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The Lead with Jake Tapper
President Biden Attends Leader Summit In Mexico; Brazilian Authorities Arrests 1,500 Protesters; House To Vote On Rules Package; GOP To Investigate DOJ And FBI; Iran Executes Two More Protesters Over The Weekend; Hamline Univ Professor Loses Job For Showing Image Of Prophet Muhammad; Classified Docs From Biden's Time As VP Discovered In Private Office; Missing Woman's Husband Arrested, Accused Of Misleading Police; California Braces For More Rain, High Winds, And Power Outages. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired January 09, 2023 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That of course would have been president Obama. And while things were incredibly tensed as you know between the U.S. and Mexico relations during the Trump years, it's not as though there hasn't been moments of friction under President Biden's watch as well.
So, we can certainly expect that the two leaders will want to highlight areas of potential cooperation, and then, of course, immigration is expected to be a top issue of discussion. And this comes at a moment when we have seen, particularly over the last week, that President Biden really needs the cooperation of partners like Mexico as he tries to get a handle on the situation of migrants at the U.S. southern border.
You know, when the administration announced its expansion essentially of Title 42 last week, it included an agreement from Mexico to accept tens of thousands of migrants who are being turned away at the U.S. border back into Mexico. So that is going to be, again, a very important topic of discussion.
And Jake Sullivan importantly told reporters this morning, don't expect some new plans or new announcements on the migration front from this bilateral meeting. The two countries are really just going to need to take some time to figure out whether that initial agreement is working.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And MJ, there are a lot of critics of President Biden's trip to the border Sunday, including the Border Patrol Union, many Republican officials, the governor of Texas. Have White House officials responded to any of the criticisms, including that he didn't meet with any migrants while there?
LEE: Yeah. You know, it was really notable that the president, of course, has come under intense pressure for months and months to physically go down to the U.S. southern border himself and see with his very own eyes the situation that is unfolding there. And he, of course, did spend a lot of time with border officials, local leaders, community leaders.
And then he visited this migrant aid center. But it seemed just like a notable mission that he didn't really get to spend any time with migrants, either at the center or even just along the motorcade route. The scenes that we have been seeing reported by some of our colleagues over the last few weeks, those were scenes that the president didn't seem to see and administration official told me this was purely coincidental.
Jake Sullivan also said that he was really focused on seeing and meeting with groups who are providing essential services to these migrants. Of course, we are seeing this White House trying to balance seeming stronger on the border, but also showing a humanitarian and humane approach in how they are dealing with this crisis at the border, Jake.
TAPPER: All right, MJ Lee, traveling with President Biden in Mexico City. Thank you so much.
Now, back in Texas, CNN's Rosa Flores reports from the border where migrants tell her they're crossing the border in search of a better life, a message the president did not get to hear firsthand.
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What do you want to be?
UNKNOWN: (SPOKEN IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
FLORES: Oh, she wants to be a teacher.
FLORES (voice-over): The Tuvar (ph) sisters have been living in this makeshift migrant camp outside an El Paso church for a week.
(On camera): Oh, she wants to be Rapunzel.
FLORES (voice-over): Playing with toys is a luxury they haven't enjoyed since they left Venezuela four months ago according to their dad.
UNKNOWN: (SPOKEN IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
FLORES: He says that he decided to come to the United States because there's no education, really, for his daughters.
(Voice-over): The Tuvar's (ph) are among the hundreds of migrants who call the streets of El Paso home, arguably the epicenter of the current border crisis. A scene President Joe Biden skipped during his first visit to the border. A short three-hour stop in El Paso that prompted criticism by the governor of Texas.
GREG ABBOTT, GOVERNOR OF TEXAS: This is nothing but for show.
FLORES (voice-over): And protests by local immigration and human rights advocates -- like Fernando Garcia.
(On camera): Do you think this is a photo op for the president?
FERNANDO GARCIA, HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATE: I think this is it. I mean, three hours, that feeling of disappointment is being transformed into outrage.
FLORES (voice-over): Outrage over policies like the Trump-era pandemic public health rule known as Title 42, says Garcia. That rule allows border agents to swiftly expel some migrants to Mexico. Biden said this about the policy.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I don't like Title 42.
FLORES (voice-over): Just days ago, he expanded the rule to Venezuelans, Cubans, Nicaraguans and Haitians.
GARCIA: I think the only ones happy with the expansion of Title 42 are the Trumpist conservative Republicans. I mean, we're expecting something different from him.
FLORES (voice-over): Something more humane like the campaign promises he made says Garcia. During his visit, Biden stopped by a port of entry, a migrant respite center, and by the border wall, but didn't appear to see or meet any migrants. Apparently, the closest the president got to seeing the migration flow was in pictures shown to him by the mayor of El Paso.
OSCAR LEESER, MAYOR OF EL PASO, TEXAS: Those were very impactful, so he could see what our city and what challenges we've been going through.
FLORES (voice-over): The Tuvar (ph) sisters' favorite toy, a tablet to learn numbers and the English alphabet. Their dream, learning to speak English.
(On camera): What would you tell the president?
UNKNOWN: (SPOKEN IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
FLORES: He says that his message to the president is that not all migrants are bad. He's a father, he's here with his children, and they're just here for a better life.
FLORES: Now, the Tuvar (ph) sisters are still here, I've seen them around. One of them was actually just helping a nonprofit organization distribute goody bags for the other migrants. But back to President Biden, the White House defending the president's visit here to El Paso saying that the president was really just focusing on meeting with groups that service migrants.
One of those individuals is Sister Norma Pimentel from Catholic Charities in the Rio Grande Valley. And Jake, she tells me that she invited President Biden back to the border to the Rio Grande Valley and also to continue dialogue with him about the migrant issue. Now, she says that President Biden hasn't agreed to go back to the border, but he did agree to continue talks with Pimentel.
TAPPER: All right, Rosa Flores for us live at the border in El Paso. Thank you so much.
Now to Brazil, a soon to be sworn-in lawmaker in Brazil just asked the foreign ministry to extradite the former president, Jair Bolsonaro, back to Brazil from Florida where he currently is, after Bolsonaro's supporters attempted to overthrow the government in widespread protests on Sunday and today.
Nearly 1,500 Brazilians have been arrested after rioters stormed all three branches of government fueled by Bolsonaro's familiar echoes, lies about voter fraud and his refusal to concede his loss to his more liberal rival, Lula da Silva, who was inaugurated on January 1st. As CNN's Isa Soares reports for us now, the angry crowd ransacked the presidential palace, destroyed priceless art and even tried to set the carpet in Congress on fire.
ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A stunning attack on Brazil's seat of power, as thousands of supporters of former far-right President Jair Bolsonaro broke through security cordons in Brasilia. Roaming presidential building corridors, vandalizing Congress, scenes reminiscent of the 2021 U.S. capitol riot.
One week earlier, the scenes were of Democratic triumph, as Bolsonaro's left-wing rival, Lula da Silva was inaugurated as the new Brazilian president following a tight election result. Bolsonaro never explicitly conceded, and neither did his most ardent followers.
This, this is my hero. I am at his home, our home, our home, a Bolsonaro supporter says from inside the presidential palace. Protesters dressed in the colors of the Brazilian flag, now a symbol of Bolsonaro's far-right movement. Unfelled banners from the congressional building rooftop, demanding the results of Brazil's most fought election in a generation be overturned.
More than 1,000 arrests were made after security forces used tear gas and stun grenades to regain control of the congressional building, the Supreme Court and presidential palace. But by the time they did, the damage had already been done. The president's chief of communication showed destruction inside his own office.
UNKNOWN (through translation): It's unbelievable what was done in the palace. Look at the state of the rooms, equipment, computers. Look at this.
SOARES (voice-over): World leaders condemned the attack as an assault on democracy. Brazil's new president pinned the blame on his predecessor, accusing him of encouraging rioters through social media from Florida. He promised no stone will be left unturned, vowing to find those responsible. LUIZ INACIA LULA DA SILVA, PRESIDENT OF BRAZIL (through translation):
We will find out the financiers and they will pay with the force of the law for this irresponsible gesture, this anti-Democratic gesture of vandals and fascists.
SOARES (voice-over): Bolsonaro denounced the actions of his supporters from the U.S. where he traveled after the election. Most of his supporters have now started to disperse their camps in the Brazilian capital after the armed forces were given 24 hours to remove them. In their absence, destruction and lingering fears of what's next for a country that remains bitterly divided.
SOARES: And, Jake, for much of the day, authorities have been really surveying the damage the three branches of power behind me in Brasilia. We've heard in the last 40 minutes or so from a senator, Rodolfo Rodriguez (ph) who said they found five unexploded grenades inside three -- inside the Supreme Court, two inside Congress.
The same senator, Jake, also said the rioters were carrying axes, as well as knives. And in the last hour or so, we have heard from the wife of former president Jair Bolsonaro, who said his husband had been taken to a hospital in the United States complaining of abdominal discomfort. This is related to a knife attack, a knife injury that he suffered back in 2018 during a campaign rally here in Brazil.
We've also heard from the Brazilian ambassador to the U.S., Jake, in the last half an hour who said -- his name is Nestor Foster, Jr. We've been told he has been removed from office. Now, we have been told that is not related to the violent attacks we've seen in Brasilia, but it's important to point out that he was a Bolsonaro appointee.
In the meanwhile, Lula da Silva is inside Planalto, has been inside Planalto really trying to not just survey the damage, but showing Brazilians up and down the country that those people that brought so much destruction to Brasilia, that he will bring them to justice and the perpetrators will be brought to justice. Of course, the main job, uniting a very divided country, Jake.
TAPPER: Yeah, we're familiar with that. Isa Soares in Brazil, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
Coming up, Speaker Kevin McCarthy just now in the way facing his first real test since he became the Speaker and took the gavel.
Then Buffalo's Damar Hamlin released from the hospital and back in Buffalo just a week after he nearly died on the field. Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our "Politics Lead," the next test of the speakership for Kevin McCarthy will come in just over an hour, as House Republicans try to pass their rules package for the new Congress, the 118th. Republican leaders are racing to alleviate any concerns for more establishment members, hoping to avoid another embarrassing defeat after concessions were made to hard-liners to finally put an end to last week's chaotic 15-ballot vote for speaker.
CNN's Melanie Zanona joins us now live from Capitol Hill. Melanie, what are Republican leaders saying about how the voting for the rules package will fare?
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: GOP leaders are expressing confidence that they will have the votes for this rule package but they are leaving nothing to chance, Jake. Because remember, they can only afford to lose four votes on any given bill and there are members who have been out there expressing some concerns over what's in the package and what they don't know what's in the package.
So, we have seen GOP leadership really trying to scramble behind the scenes, alleviate some of the concerns of members like Nancy Mace and Tony Gonzalez. And we have seen at least some of this effort work because Nancy Mace's office does tell us that she will be a yes on the rules package.
And part of the pitch from GOP leaders have been trying to downplay the impact of these concessions, particularly when it comes to restoring the motion to vacate the speaker's chair. That is the ability for any single member to call for a vote ousting the sitting speaker. Take a listen to what some McCarthy allies told our Manu Raju earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DAVID JOYCE (R-OH): I'm not the speaker, so, you know, it should concern Kevin more than it concerns me and I don't think that is going to change the way we do business around here.
MANU RAJU, CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you think everybody agrees with that?
JOYCE: Probably not.
RAJU: What about the one-person motion to vacate? There's a lot of concern like it could create instability in the speakership. What do you say to folks who are concerned about that?
REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): That's the way congress worked for over 200 years. Nancy Pelosi is the one that changed it. We're changing it back to what it used to be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZANONA: Now, there are also concerns from members about what deals were made that aren't spelled out in this rule package. There's still a lot we don't know. So, Republicans are really still digesting and coming to terms with the scope of everything that Kevin McCarthy agreed to, Jake. TAPPER: Yeah. Well, they've been promising to be a transparent House
of Representatives. I'm sure they're going to release that list of concessions any moment now. Meanwhile, Melanie, House Republicans want to set up a new select subcommittee to investigate the alleged politicization of the Justice Department and the FBI. That's setting up a showdown with the Biden administration. Where does that stand?
ZANONA: This was another key concession that hard-liners won. They wanted a committee to investigate the DOJ and FBI specifically and they fought for language that will now empower them to specifically go after ongoing criminal probes, including those looking into former President Donald Trump.
So, now the question is who is McCarthy going to appoint. He gets to appoint 13 members, five of which will be in consultation with the Democratic leader, but we're looking out to see who those appointments are, including whether he will tap someone like Scott Perry whose phone was seized in connection with the federal investigation into the efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
So, I think once we learn about the make-up of that committee, we'll get a better sense of what direction that probe plans to take, Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Melanie Zanona in Capitol Hill, thanks. Let's talk about this with my panel. And Heather, this issue about who's going to serve on this committee, this special subcommittee looking into alleged political use of the FBI and the Justice Department. Who is on the committee is a pretty big part of it because it maybe that Congressman Scott Perry, Republican of Pennsylvania, is under criminal investigation.
We do not know. They don't talk about it, but they've been seeking his phone. He certainly played an outsized role in the attempt to overturn the election. Take a listen to what Perry had to say when he was asked about serving on the select subcommittee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. SCOTT PERRY (R-PA): You know, why I should I be limited? Why should anybody be limited just because someone has made an accusation. Everybody in America is innocent until proven otherwise. And I would say this, the American people are really, really tired of the persecution and the instruments of federal power being used against them.
(END VIDE CLIP)
TAPPER: Comment, thoughts.
HEATHER CAYGLE, MANAGING EDITOR, PUNCHBOWL NEWS: Oh my God. There's obviously at the very least, the appearance of a huge potential conflict of interest here, right? And it's not just Scott Perry. There are others like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, other people who were under federal investigation or have been, you know, have ties to some of these investigations potentially who could serve on this committee. I mean, the thing to know about this select committee is the language
authorizing it is very broad. So, you don't have to be a member of the judiciary committee to serve on this committee even though it's housed under the judiciary committee. The members get access to the same intelligence that the intel committee gets, which is just unheard of on the Hill.
And the budget is rumored to be the size or larger of the January 6 budget. So, we're talking about a multi-million dollar select panel, you know. And it's just -- it's unheard of.
TAPPER: And I believe Nia-Malika, I believe it says that they can look into ongoing investigations which, I mean, that sounds like a recipe for disaster. I don't care which party is controlling it, to be able to look into an ongoing investigation. Politicians shouldn't have any role on that.
NIA-MALIKA ANDERSON, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Right. You know, and who knows, you know, what the purview will end up being. Who ends up being on this committee if it's somebody like Scott Perry, who seems to, in some ways, albeit compromised, the budget does suggest, I mean, sort of a far wielding power.
So, listen, these are some of the concessions that the hardliners won, this Freedom Caucus, because they want to look into many meetings. They want to look into the January 6 Committee. They want to look into Hunter Biden. They want to look into Dr. Fauci and the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
I mean, this was part of what Kevin McCarthy gave up. I think it's going to be far-reaching and I think one of the questions is, is it essentially going to backfire on Republicans? Is it going to be far- reaching so Americans say, you know, what are they doing poking around on all of these issues when the price of gas is such and such or they can't (inaudible) on the (inaudible).
TAPPER: Yeah. And Kevin, look, obviously the House of Representatives has an obligation to perform oversight over the administrative branch. No question about that. The question is, usually that's done with some adult supervision and I have concerns, I'm hearing concerns about 180 comments.
KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yeah. I mean, it's right there. I think Nia's point is that this is essentially in their minds a promise made and it's going to be a promise kept. And the most -- one of the most important planks and their commitment to America was this accountability and oversight.
But I think the opportunity or the potential for it to be political downside is great because I think most of the Americans right now, most Americans during this midterm election, they were really focused on economic issues. They were really focused on this sort of like bottom line budgetary concerns that they had with inside their household. And so, any sort of oversight that seems to go outside the purview of that will, you know, seem like it's out of step or it's not aligned with the concerns that they have, so.
MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, this is clearly the politics of vengeance. And what McCarthy is now gotten himself into is a huge corrupt bargain which is the only way that he could have gotten the speakership, that he could have gotten the 218 votes and we saw how painful that was last week.
And so now what you have is essentially the next step is going to be extortion and how these committee members, whoever it is that they are, and let's call it for what it is. It's really the insurrection committee, because all of those people were involved in some way, shape or form, whether it's supporting the election denial, or Scott Perry perhaps being investigated for actually taking a part in it.
But it is all about getting back at the Biden administration for them investigating their efforts to actually kill democracy. I do think it's going to be a huge backfire on them because, you're right, Kevin, during the midterm elections, this is what Republicans promised, is that they were going to focus on inflation, on the economy, on the border, on crime. And what's the first thing that they announce? Impeachment against Secretary Mayorkas.
MADDEN: I think if I'm in a -- if I'm in a swing seat, moderate swing seat, I worry about the factional minority inside my own parties that are driving the message on.
TAPPER: Yeah. And we had on Congressman Lawler who has been one of the Republican, he's one of the 18 Republicans who represent a district that Joe Biden won. And speaking -- you talked about how we all saw what happened last week. One of the reasons we saw it is because congress had not gaveled into session, and so CSPAN's cameras were able to film everything that was going on on the floor of the people's House.
CARDONA: That was great.
TAPPER: It was great, I agree. CSPAN just a few minutes ago tweeted, "CSPAN cameras are no longer in the House chamber. We have resumed using the feed from the House/government operated camera." So, another element of transparency that I had been hoping Republicans would be true to their word on that we're not getting. And I honestly can't really understand it because it really engaged people with what was going on.
CAYGLE: Yes, but to be fair to Republicans here, I mean, Democrats do this, too. They always blacked out the cameras
TAPPER: Oh, nobody wants it.
CAYGLE: You know what I mean.
CAYGLE: I think maybe if there was any chance of them opening it up, when Mike Rogers went after Matt Gaetz on the House floor, that was it. They were like we can't have these things on (inaudible). MADDEN: And can I make a case for going back to politics being boring
again? I know it made for good drama on a Friday or Saturday (inaudible).
TAPPER: Well, as a Republican, of course you would make that argument. So, moderates say they feel like they need to stand up to the leadership's catering to conservatives or else they're going to continue being steamrolled. I want you to listen to Congressman Tony Gonzalez, Republican from Texas, talking of his objections to the rule they're about to vote on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TONY GONZALEZ (R-TX): I'm against the rule for -- the rules for a couple different reasons. One is the defense spending -- the cut in defense. I think that's a terrible idea.
But the other is the vacate the chair. I mean, I don't want to see us every two months be on lockdown. The American public are counting on House Republicans to be the one savior in this all. If we can't get this right, it's going to be nightmare after nightmare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: I think it's --
HENDERSON: It's going to be nightmare after nightmare. I mean, that's -- yeah. I mean, that's essentially what we saw already over these last many days with the speaker trying to get the gavel. He caved. They are emboldened and empowered because he won the gavel, but they won, too. And so, we're going showdowns and it's going to mean something for Americans, particularly when you think about the debt ceiling, if that's going to be tied to cuts. Is the government going to have to shut down?
MADDEN: You just know that there's one of this House Freedom Caucus members who was dying to be the first one to take that one for a ride.
TAPPER: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. Thanks to one and all. Appreciate it. Why one college art professor says a 14th century painting, showing it to her students, cost her her job. Stay with us.
TAPPER: The Iranian regime keeps silencing critics by executing them. A karate champion and a volunteer who worked with children reportedly were executed over the weekend in connection with the nationwide protests. Now Iran's supreme leader is calling new rounds of anti- government protests, quote, acts of treason.
CNN's Jomana Karadsheh takes a look now at how some Iranian parents are risking their own lives to save their children from execution. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A mother's heart wrenching final farewell for her son. The oppressor took you away from me, she cries at his grave. Now you're asleep here, she says. This is the only goodbye Mohammad Mehdi Karami's family got, no final visit, no justice.
The 21 year old Kurdish-Iranian karate champion was executed by the Islamic Republic this weekend, along with Seyed Mohammad Hosseini, a volunteer children's coach. They were convicted of killing a member of Iran's Basij paramilitary force during a protest in November.
Death sentences handed down after what rights groups say are sham trials based on forced confessions extracted under torture. Karami's parents had taken the risk of speaking out in social media recordings, begging the state to spare their boy's life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): They can convict him to two life sentences. 50 years of prison, just so I know he continues to breathe. I swear to God I don't know what to do. To whom should I complain? They're killing my innocent child. What should I do? Who should I talk to?
KARADSHEH (voice-over): The ruthless republic has shown no mercy. At least four young men hanged. Many others facing execution by a regime that appears to be using the death penalty to crush dissent.
Among them, 19-year-old Mohammad Boroughani and 22-year-old Mohammad Ghobadlou, sentenced to death by this notorious judge, Abolqasem Salavati nicknamed the Judge of Death.
On Sunday night, a crowd gathered outside the prison where Ghobadlou and Boroughani are being held after activists reported their execution was imminent. Scenes of sheer bravery as the crown chant against the regime and support Ghobadlou's mother, wasting it all to try and save her son.
Activists are urging the international community to do more than just condemn these executions, to try and save the defenseless on death row. To save their families from this unimaginable pain.
KARADSHEH: And, Jake, no one really knows how many protesters have been sentenced to death. More than 40, according to CNN count last month. But the real number is believed to be higher and it is continuing to rise. Just today, three more protesters have been sentenced to death and activists are warning that we will be seeing more executions in the coming days.
So they are urging the international community to take urgent action, to put pressure on the regime to try and stop these executions, Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Jomana Karadsheh, thank you so much for that report. Now to our national lead, an adjunct professor at Hamline University in Minnesota says she lost her job for showing a painting that depicted the Prophet Muhammad. Many modern Muslim clerics believe that visual representations of the Prophet Muhammad should not be shown, but such an instruction is not explicitly stated in the Quran.
Professor Erika Lopez Prater says she warned her students that she was going to show an image of a famous 14th century painting that depicted Muhammad in her Art History class. She said any students with concerns should come to her directly.
After showing her class of painting, which depicts a winged and crowned angel Gabriel pointing at the Prophet Muhammad, a student complained and the professor subsequently was not asked to return to teach next year. This has sparked debate over free speech and religious freedom.
We want to bring in right now Omid Safi, he's an Iranian-American who teaches Asian and Middle Eastern studies at Duke University. Thanks so much for joining us, Professor Safi. So, Hamline's president, in an e- mail to students and faculty that was shared with CNN, says, quote, "We believe in academic freedom, but it should not and cannot be used to explain -- I'm sorry -- to be used to excuse away behavior that harms others," unquote. How do you see this?
OMID SAFI, DUKE UNIVERSITY: Thank you so much for having me on. You know, I think the words of the Hamline president are more than a little unfortunate because it pits it as an issue of freedom of speech versus the sensitivities of Muslim students. The fact of the matter is that these kinds of images have been an important part of the Islamic tradition.
They are a sacred icon tradition, if you want to use that word. And they have existed in both the Sunni and the Shia tradition going back almost a thousand years. So I think there's a big difference between the kind offensive images like the ones that we saw in Charlie Hebdo and iconic devotional works of art which have been produced by Muslim artists for consumption of Muslims, with the specific goal of drawing the audience closer to the Prophet and closer to God.
TAPPER: And beyond that, I just wonder, as a professor at Duke, how does it make you feel as a professor that the university would say, you can't show this -- this, obviously, didn't happen to you -- but you can't show this or you'll be fired, even though obviously the intent was not to offend, it was to instruct?
SAFI: Well, you know, actually, this semester I'm teaching a course on the life, the devotion to the legacy of and the artistic tradition of the Prophet Muhammad. So starting on Wednesday, I'm going to be discussing many of these same kinds of images in my own classroom.
I think what the role of education should be, yes, it is to love and protect our students. It's also to expand our horizons. Many of the students probably had never been aware of the fact that these images exist. They have existed. If they would get an opportunity to go to the Met, they would see that the Metropolitan Museum of Art has 13 of these images. Two of them are on permanent display.
So does the Smithsonian, so does the British Library and museums in Turkey and Iran and elsewhere. So that's an opportunity to expand their horizon. It doesn't mean that they have to agree with it, but it does mean that they deserve the opportunity to be challenged, to have a reasoned to discussion about the role that these kinds of images have played historically and to make up their own mind in that context.
TAPPER: So when did it change? When did so many Muslim clerics become convinced that showing any image, even a referential one of the Prophet Muhammad, was something that should prompt outrage?
SAFI: That's the really interesting part of this story for me. In general, I tend to be interested in how is it that some practices and some interpretations, which used to be quite commonplace, come to be marginalized later on. And we find that sometimes to be the case with mystical, with spiritual, with aesthetically powerful presentations of Islam, which used to be absolutely mainstream.
And this was true in the Sunni and the Shia tradition. For example, many of the kinds of images that we tend to show in art history courses, in some religion courses, they tended to come from the Ottoman empire, which was a seat of the Sunni caliphate. This is about as central to the center of authority and power as it gets in Islam.
It really is in the last 150 years or so, where interpretations that we could call Salafi or Wahhabi tend to rise in prominence and they want to erase what has come before. Those of us who are educators, I think what we try to do is to point out why is it that these images have been produced? And they usually point out two services.
One, they depict the scene of the Prophet Muhammad's ascension to see God face to face, the mirage, that's the pivotal spiritual experience of Islam. And then, secondly, they show Muhammad in the company of other prophets, which points out to the universality of the Islamic tradition.
I hope that as all of these discussions go on, that we get a chance to go back to those two fundamental points of what is it that this iconic tradition was designed to do. To point out the way to see God face to face, and the universalism, which has always been a hallmark of the Islamic tradition.
TAPPER: All right, Professor Omid Safi, thank you so much. I really appreciate your time today.
Coming up, new information about what was found in the basement belonging to a missing mother and her husband. Stay with us.
[17:44:07] TAPPER: And we have some breaking news for you now. Several classified documents from President Biden's time as vice president were found by his personal attorneys in one of his private offices in November last year. The National Archives has now referred this matter to the Justice Department for further investigation, a source tells CNN.
CNN's Evan Perez joins us now live with more on this. Evan, tell us more.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, these were documents, the White House says, that were found by the former -- by the current president's attorneys in November as they were closing out an office that the former Vice President Biden, of course, had set up an office with the University of Pennsylvania at the Penn Biden Center here in Washington.
And they were closing out these offices when they found what they say were fewer than a dozen documents that were labeled as classified. Now, a number of these documents were also subject to the Presidential Records Act.
And according to the White House, these were now turned over to the National Archives, which has asked the Justice Department to look into it. Now, we're told now, Jake, that the Attorney General, Merrick Garland, has asked the U.S. Attorney in Chicago to conduct a review of these documents which is a standard process that they would go through.
This is akin to the process that happened after the National Archives asked the Justice Department to look into these classified materials that were recovered from Mar-a-Lago, from the former President Trump's residence. So it is a process that the Justice Department recently went through, obviously, with Donald Trump.
Of course, the difference here is that according to the White House, it was the President's legal team that reached out to narrow to turned over these documents, as opposed to with Trump, who fought for months and months not to turn over documents that the Archive said needed to be turned over, Jake.
TAPPER: How significant is that difference?
PEREZ: Well, you know, it's a big difference, because, you know, part of the reason why there was this extraordinary search, Jake, at Mar-a- Lago back in August was because the former president was refusing to turn over documents, according to the Justice Department, and according to all the litigation we saw.
According to the White House, the story that we're hearing from the White House right now is that, you know, they willingly turned over these documents. They're saying that it's fewer than a dozen documents that were turned over to the National Archives. And of course, the National Archives asked the Justice Department, out of an abundance of caution, to conduct an investigation. Now, we don't know, Jake, whether this is a full-blown criminal investigation of the nature that happened under Donald Trump -- of the Donald Trump documents. Of course, right now what we know is that it is a review that has been conducted by the U.S. Attorney in Chicago, along with the FBI is also involved.
TAPPER: All right, Evan Perez, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
TAPPER: Turning to our national lead now, authorities have arrested and charged the husband of missing Massachusetts woman Ana Walshe with misleading investigators about his wife's disappearance. Walshe, some other three has been missing since New Year's Day.
CNN's Brynn Gingras joins us now live. And, Brynn, what did prosecutors allege during the husband's arraignment today?
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake, they're essentially just laying out all the times. They say Brian Walshe lied about his whereabouts surrounding the disappearance of his wife, Ana Walshe, around New Year's Day. Now, it's important to put in context here that Brian Walshe was actually on presentencing probation for a federal fraud charge that he pled guilty to from a case back in 2018.
So he was always having to update authorities on his whereabouts. And the ADA says this is what he was lying about. And they pointed to a bunch of things. One of them sticks out, though, is he told investigators that he took his son out for ice cream when instead they realized he went to Home Depot. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LYNN BELAND, ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY, NORFOLK, MASSACHUSETTS: He's on surveillance at that time, purchasing about $450 worth of cleaning supplies that would include mops, bucket, tops, TVX, drop cloths, as well as various kinds of tape.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRAS: What's more, the ADA says they also found a bloody knife and blood stains in the basement of the couple's home. In addition, two sources are telling CNN's John Miller, Jake, that the Internet searches of Brian Walshe included how to dispose of 115-pound woman's body and also questions about dismembering a body. Jake?
TAPPER: Brynn Gingras, thanks so much. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.
TAPPER: Right now, divers are searching for a five-year-old child swept away by floodwaters in San Miguel, California. That's about three hours south of San Francisco. Nearly 90 percent of the state is under flood watches, with more storms expected this week.
California has gone from extreme drought to extreme flooding. As CNN's Rene Marsh reports, right now in our earth matter series, the weather whiplash is testing the state's crisis management.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was so much water, it was gushing in. It knocked me over.
RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): California, already pounded by a bomb cyclone last week that brought hurricane force winds, torrential rain, flooding, and mountain snow, is now in the throes of yet another atmospheric river storm, a weather system transporting a high concentration of moisture and dumping epic amounts of heavy rain.
KARLA NEMETH, CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF WATER RESOURCES: We are into atmospheric river number five.
MARSH (voice-over): But just last week, several counties in the state were experiencing the exact opposite exceptional drought. Marked by the deep red on this map, it's considered the most severe. Although California's recent parade of ultrawet storms have not completely reversed the decades long dry spell. Flood warnings have now replaced severe drought warnings in the same areas.
This weather whiplash is forcing California to face the dilemma of how to manage floodwaters as the state experiences dramatic shifts from drought to downpours. Experts tell CNN part of the solution is drawing levees back to allow rivers more room to safely flood.
PETER GLEICK, PACIFIC INSTITUTE: We have to let our rivers flow differently and let the rivers flood a little more and recharge our groundwater in wet seasons.
MARSH (voice-over): Climate scientist Peter Gleick says levees have effectively protected communities in the past, but they're not designed for the climate challenges of today. He says containing flood waters means less water is available to seep into thirsty underground aquifers, a desperately needed water source for farmers and communities for drinking water during extreme drought.
GLEICK: Instead of thinking that we can control all floods, we have to learn to live with them.
MARSH (voice-over): Gleick says that means communities will have to get out of the way. Entire cities and towns would need to relocate.
GLEICK: These changes are absolutely easier said than done, but they have to be done. We have to redesign flood insurance policies so that we're not rebuilding houses once they've been damaged in the same places where they're going to flood again. We have to design flood insurance policies to encourage people to move away from floodplains so that we can open up the floodplains. And when we get those floods, they'll be less damaging.
MARSH: Well, the idea of relocating whole towns and communities to allow rivers more room to flood is challenging. Local governments would have to give up short-term economic gain tied to building and development and lose property tax revenue. Asking property owners to give up their property rights, Jake, that too, would be a tall task.
TAPPER: Indeed. Rene Marsh, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
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Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer in a place I like to call "THE SITUATION ROOM". And more on the breaking news about then-Vice President Joe Biden's classifies documents that have just emerged.