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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Pressured By Allies, Biden Makes The Case For Election Reform; Interview With Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA); Push To Change Military Sexual Assault Rules Gains Traction; Bipartisan Group Of Senators Meet To Plan Out Infrastructure Proposal; Interview With Sen. Dick Durbin (D- IL); Senate Dems To Meet To Iron Out Details For Larger Budget Reconciliation Bill; One Activist Group Says 100-Plus Protesters Are Missing Or Arrested In Cuba; Trump Org. Removes Allen Weisselberg As CFO After Prosecutors Charged Him In 15-Year Tax Scheme. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 13, 2021 - 17:00   ET





KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Biden, highlighting steps he's taken to further voting access, while underlining how GOP efforts to restrict it are based on a big lie pushed by his predecessor.

BIDEN: The big lie is just that, a big lie.

COLLINS (voice-over): Biden criticizing the Supreme Court ruling that further weaken the enforcement clause of the Voting Rights Act.

BIDEN: Puts the burden back on Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act to its intended strength.

COLLINS (voice-over): Senate Democrats want to override new state restrictions by enacting new federal voting laws.

BIDEN: As soon as Congress passes the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, I will sign it and want the whole world see it.

COLLINS (voice-over): But without blowing up the legislative tool known as the filibuster, Democrats don't have the votes to overcome Republican opposition. Biden's allies are calling on him to do what he's resisted doing so far, urge his fellow Democrats to get behind a change in the filibuster rules.

REV. AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: The filibuster should not stand in the way of democracy.

COLLINS (voice-over): As Biden issued his call to action, the Texas legislature was engulfed in chaos.

RAFAEL ANCHIA (D), TEXAS STATE HOUSE: We are not going to buckle to the big lie in the state of Texas.

COLLINS (voice-over): When it gaveled in today, the state's Democrats were in Washington after fleeing Texas in a last-ditch effort to stop the passage of a new restrictive voting law.


COLLINS (voice-over): Biden calling out Texas Republicans today.

BIDEN: In Texas, for example, Republican led state legislature wants to allow partisan poll watchers to intimidate voters.

COLLINS (voice-over): But those Texas Democrats are calling on Washington and the President to do more.

STATE REP. CHRIS TURNER (D-TX), CHAIR, TEXAS HOUSE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS: We can't hold this tied back forever. We're buying some time. We need Congress and all of our federal leaders to use that time wisely.


COLLINS: Now, Jake, Al Sharpton spoke with President Biden after that speech happened. He said he was happy overall with how the speech went. But he's still said he believes changing that filibuster is the only way to really have a workaround here. But he said, when we can talk to President Biden about doing so, he was noncommittal about the filibuster. Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. Kaitlan Collins in the beautiful city of Philadelphia. Thanks for joining us.

Let's bring in Republican Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa. She serves on the Armed Services Committee. She's a former Army officer.

Senator, thanks so much for being here.

I want to get your reaction to President Biden's speech, he went after Republicans for lying about the election. I know you did not participate in those lies. And he also criticized Republicans for enacting all these restrictions on voting across the country. What do you make of the speech?

SEN. JONI ERNST (R-IA): Well, I am a former county auditor, Commissioner of Elections in Iowa, and I do believe that we need to make voting easier for people to participate in but harder to cheat. And so, my opinion is that many of these voter laws that have been passed by state legislatures are intended to protect the integrity of the election system.

So, we have seen various changes through the years in the state of Iowa. And you know what we have seen? Greater voter participation through each one of those elections.

So, I think there are ways that we should be working together to protect the integrity of elections, but make sure that those that are allowed to vote in elections are the ones that are voting, those not allowed to participate are not participating.

TAPPER: I guess one of the issues is that Iowa, for example, Republicans did quite well last November, right? I mean --


TAPPER: -- you guys won a lot of races.


TAPPER: Right? I don't have to tell you, including Donald Trump. And yet, Iowa just enacted a whole bunch of new restrictions, including county auditors, like the job you used to have are no longer allowed to send out applications for absentee ballots unless expressly requested. The time for early voting was reduced. The time on Election Day for voting was cut back an hour and on and on.

There wasn't a problem for the -- in the election to begin with. Why enact all -- and nor was there evidence of widespread fraud or even much fraud. So, why even -- why make it tougher to vote because that's what the law does.

ERNST: And that's not what Iowa's election law does. One, county auditors never before sent out absentee requests unless they were requested. But certainly the parties did that, other organizations did that. You can go online and print an application.

And Iowa's voter laws, even after this last iteration through the legislature are still much broader than even the states of, yes, Joe Biden's state of Delaware and Chuck Schumer's home state of New York. So, those two states much more restrictive than the current law in the state of Iowa. But I haven't heard Chuck Schumer or President Biden expressing their displeasure in their own states voting laws.


TAPPER: Yes, I'm not here to defend New York or Delaware voting laws, and you're right, they have a lot of restrictions that a lot of other states don't have. But I guess I just don't understand. If you're reducing, for example, early voting from 29 days to 20 days in Iowa.

And look, you didn't pass this law, you're a U.S. senator, you're not a state senator. But if you're doing that, or if you're saying no, you have to -- the deadline for voting is now 8:00 and not 9:00, as I would did also, you're making it tougher to vote. I mean, that's just a fact.

And I just don't know why. You just said you want it to be easier for legal voters --

ERNST: Right.

TAPPER: -- all legal voters and tougher to commit fraud. There isn't evidence of fraud in Iowa. So why even restricted at all? Why even say, OK, we're going to go from 29 days to 20 or, you know, from 9:00 to 9:00, why do it even? ERNST: Well, I think it does depend on how those stats look in the past. Certainly, when I was the auditor, we worked various Saturdays, that you would have the office open, all of your workers there and you may not get a single voter in the office all day. So, there are some things that can be cleaned up. And I think that's exactly what the legislature has done.

What we need to do is make sure voters now understand the laws that are passed against still much broader than many states across the United States. Make sure those voters understand and that they are turning out and voting in the state of Iowa. So that's what I intend to help with.

TAPPER: President Biden today pushing for the For the People Act, which is a sweeping legislation that not even every Democrat in the Senate supports. But he also pushed for the John Lewis Voting Act, which would require some states get federal approval when making changes to voting. Joe Manchin supports that, he's a moderate Democrat, who has been pushing back on a lot of other stuff that Biden's trying to do. Would you be willing to support the John Lewis Coting Act?

ERNST: Well, again, I still believe that those elections should be run by the states, the local elections officials. And this requires those states then to go to the federal government to Department of Justice and request their permission to change their laws.

Again, that's not the way the constitution established our elections in the United States. I still believe in state control of those elections.

TAPPER: Let's switch gears now because you've been working with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York on the military sexual assault issue. And you've been pushing for legislation -- on legislation that would take decisions about whether or not to prosecute rape, murder, other felony offenses out of the hands of commanders and mandate training on preventing sexual assault for all members in the military.

James Inhofe, another Army veteran, Republican senator from Oklahoma, called the measure an imperfect overly broad bill. I know you've had Republican support on the legislation. Where does it stand right now?

ERNST: Absolutely. So, Senator Gillibrand and I really want to see a vote on the floor of the Senate. Now, this would require Leader Schumer and Leader McConnell to work together and establish floor time for debate. We would love to see that.

We know that we have overwhelming support. We've got 66 cosponsors on this bill, sponsors and cosponsors. So, overwhelming support.

I don't know that that's going to happen in the time that we have this year. That's up to, again, leader Schumer to determine that. But likely it will go through the National Defense Authorization process.

Of course, it's not -- the legislation is not being supported by Reid (ph) or Inhofe, I would anticipate they would try and strip it down to a bare minimum. That is not what our survivors need in our military justice system.

TAPPER: Gillibrand, I would assume has a good relationship with Schumer, her fellow New York Democrat. Has she talked to him about getting this on the floor?

ERNST: I believe she has talked to him, but I don't think they have the details ironed out yet. And again, I think it is worthy of a standalone vote on the floor of the United States Senate. It is about making sure that survivors see justice and changes that are necessary in our military justice.

TAPPER: All right, well keep us updated. You know we care about this legislation. It was good to have you here today.

ERNST: Thanks so much.

TAPPER: And good to have you and Gillibrand here a few months ago.

ERNST: Thank you.

TAPPER: Thanks so much.


TAPPER: So how did the big line begin anyway? Next, we're going to take a look at what Trump was telling family and allies as the election results are coming in.

Plus, the Trump Organizations money man removed from his position days after being indicted. What that could mean for the criminal case against the former president's company, ahead.



TAPPER: We are back with our politics lead in some new insight into how Trump's big lie began. The election night details come from a new book called "I Alone Can Fix It" written by the Washington Post's Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker who report that President Trump was extremely confident he won reelection, his early vote totals came in. But as mail in ballots were counted and the margins narrowed he became, quote, "apoplectic."

And this scene unfolded in the White House the authors write, quote, "Why are they still counting votes?" Trump asked. "The election's closed. Are they counting ballots that came in afterward? What the hell is going on?"

Trump, through a spokesman, denied saying this. The President told Kellyanne Conway that he thought something nefarious was at play. "They're stealing this from us," Trump said. "We have this thing won. I won in a landslide and they're taking it back. "

Let us discuss. Ramesh Ponnuru, first of all, congratulations on your new editorship at the "National Review." RAMESH PONNURU, SENIOR EDITOR, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Thank you.

TAPPER: Let me ask you this. Everybody knew, everybody was paying attention to this. Knew for months that they were going to be all these paper ballots and in some states they'd be counted early like Texas and Ohio and other states they be counted late like Michigan and Pennsylvania and that this is all going to happen.


Can it actually be that President Trump did not know that, that he had no one around him? Or does he just not listen to information he doesn't like?

PONNURU: Not only did people already know that, people had been speculating for weeks, even months, that the early totals would show Trump in the lead. And then, only later would the pro Biden disproportionate ballots start coming in. And that this would be a kind of red mirage where it looks like Trump had won even though we hadn't.

So, it's really shocking if this is true. And it does make you wonder whether the idea of claiming that he won prematurely really originated on the night of the election or whether plans were being made for that already.

TAPPER: What do you think? I mean, do you buy that he actually is sitting there watching this and he doesn't know? I mean, red mirage, blue mirage, these are terms that we used for weeks, if not months, leading up to the election?

The red mirage, the idea that in places like Michigan it would look more pro Trump. And the blue mirage in places like Texas and Ohio, where they can have the early ballots, the paper ballots early. We all knew that. Do you think he really didn't know? Or is this just like, you know, performance art?

ASHLEY ALLISON, FORMER NATIONAL COALITIONS DIRECTOR FOR BIDEN-HARRIS 2020: Everything about Donald Trump is performative, but I think that he knew that he could possibly lose by actually counting the votes but was willing to do anything lie, sit and chill -- steal and cheat to actually win. So, regardless of what his advisors, the news, the actual ballots were saying, he was not going to surrender.

And that's why he called people to Washington, D.C., that's why he continues to push the big lie. He thinks he can make his own rules and not have to follow what actually voters are saying.

TAPPER: And listen to this Ramesh, because it's fascinating. This is also from the book, detailing Rudy Giuliani's conversations with top Trump advisors on election night.

"What's happening in Michigan," he asked. They said it was too early to tell, votes were still being counted and they couldn't say. "Just say we won," Giuliani told them. Same thing in Pennsylvania, "Just say we won Pennsylvania," Giuliani said. Giuliani's grand plan was to just say Trump won, state after state, based on nothing."

So, there were advisors who were apparently saying facts truth, at least to each other, I don't know about to the President. And then, you had Rudy with this crazy plan.

PONNURU: Well, just say things also seems to have been Giuliani's legal strategy in postelection litigation.


PONNURU: So that's a very plausible account. You do -- you know, you think of this or at least I do in terms of the former president's repeated inclination to just sort of try outlines and see how they go over. And you can sort of see him saying they're stealing the election from me, I won it at landslide, just to see how it's going to go over in the room, and then maybe try it out again on the campaign stump or the post campaign stump. And I think that's exactly what he did.

TAPPER: I want to talk about President Biden's big speech today, because he pretty forcefully went after the big lie, the lie that we're just talking about here. But he's also trying to, I mean, and critics would say conflate people who are lying about the election with people who are putting legal, even if you disagree with them, safeguards or restrictions, however you want to characterize them into place? Is that fair? I understand that it's good for the base, but is it a fair political strategy?

ALLISON: Well, I think they're connected, they're pushing the big lie to support the need for voter suppression. But it's a lie. It's not truthful. We don't need more laws in Iowa, we don't need more laws that suppress voters in Georgia, what we need is to ensure whether you're Republican or Democrat, the ability to vote, to register to vote if you're eligible, get on the rules, stay on the rules and have opportunity whether in person, by mail on election day early be able to vote.

So, I think that they're connected, and so you can't disconnect them. But we -- the notion that they are separate and that voter suppression isn't being fed by the big lie is something that Republicans try and see. But I think Biden is calling it out.

TAPPER: What do you think, Ramesh?

PONNURU: I think the strongest parts of Biden's speech came when he was denouncing the President's post election conduct, his denial that he had lost and his efforts to overturn that loss. But then, the recommendations are much, much more geared towards changing state legislative rules than they are towards what we actually saw in January 6.

There's nothing in the legislation that he was talking about that would prevent the kind of election subversion that he rightly called attention to in his speech. To do that, you'd have to change the Electoral Count Act, and none of those legislative agendas that Democrats have been pushing for years and just sort of dusted off when they took Congress, none of it addresses that. TAPPER: There is a point that he's making here, which is I think that it's fair to say one of the biggest threats to our democracy is the idea of a partisan hack being in a place of power and overturning an election. And we saw, I mean, who knows if what would have happened in Georgia if Governor Kemp and Brad Raffensperger, the Secretary of State, whether or not you'd like those guys, if somebody else had been there who knows what would have happened, they upheld the law.

Same thing in Maricopa County, and in Arizona, same thing in Michigan, there were individual Republicans with integrity, Al Schmidt in Philadelphia, who stood up, none of what's being talked about here really would do anything to protect that. I mean, I agree with what Ramesh was saying.


ALLISON: Well, I think states are -- that couple of things are happening. First, states are trying to change laws so that exactly what you just detail the power of who controls these elections, secretaries of states, it's being shifted in many states in Michigan. This is what happened with the Flint water crisis is that you put -- they changed who actually was controlling -- who was controlling the election.

The For the People Act is not a fix all solution, but it definitely would make voting more accessible, would make it fair and put some backstops in like we saw with the John Lewis Voting Rights Act historically, to make sure that there is federal protections so that just like Democrats coming in Texas, they can't do it all on the state level. Some federal protections have to be in place.

TAPPER: All right. We'll keep talking about this. Great to see you guys. Thanks for being here.

Democrats right now are also facing major headwinds on another top Biden agenda item. Coming up, I'm going to talk to a top Democrat, Senator Dick Durbin, stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead this hour, a bipartisan group of 21 U.S. senators are meeting to plot out how to turn their infrastructure idea into an infrastructure law. Democrats and Republicans have been going back and forth for months in an effort to find a middle ground. CNNs Manu Raju joins me now from Capitol Hill.

Manu, when do we expect this to be brought forward for a vote?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's still uncertain, because that actually has to be drafted into legislation. There is the bare bones outline that 21 senators from both parties agreed to. But getting the details is a much more difficult process.

Even earlier today, the number two Senate Republican John Thune said that he didn't think that it could even come together by next week, which raises the question when exactly is it coming to the floor, and whether they didn't get the 60 votes needed to overcome any filibuster attempt here in the Senate, Jake.

TAPPER: Manu, Democrats are thinking about attaching a much bigger budget reconciliation package to the infrastructure deal that would require 50 votes not 60. Presumably that would have an impact on whether or not the infrastructure bill would pass.

RAJU: Yes, no question about it. Republican senators that I've spoken to are suggesting that they may actually walk away from their support of this bipartisan deal because of their concerns about the Democratic leader's efforts to try to pass a larger bill along straight party lines. Remember, the bipartisan bill now are dealing with bridges, roads, waterways, but larger bill are dealing with expanding the social safety net that Joe Biden proposed.

Nancy Pelosi has warned that she would not move on that bipartisan bill unless the Senate passes the Democratic only bill. And Republicans are suggesting that if the Democrats carry through with that, perhaps they may walk away from the bipartisan effort.

TAPPER: Let's go now to Senate -- oh, I'm sorry, Manu, you have a soundbite. Go ahead.


RAJU: Are you concern that it could hurt the ability to get a bipartisan deal by having this reconciliation package out there, there's dual track as a concern?

SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D-MI): Republicans, no. I mean, they understand. This has been something that people have understood since the beginning.

RAJU: Pelosi holds out the threat of not moving the bipartisan bill until reconciliation is passed by the Senate. What does that do to the Republican votes here in the Senate?

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): It doesn't help linking them and suggesting that you can't have one without the other, I think makes it, essentially for a lot of our members, that they're enabling the other bill, which includes all the tax increases and things that Republican senators are going to have, you know, another level of support.


RAJU: And Jake, six of the 11 Republican senators who initially back that bipartisan proposal are suggesting they will not necessarily commit to supporting it all the way through. So that really raises questions whether they will ultimately be the 10 Republican senators needed to overcome any filibuster attempt to get that bipartisan bill through.

TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Joining us right now, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois. Thank you so much, Senator, for joining us.

You heard the comments there from John Thune, the number two Senate Republican. Why link them? I mean, why not just have the bipartisan infrastructure bill go forward, get voted on, et cetera? And then, separately, do the reconciliation budget package which won't get any Republican support so that you have -- you'll basically have two victories that way. But if you link them, you might not have the victory you want with the bipartisan deal.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), CHAIRMAN, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The sequencing of these measures is still to be worked out. We had a good constructive Democratic caucus lunch today. I believe there is a lot of strong feeling for both measures. What we need to do now is to work on the details and sometimes they turn out to be the hardest part.

This is a high wire act without a net. And we're working every single day to keep everybody together on the Democratic side.

I hope that the Republicans are making a good faith effort. I believe they are in this part of the infrastructure bill that they are going to join us on. I've looked at the bill, I sat in on these meetings and the amount of money that's being spent and where it's being spent.


I don't have any argument with it. It's basically reflects what Joe Biden asked for, in infrastructure, a part of it, a part of it. But I think that the Republicans in the room know the likelihood of what we call reconciliation following. And I think the Democrats who were supporting the infrastructure bill do as well.

TAPPER: Well, that's when I don't -- that's why I don't even understand why Democrats are talking about this publicly. I mean, you have 50 votes to do the budget reconciliation package, you have control of the House, you have control of the White House, why link them? You don't need to publicly link them. If you want the bipartisan infrastructure deal, just do it and then you can do the budget reconciliation package afterwards. But by publicly linking it, you're undermining the entire process. Not you, but Democrats are undermining the entire process of having a bipartisan achievement.

DURBIN: Well, I don't want to put it in speculative or even negative terms. I just want to say that there's a constructive attitude on the Democratic caucus side to get the job done. I hope we can find the package that does it. And in the coming days, we're going to work out efforts to find that and I hope that the Republicans will stick by the original infrastructure bill, the bipartisan bill. I know they worked hard on it and continue until to this day.

TAPPER: Senator Bernie Sanders, the Senate Budget Committee Chairman said yesterday that he and President Biden are on the same page when it comes to infrastructure. But when it comes to the budget reconciliation deal, Sanders has said he ideally would want a $6 trillion package. The President has not said he's in favor of something that large. We've heard from more moderate Democrats in your caucus about something that's 2 trillion, 2 trillion or 3 trillion. Are Democrats on the same page on that one?

DURBIN: Well, I can tell you that Bernie, of course, is Chairman of the Budget Committee, is striking a bargaining position and no surprise, he wants a much larger bill than we're likely to see at the end. But the exact dollar amount has not been agreed to. It's still being negotiated among Democrats. It will be a substantial sum of money, but it is doing substantial things for America, addressing some issues that we've had on the back burner for decades, if not generations, that we got to take care of.

TAPPER: President Biden gave an impassioned defense for voting rights today calling efforts by some Republican lawmakers to limit voting rights, to restrict voting, undemocratic. I just had Senator Joni Ernst on the show and I asked her about a new law in Iowa, in her home state of Iowa, which restricts voting to a degree and she pointed out accurately that I was still has more expansive early voting and other measures than do Delaware, which is President Biden's home state, and New York, which is Senate Majority Leader Schumer's home state.

Doesn't that continue to undermine the idea of -- the idea that voters -- it should be as easy as possible for legal voters to vote. I know Illinois, your home state has very expansive voting rights.

DURBIN: That's right.

TAPPER: But New York and Delaware don't. Isn't that problematic, too?

DURBIN: I'd say to Joni, in all fairness, if you feel that we ought to have higher standards for people to make sure that the ineligible folks don't vote, that make it easier for the eligible folks to vote. You want to support this For the People Act, because we're establishing those national standards. Every Republican including her, voted against it. So if you want to go to a higher standard and apply it to everybody, red states and blue alike, you would certainly have supported that legislation.

TAPPER: Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Majority Whip, thank you so much for your time today, sir. We appreciate it.

DURBIN: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: And we should know just announced this afternoon, President Joe Biden will join CNN's Don Lemon for an exclusive CNN Presidential Town Hall. That's live Wednesday, July 21st, 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up next, the stampede of looters, causing death and destruction as part of the dozens of people now dead in violent protests. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Breaking news out of South Florida, protesters are blocking a main highway in Miami right in the middle of rush hour. They say they're doing so in solidarity with Cubans who are protesting on the island right now. That gets us to our world lead clashes with the communist regime secret police and an internet blackout are not stopping hordes of Cubans from hitting the streets, demanding freedom, calling for a change in government.

The once in a generation protests are shedding new light on the Biden administration's inaction on Cuba. Source telling CNN that the White House is still poring over its options. Top Senate Democrat Bob Menendez told me yesterday that the Obama era policies -- that Biden talked about going back to -- were to appeasing of the communist nation, with not enough concessions demanded by the U.S. CNN's Patrick Oppmann reports.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Following wide scale protests, the likes of which had never been seen before in Cuba, police on the island are cracking down. According to one activist group, more than 100 people have been arrested or are missing.

Cuba's President said the protesters were the violent ones. And then government security forces are not committing human rights abuses.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Foreign Language).

OPPMANN (voice-over): Where are the murders of Cubans? Where is the repression? Where are disappeared people in Cuba?

But outside this police station in Havana, a group of mostly women search for relatives who are now missing.


OPPMANN (voice-over): Three officers jumped on him. They threw him against the floor, Jacqueline says. They broke his jaw, hurt his wrist and I don't know where he is.

Despite the communist run government's attempt at blocking internet and mobile service is a way to stop protesters from communicating. Videos of protests and crackdowns continued to pop up across social media. Many shared by exiles and relatives in Florida, including Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who tweeted out a Cuban vloggers live TV interview being interrupted by state security.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking Foreign Language).


OPPMANN (voice-over): Security is outside my house, she says, I have to go. CNN cannot independently confirm the authenticity of these videos.

Many have protested said they were exhausted by Cuba's chronic shortages. The government blames the lack of food and medicine on the U.S. trade sanctions. But Cuban exile say it's Cuba's own crushing restrictions on private industry that have destroyed the island's economy.

GLORIA ESTEFAN, SINGER: The embargo that needs to end is the embargo that the Cuban government has on its people. They have the goods and they don't give it to them. It's a very difficult situation.

OPPMANN (voice-over): Exiles in Miami are also making their voices heard, many marching on a busy South Florida highway this afternoon. While others are hoping to take a flotilla of boats carrying humanitarian supplies to Cuba, an offer the Cuban government has already rejected, saying the aid is just a pretext to create more insurrection on the island.


OPPMANN: And, Jake, just minutes ago, the Cuban interior ministry confirmed that at least one protester has died after clashes with police. Many more are injured in jail or simply missing this evening. Jake?

TAPPER: Patrick, you have lived in and reported from Cuba for many years, do you get any sense that what we're seeing on the streets there, which, as you noted is quite unique, might actually lead to a real change?

OPPMANN: I think there's a before and after, and I'm not sure what the after is, but certainly I never expected on Sunday, just regular Cubans. This was not a planned protest, watching their social media, taking out their frustrations out to the street, town after town. This entire island pretty much, there were protests taking place.

It was really something to behold the Cuban government says the U.S. was behind this. But there are thousands of people with some very real criticisms. And even though the Cuban government seems like they have a restored order, as they put it, the underlying problems, the poverty, the anger that many people feel that their government still are there and could crop up again at any point.

TAPPER: Yes, the Cuban people deserve freedom and democracy. Patrick Oppmann in Havana, thank you so much for your excellent reporting as always.

Violent protests also in South Africa, leaving at least 72 people dead and another 700 arrested. The death toll is growing amid riots in response to the imprisonment of former leader Jacob Zuma. Zuma was jailed for refusing to appear to hearing focused on allegations of corruption against him. Officials say that many of the deaths happened during stampedes, which occurred during looting. And now South Africa's President has deployed the nation's military to try to restore calm, he said.

CNN's David McKenzie is live for us in Johannesburg, South Africa. And David, are there any signs that the violence has calmed at least for now?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this hour, this late hour, there is only sporadic looting. But you see the soldiers behind me, Jake, warming themselves. Their presence has really made a big difference, I think, as this day has unfolded earlier in the day, that total chaos. We were at the scene of looting with very few police at those scenes doing very little. Later on, they were arrests and the military was brought out of the streets.

A very jarring moment for democratic South Africa to see military on the streets. At least one person shot with live ammunition that we witnessed. Here in this province and in another province, the -- a great deal of chaos and uncertainty at this hour, Jake?

TAPPER: David, the country has just entered another coronavirus related lockdown. Officials there say that the looting is hurting efforts to contain the virus. Can you explain how?

MCKENZIE: Well on a very practical level, the vaccine drive was just getting going in earnest here in South Africa, Jake. And this week, that helped to really put vaccines into arms across the nation. It is during a very bad third wave. And this was seen as a light at the end of the tunnel. That isn't happening in many places because of the unrest, because of the looting, because of the fear of people just not wanting to get out of their homes.

The hope is, with the military now on the streets that will ease, but will that delta wave that has driven infections to incredible heights here in this province especially really take over again because of the last time, because of the unrest and looting. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, David McKenzie in Johannesburg, South Africa, thanks to you.

Why a former top Trump official is now changing his tune in slamming the big lie as BS, that's next.



TAPPER: In the politics lead, for the first time in two decades, Allen Weisselberg does not hold a leadership position in Donald Trump's namesake company. The Trump Organization removed Weisselberg, his chief financial officer, just days after prosecutors indicted him saying that Weisselberg and the company ran a 15-year tax scheme.

I want to bring in Elie Honig, he was the Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. He's also out with a new book called, "Hatchet Man: How Bill Barr Broke the Prosecutor's Code and Corrupted the Justice Department".

Congratulations Elie on the book and we'll get to it in a second. But I do want to start with these charges against Weisselberg and the company which include, quote, a scheme to defraud, conspiracy, falsifying business records. Would it be a smart move for the Trump Organization to further separate themselves from Weisselberg.

[17:50:14] ELIE HONIG, FMR. U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: So, it would be very risky for them to do that. As a former prosecutor, it's clear to me that these prosecutors are trying to flip Allen Weisselberg. And he's the exact right person to flip. Now what you're looking for as a prosecutor is cracks, rifts between Allen Weisselberg and here, the Trump Organization.

What we've seen already is a small one. It's fairly routine in this situation to see someone removed from a position as an officer because that can get in the way of the business's ability to do business. So I'm looking for, are we going to see something more dramatic? Is he going to get fired? Is he going to quit? Are we going to see public disputes? Is he going to change lawyers? That kind of thing signals to me that he might be changing his tune about cooperation, but we're not there yet.

TAPPER: So, let's talk about Bill Barr and your book. He's in the news a lot these days. I just read today an article about -- there's a governor's race in Pennsylvania, you're from Jersey.


TAPPER: So right across the river. There's a governor's race next year, and a lot of the Republicans are trying to see who can be more Trumpy than the other. One of the guys is claiming that the only reason he didn't do more against Pennsylvania and in terms of the election fraud that did not exist --


TAPPER: -- was because Bill Barr told him to --

HONIG: Right.

TAPPER: -- sustained down. He's blaming it on Barr and Barr is out there saying it's not true. He didn't tell him not to investigate the claims. What do you -- how do you see this?

HONIG: There's two things going on here. Those who want Donald Trump's blessing, those who are aspiring to higher office on the Republican side are cozying up to Donald Trump. They're speaking his language. They're repeating the big lie. Bill Barr is trying to revise history. He's reminding us that late in the game, he did stand up and say there's no evidence of election fraud. That was well after the election.

What he's leaving out, and I do not leave out of the book, is that for many months, leading up to the election, Bill Barr used his position as attorney general, most powerful prosecutor in the country, to fan those flames, to push the false narrative of election fraud. I don't think he can be forgiven for that. I don't think that can be forgotten.

TAPPER: So, yes, he was doing it publicly. He was not doing it legally. Legally, he was telling the President and others there's nothing there, it's all BS. But in public, he didn't. In fact, he mischaracterized a ballot case in Texas in an interview right here on CNN. Take a look.


WILLIAM BARR, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The elections that have been held with mail have found substantial fraud and coercion. For example, we indicted someone in Texas, 1,700 ballots collected. From people who could vote, he made them out and voted for the person he wanted to.


TAPPER: That didn't happen though.

HONIG: No, that's a complete lie that Bill Barr gave, it's misinformation. And I remember watching that interview with Wolf and watching Bill Barr say that, 1,700 ballots. I went, wow, OK. That's significant. Turns out it was not a DOJ case, it was a state case and involve one single fraudulent ballot and DOJ the next day had to issue a correction. What do they do? They blame some low-level staffer.

But spreading that kind of nonsense is so damaging from the Attorney General because a 1 million plus people watch that interview with Wolf Blitzer where Bill Barr put out this false information. How many people saw the retraction? The next day, I'm sure a fraction of that. So Bill Barr helped fan those flames.

TAPPER: Bill Barr gave an interview to Jon Karl for his book and Jon Karl had an excerpt in the Atlantic in which Bill Barr made his case, talked about everything he did to push back on what he called, quote, bullshit -- sorry, to parents out there -- that that Trump was trying to push. But that made you mad.

HONIG: Yes. Look, if Bill Barr knew it was BS after the fact or during the fact, why was he scooping it? Why was he foisting it on us for many months leading up? So look, Bill Barr has a mixed record on this. But to me, what matters most is what you did at the time of crisis. What he did when the big lie was being built, when the flames were being fanned. He was part of that. Did he change course late in the game? Yes, he did. Is it better that he did that, than that he did nothing? Yes. But he can't escape accountability for the fact that he helped fan these flames.

TAPPER: And you propose specific reforms for the Justice Department, among them, clarifying the ban on foreign election aid, adopting rules to limit communication between the White House staff and people, top officials, the Justice Department, you also call for reinforcement in the ethics and recusal process, noting multiple times when Barr could have recused himself.

HONIG: Yes, absolutely. I mean, look at them. Remember the Muller report, right. Bill Barr wrote what we call the audition memo, before he became A.G. where he prejudge the whole report. He said in his memo it is fatally misconceived, Robert Mueller's investigation, fatally, that means dead. he takes over. You would have to recuse yourself as a prosecutor if you gave that kind of opinion. Sure enough, he did exactly what he told us he should have done. TAPPER: All right, the book, "Hatchet Man: How Bill Barr Broke the Prosecutors Code and Corrupted the Justice Department", it is out Now. Elie Honig, thanks so much for being here.

HONIG: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Appreciate it. And also thank you so much for the Mike Schmidt baseball card that you gave me which was very, very exciting.


HONIG: It's a Philly (ph) thing.

TAPPER: It's a good way to get on my show.

Coming up next, something not seen in 13 years that has a big effect on your wallet. Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our money lead, the nation's key inflation measure, the consumer price index jumped almost 1 percent in June. That's the largest one month increase in 13 years. Home prices are up 20 percent, the cost of dining out 4 percent, clothes 5 percent. Economists say there is some hope that this sticker shock will not last long. But inflation is soaring, in part because prices are returning back to normal levels as the U.S. recovers from the pandemic.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the TikTok at JakeTapper. You can tweet the show at TheLeadCNN. Our coverage continues right now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM."