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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Russia Attacks Civilian Area Already Damaged By Previous Strike; European Union Sets Up New Center To Prosecute "Crime Of Aggression"; Ukraine's Anti-Corruption Raids Reveal Stashes Of Cash, Jewels, Cars; Biden, Black Caucus Discuss Police Reform In Wake Of Tyre Nichols' Death; McCarthy Reiterates Pledge That GOP Will Not Pass A Clean Debt Ceiling; Schumer Says Democrats Are Aligned On Passing Clean Debt Ceiling; Former GOP Gov. Larry Hogan Says He Would Support Trump If He's The GOP Nominee, Then Walks It Back; Former GOP Gov. Larry Hogan Says He Would Support Trump If He's The GOP Nominee, Then Walks It Back; House Votes To Remove Rep. Ilhan Omar From Foreign Affairs CMTE. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 02, 2023 - 17:00   ET




FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Two missile strikes on the city Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine --


PLEITGEN (voice-over): -- right at the location we were about to film.

(on camera) There were just two massive missile strikes right in our vicinity. You can see it's just a couple of yards away from where we are. We're not exactly sure what kind of missiles it was, but this is a residential area. We're right in the middle of town.

(voice-over): Photojournalist Mattia Sum (ph) films the damage caused by the impact. Ukrainian authorities later said they believe the missiles were S300s, normally used to shoot down planes devastating when launched at urban centers.

As medics tended to the wounded, Producer Tim Lister checks in with our headquarters.

TIM LISTER, CNN PRODUCER: Extremely large detonations, really, really close. We're going to stay in shelter.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): As we take cover, residents are clearly traumatized by the violence. It is terrifying, Natalia tells me, but what can we do?

The strikes came as search and rescue efforts were ongoing in exactly the same neighborhood after a Russian missile leveled an apartment block on Wednesday night, killing at least three and wounding eight. The Russians seem to be bringing the cities of this region into their war, regardless of the consequences. And Russian President Vladimir Putin is saying there is worse to come.

Putin spoke Thursday at events commemorating the Battle of Stalingrad, where Soviet forces defeated Nazi Germany 80 years ago, openly threatening the U.S. and other countries supporting Ukraine.

Clearly they don't understand that modern war with Russia will be quite different for them, he said. We won't send our tanks to their borders, but we have the means to respond, and it won't be with the use of armored vehicles.

Cities like Kramatorsk already know that the Kremlin is ready to escalate its war on Ukraine. Largely quiet just weeks ago, they are now in the eye of the storm as Russian forces seek to grind their way through Donetsk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we're going to make (ph). That's it.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): When the coast seemed clear, we left Kramatorsk.

(on camera): We're going to get out of here as fast as possible, just in case there's more missile strikes coming. But it certainly seems to us as though the Russians are making Kramatorsk a front line in this war.

(voice-over): A grim prospect for the thousands of civilians here and in other towns in eastern Ukraine.


PLEITGEN: And Jake, tonight, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, he was saying he believes that that big Russian offensive could actually already be underway. And certainly what we've seen, not just around that area, but all along the Eastern front, is that there are more Russian troops out there. They're beefing up their presence in those areas and also mounting more attacks.

And of course, all of that has devastating consequences for towns like Kramatorsk that have been fairly quiet over the past couple of weeks, but now certainly are experiencing more of those strikes in urban centers that really affect the civilians who are on the ground. So things could really get a lot worse for the people who are living in those towns in the coming weeks, Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Fred Pleitgen just south of Kramatorsk right now. Thank you. Please stay safe.

Let's bring in Andriy Kostin. He's the prosecutor general of Ukraine. He joins us now live in studio.

Thanks so much for being here. We appreciate it.

I want to get your reaction first to Fred's reporting. The area hit by Russian strikes in Kramatorsk today near an active search and rescue zone because of attacks last night. Is that a possible war crime by Putin? ANDRIY KOSTIN, UKRAINIAN PROSECUTOR GENERAL: It's definitely a war crime. And I want to add what your colleague reported from Kramatorsk, the frontline actually now is every city and every town in Ukraine, because two weeks ago we witnessed the destroying of multi-story, nine story building in Dnipro with 46 people killed, with six children and five children remain orphans. So, any city, any town, any place, are not protected from war crimes committed by Russians.

TAPPER: Yesterday I interviewed Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem and I asked him about -- he said he was thinking about, he just took over again, he's thinking about providing possible military aid to Ukraine. The Israelis providing a humanitarian aid, but nothing military. Not the Iron Dome defensive system, not some of the defensive systems that they have from the U.S. that they don't use anymore. He said that it's important to note that the Israelis destroying Iranian weapons helps Ukraine because the Iranians are joining with the Russians.

What's your message to Prime Minister Netanyahu? Does Israel need to do more?

KOSTIN: I think one year of brutal aggression of Putin and his army against Ukraine is enough to take decision and not to be not neutral. So I think that every civilized person, every civilized nation in the world should stand with Ukraine united against the Putin's aggression. And I think that any decision of military, financial and humanitarian aid is essential and important for us to win this war because it's the war of democracy against tyranny.


TAPPER: Today we learned that the European Union is setting up a new international center in The Hague to prosecute Russia's criminal aggression in Ukraine. How does this supplement the existing investigation into war crimes by the International Criminal Court?

KOSTIN: This is an extremely important use. We spent a lot of time with communicating with our friends from Netherlands and from Brussels in order to establish this center to prosecute the crime of aggression. It will be established under the auspices of Eurojust and it will be located in The Hague. And it will work under the umbrella of the Joint Investigative Team which was created by Ukraine and Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovakia, Romania and Poland to investigate the crime of aggression.

And I hope it would be the basis for the future Tribunal, International Tribunal for the Crime of Aggression to punish the highest military and political leadership of Russia for the crime of aggression. Because if crime of aggression would not be committed, these brutal war crimes would not be committed. It's primary crime and it needs to be punished.

TAPPER: Tomorrow you're going to meet with U.S. attorney General Merrick Garland. What do you want from him? What are you going to talk to him about? KOSTIN: We have a lot of done and -- between my visit in September when we signed the Memorandum of Understanding. And I'm grateful for American nation for passing two important laws which extend the jurisdiction of the DOJ with regard to war crimes committed in Ukraine and which allows to confiscate assets of Russian oligarchs in order to compensate damage to Ukrainian victims of war. And this will be the primary task of our -- primary aim of our discussion together with task force and together with other divisions of the DOJ.

TAPPER: I want to tell you there's a lot of corruption in the government of Ukraine. Your government, the Zelenskyy government, has also been on anticorruption drive at the same time you're waging this defense of -- against Russia. In order to meet all the conditions for joining the European Union, in a raid on Wednesday, Ukrainian officials found stacks of cash, jewels and luxury cars at the acting tax chief's home. President Zelenskyy dismissed several high ranking officials as well.

I know that you're doing this because it's right. I know you're doing this because you want to join the European Union. But also I wonder how much you worry that this corruption could end up hurting western public support for the war. Nobody wants to hear that their tax dollars going to support this noble cause to defend Ukraine is actually going into the pockets of corrupt Ukrainian government officials.

KOSTIN: Ukraine is our home, and if we want to keep it clean, we need to do housekeeping regularly. This is housekeeping from corruption. So we wipe the dust, we clean the floor, we waste the garbage. And if dust appears again, we will again wipe it and have our home cleaned.

With regard to the international aid, I have a set of meetings here in Washington, D.C. in order to say we are open for any monitoring, we are open for any inspection. And as prosecutor general of Ukraine, I want to say that we have no any case of misuse of American military and financial support. We are working with inspectors general which were last Friday in Ukraine and we proceed this work today. But most important for me as prosecutor general is to clean my country from corruption for Ukrainians and for Ukrainian nation.

TAPPER: All right. Well, hopefully next time I see you, this war will be over and the Ukrainian people will have peace and independence from this Russian aggression. Thank you so much, the Prosecutor General of the Ukraine, Andriy Kostin. I appreciate your time.

KOSTIN: Thank you.

TAPPER: The push for meaningful police reform even with a divided congress. How? Well, my next guest has insight into a meeting right now on that issue in the Oval Office.

Plus, the testimony from a snapchat executive today in the trial of the South Carolina attorney accused of killing his wife and son. Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our politics lead right now, President Biden is in the Oval Office discussing police reform with members of the Congressional Black Caucus. The meeting was scheduled at the request of the CBC after the brutal beating and killing of Tyre Nichols. President Biden addressed the killing of Tyre moments ago.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My hope is this dark memory spurs some action that we've all been fighting for. And although you just got to keep that -- I listened to Al Sharpton's eulogy, I thought was first grade, and we got to stay at it as long as it takes.


TAPPER: I like to bring in Delegate Stacey Plaskett of the U.S. Virgin Island. She is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Thank you so much for being here. Really appreciate it.

What is the caucus hoping to achieve from this meeting with the President? Because now, obviously, the House of Representatives is controlled by Republicans.

STACEY PLASKETT, (D) CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS: Sure. I think we're pushing for the same things that we are pushing for in the last Congress. And we're asking this president, President Biden, who we believe wants to work with us, to use the office that he has for several things. The first is, of course, next week is the state of the union address. And to use that platform to engage members not only of Congress but the general public, American people, in what needs to be a change in police culture.

The second, of course, is executive orders that he can put forward that will involve collection of data. We know that there have been carrots given to different police departments to collect that data, but it hasn't happened, it hasn't been successful. And that's many of the reasons that we're not able to quantify what's actually happening on the ground.

And the third, of course, is him, using his bully pulpit as a convener to bring so many of the stakeholders, including the Senate and colleagues to -- that are controlling the House right now, the House Republicans, to actually engage in serious discussion to put forth additional police reform.


TAPPER: So you want an executive action that would basically force police forces to turn over comprehensive, complete data to the Justice Department about any incidents?

PLASKETT: Sure. I mean, right now, when you talk to the director of the FBI, Chris Wray, he says one of the greatest impediments he has is that he does not have it's voluntary at this time, and not the majority of police departments around the country are not supplying this data. Not only on what is actually happening, different incidences, but police officers who have been fired from one jurisdiction and then move to a different jurisdiction for allegations of police misconduct, et cetera, that is not in a central repository where we can look at it, analyze it, and decide what needs to be done.

TAPPER: One of the big questions is whether people who are pushing for policing reform, such as yourself, are willing to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. In other words, there was a big move in the Senate a year or two ago, and Cory Booker, Senator Cory Booker and Senator James Clyburn working together, and they ultimately could not come to an agreement because of the issue of qualified immunity. Whether or not police forces should benefit from some degree of exemption from prosecution because of the difficulty of the job. Would you be willing to support policing reform that did not include that?

PLASKETT: Well, I think we have supported police reform and police legislation that hasn't included that. And you'll look at some of the bills that have been passed recently. My good friend and former colleague Val Demings, giving additional support to police officers for community policing, for additional training, for support for non- police officers working in different areas. That's been done.

And I think if you look back on the history of what happened in the Senate, it was not Senator Booker who walked away from the table. We were still engaged in discussion, and the other senator decided that it was done because we had decided that qualified immunity was a very important component of it.

And listen, in my instance, I come from a long law enforcement family, grandfather, father was a police officer, uncles, whatever, we understand the good police officers. The greatest threat to them are bad --

TAPPER: Bad police officers.

PLASKETT: -- officers. And having qualified immunity doesn't have to be across the board. Right? There are instances in which qualified immunity may be removed, whether it's for, you know, second degree assault or attempted murder or degrees that which we haven't had discussions about us yet.

TAPPER: You've been tapped by Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jefferies to be the ranking Democrat on the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, that's what the Republicans are calling this new committee to look into how and whether, I guess, the government is politically motivated in going after individuals.

What's your strategy going to be? Are you there to play defense? Are you there to get to the bottom? I mean, if you see an egregious abuse, will you join with Jim Jordan and others to say this did go too far?

PLASKETT: Sure. You know, I have, and Democrats, have said in this Congress that we're willing to work in a bipartisan manner on areas that we believe are going to advance the interests of the American people, whatever that may be, whether that's in legislation, whether that's in funding, et cetera. And this is such an area as well. There are areas that many of us are concerned with regard to the Department of Justice, et cetera.

We've just recently seen reports that you, the media, have put forward about attempts by attorney -- former Attorney General Bill Barr and what he did to advance the interests of Trump or this FBI agent who was recently indicted on issues related to Russian interference in investigations. So, yes, those are things that we are open to. The media has put forth issues with the IRS disproportionately auditing, African Americans. My question is, Jim Jordan, are you interested in looking at those things as well?

What I am not interested in doing and what we are not willing to do is performative politics as Democrats. That's not going to advance the interests of the American people. And so, we are going to be the truth squad with regard to that. I'm going to lead the team in that area to stop that when it happens.

We are not going to be sitting on the committee to support insurrectionists, right, or the Insurrection Protection Committee as Hakim Jefferies has called it. We're here to do the work of Congress, and some of that is, in fact, oversight, and we're willing to go there, but we are not going to spin our wheels on conspiracy theories looking for fear and to incite fear mongering in the American people.

TAPPER: All right. Democratic Delegate Stacey Plaskett of the U.S. Virgin Islands, thanks so much. Always good to see you.


Coming up, flipping the script, the notable comments about Donald Trump today from a fellow Republican who might also run for president in 2024. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Just in to CNN, the United States government is tracking what it believes is a Chinese surveillance balloon over the United States. Let's go to CNN's Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon.

Oren, when was this detected?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, the U.S. has been tracking this high altitude balloon for several days, and a senior defense official says they believe it was launched by China coming in over the northern United States. A short time ago, the Pentagon put out this statement from Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder. In it, he says "The United States government has detected and is tracking a high altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now. The U.S. government to include NORAD, continues to track and monitor it closely."


The Pentagon says this is above commercial and military traffic, so it doesn't pose a threat to either commercial traffic or to the military. But they say they have taken steps and they did take steps when they noticed it and first started tracking it to make sure that it was not able to pick up any sensitive information or protected information. The U.S. continues to track the way this is headed as it comes over.

Of course, the timing of this, incredibly sensitive now with high tensions between the U.S. and China. Not only the angry Chinese response to greater U.S. access to Philippines military bases, but also an upcoming visit from the Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to China in an effort to deal with some of those tensions, this simply adding to that. The U.S. says that it made the decision and had discussions about what to do with this balloon, including at the highest levels of the military. The decision was made not to shoot it down at this point, Jake.

TAPPER: Oren Lieberman at the Pentagon, thanks so much.

Let's turn to our politics lead and comments from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy this afternoon. Take a listen.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: I'm very clear, we will not pass a clean debt ceiling here without some form of spending reform. So there'll never be a clean one --


TAPPER: Speaker McCarthy reiterating his rejection of President Biden's repeated call for a clean debt ceiling bill, meaning not one that contains any other legislation demanding spending cuts or whatever. And McCarthy signaling what is likely to be a months long standoff with the full faith and credit of the United States at stake. CNN's Jessica Dean is live for us on Capitol Hill.

Jessica, how are Democrats reacting to McCarthy's announcement?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're saying they remain united, Jake. We heard from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer earlier today who said Democrats across the board, both in the House, President Biden himself, that they remain united, that they want a clean debt ceiling bill. But you just heard McCarthy there, that is not happening. So, that is kind of where they are at this moment in these very early days of what you mentioned will be a very long and drawn out process. But here's Schumer.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: I've spoken to the President both before and his staff after the meeting. He was the same -- he had the same position. Hakeem Jeffries, Chuck Schumer, the House Democratic Caucus, the Senate Democratic Caucus and the President have the exact same position, which is, we are -- we should pass the debt ceiling clean. That's where we're at.

(END VIDEO CLIP) DEAN: But we have also heard from President Biden and also from Schumer, they continue to repeat this mantra of show us your plan, that's to the House GOP. Show us a plan for what you want to cut. And I asked Schumer about this yesterday, Jake, I said, well, if you're asking to show a plan, it kind of sounds like you might be open to negotiations here. And he wouldn't answer that directly. He simply said, we can't move forward or have any discussions without a plan.

It's worth noting, too, when he was asked if that was a red line for Senate Democrats today, he didn't answer that question directly either, instead just saying that they are united, that they want a clean debt ceiling bill. So that is where things stand tonight.

TAPPER: All right, Jessica Dean on Capitol Hill for us. Thanks so much.

Let's discuss with my August roundtable. And Audie Cornish, let me start with you. Nothing's changed. Democrats and Republicans have the same position. Republicans are saying we demand spending cuts with this debt ceiling bill and Democrats are saying, no, has to be a clean bill. What's going to happen?

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean, that's OK. It's still early, and we don't want to kind of rile people up and think we're at the precipice just yet. One of the things I'm sure you guys all know from covering Congress is that silence is golden. Like, when they come out and it's not tons of bluster and everything is laying low, that's good. It means maybe some conversation is happening somewhere.

Usually when people get noisy and rattle the cages and complain, it's because they're locked out of what's going on. So, I think that means there is some dynamic going on where people are figuring out where they stand and where the votes are and things like that. But it's early.

TAPPER: Yes. Heidi, let's change topics if we can, because former Maryland Republican Governor Larry Hogan says he's considering running for President of the United States. This was his answer today when asked whether he would support Trump if Donald Trump actually becomes the nominee in 2024.


HUGH HEWITT, HOST HUGH HEWITT SHOW: If it's Donald Trump, you'll be willing to support him?

LARRY HOGAN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MARYLAND: Yes, as I've said, you know, I don't think it is going to be Donald Trump, but we'll cross that bridge or jump off that bridge when we come to it.

HEWITT: If Trump is the nominee, does Larry Hogan support him?

HOGAN: Yes, I just don't think he's going to be the nominee, but I'll support the nominee.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: Hogan then put out a tweet hours later walking that back saying, quote, "To be clear, my position on Trump hasn't changed, and I won't commit to supporting him." Why do you think he walked it back so quickly?

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, NATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: Well, because his brand has always been anti-Trump. He said he left the top of the ticket blank or wrote in --

TAPPER: He voted for Ronald Reagan --

PRZYBYLA: He voted for -- yes.

TAPPER: -- 2024.

PRZYBYLA: And so, he's been openly -- that would be kind of disingenuous to not clarify what he actually meant there.


But I think the broader concern here is what's happening with the field and all of us know from covering 2016 how the party got Trump, which was that you had a number of candidates splintering the more moderate, more mainstream vote. And that we see a lot of the candidates here who are coming out with the exception of DeSantis, that's kind of the brand that they are in, the mold that they are in.

Now, the question is really, just how much does Trump -- how much does this animate him to tarnish their brands? I mean, it seems like at this point, he's pretty much got it out for DeSantis. That could all change. He's starting to make some, you know, sharp elbowed comments about some of these others. But right now, he does seem to be pretty trained on DeSantis.

KAREN FINNEY, FORMER SR. ADVISER, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN: Which in one of the most frustrating things for all the candidates, and Kristen and I were just talking about this, you don't want to be answering questions about Donald Trump. You want to be talking about why you're the best candidate, right? And so, it's like, how much of the primary is going to. And we -- and this was a big frustration among Republican primary in 2016.

I mean, I listened to my friends and colleagues on the other side really go after how frustrating it was to have so much of the conversations they were in about Donald Trump. Could he? Would he? Should he?

So, I would imagine, you know, with Larry Hogan and any of them, that's not what they want to be talking about.

TAPPER: And that's so weird. So, I assume Larry Hogan, Governor Hogan, initially said he'd support Donald Trump if he were the nominee, even though he walked it back, because he felt like that's the traditional answer. You always have to say you're going to support the nominee. Except, remember in 2015, that first Republican debate Fox did, and I think it was Bret Baier said, you know, raise your hand if you're committing to support the nominee, and Donald Trump was the only one who wouldn't. He would not commit.

And in fact, today, Hewitt asked Donald Trump the same question. Take a listen.


HUGH HEWITT, HOST HUGH HEWITT SHOW: If you're not the nominee, will you support whoever the GOP nominee is?

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It would depend. I would give you the same answer I gave in 2016 during the debate. It would have to depend on who the nominee was.


TAPPER: Once again, the rules don't seem to apply to him.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER & STRATEGIST: Well, that just may be the new answer that people do not feel obligated to say, I'm in this because I'm Team Republican. It's I'm in this because of what I believe and what I want to do for the country. And if we nominate someone who aligns with that, then great.

So, it may be that Donald Trump, he's changed the rules of the game in many ways, that may just be one more way that he has changed the rules of the game. And also, bear in mind, a lot of Republican voters, you saw this dynamic kind of play out during the whole will Kevin McCarthy be speaker or not situation, is Republican voters have a unique level of disdain for their own sort of party establishment. So the incentives on the right for almost the last decade have not been, you need to be in lockstep with your party's establishment or you're a rhino. Words like rhino Republican in name only have come to mean very different things. It's OK to say, I think the establishment of my party is wrong and I'm not committing to necessarily support them.

TAPPER: Let's talk about what happened on the floor of the House today with Republicans voting to oust Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, the Democrat from Minnesota, from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. She spoke out just before the vote. Take a listen.


REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): There is this idea that you are a suspect if you are an immigrant or if you are from certain parts of the world or a certain skin tone or a Muslim. Is anyone surprised that I am being targeted? Is anyone surprised that I am somehow deemed unworthy to speak about American foreign policy or that they see me as a powerful voice that needs to be silenced?


TAPPER: Now, of course, the other context of this is Republicans say that they are kicking her off House Foreign Affairs because of anti- Israel comments she made, many of which used antisemitic tropes, some of which she apologized for and retracted. How do you see this? FINNEY: I think she's apologized for all of them and retracted. I think it's shameful. It is clear -- you know, the Republicans second agenda item after adding $114 billion to the national debt by repealing the IRS expansion is to --

TAPPER: Although that didn't actually happen.

FINNEY: True, but that's their -- that was their first priority.

TAPPER: Right. That's their first vote.

FINNEY: Top priority.

TAPPER: It hasn't happened, but that was their vote. Yes.

FINNEY: Second priority is let's go after Ilhan Omar. And it was very clearly about revenge for Paul Gosar and Marjorie Taylor Greene. And part of what is so despicable about it is, remember that Paul Gosar posted and was pushing content that was violent against Alexandria Ocasio --

TAPPER: Cortez, yes.

FINNEY: -- Cortez.

TAPPER: She mentioned that today.

FINNEY: Exactly. And so, if you think -- just -- so that's OK --

TAPPER: No one -- she said no one apologized for that.

FINNEY: Not only he didn't apologize, he got rewarded with a plum committee assignment. So I think it's pretty clear what's going on here. And let me just say, remember this squad, women of color, congressional women of color have been a target of their papa (ph) Trump.

PRZYBYLA: Literally made the same antisemitic tropes, but the difference is that he didn't apologize for them.

TAPPER: Right.

PRZYBYLA: Marjorie Taylor Greene made the same tropes. The difference is, she also said tropes out black people and Muslims. Now, she did apologize, but I think that's why they're saying, OK, well, this is just about kicking her off of Foreign Relations because they are not on the record having the same position about members of their own conference.


TAPPER: Well, and Marjorie Taylor Greene had that crazy thing about what I call these wealthy Jews who are using space lasers to start forest fires. And she and Paul Gosar, both of them spoke, highlighted keynoted comments at literally a white supremacist conference that Nick Fuentes, a Holocaust denier and anti-Semite, in addition to plenty other bigotries, I probably don't even have the time to describe, heralded. So, is this really about antisemitism?

ANDERSON: Well, I think what you're seeing now is about trying to get back at Democrats for doing what they did. It's the erosion of norms, right? It's the idea that -- I think it was Congressman Chip Roy who said he didn't want us to be in this position, but I believe that each side's managers should get to pick their team. And so, that's what -- I don't think this is necessarily about individual comments for a lot of these members. I think they find what Ilhan Omar has said to be despicable. But I think that alone would -- I think that if what had happened in the previous Congress had not happened, you would not be seeing the topic (ph).

TAPPER: Yes. Although I think that technically the reason that Marjorie Taylor Greene and Gosar were kicked off the committees is because of threats.


TAPPER: Threats of violence. Say they were -- I mean, the antisemitism was on top of that, but I don't think that was actually the reason.

But Audie, I want to just swing -- change topics for one second because --

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is fascinating. I mean, even the inside baseball is dysfunctional. I mean, the people at home, right, they look at things like committee assignments and they say, oh, you can't even get that right and you're hypocritical about it. These are things that are damaging in the public eye.

TAPPER: On the latest episode of your brilliant podcast "The Assignment with Audie Cornish," which drops every Thursday, which is why this is always Audie Cornish Thursday here at The Lead, you spoke with two men whose encounters with police changed their lives. Here's a little clip of that.


LEON FORD, CO-FOUNDER, THE HEAR FOUNDATION: It was very, very difficult for me to figure out the next steps, especially when, you know, there was an assumption that I was guilty. And so, I felt like I had to become the perfect victim. I really had, you know, in my heart wanted to prove to society that I didn't deserve to get shot.


TAPPER: It's so painful. It's such -- and also fascinating. What do you think was the most surprising lesson that you were messaged from these two individuals you interviewed?

CORNISH: Well, first of all, we are all sort of led to believe that there's sort of a moral good to watching the videos from dash cams and body cams, that they are going to increase accountability and that they're going to make us all somehow more sympathetic to what has happened, even though the last decade has not shown that to be the case, nor has it affected any potential indictments or charges, it's not created the thing we all thought it would, and instead they're a kind of series of grim films. And this person you just heard, Leon Ford, he was in one of these, a dash cam video that ended with him getting shot five times in the chest and paralyzed from the waist down.

And the reason why I wanted to focus on that is because I think there's a kind of martyrdom that happens when there are deaths and people show the memorials and things like that. But the idea of reform, the idea of legislation, the idea that there is some way to address something that seems very straightforward misconduct is kind of stymied on Capitol Hill. And I think we wanted to kind of highlight the people who have to live with the consequences of these experiences because theoretically, you don't have to be the perfect victim.

TAPPER: Yes. Powerful, powerful stuff. Thanks to all for being here. And again, Audie's podcast is called "The Assignment," and it's available wherever you get your podcast.

Coming up, Snapchat videos and nearly $800,000 in missing money. The new evidence and testimony coming out in the Alex Murdaugh double murder trial in South Carolina. That's next. Stay with us.



TAPPER: We're on day seven of the double murder trial of former lawyer Alex Murdaugh, accused of killing his wife and his son. Today, the judge is weighing whether the jury can hear evidence about Murdaugh's alleged financial crime. CNN's Randi Kaye is live outside the courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina.

Randi, explained this to -- for us.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, Alex Murdaugh is accused of defrauding people of nearly $9 million. And today on the stand, a witness testified, the CFO of his former law firm said that she confronted him on the day of the murders about missing funds at the firm nearly $800,000. Watch this testimony.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Had the firm received this $792,000?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did this e-mail, though, sort of the inquiry at least for the present moment?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Well, let's move the story forward again. Did this matter ever come to your attention again at a later time?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. And how -- tell me when that came to your attention.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That would have been in September after we found some other misappropriations and we had confronted Alex and he had resigned.


KAYE: And Jake, prosecutors alleged that his motive for the murders was to prevent his financial schemes from being exposed. There was also this hearing that he was going to have to testify at and share his financials that was related to a boat crash that his son Paul was involved in, and his family was killed just three days before that hearing was scheduled to happen, and then that hearing was canceled. So that's how all of this ties into the possible motive put forward by the prosecutors to this murder case, Jake.

TAPPER: And, Randi, tell us about the Snapchat video that was shown in court today.

KAYE: Yes, that was a Snapchat video that would came from Paul Murdaugh's phone, and it was uploaded at 7:39 p.m. the night of the murders and then he sent it at 7:56 p.m.


What's key about that, Jake, is that it shows Alex Murdaugh wearing something different than he was wearing when the police arrived on the scene. He's wearing long pants and a short sleeve blue shirt, button down shirt. But when the police arrived, he was wearing a white T- shirt and shorts. So the prosecutors are sort of laying the groundwork that possibly he killed his family, then washed up, showered, changed clothes before he called 911 at 10:07 p.m.

TAPPER: All right, Randi Kaye, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, enough fence and old seas last year to kill every single American. We have an exclusive look for you inside a secret lab helping to fight this raging epidemic. Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our health lead, the explosion of fentanyl found in counterfeit drugs across the U.S. The CDC blames fentanyl for more than 71 thousand synthetic opioid overdose deaths in 2021. And the Canadians (ph) capital alone D.C.'s department of forensic sciences recently found fentanyl in more than 75 percent of counterfeit pills collected for lab analysis.


And to show you just how dangerous fentanyl can be, this is from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, that's a penny on the left and a lethal two milligram dose of fentanyl on the right, that's all that's needed to be lethal. The DEA took CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta inside a secret forensic lab where the entire mission is fighting the threat of fentanyl.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): I like looking at pictures, even if they're not my own family. Tell the story.

DEENA LOUDON, MATTHEW'S MOTHER: He was such a happy baby. Oh, my God, he was so happy all the time.

GUPTA (on camera): Is it hard to talk about?

LOUDON: No, I love talking about him. I talk about him to anybody that will listen. I love seeing him on the hockey rank, and I think that was really, really his happy place, you know, where he could just sort of be free.

His friends packed up immediately from schools, wherever they were, and came over and the family started showing up, and I was just in shock. You know, we tried. We were doing CPR, and not a chance. He was long gone.

I don't say he overdosed. I say he died from fentanyl poisoning. Truthfully, like, at the end of the day, to me, he was murdered because he asked for one thing, they gave him something different, and it took his life.

GUPTA (voice-over): On a single sad night, November 2, Deena's son, Matthew Loudon, became one of the nearly 92,000 fatal overdoses in 2020 alone, much of it driven by fentanyl.

(on camera): Problem is, there's so many of these drugs that are now on the street that the DEA had to set up a secret forensics lab just to try and keep up. We're making our way there now.

(voice-over): Scott Oulton is deputy assistant administrator of the DEA's office of forensic sciences.

(on camera): You're getting more pills, and more of those pills are coming back positive for fentanyl?

SCOTT OULTON, DEA OFFICE OF FORENSIC SCIENCES: The -- almost, yes, almost every one of them come back positive.

GUPTA (voice-over): In 2019, the DEA seized roughly 2.2 million pills. In 2022, 50.6 million pills. At the beginning of the opioid epidemic, many of the pills were authentic. The majority of the pills being seized today at the borders, on the streets, even in schools

OULTON: Over 99 percent of what we see are fake. They contain fentanyl.

GUPTA (on camera): Ninety-nine percent, that's just -- that's mind numbing.

(voice-over) And look closely at how sophisticated the counterfeiters have become.

OULTON: Just for an example, these are some of the ones that we will seize that have the same M, and it's going to 30 on the other side.

GUPTA (on camera): If you look at what is real here and the rainbow fentanyl, they're not even really trying anymore to disguise this. This is clearly fake. But also, if you look at this 800 grams of fentanyl, that turns into 400 to 500,000 potentially lethal pills. Think about that one bag gives you 400 to 500,000 lethal doses.

(voice-over): It's the message the DEA wants out there. One pill can kill. The days of experimentation are over. And so, this sophisticated lab has to keep up, trying to analyze these pills down to their molecular structure using the equivalent of an MRI machine.

OULTON: We have seen hundreds and hundreds of unique combinations. So we'll see one with contained fentanyl, one with fentanyl and xylazine, one with fentanyl and caffeine, one with fentanyl and acetaminophen, and you don't know what you're getting.

GUPTA (on camera): How hard is it to keep up with how much counterfeit stuff there is out there?

OULTON: The market is constantly changing. So, we are trying to do everything we can from a science base to keep up with that. One pill can kill. Don't take the chance. Not worth your life.

GUPTA (voice-over): It's a message Deena wishes Matthew could have heard. So instead, she has made it her mission to be his voice.

LOUDON: As soon as you can start having these conversations with your children at an age where they can really, really comprehend it, I think it just needs to be talked about. It's Russian roulette. You never know what you're going to get.


TAPPER: Sanjay, are any of these counterfeit pills making their way into legitimate markets?

GUPTA: No, it's a good question, and I asked the DEA specifically about that, and I think that's a piece of good news, is that the legitimate marker -- markets, the bricks and mortar pharmacies, if you're getting your medications from there, those are not likely to be fake, those are likely to be legitimate, authentic pills. It's everything else, Jake, you know, and obviously things that are being bought on the streets, but even sometimes mail order, that can be of concern. But the United States is lucky in that the legitimate drug supply is pretty, pretty safe.


TAPPER: I'm taking the message from her, and I have said these to my kids, I'm sure you're saying it to your kids, don't mess with any of this stuff. If you don't know where the pill came from, don't take it. If it takes an actual lab for the DEA to tell which pills are counterfeit, an average person doesn't stand a chance. How can parents make sure their kids are able to comprehend this?

GUPTA: I think that's exactly it. I mean, one pill, you can't not take a chance. Those days of experimentation are over. You have to drill that message in.

TAPPER: All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta for an important message. Thank you so much.

And look out for Sanjay's remarkable new CNN film, "American Pain," a fast paced thriller tracing the rise and fall of two Florida brothers who traffic more than $500 million in opioids across the U.S. "American Pain" airs Sunday night at 9:00 Eastern only here on CNN.

Prosecutors say another 20 hours of footage has yet to be released in the beating death of Tyre Nichols. His family's attorney, Ben Crump, is going to join Wolf Blitzer in a place I like to call "THE SITUATION ROOM." The family questions if more charges are coming in that case. Until then, I will see you tomorrow.