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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Jury Deliberations Underway In Murdaugh Murder Trial; Source: Suspect In Antisemitic Plot Admitted He Targeted Michigan AG; Blinken, Russian FM Talk For First Time Since Putin's Invasion Of Ukraine; Reports: Nearly 900 Schoolgirls Poisoned Across Iran; Biden Meets With Senate Democrats On Capitol Hill Amid Debt Standoff. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired March 02, 2023 - 16:00   ET



BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN HOST: You are selling that so well. What are you having for dinner?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Not that. I'm just saying these are options. These are options. I've never had frog legs. I'm a pescatarian, and it's an amphibian, so I can't --

GOLODRYGA: He actually Googled, he researched that before, yeah.

Well, have at it folks in Utah.

THE LEAD with Jake Tapper starts right now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: An agenda so important, President Biden felt he needed to go to Capitol Hill to discuss.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Don't come to me, I'll come to you. The president makes the trip up Pennsylvania Avenue as Democrats set their priority list. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer was in the room, and now he will be here on THE LEAD.

Plus, a plot to kill foiled in Michigan as authorities arrest a man they say wanted to kill Jewish lawmakers including Michigan's attorney general.

But, first, after six weeks of testimony and more than 70 witnesses, now the jury gets the case in the double murder trial for Alex Murdaugh.


BERMAN: Welcome to THE LEAD, everyone. I'm John Berman, in for Jake Tapper.

We start with our national lead. Moments ago, the jury began deliberations in the murder trial of Alex Murdaugh. The jury will have to decide if Murdaugh killed his wife Maggie and son Paul. More than 70 witnesses testified in the trial, which spanned more than six weeks.

Murdaugh admitted on the stand he lied to investigators about where he was the night of the murders, but he has fervently denied he committed the killings. Murdaugh's defense attorney said today in closing arguments that he could not have committed these murders, but the prosecution pushed back reminding the jury about Murdaugh's lies.


JIM GRIFFIN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Alec would not have killed the people he loved the most in the world.

JOHN MEADORS, PROSECUTOR: But you don't lie and misremember being at the scene of a murder.


BERMAN: CNN's Randi Kaye was inside the courtroom in Walterboro, South Carolina, today and has been following this case closely really for years now.

Randi, before the defense gave their closing arguments, there was a juror dismissed. What happened?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, this juror was dismissed for speaking with other people about the case, not fellow jurors but just other people and every day in the court the judge reiterates to the jury to not discuss the case. So, apparently, the judge word of this and he spoke with the lawyers about it and law enforcement interviewed the people this juror spoke with, and after reviewing recordings of those interviews with those people, the judge decided to dismiss that juror.

So he called that juror into the courtroom today. Made her aware she was being dismissed and replaced her with an alternate, John.

BERMAN: And, Randi, what was the final point that the defense made to the jury?

KAYE: The defense really in their closing argument was trying to explain away the state's most powerful piece of evidence, that's that video recording pulled from Paul Murdaugh's cell phone. It's the kennel video as it's come to be known. It was recorded at 8:44 p.m., just a few minutes before prosecutors believe that Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were killed.

And Alex Murdaugh is heard on that recording. He denied that for more than 20 months until he took the stand at this trial telling the jury, yes, that is me. I was there.

So, the state, of course -- the defense is trying to help the jury be okay with that. Meanwhile, in the rebuttal closing, the state pushed back. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GRIFFIN: There's nothing on that tape that indicates there's any strife, any conflict, any anger, any planning, anybody being afraid, anybody running, anybody scurrying -- nothing. Maggie, Paul, and Alec down at the kennel, that's it.

MEADORS: He lied because that's what addicts do. Addicts lie. He lied because he had a closet full of skeletons that he didn't want any more -- any more scrutiny on him.

Can you imagine not telling law enforcement lying that I was down there and I saw them? I was right there? Why wouldn't you tell them that? Maybe get some more evidence. Did you hear somebody?


KAYE: And in closing today, the defense took another opportunity to remind the jury that they don't believe Alex Murdaugh would have had enough time to wash up and change clothes after allegedly killing Maggie and Paul -- John.

BERMAN: Randi Kaye, you've been there for so long in Walterboro, South Carolina, thank you so much for your reporting.

I want to bring you two others who have been following this case so closely, criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor Bernarda Villalona, and trial attorney Misty Marris.

Misty, I just want to start with you. We're talking about six weeks for this jury right now, this trial's lasted six weeks. They're now in the jury room.

I know every jury is different and the processes are all different, but what might be happening behind those closed doors right now?

MISTY MARRIS, TRIAL ATTORNEY: You can bet that they're going through the closing arguments. They're probably talking about the prosecution and the defense. That's what's fresh in their minds. And now, the jury is in there deliberating on the charges that the judge has now explained what the elements of each charge are, and they're going to be applying what they've learned throughout the trial to the law.

Remember, the jury is charged with determining credibility. They've been told to use their common sense. When they walk into that jury room, they don't give up everything they've ever learned in their life. They're told to go in there looking at the evidence through the prism of their life experience.

So I imagine after all of this 70 witnesses, all of the evidence that they've seen, they're now looking at that in the context of the closing arguments trying to digestion it all, sitting down, where to begin on deliberations.

BERMAN: You know, Bernarda, Misty just mentioned, 70 witnesses, and the jury couldn't take notes. Is that typical? How do you think that might factor into the deliberations that are happening again right now? BERNARDA VILLALONA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: So, John, it's typical

that a judge does not allow a jury to take notes, and just imagine this, everybody in the courtroom, the judge, the defense attorney and the prosecutors everyone is taking notes, writing notes, reading from notes. So just imagine the jury, the most important people in the courtroom at this time that now have to digest all that information that's been given through the last six weeks.

So, a major reason why a judge doesn't allow a jury to take notes is because they want the jury to focus on the witnesses, focus on their demeanor, focus on what is being said and how it's being said because they are the judges of the facts, and they are to deliberate as to the credibility and believability of each of these witnesses. So that's why judges majority of the time do not want jurors to take notes, focus on what's being said in the courtroom.

BERMAN: You know, Misty, both you and Bernarda, brought up credibility here. One of the key facts of this case is that Alex Murdaugh lied for 20 months about the fact that he was at the murder scene not long before these murders were believed to have been committed. Now, the defense made the case that he lied about it for so long because of drug use.

How persuasive do you think that might be to the jury?

MARRIS: I think it's a slippery slope, John, and I'll explain why. So, on one hand in the defense's favor, there are so many people in this country who have been impacted by opioids. It's a crisis. It's a crisis nationwide.

So from the defense perspective, raising the specter that his opioid addiction could have led him to act irrationally and that he lied and was paranoid, this is something they believe will resonate with one or two jurors who have perhaps had personal experience either with themselves or a loved one or friend with opioid abuse. However, I say it's a slippery slope because on the flip side you're talking about somebody acting rationally, act reasonably and the defense was saying Alex Murdaugh was not able to do that. He was paranoid. That's why he lied so long.

And so, doesn't that equate -- take it a step further -- doesn't that equate to couldn't he have acted in other ways that are out of character for him, i.e., killing his family? So, I'm not sure that the drug addiction argument really moves the needle either way because it has a positive and negative effect for the defense in the context of how the jury takes in that information and digests it and ultimately comes to a conclusion.

BERMAN: And, Bernarda, we've spoken about this, the prosecution never had everything it wanted here either. There's no murder weapon that they can point to in this case. And so they did focus on credibility and believability.

In this day and age where every juror has watched "CSI" and is expecting so much forensic evidence, can you make up for the absence of it? VILLALONA: Absolutely, John. I prosecuted homicide cases for about

ten years, and I can tell you in 90, probably 95 percent of the cases, guess what I didn't have, the murder weapon, and the way to address that is, number one, you tell this jury, look, because I don't have the gun, does that mean that Paul, Maggie, Murdaugh were not killed by a firearm?

And then two, focus back to the jury instruction. There is nothing in that jury instruction that says that I must produce the firearm for you to find Alex Murdaugh guilty, and they have those jury instructions with them back in the room deliberating.


BERMAN: Bernarda, Misty, our thanks to both of you.

Again, the jury in that room deliberating as we speak could go on for some time. Thank you.

Ahead, Michigan's attorney general says she was among the targets of one man's plot to kill Jewish officials in her state. The court documents revealing the suspect's bizarre social media post about creating his own nation state.

Plus, the alarming trend in Iran, hundreds of school aged girls reportedly poisoned. Why this particular group may be the target.


BERMAN: The FBI uncovered a disturbing plot by a Michigan man who threatened to kill Jewish members of the state's government. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel who confirms that she was one of the people targeted.

Charging documents reveal that a man with a Twitter handle 'Temperate Reason" posted on Twitter on February 17th, quote, I'm heading back to Michigan now, threatening to carry out the punishment of death to anyone that is Jewish in the Michigan government if they don't leave or confess, and now that kind of problem.


Because I can legally do that, right?

Police were able to trace the post back to the suspect and he has been arrested.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is diving into the charging documents.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, the FBI foiling an alleged plot to kill Jewish government officials in Michigan. A federal complaint filed in eastern Michigan naming Jack Eugene Carpenter III as the defendant. Sources telling CNN he was arrested a day after allegedly posting disturbing anti-Semitic threats online using the handle tempered reason.

Among those allegedly targeted by Carpenter, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. I was a target of the heavily armed defendant in this matter, she wrote on Twitter.

Court documents laying out the details on February 18th, the FBI in Detroit was alerted by the bureau's national threat operations center of the post reading: I'm heading back to Michigan now threatening to carry out the punishment of death to anyone that is Jewish in the Michigan government.

Carpenter's account also showing a bizarre declaration of sovereignty to a new country named New Israel at Carpenter's property in rural Michigan, according to the criminal complaint.

That address revealing Carpenter had three 9 millimeter handguns registered in Michigan, one of which had been stolen from his girlfriend according to the complaint. That criminal complaint shedding light on Carpenter's background who had an unserved personal protection order against him from early February and had been arrested in December of last year for assault.

That unhinged plot just the latest in several threats and attacks on lawmakers and officials in the United States as well as increasing anti-Semitic attacks.

OREN SEGAL, VICE PRESIDENT, ADL CENTER ON EXTREMISM: Whether it's in Michigan or other parts of the country, we are seeing the confluence of antigovernment, COVID, and other conspiracy theories combined with anti-Semitism, and we see how this is animating people to action. It's not only operating in spaces online, but in the fantasies and imaginations of people who are willing to then take action.

SANDOVAL: Governor Gretchen Whitmer, the targeting of a kidnapping plot in 2020, the Anti-Defamation League reporting anti-Semitic attacks reached a record high in the U.S. in 2021, up 34 percent from the year before.

ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER DEPUTY FBI DIRECTOR: This is right in the wheel house of what the FBI and Director Wray have told us they think is the most dangerous, the most concerning threat that they face on the counterterrorist side. He's heavily armed, he might be, you know, mentally unstable, but nevertheless has decided to act out his animus, his grievance towards Jewish leaders in Michigan.


SANDOVAL (on camera): And we have learned that Carpenter is a former employee at the University of Michigan, according to a spokesperson at that institution who added that for ten years he worked there as a system administrator intermediate but couldn't say why that employment came to an end, John.

However, when you read over his completely unhinged writings on social media, according to federal prosecutors, he does write that he was fired over his refusal to take what he described as an experimental medication. So that's certainly telling. Meanwhile, he does remain behind bars ahead of a court hearing. CNN has reached to his defense, John.

BERMAN: Polo Sandoval, thank you so much for your reporting on this.

Joining me now is former Congressman Ted Deutch who is now CEO of the American Jewish Committee and CNN legal analyst Jonathan Wackrow.

Congressman, this threat comes as we're seeing a rise in anti-Semitic attacks and threats against politicians. What were you thinking when you fist heard the news this morning?

TED DEUTCH, CEO, AMERICAN JEWISH COMMITTEE: Well, I was thinking that this is sadly one more case of anti-Semitism that nearly led to a horrifically violent outcome.

This is less than two weeks after a shooter in Los Angeles shot two people and then made very clear that he was looking for Jewish victims. This person who was arrested in Michigan was looking to kill Jews in the government.

This is a through line that is dominating the news in America, and it's not just the Jews who are at risk. It's democracy that's at risk, and we can't afford to only focus on these for a day or so after an arrest is made. We need to understand the threat that it poses every day and act to ensure that it doesn't lead to violence and that we're doing everything we can to stop it.

BERMAN: Jonathan, you heard Polo reporting that in the court documents the suspect apparently wanted to create some kind of new county named New Israel. He wrote about it on Twitter.

You spent decades in law enforcement, how do these investigations take shape?

JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, listen, John, this is a real dangerous individual for multiple reasons. First, his comments posted online that Polo had discussed contribute to what's known as the Sovereign Citizen Movement. These are individuals who believe they're not under the jurisdiction of any law, whether it's U.S., state, or anything.


And they consider themselves exempt from any type of law. It goes deeper than that. The roots of this antigovernment movement are actually based in anti-Semitism, believing that Jewish people possess the satanic plot to take over the world, and it's bonkers.

But the net result of this is a convergence of antigovernment and anti-Semitic ideologies, and now you have an individual who feels empowered to really act with impunity going around with this violent rhetoric in, you know, potentially engage in violent acts, right?

So the challenge for law enforcement is that this isn't the only individual. There are others that are hiding in plain sight who possess this exact same ideology. Really, from a law enforcement perspective, when they get these types of threats, these types of incidents, they need to look at three mean things, the means, the opportunity, and the intent for these individuals to cause harm.

In this case, it was the trifecta. This individual had, you know, weapons. He had the opportunity to go. He targeted Jewish politicians in the state, and he had this opportunity where, you know, he telegraphed very broadly that Jewish political figures were at risk.

So, again, the FBI acted very swiftly in collaboration with other technology provides to capture this individual and place them in custody, but we've got to be better than that because these ideologies are out there, and they're really unmitigated and we have to, you know, start containing them and suppressing that hate.

BERMAN: They're out there and they're out there more than they were. I mean, Congressman, the ADL says in 2021 anti-Semitic attacks were at an all time high in the United States. More than 2,700 attacks were reported that year.

What is behind this jump?

DEUTCH: Well, you're right about the number, and the survey that ADL just put out on anti-Semitism shows that 90 percent of the American people as well as 90 percent of the Jewish community, but 90 percent of the American people think that anti-Semitism is a major concern. It's a risk.

There's -- that's the reason that over 40 percent of American Jews feel less secure in our country than was the case just one year ago, that's a ten percentage point increase. There's no justification for anti-Semitism.

But I encourage people to take a look at ADL's call to action against anti-Semitism, John, which lays out all of the ways society as a whole can respond. It's the reason that the Biden administration deserves credit for launching an interagency task force. That's what we're grappling with now.

It's a whole of society approach that we all have to participate in.

BERMAN: We all do.

Jonathan, we've got about 30 seconds left. You mentioned the Sovereign Citizens Movement. What's the challenge in investigating or prosecuting someone? The suspect basically denies the authority of the government.

WACKROW: Yeah, really, it's -- that is the challenge of law enforcement, but what they're not doing is we don't prosecute people on what they believe, right? We believe in what is our law and the law says that you can't act this way, and that's what we have to focus on.

Law enforcement has to get ahead of that, and we can't be -- we can't normalize this behavior, right? If you look back at the online postings, they've gone on for a long time. We have to get better at identifying that level of hate in jumping ahead of it quickly to prevent violent acts.

BERMAN: Jonathan Wackrow, Congressman Ted Deutch, thank you so much for being here.

Next, today's surprise encounter on the sidelines of the G20 Summit. Secretary of State Antony Blinken's unplanned meeting with his Russian counterpart and all the ground covered in their 10-minute talk.



BERMAN: In our world lead, an unplanned high stakes encounter. Today on the sidelines of the G20 summit in India, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken approached Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for the first time since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

CNN's Kylie Atwood reveals what the two men discussed and why this rare meeting is a significant moment amid the heightened tensions between the countries.


KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A surprise meeting on the sidelines of this week's biggest diplomatic gathering.

ANTHONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: I spoke briefly with Russia's Foreign Minister Lavrov on the margins of our G20 meeting today.

ATWOOD: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaking to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov face-to-face for the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine more than a year ago.

BLINKEN: We stand with Ukraine while it defends itself.

ATWOOD: Blinken reiterating the need for cooperation on nuclear arms control.

BLINKEN: I urge Russia to reverse its irresponsible decision and return to implementing the new START treaty, which places verifying limits on the nuclear arsenals of the United States and .

ATWOOD: The two diplomats spoke for roughly ten minutes and also discussed American citizen Paul Whelan who has been wrongfully detained in Russia for more than four years.

BLINKEN: The United States has put forward a serious proposal. Moscow should accept it.

ATWOOD: Once again Blinken's stressing the world is calling for peace in Ukraine.

BLINKEN: I told the foreign minister what I and so many others said last week at the United Nations and what so many g20 foreign ministers said today, and this war of aggression. ATWOOD: The Russians down played the conversation as one that

occurred on the go, tensions between the two countries have mounted over the last year.

SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): This is a place for frank dialogue, for freeing on approaches until last year when the West sacrificed its own ambitions.

ATWOOD: Despite the high profile dialogue, a senior State Department official made it clear that it didn't represent a diplomatic breakthrough saying not to expect changes on the topics they covered in the near-term.

NED PRICE, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Russians may be trying to make some hay and delve into some inside baseball or inside diplomacy. We are just not going to engage in that.


ATWOOD (on camera): Now, what's interesting about this is that it was actually Blinken who approached Lavrov, that's according to a senior State Department official and there is this question as to why now. Because Blinken and Lavrov have been in the same place at the same time in multiple instances over the last year, State Department spokesperson said it is an important time to convey messages in person. They had the opportunity to do so and they took it.

We should note that the last time that Blinken reached out to Lavrov, they had a phone call over the summer. They spoke about the release of Brittney Griner, efforts to release had stalled, so really efforts to release Paul Whelan are an area for us to be watching following this meeting.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Well, we can watch and hope.

Kylie Atwood, thank you very much for your reporting.

For other world lead, the White House today is calling for an independent investigation over a report that female students across Iran are being poisoned.

In recent months, nearly 900 schoolgirls may have been poisoned. Some are hospitalized, others are still experiencing symptoms. We don't know who is responsible or why.

Some of these girls spoke to CNN's Nima Elbagir about their terrifying experiences.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORERSPONDENT (voice-over): Desperation and chaos gripping Iranian cities for months. Terrified parents watch helplessly as their children fall prey to mysterious ailments.

CNN communicates with witnesses and survivors of some of these incidents at mostly girls' schools across the country.

STUDENT (through translator): It was a terrible situation. Girls had been falling on the floor and were crying. Some weren't able to walk, really didn't want to leave one another.

STUDENT (through translator): They didn't want us to go home. They forced us to stay inside.

STUDENT (through translator): There was a bitter smell. There was a smell outside too, then I felt sick.

ELBAGIR: Many of the students who spoke to CNN reported smelling noxious odors, this as Iranian authorities' explanation has been shifting, but state media is now referring to the incidents as poisonings.

Some parents worry these are targeted attacks on girls meant to prevent them from attending school. Many of the attacks have been in the religious heartland of Iran. Yet the minister of education has said most of the cases were caused by rumor and there is no problem.

The reported poisonings began a month and a half after protests erupted across Iran, led by women demonstrating against the country's repressive conduct and clothing laws.

CNN cross-referenced local media reporting with testimony from victims and eyewitnesses to tally the number of incidents. State media have reported incidents at nearly 60 schools since late November.

CNN has spoken with eyewitnesses in dozens of these cases. In one school in the regime heartland, at least three incidents were reported to CNN, the latest this week.

And incidents continue to be reported into this week where medical sources tell us a student was admitted to the ICU suffering seizures after the latest incident. One of dozens who have been hospitalized, another family joining the hundreds desperate for answers.


ELBAGIR (on camera): Authorities now say they are investigating these incidents, John, but in a country where so many freedom and girls are constrained, so many of those we spoke to say they're worried that this basic right and freedom to education could be next -- John.

BERMAN: Awful. Nima Elbagir, thank you so much.

Next, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer after his meeting today with the president, plus, the letter he sent to Fox about election lies peddled on that network.



BERMAN: Topping our politics lead, President Biden making the short trip from the White House to the Capitol today to meet with Senate Democrats during their weekly lunch, a rare visit for Biden as he tries to rally his party despite Republican roadblocks to much of his legislative agenda.

I want to bring in the top Democrat in the U.S. Senate, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.

Senator, thank you so much for being with us.

I want to get to the president's visit to Capitol Hill in just a moment, but first I want to ask you about this letter that you and the House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries sent to Fox Corporation chair Rupert Murdoch about the lies he admitted his network spread on the air in newly revealed deposition.

You wrote in your letter, quote, Fox News hosts have continued to peddle election denialism to the American people. We demand that you direct Tucker Carlson and other hosts on your network to stop spreading false election narratives and admit on the air they were wrong to engage in such negligent behavior.

So, Senator, what are you prepared to do if Fox ignores your demand for an apology?

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Let me say this first, John, and thanks for asking. The threat to our democracy may be greater than it ever has been before because when people doubt that the elections are for real, democracy is on edge. After all, the wellspring, the heart of our democracy is that we trust the elections.

And, you know, I worry that if this erodes, our democracy will erode, and my children and grandchildren will not grow up in the grand democracy that gave me the son of an exterminator, the opportunities that I have had. What caused this?

Number one was Fox News and their commentators spreading the big lie day after day, night after night, hour after hour, week after week, year after year.


They're the number one cause that there is such erosion in our democracy.

And the other day with the Dominion case and the depositions, we got a real breakthrough. We were told that the commentators like Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham didn't believe this stuff. And then, finally, yesterday, it was revealed two days ago that Rupert Murdoch didn't believe it, number one. Knew it was wrong, regretted it, regretted that he didn't do anything about it.

But his regrets are not good enough. We need him to take the next step and the next step is to tell the Carlsons, the Ingrahams and all these other commentators to stop spreading the big lie, to admit what they said was wrong, help restore some of the faith that we have lost in our democracy due to what their network's propaganda has put forward so we can get it back, and we're waiting to hear from Rupert Murdoch on that right now.

BERMAN: Look, Fox needs to reckon with the lies that it spread, and it may literally have to pay for the lies that it spread, but is it the role of government officials to demand that media organizations say things or tell media organizations what to put on their airwaves?

SCHUMER: Well, you know, it's hardly the first time that people have said, Channel 4 should have done this, "The New York Times" should have done that. That's not unusual, but what has happened here is, John, very unusual.

This is not simply telling them what to do. This is telling them, showing them that they have hurt our democracy probably when no other actor with the exception of Donald Trump who used them has done.

And so, when it's that vital, I think that we not only have a right to tell Rupert Murdoch and Fox what to do, but an obligation. I hope people from one end of the conversation to the other will call up Fox and do what Leader Hakeem Jeffries and I asked for, which is stop the lies, say they were wrong and report the news. You may have a different way of reporting the news than someone else, fine, but lying is not part of that different way and cannot be.

BERMAN: So, the legal filing also reveals that Rupert Murdoch told the head of Fox News to help Republicans in the 2020 Georgia Senate runoff selections. Help them in the runoffs in any way we can. That's a direct quote.

So given that, and you still call Fox News organization, but given that, do you think your Democratic colleagues should appear on the channel?

SCHUMER: Well, look, I leave it up to each one of them. I mean, putting the truth on Fox News always helps. But you know, the way they portray it, it will be one out of 50 commentators, and then they'll put some other lie up against them and do he said she said. They never do it fairly.

I don't have a problem if people want to go on, but they're way beyond that. They're way beyond even -- they're even what the chickens came home to roost. It was very good you brought that quote up, John.

They said favor the 22 Republicans. That doesn't mean lying. That doesn't mean deliberately distorting the truth, especially when it's so near and dear to our democracy.

You know, I feel this passionately. This is not a political thing, it's something that I feel, I love this democracy. We line up every November for 200 years and change. We go vote and the next day everyone abided by the election, whether we won or lost. Even remember Bush v. Gore.

And now, all of a sudden, you have this network spreading the lies, doing it very effectively, and making a third of the people, two- thirds of the Republican Party believe this democracy ain't on the level. You know, when you study dictatorship, this is the beginning of the

end. I don't think it will be that year because the American roots of democracy are strong, but I worry about it, and there's a demand to push back.

BERMAN: Given all of this in the shadow of all of this, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is unapologetic about giving Tucker Carlson exclusive access to January 6th security footage. Members of the January 6th committee now defunct have slammed this move as a potential security risk.

How do you see it?

SCHUMER: As despicable, as despicable as what McCarthy did a week ago, it's even worse now because when you hear that Tucker Carlson doesn't give a hoot for the truth, how can he be the arbiter of what these tapes are.

First, there's a security risk. He shouldn't release them at all to anybody. But second, when you release them to someone who's a known liar, a known perverter of the truth for his own political purposes, that makes it even doubly disgraceful.

BERMAN: So you had a meeting with President Biden, President Biden was with all of you today. We're looking at pictures of you two after the lunch right now. This comes amid the standoff over raising the debt ceiling, between the White House and Republicans.

Speaker McCarthy says the president has not followed up from his last meeting in, quote, putting the economy in jeopardy. Now, he's not the only one with some White House criticism here, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin calls it a mistake for the Biden administration not to negotiate.


So what do you say to your Democratic colleague Joe Manchin?

SCHUMER: I say, Joe, my dear friend, I love you, but there's nothing to negotiate with. It was -- we have a plan the Democrats, except for Joe Biden just about every other member of our caucus, which is we think the debt ceiling should be raised without hostage-taking, without brinksmanship, without the risk of saying do it my way or I'm going to let the country default. We know how horrible default would be.

So the onus is on Kevin McCarthy. He says he wants cuts. Tell us what the cuts are.

Leader McCarthy, we need to see your plan. Where is your plan? You say you want cuts, you have an obligation to show it.

And you know why he hasn't done it, John? I don't think he can pass anything in his caucus, so he's trying to deflect by saying let's negotiate, the president met with him once and said what I'm telling you, we need to see your plan. He said it at our caucus lunch today, we're waiting to see their plan.

If they can't come up with a plan, let them join us what we did under three presidents, twice under Donald Trump, once under Joe Biden in a bipartisan way and passed and raised the debt ceiling, debts we've already incurred, a lot of them incurred by Republican votes, a lot of them incurred by Donald Trump, but just raise that debt ceiling without brinksmanship, without the risk of the terror of default.

BERMAN: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, thank you so much for joining us this afternoon.

SCHUMER: Great to be with you, John. It's always a pleasure. Thanks for having me.

BERMAN: So also in our politics lead, the House Ethics Committee is moving forward with an investigation into embattled New York Republican Congressman George Santos. The Republican-led committee will investigate whether Santos broke the law in connection with his 2022 congressional campaign. Santos has been in the spotlight since he won the election in November and was publicly caught in a series of lies about everything from where he went to college, his resume, his mother's death and being Jewish.

Coming up, new information about what investigators seized from the family home of the Idaho college murder suspect.



BERMAN: In a rare and revealing interview, First Lady Jill Biden, sat down with CNN and weighed in on just how much influence she has on her husband, President Joe Biden. Here she is with CNN's Arlette Saenz. Watch.


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOSUE CORRESPONDENT: I know you said that you are not the president's adviser, you're his spouse. But you do hold a lot of influence. What are the areas you do offer him advice on?

JILL BIDEN, FIRST LADY: Well, certainly I tell him stories of things that I've seen and things that people want and where the challenges are. So it's not that I'm like weighing in. It's like let me tell you what I saw or what I heard or what people are saying to me.

And so, it's in that context. Because I'm out every day, I'm in the classroom, I'm out, you know, somewhere in the United States and so I think it's a good balance, really.

SAENZ: And I think there's a lot of focus on the role and the impact that you have on him. But how does he help you?

BIDEN: Well, sometimes I don't -- I may not see things from his perspective. Let's just put it that way. So he offers both sides. I'm always a little better like this person feels this way -- you know, he's very good at that, understanding why people feel the way they do.


BERMAN: Arlette Saenz joins us now.

Arlette, there was a lot in this interview.

SAENZ: Yeah, John, it really was a wide-ranging interview and right there you got a little bit of a window, a peek into how some of their discussions in their relationship have played out. But we also had the chance to ask the first lady about President Biden's potential 2024 run. She told me she is all for it but she also left an owning for him should he decide against a run, saying that they would be there to support him if he decides to do something else.

Now, we also pressed her on questions relating to the president's age. Of course he is 80 years old now. He would be 82 if he wins re- election and is inaugurated. And that's a concern that some voters have heading into this next election. She pushed back on those concerns that people have. And I also was able to ask her about that proposal from Nikki Haley who has suggested that politicians over the age of 75 take mental competency tests.

A little bit later tonight when we air this interview you'll get to hear from the first lady exactly what she thinks about that.

BERMAN: CNN's Arlette Saenz. Cannot wait to see this. The primetime special is called "Jill Biden Abroad." It is tonight at 9:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

Great work, Arlette.

SAENZ: Thanks.

BERMAN: In our national lead, new information is emerging about the murders of four University of Idaho college students last fall. Newly unsealed court documents reveal a long list of items seized from the Pennsylvania family home of the suspect, Bryan Kohberger. Police seized several knives, including a Smith & Wesson pocket knife and another knife in a leather sheath. They also took a cell phone, masks, and multiple criminology books and notebooks.

A 2015 white Hyundai Elantra was seized and dismantled by investigators. They say it was the same car that Kohberger used to drive from Washington state to Pennsylvania with his father for his holiday break and it's the same type of vehicle that was seen in surveillance video outside the Idaho home of the victims.

Twenty-eight-year-old Kohberger was arrested in December of last year and faces four counts of first-degree murder for the fatal stabbings of Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin inside their off-campus home on November 13th.

Kohberger was finishing a criminology PhD program at another university 15 minutes away from the crime scene. He has not entered a plea yet. I'm John Berman, in for Jake Tapper today. If you ever miss an episode

of the show, you can listen to THE LEAD wherever you get your podcasts.

Our coverage begins next with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM".