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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Russia Arrests U.S. Journalist, Accuses Him Of Espionage; 9 Soldiers Killed After Black Hawk Helicopters Crash In Kentucky; Trump Defends Putin, Slams DeSantis For Calling Russian Leader A "War Criminal"; Sources: Manhattan D.A. Asking About Hush Money Paid To A Former Playboy Model As Part Of Trump Investigation; Inside A Secret Deal Between Justices On Key Gay Rights Issues. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired March 30, 2023 - 16:00   ET



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: And if you notice, Andy smiles a bit extra wide because he's a Houston Astros fan and probably still reeks of the champagne popping from the World Series win. He was there that night in the in the room.

Enjoy the game, Andy. Appreciate the report my hometown.

BIANNA GOLODRYGRA, CNN HOST: My hometown. I'm with you, Andy.


THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: For the first time since the Cold War, Russia has arrested in American journalist.

THE LEAD starts right now.

A "Wall Street Journal" reporter accused of being a spy allegedly trying to steal Russian state secrets.

Ahead, I'll speak with the family of Paul Whelan, another American the Kremlin has locked up on espionage charges.

And a group of military families gets the tragic news. Nine service members killed when two Black Hawk choppers crashed. CNN has a crew right near that scene.

Plus, tension in the House from paper tossing to hallway shouting. In your face debates are getting heated on the Hill.


BROWN: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Pamela Brown, in for Jake Tapper.

And we start today with our world lead. Top U.S. officials are strongly criticizing Russia after an American reporter was detained on charges of spying. Evan Gershkovich appeared in a Moscow court today accused of trying to steal Russian state secrets. His employer, "The Wall Street Journal", says it, quote, vehemently denies those claims. But now, Gershkovich faces up to 20 years in prison.

And today, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are accusing Russia of using this journalist as leverage, and the White House is dismissing the charges.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The charge of espionage is ridiculous. We cannot -- that is not accurate, and we find that incredibly ridiculous. And so, we're going to be very clear about that.


BROWN: CNN's Matthew Chance starts off our coverage today from Moscow.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): News of the arrest was brief on Russian state television. A reporter from "The Wall Street Journal" was arrested on suspicion of espionage for the United States, the news anchor announces. Evan Gershkovich, he reads, now faces 20 years in prison.

It was in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, 1,100 miles from Moscow that Russia's federal security service, the former KGB, say they terminated the illegal activity of the accredited journalist. They claim he was on a mission from America to accumulate classified evidence on Russia's military industrial complex.

But a brief court appearance in Moscow, the case was designated top secret. And the 31-year-old journalist was remanded in custody for nearly two months.

A lawyer trying to represent Gershkovich says he was excluded from the proceedings.

DANIIL BERMAN, LAWYER (through translator): I don't know how long it took. Three or 15 minutes, and that's it. After that, I assume Evan has already been taken away from here. We don't know anything.

CHANCE: The arrest comes against the backdrop of falling U.S.-Russia relations. With Washington leading international support for Ukraine against Russia's invasion. There's already one U.S. citizens jailed in Russia, too, for espionage, Paul Whelan, detained in 2018, serving a 16-year sentence.

REPORTER: Brittney, do you have anything to say?

CHANCE: And it's been just a few months since U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner imprisoned in Moscow on contentious drug charges was swapped for notorious arms smuggler Viktor Bout, held for years in U.S. jail.

The Russian foreign ministry says there's no question of another prisoner swap at this time. "The Wall Street Journal" says it vehemently denies the allegations

against their reporter and say they're seeking his immediate release.

But Russian officials are doubling down.

MARIA ZAKHAROVA, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESWOMAN (through translator): Under the cover of journalism, this person was involved in a completely different activity. There are lots of reports that he had accreditation. Therefore he's a journalist. No, no, no. This is what he claims to be.

CHANCE: It does not bode well for a case threatening to plunge U.S.- Russian relations to new debts and to ruin the life of this young American reporter.


CHANCE (on camera): Well, Pamela, tonight, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is being very critical indeed of Russia's detention of this American journalists, basically calling for consular access to him. But we've spoken to U.S. diplomats in this country, and they're saying that so far, there's been no consular access granted to this U.S. journalist so far -- Pamela.


BROWN: All right. Matthew Chance in Moscow for a stay safe over there, Matthew. Thank you.

