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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Intl Criminal Court Issues Arrest Warrant For Vladimir Putin; China's Pres. Xi To Meet With Russia's Pres. Putin Next Week; Red Tides & Massive Seaweed Belt Threaten Both Of Florida's Coasts; House Republicans Dig Into China-Linked Payments To Biden Family. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 17, 2023 - 17:00   ET



DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ukraine and other areas into Russia against their will, deported, as it were. Now, the most serious allegations are that children were taken from orphanages, from state run areas, and then taken into Russia during this conflict and given to Russian parents, sometimes given citizens. Just several weeks ago, we reported on this show about the separation of mothers and children, and we spoke to one very distraught mother Tetyana (ph).


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): Emotions overwhelmed me when Lilia (ph) left. When I realized what was happening, it terrified me. All I wanted was the best for my child at the time.


MCKENZIE: And you saw those mothers travel all the way into occupied Crimea with very emotional reunions with their children. They managed to get several back because of that organization. But many still remain, Jake, in captivity. This ICC arrest warrant will put the pressure onto Russia.

The Russians say they have no jurisdiction over the president. But it is a very significant moment. Jake?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: David, the International Criminal Court does not hold trials in absentia, meaning Putin would have to be arrested before standing trial there. So what does that mean for Putin?

MCKENZIE: Well, what it means is that he is hemmed into Russia something that's already happened because of this conflict. But should the president of Russia travel now to countries which are party to the International Criminal Court Treaty? Now, that does not include the United States.

He would be expected to be arrested by that country. But the track record on this is not great. Previous heads of state like Omar al- Bashir of Sudan traveled to several countries that should have arrested them, and he did -- they didn't. But it certainly further isolates the president.

And though the Russian authorities and the Kremlin have rubbished these warrants, they are just the beginning, I think. You have on a daily basis, prosecutors and investigators here in Ukraine looking into possible war crimes. And I think this issue, this very powerful and very sad issue of children separated from their parents still to this day, is maybe just the tip of the iceberg.

Also important to note that this is very quick for the ICC. They are announcing these allegations and this warrant, as these crimes are still allegedly being committed. That means perhaps there's some pressure for them to stop. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, David McKenzie in Kyiv, Ukraine. Thank you so much. Moments ago, the Biden administration reacted officially to the ICC's arrest warrant for Putin. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is at the White House for us. And, Jeremy, what does the White House have to say?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the White House is expressing broad support for accountability as it relates to perpetrators of war crimes, but they are not expressing explicit support for this arrest warrant issued by the ICC. This is the statement from the National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson.

She says, quote, "There is no doubt that Russia is committing war crimes and atrocities in Ukraine, and we have been clear that those responsible must be held accountable. The ICC prosecutor is an independent actor and makes his own prosecutorial decisions based on the evidence before him. We support accountability for perpetrators of war crimes."

And as you see there, there is not explicit support for this decision by the ICC. And that is in part because the United States is not a party to the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court. And in fact, the U.S. has a long history of rejecting the ICC's jurisdiction, specifically as it relates to U.S. personnel, for example, investigating and indicting U.S. personnel.

We know that there has been a debate inside the administration over providing support to the International Criminal Court. But interestingly, there is a growing bipartisan consensus that the administration should do exactly that. In fact, in December, Congress passed a new law that removed long standing restrictions on the U.S. providing support to the International Criminal Court, which could pave the way for the Biden administration to provide that kind of support going forward.

That still is an open question mark. In the meantime, though, Jake, administration officials have told me that they have provided support to other venues that are investigating Russian war crimes in Ukraine, notably the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office. Jake?

TAPPER: All right. Jeremy Diamond at the White House for us. Thank you. This arrest warrant comes as Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Putin are set to meet in Moscow next week. CNN's Selina Wang is in Beijing for us, where China says the war in Ukraine will be a core part of their talks.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chinese leader Xi Jinping flies to Moscow next week to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, his first visit since Russia invaded Ukraine. It's a powerful show of Xi's emboldened diplomatic ambitions and Beijing support for Moscow.


China's Foreign Ministry said the country's, quote, proposition boils down to one sentence, which is to urge peace and promote talks. Beijing has tried to present itself as a neutral peace broker on Ukraine, publishing a position paper last month calling for a political settlement. And casting Xi as a global statesman with fresh momentum after helping Saudi Arabia and Iran broker a historic deal to restore diplomatic ties.

But Western leaders are skeptical of Beijing's portrayal as a mediator. Xi and Putin declared a no limits partnership last year when Putin visited Beijing for the Winter Olympic opening ceremony. Xi has met Putin in person 39 times since becoming China's leader, even exchanging gifts, including Pandas.

China has refused to condemn the invasion or even call it an invasion. Instead, Beijing has parroted the Kremlin's misinformation while blaming NATO. On China's heavily censored social media, it's all hearts and thumbs up emojis in response to the government's official post about the state visit, with comments like, "Hope Russia will win soon. Hope there will be world peace", and "Long live China Russia friendship."

Beijing has also strengthened economic and military ties with Moscow by boosting trade and holding frequent military exercises. Western officials have raised concerns that China may be considering providing Russia with lethal military aid. Beijing has denied the accusation.

Last month, Putin told China's top diplomat, Wang Yi and Moscow that relations between their countries are reaching new milestones. The two nations bound together by their shared vision for a new world order no longer dominated by the west.

And while Xi has spoken to Putin multiple times since the invasion, virtually and in person, he's not yet had a single phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Though Ukraine's presidential adviser says negotiations about a potential Zelenskyy-Xi conversation are ongoing.

As Xi heads to Russia, the ability of China to help resolve the conflict hangs in the balance.


WANG: And, Jake, the two leaders, Putin and Xi, they share this deep suspicion towards the U.S., which they believe is bent on holding China and Russia down. But at the end of the day, it's not a truly no limits partnership. Xi only wants to help Russia as much as it helps China.

Now, if Xi Jinping does end up speaking with Zelenskyy, that could help Beijing repair its relationship with Europe, which Xi does not want to align too closely with the U.S. on restrictions targeting China. So Xi really wants it both ways here -- a relationship with Russia and to be seen as this responsible global leader. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Selina Wang, thank you so much.

Today, the Kremlin is dismissing the ICC arrest warrant for Putin as, quote, outrageous and unacceptable. Let's bring in CNN's Fred Pleitgen. And Fred, do Russian officials, do they deny the charges against Putin and the staff official that they forcibly remove kids, some of whom have parents from Ukraine?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Jake. Well, they're certainly not denying that they're taking children from Ukraine. However, the way the Russians have been framing it. And you're actually right. They're making a pretty big deal out of it and actually putting it out there on TV, claiming that they're actually saving and helping these children.

One of the interesting things that I actually just heard a couple of minutes ago, and I was messaging with a spokesman for the Kremlin, with Dmitry Peskov, and I asked him, look, do you think that this could cause problems for Vladimir Putin when he tries to travel internationally or generally internationally? And his response was trying to brush all of this off.

Just a couple of minutes ago, he was telling me, let's not overestimate the importance that this body, meaning the International Criminal Court, has internationally. As you said, of course, the Russians are saying that they don't recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC.

However, it is indeed the case that the Russians have been putting it out there on TV that children are being taken from Ukraine and are being brought to Russia. In fact, just a couple of weeks ago, Vladimir Putin was on TV with the chairwoman of the Children's Commission in Russia, who today was also part of that indictment as well, who's also been indicted, where there's a warrant out for her as well.

And she herself said that she had taken in, as she put it, a child from Ukraine, a 15 year old. She said, the Russians are claiming that these children are orphans. The Russians are claiming that it's something that they think is a service to these children, that it's helping these children. Obviously, what we're hearing from the ICC is very different to that. They are saying that this is essentially a forced deportation of these children. And, of course, speaking to some folks in Ukraine, as we have been over the last couple of weeks, the last couple of months, there are actually parents still in Ukraine whose children are still stuck in Russia, in some cases with families that they don't belong to. And people are having trouble getting these children back.


So the Russians definitely not hiding this. However, the Russians obviously saying that there's nothing criminal in their minds, at least about this, despite the fact that you have this ICC warrant now in place, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much.

Joining us now to discuss White House National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby. Admiral Kirby, do you think President Putin will, realistically speaking, ever actually face accountability ability in front of the International Criminal Court?

JOHN KIRBY, COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: I think that remains to be seen, Jake. I don't know that we can define what the end state is going to look like here. And as you know the ICC, the prosecutor there, he's an independent actor, and they'll have to work on the evidence that they have before them.

What I can tell you is a couple of things. First, we're going to stay committed to helping Ukraine as they document and analyze and preserve the kinds of evidence of the war crimes, the atrocities, the crimes against humanity that have occurred inside Ukraine at the hands of Russian forces. And number two, that we are not going to back off our belief that accountability for these war crimes has got to be had, however long that takes.

TAPPER: So, theoretically speaking, if Putin were to go to the G20, or if Putin were to go to the United Nations General Assembly -- let's just do the General Assembly one. The U.S. is not a signatory to the ICC, so the United States is not under any legal obligation to detain Putin and hand him over to The Hague. But would the U.S., if Putin comes to the United States for the U.N. General Assembly, would President Biden tell law enforcement to nab him and turn him over to the ICC?

KIRBY: We obviously want to see anybody -- any perpetrators of war crimes held to account. I'd rather not get into a hypothetical situation about whether he'll come to travel here to the United States. I find that very, very unlikely.

And again, I wouldn't speak for the ICC and their processes. What needs to happen here is that Russia needs to be held to account. The perpetrators of these war crimes have got to be held to account. And in the United States, our friends and partners will find a country that will be willing to work on that for the long term.

TAPPER: Well, what about a country like Israel, for example, which is, I believe, also not a signatory to the ICC, but one that is closely allied with the U.S. although it also has a relationship with Russia. If Putin went to Israel for a trip, or another country like, say, like India, where I believe the next G20 is also not a signatory to the ICC, would President Biden, ask Netanyahu, ask Modi, please arrest Putin and turn him over to the ICC?

KIRBY: Those would have to be sovereign decisions that those leaders make, Jake. They're going to have to make those decisions. We want to see accountability here. We're going to keep working on that.

TAPPER: I get it that it's their decision, but would President Biden ask them to do that?

KIRBY: Yes, I'm just not going to speculate on a hypothetical like that, Jake. I mean, we want to see the perpetrators of the war crimes here at the hands of Russian forces. We want to see those responsible held to account. We're going to keep working with Ukraine to document that evidence, to preserve that evidence, and to continue to support, as we have, a range of international investigations, including the one being done by the ICC.

TAPPER: A Putin adviser says that Putin is going to meet with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, to discuss the war in Ukraine next week in Moscow, what's the latest intelligence on whether the Chinese Communist Party has decided whether it will give Russia weapons to pummel Ukraine with?

KIRBY: We don't have any change to speak today, Jake. We don't believe that they've taken it off the table still, but we also don't see any indication, any confirmation that they're moving in that direction or that they have done -- have done that, have sent lethal weapons.

Clearly, we don't believe it's in China's best interest to do that. We don't think it's in their interest. It shouldn't be in anybody's interest, quite frankly, to help Mr. Putin continue to slaughter innocent Ukrainians.

TAPPER: What's the latest intelligence on whether or not this ICC arrest warrant for Putin might actually have the effect of weakening Putin within the Kremlin as opposed to strengthening him?

KIRBY: I haven't seen any intelligence since this announcement this afternoon that would lead us to those kinds of conclusions. I mean, they just now laid this out there publicly, so I just haven't seen anything that would point us in one way, direction or another.

I think it's important to remember, though, you talk about, you know, weakening. Russia is clearly weaker now than it was a year ago, at least militarily speaking. I mean, they have expended an awful amount of their weapons and capabilities inside this war in Ukraine. They've lost thousands and thousands of soldiers and keep losing them every single day.

Mr. Putin has achieved exactly none of the strategic objectives he set out to achieve a year ago. And the Ukrainians have now clawed back more than 50 percent of the territory that the Russians first took in those first couple of weeks of the war. So there's no doubt that Russia is suffering from this war and the Russian people are too.

TAPPER: Today, Slovakia became the second NATO member to announce that they're going to send fighter jets to Ukraine.



TAPPER: Do you feel comfortable, does President Biden feel comfortable allowing allies to send these planes to Ukraine knowing that the U.S. has one of the biggest militaries in the world and is not doing the same?

KIRBY: It's not about us allowing them, Jake. This is a sovereign decision that Slovakia is making, Poland's making, and we respect that. The whole idea, the whole fight in Ukraine is about sovereignty, it's about independence. It's about a country's ability to make its own decisions.

And Slovakia and Poland have that right as well. We respect those sovereign decisions. Both of these countries have been helpful in supporting Ukraine. And the more we can all support Ukraine, the better that Ukraine will be and hopefully the faster this war will end.

TAPPER: Admiral John Kirby, thanks so much. Appreciate it, sir.

KIRBY: You bet.

TAPPER: Coming up, everyone might not take a giant floating smelly blob seriously but this 5,000 miles wide seaweed blob heading towards Florida is no laughing matter. And new clues in those Idaho College murders investigation. Court documents revealing how police are building a case against the suspect without a murder weapon.


TAPPER: In our earth matter series today, double trouble facing Florida's coasts. A 5,000 mile, 6 million ton patchy belt of stinky seaweed is headed to Florida's east coast. It's set to head at the height of summer, which has prompted fears of millions of dollars of lost revenue for tourist season, potentially.


While on the Gulf coast, the other side of the peninsula, red tides have been washing ashore, producing toxic chemicals, causing respiratory problems for humans, killing marine life. CNN's Leyla Santiago tags along with a fisherman in Florida who says the seaweed is a blessing and a curse.


JOE KAPLAN, RESIDENT, KEY WEST RESIDENT: It's thick in the summertime builds up and smells terrible. LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joe Kaplan captured these images about a week ago. Massive amounts of seaweed washing up at Smathers Beach, a beach he knows well because he walks it several times a week.

KAPLAN: And I was shocked when I saw that day where it wasn't even spring yet. It's still winter, which is very unusual.

CHUANMIN HU, USF COLLEGE OF MARINE SCIENCE: And this is about 5,000 miles long.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Professor Chuanmin Hu is one of the leading experts on what many have referred to as a massive blob of seaweed heading to Florida's coast.

SANTIAGO (on camera): Fair to call it a blob?

HU: No.

SANTIAGO (on camera): No, we can't call it a blob, OK.

HU: I would never call that a blob.

SANTIAGO (on camera): OK, why?

HU: Because it's not.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Satellite images he says show it's not one massive body of seaweed; rather, a bunch of patchy clumps traveling from West Africa. It's called the Atlantic Sargassum Belt and it's considered a natural phenomenon. Right now, it's twice the width of the U.S., carrying 6 million tons of seaweed, and headed to the east coast.

HU: In June of this year it may turn into 20 million pounds.

SANTIAGO (on camera): So let me get this straight. This -- what we're seeing the last month is 6 million tons and it's going to get bigger?

HU: Yes. There's no way to stop that. This is nature just like no one can stop a hurricane.

SANTIAGO (on camera): Should we be worried about that?

HU: No.

SANTIAGO (on camera): Why?

HU: The reason is that sargassum is not toxic.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): But it smells pretty bad and it's a nuisance for those trying to keep beaches clean to attract tourists. Just a few years ago, here's what it looked like in Mexico. Officials in Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys, have set aside more than $200,000 to clean and remove sargassum from its beaches. CAPTAIN DAN MATTHEWS, MISS CHIEF FISHING CHARTERS: Seaweed is a mixed blessing. We need it. Seaweed is a nursery for all these large pelagic fish. And the negative side to that seaweed is if it comes in the concentrations that I believe we're going to see, our fishing grounds are going to be completely covered with it. And there's almost no point to fishing because we're going to be spending the entire day cleaning weed off our lines.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): And as the Sargassum Belt heads toward Florida, another natural phenomenon is already hitting its beaches on the west coast -- red tide. It can be toxic, kill fish, and cause respiratory issues. This year's red tide concerns were enough to cancel at least one major event here in Indian Rocks where one family visiting told us --

MARGO SAGE, TOURIST FROM CANADA: But as soon as my son, my husband, and I got out of our car we all started coughing.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): But for spring breakers like this group from Iowa the concerns of massive amounts of seaweed or red tide were not enough to change vacation plans.

ANNA SANDERS, TOURIST: I would rather it be red tide than raining every day.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Tourists noting friends back home --

SAGE: And they'd be pretty jealous -- regardless of having a little bit of the red tide symptoms, they'd be pretty jealous that we're here and they're not.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Because the pristine beaches of the Sunshine State are hard to resist for many despite what may be looming offshore.


SANTIAGO: And, Jake, this evening, we are on Smathers Beach here in Key West. And if you take a look out there, what you see floating coming in off the shore, some of that mixed in is in that sargassum. But come on in closer and I'll show you exactly what it looks like, because is -- it's coming up on high tide, and we're actually seeing the most we've seen since we've been here in the last few days.

This right here that is the sargassum that we're talking about. That said this that's coming in, not a part of that big, massive body that we're seeing somewhere out there. And there's really no way of telling when exactly it will come in, because while scientists do have a pretty decent idea of how this is moving, since they've only really been tracking it in the tropical Atlantic since 2011, they still can't forecast it.

They say they need more funding for more research to be able to one day forecast that. And when I ask them, OK, so what advice do you have in terms of the sargassum? They say just try to avoid it. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Leyla Santiago in Key West. Thanks so much.

Coming up, the laptop saga continues. Now Hunter Biden is suing over the laptop at the center of the House Republican Committee's investigation. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics, lead Hunter Biden's legal team has come online in the infamous laptop controversy. The president's son today filed a countersuit against the Delaware computer repair shop owner who said that Hunter dropped off his laptop and never came back to claim it.

Hunter is accusing Mac Isaac of invading his privacy and wrongfully sharing personal data for personal gain. The laptop was seized by the FBI in 2019. It's unclear whether the contents were relevant to the criminal investigation into Hunter's foreign business dealings. And let's remember, of course, that Hunter would never fully acknowledge whether that laptop actually belonged to him. Here's hunter Biden in 2021.


HUNTER BIDEN, PRESIDENT BIDEN'S SON: There could be a laptop that was stolen from me. It could be that I was hacked. It could be that it was Russian intelligence. It could be that it was stolen from me.


TAPPER: So you might be forgiven for assuming that the lawsuit being filed is a confession that this was, in fact, Hunter's laptop.


But not so fast. His lawyers found a way to be well, lawyers, they're writing a footnote in the legal filing that says, quote, "This is not an admission by Mr. Biden that Mac Isaac or others in fact possessed any particular laptop containing electronically stored data belonging to Mr. Biden. Rather, Mr. Biden simply acknowledges that at some point Mac Isaac obtained electronically stored data, some of which belonged to Mr. Biden," end quote.

In other words, he's trying to have his laptop and use it to suing for sharing data, much of it sleazy some possibly illegal, certainly downright disgusting that he still has not specified or confirmed is actually his.

Also in our politics lead as promised, House Republicans are going full speed ahead with investigations into Hunter Biden's business dealings. In a new memo, Republicans on the Oversight Committee are raising questions about which members of the Biden family may have profited from Hunter's business associations with a Chinese company. And Republicans are raising questions about the potential of foreign influence over then former vice president but not yet President Joe Biden.

Let's go to CNN's Manu Raju. First, Manu, what is this memo show?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the House Republicans are looking into three Biden family members who indirectly received about a million dollars from a Chinese energy company back in 2017. The three Biden's include James Biden, the brother of the president, Hunter Biden, as well as the Hallie Biden, who became involved with Hunter Biden after the death of Beau Biden, President Biden's son left her as a widow.

Now the payments came from a Hunter Biden associate named John Robertson Walker. And in this Republican memo, they say, "After the Robertson Walker LLC account received $3 million from State Energy HK Limited, Biden family members and their company began receiving incremental payments over a period of approximately three months. The recipients of the money included Hallie Biden, companies associated with Hunter Biden and James Biden, and an unknown bank account identified as Biden."

Now, some of this information has already been publicized by Senate Republicans, but the new information involves this Hallie Biden payment, which was about $25,000 that came in directly from this Chinese energy company.

The Hunter Biden legal team pushed back about this and they said that he has the right to pursue business ventures as a private citizen. They noted that he is -- he was working with both James Biden and with Hallie Biden, whom they say, well he was involved with at the time and they were sharing expenses. And this memo does not allege any criminal wrongdoing by these business dealings with this company, Jake.

TAPPER: And we should note, while oversight committee Republicans are going after the Bidens, committee Democrats today released documents raising questions about former President Trump and his family.

RAJU: Yes, that's right. They actually, in fact, say that there were unreported gifts that went -- that the President Trump at the time received money from. They say that between the years of 2017 and 2020, more nearly $300,000 worth of gifts, including a larger than life size painting of him that may reside currently at Mar-a-Lago.

They say this in their memo. They say the unreported foreign gifts include gifts from President Xi Jinping of China, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India and other foreign government officials. They say the Trump administration's failure to disclose more than 100 foreign gifts President Trump and his family received raises new questions about whether these and other gifts may have been used by foreign governments to influence U.S. policy under President Trump.

Now the report does not provide any specific evidence that U.S. policy was in fact influenced by the gifts. But Jamie Raskin, who's a top Democrat on the committee suggests that perhaps it could violate the Constitution's Emoluments Clause. Plus there is federal law that called the foreign gifts and decorations acts with prohibits presidents and federal officials from the gate receiving sizable gifts including setting a threshold at $415.

But Jake, several of these gifts apparently were cost several $1,000 including one that was valued at $12,000 in Uzbek silk carpet that the president -- former President Trump apparently has.

TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju, thanks so much.

Let's talk to our guest panel right now, and let's start with the obvious. The reason why a Ukrainian company or a Chinese company would Hunter -- would hire Hunter Biden. The reason why foreign governments would give gifts to the Trump kids, it's all the same reason, right?


TAPPER: Presumably, presumably.

PHILLIP: I mean, honestly, I think part of the issue is, first of all, we don't really know what the objective was, I mean, because you can sort of make the implication that influence in a general term is what they were after. But what kind of influences is -- what is not there?

And on top of that, I mean, I think the questions that you're raising about or that not you personally, but that Republicans are raising about the Biden's certainly can be raised about Trump's family specifically Jared Kushner who worked in the White House and since leaving the White House has engaged in business dealings that touch on things that he did as a White House employee.


All of that aside, though, the real issue here is President Biden himself, right. Republicans say they want to prove that Biden was aware of, you know, misdeeds that were going on as it relates to his family, they still have not proven that. And if they are able to prove it, so be it. But so far, the evidence is just not there. And they've even acknowledge that.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, that's an important point that you just made. Jared Kushner and Ivanka were members of the Trump administration. They were officials in the Administration, not just the children of. And again, I think this is -- and by the way, we don't even have to go with the Democrats memo.

How about Kellyanne Conway saying that Jared Kushner, in her mind, profited in the billions from his role in the Trump administration. I mean, again, this is such a sign of the hypocrisy of this committee, and all these committees have kind of had a weak sauce sort of start, if you will.

And also feels like this is more about taking innuendo and conspiracy theory and creating clickbait and reasons to raise money and reasons to get on Tucker Carlson show not serious investigations into what might have happened.

SARAH MATTHEWS, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I mean, I think it's unfair to call it a conspiracy theory, when these are legitimate financial records that prove that large amount of money was paid to members of the Biden family. They simply want to know what services were provided then to receive that kind of compensation.

And also, I think, while it's fair to, you know, look into Jared Kushner and how he's profiting posts leaving the White House, you know, he was someone who worked in the Trump White House. I think that the question here is that this a conflict of interest that Biden's family members were receiving these types of payments when he was in office as vice president.

And what the -- what he knew then when he was vice president, which I will say the laptop appears to prove that he did no some sort of idea of the business deal, the text messages or emails saying and alluding to that he knew. And one of Hunter Biden's associates came out on record saying that Biden was aware of Hunter's business dealings.

TAPPER: So -- and the other thing is remember, during the first impeachment hearing against Donald Trump, the first impeachment hearing by the House, there was testimony from a, I think, former State Department executive saying that while Biden was vice president, people were very uncomfortable with the fact that Hunter was being paid by Burisma.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Is sort of uncomfortable with bringing it up with Joe Biden, as well. You know, I think one of the problems I think, for Republicans at this point is they have sort of hyped it up at this point, without the evidence. The evidence --

TAPPER: Let's -- let me interrupt you for one second. Let's watch some of that hype. Here's Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer. He's been on Fox a lot of times this week talking about this investigation. Take a look.


REP. JAMES COMER (R), CHAIR, OVERSIGHT & ACCOUNTABILITY COMMITTEE: It's as bad as we thought, Maria, it's very concerning. It does show a pattern that the Biden family was receiving money directly from China.

It looks like it was influenced peddling. And if so, that's illegal.

Every American should be concerned about that. This is an issue of national security.

This just shows how deep the Biden family was involved in this influence peddling scene.

The White House was saying it wasn't true. This is a way chide. The Republicans are just digging. Now we have evidence.

A lot of areas of concern here where Joe Biden's actually done things in order for his family to receive this massive amount of money from our adversaries around the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: Sorry, somebody -- one of our producers made it went through a lot of trouble to make that.


TAPPER: They've been hyping it a lot. Continue.

HENDERSON: He's been hyping a lot with very little evidence at some point. I think in one of those clips, one of the anchors says, well, it's been five years so far in terms of the investigation and looking into this, but so far, there's very little evidence.

There might be some evidence at some point. They're obviously undertaking these investigations now, but I don't think a Comer been out there all the time, you know, using phrases like the Biden crime family --


HENDERSON: -- you know, it might sound good to folks on the far right, but in terms of actually proving a case against Hunter Biden, not there yet.

FINNEY: I just want to be very clear here. There is no evidence. He may have known what his son's business dealings were, but there is no evidence that that in any way, shape or form impacted American foreign policy with regard to China.

They're still looking, maybe they'll find something and I'll be proven wrong. But after five years, there has been nothing --

MATTHEWS: But that is --

FINNEY: And they're not holding the Trump kids. If that's our new rule, then let's make that the rule --

MATTHEWS: I think that should be the standard, I agree. And I think that it is a conflict of interest for members of the family to receive any sort of money from adversaries of ours. I will say though it does -- it is contrary to what President Biden has said when he says on record that he had no idea of Hunter's business dealings but in fact the laptop seems to prove that that might not have been true.


TAPPER: I want to -- one other bit of political news today, former President Trump has posted on Facebook for the very first time since early 2021 he was banned and now he's back. He wrote in an all caps letters, "I'M BACK" above a short CNN clip of the night he was elected president in 2016.

In the clip, he says, sorry to keep you waiting, complicated business. Complicated. So there you go.

PHILLIP: Yes, there you go. I mean, this also is the same day that he's back, allowed back on YouTube as well. This is about the money. They need to raise a lot of money using Facebook, using social media platforms.

TAPPER: The Trump campaigns.

PHILLIP: The Trump campaign, yes.


PHILLIP: And so this is a necessary step as he's launching his 2024 campaign. They're really gearing up here for what will be a pitched battle against the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. And they know they need as much money as possible. And this is a huge part of that picture.

So they have to -- you know, Trump had to swallow his pride a little bit. I think his investors on Truth Social probably wanted him to stay off a little bit longer. But it's about politics, it's about fundraising and they needed to --

HENDERSON: Yes, it's also about messaging and in connecting with that base of voters who love him, it's trying to figure out where, you know, he needs to be in terms of this race against presumably Ron DeSantis, and all sorts of other people. So in some ways, he's sort of testing out lines on Facebook and all of these other platforms.

We've seen him do that in speeches as well. So it's good for him, I think, to get back in that arena and really kind of get a sense of what his people want to hear about.

PHILLIP: And we will see whether or not he actually uses it the way that he used to use it. I mean, I thought that tweet today was almost like someone else probably wrote it.


PHILLIP: But if we start seeing Trump actually tweeting the way that he did when he was president, that would be I think, a little bit of a difference.

TAPPER: Sarah, I have to say, I'm not sure about this Ron DeSanctimonious nickname that Donald Trump came up. Like, I don't think it -- this doesn't have the sting like --


TAPPER: -- has he lost his mojo on this stuff, but like --

MATTHEWS: It does seem like he's lost his mojo on it quite a bit. I think that his nicknames in 2016 were much more effective than Ron DeSanctimonious.

TAPPER: Little Marco --


TAPPER: Ryan Ted. MATTHEWS: And so it does seem like a little bit that he's lost his mojo but he definitely is very concerned about Ron DeSantis and that's why you're kind of seeing him solely attack him and go after him but perhaps he should consider a new nickname.

TAPPER: All right, well, thanks to all of you. Don't miss Abby Phillip, the great Abby Phillip should be on Inside Politics this Sunday morning at 8:00 Eastern here on CNN. I'm sure you did not get enough Abby Phillip just now, so there's more coming up.

Still ahead, what we're learning about the Idaho college murders from newly unsealed court documents.



TAPPER: In our national lead, new court documents reveal how police are conducting a very complicated investigation into the man accused of killing four University of Idaho students last year, a knife sheath found at the scene of the crime could be critical to getting justice for the victims, Kaylee Goncalves and Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin.

CNN's Jean Casarez joins us now. And Jean, police do not have a murder weapon. So what do these new court documents tell us about how they're trying to build a case against the suspect?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's fascinating because 35 search warrant applications, the returns on them more information of what they were asking for have been posted to the website. Now there are still redactions. So there are still mysteries here.

But I think first and foremost, it was one week after the murders took place that they got a search warrant for Walmart Incorporated, and they asked them for all of their business records in regard to purchases of a KA-BAR sheath and a KA-BAR knife. They wanted all documentation whatever -- whatsoever they can find.

And then there is a receipt and return and it shows that they asked for a particular KA-BAR sheath and a KA-BAR straight edged knife which is the knife that KA-BAR which goes back to 1898. This is a very famous company. This is the knife they are known for.

And if you remember that probable cause affidavit showed that the wounds they believe were from a straight edge blade. Now I spoke with former today. He said that they believe that -- he believes they wanted a knife, the one they believed was the missing murder weapon to see if it matched at that point of time, one week after the murders, the wounds.

Now one week later, they went to KA-BAR, the company itself asking for all of their business records of all of the purchasers of those knives from January 1st of 2022 to the present, which would have been November of 2022. And they go on to ask for surveillance video from a bank that is 1 mile away from the crime scene of the murders in the hours surrounding when those murders took place.

Why they want that surveillance video? We don't know but they asked for it. They also asked for UPS truck video, the delivery truck UPS in Pullman, Washington, where Bryan Kohberger lived. And that would have been in November surrounding the days of the murders.

Why? They have to have probable cause to get each and every warrant, Jake, and they go on all the social media sites, all of the computers, the forensics, they asked for all of that also from every company. And every company that I'm reading complied with those search warrants.

TAPPER: All right, Jean Casarez with the latest, thank you so much.

CASAREZ: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up, turn on the flux capacitors. We're going to go back in time. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Before we go today, we wanted to rewind the clock a little bit. Tomorrow marks 10 years ago that this happened.


TAPPER: Man, it still got that new set smell. I'm Jake Tapper and this is The Lead.


TAPPER: Man, what the hell? That was our very first day. And now, a decade later, The Lead may look a little different. I may have just a few more gray hairs and glasses but the show our mission remains the same. We're trying to ignore the noise and bring you the facts on the stories that matter the most with the leaders of our country.

And while interviews with lawmakers often make the most headlines, sometimes, frankly, it's been talking to ordinary Americans who have extraordinary stories that has had the most impact and meant the most to us. Trevor Reed and his family shortly after he was released from a Russian prison.


The partner in the mom of Brian Sicknick, that Capitol Hill police officer died the day after being beaten and pepper sprayed on January 6. Retired Marine Sergeant Adam Kisielewski, who lost two limbs in Iraq and now serves on the board of Homes for Our Troops, an organization that helps build custom homes for injured veterans and does so much more.

These are just some of the people whose stories I've had the privilege to share with all of you. And of course, you see me, but behind every show is an amazing team that makes all of this possible from the studio crew, making sure the cameras and mics are ready to the control room, team actually executing the show live to the reporters and the editors, the bookers and the producers who've helped develop questions and ideas and guests for every segment. Thank you.

Thanks to all of you. You all make the show possible. And of course, most importantly to you, our viewers, the ones we work hard to serve. Thank you. It has been an honor. Thank you.

And I look forward to continuing to bringing you the news as long as you'll have me. I'll be back with you this Sunday morning for State of the Union. Arizona Democratic Senator Mark Kelly joins me, plus New Hampshire Republican Governor Chris Sununu. That's at 9:00 a.m. at noon -- and noon Eastern Sunday.

Until then, you can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter at JakeTapper. You can tweet the show at TheLeadCNN. If you ever miss an episode of the show, you can listen to The Lead from whence you get your podcasts all two hours just sitting right there like a fruit bowl in one of those watermelons.

Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in a place I like to call The Situation Room. I will see you on Sunday morning.