 or whatever. I understand.

FAILY: No, 2010, the troop withdrawal, but the agreement was signed in 2008, in which both countries talked about cooperation in their counterterrorism, talking about integrity of Iraq.

TAPPER: Right.

FAILY: The key question now is the integrity of Iraq as a state. That's where the threat is and that's where the need should be focused on.

TAPPER: All right, Mr. Ambassador, thank you so much for your time.


FAILY: Thank you for having me here. Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up on THE LEAD: private money used by lawmakers to travel around the world. Now Congress is making it even harder to track those lavish trips, critics say, why Congress quietly changed the rule. Did they think nobody would notice?

Plus, she's young, beautiful and loathed -- the cheerleader making a name for herself by hunting endangered animals, how she's defending her actions to those who want her stopped. That's coming up.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. The politics lead now.

This holiday weekend, while you're pumping nearly $4 a gallon gasoline into the family SUV and driving head-on into the sweltering hellscape of bumper to bumper July 4th traffic, mull over this blatant bit of hypocrisy, courtesy of United States Congress. According to a report first published by "National Journal", the House Ethics Committee has just decided in a closed door meeting no less, that, hey, they're going to just make it a little bit harder for the public to follow the money on the privately-funded, all expense paid trips lawmakers get to take all over the world.

Our Pamela Brown has the details.

Pamela, so, so long transparency?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The Ethics Committee would disagree with that, but the government transparent sit advocates we've been speaking to are up in arms about this, Jake. Sometimes, you know, as you mentioned there, it is good to be a member of Congress. For instance, they are allowed to accept these trips overseas from private sponsors, like non-profits as fact-finding missions as long as they disclose who is paying for travel. But as we said, this is a requirement that has been changed very quietly.


BROWN (voice-over): Members of Congress have had the travel bug for years. Visiting places like the old city in Israel to get a sense of the age-old problems there. In fact, Israel, France, Turkey and Ireland rank among the most popular destinations for lawmakers who are traveling there for free, because private sponsors pick up the tab totaling millions of dollars each year.

It used to be each member of Congress must reveal who paid their tab on their personal financial disclosure forms. One of the most high profile forms lawmakers must file. Now, that requirement has changed.

MELANIE SLOAN, EXEC. DIR., CITIZEN FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: It's clearly been done to allow members to escape accountability for lavish trips. Whenever a member of Congress takes an expensive trip, watchdog groups and their constituents ask questions, why did they need to take this trip? If they don't have to reveal this trip on their financial disclosure forms, people won't know about it.

BROWN: Buried on page 35 in the House Ethics Committee's guidelines provided to Congress members, states the change -- meaning the gift of travel regardless of its dollar value and paid for by a private source does not need to be reported. The unpublicized change went unnoticed until a reporter with the "National Journal" spotted it.

The chairman of the House Transparency Caucus says that's part of the problem.

REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D), ILLINOIS: I only know what I read in the newspapers. I did not know this had taken place.

BROWN: Now, Congress members must disclose all travel records to the clerk's office instead. The House Ethics Committee says the information is still easy little accessible and the change streamlines the process.

Congressman Quigley disagrees.

QUIGLEY: A wise Supreme Court justice said that sunshine is the best disinfectant. It doesn't hurt to be duplicative. I think it helps us at a time when trust in Congress is at an all-time low to be as open and accountable as possibly we can.

BROWN: The trips in question are financed by private non-profit groups usually billed as fact-finding missions. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is speaking out about the change in a statement asking the House Ethics Committee to reverse course. While the committee's aim was to simplify the disclosure process, Congress must always move in the direction of more disclosure, not less she says.


BROWN: And in a statement, the Ethics Committee tells CNN that it continues to enforce the requirement that all House members and staff who wish to accept privately sponsored travel must continue to get approval beforehand and file detailed paperwork about any such trip within 15 days. Those requirements have not been changed, according to the Ethics Committee -- Jake.

TAPPER: Pamela, thank you so much.

Let's bring in our political panel, Republican strategist John Feehery and Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons.

You know, I just find this flabbergasting and I doubt you'll disagree with me. Congress has a 16 percent approval rating. It's always the thing whenever President Obama's approval ratings go down, they're always consoled by the fact they're still twice the number of Congress.

Are they trying to go lower here, John? Why would you make this decision? Why would one make this decision?

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, the professional staff made this call for the -- these are nonpartisan staff -- they said, let's do this because you have duplications in the filing. And sometimes you could get those filings messed up when you duplicate it, easier to just have one filing.

Now, all the advocates, like Melanie who I love, you know, they get up in arms because this is good press for them but it makes no difference because you still have full transparency. So, I think that the idea that this is a story -- let me say another thing: congressional travel is important. Members get actually -- fact-finding, they get actually facts with congressional travel and they get a chance to know each other. They know their colleagues.

So, I think the story is way overblown.

TAPPER: Well, no one's saying that there shouldn't be congressional travel.

FEEHERY: But that's the implication.

TAPPER: No, the question is, should it be disclosed who's paying for it? Should it be disclose who went on the trip?

And, Jamal, I think the question here is -- and this is all very inside baseball to a degree -- but the financial disclosure forms are what reporters and good government groups and members of the public know to go to. There is this other thing that -- the travel and gift form that I didn't even know existed. And the travel and gift form, that's not true, I know it existed.

But most people don't know it exists. And you have to do travel on both forms as Pamela explained. Now, they're saying you don't have to on financial disclosure.

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: So, John and I are probably going to agree on this. I actually think having more travel, the result of this if you want to pay attention to. As you said a second ago, this is inside baseball. Most people in the country really aren't paying that much attention to this.

And what you want is for Congress to work. I would argue having more congressional travel where people get to go on these trips and get to know each other, where staffers get to go and get to know each other, lends to the fact of more bipartisan action and you have more educated members of Congress and staff. So, let's think about the result here.

TAPPER: OK. I feel you guys are very clever.


TAPPER: Made it about travel instead of disclosure. I agree.

But let's move. At the Aspen Ideas Festival, which is going on this week, Hillary Clinton called the Supreme Court's decision on the Obamacare contraceptive coverage mandate deeply disturbing and she says it's part of a trend that she's seeing all over the world. Take a listen.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: You watch women and girls being deprived of their rights. Some of them never have them, some of them lose them. And among those rights is control over their bodies, control over health care, control over the size of their families. And it is a disturbing trend that you see in a lot of societies that are very unstable, anti-democratic and frankly, prone to extremism.


TAPPER: Jamal? I mean, is that a description of the Hobby Lobby decision? Hobby Lobby, you know, to play devil's advocate here, they do provide 16 forms of birth control in their health insurance. There are just four that they opposed to. She's comparing this to religious extremism abroad?

SIMMONS: Yes, I don't know the religious extremism argument. But I will say this. Why you have employers and companies involved in individual's health care seems crazy to me. And also, the conservatives who are usually the once who stand up for individuals making their own decisions would probably -- should probably agree that keeping companies out of employees decisions would be the right thing to do.

Second point is, Democrats are going to have a field day with this. It's an easy completely campaign tactic to go after this issue. I think you're going to hear a lot more people making it.

TAPPER: And that's the point that I want you to weigh in on, John, is that this is an issue that Democrats are going to be able to run on to get women to the polls.

FEEHERTY: It's also their only campaign issue. The president's ratings are tanking. Democrats are in real trouble this cycle because of the tanking ratings. So, I think they're going to talk a lot about this.

But Jamal is absolutely right and you're absolutely right, actually, in the sense that this is way overblown. It's the only thing they've got.

The idea that -- I didn't know in the Constitution people had a right to free birth control. I didn't think that was possible. I didn't think that was a constitutional right. But apparently, it is now.

And I think the Hobby Lobby decision was narrowly decided. So, they're going to try to make this a mountain out of a mole hill but it's not going to work.

TAPPER: Although the Supreme Court did clarify today when asked by the "Associated Press" that this could apply to other objections to other forms of contraceptive.

But let's turn to another Clinton-related subject. Monica Lewinsky telling "National Geographic" what it was like for her the day the "Starr Report" was released in an interview for their new series, "The '90s: The Last Great Decade", which begins Sunday, July 6, at 9:00 p.m. on the National Geographic Channel.

Take a listen.


MONICA LEWINSKY: I was a virgin to humiliation of that level until that will day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A mix of sexual discussion that leaves nothing to the imagination and exchanges that more closely resemble the theater of the absurd.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not even going to get into what I don't know, you know?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Prosecutors cite at least 13 instances in which he touched her in very intimate ways, including one episode involving a cigar. The report alleges sex while the president was on the phone with three different members of Congress.

LEWINSKY: To have my narrative ripped from me and turned into the "Starr Report" and things that were turned over or things they dealt out of my computer that I thought were deleted, I mean, it was just -- it was just violation after violation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The details are tough to take, decidedly not for the faint of heart, certainly not for children.

There were nights because I had young children and I was a parent first, where I called home and just said maybe this is a good night to mute the first part of the broadcast or keep the television off.


TAPPER: So one of the interesting things about this I think is Monica Lewinsky keeps popping up. She was in "Vanity Fair" a month or so ago. Now, she's in the National Geographic Channel. I don't know exactly, I assume she's trying to rehabilitate her image. She's certainly had a tough hand dealt to her.

But, Jamal, obviously, Hillary Clinton is, you know, in all likelihood going to run for president. Could this have an impact?

SIMMONS: I think they're probably -- maybe there are some young people who don't know all the details about this, but everybody probably over the age of 35 is pretty well versed on this. I'm not sure how much of an impact it's going to have on Hillary Clinton politically.

I imagine Monica Lewinsky is trying to just reclaim her life in some ways. She's 40 years old. She had a tough last 20 years. I'd hate for somebody to hold something against me that I did when I was 22 years old. That would be bad.

TAPPER: But, John, I mean, voters under 25, that's a lot of voters. Hillary Clinton is going to need those voters.

FEEHERY: It's a reminder. It's a reminder that Monica Lewinsky was a victim. And she was victimized by President Clinton. And so, those people who glorify President Clinton have to understand there's another side of the story, and that's going to come out during this nomination for --

SIMMONS: I want you guys to try to run on that. Let's see --

TAPPER: John Feehery and Jamal Simmons, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

When we come back, she's the best player in the world but today, Serena Williams was far from it. The bizarre behavior by the tennis star today, and her explanation coming up.

And later, they were the rogue security America that gave America a black eye. And now, new allegations that they targeted Americans too, at least rhetorically. That story coming up.