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Official: Zika "Scarier Than We Initially Thought"; UNICEF: Boko Haram Using Children as Suicide Bombers. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired April 12, 2016 - 16:30   ET



TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, this is how this would all work. The candidates cannot directly buy or sell votes. The delegates can't do that either. But this is all sort of wink-and-a-nod stuff, Jake.

And, in the end, even though the party says it does not want this happening, the campaigns all say they really want no part of something so seedy, by the time you reach a contested convention, they will have spent millions of dollars trying to win this delegate.

So, some supporters might very well want to push out some John Kasich steak knives or maybe a Cruz cruise or perhaps some Trump helicopter tours -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Nice. Tom Foreman, thanks.

Our Money Lead now. President Obama commemorated Equal Pay Day today by dedicating a new national monument honoring women's equality. The house that has served as the headquarters for the National's Women's Party since 1929 is now officially the Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument, named in part after suffragist Alice Paul. The monument gets its name from suffragists and women's rights activists Alva Belmont and Alice Paul, as I just said.

And while a national monument is great, President Obama said there's still a lot more work to be done.

In our world lead, troubling new signs North Korea is getting closer to launching a missile and this time the United States could in range -- that story next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to the lead.

Now our world lead. We know they have nuclear weapons. We know they have a leader who is, on a good day, mysterious and unstable. Now there are alarming signed that North Korea is preparing to test-launch a mobile ballistic missile with the range to reach portions of the United States.

If successful, this would mark a significant advance in the reclusive regime's military capability.

Let's get right to CNN's Barbara Starr. She's live at the Pentagon.

Barbara, how are U.S. officials responding to this news?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the U.S. now watching North Korea around the clock. That regime is so unpredictable, nobody can be certain what it might do.


STARR (voice-over): Kim Jong-un could be planning an unprecedented military move. U.S. spy satellites have detected early signs that North Korea may, for the first time, be preparing to test a mobile ballistic missile capable of hitting portions of the U.S.

The mobile missiles are mounted on huge vehicles, like these shown in military parades. The launcher can move quickly. In wartime, an attack could come with little or no warning. Even a test would have huge international security implications.

BRUCE KLINGNER, FORMER CIA INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: I think that's going to lead to an epiphany for a lot of experts who have been dismissing the possibility that North Korea could have such a capability for several more years.

STARR: If the regime proceeds with a launch, the latest assessment is it's most likely to fire the Musudan missile, which the U.S. believes has the ability to potentially hit Guam and perhaps Shemya Island in Alaska.

Two other missiles being watched, the KN-08 and the KN-14 mobile ballistic missiles. They have a longer range and are potentially able to hit the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. U.S. officials caution they cannot even be certain if the missiles would work as advertised.

Just this week, Kim was in attendance during an intercontinental engine test, part of North Korea's effort to constantly refine its technology. The mobile KN-14 is especially mysterious. North Korea is believed to have displayed it at this military parade last year. The U.S. is not certain what improvements have been made to this newest weapon, but worry it may have increased precision, the concerns compounded by the belief of some in the U.S. intelligence community that North Korea has some type of miniaturized, untested, nuclear warhead device that could go on top of a missile.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the prudent decision on my part to assume that he has the capability to miniaturize a nuclear weapons and put it on an ICBM.


STARR: Now, U.S. officials are very strongly cautioning they don't know if what North Korea has even would work, the missiles or whatever kind of warhead device Kim thinks he may have.

But they are watching all of this, again, an unpredictable regime and they don't know what might be coming next -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thanks so much.

And joining me now is Republican Congressman Devin Nunes. He's chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence.

Mr. Chairman, thanks so much for being here.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: It's great to be back with you.

TAPPER: So, I know you can't tell us things that are classified, but in terms of the threat from North Korea, what do you think about North Korea's nuclear capabilities as of now? Could they fire a nuke and hit our soldiers in South Korea or Japan? Could they fire a nuke and hit the U.S.?

NUNES: Well, North Korea is destabilizing the region.

They continue to develop their capabilities, ballistic capabilities. We saw a few years ago where they shot a ballistic missile about 1,000 miles. We believe that they can definitely threaten the United States.

And so what we have to do is, we have to be supportive of our South Korean allies and our Japanese allies to make sure that we're the deterrent in the region, because, with this regime, they're very unpredictable and we don't know what they could possibly do.

The good thing is, is that we have significant -- a significant force structure in that area if they did try something stupid.

TAPPER: When you say threaten the United States, do you mean they could theoretically hit some part of the United States, whether it's Hawaii or...

NUNES: I think the answer is, we don't really know yet, but we know that they have -- we know that they have nuclear capability and we know they have been able to fire missiles long distances.


So, I think it's one of those things we really hope that they don't try it. But the more that they practice, the better that they get.

TAPPER: Let's turn to terrorism.

Three additional men were today charged in connection with the terrorist attacks in Brussels and Paris. According to this new threat assessment from the House Homeland Security Committee, 5,000 Europeans have traveled to fight with ISIS, and more than 1,000 have returned to Europe.

Given the concerns we have in the U.S. about how much information the Europeans do not share and also, of course, the visa waiver with the Europeans, how concerned are you that some of these Westerners from Europe, some of these Europeans trained to fight with ISIS are going to end up in the United States?

NUNES: What I like to first start out with is say that when you talk about the 5,000, those are ones that we actually know about that are in Europe.

TAPPER: There might be more?

NUNES: Well, my guess is, there's a lot more, a whole bunch more.

And then those pockets of cells of fighters that have experience that probably have links back to ISIS or al Qaeda affiliates and some type of command and control structure, then when you put refugees on top of that that don't have any jobs, it becomes a breeding ground for radicalism.

And so what I worry about is the fighters that came back that we know about, the ones that we don't know about, and then the radicalization of a population of what is now in the several million.

TAPPER: You just returned from a congressional delegation trip all over the world, but focused on the Middle East. You visited Egypt and Israel, two important American allies. How concerned are the Egyptians and the Israelis about the presence of ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula, and do you think the U.S. military should beef up its presence there?

NUNES: So, when you look at -- Egypt has always worried me, because Egypt is almost 100 million people.

And when people talk about ISIS and al Qaeda, they often think, well, that's in Iraq and Syria, and the administration's put in like a containment policy, and have ignored the Sinai that you brought up. But I think, more importantly, they have ignored Libya and the rest of North Africa, where there are pockets of al Qaeda and ISIS affiliates all over.

So, Egypt, 100 million people, very poor, squeezed on one side of the Sinai with ISIS presence and the other side with Libya with significant ISIS presence. I have always said that if you want a successful strategy to defeat ISIS and al Qaeda, it has to involve not just Iraq and Syria, but also North Africa.

TAPPER: Many top Pentagon officials say Russia actually is the threat that the United States should worry about the most.

I want to get your reaction to something that President Obama told Jeffrey Goldberg in "The Atlantic" -- quote -- "The notion that somehow Russia is in a stronger position now in Syria or in Ukraine than they were before they had invaded Ukraine or before he had to deploy military forces to Syria is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of power in foreign affairs or in the world generally."

What do you think?

NUNES: The biggest intelligence failure that we have had since 9/11 has been the inability to predict the leadership plans and intentions of the Putin regime in Russia.

And so I can understand why, for -- after the Georgian invasion, you know, maybe we thought some diplomacy might work. But, clearly, after the invasion of Crimea, that should have been a red line, and we immediately should have moved quickly in to bolster our NATO allies.

But instead we continued to negotiate with the Russians, we continued to talk to the Russians, and then they invaded Eastern Ukraine. We missed that. And then we completely missed entirely when they put a new base, a new base with aircraft into the Mediterranean, into Syria. We just missed it. We were blind.

The intelligence community has continued to get this wrong. And, look, I think it's all of us are to blame, right? And I think the White House is to blame. I think Congress is to blame. I think many of our allies are to blame, because we misjudged Putin for many, many years.

TAPPER: All right, Chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence Devin Nunes, congressman from California, thanks for joining us. Appreciate it.

NUNES: Thanks, Jake. Great to be back.

TAPPER: If you think Zika is not a problem yet in the United States, think again, American health officials issuing one of their most dire warnings about the virus to date.

Plus, the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, it went viral after Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls. Everyone from celebrities to the first lady weighed in. That was two years ago this week. Where are the girls now? That story ahead.


[16:48:37] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

One of the most severe warnings to date on the Zika virus is in our national lead today. U.S. health officials now admit that the mosquito-borne virus is actually scarier than they first thought. They say this year's mosquito season could be devastating to some families because lab tests and vaccine research may not be able to catch up to the spread of the virus. So far, there are at least 346 cases of Zika confirmed in the continental U.S. All of these cases are travel-related for now, but that can change.

Now, if one expands the map to include U.S. territories, it gets even scarier. In Puerto Rico, especially, there the virus now is being locally transmitted, affecting at least 37 pregnant women.

Let's bring in CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

Elizabeth, you just got back from Puerto Rico. Health officials are warning there could eventually be hundreds of thousands of cases of Zika infection in the U.S. territory, perhaps hundreds of affected whys with these devastating, heartbreaking birth defects? ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right,

Jake. And the concern, as you said, is that once it gets warmer here in the continental United States, we could also be seeing babies born with defects. And the concern is about a variety of defects, everything from specific neurological problems to vision problems to still births.

And when I was in -- when I was in Puerto Rico, I went to an ultrasound with a mom who had Zika and she went to the ultrasound to see her baby was doing.

[16:50:05] As you can imagine, she was quite anxious about what she was about to see.


COHEN (voice-over): It's the scourge of Zika, babies born with a devastating birth defect called microcephaly. And now, Zulmarys Molina is about to find out if her baby might have it, too. Molina, who lives in Puerto Rico, contracted the Zika virus early in her pregnancy. She's now 22 weeks along, a little more than halfway through the pregnancy.

(on camera): Tell me what you know about your baby already.

ZULMARYS MOLINA, 22 WEEKS PREGNANT: Her name is going to be Michaela.

COHEN: So, you know it's a girl?


COHEN: If your baby has these problems, it will be more difficult?

MOLINA: Definitely, because I have already a baby boy. I'm a single mom. And it's going to be really difficult.

COHEN: Tomorrow morning, you're going to have another ultrasound.


COHEN: How are you going to feel tomorrow if he says, wait a minute, I see something going on with the brain?

MOLINA: Nobody wants to hear that. Even when you're prepared and trying to be prepared for that, so I know I'm going to be sad.



COHEN (voice-over): She goes in for the ultrasound the next day with Dr. Alberto de la Vega at University Hospital in San Juan.

DR. ALBERTO DE LA VEGA, UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL, SAN JUAN: See a head there, with all those five fingers. Her face. Who does she look like? MOLINA: She looks like my little boy.

COHEN: At first, everything looks fine. But then, Dr. de la Vega measures the baby's head. It's growing but at a slower pace than expected.

DE LA VEGA: You see there is a slight lag in the growth. This is what we would expect. It's still within the normal range but it's lagging behind. That obviously in this situation is a cause of concern, although the anatomy still looks great. I would like to see you more frequently.

COHEN: When babies have had severe brain abnormalities some mothers who have Zika have chosen to terminate the pregnancies.

(on camera): Hearing this, hearing about the lagging growth, how does that make you feel?

MOLINA: Well, give me a little bit of concern, you know, worry. This baby's going to be born. So, no matter what happens, I'm going to have the baby.


COHEN: There are also concerns about the effects that Zika has in adults. Just this week, scientists in Brazil presented cases adults developing diseases similar to multiple sclerosis.

Now, the question is how frequent are these problems in adults or babies? And, Jake, they need to do more studies to figure that out.

TAPPER: It's heartbreaking. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much.

The world shocked and outraged when hundred of girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram. Now, two years later, two years this week, the terror group is forcing girls to become suicide bombers and many of these girls are willing to do it. Why? That story next.


[16:57:19] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Our world lead now: a very disturbing report by UNICEF. The African terrorist group Boko Haram is forcing children, especially young girls, to become suicide bombers. The report says that, in the past two years one in five suicide bombers deployed by the terrorist group has been a child, usually a girl, some as young as 8 years old.

Today's report dovetails with a rather grim anniversary. Just two years ago this week, Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 school girls in Nigeria, launching, of course, a worldwide #bringbackourgirls hashtag campaign.

Let's bring in CNN senior international correspondent David McKenzie live in Johannesburg, South Africa.

David, do we know how many of the girls kidnapped two years ago were freed or even located?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the sad reality is, none of those girls have been freed, despite the U.S.- backed campaign to go in there and squeeze Boko Haram. We don't know exactly where they are either. Though, there is fears that some of them might have been killed in aerial attacks of this stronghold -- Jake.

TAPPER: Boko Haram kidnaps continue to happen virtually every day. The conditions in which these girls are forced actually causes them to volunteer to become suicide bombers?

MCKENZIE: Well, it's hard to grasp that, Jake, but, yes. We just got back from the far northern part of Cameroon, that area is where most of the attacks by children, especially girls in that UNICEF report, have taken place. And we met a young woman who spent two years kidnapped by Boko Haram. She said, in the forest stronghold, they would come to them, ask them, can they do these suicide attacks, and they would volunteer. It's not because they were brainwashed, she said.

It's because the conditions, the sexual abuse, bombing from the Nigerian military is so awful that they really had no choice. Take a listen.


TERROR VICTIM (through translator): But it was just because they want to run away from Boko Haram. If they give them a suicide bomb, then maybe they would meet soldiers and tell them, I have a bomb on me, and they would remove the bomb. Perhaps they can run away.


MCKENZIE: So, they were volunteering -- so volunteering to die, Jake, so that maybe they can live.

TAPPER: It's just a heartbreaking story. David McKenzie, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

I'll be going live on Facebook right after the show to answer questions about the 2016 election. You can join me there at

That's it for THE LEAD today. I'm Jake Tapper.

Turning you over now to one Mr. Wolf Blitzer who's right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.