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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Biden's FAA Pick Defends His Qualifications Despite GOP Concerns; Garland Testifies For First Time In Front Of A Divided Congress; Prosecutors Giving Closing Arguments In Murdaugh Murder Trial; CNN Challenges Iranian Foreign Minister On Torture Claims; Man Arrested After Allegedly Trying To Bring Explosives On Flight; TikTok To Set Default One-Hour Limit For Users Under 18. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired March 01, 2023 - 16:00   ET



BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN HOST: So either way, this mummy is now with Peru's ministry of culture. For anyone planning on traveling, perhaps you can visit Juan or Juanita.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: A spiritual girlfriend.


BLACKWELL: That's what I had in high school before I came out. Just my spiritual girlfriend.

GOLODRYGA: Three hundred-year-old, 600-year-old mummy?

BLACKWELL: No, no. All right.

GOLODRYGA: THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now. What else did you do in high school?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: If you go on line and search how to buy meth, the U.S. attorney general wants tech giants to flag you.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Attorney General Merrick Garland grilled on Capitol Hill today from classified documents to abortion rights, fentanyl to rising crime. The wide-ranging topics have put Garland on the spot.

And five close calls in 2023 and it's only March 1st. The latest, a private plane came 565 feet from a JetBlue flight loaded with passengers at Boston Logan. Are these frightening encounters happening more often or just being reported more often?

Plus, protests turning violent. The faceoff between police and anti- Netanyahu demonstrators in Israel as crowds there call for a national day of disruption.


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. We start with two high-profile hearings in Capitol Hill. In one room,

President Joe Biden's embattled pick to lead the Federal Aviation Administration finally had his confirmation hearing after being picked nearly eight months ago. Republicans pressed Phil Washington, a 24- year Army veteran, about his limited experiences with aviation, pointing out that he's worked as an airport CEO in Denver for less than two years.

That hearing comes just hours after CNN learned about another near- collision involving a passenger plane at Boston's Logan Airport, less than 600 feet away from potentially crashing.

And it comes as Attorney General Merrick garland faced off with Republicans in a separate room on Capitol Hill. This was his first time testifying in front of a divided Congress.

As CNN's Paula Reid reports, Garland fielded questions on everything from the documents investigations into Biden and Trump to the opioid and fentanyl crisis to security for Supreme Court justices.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Attorney General Merrick Garland faced furious lawmakers on Capitol Hill today.

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): You are the attorney general of the United States. You are in charge of the Justice Department, and yes, sir, you are responsible. So give me an answer.

REID: His first appearance before Congress this year comes amid high- profile investigations into President Biden and former President Trump and their handling of classified documents. Garland warning that he would not reveal details of any ongoing probes.

MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: So that we do not jeopardize the viability of our investigations and the civil liberties of our citizens.

REID: But Garland was willing to explain why he has not appointed a special counsel to handle an investigation into Hunter Biden focused on taxes and other issues.

GARLAND: I promised to leave the matter of Hunter Biden in the hands of the district attorney for the district of Delaware who was appointed in the previous administration.

REID: And after months of Republicans railing against the FBI for its search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago home, they didn't bring it up until four hours in.

GARLAND: I approve the decision to seek a search warrant after probable cause was --

HAWLEY: Overruling the FBI agents who did not want to do so.

REID: Garland repeatedly defended the department against accusations of partisanship.

GARLAND: I also want to at least respond to your characterization of the department which I vigorously disagree with. I believe the men and women of the department pursue their work every single day in a nonpartisan and appropriate way.

REID: As Republicans hammered him on protests at the homes of Supreme Court justices and other conservative causes.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Your failure to act to protect the safety of the justices and their families was an obvious product of political bias.

REID: He acknowledged an FBI field office should not have sent a memo referring to radical traditionalist Catholics.

GARLAND: Appalling. It's appalling.

Our department is -- protects all religions and all ideologies.

