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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Special Counsel Appointed In Biden Documents Investigation; Texas Republican Gov. Abbott On Legislations TO Migrant Surge; Dallas Morning News editorial Board: Gov. Abbott's Letter Portrays As "Enemy Combatants"; Exclusive: School Police Chief Told Investigators He Was More Concerned About Saving Students In Other Classrooms Than Stopping Gunman; Growing Number Of Republicans Call On Rep. Santos To Resign; Idaho Murders Suspect Appears In Court; Next Hearing Set For June 26; Court Fight Between PGA Tour And LIV Golf Escalates As Saudi-Backed LIV Tries To Avoid Handing Over Information; Trump Urged Golfers To "Take The Money" From Saudi-Backed LIV Golf. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired January 12, 2023 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And there's plenty of finger pointing for both sides. Texas Governor Greg Abbott will join us live this hour.
But first, Attorney General Merrick Garland has named former Trump U.S. Attorney Robert Hur as special counsel to take over the investigation into the classified documents found at Joe Biden's home and former private office. The Department of Justice announcement came just hours after the White House Counsel's Office issued a statement saying that more documents with classified markings have been found in a storage area in the garage at President Biden's Wilmington, Delaware home, as well as in another room adjacent to the garage. It's the same garage where Biden keeps that 1967 Corvettes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And by the way, my Corvettes is in a locked garage, OK? So it's not like you're sitting on the street.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the material looks at a locked garage?
BIDEN: Yes, as well as my Corvette. But as I said earlier this week, people know I take classified documents and classified materials seriously. I also said we're cooperating fully and completely with the Justice Department's review.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Let's start with CNN Chief White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly.
Phil, the White House is now facing some tough questions about when they publicly acknowledge the second set of documents. PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Jake. Look, the White House has been very clear that they have been cooperating throughout the course of this investigation, as it's been ongoing since those documents were first discovered on November 2. They say they have been transparent with the Justice Department and the National Archives as well.
They also say they've been transparent publicly. That is less true when you look at how things have progressed. And frankly, when you get a detailed picture from Attorney General Merrick Garland today about that timeline when he announced the appointment of the special prosecutor, Garland saying that, yes, those first documents were found on November 2, the Justice Department was first aware of it starting on November 4.
But that second set of documents was found on December 20. The White House did not acknowledge that second set of documents until this morning. The President speaking about them as well this morning. Keep in mind, the President talked about the first set of documents earlier this week when news first broke on those documents. Same with the White House Counsel's Office.
When those statements were given, the print statement from the White House Counsel's Office, the President's remarks in Mexico City, neither of them mentioned the possibility of a second set of documents being out there, even though White House officials had been aware those documents existed in a second location and had been turned over to the authorities almost a month prior. So there are very real questions about the public messaging from the White House at this point, but also very real questions about what happens next.
To some degree, the scale of the cooperation, the willingness from the President's personal attorneys and President's team to immediately hand over documents, we are told that some individuals tied to the vice president's office when these documents originated have been interviewed by the attorney -- the special -- sorry, the U.S. attorney that had been in the process of conducting the review up to this point, they have been cooperating throughout. What they have not been able to do is explain publicly what is actually happening and certainly has gotten more serious based on the Attorney General's actions today, Jake.
TAPPER: Phil, what is the White House Counsel saying about the appointment today of this Special Counsel Robert Hur?
MATTINGLY: You know, the White House Counsel's Office has made clear they have been cooperating throughout. They plan to continue to do so, and saying, quote, "We are confident that a thorough review will show that these documents were inadvertently misplaced, and the President and his lawyers acted promptly upon the discovery of this mistake." Saying that these documents from the vice president's time in office were inadvertently put there, saying this was a mistake going further than they have up to this point, maintaining they will continue to cooperate. But Jake, as you know, a special counsel is a very different ball game than a U.S. attorney review. How they operate going forward, obviously, we'll have to wait and see. TAPPER: All right, Phil, stand by. Let's discuss with our panel right now.
And Evan, you have some to reporting about Attorney General Garland's decision to appoint the special counsel.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, he made the decision very soon after he received the recommendation from John Lausch, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, who had been doing the initial -- the preliminary review of this.
And look, you know, for the Attorney General, it felt like it was a slam down case that they had to do this, given the facts of the matter, especially given the fact that he had already had a special counsel looking into Donald Trump's mishandling of classified information. But the timeline here is also important to reinforce here, the fact that the Justice Department was notified by the President's team on December 20 that there had been additional documents found, and yet when the President spoke about this in the last few days, you know, they omitted any mention of that provided -- perhaps misleading and incomplete picture, reinforced the reason why the Attorney General felt he had to do this move.
TAPPER: Interesting. And Tom Dupree, you and the new special counsel, Robert Hur, you've been working together at the same law firm. Tell us about him.
TOM DUPREE, FORMER PRINCIPAL DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Sure. Jake, I know Rob both as a friend and as a colleague for many years. I think this was an excellent choice by Merrick Garland. I think Rob Hur is the perfect choice for this job. Rob is an exceedingly smart lawyer.
He has excellent strategic and legal instincts and judgment, and he's a man of the highest integrity. So, this is clearly an exceedingly delicate political task, to say the least. Complex legal questions are going to be posed, but I can't imagine a better person to serve as a special counsel than Robert Hur.
TAPPER: And Audie, I have to say, all of this happened after Hillary Clinton got in hot water for her handling of classified information. So I'm surprised at the situation that Joe Biden finds himself in the fact that there wasn't the kind of rigid process that we heard Speaker Ryan talk about how -- when it came to how he handled classified documents.
AUDIE CORNISH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think that you can go in the history and find a lot of incidents administratively where people brought documents home. And that's why the National Archives has this system of pursuing and requesting them. And it's important to realize that this was an issue that was sort of a self-owned for Trump, so to speak, where Democrats could say, look, you didn't have to take these home, but you also didn't have to fight the Archives to send them back. You didn't have to fight subpoenas. Your lawyers didn't have to lie about whether or not there were more.
So some of it was the idea that it represented recklessness and recalcitrance. Now, this makes it more complicated if you wanted to use that as a symbol to all of a sudden have your own problem. And I think that's why the White House is struggling.
And Phil, I have to say the basic rule of crisis management in Washington is get it all out. Get it all out on your own terms. Get it all out immediately. And that's not what the White House is doing right.
MATTINGLY: Right. And I think that's been kind of the perplexing element of the last several hours, is the fact that not only was the special counsel at the White House willing to put out a very detailed statement regarding those first -- that first discovery of t10 classified documents, then the President weighed in on them, and there was no illusion whatsoever.
Now, keep in mind, throughout that period of time, we were asking, does this mean there are no others? Is the search over? We knew that there was a search by the President's legal team underway had that been completed at this point in time and never got any firm answers. Now, we know why.
And I think the problem right now is, as Evan notes, this is a very different element that this process has moved into right now. And I think where there was goodwill about willingness to talk about things, willingness to be transparent, that has certainly dissipated based on what we've seen over the course of the last four days.
TAPPER: Yes, and as you alluded to, Evan, I mean, appointing a special counsel is like the guy that ran Jurassic Park thinking that he's safe because he only cloned female dinosaurs. Remember, Jeff Goldblum says, life finds a way. Special counsels find a way. They end up doing whatever they want to do.
PEREZ: Right. It's very hard to unwind a special counsel, and that's one reason why, you know, Merrick Garland certainly has a reluctance about using them. He was forced into doing the first one because Donald Trump declared for presidency against his boss. And of course, once you have that one, you needed to do this one.
And so, I think, you know, let's remember, there is still a third special counsel that is still in existence three years later, that is John Durham. So, that's the issue with this. The timeline is one where we're all looking at the clock. There's an election that is coming up in a couple of years and certainly I think the Justice Department hopes that this can be wrapped up to try to get out of the way of that election. But things get complicated when you least expect them to.
TAPPER: And Tom, we're hearing a lot from Republicans on Capitol Hill about what they see as a double standard when it comes to Biden versus Trump and classified documents. Do you think that's fair?
DUPREE: You know, I think there is some truth to that. In other words, the conduct, the underlying conduct in kind is the same, although the scale differs, and there are certainly facts that make the two situations different. I suspect a lot of those distinctions may be lost on a lot of the American public who just see this as a case of hiding classified documents. But if I were in the Biden camp, I would hit two points. Number one, I would say the scope of the documents that Biden concealed were much smaller than the scope of documents Trump concealed. And number two, the point about cooperation is that the Biden team has said we are cooperating from day one and they're to use that point to try to contrast it to what President Trump did.
CORNISH: And also to add to that, you know, I was looking at Twitter and Stephen Miller, the senior advisor to Trump at one point said that if Garland wants to demonstrate balance, that means appointing hardcore Republican Special Counsel with a mandate to limitly (ph) investigate every aspect of Biden's life. I don't know what hardcore means. I don't know who would decide what that is. And it really signals that the whole point of the special counsel concept is to have someone who is perceived to be independent.
But in this environment, there is no such thing. There is always going to be someone who says this person is insufficient for whatever reason to kind of undermine the process. And I don't think that's helpful for the public.
TAPPER: But as you know, and you work with Robert Hur, Robert Hur was a Trump appointed U.S. attorney, which I'm sure it was part of the reason why Merrick Ireland appointed him so it wouldn't be like, you know, Lanny Davis.
DUPREE: Look, Robert Hur is no political hack. I mean, this guy is --
CORNISH: But over hard core.
DUPREE: -- credential.
CORNISH: I don't know. Whatever.
DUPREE: He's just smart.
CORNISH: Whatever that means.
DUPREE: He's integrity. And that's what I care about. I mean, look, it's hard to criticize the guy. You look at his credentials, his background, what he's done in the past. He's a straight shooter. And I'm totally confident he's going to do exactly as he said, which is follow this investigation fairly and fully.
TAPPER: Well, except unless if President Biden doesn't end up in the stockade by the end of it, Stephen Miller will say he's not hardcore enough.
Phil, President Biden has been leaning forward running for a second term, according to White House sources. Are there any indications that this is giving his political team or the President second thoughts at all?
MATTINGLY: You know, it's early. There's no question about that. The President didn't even find out about this until after he was done speaking at former Defense Secretary Ash Carter's funeral service earlier today. They weren't given a heads up. And so, obviously we have to see how this plays out.
One thing I would note, if you want a split screen of what the White House thought this week was going to be versus what it is now, President's comments this morning, his actual prepared remarks were about inflation that had decelerated for a 6th consecutive month. The grip of the primary issue they'd been dealing with throughout the course of the last year is finally starting to ease. They really felt like they were hitting a period of time both on the economy and more broadly on their legislative agenda as it's implemented where they were going to be in a very great place if he decided to give them the green light, which is what his advisors have expected. Obviously this throws a wrinkle in things. We'll see to what degree that wrinkle shows up in the coming weeks.
TAPPER: All right, thanks one and all for being here. A quick reminder, look for Audie Cordish's podcast, "The Assignment," wherever you download your podcast, it's fantastic. The latest edition focuses on people suffering from long COVID. A very important issue.
Coming up. He handed President Biden a letter during Biden's border visit on Sunday. Texas Governor Greg Abbott will join us live next.
Then, as more of his peers call for his resignation, Republican Congressman George Santo says there is only one thing that would make him resign. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Topping our national lead, a new temporary processing center for migrants in El Paso has been opened. U.S. officials say the tent like facility can hold up to 1000 more migrants as people line up in freezing temperatures to turn themselves into U.S. immigration authorities. Let's bring in CNN's Priscilla Alvarez.
And Priscilla, the administration, the Biden administration has rolled out a patchwork of border policies, but this is really all just a band aid on this larger crisis. Is there any discussion among lawmakers in the White House that suggests any real meaningful potential immigration legislation that might get passed?
PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, discussions are certainly underway. Just this week, we saw a bipartisan group of Senators visit the U.S. Mexico border, and that included Senators Tillis and Sinema, two senators who have previously worked on a framework for reform just last month. But the reality of the situation, Jake, is that it is going to be incredibly difficult to pass any reform, especially with the Republicans holding the majority in the House. It is unlikely that far right members will reach any consensus with Democrats. But the White House is still calling for that reform.
And the reason it's so urgent, Jake, is because the U.S. immigration system is buckling. It is just not equipped nor prepared for the number of people who are arriving on a daily, and at this point, yearly basis. The demographics, for example, have changed dramatically amid mass movement in the Western Hemisphere, and it's just not equipped to meet those needs.
Now, President Biden, as you mentioned, has been rolling out policies, some of which controversial and some of which have been from almost very similar to the Trump era. For example, he is expanding the use of that Trump era COVID restriction known as Title 42 to include other nationalities. His administration is also planning to release an asylum regulation that they bar some migrants from seeking asylum at the U.S. Mexico border if they already pass to another country. That is similar to a Trump era policy.
So, the President is clearly stuck at home when it comes to Congress and that reform. And we saw in Mexico City this week during the summit calling for partners in the region to assist. And that is going to be necessary moving forward. Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Priscilla Alvarez at the White House for us, thanks so much.
Joining us now in Texas, Republican Governor Greg Abbott.
Governor Abbott, so good to have you on. Thank you so much.
On Sunday, when President Biden visited the border, you hand delivered a letter to him. It was filled with criticism, demand, suggestions. It included a list of non-legislative border security actions that the President could take right now. Your first request would be to prosecute every single illegal entry and, quote, "end the practice of unlawfully paroling aliens on mass," unquote. As you know, no administration has ever been able to prosecute every single illegal entrant. The resources simply aren't there. How do you propose that suggestion would work in practice?
GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): Yes, just to make clear for the audience, when you said non legislative proposals, the points that I made to the President is that everything I asked the President to do is already part of the law that exists --
ABBOTT: -- in the United States, laws passed by Congress that the President has a sworn duty to uphold and to execute. So, it's his responsibility to muster the resources to do several things.
One that they could do that would reduce on the prosecutions is to engage in immediate removals. They have the authority to immediately remove large numbers of people. What they are doing is something they do not have the authority to do. They do not have the authority to release in mass the large number of people that they are doing. And by doing so, the Biden administration is actually violating the law that Congress already passed.
So one point I made to the President is, without having to get any new law passed, he just needs to enforce the current laws on the books. Jake, second, I pointed out that we, the state of Texas, already have two federal court orders against the Biden administration compelling them by law to enforce Title 42 as well as the remain in Mexico. Then I pointed out one last thing for which a federal statute already exists, and all the President has to do is sign his name to it, and that is to designate these drug cartels as terrorist organizations. And that would automatically unleash additional powers that the United States has to go after these cartels.
TAPPER: Let me ask you, many of the migrants coming into the United States illegally today are different from the ones that were coming into the United States during the Trump administration. A lot of the current migrants are fleeing failed socialist states such as Nicaragua or Cuba or Venezuela. Does that change the equation for you at all?
ABBOTT: Well, don't let the facts that you just stated, misstate the reality of what's happening on the ground. Sure, there are people coming from those countries. But Jake, we have people who are coming from more than 150 different countries across the globe. The primary way that we see the people we are encountering today to be different than those we've seen in the past is those who come in military style gear, prepared to weather whatever type of challenge they're going to face as they cross the border and get to a further destination later on. We believe that these are people who are working perhaps in collaboration with the cartels or who may have nefarious things they want to accomplish in the United States.
And that's one thing that must be pointed out for your audience, Jake, and that is that under the Biden administration and there have been more people apprehended who were on the terrorist watch list than ever before.
ABBOTT: We got very dangerous people who are coming across our border that the Biden administration is doing nothing to impede their entry into the United States.
TAPPER: Well, you're talking about apprehensions. And just for our viewers, and I know this better than I do, sir, but there is a difference between apprehensions, that's people who are caught and got aways, is the term, people who cross into this country and are not apprehended. I read this interesting study --
TAPPER: -- from -- let me just ask you about this. I read this interesting study from the libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute, which said Trump's policies actually just drove migrants to cross illegally and hide and get away, got aways, as opposed to crossing and seeking asylum. And, quote, "Border Patrol recorded 41 percent more successful illegal entries in fiscal year 2019 than in 2016 because of those tougher Trump policies." And I'm just wondering your perspective, do you think that suggests that maybe the Trump border policies weren't -- I'm not saying what's going on today is working at all, but that those policies also --
TAPPER: -- maybe were failing, but just in a different way.
ABBOTT: I think it's a complete misunderstanding of what's happening now as well as what happened before. So, I've been governor under President Obama, President Trump as well as President Biden, and never have we seen the magnitude, the size of the number of the people who are coming across the border. You know, you talked about there's a difference between encounters or apprehensions and got aways.
Remember this, under President Trump, we had the lowest number of apprehensions in decades. This past year, we had by far the largest number of apprehensions ever. We had about as many apprehensions just this one past year alone as there are residents in Houston, Texas. And importantly, as you noted, in addition to those apprehensions, there are those got aways.
And I want to make sure that this point is made complete. I talked to about the people on the terrorist watch list who were apprehended, the point is this, people who are on the terrorist watch list, they pay the cartels far more money to come across the border so that they will not be apprehended.
ABBOTT: If we apprehended that many people on the terrorist watch list, think how many who paid more, who evaded apprehension whatsoever, who may be wandering across the country trying to do evil to our country.
TAPPER: You also said the border crisis is happening because Biden hasn't defended the United States against, quote, "invasion." The Dallas Morning News editorial board, which we should note, endorsed you for governor in 2018 and endorsed you last fall as well. The Dallas Morning News editorial board said that accusation, quote, "repeats ugly rhetoric characterizing the border crisis in military terms that risk portraying all migrants as enemy combatants," unquote. I wanted to give you an opportunity to respond to that criticism.
ABBOTT: Sure. Actually, what it does is to repeat verbiage, word by word, of what's contained in the United States Constitution. Under Article 1, Section 10, it authorizes the governor of a state to declare an invasion for purposes of us as a state to be able to respond to what's going on our border. It's clear from the fact that I have now provided eight letters to the President of the United States asking for assistance for the State of Texas. And to each of those eight letters, his refused to provide any assistance whatsoever.
I've talked to Secretary Mayorkas about providing assistance to the state of Texas, all on deaf ears. Texas has been left alone as some frontier outpost for us to have to grapple with ourselves the record breaking volume of millions of people coming across the border a year.
Jake, if this is not an invasion, what is? Think about that. The volume of people coming across the border and look at what was happening on the ground in El Paso alone before the president showed up. It was all cleaned up, of course, right before he arrived, but they had completely overtaken all the streets of down -- not all, many of the streets of downtown El Paso in ways where control had been ceded to those who had come from another country.
TAPPER: Yes, I guess -- well, I don't speak for the Dallas Morning News editorial board, but I guess their point was there's a huge crisis going on at the border. It's a huge humanitarian crisis as well. Again, I don't need to tell you this, and using the term invasion, even if it is constitutional in terms of its origin, makes it sound like these people are all coming to harm the American people when maybe some of them are, but certainly most of them are not.
ABBOTT: Right. And listen, that's a misunderstanding of what I was saying. Two quick points. And one is, what I was doing was invoking a constitutional clause. The other is we were talking about those who were perpetuating the invasion, and that's the drug cartels. The drug cartels are invading the United States of America.
And if Americans don't know that, they need to wake up. If nothing else, they need to wake up to the reality that just Texas law enforcement alone has seized enough fentanyl that it would be enough to kill every man, woman and child in the entire United States of America. That could destroy us as a country. And it's Texas, not the United States, stepping up and trying to do something about it.
TAPPER: Fentanyl obviously a huge, huge crisis in this country.
Before you go, sir, and I do thank you for your time and your willingness to talk, I want to get your reaction to some reporting from CNN's Shimon Prokupecz this week, he obtained a video of Uvalde school police chief Pete Arredondo telling investigators the day after that horrible school shooting that he did not try to stop the gunman because, quote, "there's probably going to be some deceased in there, but we don't need any more from out here," unquote. Certainly an upsetting comment. What was your reaction when you heard that?
ABBOTT: Well, it confirmed two things that we knew and had proclaimed. One is that he was the incident commander at the school at the time that the shooting was taking place. Two, he failed to follow the Columbine protocol, which is the well-established protocol in the United States as well as in the state of Texas that when a shooting like this breaks out in a school, your job as a law enforcement officer is run to the shooter and take the shooter out. And by Pete Arredondo's own words, he did not follow through with that mandate. And that's exactly why -- I don't -- I can't remember if he resigned or was fired, but that's why he was relieved of his duties and should not be holding a position of law enforcement in the future.
TAPPER: Do you still have confidence in the head of DPS, Mr. McCraw? ABBOTT: So what Mr. McCraw has done, he has terminated or relieved of their duty. Several Texas Department of Public Safety officers who were on the scene, who, in Director McCraw's opinion, did not live up to the Columbine protocol.
TAPPER: All right. Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott, thank you so much for your time. Happy New Year. Hope you'll come back and talk to us with some more.
ABBOTT: Happy New Year to you also.
TAPPER: Coming up.
ABBOTT: Thank you.
TAPPER: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy giving Republican George Santos a gift as the pressure for Santos to resign grows. Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our politics lead, that nagging nevishy (ph) headache for House Republican leaders isn't going away because Congressman George Santos of New York keeps insisting he isn't going away despite growing calls for him to do so by Republican lawmakers over the laundry list of lies he told voters about his family, his education, his career, almost every single thing about him.
CNN's Melanie Zanona is live for us on Capitol Hill. Melanie, in the last day or so, six House Republicans, including five of his fellow New York Republicans, have called for him to step down, but not, not Speaker McCarthy.
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, Speaker McCarthy is standing by his side. He told reporters earlier today that he thinks it should be up to the voters in Santos's district to decide his political fate. But McCarthy did say that he's going to let this process play out in the House Ethics Committee, which is a bipartisan panel that really can only make recommendations about disciplinary action. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: The voters of his district have elected him. He is seated. He is part of the Republican conference. There are concerns with it. So he will go before Ethics. If anything is found to be have wrong, he will be held accountable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZANONA: Now, there is a political calculation at play here as well, because if Santos were to step down, that would tee up a special election in a Biden won blue district and there is a very strong chance that Democrats could flip that seat, making the House GOP's razor thin, majority even slimmer. But despite that reality, Jake, there has been a growing chorus of Republicans calling on Santos to resign, including from some fellow members of the New York delegation, which is very notable, Jake.
TAPPER: And we should note, former House Speaker Paul Ryan told me earlier today on air that he thought Santos should resign because he was a fraudulent candidate. Santos also refused to reveal today the source of more than $700,000 that he donated to his own campaign. What do we know about that?
ZANONA: Well, that is one of the key questions that has been surrounding his financial disclosure forms. One of the ethics complaints that was filed with the House Ethics Committee asked him to dig into those financial reports because it's unclear where that money came from, that he loaned his campaign.
It appeared that it came overnight from year to year, so there's a lot of questions about that. But it's really hard to take Santos's word. He even said that he has led an honest life today, even though there's a mountain of evidence to the contrary. And he continues to remain defiant, telling reporters that he will not resign, Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Melanie Zanona on Capitol Hill with the latest in the embarrassment that is George Santos.
The suspect in the murder of four University of Idaho students returns to court. Why he won't be back there again until June? Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our national lead now, the suspect in the horrific murders of four University of Idaho college students was in court today. He's the only suspect in this mass murder case that still has so many unanswered questions.
And as CNN's Josh Campbell reports for us now, investigators will now have more time to try to find some answers.
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The suspect in the murders of four university of Idaho students almost two months ago, escorted by a police caravan to his court appearance Thursday. 28-year-old Brian Kohberger walked into the courtroom for a status conference with his feet shackled, his hands free, dressed in prison orange, appearing with cuts from shaving his face, according to the sheriff.
JUDGE MEGAN MARSHALL, LATAH COUNTY DISTRICT COURT: Are you waiving your right to a speedy preliminary hearing and agreeing that that hearing can be held outside the 14-day period?
BRIAN KOHBERGER, SUSPECT IN KILLING FOUR IDAHO STUDENTS: Yes.
ANNE TAYLOR, KOOTENAI COUNTY, IDAHO, PUBLIC DEFENDER: And he's willing to waive the timeliness to allow us time to obtain discovery in this case when we prepared.
CAMPBELL (voice-over): It was Kohberger's second appearance in as many weeks after he waived extradition and was returned to Idaho to face charges of four counts of first-degree murder and one count of burglary. He has not yet entered a plea.
Kohberger is a sole suspect of the brutal stabbings of Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle, and Ethan Chapin. Police still have not released any indication they have a murder weapon or a motive connecting the suspect to the victims. Kohberger's Pennsylvania attorney said the suspect told him he believes he will be exonerated.
The nearly seven-week manhunt ended last month in rural Pennsylvania, where authorities arrested Kohberger at his family home. The horrific cases captivated the country and rocked the small college town of Moscow, Idaho, where students returned to campus this week after the winter break. Many students say the suspect's arrest now makes the community feel safer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They got somebody who they think did it, and I breathe a sigh of relief. I'm pretty sure that my mom did the same thing.
CAMPBELL (voice-over): Others say they remain vigilant.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm hanging out with some more people. Definitely staying in groups.
CAMPBELL: Now, Jake, I was in court here earlier today, seated behind the murder suspect. He made no outward sign of emotion, no eye contact with anyone in the courtroom other than the judge and his defense attorney. He will be back in this courtroom on June 26. That will be that next critical hearing where we could learn new evidence about the prosecution's case. Until that time, the judge is ordered that he remain in the custody of the state with no bond. Jake?
TAPPER: Josh Campbell in Moscow, Idaho. Thank you so much.
Ominous images coming in from Selma, Alabama, an apparent tornado on the ground. The city now reporting extensive damages. So far, thankfully, no reports of deaths or injury, but authorities have issued a curfew as of dusk to survey the neighborhoods. Very hard hit, as you see in those images.
More than a dozen tornadoes were reported today in Alabama alone, including eerie scenes like this across the southeast. In Georgia, flights were grounded briefly at Atlanta's Hartsfield Jackson International due to storms. A lot of this from the same system that caused severe flooding in California earlier in the week. More than 35 million people in the United States under some level of threat for severe storms right now.
From the links to a courtroom, the golf fight that involves Saudi Arabia, Bob Costas is going to join us to weigh in, next.
TAPPER: In our sports lead today, a golf legal feud that is about so much more than putting a ball in a hole. It's heating up. Tomorrow, a California judge will hold a hearing on whether the Saudi-backed LIV, golf organization needs to cooperate in the legal fight they and their players picked with the PGA Tour.
Saudi Arabia has been trying to use LIV to gain greater Western and worldwide acceptance, despite Saudi Arabia's record of human rights abuses. And LIV and its Saudi backers now find themselves in a legal war that involves the Saudi government, 9/11 families and many of the top names in golf.
As you may recall, LIV Golf was founded in 2021, backed by the Saudi Sovereign Wealth Fund, which is estimated to be worth more than $600 billion. Last year, LIV with that money snagged several top PGA players to come on board. They included Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka.
The Human Rights challenge Saudis did this by offering these players quite a bit of money. A lot of money. Blood money? Sure. Maybe a lot of it. The former number one golfer in the world, Dustin Johnson, made around $74 million in PGA Tour prize money through the course of his career.
After turning pro in 2007, LIV reportedly offered to pay him $125 million just for a four-year contract. Phil Mickelson was reportedly offered $200 million to take the jump to LIV. That's more than double what he had made in total throughout his entire 30-year career.
Now, of course, this new golf organization, threatening the fame and popularity of the PGA Tour, can't afford to offer this cash. And they have a PR incentive because, of course, Saudi Arabia has a horrifying human rights record, including severe medieval restrictions on girls and women, repression of the LGBTQ community, a country whose elites had ties to Al Qaeda, the terrorist organization responsible for 9/11, whose Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to the CIA, ordered the killing of Washington Post journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
The Saudis do not want you to think about that when you think about Saudi Arabia. Last year, LIV Golf held at least seven events, two of them at Trump properties, one at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. The team championship was at the Trump National Doral in Florida. Donald Trump himself was seen with Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene at the LIV tournament at his Bedminster Hotel.
Around that same time, Trump, on his Truth social website, urged golfers to, quote, take the money from the Saudis and not stay loyal to the PGA.
As this was happening, the PGA started suspending and putting restrictions on golfers who had signed on to LIV. And here's where the legal trouble started. Last August, 11 golfers from LIV sued the PGA, challenging those restrictions. LIV then joined onto that lawsuit, arguing anti-trust violations, asserting that the PGA had essentially a monopoly on golf.
Then PGA countersued, saying that LIV had, quote, tortuously interfered with its contracts with golfers. The trial to hash all this out is set for January of next year, 2024. But that gets us to where we are now. Investors with LIV are arguing to the judge that they should not have to cooperate with the rules of discovery, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its Public Investment Fund, or PIF. They're claiming they should not have to play a role in this at all, that they're not directly involved in LIV's day to day operations.
But the PGA says that claim is false. PGA is saying the Saudis want to use the American justice system to fight the PGA without abiding by the American justice system rules of discovery. We should note another recent development dealing with the PR firm that the PGA hired to deal with this, a firm it's called Clout. Clout also represents a group of 9/11 families.
And now LIV, the Saudis are trying to force Clout through a subpoena to turn over information about its relationship to those 9/11 family organizations. That's right. The Saudis suing a PR firm that represents 9/11 families. Believe it or not.
LIV trying to determine whether the PGA is using connections to the 9/11 families to protest LIV, they say. Which those families did at several tournaments last year, including at Trump's Bedminster Hotel. Those same families have for years, of course, been suing Saudi Arabia, accusing the Kingdom of involvement in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which the Kingdom has hidden from the public. That's a charge the Saudis, of course, deny.
Joining us now to talk about it all, CNN Contributor Sportscaster Bob Costas. Bob, this seems like a clear example of what you and I have talked about sports, watching the Saudi government trying to gain acceptance throughout the world using its flashy new golf organization while continuing to commit these horrifying human rights abuses.
BOB COSTAS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: True. And all the details that you just laid out, accurate as they are so dizzying, they almost made my earpiece pop out. So I apologize for the spaghetti strand hanging over my shoulder. I can't quite figure that out.
Yes, the whole idea of sports washing is one we've talked about, and we should stipulate. Many U.S. companies, including some who are sponsors of the PGA, have business relationships with Saudi Arabia and the United States, and sports leagues in the United States are deeply invested in China. But that doesn't change the fact that these individual golfers had a choice to make. It wasn't as if they'd be on a breadline if they stayed with the PGA. They had a choice to make. What they did is not by any means illegal and accepting the money, but to many people, it's unseemly, given all the background which you just laid out.
And while it's on the USOC for putting two Olympics in Beijing, another in Sochi, and it's on FIFA for putting a World Cup in Qatar, those athletes, if they're Olympians or soccer players, have no choice but to go. The golfers in this case had a choice.
TAPPER: Former President Trump has hosted two LIV events at his own properties, subjecting him to a lot of criticism from 9/11 families. What do you make of it?
COSTAS: Well, first of all, we'll see what happens in the future, and if LIV Golf develops some kind of following, golf fans don't really seem to care about the outcomes of the events, but they've only had seven or eight. But in the first year, it's also a MAGA tour as well as a LIV Golf tour, including the former president, with his usual sensitivity and grace, thumbing his nose at the 9/11 families.
Some 700 of those who perished on 9/11 2001 were from New Jersey, some of them in the immediate Bedminster area. And we'll see what turns up in court, as the LIV interests are alleging that Clout has some relationship with the 9/11 families also representing the PGA. But the idea that the 9/11 families need a nudge from the PGA Tour to protest what happened, to protest President Trump holding an event at his course, and to push for years and years for the Saudi Arabians to acknowledge some sort of responsibility for 9/11, all of that predates any of this LIV PGA kerfuffle.
So that doesn't make a whole lot of sense. We'll see what comes out in court. But you would expect a former president, all but one, any former president, to be more sensitive to the meaning both to the country and to the individual families, of holding an event in the shadow, in effect, of the World Trade Center and then saying -- former president of the United States saying, you know, we never really got to the bottom of what happened on 9/11. We really should look into that.
TAPPER: Yes. He, of course, was president for four years.
COSTAS: A well-informed man.
TAPPER: Yes, he could have done --
TAPPER: -- something about that. Someone else, by the way, who doesn't need the money --
TAPPER: -- Donald Trump. How do you see this legal fight being resolved?
COSTAS: I didn't catch the last thing you said, Jake, I'm sorry.
TAPPER: How do you see the legal fight being resolved? I don't have the expertise to say. The Saudis have a boundless amount of money, and so they will continue to attract big stars, at least for the time being, I'm sure.
And you and I are going to stay on top of this and keep talking about it and keep talking about it. Bob Costas, thank you so much, as always.
You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram --
COSTAS: Thank you, Jake.
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Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer. He's in a place I like to call "THE SITUATION ROOM" right after this short break.