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Interview With Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; Interview With Presidential Candidate Ben Carson; Interview With Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley; Iran's Pres. Rouhani Speaks on Iran Nuclear Deal. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired September 27, 2015 - 12:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper live in Philadelphia where Pope Francis is preparing to celebrate mass with tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, in a giant outdoor ceremony.

Today is Pope Francis' final day in America. What a day it has already been. He just concluded a very moving visit to a prison which highlighted his message of offering hope to everyone, no matter what they are feelings of self worth, no matter how society values them or doesn't value them. He also met with students at the oldest seminary in Philadelphia. He encouraged them to enter the priesthood.

This is all leading up to the main event this afternoon at 4:00 p.m. eastern, thousands gathering already along Benjamin Franklin Parkway to watch Pope Francis celebrate his final mass in the United States on this his first ever trip to the U.S.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is out on Benjamin Franklin Parkway where the crowds are already gathering.

Miguel, you're at Logan Circle, I believe. How long have these folks been waiting out there?


We were here about 5:00 a.m. We spoke to folks who were here at 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. This is the non-ticketed area. So, if you kept walking about a half mile down that way, you would actually get to the altar, the stage where the Pope will give that mass this afternoon.

I want to introduce you to a wall of Jesuits.



MARQUEZ: Thousands and thousands of Jesuit students here from across the country. That is their chant. I also want to introduce you to the -- I've anointed Mary here from Raleigh, North Carolina, the cutest child out here right now. Adorable. How old are you?


MARQUEZ: Nine years old. Having fun?


MARQUEZ: Absolutely. A lot of families have been out here all week for the world families meeting. This is the big anchor event that has brought the Pope here. And they are extraordinarily excited. They'd be more excited in the hours ahead. Jake.

TAPPER: Thanks so much, Miguel.

Pope Francis of course also graced Capitol Hill this week at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner. John Boehner is a devout catholic. He was visibly moved while looking out over Washington while standing next to the Pope from his speaker's balcony. And fewer than 24 hours later, Boehner made the surprise move to announce his resignation.

Shortly thereafter I spoke with his Democratic counterpart House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. This was just after the announcement.


TAPPER: Leader Pelosi, thanks so much for doing this. We appreciate it.


TAPPER: A tsunami of news Friday with Speaker Boehner announcing that he's stepping down. You have had a long relationship with him. You spoke with him. What did he have to say?

PELOSI: The whole idea that the speaker is resigning is a sign of the disarray in the Republican Party.

TAPPER: I've heard you speak glowingly of him. I've heard you express disappointment as well. Are you going to miss him?

PELOSI: Well, I -- know one thing, I have respect for my colleagues. I respect the people who send them here. I respect the fact that their caucus elected them to a leadership position.

John Boehner is a very fine person. He had his glorious moment with the Pope coming this week. He's a devout catholic. We can agree to disagree without being negative about each other.

But, yes, I don't know if I'll miss him, but here one day, we just work. We just work. We barely have time for our close friends and some of our close friends are across the aisle. But it depends on what comes next.

TAPPER: Right. You might miss him a lot more if it's a tough Republican to deal with.

PELOSI: Yes. TAPPER: Ted Cruz said Friday that "early reports are discouraging if it's correct that Speaker Boehner cut a deal with you to fund the Obama administration for the rest of its tenure, to fund Obamacare, to fund executive amnesty, to fund Planned Parenthood, to fund implementation of the Iran deal, and then to presumably land in a cushy K Street job after joining with the Democrats to implement all of President Obama's priorities." Have you cut any deal with Speaker Boehner?

PELOSI: No. I wish it were true, except I don't know about the K Street cushy job, but I wish the rest of it were true, but of course not.


All we have agreed is that we have to honor the calendar which says that on September 30th, the fiscal year ends and we have to have a continued resolution to take us forward as we prepare for our omnibus bill which will take us through the next year.

TAPPER: So, what was it like at the first ever address of a Pope to a joint meeting of Congress?

PELOSI: So overwhelming. And so going beyond any expectation.

TAPPER: So I'm told you have a folder that captures all of your experiences with Popes going back to Pope Pius X11 when you were a little girl?

PELOSI: Well, when I was a girl in eighth grade, my family went to the Vatican. My father was mayor of Baltimore. And our family had a private audience with Pope Pius XII. It was pretty exciting.

TAPPER: So, let's talk about his message for a second. There was something in there for everyone to like and something for everyone to disagree with. He made his position clear on his opposition to abortion, but he chose to emphasize other things.

PELOSI: Yes. It was interesting when he talked about the sanctity of life. Well, we can all stand up and applaud that. But he spent a longer time talking about abolishing the death penalty, the opposite end of the issues that the bishops advocate for.

TAPPER: How does somebody like you who is a very strong progressive, but also somebody steeped in Catholic school, how do you reconcile the Pope's view and the Church's view of abortion to where you are politically, which is exactly on the opposite side?

PELOSI: For me as a mother of five, when I brought my -- when my husband and I brought our baby home from the hospital, our fifth child, our oldest was turning six that week. It was a beautiful, wonderful thing for us. But it's not up to us to decide that it's a beautiful, wonderful thing for other people, the sizing and timing of their -- size and timing of their family is a personal decision, not a political decision. And so this issue is not just about terminating a pregnancy. It's about family planning and that is the fight in Congress. People don't know that. They think it's just about one thing.

TAPPER: On the subject of the Planned Parenthood and the attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, have you seen the videos? Is there not anything on those videos that bothers you at all?

PELOSI: I don't stipulate that these videos are real. And the fact is -- and fact is that the research that is being criticized there is research that has been supported. Now, I haven't seen -- I've seen some news reports of it, but I also know that it's not real and you can create any reality that you want.

TAPPER: So OK. Even if you don't accept the videos on their face --

PELOSI: I think they should be investigated as to how they obtained those and doctored those and then had them be accepted as something that was an indictment against Planned Parenthood because that's not true.

TAPPER: Are you at all disappointed by the leadership of Planned Parenthood for letting these cameras in, by being fooled by officials at Planned Parenthood saying things that even Planned Parenthood had to apologize for, for letting these cameras into their labs? It seems like if you support the mission of Planned Parenthood, you might be upset with glibness or a lack of responsibility.

PELOSI: Well, I think that Planned Parenthood has excellent leadership. Cecile Richards, the president, is a spectacular leader in our country. I do think that Planned Parenthood is many people that consists of many state organizations and some of them maybe not as, how should I say it, aware of the assault that was going to be made on them and perhaps they spoke in a way that could be misinterpreted.

TAPPER: You have said in the past that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic Party nominee. And there's no question about it. Do you still feel that strongly?

PELOSI: Well, yes, I do. I myself, I have my own political responsibility, which is to elect as many Democrats as possible to the Congress so we don't have a Congress of obstruction --


TAPPER: She just said that she doesn't think that Democrats are going to take the House back, Hillary Clinton. She said, maybe the Senate but not the House.

PELOSI: Well who knows a year before? When we took it back in '06, nobody thought we were going to take it back in '05. So I don't know. I am not saying that we will. I am just saying we're on a path. I think we're two-thirds of the way there. But we have many good candidates. And that's why I think it would be good to have more debates so that people can see in a much more civil setting, the debate among Democrats about how we go forward.


TAPPER: Thank you so much, Leader Pelosi.

PELOSI: Thank you.

TAPPER: I really appreciate it.

PELOSI: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.


TAPPER: Coming up, Dr. Ben Carson, the Republican presidential contender's controversial some say bigoted comments about Muslims have many critics and others cheering. What did Carson tell me after the fallout? We'll talk about that after the break.



TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper live in Philadelphia.

You're looking at live pictures from Logan Circle in downtown Philadelphia. Crowds have gathered to hear the Pope's mass at 4:00 p.m. eastern. This is the final day of the Pope's American tour. His trip of course to the United States is playing out against the backdrop of the presidential race.

And matters of faith are popping up on the campaign trial quite a bit. The Republican candidates took to the stage of the Value Voters Summit this week, reaching out to conservative Christian voters. I caught up with Dr. Ben Carson just before he took the stage.



TAPPER: Thank you so much for doing this. I appreciate it.

DR. BEN CARSON (R), Presidential Candidate: Absolutely, a pleasure.

TAPPER: So you were in the chamber when the pope addressed this joint meeting of Congress. He's had a lot to say about a lot of topics. One of them was life. I know you agree with the pope when it comes to protecting life at all stages, starting at conception. I don't know your position on the death penalty, which the pope spoke about at length. Do you agree with him?

CARSON: I think the death penalty is something that should be decided in a civil manner with the people in the area.

TAPPER: So state-by-state decision?

CARSON: Absolutely.

TAPPER: Speaker John Boehner shook the political world Friday when he resigned. A lot of conservatives feel that he and Republican leaders in Congress have sold them out. What do you think?

CARSON: I think Speaker Boehner had a long and distinguished career. He's being pulled in a lot of different directions. Tends to be a nice guy. And is a compromiser at a time when a lot of people on the right feel that too much compromise has already resulted in a situation that they're not very happy with.

TAPPER: One of the issues where a lot of conservatives are mad at Republican leaders for compromising hads to do with the funding or defunding of Planned Parenthood. I know you oppose the funding of Planned Parenthood. I interviewed Congressman Paul Ryan about this issue and he said that it's unrealistic to demand that Planned Parenthood be defunded because the Constitution gives President Obama the power in an equal powers way and there's just no way, Congressman Ryan, said that this can be forced on the president's desk. Do you agree with that, or do you think that it's worth shutting down the government over?

CARSON: I think it's worth looking at all the alternatives that we have. Throughout my medical career, icon constantly had people saying, well, this is the way it has to be done. This is the way it's always been done. This can't be done. I don't listen to that stuff. I think there is a way to get it done.

TAPPER: You think there's a way to force it onto the president?

CARSON: Absolutely.

TAPPER: What is the way?

CARSON: I don't know what the way is. But you know if I were in there, I would be talking with everybody I knew, familiarizing myself with every possible legal aspect, and there is -- where there's a will, there's a way.

TAPPER: You said last week, quote, "I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that."

CARSON: I would advocate that people go back and look at the transcript.


CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS HOST: Should a president's faith matter? Should your faith matter to voters?

CARSON: Well, I guess it depends on what that faith is. If it's inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter. But if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the Constitution, I have no problem.

TODD: So do you believe that Islam is consistent with the constitution?

CARSON: No, I do not. I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.


TAPPER: He didn't ask you about Islam, if you thought Islam was consistent with the Constitution, and you said Muslims, that you would have a problem with a Muslim being president.

CARSON: I would have problems with somebody who embraced all the doctrines associated with Islam. If they're not willing to reject, you know, sharia and all the portions of it that are talked about in the Koran, if they're not willing to reject that and subject that to American values and the Constitution, then of course I wouldn't. And I would ask you, would you be willing to do that? Would you be willing to advocate for somebody that would not do that. Probably not.

TAPPER: I don't assume that because somebody's Muslim that hey would put their religion ahead of the U.S. Constitution. And in fact the U.S. Constitution itself says no religious test.

CARSON: Yes, except that I had already said, before that, that anybody from any religion, from any background, if they are -- I told you what the criteria were for that. I told Chuck Todd what the criteria for -- so he's asking this out of that context.

TAPPER: You don't think that in any way you said anything that could have been said more clearly about Muslims?

CARSON: I made it very clear.

TAPPER: Because you seem to be singling out Muslims as individuals who automatically, as a kneejerk, would put their religion ahead of the country. And I think that that offended a lot of people, including a lot of patriotic Muslims.

CARSON: I think the statement stands. Is it possible that maybe the media thinks that it's a bigger deal than the American people do?


Because American people, the majority of them, agree -- and they understand exactly what I'm saying.

TAPPER: I think I've seen -- I've heard from a lot of people who don't think that Muslims can be patriotic who agree with you. And I don't know that if I were running for president I would want the support of people like that.

CARSON: Of course Muslims can be patriotic. I have a -- I've worked with Muslims, I've trained Muslims, I've operated on Muslims. I know a lot of Muslims who are very patriotic, good Americans. And they gladly admit at least privately that they don't accept sharia or the doctrines and they understand that Islam is a system of living and it includes the way that you relate to the government, and you cannot, unless you specifically deny that portion of Islam, be a Muslim in good standing.

Now if that is the case, if you're not willing to reject that, then how in the world can you possibly be the President of the United States?

TAPPER: So you are saying that there is something specific about being a Muslim that you have to reject Islam in order to be the president?

CARSON: Well, you have to reject the tenets of Islam. Yes, you have to.

TAPPER: And that's different from an orthodox Jew or a devout Christian?

CARSON: If there's a devout Christian who's running and they refuse to reject the ideals of our Constitution or if they want to establish a theocracy, I cannot advocate for them.

TAPPER: I guess the point is, you seem to be suggesting that Muslim- Americans automatically want a theocracy. And I just don't know any Muslim-Americans, and I know plenty, who feel that way, even if they are observant Muslims.

CARSON: OK, in terms of the tenets of Islam, are you familiar with them?

TAPPER: I'm familiar --

CARSON: The corpus juris from the authoritative group of the people who make the rules that goes back to the 10th century AD.

TAPPER: I'm familiar with extremist interpretations of plenty of religions.

CARSON: I'm not talking about extremist interpretations; I'm talking about what is required. And you have to make a specific declaration and decision to reject the portions of it.

TAPPER: What portions of it?

CARSON: The portions of it that tell you how you treat women, the portions of it that indicate that kaffir, who are the people who are not believers, are subject to different rules, that they can be dominated.

TAPPER: I think one of the things is just you are a member of a church that there's a lot of misinformation about, the Seventh Day Adventist church. You know what it's like for people to make false assumptions about you. And you seem to be doing the same thing with Muslims.

CARSON: In which way am I making a false assumption?

TAPPER: You're assuming that Muslim-Americans put their religion ahead of the country.

CARSON: I'm assuming that if you accept all the tenets of Islam that you would have a very difficult time abiding under the Constitution of the United States.

TAPPER: OK. Thank you, Dr. Carson. I appreciate it.


TAPPER: Bill Clinton says Hillary's opponents have launched a full frontal assault on her emails to (INAUDIBLE) up a Democratic primary race. What does one of the men running against her say about that? I will ask them after this quick break.



TAPPER: Welcome back to Philadelphia. We are live for this final day of the Pope's trip to the United States.

You're looking at live pictures at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Pope will be speaking there, celebrating mass at 4:00 p.m. eastern. All week he has urged Americans to offer dignity and love to the poor and the marginalized.

During his historic address to a joint meeting of Congress the Pope called for an end to the death penalty that is on the decline the death penalty in the United States. Although most Americans (INAUDIBLE) still support it.

TAPPER: And joining me now is Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley who abolished the death penalty in Maryland two years ago.

Governor, thanks for joining us. When Pope Francis spoke to Congress, he called for the global abolition of the death penalty. As someone who ended the death penalty in Maryland, who led that (INAUDIBLE), how do you explain it to the survivors of heinous crimes who want justice, who want the murderers put to death by the state?

MARTIN O'MALLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, very, very tough. Before I left office, I met with the survivors of our death row inmates before commuting their sentences. And so this is the best I can do in terms of explaining it, not only to survivors but to all of us. And it is that the death penalty is not a deterrent. It does not work.

It is expensive, it is flawed, and it cuts against some of the basic principles upon which our republic is founded namely a belief in the dignity of every person's life. And so that's why I'm opposed the death penalty.

And I applaud the Pope for his courageous call to Congress. I think we need to do the things that work and stop doing things that don't.


TAPPER: As a Catholic Democrat you just talked about life and every life mattering.

How do you personally grapple with the issue of abortion?

O'MALLEY: Well, this was -- this was an -- an issue, of course, in my own household, growing up Catholic. And it's one that, of course, I think every thinking person has to grapple with on a personal level, on a moral level and also on a legal level, when one is sworn to uphold the laws of our country.

I am pro-choice. Having said that, I also believe that there are some issues that government is just no good at making for individuals. Among those decisions, the decisions made between women and their doctors.

And so -- but I do believe that all of us can make a lot of strides as a country in reducing infant mortality and eradicating childhood hunger. And that's the common ground. And that's the work we focus on, even as we leave to the individual conscience some of these other decisions the government is just no good at doing.

TAPPER: Let's turn to -- to the presidential race. Former President Bill Clinton just sat down with CNN's Fareed Zakaria. The former president was asked for his thoughts on his wife's email controversy.

Take a listen.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are lots of people who wanted there to be a race for different reasons. And they thought the only way they could make it a race was a full-scale frontal assault on her.

And so this email thing became the biggest story in the world.

I actually am amazed that she's borne up under it as well as she has. But I have never seen so much expended on so little.


TAPPER: Do you think former President Clinton is right, is this email story much ado about nothing?

O'MALLEY: Well, President Clinton loves his wife and the two of them have gone through a lot together.

I believe that there are a lot of legitimate questions still to be answered about this particular controversy, the email, the email server, the FBI investigation and the like, which is why it's so important that as Democrats, we start having debates about other issues, as well.

I'm not saying there aren't legitimate questions to be asked and answered here by Secretary Clinton and her lawyers. But for our part, as a party, we need to talk about the things that will actually get wages to go up rather than down, the issues that people care about around their kitchen tables, like affordable college and how we -- and how we make sure that Social Security is strong and is there for the future, how we move America forward to a clean energy future, how we step up in the world and respond to the refugee crisis in Syria.

That's why we need to have debates. Otherwise, our party is being defined by Hillary Clinton's email scandal and it's not good for our party and it's not good for our country.

TAPPER: You had some other tough words for Hillary Clinton this week, when she announced that she was going to oppose the Keystone XL Pipeline. You said, quote, "On issue after issue, Secretary Clinton has not followed, not forged public opinion."

You seem to be suggesting Hillary Clinton has her finger in the wind.

O'MALLEY: I believe that the sort of leadership that actually moves a nation, moves a state, moves a city forward is leadership that states principles and doesn't wait from focus groups.

On the Keystone Pipeline, Jake, I came out against the Keystone Pipeline over a year ago.


Because I believe it's contrary to our nation's best interests of moving forward to a clean energy future. That's what real leadership is about. That's the sort of new leadership people are looking for, not the sort of leadership that waits for poll numbers or for focus groups or puts a finger to the wind to see which way public consensus is going.

No, that's not leadership.

TAPPER: Governor Martin O'Malley of Maryland in his second home in Iowa, Des Moines.

Thank you so much for joining us this day.

O'MALLEY: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: The pope -- what do you think of his views on so many issues?

Are you with him?

Are you against him?

If you're in the Congress, the answer is probably both.

Did His Holiness convince Washington to work together?

When we come back.


We're live in Philadelphia for the final leg of Pope Francis's visit to America.

His visit to Congress moved politicians from both parties. And in his wake, a major political earthquake as House Speaker John Boehner announced his resignation.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: You know, the bible says beware of false prophets. And there are people out there, you know, spreading noise about how much can get done. I mean this whole idea that we're going to shut down the government to get rid of ObamaCare in 2013, this plain never had a chance.

But over the course of the August recess in 2013 and the course of September, you know, a lot of my Republican colleagues who knew it was a fool's errand really, they were getting all this pressure from home to do this.


TAPPER: Joining me here to analyze this week's events, CNN political commentators, Ana Navarro and Paul Begala.

Ana, presidential candidates are out there on the campaign trail, ranging from Carly Fiorina to Ted Cruz to Chris Christie, making what Speaker Boehner just referred to as false prophet arguments, push it, force the president to do this, make him do it.

You heard Ben Carson say that he would find a way to do it.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, it's easier said than done. John Boehner has actually had to walk the walk and has actually had to herd the cats and had to get legislation through and lead the House.

And so, you know, when you're running for president and you're making speeches, there are some things that are easier to say than when you're actually having to do the job.

I wasn't uncomfortable with some of the candidates who went out and frankly bashed Boehner and celebrated his resignation. I think, you know, I'll take a moment of personal privilege and just say, this is a man who has spent so many years of his life doing public service. It may look glamorous from the outside, but it also is a huge sacrifice on families and on lives. He's a good man. He's a decent man, grounded, never forgot where he came from, a bar keeper's son.

He wasn't perfect, he made mistakes, but he tried hard.

So I personally thank him for his public service and think those that attacked him made a mistake.

TAPPER: What comes next?

Is Karen -- Kevin McCarthy, assuming he wins the speakership -- he's the current House majority leader -- is he going to be demonstrably different?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he's going to try to be. He may have to be. I think he's going to be a prisoner of the most extreme elements of his party. And I guess because the Holy Father is here, I've been thinking a lot about this.

There's two kind of political leaders, just like there's two kind of religious leaders. Those who hunt down heretics and those who seek out converts, OK?

The successful political leaders of my lifetime -- Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama -- all of them sought out converts. They all took voters who were not pure Republicans or pure Democrats and brought them into the fold.

The Republicans now are turning toward hunting down heretics. Even John Boehner, my goodness, John Boehner is not Republican enough for them.

This is not the way to build a majority in a large and diverse country.

TAPPER: Ana, take a listen to Ohio Governor John Kasich, who sounded different from the Ted Cruzes of the world when talking about John Boehner.


GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It just reflects the dysfunction in Washington, where people cannot even honor somebody who's dedicated their life to public service. I guess no good deed goes unpunished, because some of the most savage attacks on him have come from Republicans.


TAPPER: That is true, Ana. I mean the -- after Boehner's news came out, after he told his colleagues and the media started reporting on it, the kind words came from the Harry Reids and the Barack Obamas of the world. And he and Harry Reid have had some tough words for each other, the ones that I can't tell you. And then the criticisms from voters -- from attendees at the -- the Value Voters Summit, from Ted Cruz, kind of from Marco Rubio. He said that it's time to turn the page.

NAVARRO: Look, I think Kasich is right. And I think what you're seeing is Kasich's experience. He was in Congress for so long, he was in Congress when there was a much more functional Congress, when things actually got done and people got along.

So I think, you know, there's a nostalgia for that kind of environment. You know, I think it -- you have to have class on the j on the day that John Boehner resigned, announced his resignation. It's his day. And to go out and bash him feels unnecessary. They got their scalp already.

Now, let's go and -- and move on from there.

I think it was a selfless act by John. I think he's an institutionalist who was thinking, how do I save this institution and I'm becoming a distraction. And frankly, I think after having spent the day with the pope, the day before, he thought, you know, can it get any better than this?

And now what, I'm going to have to go in next week and have to start grinding and fighting this fight again?

TAPPER: Right.

NAVARRO: I'm not doing it.

TAPPER: Although, Paul, it -- it seems likely that conservative Republicans in the House were going to force a vote to vacate the speakership...

BEGALA: Right.

TAPPER: -- and that Boehner was going to have to ask for Democrats to support him, or at least abstain from voting, in order to save his speakership. So in a way, whether it was selfless or not, he also saved himself some embarrassment.

BEGALA: Well, but I think it could have been good for the country, frankly. This is all good for the Democrats, OK. I'm a partisan Democrat. I advise a pro-Hillary super PAC.

Take that off for just a second.

The speaker is the speaker of the House, not just of the Republicans. If he had formed a bipartisan coalition, it would have been great for the country. It might have hurt my Democrats...

TAPPER: All right.

BEGALA: -- but it would have been great.

TAPPER: Got to go.

While all eyes are on the pope's visit this week, there is another major world event underway, the U.N. General Assembly.

Our Christiane Amanpour just spoke with Iranian President Rouhani. What he told her about the Iranian nuclear deal. That's coming up next.


TAPPER: Welcome back.

We're live in Philadelphia for the final leg of Pope Francis's visit to the United States.

We have some breaking news, however.

The president of Iran is now reacting to the fierce Congressional opposition to the deal over his country's nuclear weapons program, or alleged nuclear weapons program.

He also made some news about the civil war in Syria.

Let's bring in CNN chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, who just sat down with Iran's president -- Christiane?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, indeed, it is the U.N. General Assembly, all world leaders are coming together. And the president of Iran did take on the GOP reaction to the Iranian nuclear deal. He also addressed the ongoing war in Syria, which, of course, the pope has been talking about. The U.S. appearing to be switching tact.

One, keeping us out of the table for the moment, and two, trying to get Iran into the talks.

This is what the president of Iran told me about that.


PRES. HASSAN ROUHANI, IRAN (through translator): Now, Iran, with the United States, does not have any direct talks vis-a-vis Syria. But Iran simultaneously with the European Union, as well as other countries, does have talks regarding Syria. And those parties to the talks with Iran about Syria are in direct conversations with the United States, as well.

So perhaps not direct, but there are talks.

AMANPOUR: It seems to be that the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, obviously, Iran, obviously, are now all talking about a potential transition that involves President Assad staying where he is from the moment.

ROUHANI: Well, I think today, everyone has accepted that President Assad must remain so that we can combat the terrorists.

