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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, (D-MA), Is Interviewed About Fed; Sen. Warren: I Don't Think Jerome Powell Should Be Fed Chair; DeSantis: Call Me What You Want, Just "Call Me A Winner"; WI State Supreme Court Candidates Clash Over State's 1849 Abortion Ban; HRSA: More Than 100,000 People Waiting For Organ Transplant. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 22, 2023 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: CNN's Sara Murray joins us now live.

Sara, what kind of information does Corcoran have to testify about or to turn over?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, this is a really significant development because Evan Corcoran, of course, is one of Donald Trump's attorneys. The appeals court is saying he needs to go back before a grand jury, provide additional testimony, and he has to hand over documents which include things like hand written notes and transcriptions of verbal calls.

Now, this all came to because he went to a grand jury previously and he declined to answer some of the questions put before him. He cited attorney client privilege. Prosecutors went to a judge and said, look, we have evidence that the former President Donald Trump may have committed a crime, essentially using his attorney to do so. They showed surveillance tapes. And by making that argument, they convinced the judge to pierce this attorney client privilege shield.

The appeals court agreed with the lower court judge and said, look, Evan Corcoran, you got to go back and testify. You got to hand over these notes.

TAPPER: Sara, why is Corcoran such an important witness for the prosecution?

MURRAY: I mean, when we think back to when Donald Trump got that subpoena, when he had to do this search for documents, Evan Corcoran was the one who was in the middle of that. He was in the middle of doing this search for classified documents. He helped to write the attestation that Christina Bobb later signed, telling the Justice Department, we've handed over everything. And we then learned, of course, that wasn't true at all, that there were, you know, roughly 100 documents with classified barkings on them still left when the FBI showed up to search Mar-a-Lago. So he is a central witness for prosecutors trying to get to the bottom of what happened and potentially build a case against former President, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Sara Murray, thanks so much.

Turning to our money lead, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates by a quarter point today as Fed Chair Jerome Powell tries to fight stubbornly high inflation, which has been hitting Americans wallets hard for more than a year. But this whole fight against inflation has been complicated by a number of factors, including the instability of the banking system. CNN's Richard Quest joins us now.

Richard, walk us through how the Fed's rate hiking campaign will impact the economy and will impact consumers.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS EDITOR AT LARGE: So the Fed has raised rates, but it's done it by the least amount because it wants to show that inflation is still its key target. But it talked a lot about the banking crisis.

And, Jake, here's where it gets a bit perverse in a sense, because the banking crisis is going to mean banks lend less, tighter credit, harder to borrow, and that will slow the economy and that will bring down inflation. So, if you will, the banking crisis is doing the Fed's dirty work for it. The Fed is on guard, though. The Fed says, look, it's all very uncertain, this and all very murky.

If for some reason the banking crisis doesn't slow down the economy, then we stand ready to raise rates even more. Inflation is still the number one enemy for the Fed.

TAPPER: All right. Richard quest in Tokyo for us. Richard, thanks so much.

Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts joins us now. She's on the Senate Finance Committee and also the Senate Banking Committee. So, thank you so much for being here. Good to see you again.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): Thank you. Glad to be here.

TAPPER: So you've called for an investigation of the Fed arguing that Jerome Powell has failed. Now, his defenders say the pandemic was a black swan event that sent the economy into a tailspin, and he has correctly read the labor market's ability to sustain full employment in the face of rate hikes. What do you say to those who argue, who disagree with you and argue Powell since of this unprecedented cataclysmic economic event of the pandemic, that he's actually done a decent job?

WARREN: Well, you know, if you want to treat this as a cataclysmic event, which certainly the pandemic was, keep in mind it drove inflation in ways that are different from how we usually have it. So, for example, we have seen supply chain kinks that have driven up prices. Then add to that we have a war in Ukraine.

And then one of the big pieces has been a lot of price gouging. We've seen these giant corporations, particularly industries that are very concentrated, really pushing their prices up. So there are three things that are helping push prices up. And do how many of those three can be affected by raising interest rates? None of them.

The whole point is that Powell is using the one tool the Fed has, and that is raise interest rates. But he has said himself in hearings, no, it won't affect any of those things. But here's what it will affect. When the Fed uses language like we're trying to cool the economy or slow down the economy, the translation behind that is we're trying to increase unemployment.

TAPPER: Right.

WARREN: And in fact, the Fed has said this in the last hearing that I had with Chair Powell when we had him in front of us in the Finance Committee, I looked at the Fed's own predictions, their report in December in which they said, we want to keep trying to slow down the economy. And what we're hoping for out of this is that we increase unemployment by 2 million jobs. Now, that's a lot of people for whom that's a lot of hurt. These are people right now who are paying the rent, putting groceries on the table.


TAPPER: Sure. They're not hiding this.

WARREN: That's right.

TAPPER: I mean, they're saying this, he said it today, I think more than a million jobs to be lost this year because of these rate hikes.

WARREN: That's right. And actually, by the Fed's own prediction, it's more than 2 million that is their target here. And the point I want to make is, that's not going to help us on supply chain kinks, it's not going to help us on the war in Ukraine, it's not going to help us on this -- the price gouging from these big corporations. So, I think we ought to be not doing the extraordinary, these extreme interest rate hikes. We've never seen hikes at this rate in the modern economy and bearing down harder on these other costs that are -- these other factors that are driving up cost.

TAPPER: But you think Fed Chair Powell should be doing things about these other things?

WARREN: No. I think what he should say --

TAPPER: Right.

WARREN: -- he should call, for example, for more on price gouging, but back off using his tool and keep trying to say that he's going to keep using it until he puts 2 million people out of work.

TAPPER: So, at December Washington Post column said that this is not the Warren presidency, but it's certainly a Warren infused presidency, meaning that the president, President Biden, is taking a lot of your suggestions and trying to enact them into law. Have you ever directly told President Biden that you think he should fire the chair, fire Jerome Powell? And who would you like to see replace him? WARREN: So, I'm not going to talk about private conversations, but what I will say is I've made it very clear as publicly as humanly possible that I didn't think that he should be reconfirmed as president -- as Chair of the Fed. And I think he's doing a really terrible job. And he's doing a terrible job on both fronts.

Remember, there are two -- only two jobs for the Federal Reserve chair. One is monetary policy, inflation. I think he's doing a very bad job there, and it's risking pushing our economy into a recession. His other job is regulatory oversight. And he has spent five years weakening regulations over these multibillion dollar banks.

I predicted five years ago, the consequence of that kind of weakening would be that we would see these banks load up on risk, build their short term profits, give themselves ginormous bonuses and big salaries, and then some of those banks will explode. And that is exactly what has happened on Chair Powell's watch.

TAPPER: You just mentioned the prospect of a recession. Do you think the United States is headed for a recession?

WARREN: I think that is where Jerome Powell is trying to drive it, and he's got two different ways he's doing it.

TAPPER: Do you think he's purposely trying to drive it to a recession?

WARREN: Well, what he's trying to do is get 2 million people laid off. And one of the things that we need to understand, he wants to raise the unemployment rate by more than a point within a single 12 month period. We have done that before in this country.

In fact, we have done it 12 times before. And out of all 12 times, how many times has it resulted in a recession? The answer is 12. So, that's the direction he's trying to push this, that is a danger to our economy. It's why I said five years ago, I think he's a dangerous man to have in this job.

TAPPER: So, CNN has exclusively obtained a letter written by you and six other senators after the collapse of the Silicon Valley Bank. You're calling for the Fed to crack down on these large regional banks, arguing that they cannot be left to supervise themselves. As you know, Powell is not the only banking regulator. It's the OCC, the SEC, FINRA, the S -- the CFPB, which you know a little bit about --


TAPPER: -- the FDIC, treasury, in short, the Biden administration, are you pointing the finger too much at Powell and not enough at President Biden and all the agencies and departments that he's in charge of?

WARREN: The one who is responsible on safety and soundness, that's the part we want to go here, is this financially solvent and stable bank, that's at the Fed for all of these $50 billion and above banks. And that's where it is that Jerome Powell has spent years now weakening the regulations. In fact, I had him at a hearing not long ago in which I talked about the fact that he has weakened the regulations over these banks not once, not twice, but literally dozens of times. And so, I said to him, of all the things you've done for these banks, and a lot of it's way down in the weeds, can you name just one where you kind of tightened the regulations a little bit, where you increased oversight a little bit, and his answer was no.

TAPPER: No. After the Silicon Valley Bank failure, you sent a letter to the former CEO of that bank arguing that his lobbying to weaken the rules, I don't know if you mean with Congress, which actually acquiesced --


WARREN: I did. Yes.

TAPPER: -- in 2018, but also -- or also with Fed Chair Powell, but you said his lobbying is what enabled the collapse, and you asked him to submit answers to your questions by March 28. It is not yet March 28, I should note. Have you heard back? And what are you hoping?

WARREN: No, we have not. But this really is the reminder. This is not a story that just one day fell out of the sky. This is a story that starts back with, you remember the last crash put Dodd-Frank in place, promised the American people we're going to have tough regulations, and that means we're not going to have any more bank failures. Then these multibillion dollar banks, including the CEO of this Silicon Valley bank, come in and say no, no, no.

They want to be treated not like the multibillion dollar banks they are. They said, we're just like those little tiny local community banks that do such a great job of providing local loans and so on. So, regulate us very lightly, they said, because they claimed they posed no risk to the economy.

Now, Donald Trump then ran for president, saying to those banks --

TAPPER: Right.

WARREN: -- multibillion dollar banks, I will lighten regulations on you. Once he was elected, he put in regulators who believed in deregulation. Then he went to Congress and said to Congress, roll back the part of Dodd-Frank that requires more supervision over these $50 billion in above banks.

TAPPER: Right. And most Republicans went along with it --

WARREN: All of them.

TAPPER: -- but also a bunch of Democrats, too.

WARREN: Yes, yes.

TAPPER: Also bunch of Democrats, too. WARREN: No, he got help from both parties. And then what happened is that Jerome Powell said you've opened the door for much more deregulation, massive deregulation. And he said it. He's actually on the record saying this, because you opened the door, I am now going to go full steam ahead and lighten the regulations.

And then his then vice chair, who was Randal Quarles, said that his job was to change the culture at the Fed in order to let these banks do what they wanted to do to be able to take on risk, run up profits. And I'm going to say he didn't add this part and run the risk of exploding.

TAPPER: Do you want other parts of the Biden administration to be more aggressive on these issues? All of the Treasury Department and all of the other agencies and regulatory departments that I mentioned, do they need to be more aggressive as well?

WARREN: I think right now this really is at the Fed. And then I want to say the regional Fed, to the whole Fed structure, the CFPB, for example, they're dealing with consumer contracts. And that's not the heart of what's gone wrong here. FDIC is trying to figure out how to manage the insurance for depositors.

And actually, I think this is a place, thanks to the intervention that the Treasury was forced to take weekend before last, I think this is a place now we're going to have to have statutory change because, in effect, the Treasury combined with the Fed has said we're going to come in and start backstopping all deposits, backstopping the banks. And that means they're providing, in effect, a form of insurance and not charging for it.

TAPPER: Is there a way, we saw some elements after the East Palestine, Ohio train derailment travesty, where we saw some elements of the populist right, the J.D. Vances of the world joining with some elements of the populist left, the Sherrod Browns of the world, is there an area here for the kind of actions you're talking about that conservatives could join with you?

WARREN: I think there is. And it's the reminder that there are regulations that are helpful to all of us. And the regulations are about safety. That's what obviously the train derailment was about. It's also about economic safety.

We need a Federal Reserve that is doing its job, and that is to keep these banks safe. Look, no depositor, no small business, no family individual should have to say, I need to see the bank's balance sheet before I know that it's safe --

TAPPER: Right.

WARREN: -- to put money in a bank. The whole idea is the regulators are supposed to keep those banks safe.

You know, I used to talk about exploding toasters, that you shouldn't have to be an expert on toasters to buy a toaster.


WARREN: We ought to know that they're safe. That's what regulations are about. Same thing ought to be true about putting money in banks, it should be safe. Banking should not be a place for risk takers who want to -- who want to build up, you know, fast profit Silicon Valley Bank increase their profitability by 40 percent in the last three years. That's not what we want from banks. We want banks that are boring and that are safe.


TAPPER: Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, thank you so much. Don't be a stranger. Come back soon.

WARREN: You bet.

It's always good.

TAPPER: It's always good to see you.

Moments ago, we showed you what Russia did today to the Ukrainian people in Zaporizhzhia. But the strikes extended across Ukraine, and CNN is live with the impact across the country of Russia's ongoing war.

Plus, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, or as Trump calls him, Rob DeSantis appears to take on Donald Trump with some pointed criticisms. The timing is very interesting, and Trump's campaign is having something of a fit. We'll lay out the latest ahead.


TAPPER: In our world lead, now a day of horror across the country of Ukraine. Seemingly random strikes continued on civilians from Zaporizhzhia to Kyiv according to Ukrainian officials. At least nine people have been killed in those cities, dozens more injured, including Ukrainian children, hundreds evacuated. CNN's David Mackenzie is in Ukraine where Putin's terror reaches far beyond the front lines.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Terror in broad daylight. A Russian missile striking an apartment block in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. Far from the frontline forces, lives shattered in an instant.


I was at work and my child was alone at home, Sfitlana (ph) says. She lived on the 6th floor with her son. He knows how to walk in the hallway during an air raid, she says, it may have saved his life.

This is what just happened to my home, says this man. Look, this is where I was sitting with my mom just now. But even in the aftermath, fear is never far away in Ukraine. Ukrainian officials say Russian forces fired at least six missiles at the city on Wednesday. Search and rescue teams scrambled to find people trapped under the rubble, young children among the injured. President Zelenskyy called it savagery from a terrorist state.

And overnight, a swarm of Shahed drones sent sirens blaring across Kyiv. Air defenses brought some down, but at least seven were killed near the capital, say authorities. Russia has repeatedly denied its targeting civilians.

And in Moscow, Vladimir Putin, more concerned about the highly symbolic and choreographed visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who departed on Wednesday, talks a very public show of affection between the two leaders. Xi called Putin his dear friend.

In a split screen moment, President Zelenskyy chose instead to go close to the front lines in the east to visit injured soldiers and rally his troops. It is our historical mission to protect our land and return everything belonging to Ukraine for our children, he told them.


MCKENZIE: We've been here on the southern front line for the last two days, each day, and you see those incoming rockets and artillery while you hear them all the time, Jake.

Now, of course, the Russians say they aren't targeting civilians, saying they're going after military targets. But just here in the south, in the last 24 hours, you've had multiple strikes on residential areas. And this is the theme of this conflict.

Are they going after military? Well, they're certainly sowing terror in Ukraine. Jake.

TAPPER: All right. CNN's David McKenzie in Odessa, Ukraine, for us. Thank you so much, David.

Will Fox and its executives, and perhaps even hosts, find themselves on trial before a jury? How that decision is now in the hands of a judge right now. What's on the line? Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, lawyers for Dominion Voting Systems and the right wing Fox channel have wrapped up a second straight day in front of a judge who now must decide whether Dominion's $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit will go ahead to trial. Dominion claims that Fox personalities and executives, quote, "recklessly disregarded the truth," unquote by knowingly promoting false claims about the company's voting machines rigging the 2020 presidential election, which of course, did not happen. CNN's Jessica Schneider reports for us now.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A Delaware judge now weighing whether the $1.6 billion defamation case against Fox News should go to a jury trial.

RUPERT MURDOCH, EXEC. CHAIRMAN NEWS CORPORATION/CO-CHAIRMAN FOX CORPORATION: It's my distinct honor to introduce the commander in chief and the President of the United States, my friend Donald J. Trump.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): And if Fox Corporation Chairman Rupert Murdoch should be called to testify. Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis told lawyers Wednesday, "He holds a special role at Fox Corporation, that he may be able to be compelled to be here." Lawyers for Dominion Voting Systems have already asked the court to let them call Rupert Murdoch and his CEO son Lachlan, if the case goes to trial next month. Fox is resisting the effort, saying the Murdochs have limited knowledge of how Fox News made editorial decisions and would be burdened by having to appear in person. The judge said it is possible they could appear over video conferencing if called.

Both have already given depositions in the case, with Rupert Murdoch acknowledging some Fox News hosts endorsed election conspiracy theories and then saying, I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it in hindsight. In the days after the 2020 election, Fox News repeatedly featured guests like Sidney Powell.

SIDNEY POWELL, TRUMP ATTORNEY WHO CHALLENGED 2020 ELECTION RESULTS: It is one huge, huge criminal conspiracy.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): She and others accuse Dominion of using its machines and software to rig the 2020 election. Fox News says it can't be liable for airing inherently newsworthy allegations from public figures like Powell and Trump's former attorney, Rudy Giuliani. Judge Eric Davis questioned a Fox lawyer asking if top executives had the power to block the network's hosts from booking pro Trump attorneys that they knew would promote false claims about Dominion. Fox's lawyer said that even if the Murdochs or other executives were aware of the bookings, they can't be held liable because they weren't directly involved in the decision making to put the guests on shows.

"It's not enough to show that these executives have the ability to step in," Fox lawyer Erin Murphy argued. She also said the Murdochs and other top executives don't control what goes on the air. But Rupert Murdoch, in his deposition, acknowledged that he could have stopped Trump's legal team, which peddled election lies, from appearing on the network's air, but didn't.


SCHNEIDER: And that could be a key line of questioning. If this case does go to trial, how much power and responsibility did people like Rupert Murdoch have to stop these guests from going on air and promoting these false election fraud claims? So at this point, it is now in the judge's hands to decide if this case goes to trial or if there are enough facts at this point that are so clear cut that he could automatically rule for either side, Dominion or Fox News, without going to trial.

And Jake, of course, there's always the question whether they settle before any trial would begin. Jake?

TAPPER: Jessica Schneider, thanks so much.

Let's discuss with my panel. I'm not too sure, but I'm pretty sure Rupert Murdoch is pretty hands on and powerful. I mean, I'm not an expert on this guy but --

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: My jaw kind of dropped when I heard that that was -- that could be an actual question that would be serious. I don't think it would be serious if they asked it. Of course he has the power to do that. The question is, would he have? Clearly, he didn't. He said in hindsight, they wish that they had. But I don't believe him. I mean, come on, this is their bread and butter.

TAPPER: Well, we'll see what happens. But let's talk about the Republican presidential race because that is heating up. So Florida Governor Ron DeSantis did an interview with Piers Morgan and he said a lot of things. Here is one of the little segments that has been released. It's when Piers is asking him about the various nicknames that Donald Trump has come up with for the Florida governor.


PIERS MORGAN, HOST, "PIERS MORGAN UNCENSORED": What is your favorite nickname that Trump's given you so far? Is it Ron DeSanctimonious or Meatball Ron?

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: Well, I can't --

MORGAN: Even he went off Meatball Ron.

DESANTIS: I don't know how to spell DeSanctimonious. I don't really know what it means, but I, you know, I kind of like it's long. It's got a lot of vowels. I mean, so we'd go with that. That's fine. You know, you can call me whatever you want. I mean, just as long as you, you know, also call me a winner.


TAPPER: I thought that the attacks, so called attacks, were fairly restrained, but when you read the interview, what did you think?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I thought it was exquisite no notes. No, I'm serious. I think --

TAPPER: He didn't directly go at Trump at all really.

ANDERSON: Well, but he didn't completely dodge it either.

TAPPER: Right.

ANDERSON: And I think what this moment is calling for in the Republican primary, if you are not Donald Trump, is Republican voters who kind of like Donald Trump and that's almost all Republican voters, they don't want a food fight. So going directly at him with a big punch, I mean, I've sat on this panel next to Paul Begala and he says it's like prison. You got to be the one to punch someone first.

I don't know if I agree with him, but I do think that the iron fist in a velvet glove is more of what's called for here. I don't think you can be weak. I don't think you can -- and I certainly don't think you can say, oh, well, I'm hurt. I wish Donald Trump wasn't insulting me. That is a 0 percent success move. I think what -- how DeSantis is handling this is optimal.

TAPPER: So the three implicit criticisms that DeSantis made, not directly and full of invective, but one was about Trump's chaotic management style. He just said he would -- he was asked how he would be different and he said like he has no drama in his administration. Two, Trump's handling of COVID and that was really just an attack on Anthony Fauci.


TAPPER: And three, an implicit criticism of Donald Trump's character.

KIM: Right.

TAPPER: DeSantis said, you really want to look -- you want people to look to you like our founding fathers. What did you make of it all?

KIM: Well, it's basically what Kristen said, that you can't anger the people who genuinely like Trump. But there are a faction of Republican primary voters who are looking to move on, who like Trump's policies, who are happy with some of the actions that he took in office. Maybe not, you know, spurring on an insurrection, but looking to see how someone can take that mantle and move on.

I think that's why Ron DeSantis particularly has gotten a lot of attention. I think when he went to Iowa earlier this month, he got a very warm reception. People were really glad to hear from him where he's -- and it wasn't in the normal like small living room like glad handling style, because that doesn't seem to be DeSantis style, but he was still very much welcome nonetheless.

So I like -- it's really interesting to see how he's making these distinctions without really kind of -- he's kind of poking at the side without stabbing him in the front.

TAPPER: Yes. There was also, of course --

KIM: Yes.

TAPPER: -- the press conference when he said he went after the prosecutor in New York --

KIM: Right.

TAPPER: -- went after, you know, the Soros appointed prosecutor, wasn't going to help him, blah, blah, blah. But like I don't know anything about paying hush money to a stuffed porn star. I don't know anything about that.

Now, if DeSantis's attack, if it's like one to 10, I would make it like a one or two. It was pretty, but the reaction from Trump world was like at 11. Jason Miller, who I guess works for MAGA World, "Ron DeSantis has finally shown his true colors. An establishment Never Trumper who despises the MAGA base and was faking it the entire time."

I saw that before I read the article. And I -- I mean, there was a big disconnect. Donald Trump Jr. never won for hyperbole. He says, in part, quote, "DeSantis pathetically runs to the liberal media on orders from his RINO establishment owners to attack my father."

Now, I mean, Donald Trump has done interviews with Piers Morgan over and over and over. So whatever. So how much of that is -- was baked in like they were just going to do that no matter what DeSantis said?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: They were waiting for the opening to attack him over this.


I do think that the minute that they saw the Florida governor go after Donald Trump, tumbled was ready to pounce. And that's what we saw after his comments on Monday.

I will say, though, that I spoke with someone in a close ally of DeSantis's the other night, and he was telling me that this is the toughest period that he has right now between running for, like, throwing his, you know, his hat in the race and making an official and trying to play as the outsider right now.

He wants he's wanting to come in and attack Trump more aggressively. He doesn't want to just sit back and let Donald Trump attack him, but he's also waiting to get in the race to do that. Now, I think Trump world, on the other hand, was really expecting him to embrace this. They also -- I talked with a lot of advisers about it after DeSantis' remarks, and they told me that they think this was not the type of attack to issue.

That a lot of people really care about what's happening with this potential indictment, that they think it's a political abuse of power and attack on Donald Trump and that the base cares about And so they thought being DeSantis --

TAPPER: It was timing of it.

TREENE: Exactly. And also him saying, I have more important issues to deal with in Florida. They thought that was a real line that he stumbled on, that they think that this is something that the base cares about. Why are you not going there? And we saw people like Matt Gaetz, Lindsey Graham come out and say this was not the right line of attack for the governor.

TAPPER: Because of the timing also --

TREENE: Yes. TAPPER: -- but also like I have more -- I have real issues to deal with not --

TREENE: Exactly. What he said, but also the timing of it. They thought that --


TREENE: -- he should be rallying around Trump in this moment, not sneaking in little jabs.

CARDONA: And here's the problem, not just with DeSantis, but I think everyone who wants to move past Trump, no one knows how. No one knows how because they've tried everything that you said. Let's remember, Jeb Bush didn't go at him immediately, right? Didn't go at him directly.

Tried to sort of do the witty. You know, let's go around this. I'm going to try to ignore him. Didn't work. Marco Rubio tried the direct approach. Didn't work.

TAPPER: He did it late, though.

CARDONA: He did it -- that's true. He did it late, but nothing has worked thus far.

ANDERSON: Well, you know, the problem in 2016 was a lot of those attacks were saying, Donald Trump's not conservative enough. I'm Ted Cruz, and I'm the true conservative. I'm Jeb Bush, and I govern Florida in a conservative way, and it didn't really hit.

And what's going to be interesting this time is to see, can Ron DeSantis credibly make the case that I am the better warrior against the left than you are, that you, Mr. Former President like to put up the fight. But I'm putting points on the board here in Florida. That's the argument --

CARDONA: But if you look at polls and granted, he's not in yet, right? So there's still a lot to be seen. But Ron DeSantis has actually lost like 12 points since December.

TAPPER: In the Monmouth poll.

CARDONA: In the average --

TAPPER: Yes. Right.

CARDONA: -- of every poll who has done head to heads, and Donald Trump has gone up 15 points.

TAPPER: That's true.

CARDONA: So we'll see what happens. I think this whole indictment issue is going to be something that Donald Trump is going to take to the bank, and it's worked for him thus far. Who knows how long that will last. TAPPER: So DeSantis was criticized by a lot of would be allies in Washington when he seemed to belittle what Russia is doing in Ukraine, calling it a territorial dispute, saying that America doesn't have vital interests there. It looks like in this interview with Piers that he might be trying to clean it up a little bit.

In a new article for the New York Post, Piers Morgan claims DeSantis in their interview, called Putin a war criminal, demanded he be held accountable for the invasion. So what changed?

KIM: Well, certainly the reaction, and not just from people who, you know, these are would be allies or people who would be eager to have him run for president against former President Donald Trump, who are really worried about the implications of what he said. I'm not sure. I mean, but the thing to remember is if he feels like he has to clean up his comments, remember, these were written statements to, I believe, Tucker Carlson --

TAPPER: Right.

KIM: -- were clearly thought out. This wasn't an interview where he just kind of talked up the cup and didn't realize the implications of what he was saying. So he clearly knew that phrasing it in the way that he did is -- was a way in part to deal with the increasingly isolationist base that the Republican Party has.

TAPPER: Yes, interesting. Thanks one and all. Appreciate it.

It is a law dating back to 1849. Why it took center stage in a fierce debate happening right now, and how this fight could shape the future of U.S. politics in a key battleground state. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, the past, present and future collided during a political debate in Wisconsin, where two candidates for the Supreme Court there clashed over an abortion ban passed back in 1849. CNN's Jeff Zeleny is in Wisconsin following what's turned into the nation's most expensive judicial contest on record.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Voting is underway again in battleground Wisconsin, where echoes of the last presidential race still resonate, even as an April election nears. This time, the campaign is all about the court, the state Supreme Court that came within one vote of overturning Donald Trump's narrow loss to Joe Biden here three years ago.


DANIEL KELLY, WISCONSIN SUPREME COURT CANDIDATE: Once again relying. ZELENY (voice-over): Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz, the liberal candidate sparred on a debate stage here this week with former Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly, a conservative who lost his seat in 2020 and is fighting to return to the state's highest court. It's become the nation's most expensive judicial race on record.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The false elector scheme in Wisconsin, extremist Dan Kelly was the right wing lawyer behind the scenes of it all.

ZELENY (voice-over): With $30 million in counting on ads alone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Protasiewicz set violent criminals free again and again.

ZELENY (voice-over): In a bitter contest over abortion rights, redistricting and even rules for voting in the next presidential election.

PROTASIEWICZ: The results of the 2024 presidential election are likely to come in front of the Supreme Court as well. The 10 electoral votes that we have here are very, very highly sought after.


ZELENY (on-camera): Should the 2024 presidential election be a part of this race?

KELLY: No, I have no idea what this might do for the 2024 presidential elections, nor is it relevant to this race.

ZELENY (on-camera): But the Democratic governor and a Republican legislature, the conservative leaning Supreme Court often has had the last word from outlawing ballot dropboxes to potentially taking up a challenge to an 1849 law banning nearly all abortions after the Supreme Court overturned Roe versus Wade.

PROTASIEWICZ: If my opponent is elected, that 1849 abortion ban will stay on books.

KELLY: This seems to be a pattern for you, Janet. Just telling (INAUDIBLE).

ZELENY (voice-over): Three major Wisconsin antiabortion groups have endorsed Kelly, who said he makes no promises how he'd rule on that or any issue.

GRACIE SKOGMAN, WISCONSIN RIGHT TO LIFE LEGISLATIVE DIRECTOR: Our endorsement is based on his judicial philosophy.

ZELENY (voice-over): Gracie Skogman of Wisconsin Right to Life said her movement is working hard to elect Kelly.

SKOGMAN: There is more at stake in this election than ever before in our state.

ZELENY (voice-over): Wisconsin is one of 14 states that directly elects Supreme Court justices at the ballot box in elections that are technically nonpartisan, but practically anything but.

BEN WILKER, WISCONSIN DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRMAN: This election is the most important election in the country in the year 2023 because Wisconsin is the tipping point state for presidential elections.

ZELENY (voice-over): Ben Wilker leads the Wisconsin Democratic Party, which has invested millions into the race for Protasiewicz.

WILKER: Whoever's elected April 4 will serve in 2024 presidential race 2028, 2032.


ZELENY: And that is the significance of this sea (ph), Jake. This is a 10 year term to the Supreme Court. Whichever side wins will hold a four to three majority on this state Supreme Court, so look for abortion legislation and litigation to come their way. Wisconsin has been the epicenter of so many political battles over the last couple of decades. This certainly is a big race as well on April 4, but early voting is underway now. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny in Madison, Wisconsin. Thank you so much.

Turning to our money lead for the 9th consecutive time, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates earlier today. I want to bring in my colleague who is in a place I like to call The Situation Room, Wolf Blitzer. Wolf, this rate hike, it's a big deal. You're coming up right after THE LEAD. Who do you have on your show to discuss it?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're going to discuss it with Larry Summers, the former Treasury Secretary, who has very, very strong views on all of this. I've interviewed him several times, and he really believes in this notion that you have to increase these interest rates to deal with inflation.

Because if you don't deal with inflation now, if you start pausing these interest rates, it's going to get a whole lot worse. It's going to wind up being much more costly to the U.S. economy, to the American people. So he's very forceful on this, very strong on this. We'll hear what he has to say. Reacting to the decision by Jerome Powell and the Fed earlier today.

I'll also get his reaction to what we just heard on your show, Jake, the interview with Elizabeth Warren, who's very critical of Jerome Powell. I'll get his reaction to what we just heard from her.

TAPPER: Yes, they're -- from very different wings of the Democratic Party, Summers and Warren. But, Wolf, before you go, I hope that Larry Summers is going to wish you a happy birthday.

BLITZER: Let's see. We'll find out soon enough. It has been a very happy birthday, a very special day, and I'm enjoying every minute.

TAPPER: Is there going to be, like, a special dinner when you get home? BLITZER: There'll be a nice dinner with some friends and family after the show.

TAPPER: All right, well, happy birthday. It is an honor, an honor to lead people into your show every day.

BLITZER: Thank you.

TAPPER: Wolf Blitzer, see you in a few minutes.


TAPPER: The long awaited push to streamline the wait list for Americans who are desperate for an organ transplant. We're going to break down the critical details next.



TAPPER: In our health lead, thousands of patients in dire need for a lifesaving organ transplant could soon see their wait times shortened. A division of the Department of Health and Human Services today announced a new plan, one designed to modernize the anachronistic organ transplant system and break up the lone nonprofit that runs it.

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen joins us now. Elizabeth, why is this overhaul happening?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, this is happening because there are real problems with the U.S. transplant system. These numbers really tell the story. Right now, 100,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant. About 6,000 people die each year waiting for transplants.

And because of testing errors, there were 70 deaths between 2010 and 2020 and about 250 infected organs were transplanted. Now, as you can imagine, as you said, there's been this monopoly. The United Network for Organ Share and known as UNOS, they've been running the show for more than 30 years. They've had the sole contract with the federal government.

So what the Biden administration is saying is, look, we're going to seek out other groups to have that contract and they're hoping that that can improve things. Let's take a look at what a Senate Finance Committee said last year about what needed to be improved. They said, "From the top down, the U.S. transplant network is not working, putting Americans lives at risk. The UNOS information technology system is outdated, mismanaged and insecure."

They then went on to call it decrepit and said that there was no apparent solution in sight. So we reached out to UNOS and here's the comment that they had to say about what the Biden administration is proposing. "UNOS supports HRSA" -- that's the government agency -- "HRSA's plan to introduce additional reforms into the nation's organ donation and transplant system. We also stand united with HRSA in our shared goal to get as many donor organs as possible to the patients in need, while increasing accountability, transparency and oversight." Jake?

TAPPER: What changes can Americans right now awaiting organ transplants? What can they expect?


COHEN: Well, hopefully they can expect a system that runs better if someone other than or in addition to UNOS also joins in and running the show. And there are a couple of other specifics that the Biden administration pointed out today. They said that they want to have a better online dashboard for patients.

In other words, when they're going in and sort of considering what's about to happen, they need to have the data at their fingertips and there needs to be more data transparency. And also that IT system, as you can imagine, matching up organs with patients. It's a lot of technology needs to get better. Jake?

TAPPER: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at JakeTapper. You can tweet the show at TheLeadCNN, we actually read them. If you ever miss an episode of the show, you can listen to THE LEAD from whence you get your podcast all two hours just sitting right there like a delicious corned beef special from Murray's.

Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in a place I like to call "THE SITUATION ROOM". Don't forget to wish him a happy birthday.