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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Special Master Opens Door To Witness Testimony About Mar-A-Lago Docs; Video Shows Tearful Goodbyes In Russia As Putin's Mobilization Begins; Interview With French President Emmanuel Macron; Interview With French President Emmanuel Macron; Alex Jones Takes Stand In Sandy Hook Defamation Trial; Fiona Threatens Canada. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired September 22, 2022 - 16:00   ET



PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: So, can the president really declassify documents just by thinking about it?

THE LEAD starts right now.

A defiant Donald Trump pushing back. The former president is insisting he had the power to declassify documents seized from his Mar-a-Lago home just by thinking about it. But did he?

Plus, a revolt in Russia. Long lines to leave, as Putin tries to ramp up his war in Ukraine. The Kremlin punishing protesters, forcing some to fight in the very war they want to stop.

And a crisis of democracies. A warning to the world from French President Emmanuel Macron. His exclusive U.S. interview with Jake Tapper as he also weighs in on his name being wrapped up in Trump's Mar-a-Lago case.


BROWN: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Pamela Brown, in for Jake Tapper.

And we begin with our politics lead. And just in, a special master in the Trump Mar-a-Lago documents case opens the door to hearing witness testimony.

This, coming after yet another legal defeat for former President Donald Trump. Three judges from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously reversed District Judge Aileen Cannon's decision on some of the documents recovered from Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate. That three- judge panel, one Obama and three Trump appointees ruled the Justice Department can resume its criminal probe of the classified records. A special master's review of that subset of about 100 records is now partially stopped after Judge Cannon amended her ruling today.

And just a short time ago, the special master delivered a new order to Trump's legal team to prove one notable aspect in the former president's public claims. In an interview with Fox's Sean Hannity recorded before the appeals court issued its ruling, the former president claims he declassify the documents and he suggested that he could do so telepathically.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: If you're the president of the United States, you can declassify just saying it's declassified, even by thinking about it.


BROWN: The court noted Trump hasn't presented any evidence to support that he declassified everything and said the argument is, quote, a red herring.

As CNN's Jessica Schneider reports, the opinion also notes that even if Trump did declassify the documents, they aren't his personal records.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Justice Department is once again digging into 100 classified documents that FBI agents seized from Mar-a-Lago.

GEOFFREY BERMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: I think they're going to move forward very, very quickly.

SCHNEIDER: A three-judge panel, including two Trump appointees unanimously ruling that DOJ can resume reviewing the classified material as part of its criminal probe into alleged obstruction and unlawful retention of documents, saying the hold that Lower Court Judge Aileen Cannon put in place caused a real and significant harm on the United States and the public.

The DOJ says its investigators and FBI agents need to work hand in hand with officials assessing the national security risk of those documents remaining unsecured at Mar-a-Lago.

TRUMP: It's boxes and boxes of pictures, newspaper articles.

SCHNEIDER: In an interview last night, the former president said he didn't know exactly what was in the boxes and that he had blanket authority to declassify anything.

TRUMP: If you're the president of the United States of the United States, you can declassify, just by saying it's declassified, even by thinking about it.

SCHNEIDER: But even Trump's allies on Capitol Hill questioning that logic.

SEN. MIKE ROUNDS (R-SD): Up here, we take it very seriously. People can get hurt. People can get killed if it's not stored correctly.

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): There's a process for declassifying documents.

SEN. THOM TILLIS (R-NC): There is a process that one must go through.

SCHNEIDER: The judges on the 11th Circuit also blasting Trump's unsubstantiated claims of declassification, writing: The record contains no evidence that any of these records were declassified. And before the special master, the plaintiff resisted providing any evidence that he had declassified any of these documents. The judges went on to say, that even if Trump had declassified, he still wouldn't have had claim on the documents as personal records.

PAUL CALLAN, FORMER NYC ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY: The U.S. government has every right to look at its own classified documents. Trump derived no right to do that just because he took them to Mar-a- Lago.