However, as soon as this movement reaches the various levels of success and starts driving out the terrorists on a step by step basis, then other plans must be put into action, so as to hear the voices of the opposition, as well.

AMANPOUR: Mr. President, this is the first time you've come to the United States since the nuclear agreement has been signed. You must have been watching from Iran, the Republican presidential campaign and you must have been seeing some of the debates in which many of the Republican candidates have said that if they become president, they will rip up the deal.

ROUHANI: First of all, what is spoken of here in the United States of America sometimes when I would have time, some of it was broadcast live and I would watch it. Some of it was quite laughable. It was very strange. And things that they spoke of, some of them wouldn't even know where Tehran was in relation to Iran. Some of them didn't know where Iran was geographically, not distinguishing that one is the capital of the other.

So what they spoke of was quite far away from the truth.

So the people of Iran were looking at it as a form of entertainment, if you will, and found it laughable. The other issue is that, yes, certainly in the United States, some are opposed to it and some are for this agreement.

However, the issue of the joint conference and plan of action is not just an issue of Iran and the United States. It's an international issue. It's an international agreement.

Can a government become a signatory to an international agreement and then the subsequent government tear Iran to shreds?

This is something that only the likes of Saddam Hussein would do. So any government that replaces the current government...

AMANPOUR: Would it...

ROUHANI: -- must keep itself committed to the commitments given by the previous administration. Otherwise, that government, that entire country, will lose trust internationally.


AMANPOUR: So strongly defending the deal, strongly defending Iran's adherence to its terms and also saying that despite all the rhetoric, Iran and the United States have moved closer for the first time in 37 years, since the revolution -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Christiane, thanks so much for that.

When we come back, the final preparations here ahead of the pope's giant outdoor mass. As many as two million people gathering here in Philadelphia.

We'll be right back.


TAPPER: Welcome back.

We're live in Philadelphia, where the crowds are very excited ahead of the pope's outdoor mass here, to be held at roughly 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

We've seen a lot of Pope Francis this week, but we wanted to know what the pope is like in his unguarded moments. These exclusive photos by the pope's personal photographer reveal his ease with people, his way with children and even his sense of humor. They're collected in a new book written by Father Michael Collins, who now shares some of his favorites with us.

FATHER MICHAEL COLLINS, AUTHOR: He's got this extraordinary laugh. And again, we have wonderful photographs of the belly laugh, when he rolls and he just pushes his head back and he roars laughing. And I think that's a really lovely thing to see in a person.

He's very relaxed in his own skin, as the expression goes. And this, I think, is part of the secret of his success, because people feel very relaxed with him.

When Pope Francis celebrated his 78th birthday, he had a funny experience, because he met a young couple who were raising money for charity for children who are sick, to help them cope with their illness.

And they had two plastic noses on themselves. And they gave the pope one. And he put it on his own nose. And it just shows his impish sense of humor. He loves connecting with people. And it was just a happy moment.

Keep in mind that he joined the Jesuit order, which is specifically dedicated to the education of young people. So he was a high school teacher for a number of years and he knows how to work children.

It's the group of people that I find really relate to him best. Many people have said the success of Pope Francis is not so much what he's doing, but the fact that, as has been reported on social media -- people enjoy it. You just have a little memory. There's one marvelous scene there. One of the deacons took out his phone and he said, do you mind if I take a selfie of the three of us, Holy Father?

And the pope looked at -- and he looked conspiratorially. And he said, "I don't know if we're allowed to do that here."

Well, of course, he's the pope. He can do what he wants.

And, of course then he -- he sat in and took the selfie. People love his face. Everybody's just saying they love the photograph album (INAUDIBLE).

These aren't posed photographs. They're snapped.

There's one great one of he's sitting on his chair and a gust of wind takes his little -- his little skullcap off. And he's seen grabbing it. And, of course, the skullcap is gone. And he's just grabbing his head.

And there's all these lovely beautiful shots. And -- and they make the pope come alive to the readers, which is great. And that was my intention from the very, very beginning when we started putting this book together, especially for the American visit.

TAPPER: Thank you for spending part of your Sunday with us here in Philadelphia.

Stay with CNN throughout the day for continuing coverage of Pope Francis' final stop in his historic American trip.

"FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" and his interview with President Clinton starts right now.