Return to Transcripts main page

The Lead with Jake Tapper

About 60,000 Rail Workers To Strike Friday If No Deal Reached; Railroad And Union Officials Summoned To Washington For Negotiations To Prevent Strike; Interview With Former U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman; Line Stretched Nearly 3 Miles, Some Waited Days To Visit Coffin; Democrats Slam Graham's Nationwide 15-Week Abortion Ban Bill. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired September 14, 2022 - 16:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Snow White came out in the '30s, right? And now to see Hallie Bailey do this, it is remarkable. I think it is -- we can't overestimate how much it means to girls that age to see themselves in that role.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: It's so touching. And there was that one little girl who almost couldn't believe it. She went ah, ah, and looked back. That was beautiful. It hits theaters next May.

BLACKWELL: THE LEAD with Jake Tapper starts now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: A major link in the supply chain may break in less than 36 hours. THE LEAD starts right now.

The White House steps in as freight rail workers threaten to strike. The contingency plans under discussion as President Biden weighs using federal authority to intervene.

Plus, power and interference. I'll speak with the former Trump- appointed U.S. attorney who describes the Justice Department corruptly pressuring how and whether he prosecuted cases related to Trump and Trump's rivals.

And he maintained his innocence for 23 years, and now prosecutors say he deserves a new trial after the popular serial podcast raised doubts about DNA evidence in the case.


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

It could be the first in 30 years, a freight rail strike looming closer could begin as soon as Friday morning. About 60,000 workers are set to walk off the job if unions and management fail to come to an agreement in the next day and a half.

The consequences from this could be, frankly, economically devastating. Gas prices which have been drastically falling from their summer peak could once again skyrocket if trains carrying fuel stop moving.

Harvested crops could be prevented from reaching food factories, stopping staples from reaching grocery stores. Amtrak is already canceling almost all of its long-distance passenger trains starting tomorrow as most of their routes run on freight tracks, disrupting travel parts of the United States.

And even your holiday shopping could be at risk. The National Retail Federation saying that the rail strike could prevent stores from stocking up on goods ahead of the holiday rush. We're going to start our coverage today with CNN's Pete Muntean who is tracking the down to the wire negotiations between the unions and rail management companies, and the one detail that both sides cannot seem to agree upon.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is the latest effort to put the brakes on a possible rail workers strike that could deal a major blow to the economy. Wednesday, bosses representing unions and railroads met with the labor secretary in a last-ditch effort to reach a deal by midnight Thursday. That's when 60,000 workers could walk off the job in solidarity with train engineers fighting for sick time. A strike would mean freight rail, which makes up 40 percent of all freight in the U.S. would grind to a halt impacting everything from parts for cars to fertilizer for farming.

TOM WATERS, SOYBEAN FARMER: Transportation's a big part of the cost to the consumer. And I don't believe there's one person in the country that it won't affect.

MUNTEAN: Starting Thursday some railroads will stop accepting shipments of grain critical to feed livestock and potentially further driving up costs at supermarkets. Rail passengers will be impacted, too. Amtrak is canceling all of its long distance routes outside of the northeast corridor. In Chicago, nine of 11 commuter lines will stop when a strike begins.

NIGEL JOHNSON, RAIL COMMUTER: I've been commuting from the suburbs to Chicago now for over 30 years. I could never remember this happening. It could take two hours if I'm driving. On train, it's 40 minutes.

MUNTEAN: With midterm elections on the horizon, the pressure is on the Biden administration to reach a resolution. The president himself has called unions and employers, pushing them to resolve their differences. If a freight rail shutdown does happen, trucking companies say they cannot pick up the slack.

PATRICK ANDERSON, CEO, ANDERSON ECONOMIC GROUP: It starts with a very small impact, but it grows geometrically.


MUNTEAN (on camera): The impacts here far and wide, Jake. One more impact -- that water treatment facilities are warning they might not be able to get chlorine, critical to cleaning water. It is often sent by rail. The interesting byproduct here, Jake, there could be boil- water advisories nationwide if there is a freight rail shutdown -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Pete Muntean, thanks so much.

