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New Details in Toddler Death Investigation; Tensions in Israel; Interview with Mark Regev; No Border Visit on Obama's Texas Schedule; Interview with Congressman Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma; Investigation Deepens in Hot Car Death

Aired July 7, 2014 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: How should the Obama administration respond after Israeli forces allegedly brutally beat an American teenager?

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.


TARIQ ABU KHDEIR, AMERICAN TEEN: They came and attacked me, and actually went unconscious.


TAPPER: That lead. As Israelis and Palestinians are going an eye for an eye, this American teen could have been left blind. He was accused of hurling rocks at Israeli police and severely beaten. How should President Obama react?

The money lead. I pay my taxes, you may your taxes. So, why are multibillion-dollar companies flush with profits going wherever they can to avoid paying theirs? It may be perfectly legal, but is it also, dare I say, un-American?

And the national lead. Her husband stands accused letting their baby die in a sweltering car. She has not been called a suspect. But now some pundits are starting to question what explains some of her actions that day.

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

We will begin with the world lead.

While most American kids his age are spending the summer learning to drive or working at terribly paying jobs, 15-year-old Tariq Khdeir of Florida, he is under house arrest in Israel as we speak. He's bruised, he's nursing broken bones, his family says.

Tariq is an American citizen, a Palestinian-American, to be exact. Take a good look at his face. Israeli police allegedly did this to him. A camera reportedly caught Israeli officers unleashing a beating on the teen on Thursday. That's him on the ground held down, punched, kicked. The Israelis say he was hurling rocks at officers amid a crowd of protesters and they arrested him. He is now out on bail ordered to stay under house arrest for more than a week. When he got out, reporters asked him why police got so violent with



KHDEIR: I don't know, so I ran.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They said that you were throwing stones, something like this.

KHDEIR: No. I jumped the fence and I tried to run away, because I just something -- somebody running at me. So, I tried to run away.


TAPPER: Now, Tariq says he was only a bystander watching the protests and he does have a deep connection to those protests.

The demonstrations spring from the death, the murder of his cousin, the 16-year-old Palestinian who was abducted and burned alive on Wednesday. This young man's only apparent crime was being Palestinian. His death is believed to be a revenge killing for the murders of three other teens. Their only apparent crime is that they were Israeli.

One of them, Naftali Fraenkel, was a dual citizen of Israel and the United States. Their bodies were found a week ago, more than two weeks after they were kidnapped on their way home from their West Bank school. The blood of all these teens, Israeli and Palestinian alike, is fueling the escalating violence between the two groups.

Israel is carrying out airstrikes on Hamas, the Palestinian militant group deemed a terrorist group by the U.S. that rules over the Gaza Strip in retaliation for Hamas rocket attacks. Hamas says eight Palestinians have been killed in airstrikes over the past 48 hours.

I want to turn to Mark Regev, the spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mark, good to see you, as always.

The U.S. State Department has called the beating of this American teenager, Tariq Khdeir, troubling. One senior State Department official tells CNN that -- quote -- "They are investigating whether he was throwing rocks. Even if he was, the question is, was this the right response to that? Obviously, we don't think so."

Do you agree with the U.S. State Department? Was there any excuse at all to beat this small teenager while he was handcuffed?

MARK REGEV, ISRAELI GOVERNMENT SPOKESPERSON: That is exactly correct. There is no excuse for this sort of behavior.

And we are currently investigating it. It's not the police investigating themselves. We have initiated an impartial, objective, independent inquiry into exactly what happened. That inquiry is being done by our Justice Ministry. Once again, it's not the police doing an internal investigation. It's an outside investigation.

The victim and his family have already given evidence. The investigation is ongoing. Look, it doesn't matter if he was involved in the violence or not. The fact is that he was handcuffed and apparently he was beaten. And if those allegations are proven true, the Israeli police involved will have to pay a price. That's clear.

TAPPER: Mark, Palestinians say this happens all the time. The only difference is that this kid was American.

REGEV: I beg to disagree.

We are -- in Israel, we are a democracy like the United States. The police have to work in the framework of the law. They are not above the law. That's what happens in our neighbor countries, where the police are above the law. In Israel, we have of course checks and balances, we have rule by the rule of law. And the police have to work in the framework of the law.

And this unit inside our Ministry of Justice routinely deals with complaints against the police. Once again, we don't think complaints against the police should be investigated in-house by the police themselves. We believe they should be done independently. And that's why we have got this special unit in our Ministry of Justice to actually look into these complaints.

TAPPER: As you know, there are a lot of human rights groups that just disagree with your assessment. And, in fact, there is a group that looked at all the incidences of violence against Palestinians by Jewish settlers and said that it's under 10 percent that there is even any sort of indictment. Most of the cases are just dismissed when there is violence against Palestinians by settlers in the territories.

REGEV: Look, Israel is a country where we have got a very independent, I would say fiercely independent judiciary. And anyone who has a complaint the way the Israeli army, the Israeli police, Israeli citizens have behaved, you have open to you a whole series of legal procedures that people use.

And I can tell you, I know the system works. How do I know that? Because Palestinians regularly go to the Israeli courts. And when they are right, when their complaint is justified, they can win.

TAPPER: Mark, let's talk about the murder of Tariq's cousin, Mohammad Abu Khdeir.

I want to read from today's editorial from "Haaretz" newspaper: "Abu Khdeir's murderers are not Jewish extremists. They're the descendants and builders of a culture of hate and vengeance that is nurtured and fertilized by the guides of the Jewish state, those for whom are every Arab is a bitter enemy simply because they are Arab. Prosecuting the murderers is no longer sufficient. There must be a cultural revolution in Israel." How about that charge? There a lot of Israelis, especially on the left, who think this didn't happen in a vacuum, this is part of the culture in Israel, hostility toward Arabs nurtured by Israeli politicians.

REGEV: Look, I don't think that is true.

The Israeli civil society, the government, wall-to-wall, everyone has condemned, totally condemned that murder. And my prime minister earlier today rang up the father of the victim of that murder and spoke to him and, first of all, expressed his condolences and the condolences of the people of Israel.

But, more than that, he wanted to condemn in equivocal terms that vigilante violence, that murder, that hate crime, and he wanted to say that Israel stands thoroughly against this. We promised to investigate. We promised to bring the perpetrators of that crime to justice. And guess what? We delivered. We have done exactly that.

And it's important to say that these despicable murderers, the people who have conducted this crime, they are, for us, people who we despise, people who have no place in our society.

TAPPER: Mark, I'm old enough to remember when there would be a crime against an Israeli and the rally in Israel would be peaceful. Now we see these rallies and the crowds start chanting death to Arabs, death to Arabs.

REGEV: I want to be clear.

I'm sure you saw the funeral of the three Israeli teens who were brutally murdered by Hamas. There was tens of thousands of Israelis there. And the atmosphere was not one of violence, not one of aggression, not one even asking for retribution or for revenge. It was very -- I would argue, there was this silence, there was this unity, there was this quiet mourning. There was a sense of national solidarity.

The extremists, those making the noise, those who talk about violence and instigating sort of hatred against the other sides, they are a small minority. That doesn't mean we tolerate them. My prime minister said clearly, we will not tolerate incitement, we will not tolerate hate crimes, we will not tolerate racism in Israel.

And the state, the country will come down with all the power of the law against the individuals involved in those sort of activities.

TAPPER: Mark Regev, thank you for your time. We are all praying for peace in your part of the world.

REGEV: Thank you for having me.

TAPPER: Also in world news today, he is the shadowy figure who leads the terrorist militia group tearing apart Iraq at the seams. And he's been harder to photograph than Keyser Soze, that is, until now. A video posted online appears to show the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi, making an extremely rare public appearance in Mosul, Iraq's second biggest city. If it is Baghdadi, this could signal a new boldness for him now that his group controls Mosul and much of both Iraq and Syria. The man in the video is shown delivering a sermon at a mosque urging Muslims to wage jihad during the holy month of Ramadan. We should note CNN has not independently confirmed the authenticity of the video.

You know how hard it can be to keep your phone charged when you're traveling, especially if you have an iPhone 5? Better make sure the battery isn't dead if you're flying into the U.S. from outside the country, because if you cannot power it up in front of security personnel, you may have to say bon voyage to your phone permanently.

And it's not just phones, but also laptops and other kinds of electronic devices. It's a new rule which you may not have even heard about, maybe because the Transportation Security announced it will you were likely busy lighting sparklers.

Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, has been looking into how this will affect you.

Pamela, why the rule change?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, this is the latest effort to stop a potential bomb being smuggled aboard an international flight.

As you pointed out, those include devices like laptops, smartphones, tablets, e-readers and gaming devices. Now passengers will have to turn on their phones when they want to board a flight. If they are unable to do so, if their battery isn't charged, they won't be able to bring that board on flight.

The initial focus will be on airports in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. And a U.S. homeland security official tells CNN the changes have already been implemented at some of those facilities. Which airports are affected, officials aren't yet saying.

Part of this is for security reasons. They don't want to tip off the bad guys here, but we know there won't be changes in what can be brought aboard. But inbound overseas travelers can expect additional layers of inspections for their shoes and those ubiquitous electronics, especially a greater use of scanners designed to detect trace amounts of explosives.

These changes come based on new intelligence, Jake, that some terror groups, including al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, may be trying to build new types of improvised explosives that are harder to detect. A government official told CNN those devices could be masked inside ordinary-looking electronics like your cell phone and rewired to detonate.

Officials have previously encountered planned and failed airliner attacks, as you will recall, Jake, with explosives smuggled in printers and in passenger shoes and an underwear bomb, the underwear bomber, for example.

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson directed the TSA last week to enhance security at these overseas airports that have direct flights to the United States. At this point, Jake, domestic flights aren't impacted by this.

TAPPER: All right. Pamela Brown, thank you so much. I have to say my phone dies like three times a day. That's going to be trouble for people.

BROWN: You will want to bring your charger with you.

TAPPER: Exactly, everywhere I go.

Coming up, President Obama taking heat from one of his very own -- why one Democrat says President Obama is a step behind and how the White House is defending itself on the charge next.

Plus, Pope Francis today apologizing for what he called a sacrilegious cult within the Catholic Church, but his comments on the cover-up by the church were perhaps the most revealing, what he said coming up.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

The national lead now, it's a humanitarian crisis on American soil but not one that President Obama seems to think he needs to see with his own eyes. More than 52,000 unaccompanied minors have fled Central America since October. Many of them crossing the Mexican-American border alone only to end up packed into overflowing processing facilities, such as this one in Brownsville, Texas.

And while the White House is trying to work with Central American countries to stop this influx, the president himself is not scheduled as of now to visit any border facilities, despite the fact that he'll actually be in Texas on Wednesday.

White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski is live on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Michelle, what else is happening in Texas right now that is more important than seeing this crisis, this humanitarian crisis with his own eyes?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Jake. Right. You know, it's interesting, I mean, he's going to be here. And this question now has been asked of the White House probably more than a dozen times. Wouldn't this be the ideal time for the president to see the problem up close since they are calling this an urgent humanitarian crisis?

But they say there is no need for him to be there. He is well aware of the situation. Other top administration officials have been there. They say, right now, the goal of the president is to speed up this process to get these kids into hearings and then sent home. But that comes with a cost and he is about to ask Congress for at least $2 billion to do that.

And, of course, in the meantime, this is a big political back and forth.


KOSINSKI (voice-over): There are protests at the White House, around the country, at the border where tens of thousands unaccompanied children, some as young as toddlers, have been apprehended, some 60,000 just this year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where that money comes from?

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: I think America is begging to see Washington really work.

