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tv   The Lead With Jake Tapper  CNN  December 19, 2013 1:00pm-2:01pm PST

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police are now confirming there are multiple casualties as a result of this balcony or ceiling collapse in the apollo theater. stay with cnn. we'll be all over the breaking news. i'm brooke baldwin. thank you for being with me. see you back at 11:30 eastern, 8:30 pacific. now to washington. "the lead" with jake tapper starts now. breaking news out of london. police say that they are sending squads to a theater in london where there are multiple casualties. more on that coming up. i'm jake tapper. this is "the lead." the national lead. breaking this afternoon, eight federal inmates all convicted of crack cocaine offenses, president obama's putting them back on the street because he says the punishment far outweighed their crimes. do you agree? also in national news, we are well into the backlash against the backlash against the star of a & e's smash hit reality show "duck dynasty."
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his comments about gays won't win him any g.l.a.d. awards but should he be suspended for preaching the bible according to his faith? the world lead. dennis rodman once again visiting his best pal, kim jong-un. how big of a headache is it for the u.s. government when celebrities go rogue to rogue states? good afternoon. welcome to "the lead." i'm jake tapper. we'll have that story breaking out of london in just a moment but we are going to begin with the national lead. one of them was a first time offender who received three life terms in 1993, when he was 22. another got a life sentence in 1997 for hiding her boyfriend's stash in her house. in all they are eight federal inmates convicted of crack cocaine offense. each of them has been in prison at least 15 years. six were sentenced to life. soon, all of them will be free. today, president obama announced he's commuting their sentences, something he's rarely done compared to presidents in the last several decades. quote, three years ago i signed the bipartisan fair sentencing
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act which dramatically narrowed the disparity between penalties for crack and powder cocaine offenses. today, i am commuting the prison terms of eight men and women who were sentenced under an unfair system. the president went on to call on congress to pass sentencing reforms. i want to bring in paul butler, a law professor at georgetown university. he has spoken out against mandatory minimum sentencing, specifically its effects on the african-american community. thank you so much for being here. i appreciate it. what's your reaction to the news today from the president? >> it's long overdue. every thanksgiving the president pardons turkeys and we have been wondering when is he going to exercise this power, this constitutional power, to do the same thing for human beings. so the actual cases shouldn't be controversial. these are people who under current sentencing law would have been out of prison a long time ago so the issue is whether these harsh sentencing laws that they were subject to, whether they get some benefit from congress' movement on that issue. >> so here's the question. the laws were harsher against
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crack cocaine, i guess because the belief was that it was potentially more addictive, potentially more dangerous. why do you disagree with what the sentences used to be, the disparity in sentencing, and -- well, first of all, why do you disagree? >> jake, you would hope that something as important as sentencing law would be based on science, but the federal sentencing laws about crack weren't. there was this emotional outburst from congress after basketball player named len bias died. congress got into this familiar partisan warfare between democrats and republicans about who was going to be toughest on crime. the end result was this 100-1 disparity between crack and powder even though there's no real difference. when i was a federal prosecutor, i had a case where a cop offered to buy cocaine from a young man, the young man gave him powder. he said i want crack. all the guy did was go upstairs,
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put some baking soda in with the powder, turned it into crack and the guy's exposure, his sentence went up to ten years. just because it was crack. >> what would have it been theoretically even if you don't know in the exact case? >> it would have been much shorter, like two or three years. >> two or three years. >> yes. >> the theory was that this was racial in application or just because poorer individuals tended to use crack and wealthier individuals tended to use powder cocaine? >> yeah, it's hard to know who actually uses drugs but the idea is that crack is consumed more by african-americans, perhaps because it's less expensive. it could be, though, that's just a function of who the police arrest. we know there are certainly white people who use crack, just like with all the drug laws, they are selectively enforced against african-americans. they're one of the reasons why we have one of the highest prison populations in the world. we have 5% of the world's population and 25% of the world's prisoners so these very harsh sentencing laws are one reason why.
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not only do we lock up more people, we keep them in prison for way longer than other countries like canada or france or italy. a lot of people are asking not only is it fair, but is it cost-effective? there's no reason to think we get more crime control benefit from locking up people so long so this is an important signal from the president about racheting down the war on drugs. it's about being smart on crime rather than just being tough on crime. >> i know you oppose mandatory minimum sentencing and some of these cases, president obama says these eight individuals whose sentences he commuted, he says that even at the time, some of the judges expressed disappointment that they had to sentence these individuals to very harsh, even life in prison penalties, but they were forced to because of mandatory minimums. >> yes. which the supreme court has changed. the supreme court has recognized that the fact that judges had -- they couldn't be judges, they just had to impose these sentences, that wasn't unfair. they made the mandatory sentencing guidelines no longer
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mandatory. lots of judges are still following them. there are literally 8,000 people in prison right now who are in the same boat as these eight folks who the president -- >> 8,000? >> 8,000. there is legislation pending before congress because again, one of the concerns is it costs so much money to lock up these largely young people for all this time, aren't there more cost-effective ways to deal with people who have problems with drugs. >> paul butler, thank you so much. we appreciate your coming in. >> great to be here. breaking news in our world lead. in london, police are responding to reports that the ceiling has collapsed on the apollo theater there. our senior international correspondent nic robertson is at the scene. you're on the phone right now. what do we know? >> reporter: jake, what i can see from where i'm standing, paramedics are still arriving. i have seen a number arriving with stretchers moving towards the theater. the police here are out in number. they have now cordoned off the street. there are fire trucks in attendance in the area although
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there's no indication at this time that there is a fire. but this area that is right next to piccadilly circus in the heart of london is now being cordoned off by the police as paramedics are still arriving and still making their way towards the theater. the details of what's happening inside this theater are still very sketchy here at the moment but this is a major operation that is under way. i'm looking at a fire brigade command unit truck, the sort of vehicle deployed for large incidents. i have seen a police officer wearing a smock that indicates that this is a large operation. the commanding officer, very much a developing situation at the moment. >> nic robertson, we will come back to you later in the show. we appreciate it. coming up on "the lead," one star of "duck dynasty" is being roasted for his comments to "gq" magazine but are people taking it too far? and an arrest of an indian diplomat in new york turned into a worldwide controversy.
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returning to breaking news in our world lead. we're following reports out of london that the ceiling has collapsed on the apollo theater during a performance. we are keeping an eye on that. we'll have more updates with you. one of the news -- items of news we got just recently from london fire brigade and london ambulance services which are on scene, they have reports of multiple casualties. no further details at present. we will come back to this story just in a few minutes, as we get an eyewitness on the phone. in national news, by now you have likely heard that one of the stars of the megahit reality series "duck dynasty" is up to his beard in controversy for something he said in an interview to "gq." phil robertson, the family patriarch, said this while lamenting the state of modern secular reality. quote, sin becomes fine.
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start with hoke oh sexuhomosexu and just morph out from there. he opined on the differences between straight and gay lifestyles and when it comes to gay rights, no one will mistake him for harvey milk. just to clarify, the conservative religious head of a self-described family of rednecks who gets paid to say stuff like this -- >> women are like labrador retrievers. they all have quirks but you stay married to one 45, 50 years, you learn to go with the quirks. >> he offended people? shocker. lgbt advocates like the group g.l.a.d. called on sponsors to reexamine their links with the show. then a & e suspended phil robertson indefinitely from his own show which has raked in $400 million in revenue for the network. i want to talk about this with matt breen, editor in chief for the advocate, the leading lgbt magazine, and russell moore, president of the ethics and religious liberty commission for the southern baptist convention. matt is for the suspension.
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russell is against it. matt, i will start with you. why does the outrage of some outweigh phil robertson's right to say what he thinks? why does he have to be suspended instead of letting viewers vote with their remote controls? >> partly because on a show that is enormously popular as this one, the views of -- the views of a person on a reality show like this go far beyond the people who are actually watching the tv show. i know mr. moore suggested turning off the television in response to that if you don't like what he has to say, just turn off the tv. but we know that when homophobic attitudes like were expressed in "gq" and racist attitude, we have to remember, infect our society. when bigotry is infecting our society, it goes down to vulnerable people in our see sit society, including lgbt teenagers who are vulnerable to bullying and suicide when they don't have acceptance, they can't find any safe quarter in
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our society. >> russell, let me ask you a question. it wasn't just that be shared what his religion teaches about sin ithe bible. he definitely put the gay lifestyle on, in his words, on a slippery slope to beastiality in the interview. can you see how a gay couple would find that demeaning to compare the two? >> look, the robertson family aren't diplomats. they are reality tv show stars who are paid to say outrageous things on television and to entertain people with their comments. i think his comments were crude at many points, i don't agree with the way he worded many things, but i think his central point was that there's an entire spectrum of immorality and the bible defines what sexual morality is. now, most of us wouldn't say it the way he said it but there are millions of christians and orthodox jews and muslims who agree there is a basic pattern of sexual morality. my concern is not so much with the robertsons or with reality
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tv. it's with the kind of culture in which we have the freedom to seek to talk with one another and persuade one another about issues that really matter. most of all, the question of the gospel of jesus christ. >> matt, there are tens of millions of americans who have similar deep religious beliefs about who is going to hell, what constitutes a sin. how do you respond to those who say that those people who have deeply held religious beliefs, well, they deserve tolerance, too. >> i think robertson is not representing a majority of americans or even a large number of americans. i think his views are real outsider views. i don't see his views as being particularly christian or american in either respect. he has the right of course to say what he likes to say. he has the constitutionally protected right to do so. but a & e made a very -- a good decisive decision when they decided those views are not american views. those views do not represent the brand as a network and they pulled him. i think it was a good decision and i think that robertson should take this time to maybe,
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i don't know, meet with some lgbt christian families in louisiana and see where he might share some common ground with these people. i think he might be really surprised. this might be a growth opportunity. >> russell, in the "gq" article, robertson says quote, we never judge someone on who is going to heaven or hell. that's the almighty's job. we just love them, give them the good news about jesus, whether they're homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. >> i think his larger point was all of us have fallen short of god's design. all of us are sinners and there is redemption found through the blood christ for everyone. the bible tells us that and gives an entire list of ways that we have fallen short of god's purposes, in order to invite us to receive the gospel of forgiveness that is found in jesus christ. that's a very common and in fact, central view of the christian gospel. >> i didn't read him as equating terrorists with homosexuals. i think he's talking about a story he's known in his own life
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as someone who was in rebellion, living a very, very hard, difficult life, running far from god, that he found his way back and that anyone can. that's how i interpreted this. >> i know you're not with g.l.a.d., you're with the advocate. g.l.a.d. called on sponsors to reexamine ties to "duck dynasty." in june, after alec baldwin apologized for tweeting an anti-gay slur, g.l.a.d. gave him a pass, saying baldwin is making it clear the intent behind his tweets does not excuse his language. some conservatives are saying that g.l.a.d. is hypocritical. i know you are not here representing g.l.a.d. so if you disagree with them, feel free to tell me. how do you respond to those who say there's a double standard here? how come robertson can't say this, but baldwin, who is a liberal democrat, he can call somebody a vicious queen or whatever he said? >> right. you know, i don't speak for them. i can't speak for the organization.
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however, i think you will find alec baldwin, those comments were inexcusable and he needs an education about comments that can be hurtful and damaging to people. on the other hand, he's had a long career of being progressive in his views towards lgbt people and where those comments were in conflict with his long history of being pro-lgbt, i think maybe that's where a lot of us find the distinction between someone like robertson's comments and baldwin's comments. >> thank you both so much for joining us. thank you for this civil and respectful debate. i appreciate it. >> thank you. when we come back, more on the breaking news coming out of london. a balcony collapse. we will bring you the latest. hmm. mm-hmm. [ engine revs ] ♪ [ male announcer ] oh what fun it is to ride. get the mercedes-benz on your wish list at the winter event going on now --
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welcome back to "the lead." we're returning to the breaking news in our world lead out of london, england. we are hearing reports of multiple casualties after the ceiling collapsed during a performance at london's apollo theater. our own erin mcloughlin is standing by live in london. erin, what's the latest? >> reporter: hi, jake. we understand that this incident took place about an hour ago
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during the production of "the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime." there was about 700 people in the theater at the time when, according to eyewitnesses, the ceiling collapsed on to the audience. people were covered in dust, there was a loud cracking noise when this happened. eyewitnesses described seeing casualties. they say it was a full house, around 700 people in total. about 20 casualties counted so far. eyewitnesses describe seeing people bloodied, there were head injuries. people were being treated on the foyer of this theater. so a very dramatic incident that happened there in a very congested part of central london tonight, jake. >> what can you tell us about the apollo theater? it's obviously legendary in london. i'm not sure if you know how old it is, whether or not it's been repaired lately. what can you tell us about it? >> reporter: well, it is an incredibly famous theater, pretty much unheard of, an
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incident happening like this, especially in the midst of a theater production, in the midst of a packed house. incredibly famous theater and this also happening in the middle of the christmas period so there would be plenty of tourists there as well so really shocking incident. i'm sure it's something the investigators will be looking into, however, when the ceiling that now authorities say has collapsed was last looked at and why exactly this happened, questioning -- questions that authorities no doubt will undoubtedly be looking at. >> let's get back to nic robertson on the phone. nic is on the scene. tell us what you're seeing. >> reporter: well, jake, still seeing people being taken away from the scene here, walking wounded wrapped in a blanket, another person on a stretcher being wheeled away by paramedics. i talked with one lady who was inside the theater when it happened. she was sitting quite close to
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the front, she said about 40 minutes into the performance, it was dark inside the theater, then she was aware of people moving, people saying watch out, watch out. then she said the ceiling started collapsing. first of all slowly, then much faster. she believed the collapse was more towards the back of the theater. she could see plaster and wood coming down. the air was full of dust. she said at least one woman she was aware of had a broken leg. paramedics taking the injured next door and one of the injured taken away by paramedics. this is a developing situation. it's still an ongoing situation. this particular eyewitness we talked to was uninjured. she said she had seen other people who had cuts and scrapes but she said mostly people left the theater in quite an ordered sort of way. she said everyone was shocked as the situation developed, very
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unaware of what had caused this. she said it just seemed that the ceiling suddenly just started giving away and collapsing in on the theater goers, particularly at the back of the theater. >> we're told, just to give you an update, while you were talking there, the london fire brigade announced they estimate about 700 people were inside the theater. erin told us that earlier. they are also estimating that they believe somewhere between 20 and 40 people were injured in the ceiling collapse at the apollo theater. do we have any idea about the extent of the injuries, how bad they are? >> reporter: the one casualty that we have been able to see, that did seem to be the most injured, was on a stretcher, on a metal gurney if you will with a neck brace on, stabilized there. there were three or four paramedics around that person, wrapped up because it's a very cold night here in london. again, we don't know the nature
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of the injuries but the fact that on a hard gurney with a neck stabilizing brace on, that's an indication of perhaps some injuries to the back or other limbs. >> right now you're looking at live pictures from the scene. we're just getting these in right now. we will, of course, try to get more as they come on. nic, the london fire brigade also announced that there were individuals who were trapped in the theater at one point, but as of now, they say the london fire brigade that all those people have been safely evacuated. it would seem that everyone in the theater is now out of the theater. >> reporter: and the eyewitness we talked to told us that her husband had bought them the tickets to go to the theater tonight, that he told her he had gotten the last two seats available. so we do know from this eyewitness that the theater was near to capacity, if not at
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capacity this evening. of course, they close for christmas. almost no surprise, the theaters here absolutely really full and crowded at this time of year. >> so if you're just tuning in right now, we are covering live from london, there has been a ceiling collapse at the famous apollo theater in the theater district. there were 700 individuals who were thought to be in the theater. london fire brigade is saying somewhere between 20 and 40 were injured in that. let's go to erin mcloughlin back in the studio in london. what can you tell us? >> reporter: that's right, jake. we are hearing from the london fire brigade of the 700 people that were in this theater, 20 to 40 people were injured. everyone who was at one point trapped inside this theater has now been freed and evacuated. there is still treatment for those who suffered casualties during this roof collapse in a
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very busy holiday time here in london. eyewitnesses describing a rather frightening scene of a roof cracking, the dust falling down on to the theater audience in the middle of this production. many members of this audience, children and families, now the london fire brigade telling us thankfully everyone has been evacuated from that theater. >> we will take a very quick break. when we come back, more on this collapse of part of the theater in london, england, with a report of up to 40 casualties. also coming up on "the lead," senator max baucus likely to be the next u.s. ambassador to china but is that more of a chess move from democrats than anything else? that's our political lead.
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we are hearing from the london fire brigade that of the 700 people that were inside the theater at the time the ceiling collapsed, 20 to 40 have been wounded but we're now hearing that those that were trapped have now been evacuated from this theater. the incident took place about an hour ago, during the production of the theater performance "curious incident of the dog in the nighttime." eyewitnesses described hearing a large cracking noise and seeing parts of the ceiling collapse on to the audience. hundreds of people, families and children that had come to the theater for this performance, eyewitnesses describing seeing casualties, people suffering scratches and head wounds, being evacuated from the theater and getting medical treatment. emergency services currently have created a cordon around the theater. a series of ambulances, about a dozen, seen in the area, ready to treat any of the casualties
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as a result of this what now authorities are saying is a ceiling collapse in central london. jake? >> erin, we also have been told that there are five serious casualties in the 40 or so injured. we want to go right now to somebody who witnessed the collapse. joining us by phone is martin bostock, who was in the theater at the time. thanks for joining us. tell us what you saw. >> hi. i was in the theater with my wife and my two kids. we were sitting under the front of the balcony, the floor above us, and it was part of that balcony, as far as i can tell, that collapsed. on to the front part of the balcony collapsed on to the people sitting in the stalls below. we thought at first it was part of the show. it was very shocking, very scary. the actors were pointing up above us and looked horrified and running off the stage.
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lots of lighting equipment and things fell down. we were lucky, i've got a bang on the top of the head, my daughter's got a hurt wrist. we're very, very lucky to get out of it. it was full of dust, you couldn't see anything, you couldn't breathe. it was absolutely terrifying. a lot of people hurt. we have transferred down the road, we are in the foyer of a theater down the road and emergency services are here. we are all being very well looked after but it was absolutely terrifying and a horrific thing. i can't really say any more than that. >> martin bostock was in the theater at the time. he joins us on the phone, describing what sounds like a horrific incident. are you telling me that it wasn't the ceiling, it was a balcony that collapsed? >> no, i think it was the balcony. i don't know if you're familiar with old london theaters. there's a floor area and there's what we call the balcony which
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is the seating area up above which covers half of the area of the ground. sorry, i'm not explaining this very well. >> no, no, you're explaining it -- >> i don't think it was the ceiling. i think it was the front section of the balcony up above us that came down, as far as i could tell. because as soon as it started to happen it was very hard to see anything. there was serious panic in the theater, as you can imagine, and a horrific amount of dust from all the old masonry that was falling down. i could be describing this wrongly but that's my impression of what happened. >> you're a witness. i want to hear what you have to say. what you have to say is much more valuable than those who are outside the theater at the time of the collapse. i just want to make sure i understand this correctly. you are not even saying the ceiling part of the balcony collapsed. you're saying the balcony itself, part of that collapsed? >> i believe that is what happened. certainly not the whole balcony, but i believe that sections of the front of the balcony
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collapsed on to the people who were sitting in the stalls below. that's what seemed to be happening to me. it certainly wasn't the ceiling of the theater. we were protected, where we were sitting, you can't see the ceiling. you can see the balcony which is above you. and i'm going to have to go. i'm really sorry. i told you everything i can. >> thank you so much. martin bostock. we're glad that you're okay, glad that your family's all right. we will now play some sound from witnesses who were in the theater when this collapse took place just about an hour ago in london. let's take a listen. >> people on the stage, you know, the actors said watch out, watch out. >> we were sitting about three rows from the back of the stalls, weren't we, initially, then when the actor said watch out we thought it was part of the play initially. that was our reaction, wasn't it?
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>> bang, everything, debris, dust, everything. >> everything, everywhere. it was like -- you couldn't see anything. you didn't know what was going on. it was sort of like very dusty. initially you were calm but then you looked around you, some people were bleeding coming out, wasn't it. >> some witnesses talking about what they saw in the collapse of the balcony, apparently, in the london apollo theater. we're told that 700 people were in the theater, somewhere between 20 and 40 are injured. five of them seriously, according to local fire and rescue authorities. we will take a very quick break and come back to this breaking story. afghanistan in 2009. on the u.s.s. saratoga in 1982. [ male announcer ] once it's earned, usaa auto insurance is often handed down from generation to generation because it offers a superior level of protection
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welcome back to "the lead." that breaking news story out of london, we're keeping an eye on the balcony collapse at a london theater, the apollo. there are multiple injuries. the london fire brigade says everyone inside has been evacuated. there are apparently five serious injuries, up to 40 injured total. we will continue to keep you updated further as news comes
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in. but i also want to turn to another world news story. we have seen plenty of outrage abroad over the arrest and strip search of an indian diplomat but what about the contempt over the crime she is accused of committing? she faces federal visa fraud charges. the feds say she submitted false documents to get a work visa for her housekeeper, then paid the woman way less than the minimum wage, about $3.31 per hour, and she is allegedly also having forced her to work far more than 40 hours a week. she was arrested in new york, privately strip searched which law enforcement officials say is standard in these types of cases. this has caused an international kerfuffle with the indians, the indian authorities removing barricades from outside the u.s. embassy in new delhi. the woman's attorney, the diplomat's attorney, says because she was a diplomat she should not have been arrested at all because of diplomatic immunity. indians groups are staging protests outside the u.s. embassy, calling her treatment barbaric. what does seem to be getting
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lost in this debate over how this diplomat was treated is the serious nature of the charges against her. the u.s. attorney's office said she not only paid her housekeeper a substandard wage but lied about it to the u.s. government. they say she made the woman sign a secret contract, quoting her wages at far below the minimum wage, and removed any language that would protect the worker from exploitation and abuse. her attorney has said the second contract instead guaranteed that a portion of the salary would be sent to the worker's husband in new delhi. the u.s. attorney claims that the indian government sought to retaliate against the victim once she took her case to u.s. authorities. starting a legal process against her, with her family back in india reportedly confronted in numerous ways regarding this case, making it necessary for the u.s. government to evacuate her family and bring them here. no wonder there are so few reported cases of human trafficking and worker abuse despite how common it has become among foreign diplomats here in the united states. the government accountability office looked into this issue in
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2008, found more than 42 domestic workers alleged that they were abused by their former diplomat employers since 2000 but the actual number is likely much, much higher, since many victims are too afraid to come forward. joining me now is martina vandenburg, president of the human trafficking pro bono legal center. are you surprised by how much attention has been given to how the diplomat was treated at the hands of the u.s. martials as opposed to what she's accused of doing? >> not surprised but utterly disappointed because the real focus should really be on the housekeeper, the domestic worker who was brought over to the united states on a special visa and then treated abysmally. >> almost like an indentured servant. >> the criminal complaint here does not say this is trafficking but it does allege very serious crimes, lying to the federal government and committing visa fraud and putting this person in a situation of a true labor exploitation. >> let's be frank here. the reason why -- the state
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department would not just get involved if it was an issue of lying about a visa application. this has to do with much more serious crimes, many of which maybe they haven't been able to successfully investigate yet or prove. this is the third known case of alleged employee abuse involving the indian consulate in new york in recent years. there was a similar case involving an ambassador back in 2009. how big of a problem is human trafficking and slave labor among diplomats living in the u.s. and how often do we actually see criminal prosecution? >> it's a huge problem and unfortunately, we almost never see criminal prosecutions. now, in this case, this individual only had consular immunity, protection monday through friday, 9:00 to 5:00. but a lot of diplomats who are engaging in really serious behavior have immunity 24/7 and so they are not arrested, they are not prosecuted and indeed, enjoy total impunity for their crimes. >> there are a lot of people in the anti-human trafficking community including people in
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that division in the state department, who were a little upset by what secretary of state john kerry did what he called indian officials and expressed regret about how it was handled. but that is the tension here, right? we need to get along with india. they are a very important ally. >> that's true but i feel like what india is doing here is diplomatic blackmail. it is a violation of u.s. law, what this official did. >> allegedly. >> allegedly. right. what she allegedly did is a violation of u.s. law and that should be prosecuted. it should be prosecuted fairly and completely separate from politics. >> how can the u.s. preserve good relationships with countries that this kind of behavior is s.o.p., standard operating procedure, back in their home country? how can we do that? there are more countries than we would care to admit that do this all the time back home. >> the interesting thing here is that the u.s. government, the
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ambassador samantha power and that same unit within the state department just did a meeting last week with the entire diplomatic corps in new york telling them not to engage in labor exploitation and trafficking of their domestic workers. so the state department was on record, people were on notice that this would not be tolerated, and still, these crimes, alleged crimes, have been committed. >> we have had you on before. we will have you on again as we continue to cover this important issue. thanks for being here. coming up on "the lead," believe it or not, the highest profile american to meet kim jong-un is still dennis rodman. what is the former star rebounder doing on his return trip to north korea? angie's lit before i do any projects on my home. i love my contractor, and i am so thankful to angie's list for bringing us together. find out why more than two million members count on angie's list. angie's list -- reviews you can trust.
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welcome back to "the lead." in other world news, it would be tempting to treat the humanitarian missions of former nba star dennis rodman as something of a joke.
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and if tensions on the peninsula weren't so potentially deadly, maybe we would. but rodman arrived in the nation for his third hangout with his newfound quote, friend for life, kim jong-un. he's there to train a north korean basketball team for an exhibition game next month against some former nba players. an online betting company is sponsoring the trip. a documentary crew is with rodman, of course, to capture it all which is weird, because rodman usually doesn't like attention. even though he's on a mission of basketball diplomacy, don't expect him to be giving kim jong-un any political advice while he's there, he says. >> it has nothing to do with me. nothing to do with me. i mean, i have no control over that. these things have been going on for years and years and years. i'm just going over to enjoy a basketball game and have some fun. >> just going over to play some basketball and have some fun. nothing says fun like hanging out with a dictator who just executed his uncle and former mentor, but snark aside, the big
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question, can rodman actually serve a purpose to the united states while in north korea? i want to bring in christopher hill, a former ambassador and assistant secretary of state, also the lead u.s. delegate during the six party talks with north korea from 2005 to 2009. mr. ambassador, good to see you again. even though the state department is not involved and rodman is not officially representing the u.s., does this trip provide any possible value to the u.s. government? >> well, you know, trips of this kind, there is always two sides to it. on the one hand, it kind of helps the regime there to suggest that everything's normal, they're having basketball players over. on the other hand, there might be an opportunity to make a clear message but frankly speaking, i'm not sure that dennis rodman is kind of the person who can make that clear message to the regime there. so on balance, i'm not of the view that this is a particularly positive development. >> former ambassador bill
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richardson says that there can be some value if rodman comes back and shares information that he has gleaned while there with the u.s. government. does rodman get briefed by the state department after these visits? >> my understanding is he does not, or if he does, it's very cursory. no, i'm kind of skeptical of that. governor richardson has gone on many occasions and often unusual circumstances and has been briefed and has been debriefed but i'm not sure that extends to dennis rodman. you know, there are people who have spent a lifetime trying to figure out what's going on in north korea and i'm not sure dennis rodman is really quite up to that challenge at this time. >> is the fact that kim jong-un is letting these rodman visits continue even after what happened with his uncle, his execution of his uncle, is that any sort of diplomatic sign to the u.s.? >> i don't see it as any kind of diplomatic sign. i think it's maybe a sign to his
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own people that the show goes on, that the regime is fine, they've got these informal contacts with americans and things are fine, so go back to work, everybody. so i don't think it's really of any diplomatic significance. clearly, there is a commercial purpose to rodman's visit and i think that very much stands. >> lastly, mr. ambassador, do you have any concerns about kim jong-un's aunt? she was missing from the state memorial ceremony on tuesday. obviously her husband was executed. what do you think? >> well, she's been rather ill health for some months, even some years, so it's not unusual that she misses events. i don't think the purge will extend to her but i do emphasize that i don't think this purge is over. i think usually when you go after the top person like jang sung-taek it suggests it's going to go further. i think a lot of north koreans are very nervous right now.
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>> south koreans, too, worried there will be some sort of plex of military might. thank you so much. we appreciate it. turning to our pop culture lead, from the people who brought you house of cards and orange is the new black, it's your own fireplace. netflix released a trailer for its modern take on a 47 year tradition, the yule log. feel the excitement as fire creeps up that first log or a crackle warms the cockles of your heart. for those not familiar with wpix tv's yule log tradition, it started in 1966 when the channel wanted to give fireplace-less viewers a treat christmas morning. after an 11 year hiatus in the '90s it was brought back. it cost the channel thousands in advertising but it was the most watched show in new york on christmas day in its first year back. so far, more than 130,000 people have rated the show on netflix. 3.8 stars. that's portable holiday cheer.
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that's it for "the lead." i'm jake tapper. i'll be back in two hours on "outfront" 7:00 p.m. eastern. i now turn you over to wolf blitzer. he is right next door in "the situation room." mr. blitzer? we're following the breaking news, a ceiling collapses during a performance at an historic london theater. there are casualties. we are going live to the scene. also, target shoppers targeted. up to 40 million credit and debit cards may have been compromised by hackers who somehow broke into the retailer's checkout system. we will tell you information you need to know, what you need to do about it. and cocaine clemency. president obama commutes the sentences of convicted convicts and hands out pardons to other prisoners. what's behind the move? i'm wol


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