SCHNEIDER: The ruling also prohibits Trump's legal time and a special master from reviewing any classified documents. It was an about-face from what Judge Aileen Cannon had allowed and she was forced to amend her order. The special master will now move forward, reviewing only the 11,000 documents that aren't classified.


SCHNEIDER (on camera): And a special master has just actually issued an order telling Trump's team to back up their out of court claims that the FBI planted evidence at Mar-a-Lago, in a sworn declaration, by the end of this month.


Of course, Pam, it's an accusation that Trump and his allies sort of making repeatedly. Now, the special master wants proof. You know, it's all part of this larger order from the special master where he's even raising a possibility that at a future hearing he could call witnesses to talk about what was seized at Mar-a-Lago. So, potentially, a lot to come in the next few months.

BROWN: And, again, just to remind our viewers, this is who Trump's team had initially suggested to the judge.

All right. Jessica Schneider, thanks so much.

And now, in Russia, tear-filled goodbyes as Putin begins to send civilians to fight his bloody war in Ukraine. A child hugging her dad seen in his video from Eastern Russia posted on social media as others race to leave. All direct flights to countries that do not require Russian visas are sold out through Friday, and there are massive traffic jams that are clogging Russia's borders.

Russia's top Google search today is, quote, how to break arms at home, a move that will let a Russian man to avoid the draft. And police have arrested more than 1,300 anti-war protesters, some bloodied and directly drafted at the police station according to reports.

CNN's Kylie Atwood is at the United Nations.

So, Kylie, all eyes were on the Security Council and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. He accused Ukraine of being, quote, racist.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, a number of erroneous claims from the Russian foreign minister today. Not truly unexpected. But noteworthy, given that he was sitting in the hot seat at a U.N. Security Council meeting on Ukraine and Ukrainian sovereignty. He also spoke erroneously about neo-Nazis in Ukraine, and Ukraine being the one to clamp down on dissent in his country, of course, we know that's what happens in Russia.

Now, when it comes to his presence in that the meeting, he was only there for a few minutes. He came in before delivering his remarks and left directly after delivering those remarks. And a U.S. official said that it indicates that the foreign minister couldn't bear to sit there and listen to the repeated criticism of Russia. And that it shows further weakness of the Russians in this situation.

Now, we should note that the secretary of state took a very direct attack on President Putin, saying he is the one who chose this war and calling on the word to be critical of President Putin and saying, if the Russians were stopped -- were to stop fighting right now, this war would come to an end but if the Ukrainians stopped fighting, Ukraine would come to an end.

He said diplomacy is the only way forward. But no diplomacy that would go against the U.N. charter or that reward Russia for this invasion.

BROWN: All right. Kylie Atwood, thank you so much.

And one of the strongest rebukes of Putin this week came from French President Emmanuel Macron, who told the U.N. the war -- quote -- "paves the way for other wars of annexation in Europe or beyond."

Jake Tapper sat down with the French president for a U.S. exclusive interview.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And joining me now is the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, in a U.S. exclusive.

Thank you so much for being here. Really appreciate it.

EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT: Thank you. Very happy to be here.

TAPPER: We're happy to have you here.

So, you gave a very forceful speech at the United Nations. You said that Vladimir Putin is making a new mistake following his announcement that he's going to mobilize hundreds of thousands of new Russian troops. You said, he has made Russia more and more isolated because of his commitment to a war that you said was illegal and illegitimate.

You are perhaps the Western leader who has had more time talking with Putin one-on-one than any other. Why do you think he's doing this? And can he be talked out of it?

MACRON: Look, I -- it's hard to me to give an explanation.

I think this is not the most rational decision, for sure. When he decided to launch this war, the 24th of February, I think he made a first mistake, a huge one. And he decided to put Russia in a situation, indeed, to be the new imperial country and to launch a colonial war.

During the past few months, I have to say that all of us were very impressed by the reaction and the resistance of Ukrainian people. We helped them from a military point of view, humanitarian point of view, economic point of view, but they did resist. And I think that they did and they do much better than a lot of people thought a few months ago.

TAPPER: Mm-hmm.

MACRON: Now I think, after the counteroffensive, Vladimir Putin is much more under pressure, and after especially some clear statements made by a lot of leaders, not just Western leaders.


A few months ago, Vladimir Putin conveys a message: I was aggressed by NATO. They triggered the situation, and I just reacted.

Now it's clear for everybody that the leader who decided to go to war, the leader who decided to escalate is President Putin. And I have no rational explanation. I think this is a series of resentments. This is a strategy of hegemony in the region. And I would say this is a post COVID-19 consequence, isolation.


TAPPER: Because he's been so isolated?

MACRON: I think so. I think so.

TAPPER: Do you think the countless hours that you have spent reaching out to him, talking to him, trying to talk him out of doing this, attempting diplomacy, do you think that has been helpful or will be helpful?

MACRON: We will -- we will know that at the end of the day.

I'm sure that, during years and years, especially with Chancellor Merkel, we spent a lot of time in what we call the Normandy Format to speak with President Poroshenko going, and after was President Zelenskyy, President Putin, both of us, because we were convinced with Chancellor Merkel that spending all this time to try to implement the Minsk Agreement signed in 2014 was the best way to avoid an escalation.

I think what we got in 2019 was very positive for Ukraine and was definitely a progress towards peace. But, as I told you, post-COVID- 19, there was a totally new situation.

So, he had a window of opportunity, and he decided to completely break the linearity of the situation and go to the war. I do believe that all the discussions we had were useful.

Second, I think, in his own logic -- I'm not saying this is an explanation, or I don't give any excuse, but we have to take into consideration that there is a lot of resentment on the Russian side. He has a feeling that, post-1990s, we didn't respect him properly. I think it's not a reason to do what he did. It's part...

TAPPER: But it's his mind-set.

MACRON: It's his mind-set.

So, we have to understand that, because it's always more efficient to be respected and to try to find a way forward when you have these discussions.

Further, I think it's useful, because, for instance, thanks to this dialogue, we managed to organize this mission with the international agency to go to the nuclear plant of Zaporizhzhia, to have an independent mission. And we are, I hope, finalizing a very important agreement to protect this nuclear plant and to go towards demilitarization, but at least to be sure that there is no more weapons in this -- in this area.

I want to insist on that.

TAPPER: Mm-hmm.

MACRON: We have to avoid, obviously, Russia winning this war. We have to help Ukraine to be free and to get the full control of its territory.

But at a point of time...

TAPPER: Does that include Crimea?

MACRON: It will be Ukraine to be -- to decide that.

The Ukrainians and the Russians will have to go at the negotiation -- at the table to negotiate.


MACRON: It will be the end of this stuff.

TAPPER: President Biden said at the U.N. that Russia isn't just attacking Ukraine. Russia is attacking the United Nations Charter.


TAPPER: Because you have here in the United Nations Security Council a country, Russia, that has committed human rights abuses and potential war crimes, invaded a sovereign nation, and on and on.

Is Russia proving that the U.N. is not worth the building it's in, because the U.N. can't stop this?

MACRON: No, I don't think so, because nobody proposed an alternative order or more efficient one.

I think I...

TAPPER: You can understand why people are skeptical of the U.N., though, when you have the -- Russia on the Security Council?

MACRON: But, for sure, this is true. But this is how our world functions.

I mean, we are in favor of a reform of the Security Council, to especially have a better representativity of the African continent and then some emerging countries.

But I do believe that our responsibility is to make this international order functioning, but we have to preserve our values and the charter. Everybody's at stake, because we are speaking about respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity.

And it's exactly why we built this charter post-World War II and after the colonization era. And I think defending these principles is not just defending Ukraine. It's defending all the countries and the possibility of peace in this world.


During the past few months, you had a Russian narrative, and they wanted to create a situation, the West versus the rest. This is a big danger. This divide is a big danger.

TAPPER: You have said that China and India and some other countries are siding with this Russian imperialism through their complicity, by not standing against Russia's aggression of Ukraine.

And are you seeing any indication that China, India, some of these countries in the African world, some of these countries in the Middle East are seeing your argument, are hearing President Biden's argument that the world has to align with democracy and republics and against authoritarian governments?

MACRON: I think...

TAPPER: Is there any hope?

MACRON: I do believe we have -- there is hope.

I think we have to be very respectful. I think we have to avoid lecturing people and saying we -- we are on the good side of the story. I think, if we have a lot of respect, we try to understand where they stand, what they do believe in, and what their feelings are, we can convince them.

These guys are different from us, but all together, being respectful, we can work, because what is at stake is global order, peace, climate change, food security. All these things could be fixed if we have cooperation between the U.S., Europe, China, India, Asia and Pacific, Africa and Latin. TAPPER: So, your ally, the United States ally Germany has been criticized a lot because of its dependence on fuel from Russia.

People have said Germany is helping to fund the war. Now, Germany just announced it's going to nationalize a gas importer. Is this enough? Do they need to do more?

MACRON: I mean, it's very unfair to blame somebody, because all the industrial model was not adapted to one -- nobody predicted a few months ago.

And I think everything now, the way to function was based, let's be -- listen together. On the fact that trade cooperations, integrations of value chains was probably the best way to prevent any conflict, it was, I mean, the main rationale of the past decade.

It's true. What Europe is -- has to adapt to is that we were based on a model, and Germany more than France, because we have nuclear power, but we are in perfect solidarity. We have to shift from a model where we thought cooperating with everybody was the best way to prevent war to a world where you have to build more autonomy and independence on some issues.


MACRON: So, this is why I'm a strong believer of this European sovereignty.

In technology, in energy, for digital space, and secure element like chips, and for our defense, we can have cooperations. We have allies.

TAPPER: But you need independence on energy?

MACRON: We have to be much more independent at the continental level.


BROWN: Illuminating interview.

Up next: the rise of nationalism and extremism, and it's not only in the U.S. President Macron's take on what's fueling this trend and why it's so dangerous.



BROWN: And we are back with more of Jake's interview with Emmanuel Macron.

The French president weighed in on the delicate diplomacy involving Iran, as well as about whether democracy is in peril here in the U.S. and around the world.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TAPPER: President Biden reiterated in his U.N. speech that the U.S. is not going to allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, to weaponize its nuclear program.

You met with the president of Iran. Based on your conversation, where do you think Iran is on revitalizing any sort of nuclear deal, so that they would be prevented from weaponizing their nuclear program?

MACRON: We have two steps. The first one is getting access to enriched uranium with different thresholds and how to prevent that.

It's exactly the core of the JCPOA deal pushed by the U.S. administration in 2015, left by the U.S. administration, another one, in 2018, and that European and the American wants to resume. I think a deal is feasible.

But we know that we have to finalize this deal, and we have now to be clear that this is the final-final offer. What we made clear to President Raisi is the fact that we have this deal, we have some past guarantees and some existing technical points identified by the international agency. They have to be fixed from a technical point of view, without any political interference, and that it's not part of this agreement.

Now we know it's a very important topic for the U.S. domestically. We know it's a very important topic for the security of the whole region, Israel, and neighboring countries. And I do believe that, for Iran, it could be a reasonable and a positive deal if they accept precisely to progressively normalize the situation.

I'm not their ambassador. I cannot speak on behalf of them.

TAPPER: Right.

MACRON: But I think they have an increasing pressure at home.

I think they have now a geopolitical context, which is the one we're describing that we are discussing about. So, I think having a deal could be a good option. So, if we convey a clear message that, I mean, the deal is on the table to be taken or abandoned, it's good.


Weaponization of this nuclear capacity is a second step. And I think this is something we have to work on with the whole region. And I want to insist on the fact that, for me, the security of the region is our top priority. We have to avoid weaponization of nuclear. We have to discuss about ballistic activities. We have to discuss about regional interferences of Iran.

And we have to involve in this work all the countries of the region.

TAPPER: So, I want to ask you about this trend of nationalism, populism and racism that we're seeing all over the world gaining power, a party founded by ultranationalist extremists and neo-Nazis gaining popularity in Sweden. Italy has elections on Sunday. A party there founded from the country's neo-fascist movement is leading in the polls right now. We have seen, obviously, some of these elements in France. We see, obviously, some of these elements in the United States.

How worried are you about this spreading throughout Europe, spreading throughout the world?

MACRON: I think we have a big crisis of democracies, of what I would call liberal democracies. Let's be clear about that.

Why? First, because being open societies and open and very cooperative democracies put pressure on your people. It could destabilize them. And this is why we always have to articulate the respect of people's willingness, middle classes' references, and all the progress made by all democracies welcoming different cultures, being open and cooperative.

This is a question -- a matter of balance. And it's clear that, during the past few years, we had an increasing pressure in our societies. And we are at a point where, in our different countries, there is a -- what I would call the crisis -- a crisis of middle classes. They consider it a little bit fractionalized, weakened by, I mean, all this destabilization.

Second, I think social networks, social platforms are playing a very important role. And what is at stake in our democracies...

TAPPER: In a negative -- they're negative?

MACRON: I mean, for the best and for the worst.


MACRON: It's -- at the very beginning, it's the best way to cooperate.

During the pandemic, thanks to social networks and cooperation, we were in full transparency. We exchanged a lot of information and data. We -- I think we accelerated the way to adapt.

TAPPER: It's also a good way to accelerate lies, accelerate racism.

MACRON: But, on the other side...

TAPPER: Right.

MACRON: ... it's clear that this is a Pandora box for fake news, for, clearly, this new way to -- and this new relativism, which is absolutely -- which is a killer for our democracies, because it's completely breaking the relationship to truth and to science and the basis of our own democracies.

So I think this is a second phenomenon. And third, I think we have a big challenge in terms of efficiency. We have to deliver.


MACRON: And, for a lot of people, they will not go to the extreme.

Some -- a lot of them are not racist people. It's not xenophobia and this type of fundamental -- that you say, they didn't deliver and we didn't try these guys.

TAPPER: Right.

MACRON: And they go to try them.

And because of the lack of references, because they underestimate the fact that it's a complete -- it's out of the spectrum of what is political differences, just people going against our principles. But it's just we didn't try them.

TAPPER: They wanted to try something new.

MACRON: So this is the addition of all these phenomena, but it's clear.

And I want to be insistent, then, because I think it's at stake in your democracy. It's at stake in our democracy. And it's one of the big challenge of the coming years.

TAPPER: Do you worry about our democracy?

MACRON: I worry about all of us.

I hate lecturing people and saying, I'm worried for you. I do worry...


TAPPER: You're worried about yours as well.

MACRON: And that's -- it's sufficient for me.

But I do believe that what is at stake is what we built in the 18th century. And France played -- I mean, had a very important role at that time with the Enlightenment.

TAPPER: Yes. I have read some history books. I know, yes.

MACRON: And I know. Sorry. It's because -- just because, I mean, I want to share. And I'm very proud.

TAPPER: Sure. You're...

MACRON: I'm a French guy.

TAPPER: You're our oldest ally.

MACRON: So, let me advocate the fact...

TAPPER: You're our oldest ally, of course.

MACRON: Let me advocate the fact that we created and invented some stuff.

But I want to insist on the fact that this idea of democracy was built on liberal values. The individual is highest than everything else and freedom and rational individual, a rule of law, and a system of elected people, and prosperity for middle classes, and the fact that each generation will live better than the previous one.


MACRON: And this is a sort of balance and an interpolation between these different pillars.

When one of them is at stake -- and we have a big issue during the past few years, not to say decades, about prosperity for middle classes -- we have some people challenging the fact that the individual, the rational individual, is the most important thing, and we have a crisis in the functioning of our democracy and the ability to deliver.

TAPPER: So, because they're all together, all connected, they could all fall down at once.

MACRON: So, we have to reinvent something, probably.


BROWN: Up next: another world leader who's not sold on Macron as the president of France. We're going to get his reaction.

Plus, what Macron has to say about his name being wrapped up in the documents seized at Mar-a-Lago.



BROWN: And we are back with Jake Tapper's exclusive U.S. interview with French President Emmanuel Macron.

He reacts to a not-so-glowing review from a fellow leader, plus what he thinks about reportedly being linked to those classified Mar-a-Lago documents.


TAPPER: I do want to ask you about this odd exchange with the new prime minister of the United Kingdom, Liz Truss, that she had right before she took office, before she met with you.

Just take a look.


QUESTION: President Macron, friend or foe?



TRUSS: If I -- if I become -- if I become prime minister, I will judge him on deeds, not words.


TAPPER: The jury's out on whether or not you're a friend or foe.

So, you have met with Prime Minister Truss. What do you make of that? And what did you make of your meeting with her?

MACRON: I mean, it's Prime Minister Truss' concern to give you the answer of the jury.

I have always been clear about the fact that, for us, there is no question. Brexit, not Brexit, we are allies. There is no doubt we're friends. We do share the same values. We fought together for liberty and freedom. And British people came to France for our independence.

TAPPER: So the jury's not out for you?

MACRON: Never, ever.

TAPPER: Last...

MACRON: No, no, no discussion.

And I think we -- we have such a complicated world. If we start raising doubts about these fundamentals, I think we lose a lot of time, energy and create a lot of frustrations.

TAPPER: Lastly, I want to ask you.

Former President Trump, there was an FBI raid on his Mar-a-Lago estate. I'm sure you have read about it. Reports are that some of the material, some of the classified material that the FBI found, was about you.

I'm wondering if anybody has briefed you on this and if you have any idea what that information is.

MACRON: I read some newspaper about that, like you read the books.

If you have more information, I will be delighted to share them.

TAPPER: But you don't -- you don't know what it is? Nobody's talked to you about it?

MACRON: I'm not part of the FBI. I'm not one of the -- President Trump's lawyers. I have no information about that.

I will not say it's extremely pleasant to -- I mean, to see this type of information. I try to be a less paranoiac each day. So, I mean, I'm cool. I'm here.


MACRON: And I would be delighted to have more information, but it's not in my -- it's not on my side.

TAPPER: All right.

President Macron. Thank you very much. Merci beaucoup. Really appreciate your time.

MACRON: No, thank you very much. I do appreciate it.

And I hope to follow up.


BROWN: We look forward to that.

All right. And up next, a screaming match as Alex Jones took the stand, a contentious day in court for the conspiracy theorist who for years called the murders of more than 20 children and teachers a hoax.



BROWN: Topping our national lead, Alex Jones, the one who once called the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting staged, nearly got into a screaming match on the stand for the defamation trial against him. The case will ultimately determine how much he has to pay Sandy Hook families after he prompted off the lie that the 2012 mass shooting was a hoax.

CNN's Brynn Gingras is following the trial for us.

So, Brynn, was the judge able to bring order to the courtroom? What happened?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean, Pam, it was almost hard to understand what was accomplished in court because as you said, there was a screaming match that was going on between the objections, the sidebars, the plaintiffs attorney yelling, the defense attorney yelling, Alex Jones yelling, at one point, the judge had to turn to Alex Jones and said to him, this is not a press conference, this is not your show, you need to respect the rules of the courtroom. That was what was happening.

I want to bring to your attention though, this moment where the plaintiffs attorney showed a video of Rob Parker who lost his daughter in Sandy Hook, and talked about how this guy's real. These families are real. They are sitting in this courtroom. And this was a fire exchange, take a listen.


PLAINTIFFS' ATTORNEY: You have families in this courtroom here that lost children, sisters, wives, moms --

ALEX JONES, HOST, INFOWARS: Is this the struggle session? Are we in China? I already said I am sorry 100 times and I'm done saying I'm sorry. I didn't (INAUDIBLE) like this. I was the first person to say it.

America (ph) may be to the blame for this as the left did so we rejected it mainly and said it must be true. But I legitimately thought it might be staged. I stand by that and I don't apologize for that.

PLAINTIFFS' ATTORNEY: And don't apologize, Mr. Jones. Please don't apologize.

JONES: I've apologized to the parents. I don't apologize to you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Objection, objection. Objection, guys. Objection. Argumentative.

JONES: I don't apologize to you.

JUDGE: Well, it's hard for too get a word in edgewise.


GINGRAS: I mean, that was the frustration that was being felt by the judge. But she has made it clear that there are no incendiary comments allowed in her courtroom, and he is going to be back on the stand tomorrow, Pam.

BROWN: And Jones also testified that he called the judge a tyrant, right? Explain what happened.

GINGRAS: Yeah. So, this happened earlier in the day. Essentially, the plaintiffs attorney bringing up for teachers the fact that his website, Infowars, is still spreading lies even as this trial is going on, even mocking that judge, calling her a tyrant, showing an actual picture of the website with her having laser eyes, again, all happening in front of these jurors.


It's just been an interesting trial, and, of course, there is so much order that needs to be brought by this judge, and you have to again, keep in mind this is happening while the families of these people who have lost loved ones are sitting there at times crying, having to relive this nearly a decade later, and again they have to do this again tomorrow when he is going to be cross examined and maybe then redirected again tomorrow, Pam.

BROWN: Brynn Gingras, thank you.

And up next, a potential change in tide for one of the most powerful forces in conservative media, the Murdoch family empire.

We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: In our pop lead, Rupert Murdoch has built one of the largest media empires in history over the last several decades.


And now, the new CNN original series, "The Murdochs: Empire of Influence", reveals through exclusive reporting how one family's ambitions are shaping business, media, and politics around the globe.

CNN's Athena Jones has more.





ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rupert Murdoch, patriarchy of arguably the most influential media company of the world, a billionaire businessman who has already transformed America's political and media landscape, and who could shape the next presidential election.

JIM RUTENBERG, WRITER AT LARGE, THE NEW YORK TIMES: They really had not been this kind of media political power in American history.

JONES: Over seven decades, the News Corporation chairman built an empire, amassing unrivaled power on three continents. Supporting conservative politicians and policies from Margaret Thatcher --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His newspapers have backed him, and she in turn backed him.

JONES: And Ronald Reagan, to Boris Johnson, and Brexit.

Trough properties like "The Wall Street Journal", "The New York Post", and particularly Fox News, the media titan plays a major role in Republican politics.

RUTENBERG: We used to talk about the Republican National Committee. Now, we talk about Fox News.

JONES: But as potential GOP contenders eye the White House, how will Murdoch and his holdings approach 2024? Especially former President Donald Trump?

"The Journal" and "Post" editorial pages provide some clues.

KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: A lot of the former president's problems are of his own creation.

JONES: And on Fox -- RUTENBERG: When Rupert Murdoch got on board with Trump, we saw a

diminishment of critical voices in its commentator ranks, in its analyst ranks. Now, we are seeing commentators, and even some hosts who have been very critical of Trump.

JONES: Murdoch has criticized Trump's hyper focus on the 2020 election, saying conservatives must play a forceful role in political debate.

RUPERT MURDOCH, EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN, NEWS CORP: But that will not happen if President Trump stays focused on the past.

JONES: He was not an early supporter of Trump, eventually coming around as Trump's popularity with Fox viewers grew.

MURDOCH: My friend, Donald J. Trump.

JONES: Fox's fawning, uncritical coverage helped the real estate mogul build a large and loyal following that has dominated the GOP.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Hannity, come on up, Sean Hannity.

JONES: That support on full display in 2018, when one of the networks' most prominent hosts joined a campaign rally with Trump. Fox later calling his appearance, a distraction. This time around --

RUTENBERG: Rupert Murdoch is moving back to where he was, or has moved back towards where he was in 2016 where Trump will get no free ride, and his son, Lachlan, is right there with his father. They are going to make it hard on him.

JONESD: And it is the next in line, Murdoch's elder son, now chairman of the News Corp who many will be watching.

RUTENBERG: 2024 will be the first full open Republican election where Lachlan Murdoch is as important, if not more important than his father. He is not a Trump lover, so he could be the real it factor in how this plays out during the primaries.

JONES: Athena Jones, CNN, New York.


BROWN: And our thanks to Athena. And be sure to tune in, the all new CNN original series, "The Murdochs: Empire of Influence:" premiers Sunday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, with back-to-back episodes only on CNN.

And ahead, the updated track for Hurricane Fiona, and a new storm system that could spell trouble for the Gulf Coast.



BROWN: Right now, a hurricane, a tropical storm, and three other systems spell trouble in the Atlantic. Let's get right to meteorologist Tom Sater and the CNN Weather Center.

So, Tom, let's start with Hurricane Fiona, it could be one of the most powerful storms ever to hit Canada, right?

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Oh, most likely. In fact, the lowest pressure they have ever had in Canada, we've measured in millibars, is 940. This is going to be about 9:25, 9:35, it is equivalent to a category four.

Now, it is not going to be a hurricane when it makes landfall, but Superstorm Sandy wasn't either. This is going to be their Superstorm Sandy. Thank goodness it is well west of Bermuda. Conditions are deteriorating there. They are into the wind, there into the rainfall, but it stays to the east. It is a category three and then it piles up in Atlantic Canada.

More in that in a minute, we've got our own problems here, dangerous rip currents and high seas. Already, we are seeing wave heights up to 50 feet. And they are going to get higher when it passes by Bermuda. So that's their biggest issue.

But watch how these wave heights continue to slam into Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland, 29, 39 feet, this is amazing! This is why this is unprecedented to them. And when you look at the warnings in place for good reason, when it gets into the Gulf of St. Lawrence we are going to be looking at tremendous storm surge. We are going to have winds of 400 mile swath of tropical storm force winds.

Tens and tens of thousands of trees will be down, we are going to lose power to hundreds of thousands, just a tremendous storm, not good as it moves and this weekend.

BROWN: And another tropical storm is taking shape as well, right? That could be a problem for the Gulf Coast.

SATER: Yeah, it really could. This is the one we are concerned about. It is not even named yet, it is off the coast of South America, this is the acorn that could become the oak tree and the first hurricane to really affect mainline U.S.

The model has taken a couple different areas, it will come up through Cuba, Western Cuba, it will go toward Yucatan, this is Monday. One of the models, European, wants to bring it right into southern Florida while the others bring it up more towards the panhandle. So the two models, very close agreement on Monday, it is not named yet. Its name will be Hermine. That is something to watch in the next couple of days, and probably will be named soon.

BROWN: All right. Tom Sater, thanks so much. And you can follow me on Twitter @pamelabrowncnn, or tweet the show @theleadcnn. And if you ever miss an episode of the show, you can listen to THE LEAD wherever you get your podcasts.

Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM".