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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Hillary Clinton on Race; Confederate Flag Controversy; Manhunt; S.C. Lawmakers Debate Removing Confederate Flag; Dash Cam Video of Church Shooter's Arrest. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired June 23, 2015 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: We could be very, very close to a final showdown with those two dangerous fugitives, men who very clearly do not want to go back to prison.
I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.
Breaking news in our national lead. Boots belonging to one of the dangerous fugitives have been found, as we learn new details on what those two dangerous men left behind in that cabin where there was a concrete DNA match. Are cops closing in on the killers?
Also in national news, South Carolina lawmakers meeting right this minute after the Republican governor's call to take down the Confederate Flag from the capitol grounds. In the last few hours, Wal-Mart, Sears, eBay, Amazon all banning the flag, while fans of the flag are buying them in droves.
The politics lead, right now, Hillary Clinton talking about race relations at a historically black church near the flash point of Ferguson, Missouri. Is she building bridges or is she just trying to pave her road to the White House?
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
Our national lead, day 18 of the manhunt for killer convicts Richard Matt and David Sweat and new developments have law enforcement officials intensifying their search and saying they may be closing in on the killers.
Most importantly, in terms of the new clues, the discovery of a pair of boots and other personal items left behind in a cabin from where a witness spotted someone fleeing out the back, perhaps one of the fugitives. Also today, Joyce Mitchell's husband speaking out, saying he suspects he and his wife would now be dead had she gone through with the plan. The two killers are believed to be in an area around 20 miles from the prison where they escaped.
And in case anyone forgot how dangerous the two men are, newly discovered video shows Richard Matt firing a blowgun into his own arm just months before he killed and dismembered his boss. More than 2,000 tips have come in. And at least 800 law enforcement officials are combing the mountainous area around the prison. Are the killers starting to get desperate? Can their capture be imminent?
Let's go straight to Jason Carroll. He is in Cadyville, New York -- Jason.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And, Jake, just a bit of updated information for you. We're now just getting word that there is even more increased police search activity in that area near Owls Head, near a specific spot called Wolf Pond Road.
There are choppers in the air at that particular location, armed officers at this point moving into a specific area. What that means at this point, we're going to have to wait and see, in the meantime, investigators and searchers continuing, Jake, to ask the public to be vigilant. They're hoping that this most recent lead is the one that helps them find these inmates.
CARROLL (voice-over): The manhunt intensifies in a wooded area a little more than 20 miles west from the prison where Richard Matt and David Sweat escaped 18 days ago, searchers calling it the strongest of the over 2,000 leads they received yet.
A witness says he saw a man running out of the back of the cabin. Search teams descended on the area, sources telling CNN DNA from both escaped cons found on personal items inside, while provisions and a pair of boots were left behind, as they may have rushed out, roadblocks set up, alerts put out warning residents to be vigilant.
MAJ. CHARLES GUESS, NEW YORK STATE POLICE: It's a confirmed lead for us. It has generated a massive law enforcement response, as you can see. And we're going to run this to ground.
CARROLL: A source with knowledge of the investigation tells me tools used in the escape may have been passed to Matt in a chunk of frozen meat. The state police say there is no evidence that anyone is currently assisting the escaped killers.
Joyce Mitchell, a prison employee, is accused of helping the two men escape, but investigators say she didn't follow through with the plan to pick them up, her husband, Lyle, telling NBC's "Today Show" that they planned on killing him to make their escape go more smoothly.
LYLE MITCHELL, HUSBAND JOYCE MITCHELL: She told me that Matt wanted her to pick them up. And she said, well, I never leave nowheres without Lyle, never. And he said, well, I will give you some pills to give him to knock him out, and then we all -- and you come pick us up. She said, I can't do this.
And then she told me he started threatening her with somebody inside the facility was going to do something to me to harm me or kill me or somebody outside the jail if she didn't stay with this.
CARROLL: Had she picked them up, he does not think she would have survived. MITCHELL: She would have been dead within half-an-hour, I figure. She would just -- get away, they were going to kill her, they were, and all they wanted was that vehicle.
CARROLL: And Lyle Mitchell denying reports that his wife had a sexual relationship with either of the inmates.
MITCHELL: She swore on her son's life and her son it definitely -- "I, never ever had sex with him."
CARROLL: And new video today obtained by ABC News offers some insight into the mind-set of Richard Matt. It shows him in 1997 smiling and posing with a blowgun.
RICHARD MATT, ESCAPED FUGITIVE: Dip them in AIDS blood, and we will put a patent on them and we will sell them as deadly weapons.
CARROLL: The blowgun is then fired into his arm, this video taken nine months before he then murdered and dismembered his own boss, putting Matt behind bars.
CARROLL: And, Jake, Lyle Mitchell also saying that his wife basically told him that this whole thing for her was more like a fantasy, she liked the attention that Richard Matt and David Sweat were giving her.
She said, in the very end, she said she got so deep into it, she told him she just didn't know how to get out of it -- Jake.
TAPPER: Jason Carroll, thank you so much.
Let's turn now to Sylvester Jones. He was the assistant director of the U.S. Marshals Service and has many years of experience with manhunts.
Thank you so much for being here, Mr. Jones. Appreciate it.
You're a manhunt veteran. Based on what you're seeing now, what you're hearing in terms of increased police activity, do you think their capture is imminent or should we be on guard that it might just be another false alarm?
SYLVESTER JONES, FORMER ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, U.S. MARSHALS SERVICE: Yes, I have worked on a number of task forces for the Marshals Service.
And based on my experience, and what I'm seeing out there, I think that the capture's imminent, I would say within days to a week.
TAPPER: With all due respect, Richard Matt, David Sweat, they're two men. One of them might not have shoes on. We don't know what kind of provisions they have. We suspect not a lot. We suspect they're hungry, perhaps even -- and cold. And we have 800 law enforcement officials well-equipped, well-fed,
well-trained. What's making this so difficult?
JONES: I think that, from what I understand, and understanding sometimes the mind-set of guys like Matt and Sweat, especially Matt, who is very experienced with escapes -- he had a couple attempts. One was successful.
He's just -- he has studied. I believe he has studied and I believe he knows what he's doing. I believe that he's -- he will not make a similar mistake that got him caught, such as being with known relatives before.
TAPPER: And in a wooded environment, hypothetically -- obviously, nobody knows where they are -- where do fugitives hide? Do they hide in trees? Do they bury themselves in the dirt? What do they do?
JONES: Well, normally, they look for cabins, someplace to give them some shelter.
And, as you know, it's hot out these days. So, they're going to need resources. And so my concern from a public safety aspect is that these guys, in order to stay out there, they may commit more crimes.
TAPPER: What kind of manpower and technology do you suspect is being used in this hunt?
JONES: Well, as you mentioned, you said there's over 800 law enforcement officers. There's some great minds out there trying to track these guys down.
I know firsthand with the New York State folks there, and with the U.S. Marshals Service. The Marshals Service has over 60 task forces that are local task forces led by the U.S. Marshals Service. So, all of those resources are being employed where there are leads to check out.
TAPPER: In this cabin where they confirmed through DNA testing that the two fugitives had been, one of them apparently left his shoes behind. Do you think he's actually running around barefoot, he had to leave in such a hurry, or do you suspect he just found another pair of shoes?
JONES: Well, he may -- they may have got tipped off or heard something and took off. Sometimes, you don't have time to grab your shoes. And so if that's the case, he's going to be looking for some shoes.
TAPPER: Do you think that they are still together?
JONES: From my experience, and understanding these two guys, Richard Matt is the seasoned guy, the older guy. Sweat is a follower, I believe. He doesn't have the seasoning of Matt. So, I believe they're going to be together, just because Matt is the leader.
TAPPER: Wouldn't it be easier to evade capture if they were separate or not necessarily?
JONES: It would be -- I don't know if it would necessarily be easier, but I think that it would -- obviously, if they're going in two different directions, then the resources that we have would have to go -- resources that are out there would have to go in two different directions and split up.
But I just think that, based on what I understand from my experience looking at these two type guys, one being the more seasoned guy, one being a follower who to me is latching on, I think they're going to be together as most as possible -- much as possible.
TAPPER: And as somebody who used to work for the U.S. Marshals Service, the Marshals, who are in charge of tracking people like this, all law enforcement must really be concerned that these guys who already are killers and have escaped prison and really don't want to go back to prison, that they are willing to kill again to evade capture.
Convicted killers, I think that, from a safety aspect, all of the law enforcement resources know what these guys are capable of doing. And so we -- my colleagues or former colleagues out there have to be on their P's and Q's in dealing with these guys. Safety is the -- officer safety is going to be important and the community -- safety for the community as well.
TAPPER: Of course. Thoughts and prayers with everybody in this hunt. Sylvester Jones, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.
And to our viewers, this manhunt is the topic of a CNN special report tonight. It's "The Great Prison Escape." It begins at 9:00 Eastern here on CNN.
Breaking news in our other national lead. We just got new video showing the arrest of the confessed shooter who killed nine people in Charleston, South Carolina, that tragic church massacre and the repercussions, that story next.
TAPPER: We're back with some breaking news in our national lead.
CNN just minutes ago obtaining new video showing the arrest of Dylann Roof in North Carolina, about 14 hours after he opened fire inside a historic black church in Charleston, targeting African-Americans, murdering nine innocent people. Today in South Carolina and other Southern states, a debate is heating up over displaying the Confederate Battle Flag, and places such as state capitols were discussing because of the Charleston church massacre and the racist killer who embraced it.
[16:15:00] TAPPER: Today, right now, South Carolina legislators are meeting just hours after protesters gathered right underneath the controversial flag at the Confederate war memorial in the capitol ground, shouting "take it down".
Our Martin Savidge joins us now live from Charleston.
Martin, Governor Nikki Haley yesterday calling for the flag to come down. Is there enough support in the legislature for her position? It needs a supermajority, I think.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, it does. Yes, both the House and Senate in South Carolina today approved resolutions that called for the debate of talking about taking down that flag. But, of course, that is a long way from actually passing any resolutions to take the flag down.
PROTESTERS: Take it down! Take it down!
SAVIDGE (voice-over): Hundreds of South Carolinians rallied on the steps of the South Carolina state house, while inside state lawmakers debate the Confederate flag and its place on capitol grounds.
HUGH LEATHERMAN (R), SOUTH CAROLINA STATE SENATE: Extremely important issue for our state. The world is watching us.
SAVIDGE: Tonight, the fate of the controversial peace of Southern heritage hangs in the balance.
PAUL THURMOND (R), SOUTH CAROLINA STATE SENATE: Our ancestors were literally fighting to continue to keep human beings as slaves and continue the unimaginable acts when someone is held against their will. I am not proud of this heritage.
SAVIDGE: The controversy is not a new one. The flag was removed from atop the capitol dome in 2000 and raised nearby in statehouse grounds.
But after last week's massacre, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, a Republican, made it very clear where she stands.
GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It's time to move the flag from the capitol grounds.
SAVIDGE: Many prominent Republican politicians have followed suit, some reversing the long held belief that the flag represents Southern heritage.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: This is a circumstance of where the people led the politicians. I came to conclude after going to Charleston, that we had too act and sooner rather than later, and God helps South Carolina if we fail to achieve the goal of removing the flag.
PROTESTERS: Take it down! Take it down! SAVIDGE: The rallying cry is sweeping the South, from South Carolina to Mississippi, one of the few states where the Confederate flag still flies. Lawmakers who once embraced the symbol of the old south are joining a growing chorus.
Mississippi's House speaker took to Facebook to do what no other Republican in the state has done, publicly called for a change. Quote, "As a Christian, I believe our state's flag has become a point of offense that needs to be removed."
GOV. TERRY MCAULIFFE (D), VIRGINIA: I believe the same is true, here in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
SAVIDGE: And in Virginia, the state's governor announced today that the state would take steps to stop issuing license plates bearing the divisive flag. Sears and Walmart with stores across the U.S. are removing Confederate flag merchandise from their shelves. Walmart's CEO explained his decision to CNN.
DOUG MCMILLON, WALMART CEO: We don't want to sell products that makes anyone feel uncomfortable, and we feel like that was the case. This was the right thing to do.
SAVIDGE: It should be pointed out that efforts to try to remove the Confederate battle flag from either the statehouse or the statehouse grounds date all the way back to the '70s. The fact that the flag still flies today suggests that it is not an easy debate in this state -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Martin Savidge, thank you so much.
Now, that we've heard that report, let's watch a little more of the dash cam video of the racist killer as he was taken into custody by police in North Carolina last week. Here is the video from the Shelby Police Department in North Carolina. You'll remember that that racist terrorist attack was on a Wednesday evening, and he was captured a couple days later. Let's watch for a second.
There he is. You can hear the radio from inside the police car.
It is a surprisingly calm moment given the sheer terror that the racist mass murderer unleashed just hours before.
All right. Now that we've seen that video, let's talk about what he has wrought. Joining me to talk about the debate over the Confederate flag are South Carolina State Senators Marlon Kimpson and Larry Martin.
Senators, thank you so much for being here.
Senator Kimpson, you need two thirds of the statehouse and senate to remove the flag. Will you have the vote, sir?
MARLON KIMPSON (D), SOUTH CAROLINA STATE SENATE: Well, let me say this, we had the votes today to amend the sine die resolution to take up the debate. I think that vote serves as a useful road map to where we go in a couple weeks to have the debate.
Listen, what we heard today were passionate and emotional statements on the senate floor, first, recognizing those nine lives, those nine deaths in the Charleston massacre.
[16:20:02] And more importantly, you know, recognizing that we need to spend time grieving in recognition of those families, including the family of our colleague, Senator Clementa Pinckney. We intend to move forward. Today was just the first step.
TAPPER: All right. Senator Martin, let me ask you, you in the past have been in favor of having the flags flying on the capitol grounds, at he confederate war memorial. But I'm told that you have changed your mind, why is that, sir?
LARRY MARTIN (R), SOUTH CAROLINA STATE SENATE: I did. Going back to 1979 when I was a freshman house member. We had votes in the 1980s, some in the '90s and into 2000 vote, regarding whether the flag would be on the dome and in the chambers. And then we moved forward in 2000 with the -- what we thought was a compromise that placed it at the soldier's monument.
But we come to recognize in light of what's going on in Charleston in a very real way, maybe see in a different light, the sheer terror that has been enveloped around the flag with its use against minorities and not just down in Charleston, but through the decades.
TAPPER: Well, that's what I wanted to ask you about, sir, because this is not the first time that somebody who is full of hate has embraced that symbol. So, what is it about what happened last week that was the tipping point?
MARTIN: I think the fact that he was in a church, the fact that it involves one of the best among us in terms of our colleagues in the Senate, it opened our eyes in ways that we had never seen before quite frankly, and I think that was the catharsis that has brought about a change of heart. And seeing it through the eyes of the minorities, that, you know, today, our -- offering forgiveness, of particularly the families in Charleston, for what this young man did, I think that beckons us to, in turn, demonstrate that we get it, that we truly understand what needs to be on the statehouse grounds, and what doesn't.
TAPPER: That forgiveness is certainly moving and certainly beautiful.
Senator Kimpson, I want to ask you, Walmart, Sears, eBay, just a short time ago, Amazon have announced that they're going to discontinue selling any Confederate flag merchandise. But we did a screen grab from Amazon before the ban was announced. You can't see but I'll tell you, it shows that there was a rush on confederate flags, perhaps in anticipation of the ban, up more than 4,000 percent in some instances.
What do you make of that? KIMPSON: Well, I applaud those corporations for stepping up. They
should have done it a while back, but I'll take what we got. You know, companies are becoming more socially responsible.
And to the people that want to purchase these flags, you better do it now, because this wave is moving across the nation. And steps are -- states are stepping up and doing the right thing.
Let me also mention this just very briefly, I think it's important to recognize that Senator Martin stated that many people understand that the --
TAPPER: We seem to have -- be having a problem with our feed, our apologies to Senator Kimpson and our thanks to both Senators Kimpson and Martin.
Some breaking weather news perhaps related to what we just saw -- those of you in the northeast may soon need to take cover. Several major cities under a tornado watch.
Plus, a shake-up in the Republican race for president. One week after his intriguing campaign launch speech. New numbers just in show a businessman, Donald Trump making huge gains, he's in second place in New Hampshire. What his new status could mean for the competition. That's coming up.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
Topping our world lead today, horrific ISIS video from the Iraqi town of Mosul, showing the execution of what the terrorist group calls spies. The stomach-churning propaganda so gruesome, even for ISIS. CNN has decided not to air it.
We're going to show two carefully selected still images from the video. If you have children watching, you might want to mute your television for a couple minutes, starting right about now.
Let's get right to chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto.
Jim, what does this video show?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I watched the video, I don't relish doing it, from the talk about it, I feel like I got to watch it.
It's sick. It's their typical combination of Hollywood production quality audio editing, multi angles and just gratuitous violence. It shows them killing what they claim to be spies in the most horrific ways imaginable.
They start by putting some into a car. They have them handcuffed. Actually, we're going to show first them put in a cage. They have these guys in the cage. They lower them over a pool, and then lower that cage into a pool, complete with underwater cameras showing them drowned to death on camera.
And then earlier in the video, they put several others into this car here. You see, they're handcuffed to a car, and they fire an RPG at it, rocket-propelled grenade, and it erupts in a ball of flames and they all die. It's sick, you can hear the screams on camera as well.
And it's just part of this one-upmanship that they put themselves in, each video of death has to be more gripping and gross than the previous one.
TAPPER: Also in the fight against ISIS, we're learning about another American arrested and charged with supporting ISIS. This time, a teenager in North Carolina. How did police or law enforcement find him?
SCIUTTO: Well, it's interesting. They found him because the parents called 911 in April, when this gentleman, he's 19-year-old, Justin Sullivan, self-described Muslim convert.