Well, Evan is not the only American detained in Russia right now. Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan was accused of being a spy and was sentenced to 16 years in a Russian prison in 2020.

Paul's brother, David Whelan, joins us now.

So, David, thank you for coming on your show. First off, what is your reaction when you heard another American was detained in Russia for spying?

DAVID WHELAN, BROTHER OF PAUL WHELAN, AMERICAN DETAINED IN RUSSIA: Well, my heart sank. And as I've been watching the news roll out this morning, it sounds just eerily parallel to what happened to Paul.

He was arrested. The security services announced it on their website. He has given an FSB lawyer, so his own lawyers and able to represent him. He's put into Lefortovo, so he's been brought back to Moscow from Ekaterinburg. I mean, it's just -- it's just so much like what we experienced with Paul.

BROWN: Help our viewers understand, given that context, what this newly detained reporter might be going through, based on what you know from Paul and his experiences.

Well, I guess, fortunately, from Mr. Gershkovich, he speaks Russian. Paul wasn't able to speak Russian, but it's still a matter of navigating the Lefortovo detention facility and you know, learning how to access you're -- the people that you need to get access to, which may be your lawyer. In this case, maybe not a lawyer you can trust, and waiting for consular access, which may take a day or two for the U.S. embassy to get permission to come in and speak to Mr. Gershkovich before.

But I think it's a very scary time because you don't really know what's going on. And you have to -- you have to wait and see. You've lost entirely control of your life.

BROWN: Right, and the Russian state media is reporting that he didn't even have his lawyer with him during his court appearance today. When was the last time that you heard from Paul and how is he doing now?

WHELAN: Well, unexpectedly, he wasn't able to call our parents today. Normally, he's able to speak to them on a daily basis. He gets 15- minute phone calls from his letter camp, and he has sounded as well as he can, considering the situation.

BROWN: Do you know any -- any other details about why he wasn't able to make that call?

WHELAN: No, I learned about that just before I joined you. So we're a little bit concerned that it's obviously retaliatory or maybe connected to, you know, the Kremlin's overall interest in keeping information from flowing to him about what's going on with Mr. Gershkovich's case. It's difficult to know.

BROWN: Let's talk about the two cases because the State Department said today that comparisons shouldn't be made between Gershkovich's case and your brother's case. What do you think about that? And do you think that this new case makes it more difficult for the U.S. to secure Paul's release?

WHELAN: Well, I think each case can make it more difficult. It's obviously still extortion if that's what they're looking for getting concessions from the U.S. government.

Again at face value, Mr. Gershkovich's case sounds very much like Paul's case, which sounded very much like Edmond Pope's case and Nicholas Daniloff's case.

So, there's this lineage of the Russian federal security services making these attempts on American citizens and detaining them in the hopes of getting something from the U.S. government. Where are you with securing Paul's release and working with the Biden administrations on that?

BROWN: We are waiting and hoping. Unfortunately, I think the U.S. government has used a number of resources to free Americans in Russia in the past, to bring home Trevor Reid and to bring home Brittney Griner, and those resources don't exist anymore, and it's not clear whether they've been able to find new resources that could bring Paul home. I think the concern we have right now, obviously with Mr. Gershkovich's arrest today is that they have not been able to deter the Kremlin from arresting more Americans and charging them with espionage. And so, certainly, my hope is tinged by that.

BROWN: All right. David Whelan, thank you. And best of luck to you and your family. I hope that you hear from Paul soon.

WHELAN: Thanks.

BROWN: I want to bring in two Russia experts. Evelyn Farkas is the former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia. And Tom Firestone, who served as a legal advisor at the U.S. embassy in Moscow.

Evelyn, I want to start with you just to get your reaction of what we just heard from David Whelan.

EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR RUSSIA, UKRAINE, AND EURASIA: Yeah, I mean, Pamela, I'm afraid that this is extortion. As he said the Russian government is looking to make a swap, probably. We know that very recently, one of their spies was nabbed based on U.S. intelligence in the Netherlands. As soon as he arrived in the Netherlands, he was taken off the plane and sent back to Brazil. He had a Brazilian passport.

There may be interested on the Russian side in getting -- and getting a hold of him. And so this might be a gambit to try to get ahold of him.

It's really an escalation, though, to pick an accredited journalist, understandably okay, he's around military facilities, but he's doing his job. He's accredited by our government. He's accredited by the Russian foreign ministry. He should not have been nabbed.

BROWN: What do you think, Tom? And bring us behind the scenes because you used to work at the U.S. embassy in Moscow. What are U.S. officials doing right now to figure out this detention and secure his release?

THOMAS FIRESTONE, FORMER DOJ LEGAL ADVISER: Well, the first thing they need to do is get him. Consular access was already said so they need to get in touch with him. Find out what's going on. Make sure that he's being treated humanely and that he's got a real lawyer, not some lawyer that the FSB assigned to him.

Then, they've got to start thinking about a longer term plan. What are they going to do to get him out? Are there possible swaps as Evelyn mentioned that could be done to get him out.

So there's a lot of work to be done, but the immediate step is to get him consular access.

BROWN: I'm curious just as I was listening to the State Department, listening to the White House, Evelyn. You have the White House saying, condemning this, at the State Department is, saying that there's nothing to these charges.

But the State Department hasn't said that this -- he was wrongfully detained yet. How does -- what are we supposed to make of that?

FARKAS: Well, the State Department is very bureaucratic about these things, Pamela. There about -- I mean, hopefully, they will actually determine that Vladimir Kara-Murza, who's a Russian with a green card also being held in Russia, qualifies for that -- that label, but there are four different things that they have to go through the process. So I think it will just take them a couple of days I guess to go through that process. It's very bureaucratic.

But obviously he's wrongfully detained. He's doing his job. He was not doing anything against Russian law, and certainly not anything against what one would expect a journalist to do.

But I think the danger here is that we're on a slippery slope because the Russians now think that they can just nab Americans and will make deals with them. And understandably, I completely understand why the families want to get their family members home.

But in the past, we've had -- we've had a very strict policy where we wouldn't negotiate. We wouldn't do hostage swaps, at least on paper. And it complicates things when we do them because essentially what now the Russians see is that we're willing to make the deals because politically, it's very hard.

BROWN: So you think with the Brittney Griner situation kind of paved the way to this?

FARKAS: Yes, and Trevor Reed, unfortunately, and I say that because we don't see them nabbing a German, and the Germans are holding someone who murdered -- he murdered a Georgian citizens, so citizen of the Republic of Georgia on German territory, this Russian that the Germans are holding a prison and the Germans have been adamant. They will not swap.

So they won't even let I'm guessing behind the scenes. Even if Americans asked to make a swap for Paul Whelan, they haven't been willing to do it and as a result, you know, maybe no one's going to nab a German.

So it's unfortunate. It's a very tricky situation for the government, for our government.

BROWN: Yeah, what do you think about this? Because the State Department said that these two cases shouldn't be compared between Gershkovich and Paul Whelan. How do you think this complicates Paul Whelan situation? What do you think the U.S. government should do right now?

THOMAS FIRESTONE, FORMER DOJ LEGAL ADVISER, U.S. EMBASSY IN MOSCOW: Well, the cases are obviously comparable because they're both espionage charges and so well and may give us a preview of what Mr. Gershkovich can expect. I think it does complicate Mr. Whelan's release just because, as Evelyn was saying, and as David Whelan was saying, there are now fewer resources that can be used in any exchange, because the main targets that they wanted were already given up in the Reed and Griner exchanges. So I think it's going to make it even harder to get Mr. Whelan out unfortunately.

BROWN: And you mentioned that you think this could be extortion. But do you think there is any connection here between this detention and what's going on in Ukraine right now?

FARKAS: Not necessarily, Pamela. I think this has probably more to do with this Russian spy that has the Brazilian passport that we helped get arrested. And we've also -- I believe we've also essentially accused him of spying in the United States. He was here in Washington, D.C., at Johns Hopkins for several years, spying -- effectively spying and we have rules about whether you can spy or not.

This was like Maria Butina, if you remember that case. She also was spying. And you can work for the Russian government out of the embassy and be involved in intelligence. But you cannot spy as an undercover operative in this fashion. It's just against the rules, if you will.

BROWN: I'm curious, given the fact as Evelyn laid out. Look, this is an accredited U.S. journalist just doing his job. Does this add to the urgency from U.S. officials to secure his release given his role?

FIRESTONE: Well, absolutely. I mean, they should be working for the release of all wrongfully detained American citizens, but an attack on a journalist, as Evelyn rightly said, this is an escalation. I mean, the last one I remember was Nicholas Daniloff in 1986,, when they arrested him as part of an exchange to get a Soviet diplomat back from New York.

So I think it is an escalation. I think it's a very serious situation. I would just say, I think it might have been the case that Evelyn mentioned, Cherkasov in Brazil. There were also two illegals, Russian illegals arrested in Slovenia recently as well. So it may be connected to that.

But I think they just look for every opportunity. They got one and now they're going to try to use it for whatever exchange, they can get.

BROWN: Very, very troubling. Tom Firestone, Evelyn Farkas, thank you for helping us better understand the situation. We appreciate it.

And just before word of this detained "Wall Street Journal" reporter, Donald Trump video boldly defending Vladimir Putin.

Also ahead, the secret deal revealed the backroom agreement on Supreme Court cases that helped define gay rights in the United States.

But, first, that tragic crash in Kentucky. Two Black Hawk helicopters down and nine service members killed.

We're back in a moment.


BROWN: And we are back with our national lead, and what an Army commander and Kentucky calls a, quote, tragic loss. Nine U.S. soldiers are dead after two Black Hawk helicopters collided during a nighttime training exercise near Fort Campbell.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher is there as investigators try to uncover why this training mission went so wrong.



DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fort Campbell, the home of the 101st Airborne Division in morning nine of their own killed when two Black Hawk helicopters crashed over neighboring trade county, Kentucky after a routine training mission late Wednesday night.

BRIG. GEN. JOHN LUBAS, DEPUTY COMMANDER FOR OPERATORS, 101ST AIRBORNE DIVISION: I would like to express our deepest sympathies to the families of our fallen soldiers.

GALLAGHER: Debris from the helicopters can be seen in photos from near the crash site, where investigators from an aircraft safety team out of Fort Rucker, Alabama, will now be tasked with determining the cause of the crash.

LUBAS: You have something very similar to the black boxes that we see on the larger aircraft. And we're hopeful that that will provide quite a bit of information of what -- what occurred.

GALLAGHER: CNN learning there were originally four aircraft on the exercise, with one stopping to refuel, leaving one black hawk flying ahead. Of the two helicopters that crashed. One had four service members on board, the other five.

Brigadier General John Lubas saying Thursday that the crews were training on flying a multi-ship formation with night vision goggles, adding that the helicopters were training for medical evacuations.

LUBAS: We believe that they were -- the action occurred when they were doing flying, not deliberate medical of actual evacuation drills.

GALLAGHER: A witness in Trigg County, describing the crash to WKDZ radio.

JAMES HUGHES, WITNESSED CRASH: Two helicopters came over pretty low and all of a sudden, you know, as soon as they got over the house, something popped -- loud, loud banging and everything shut down just all of a sudden.

GALLAGHER: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, releasing a statement Thursday afternoon, saying: I'm saddened by this tragic loss, and I am working with army leadership to make sure our troops and their families receive the care that they need in the wake of this accident.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear rushing to Fort Campbell Thursday morning, offering support to the military community. GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D), KENTUCKY: We're going to wrap our arms around

these families. And we're going to be there with them, not just for the days, but the weeks and the months and the years to come.


GALLAGHER (on camera): Now, we will -- we will learn the identities of those nine who were killed in that crash 24 hours after they complete family notification. We are told that some of the family members live outside of the country, and so they have worked on that throughout the day.

Now, in terms of any sort of stand down on the Black Hawk aircraft, the Department Defense saying that they're not tracking anything like that at this point, noting that in the past, sometimes there's been systemic issues that they have stayed so down on other aircraft. But that is not in the works at this moment to their knowledge -- Pamela.

BROWN: All right. Diane Gallagher, thank you very much.

And also from the Pentagon today, confirmation that six U.S. service members suffered traumatic brain injuries and last week series of attacks on U.S. troops in Syria. The U.S. hit back. The Pentagon revealed a retaliatory U.S. strike, killing eight Iranian-backed militants. It was, quote, proportionate and deliberate.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is at the Pentagon.

So, Oren, what more do we know about these injured U.S. service members?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Pamela, we know this is a result of a series of attacks we saw against basis with U.S. troops in Syria, four or five attacks within a span of about 36 hours. So let's break this down, how we get the six because it comes from two different sites in Syria with us forces.

The first attack that we saw and essentially that started, what we saw in this chain of events was on Thursday, early morning, Syria time when a number of suicide drones were launched at the Hasakah facility, which houses U.S. troops in far north east Syria. That attack and this we learned almost immediately afterwards resulted in the deaths of one U.S. contractor as well as the injuries of five U.S. service members and another contractor.

But in subsequent screening for traumatic brain injuries, we learned earlier today that four service members at that site, the Hasakah site, suffered traumatic brain injuries, according to the Pentagon. They're in stable condition were treated at the site and with the latest update remain at that position. But there were other attacks and other positions, Conoco and Green Village, and those lead to more traumatic brain injuries.

Pamela, the Pentagon saying there may be more as they screen other U.S. service members.

BROWN: Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon. Thank you for that report.

Up next, drama in the House. With the mood so tense on Capitol Hill, is there any hope of working together?



BROWN: In our politics lead, Donald Trump is again defending Russian President Vladimir Putin and slamming a likely 2024 rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for calling Putin who launched a brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, a war criminal.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Such as Mitt Romney and Ron DeSantis, very much alike, who insist on arrogantly treating Russia as deeply inferior to the other nations of the world, with no history or culture or pride are not only ignorant and foolish, but their attitude makes it impossible to negotiate peace, implying that Putin must be tried and presumably executed as a war criminal only increases the chance of deadly nuclear escalation.


BROWN: All right. So let's discuss. Gentlemen, great to see you.

Adam, I'm going to start with you. Here we are. Putin as we well know, we've seen what's been playing out in Ukraine. He is also accused by the International Criminal Court of committing war crimes against Ukrainian children.

What do you make of Trump objecting to DeSantis, calling Putin a war criminal?

ADAM KINZINGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, look, Trump's just -- I've got to just -- I'm going to take the like, you know, analytic hat off and kind of opinion hat. He's a huge, huge problem with this in terms of -- with Russia and in terms of his praise for authoritarians, and he's also one of the weakest, scarediest, most afraid of action presidents that have ever been president of the United States.

I mean, he was always scared to react to anything. I give him credit for the Soleimani kill, but that's about it.

And with Russia, he's saying, well, look, all you're going to do is caused Vladimir Putin to use nuclear weapons like he's some kind of victim again. Vladimir Putin is the evil man. He was indicted by the ICC, the criminal court, which, by the way, we are the party, too, but for Donald Trump to come out once again and defend Vladimir Putin, remember he used to go after Angela Merkel. And then in the same sentence, go after Ron DeSantis and Mitt Romney as if they're the enemy, it's just -- it's -- it is time for every Republican to say that this is wrong or else you are complicit in it. BROWN: All right. Let's talk a little bit more about DeSantis,

Bakari, because he made an appearance in Georgia today and a business that bills itself as the world's largest gun store. This comes, of course, just four days after that Nashville school shooting, a trend from Republicans, according to "The New York Times". Quote: After a mass shooting at an elementary school in Texas last year prompted calls for new gun restrictions, Republican led states around the country moved in the other direction.

One of them was Tennessee, where the governor insisted that tighter firearms laws would never deter wrongdoers.

What does this say to you, Bakari, about the prospect for legislation addressing guns?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't have any hope that there's going to be any legislation addressing guns and as a father of two 4-year-olds and 17-year-old, it just -- it frightens me because you never know when you're going to get that phone call. You never know when it can be your school.

But the thing that's more depressing about the actual act is the inaction of the United States, Congress and the inaction and let me just say -- Ron DeSantis is a coward. If he will not stand up for our children and protect our children with actual thoughtful ideas, but instead, he's pandering to the gun lobby today in Georgia -- I mean, that is the definition of cowardice.

And so what -- Democrat or Republican, there has to be some ground whereby we can ensure that people who do not need guns cannot get them and slaughter our babies. That should not be something that happens in this country with such great frequency.

Ron DeSantis, though, is having another problem, which is that he's going to he's dipping in the polls. He's having that problem of running up against as Adam knows what is Donald Trump's party and running up against Donald Trump, who was a brutal campaigner. And so, he's trying to do these things to garner attention?

But what -- what it's also showing us is that he doesn't have the courage to be president of the United States, because now he's at a gun lobby at a gun show, just a few days after babies were killed.

BROWN: I want to get your thoughts on this, Adam, because you have been a defender of gun rights. But you did say last year that you would be open to an AR-15 ban and I'm wondering, have your views evolved even more since all of these shootings involving these assault style rifles and all of these babies in school being killed?

KINZINGER: Yeah. I mean, it's -- I'm open to it. I think here's the where we need to go first off. We've got to raise the age to purchase these nationwide to 21. Now, that wouldn't have stopped it in this case. We need to be very clear. But it would have been a lot of the other shootings.

And I think, even start with -- you have to have a special background checks, special license, first off, universal background checks. I voted for that, but a special license to buy something like an AR.

Here's the thing. Bakari and I may not be at the exact same spot on guns on this, but I think we could come up with a reasonable compromise. What bothers me about Second Amendment defenders is instead of being out there trying to solve the problem. They're out there bragging being like, come get my gun. Come get my gun. You can't take it.

Well, listen, Second Amendment defenders, the next generation coming up is not a defender of the Second Amendment and those are going to go away unless you come to the table and try to figure out how to mitigate this problem.

BROWN: All right. I'm going to turn to something else, and that is -- well, we've been talking about Capitol Hill, but also just the degradation of politics right now that we are seeing on Capitol Hill. The latest example is between Congressman Mike Johnson and Delegates Stacey Plaskett.

Let's watch.


REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Objection --

DEL. STACEY PLASKETT (D-USVI): Another thing we can examine because he's not here.

JORDAN: There you go.

PLASKETT: Thank you.

JORDAN: You can examine it. It's a document. He's going to --

PLASKETT: No, examine him for what he wrote and the intent behind what he said. Okay --

JORDAN: I would just point out that -- that's - that's -- unanimous consents are for documents and we've got the document right here, and he handed to you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Chairman. I would ask unanimous consent --

JORDAN: The chair now recognizes Ms. Wasserman Schultz for her --


BROWN: And Plaskett tweeting this about the incident. Quote: Message to house GOP. Do not try to mansplain me.

Bakari, what do you make of this?

SELLERS: Well, let me tell you one thing that does not need to occur is Bakari Sellers speaking for Delegate Plaskett. She's one of the baddest people, baddest women on Capitol Hill. But just that tenor and tone, the level of disrespect that oozed in treating your colleagues, in treating Delegate Plaskett, I just don't -- I don't understand it.


I mean, I served in the general assembly. I did not serve in Washington, D.C.

But even then, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and it was a different decorum. Now, people just want to get on TV. Now, people just want to be disrespectful. Now people just want to have their viral moment.

And just as a gentleman, I would say that the way that you treat your colleagues and the way that he treated this woman who serves her constituents honorably was beneath his office. And so I don't want to speak for delegate plastic because she's badder than I'll ever be, but that disrespect and decorum is worse than a preschool class.

BROWN: I'm wondering, I mean, given the fact that you used to work on Capitol Hill, not that long ago, Adam Kinzinger. Do you think that it's gotten even worse on the hill since you left? What do you think?

KINZINGER: Oh, wait. It's gotten way worse. It was getting bad anyway, got way worse. I don't like when it's like, don't come in mansplaining to me, but at the same time, if you watch the Oversight Committee, it is a complete dog and pony show run by Jim Jordan. It's gotten way worse, way worse, I hate to say it.

BROWN: All right. Adam Kinzinger, Bakari Sellers, thank you so much, gentlemen.

KINZINGER: Thank you.

BROWN: And just in to CNN, sources -- what they are telling CNN about another hush money payments question by the Manhattan grand jury involving Donald Trump are going to have that for you right after this quick break. Stay with us.



BROWN: Just in to CNN: sources say New York prosecutors are asking questions about a second hush money payment aimed at covering up an alleged affair between Donald Trump and a former Playboy model before the 2016 election.

CNN's Kara Scannell is right outside that courthouse in New York.

Kara, this is part of the same grand jury investigation as the Stormy Daniels payment, right?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Pam, that's right. I mean, this grand jury is investigating the hush money payments and former President Donald Trump's alleged role in them. And we're learning now from sources that the grand jury has been

hearing, prosecutors asked questions about that other hush money payment deal. We've been talking so much about the payment to silence Stormy Daniels.

But there was also that payment the same year 2016 to silence Karen McDougal. She was a former Playboy model who alleged that she had an affair with Trump. Sources tell us that witnesses have heard or the grand jury has heard from witnesses and answering questions about that 2016 deal involving McDougal in that deal. It was $150,000 payment that AMI, the publisher of "The National Enquirer" spent to silence McDougal before her story could go public before the election.

As you recall the former publisher of the "National Enquirer", David Pecker testified before the grand jury again on Monday. He is a key witness in this investigation because he has knowledge of both of those alleged hush money payment deals, and he has had communications with the former president. He's a long time friend of Donald Trump's, and over the over decades, he has been involved in these so called catch and kill deals.

So, this is another detail that we're learning as this grand juries continuing to investigate former President Donald Trump's role in hush money payments -- Pam.

BROWN: All right. Kara Scannell, thank you so much.

Well, secret deal making between two Supreme Court justices steer the outcome of a pair of key gay rights disputes before the high court, shortly after that landmark Obergefell ruling, which declared a constitutional right to same sex marriage.

CNN senior Supreme Court analyst Joan Biskupic is here to explain and she is the author of the soon to be published book, "Nine Black Robes: Inside the Supreme Court's Drive to the Right and Its Historic Consequences".

All right. So you report extensively on this deal-making behind the scenes at the high court, which so rarely we get an insight into. So tell us more about this.


Okay, so the chief dissents from the 2015 Obergefell ruling and he's so angry that he dissents from the bench, and it's the first time ever that he does that. And he says, you know, just who do we think we are doing this when state legislature should do this if they're going to have any kind of right to same sex marriage?

But then, just two years later, he privately worked with Anthony Kennedy, who was the author of the Obergefell ruling to gay rights decisions. In one, he joins with Kennedy to uphold the interests of two lesbian women who want both names on a birth certificate of their baby in Arkansas. He compromises there to go with Kennedy within separately, Kennedy does something for him. And decides that he will vote to hear this case of a Colorado baker, who'd been sanctioned for refusing to bake a cake for a gay couple.

BROWN: So how common are these kinds of trade offs?

BISKUPIC: You know, Pam, they hate that we even talk about these. They act like there's no deal making at all. They'd say this is not a legislature.

But, of course, these kinds of deals occur and they often occur with the chief breaking off working one on one. Sometimes you can find out through clerks. Sometimes only the justices involved know and sometimes justices in other chambers are baffled by what happened.

BROWN: Which is what makes your reporting that much more extraordinary that you were able to get all of these fascinating details of behind the scenes deal-making. Just two of the five members of the Obergefell majority still serve on the court. What could that mean for that ruling if the court revisit same sex marriage?

BISKUPIC: Well, you know, there was a time when I would have said they will never overturn Obergefell. But there was also a time when I said they will never overturned Roe. And in fact, this summer, when they overturned Roe v. Wade after nearly 50 years of precedent, Justice Clarence Thomas encouraged his colleagues to go back and revisit Obergefell.

Now, Justice Samuel Alito said it's not going to happen, what we did. At least it's not going to happen based on what they did in Dobbs. But I say all bets are off now.

And you know, that's the kind of thing that could occur down the road. I'm definitely not predicting it. But I did once upon a time say that they would never touch Roe.

BROWN: Yeah, a lot of people did. Joan Biskupic, author of "Nine Black Robes: Inside the Supreme Court's Drive to the Right and Its Historic Consequences".


Can't wait to read it. Thank you, Joan.


BROWN: And we are just hours away from Wolf Blitzer's big interview with the former Vice President Mike Pence right here on CNN. Wolf joins us now.

Wolf, you're going to be setting the stage for this conversation up next in THE SITUATION ROOM and laying out what's at stake for Pence, and it's a lot.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: It certainly is, Pamela. The stakes really are enormous for the former vice president of the United States. Right now, he's just been ordered by a federal judge to comply with the special counsel's subpoena, the January 6th investigation. He has -- he says he has nothing to hide, but it's still unclear whether he'll appeal that ruling or go ahead and give testimony to the grand jury without a fight. All this, of course, comes as he is weighing whether or not he'll launch a formal run for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

Right now, all signs are certainly pointing to yes. He's back here in Washington now after a trip to Iowa, which is all of us know is certainly an important sign of a candidate laying the groundwork for a presidential campaign. I should note, we'll be getting into a lot more of this beyond all the politics and the criminal investigations during my extensive interview with the former vice president later tonight, get Pence's thoughts on key, important domestic and foreign policy issues, including the news of the day, the arrest of this American journalist in Russia.

We'll preview, of course, some of this coming up in "THE SITUATION ROOM". We'll also cover today's top stories as we do every day. So we got a lot going on, Pamela.

BROWN: Yeah, a lot going on, no shortage of topics today. We'll be watching that interview tonight, 9:00 p.m. Thanks, Wolf. And we'll see you in just a few minutes in "THE SITUATION ROOM".

Wolf's interview with former Vice President Mike Pence is live once again tonight on CNN PRIMETIME at 9:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

And now turning to Minnesota in our national lead. You're looking right here at another potentially toxic train derailment. This BNSF train carrying ethanol went off the tracks and caught fire at 1:00 a.m., forcing residents in this small town of Raymond, that's about 100 miles west of Minneapolis to evacuate in the middle of the night. The sheriff in Raymond says it is now safe for evacuees to return home.

And up next here, right on THE LEAD, the creative attempt to capture your attention on the big screen. We're going to tell you about that, right after this quick break.



BROWN: In our pop lead, a newly highly anticipated movie is hitting the big screen and we have a look behind the scenes with its creators.

Let's take it over to Jake Tapper.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: From the basement to the big screen, "Dungeons and Dragons", or "D and D", it began as a role-playing board game that millions of fantasy fans have used to escape reality since 1974. Now, decades later this game commonly associated with dare I say nerd culture is leveling up. The "D and D" role players are A-list Hollywood actors in this new film.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And some blade. How's the weight? Does it, Perry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're about to lose your head. This is what you're concerned with.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Okay, chop it off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chop it off. Let's do it.


TAPPER: With me now, the writers and directors or, dare I say the dungeon masters of the film "Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves", starring Michelle Rodriguez and Chris Pine, as you saw there, Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley.

Congratulations, guys. The movie is just really, really exciting.


TAPPER: So, Jonathan, let me start with you. You were rolling the proverbial 20-sided die by taking this game beloved by millions of fantasy fans, perhaps, perhaps sometimes referred to as nerds, and turning it into a film. How far away from the rules of the game and the conceit of the game were you willing to go?

JONATHAN GOLDSTEIN, DIRECTOR, "DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: HONOR AMONG THIEVES": Well, the good news about dungeons and dragons is that there are no limits to it. It's really a game that comes from your own creativity. And that as filmmakers gave us the freedom to go a number of different places with it.

TAPPER: So, John, past screen adaptations of "Dungeons and Dragons" were not great. In terms of appealing to both fans of the game, like my crew guy right here, and people who would really normally never go to a fantasy film, how would you say this film differs from previous attempts?

GOLDSTEIN: Well, it was sort of the same approach that we took when we wrote "Spiderman Homecoming", where we knew that we had to do a certain amount of fans service, but we also didn't want to alienate everyone else.

So it was really figuring out how to straddle that line in appealing to the core fan base, but also making something that works for general audiences everywhere.

TAPPER: And, Jonathan, when some of your cast, Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, some others when they arrived in Ireland to shoot two years ago. I'm told you all played a several hours long game of "D&D", a game that you played as a kid.

Did anything from that game informed the film? GOLDSTEIN: It did. It was actually really useful. I mean, we didn't have a lot of rehearsal time because of the restrictions of COVID. You know, everybody had to quarantine when they got to Northern Ireland. So we thought it would be valuable to really give our actors a sense of what the game is like. Let them immerse themselves in the world for a few hours and play as their characters.

TAPPER: You're obviously no strangers to comedy. You made game night, for example, lots of other comedy hits. Would you say, John, that you put comedy first in the film or action in the film, or just whatever worked in the moment?


DALEY: To us, "D&D" is no stranger to comedy, generally. It's the one sort of fantasy property where you really can kind of explore the humorous side of things. It was. It's baked into the DNA of the game.

TAPPER: Jonathan, what's something you could tell us about the production of this movie that maybe hardcore fans of the game would lose their minds over.

GOLDSTEIN: Well, we had an advisor on set with us at all time who would lean into our ears and say that's got a somatic component that spell. She's got to do something with her hands, and then she's got to say this thing. So we tried to be as true to the mechanics of the game, as we possibly could, with certain exceptions.

For example, you have to rest for a period of time after you do certain things in the game, and we felt that that would not be the most cinematic approach to see our characters resting.

TAPPER: That's hilarious.

Well, the movie's great. Congratulations. Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, thanks so much.

GOLDSTEIN: Thank you.

DALEY: Thank you very much.

GOLDSTEIN: Appreciate it.


BROWN: And our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM".