Return to Transcripts main page

The Lead with Jake Tapper

Rep. Cheney Loses In Landslide To Trump-Backed Harriet Hageman; Cheney Vows To Fight Trump: "Freedom Must Not Die Here"; Poll: Only 16% Of Hageman Supporters Think Biden Is Legitimate President; Cheney On Possible 2024 Run: I'll Make A Decision In "Coming Months"; Updated COVID Boosters To Target Omicron Variants Expected In September; U.S. Government To Stop Paying For COVID Shots, Tests Next Year; CDC director Lays Out New Plan To Overhaul Agency; Pence Says He Would Consider Testifying Before Jan. 6 CMTE; Rudy Giuliani Appears Before Grand Jury Wednesday; Iran Seeking Compensation For U.S. Nuclear Deal Withdraw; Syria Denies It Is Holding American Journalist Austin Tice; Family Of U.S. Navy Officer Jailed In Japan Over Fatal Car Crash Calls On Biden To Intervene; Texas School District Temporarily Pulls 41 Books, Including The Bible, From Shelves; Trump's CFO Allen Weisselberg Will Implicate Trump Companies in Guilty Plea. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired August 17, 2022 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Jeff, just how bad was this loss for Cheney?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, in the short term, it was a very bad loss of 37 points for any sitting member of Congress. That is almost unthinkable, certainly someone with the last name of Cheney here in a state like Wyoming. That certainly that gives you an indication of how much of a hole that Donald Trump still has on this Republican Party, which certainly should come as no surprise.

But Cheney supporters, of course, were not expecting a win, but they were expecting a much tighter margin to send a stronger message that there is a market, that there is an appetite for more pushback against election lies and misinformation. But that margin certainly is short term bad news, but the congresswoman believes that could be long term, good news. And this is why they believe that she has not compromised her principles during this campaign, she didn't equivocate like many Republicans have done throughout their primary season, so they believe she leaves more enhanced. The reality is, we won't know if that's true for months to come.

TAPPER: Overnight, Cheney's campaign filed paperwork to create a leadership political action committee, what do we know about how Cheney plans to use it?

ZELENY: Well, Jake, this is what they've been signaling for the last several days that she needs some type of a platform to launch the next chapter of her political life, if you will. And they're going to try and find Republican candidates and perhaps independents and others to endorse who do not support election denialism, who believe the truth, but there may be a limited number of candidates they can find to do that. She also can use this as a vehicle to talk about her own campaign and explore things.

But take a listen to how she framed this last night when she mentioned the name of her new Super PAC called the Great Task.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): The great and original champion of our party, Abraham Lincoln, was defeated in elections for the Senate and the House before he won the most important election of all. Lincoln ultimately prevailed, he saved our Union, and he defined our obligation as Americans for all of history, speaking at Gettysburg of the great task remaining before us.


ZELENY: So of course, that was the last line in the Gettysburg address that Abraham Lincoln use those words, the great task of facing the nation. Certainly, the congresswoman tried to draw comparisons to Abraham Lincoln, Jake, unknown if those comparisons actually apply to this modern age of Donald Trump and this Republican Party.

But one thing is clear as Liz Cheney is going to be returning to Washington to set her sights back on that January 6 committee. She's still in Congress for four more months. That is her focus now. Those hearings resume in September, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny, reporting in Jackson, Wyoming. Thanks so much. The results in Wyoming show just how difficult things have become for anyone who deviates in any way from the Trump party line in today's Republican Party. Senior Data Reporter Harry Enten is with us.

Harry, what does the data tell us about how dominant Trump remains a year and a half after the American people sent him packing?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Now, he remains hugely dominant, Jake. And I think we'll start off here and this gives you an idea. Look, these are the House GOP members who voted to impeach Donald Trump.

Look for from retired, four of them lost their primary, just two of them won their primary. So that's two and eight. That is not a particularly good record for those who, in fact, voted to impeach Donald Trump.

But it's not just about that, right? Let's take a look at some other races. These are -- this is Trump's endorsement record, his win percentage in House, gov. and Senate races were there were no incumbents running.

And look, in 2020, he won, get this, 96 percent of those races. This year, he's winning about 88 percent. His candidates are winning about 88 percent. Perhaps that's a slight, you know, little downward trend. But if you're winning 90 percent, essentially, of the racism which Donald Trump has endorsed you in, that's a very strong record for Trump.

TAPPER: Trump keeps hinting about whether or not he's going to run in 2024. It seems pretty likely that he's going to. And although we don't know when he's going to announce, how is he doing in the polls?

ENTEN: I think he's doing quite well, to be honest with you, Jake. Look, this is Donald Trump's national primary support, I basically broken it up by different time intervals. Right now, he's at about 50 percent. You go back six months, he was at 51, you go back a year 54, you go back a year and a half 53. These are very steady data points.

It clearly shows that about half or a little bit more than half of the Republican electorate is behind Donald Trump at this point. And I want to give you a little history to give you an understanding of how strong that is. So these are the highest polling non incumbents, presidential primary leaders, those are only the candidates who ran or may run in Donald Trump's case at this point in the presidential primary season. So still very early.

Look at where Trump is, he's at 50 percent, that is the third highest of any candidate in the modern primary era, it's the highest of any Republican who's ever run in the modern primary era ahead of both of the Bush's.


And here's the key nugget right at the bottom this star, all the previous highest polling candidates won their primaries. We don't know what happened with Trump, but all of them won their primaries.

TAPPER: So Trump would theoretically be running against incumbent President Joe Biden. How's Biden looking in the polls?

ENTEN: Yes, so this is rather interesting. So, we had some good news for Donald Trump, how about a little bit of good news for Joe Biden. Take a look at his approval rating, right?

If you go back three weeks ago, he's basically bottoming out at about 38 percent. Take a look two weeks ago, 39 percent. Last week, 40 percent. This week 41 percent.

It's pretty clear that Joe Biden's approval rating has, in fact, been going up. We have seen a clear upward trajectory, Jake. Now what is the reason for that? Well, to me, it's Joe Biden may in fact be getting his groove back with his base.

Look at the Ipsos/Reuters poll, and what we essentially see is four polls ago with Democrats, he was at 69 percent approval, three polls ago 70 percent, two polls ago 72 percent, and now 78 percent, so a clear upward trajectory for Biden among Democrats, and therefore, overall.

TAPPER: All right, Harry Enten, thanks so much.

ENTEN: Thank you.

TAPPER: Let's discuss with our panel. Sarah, let me start with you.

Former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh, who's emerged as a very strong critic of Donald Trump, he tweeted this morning, "Liz Cheney didn't just lose. She lost by a lot. Wasn't even close. She lost by almost 40 points. I know this is hard to accept, but I can personally attest to it, there is no never trump lane in this Republican Party.

None. Nada. Zip. Maybe in 30 years, there will be but not now," unquote. Do you agree?

SARAH LONGWELL, FOUNDER, THE REPUBLICAN ACCOUNTABILITY PROJECT: I do agree. Donald Trump's capture on the Republican Party is total. And there really is nothing for never Trumpers to do at this point because it's not just Trump anymore, right? Like we're never Trump errs, but at this point it's the whole party, right? It's Kari Lake, it's Doug Mastriano, it's Herschel Walker, it's all of these people that Donald Trump has endorsed.

So we only really have one choice. You have to defeat those anti- democratic candidates. You have to join --

TAPPER: Small D democratic, yes.

LONGWELL: Yes, that's right. Yes, that's right. Those -- they are anti-democracy, they all believe that the election was stolen, they are running on Trump's election lies, they have to be defeated. And only through sustained electoral defeat does the Republican Party have any incentive to come back from this incredibly perilous anti- democratic place (ph) it finds itself right now.

TAPPER: And Seung Min Kim, listen to what Liz Cheney, Congresswoman Cheney said last night about carrying on her fight against Donald Trump and Trumpism after her loss.


CHENEY: We must be very clear eyed about the threat we face and about what is required to defeat it. I have said since January 6 that I will do whatever it takes to ensure Donald Trump is never again anywhere near the Oval Office, and I mean it.


TAPPER: She was able to do a lot and has been able to do a lot and perhaps will continue to be able to do a lot as vice chair --


TAPPER: -- of the January 6 committee. But what happens after she leaves Congress in December, January?

KIM: Well, she'd made it clear she's certainly going to continue on. I think it's notable that while she raised a boffo amount $15 million for a House race, she hasn't actually spent all that much. And now if you're able to transfer that money into her new entity, which is called the Great Task, she emphasized those words several times last night in her concession speech, that's a lot of resources to be able to amplify her message.

And I do think that because of her history investigating Trump on the January 6 committee, until then, unless she does launch some sort of a 2024 bid, she will have some sort of a platform. I think there will be members of the public who will really want to hear from her.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: I would just -- I don't disagree. I would just say we've seen being -- having a position in elected office is a good platform on which to draw attention to oneself. She's obviously the chair of the January 6 committee, she's not going to be if Republicans take over the House in 2022.

I'm a little skeptical that cheering a pack gives you an adequate platform on which to do that, even with -- Seung Min rightly points out, even with lots of money to, you know, run ads and that sort of thing, I think she may be a little bit surprised that her profile will dip somewhat out of office. Now that doesn't mean she can't run for president, she can't have a role in the conversation, I just think when you weren't not in office, it's the fear of everyone who wants to run for president but isn't in office to do so, you have to find ways to get yourself into the new cycle. I think Liz Cheney will have to find those ways in ways that she doesn't currently have to do that to challenge.

TAPPER: Donald Trump was able to find ways to get up (ph).

CILLIZZA: Yes, yes.

TAPPER: And she is in 2015 or 2016 despite never having any -- held any office or military rank.

ALENCIA JOHNSON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, exactly. I mean, she, what, still has like $7 million that was unspent. And the January 6 committee hearings, they are pretty high profile.


And I think, you know, Liz Cheney, her father was the vice president, right, she knows how to use her position, she knows how to command media attention. She has all of this kind of interest. I wouldn't say support, but people are interested to see what Liz Cheney will say and do. So, I'm actually interested to see where she's going to stand when it comes to running in 2024.

And the Republican Party is going to have to deal with Trump, folks like DeSantis, Liz Cheney. It's going to be really interesting to see how this message will carry especially as the allegations against Donald Trump continues to be uncovered.

TAPPER: So Sarah, Harriet Hageman, the lawyer, former Ted Cruz support her, I believe, in 2016.

LONGWELL: Former anti-Trumper.

TAPPER: Former anti-Trumper who underwent a metamorphosis, Kafka (ph) metamorphosis.

LONGWELL: As many have.

TAPPER: She is now the Republican nominee for that congressional seat, which is a -- it's a Republican seat, let's be honest.

The University of Wyoming released a poll last week showing that only 16 percent of Harriet Hageman's supporters, 16 percent believe Joe Biden is a legitimate president. Obviously, whether or not one likes Joe Biden and his policies or not, he is the legitimate president as been found by courtroom after courtroom, election board after election board. This is just an insane lie that has been fed to the American people and has found home in many Republican hearts. How alarming is that to you, 16 percent of her supporters think he's legitimate.

LONGWELL: I'm surprised it's that high. I mean, you know, 70 percent of the Republican Party believes the big lie. In fact, the big lie and believing that the election was stolen and being willing to say that the election was stolen is the litmus test for most of these Republican primary candidates. It was certainly part of how Trump decided who he was going to endorse. It was the people who are going to go mat for the big lie.

And I'll just -- I think Liz Cheney is going to run and I think Liz Cheney is going to run a kamikaze campaign for the truth, like, you know, there is a long and noble tradition of people running for president to raise the salience of an issue. And her issue is democracy, the Constitution and the election not being stolen. Donald Trump is a liar. What does she want to do? It's not about putting Liz Cheney in the White House, it is about keeping Donald Trump out of the White House.

TAPPER: So Christine Todd Whitman, the former governor of New Jersey, former Bush EPA administrator was on the show earlier, and she said that she thinks Liz Cheney -- I think she said that Liz Cheney needs to run as an Independent, right?

KIM: Right.

TAPPER: Do you disagree?

LONGWELL: Absolutely not. Absolutely not.

TAPPER: So you disagree. But the idea -- well, see, I thought you were going in that direction because she could be like -- the way that Ross Perot was on trade deficits and the national deficit --


TAPPER: -- she could be the third candidate on the stage making an issue of that.

KIM: Right. Well, I feel that if we could read Liz Cheney's mind, I don't think that she is considering a presidential bid with the actual belief that she could be that person in the White House. She is very clear about what our intentions are, it is to block Donald Trump from the -- to -- going back to the Oval Office. And I think that it's a lot harder to do as an Independent because you could siphon off Democratic votes, and particularly play spoiler.

I think if she runs, I think it looks like she would run in the GOP primary to try to kind of ensure -- try to block off that link.

TAPPER: But can I just say, I mean, Chris, what are the odds -- I mean Donald Trump owns --

CILLIZZA: Yes. That's --

TAPPER: -- the Republican Party? What are the chances that people would even put her on the ballot or let -- he's not going to go to a debate with Liz Cheney.

CILLIZZA: So my issue with the kamikaze mission comparison is this. The kamikaze mission in theory is going to do damage to what it crashes into, right? That's the whole point.

TAPPER: At one self.

CILLIZZA: Right, oneself and what it crashes into. I don't see Liz Cheney crashing into Donald Trump and doing him any meaningful damage. If we could have -- if damage could have been done to Donald Trump and his assault on truth, wouldn't that have happened over the last five and a half years? Like what is Liz Cheney -- I hate to bring up the Donald Trump, I could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue line, but that goes through my head all the time these days. What more could be said by Liz Cheney about Donald Trump that would -- to have someone in the Republicans say -- Party say, wait a minute, maybe we shouldn't nominate this.

TAPPER: Sarah? Tell us, Sarah.

LONGWELL: There are swing voters at the margins. That is what this is about. It is about margins. And so, Liz Cheney is going toe to toe.

The thing about Donald Trump in these primaries, right, he made everybody look small. It's going to be hard to make Liz Cheney look small. She's on a deep moral mission for the United States of America.

And I think that when she is -- and you're right, she might not be on a debate stage, she might not like literally be able to go toe to toe to him, but I think telling the truth, and right now she's telling the truth on the January 6 Committee, which doesn't have a huge Republican audience. A Republican primary does have a big Republican audience. And so at the end of the day, if she's able to peel some of those swing voters away, many of whom voted for Joe Biden last time too, if she could increase that margin, she can keep Trump out of the White House. I think that's the goal.

TAPPER: I think the big question is whether or not she's willing to go and say that Doug Mastriano shouldn't be the governor of Pennsylvania or Kari Lake shouldn't be the governor of Arizona. Is she would like -- is she willing to say that even though she is one of the most conservative members of the House of Representatives? [17:15:12]

JOHNSON: I think so. Yes. I mean, look, Liz Cheney, when she was a member of Congress, she voted, what, Donald Trump 90 percent of the time.

TAPPER: More, I think.

JOHNSON: More than 90 percent of the time, so she actually is a very Trump, Republican. And so, she has to talk about that message and talk about the fact, to your point, that she is here to save democracy. And hopefully that will pull some fractures within the Republican Party in the primary in two years, and hopefully, they'll keep Donald Trump from getting the nomination even if she doesn't get it.

TAPPER: We shall see. Thank you one and all.

Should you get a fourth COVID shot now or wait until the fall? New information about the vaccine is about to be released that could help you decide.

Then, good news about a Little Leaguer who suffered a terrible accident in the dorms at the Little League World Series. Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our health lead, new booster shots are coming soon. The White House says a new type of COVID vaccine will be available in September and will offer more protection against the Omicron BA sub variant. CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us now.


Sanjay, what do we know about these new booster shots?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, these are what are called bivalent or combination shots, meaning that they are going to target still the original strain of the virus, but also these new variants, BA4 and BA5 in particular, which are the most commonly circulating strains currently in the country.

So this has been something that's been discussed in the past, Jake, you may remember they even talked about a bivalent booster shot for Delta in the past. The original shot was always working so well, they sort of stuck with that. Now they realize that with the current vaccines, they still work well against severe illness. But obviously, you have had a significant waning against more moderate illness and against infection. So that's what's really driving this.

It's still got to be going through the FDA authorization process, but if that all happens, as they suspect it will, we're talking about mid- September when these might be available. Moderna's version of this just got approved -- authorized, I should say in the U.K. So, you know, that gives you some indication that there's at least been some precedent for this. If it works, and again, that's got to go through the FDA process, it could be beneficial in terms of protecting against severe disease, but also cutting down on the likelihood of infection from these new variants, at least for a while. You know, we don't know how long it lasts, but that could help slow the pandemic as we go into the fall.

TAPPER: These booster shots will be free, we're told. But the White House is also saying that next year, Americans might need to start paying for COVID vaccines and paying for COVID tests. Why?

GUPTA: I think there's a few things here. First of all, I think there was some lobbying to get more money to continue this sort of federal government funding of these therapies and vaccines and other things. But as you know, Jake, some of that -- some of those negotiations have stalled. So some of this is just a funding issue.

But I think it's larger than that, I think there is an indication that the federal government through the CDC and others have sort of signaled we're sort of moving out of these emergency phase, if you will, of the pandemic and reverting things more so back to the regular medical system. So, you know, it could be covered by insurance. If you have insurance, it could be covered, you know, in other ways, but not free through the federal government anymore. At least that's what they're saying for now.

If there's a significant surge, again, things may change. But that seems to be where things are headed.

TAPPER: The CDC has been criticized a lot throughout this pandemic. The CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, announced a new plan to reform the CDC today. Can you tell us more about the plan and how the agency might be changing?

GUPTA: Well, you know, I mean, broadly speaking, I think the criticism has been the CDC has been slow, oftentimes reactive instead of proactive, sometimes too influenced by politics instead of public health. And as a result, there's been a significant erosion of trust.

I mean, if you go back to the H1N1 days, the last significant pandemic 2009, you know, faith and the trust, I should say, in the CDC was close to 80 percent. And now, it's, you know, dropped 12, 13 percentage points. Still, among the highest, I should say, the CDC is in federal government, but that's a concern when it comes to public health. And even the most current guidelines the CDC put out, there was a poll that said only 19 percent of people fully really understood that. So there's several things they're going to be doing.

They say they're going to be doing -- one is to speed up the rate at which communication really gets out there. I mean, that's been a big concern. Sometimes those recommendations made, but you didn't see the basis of those recommendations for some time. Translate science into practical easy to understand policy, by the CDC's on admission, so much of what they put out there was geared towards scientists, not towards citizens.

And you can see sort of the list goes on here in terms of their efforts. But they are planning, Jake, not just for now, but for the future, possible future public health emergencies as well.

TAPPER: All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks so much.

Former Vice President Mike Pence opens the door to testifying before the January 6 House committee but he's offering a lot of ifs as well. Trump's former National Security Adviser John Bolton will join us live to discuss that and much more coming up.



TAPPER: We are back with our politics lead, former Vice President Mike Pence saying today that he would consider testifying before the January 6 committee if he were asked. But a source close to Pence cautions that does not necessarily mean the former vice president is necessarily itching to do so because Pence has serious constitutional concerns about appearing before the committee.

Let's bring in former Trump National Security Adviser and former Ambassador to the United Nations under George W. Bush, John Bolton.

Ambassador Bolton, do you think Mike Pence would actually testify if asked to do so?

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER, TRUMP ADMINISTRATION: Well, I think it depends on the circumstances. And there are ways to do this and ways not to do it. So, I think you'd have to see what the committee has in mind if they wanted to have not testimony, not a deposition, not raising his right hand but a conversation with the vice president not in public view, that may be a different story. It really depends on whether the committee wants information or whether it wants to publicity.

TAPPER: Speaking of testifying, you tweeted about Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney's loss. You said that her last quote "diminishes the Republican Party." I want to give you an opportunity to bind to some criticism that went your way from former Nixon White House Counsel John Dean.


He said, quote, "And John had you acted," speaking to you, John Bolton, "had you acted as she did and testify to Trump's first impeachment trial, you might have swayed the Senate GOP to remove him and we'd be done with him. You'd have made yourself presidential timber like she is" and then Dean goes on to personally insult you. But moving past that an insult, if you could address the substance of his criticism, what do you think?

BOLTON: It would have made no difference. The people who led the impeachment effort committed impeachment malpractice from the beginning, they drove this thing in a way that produced an entirely predictable result. And by doing it, they made the situation worse, they made no effort, whatever, to broaden the support for the impeachment in many, many ways would take a long time to describe. They were satisfied that Trump had been impeached. Nancy Pelosi says over and over again, he will always be impeached. And they failed to take into account that he was going to be acquitted by the Senate.

So the result is they thought they surely didn't think they could remove him from office. But they thought impeachment would constrain or deter him from further objectionable conduct. But the malpractice of the impeachment effort meant that he was emboldened, empowered by the impeachment. And that kind of failure wasn't going to be alleviated by me or anybody else. It was a fundamental political flaw in the way they went about it.

TAPPER: You referred to Rudy Giuliani as a hand grenade, I believe during the whole Ukraine scandal that led to the first impeachment. He's testifying before a grand jury. He's a target of the Fulton County District Attorney's criminal probe into the scheme to overturn Georgia's electoral votes.

You've been in the Trump orbit. Do you think Giuliani would theoretically be willing to go to prison to protect Donald Trump, given the fact that he cannot be pardoned by him at least not for a while?

BOLTON: Well, I don't think he wants to go to prison. That's for sure. My guess is his attorney said after the testimony today, about six hours worth that he wasn't going to comment on it which is interesting, but I suspect it was six hours of taking the Fifth Amendment.

TAPPER: Let's turn to Iran following a string of planned or actual attacks on Americans outspoken against the government of Iran, including an assassination plot targeting you and assassination attempt on Iranian American journalist Masih Alinejad who we've had on the show, and of course, last week's horrific stabbing attack on author Salman Rushdie.

I don't know what evidence exists out there. But what are your national security instincts tell you? Are all of these Iran related threats and actual attacks in such a short period of time do you think they're related?

BOLTON: Well, I think what you can conclude from all of these and more that have not been reported and are still subject to being watched and the rest of it is that the government of Iran feels no danger from the United States. They think they can act with impunity, even as the Biden administration is on its knees, trying to get back into the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

They think they can carry out what in effect is an act of war against trying to kill citizens of the United States on American soil. I'm not sure there's precedent for this. This isn't just state sponsorship of terrorism. This is state terrorism of an unprecedented level. And I just think it's demeaning for the United States to allow this to happen and still be begging to get back into a nuclear deal the Iranians aren't going to comply with. TAPPER: Well beyond not trying to get that nuclear deal restarted. What do you think President Biden should be doing? I mean, it seems likely that the threat against the journalist directly came from Iran, the threat against you directly came from Iran. At the very least the attack on Salman Rushdie was incited by Iran, which had just reinstated and re reassessed -- not reassessed, redeclared the fatwa against Salman Rushdie just days before the attack. They're obviously doing this on purpose, as you know, what should Biden do?

BOLTON: Well, I think they've got to do more than issue statements saying that an attack on American will be met with reprisal. That's obviously insufficient deterrence. And it means waiting until somebody is dispatched.

Salman Rushdie was grievously wounded. It's a miracle he's alive. So if we have to wait until the Revolutionary Guards or their agents actually kill somebody before we do anything then I think the Iranians are going to continue to be encouraged.


I think you've got to say to the Iranians, we are walking away from the negotiations over the nuclear deal. You are a thoroughly uncivilized government. We know you're not worth your word on anything. And we're going to take steps to protect Americans and to protect the wider world against your threat, not the nuclear issue over here and the terrorism issue over there. It is the regime itself, it's a threat, and we are going to do what we need to do to protect ourselves and our allies.

TAPPER: Ambassador John Bolton, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.

BOLTON: Thanks for having me.

TAPPER: He's serving a three year prison sentence in Japan for a deadly car crash why that Navy lieutenants wife is now pushing for a meeting with President Biden she will join us next.



TAPPER: In our world lead, the Syrian government is denying that it has any information about the whereabouts of American journalist Austin Tice. Tice vanished a decade ago while reporting on the Middle East in Syria. In a statement the Syrian government said it quote denies that it has kidnapped or is hiding any American citizens.

Syria has not publicly addressed the whereabouts of Tice since 2016. The statement also comes one week after President Biden said the U.S. knows with certainty that Austin Tice is being held by the Syrian government.

Also in our world lead, the wife of a Navy lieutenant who is imprisoned in Japan held a protest outside the White House today. Lieutenant Ridge Alkonis is serving a three-year prison sentence in Japan. The sentence comes after Alkonis says he suffered acute mountain sickness and passed out at the wheel of his car. He then got in a crash that killed two people. There was no evidence of drugs or alcohol involved in the crash.

Alkonis's family paid the victim's families more than $1 million in restitution as is customary in Japan. But Japan still convicted Alkonis and sentenced him to three years in prison. The family of Lieutenant Alkonis said the goal of their protest today was to try to get the attention of President Biden. They're hoping for a meeting with him or with someone in the U.S. government to discuss their loved ones imprisonment.

And joining me now to discuss the fight to release Lieutenant Alkonis is his wife Brittany Alkonis. And Trevor Reed, a former Marine who was recently released from Russian captivity after being held there for more than three years.

Brittany, let me start with your family demonstrated outside the White House today. What are you hoping that the Biden administration can do for you and your family?

BRITTANY ALKONIS, WIFE OF LIEUTENANT RIDGE ALKONIS: Ridge is being detained in a friendly country. He's being detained by our ally. We send thousands of American service members there to defend them. And I believe that this is incredibly unjust, and that President Biden can do something to send him home.

TAPPER: And recently 20 senators sent a letter to the Prime Minister of Japan calling for him to expel your husband returned him to the United States.


TAPPER: Do you know if the senators have heard anything back?

ALKONIS: I don't know.

TAPPER: So you've said that you thought your husband got an unfair shake from the Japanese judicial system for this horrible tragic accident. Why do you think that is?

ALKONIS: Well, I'm going to answer that in two ways. So first, the reason we think it's unfair is because his Japanese attorney said that people that have been in situations like his that have made a complete settlement, 0 percent of them have gone to prison. Our settlement, well, settlements in general are very important. They're a very important part of the Japanese judicial system. The one we made was incredibly large.

Now, the reason I think it was allowed to happen is because a member of the aggrieved family is a high court prosecutor in Tokyo, and he had significant influence.

TAPPER: And Trevor, you attended the Alkonis' families protest outside of the White House today. You recently in April were released from captivity in Russia. Why are you involved in in Rich's case?

TREVOR REED, FORMER U.S. MARINE IMPRISONED IN RUSSIA: I think that, up until now, this has had relatively small coverage about Ridge's case. And I think that it's important that Americans know that you know, that we have Americans being wrongfully detained not only in hostile nations, but in nations which are considered to be our allies. And I hope that that attention will, you know, get the White House and get the DoD moving to do the right thing to get them out.

TAPPER: Yes, we know the public attention really had an impact on the Biden administration moving on the prisoner swap to get you out. Brittany, you've said that in the fall Ridge's leave runs out. What does that mean? What does that mean for your family? Have you talked to the Navy about whether or not they would extend it?

ALKONIS: So what that means for us is that pays cut off, benefits are cut off. No health care, can't attend school in Japan, and so we'll have to leave. And if we leave, that means that will go three years without seeing Ridge without, talking to Ridge. There are no phone privileges.

TAPPER: How much contact have you had with him since he's been incarcerated?

ALKONIS: I saw him for 20 minutes the day after his incarceration where he is now he's allowed to 20 minute visits per month. Other than that, we sent him some letters and his military legal adviser was able to go see him last week. He was able to confirm that he received our letter and just pass along a few things from Ridge as well.


TAPPER: And, Trevor, you're familiar, of course, with how difficult it can be for the United States to negotiate the release of citizens in foreign hands for foreign captivity. You of course, were held in Russian custody, Russia, an adversary of the United States, U.S. and Japan, are our allies, close allies. I would think this would be easier for the Biden administration to negotiate theoretically.

REED: Yes, that's my opinion as well. So I think that if you're dealing with a party like Russia, China, Iran, you know, North Korea, Syria, something like that, that it's obviously, you know, a different ballgame. But with Japan, I don't really see there being, you know, such an obstruction to bringing Ridge home. I think that may just take a phone call, you know, they're not trying to exchange anyone. They're not holding him hostage. They're trying to extort U.S. for something, all it would take was for someone here in a leadership position to call and say, you know, do the right thing, let Ridge go home.

TAPPER: Do you have any advice for Brittany?

REED: You know, I would say, be optimistic and hang in there. And, you know, to just think about what Ridge's feeling and try to, to support them in any way that you can and just know that even if you don't hear from him that he loves you. TAPPER: And lastly, CNN is an international cable news organization we're seeing all over the world. I have no idea what Rdige is doing right now, if he's in some common area, and CNN and I is on just in case that is the case or his lawyer is watching or is there anything you can talk right to the camera if you want? Is there anything you want to tell them?

ALKONIS: Unfortunately, Ridge will not see this. He is allowed out of his room three times a week to shower and that is it. But I do love him. If his military legal adviser sees this, I'll be emailing him anyway before he goes to see Ridge, but just let Ridge know that we're still fighting. But I'm so sorry I can't be there. But as soon as I feel like we've done all the work that can be done here. I'll be coming home.

TAPPER: Well, maybe he'll bring him a little video clip of it on his phone, and then he'll see it.

ALKONIS: Don't let phones in. But it's a nice thought.

TAPPER: Hopes brings eternal anyway. Yes, Brittany Alkonis we're going to keep attention on this. Trevor, it's good to see you. Congratulations on joining the Avengers so we appreciate it. Thanks so much.

Coming up, one school district is pulling dozens of books from their library shelves and putting them under review books such as the Bible and Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye but these books were just approved by the school board. So what's changed? Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead the Keller Independent School District near Fort Worth, Texas is getting national attention after the school board there ordered 41 books to be pulled off library shelves for review. Many of the books deal with LGBTQ and transgender issues.

But the list also includes the Bible and an illustrated adaptation of Anne Frank's diary. CNN's Ed Lavandera joins us now from Dallas. Ed, all of the books had previously been reviewed by a challenge committee, I guess that's what it's called, but apparently there are new members on the school board. So they're doing it all again.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. So you know, the bookbinding controversy continues, we should do a little bit of context in history here. Last year, the color school district set up a committee that would review challenges to books brought by parents or anyone who lived in the school district area, those 41 books that we talked about, were reviewed by our county about two thirds of the books were either returned to the shelves, or put in grade appropriate levels like middle school or high school depending on the book.

As you mentioned, many of the books deal with LGBTQ inclusiveness issues. And because of that, in May, three new school board members were elected to the school board. Those three members are pushed in large part for by a right wing Christian political action group. And that group just a few weeks before school has started in the first day was today has decided that it is going to re review these books. So just yesterday, principals in the district received a book that once again, all of those books need to be taken off the shelves as the District reviews those books once again.

TAPPER: And as you know, many of the books on this list deal with issues surrounding young people who are gay or transgender. Is this about inappropriate content in terms of sexual contact or sexual content? Or is this about not wanting there to be any acceptance of LGBTQ youth?

LAVANDERA: Well, we received a spreadsheet from the district, Jake, that kind of broke down the reasons why the parents gave for these challenges in those books dealing with LGBTQ issues. The sexuality was one of the predominant themes, but for example you talked about the Bible was one of the books that had been banned. They said, the parents said that it was inappropriate content, that it contains stories of violence, misogyny, and sexual misconduct and should be excluded because of that. Anne Frank's graphic diary adaptation was a challenge because of the parent believed it was content that was just too much for anyone under the age of 18 to handle.

To point out that after last year's review, both of those books were put back on the shelves. But Jake, it's also clear that liberal parents are taking exception to this. One parent complained about Donald Trump's Art of the Deal being available to students say they don't want an author who's a criminal writing books as well as the Fox News website when parents saying that websites shouldn't be available as either. Jake.


TAPPER: Ed Lavandera, thank you so much. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.


TAPPER: In our politics lead, the former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization is expected to plead guilty tomorrow in a tax fraud scheme. Allen Weisselberg faces 15 felony counts although it's not clear how many he will plead guilty to as sources one the deal is not yet finalized, but right now it appears Weisselberg would receive a five month prison sentence but only serve about 100 days. Weisselberg was facing up to 15 years in prison, a source also says that Weisselberg will now testify at trial if the case moves forward and the Trump organization does not reach a plea agreement.


You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the TikTok at Jake Tapper even tweeted show at THE LEAD CNN. We actually read them if you ever miss an episode of the show. You can listen to THE LEAD all two hours of it from whence you get your podcasts. It's just sitting there like a delicious summer watermelon. Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door into place I'd like to call "THE SITUATION ROOM". You see tomorrow.