REID: But denied targeting parents for complaining to their school boards.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): Directed your folks, though, to open threat tags on these parents and investigate them.

GARLAND: I did not direct them.

REID: But Garland is clearly aligned with lawmakers of both parties on one of the biggest issues facing Americans -- fentanyl.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Would you agree with me whatever we have is not working?

GARLAND: Well, I --

GRAHAM: Whatever we're doing's not working.

GARLAND: I agree with that because of the number of deaths that you pointed out.



REID (on camera): Another revelation in this hearing, something the attorney general usually only discusses in private conversations -- he is a Swifty. Asked by lawmakers about the Justice Department's reported ongoing antitrust investigation into Ticketmaster, he assured lawmakers that he understands the importance of marketplace competition all too well -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Paula Reid. Thanks so much.

Turning now to the other big hearing where Senators pressed President Biden's pick to lead the FAA, Phil Washington, on how he will handle a list of serious challenges facing that agency. As CNN's Pete Muntean reports for us now, this comes as another near collision at an American airport is under investigation.


PHIL MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is the latest dangerous close call at a major airport, and now lawmakers want answers.

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D-CO): Recent incidents have shaken the public's confidence --

MUNTEAN: Monday night, a JetBlue flight and a private Learjet nearly collided on crisscrossing runways at Boston Logan International Airport.

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: This was a mistake made by the pilot, and it was caught by air traffic control.

MUNTEAN: The Federal Aviation Administration says as JetBlue flight 206 was coming in to land, the Learjet took off from an intersecting runway. Air traffic control recordings detail the JetBlue crew being advised to abort their landing. The FAA classifying the move as evasive action.

JETBLUE PILOT: Clear to land 4 right, JetBlue 206.

CONTROLLER: JetBlue 206 go around.

206 fly runway heading, maintain 3,000.

JETBLUE PILOT: Runway heading up to -- say again the altitude.

CONTROLLER: Three thousand.

JETBLUE PILOT: Three thousand, JetBlue 206.

MUNTEAN: Worse yet, the FAA says the Learjet did not have takeoff clearance. The crew was told to line up and wait, according to the FAA, on the runway for the landing JetBlue flight but began a takeoff role instead. Air traffic control brought the JetBlue flight back in for a safe landing. All on board unharmed.

ADAM JOHNSON, JETBLUE PASSENGER: The pilots did a really incredible job. I mean, we came in, it was a scary situation, but it was very smooth.

MUNTEAN: The incident is the fifth of its type this year following similar close calls at New York's JFK, Austin, Honolulu, and Burbank, one of many challenges facing the FAA still without a permanent leader. Wednesday senators took up the nomination of Phil Washington to head the agency but called into question his lack of aviation safety experience.

CRUZ: Have you ever flown a plane?

PHIL WASHINGTON, FAA ADMINISTRATOR NOMINEE: Thank you for the question, Senator. No, I have never flown a plane.

Aviation right now, we cannot think about doing things the old way. And so I think that a fresh perspective is needed. Obviously, safety is number one.


MUNTEAN (on camera): A confirmed leader of the FAA will have to answer for why these incidents apparently keep happening. The overall number of runway incursions nationwide went up last year. Flight Radar 24 says in this latest incident these two planes came as close as 565 feet away from one another, Jake. We're talking less than two football fields -- Jake.

TAPPER: Yeah. Pete Muntean, thanks so much.

Let's bring in Michael McCormick. He's a former FAA control tower operator, and an assistant professor of aviation science at Embry- Riddle University.

Michael, thanks so much for joining us.

Are we experiencing a huge increase in near collisions, or has it always been like this and we're just now hearing about it?

MICHAEL MCCORMMICK, FORMER FAA CONTROL TOWER OPERATOR: The reality is is that the number of what the Federal Aviation Administration calls runway incursions, these are when an aircraft moves on an active runway when they shouldn't be moving onto an active runway have not increased. We're actually running below the same time last year when you do a year-to-year comparison. However, they did increase in a previous year, but that's not because the rate of events occurred, it was that the traffic volume went back up again post pandemic. So last year was actually very similar, very close to what traditionally has been happening in incursions in the Federal Aviation Administration.

TAPPER: Some of these near collisions, five so far, some have involved passenger planes from airlines such as JetBlue or Southwest or American. Do you wanted why some Americans might be -- do you understand why some Americans might be feeling concerned about safety and how -- whoever's in control of telling the planes where to go, whether or not they're being heeded or whether or not they're doing their jobs correctly?

MCCORMICK: Certainly I think it's important to differentiate between when you have an event that occurs and when you have an aircraft accident. None of these were aircraft accidents. The accident rate especially for commercial passenger aviation is extremely low and continues to be extremely low.



MCCORMICK: However, that's not to say that these events aren't disconcerting. They are. TAPPER: Yeah. Michael McCormick, thank you so much for your time

today. We appreciate it.

Coming up, in the wake of the shooting that killed a TV reporter and 9-year-old girl in Orlando, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is calling out a pattern among some prosecutors. His choice words for one state's attorney, that's ahead.

Plus, closing arguments under way now on Alex Murdaugh's murder trial, and the day started with a trip by the jury to the scene of the crime.


TAPPER: And we're back with our national lead. Right now, prosecutors are making their final case in a courtroom against Alex Murdaugh. As you know, the former South Carolina attorney is accused of killing his wife and son in 2021.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher is outside the courthouse in Walterboro, South Carolina.

Dianne, what has the prosecution been focusing on?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jake, we're in a 15-minute break now for the jury to get a break from this intense closing argument from the prosecutor Creighton Waters. He began much like he has almost everything during this trial if you've been following along, going way back in time on his timeline talking about Alex Murdaugh as a privileged man with a habit of stealing and lying, and somebody who would do anything he could to keep that lifestyle up, including kill his own wife and son.


But once Creighton Waters got to speaking about the actual murders, hitting hard on that 8:49 p.m., the last time that either Maggie or Paul Murdaugh used their phones, before they locked forever, and then discussing the minutes that they were killed when the state believes they were killed. The fact that Alex Murdaugh lied about being there minutes before the state says they were murdered, and what likely happened in those moments.


CREIGHTON WATERS, LEAD PROSECUTOR: You've seen the diagrams and the crime scene photos, all those cases in the area between the doorway to the feed room and where Maggie was found. You heard that Maggie had no defensive wounds. You also heard Paul had stippling from that first shot at close range, shot with no indication that he detected a threat from the person who fired that weapon. And why? Because it was him.

Same with Maggie, because Maggie sees what happens and comes running over there, running to her baby. Probably the last thing on her mind thinking that it was him who had done this. She's running to her baby while he's gotten -- picked up the blackout and opens fire at close range, again with no defensive wounds. (END VIDEO CLIP)

GALLAGHER: Now he talked about the feed room. He talked about the shed area there. The jurors actually got a chance to see those in person today. They took a trip with the judge, the defense attorneys, and the attorney general of South Carolina, all there on scene. The only person who could speak to the jurors while they were at Moselle was the judge to look at those places, get a sense of how far away everything is.

The media pooler that got to visit after the jury left said that they took steps to see how far away the spot where Paul's body was found was from Maggie's body. They said that between the media pooler and another person who was there, 12 steps from one another, Jake. Now, look, I will say that the prosecution began also by explaining what reasonable doubt means. That kind of harkens back to their opening statement where they admitted that this case is mostly circumstantial.

But according to Creighton Waters, the pieces fit to create the puzzle to convict Alex Murdaugh. We will obviously hear the opposite from the defense, Jake. I anticipate we're also going to hear them talk a lot about reasonable doubt, as well.

Whether or not they'll get to begin their closing arguments today, that's still to be seen. We are in the homestretch here as the like Murdaugh double-murder trial is beginning to end.

TAPPER: All right. Dianne Gallagher in Walterboro, South Carolina, thanks so much.

Let's bring in Joey Jackson and Misty Marris.

Joey, what stood out to you so far from the prosecution's closing arguments?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Motive, means, and opportunity, Jake. That's what they are centering the closing arguments about. While I am not bought into the motive issue with respect to this financial motivation and the world closing in and him feeling that, Mr. Murdaugh, he needed to kill his family, let's remember that motive is not something the prosecution must prove. Prosecutors like to talk about motive because it lets the jury know and identify with the purpose, the basis, the reason why a person may act in the way that they do.

So even if the jury does not buy this motivation as to the financial incentive and the world closing in, the prosecution was strong, to your question, on the issue of moneys and opportunity. They boxed him in. What am I speaking about briefly? The timeline. There's a very specified timeline as to when this crime would be committed. Initially the defendant said "i wasn't there." guess what, the cell phone data that puts you there, there's car data that puts you there, there's a videotape that you're not seen on, but you're heard on that puts you there -- what do you do? You change the story.

So I think the prosecution is boxing eliminate with regard to that timeline, eliminating that it could have been anyone but him, especially when they're talking about his cell phone and how the activity heightened on Alex Murdaugh's cell phone after the murder. So, that's what the prosecution is focusing in on. I think it's significant that they are. Why? Because it lowers the specter of there being someone else who could have done it and lessens the reasonable doubt. That's what this case at the end of the day will be all about for the defense when they get up to do their closing argument.

TAPPER: And, Misty, do you agree that the timeline is the most important part of the prosecution's presentation so far? Because it just makes it very clear that Alex Murdaugh had to have been there and had not been forthcoming about the fact that he was?

MISTY MARRIS, TRIAL ATTORNEY: Jake, absolutely. And to take Joey's point, which I completely agree with respect to the timeline, a step further, not only is the prosecutor bringing together all of the evidence we saw throughout the trial, but they're saying, look, we know this guy's a liar, but let's pretend you believe his version of the facts of that night.


Well, by virtue of his own timeline that he sat up on the stand and testified to, that he told you was what happened that evening, he's on a golf cart outside at 8 -- at 8:48 p.m., mere minutes when -- exactly when this murder allegedly occurred, according to the prosecution's case.

So they're saying listen to him. If you want to give him the benefit of the doubt, his timeline puts him there. And the next piece is no other explanation of what happened is feasible. And that's where the prosecutors has really been strong in this closing argument.

They said any coincidence that could have happened based on all the evidence you'd seen, if you believe Alex Murdaugh, all of those coincidences must have come true in order for this not to have been done by Alex Murdaugh.

So, very, very strong on the timeline aspect. And again, taking his own testimony and creating the timeline not just from the cell phone evidence, not just from the data, not just from the car data, not just from everything else, but his own words being used to create that timeline which puts the defense in a very bad spot.

TAPPER: And you're looking at live images from the courtroom right now, on the left side of your screen.

Joey, earlier today, the jury visited the crime scene. I think it was the defense that requested that. How could that play into the deliberations?

JACKSON: So, it's very important, Jake. Why? Because it gives you a sense of what things are, how they are laid out, what the situation and circumstances were and could have been at that time. And remember what you do in a trial, Jake, is you're bringing the jury there, right? Obviously, they did it actually bringing them there, but in a normal circumstance you bring a jury there with photographs, with surveillance, you bring them there with everything but going to the actual scene. So I think this will give the jury context. It will allow them really to see actually where everyone was at the time, where the crime scene took place, and I think they'll be able to better evaluate as they deliberate could this have been him, were there other actors, or is he, indeed, guilty? That's the open question.

TAPPER: Misty, do you mind if I ask right now how you would vote if you were on the jury?

MARRIS: Look, I think falus in uno, falus in omnibus. False in one thing, false in everything. If it were me, the lie about the kennel specifically would have sold me, and I would think, look, reasonable minds can differ, but I would think if you're lying about the absolute most critical fact, who was the last person to see your wife and your son alive and when.

And that is the one thing you lie about, and by the way, Jake, that's the one thing you lied about as per your own testimony. He said otherwise I was really, really an open book. I let investigators ask whatever they wanted and searched whatever they wanted. I just lied about that one thing.

To me, there's no credibility there, and I would be leaning toward guilty. That's just me, though. Reasonable minds can differ to the extent you have a juror or two who say he's a liar, he's a cheat, he's a scoundrel, stole a lot of people's money, but I don't think he's a cold-blooded killer. There you could see a hung jury. Only time will tell.

TAPPER: That's all you need. Just one of them.

Misty Marris, Joey Jackson, thanks to both of you.

Tonight, join CNN anchor and senior legal analyst Laura Coates in a "CNN PRIMETIME" special, "Inside the Murdaugh Murders." It airs tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

Coming up, a rare interview with someone inside the Iranian government. How the country's foreign minister tried to deny a recent wave of arrests and how CNN's Christiane Amanpour pushed back.



TAPPER: It's been more than five months since 22-year-old Masha Jina Amini died in the custody of Iran's so-called morality police. She was arrested for the crime of not properly covering her hair. Her death, her murder sparked massive worldwide protests over Iran's repressive regime.

In Iran, thousands have been jailed, at least four people executed, and dozens more may be at risk of execution.

CNN's chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour sat down with Iran's foreign minister.

And, Christiane, you pressed him on the widely reported human rights abuses there. What did he have to say?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Jake, it's been really difficult to get official response from the Iranian government face to face ever since the death of Mahsa Amini and the brutal crackdown on protesters. But this week in Geneva, we did just that with the Iranian foreign minister. And, of course, he said that there were no extrajudicial killings, and he blamed a lot of the actual violence on foreign-based infiltrators, foreign-backed infiltrators.

This is part of our discussion on some specific cases I put to him.


AMANPOUR: When you say the Islamic Republic of Iran respects human rights, one female protester says that she was detained inside a Revolutionary Guard facility for more than a month and raped by three different men. She went to a cleric, a mullah, afterwards because she was having suicide thoughts, she was so upset, CNN spoke with that cleric.

Is that acceptable? Is it acceptable for a woman, whatever she's done, to be arrested and raped? And there are many, many, many reports of sexual abuse in this situation against women and men.

HOSSEIN AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): Firstly, in the peaceful demonstrations in the fall, no one was arrested.

AMANPOUR: So, you're just denying that?

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN: However, in those protests that had become violent, some individuals, some of whom that entered Iran from the outside were and using firearms and killing the police were arrested. You do know that the supreme leader actually issued an amnesty, and all those who were imprisoned were released with the exception of those who had killed someone or were being sued.

Regarding the Iranian woman that you mentioned, I cannot confirm it. There have been so many such baseless claims made on social media and in media.

AMANPOUR: Okay. These are not baseless, and they weren't on the internet. It's CNN spoke to a cleric, a religious person, inside your country and got this story.

AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN: We have seen some of CNN's reports that are targeted and false.

AMANPOUR: That's not true. We've -- we report the facts, and we report the truth, and that's why you're sitting here with me, Mr. Foreign Minister.


AMANPOUR: Now, of course, because of this crackdown, both United States and Europe have been reluctant to go back into serious negotiations with Iran on the nuclear deal, the JCPOA. Both the United States and Iran, though, say they want to do it. And of course it's necessary to make a safer world.

I asked the foreign minister about this, and he said the window is open from their point of view, but it may be closing. Here's that bit.


AMIR-ABDOLLAHIAN: We have a roadmap with the IAEA. And on two occasions, Mr. Aparo, Mr. Grossi's deputy came to Iran in the past few weeks, and we had constructive and productive negotiations. We have always invited Mr. Grossi to come and visit Iran soon. Therefore, our relationship with the IAEA is on its correct and natural path.