REP. MIKE MCCAUL (R), TEXAS: This crisis is a call for reaction.

KOSINSKI: The White House calls it an urgent humanitarian crisis, as it scrambles to assemble enough housing, lawyers, judges to process the children and get them back home quickly, mainly to Central America.

But now comes criticism even from a House Democrat that it's the president who hasn't acted quickly enough to stem the problem before it came to this.

REP. HENRY CUELLAR (D), TEXAS: I think he still is one step behind. They knew this was happening a year ago.

KOSINSKI: And from Texas Governor Rick Perry.

PERRY: About five years too late, would be my response to that.

KOSINSKI: The White House today defends itself, saying it's been proactive building up resources at the border, and they've been trying to work with Central American countries to get the message out that smuggling your child over here is dangerous and generally unsuccessful.

Customs and Border Enforcement just put out this graphic video ad in Spanish showing a young border crosser writing to his parents, but ending up in the desert.


KOSINSKI: That is a real-life situation, an 11-year-old Guatemalan boy's body was found a mile from the Texas border.


KOSINSKI: It has become clear that a big part of this problem is this law that was passed before President Obama took office that requires these kids from countries other than Mexico to go to a hearing first then be sent home. So, even though most of them will be sent home, it sometimes takes years for them to go through this process. So, why not change or repeal that law? Well, the White House says

that even though it is causing problems, it does have humanitarian value, say, for kids who have been trafficked. So, what the president wants to do is expand the leeway, the Department of Homeland Security, to kind of use its discretion more and get these kids processed more quickly. So, that's what we expect to see in coming days, Jake.

TAPPER: Michelle Kosinski at the White House -- thank you so much.

One congressman wanted to visit these facilities for himself. Republican Congressman Jim Bridenstine wanted to see Ft. Sill, which is located in his home state of Oklahoma and currently houses about 1,000 documented and unaccompanied minors. He notified Health and Human Services that he planned to visit the facility while there for an unrelated meeting. But he did not hear back until he was already on his way.

He and some aides drove around a large chain link fence looking for a gate or someone in charge to let him into the facility. And, well, I'll let him tell what you happened next.


REP. JIM BRIDENSTINE (R), OKLAHOMA: We saw somebody peering through the fence. We stopped the car. I got out. Explained I was a member of Congress, that I represent the first district of Oklahoma, that I'd very much like to talk to the person who runs the facility.

He made a radio call. The radio call came back and said the congressman is welcome to take a tour on the 21st of July. This was on the 1st of July. So, they wanted me to wait three weeks.

I asked -- I asked them to make sure they understood I'm a federal representative of the people. This is federal property. This is a federal operation and I would very much like to meet the person that runs the facility.

The person who runs the facility came down. I shook his hand. We had a brief conversation and he was very clear that no members of Congress were going to have access until the 21st, is what he said at the time.

TAPPER: The media will get a tour of the facility Thursday. They are not allowed to bring in recording devices or talk to any of the children. My understanding is you've been offered a tour that day, as well, but your schedule doesn't allow it so you might be going this Saturday.

Are you going to take the tour if they give you the same limits -- you can't talk to children, you can't bring in recording devices?

BRIDENSTINE: I will take whatever tour they authorize me to take, but I will also make sure that I do everything I can to make -- so that people are aware that they are -- they have something here they don't want people to know.

Like you said, they invited the media. The media is going to come on the 10th. But the media was -- they were told they are not allowed to ask questions, they are not allowed to speak to the employees, they're not allowed to speak to the medical staff, they're not allowed to speak, of course, to the children. They're not allowed to bring any recording devices.

And if you like pictures, HHS said we will provide pictures to you.

This is unsatisfactory. We have stories here of human tragedy. Human tragedy of children who have made a long trek from Central America down to Lackland Air Force Base. The reports are that as many as 1/3 of the children at Lackland, I'm talking about the female children, as many as 1/3, have been raped or abused on the way to the United States.

There are reports of leasing children. The thought is in Central America, that if you come with a child, you're more likely to be able to stay.

TAPPER: Congressman --

BRIDENSTINE: So, they are leasing children.

TAPPER: Right. I just want to ask you about the girls who have been assaulted. They've been assaulted on their way. They've been assaulted at these American facilities? Where are you talking about? And what evidence do you have? Because that's a very strong charge.

BRIDENSTINE: It is. These are reports that have come from Lackland Air Force Base, both border patrol and other officials down there.

It was Representative Henry Cuellar from Texas who first share these stories. He's a Democrat from Texas. This is not a partisan issue. This is a human suffering issue.

We need to understand what are the policies that resulted in this. And as far as when these atrocities took place, they actually took place on the way to the United States. And the problem here is we have an insecure border on the south side of the United States. And we have people down in Central America that believe that if you come, you can stay. It creates -- I was talking to somebody who fights human trafficking here in Oklahoma. And he said that the scenario that has been created, he said it's, quote, "like Christmas Day for human traffickers", unquote.

TAPPER: It's certainly a humanitarian crisis. Congressman Bridenstine, thank you for your time.



TAPPER: When we come back, she is part of the investigation, but is she under investigation? What police are saying about the mother of the 22-month-old boy who died after his father left him in a car. That's next. Plus, American companies using every trick in the book to get out of paying their fair taxes. Which big name corporations are doing it and why is it legal?


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

In national news, she is not a suspect. She is a mourning mother whose husband is charged with the murder of their 22-year-month son Cooper, the toddler who died, trapped alone in a car seat on a 92- degree Georgia day.

Justin Ross Harris says he forgot to drop his son off at day care, but prosecutors say he intentionally left his child to perish in a sweltering parking lot not far from his office. The court just released new search warrants in the case, targeting the digital trail Harris might have left before the death.

But after damning testimony from one detective last week, questions are also swirling in the media about Leanna Harris' reaction to this unspeakable tragedy.

Let's bring CNN's Martin Savidge in Atlanta.

Martin, this woman is part of the investigation, but let's be very clear -- she is not under investigation. Why are so many legal pundits and everyone else so interested in her right now?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, I think a lot of it has to do with evidence that would not hold up in a court of law, but certainly counts for a lot in the court of public opinion. People will point to the fact that whether it was with the revelations that police made about her husband's alternate life, and also about the death of her child, she has never shown any emotion.

And then on top of that, people wonder, look, she is so close to this case. She is the mother of the child. She is married to the man charged with the child's death. Is it possible if it's deliberate that somehow she was involved?


SAVIDGE (voice-over): She has not been charged with any crime. Authorities say she is part of the investigation. But to legal observers, her behavior the day Cooper died and since her husband's arrest is odd, bordering on suspicious. In court Thursday, she showed almost no reaction to the lurid details of her husband's alleged sexting to a number of women the day her son was dying in a hot SUV.

DET. PHIL STODDARD, COBB COUNTY POLICE: He's having up to six different conversations with different women.

SAVIDGE: On the stand, a police detective recounted the first words Leanna reportedly said when she showed up at her son's day care and was told Cooper wasn't there. STODDARD: In front of several witnesses, all of a sudden, she states,

Ross must have left him in the car. And they're like, what? There's no other reason. Ross must have -- no other explanation, excuse me. Ross must have left him in the car.

And they tried to console her and they're like, no, there's a thousand reasons here. You know, he could have taken him to lunch. We don't know yet.

And she is like, no.

SAVIDGE: Later, also during testimony, authorities recounted what mom said to her husband when the pair were reunited at police headquarters after he had been charged with their son's death. Reportedly, Mrs. Harris asked him --

STODDARD: Well, did you say too much?

SAVIDGE: Lastly, according to police documents, Leanna Harris, like her husband, has told authorities she, too, used the Internet to research the issue of children dying in hot cars prior to her son's death.

Justin Harris' attorney says the couple were simply researching a government program warning against leaving children in vehicles.