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The Lead with Jake Tapper

DeSantis Needles Trump As He Breaks Silence On Hush Money Case; House GOP Committee Chairs Want NY District Attorney To Testify; China's Xi Makes First Visit To Russia Since Ukraine Invasion; UBS Buying Credit Suisse In Bid To Halt Banking Crisis; Flight Attendants' Union, NTSB Renew Push To Ban Infants On Laps; Vermont School Banned From Sports After Boycotting Game With Trans Player. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired March 20, 2023 - 16:00   ET



BORIS SANNCHEZ, CNN HOST: Yeah, Ted Lasso is a good natured coach who seeks therapy after grappling with panic attacks.

Hey, Jessica, this was fun today. We should do it again maybe this entire week.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN HOST: I think we shall. We should. We shall. We will.

All right. Boris, thanks so much.

I'm Jessica Dean, along with Boris Sanchez.

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Governor Ron DeSantis seeming to needle Donald Trump over Stormy Daniels.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Former President Trump's claims he's going to be indicted tomorrow, in Manhattan in that hush money case. But the district attorney there is still talking to witnesses and Trump's lawyers are calling their own.

And the blossoming friendship that has the world on edge. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping meeting in Moscow. What this might mean for Ukraine.

Then, could parents be forced to buy separate plane tickets for their infant children? The new push that could ban babies from laps.


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

And we start today with our politics lead and the flurry of new developments in the various and sundry Trump investigations. Police in New York are setting up security cameras and barricades as they prepare for possible unrest after a possible indictment of the former president. Trump said he expects to be arrested as soon as tomorrow over that hush money payment to porn actress and director Stormy Daniels.

Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen was back answering questions at the prosecutor's office today over that $130,000 payment to keep Daniels from coming forward to tell voters about the alleged affair she had with Trump. This was, of course, right before the 2016 election.

And speaking of elections, Trump's expected 2024 Republican prime rival Florida Governor Ron DeSantis seemed to take a veiled shot today at Trump over the hush money case.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: I don't know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star, to secure silence over some type of alleged affair. I can't speak to that. But what I can speak to, is that if you have a prosecutor who is ignoring crimes happening every single day in his jurisdiction, and he chooses to go back many, many years ago to try to use something about porn star hush money payments, you know, that's an example of pursuing a political agenda and weaponizing the office.


TAPPER: Also today, in a separate investigation into Donald Trump, a source confirms that Atlanta area prosecutors are considering both racketeering and conspiracy charges in connection with those efforts to overturn Trump's 2020 loss to Joe Biden in Georgia. Although, it is not clear if those charges would be levied against Trump or against others involved in the case.

CNN's Paula Reid starts off our coverage today from New York with a closer look at the new details in the Stormy Daniels hush money case.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Manhattan D.A.'s investigation into Trump's alleged roll in hush money payments made to an adult film star ahead of the 2016 election is moving ahead full steam.

Today, attorney Robert Costello appeared before the New York grand jury after Trump's legal team requested he be called to testify about the credibility of former Trump fixer Michael Cohen. Costello previously represented Cohen who, according to a letter that the Trump team sent to the D.A., waived attorney/client privilege.

Cohen, who has met with the D.A.'s office 20 times and appeared before the same grand jury twice, is a key witness in this case which centered around a $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels to silence her about an alleged affair with Trump. She was paid by Cohen in a final days of the 2016 campaign.

Now, almost seven years later, the grand jury is looking at crimes that include whether Trump falsified business records, when reimbursing Cohen for that payment.

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: This case is not predicated on any one individual but rather it is going to be predicated on the documents, the evidence, the text messages, the emails.

REID: On Truth Social over the weekend, Trump predicted he would be arrested Tuesday and in an echo of January 6 called for his supporters to protest.

But his spokesperson said that they have received no indication from the D.A. that he will be arrested Tuesday.

Is your client speculating an arrest to incite political violence?


ALINA HABBA, TRUMP ATTORNEY: I don't think he's speculating at all.

REID: Trump denies the affair and any wrongdoing. One of his attorneys, Alina Habba, warning that Trump supporters will lash out if he is charged.

HABBA: If they choose to do so for a misdemeanor, which frankly he didn't even do, it is going to cause mayhem.


REID (on camera): We don't know if this is last day where the grand jury will hear from witnesses or whether they might vote on a possible indictment. Another question hanging out there is why now, years after this happened and year news this investigation, why is this coming to a head right now? Because we won't speculate on the strength of the case or the evidence but this is certainly not the most consequential case Trump is facing -- Jake.

TAPPER: Paula Reid in New York, thank you so much.

House Republicans are down in Florida today for their annual conference. But it is quickly becoming over shadowed by news of this possible pending indictment of their party's front-runner for president.

CNN's Manu Raju is live at the House Republican retreat in Orlando, Florida.

And, Manu, House Republicans, they're now launching their own investigation but not into Trump, they're going to investigate the New York prosecutor Alvin Bragg.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah and it is going broader than what we initially anticipated. After Donald Trump announced that he believes he would be charged as soon as Tuesday in this case, Kevin McCarthy, the House speaker, indicated that they would look into whether federal funds were used to support this investigation. Well, a letter sent today by three key House Republican chairman went

much further, calling for Alvin Bragg to come before Congress for a transcribed interview as this criminal probe is still ongoing, calling for internal communications between the Manhattan district attorney's office and the Justice Department and demanding that information be turned over as well.

This comes even as Jim Jordan, one of the chairman of the three committee, indicated to me earlier that he is still unclear about the potential charges against Donald Trump but he still maintained that Trump did not break the law.


REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): It is a misdemeanor. So it is not -- it is not really the crime of the century either. But, yeah, this thing is going to be -- is going to have political taint to it, you know, any way you spin it.

REP. MIKE WALTZ (R-FL): I think it's completely appropriate. I think a lot of people would expect us from an oversight standpoint, from a judiciary committee standpoint to look into a politicized process.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): We don't -- we don't think President Trump broke the law at all.


RAJU: So, I was trying to ask Jim Jordan why not wait for the investigation to play out until after the charges were made and until after you have reviewed all of the merits of the case, he did not answer that directly. But instead went after this prosecutor, contended that he has a political motivation here and defended the call for Bragg to come to Capitol Hill and testify.

Meanwhile Democrats are calling this political interference and in the middle of an ongoing investigation into the former president here. But Republican after Republican, Jake, that I'm talking to here are aligning themselves with Donald Trump in this effort, even as Senate Republicans have been silent since Donald Trump's announcement from over the weekend -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Manu Raju, in Orlando, at the White House Republican retreat, thanks so much.

Joining us now is Democratic Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California, who was on the January 6 Select Committee. She's also an attorney.

Congresswoman, what's your response to your Republican colleagues there?

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Well, really, it is shocking. This is obviously improper. I can't recall a time ever where a congressional committee tried to intimidate a prosecutor from pursuing a case that he or she thought should be brought. It is -- it's very improper and -- well, I guess, it is some of what my extremist colleagues across the aisle do, things that are not normal and highly improper.

TAPPER: So, based on what we know about this case, do you think that it rises to the magnitude of such an unprecedented action, arresting a former president?

LOFGREN: I don't know what the case is, other than what I read in the newspapers. You know, I always wondered how Michael Cohen ended up going to prison but the person he says ordered him to do it was not under scrutiny. But that's just my idle wondering.

None of us know what the -- what the district attorney is doing. And we'll find out. He may or may not bring an indictment. I -- you know, the way our criminal justice system works, an indictment is brought, if the prosecutor feels that there is evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime was committed and then the defendant defends.

And if the former president thinking that this is all bogus, all he needs to do, if there is an indictment, is defend himself and show that the prosecutor are all wet.


That's the way the system is supposed to work.

TAPPER: Trump posted on his social media site Truth Social over the weekend that he expects to be arrested tomorrow. He called on his supporters to, quote, protest, take our nation back, unquote.

You served on the January 6 Committee. Do you have any issue with that call for protests from Donald Trump?

LOFGREN: Well, when I heard that, it made me very concerned. You know, it is similar to the rhetoric he used leading up to January 6. We know from the mob that attacked the Capitol on the 6th that there are some of his supporters who tend to resort to violence when he calls upon them.

And I don't think I'm the only person who is concerned about this. I noted that after initially supporting the idea of protests, the speaker is now saying there's no need to protest, everything should be peaceful. I think many of us on both sides of the aisle have a concern that violence could ensue.

TAPPER: Let's hope not. Democratic Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California, thank you so much.

Joining us now to break it all down -- Carrie Cordero, the former counsel to the assistant attorney general for national security, and Tom Dupree, former principal deputy assistant attorney general.

Tom, walk us through what's actually going to happen if Trump is indicted. He'll have to surrender I suppose. Where will all of this happen and what will it look like?

TOM DUPREE, FORMER PRINCIPAL DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Jake, it is fair to say this is an arraignment without precedent in American history. I think the first challenge for the New York authorities will be figuring out how former President Trump comes from Florida up to New York.

Presumably, they will have him processed in the courthouse. Typically, that would involve everything from taking your finger prints, to taking a mug shot. I can't imagine that he would actually be kept in a cell for any period of time. I think they're going to come in, process him and get his information and try to get him out of the back door.

I think the challenge, of course, is pulling this off without this becoming any more of a media circus that it already is and hopefully without any sort of threats of physical protests or physical violence.

TAPPER: Carrie, do you anticipate that will be a perp-walk? Do you anticipate that they will release the mug shot if they take one?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, we don't know exactly what New York's plans are and we don't know whether there will be an indictment for sure. And, if so, when it will come.

I would say there doesn't have to be a spectacle like that. First of all, the defendant could surrender, so they could work out a scenario where there's a surrender. There is nothing about these charges that is indicating any threat to safety or anything like that. So, this doesn't have to be a spectacle.

Although, a lot also depends, again, if he's charged, if he goes up to New York, how the former president chooses to handle such a scenario.

TAPPER: Tom, one of the latest Trump defenses and he has no shortage of them, but seems to be you know what, rich people do things like this. Take a listen to one of Trump's attorney Joe Tacopina.


JOE TACOPNIA, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TURMP: I represented many, many beyond wealthy individuals who are resolve cases for what they call nuisance value to make an embarrassing problem go away. And there's no crime. He didn't even do anything wrong.


TAPPER: The other side of the argument might be he hid this information to keep it from voters. But right from the 2016 election and if he hadn't, maybe some people would not have voted for him. But what do you think of that defense, that was just offered by Mr. Tacopina?

DUPREE: Yeah, Jake, when I first heard that, look, I may have lived a sheltered life but my reaction is I don't think this is all that common, at least in my experience. It is not that common to pay hush money to porn stars to keep stories secret.

That said, I think that the issue here, from the prosecution standpoint, is to try to make this about something more than just kind of covering up a personal indiscretion. They have to make a concrete link between this payment and President Trump's campaign for office. That is what gives the air of criminality to this and that is what New York, I think, would need to prove in order to convict former President Trump of a felony.

TAPPER: And, Carrie, this is one of several investigations into Donald Trump. There is Jack Smith, the special counsel. He's looking into the secret documents issue as well as President Trump's involvement in January 6. And then there is the grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, where the district attorney is watching how this New York case will play out. But she said it will not effect her decisions on charges or timing. Is that realistic, though? Do cases like this not effect one another?

CORDERO: Well, so first of all, I think my big question in the New York case is, what has changed?


And in this New York case, the facts of this case going on almost seven years now, are really stale. And so the big question that I have with respect to New York is, is what has changed more recently in the past year or so really stale. And so the big question that I have with respect to New York is, is what has changed more recently in the past year or so that has gotten it to this point.

In comparison to all of the other investigations, though, Jake, in theory, each of the investigations should proceed independently. So the Georgia prosecutor really should not be looking at the New York case as an example. And it shouldn't really theoretically be influencing the facts of her case and whether or not she has enough facts that would make a prosecutor have a reasonable ability or belief that they could succeed at trial.

Similar with the forward investigations. There is nothing about these local cases that in theory should affect either the timeline or the way that each prosecutor assesses the facts of their case.

TAPPER: Carrie Cordero and Tom Dupree, thanks to both of you. Appreciate it.

Be sure to join CNN tomorrow night for a deeper look at Donald Trump's myriad legal woes with my colleague Pamela Brown. "Inside the Trump Investigations" will air live tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.

Coming up, do you think the warrant from the International Criminal Court came up? The world watch as a meeting between China's Xi Jinping and Russian Vladimir Putin.

And then a look at why a Christian school got banned from participating in all competitive sports in one of the most progressive states in the nation.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: Topping our world lead, China's President Xi Jinping received a warm welcome in Moscow ahead of his meeting with Russian's Vladimir Putin. It is Xi's first visit since the brutal attack and invasion of Ukraine last year. The highly watched meetings that drawn skepticism from Ukrainian and Western leaders.

Despite China's effort to frame itself as a peace maker in this conflict, as CNN's Selina Wang reports for us now, the sit-down comes down amid concern that China may start sending lethal weapons for Russians to use against Ukrainians.


SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The meeting of two friends, both set up to be leaders for life, showing off their vision of a post-American world order. The pomp and circumstance, a credibility boost for Russian leader Vladimir Putin, displaying that he's got a powerful friend in China's leader Xi Jinping even as the International Criminal Court has a warrant for his arrest for committing war crimes and allegedly shipping Ukrainian children to Russia and even as the West isolates him, amid stalled invasion of Ukraine.

Both Xi and Putin writing glowing op-eds about her country's relations. Xi calling the relationship an eternal friendship. Putin saying that the two are standing shoulder to shoulder against America's increasingly aggressive efforts to deter Russia and China.

Xi Jinping is trying to walk a delicate line, so far stopping short of providing lethal aid to Russia, though the U.S. said he may be considering it, while also refusing to condemn the invasion. Meanwhile, Beijing is also taking advantage of Russia's isolation. Trade between the two nations jumped to $190 billion last year, an increase of 30 percent from 2021, under cutting the impact of U.S.-led sanctions as Chinese companies snap up cheap energy from Russia, giving the Kremlin key funds to finance the invasion.

But Beijing wants the world to focus less on their friendship and more on Xi's rule as a global statesman, who could broker peace deals like the historic deal he helped forged to restore relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

I've been talking to people on this hutong, this old Beijing residential alley, to get a sense of what Chinese people think about Xi Jinping's visit.

This man tells me Xi's visit is good because it can further improve China-Russia relations. He says he likes Putin because he's a cool, tough guy. On the Ukraine war, he says, he just hopes everyone can have a peaceful relationship.

This woman tells me she hopes Russia wins the war but peace is best.

Another woman says the war and loss of life is heartbreaking and painful to watch. She says it's wrong for America to send weapons to Ukraine. And she believes in Xi Jinping's vision of world peace. When I asked her what she thinks of Putin, she answered that he's righteous, decisive, swift and tough. But when I follow up if she's heard of the ICC issuing an arrest warrant for Putin, she responds, I didn't know. He started the war after all. He should sit down with Zelenskyy and talk.

This shoe repairman says, why are they fighting? It doesn't do anybody good, but we don't know who started the war, he adds. It's the Ukrainians, right?

Xi doesn't need to convince the audience in China where media is heavily censored of the merits of his tight bond with Putin, but the rest of the world is coming what comes of Beijing's claims of neutrality.


WANG (on camera): And, Jake, Russia state news agency said talks between Xi and Putin lasted for four and a half hours. Chinese state media has been framing this visit as a trip for peace and it's striking there how almost everyone I spoke to on the streets of Beijing echoed that perspective with very positive use of Putin.

But you have to remember, because in China and social media in general is heavily censored, so it's pretty much the only view point most people could see. But, look, the China/Russia relationship has historically been a tricky one, by they're shared growing adversarial relationship with the U.S.-led West is really driving Putin and Xi together -- Jake.

TAPPER: Selina Wang in Beijing for us, thank you so much.

U.S. officials said that President Xi has yet to call Ukraine's president Vladimir Zelenskyy, despite China's assertion that it wants to play a role as a peacemaker in the conflict between Ukraine and invading Russia.

CNN's Ivan Watson is in Kharkiv, Ukraine, for us.

And, Ivan, how has Ukraine responded to this meeting between Xi and Putin?


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's watching very closely and I would add, probably nervously. As you pointed out, Ukraine, I think there's a lot of skepticism about whether or not Xi Jinping and the Chinese government are truly neutral as they profess to be when it comes to this war. But they would rather have China pretend to be neutral than actually full-throatedly offer weapons and ammunition to Ukraine's much larger enemy, Russia.

So, you got statements coming out like President Zelenskyy's office saying that supporting only the Russian side will not lead to the finalization of the war. The foreign minister spokesperson saying, we expect Beijing to use its influence on Moscow, to put an end to Russia's aggressive war against Ukraine.

And another top security official saying that if China wants to fulfill its so-called peace plan for Ukraine, the first and foremost point is the surrender or withdrawal of Russian occupations forces from the territory of Ukraine.

Also, a top Ukrainian intelligence official says that the Ukrainians are watching very closely the ammunition that they're capturing and noticing on the Russian side on the front lines and so far, they have seen no evidence of deliveries of Chinese arms to the Russian side. But again, they're watching this very closely.

TAPPER: And, Ivan, this meeting between Xi and Putin comes on the same day that European Union has agreed to provide more support for Ukraine on the front lines. Tell us about that.

WATSON: That is sending a important message, not only to the Ukrainians, but arguably to the Russians and the Chinese leaders as they meet in Moscow. The European Union, 17 countries plus Norway announcing that they're going to ship a million rounds of 155 millimeter artillery ammunition to the Ukrainians, that they're going to try to put a billion dollars into that effort and another billion euros rather into a procuring more ammunition.

The Ukrainians delighted with that and that is on top of the Biden administration announcing an additional $350 million in presidential draw down funds, that's for ammunition for those HIMARS, that the Ukrainians love, the long-distance missile launching system, as well as howitzers, Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, missiles, anti-tank weapons, and that's on top of early this month, hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. presidential drawdown defense assistance. And that comes all on top of some $32 billion in defense aid that has come from the Biden administration.

And just another country that has offered aid, small Norway said it has now sent eight Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. All of this is just trying to demonstrate, that the European countries, the West, the U.S. are supporting Ukraine in its battle against the much larger enemy, with a much larger population. It's held the line so far, but it still needs help.

TAPPER: All right. Ivan Watson in Kharkiv, Ukraine, thank you so much.

Coming up, the move made to calm the global banking crisis that have investors and small banks terrified.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our money lead, markets bouncing back after Switzerland brokered a deal for the biggest bank to buy failing rival Credit Suisse. This is one step forward in the global banking crisis that has investors and regulators and small banks quite spooked.

CNN's Rahel Solomon joins me now with the latest.

Rahel, how should viewers be looking at this news? Is there still fear that other banks might fail or is the worst behind us?

RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, it certainly seems like that fear is still there, although today at least in the markets the fears taking a backseat as we witness this extraordinary intervention. Now on both sides of the Atlantic.

Take a look at the regional stocks which we have talked about over the last week or two. Some stability for some but not for First Republic. Hard to even watch.

First Republic shares up 47 percent, $12. In September of 2022, those shares were worth $140. So still concerns there about its viability. And still concerns about what is happening with the deposits.

The company said in a statement that First Republic Bank is well- positioned to manage short-term deposit activity but I'm not sure investors buy that. There was reporting from "The Wall Street Journal" today that JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon is stepping up again to try to shore up another rescue plan for first Republic Bank.

So confidence issues still persist and these concerns, Jake, about what will it take to provide some calm in the markets? You're starting to hear more support from the FDIC, for example, expanding its insurance beyond the customary $250,000, to much larger than that, to make depositors feel comfortable. And Nelson Peltz, a hedge fund manager, he said the same on CNBC today.

So, even despite the extraordinary interventions we've seen, even despite some of the calm with the banks, there is still concern that ultimately more will have to be done here.

TAPPER: Interesting. Rahel Solomon, thanks so much. Always good to see you.

Flight attendants want to ban parents from being able to hold babies on their laps during flights. Why this means that it could cost parents much more to travel.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Topping our money lead, buckle up, parents. The price of flying with your baby could soon skyrocket, that's because the National Transportation Safety Board and a major flight attendants union have renewed calls for a ban on lap babies. That's infants that are allowed to sit unsecured on a parent's lap without his or her own seat for the entire flight. The flight attendants union and pediatricians agree the practice is unsafe and a ban on it is way overdue.

Let's bring in CNN's aviation correspondent Pete Muntean.

So, Pete, what are parents of lap babies supposed to do if there's intense turbulence?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: I just asked NTSB chair Jennifer Homendy about this and she put it simply, hold on and hope that you don't lose a grip because that's the real risk here in turbulence when you have a baby on your lap which is allowed by the airlines an the FAA.

A 20-pound infant, about a year old, you go through 10 Gs, that is ten times the force of gravity, machine ever much more likely you experience way more than that in a crash.


Twenty times -- 20 pounds by 10 times the force of gravity, we're talking a weight of 200 pounds, and the FAA simply underscores your arms simply are not strong enough --


MUNTEAN: -- to hold on to a baby like that.

What is so interesting is flight attendant have been calling for this change for about 30 years, but it's only come to light once again because of the FAA safety summit and because of the turbulence on the rise of the Hawaiian Airlines back in December, 36 people injured on the flight, a 14-month-old baby among the injured.

And NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy says this is one of 25 recommendations the NTSB has out there to make this recommendation simply a requirement but the FAA has not acted on it just yet. It will make turbulence and she said, a lot less dangerous.

TAPPER: Did you see "Alive"? It's about a plane crash from the '90s.


TAPPER: That's the whole subplot as Rosie Perez (ph) not being able to hold on -- you can't do it.

MUNTEAN: Right. And it just simply because of the G's, the weight is amplified. So how do you possibly hold on to something like that? And that is the thing that is stressed here by safety advocates. It is just a risk.

TAPPER: How close is the FAA to a decision on this?

MUNTEAN: Well, we think they could act on this if Congress acts on this, because the FAA reauthorization bill is going through Congress right now. That the what gets the FAA the money for next few years so a reauthorization could also bring in a requirement for an end to lap babies on board airplanes and making sure that parents put their babies in a car seat.

But, of course, the flip side to all of that is the expense, right? So they have to buy a full fare tickets and airlines in the U.S. don't discount tickets if you want to put a baby in the seat next to you. The best thing you could hope for is an empty seat next to you if you have a live baby.

TAPPER: It is hard to imagine Congress pushing that through, honestly. But, OK, we'll see what happens -- Pete Muntean.

Turning to our world lead, a man with dual U.S. and Israeli citizen is recovering from what Israeli officials are calling a terrorist attack. It happened Sunday in Israel, at the occupied West Bank town of Huwara.

The Israeli-American is named David Stern. He's a retired U.S. marine who reportedly provides weapons training for settlers in that area.

Let's get the details from CNN's Hadas Gold in Jerusalem -- Hadas.

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, David lives in a settlement in the occupied West Bank not far from where this took place and he and his wife were driving through Huwara, which has become this flash point Palestinian town. Because it sits a major roadway that many Israeli settlers are using, so as a result, it cruises through this Palestinian town.

Now, as they were driving down, they came under attack. A man shot at their car. Now, David Stern was actually hit in the head but he managed to shoot back at the attacker injuring him. The attacker was then later apprehended by Israeli soldiers. And somehow, I mean when you look at the car, you could see the number of bullet holes. Now some of them were outgoing fire officials say.

But somehow, actually, David Stern is in quite stable and good condition. The hospital is saying there is no threat to his life. Huwara, of course, is where two Israeli brothers were shot and killed in a similar incident about tree weeks ago and a few hours after they were killed, that's where Israeli settlers went on those rampages, those revenge attacks burning dozens of cars and homes and one Palestinian man was killed as a result. So, clearly, a flash point town that's still under a lot of tension -- Jake.

TAPPER: Hadas, President Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu after the attack and that all came hours before Netanyahu's government announced a possible change in their push to try to weaken Israel's independent judiciary. Tell us about that.

GOLD: Yeah. And, actually, what we're hearing from John Kirby and from the White House is that the concerns over this judicial overhaul was the main point actually of that phone call.

But then, today, Netanyahu's government announcing a slight change where they will slightly change the make-up of the committee that they want, who will select judges so that the government appointed members who only have a one-seat majority instead of a massive majority. They're also going to pause the legislation until after the Passover recess until the end of April, saying that they're open to negotiations.

But the opposition lawmakers essentially saying this is not a compromise. They say this is just a continuation of what they believe is the beginning of the end of an independent judiciary.

But, Jake, what was interesting about the phone call between President Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu is what we didn't hear is an invitation to the White House -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Hadas Gold, interesting. Thank you so much.

Coming up, the fight over high school sports that has resulted in one Vermont school, a religious school being banned from participating in all competitive sports in the state.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: And we're back with our national lead.

Since Idaho passed its 2020 ban on transgender athletes participating in girls or women's sports in that state, more than a dozen other states have passed similar laws, while a handful of blue states are doing the exact opposite, enforcing laws that protect the ability of trans people who want to participate in athletic programs consistent with their gender identity, not the sex that were assigned at birth. Vermont is one of those states.

CNN's Brynn Gingras is there where one private Christian parochial school has been barred from competing in all sports after the girl's basketball team there refused to play against another team that had a transgender athlete.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Vermont, one of the country's most progressive states publicly debating a controversy involving kids that one state lawmaker says left her with --


STATE SENATOR REBECCA WHITE (D), VERMONT: Disappointment in the adults.

GINGRAS: It happened in State Senator Rebecca White's district. Mid Vermont Christian school forfeited a state tournament girl's basketball game because the opposing team had a transgender player on its roster, the school arguing a, quote, very real issue of safety was at play.

What followed, a swift and sweeping penalty against the school's athletic program by the state's governing body, the Vermont Principals' Association. It banned the high school from all competition in all sports moving forward.

Is that a bridge too far?

WHITE: No. I don't think it's a bridge too far. The athletes that we're talking about are unlikely to go on to some of the elite professional athletics. But that concept of discriminating against another young person, it causes long-term outcomes for trans youth, because they're hearing rhetoric that is telling them that they're not valuable, that they're in fact dangerous.

GINGRAS: The VPA said the high school violated the policy of support of transgender athletes. In response, mid Vermont Christian school wrote that it would be appealing the decision, adding, canceling our membership is not a solution and does nothing to deal with the very real issue of safety and fairness facing women's sports in our beloved state.

LISA MILLIGIN, POMFRET, VT RESIDENT: These are kids. Kids should not feel like they're being ostracized and pushed away because of those who are there figuring out who they are. That's the worst thing you can do to a child, no matter if they're 8 or 18.

DOUG KELEHER, WOODSTOCK, VT RESIDENT: In their case, it's more than an opinion. It's more of a religion. They're a Christian school. They feel that their beliefs are being pushed aside.

GINGRAS: The Mid Vermont Christian School refused an interview with CNN as did the school they originally refused to play against. But the on-court controversy has reignited the debate about the inclusion and equity of transgender athletes.

JOHN TIMONEY, CUECHEE, VT RESIDENT: If they choose not to play that team, then they should absolutely forfeit. It's wrong to carry that over to other members of their community and other teams at the school.

GINGRAS: Last year, the NCAA, the governing body for collegiate athletics updated its policies on the issue landing on a sport-by- sport approach. At the high school level, guidance on participation changes state-by-state, according to the latest data from advocacy group GLSEN with 25 states placing bans or restrictions on trans or non-binary athletes from playing.

Vermont is one of only ten states which are fully inclusive, something White says the state has worked hard for.

WHITE: We're an inclusive state. We're a welcoming state. So, it doesn't surprise me that we've had a situation where folks are pushing back against some of that inclusive work that we've done because it is innovative, it is bold and it's important.


GINGRAS (on camera): And separate from sports, in fact, Vermont is reaffirming its commitment to transgender youth, Jake, by passing a shield law in one chamber of legislature last week which will safeguard gender-affirming treatments done in the state like surgeries and hormone therapies -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Brynn Gingras, thank you so much for that report.

Also in our pop culture lead, from the locker room to the White House, where excitement levels were as high as a dress top hat, as coach Ted Lasso might say. Jason Sudeikis and fellow "Ted Lasso" cast members took over the press room today for discussion about one of the Apple TV show's more resident topics, mental health.

Take a listen.


JASON SUDEIKIS, ACTOR, "TED LASSO": If you can ask for that help from a professional, fantastic. If it needs to be a loved one, equally as good, in a lot of ways, sometimes you just need to let that pressure -- that pressure valve release. The president is working on in his own team, although his team is real, our team is make believe.


TAPPER: I sat earlier down with Sudeikis for a wide-ranging conversation on the evolution of the beloved mustached soccer coach, football coach turned European soccer manager, to be precise, with surprising details about Jason Sudeikis' meteoric to fame.

You can see that on Friday. CNN "PRIMETIME", "The Ted Lasso Phenomenon: Jason Sudeikis, One-on-One". It will air this Friday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.

We should note, "Ted Lasso" is produced by Warner Brothers, which is a sister company of all of us here at CNN.

Vladimir Putin pulling out all the stops for one of Russia's strongest allies. What the meeting means for Ukraine. We're live in Moscow, next.



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

This hour, from New York City to Georgia, Donald Trump facing multiple potential indictments in multiple cities. And his legal team has been busy trying to fight back.

Plus, the body of a teenager killed in a hit-and-run is being exhumed. Why this case may be connected to the family of convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh.

And leading this hour, the world is watching. Chinese Leader Xi Jinping is in Moscow for a series of meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia's so-called special operation in Ukraine is one focus of the trip. The United States and Ukraine are paying special attention as Xi is trying to frame himself as a possible peacemaker, while also making clear he supports Putin's objectives.


PRESIDENT XI JINPING, CHINA (through translator): It is true that both of our countries share the same or similar goals.


TAPPER: CNN's Matthew Chance is in Moscow with a closer look at how this meeting could strengthen Putin's murderous resolve.