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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Failed GOP Candidate Accused Of Targeting Dems Appears In Court; Two Veterans Say Rep. Santos Took $3K From Fund To Save Dying Dog's Life; New White House Strategy On Classified Docs Crisis Taking Shape; Helicopter Crash Outside Of Kindergarten Kills 14 People; Court Documents List Items Retrieved From Residence Of Suspect In Idaho Student Murders; Multiple Lawsuits Filed Over Illinois' New Ban On Some Firearms; Notorious Cuban Spy Released From U.S. Prison After 21 Years. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired January 18, 2023 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go ahead and find me order transferring this case to District Court.
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An unsurprising turn for some of Pena's neighbors. Pena lived here on the third story of this condominium parked outside his car, a fixed with political bumper stickers displaying his support of Donald Trump. We went to his condo complex where neighbors say Pena forcefully argued with anyone who disagreed with Trump's laws about election fraud.
SHARON BODE, NEIGHBOR OF SOLOMON PENA: People were unhappy with him and the way he treated and spoke to other people and the fact that he didn't have conversations. He had accusations and he had a way of telling people they didn't know what they were talking about,
LAH (on camera): Always about politics?
BODE: Always about politics. Yes.
LAH (voice-over): Pena didn't just talk about Trump, he followed him out of state. Video appears to show Pena at three different Trump rallies in Washington, D.C. In one video clip, his name is stitched into his hat. And in July 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona, CNN video captured a man who appears to be Pena in the rally crowd. Pena would later post a picture of himself as an attendee.
A year later, Pena ran for office in New Mexico as a Republican candidate for the State House. He lost last November by a landslide but Pena echoing Trump would not accept an election loss. Police say he targeted four Democrats to blame, finding their addresses and confronting them.
DEBBIE O'MALLEY, BERNALILLO COUNTY COMMISSION CHAIRWOMAN: So I went to the gate and that's where he was. And he seemed agitated, he seemed a little aggressive, and I did tell someone about it. And they said, you know, this guy's a felon. SAM BREGMAN, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, BERNATILLO COUNTY, N.M.: Mr. Pena, that he orchestrated. He made phone calls. He basically hired people to shoot at people's houses.
LAH (voice-over): Pena is a convicted felon who spent years behind bars for grand larceny. One of the men he hired say Albuquerque police may have been in the same prison at the same time. What began as a political axe to grind quickly escalated, says Albuquerque police chief. Text messages from Pena to the other suspects all hired guns point to a greater threat. The warrant says Solomon wanted the shootings to be more aggressive to ensure a better target acquisition.
BREGMAN: People are pissed off about this. I'm pissed off about it. This is goes to the heart of what we're all about democracy. You can't shoot guns at someone's house and just to terrorize them because they're elected official and you have some crazy election denying motivation behind it. That is unacceptable.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
LAH: Now the district attorney tells me that he is quote, so "pissed" about this one. That he's going to prosecute this himself. We did reach out to Pena's attorney, she did not call us back. He is being held without bond. Jake.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Kyung Lah, thank you so much.
With me now to discuss this former Metropolitan D.C. police officer Michael Fanone, who as you know, defended the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Mike, good to see you. As you just heard CNN's Kyung Lah reports, investigators say this was definitively a politically motivated attacker. Republican election denier getting people to shoot at the homes of Democrats. Does this concern you that we're still seeing this kind of deranged political violence after -- two years after or one year after? Two -- no, two years after January 6?
MICHAEL FANONE, FORMER D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE OFFICER: I mean, it certainly concerns me, but it's not surprising.
FANONE: I mean, that rhetoric, the same rhetoric that resulted in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by MAGA Trump supporters is the same rhetoric that continues to be used by Republican candidates for national office all the way down to state and local elected offices. And so, you know, we see this rhetoric inspiring acts of violence.
TAPPER: So, I mean, look, obviously there are acts of violence committed against Democrats and Republicans. We saw the shooting of Steve Scalise and the congressional Republicans playing baseball, the attempted assassination of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, we saw the attack on Paul Pelosi, January 6, and on and on and on. It does seem more prevalent on the right against Democrats than on the left against Republicans. But either way, there's too much of it. How did we get here?
FANONE: Well, like you said, I think violent rhetoric used by elected officials is always inexcusable. And regardless of what party the individual using it as affiliated with, that being said, you know, Donald Trump invited these, you know, Solomon Pena's of the world into the Republican Party and they become this, you know, what's referred to as the MAGA wing. And these individuals really have what seems to be like this apocalypse fetish. They believe that, you know, elections are being stolen from them, that the Democratic Party is, you know, changing the makeup of this country and is taking rights away from them. And it has brought about this reaction that is incredibly violent.
I mean, if you look at the makeup of a lot of the individuals that were arrested on January 6, you know, these, quote unquote, "patriots," these are individuals whose backgrounds were filled with criminal history, such as spousal abuse, domestic violence, drug trafficking, violent assaults, felony assaults, those are the individuals that Donald Trump welcomed into the Republican Party, and that make up that, you know, diehard base that the rest of the, you know, moderate Republicans can't seem to shake themselves free of.
TAPPER: So the reporting suggests that a former staffer for Pena, Solomon Pena, said that he would get triggered by Republicans who did not support Donald Trump. And obviously, this investigation is just beginning, et cetera. But we know he was a big MAGA supporter, we know that he believed that what Donald Trump was saying about the elections are being stolen. And then he thought that that happened to him in New Mexico, even though he lost in a landslide. Do you see him as part of the continuation of what happened on January 6?
FANONE: Oh, absolutely. And I think that, you know, it is time that we start to separate the MAGA wing of -- and I get the fact that, you know, it occupies their elected leaders that occupy the Republican Party that ascribe to be, you know, Trump supporters, but it is become something completely different than a necessarily a political movement. It is a violent criminal element that has a foothold in our political system at this point.
TAPPER: Yes. I mean, obviously, not everybody who was in MAGA, but like, there's clearly a section of that group that is, if they're not violent themselves, they excuse it. I mean, you saw how individuals on Fox attacked you and other police officers who testified before the January 6 committee, even though what you went through was horrible. Just, I mean, it's so difficult to understand a movement where people laugh at police officers protecting the Capitol dying or suffering debilitating injuries for the rest of their lives.
FANONE: I mean, I agree with you.
FANONE: That being said, I mean, that's where we are at this particular moment in the aftermath of the Trump presidency, and again, dealing with these individuals that Trump brought into our political system who have now taken the Republican Party hostage.
TAPPER: Yes. Officer Fanone, as always, great to see you. Thank you so much, and thank you for what you did.
Republican Congressman George Santos is in the doghouse. He's now accused of taking 1000s of dollars from a homeless veteran who was trying to get life-saving surgery for his dog. Then, new details about what police found when looking -- what police were looking for when they searched the apartment belonging to the suspect and the Idaho student murder. Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our politics lead, another day another accusation of George Santos being a mendacious con man. Today, the embattled New York Republican congressman is denying claims that he used a fake animal charity to con two military veterans allegedly stealing $3,000 Santos helped raise for life saving treatment for one of the veterans beloved and dying service dogs, Sapphire. CNN's Eva McKend joins us with details on this awful story.
I mean, he literally was taking advantage of a homeless veteran trying to get money to help his dog?
EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, that's what it certainly sounds like, Jake, the Navy veteran was connected with Santos who at the time, as our viewers know by now, he goes by different names, is going by different names. He's gone by the name Anthony Devolder, which Osthoff's dog, Sapphire, had a tumor. Santos post on Facebook using the name George Devolder, so another name there, soliciting funds through GoFundMe for the vet and his dog.
Now, the Facebook post Santos wrote in part said, "Will you help this baby and her daddy stay together for a few more years? Does he not deserve to have her? Let's all come together to help this family of two stay healthy." But Osthoff, he tried to retrieve the money, he just kept getting the runaround from Santos, and Santos never transferred the $3,000 to the veteran.
Now, Santos told the news outlets semaphore that this story first reported by Patch was fake and that he had no clue who this is. And CNN reached out to Santos as well. We will tell you when we hear back from him, but it sounds very devastating, Jake.
TAPPER: Eva, what do police have to say? What does GoFundMe have to say? And I hesitate to ask because I think I know the answer, whatever happened to Sapphire?
MCKEND: So Sapphire unfortunately died about six months after the last contact with Santos. Osthoff said he didn't get very far with the police when he alerted them. Osthoff was forced to panhandle for the money to pay for her euthanization. He described this as really devastating and dehumanizing. GoFundMe tells us they did remove the fundraiser from its platform after receiving a report about it. And in a statement they said, "When we received a report of an issue with this fundraiser in late 2016, our trust and safety team sought proof of the delivery of funds from the organizer. The organizer failed to respond which led to the fundraiser being removed and the e-mail associated with that account prohibited from further use on our platform."
You know, this is not an isolated incident involving Santos. This appears to be part of a long pattern of deception, Jake.
TAPPER: Eva McKend, thanks so much.
Let's discuss. Kasie, if you wrote a villain in a movie who cheated a homeless veteran's dying dog, the studio would say this -- that's too broad. Nobody would do that. Nobody would do that. They'd send notes back. And yet, I mean, according to this homeless veteran, that's -- and there's evidence that's what happened with Congressman Santos.
KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I mean, Jake, I got to be honest, I don't even know what to say. Like, I just don't. Like you and I both do this for a living. We talk and cover -- we report on, talk about cover politics. This story is quite literally beyond the pale.
I mean, it is horrible. This poor dog, this poor man, anyone who's ever been in a situation where they've loved an animal knows what it's like to have that kind of a connection. And in this case, the circumstances just really -- I mean, this was all that this man had and George Santos took advantage of him reportedly.
TAPPER: So, there was -- I'm thinking about congressional pseudonyms. I'm thinking -- there's Pierre Delecto, which was when Mitt Romney's burner account. There's Carlos Danger, Anthony Weiner's pseudonym for --
HUNT: This is the things that Jake remember.
TAPPER: But -- well, I'm just saying like it comes to mind, and that we have -- because we had Anthony Devolder, I guess was his. But Nancy Pelosi forced to resign. You know what I mean? She's like, no more, this is embarrassing. At what point does this, and I know, the margin stand, but at what point do you think Kevin McCarthy is like, this is such a distraction for what we're trying to achieve?
MIKE SHIELDS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, look, first of all, I hope he -- maybe we can have a new GoFundMe. People now know who this veteran is, let's -- maybe we can get somebody.
TAPPER: Buy him a new dog.
SHIELDS: And if he's a wounded veteran, let's give him some money anyway.
MARIO PARKER, WHITE HOUSE AND POLITICS EDITOR, BLOOMBERG: Yes.
SHIELDS: He can't handle for anything, he should be taken care off.
SHIELDS: And Santos has a right to defend himself. And he's under investigation. There's ethics -- people looking at some of the things he's done. There's some foreign legal entanglements he's involved in. I think the speaker's position is, let's let that play out, we don't need to jump ahead of that.
He was elected by the people of his district. And there -- he has constituents to represent. And so, until we know anything else -- look, at the bigger picture to me is, this is a freshman congressman on the Small Business Committee.
SHIELDS: This is not the end of the world. This is not someone who's in charge of nuclear secrets. So, let's let this play out a little bit and find out exactly what has happened. And then I think either Congress may take a role in the Ethics Committee or the voters are going to take care of it eventually.
HUNT: I mean, it has played in fairness. I mean, we have learned a lot about George Santos.
TAPPER: Yes. But Mike means the Ethics Committee investigation.
HUNT: This particular investigation.
SHIELDS: Well, I think you get into a dangerous place when you start saying, if someone's lied about their background, we can just throw them out of Congress. That's a really dangerous precedent to set. There's a lot of senators and members of Congress right now that we would throw out to Congress.
SHIELDS: The President of United States claimed to be going to Myers (ph), you know, liaison for the Six Days War and that he was appointed to the Naval Academy and that he went to the Tree of Life synagogue when he didn't go there, and just on and he was a coal miner, and he was a truck driver. And so, you know, he's the President of the United States and he has inflated his resume. He stole Neil Kinnock's entire life story at one point in his life. So, like --
TAPPER: Deep cut, back about 1988.
TAPPER: What do you think? PARKER: No, I mean, in some ways, politically, it's a problem for Republicans, because he's an avatar. There'll be an extreme avatar of the chaos that's really beset the party, right? And it's all connected.
The reason that he -- that Kevin McCarthy is in this conundrum is because he has a narrow majority, a narrower than expected majority and it's because they can appeal to independent voters, a broader swath of the electorate. And then you hold up if you're a Democrat, you hold up Santos, that's not going to get you any more votes.
TAPPER: What do you think?
CHRISTY SETZER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I mean, it's not just that it's a headache now for Kevin McCarthy, is that it's going to continue to be a headache for him, because the stories have been so colorful and audacious that they're just sort of catnip, I think, both for reporters and obviously, for the investigators who are looking at him at both the state, local and federal level right now. So, it's just such a distraction.
And I think one other thing about this story is that, again, because some of George Santos' cons have been so, frankly, funny, the volleyball story is hilarious. I think that you --
TAPPER: Explain what the volleyball story is because people, --
SETZER: He lied and said that he was the star of the volleyball team at Baruch College, a college that he did not attend, certainly was not on the volleyball team for, that's pretty funny. But in this case, you know, he hurt real people.
HUNT: Well, I mean, the one thing too, I will say, and as much as we have sort of talked about the incurred -- how ridiculous the dog story is and how awful, I mean, he stole money from this man.
HUNT: Right. I mean, that fundamentally is a crime. You know, I mean, obviously the details of it have to be sorted through by the proper authorities, but that is the place where, I mean, yes, people inflate their resumes, they, you know, say oh, I did this thing or I went to this place, that's not the same thing as somehow finding hundreds of 1000s of dollars to fund your campaign and had no explanation for where it came from.
HUNT: Right. That stuff is, at the end of the day, if George Santos is going to get thrown out of Congress, it's going to be because of things like that. TAPPER: Let's talk about both the current president and the former president, and they're dealing with their classified issues. So, for President Trump -- look, let's start with Biden.
President Biden has a new strategy, according to Phil Mattingly, one of the things that Mattingly says that they're going to do is attack House Republicans and not really get into the details of it all. What do you make of the strategy?
SETZER: I mean, it makes sense. And the reason why it makes sense is because they're not dealing with good faith actors on the other side. It is incredibly easy, I think, for people to hear the words classified documents, president and compare the two situations. And even if Biden comes out favorably, which of course he does, they're sort of the people who remember Highlights Magazine, Goofus and Gallant, one person did everything right, the other person did everything wrong. It's still not --
TAPPER: That's a deep cut today.
HUNT: Lots of Highlights Magazine in my house.
TAPPER: No, I got it, too. I just said it's a very Gen X panel. Yes.
SETZER: Very Gen X.
TAPPER: Finish your point, then Mike go.
SETZER: The point is that, like, it's still not the conversation that the Biden ministration wants to be having. So they want to be able to say, look, it's different in a pretty quick way. And then they want to be able to say, but the people who are making this argument, Republicans in Congress, are not talking about this in a good faith way. They want chaos, they want destruction.
I mean, look at the way that House speaker vote went. And all they really want to do is talk about, say, Hunter Biden's laptop and not fully governed. I think that's a good strategy.
SHIELDS: I mean, this entire thing is absurd. Before the election, Donald Trump's residence was rated. Pictures were leaked of documents that he had. And it wasn't -- there was not a conversation of, well, let's look at the motives and make sure that -- the conversation was, you should never ever have classified documents in your property. You shouldn't have it, whether it's under lock and key, doesn't matter.
Now, oh, Joe Biden had it. We knew about it before the election. We didn't let any the voters know that. And oh -- but now, his motives are different. And he had it in his garage, it was a little different. That dog won't hunt, the American people look at this.
SETZER: .They gave them back. I mean, there's a tremendous difference between -- and again, this isn't necessarily the argument, I think, that anybody wants to be having right now. But if we have to engage on it, again, they did the right thing.
SHIELDS: No, there are some differences. One was under lock and key, one was in a garage. The President of United States can declassify things, the vice president can't. One had just left office, the other one, we've had them for over eight years after he left office or 12 years.
PARKER: I think it was six, by the way.
SHIELDS: There are a lot of difference, but once you get into the --
SHIELDS: -- spin of what they're different, you've fundamentally lost a political argument.
HUNT: Yes. Well, I mean, here's the thing, the two of you, right, are going back and forth this from either side politically, this is the kind of stuff that the American people are just stripped sick off.
HUNT: Right? Like this -- I mean, it's the fact that people from each side of the aisle talk about this completely differently, depending on which person that they pull, you know, the lever for when they go into the ballot box just makes it very clear to Americans that there are a lot of people out there that aren't acting or talking in good faith. Like, you're right, there are significant differences between these two cases. I mean, I would point to the fact that the FBI had to go, you know, subpoena these documents, trying to get them back as key difference.
Mario, I just want to -- Trump has a new excuse for the classified folders in his possession. In a Truth Social post he wrote, "When I was in the Oval Office or elsewhere in papers were distributed to groups of people and me, they would often be in a strike paper folder with classified or confidential or another word on them. When the session was over, they would collect the papers, but not the folders, and I saved hundreds of them. They were a cool keepsake."
PARKER: I think after this entire episode, this is the most plausible -- his is the first thing, I think, we all thought of when this happened and (INAUDIBLE).
TAPPER: That he just admit that he just took the folders?
PARKER: That he kept it because he thought it was cool, because it was a keepsake.
TAPPER: Yes, but he's saying he just was kept the folders. He didn't keep the actual documents.
HUNT: Well, and I think that the DOJ has debunked that already, right? I mean, we know that there were documents found. TAPPER: Yes. But Trump is saying that they were planted by the deep state. Yes.
PARKER: And I think it's important for us to note the timing of it all as well, right? Kind of the case he's point.
PARKER: Yes, Americans are tired of some of this, but also, Trump's facing a primary where about 30 percent of folks, if he can rile them up and make them say that this is a two tier system, it's a dishonest system, it's -- the field is unbalanced against Republicans, that's something that may help him when he goes up against a DeSantis or a Youngkin
HUNT: Or against him, specifically.
TAPPER: Thanks one and all for being here.
Growing questions about what caused the crash of a helicopter carrying one of Ukraine's top government officials. That's next.
And we're back with our world lead. The Ukrainian government says search and rescue operations have ended after that tragic helicopter crash in the Kyiv suburb of Brovary earlier today. The incident killing at least 14 people including Ukraine's interior minister and a young girl named Malanka (ph). CNN's Fred Pleitgen spent the day at the scene and spoke to witnesses about the moments before and after the horrific tragedy.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Widespread destruction after the helicopter for Ukraine's interior minister crashed near Kyiv. An eye witness describing the scene to me.
I saw a helicopter that was flying towards the kindergarten, he says, it landed almost vertically. I saw an explosion. I came down to help clear the debris. He also shot this video of the immediate aftermath.
(on camera): The chopper crashed at the foot of this residential building. As you can see, there's lots of parts strewn around everywhere. It completely burned out killing everyone inside and several people on the ground.
Among the dead, Ukraine's Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi, his deputy Yevhen Yenin and State Secretary Yuri Lubkovych.
The Deputy Minister's wife in tears as she reached the scene. Especially tragic, a child was also among several people killed on the ground as the aircraft hit a kindergarten, just as parents were dropping their kids off. Two boys describe how they tried to help.
Here, they passed injured children over the fence, this boy says. Mostly, they had bruises and scratches. Poem (ph) put bandages on them, wrote down their names and surnames and found their parents.
The chopper, a Eurocopter Super Puma. Ukrainian authorities have launched an investigation into the possible causes of the crash.
YURII IHNAT, UKRAINIAN AIR FORCES SPOKESPERSON (through translation): Various factors, radio communications and the technical condition of the helicopter needs to be examined. This would take at least several weeks.
Denys Monastyrskyi was one of Ukraine's most important officials. We traveled with him to the Chernobyl nuclear plant shortly after Russian forces withdrew from there. Monastyrskyi frequently visited the front lines to help boost morale.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): They have such a strong fighting spirit and are ready for any scenario. We heard the shells exploding, but no one is afraid as everyone is ready.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Ukrainian forces are currently facing a major Russian onslaught in the eastern part of the country near Bakhmut and Soledar. And dozens were killed when a massive Russian missile hit a residential building in Dnipro.
And now Ukraine is also mourning the loss of more than a dozen people, including some of the country's top officials.
PLEITGEN: And Jake, the search and rescue operations, they lasted for nine hours today. That's what the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said. Some of the other possible causes they're looking at is they are also looking at possible pilot air. But we do also understand that there was a good deal of fog in that area when that chopper came down.
They don't, at this point, believe that it was possibly shot down. Despite the fact that, of course, Ukraine is currently being invaded by the Russians. They do believe this was a tragic accident and of course it is a big loss for Ukraine with some of those top officials being killed, Jake.
TAPPER: Fred Pleitgen in Kyiv, Ukraine for us. Thanks so much.
Turning to our national lead now, we're learning what police found inside the apartment of the suspect in those horrific University of Idaho student murders. CNN's Veronica Miracle has been following the story since the very beginning. And Veronica, this is the first time we're learning about the evidence collected from Brian Kohberger's apartment in Washington State. VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Jake. And during the search warrant, we could really get a sense of what police were looking for. They cast a very wide net and they found more than a dozen items that appear to be quite significant to this investigation.
So I'm just going to list some of them off and then talk about why this could be important to the investigation. They found strands of hair, a sample of reddish brown stain on an uncased pillow, they found a black glove, Walmart, and Marshalls receipts, and they found a Fire TV stick as well as a computer tower.
Now, we know, reading the search warrant and also the affidavit, they were looking for trace evidence of hair, whether that was a human or an animal. In that affidavit, we were able to discover that Kaylee Goncalves's dog was home at the time of the murders. And according to this search warrant, in Bryan Kohberger's apartment, they were able to find several hair strands, including a possible animal hair strand.
We know they were looking for blood and other bodily fluid, and they collected a dark red spot, two reddish brown stains from a pillow, as well as mattress covers with multiple stains. They were also looking for clothing. That suspect, seen by the surviving roommate in the house, was said to be wearing dark clothing from head to toe, including a mask that covered the nose and the mouth.
And police were able to find a Walmart receipt with a dickies tag, two Marshalls receipts, and a nitrite type black glove, basically like a medical glove. And finally, they were looking for any kind of digital images, any images that showed the victims, the house, the neighborhood, anything that showed that he -- that Bryan Kohberger may have looked up murders or violent assaults or even how to avoid detections after committing crimes.
They were able to find a Fire TV stick, and a computer tower. But, Jake, what they did not discover was a murder weapon inside that apartment. And that murder weapon still has not been found. Jake?
TAPPER: All right, Veronica Miracle, thanks so much for that update.
It is now up to a judge to determine if Illinois's new ban on some semiautomatic weapons will go forward after several sheriffs in the state say they will not enforce that law. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Right now, racks of assault style semiautomatic weapons are on display at gun stores in Illinois, but they are not for sale after that state became the 9th in the nation to pass a ban on those specific firearms last week. And now gun activist groups are fighting back. At least three lawsuits are in the works, including one emergency hearing today that could put a temporary stay on Illinois's new ban as soon as Friday.
The new law does not require current owners of these assault style semiautomatic weapons to give them up, but it does mean that they will have to register those firearms within the year. Nonetheless, dozens of Illinois sheriffs are now saying they will not enforce parts of the new ban, citing the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Listen to the Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker, responding to the criticism this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. J.B. PRITZKER (D), ILLINOIS: It's a lot of political grandstanding by elected Republican sheriffs. The truth is that there's nothing for them to enforce at this point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Let's bring in CNN Contributor Stephen Gutowski. He's at SHOT Show, that's the gun industry's trade show in Las Vegas right now at the Flamingo, I believe. Stephen, Second Amendment activists are worried that this ban and registration will ultimately lead to the confiscation of these specific weapons. Is that a legitimate fear, do you think?
STEPHEN GUTOWSKI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, certainly. I mean, obviously registration makes it practical to try and confiscate firearms from people. That's the concern that a lot of gun owners have with that policy. And, you know, have seen some attempts at confiscation of certain, at least magazines here in the United States, some firearms as well in California and jurisdictions like that.
You could absolutely see down the line in Illinois something along that same kind of proposal. It's not what this bill is. As you mentioned, people can keep the guns they currently own if they register them. But that's certainly a major concern among gun rights advocates.
TAPPER: How does Illinois ban stack up against the eight other states that have enacted similar bans against what are called assault style semiautomatic weapons? And how hard will this be for the government of Illinois to enforce?
GUTOWSKI: This ban is somewhere in the middle of what you see out there right now in relatively deep blue states that have these sorts of policies. It's not as strict as, say, California or Massachusetts, but it's stricter than the 94 national ban was. It's similar in the way it's constructed, except instead of allowing people to features that are banned, that you're only allowed to have one. So it affects far more firearms.
And then as far as enforcement goes, I think it will be fairly difficult, especially without cooperation of local law enforcement, as you alluded to at the top of the segment here, because Illinois knows who has guns because they have a firearm owner identification card system. So if you want to own guns, you have to get one of these cards first. But it doesn't know what guns each person has. So how they would go about arresting people who choose not to register firearms or register these guns after 300 days, it's really unclear. The state police could do it, but I don't know that they have the resources. And if they don't have local cooperation, it can be very, very difficult.
TAPPER: Well, and let's talk about these Illinois sheriffs who have come out in droves pledging not to enforce parts of this ban. You talk about a movement called Second Amendment sanctuary cities. Explain that.
GUTOWSKI: Yes. So people might be familiar with the sanctuary cities in regards to immigration law that sort of came up about the last decade or so. Now in the gun rights community, they copied this tactic, and now a lot of counties across many states that was sort of very popular really took off in Virginia a couple of years ago. And Democrats had control there, and we're considering a number of gun control policies, but it's now taking root in a lot of other states.
And this is kind of the first real test of it because a lot of it had been somewhat symbolic in the sense that the local counties would pass resolutions that say, we won't enforce what we consider to be unconstitutional gun laws. But a lot of it was forward looking, like if you pass something like an assault gun's ban, we're not going to enforce that, or if you try to confiscate people's guns, we're going to resist that effort.
Now, you have a situation where these sheriffs and I believe there's over 80 of them, including one for the second most populous county in the state, are really putting that to the test. And the governor, as comments you play at the beginning of this is sort of pushing back and challenge them on their refusal to enforce these laws.
And it's really not clear how that's going to shake out, how much power the governor has over these elected local officials is not, I think, really clear. There's almost a constitutional crisis sort of situation in the state over this kind of activism.
TAPPER: All right. Stephen Gutowski in Las Vegas at the big industry gun show. Thank you so much. Good to see you.
More now in our politics lead in a question being asked in Ocean Township, New Jersey. Will the rightful winner of a recent school board election be seated? That's now an issue after it was revealed that an uploading error during last November's election led some votes to be counted twice.
CNN's Omar Jimenez is following this for us. And Omar, the error could change the outcome in one race, but obviously that's one too many. How did this happen and how is it caught?
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake. So basically, we don't know if the winner of a local school board race is actually the winner. And this goes all the way back to last summer. The Monmouth County, New Jersey election system vendor said that they were updating a soft or reinstalling some software and they missed a step that would have caught votes being counted twice.
So because they missed that step, the system says, well, votes were inadvertently counted twice here, and the county elections offices followed up with a statement today saying that as a result of the problem, there were inaccurate vote tallies in six of Monmouth County's 466 districts. The outcome of one election could change as a result, the Board of Education election in Ocean Township, which was very close differential of about 20 votes.
The Monmouth County Board of Elections has asked the Attorney General's office to file necessary paperwork for a recount. Now, this is a school board race between Steve Clayton and Jeff Weinstein, who's the former board president there. Now, Steve Clayton thought he was one of three elected to the local school board. Then yesterday he was told, well, actually, we're not so sure.
And I talked to him earlier today, and as you can imagine, he was a little disappointed. He said, well, I thought I won this race. I was sworn in in front of friends and family, and now we're here. On the other side of things, Weinstein says that, well, I'm happy we caught this error, but I want to let this process play out because, obviously, we want the rightful winner to be declared here.
He knew it was going to be an emotional rollercoaster running for a seat, but he didn't expect this to be part of it. We're still awaiting to hear from officials on what exactly led to the audit that caught some of these votes being counted twice. But, of course, all of these is part of this investigation. To figure out, bottom line, who actually won this race.
TAPPER: All right, Omar Jimenez, thank you so much.
She is one of the most dangerous spies in the world you've probably never heard of. She just got released from a supermax prison. The story of the woman called the blue wren. Stay with us.
TAPPER: The most dangerous spy that you've probably never heard of was just released from a supermax federal prison in Texas. Ana Montes was a top analyst for the intelligence arm of the Pentagon, also known as the DIA. For nearly 17 years, she briefed the president and general. She won top intelligence awards and was even known as the Queen of Cuba for her mastery of that country's affairs.
All the while, Montes was funneling highly sensitive U.S. secrets to Fidel Castro and the Castro regime, rendering nearly every American effort to eavesdrop on Cuba from the mid 80s to the early 2000s, useless. Montes flew under the radar for so long by committing U.S. intelligence to memory, sending messages to her Cuban handlers from her apartment after her day job. Her story, amazingly, is detailed in a brand-new book, "Code Name Blue Wren." And let's bring in the author, my friend, Jim Popkin. Congratulations.
JIM POPKIN, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Thank you.
TAPPER: Wow. Really, really cool. Montes was released 12 days ago. Her lawyer shared this photo. And after two decades in prison, you say she is not at all apologetic for her crimes. So where is she now? And what does her -- the now 65 year old's future hold?
POPKIN: So she was just released, as you said, from a federal prison in Texas. She flew immediately to Puerto Rico and she issued this incredible statement. Fiery, not contrite in any way. She took a jab at the U.S. policy in Cuba and the ongoing, essentially embargo there. And it was fascinating that she wouldn't apologize in anyway after spending 21 years in jail for espionage.
TAPPER: So one of the most shocking parts of the story is how many of her close relatives worked for the FBI --
TAPPER: -- while she was actively spying on the United States for Cuba. Her sister even investigated Cuban spies in Miami. So she wasn't only evading the capture and suspicion of her bosses, but her own family.
POPKIN: Yes, her family totally loyal, patriotic Americans. Her sister Lucy was a translator for the FBI based in Miami. She got assigned to a unit chasing Cuban spies, which is amazing. She had no idea until arrest day that her sister was Fidel Castro's greatest spy ever. Her brother Tito was an FBI Special Agent in Atlanta. His wife was a special agent.
At one point, Ana would go to, you know, Thanksgivings before family members there, badges and guns all over the place, and she's, you know, a spy put in place by Havana.
TAPPER: Has somebody bought the movie rights already, because this is really -- it's really incredible.
POPKIN: Go on. No. We're working on it.
TAPPER: You're working on it?
TAPPER: Because, I mean, I'm just having that scene in my head right now. She didn't do it for money.
TAPPER: Why then she do it?
POPKIN: She's an ideological spy motivated by politics. Her hatred of the Reagan era meddling in Central America, particularly Nicaragua and El Salvador. So she got involved. She got recruited in graduate school by another Cuban agent who was a student at Johns Hopkins at the Sikes (ph) school in Washington.
TAPPER: At Sikes (ph).
POPKIN: At Sikes (ph).
TAPPER: Oh, wow.
POPKIN: And --
TAPPER: That's not in the brochure.
POPKIN: It should be at this point because there also was a professor there --
POPKIN: -- who was convicted as a Cuban spy as well. But she's recruited while she's in graduate school, and she makes this alarming decision because of her politics to spy against her country and enters the Pentagon's intelligence arm, the DIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, as already a recruited Cuban spy.
TAPPER: So you write, quote, "The Cubans quickly sold or traded ana's information to the Russians, their old patrons, or to other interested parties." And went on to quote, the head of U.S. national counter intelligence testimony on her case, quote, "There is a continuing market for such stolen U.S. secrets, which can be sold or bartered to third party states or or terrorist organizations that have their own uses for their -- own uses for the information."
Twenty years later, could -- is it possible that enemies of the United States could still be using the information she gave?
POPKIN: It's probably dated at this point because it's even more than 20 years old at this stage. But the problem with what she did, because Cuba is kind of a paper tiger in terms of their military.
POPKIN: They have a great intelligence service. And they have a connection. They were trained by the Soviets, and so they take information and they sell it or they trade it to the Russians and other adversaries. So it's dangerous that way when she reveals 17 years of classified information.
TAPPER: What a fascinating story. Jim Popkin, the book is, "Code Name Blue Wren." Thank you so much and congratulations.
POPKIN: Thanks so much, Jake.
TAPPER: You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at JakeTapper. You can tweet the show at TheLeadCNN. If you ever miss an episode of the show, you can listen to THE LEAD from whence you get your podcast.
Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in a place I like to call "THE SITUATION ROOM", with an update on the six-year-old who shot his teacher in Virginia. Stay with us.