As Pete noted, railroad and union officials were summoned to Washington, D.C., today to meet with the secretary of labor, Marty Walsh. This comes as the Biden administration is working overtime to prevent a strike.

Let's bring in CNN's M.J. Lee who covers the White House for us.

M.J., this meeting still ongoing after several hours of negotiations. What do we know about where things stand right now?

M.J. LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jake, while President Biden has been spending the day here at the Detroit Auto Show, we know that the White House has been very closely monitoring these ongoing talks.


And these talks do appear to still be ongoing. We know that union and railroad officials have been meeting with Marty Walsh, the labor secretary. And that meeting has been ongoing for hours. In the last hour or so, a White House official gave me an update that those talks are still happening in good faith.

Now, the president himself in recent days has also gotten involved directly, picking up the phone and calling some party to try get them past this impasse. And the goal, of course is to avert a strike because White House officials know very well how economically damaging all of this could be.

But that having been said, we are told by a White House official that they are still working on contingency plans, including figuring out other method of potential transportation to get some of these goods moving, and also to try to figure out and isolate what kinds of commodities would be most severely hit.

So, they are planning for all possibilities but very much still hoping that something will come to a deal.

TAPPER: M.J., I don't need to tell you about this, but the railroads work under a unique labor law which allows a federal government to intervene to prevent a strike. They can impose temporary regulations while continuing negotiations with the unions.

Are you hearing any word that anyone in the government is considering this?

LEE: Yeah, you know, the short answer for now seems to be that Congress is not very interested in intervening. Just take a note of the fact that yesterday, Senator Dick Durbin told our colleague Ali Zaslav on Capitol Hill, he said, I don't think it's likely that we will intervene. What he basically said is he thinks it's up to the different parties to get to the negotiating table and figure out a deal on their own.

And also, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just today telling reporters, I'd rather see the negotiations prevail so that Congress doesn't have to act.

So, all indications right now at least for the time being is that there's little appetite on Capitol Hill for them to actually have to intervene. Again, these events are so fluid, these talks are still ongoing. We don't know exactly what's going to happen. But just important to emphasize again there's little appetite on Capitol Hill right now for lawmakers to get involved and intervene.

TAPPER: All right. M.J. Lee, thanks so much.

The U.S. rail strike could cost the country tens of millions of dollars every day. What is that going to mean for the U.S. economy?

CNN's Rahel Solomon joins us now in studio.

And, Rahel, you just spoke with the top economic analyst who said he briefed Congress today on the potential impacts. What did he have to say?

RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Mark Zandi from Moody's Analytics who told me within the hour that this would massively affect things from the Fed because think about where we're coming from, right? We had the massive supply shock from the pandemic which we are trying to get out from. We have Russia's invasion of Ukraine which has still sort of hampered supply chains. And this would be the third supply shock.

So, this would make the Fed's job, which is difficult and much harder. In terms of consumers, it would mean shortages of products perhaps, not in the near term necessarily, but as the weeks go on, that's going to be in the long term, it would mean perhaps higher inflation as supply is outstripped by demand.

Mark Zandi puts it this to me this way, look, if this goes on for two to three weeks or certainly longer, it becomes a macroeconomic issue. Then I think it starts affecting activity and manufacturing and the agriculture sector and construction, transportation, distribution more broadly. It just becomes a real mess.

And that mess and that potential impact is why you're hearing from so many stakeholders about the potential impact of this. It could have an impact to us consumers in terms of shortages of goods, grocery stores. Think about also the automotive industry. It impacts not just the finished products, the cars, but their supplies, their goods, their parts, which they've already been dealing with the supply chain issue. Part of the reason cars are so expensive right now.

It just complicates what's already a pretty complicating and troubling situation.

TAPPER: All right. Rahel Solomon, thank you so much. Appreciate it. His book led the U.S. Senate to launch an investigation. In a couple

minutes, you should hear from the former U.S. attorney who says the Justice Department interfered in his cases that involved then- President Trump. He'll join me next.

Plus, scores of people lining up for miles to see the queen's coffin as officials now estimate the crowds are unlike anything they have ever before seen.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: And we're back with our politics lead.

Justice Department prosecutors are now examining nearly every aspect of former President Trump's attempts to overturn the 2020 election, that's according to sources and new subpoenas showing the investigation includes the fraudulent electors plot, the effort to push baseless fraud claims, and how both were funded. But there are now publications at this point that this investigation is overlapping with the other federal probe into Trump's handling of classified documents.

Joining us to discuss is former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman. He's now a partner at Fried Frank, and the author of the brand new book "Holding the Line: Inside the Nation's Preeminent U.S. Attorney's Office and Its Battle with the Trump Justice Department."

Thanks so much for being here. Really appreciate it.


TAPPER: So, first of all, just so people know, you're not like a kneejerk Never Trumper. You are you a lifelong Republican. I just want to make sure people know where you're coming from. You voted for Trump in 2016, you worked on this campaign, you worked on the transition. But this book paints a pretty damning picture of what it was like to work for the Trump administration.

You have recently suggested charges against Trump and the classified documents case, how he mishandled these documents would be justified in your view. Do you think Attorney General Garland will charge the former president?

BERMAN: Well, what I -- what I -- struck me as dramatic revelation in that area was not only was Donald Trump and the people around him being investigated for the mishandling of classified documents, they were being investigated for obstruction of a subpoena requiring the production of those documents. And what I said was that is an extremely serious offense. If that offense was being investigated in the Southern District of New York, it would have our highest priority, and we would want to move very, very quickly.

And as you can see, the recent filings by the Department of Justice in that case indicate they want to move fast. And I can understand it. And I think it's justified.

TAPPER: And do you think that based on what you've seen, they intend to charge Donald Trump with something?

BERMAN: You know, when I was U.S. attorney, it always frustrated me when people from the outside would venture opinions and comments about, you know, cases where they didn't know the facts or they only had a small sliver of the facts.

And so, I don't want to speculate about that here. Just say that the charges that are being investigated are about as serious as they can be.

TAPPER: So it's not the way that you've heard some Republican senators and others describe it as just a paperwork error or storage issue?

BERMAN: Obstruction of justice is one of the most serious crimes that come before any U.S. attorney's office. And I'm sure it's being given really serious attention at the Department of Justice.

TAPPER: One of the most horrifying stories in your book comes after you had indicted two allies of President Trump for various crimes, Republican Congressman Chris Collins of New York for insider trade, and former Trump fixer Michael Cohen, who ultimately went to prison.

Your office then got a call from the main Justice Department, you're here in New York, and they told you it was time to even the score. That's what somebody told your deputy, Rob Khuzami. You detail a really corrupt administration. What do you say to somebody out there who hears about this and says, why didn't you share this information with the public before November, 2020? It's relevant to people.

BERMAN: Well, you know, there are rules, regulations, and laws prohibiting the Department of Justice employees and former employees from going public with information about the cases they're working on or conversations with employees.

So what we did is, what I did is I made sure that the Southern District of New York always acted with integrity and thoroughness, and that we were not in any way impeded in pursuing justice. Every time there was an attempt to politically interfere with our office, we pushed back and we pushed back successfully, and we held the line every time.

Now there was a point when I did go very public, and that was, you know, when Barr tried to fire me in June of 2020.

TAPPER: You forced him to fire you.

BERMAN: I did because, you know, what his plan was is to -- was to replace me with someone from the outside who he trusted. And I couldn't allow that to happen because it would have jeopardized the independence and integrity of the Southern District. And so I issued a press release to the entire country saying exactly what Barr was trying to do, showing how he had crossed the line, and using the words from the obstruction of justice statute.

And it did the trick because Barr then backed off, he allowed Audrey Strauss, person of incredible integrity, deputy U.S. attorney at that time, to succeed me as U.S. attorney. And I had complete confidence in --

TAPPER: Why not tell these stories before the election, all of them?

BERMAN: Well, I was called to testify before Congress a couple weeks after I was fired. And again, the restrictions apply to present and former employees. So I went to our ethics office, and I said what can I talk about? I want to comply with the request for my testimony. What can I talk about?

They said, well, you can't talk about any cases. You can't talk about any investigation or conversations with DOJ employees. What you can talk about is your last two days in the office and conversations with Bill Barr because they didn't involve any cases or ongoing matters.

TAPPER: So do you think Donald Trump in any of these pressure campaigns broke any laws? Campaigns against you?

BERMAN: You know, I haven't really, you know, focused on whether the criminal laws were broken. The -- the rule that was violated is a cardinal rule at the Department of Justice which is partisan political concerns are not supposed to enter into any kind of decision-making. And that rule was repeatedly violated by Barr and others at Trump's Justice Department.

TAPPER: So the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Dick Durbin, a Democrat of Illinois, he says his committee's going to investigate your allegations of political interference at the Justice Department. Would you cooperate if he called you as a witness?

BERMAN: Absolutely. I welcome the investigation. The reason I wrote the book was so people understand the full extent of the outrageous and dangerous political interference by main justice in the cases of the Southern District. The book demonstrates what Trump is capable of and likely to do again, and it provides a frontline view of just how vulnerable our justice system is.

And so I'm happy Congress is investigating. I think they're going to throw a light on this situation, as well, and with that added transparency, I'm hoping that something like this, something outrageous, what happened to the Southern District of New York, might not ever happen again.

TAPPER: And in recent weeks and months, former Attorney General Barr's become a vocal critic of Donald Trump, especially having to do with the election lies, also having to do with the classified documents in Mar-a-Lago.

In your book, you write, quote, Barr did the president's bidding no matter how he may try to deny that now.


Do you think that what Barr is doing now is an attempt at a rehabilitation of his image?

BERMAN: Well, I talk about in my book, you know, Barr after writing his book going on a book and rehabilitation tour.

And look, when you -- when you examine whether people did their jobs during the Trump administration, I think you should look as to whether they followed their oath prior to the November, 2020, election. After the election and after Trump lost. I think a lot of people re-examined what their personal interests, recalibrated their personal interests, and so after the election, Barr and others scurried off the ship. But before the election, he was doing the bidding of the president and undermined the rule of law and corrupted the Department of Justice.

TAPPER: I have so many more questions for you. So stick around. I'm going ask but the prosecution of Jeffrey Epstein and what you told his victims.

Stay with us. We'll get to that next.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: And we're back with Geoffrey Berman, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. He's out with a new book about his tenure including multiple battles with the Trump Justice Department. The book is called "Holding the Line."

Here, I'm going to show it. Buy it, read it.

I want to ask you about a case that is really important to a lot of our viewers, and that is you prosecuted Jeffrey Epstein. After his suicide, you talk about discussions with some of his victims. And you write this, quote, I made a plea to the victims. Our job is not over, there is justice to be done, and we need your help. Epstein could not have done what he did without the assistance of others.

Now, as far as I can tell, Ghislaine Maxwell is the only other person who's faced any accountability for the role in this. And I know you're not SDNY anymore. But what about all these other disgusting, wealthy men who took advantage of those girls and women that Jeffrey Epstein trafficked?

What are their names? Who are they? How come we haven't seen perp walks?

BERMAN: Well, you know, that day that you're mentioning when the victims came in, what happened was, you know, we filed what's known as a death naly (ph). When Epstein took the coward's way out and committed suicide in jail, the judge actually held a hearing for his victims and it was, you know, short notice.

And a lot of the victims couldn't have -- but we filled a courtroom of these horrible, horrible, devastating stories, of these girls, young women, now older women telling, you know, crippled by what was done to them. And it was heart-wrenching.

And you know, if all of his victims showed up, it wouldn't have filled a courtroom, it would have filled the courthouse.


BERMAN: So what he did was so horrible. And we brought the case because we wanted justice to be done for Epstein and we also wanted justice to be done for the victims.

TAPPER: Right.

BERMAN: And we felt horrible when they were denied their day in court. The hearing before the judge where they got to describe what he did to them and what Ghislaine Maxwell did to them, that was an extremely moving and important day.

TAPPER: I don't doubt that for one second, but those two were not the only people that did things to these girls and women, right? I mean, there were a whole coterie of individuals who flew to Epstein's island and all that.

BERMAN: The Southern District of New York doesn't pull punches. And I can assure you if there was chargeable case against anybody else, it would have been brought.

Now I was no longer in the office. Maxwell was indicted I think two weeks -- we were really close to indicting Maxwell when I was fired. I think two weeks later she was indicted. And I applauded, you know, watching it from home.

But that was a very important case. And of course she was convicted.

TAPPER: But you don't think that there are going to be future cases because they're not prosecutable? Isn't there video, aren't there black books, aren't there -- there's all this speculation he was blackmailing people?

BERMAN: I'm not in the office, and so I'm really not in a position to tell you. All I can tell you is I have faith in the southern district. It is populated by 220 assistant United States attorneys who are the most brilliant, dedicated public servants in the country. And if the Southern District didn't bring a case, there was no case to be brought.

TAPPER: We've seen a lot of images of Prince Andrew in recent days because of the death of his mother. You mention him because he was a known associate of Jeffrey Epstein. He publicly claimed multiple times he was cooperating with your investigation.

But you write, quote, we had a lot of questions for him, and as of the day I was fired, those questions remain unanswered.

BERMAN: Very, very frustrating. He goes on television and, you know, it was -- awful attempt to rehabilitate his, you know, his situation. So then he issues a press release saying he's going to cooperate with the investigations. And I say, great, I tell my team let's go out there, let's get his testimony, let's get him on the record.

Well, that wasn't going to happen. His lawyers gave us the runaround. We even filed an MLAT request, an official request to interview a foreign witness with the government officials in the U.K., and that got stonewalled. So --

TAPPER: You think he committed a crime?

BERMAN: You know, I -- what we wanted was the information.

TAPPER: He wouldn't give it to you even though he's out there lying saying that he was willing to?

BERMAN: He said he was willing to give it to us. He didn't give it to us. He stonewalled us. And as of the day I left, he was stonewalling.

TAPPER: So, you were fired by Bill Barr and Donald Trump publicly in June of 2020 after you refused to resign.


At the time, a couple cases were percolating that have since come forward -- the Ukrainian case with Lev Parnes and Steve Bannon, the alleged crime of fraud.

BERMAN: We build the wall, right.

TAPPER: Do you think -- do you think that those cases and you're going forward with these cases which would have embarrassed Trump is the reasons that you were fired?

BERMAN: Bill Barr no doubt believed that if he removed me and replaced me with someone from the outside who he trusted, he would remove an obstacle from Trump's re-election. And the two main cases that were percolating then were the Ukraine investigation arriving out of Lev Parnes and Igor Fruman who were associates of Rudy Giuliani.

TAPPER: For campaign finance violations, right?

BERMAN: That's right. And also, let's not forget, fraud guarantee.


BERMAN: And then the other one was the Steve Bannon "We Build the Wall" case where we charged that case, the office charged that case a couple months after I was fired. We were pretty close to it. That was a case where they were supposed to take the money and put it toward the president's premier program of building the wall, and they told the donors, well, the money won't go to the individuals. It will all go to the organization. TAPPER: And that's not what happened.

BERMAN: And Bannon was charged with funneling the money to the individuals and keeping the money, some of the money himself, hundreds of thousands of dollars.

TAPPER: And now he's charged by New York. He was pardoned by Donald Trump.

BERMAN: Outrageous pardon. Outrageous pardon because when asked to explain why the pardon, the presidential press office said that he was pardoned because he was a high-ranking Republican operative. Not the typical factors that go into a pardon or clemency.

TAPPER: All right. Geoffrey Berman, thank you so much for your time. And check out the book, it's "Holding the Line: Inside the Nation's Preeminent U.S. Attorney's Office and Its Battle with the Trump Justice Department." It just was published yesterday.

Coming up, he spent 20-plus years behind bars convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend. Now a big announcement from prosecutors after the true crimes podcast "Serial" raised serious doubt about the case.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Topping our world lead today, a spectacle for the ages. Right now, the queen is lying in state in Westminster Hall, a 900-year-old famed structure where Richard the Lionheart had his coronation feast and where the First King Charles was sentenced to be executed.

As CNN's royal correspondent Max Foster reports, some waited days and stood in a nearly three-mile-long line to pay their respects on the historic grounds.


MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Silence as Queen Elizabeth II lies in state in Westminster Hall. Mourners filing past paying respects, some overcome with emotion.

After spending a last night at Buckingham Palace, the coffin was carried in procession on a gun carriage, behind on foot, her family. King Charles III and his siblings, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward, and the Queen's grandchildren, including Prince William and Prince Harry who we last saw like this walking behind their mother's coffin as children.

On top of the casket, as the procession made its way along the mall, the priceless imperial state crown. As it moved through iconic landmarks in London, guns fired from Hyde Park, and chimes from Big Ben marking each minute. Among the first to arrive at Westminster Hall, the queen consort. The princess of Wales and the duchess of Sussex traveling by car.

Witnessing history, thousands watching as the coffin made its way down the political district in Whitehall to be passed by the family to the people. Members of the army, navy, and air force giving a guard honor to their late commander-in-chief. The procession finally arriving at the heart of parliament, the ancient Westminster Hall, for a short blessing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon you and give you peace. And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

FOSTER: Then, finally, a chance for mourners, some who'd waited overnight, a chance to have their own personal moment and bid farewell to their Queen ahead of the state funeral on Monday.


FOSTER (on camera): The king held calls today with President Biden and President Macron and will continue making calls tomorrow. I understand he's retired to his country residence, Highgrove House, tonight, where he's going to continue making those calls. A time to have some privacy I think tomorrow, Jake, and decompress what's happened over the last few days and get ready for the big state funeral on Monday.

TAPPER: Max Foster, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Now to our national lead, Baltimore prosecutors are looking to throw out the murder confession of Adnan Syed. Syed has been serving a life sentence, plus 30 years since he was convicted in the year 2000 for allegedly killing his high school ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee.

Lee was found strangled to death. Her body thrown into a shallow grave. Now, Adnan Sayed has always maintained his innocence. You might have heard about Syed's case when it was brought to national attention in 2014 on one of the first successful true crime podcasts "Serial."



NARRATOR: On paper, the case was like a Shakespearean mash-up. Young lovers from different worlds thwarting their families, secret assignations, jealousy, suspicion, and honor besmirched. The villain not a Moor exactly but a Muslim all the same.

And a final act of murderous revenge and the main stage, a regular old high school across the street from a 7-Eleven.


TAPPER: Let's bring in CNN's Alexandra Field.

Alexandra, can we expect Syed to get a new trial? ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Certainly, the question on the

mind of so many people who have followed this so closely. Look, the prosecution has filed a motion here which could lead to a new trial. It could also lead to the dismissal of charges against Syed. What the state is saying is that if motion is granted, they would like to see Syed immediately released from prison. They say this would continue to be an active case. A decision would be made pending the outcome of the investigation whether to go to a new trial or to dismiss the charges altogether.

But they are being very clear, Jake, in saying this is not an assertion of the state's belief in Syed's innocence. Instead they're saying this is an assertion of their lack of confidence in his conviction.

TAPPER: Back in march, a Baltimore judge ordered new DNA testing in this case. Did this contribute at all to prosecutors taking this very rare step of making a motion to vacate the conviction?

FIELD: Right, because for years, we've seen defense attorneys fight on behalf of Syed. This is coming from the prosecution. It follows this nearly year-long joint reinvestigation into the case between prosecutors and the defense, DNA and new ways of testing DNA playing a role here. The unreliability of cell phone data also focused on heavily in this motion.

But really the key here that prosecutors are focusing on is evidence that has developed in the intervening years and some evidence that existed already at the time of the trial, about the two alternative suspects. And the state is saying that the evidence concerning these alternative possible suspects was not properly shared at the time. They say the state files at the time of the trial included the fact that one of the suspects had said he would make her, Ms. Lee, disappear, he would kill her. The motion also lays out that one of the suspect was convicted of attacking a woman this her vehicle. Another one of the suspect was convicted of engaging in serial rape and sexual assault.

Again, some of the information at the time, some of the info developing in the past years and decades since Syed has sat behind bars. Really the state believing this is a very compelling case in order to go ahead and make this motion.

TAPPER: Yeah. A stunning development, and perhaps one on the path toward justice. Alexandra Field, thanks so much.

Next, how the White House is trying to capitalize on Republicans divided over the issue of abortion.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham's proposed abortion ban is energizing Democrats and dividing Republicans. Democratic lawmakers seem very eager to rally against Graham's proposed legislation with just 55 days to go until the November midterm elections, and sources tell CNN the vice president, Kamala Harris, is planning to make abortion access the central theme of her campaign message this fall.

Let's discuss with Margaret Hoover and John Avlon.

Thanks so much for being here. Always good to have you here.

So, Margaret, Democrats leaning hard into denouncing Graham's bill. They -- don't have to speak in hypotheticals about the Senate Republicans wanting an abortion ban.

We should just be clear also, this bill would ban abortion at 15 weeks nationally with exception for rape and incest. But it also would allow states if they have stricter bans to have stricter bans.


TAPPER: So, it's not --


TAPPER: Yeah. I mean, exactly. It's not like here's a compromise we can come around, it's compromise on one side and not for the other. But I guess my question is, is this going to work for Democrats? Is this going to work for Republicans?

HOOVER: Okay. So any time you're talking about abortion right now in this cycle, you're helping Democrats and hurting Republicans. Democrats have just won the messaging on this, and Republicans, the reason -- look, you and I, John, and you may also know this, there are two kinds of bills. There's a bill that you propose as a senator because you want it to become a law and there's a bill that you propose for a totally different reason. Maybe you're trying to position yourself for a run. You're trying to rally some messaging around.

This is a messaging bill. This has nothing to do with actually trying to pass a law. And the reason is because Republicans recognize they're losing on this and wanted to create a bill which, by the way, backfired, but Lindsey was creating a bill with the right-to-life groups and pro-life groups there in the press conference to try to talk about the only area of the abortion debate that they win which is late-term abortion.

So, if you look at when he announced this bill yesterday, it was about ending abortion on demand and ending abortion up to the moment of birth.


HOOVER: That's what they're -- they're trying -- you're laughing.

AVLON: No, no.

HOOVER: It's -- honestly, Mitch McConnell's not laughing because this did not help at all.

TAPPER: McConnell hates this. In fact, the Republican Senate candidate in Colorado Joe O'Dea said this, quote, a Republican ban is as reckless and tone deaf as is Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer's possibility to considering any compromise on late-term abortion, parental notification, or protections for religious hospitals.

AVLON: Right. Look, this is the worst messaging bill ever in terms of actually putting Republicans on the back foot and giving Democrats the gift they want.

Look, Republicans have done very well trying to portray Democrats as being maximalist on abortion and a handful worked. And that did a lot of hard work for him. But by having the Supreme Court go in and remove a constitutional right after 50 years, they have energized Democrats and not just Democrats.

You know, in the week after Roe was overturned, 70 percent of new registrations in Kansas were from women.


And you saw what happened, and the Democrats consistently outperforming expectations since then. So, all this does is hang a lantern on the Republicans' problem. It doesn't do whatever Lindsey thought it was going to do because you see the colleagues on the Republican side trying to distance themselves like he's got leprosy. So, it's not a great messenger for this.

TAPPER: Yeah, and CBS News conducted a poll of voters in Pennsylvania where two of this year's most closely watched races are for governor and for Senate. Voters asked what issues they considered very important -- the economy, of course, on top, saying 80 percent saying it was very important. Abortion was down at 56 percent, which was the lowest among issues in a majority said, we're very important but in what could be a positive sign for Democrats among the voters to say abortion is very important. Fetterman beats Oz, the Democrat beats the Republican by 40 points.

HOOVER: And when you look at the crosstabs of that poll, you see how much more motivating that issue is for Democrats than for Republicans. I mean, for Republicans, it really doesn't move the needle much at all, 80 percent said the Dobbs decision didn't impact their vote at all.

TAPPER: Right. They already were going to vote for Republicans, right.

HOOVER: Whereas the Democrats, they're completely energized.

I mean, look, the one area when you talk about that Pennsylvania Senate race, the one area where Oz help is the economy. Every other issue, Oz is trailing. In fact, even among Republicans, 64 percent have voter's remorse -- buyer's remorse that he's the nominee.

TAPPER: John, there was a really interesting exchange on Twitter believe it or not. Our friend, MSNBC host Chris Hayes, he pointed out on Twitter in his view that as long as Republicans view abortion as infanticide, which many of them do, they will continue to propose complete bans, because they think it's murder. They think it's mass murder.

And conservative writer Ben Domenech agreed. He is saying, no, we won't. No, we won't stop fighting.

And I mean, that's somebody on Twitter said put that in a Democratic campaign ad.


AVLON: Yeah, this is the problem with maximalist positions. This is an issue where 70 percent of Americans agree, right? Failed Clintonian formulation of safe, legal and rare and the Supreme Court just basically overturn that. But conservatives always said the back stop was, look, it's going to go back to the states. We're going to get rid of a terrible law that passed 50 years ago and what Lindsey Graham has done is just said, nope, that's actually not the plan at all. We want to -- we want to ban all abortion.

If you go to constitutional ban on abortion, that's like a 19 percent issue and has been for a long, long time.

TAPPER: Yeah. Even if it's a 15-week ban, I mean, yeah, 15-week ban, the point is he's talking about it and now, Oz can say, I mean, Fetterman can say to Oz, your party is talking about bans.

HOOVER: And, by the way, Oz has had to change this position on it, too.

AVLON: Of course.

HOOVER: Around the borders of rape and incest. I mean, he has been trying to navigate this because the truth is, he's not a pro-life candidate. I mean, he's never been pro-life until he was trying to run for this primary nomination and he felt he had to be.

AVLON: Who you're going to believe?

HOOVER: This is a -- this is a losing issue for Republicans and frankly, I mean, you can understand why Mitch McConnell said we just -- we want it to be back to the states. Let's stick with that as the party line, which, by the way, that was the argument for 50 years.

TAPPER: Speaking of beliefs, we should note that it was a clean sweep for people who lie about the 2020 election in New Hampshire in the Republican primary. Trump-aligned candidates Don Bolduc and Karoline Leavitt won races against more establishment Republicans.

What do you make of this? HOOVER: I mean, it's -- it is the evidence that Trump has permeated

the Republican party up and down. You have this case where the most successful Republican governors in the country from Maryland and Massachusetts, Charlie Baker and Larry Hogan, can't endorse their successor, the successor nominee because even in those states where you had a successful Republican who's not pro-Trump enough, was not big lie enough, who's --

TAPPER: I wonder what Governor Sununu who is running for reelection, who is not an election liar, I wonder what he's going to do.

AVLON: Look, I mean, this is -- the candidate who won, Bolduc, called him a communist sympathizer and said his family profited off terrorism. I don't think there is a lot of bad blood here for good reason. The problem is the fundamental catch-22 is that Republicans are realizing that they can't win a primary, close or open, unless they endorse election lies but they can't win a general election if they do. That's a problem of their own making.

TAPPER: Yeah, I guess we'll see. We don't know.

ALVON: We'll see.

TAPPER: They might win.

AVLON: In purple and swing states, that is a lot.

HOOVER: This is all lining up for a Democratic senate.

TAPPER: We'll see. Or --

AVLON: We'll see.

TAPPER: Or the end of the republic, either way.

Margaret Hoover and John Avlon, thanks so much.

A major visit today that signals just how confident Ukrainians feel now that part of their country has been recaptured from the Russians.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

This hour, it's a dangerous and deadly combination. Weak and outdated power grids trying to handle climate demands as climate change has more frequent extreme weather.

Plus, could taking a daily multi vitamin help prevent Alzheimer's? The result of a study that shocked even the scientists doing the research.

And leading this hour, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy now says more than 3,000 square miles of his country have been retaken from Russian forces since the start of this month. It's a sign the Ukraine military counteroffensive is working for now.

But after a call with Vladimir Putin, the United Nation secretary of war said a ceasefire remains out of sight.

As CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports for us now, the Ukrainian flag flies once again over de-occupied Izium and President Zelenskyy promises the country is moving forward toward complete victory.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: This is what confidence and victory looks like, delighted swagger from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, touring the liberated city of Izium. A commander in chief greeted here as another human.