We have said this to the U.S. side, through mediators, that we are on the path to reach an accord. If the Iranian parliament adopts a new law, then we'll have to abide by the parliamentary act. So the window for an accord is still open. This window will not remain open forever.

The U.S. party has been sending us positive messages through diplomatic channels. But in its media remarks, they make deceptive remarks that are totally different. And really, as an Iranian foreign minister, sometimes I have serious doubts.


AMANPOUR: And, of course, this comes amid the fact that the IAEA, the U.N. nuclear agency, has said that it has found uranium particles enriched to about 84 percent, that's very close to the 90 percent fissile material that could be used for a nuclear weapon. And your officials in Washington are now saying that Iran could if it took a decision break out into a nuclear weapon, at least one bomb's worth, within 12 days. The Iranians to this day blame president Trump for pulling out of the JCPOA and starting this rather dangerous route that everyone's on right now -- Jake.

TAPPER: Christiane Amanpour, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, the major step by TikTok done by no other social media company to try to limit the screen time of younger users.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Just in to CNN, the FBI says it has arrested a man who tried to bring explosives onto a flight in his suitcase.

CNN's team of reporters and analysts are following all the details. Let's start with Evan Perez.

Evan, what happened?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Jake, this happened at the Lehigh Valley Airport which is in Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia. And this man is alleged to have brought what the FBI says were explosives onto a -- onto an airplane. He's basically putting it in a suitcase and had it checked to go through the security system. And that's when the alarms sounded, indicating that there might be some explosives.

According to the FBI, they examined, X-rayed the compounds that were in this device that were put on this -- on this luggage, and they found that it contained the compounds that you find in fireworks.

Again, this is something that is commonly used to make homemade explosives. It's not clear what exactly he was planning to do with this. Right now, Marc Muffley who, again, is from the town of lance ford, Pennsylvania, is facing two charges. One of them is possession of an explosive at an airport, possessing or attempting to place an explosive or an incendiary device in an aircraft.

According to the FBI, as part of the arrest record here, after they discovered the device on the -- in the luggage, they paged the man to try to get him to come talk to the security officers. He tried to leave the airport and was later arrested by the local authorities there -- Jake.

TAPPER: Let's bring in CNN chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst John Miller.

John, what are intel agencies doing now to ensure this threat is over and was just an isolated incident?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, there's a big scramble, obviously because, first, you got to dig into Marc Muffley and say, who is this individual, who was he in contact with, what is his background, is he associated or affiliated with any particular groups that are advocating violence? That's number one.

Number two, you have to look at this and determine was this a quantity of explosives which is illegal on an airplane that was packed in a suitcase that was checked, or was this a device that contained explosives? The difference is if it's a device, it could have an initiator. If it has an initiator, that means it could have a detonator in terms of a timer or a clock or a signal that could come from a cell phone which would suggest it might have been programmed to go off while the plane's in flight.


Now that's a lot of unanswered questions that aren't addressed in the document that we have seen from the federal government yet. But it also could change the meaning. The types of explosives that were recovered were the kinds that are

used in fireworks, which is one of those things you say, well, fireworks, is that a bomb? Remember the Boston marathon bombers built their devices out of the explosive black powder culled from fireworks that they brought commercially and then added into the device.

So good news. Good news is, Jake, the system worked which is he checked a bag, which was going to go into the cargo hold. That went through the TSA's explosive sniffers, and those devices detected that. We get those false positives all the time, but they check the bag, they found the material, and when they went to look for the owner, he was beating it out of dodge which just adds more suspicion.

TAPPER: It sure does. We're getting images of this individual right now. And there they are, brought to you on your screen.

CNN's Pete Muntean is at Reagan National Airport which is outside D.C.

Pete, how often do security incidents this serious happen in American airports?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Very rarely, Jake, when it involves explosives, although it's really important to point out here that the TSA over and over again keeps finding guns and loaded guns, other types of weapons, at a very high rate in carry-on bags which they are not allowed in. In this case, though, we know it was a checked bag which is even maybe more egregious because the TSA was able to pick this up as this bag went through security screening behind the scenes at Lehigh Valley International Airport and that is critical.

You've seen at airports even here at Reagan national airport, when you check your bag you have to walk it over to get screened by the TSA. Some airports have that system in line, although the TSA is telling us this was done during a routine check, then they were able to page this man. They brought over a person to inspect the bag, they also brought over dogs, a TSA spokesperson tells me.

So, this is very, very serious. The issue now in 2023 is that the TSA simply finds so many guns and weapons in bags because they say that people simply forget. So now we really need to know what the motivation was here. Many times it's an accident. Although in this case, the big question is was it an accident, or was it intentional?

And that is something, of course, the TSA will be asking, the FBI will be asking. We know that the port authority at the airport is involved, as well. So many, many agencies and many, many layers here looking at this just trying to figure out exactly how this happened and really what went wrong.

As John points out, the good news is the system really worked. The layers of security that were put in place after 9/11 really were up to snuff here, and they were able to find these explosives in this checked bag and were able to get them out. Had is so key, and it really shows that the system worked here by the transportation security administration. TAPPER: All right. Pete Muntean, Evan Perez, John Miller, thanks to

all of you.

Turning to our world lead, violent scenes in Israel today as thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to protest Prime Minister Netanyahu's moves to weaken the country's independent judicial system, according to critics. Israeli police lobbed stun grenades and fired water cannons at protesters who were attempting to block traffic in central Tel Aviv to oppose Netanyahu's plan which has even come under criticism even from the pro-Netanyahu former ambassador to Israel, David Friedman.

CNN's Hadas Gold is live in Jerusalem for us.

And, Hadas, some of the protesters surrounded a hair salon where Sara Netanyahu was inside, prime minister's wife. Tell us more about that.

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jake, I mean, these protesters said today was going to be a day of disruption and it's lived up to there. Just in the last few hours, there have been some very dramatic scenes in Tel Aviv where apparently Sara Netanyahu went to get her hair cut at a salon in the evening hours. Protesters found out where it was and surrounded it.

They mostly seemed peaceful, most were just yelling, blowing horns, making a bunch of noise. But it required a massive police presence to get her out, including helicopters, several dozen seemed like border police officers running into the street, dramatic scenes to get her out.

Many of the protesters were shouting "shame" at the police officers and also shouting at them, where were you in Huwara? That's a reference to that Palestinian village where those two Israeli brothers were killed. Then there was a rampage settler -- Israeli settler revenge attacks. This, of course, following the other dramatic scenes we saw earlier today in central Tel Aviv. More of these protesters, we've seen these protests for eight weeks now against these judicial reforms, some of which would allow the Israeli parliament to overturn Supreme Court decisions. They've been peaceful until today -- Jake.

TAPPER: And, Hadas, Israel's finance minister, he's one of the two extremists in the cabinet. His name is Bezalel Smotrich. He today said that the West Bank Palestinian town where two Israeli brothers were shot and killed on Sunday, where the Israelis rampaged, the settlers rampaged, he said it needs to be erased that town. Take a look.


BEZALEL SMOTRICH, ISRAELI FINANCE MINISTER (through translator): I think the village of Huwara needs to be erased. I think that the state of Israel needs to do this, and God forbid not private people.


TAPPER: He's saying that Israel needs to get rid of this Palestinian town. That sounds an awful lot like ethnic cleansing. Has Netanyahu said anything about this?

GOLD: Netanyahu has not directly addressed Smotrich's statements. The former prime minister now opposition leader Yair Lapid essentially called it an incitement to a war crime. Smotrich was responding to why he liked a tweet that said the same thing, and he essentially repeated himself.

Now, afterwards he tried to issue some sort -- I don't know if I can call it a clarification -- saying I did not mean that we should by out the village, Huwara, only to act in a targeted manner against the terrorists and supporters of terrorism and to exact heavy price from them in order to restore security to the residents of the area. The reason being Huwara is often a flashpoints city where there are clashes, there's violence between Israeli settlers and Palestinians.

But this comment specifically is getting a harsh reaction including from the U.S. State Department. Take a listen.


NED PRICE, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: These comments were irresponsible, they were repugnant, they were disgusting, and just as we condemn Palestinians and violence, we condemn these provocative remarks that also amount to incitements of violence. We call on Prime Minister Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials to publicly and clearly reject and disavow these comments.


GOLD: And Jake, Netanyahu has not yet specifically responded to Smotrich's remarks. I have to tell you that those rocks are some of the harshest remarks about an Israeli prime minister I think I've ever heard from the American government -- Jake.

TAPPER: Yeah, they're shocking. In his walk back, I didn't mean to say exactly what I said was interesting.

Hadas Gold in Jerusalem, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Parents, heads-up. The new feature coming to TikTok that could help limit the screen time of your kids.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: TikTok is rolling out a new default setting aimed at limiting screen time. It allows users younger than 18 to only use the app for one hour per day. But there does seem to be a work around, entering a pass code to allow kids to keep scrolling past that one-hour limit.

Let's bring in CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, this is timely for you, because a sixth season of your great podcast "Chasing Life" explores how scrolling affects our brains and our health. Tell us more about that.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I've been fascinating with this topic for some of the same reasons you would be. I have three teenage daughters, as you know, you have teenage kids, Alice, as well. It's such a big part of their lives. I interviewed my girls for this podcast, which I got to tell you is magic.

I mean, we're close. We talk about all the time. Having a two-hour conversation is a magical thing. All of this is sort of, in part, driven by what would have been some tragic trends with regard to mental health. We talked about 60 percent of teen girls say they feel hopeless at one time.

One in four crafted a plan for suicide. At the same time, these trends have been developing over the last decade and a half. There's been more social media. That's what's driving a lot of these concerns. That's correlation, not causation, but I think that's what is driving a lot of these concerns.

We know some things. For example, the average person will pick up their phone some 300 times a day, they'll just pick it up, look at it within the first ten minutes. About half the people say they will text people in the same room with them instead of a face-to-face conversation. So we know that there's a problem and the people who use social media the most are the most affected negatively. There's a lot of people now saying here's what you can do about it. And one of the things that's driving this TikTok legislation is the idea of bringing the brain back online for a second.

Maybe in a code punching -- a code won't work, but maybe some people will say, I don't need to keep scrolling and just brings back online. Other things experts recommend, they say, when you do pick up your phone, again, most people mindlessly ask three questions, ask what for? Why am I picking it up? Why now? And what else could I be doing instead?

Sounds simple, Jake, but it could make a difference.

TAPPER: All right. Good advice. What for?

You can find Sanjay's podcast "Chasing Life" wherever you get your podcasts. I recommend it highly.

Sanjay, thanks so much. Good to see you.

I'm going to have to come one an excuse to interview my kids for two hours. It does sound like a lot of fun.

Coming up, we're going to go back to Walterboro, South Carolina, the case as prosecutors wrapped up their side of the closing arguments.

Stay with us.


[16:59:21] TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

This hour, closing arguments in the Alex Murdaugh murder trial, the prosecution just wrapped up after more than three hours. What's next before the jury gets to make the decision?

Plus, a deadly disease once thought to be eradicated is being passed from mother to child at alarming rates.

And leading this hour, Ukrainian military commanders say they're still holding on to Bakhmut in the eastern part of the country as Russian forces keep up their assault in the middle of the fierce battle. Ukrainian officials say an estimated 4,500 civilians remain in the city.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen starts off our coverage with a look at how Russian forces are now bringing in more experienced fighters from the Russian mercenary Wagner Group to try to secure a victory by any means necessary.