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The Lead with Jake Tapper

WaPo: Key January 6 Texts Missing From Trump DHS Officials; At Least 16 Dead In Kentucky Floods, Death Toll Expected To Rise; Russia Requests Second Convict In Response To U.S. Prisoner Swap Deal; Pelosi Leaves Today For Asia, But Taiwan Stop Still Uncertain; Kansas To Vote On Amendment That Could Strip Protections For Abortion Rights. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired July 29, 2022 - 16:00   ET





BLACKWELL: It's not Carmelo because we couldn't find it. But it's still Cadbury.

CAMEROTA: I'll take it. Thank you. This is so wonderful.

Come on, Hershey. You have one job, one job. Keep the candy for Halloween, OK? It will be like us running out of news before 4:00 p.m. We don't do that.


CAMEROTA: Except for today.

BLACKWELL: Right here.



KASIE HUNT, CNN HOST: First, deleted text of the Secret Service. Now, it's Homeland Security with vanished records.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Messages reportedly missing key days and weeks before the Capitol attack. And we're just learning this now as the January 6th Committee shares more of its secrets with the Justice Department's criminal probe.

Plus, rooftop rescues. Lives lost and hundreds still missing.

Eastern Kentucky braces for even more rainfall after already devastating flooding.

And she broke barriers as the youngest woman in Congress. Now, almost three decades after she left public office, this fighter wants to get back in the political arena.


HUNT: Welcome to the lead. I'm Kasie Hunt, in today for Jake Tapper.

We start today with our politics lead and another major development in what's been a monumental week for January 6th investigators. The latest twists, more missing text messages from the period leading up to the Capitol attack.

According to "The Washington Post", texts from Donald Trump's acting homeland security chief, Chad Wolf, and, his top deputy, Ken Cuccinelli, are MIA. The Department of Homeland Security reportedly claims the texts were lost in a reset of their government phones at the end of the Trump administration.

Today, a source tells CNN that the January 6th committee did interview Chad Wolf several months ago the same time they met with Cuccinelli. But that was before they learned of the possible deletion of records.

These revelations come on the heels of exclusive CNN reporting that the Justice Department is preparing to fight in court to force former White House officials to testify about Trump's conversations and his actions around January 6th.

CNN's Ryan Nobles starts off our coverage from Capitol Hill with new details about even more witnesses from the Trump White House cooperating with the January 6th committee.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Department of Justice is inching closer and closer to former President Donald Trump. New CNN reporting reveals that prosecutors are girding for a big fight over executive privilege to force witnesses to testify about the role Trump may have played in events leading up to January 6th.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When courts have considered these separation of powers issues in the context of criminal cases, they haven't looked favorably towards the White House and the presidency. Now, the biggest and the most office is the United States versus Nixon.

NOBLES: Trump himself is not considered to be a target yet. But the list of Trump officials who have already cooperated with the select committee, now cooperating with the DOJ, is growing. It comes as the Select Committee has began the process of handing over transcripts from their interviews with federal investigators.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): They have indicated they want to have access to a certain number of transcripts. And we've negotiated back and forth. And the committee sees a way to make that available to them.

NOBLES: They committee has also stepped up their outreach and engagement with cabinet officials. Former acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney met with the committee Thursday and said investigators are very interested in the players pushing false claims of election fraud and their access to the White House.

MICK MULVANEY, FORMER ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: That sort of inner circle of people who has been described as others known as the crazies, how did they get the access they did when they did?

NOBLES: Among the other cabinet officials they've spoken to, former DHS Secretary Chad Wolf. "Washington Post" reporting that text messages from wolf and his deputy Ken Cuccinelli were lost from their government issued electronic devices. In a tweet read in response to the story, Wolf said he handed over his phone intact when he resigned after January 6th.

Meanwhile, the House Minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, who Cassidy Hutchinson said was among one of the leaders who pleaded for Trump to call supporters off, claim today he doesn't remember calling her.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): If I talked to her, I don't remember it. If it was coming up here, I don't think I wanted a lot of people coming up to the Capitol. But I don't remember the conversation.


NOBLES (on camera): And today is scheduled to be the last day for the House of Representatives before they leave on their long August recess. And that means the committee is not expected to have any public work until September hearings, which are planned in the next few months.

And that means committee members are going to be working behind closed doors preparing for the secretary hearings.

Kasie, I just spoke with Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland. He is specifically focused on extremist groups to cause chaos here January 6th.


And that is work he's going to continue through August and into September.

HUNT: Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill, thank you so much for that report.

And sticking with the theme of missing text messages, we have some new CNN exclusive reporting. Sources say the Homeland Security inspector general first learned of missing Secret Service texts in May of 2021. That is more than a year before he alerted the January 6th committee.

CNN's Whitney Wild is part of the team breaking this story.

Whitney, do we have any idea why it took so long for DHS to notify the committee?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, that is a question that every oversight body has a role trying to untangle this wants to know. We don't have a direct answer, but it is something we continue to work out.

But, Kasie, we do is that these congressional insight committees said the inspector general was aware of the missing text messages as of December 2021. Now sources are saying they notified the office of the Department of Homeland Security inspector general that the text messages had been erased. They told them they had problems with the text messages being erased in May 2021.

So this information getting to DHS OIG seven months earlier than we previously knew. The Secret Service explained they were lost in previously scheduled data migration in cell phones and the committee and Cuffari are both interested in the messages because they could shed a lot of light on what happened that day. It could be important information we don't have now.

HUNT: It absolutely could be. The Secret Service knew the data was lost after the migration. Did they do anything about that?

WILD: Well, here's what they did. They realized basically shortly there after this data migration concluded that the information was gone. The problem is key personnel didn't realize that these text messages would not be backed up anywhere. They didn't realize how absolute this data migration was. So, to try to rectify the situation, they attempted to go back to the cellular provider to get the text message content back but they couldn't do it.

Kasie, again that information communicated from the Secret Service to the OIG in May 2021. Then in July, investigators for the Department of Homeland Securities Inspector General's Office told DHS they were no longer seeking these text messages. So, this timeline stopping and starting, Kasie.

But the bottom line is if they couldn't retrieve the information back in May 2021 and then in July, at some point clearly they had concluded for whatever reason they didn't need it or would stop looking into it, they restarted the investigation in December. It's very unlikely they will get the records back.

However, congressional leaders are not taking any of these answers and saying, okay, well, this is over. Just minutes ago, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee tweeted that he is calling on Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate this.

So, a lot more to learn, Kasie.

HUNT: Pretty significant escalation there. Whitney Wild, thanks very much for that reporting. Really appreciate it.

Let's discuss all of this with former senior investigator for the January 6 Committee, John Wood, and former chief counsel to then Vice President Joe Biden, Victoria Nourse.

Thank you both for being here.

John, let me start with you. Do these missing text messages seem suspicious to you at all? I mean, is there any way that you think this is all aboveboard?

JOHN WOOD, FORMER SENIOR INVESTIGATOR, JANUARY 6 SELECT COMMITTEE: Well, it's either something nefarious where somebody was trying to destroy evidence or it was real incompetence. And I would not rule out the possibility of incompetence. Those things do happen in the government.

But if so, it was a screw up on just a grand scale because this information is really important both to the January 6th committee in the House and potentially the Justice Department as well. So, you know, it's hard to understand how this happened.

HUNT: Yeah. I mean, Victoria, what are the legal ramifications here if the texts were purposefully deleted? And it seems there may be legal ramifications even if it was accidental.

VICTORIA NOURSE, FORMER CHIEF COUNSEL TO THEN-VP JOE BIDEN: Well, if it's intentional, then its a felony. You can't destroy government records. But there's another aspect I want to get into. Chad Wolf is in DHS and he's communicating to the White House, there is a whole separate document, you know, retrieval system of Presidential Record Act that kicks in.

So you would see it over there too. There are redundant systems in both of these bodies. So, I don't know.

I agree with Mr. Wood that it may be the explainable variable here, but it is beginning to look very suspicious, because what happens, in my experience, I was a baby lawyer in Iran Contra. People do end up, when they're about to be caught, destroying documents.

HUNT: Very interesting perspective there.

Former White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, met with the January 6 committee yesterday. This is what he told CNN about the types of questions that he was asked. Watch.


MULVANEY: Clearly, they're trying to figure out more about how it is, perhaps Rudy Giuliani or Sidney Powell got the access to the president of the United States that they did.


Folks like Mike Lindell had access to role of people like Peter Navarro and that sort of inner circle of people that have been described by others as the crazies. How do they get the access that they did when they did?


HUNT: So, John, based on what you know about the committees workings, why do you think they would be pursuing this line of questioning with Mulvaney? WOOD: Yeah. Some people who are witnesses have said there were two

camps with these different languages to describe them in some describing them as keen normal and team crazy. The question is, you know, how did team crazy get this kind of access? I think in particular, they're interested -- I think it was December 18th, it was late in the evening, and early the next morning the president issuing his tweet about January 6th and said we will be wild.

That is one where the White House counsel Pat Cipollone found out about the meeting and he and some other lawyers forced their way into it and the question is why with the president going out of his way to listen to the so-called team crazy instead of his own lawyers, both on the campaign and the White House who are telling him the election was not stolen and that he could not change the outcome of the election after the Electoral College had voted.

HUNT: Raises so many questions.

So, Victoria, CNN exclusively reported yesterday that the Justice Department prosecutors are preparing to fight in court to force some of these White House officials to testify about Trump's conversations -- conversations January 6th. The central issue is really executive privilege.

I mean, does the Justice Department have a strong case where they're standing on solid ground?

NOURSE: I think they've got a strong case. The problem here would be time. There's only one precedent here and it's Nixon. In that case, it basically says that the president does not have absolute privilege not to respond in a criminal investigation.

And so when you have a criminal case, different rules apply that when you have a congressional rule of investigation and that's when you have the highest before the information, so in that context it seems to me very unlikely that the president himself for former president does not have a full absolute immunity which they don't under the United States versus Nixon, that their advisers would have a full immunity.

The DOJ called the document that they have qualified immunity. That means that if there is a good enough reason, and immunity goes away.

HUNT: Fascinating. One other thing, John, sources say that the committee has been engaging with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and they're hoping that he will come in for an interview that could possibly happen next week. As we have reminded our viewers, you were senior investigator on this team. What can Mike Pompeo offer the committee that others can't? Why do they want to talk to him?

WOOD: Yeah, he's probably got a lot of insight into what Donald Trump's mental state was leading up to and then after January 6th. And I think that the committee wants to know whether Mike Pompeo had any concerns about whether Donald Trump was fit to serve as president.

Now, Secretary Pompeo appears to have political ambitions and may want to run for president, and the last thing is going to want to do is have to testify, particularly if it's going to force and to say anything negative about Donald Trump.

HUNT: As the political reporter in these fascinated by the fact that they ultimately be forced to speak on camera before the committee.

John, Victoria, thank you both very much for your time today.

WOOD: Thank you.

HUNT: Up next, the disastrous flooding in Eastern Kentucky. Much of the water racing at night while most people were sleep. Locals say they still don't know who is among the missing.

Plus, Russia responds. We've got seen an exclusive reporting on who the Kremlin now wants an exchange for Americans Paul Whelan and WNBA Brittney Griner.



HUNT: In our national lead, the death toll from flash flooding in Eastern Kentucky now stands at 16, with worries it's going to go higher. Rescue crews are still trying to reach hard-hit areas, thousands are without power and hundreds have lost everything.

It's yet another powerful reminder of how the climate crisis is amplifying weather events to the extreme.

CNN's Joe Johns now with firsthand look at the devastation.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our home completely crushed.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tammy Eversaw's (ph) home in Perry County, now in the middle of Squabble Creek. Like her, hundreds of families have lost everything in the floods in eastern Kentucky.

JOE CRESS, FLOOD VICTIM: No water, no electricity. No nothing.

JOHNS: Joe Cress is one of the lucky ones. He said many of his neighbors lost their homes.

CRESS: Our house is gone. I mean, it just washed away. We didn't get a warning. It just happened quickly and everything got washed away.

JOHNS: Nearly 300 people cut off by the flooding have been rescued so far according to the governor. The devastation, widespread. Debris along this creek, broken bridges, down to trees.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've never seen this before and all the years I've lived here. I have never seen this. Never.

JOHNS: The storm wiped out power, breaking down communication.

SHERIFF JOE ENGLE, PERRY COUNTY: This storm, it's totally annihilated our infrastructure. Water, telephone, internet, electricity, all the basic roads, all the basic things you would build a community around. It disappeared.

JOHNS: It's not over yet. More rain is expected. Eastern Kentucky has a slight to moderate risk of flash flooding through Friday evening.

GOV. ANDY BESHEAR, KENTUCKY: I've certainly done three plus flights and/or tours over flooded areas. This is by far the worst.

JOHNS: After flying over the hard-hit region, the governor delivered more grim news.

BESHEAR: I have received notice that they've located the bodies of those four children. We've got at least six that children.


And it's hard.

Hundreds of homes. They're ball fields, parks, businesses under more water than I think anyone of us has ever seen in that area. Absolutely impassible. Numerous spots. So, just devastating.


JOHNS (on camera): And not out of the woods yet here in Eastern Kentucky by any stretch of the imagination. Not only did we have the flash flooding event that led to the loss of life and property, we also have the issue of the utility. Gas, water, electric, all out and places, just compounding the misery and everybody is watching the sky, because the last thing anybody needs is more rain.

Kasie, back to you.

HUNT: Of course. Joe Johns, thanks very much for that report.

Up next, a CNN exclusive. Putin makes his move. The Kremlin's counter offer to a U.S. proposal to get Americans Paul Whelan and WNBA star, Brittney Griner, back home.




ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: I pressed the Kremlin to accept these proposals that we put forth on the release of Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner.


HUNT: Secretary of State Anthony Blinken today spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for the first time since the Ukraine war began. Blinken said he pressured Lavrov to accept the U.S. proposal to swap a convicted Russian arms dealer for two Americans who remain held in Russian custody, Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen joins us now from Moscow where Russia is countering the U.S. proposal.

Fred, what Russia is asking for?


Well, all this is happening behind closed doors, but apparently a couple of weeks ago in the U.S. came forward with this offer to exchange Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for Paul Whelan and for Brittney Griner, the Russians came with a counter offer through backchannels. And this is according to information from our own Natasha Bertrand.

The Russians apparently also asking for someone who is in jail in Germany. His name is Vadim Krasikov, and he was arrested in 2019 for murdering someone in central Berlin and then convicted in 2021. The Germans say, and the German courts said, this murder was directed and organized by Russian security services. The Russians obviously had vehemently denied that. But this is a prisoner who is of the utmost importance to the Germans, apparently also someone the Russians asked for.

The Russians themselves remain tightlipped about this. It was interesting, because after speaking to the Secretary of State Blinken, Sergey Lavrov, he came out and he said he urged the United States to return to what they call quiet diplomacy. Obviously, the Russians want to deal with this behind closed doors, Kasie.

HUNT: So, what has the U.S. response been to all of this?

PLEITGEN: Yes. So, again, all of this happening behind closed doors. What we have found out is that the U.S. did not think that this was a serious offer that the Russians were making, also because, of course, because Krasikov is in German custody. He's not a prisoner of the United States.

However, I spoke to a senior German governor source and the source tells me that the U.S. did make a quiet inquiry about Krasikov, essentially asking whether or not something like that could even be possible. It wasn't something that was then widely discussed on German government levels and did not reach top government officials, but there certainly was an inquiry by the United States that didn't go very far and didn't -- was not taken seriously, but it did happen.

And that does underscore how serious the administration is able trying to get Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner out of Russian custody, Kasie.

HUNT: It truly does.

Fred Pleitgen in Moscow, thanks very much for that report. Ahead here, is Taiwan on the itinerary? It's still a mystery, as House

Speaker Nancy Pelosi leaves for Asia.



HUNT: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi heads to Asia today on the heels of President Biden's call with Chinese President Xi Jinping. And sources tell CNN it's still's uncertain whether Pelosi's trip will include a stop in Taiwan.

CNN's MJ Lee is live at the White House.

MJ, does the Biden administration support this possible Taiwan visit by the House speaker?

MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kasie, what I can tell you is that this potential trip to Taiwan has become a big headache for this White House over the last couple of days. It has received many, many questions from reporters about whether the White House supports this trip, opposes this trip, has concerns about this trip. And the White House has essentially said that it's not going to comment on a trip that has not been confirmed, and yesterday, if you'll recall, they wouldn't even say this issue came up when President Biden and Chinese President Xi had a conversation that lasted over a few hours.

Now, the other thing we have been hearing more from the White House is this idea that Nancy Pelosi is a lawmaker as a member of Congress and that the legislative branch is completely separate from the executive branch, and essentially the president is not going to tell a lawmaker when they can or cannot do, but there's no question, Kasie, that this issue has become a real flash point in U.S.-Chinese relations and Beijing making it very clear that they are very unhappy about the possibility of such a trip.

HUNT: And not just any lawmaker, the speaker of the House in this case.

MJ, do you think the White House is prepared from backlash from China if this happens?

LEE: Yeah, it's a really good question. You know, yesterday, you'll recall that according to Chinese state media, President Xi told President Biden if you play with fire, you get burned, and when we asked senior administration official about that, and whether that was perceived as a threat by the U.S., they would not even engaged that question.

What we heard today from National Security Council spokesperson, John Kirby, is that we have seen no physical, tangible indications of anything untoward with respect to Taiwan. Now he also reiterated that U.S. policy, when it comes to Taiwan is unchanged that the U.S. support for One China policy, and he said China's heightened rhetoric on all this is simply unnecessary. But I do think it's worth reminding everyone that it's President Biden

himself who told reporters days ago that the military does not think this is a good idea right now -- Kasie.

HUNT: Really interesting.

MJ Lee at the White House, thanks so much for that report.

If there truly are lazy dog days of summer, you really would not know it right now on Capitol Hill. There is suddenly a rush to get a series of high-profile bills through.

Right now, the House is debating a bill that would ban assault style weapons, of votes that for the next hour. It's expected to pass, but its future is unlikely in the Senate.

And then there is new climate. And you climate an economic bill, and of course, the burn pits red legislation.


Let's dig into all of this.

And, Ron Brownstein, let me start with you. So, the ban on assault weapons the Democrats are voting on, I mean we know it's going nowhere in the Senate. Why spend the energy on this, especially when it puts puts Democrats on the spot?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, it is just an incredible measure of how much the parties have resorted over the last generation. When this passed in '94, there were 77 House Democrats who voted against it, 38 House Republicans who voted for. It's going to pass --


BROWNSTEIN: Unfortunately, I covered that in 1994.

You know, today, it's going to pass with a four vote majority in the house and they're going to pass this and if they have passed virtually every bill in this Congress with only a one or two dissenting votes, Democrats have ever had in the modern era, and it reflects the fact that it's an urban-suburban party, right?

And so, there are just many fewer of the world Democrats would be uncomfortable with this. I think they do believe that guns post- Uvalde, abortion post-Dobbs, and January six are changing equation for suburban voters and giving them more of a fighting chance and it would look like they would have a few months ago.

This is one more chance to kind of draw that line with the Republican Party. It is increasingly revolving around the priorities of a culturally conservative days.

HUNT: Yeah, it's a really good point. Jeremy, you know, another piece of this is of course trying to get

Democrats motivated because we see that they haven't been as motivated to get out to vote and of course you have Senator Manchin suddenly backing this reconciliation package -- it's gotten Democrats excited, but also the economy. How much does this contribute to them potentially not having as bad of a midterm years you might have expected?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, if you talk to folks at the White House, they're certainly hoping that all these pieces of legislation put together will give them a better chance when it comes to midterms, giving them a new opportunity to tell voters look at what we've been able to accomplish, and particularly when those things have happened in more recent memory, right? We always know that the closer you are to Election Day, that's when you kind of get voters attention.

So, look, they do hope that this will help them. I would say, you know, despite President Biden coming out, despite hearing from Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer, it's not a done deal yet. And we've seen a lot of celebratory moves so far, but we will see whether or not they may be premature.

HUNT: Well, I mean, Kirsten, Senator Dick Durbin who is suddenly out with COVID. I mean, a 50/50 Senate. They really got to thread that needle.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: We cannot afford a single person not being there and also Kyrsten Sinema, as usual, being quiet on which is going to do, and so that is sort of out there. Everybody is hoping she will come around. Democrats say they believe she will ultimately vote for this. But we don't really know until it actually happens. I think it's a very substantially important bill. It is something that is very important to the base of the Democratic Party.

So, particularly young voters who have been very frustrated and very angry for climate change is one of their top issues, to show that there is something that is being done around this. It's a big investment, but I think the biggest investment some of them made in terms of climate change for the U.S. government, it's actually a big substantive win and a political win.

BROWNSTEIN: Can I add one point? One reason 2018 was better than usual for Democrats in the midterm was precisely because many more young people showed up, and it's typical in the midterms. In 2014, 2010, cratering turned out among younger voters. Republicans made so many gains.

Up until this, Democrats not have a lot of positive messaging for young people. They can run on the negative, Republicans want to take away your abortion rights. Republicans are too conservative on guns. But Joe Biden is that like 35 percent among young people.

This is really the first thing. One of the only major things they've had where they could kind of affirmatively say to young people, your vote matters.

HUNT: Well, I mean, Rina, I've been hearing this as I've talked to progressives and Democrats over the course of the last 48 hours. People will got and said, wow you're pretty down on this president, but suddenly, we've got something to be excited about.

RINA SHAH, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yeah, things are happening, I don't know about you guys, but I'm feeling strong Christmas in July vibes. These are reindeer games on the Senate side in particular. I mean, what would Schumer and McConnell, with their fighting about, this is how we got here to how we move forward this week.

I think one thing we're going to hear from Republicans as this is reckless spending, and how Republicans will message that against Democrats moving forward is just all the way into the midterms, are going to say D's, in the swing states with independent voters versus the base. Are you spending our money properly at a time where we have inflation? Expect that playbook from Republicans.

HUNT: Well, certainly, you know, every day, the Republicans are talking, other than inflation, it's probably not a great day for them. That's fair enough.

Let's switch gears from the future to the past. Jeremy, you and your colleagues on the scene and White House team have new reporting on Jared Kushner's upcoming book that details his book, West Wing war with Steve Bannon.


Kushner describes Bannon this way saying, quote, Jared, right now, you're the one undermining the president's agenda. And if you go against me, I will break you in half. Don't F with me.

DIAMOND: I think that was blanked out.

HUNT: I am not going to put those words in my mouth, but I think all of our viewers know what it means. Bannon is reportedly going up against the president's son-in-law here. I mean, I covered this from the Capitol Hill site. Nobody up there likes Steve Bannon. Apparently it was even worse at the White House.

DIAMOND: Yeah. And, look, Steve Bannon was one of the first and a long line of people to learn that when you go up against Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, you are probably going to lose. That's how it worked very often in the West Wing.

Look, Jared Kushner kind of portrays himself as willfully unprepared for this media war with men in who he accuses in these excerpts that we have obtained of repeatedly leaking against Kushner, against his allies like Gary Cohn, but the reality is Kushner wised up pretty fast. He was able to fight that media war as well, and ultimately, he also was family, and in the Trump West Wing, that made all the difference.

Look, Kushner also describes Bannon as a toxic figure in the West Wing. I think the reality is that, look, you can argue that that is true, but the West Wing itself was toxic. It was most toxic. It was a toxic environment fostered by President Trump, and intentionally so, because he liked to watch his aides clash against each other and see who would come out on top.

HUNT: Yeah, I was going to say, that Jared Kushner operation had some seriously sharp knives, basically since the beginning.

Kirsten, another one of these quotes, talking about Kushner writing, Stephen Miller joked to Hope and me, that's Hope Hicks, I have a plan to split up Steve Bannon's extensive workload, meaning he's going to demote him. Hope, you leak to Jonathan Swan at Axios. Jared, you call Mike Bender from "The Wall Street Journal". I'll call Jeremy Peters from "The New York Times". And we're done.

I mean, this is not normal really for a White House.


POWERS: Yeah, they sound like a really happy bunch. I think the problem with this is everybody in the stories are so awful. It's just like, go ahead and tear yourselves apart. As far as I'm concerned, because they all did the things that they accuse each other of doing.

You know, someone was leaking? Sorry, Jared. It's not like you never leaked anything. Yeah, it was a toxic White House. They were some of the most toxic people in it.

HUNT: Ron, we're spending a lot of time and energy focusing on the fact that Donald Trump might run again in 2024. I mean, is that what we are going back to?

BROWNSTEIN: First of all, I'm shocked that Jared and Ivanka is telling that there are the heroes. I'm speechless, you know? Look, Donald Trump has lots of self interest reasons to announce for president as soon as he can, just to make it politically harder for the Justice Department or the Georgia prosecutors to move against him. I think most Republicans would desperately want him to wait until after November, if at all.

And here I am trying to think about whether in the end, Donald Trump will prioritize his own interests or the party's and like how that's going to sort out.

SHAH: Look, the sooner we all realize the Republican Party that Trump and company belongs nowhere near the White House that these details are not just palace intrigue, they're tales of an unfit administration. And he doesn't deserve to be back in it.

So, let's pitch him out. Let's find somebody new.

HUNT: Well, it's going to be up to those voters, is the thing.


BROWNSTEIN: He's going to have a good day in Arizona. HUNT: I think you are absolutely right about that. It's a very

different landscape there than in Georgia.

All right. Thank you for a great conversation on this Friday afternoon.

The state of Kansas, meanwhile, will be the first to put abortion rights on the ballot post-roe. The timing is critical. Why the dates set for this vote could be a huge factor in its outcome.


HUNT: In our politics lead, Kansas is the first state to vote on abortion rights since Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court back in June. This crucial vote set for next week, could alter the states constitution district protections for the right to abortion.

As CNN's Nick Valencia reports, this opens the door to restrictions.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Helena (ph). I'm the field director for Kansans for constitutional freedom.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a small room in Wichita, the fight for abortion rights is on. Kansas will be the first state in the country to vote on whether the right to an abortion is protected by the state's constitution, since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Ashley All is part of the coalition working to preserve abortion access in Kansas.

ASHLEY ALL, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS, KANSANS FOR CONSTITUTIONAL FREEDOM: The amendment that is on the ballot will mandate government control over private medical decisions, and, ultimately, pave the way for a total ban on abortion.

VALENCIA: In 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the state constitution protected personal autonomy, including the right of a woman to decide whether to continue a pregnancy. The ruling effectively blocked legislatures for passing laws to restrict abortion access within the state.

If passed on August 2nd, the so-called Value Them Both amendment moved back power to the Republican support majority legislator, to regulate axis of abortions in the state.

ALL: We believe that if this amendment passes, they will act quickly to ban abortion outright. That has been their goal for a long time.

VALENCIA: Adding to their worries, the issues being voted on in the primary rather than the general election. The state of registered Republicans vastly outnumbers Democrats. Abortion rights advocates believe the move was intentional by state conservatives to limit non- Republican turnout. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe it is best to have as little abortion if

not any up as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Abortion is a right to anyone should have access to. It's health care.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it is really important -- I mean, all the young babies other lives that are being saved, if it passes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't want rights taken away.

VALENCIA: Some voters who spoke to were also concerned about the involvement of churches and religious groups. Since the vote is on an issue, not a candidate, such organizations have been allowed to campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The passing of the Value Them Both amendment.

VALENCIA: Brittany Jones welcomes the support. Jones, an antiabortion lawyer, helped write the amendment.

BRITTANY JONES, DIRECTOR, POLICY & ENGAGEMENT, KANSAS FAMILY VOICE: Kansans want to ensure that moms and babies are protected. And so, Kansans are very concerned about this push to make us an unlimited destination for abortion.

VALENCIA: Though it seems like a reaction to what the Supreme Court did with Roe, Jones and her Kansas Republican colleagues say that they have been working on drafting the amendment for years.

One of their main concerns, people coming from nearby places like Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas, where abortion is already outlawed to get procedures done in Kansas.

ASHLEY BRINK, DIRECTOR, TRUST WOMEN ABORTION CLINIC: The day that the decision came down, we had patients calling us from the waiting rooms of other health centers and other states saying that our appointments were canceled, how soon can we get in.

VALENCIA: Ashley Brink is that director of Trust Women, one of four abortion clinics in the state. Since Roe v. Wade was overturned, Brink estimates more than 60 percent of the patients are from out of state.

BRINK: What we are seeing right now is, in my pinion, a national emergency.

VALENCIA: The choice on August 2nd maybe local, but it will come with national implications.


VALENCIA (on camera): A vote with national implications that will be decided by a relatively small number of voters. It was today that Kansas City secretary of state released projections estimating that just 36 percent of Kansans are expected to vote in this upcoming primary. While that seems high for a primary, it's not when you considered with a big issue it is and the impact it will have on Kansans and beyond -- Kasie.

HUNT: Nick Valencia, thanks very much for that report.

VALENCIA: You bet.

HUNT: Still fighting the currents. Eighty years old and going strong, she was once the youngest women in Congress, and now she's making waves as she tries to head back as one of the oldest.



HUNT: She was a political outsider who took on the Democratic establishment. In a huge upset, she became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. No, this is not a profile of Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. This is a woman who did it 50 years ago, way back in 1972.

CNN's Athena Jones reports after legendary career in politics, law and government, Elizabeth Holtzman is running for Congress again.


ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN (D), NEW YORK CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I need your help on august 23rd, so please come to vote.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She has been called a pioneer, a trailblazer.

At 31 years old, Liz Holtzman became the youngest women ever elected to Congress in 1972. A record she held for more than 40 years. Half a century later, she's looking for a come back, running on a congressional district comprised of lower Manhattan and much of Brownstone Brooklyn, an area known for political activism.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a new position, correct?

HOLTZMAN: A new district, yeah, right. No incumbents. There are a bunch of us running. But I'm the only one who has been in Congress with a huge record of accomplishment.

JOJNES: Holtzman served four terms, voting to impeach Richard Nixon in 1974 and pushing the Justice Department to begin tracking down and deporting Nazi war criminals.

HOLTZMAN: I was very disturbed to see the nature of the war crimes alleged to have been committed by people living in this country.

JONES: Holtzman later championed abortion rights.

You are running again at age 80. Why? HOLTZMAN: I'm running again because I am very concerned about the

direction of our country. I said to myself when I saw Justice Alito's opinion, I was enraged when I read it. I said it did not sit on the sidelines.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: She's got so many firsts on her resume.

JONES: Holtzman is running on her extensive experience.

HOLTZMAN: This is a time for someone who has a record of standing up to the right wing, taking on the right wing, and succeeding sometimes in defeating them. That is my record.

JONES: She's facing a crowded field that includes a former impeachment lawyer and a sitting congressman who moved to the new district. Her long shot candidacy met with praise and some skepticism.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not concerned about her age at all. Furthermore, she has a wealth of experience.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am very conflicted about Liz Holtzman.

JONES: Really? Why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's a fabulous person, a real role model. She did accomplish so much, but there is a sense, and I am a senior citizen, there is a sense that particularly the Democratic Party needs to bring in new people or younger people.

JONES: Is that age isn't, plain and simple?

HOLTZMAN: Well, some of it is. I think some of it is a pre-conception that someone my age cannot do the job, but I think when you see people watching the campaign in the hot sun, I understand I could do this job.

JONES: And avid kayaker, Holtzman says it keeps her fit and energized.

So, is this your answer to whether you have the energy and fitness to handle the strenuous business of politics?

HOLTZMAN: Definitely. Definitely. It's also fun.

JONES: Athena Jones, CNN, New York.


HUNT: Our thanks to Athena Jones for that report.

Coming up this Sunday, Jake Tapper has Democratic Senator Joe Manchin on "STATE OF THE UNION", along with Republican Senator Pat Toomey, on Sunday morning at 9:00 Eastern and again at noon right here on CNN.

You could follow me on Twitter @Kasie or tweet the show @TheLeadCNN. And if you ever miss an episode of THE LEAD, check out the podcast. You could listen wherever you get your podcasts.

And don't go anywhere. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM".