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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Four U.S. Citizens Assaulted, Kidnapped In Northeast Mexico; DC Council Moves To Withdraw Controversial Crime Bill; Ukrainian Official Lash Out After Video Of POW Execution Goes Viral; Trump, DeSantis Preview Presidential Showdown In Dueling Speeches; Protests Turn Violent In Atlanta; Two United Airplanes Make Contact At Boston Airport. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired March 06, 2023 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Four Americans kidnapped in Mexico and now an international rescue effort has been launched to find them.

THE LEAD starts right now.

A trip across the border turning into terror. Four Americans taken into Mexico, the car crash and the confrontation, and new images offering a glimpse of the frightening encounter.

Plus, in a twist. D.C. backtracks, withdrawing its controversial crime bill but that's not stopping the U.S. Senate, charging ahead with its vote to override what the D.C. city council wants.

Plus, scary moments on a Southwest flight when a cabin filled with smoke and forced an emergency landing.


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

And we start today with our world lead. Four U.S. citizens missing in Mexico after officials say they were likely targeted by armed criminals, mistakenly. The FBI says the four drove from Texas into the Mexican city of Matamoros on Friday, where a gunman fired at their car, assaulted them and then abducted them.

A U.S. official says the Americans were in Mexico for medical procedures. Video obtained by CNN appears to show officials being forcefully loaded into the back of pickup truck in Matamoros on Friday. The border city has been rocked by violence in organized crime since the Mexican drug wars broke up in full force in 2006. It's home to the once powerful gulf cartel that is splintered into competing violent gangs.

I want to bring in CNN's Rosa Flores in Houston, and CNN's Kylie Atwood at the State Department.

Rosa, Mexican officials just held a news conference about these missing Americans. What do they have to say? ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, these Mexican officials are

saying that they're gathering evidence to try to find the Americans and perhaps but the Mexican president is telling, he gave that best account. He says that they believe, Mexico authorities believe that these Americans were on the Mexican side of the border getting a medical procedure, buying medicine and that they were caught in a confrontation between two groups and that that is when the kidnapping happened.

Now, according to a U.S. official with knowledge of the investigation, that is exactly what that official is telling CNN, confirming that according to documents that were found inside of the Americans' vehicle, it confirms these Americans were getting a medical procedure in Mexico and they were not the intended targets and they were not the intended victims. That they might have been mistaken for Haitian smugglers.

Now according to the FBI, the FBI says that these Americans crossed over into Matamoros, Mexico, on Friday in a white minivan with North Carolina plates. Now CNN has obtained video and photographs of the scene and I should warn you that this video is graphic. But it shows the moment and the scene.

Now we do not know if the individuals who with in this video are actually the Americans. But it shows the scene, it shows a white van and Mexico officials confirm there was a collision and you could see there is a collision between a white minivan and a red vehicle.

Well, according to that video, if you take a look, the individuals were dragged into the bed of a pickup truck at gunpoint. Now the FBI has announced a $50,000 reward to find information that will lead to the Americans and also to the individuals that did this. And, again, Jake, both on the American side and on the Mexico side, authorities are trying to do everything they can to make sure that these Americans are found -- Jake.

TAPPER: And, Kylie, what role does the U.S. government have in trying to locate and bring these Americans home?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Listen, Jake, as Rosa was saying, the FBI is really taking a lead on this. The FBI does have a presence in Mexico, which, of course, helps things and they are the ones who put out that $50,000 reward for any information that could lead to arrest or the safe, secure finding of these Americans.

But we should note that there are other law enforcement agencies that also have a presence in Mexico and also have a role. That's according to the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, saying today that various law enforcement agencies are working with Mexican authorities to try and secure the safe release and safe location of these Americans.

We should also note, Jake, that the State Department has actually told Americans not to travel to this area of northeast Mexico. It is known for criminal activity, for kidnappings and murder.

TAPPER: All right. Kylie Atwood at the State Department and Rosa Flores in Texas, thanks to both of you.

I want to bring in Democratic Congressman Vicente Gonzalez who represents the Texas communities right across the border from Matamoros.

Congressman, have you heard any updates about the possible location or condition of these missing Americans?

REP. VICENTE GONZALEZ (D-TX): No, I just know that the FBI is doing their investigation and I think certainly we need to continue supporting them in that effort. But we need to recognize this is really the tip of the iceberg and this is not an isolated incident. This happens all of the time. I'm glad it caught the attention of the FBI and the press this time. But I get reports similar to this regularly happening across the border, in Tamaulipas, and in other regions across Mexico that are cartel -- cartel controlled.

And it is an alarm that I've been sounding since USMCA was signed, I thought that was a missed opportunity to not talk about security with Mexico. It's a huge concern. They're our second largest trading partner and we have a problem across the border that we haven't addressed and it's violence.

TAPPER: Yeah. Let's talk about because I'd like to know what it is like to live right across from this area, not just the city of Matamoros, but the entire region with the cartels and the drug wars.


TAPPER: The U.S. has issued a do not travel --

GONZALEZ: Let me make that clear --

TAPPER: -- do not travel advisory for the area. Tell us more.

GONZALEZ: Yeah. So, let me make something clear. I live across the border in McAllen-Brownsville area. McAllen is the third safest in the United States of America. So, it's safer than most cities in the country.

So when you cross -- when you're in the U.S. side it is a dramatic difference, but I haven't driven accord the border in 17 years because violence erupted around that period and never let up and it is something that I think we haven't had the political will to address.

And we have a great trading partner next door but we have a cartel controlled region and certainly across our region, across our border but in other parts of the country and I think when you get to a serious conversations in Washington, and with our friends in Mexico City, and how we're going to address this.

TAPPER: What do you think we should do? I mean, I only raise this because it was something that President Trump said, but President Trump has said, we should be bombing the fentanyl factories in Mexico. Obviously, we don't want to do anything that the Mexico government would not want us to do. It's a sovereign government. But should we be lending more military aid to our partners in Mexico

to try to stop this problem?

GONZALEZ: We should be working -- yeah, we should be working along with them. But we need a much more aggressive approach. We need to be targeting cartels as if they were terrorists, because at the end of the day, they are.

You saw the videos today. I've seen videos for last 20 years more horrific than on national news today. And it is something that hasn't had an aggressive meaningful approach from our governments and I think it's time and as I said, they are the second largest trading partner. It's becoming, if not already, an economic national security liability for us.

And I think we need to have honest conversations, we need more -- more people have died in the drug wars in the last 15 years in Mexico than every war from Korea, Vietnam or wars in the Middle East until today.


GONZALEZ: And many of us in Washington -- I'm sorry.

TAPPER: I was just going to say, the biggest victims of these are obviously the Mexican people. One last thing before you go, sir. We just learned that investigators believe that a Mexican cartel, perhaps the Gulf cartel, likely mistook these four Americans for Haitian drug smugglers. You have heard that? What's your reaction?

GONZALEZ: Yes. So I've heard that rumor. It hasn't been confirmed. But that could be very likely so. So, yes, I'm glad the FBI is looking into it. We need to work with our partners across the border. We need to bring security to regions especially right on our border.

TAPPER: Yeah, indeed. Democratic Congressman Vicente Gonzalez, always good to have you on, sir. Thank you so much.

GONZALEZ: Thank you.

TAPPER: Turning to our politics lead and an unexpected move by Washington, D.C. officials.

Today, the council chairman of the D.C. city council announced his plans to withdraw Washington, D.C.'s controversial crime bill. This is just days before Congress was set to overwhelmingly vote to overturn it. Sources say D.C. council members were blindsided when President Biden announced he would side with Republican efforts to overturn the bill, as did 31 House Democrats in a successful vote against the bill in the House of Representatives.

Given their concerns, which are, by the way, shared by the mayor of Washington, D.C., about how the legislation would lessen penalties for offenses such as carjacking and burglary along with larger concerns about whether prosecutors in D.C. are being tough enough on criminals.

And now as Manu Raju reports for us, it's unclear what happens next. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The D.C. city council set to face a rare rebuke by a bipartisan Senate majority poised to rescind D.C. new crime legislation marking just a fourth time Congress has taken such a step to block D.C. laws in the last half century, now falling victim to the potent politics of crime.


Shouldn't they make their own rules and laws?

SEN. JACKY ROSEN (D-NV): This is why D.C. should be a state. And so I advocate for D.C. statehood, but in this case, we have to really beware and careful -- be careful and make sure that people are safe in public.

RAJU: Nevada's Jacky Rosen, one of several Democrats facing voters in 2024, planning to vote for the repeal and siding with President Biden who surprised lawmakers last week by saying he supported the GOP-led effort.

SEN. BOB CASEY (D-PA): I have real concerns about what they're doing with regard to public safety.

RAJU: Facing a defeat in the Senate, the chairman of the D.C. Council today announced he would try to withdraw the legislation in an attempt to stave off the vote but Senate aides said that would not stop the chamber from voting this week to halt the local law. All causing fears among D.C. advocates that it will undermine their push to make D.C. the 51st state.

PHIL MENDLESON (D), DC CITY COUNCIL CHAIRMAN: It's quite clear to me that the headwinds that have prevailed in Congress are about the politics of next year's election and not about what's the substance in this criminal code.

RAJU: The new measure marks the first time D.C. has made wholesale changes to its criminal code since 1901, including eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for offenses other than first-degree murder, and reducing the maximum sentence for carjacking from 40 years to 24.

MENDLESON: There is nothing about the legislation that decriminalized carjacking.

RAJU: But carjacking and some other violent crime in D.C. are on the rise. Now testing Biden's rhetoric, backing D.C.'s autonomy as he prepared a potential re-election bid.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He believes and he has for sometime now that D.C. should be a 51 state.

RAJU: Yet the White House has backtracked on this issue, saying in a statement last month that Biden opposed the GOP resolution. Then 173 House Democrats, including members of the leadership and from swing districts voted against it. Now they're seen as to the left of Biden on this issue.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): I haven't had an opportunity to talk to the White House yet about the president's views.


RAJU (on camera): Now, the Senate is expected to vote on Wednesday to overturn D.C.'s effort, we expect more than 70 votes potentially to block this measure going forward. But it is still unclear how the top two Democrats in the Senate will come down. Chuck Schumer, I just asked him how he plans to vote. He would not say. He said instead the caucus is debating this issue still and they will vote on Wednesday.

And the number two Democrat Dick Durbin is now weighing President Biden's plan to allow this to take effect to repeal this D.C. law before he decides his own position. But he told me White House has had mixed messages over the issue and the president being back and forth speaks for itself.

TAPPER: Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

Joining us now to discuss is Councilman Janeese Lewis George. She's a member of the D.C. Council.

Councilwoman George, what's your response? The council -- the chairman is trying to withdrawal your criminal legislation and the Senate will take it up and it would go to President Biden and he would veto this. What is your reaction to all of this?


You know, this issue is fundamentally about preserving our local democracy and self-governance, two principles that our nation was founded on. We have 700,000 D.C. residents in the city who deserve the right to make their own laws like Americans in every single state in the union. You know, I was born and raised in D.C. so I have been disenfranchised my entire life and instead of having voter representation in Congress, I have a Congress that tries to impose its will on me and other D.C. residents without our say, and that needs to change.

And I think whatever the merits of the legislation, Congress should respect the people of D.C. and their elected representatives and let us make our own decisions for our communities.

TAPPER: So that's the home rule argument and I understand it as a D.C. resident myself that has been similarly disenfranchised. But I have to say, do you think that this legislation helps the cause of home rule? Because it seems to be signaling to a lot of people that the city council, the D.C. council is passing a whole lot of legislation that might make the city less safe. That is what we're hearing from the 31 house Democrats and that is the suggestion that we're hearing from Democrats in the Senate and President Biden as well.

GEORGE: Jake, first of all, I don't believe that a single Republican in Congress has read this bill or knows what is in it. And they're using this bill to spread misleading and disingenuous soft on crime talking points. House Speaker McCarthy was on CNN this morning saying that the council wants to decriminalize carjacking. That's completely false. Under this bill, carjacking in D.C. carries a sentence of up to 24 years and that doesn't include the enhancements that could come with it.


In the speaker's home state of California, carjacking is only punishable by nine years. And, frankly, the speaker's ignorance on this issue is exactly why Congress shouldn't be making decisions for District of Columbia.

And I'm a former prosecutor who practiced in the District of Columbia. Every day in our courtrooms, I saw firsthand how the code, it makes it harder for judges, defense attorneys and prosecutors to enforce the law. We need a clear, consistent evidence-based criminal code that allows us to uphold the law, hold people accountable and make our city more just and more safe for everyone.

And that is what the criminal code revision was all about. And in no way are we seeking to make our community less safe at all. We need clear and consistent laws and our criminal code just like everyone else in the country is based on the model penal code which every other state has. So I -- it is just completely disingenuous and there are so many misleading lies based on information that has just been thrown out.

TAPPER: Right, and I'm not holding up Speaker McCarthy as some exemplar of facts and truth. But as a matter of fact, carjackings just went up for a fifth straight year and this legislation would lessen the penalties for carjacking.

It wouldn't decriminalize it, but it would lessen the mandatory minimums.

GEORGE: That's right.

TAPPER: And this comes as crime is rising in D.C. Don't the people of D.C. need a council focused on protecting them and not making it easier for carjackers to get back on the street? That is an inherently violent crime.

GEORGE: That's correct. It's s true, like cities across the country, we're experiencing a crime surge that needs to be urgently addressed. But we have decades of data showing that long sentences do not deter crime. What actually deters crime is the likelihood that someone will be caught and prosecuted, not the lengthy sentence. D.C. already has a higher incarceration rate than any state in America.

And so if long sentences prevented crime, we would already be the safest city in the nation. And if we wanted to talk about the roots of crime, then we need Congress to do something about ending poverty, looking at the minimum wage across this country, about improving education, about addressing mental health. If Congress wants to help make D.C. safe, it would and should enact

strong gun control legislation to stop the flow of illegal guns from other states coming into D.C. where they're being used to commit more serious crimes. And so, you know, we could -- we are addressing crime every single day. The root causes and preventing it, we need a Congress that is going to do the work around gun control laws and gun control legislation --


GEORGE: -- within this country to do something about it.

TAPPER: I think one of the other issues and we don't have time to talk about this, but whether or not prosecutors are seeking tough sentences for carjackers that have been convicted, not whether or not it is a 24 or 40 year sentence but whether or not two years is enough. But we're out of time.

D.C. Councilwoman Janeese Lewis George, thank you. We'll be sure to have you back to talk about this.

GEORGE: Thank you so much, Jake.

TAPPER: Ahead in Atlanta, protests against a cop city police training site. The new charges against so-called agitators mixed in the crowd.

And how Ukrainians are holding the line with Russia forces on the verge of capturing the strategic town of Bakhmut.

Plus, a man accused of trying to open an emergency exit door on in a flight to Boston and trying to stab a flight attendant. The details coming in on this one, ahead.



TAPPER: Topping our world lead, Ukrainian officials are horrified and furious after a video of a Ukrainian prisoner of war's execution went viral. And the video an unarmed soldier is shot after saying, quote, glory to Ukraine. CNN has obtained this graphic video.

Here is a part of it. It is edited. What you're about to hear might be disturbing.


TAPPER: The Ukrainian officials say that execution is a blatant war crime to add to the long list of Russian war crimes.

Meanwhile, in eastern Ukraine, Russia is on the cusp of capturing the city of Bakhmut. Russian Wagner fighters, mercenaries seen here are replacing a Ukrainian flag with their own.

CNN's Alex Marquardt is in the area as the urban street fight pushed up to Bakhmut's main river. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Racing into the war zone, a white-knuckle drive toward the middle of Bakhmut. This is the last successful emergency evacuation mission by the Bakhmut police. We need to go faster, an officer says. The Russians can clearly see us.

This team, called the white angels grabbed civilians who have been trapped, throwing belongings into the back. There is a cat and someone else with a guitar, the fighting raging nearby. The residents told to hurry up and get in and sit anywhere they can.

As they hold on tight, the rescue mission speeds away from the smoldering city. Ahead, there is smoke from a Russian strike. Getting dropped off safely, Leonid tells the officer that everything is blown up in Bakhmut, even inside of his apartment.

They survived months of brutally intense assaults. Russia has made gains trying to encircle Bakhmut and surrounding it on three sides as Ukraine tries to fend them off.

Today, we met Bakhmut's deputy mayor and in a city nearby. At a makeshift aid center for Bakhmut evacuees. He tells us it's hard to percent way the more than 4,000 civilians to leave. And they say they have nowhere to go and no money. It is very hard to survive. It is not life, it's survival.

Drinking water is a big problem. Walking to the well is dangerous, he said. Shell's landing on your head all of the time.

All he now feels, he tells us, is fear and sadness. Everyone here knows how hard it will be for Ukraine to hold on to Bakhmut. The elderly mother with disabilities didn't want to leave. But they managed to convince her.

I don't know if my house is still standing, she tells us. It is very painful thinking about those still in Bakhmut. Her eyes well up. I just want them all to survive, she said. That is my only wish.


MARQUARDT (on camera): And, Jake, on that horrific video of the soldier being executed by Russian soldiers, it is hard to overstate the outrage that is growing here in Ukraine tonight. We're seeing reaction all across Ukrainian society. It's all over social media. We're seeing tribute art pour in.

We have heard from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy who has vowed to find the murderers. He also said, I want us to all to respond to his words of unity -- those words of unity after the soldier defiantly taking a drag on his cigarette, with Slava Ukraini, glory to Ukraine. Jake, that soldier has not yet been identified.

TAPPER: Yeah. Alex Marquardt in eastern Ukraine, thank you so much. Coming up, the week shaping up to by a warm up in the 2024 Republican

place for president and what Donald Trump says he will do if he's criminally charged.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, a clear sign that the 2024 race is getting real. Two Republican heavy hitters are heading to Iowa. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis will make his first stop of the year there in a few days. Former President Donald Trump will follow closely behind.

As CNN's Kristen Holmes reports for us now, this comes after a weekend of dueling speeches, dueling visions, and occasional snipes from the two.


KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis previewing a 2024 primary showdown.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: For those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution. I am your retribution.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: So, in Florida, we say very clearly we will never ever surrender to the woke mob. Our state is where woke goes to die.

HOLMES: In a grievance-laden speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump blasted the Republican establishment.

TRUMP: We are never going back to the party of Paul Ryan, Karl Rove and Jeb Bush.

HOLMES: On his way to a winning a resounding victory in the conference's unscientific stronghold, demonstrating the former president's enduring support with some of the party's base.

While not naming DeSantis, Trump taking aim at his potential rival's past support for reforming entitlement programs.

TRUMP: We're not going back to people that want to destroy our great Social Security system, even some of our own party. I wonder who that might be.

DESANTIS: Hello, California.

TRUMP: Speaking at the Reagan library in California, DeSantis seeming to jab at the tumult of the Trump White House years.

DESANTIS: In four years, you didn't see our administration leaking like a sieve. You didn't see a lot of drama, or palace intrigue. What you saw was a surgical, precision execution, day after day after day.

HOLMES: The dueling speeches foreshadowing an expected 2024 collision with both Trump and DeSantis set to visit Iowa in the next week. While Trump remains a clear front runner, he's also facing fresh challenges, including ongoing investigations to his handling of documents and his role in the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The former president telling reporters this weekend, he would not exit the race, even if he is indicted.

This as the 2024 field take shape, with some hopefuls backing away, worried a crowded contest could benefit Trump.

LARRY HOGAN (R), FORMER MARYLAND GOVERNOR: I didn't want to have a pileup of a bunch of people fighting. The more of them you have, the least chance you have for somebody rising up.

HOLMES: But not all 2024 contender sharing that view, including former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson who was weighing a bid.

ASA HUTCHINSON (R), FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: I actually think that more voices right now in opposition or providing alternative to Donald Trump is the best thing in the right direction.


HOLMES (on camera): We are still very early in this Republican primary, we expected to be a fairly crowded field. I'm told by multiple sources that Trump's team is laser-focused on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. They have been looking into his background. They've been watching all debate clips and talking to former allies.

And that's just a glimpse of how ugly and personal this battle between the two men is expected to get.

TAPPER: All right. Kristen Holmes, thanks so much.

Let's discuss.

And, Nia-Malika, let me start with what we heard there from Ron DeSantis saying that in his time as governor, there hasn't been leaks from his administration. There hasn't been a lot of drama, just surgical conservative actions taken.

Now, it's tough to get the DeSantis folks to answer questions. But my interpretation of that was that was a slam on Trump.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, yeah, I think this is exactly what it was, it's a slam on Trump. And, listen, it's what people have said about DeSantis anyway, that he is Trump but better, Trump but smarter, Trump but more disciplined. So, there he was making that argument.

I also will say this, this is a superficial comment. He had a certain charisma, as he was getting that speech. He looked more presidential in that speech and I had seen him in previous speeches.


So, listen, he has his eye on running, on taking it straight to Trump with this idea that he can beat Trump, but actually implemented it in a better way. Listen, will that resonate with enough primary voters who sort of like the raw politics that they see from Donald Trump? We will have to see. He clearly is eyeing a battle with Donald Trump.

TAPPER: Jackie, take a listen to what Trump's former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had to say about Donald Trump yesterday.


MIKE POMPEO, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: The list is long, Shannon, of folks who come to Washington one theory and don't -- aren't prepared to stand up and explain to the American people how we're actually going to get that. It's going to take a true conservative leader, Shannon.

SHANNON BREAM, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Are you saying that President Trump wasn't a true conservative leader?

POMPEO: Six trillion dollars more in debt, that's never -- tat's never the right direction for the country, Shannon.


TAPPER: So, again, to translate, that was a yes. But he said $6 trillion more in debt, he's referring to Donald Trump. So it's interesting, though, they're criticizing him but they're not willing to name him yet.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Not yet, but, I mean, if Mike Pompeo does decide to run, he's going to have to. He and several other including maybe Bolton will have to answer why were they -- why were they in the administration, why did they say anything, why they were so close to former President Trump for so long? And because there are, what, four potential former members of the administration running, but that's one of the things Larry Hogan said in his interview when he said he wasn't going to turn. He said that he has been out front saying Trump's name and criticizing him. These others are going to have to follow suit at some point if they're going to run.

TAPPER: And, Nia-Malika, Trump just said that he would stay in the 2024 race even if he's indicted. Take a listen to what another potential 2024 hopeful Jackie was just referring to, former national security adviser John Bolton had to say about that.


JOHN BOLTON, FORMER TRUMP NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: That's a pretty good signs his attorneys are telling at least one of these investigations, he's going to be indicted very soon. I think it's for the voters to decide if he wants to keep running well he's under indictment. I think that will help Republican candidates opposing him for the nomination.


TAPPER: On the other hand, Nia-Malika, Trump's message at the CPAC convention was I am your retribution, trying to manifest and channel himself as the symbol of all the persecution that all of his supporters feel as embodied by this one potentially indicted candidate.

HENDERSON: Yeah, listen, I thought it was a masterful speech, to kind of channel that, to pick up on this populism and grievance that we saw be so successful for him in 2016. These voters, these primary voters have an emotional attachment to Donald Trump. They see themselves in Donald Trump. It's odd, obviously, because he is a billionaire who lives in a palatial estate in Florida, but so many of these folks believe the lies that he told them. They believe that essentially January 6 was sort of payback, was an attempt to take their country back.

So you hear him picking up on the themes which are very powerful with a certain audience, 25, 35 percent of the Republican base. And that could be enough to get him to the finish line to get the nomination.

TAPPER: Jackie, just to recap, so former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced he is not going to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. He says he's worried about of multi-car pileup that's happened in 2016, lots of candidates that Trump was able to just drive by. As of now, the field includes Trump, former U.S. ambassador and governor, Nikki Haley, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, and potentially DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, John Bolton and more.

By Hogan's logic, who else do you think should follow his lead and bow out if they want to avoid that multi-car pileup?

KUCINICH: Far be it for m away anyone's ambition to be presidents. So I couldn't answer that, Jake.

However, I do think what Hogan's doing is going to be a rarity this year. I think you'll hear much more people like Asa Hutchinson who decide that the voters do need a choice. But, really, what he -- what he was saying in that interview, there's a lot of Republicans that are really concerned about them knocking each other out on Trump walking right through the doors of that nomination again. We'll have to see.

TAPPER: All right. Nia-Malika Henderson and Jackie Kucinich, thanks to both of you.

Coming up next, protest to the construction site dubbed Cop City in Atlanta. A serious charge now facing those who police say were not there for the demonstrations but there for something else.


Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TAPPER: Twenty-three people are facing domestic terrorism charges after police say they threw bricks, rocks, fireworks and Molotov cocktails at police officers in Atlanta last night, at the site of a planned police training facility.

As CNN's Ryan Young reports, opponents who have been protesting the site claim it would propagate militarized policing.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An attack at the site of a proposed police and fire training center in Atlanta.

CHIEF DARIN SCHIERBAUM, ATLANTA POLICE: This wasn't about public safety training center. This is about anarchy and about the tempted to destabilize.

YOUNG: Police surveillance video show protesters dressed in black throwing rocks and bricks at construction vehicles outside what opponents call Cop City, at least 23 people now facing domestic terrorism charges.

KAMAU FRANKLIN, ACTIVIST: I think it was an overreaction to the destruction of property and I think this is the very reason why we don't want Cop City built.

SCHIERBAUM: When you throw Molotov cocktails, large rocks, a number of items at officers, your only intent is to harm.

YOUNG: Sunday night's violence unfolded why unorganized concert is being held, part of what organizers call a weeklong mass mobilization a protest against the center.

The introduction of the $90 million training facility has been controversial, blindsiding residents who say they were left out of the largely secretive development process. Police have launched at least two clearing operations at the site. One in January where a protester was shot and killed by police.

FRANKLIN: It is the police that have unleashed violence on Black and Brown communities that have led to the movement against police violence which actually led to Atlanta itself attempting to build this militarized police center.

YOUNG: Activists claim the facility will cultivate police militarization and brutality.

MATTHEW JOHNSON, ACTIVIST: If you need to know what they're going to use the police training facility for, they just showed you, right? And we're supposed to believe that somehow now they're going to start prioritizing de-escalation? And those circumstances are extremely questionable.

YOUNG: The location of the 85-acre training center is also the focus of an environmental fight, where forest defenders have set up camp. The city is committed to replace injuries and dedicating more than 200 acres as protected green space.

The mayor of Atlanta has defended the center and its mission.

MAYOR ANDRE DICKENS (D), ATLANTA: This training needs space, and that's exactly what this training center is going to offer.


YOUNG (on camera): Jake, you can see some of the burned out mass that was left behind. I've talked to a few of the officers who were here last night who narrowly escaped from the fireworks that were being shot towards them. They were very upset. Obviously, it could've hit them in the face.

You look at all these pictures. The police department is making clear most people arrested last night don't live in Atlanta. We talk to some of the organizers with the protesters. They say that it doesn't matter. If you look here the city says they are concerned about the people flowing into the city -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Interesting. Ryan Young, thanks so much.

Coming up next, passenger flights gone wild. The alarming incidents during recent trips that may feel like airline safety itself is up in the air.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: This just an, another frightening moment in the air, this time on board a United Airlines flight. A man is facing charges after he allegedly tried to open an emergency door and stab a flight attendant with a broken metal spoon last night.

In a separate incident today, two planes also from the United Airlines made contacts at Boston's airport. That's the same place where two planes nearly hit one another just last week.

CNN's Tom Foreman is here.

Tom, what more do we know about today's incident.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You can barely see the damage. They're what we know is that one of these planes, both United plane, were both departing, one of them was pushed back by one of those little tugs vehicles to make the departure when the right-wing, as you can see right, there bumped into the detail of another plane nearby.

It doesn't look like a tremendous amount of. Damage expensive vehicles, though. This is a very serious issue. There have been numerous close calls and post collisions. There have been actual touching like this that have been going on. Many aviation analysts are saying, look, this is a measure of how much

airlines are trying to rush back into the business of getting as many airplanes as they can in the air. Not saying that's what happened here. That is a concern for many airports that are trying to stop this and they keep having been close calls, Jake.

TAPPER: And, just yesterday, there was another troubling moment involving a U.S. airline. This time midflight on a Florida-bound Southwest Airlines flight. Tell us about that.

FOREMAN: Yeah, it taken off from Cuba, was headed to Florida. And airlines officials say it ran into a bird or a series of birds that hit the nose and hit one of the engines on the wing. The engine caught on fire, passenger say as you can see here that they were covered with smoke inside this and it lasted for sometime. It was accurate and hard to breathe. They had to make an emergency landing back in Cuba where they all got off board.

It seemed to be a textbook handling of bird strike. There is also concern that there was more of that showing up lately. So, a lot of questions going on about the airlines right now. It seems like we've had a lot of incidents including some turbulence issues in just the past couple of days, including a woman who is up over New England on a private jet where they hit so much turbulence that she was actually killed.

TAPPER: Yeah, horrible story. And we're going to talk to the head of the National Transportation Safety Board in just a few minutes.

Tom Foreman, thanks so much.

FOREMAN: You're welcome.

TAPPER: Coming up, and first on CNN, what a source tells us about Donald Trump and Mike Pence essentially seeing eye to eye these days, at least on one thing.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

At this hour, the new study linking a popular diet to a higher risk for heart disease. What do you need to know about the meal plan approximately one in five Americans are following.

Plus, this hour the Mississippi state Senate will begin debating a bill that critics describe as a 21st century version of Jim Crow. The mayor of Jackson, a critic of the bill, will join me live to discuss the bill aimed specifically at his city.

And leading this hour, former Vice President Mike Pence has asked a judge to block a federal grand jury subpoena compelling his testimony about January 6th. Pence's attorney says the subpoena should be blocked because he was acting as president of the Senate that they. And is therefore by this speech and debate clause that which protect lawmakers from certain law enforcement actions aimed at their legislative duties.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins joins us what this first on CNN reporting.

And, Kaitlan, Pence has indicated publicly that he would try to resist complying with the subpoena.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, he said it was unprecedented, unconstitutional. We had an idea that they were going to try in some way to block, but it's notable for the way that they're trying to block it, in this motion that they had filed to this judge.