Return to Transcripts main page


GOP Candidates Split Over Illegal Immigration; Trump Talks To CNN; Clinton: I Tried To Join The Marines; Christie On The 2016 Republican Race; Sharp Lights Aimed At Choppers, Two Men Arrested. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired November 12, 2015 - 16:30   ET



[16:31:02] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. Our Politics Lead today, Dr. Ben Carson again facing questions about his past. An "Associated Press" report today is raising questions about his support for leniency in the case of a friend and business partner who'd been convicted after pleading guilty of felony health care fraud.

Five years after he did that for his friend who received probation Carson wrote that those convicted of health care fraud should go to prison for at least ten years and forfeit all personal possessions.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump doubling down on his controversial plan to reinstate a tough crackdown on undocumented immigrants while the rest of the field splinters on immigration policy.

CNN's Athena Jones joins us from Mr. Trump's event in Fort Dodge, Iowa -- Athena.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Jake. This fight over illegal immigration among the Republican contenders doesn't look like it's ending any time soon.


JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't care what Donald Trump says. Talk to the people on the border and they'll tell you this.

TED CRUZ (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's not compassionate if I'm saying I'm going to give away your job.

JONES (voice-over): The split in the Republican Party over illegal immigration shaking up the race for the White House.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Truman also sent 3.5 million people out.

JONES: Party frontrunner, Donald Trump, defending his controversial plan to deport the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.

TRUMP: We would do it in a very humane way. JONES: Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio trading punches on the issue.

CRUZ: Talk's cheap. When the fight was being fought, where did you stand?

JONES: Cruz blasting Rubio for being part of the failed effort to pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2013.

CRUZ (via telephone): When politicians saying the exact opposite of what they've done in office, I treat that with a pretty healthy degree of skepticism.

JONES: Rubio today calling out Cruz saying his rival backs a path to legal status.

MARCO RUBIO (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ted is a supporter of legalizing people that are in this country illegally. If you look at it I don't think our positions are dramatically different.

JONES: But Rubio disagrees with Trump's mass deportation plan.

RUBIO: There are going to be people that have to be deported. We will enforce our immigration laws. That being said I don't think it's reasonable to say you're going to round up and deport 11 million people.

JONES: Jeb Bush also rejecting Trump's proposal. He favors a path to legal status.

BUSH: It's not amnesty to say over a ten-year period you earn legal status. You're not cutting in line for people who've been patiently waiting, and you can make a contribution that way.

JONES: Ben Carson suggesting he too is open to some kind of legal status proposing a six-month registration period that would require background checks.

BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They would have to pay a back tax penalty and continue to pay taxes going forward. But they would no longer have to live in the shadows.

JONES: He sought leniency for a close friend convicted of health care fraud, but later wrote in one of his books that people found guilty of the crime should serve jail time.


JONES: And one more thing, Jake. Today is the first day this first trip to Iowa is the first one where Trump has Secret Service protection. So things are looking a little different around this event today -- Jake.

TAPPER: Athena Jones in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Thanks so much. Host of CNN's "OUTFRONT," Erin Burnett is here. She just sat down with Mr. Trump this afternoon. Erin, what did he have to say? ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST, "OUTFRONT": Jake, speaking of Secret Service, he does that have new Secret Service detail. I went to Trump Tower to interview him. They were there. You had to go through added security to see him.

[16:35:05]We talked about a lot of things, but we had a very direct and heated exchange about immigration, Jake. And in particular his plan as you know he said he will deport all 11 million plus undocumented immigrants in this country. It will cost a lot of money. We had looked at some of the numbers and I asked him about that cost.


BURNETT: The number is big. To get all these people out of the country --

TRUMP: These are people that don't know what they're talking about --

BURNETT: -- that is bigger than the Department of Defense budget.

TRUMP: Excuse me. They also say it's $15 billion to build a wall that I'll do for six --

BURNETT: So say you do it for $100 billion.

TRUMP: My wall will be bigger and better and stronger and more powerful. Let me just explain something. Illegal immigration each year costs us between $200 billion and $300 billion. I don't know if anybody gives you those numbers probably not.

But -- and when you include crime and other problems, it's more than that. So you're talking between $200 billion and $300 billion. The way it is now, all right.

BURNETT: But they pay in taxes. They pay $24 billion in taxes.

TRUMP: Who pays in taxes? Do you really believe they pay in taxes?

BURNETT: They pay Social Security, state and local.

TRUMP: What percentage, 10 percent?

BURNETT: It's $24 billion a year --

TRUMP: You know, how few pay taxes, Erin. Don't be naive. Do you think an illegal immigrant getting money is going to be paying taxes? Sure, some probably do only because employers are insisting on it.

But there's very little percentage wise very little, probably 5 percent, 10 percent. It's a very small amount pay taxes, Erin. Look, they're here illegally. They're not paying taxes. OK, I've heard this one before. I've heard them all.


TAPPER: Erin, you also asked Donald Trump about Dr. Carson. What did he have to say in particular about Dr. Carson's self-described history of violence?

BURNETT: So, you know, Jake, a couple interesting things on this point. I asked him, I said, look, do you think that Carson has answered the questions? Do you think he's being truthful about his past?

Donald trump said the word pathological no fewer than seven times in his answer, Jake, to that question to describe Ben Carson. He said, look, Ben Carson uses that word in his own book to describe himself.

Donald Trump went through each of the examples that Dr. Carson has given, of course, you know, including hitting his mother on the head with a hammer. And in that case, you know, Donald made the point.

He said, look, why are we in a position here where now for him to say these things did happen is a good thing? It gives a man credibility to say I tried to hit my mother over the head with a hammer.

He also, Jake, likened the situation to a child molester. He said if you're a child molester, you can't be cured. And if you're pathological as Ben Carson describes himself, you cannot be cured.

TAPPER: He used the term child molester?

BURNETT: Yes. He used the term child molester specifically. He said, look, child molesters you can't cure, right? If you're pathological, you can't be cured. So he did completely make that analogy.

TAPPER: Wow, can't wait to watch. Erin Burnett, thanks so much. Make sure to catch Erin's entire interview as she goes "OUTFRONT" with Donald Trump tonight 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

There is of course a Democratic presidential race too. A new national poll shows Hillary Clinton way ahead of Bernie Sanders. Sanders upping his attacks, it doesn't seem to be working. That support for Hillary is a lot more committed than Bernie Sanders as well.

Let's bring in CNN senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny. Jeff, I wanted to ask you about this. Fascinating moment on the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton in 1994 before speaking before a group of women veterans said that she had tried to join the Marines and had been turned down for a number of reasons including the fact she's a woman.

The "New York Times" kind of took a whack at her back when she was a reporter for that and that story really seems to have disappeared until this week. It's back.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Until Tuesday, the day before Veterans Day. Secretary Clinton herself raised this before small group of New Hampshire voters. She said, look, back in 1975 when I was 26 or so I went into a recruiting office in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and tried to sign up for the Marines.

And this is what she said. She said he looks at me and he goes, how old are you, and I said, well, I am 26. I will be 27. And he goes, well, that is kind of old for us. And then he says to me, and this is what he gets me, maybe the dogs will take you, meaning the Army.

But the strange thing about all this is why a Yale educated lawyer known for anti-war stance would suddenly want to join the marines. It didn't seem to make any sense to us. So we talked to an old friend of hers today in Arkansas who's now a retired professor at the University of Arkansas.

She said she believes this visit to the Marine recruiting office was actually to see if it was a test to see how women were being treated who are actually applying for the Marines. This is what Anne Henry told us just a little bit ago.

She said Hillary is someone who was fearless. She would go and do things just to test it out. And I can totally see her doing that just to see what the reaction was. The one issue here is Clinton has never described it that way at all, not 1994, not this week.

There are so many questions, but we still don't know these answers because the Clinton campaign has declined our repeated requests for comment on this to describe how this works.

[16:40:11]And the interesting thing about this is she's known for doing undercover work in the early '70s for the Children's Defense Fund in segregated schools. So the question is, is this an extension of that or was she trying to join the Marines? It's an odd twist in this campaign season.

TAPPER: In '94, I believe, when she was speaking before these women veterans as first lady, she said -- she told the story as if she would actually trying to join the Marines was turned down because she was too old and a woman.

ZELENY: And had glasses.

TAPPER: And had glasses. And then she said so she decided to pursue service in a different way. She told the story as if she was trying to actually join the Marines.

ZELENY: She did. So now we're left with two recollections of this if she was actually trying to join the Marines, which seems slightly improbable. She had just moved to Arkansas. Her soon-to-be husband Bill Clinton was running for attorney general at the time.

TAPPER: That was right after the Vietnam war.

ZELENY: Right. She'd just gotten a job at a law firm as well as the University of Arkansas law school in Fayetteville, an interesting time for her to bring this up herself on Tuesday. We'll look forward to what she has to say.

TAPPER: Very, very interesting, Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much.

Protests erupting over racist incidents and Chris Christie says it's because of the lawlessness President Obama has created. The Republican presidential candidate will explain what he means by that next.

Plus, pilots blinded by lasers as they were flying. More than 20 aircraft targeted just last night. Now police are closing in and making arrests. That's coming up.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. We are going to stay with our Politics Lead. It has been the Rubik's cube issue for 2016 for Republican candidates, immigration. Donald Trump says the solution is shipping the 11-plus million people here illegally out of the country with a deportation force.

When pressed by reporters today his rival, Marco Rubio, said Trump's cure all was not realistic. But if you ask Senator Ted Cruz, Rubio doesn't have a leg to stand on when talking about immigration that's because in Cruz's view Rubio used to support amnesty for undocumented immigrants and that makes him and anyone else who once supported amnesty unelectable.


CRUZ: If Republicans nominate for president a candidate who supports amnesty, we will have given up one of the major distinctions with Hillary Clinton, and we will lose the general election.


TAPPER: Joining me now from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to talk about the Republican race, presidential candidate, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Governor, good to see you again.

CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Jake, thanks for having me back.

TAPPER: So immigration continues to be a big issue, a big issue of contention within the Republican Party and this presidential race. Let's take a brief nostalgic journey, Governor, to the first time you and I met July 2010. I asked you about immigration reform and you said the following.


CHRISTIE: So the president and the Congress have to step up to the plate, they have to secure our borders and put forward a common sense path to citizenship for people.


TAPPER: Now, Senator Ted Cruz said that that's you supporting amnesty. And no Republican who ever supported amnesty can win the presidency. Your thoughts?

CHRISTIE: Well, listen, you know, a fact is that I've learned a great deal over time on this issue. I was a brand new governor then. And the fact is that I know now that that's just not going to work and we're not going to reward people who have come here illegally with citizenship.

And so fact is that we've done a lot of good things, I think, in New Jersey to help move this issue along. I have a realistic plan on how to deal with immigration ongoing forward as president of the United States.

TAPPER: You're in Iowa today to talk to college kids there in Cedar Rapids specifically about reforming entitlement or safety net programs. Your front runners disagree with you strongly, it seems. Donald trump says don't touch Medicare, don't touch Social Security. Dr. Ben Carson says no action on entitlements until the economy improves. Why are they wrong?

CHRISTIE: They're wrong because 71 percent of all federal spending today is on entitlements and debt service. We are bankrupting our country. We're heading to become Greece. And the fact is that they won't talk about it because they're afraid to talk about it politically.

I'm not. I trust the American people. They know this is a problem. They know we have to fix it. I'm the only person out there with a plan to fix it, a plan that will save over a trillion dollars over the next ten years.

And so let's talk about that. And if they've got something to say other than whistle past the graveyard, they better start saying it because they're not going to be credible whether it's Donald or Ben, they're not going to be credible on this issue if they say do nothing.

Everyone knows Social Security's going to go insolvent in seven to eight years if we do nothing, and that is an unacceptable alternative to me.

TAPPER: You were asked recently about events at the University of Missouri. You said, quote, "The lawlessness that the president has allowed to exist in this country absolutely strips people of hope.

I'm confused, Governor, about what President Obama has to do with students and others on this campus saying and doing racist things to one another, which is what demonstrators say is what prompted the protests.

CHRISTIE: Because this president has created a greater racial divide in this country than existed before he became president. And because people don't believe that law enforcement is going to be supported by this president, because they don't believe that justice is applied evenly and fairly but politically.

This president has created an atmosphere in this country where people feel as if they can no longer rely on the government to do things the right way that they have to take matters into their own hands. That's exactly what I meant and I hope you understand it now.

TAPPER: What do you mean that he has created or made worse the racial divide? What specifically has he done?

CHRISTIE: Jake, at every turn the president has taken the side against law enforcement and with the lawbreakers at every time. And what he's also done is to not bring the country together in the ways that he promised in 2008.

We all had great hope, all of us, even those who didn't vote for him, I didn't in 2008, had great hope that the first African-American president would help to heal some of the divides that we have racially in this country.

[16:50:03]I don't think anyone can look objectively at where we sit as a country now and say that we're better off than we were seven years ago on the issue of race in America with Barack Obama as president. In fact, I think he's made it worse.

TAPPER: There are a lot of Republicans as you know who argue that the so-called bridgegate scandal damaged your popularity among voters. Right as you seem to be gaining traction in New Hampshire there's another development in the case.

Lawyers for two of the defendants filed papers saying that your administration in New Jersey is inappropriately hiding nearly 10,000 e-mails or other documents. Want to give you an opportunity to respond to those allegations.

CHRISTIE: Just complete Defense Lawyer Baloney. I dealt with that a lot as U.S. attorney. They can write anything in a brief to court. It's just not true.

TAPPER: So there aren't all these documents that you're not releasing?

CHRISTIE: We have fully cooperated, Jake, with everything that the prosecution has asked us to cooperate with, everything. If the defense doesn't think that's sufficient, they should talk to the prosecution about that. It has nothing to do with us.

TAPPER: Governor Christie in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, thank you so much for joining us today.

CHRISTIE: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Wolf Blitzer is here with a preview of "THE SITUATION ROOM." Wolf, obviously bombs blew up in Beirut today. ISIS is claiming responsibility for the attack. You have former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Wesley Clark to talk about what this means for the larger war on terror and the war against ISIS.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": It looks like ISIS not only going after various targets in Iraq and Syria, which we all know about. But clearly now expanding that Russian commercial airliner at Sharm El-Sheikh, 224 people were killed.

Now they're claiming responsibility for dozens of people killed and injured in Beirut today in this bombing. And it's going on and on and on. General Wesley Clark is going to join us. We'll talk about that. Ed Royce is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee as well.

TAPPER: All right, Wolf Blitzer, we'll look forward to that. More than 20 aircraft in different cities targeted by lasers overnight blinding some pilots while they were flying, that story next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. Shocking new video from a news helicopter in Brooklyn, New York, show the danger that pilots face in the air from lasers. WNBC had cameras rolling when someone aimed a sharp green light right at the helicopter.

That helped police arrest two men. This was not the only case. Today we learned lasers were pointed at more than 20 aircraft across the country last night. You heard me right, one night just last night.

CNN aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh joins me now. Rene, oftentimes no one's even arrested for these dangerous stunts.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We're talking about blinding light while you're thousands of feet in the air. Both the FAA and police are struggling to deal with this dramatic increase in these laser strikes on aircraft.

As you said more often than not people behind those laser attacks don't get caught. But you're about to see how things change when the target is a TV news chopper. It's just one of the many strikes overnight.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see the people involved right now. They're walking in and out of the building.

MARSH (voice-over): This news helicopter pilot in New York caught on camera the alleged culprit behind a blinding laser beam attack overnight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hitting us right now. Don't look, George. Yes, you think this is a joke?

MARSH: He led local police right to the suspects, one of the men is now charged with felony reckless endangerment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Making arrests. That's perfect.

MARSH: Here's the view inside of the cockpit of a second news helicopter struck 20 minutes later near Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey. Across the country Wednesday more than 20 aircraft were hit by lasers in ten states and Puerto Rico.

LES ABEND, COMMERCIAL PILOT: If it doesn't do any sort of temporary blindness, is a distraction. And tantamount as far as I'm concerned to attempted homicide.

UNIDENTIFIED PILOT: I didn't get, I just saw out of the corner of my eye and a few more times. It lit up, hit the top of our cockpit.

MARSH: FAA statistics show these dangerous incidents have increased steadily in recent years. Through October of 2015 there were more than 5,000 reports of laser strikes on aircraft up from nearly 4,000 in all of 2014. That compared to less than 400 back in 2006.

Senator Chuck Schumer has called for the federal government to ban the sale of long ranged high powered lasers. Pilots want tougher penalties to help keep offenders from striking again.

ABEND: I think this might deter some people from playing games with these potentially dangerous toys.


MARSH: Well, this is a federal crime. There are cases where people have been caught. A California man was sentenced to more than two years behind bars. Back to you, Jake.

TAPPER: Rene Marsh, thanks so much.

Finally from us this evening, a soldier recognized for his valor. President Obama today is awarding Retired Army Captain Florent Groberg with the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military distinction.

Groberg calls August 8th, 2012, the worst day of his life. He was participating in a security escort in Afghanistan when two terrorists on motorcycles ambushed the group. Groberg described the attack to CNN.


FLORENT GROBERG, U.S. ARMY CAPTAIN (RETIRED): As soon as he started moving towards our patrol I left my position to go meet him because he's a threat. And, you know, I need him away. So I hit him with my rifle. That's when I felt I hit a vest under his clothing. At this point all I can do is, you know, just get him away as far as we could. So grabbed him by his vest and, you know, try to push him down, throw him.


TAPPER: Four Americans died in that attack, Command Sergeant Major Kevin Griffin, Major Tom Kennedy, Major David Gray and Ragaei Abdel Fattah with the State Department. Groberg saved even more lives by tackling the suicide bomber.

His leg was almost blown off, but he's able to stand strong on it today after three years at Walter Reed Medical Center and 33 surgeries. We're so lucky to have men and women like that who served our nation.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper turning you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."