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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Biden: OPEC Decision To Reduce Oil Production A "Disappointment"; Rep. Ro Khanna, (D-CA), Is Interviewed About President Biden's Trip To Saudi Arabia, Oil Production; Report: Woman Who Says Herschel Walker Paid For Abortion Is Also The Mother Of One Of His Children; U.S. Issues New Sanctions Against Iranian Officials For Government's Violent Response To Protests. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired October 06, 2022 - 17:00   ET




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Not mad, just disappointed.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is a disappointment and says that there are problems.

COLLINS (voice-over): President Biden weighing how to respond after the coalition of oil producing nations known as OPEC announced its slashing production in an effort to boost prices catching the White House by surprise.

BIDEN: There's a lot of alternatives. We haven't made up our mind yet.

COLLINS (voice-over): The oil cartels move could raise gas prices hurt Democrats in the midterm elections, increase the chances of a global recession and bolster Russia and its war against Ukraine.

JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS.: It's clear that they are definitely taking the side of Russia here because this decision benefits Mr. Putin. There's no question about that.

COLLINS (voice-over): OPEC's move undermining the crude diplomacy Biden conducted over the summer when he personally visited Saudi Arabia and fist bump the Crown Prince over the objections of human rights groups in an attempt to increase the supply of oil.

BIDEN: And I'm doing all I can to increase the supply for the United States of America which I expect to happen. The Saudi share that urgency.

COLLINS (voice-over): Despite how those production increases were only fleeting, Biden says he has no regrets about the trip.

BIDEN: No. The trip was not essentially for oil effect, the trip was about the Middle East and about Israel and rationalization of positions.


COLLINS (voice-over): The administration now contemplating next steps, including tapping into the strategic reserves again, despite saying 48 hours ago that wasn't on the table.

JEAN-PIERRE: We're not considering new releases from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve beyond the 180 million.

COLLINS (voice-over): Even before OPEC's decision, gas prices were already on their way up after a recent 99-day streak of decline. With 32 days to go before the midterm elections Republicans are putting gas prices and Biden's energy policies at the forefront.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): He's made us dependent upon Russia, Saudi Arabia, and now Venezuela. He hates American oilfield workers so much that he'll never turn to us.

COLLINS (voice-over): Members of Biden's own party are calling for a reevaluation of the U.S. Saudi relationship with Democratic Senator Chris Murphy tweeting, "I thought the whole point of selling arms to Gulf States was that when an international crisis came the Gulf could choose America over Russia and China."


COLLINS: Now, Jake, some lawmakers have called for a reduction in military sales to Saudi Arabia, removing U.S. forces from the area, maybe removing some of those missile defense systems that are there. And as you know, Saudi Arabia is the biggest customer of U.S. made military equipment. But when Brian Deese, who is President Biden's Director of the National Economic Council here at the White House was asked about these propositions from lawmakers earlier, he said he had no announcements at this time, but they would be assessing the situation and consulted closely with Congress, Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. Our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thanks so much.

Let's discuss this with Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna of California. Let's take a quick trip down memory lane if you'll allow me, Congressman. We all remember when President Biden went to Saudi Arabia despite the kingdom's rampant human rights abuses, and even fist bumps Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, despite MBS's responsibility for the very grisly death, murder of a "Washington Post" journalist. We were told the President needed to take that trip to represent and protect American interests, we don't see MBS returning the favor today. Do you think President Biden got played?

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): I was opposed to him taking the trip then and the trip was clearly a mistake. OK, I'm not just disappointed like many Americans on outrage, Jake, we have done so much for Saudi Arabia. We defended them when Saddam Hussein was going to invade in the 1990s when I was still in high school. We supply them with over 70 percent of the arms that they import, we basically make their air force functional. And for them not to ease when we have an energy crisis for them to play the United States while they are making over nearly $100 billion, they have a 73 percent margin on this, it is outrageous, it is ungrateful, and there need to be consequences.

TAPPER: So, earlier this week before OPEC plus slashed its oil production, you told CNN if they did this, it would be, quote, "beyond the pale." You said the Saudis would need to be, quote, "dealt with harshly." Here's the President yesterday, take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's your reaction to the OPEC plus decision, Mr. President?

BIDEN: Disappointment. And we're looking at what alternatives we may have. There's a lot of alternatives. We haven't made up my mind yet.


TAPPER: So it doesn't sound like you think the President is dealing harshly enough with the Saudis or as he might have put it while running for office, making the kingdom into a pariah. What do you want President Biden to do?

KHANNA: No, he's not in there. Two issues, one is that they're profiting off the American people while making record profits. And the other thing is that they murdered Khashoggi and still are conducting one of the most brutal wars in Yemen that the cruise is no longer there.

I would like President Biden to announced concrete steps. First, he could suspend the Patriot sale, $3 billion. He could suspend the air parts that we supply the Saudis. That would ground the Saudi Air Force in days. And they can't just go to Russia and China, because that would take years.


And if he takes those steps, I guarantee you, the Saudis would blink. The Saudis also know that other OPEC folks are going to supply oil. So, we have far more leverage over them than they have on us. And we need to be far more bold in the actions we take.

TAPPER: You heard Kaitlan Collins just mentioned Democratic Senator Chris Murphy's tweet which said in part, quote, "I thought the whole point of selling arms to the Gulf states, despite their human rights abuses, nonsensical Yemen war, working against U.S. interests in Libya, Sudan etc., was that when an international crisis came the Gulf could choose America over Russia and China."

You obviously called on the administration to have these weapons sales. But the Biden administration has not said that it's something that they're considering? Why aren't they even considering it do you think? KHANNA: I don't know. I agree completely with Senator Murphy. I mean, I -- if the concern is that the Saudis would further cut production, they can't cut much further than the 2 million barrels they're already cutting.

So, there really is no downside for us to be more decisive. And at some point, we have to make it clear to the Saudis they can't keep taking advantage of us. I mean, 73 percent is their margin.

Look, I understand why Russia wanted to cut. Russia doesn't have a margin, because they have $35 discount on the barrel of oil that they're selling. The Saudis are either doing Putin a favor or they're just want to make more money and -- at the expense of the American public. We need to be far more decisive.

TAPPER: Why do you think the White House isn't leading on this the way that you and Senator Murphy want them to be?

KHANNA: Well, look, I think the people in the NSA who gave the advice to the President to go to Saudi Arabia, they need to explain what they were thinking. There are some people in the NSC, not Jake Sullivan, certainly not Secretary Blinken, who my understanding was opposed to that trip, but there are certain folks who have a Saudi bias and who have been taking the Saudi side even in the Yemen war, they need to get come and give an explanation to the American public why that trip was planned, why we're not taking more decisive action.

TAPPER: The White House is considering releasing more oil from the nation's strategic reserves, which would help a little in terms of easing some looming pain at the gas pump, though not really all that much. That's not really what the stockpile is for, of course. And we should note, the reserves are at their lowest levels since the mid '80s.

KHANNA: Well, look, I support that. But if they're considering 10 million barrels and the Saudis are cutting 2 million barrels a day. So, that's not going to make up for the gap.

Now, the Republicans I think are wrong when they're saying that somehow the production is enough. I mean, we're producing almost 12 million barrels a day. That is not quite at 2019 levels, but it's higher than 2020 or 2021. So, the idea is that we are producing but what is wreaking havoc is the OPEC and the Saudi decision, and we need to stand up to them.

TAPPER: Well, we're produce -- oil companies are producing but that doesn't mean they're selling the oil to the United States. They're selling it to whoever pays them the most, right?

KHANNA: Well, and that's why I think we should consider an export ban on the gasoline other than for natural gas to European allies, which I understand now that the President is considering.

One other quick point, Jake, you know, the American Petroleum Institute is actually opposed to the NOPEC, antitrust action against the Saudis, because they are arguing they fear that if the Saudis increase their output, this is their own words, that it would hurt domestic oil producers because the price would go down. So, you know, the American Petroleum Institute isn't flying this great either.

TAPPER: Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna of California, thanks for your time. Appreciate it.

We have a lot more news to get to.

KHANNA: Thank you.

TAPPER: A newly hired Uvalde School District Police officer has been fired just hours after a CNN report undercover that she was one of the first department of public safety officers at the scene of last May school massacre but she did not go inside.

Then, President Biden announcing a major change that could erase the criminal convictions for 1000s of Americans.

Plus, the NFL due out any moment with new rules about concussions after three players in two weekends suffered serious head injuries. Stick around.



TAPPER: CNN has learned that an officer who responded to the school shooting in Uvalde has been fired from her new job. This comes after an exclusive CNN investigation revealed that the officer was not only under investigation for her inaction that day at Uvalde. She's -- she had been hired as a school cop at a different nearby elementary school after the Uvalde disaster. The fact that she had been hired to protect some of the very same kids who had survived the massacre earlier this year outraged parents of many Uvalde victims. CNN Shimon Prokupecz has been on this story for months now doing great reporting.

Shimon, tell us more about this officer.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. So she was one of the first officers on scene on the day of the shooting. You see her there actually, Jake, in that video we just played. She's standing there in the DPS uniform. There she is.

And you can see she's not wearing a tactical vest. She's outside. She doesn't have a long rifle which is required, which is protocol by the DPS in active shooter situations. And so, as a result of that when they reviewed her body camera video, when they reviewed other information, the Texas Department of Public Safety decided that she needed further investigation and they referred her to the inspector general.

And after that there comes a time where she decides that she's going to resign from the agency, from the DPS and she takes a job with the Uvalde School District as a police officer, Jake, as you mentioned, at a school where victims of the Robb Elementary are attending, where parents are victims are dropping off their other kids at the school. And it was actually a parent who noticed her at the school and told us about it.

We went to the school last week, Jake, to try and talk to Officer Elizondo, she refused to talk to us. Here's some of that exchange.



PROKUPECZ: I actually have some questions for you.

OFFICER ELIZONDO: I'm not going to answer any questions.

PROKUPECZ: Officer Elizondo, I'm doing a story about you and your time at DPS. I'd like to ask you some questions if possible.

Sir, do you know this officer who you have recently hired? Are you aware that she's under investigation for her actions on the day of the shooting? Do you think she's fit to serve you? Considering that her actions are under investigation?

Mr. Miller (ph), you don't want to respond to that?


PROKUPECZ: And Jake, that gentleman there is Mr. Miller. He's one of the administrators at the school.

For a week I've been trying to ask the school questions about this officer, what they did in order to investigate her, background check to see if she was fit to serve at this school. And what we've also uncovered is that the school was aware, the school police department was aware that she was under investigation because after the DPS referred her to this inspector general's investigation, she decided to leave the school and so she was going to have to undergo a background check. And during that time, the school police reached out to the DPS to ask for any information about her and the DPS notify the school at the end of July that she was under this investigation. But despite that, it seems that the school still hired her.

And really all this information only come into light because parents brought some of this to us. And of course, Jake, some of our sources and other information that we were able to gather. And then finally today, the school announcing that they were going to fire her.

TAPPER: It's so remarkable, this story has so many, government officials, local officials, paid by taxpayers who just refused the concept of accountability or transparency. They just refuse to answer any questions. They've been lying from the beginning. And these parents had been through unspeakable tragedies and an unforgivable aftermath. Elizondo's hiring must have been such a devastating blow.

PROKUPECZ: It really was, Jake. Now, before we aired our story last night, I thought it was important, you know, is important to reach out to the families so they weren't surprised by this.

And their reaction to me on the phone was just, they were just -- they were so upset, because it's -- for them it was sort of how much more are we supposed to take? How many more lies? How many more secrets? Where's the transparency? Where's the accountability?

And today they're getting some of that. And so they're feeling some, you know, small relief, because they've been asking these questions about these officers at the school. And so today, at least they get some relief. But as you said, Jake, there's still a lot more we don't know. And we're still digging in and we're still trying to uncover a lot of really what happened that day, Jake.

TAPPER: Shimon, as always doing great work. Shimon Prokupecz, thank you.

Thousands of Americans are about to be pardoned for their marijuana possession convictions. President Biden just announced he might try to change how marijuana, how cannabis is classified.

Criminal Justice Reform Advocate Van Jones will join us live next.



TAPPER: Our politics lead now, in a bold step towards possibly making marijuana legal at the federal level, President Biden today announced a sweeping pardon for all federal offenses of simple marijuana possession. Biden also wants to initiate the process of potentially loosening federal classification of the drug. Right now, marijuana cannabis is classified as a schedule one drug that limits research on it and puts marijuana in the same level as LSD or meth.

Let's bring in CNN' Van Jones, who is an advocate for prison reform and ending the war on drugs.

So Van, what do you think, why would President Biden decide to do this now? Do you -- to be cynical or skeptical, do you think it's about getting young people out to vote?

VAN JONES, CO-FOUNDER & PRESIDENT, REBUILD THE DREAM: Listen, maybe so, but I tell you, long time coming and it's a good thing. Sixty five hundred people right now had these charges on their record. A simple possession charge means you were smoking a joint on the Washington Mall or a national park, they're not big drug dealers, but it's on their record forever, because the federal charge never goes away. So Biden just cured that problem for a bunch of people. More importantly, he's saying, going forward, we're going to reschedule this thing.

Listen, people have been fighting for this for a long time, he promised to do it, Kamala Harris said she was going to do it 2021, Cory Booker has been fighting for this. But people on the right have also been pushing for this, Representative Nancy Mace, Tom McClintock, American for Prosperity, people on the left, like the Justice Roundtable (INAUDIBLE). In other words, both sides agree.

It makes no sense to be clogging up. The federal courts have been clogging up any court system with these little ticky-tacky nonsense marijuana offenses. I think it's a very, very good thing he did.

TAPPER: So, I want to read this tweet from Republican Senator Tom Cotton, who is a critic of criminal justice reform measures. It says, quote, "In the midst of a crime wave and on the brink of a recession, Joe Biden is giving blanket pardons to drug offenders, many of whom pled down from more serious charges. This is a desperate attempt to distract from failed leadership," unquote. He is on the Senate Judiciary Committee. What's your response?

JONES: He never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity to be happy about something good happening for people. He is just terrible on these issues, but he is by himself he's in a microscopic minority in this country. You ask most Republicans, should you be clogging up the courts with people with simple marijuana charges? The answer is no.

And by the way, you do have an opportunity now for the whole country to look at this thing. You've got 19 states right now, they've already done some level of decriminalization, plus the District of Columbia. There is no more crime or anything bad happening in those states and in any other states, but what you do have is fewer people going to jail for dumb reasons.


And so, I think, you know, is Biden delivering on some promises that he made? Maybe that excites some young people? I hope that it does. But it also, this is a first step toward governors and other people looking at this.

You know, you have people who would have a life time of pain, they can't get jobs, they can't get rent, they can't get student loans, so they got a federal drug charge for something as simple as just having marijuana with them, you know, at a national park, that's got to stop, and we got to go beyond that. But I think Biden should be applauded. It can't stop here, but governor should follow his leadership and let's get this thing off his schedule one.

To treat marijuana at that at the same level as heroin or meth or LSD is ridiculous and everybody knows it.

TAPPER: According to an ACLU study conducted between 2010 and 2018, black people are still far more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people in every state, including those states that have legalized marijuana. So what do you think this step might mean for the future of incarceration in America?

JONES: Well, I think it's a big deal because if this thing moves forward, they can schedule it differently, so we start -- stop treating it like it's hard and horrible drug, if governors follow suit. What that means is, there's less of a reason to arrest African Americans for nonsense charges. What happens is, if you're African American, you're going to have more contact with the police anyway, because police over police, black community, so you wind up getting picked up on these charges. A white kid might be smoking the same joint, a few neighborhoods over but the cops aren't in that neighborhood so they don't wind up getting arrested in the first place. They don't have a contract in the first place.

So reducing the number of charges that can come against an African American kid and neighborhood is overall really good. But listen, it's not just African Americans who think this is ridiculous, you have people on both sides of the aisle that for years have been saying, we can't keep wasting resources ruining people over something that most people in this country now accept is, look, I don't want my kids doing it, I don't do it, but if they do do it, I don't think they should be in jail would have a criminal charge and I don't think your kid should either. I think most people agree with that now, and Biden is delivering on something that I think most Americans understand.

TAPPER: All right, Van Jones, good to see you again. Thanks so much.

A lot of Republicans have Georgia on their mind. And some have advice for Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker in how to handle the newest allegations about his past. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, another bombshell rocking Republican plans to retake the Senate. Herschel Walker issuing a fresh denial after The Daily Beast reported more new details about the woman who claims the former football star paid for her to get an abortion. The Georgia Republican has been a vocal abortion opponent on the campaign trail. He says he supports a ban on the procedure with no exceptions for any reason.

After Walker denied paying for the woman's abortion, The Daily Beast says she revealed to them that she and Walker have a child together. CNN has not independently verified The Daily Beast story.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher joins us now live. And Dianne, tell us more about this latest allegation and Walker's reaction to it.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So Jake, initially to that first original report by The Daily Beast, Walker said he had no idea who the woman could be. He didn't just deny it. And of course, when The Daily Beast followed up on Wednesday, with their separate report, she said that seemed very unlikely dispensed to her because she claims that she is one of the mothers of one of Herschel Walker's sons.

Now, he had his very first open press event today here in Wadley, Georgia. Since those allegations have come out, he spoke to predominantly employees at a lumberyard. And after going through his stump speech where he mostly talked about his football career and some of his business career, some of his faith a little bit, and then a story of redemption, he's took some questions from reporters.

And look, I asked him, have you reached out to any of your four children's mothers? And this is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GALLAGHER: Have you reached out to any of the mothers of your children --


GALLAGHER: -- to ask what?

WALKER: Why do I need to?

GALLAGHER: Well, because according to the article, one, the woman who says that you paid for her to have an abortion, is also the mother of one of your children. It seems like that's an easy way --

WALKER: Because of the article, I had more kids. That's why I didn't reached out to anyone because I said no, and that's what I mean. When I said no, I said it's not correct. That's a lie. This year, the abortion thing is false. It's a lie. And that's what I said. I said, anything you have with my ex-wife or what Christian was talking about, I don't know.


GALLAGHER: Look, talking about Christian there, that is his son who after that initial Daily Beast report, went online, made several social media posts about his father, allegations about his childhood, about his father misrepresenting himself and saying, Jake, that the family did not want Herschel Walker to run. Herschel Walker, when asked about that today, simply would say that he loved his son. That's the same thing that he has said every time when asked about it since.

TAPPER: Dianne, you're talking to voters down there in Georgia. Are they bothered by the story?

GALLAGHER: You know, Jake, it was really interesting because talking to voters who were at this event for Herschel Walker, all of them sort of talked about this theme that we've seen him sort of hang his hat on in the past couple of days of redemption. I had several people repeat almost word for word, the same line for me, which is I care more about Georgia's future than I care about Herschel Walker's past.

Now I asked many of them, if you find out Herschel Walker is lying about this, will that bother you? And several people said, you know, I might be upset by it, but I probably still vote for him.


It was the allegations from his son, Christian, that actually seemed to upset people more talking about potential child abuse. When he was younger, those claims, things like that, talking about the family not wanting him to run. It was that type of allegation that seemed to upset people more. But again, Jake, no one that I spoke with said that they had any plan to not vote for him.

Because of this, I asked if there was anything -- one woman -- is there anything he could do that would stop you from voting for Herschel Walker? And she said, probably not. I'd have to think about it, but I can't think of anything.

TAPPER: Right. Of course, those are attendees of a rally for Herschel Walker, but still very interesting.


TAPPER: Dianne Gallagher, thanks so much.

Let's discuss. And Jackie, let me start with you. Your Daily Beast colleague, Roger Sollenberger, is the reporter who broke the story and he's speaking to the woman at the center of this controversy. This is what she told him about why she's speaking out, "He didn't accept responsibility for the kid we did have together, and now he isn't accepting responsibility for the one that we didn't have. That says so much about how he views the role of women in childbirth versus his own. And now he wants to take that choice away from other women and couples entirely."

Do you think this is going to have any effect on the race?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, this is a story about hypocrisy. And so, whether or not it does -- I mean, we'll have to wait and see. But it is important, no matter if it has an effect on the race, or not, that this is -- that this be made public because his actions and his public persona are not matching up. He's trying to have it both ways.

He's been saved, but he lied -- but he didn't do anything wrong. It just -- it really -- his denials don't make a lot of sense. Now, what I'm curious about is how this affects the Republican race nationally. Because if they were trying to leave the abortion issue behind and talk about the economy, and talk about potentially gas prices going up, this is front and center. Again, right it's a bait season.

TAPPER: You know, it's interesting. You remember, Congressman Murphy, I think Tim Murphy from --


TAPPER: -- the Pittsburgh area, he was also a quote unquote, pro-life Republican. And then it came out he was trying to get his, I guess, girlfriend or mistress whatever, to get an abortion. And he resigned immediately. He -- I mean, but this is where we are now. Now, I don't know if it's because it's one member of Congress versus a Senate seat in a very competitive term. But does it matter anymore to Republican voters if pro-life candidates are actually only pro-life when it comes to everybody else, but when it's their own life, you know, they're happy to have people get abortions?

BRENDAN BUCK, FORMER TOP AIDE, HOUSE SPEAKERS PAUL RYAN & JOHN BOEHNER: Sure. Times have changed. And Tim Murphy had a lot of other things going on, too. And we've actually seen some Republicans who have survived things like this. And Herschel Walker may survive this.

But to Jackie's point, it's about hypocrisy, but it also does bring this abortion issue back to the front. Republicans -- it's not surprising that Republicans are not abandoning and it's also not really important. It's the swing voters who are going to make a difference. And if this issue, if this election ends up being more about abortion than it is about the economy, then that's bad news for Republicans.

This -- not a surprise to anyone that Herschel Walker is a flawed candidate. But let's remember, he was losing before this. And the people he needs to make up votes with live in that suburban Atlanta area and this is not going to help him with those people.

TAPPER: And Doug, take a listen to Lieutenant Governor -- former -- well, I guess he is still current, Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan. He's speaking out, and he made some interesting comments about this.


LT. GOV. GEOFF DUNCAN (R-GA): Even the most staunch Republicans I think are rattled at the continued flow of information. the weight of that baggage is starting to feel a little closer to unbearable at this point. Herschel Walker won the primary because he scored a bunch of touchdowns back in the 80s. And he was Donald Trump's friend. And now we've moved forward several months on the calendar and that's no longer a recipe to win.


TAPPER: Do you think that this will turn off enough voters that Senator Raphael Warnock would win?

DOUG THORNELL, PARTNER, SKDK: I think so. Look, Herschel Walker is unfit to be in the Senate. And we've known this for a long time. Republicans have known this for a long time. McConnell's known it for a long time. He should have been disqualified when the story about him putting a gun to his wife's head came out, right?

But what this is doing is just adding to this question about, you know, his honesty, he's -- you know, he's lied about his academic record, his business record, his relationships with law enforcement, this sort of compounds this into a larger argument about him being a fraud, which I think Democrats want to prosecute against him.

And, yes, look, I agree. I think for voters in suburban district -- suburban areas around Atlanta, this is going to be a real problem. But he, I mean, he honestly really shouldn't be running in the first place. I mean, he is -- he pulled a gun on his wife.

TAPPER: Right. Although, to be fair, that, you know, the Warnock campaign is using that in an ad against him. And to be fair, that video comes from an interview that Herschel Walker did with that wife, a joint interview in which he was talking about mental illness and trying to come clean. I'm certainly not done yet.


[17:40:00] TAPPER: But the context is not just that his ex-wife, you know, went on TV and talked about, it was -- and try -- it was an attempt to have an open discussion about mental health.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, USA TODAY: So a few things, Jake, first of all, national Democrats, they haven't wanted to come near this Warnock's campaign, has also not really wanted to lean in into this particular issue also. And what I'm hearing from Democrats is they don't think that they need to. This is already playing out in the media and being talked about by both Herschel Walker's son and all of us at this roundtable. And so they don't think that they really need to go there.

And certainly, there could be this debate that we expect next week in which it could come up. What I'm hearing from Republicans, though, is that they're continuing to stand by him that NRSC isn't planning to pull money out. And both Republicans and Democrats are telling me, Jake, that if you were already not voting for Herschel Walker, you probably -- you know, if you already weren't, that this isn't going to make you want to vote for him. And if you were voting for him, those views are probably ingrained at this point, and voters probably won't back off.

TAPPER: Although, Jackie, this is interesting. Political Reporter Natalie Allison, who covers Senate campaign, she made this observation on Twitter, "The latest Herschel Walker abortion scandal is on CNN. And yes, all the D.C. folks are aware," as you were just noting. But 11 Alive in Atlanta tonight lead with crime. Don't assume voters in Georgia are aware or actively thinking about this."

And there is sometimes a big disconnect between what we in the national media sees upon and what local TV or media sees upon, like a crime wave in downtown Atlanta, for example.

KUCINICH: Well, and again, when you are -- you're seeing it several of the Senate campaigns, the Democrats really are bowing under the attacks over crime. And if that is -- that's another issue that if more voters are talking about that, going into the ballot box, that's going to be problematic. However, to Brendan and Doug's point, the suburban Atlanta voters that are watching this kind of rollout, if they're watching it, that's where it's going to be a problem.

This -- no, this isn't going to discourage any Republicans from going out and voting like perhaps they didn't in 2020. But those other voters who are, you know, still on the fence because they do exist, this is going to be a margin race, that this issue continuing to unfold --

BUCK: This is --

KUCINICH: -- the problem.

BUCK: Yes, this is not going to just slide by. I'm from Georgia, people in Georgia are talking about this. And let's remember, Georgia has not been good to Donald Trump.

KUCINICH: Yes, exactly.

BUCK: He lost a -- because of him, we lost the two Senate seats. He tried to take down Brian Kemp, the governor and lost. His -- Herschel Walker's --

TAPPER: Trying to take down Brad Raffensperger, the Secretary of State and lost.

BUCK: And lost.


BUCK: Donald -- or Herschel Walker is relying on the power of Donald Trump voters to get him over the edge or over the finish line. And Brian Kemp, the very popular governor wants nothing to do with him. Brian Kemp is probably going to win somewhat easily. And he's completely throwing him no lifeline saying I'm going to run my own race. Herschel is on his own.

THORNELL: And for these Republicans, the thing is, is like what's -- what else is out there, right? Like, this is the worst position to be in, in a campaign when you have a candidate you don't trust is telling the truth. He hasn't been forthright with anything and you're just worried about what is next. And Jackie may know, but --

KUCINICH: No, no, no.

THORNELL: -- but it's just like, what is next? You know --

TAPPER: You know another one next?

THORNELL: And it's just dripping out, drip, drip, drip.

KUCINICH: I got nothing, Jake.

THORNELL: But it's going on for date.

CHAMBERS: But going back to what you were saying about the broader control of the U.S. Senate, you know, I had one Republican in Georgia telling me that this isn't even about the individual at this point. This is about voting for a Republican, and it's about getting back control of the Senate. So that's a general sentiment that my colleagues and I are hearing here is that they just want -- that Republicans want to get back control the Senate. So that's part of the reason why.

KUCINICH: (INAUDIBLE) just about Republicans, again --

TAPPER: Yes. I don't doubt that any voter in Georgia that thinks it's important to get back the Senate for Republicans is going to vote for Herschel Walker. But there a lot of people that don't think like that right.


TAPPER: And that they might just be like, I don't like either one of these guys and that might just be no votes for that race. Anyway, thanks one and all for being here.

Fireworks inside of Wisconsin, Portland today, as the suspect in that horrible deadly Christmas parade attack represents himself.


JUDGE JENNIFER R. DOROW, WAUKESHA COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT: I'm directing the bailiffs to remove him to the other courtroom.




TAPPER: In our world lead, cracking down on Iran or on the Iranians, the U.S. is now issuing additional sanctions against Iranian officials because of the government's attempt to block Internet access and for responding with extreme violence against Iranian protesters.

Let's bring in CNN Jomana Karadsheh. And Jomana, what did these sanctions from the U.S. call for?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well as expected, Jake, these sanctions announced today by the United States are targeting seven senior Iranian officials for their role in the crackdown on these peaceful protests. Whether it is the violence that has been unleashed against the protesters or the internet shut down. Among them is the Minister of Interior Ahmad Vahidi, who, according to the United States, is the man in charge of all of the country's security forces.

And they say that these security forces have not only just played a big part in this current crackdown, but for years, these forces have been a tool of the government used to repress its own people. They say their actions have led to the death of thousands of people, including dozens of people in these ongoing protests right now. And another individual is the Minister of Communication, who they accused of basically shutting down the internet, stopping the access of millions of Iranians to the internet in the hope of slowing down the protest, Jake.

TAPPER: The Human Rights Watch organization released a new report condemning the violence. Tell us more about the HRW report.


KARADSHEH: Well, Jake, to sum it up, Human Rights Watch is accusing the Iranian security forces of utter disregard for human life. And we've heard this from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. They've been working really hard over the past nearly three weeks to try and document these abuses that have been taking place, the killings of the protesters, and they accuse the security forces of using excessive, unnecessary lethal force against the protesters.

They've spoken to eyewitnesses, to families of victims, they've collected testimony as well as going through all the video and photos that we've been getting. And they say that the security forces have basically been shooting directly and deliberately, using live ammunition as well as metal pellets at the protesters, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jomana Karadsheh, thank you so much.

To our national lead now in the trial in Wisconsin for a man accused of driving through a Christmas parade in Waukesha last year, killing six people. Last month, the suspect Darrell Brooks withdrew his plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, and the judge is now allowing him to defend himself at trial.

But before proceedings even began today, Brooks had to be removed from the courtroom for multiple outbursts. He even partially disrobed in court. CNN's Lucy Kafanov is following all of this. And Lucy, this is not the first time he is interrupted his own trial.

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, absolutely not, Jake. And watching the proceedings over the past few days has been an excruciating process for everyone involved, not the least of which the judge who's remained notably composed despite having been interrupted by Darrell Brooks, probably hundreds of times and this was before opening statements even began. Now he has been talking over the judge, repeatedly asking irrelevant questions, refusing to follow directions. Take a look.


JUDGE JENNIFER R. DOROW, WAUKESHA COUNTY CIRCUIT You have got to stop. It's fine if you object, I will rule on it as I deem appropriate under the rules of evidence, which by the way, I provided a copy for you. See that big book over there?


DOROW: It has the criminal statutes.

BROOKS: I don't see.

DOROW: It has the traffic code and has the rules of evidence. Well, it's on your table. I'm directing the bailiffs to remove him to the other courtroom.

Every day that we have been in court since Monday, he has shown a complete and utter disrespect for the simple rules of civility.


KAFANOV: Now this morning as antics erupted as the judge tried to address why Brooks had chosen to wear jail clothing instead of the suit that he had access to. And after numerous interruptions, he was again removed to a neighboring courtroom. When he appeared on video minutes later, as you just saw he was half naked.

Now, the judge also explained that he had also removed a shoe and threatened to throw it. She accused him of making a mockery of the traditional process. And this is what we've seen throughout the week, Jake. The Waukesha District Attorney accused brooks of delay tactics pointing to previously recorded phone calls between him and his mom, in which he said he intended to delay the trial for several weeks.

The DA maintain that he is intelligent, coherent and as, quote 100 percent competent to stand trial. The judge concurred opening statements just got under the way in the last hour but they were again interrupted. And if this week is any indication, Jake, this is going to be a lengthy trial. Brooks is facing life in prison if convicted of intentional homicide. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Lucy Kafanov, thank you so much.

Coming up, this series of recent concussion injuries involving players pushing the NFL to make changes. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Our sports lead, possible new protocols coming for the NFL and how the league handles players and concussions after three players suffered serious head injuries over the past two weeks. Let's bring in CNN's Coy Wire. Coy, the Thursday night game is only hours away. Do you think these changes will come before them?

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Jake, I don't see how they could come before then because you would think that these changes would have to then be moved on to the officials who are at this game monitoring for concussions. So we do know that they do need to change, right? The Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy called the system broken when regards to the protocol.

I spoke to a high-ranking NFL official, Jake, who said that he believes there needs to be a hard reset in regards to the protocol that some of the spotters, there are two spotters in the booth looking for symptoms of concussion. He thinks that they and also the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultants on the field have become a bit quote lackadaisical in regards to following concussion protocols.

And when you see Tua Tagovailoa on the ground, and you see him stumbling off the field and then find him back in the game, it's clear that something is not right. You would expect that gross motor instability will be a term that both the league and the Players Association said they were going to look at. Whereas, before it was a decision, are they OK enough to go back on the field despite showing some signs and symptoms?

Now you would think, Jake, after these changes have been made, there will be no sort of -- no doubt, no hesitation. When those signs and symptoms are seen, those players will come out of the game.

TAPPER: And you played in the league, these changes they've been a longtime coming.

WIRE: Yes, longtime coming, Jake. You know, the -- I had a time. You know, when I played my rookie year, Jake, I hit a player and I played into another entire series and did not even remember those plays until I saw it on film the next day. OK, so we know that the concussions happen, but we don't know how involved these play teams can actually, you know, if they've changed. They've changed the rules to make and they've changed the amount of times that players have padded practices during the week to try to decrease the number of impacts that players are receiving.

But it comes down -- the most important thing, Jake, is we need to protect the players from themselves because like I did not even know that I was out on my feet and I was still playing in a game and we see Tua Tagovailoa saying that it was his back that was bothering him and causing him to stumble and he still maintains that's the case. We cannot allow players to put themselves in harm's way. Hopefully these new protocols will address that specifically.

TAPPER: All right, Coy Wire, thanks so much. Good to see you again.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the TikTok at JakeTapper. You can tweet the show at TheLeadCNN. If you ever miss an episode of the show, you can listen to The Lead whence you get your podcast just sitting there like a juicy tomato.

Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in a place I like to call The Situation Room. See you tomorrow.