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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Republican Leadership In Both House Getting Backlash For GOP Poor Performance In The Midterms; Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) Is Interviewed About The Midterm Election Results; Blame Game In The GOP After Midterm Results; Trump Lawyers Claim He Gets To Decide If WH Docs Were Personal Docs; Giuliani Will Not Face Charges In Ukraine Foreign Lobbying Case; Some Liberated Kherson Residents Desperate For Food, Water, Shelter; Biden: Liberation Of Kherson A "Significant Victory For Ukraine"; CIA Director Meets With Russian Counterpart In Turkey; Iranian Court Issues First Death Sentence Linked To Protests; Jeff Bezos Says He'll Give Most Of His Money Away Before He Dies. Aired 5- 6p ET

Aired November 14, 2022 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy and Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell are facing backlash from the far-right wing of their party. Let's go to CNN's Melanie Zanona on Capitol Hill. And Melanie, Kevin McCarthy has an influential Republican making some calls on his behalf in his battle for the speaker's gavel. Tell us about that.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yeah, that's exactly right. Kevin McCarthy is getting some key backup from former President Donald Trump. Sources tell me and my colleague, Gabby Orr, that Donald Trump has been calling people encouraging them to support McCarthy for speaker. He essentially wants to protect McCarthy from any blame for the poor midterm performance because he needs McCarthy if he's going to run for president in 2024.

And it does seem that some allies of Trump have gotten the message. Marjorie Taylor Greene once a McCarthy critic, now saying that she thinks it's a bad idea for someone to challenge McCarthy and that they need to unite behind McCarthy. But not everyone in the party feels the same way. Take a listen to what Congressman Matt Gaetz said on a podcast earlier today.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Right now, there are a lot of the establishment Republicans in denial, believing that Kevin McCarthy can somehow still become speaker. What I'm here is tell you is there are definitely at least five people, actually a lot more than that, who would rather be waterboarded by Liz Cheney than vote for Kevin McCarthy for Speaker of the House, and I'm one of them.


ZANONA: Now, the only reason why these fringe voices matter is because of the math. If Republicans do end up winning the majority, it is going to likely be by a razor thin margin and so McCarthy can only afford to lose maybe a handful of Republicans. And so far, I'm told there are enough Republicans who are threatening to vote against him unless they give in -- unless he gives in to their demands.

But right now, McCarthy is behind closed doors at a (inaudible) forum making his pitch to members, saying we need to unite and making his pitch for why he should be the next speaker.

TAPPER: And meanwhile, Melanie, in the Senate, Senate Republicans have called for leadership elections to be postponed. Explain that.

ZANONA: Yeah, so Mitch McConnell is facing a small but growing group of Republicans who are calling to delay the internal leadership elections which are set for Wednesday. McConnell is plowing through at this point. They are proceeding as planned and he also told reporters today that of course, he has the vote to become speaker. He only needs a (inaudible) of majority in that case.

But it is rare to see this level of anger from within the ranks directed at McConnell, and the reason is that Republicans are confused and frustrated and angry right now about why a red wave never materialized and we are expecting the blame game to continue to heat up this week, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Melanie Zanona on Capitol Hill for us. Thanks so much.

Bipartisanship in an increasingly foreign concept in Washington -- is an increasingly foreign concept to Washington, but not for Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker. For nearly eight years, Baker has been one of the most popular governors in the United States, which is especially noteworthy given the fact that he's a Republican in a deep blue state, Massachusetts. So, does Baker have answers for what Republicans should be doing differently? Here is part two of my exclusive interview.


TAPPER: You in many ways have been the anti-Trump Republican, although you haven't really built yourself aside and you've pretty much kept your power dry when it comes to criticizing him the way that for instance Larry Hogan has done or Liz Cheney has done. Why? Why haven't you been more outspoken against him even as so much of what you've done in here Massachusetts has been the embodiment of everything he's not, in a good way for you?

CHARKIE BAKER, GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS: Well, I didn't vote for him either time and made pretty clear why. I also made very clear where I was coming from on the election results in 2020 and have continued to state my case on that one. And I think one of the messages from the election is for Republicans generally, is we need as a party to move past President Trump and to move on to an agenda that represents the voices of all those in the party and the people of the country.

Because that's clearly one of the messages that was sent to us by battleground state voters and independents in particular, that they don't want to play this game through the voice of one person or one personality and they want us, if we want to win races and to govern, to completely change the way we think about how we do this.


But I would not argue that I've been shy about my point of view on this stuff. I've just chosen to make the way I govern and the way we get things done a statement about how I think this should work. And I, you know, that's been the way I've handled almost everything.

TAPPER: You're the most popular governor in the country, but you're a member of a party that doesn't nominate moderates or, I don't know how you would describe yourself. But why is the party not running to you and saying, Governor Baker, run for president so that we can bring back the White House into the Republican column?

BAKER: Well, first of all, I'm a northeast Republican, which looks and acts a little different than most of -- many of the Republicans around the country, but that would be true. You could say the same thing about Democrats depending upon which part of the country you're talking about. It's a 50-state country and that's part of what makes it beautiful and gorgeous and also what creates a lot of our -- a lot of the noise that goes on at the national level.

But what I would say is that when I think about the future, first thing I think is that there's a ton of people who will prognosticate about the future and most of them will be wrong and everybody will forget that they were wrong, which is one of the reasons why I don't do it very much.

What I do believe is that for our party to be successful going forward, especially given the results of Tuesday, and especially given the reasons why some people voted the way they voted, I think it's going to be really important for us to broaden our horizons and get beyond what I would call the core of the party and to start talking to a lot of those independents of which we have more every day, who are willing to hear us out.

And as you said earlier, our discerning voters who make their decisions based on the people, the issues and the context in that moment, and those are going to be the people who determine who win elections going forward.

TAPPER: Yeah, but do you think Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise, Elise Stefanik, Ronna McDaniel, Ronna Romney McDaniel, do you think any of them agree with what you said?

BAKER: Well, I think the voters of the United States agree with what I said and it's a pretty powerful force.

TAPPER: Thanks so much for your time today.

BAKER: It's good to see you.

TAPPER: Really appreciate it. (END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Tomorrow, tune in for more of my exclusive interview with Governor Charlie Baker including what he says are the lessons he has learned while in office, as well as his biggest failures.

Joining us now to talk about the election results, Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna of California. He serves as deputy whip for the Congressional Progressive Caucus. And Congressman, congratulations on your re-election.

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Thank you.

TAPPER: Democrats fared well relative to what was expected and relative to what happens historically in midterm elections, despite record inflation, despite three-quarters of voters in our exit polls saying the country is moving in the wrong direction. Why?

KHANNA: Well, we had an odds defying night, much better than I thought we would do, for two reasons. One, reproductive rights really mattered. People voted on freedom to choose. And second, democracy mattered. I mean, people may have said, yeah, I'm not thrilled with the gas prices, the food prices, but I'm not going to put in an election denier. I'm not going to put in someone who doesn't believe that you count the votes. So, the extremism on the other side I think helped us.

TAPPER: Do the results in the midterm election send a signal to you that Joe Biden should run for re-election?

KHANNA: Yes. Yes. I mean, look, this president has been underestimated many times, including by me when I co-chaired Bernie Sanders' campaign. He's always down in the polls and he finds a way to win. We were down in the polls in the midterms, but we had a remarkable result, better than President Clinton, better than President Obama, better than almost any other modern president.

TAPPER: So, two places' Democrats did not fare that well, New York and your home state of California, both of which are pretty blue Democratic strongholds. Had your party done better in New York and California you would likely actually be on track to keep the House of Representatives.

I know New York had its issue with the incumbent governor who had never been elected to that job, not running a great campaign and kind of disparaging people who worried about crime, et cetera. And she only won by five points in New York, which is remarkable, but let's put New York aside.

What about California? Why did Republicans do so well and as these votes come in and these counts are finally tabulated, Republicans are picking up seats? Why? What happened in California?

KHANNA: Well, first of all, all our incumbents are coming back from California, Katie Porter, Mike Levin, so we won the incumbencies, but you're right. We didn't win the pick-up seats, partly we have strong protections for a woman's right to choose. I think it wasn't as existential for voters in our state because our governor and legislature in our state have been very good.

And so, then the other factors on the economy mattered, and gas is very high in our state, food prices are high, and so I think the economic issues mattered in a way that they didn't perhaps in other states that didn't have the protections for choice, that didn't have protections on elections.


TAPPER: Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, the Chair of the Progressive Caucus of which you're a whip, she dodged on whether the caucus would support House Speaker, current House Speaker Pelosi in the new Congress. House Democrats are scheduled to hold leader elections in two weeks. Do you want to see Pelosi run again or is it time for a new leadership?

KHANNA: I support the Speaker. I think she has been incredible in her leadership. She's showed courage in certifying the election after January 6th. She's shown incredible courage to still be out there after the heinous attack on Paul Pelosi.

Again, she deserves the chance to lead. And if she chooses to lead, she'll have my support. If she makes way for a new generation, then of course I would support one of the new candidates.

TAPPER: So, it looks as though if Republicans win the majority, it's going to be by a very narrow margin. As you know, every year a member of the House dies, like in the last, I mean, it's a historical event.

KHANNA: It's a morbid thought.

TAPPER: Well, it's a body of 435 people, many of whom are over the age of 65. There are always incumbencies that are falling by the wayside. Somebody retires, somebody gets indicted, somebody goes to jail, somebody gets sick, et cetera, et cetera. I wish all of you that you live long and prosper. I'm just talking about historical trends.

But that's going to be really difficult for McCarthy, assuming he's the speaker, to have such a narrow majority. Are there any areas where you think Democrats and Republicans can work together in such an environment?

KHANNA: Well, on issues of bringing manufacturing back, I mean, I co- led the CHIPS Act. That was with Representative Mike Gallagher, Senator Todd Young. People want to see us making things in America not in China. I would hope he's open to that. But you know, Jake, there were a couple of Republicans who reached out to me, I don't want to say who, who said can we have reform in the House of Representatives to weaken the power of the leadership.

I'm for, actually, having more rank-and-file members have a voice on the amendment process on an open role. So, there is -- I think it's going to be an interesting time where you could see a strange coalition that actually returns Congress to people, rank and file members having more of a voice.

TAPPER: Yeah. We'll see how brave -- we'll see how brave these Republicans are once they get control of the House officially. Congressman, thanks so much. And, again, congratulations on your re- election.

KHANNA: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up, could the public GOP leadership fight actually help the Republican Party? That's next.

Then, comedian Jay Leno is in the hospital being treated for serious burns. Details on what happened, ahead. Stay with us.



TAPPER: We're back with our "Politics Lead." It is not over yet, 19 key races are left to decide the House of Representatives and a Senate runoff will determine exactly what the balance of power in the Democratic controlled Senate will be. Let's bring in our panel to discuss.

Ramesh, let me start with you. The source inside the closed-door Republican House conference today, this afternoon, says Kevin McCarthy, who is trying to be speaker, got a standing ovation after making a call for unity. Other members obviously still raising concerns. Do you think that the House Republicans will actually ultimately pick McCarthy to lead them and will there be any sort of unity?

RAMESH PONNURU, EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: I think the first question is easier to answer than the second. I think that McCarthy's great advantage going into this is, A, there's no obvious replacement for him, and B, it's not clear if he would even want this job given how difficult it's going to be to run a narrow House.

But as for whether there's going to be unity, I think the answer to that is probably not. I think there are going to be -- there are continuing recriminations among Republicans, and frankly, I think there should be. I think when you do have an election that goes as disappointingly as this one did for the Republicans, it's fine to take some time to argue out what happened and what should happen next.

TAPPER: And it's what --

HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Was it really disappointing, though? I mean, Andy Barr, Congressman Barr in your interview today said it really doesn't matter how much we won by, we've got the gavel, we've got the chairmanships, we control the agenda on the floor. I mean, you know, they got a lot of advantages and push comes to shove on the big votes, they're going to come together.

TAPPER: Although they don't have the Senate, right? It looks like Democrats might even potentially pick up a seat. They're definitely holding the majority. I want you to listen to Texas Senator Ted Cruz on his podcast going after the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Let me start off by saying I am so pissed off. I cannot even see straight. The country is screwed for the next four years because of this. Mitch would rather be leader than have a Republican majority. If there's a Republican who can win who is not going to support Mitch, the truth of the matter is he'd rather the Democrat win.


CHRIS CILIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: I'm surprised. I mean, I know Ted Cruz is a little bit of a bomb thrower and that is in keeping (inaudible), but I'm a little surprised he went that far. I mean, let's be honest. The majority in the Senate isn't even close if Mitch McConnell's Senate leadership fund doesn't raise and spend the amount of money to spend, including $30 million in Ohio.

I think it's a little sour grape. I think it's a little sort of back seat driver, like, (inaudible) if only they had done that thing, I said that we should do, you know. To me, Mitch McConnell, you don't beat someone with nothing. Tom Cotton had a great quote this weekend. He said if you want to beat the man -- if you want to be the man, you got to beat the man.

And the truth is, there's just not -- if it's a spare on the house side of people who want to run against McCarthy, my gosh, I mean, Rick Scott? Rick Scott is not going to get a majority of the Republican caucus to vote for him.

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION: I just thought it was still interesting. Ted Cruz's comments make more sense if you replace the word Mitch with the word Donald. It was Donald Trump who recruited all these candidates that were loyal to him but couldn't help the Senate Republicans win a majority.

ROSEN: And a bunch of them McConnell wasn't for.


ROSEN: And had no control of.

CILIZZA: I mean, remember, Mitch McConnell, the quote that has led to so much uprising is Mitch McConnell saying in August, I think, candidate quality matters in the Senate. Well, November 8th, candidate quality mattered in the Senate. Blake Masters was a weak candidate. Mark Kelly was a strong candidate. Blake Masters in a state like Arizona should have run stronger. He did not.


I don't think that's Mitch McConnell's fault. And I just, again, I just keep coming back to, you don't beat someone with no one. Rick Scott can talk a big game. Ted Cruz can talk a big game. Josh Hawley tweeted out, you know, "It's time for the whole party to be over. It's time for the new party to arise." You've got to win the votes, right? And right now, it just seems to me Mitch McConnell still has the votes.

TAPPER: So, what do you attribute the fact that Republicans failed to win the Senate and underperformed so much in the House? Who do you actually blame?

PONNURU: Well, I think it's a little easy to say it's all Donald Trump but I think it's 70 percent Donald Trump. And a good chunk of the remaining 30 percent is primary voters who were valuing some of the same things that had led them to embrace Trump in the first place.

That is -- I think that the Trump example was one of the things that led Republican voters to think, we're not going to pay a price if we run inexperienced candidates, if we run candidates who only throw bombs, if we run candidates who are far from the median voter on these issues. Now, the poor-quality candidates, they were a mixed bag. Oz wasn't particularly extreme, for example, but he was novice. He didn't actually live in the state, which was sort of a problem.

TAPPER: That's pretty big.

PONNURU: Yeah. (Inaudible), I think. But I do think that the candidate quality problem, the Trump problem and the democracy denial problem were all interrelated. So, for example, these candidates who keep saying the 2020 election was stolen, I think it's not just people think that's threatening, I think it's also - it's weird and it's weak. It shows they are Trump's guys, they're not their own people.

ROSEN: I think it had tactical implications, more importantly. And we can't forget, these were incumbent senators that won, right? They knew their states, they knew their people. Mark Kelly talked about the border a lot. Masto talked about, you know, what she was already doing for Nevada. Fetterman, abortion, abortion, abortion in Pennsylvania, right?

So -- but when you look at the tactical issues, the problem with talking about election deniers is that in Nevada, in Arizona, they had three weeks of early voting. If you look at those numbers, the Democrats early voting in those states overtook the Republicans they could never catch up. And that's because Republicans were depending on election day because they kept telling people early voting is not reliable. Don't vote by mail. Don't vote anything.

PONNURU: Which is what happened - which is by the way, what happened in 2020 and 2021 in the runoffs.

ROSEN: You know, they reap what they sow, right? That's the problem.

TAPPER: So, let me just say one thing as a Pennsylvanian, which is, I think, you know, in a different set of circumstances. It's entirely possible that oz could have beaten Fetterman. I mean, it was relatively close, not really actually all that close, but Fetterman was beatable. But one of the things I would hear from people in Pennsylvania, swing voters, battleground voters, is Oz was really a jerk about Fetterman's stroke.

ROSEN: Yeah.

TAPPER: Like he wasn't -- and there isn't a tradition. The Pennsylvania Republicans generally speaking, and there are exceptions to this, of course, but like, there just isn't a history of bomb throwers. Rick Santorum is kind of an exception there, but like generally speaking, even Pat Toomey is like a gentile kind of guy. Tom Ridge --

CILIZZA: Arlen Specter.

TAPPER: Arlen Specter. There just isn't a history of people like making fun of somebody's stroke.

MITCHELL: And I think that's another kind of example of when the candidates don't have their own platform, they don't have the experience, they don't have the knowledge about the state to actually talk about the issues, talk about what they want to do. That really wasn't the type of candidate Oz was. He wasn't a visionary candidate. He wasn't a politically minded candidate. So then, you know, he felt that one of the things that perhaps could give him support was attacking Fetterman's health.

TAPPER: Being Trumpy.

MITCHELL: Being Trumpy. And I'm sure there are also were Trumpy people in his ear telling him that's how you win.

TAPPER: I want to --

ROSEN: To me, one really important point from here, which is that, you know, Mitch McConnell actually didn't give his candidates messages, right? You know, Rick Scott kind of tried. Voters were most concerned about the economy. That's what people said. That's what, you know, the exit polls showed. But the Republicans didn't really have a plan. They didn't have that proactive agenda.

PONNURU: McConnell is not the guy you'd go to for the vision.

CLIZZA: And by the way, Mitch McConnell -- I mean, Mitch McConnell expressly said when Rick Scott came out with his plan, we don't need a plan. We're not running anything (ph).

ROSEN: So, they ran against (inaudible). They ran against (inaudible). They used scare tactics, it didn't work. They didn't have something to vote for.

TAPPER: So, I do want just to play this because -- which is incredible. One of the big winners, by the way, of last Tuesday night is Ron DeSantis, who had just an incredible, impressive showing, not just with the re-election of like, I think, 19 points, even though the first time he ran he won by 0.4 points, but he also like won Latino voters by --

ROSEN: Miami-Dade. TAPPER: He won Miami-Dade County, he won Palm Beach. So, really good night for him. Obviously, there's a lot of talk about him running for president. I want you to take a listen to President Trump's daughter- in-law, Laura, warning Ron DeSantis not to run. Take a listen.



LAURA TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP'S DAUGHTER-IN-LAW: I can tell you those primaries get very messy and very raw. We've experienced that before. So, wouldn't it be nicer for him, and I think he knows this, to wait until 2028.


PONNURU: Wouldn't it be nicer for him? That was about as nice a delivery of a thuggish line that you could, I mean, like it's almost literally what a thug would say.

CILIZZA: That line is essentially like, I wouldn't want anything bad to happen to you if you decided to run for some time. And I'm not saying anything bad will happen.

MITCHELL: But it is rooted in reality even down in Florida. Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, they know what it's like to go up against Donald Trump and be attacked in really personal ways. And Ron DeSantis hasn't had to campaign in that way. That being said, I don't think that's going to scare him off.

I think Ron DeSantis right now is every day prepping for the Trump onslaught. But it's real that it's going to be a different type of race than anybody can really prepare for if they choose to.

TAPPER: And that's the second time a member of the Trump family has threatened Trump not to -- to threaten DeSantis not to run. Donald Trump did so in an interview with the "Wall Street Journal." He said --

ROSEN: He said it real direct.


ROSEN: Look, I think we're going to sit back and see how the Trump announcement tomorrow lands, right? I mean, are they all going to be brave and jump in and have a food fight for us to watch or not?

TAPPER: So good to have everybody here. Thank you so much for being here. Join me for a special live CNN town hall with former Vice President Mike Pence this Wednesday, 9:00 p.m. eastern only on CNN.

Can presidential documents be considered personal and covered by executive privilege at the same time? That's the argument Donald Trump's legal team is making. Stay with us.


TAPPER: And we're back with our politics lead, former President Trump's lawyers took a new approach today. They argued in a court filing that documents Trump took to Mar-a-Lago after his presidency could be both personal and coverage by executive privilege. So novel (ph) argument.

CNN's Katelyn Polantz and Elie Honig joins us now. Katelyn, in the court filing, Trump's lawyers argue, quote, "The Presidential Records Act then is clear. A President determines whether a document constitutes a Presidential Record or a personal record. There is no authority whatsoever for the notion that the government can seize documents from a president and simply declare that they are presidential records," unquote.

I'm not sure if that's accurate. How did the Justice Department respond?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, the Justice Department is saying pretty clearly none of this makes any sense. Donald Trump is over there saying in his court filings, it's me. I'm the one that gets to determine what's a Presidential Record, what's a personal record. And the reason he's doing that is because he wants those records to stay out of criminal investigators hands, if he gets to call them personal or executive privilege.

That means that the criminal prosecutor is looking into what was being kept at Mar-a-Lago after the presidency. They won't get access to here. But the Justice Department, they're saying in this court filing today, there's about 3,000 documents that are not marked as classified that are in dispute that they're arguing over with Trump.

And they're saying these are clearly presidential records. They're not personal records. They weren't gifts. They weren't clothing. They were things like documents created around the president for the president about the presidency, that it's just doesn't make sense, what Trump is arguing. And they point out that if Trump can't claim something as personal, then he wants to say if he loses, he wants to claim it as executive privilege. That doesn't make sense, either. They say it's a shell game.

TAPPER: And Elie, the Justice Department redacted the examples of records that Trump was trying to categorize his personnel. So we don't know exactly what those would look like what those are, but how likely is it that a record could be both personal and protected by the Presidential Records Act?

ELIE: Yes, Jake. Donald Trump is trying to walk a very narrow, perhaps, non-existent tightrope here. Here's why. Let's assume there is a personal record here, let's assume diary entries, an individual's diary entries. All that means is the president gets to take custody of those documents, but doesn't necessarily have to turn them over to the archives.

It does not mean, however, those documents can never be seized by the FBI or can never be used against the person in a future criminal or civil proceeding. It doesn't immunize those records from being used against the person. And this argument that, well, they're either personal or their executive privilege, that is internally contradictory because the definition of an executive privilege document is something relating to the affairs of state, to governmental business. Definitionally, not a personal record.

TAPPER: And Katelyn, let's turn to Trump suing the January 6 Select House Committee. He's challenging both the legitimacy of the committee and claiming he should be immune from testimony about the time he was president. Is there any chance that there will be a ruling on this before the new Congress gets sworn in?

POLANTZ: We don't have very many easy answers, Jake. But this one is a pretty clear no. I mean, it's a lawsuit. This is a lawsuit that would take time, it's a lawsuit before a trial judge in Florida. Even if that judge acted really fast, and it went to an appeals court, it would still take way too long. The courts just don't move that fast, especially with the holidays coming up. They only have about two months to go.

And so we're saying here that this is essentially a dead end for the House Select Committee with these subpoenas for Donald Trump. And we don't often have that type of finality that we can predict with court filings but this one really is one of those situations where Trump has kicked this to the courts and the courts just aren't going to be able to sort it out.

TAPPER: And Elie, today the Supreme Court cleared the way for the January 6 committee to obtain Arizona Republican Chairwoman Kelli Ward's call logs. There have been more interviews with Secret Service agents. There's this ongoing back and forth with Trump, what are you expecting in these last few weeks of committee work


HONIG: Well Jake, Katelyn's right, there's just not enough time to resolve all these legal disputes. I see two big imperatives left for the committee. Number one, they'll issue their report that's going to be historically significant. Number two, all of the evidence that the committee has gathered and will gather, that all has been available and will be available to prosecutors.

And now that we're done midterms, Jake, I think the focus is going to turn away from Congress, away from the January 6 committee, but onto heavier hitters on to the Fulton County District Attorney. Most importantly, onto the United States Department of Justice.

TAPPER: All right, Elie Honig and Katelyn Polantz, thanks to both of you.

Just in, federal prosecutors investigating former Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani are closing the long running probe without filing any charges. The investigation focused on whether the former New York City Mayor illegally lobbied the Trump administration on behalf of Ukrainian officials. Prosecutors made the decision after reviewing evidence and deciding that the evidence seized during raids on his residence and law office in April 2021. The decision marks a major victory for Giuliani but his legal troubles are not yet over. He remains the target of a special grand jury in Georgia, investigating his attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

Coming up, just days after Russia withdraws from a key region of Ukraine, Ukraine's President makes a surprise visit to the area. What's next for war in Ukraine?



TAPPER: In our world lead now, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy making an unannounced visit to Kherson today to mark the region's liberation from Russian occupation. On Friday, Ukrainian forces swept into the area after Russian troops withdrew from the west bank of the Dnipro River. This is being touted by Ukraine's allies, including the United States as a major victory.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First of all, it was a significant, significant victory for Ukraine. Significant victory. And I can do nothing but applaud the courage, determination and capacity of Ukrainian people and Ukrainian military.


TAPPER: But perhaps not surprisingly, the Kremlin is not going quietly. Today Russian officials stated that Kherson is still Russian territory, even as Ukraine works to restore to the cut power lines and train service to the region.

CNN's Sam Kiley is in Kyiv Ukraine for us. Sam, what are we learning about the Russian occupation as Ukrainians emerge?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well the first thing, Jake, is that the Russians still control about 60 percent of Kherson. They still control the west bank -- sorry, the east bank area. It is the city of Kherson that has been liberated. And in that liberated area, President Zelenskyy and it's not just that city, there's a large area of the rest of the region two that's been liberated very recently.

They're saying that they -- the President was saying they'd found cases, some 400 cases at least of alleged war crimes. Of course, the infrastructure has been destroyed, the systematic destruction of the electrical systems, I mean, the water is in the chronically short supplies, came down to Kherson though to promise the newly liberated population that they would get the city up and running as quickly as possible.

But Jake, just across the river now, the Russians are known to be digging in, in all probability, they've got pre-prepared, positions there for their rockets and artillery, which remain within easy range of the Kherson city itself and all of those other liberated villages. And the Ukrainians are now bracing for what they anticipate to be a counter attack, at least just in the form of artillery, using the Dnipro River as a natural defense, Jake.

TAPPER: And Sam, what is next for Ukrainian forces?

KILEY: Well, I think that's the really key question here. If the Ukrainians can settle into Kherson city and continue to kind of hold Russian troops there, it could arguably release Ukrainian troops to join the battle in the east, particularly around the town of Bakhmut to the east of Kramatorsk, where the Ukrainians had enjoyed some advances.

But the fighting has been incredibly intense. I've been talking to particularly foreign British and American volunteers who've been fighting there who repeatedly describe it as hell on Earth. And these are people from Special Forces backgrounds. They say they've never seen anything like it. Very, very high casualty rates on both sides.

But if the Ukrainians could relieve their effort from Kherson and reinforce their effort in the east, then they could keep the Russian -- the pressure on the Russians through the winter, and not have to deal with crossing that Dnipro River.

TAPPER: All right, Sam Kiley from Kyiv, Ukraine, thank you so much.

A rare meeting between the head of the CIA and his Russian counterpart happened in Turkey today. CNN White House Reporter Natasha Bertrand joins us. Natasha, what was the focus of CIA Director Bill Burns face to face?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Jake, this was primarily about Burns warning the Russians not to use nuclear weapons. It was a continuation of the pattern that we've seen from the U.S. just warning Russian officials of the consequences, should they choose to take that very escalatory dramatic step.

Now, what we are told is that this is part of this larger communication that the U.S. has been trying to keep open, this channel that the U.S. has been trying to keep open with the Russians about the possibility that they could use nuclear weapons because of course, they have not been shy about, you know, giving veiled hints -- not so veiled hints I should say -- that they might be willing to use one.

Now, of course, the U.S. has seen no evidence as of right now that Vladimir Putin has decided to use such a weapon in Ukraine, but the argument that they are making here is that they need to seize all possible opportunities to communicate with the Russians clearly and openly that there will be very grave consequences if they do use one.


TAPPER: Could this meeting between Burns of the CIA and his counterpart lead to any progress in getting the two American hostages essentially, detainees, Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan released?

BERTRAND: Yes. So interestingly, we are told that this was a topic of conversation between burns and his counterpart, the Russian intelligence chief. And ultimately, though there's not a lot of optimism here. The President had expressed some hope that maybe because after the midterms -- because the midterms had ended, that the Russians might be more willing to negotiate with the Americans about the release, probably they were a little less willing to give President Biden that win ahead of the midterms.

But what we're hearing is that there really is not a lot of movement on the issue that it was discussed by Bill Burns, but it was not the main subject of conversation. The real main meat of that talk was about the nuclear weapons use or remains to be seen whether there's going to be any progress moving forward on the detainees there.

TAPPER: All right, Natasha Bertrand, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Sentenced to death for protesting one of the most oppressive regimes in the world. What this means for the other Iranian protesters? Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our world lead now, an Iranian court has issued its first death sentence linked to recent nationwide protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Jina Amini. Amini, as you might recall, died in September after being detained by Iran's morality police, quote unquote, for allegedly wearing her hijab incorrectly.

CNN's Melissa Bell joins me. Melissa, what more do we know about this protester who received the death sentence?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the point is Jake, we know very little about their identity simply that they've been sentenced for enmity against God for having burned down a government building. Now according to the Norway-based Iran human rights NGO, there are about 20 protesters that have been charged with offenses that carry the death penalty since these protests began nearly two months ago.

Now we have no way of knowing which of those protesters it is. And this is something that the U.N. Human Rights Council have warned about, on Friday, urging Tehran to stop handing down these sentences that carried the death penalty, because what we're talking about are protests that have been carried out largely peacefully. And then the name, as you say, of that young woman who was killed up back in September that have carried the voices of the people over the course of the last few weeks.

We don't know who that person is, we know simply what they may face and that some of those parents of the young protesters, some of these who are facing offenses carrying the death penalty in their early 20s, men and women who've been out protesting over the course of the last few weeks, their parents, no contact with them, no way of knowing what's going on with them. And fearing that the next thing they're going to hear, Jake, is that their loved one has been hanged.

And this is what's been so impressive about these protests, day after day, people going out on the streets with those chants, death to the dictator, death to Khomeini and of course, that chant that has now become known outside of Iran. So well, women, life, freedom.

TAPPER: Women, life, freedom. And Melissa, we're learning that the European Union has announced some new sanctions against Iran.

BELL: That's right. The United States that announced its round of sanctions at the end of October, the European Union had announced a previous round of sanctions, again, targeting those that they believe are responsible not just for the death of Mahsa Amini, but also for the repression that has followed.

This latest round announced today by the European Union in coordination with the United Kingdom, aimed again, not just at those the believer responsible for the initial arrest and death that sparked these protests, but also for the repression that is followed. And specifically, Jake, and I think this is important, targeting the communications minister, and the chief of cyber police, those people that have been responsible for the shutting down of the internet in Iran that has made it so difficult, not just for protesters to carry on spreading what has been going on inside the country, but it's important acts of bravery and defiance that we've seen from people who are going from sports personalities, to Iranian cinema stars, TV personalities trying to carry the word that this needs to continue.

TAPPER: And Melissa, tell us the status of the protests in Iran, I assume they're still ongoing?

BELL: They're still ongoing. The latest video that we have cleared here at CNN goes back to Friday, this was in the southeast of the country. And you can see that this has continued those chants death to the dictator, death to Khomeini carried across Iran in so many cities, day in and day out.

The principal focus, of course of those protests are the universities that is where from where they spread into the evening. And I think it's important for our viewers to remember that here at CNN, those are videos that we're able to carry. Thanks to the activists, the ordinary citizens, the journalists that continue to film them day in and day out, showing not just the brutality, Jake, of the repression, but perhaps more importantly, the determination and the unbroken nature of those who are insisting on protesting.

TAPPER: All right, very brief people. Melissa Bell, thank you so much.

One of the world's richest man talks about the chances of a recession and what he would do to prepare. Stay with us.



TAPPER: The New York Times reports Amazon is planning to lay off 10,000 employees as soon as this week. This comes as Jeff Bezos tells CNN that people should hope for the best, but prepare for the worst when it comes to the economy.

CNN's Chloe Melas has more on this exclusive interview.

CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: Jake, I sat down with Jeff Bezos and his partner, Lauren Sanchez over the weekend at their Washington, D.C. home. And we discussed these tough economic times. And I asked Jeff, are we in a recession?


JEFF BEZOS, EXECUTIVE CHAIR, AMAZON: I don't know whether we're technically in a recession. Economists argue over that. And they have certain technical definitions. What I can tell you is the economy does not look great right now. Things are slowing down. You're seeing layoffs in many, many sectors of the economy. People are slowing down.

The probabilities say if we're not in a recession right now, we're likely to be in one very soon. So my advice to people whether they're small business owners, or you know, is take some risk off the table. If you were going to make a purchase, maybe slowdown that purchase a little bit. Keep some dry powder on hand.


MELAS: This conversation with the couple came on the heels of them awarding Dolly Parton Friday night with one of their Courage and Civility Awards, which means that dolly gets a $100 million grant to do whatever she wants when it comes to philanthropy. Previously, they've awarded CNN's Van Jones and also Chef Jose Andres.

Now also Jeff told me during this interview, that he does plan to give the majority of his wealth way before he dies. Back to you

TAPPER: All right, Chloe Melas, thanks so much. Well wishes for comedian Jay Leno who was burned in a gas fire over the weekend. Leno says a car in his garage burst into flames. Doctors say he was burned on his face and hands Leno tells Variety magazine he is OK. He needs a week or two to get back on his feet.

Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM". I'll see you tomorrow.