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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Nineteen Children, Two Teachers Kills In Texas Elementary School Shooting; State Sen.: Gunman Legally Purchased Two Riffles, 375 Rounds Of Ammo; Sen. Manchin Calls For Bipartisan Support To Pass Red Flag Laws, Stricter Background Checks; Trump-Backed Challengers Lose In GOP Georgia Primaries. Aired 5-6pm ET

Aired May 25, 2022 - 17:00   ET



ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He then goes to his grandmother's house where he was living with his grandparents. And that is less than a quarter mile from where we are here at Robb Elementary. Authorities' today say that that is where he -- Salvador Ramos shot his grandmother in the head. And then from there, went directly, got in her truck and started driving to Robb Elementary, crashing that car in a ditch before going inside.

What we've learned today more specifically, Jake, on the timeline is that Ramos approached the school. He was engaged, in the words of investigators, by a school campus officer just outside. We were told that no shots were fired at that moment, but that that officer wasn't able to keep Ramos from entering the school.

Ramos, the 18-year-old suspect then went inside the school, barricaded himself in a classroom and that is where he started firing on the students and the teachers inside. And that is a scene that we were told by investigators today, Jake, lasted 40 to 60 minutes from the moment that he was engaged with the officer outside the school to the moment that a border patrol agent shot and killed Ramos inside the school building that that took almost an hour. So you can imagine what a horrific scene that was inside that school for the dozens of children and teachers that were inside.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Yes, there's a lot of questions about that timeline. But Ed, we just heard from the shooter's grandfather, I understand?

LAVANDERA: Yes, we were out at the -- in the neighborhood where investigators and FBI agents have been combing the neighborhood around where Ramos' grandparents live. The grandmother is still in a San Antonio hospital. We understand she's 66 years old, still in critical condition.

She was able to -- she was shot in the face, we are told, and was able to walk across the street and get a neighbor to call for help, and that's how she was airlifted to a hospital in San Antonio. But that woman is still hanging on to life. But her husband, the grandfather came out and spoke with reporters briefly. This is a little bit of what he told us this afternoon.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Regarding the boy, what can you tell us about your grandson? Did you ever know he had firearms?

ROLANDO REYES, GRANDFATHER OF UVALDE SHOOTER (through translator): No, I didn't know. If I'd had known I would have reported him.


LAVANDERA: So, a great deal of confusion especially in this suspect's family history. We spoke with one neighbor who knows the grandparents rather well and he told us that, you know, Ramos comes from a very difficult family situation with a lot of issues with relationships within his family. But investigators here, after learning all of this information and piecing together parts of the timeline here, Jake, their still outstanding question that we don't know much about is, ultimately what was the motive in this case?

TAPPER: Ed Lavandera and Uvalde, Texas, thank you so much.

Let's bring in Texas State Senator Democrat Roland Gutierrez. He represents the 19th District which blankets Southwestern Texas.

Senator, you're joining us right now from Uvalde. What are you hearing from the residents there?

ROLAND GUTIERREZ (D), TEXAS STATE SENATE: Well, Jake, I mean, everybody is just heartbroken. There's just -- I have no words to describe, you know, the feelings here.

Last night when I was here watching the families as they're -- they were identified through DNA match. You can imagine the necessity for that. The carnage was such that the bodies were just an identifiable as they came out one at a time learning of their children's fate, a kind of pain and sorrow that I as a parent, I could never ever want to even imagine or feel.

My heart goes out to the people of Uvalde. It's just so sad.

TAPPER: I remember being in Colorado right after Columbine, and the feeling of despair and grief was almost palpable. It was like it was in the air. You could feel how sad people were and how devastated they were. It sounds like that's what's going on in Uvalde right now. What does the community need?

GUTIERREZ: So, Jake, I'm here to do exactly that. Make sure that we're getting all the state services at this community's behest.

We're in rural Texas, there are no psychiatrists here. There's very few psychologists, very few counselors. And so, I'm asking people from San Antonio to come. The government, the state government is now bringing counselors through Health and Human Services Department. And so we're hoping that we can make sure that we have the resources that people need. And mostly at this point, it's health care, mental health care. Make sure that we have enough counselors for these kids. Their parents are survivors, and really the community at large.

TAPPER: Your fellow State Senator, John Whitmire, was briefed by police last night. He says that the shooter bought 375 rounds of ammunition, 375. Investigators say he dropped a backpack full of magazines near the back of the school. Brought 730 round magazines into the school.


I guess one question that people might have is, why is it allowed that somebody could buy that much ammunition?

GUTIERREZ: Those are the important questions, Jake. You know, we have a governor that showed up earlier, kind of the repeat of Sutherland Springs, a repeat of Santa Fe, repeat of El Paso, just evil in mental health. I get that those things are important but we have to do something to where the young men don't have access to these types of weapons that we only see in a military context. That has to be what comes of this particular event.

And we say this all the time, and I just -- I can't do this anymore. We can't do more of the same.

TAPPER: I hear you. I'm emotionally taxed from covering these things. I can't imagine what it's like to be on the ground as a legislator.

The -- there are reports that this young man comes from a very troubled situation. And in fact, police had been to his house before, that he had -- one friend of his I think I read in the in "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times" a description of him using a knife to carve his face. I mean, this might be an area where there could be movement on the red flag laws. It sounds like this is an individual who should not have been allowed to purchase a gun, even though he had no mental health or criminal record before he did this horrific act.

GUTIERREZ: In 2019, I filed a Red Flag bill, went nowhere in the House. In 2021, I made it to the Senate and filed -- the Republicans filed their Open Carry Bill. Murray (ph) in a foreboding speech I gave I said, because of this bill, children are going to die. And I can't believe that my words have come to pass and I can't believe that they've come to pass in my own community, my own district. It is just disheartening where we are.

I need people to understand that these are weapons that are military style weapons. This isn't like I'm a hunter. I own guns, I own rifles, but nothing like what this young man and others like him have used in this country. When are we going to stop this madness? And when are Republicans going to stand up to the NRA and do what needs to be done on militarized weaponry?

TAPPER: I don't have an answer for you. State Senator from Texas Democrat Roland Gutierrez, thank you so much and God gracious (ph) to you.

GUTIERREZ: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: How does the law in Texas work when an 18-year-old goes to buy an AR-15? We'll take a look at that next.

And we're learning more about the lives that gunman took a fourth grader who wanted to grow up and go to law school, just like her mom, a 10-year-old who loves baseball and video games, a teacher who threw herself in front of the students to try to save them. These are just some of the 21 innocent victims. We'll be right back.



TAPPER: More on our national lead, Texas has seen eight mass shootings over the last 13 years, eight including the Fort Hood shooting in 2009, 13 people were killed. The shooting at the Sutherland Springs Baptist Church in 2017, 26 people were killed. Santa Fe High School and 2018, 10 were killed. In 2019, the shooting at the Walmart in El Paso, 23 people killed.

CNN's Nick Watt examines the laws in Texas now and around the country that allow an 18-year-old to purchase an AR-15.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nineteen small children slaughtered by a gunman not much older than they were. He was the legal owner of two AR-15 style rifles.

GUTIERREZ: They are assault rifles. So first thing he did when he turned 18 --

WATT (voice-over): A week ago, a day after his 18th birthday, he bought a rifle according to the local state senator. Next day, 375 rounds of ammunition. Two days after that, a second rifle. Four days later, shot 19 kids and two adults dead.

This killer couldn't legally buy a beer to immature but could legally buy weapons of war.

REP. COLIN ALLRED (D-TX): Maybe we could at least agree that we should raise the age for purchasing these weapons.

WATT (voice-over): Unlikely just last year, lawmakers lowered to 18 the age some Texans can get a handgun license. For rifles, Texas law of mirrors federal, 18 and up you can buy one of these after just a basic background check. But from an unlicensed dealer or the gun show, no check required.

Here in Liberal leaning California, the legal age to buy assault style rifles was up to 21 in 2019, struck down two weeks ago back to 18. Why? "America would not exist without the heroism of the young adults who fought and died in our Revolutionary Army," wrote Judge Ryan Nelson, "Today we reaffirm that our Constitution still protects the right that enabled their sacrifice, the right of young adults to keep and bear arms."

So, 18-year olds in California can buy semiautomatic weapons today, in part because teenage soldiers died carrying single shot muskets in a war more than 200 years ago.

SHANNON WATTS, FOUNDER, MOMS DEMAND ACTION FOR GUN SENSE IN AMERICA: Stronger gun laws save lives. Weaker gun laws cause gun crime and gun violence. The data is in, we need our lawmakers to act.


WATT (voice-over): This latest tragedy in Texas is very far from an isolated instance of a legally armed teenaged attacker. Just 11 days ago, an 18-year-old white supremacist gunned down 13 people in a predominantly black neighborhood of Buffalo, New York, also armed with a semiautomatic weapon that he was also legally allowed to buy and own.


WATT: And of course, Jake, what just happened in Uvalde brings back memories for all of us of what happened in Sandy Hook, Connecticut nearly 10 years ago now. Twenty kids and six adults killed there, also by a teenage gunman, also armed with an AR-15 that was bought legally.

Now, in the aftermath of Sandy Hook, Connecticut changed some laws mainly around magazines for these type of rifles. Will Texas make any changes now? Unlikely.

Last summer when Governor Abbott was making it basically easier for Texans to carry he said this, Texas will always be the leader in defending the Second Amendment. And at that press conference earlier today seemed in no mood for any change. Jake.

TAPPER: Nick Watt, thanks so much.

Coming up, next 24 hours after the massacre in Uvalde, Texas and what we're learning about the victims. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Ten years old, 10, that's how old most of the victims in Uvalde were when a gunman entered their fourth grade classroom and shot them and killed them. Fourth graders, kids that age are -- they're still losing their baby teeth. They're just starting to learn long division and fractions. They still like hugs from their parents. Hugs that will only be memories for the parents of 19 children in Uvalde now.

Last night those parents had to give investigators DNA swabs so that their children could be identified. Families openly sobbed, attempted to comfort one another, trying to make sense of it all, figured out what to do next.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov reports now on the lives lost in yesterday's shooting.


LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They are the faces of the future lost to a nation's violent present. A fourth grader full of energy has father said ready to play till the night. A 10-year-old who loved football and video games. A little girl who wanted to go to law school just like her mother.

Lexi Rubio's family overcome as they recall her sweetness and to plea that her life has impact.


KAFANOV (voice-over): Lexi is one of 19 children whose parents held on to hope that they'd hold their little girl once again.

Amerie Jo Garza's father, Angel, wrote on Facebook, "It's been seven hours and I still haven't heard anything on my love. Please help me find my daughter." This morning the heartbreaking update, "She's been found. My little love is now flying high with the angels above," Garza wrote, "Please don't take a second for granted. Hug your family. Tell them you love them. I love you Amerie Jo."

Ten-year-old Xavier Lopez had a smile his mother says she'll never forget. He was among the honor roll students who attended an award ceremony the morning of the shooting.

HALL HARRELL, UVALDE SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT: And as I look at their pictures, you can just tell by their angelic smile that they were loved, that they love coming to school and they were just precious individuals.

KAFANOV (voice-over): The community also mourning to teachers. Eva Mireles loved running, biking and being with her family. Undoubtedly her family says she died protecting others.

AMBER YBARRA, MIRELES' COUSIN: She was a vivacious soul. She spread laughter and joy everywhere she went.

HARRELL: These two teachers, I would say are the cornerstone of that campus to some great degree. There are two beautiful souls.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Mireles' daughter writing an open letter to her mother, "I am so happy that people know your name and that they know what a hero looks like. I want to thank you mom for being such an inspiration to me. I will forever be proud to be your daughter. My sweet mommy, I will see you again."


KAFANOV: Tomorrow was supposed to be the last day of school, Jake. The families in our story were supposed to be planning summer vacations, now they are planning funerals. Others are anxiously awaiting word about their injured loved ones.

We are at the University Hospital here in San Antonio, four patients arriving yesterday evening, three little girls and 66-year-old woman, believed to be the shooters grandmother. A nine-year-old and a 10- year-old are listed in good condition. The 66-year-old and another 10- year-old arrived in critical condition yesterday they were ground -- downgraded to serious condition today, but still fighting for their lives. Jake.

TAPPER: Lucy Kafanov, thank you for that report.

May all those victims memories be a blessing. We'll be right back.



TAPPER: In our national lead it is a uniquely American problem. It is a uniquely American shame. Tuesday's shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas marks at least the 30th shooter dedicated through 12 school just this year, that's according to a CNN analysis.

And we're joined now by somebody who regrettably knows what a mass shooting at school is like all too well. Cameron Kasky you first met after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in 2018. That's of course when an armed gunman murdered 17 students and faculty. He's now an advocate against gun violence among many other pursuits.

Cameron, it's really good to see you again. You know firsthand what the families and kids at Robb Elementary are going through today. What's it like for you to continually see more people forced to experience this type of situation knowing that so little has changed since Parkland?

CAMERON KASKY, SURVIVOR, PARKLAND SHOOTING AT MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS H.S.: This shooting is certainly unique because so many of the family members and so many of the people in the community are undocumented and border patrol, ICE, different agencies that they work with are very often at the scene of these kinds of crimes. And I very greatly fear for undocumented individuals in Texas who are going to have to pay another uniquely American price on top of weather -- questioning whether or not their children are still breathing. So unfortunately, when something like this happens in a state like Texas, of course, the first thing we can point to is the fact that Texas basically markets itself as a state that proudly has gun laws that are so -- that probably doesn't really have very many gun laws at all. But undocumented individuals are going to suffer, people are going to continue to suffer and, you know, things have changed since Parkland.

The Parkland shooting, people knew the names of the victims. People -- and the selfish part of me says thank God, people knew the names of the victims, they knew the names of the survivors and the activists. Now, I don't know the name -- I can't remember every shooting that's happened in the past 48 hours. So it's a catch '22. You know, you tell people to vote every time there's a shooting, and

that voting for Democrats will make things better and it's shootings continue. But on the other hand, when I see what's happening in Texas, one of the first things that comes to my mind is they better elect- Beto because Beto is the only one who's going to make a fundamental change. So telling people just vote your way out of this. It's a -- it's kind of bogus. But on the other hand, Greg Abbott, winning is really, really, really bad and O'Rourke would at least make some sort of attempts to make substantial change. And that's the corner that he's (ph) been paid into.

TAPPER: So Cameron, you are critical of President Biden's address to the nation last night, you said you wanted to hear the words executive order. But instead, you heard what you call the essentially thoughts and prayers. What executive action would you like to see President Biden take to try to address the gun violence crisis in the U.S.?

KASKY: Well, the natural response that everybody has to that which is correct is what E.O. can he pass, what Executive Order can you pass without it instantly getting knocked down by these Trump judges. And my perspective is that we need to be setting a precedent where the where the President of the United States is strongly advocating for these things. We need a situation where the President of the United States is actually using the bully pulpit in a way that is going to substantially help people. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who are so rarely called out by name, our kneecapping and administration's agenda that was set out in 2020.

On top of that, it was an agenda that was going to help a lot of people, maybe not -- it might not have been the agenda that young people who tend to lean more progressive like myself would have voted for, but there was plenty in it that we wanted to see. And now it's 2022. The Democrats have a midterm election coming up, things are not looking good for anyone. And it's -- and President Biden statement is about how sad this all is. And I don't want to diminish the unbelievable emotional pain that not only these people are going through, but also Joe Biden has endured on his own.

But this is a political matter about the -- the President of the United States, establishing a precedent where we tackle these issues in a substantial way. And in my personal opinion, which is my personal opinion, we didn't hear enough about action in that speech. And we only heard about how sad this all look (ph).

TAPPER: Washington Post has been tracking how many children have been exposed to gun violence during school hours since the 1999, Columbine High massacre, which I guess took place before you were born. They count more than 311,000 kids and 311 schools have gone through what you went through at Parkland to one degree or another, 311,000 kids. What's your reaction to that?

KASKY: My reaction is the Republicans during campaign season this year are going to be talking a lot about police deaths and a lot -- and they're going to be pinning police deaths on peaceful protesters around the country when shoot more children have now died. I'm almost certain, I believe I read this last night when I was preparing to speak with Anderson, more children have died now this year in schools, then police have died in the line of duty. And the top reason -- the top cop killing thing this year has been COVID.

So more children in schools are being killed -- excuse me more children are being killed in schools than officers in the line of duty. And the Republicans are about to successfully sway a lot of American voters into believing that the problems we need to deal with are cop debts and things like that happening. Meanwhile, the bodies continue to pile up -- excuse me, continue to pile up in school hallways, and Democrats and Republicans alike are letting this cycle continues. So the -- you know, what is the inflection point? What is the boiling point?

You know, you and I were speaking in 2018 when everybody was dead convinced Parkland was the one where we were going to be able to make this kind of thing happen. Am I going to be sending my children if there's any living beings that are unfortunate enough to have me as a father to school and not know if they're coming back? Are we going to fix this? What are we going to do? Is this just sad all this is?

TAPPER: You'll be a great dad, Cameron. Thanks so much for joining us today. I appreciate it.

Coming up, he's come the closest of any lawmakers since the 90s to get gun legislation passed in the U.S. Senate. We're talking to over Republican senator about that, next.



TAPPER: On Capitol Hill, Democrats are pushing for gun reform Republicans generally speaking do not appear to be on board. Joining us now is Senator Pat Toomey, Republican from the Great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Senator, thanks for joining us. Your Senate colleague Joe Manchin, called on the Senate to pass bipartisan red flag laws or expanded background checks as our viewers probably recall, you worked with Manchin on legislation to expand background checks at gun shows a few years ago. Is that the legislation that could come to the floor and are there nine other Republicans that could support it?


SEN. PAT TOOMEY, (R) PENNSYLVANIA: Well, that's the big question, Jake. Thanks for having me on. Look, I still strongly believe that the idea that Joe Manchin and I had that requiring background checks on all commercial sales of firearms is a completely reasonable policy that does not infringe on Second Amendment rights of law abiding citizens. And we did have a bipartisan vote. But of course, we couldn't get to 60. There's a group of us, we're going to get together, and we're going to discuss this and see if we might be able to get to 60 with anything close to that. There has also been some discussion about red flag legislation. The concept is kind of broadly appealing, but the details are really, really tough. So that's a discussion -- both of those are discussions that are effectively underway.

TAPPER: Neither -- Well, it's unclear about red flag laws, obviously, the specifics, but certainly the gun show loophole, closer -- closure would not have affected this particular tragedy in Texas. He bought the guns legally after he turned 18.

Now, there are some people out there, Democrats, mainly who say, an 18-year-old is not considered responsible enough to buy a beer, why are we allowing them to purchase an AR-15? But what do you make of that argument?

TOOMEY: Yeah, I hear that argument. On the other hand, you know, an 18-year-old is considered responsible enough to lose his or her life in the defense of this country, responsible enough to cast the vote that decides the future of the country to -- can hold office, many offices in this country. So it's a -- it's a hard thing to say, but sorry, you can't -- you don't have the right to defend yourself. You don't have the Second Amendment right.

And by the way, the Ninth Circuit Court has recently ruled in a California case that constitutional right does begin at age 18. So I think that's very problematic.

Can I just say this goes to the heart of the difficulty, and I think it was missing, frankly, in the arguments made by the previous guests that you had, and that is, there's no easy solution to this, Jake. There's not. I still strongly support expanding background checks. Because I think on the margins, it'll be helpful to make it more difficult for someone who's met dangerously mentally ill or a dangerous criminal to purchase a firearm. But as you pointed out, had Manchin-Toomey been the law of the land, this guy still would have been able to buy the guns.


TOOMEY: So there is no easy solution here. We've got a huge mental health problem in this country. That's the common denominator in these cases. I'm in favor of doing what makes sense that still respects the rights of law abiding citizens. But we shouldn't kid ourselves about there being some simple bill that solves this problem.

TAPPER: The former Senate Majority Leader, Republican Senator Bill Frist, tweeted today, "firearms became the leading cause of death for American children and teenagers and 2020."

I cannot imagine this is what the Founding Fathers hoped or intended. We can find ways to preserve the intent of the Second Amendment while also safeguarding the lives of our children. Our kids have a right to feel safe going to school, the time to act is now. He seems to be suggesting there that the Second Amendment as enshrined in the Constitution. I don't want to put words in his mouth. But he seems to be saying this is not what the Founding Fathers hoped or intended. What do you say to that?

TOOMEY: Well, I look, I don't think the Founding Fathers certainly didn't intend for these completely deranged homicidal individuals to go into a school and start shooting children. I am quite certain. They didn't intend that. But they did know that crime existed, crime existed at that time. They didn't know criminals like to use weapons that happened at that time as well. So this is a really challenging problem. Again, I still fully support sensible reforms that Senator Manchin and I agreed on years ago and we did get a bipartisan vote for I'm just cautioning everyone to understand that there's a real serious mental health problem at the heart of this. And that's a hard one to solve.

TAPPER: Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, thank you so much I appreciate your time today.

TOOMEY: Thanks for having me, Jake.

TAPPER: Could the tragedy in Uvalde change the tone on guns at the NRA's big conference in Texas this week. We'll get to that next.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, the Texas School massacre changed the national conversation even before we started counting votes and yesterday's primaries, but the results are significant especially for former President Trump's ambitions to be the Republican Party Kingmaker. In Georgia, Republican incumbent Governor Brian Kemp easily beat former Senator David Perdue, whom Trump endorsed. Georgia Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger beat Republican Congressman Jody Hice whom Trump endorsed. CNN's Jeff Zeleny joins us from Georgia. So Jeff, the devil went down to Georgia but did not do that well.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Did not do that. Well at all, Jake. There's no question that former President Donald Trump really has been obsessed about Georgia, as we've been saying here for weeks and we've seen for more than a year, but it didn't respond in, voters simply rejected the advice that he was giving them the orders that he was giving them. And it was that landslide victory for Republican Governor Brian Kemp over former Senator David Perdue that really told the story. The margin of victory surprised, I'm told, even many people inside the Kemp campaign. Won with 74%, more than 50 points different separated the Kemp campaign from David Perdue, it was simply a trouncing. The biggest win that we have seen so far this year.


But Jake, perhaps the Secretary of State race was even more important than that. Brad Raffensperger, who famously was on the other end of that phone call when President Trump at the time asked him to find more votes down in Georgia. He also won last night and avoided a runoff, getting much stronger support across the state in urban areas and rural areas from Jody Hice, a member of Congress who Trump urged to get in the race. So the bottom line to all this, while Republicans still are fond for the policies of the Trump administration, they're not following his lead on endorsements in Georgia was exhibit a of that, Jake.

TAPPER: Yeah, they don't seem to be as obsessed with 2020 as he is.

In Alabama, the --

ZELENY: They're looking forward, right?

TAPPER: Yeah. In Alabama, the establishment candidate was forced into a runoff, but she ran well ahead of Congressman Mo Brooks whom Trump endorsed but then took it back. So what's going on there?

ZELENY: Well, look, there is going to be a second act to this race in Alabama. But Mo Brooks, you know, he received the endorsement. He was happy to do it. He was at Trump's side during the days of January 6, but then he also saw that Trump is not necessarily as loyal as people are to him. So that endorsement was rescinded. Well, he had a bit of a bounce back in recent weeks. So he is going to go into a runoff election. If you look at the numbers here, you can see that to Katie Britt almost got 50% but did not quite get that. She, of course, is a former aide to retiring Senator Richard Shelby here, so we'll keep her eye on that in the runoff race coming up next month.

TAPPER: And then quickly if you could, Pennsylvania's Acting Secretary of State this afternoon announces there's going to be a recount in that Republican Senate primary between Mehmet Oz whom Trump endorsed and David McCormick?

ZELENY: Right. And Dr. Oz is up 902 votes out of 1.3 million votes cast. That's why there is a recount. Oz has been a leading since Election Night. We'll see if the recount is going to overturn this, but 902 votes, a sliver of a sliver, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny in Atlanta, thanks so much.

Let's discuss the implications of all this, Jonah. And let me ask you, do you think Trump is going to endorse Brian Kemp? Because he actually said at one point that between Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp, Stacey Abrams, the Democrat went against him. He didn't know who was worse?

JONAH GOLDBERG, FELLOW, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: I think it probably depends on what side of the bed he wakes up in the morning. Remember, this is a guy who said that his net worth depended on his mood when he woke up in any given day. So making predictions is sort of silly.

Look, I think, you know, at this point, the way to think about Trump is that he's the leader of a faction within the Republican Party, and not necessarily the leader, the entire Republican Party. He's had good endorsements, he's bad endorsements, but like the power of incumbency has been really important and all of this, all the incumbents in Georgia that matter, one, regardless of Trump's endorsements, and so it's the scoring everything on good for Trump, bad for Trump, I think misses the broader dynamics that are going on in the Republican Party.

TAPPER: What do you make of it? HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I look I think, Brian Kemp and, you know, I hope Stacey Abrams beats him but I think Brian Kemp created a path for Republican elected across the country, which is you don't really have to talk about Donald Trump to be a Republican politician. And the ones who talk about them the most show the most fear, end up looking the weakest. And I think that, you know, Republicans, if they're smart are going to try and move on from that and essentially, take the fear out of separating themselves from his crazy.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & EDITOR AT LARGE: I don't want to dwell too much on it, because I think you're right, like the Georgia governor's race, Abrams, Kemp rematch is huge. Well, probably the most important race in the country, maybe one of the closest races. But David Perdue was a sitting United States senator until, you know, January 2021. He lost my 52 points with the endorsement of -- I agree with probably the most popular person still in the Republican Party, right? I mean, like if you had to name him.

GOLDBERG: Tall skyscraper in Topeka kind of point.

CILLIZZA: Fair enough.

GOLDBERG: Yeah, yeah.


CILLIZZA: That's a remarkable thing in a state that Donald Trump -- if you were to list all the states that Donald Trump talked the most about, the biggest problems, the elected officials were the worst in that state, it was Georgia. He actually even gave money, won't hold them do this a lot, gave a bunch of money to a Super PAC supporting David Perdue.


CILLIZZA: I guess I'm just surprised. I would never have thought David Perdue loses. Any race in Georgia fight -


ROSEN: I mean Donald Trump lost -- the reason they are fighting is because Donald Trump lost Georgia.


ROSEN: Right, so I mean that's --

TAPPER: Yeah, but lost by --

CILLIZZA: Two points, he's sitting U.S. senator who barely lost his race to Jon Ossoff.

TAPPER: Francesca, let's just remind people he was trailing in the polls by 30 points and Perdue said, I'm not going to lose by 30 points. And he was correct. He was correct.

CHAMBERS: And to your point, one Republican who's close to the former president, United States told me is the worst campaign they may have ever seen in their entire life with David Perdue. So really casting the blame on the candidate rather than putting the blame on the former president United States. But I'm also told that look, it was a pure grudge endorsement.


CHAMBERS: He just did not want Kemp. Wait, it was not about the strength he thought that David Perdue could essentially have in this race. So would you look forward, though, about whether or not you would endorse Kemp? No word on that yet. But when you look also at the Senate race, you also have the Herschel Walker Senate race too, that taking place in that state. So no doubt this is going to be very closely one.

ROSEN: Democrats can repeat, you know, in 2020, for Georgia win, I don't know, but you do have to look at states like Ohio, where Trump has made a difference in the primaries and Pennsylvania where Trump has made a difference than in primary and those states are real swing states in both the midterms and in the presidential election. So, you know, I -- this guy's not going away. But I think the message is that he is not the entire party.

TAPPER: You could also -- you could make the argument that his Senate picks have been much better than his gubernatorial picks when you look at it. Because Herschel Walker, clean -- you know, he cleared the field, he won.

GOLDBERG: He's also Herschel Walker.

TAPPER: He's also Herschel Walker, UGA alum, and Heisman Trophy winner, but that's going to be a tough race. Dr. Oz, at least as of now is ahead in Pennsylvania. That's also going to be a tough race against the Lieutenant Governor Fetterman, assuming it is -- yeah?

GOLDBERG: Part of the lesson there is that if it's open fields where there isn't an incumbent, his endorsement matters more, particularly if it's a crowded field. If his endorsement gives you five points, or six points or 10 points like you do with Vance, it matters more. Incumbents have incredible power to hold on. Kemp just locked up that state in a masterful way, to the point where the power of incumbency, I think was much greater than the power of any Trump endorsed.

ROSEN: But you're making a different point also, which is that the Senate tends to not have nationalized messaging and nationalize elections. The gubernatorial race maybe more about local politics.

CILLIZZA: I also just to return to the point, Jonah, made about faction, Donald Trump as a faction in John King has made it on our air before and I do think it is important to keep remembering, what you're looking at generally speaking, is when Donald Trump endorses just from net zero, you're in the mid to high 30.

TAPPER: Yeah. You got a third of the Republican Party base locked up, that's him.

CILLIZZA: That's it. That can be good enough.

TAPPER: For J.D. Vance, it was.

CILLIZZA: Absolutely.

TAPPER: For Dr. Oz, at least --

CILLIZZA: -- I mean, he's literally at like 30 to 1.2%.

TAPPER: Right.

CILLIZZA: The question is, is like in a situation like Brian Kemp, I mean, I would argue David Perdue underperformed, even that sort of baseline 33% of Donald Trump. I don't know if it's a one v one, if he's capable of lifting you up to 50 plus one, even in a Republican primary.

CHAMBERS: Back to the Senate race in Georgia, what's also unique about this particular Senate race --

TAPPER: Warnock versus Walker.

CHAMBERS: Yes, Warnock versus Walker, first of all, you had Mitch McConnell, who was on the same side as Donald Trump, and that so when you're talking about clearing the field, the Republican Party had essentially united behind Herschel Walker, who has extremely high name I.D. in that state, number one. But number two, because that primary was not as competitive as it could have been. He's not particularly been tested yet as a candidate. But neither has Warnock really, either because the election, the general election in Georgia was so short last time, he really only had to campaign for a few months. So it will be very interesting to see those two candidates go up against one another in the state of Georgia, particularly in the conditions that we're seeing right now, which are generally good for Republicans, but again, Warnock as the incumbent.

TAPPER: That's also true, though, I think that that Herschel Walker hasn't faced a real challenge and Raphael Warnock and Democrats are about to drop tens of millions of dollars of oppo on him.

CILLIZZA: There's going to be -- I mean, there's a lot there. We know there's a lot there. Does it move people off of, hey, that's Herschel Walker, UGA football star, Heisman Trophy winner. We don't know that. But we know there's certainly a lot there that if it was a traditional candidate, you would say ooh, that's going to be the oppo research book is big.

TAPPER: Do you think he can win, Herschel Walker?

GOLDBERG: I do think he can win. It's a Republican year. And Warnock is, I think to the left of the electric in a way that it will be good for Republican year, but the potential for self-destruction from Walker is actually there --

ROSEN: Warnock is such a decent guy and I think voters are looking for a discussion of the economy, a discussion of empathy, so.

TAPPER: Thanks one and all for being here, I really appreciate it. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram Twitter and the TikTok @Jaketapper. You can tweet the show @theleadcnn if you ever miss an episode. You can listen to THE LEAD wherever you get your podcasts. Our coverage continues now with one, Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in a place I'd like to call, "THE SITUATION ROOM." See you tomorrow.