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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Time Running Out For Biden, McCarthy To Reach Debt Ceiling Deal; Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) Is Interviewed About Debt Ceiling Deal; Federal Judge Who Suspended Abortion Pill Failed To Report Interviews In Which He Discussed Social Issues; Oklahoma Court Rejects Recommendation For New Trial For Death Row Inmate Richard Glossip; Myanmar Military Leader Escalates Brutal Civilian Killings; CEO Praises Employee For Selling Family Dog To Return To Office. Aired 5- 6p ET

Aired April 20, 2023 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The White House refused to negotiate at all with House Republicans. And perhaps most worrisome for McCarthy, Republican lawmakers who said they don't support the House speaker's plan. We're covering this story for both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue. CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill. CNN's Phil Mattingly at the White House for us.

Manu, Speaker McCarthy, just remind everyone, needs 218 votes to get the bill passed. He has a slim majority. He's not going to get any Democratic support. Does he have the numbers in his own party to get this passed?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kevin McCarthy is insisting that he will have the numbers. But at the moment, he does not because a number of the members simply are not decided yet, they are still reviewing the details, this 320 page bill released just yesterday, something that has been the product of negotiations internally among Republicans for the past several weeks that would raise the national debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion. The debt ceiling already 31 point 4 trillion.

Including in that, a range of conservative policy priorities and cuts across the board and domestic programs, including adding a plan to block President Biden's loan forgiveness program initiative that rescinding new funding for the Internal Revenue Service as part of the Democrats Inflation Reduction Act that was enacted last Congress. It would also boost new -- provide new work requirements for social safety net programs like Medicaid.

But even as including some of those provisions intended to appease conservatives, some conservatives are not there yet. Even as the White House is insisting that they will simply reject this measure, and some Democrats too are concerned that the White House needs to negotiate with Speaker McCarthy in order to avoid a default.


RAJU: Still struggling with it?

BURCHETT: Yes, I'm still struggling with the fact that we were $32 trillion in debt.

RAJU: Like you mean now?

BURCHETT: It was right now I'd be a no.

REP. JARED MOSKOWITZ (D-FL): Yes, I think the Speaker of the House and the President of the United States should always talk. Right? And so should the leader of the Senate, they should always be talking. So I think Joe Biden shouldn't be talking to Kevin McCarthy, even if those conversations right now prove nothing productive. But I do think they should be talking.

RAJU: And what is your fear if they're -- these talks don't happen?

MOSKOWITZ: Well, my fear is that this gets pushed all the way to the last moment. And then if we're at the last moment and things fall apart, we go off -- we go off the cliff for the first time in default, which will be absolutely catastrophic.


RAJU: So the last congressman, Democrat Jared Moskowitz, among a part of Democrats who are calling for the White House, the Senate Democrats to change their posture, get to the negotiating table with Kevin McCarthy is something that the White House has said absolutely no to as they called on Congress to simply raise the national debt limit without any conditions whatsoever.

And I asked the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, how they would approach this next week if the House does in fact approve a bill, a Republican bill along party lines, he told me they will not change their stance. He said, everything stays the same, no brinksmanship, no hostage taking clean, clean, clean. Meaning he believes that debt ceiling must be increased without any conditions, something that speaker McCarthy has rejected for months.

TAPPER: Yes. And Phil, the White House, President Biden, they've been clear that they're not going to negotiate with Republicans on this. But now that they've seen a plan, has the administration changed its stance in any way? I mean, there is the plan right there.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. To some degree -- the short answer is no. And to some degree, they've only hardened in their position. They have leveled no shortage of attacks at very specific elements of that proposal. They believe they hold the political high ground when you compare the President's budget released last month and the proposal speaker Kevin McCarthy released yesterday.

But when it comes to the debt ceiling, Manu has it nailed down, they are very firm on the idea that there will be no negotiations, that they cannot negotiate over long term fiscal issues, which the President, they say, is more than welcome or more than willing to talk about after the idea of a hostage taking situations, in their words, is taken off the table.

Now the question of sustainability, durability of that position, is I think one that's kind of up in the air right now. As Manu mentioned, Democratic leaders in the House and Senate very much in line, spoke to the President by phone earlier this week, rank and file up to this point, have maintained their position behind the White House. Whether or not that starts to shift like you heard from Congressman Moskowitz, that could change the dynamic. But for right now, they are dead set on the fact that there will be no negotiations over the debt ceiling. Fiscal negotiations, those can start after, Jake.

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

Joining us now to discuss Republican Congressman Chris Stewart of Utah. He's on the House Appropriations Committee.

Congressman, Speaker McCarthy can only lose four House Republican votes and still get the bill passed because no Democrats are going to vote for it. Do you -- does the speaker have the votes right now?

REP. CHRIS STEWART (R-UT): I don't think he does right now. And I think that's evidenced by several members have come out and talked with media and said they wouldn't vote for it right now. But I'll tell you, Jake, I think he will. I'm confident that he will.

The conversations within our conference among Republicans has actually been very positive. There's not a lot of people, you know, staking out a position and saying I won't move from this, you've got to give me this. There's been a willingness to compromise.


And we all know that the outcome, you know, if we don't have a proposal we can give the President is just so unacceptable. No one wants to default. No one wants to have the threat of default.

And for us to force a conversation with the President, we have to be able to put forward our proposal. So I think we're going to see that legislation passed next week. Again, I'm confident of that, Jake.

But I tell you this as well, I can't imagine the President saying, just simply, I won't even discuss this with you, I won't have any conversation with you, which is a position fairly inconsistent that he's taken in the past, for example, many of us remember, you know, conversations taking place between John Boehner and President Obama on New Year's Eve, about 10 years ago. Well, Vice President Biden at the time was the person responsible for negotiating. And we're just asking for the same opportunity. Come to the table, and please discuss this with us.

TAPPER: Yes, I mean, I think his position is, he'll discuss it but not attached to the debt ceiling vote, that he will discuss the need to reduce the deficit and the debt. And just for those keeping track, the national debt is $30 trillion. I don't even -- I can't even fathom that figure.

So your Republican colleague, Congresswoman Nancy Mace of South Carolina, she said that she is leaning towards no. And this is why, take a listen.


REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): I don't see a plan to balance the budget over the next decade. It gives me a little bit of heartburn. This is an opportunity to show the country that we can lead on the fiscal responsibility.


TAPPER: So her argument is, how about a 10 year blueprint that gets us to zero deficits? That seems like a reasonable issue.

STEWART: Yes, it certainly does. And it's one that Republicans have been advocating for quite a while.

And, Jake, you said something that I think is reflected in a lot of American people, Republicans and Democrats, when you start talking 30 to $33 trillion in debt, when you realize we've spent $12 trillion in the last two years, I mean, people know, you don't have to be a mathematician to know, that's completely unsustainable. And we say, well, we're kicking the can down the road for our children, our grandchildren, no, we're not, not with those kinds of numbers, that we'll have to correct. That will correct in a short period of time.

And again, I think Democrats and some of my progressive colleagues are uncomfortable with those kinds of numbers. So -- and we just feel like the debt ceiling, as has been in the past, the debt ceiling is an opportunity to try to address that. Sequester, something was very unpopular, it was very -- it was very controversial, but it did do one thing, it did cut government spending, it did have savings. I think some of us feel like this is an opportunity to try to move towards that goal.

TAPPER: Yes. So, here's the other issue about this whole debate is that even if speaker McCarthy gets every single Republican on board in the House, this plan has no chance of passing the Senate because Democrats are in charge there.


TAPPER: An argument could be made as a -- just as an Independent voter. If you're really serious about negotiating about solving this problem, why not have House Republicans passed a bill that Senate Democrats or at least enough of them are willing to go ahead on because that would actually show a seriousness?

STEWART: Well, because we don't know what that would be. We have no idea what the Senate Democrats would consider agreeable because, as you know, the Senate Majority Leader, Mr. Schumer said the same thing the President said, I won't even discuss it. So, we have no idea what the Senate would accept. And if they would have a conversation with this, maybe we could do what you've proposed. We would love to have a conversation and see if there's some bipartisan agreement, see if there's some area in the middle. But since they won't discuss with this, neither the Senate nor the President, all we're left to do then is to say OK, this is what we would like, this is something that we think is it to the benefit of our economic future. And now, please, discuss it with us.

And we'll see if they will. We hope that they will.

TAPPER: Republican Congressman Chris Stewart of Utah, thanks so much, sir. Good to see you as always.

STEWART: Thank you.

TAPPER: Here to respond, White House Senior Adviser Mitch Landrieu.

Mr. Landrieu, good to see you. A growing number of House Democrats calling on President Biden to meet with Speaker McCarthy. We just heard from Congressman Jared Moskowitz of Florida, a Democrat, in that piece that we heard earlier, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell said something similar to CNN's Manu Raju, what's the harm in talking, McCarthy Biden sit down, hash it out. Will President Biden sit down with the speaker?

MITCH LANDRIEU, WHITE HOUSE SR. ADVISER & INFRASTRUCTURE IMPLEMENTATION COORDINATOR: Well, I don't want to get ahead of the President on what he's going to do. But one of the messages he wants to send clearly to everybody in this country is that you can't hold America's full faith and credit hostage with a threat to basically take a hatchet to the budget, they're two separate things, whether it was President Reagan or President Trump and now President Biden, the debt ceiling is not something to be trifled with. And that's what's happening right now.


So, I think what the President would like to see happen is for the grownups in the room to basically just pass the debt ceiling bill, like they've done many, many, many, many times before. And then if the Speaker of the House and the members of the House of Representatives and the Congress want to have a discussion about what the right vision for the country is, I think the President's all ears. And as you know, the President has already not only put his budget proposal out, but in the last two years, pass for the largest bills that we've seen that has created 12.6 million jobs, actually 800,000 manufacturing jobs and has lifted up millions of Americans.

But you know, if you want to know where the values are, in this equation, the Speaker of the House went to Wall Street the other day to talk about his plan for the wealthiest of Americans. And the President, of course, was in Maryland talking to the working men and women of the United States of America. And I think that one of the concerns is if you want to have the debate about budget cuts and about how we reduce the deficit in a way that helps working Americans, let's have that, but decouple it from the debt bill that's going to threaten the U.S. economy, it's going to hurt people, it's going to devastate the progress that we've made. So let's get serious, past the debt limit bill, that if you want to talk about budget cuts, and you want to talk about how we're going to grow the economy, we're all in.

TAPPER: So, I understand the White House view, you want the clean debt limit increase, and then you're willing to negotiate for future spending. The point of view from House Republicans is if President Biden isn't willing to sit down with Republicans now, why should they believe that he would ever be willing to negotiate in good faith on such a divisive and, quite frankly, an issue that nobody wants to actually solve because it requires imposing pain one way or the other, whether it's tax increases...


TAPPER: -- or spending cuts, or both?

LANDRIEU: Well, let me say this, the President has great confidence in his vision for America. And the fact of the matter is that all of the polling data, and the responses that we get indicated that the American people really like what the President has been doing from his investments in roads and bridges and airports and ports and clean air, safe water, fighting wildfires, fighting drought, increasing pay for firefighters, supporting veterans, supporting health care, reducing costs, those are all things that the American people like. They also understand that in America, just like all of our mamas and daddies taught us, you pay your debts, especially the ones that you've incurred already. And you don't threaten people, in an effort to bring in hatchet to what you think the American people might or might not like.

If you really have a lot of confidence in it, let's just have a straight up negotiation on the budget. We're happy to do that all the time. But you cannot threaten the full faith and credit of the United States of America because it's going to tank the economy.

And right now with 12 point 1 million jobs on the line that's critically important. On top of that, in the bill that the speaker proposed, it actually reduces elements of the Inflation Reduction Act that sends jobs overseas and gives the jobs to somebody else when the President thinks that we ought to be returning manufacturing jobs to the United States of America.


LANDRIEU: So let's just not make it up as we go. Let's do what we've always done, pass the debt limit bill, come down, have a serious negotiation. And if your vision is to cut taxes for the wealthy and cut programs for the poor and cut programs for the middle class in America, you know what, if you can sell that dog so that that dog can't (ph) have added but we think you can.

TAPPER: So, I've been in this town longer than you because you were down in New Orleans --

LANDRIEU: You're a lot older than I am, too, Jake. TAPPER: I don't know. Actually, I don't know how old you are. I'm 54. How old are you?

LANDRIEU: I'm about 82.

TAPPER: So, I'm old enough to remember when we had this whole thing playing out when Obama was president and there was a commission set up, this is what politicians do, to kick the can down the road, they set up a blue ribbon commission. This one was called the Bowles- Simpson commission to come up with a plan to reduce the deficit and eliminate the national debt, which again, is 30 to $33 trillion. And, you know, it came up with a bipartisan plan, which is the only way that this is going to happen, which includes spending cuts the Democrats didn't want and spending cuts in defense that Republicans didn't want --


TAPPER: -- and also tax increases. OK? Then that's everybody, like who's not running for office understands like that's how you'd get this solved, because it's so big right now. And then President Obama distanced himself from that plan. That was his own commission.

And so, I can't take any of this seriously. Nobody wants to solve the problem, because it's going to require imposing pain on people that politicians are -- then they're going to turn around and ask for their votes.

LANDRIEU: All right, you -- are you old enough to remember that when Ronald Reagan was president, you're certainly old enough to remember when Donald Trump was president that they didn't have a fight over the debt limit? The same Republican --

TAPPER: Of course, it's all hypocrisy, 100 percent.

LANDRIEU: So, wait, that's the first point.

TAPPER: All right.

LANDRIEU: Secondly, obviously, the deficit is a problem. The President knows that. The President's proposals have actually reduced the deficit by a substantial amount of money and $3 trillion is on the table. The question is how you reduce the deficit. Do you reduce the deficit by giving a tax cut to the wealthy and given a break to Big Pharma and big oil and then cutting services to everybody else like veterans and firefighters and police officers? Are you going to reduced the deficit --


LANDRIEU: -- by investing in America and making sure that Big Pharma and the folks that have a lot of money actually pay their fair share? The President is ready to have that fight. Let's talk about who's got the best plan for reducing the deficit. And yes, get serious about it.

[17:15:10] But that's different from holding the full faith and credit of the United States of America --

TAPPER: Yes, yes.

LANDRIEU: -- as a hostage, that is a fact.

TAPPER: All right.

LANDRIEU: We can have that fight later on. And you know what, we're all in. We're ready to do it. And we're ready to have that discussion. But just pass the debt limit bill and let the adults in the room start governing the country.

TAPPER: All right. Mr. Mayor, good to see you as always.

LANDRIEU: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up, he's the Texas judge who imposed in near total ban on abortion drug, mifepristone. Now CNN has dug up a radio interview that he probably should have disclosed before he was confirmed as a judge.

Plus, one employee says he sold his family dog in order to return to work in person and the CEO applauded. Wait until you hear what the CEO said about single parents.


TAPPER: In our health lead, as we await the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on the fate of the controversial ruling from Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Texas blocking access to the popular abortion bill -- pill mifepristone, CNN's KFILE team has uncovered two undisclosed interviews Kacsmaryk gave Christian talk radio in which the soon to be federal judge referred to being gay as a lifestyle and express concern with growing cultural acceptance for, quote, "people who experience same sex attraction," unquote, and lots more. Andrew Kaczynski of CNN's KFILE joins us now live with the details.


And Andrew, the judge, you say, did not disclose these interviews during the confirmation process even though he was supposed to?

ANDREW KACZYNSKI, CNN KFILE SENIOR EDITOR: Yes, that's right. He's supposed to disclose any interviews, media articles that he's written. And he didn't disclose these two interviews that he did on Christian talk radio, where he talks about gay rights and contraception. And what's interesting is that gay rights and abortion were two issues that proved to be flashpoints during his nomination process, he was asked about these again and again and again. Both of these interviews took place in 2014. They were shared by his employer at the time.

And he was brought on by, according to the host's own words, to talk about the homosexual agenda. And I'm just going to run through a few of the things that he said on the show. Now, he said that the federal government had joined the culture war against same sex marriage opponents, he says being gay is "a lifestyle." The host brings up that Christian groups he feels like could eventually be viewed as hostile to the government, almost in line with al-Qaeda, and he says he agrees.

And just take a listen to this quote where he talks about divorce, contraception and the sexual revolution.


JUDGE MATTHEW KACSMARYK, TEXAS DISTRICT JUDGE: Yes, and I just want to make very clear, people who experiences same sex attraction are not responsible individually or solely for the atmosphere of the sexual revolution. You know, it's a long time coming, you know, it came after no-fault divorce. It came after we implemented very permissive policies on contraception. You know, the sexual revolution has gone through several phases. We just happen to be at the pace now where same sex marriage is at the fore.


TAPPER: Whoa, very permissive policies on contraception. That's an interesting turn of phrase. What is Judge Kacsmaryk saying now about why he didn't disclose these radio interviews before his Senate confirmation?

KACZYNSKI: So we did reach out to his chamber, and what Kacsmaryk told us was that he did do a search for these interviews. He said he didn't find them telling us in a quote that he did run searches for all the media but did not locate this interview and did not recall this event, which involved a call in to a local radio station.

TAPPER: Interesting. Andrew Kaczynski, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

An appeal for hope rejected. And now in Oklahoma, death row inmates' execution is moving forward for its fourth time. His attorney will join us next. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead, the Oklahoma Court upheld the murder conviction of death row inmate Richard Glossip. Glossip, you may recall, was convicted for hiring someone to kill his boss. Even though that witness, the actual killer, seems rather unconvincing to many observers including the Oklahoma State Attorney General.

Glossip's execution is now set for May 18. This all comes just two weeks after a special counsel in that state released a report that uncovered new evidence in Glossip's case and suggested that his murder conviction should be vacated. CNN's Brynn Gingras is always is with us on the story.

And Brynn, what was the evidence uncovered in Glossip's case? BRYNN GINRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake, a lot of that evidence is from a box that was finally given to the defense team for Richard Glossip from the prosecutor's office. And in that box, there was just a lot of paperwork that talked about Justin Sneed, the person that you just pointed out who actually killed Barry Van Treese, the boss of Sneed and Glossip in this murder decades ago. Some of that included Justin Sneed actually wanting to recant his testimony to his -- asking about it at least, to his attorney and other was a psychiatrist saying Justin Sneed had bipolar disorder that was never been brought to the defense's attention. So just questionable things that the defense attorney for Richard Glossip thought the courts should look at a little bit closer and at the very least, let there be another hearing regarding all of this new evidence.

But of course, as you just laid out there, the criminal court of appeals in Oklahoma and a five zero decision said no, it wasn't sufficient evidence to vacate this conviction or at least stay this execution. And now, time is running out quite honestly for Richard Glossip. His execution date is May 18.

There -- this is a case that has just grown internationally. A lot of people would like to see a change in this ruling, not just his defense attorneys, but also the attorney general mentioned it and actually asked the criminal court of appeals to bring this case to the lower courts. In response to that the attorney general, who is a Republican and my ad in the state of Oklahoma, said in a statement, "I am not willing to allow an execution to proceed despite so many doubts, ensuring the integrity of the death penalty demands complete certainty. I will thoroughly review the ruling and consider what steps should be taken to ensure justice."

I asked his office what does that mean, and they said they're still trying to review that. That is what is also happening with his defense team who is going to take this case to the U.S. Supreme Court, Jake.

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

Joining us now, Richard Glossip's attorney, Don Knight, along with Oklahoma State Representative Kevin McDugle. Thanks to both of you for being here.

Don, you say you're going to challenge this ruling all the way to the U.S. --


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: -- Richard Glossip's, attorney Don Knight, along with Oklahoma State Representative Kevin McDugle. Thanks to both you for being here. Don, you say you're going to challenge this ruling all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The execution is set for May 18. Do you have enough time?

DON KNIGHT, ATTORNEY FOR RICHARD GLOSSIP: Well, it was a devastating ruling by the court. I think, you know, when the Attorney General of the State of Oklahoma says that he thinks that this witness makes material misstatements, you know, that's now undisputed. So there's no reason to believe that witness at all.

So we've got a person who is the only one that has said Richard Glossip had anything to do with this, is now, you know, an admitted liar, and the court won't see through that and allow a new trial. So we will be filing a writ in the United States Supreme Court, and we probably take action in other courts as well. We cannot allow this.

I'm with the Attorney General in this. He's a very courageous man to take the steps that he's taken. And when he says he can't allow this to stand, well, you know, I can't either, and we won't.

TAPPER: Yes, I mean, you talk about the witness. The witness is the actual admitted murderer. It's just that he's accusing Glossip of paying him to kill him. And I've never even heard of such a situation where the murderer is given so much deference.

Representative McDugle, Oklahoma Attorney General Drummond, not exactly a soft on crime guy. He says he's not willing to let the execution proceed with so many doubts. Can the Oklahoma legislature do anything to help? Is there a role for Governor Stitt, perhaps?

KEVIN MCDUGLE (R), OKLAHOMA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: There is, absolutely. And we are going to fight and make sure we're not putting a guy to death that doesn't deserve death. Governor Stitt, we're going to ask him to give a 60-day stay. That'll give us a little bit more time.

The Court of Criminal Appeals stated state law is the reason why they couldn't go along with the Attorney General. So we're now looking at adding a paragraph in the post-conviction relief law in Oklahoma here in the next five to 10 days, getting that through and signed by the governor. So if we can make that change and send it right back to the Court of Criminal Appeals and see if they can make another decision.

TAPPER: And Don, the Oklahoma Court of Appeals denied the request for a new trial or a stay of execution in a unanimous vote. Why do you think that was unsuccessful, given the amount of support Glossip has received, not only by the state Attorney General, but by so many Republican and Democratic legislators?

KNIGHT: These justices have been trying to kill Rich Glossip for 26 years, and I have no real idea as to why. He's just a normal, simple, poor man, and there is no reason for them to continue this sort of, I don't know what word to use, almost like a vendetta. They want to kill him.

They made it clear that they ruled. And they almost seem offended that anybody can bring new evidence, and we have a lot of new evidence to bear before he's executed.

TAPPER: And for people who are watching and don't know the story, I mean, what you need to understand is Mr. Sneed is the murderer. But the prosecutors gave Sneed a deal. He would not go to let death row if he said that Glossip paid him to do it. And, of course, Sneed went along with it.

And since then, Sneed has privately expressed remorse to his attorney and who has said, well, you got to keep quiet about it. You got your deal. It's really just anybody who just reads about this, it's outrageous on its face.

Representative McDugle, you and nearly 100 of your colleagues in the Oklahoma state legislature have signed a letter calling for something to be done. Why are you so convinced of his innocence?

MCDUGLE: Once I started reading through all the paperwork, I mean, there's so many things in this case. There's destroyed evidence by the state. There's witness tampering, missing evidence that was turned in. There's Brady violations, detectives, leading witness. I mean, there's so many things wrong with this case.

And finally, we got an attorney general who's tough on crime that looked at this case, and his very first words to me were, he's guilty. And after looking at the case and starting going through everything, he said, there's no way that we can actually rely on the court's decision years ago. And he recommended a vacation of this case and have to agree with him.

And he and I together are going to fight this thing. The court could have easily taken one of the two paragraphs in post-conviction relief and granted the attorney general's wish, but instead, they chose not to. So we're going to give them one more opportunity. If I can get this law changed, get the governor to sign it and make it retroactive, they'll have one more chance.

And if they deny this next chance, then I'll be seeking impeachment for the judges here in the state of Oklahoma, because it's ridiculous to see the evidence in this case and for them to ignore it.


TAPPER: And Don, Glossip's been on death row for decades now. He's had his final meal three times. How's he holding up after this latest disappointment?

KNIGHT: Really, really hard, Jake. He said today to me, Don, you know, should I be prepared to be killed on May 18th? And that was about as low a point as I've seen him. And this is his 9th execution date. This is tough. He's been down this road far too many times. No one should have to endure that.

TAPPER: You know, I've -- anybody who has gone into one of these cases and seen what the state is willing to do to kill somebody, even with reams of evidence, of reasonable doubt you can't unsee it. You can't unsee it. Don Knight, State Representative Kevin McDugle, thank you so much. Please come back. We're going to stay on this case.

MCDUGLE: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Still ahead, a military fighter jet drops a bomb on a group of villagers. Then an attack helicopter comes and shoots anyone still moving. The government says they were targeting rebels, but CNN talks to survivors who say that the victims were women and children and elderly people. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Our world lead now, women, children and the elderly in a remote village in Myanmar, massacred by their own country's military. Myanmar's military dropped a bomb on villagers gathered for a religious celebration. Minutes later, an attack helicopter came through and finished the job, mowing down anyone still moving.

This is the worst attack since the country descended into civil war two years ago. The current military rulers claim they're targeting rebels and resistance fighters. But CNN's Anna Coren interviewed survivors and witnesses of this attack, who say it was women and children being targeted.

I want to warn you, some of the images you're about to see are quite disturbing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Foreign Language)

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On this dusty mound near a grove of banana trees, villagers don't know where to walk. Everywhere they turn is another dismembered body. Legs, arms, severed heads, human flesh littering the earth.

We can't recognize who they are, says the man filming this video. There are so many.

Hundreds of people had gathered for a community celebration last Tuesday in Pazigyi, part of a self-governed district in Sagaing State, northern Myanmar. They'd come for breakfast on the eve of Tanjung, a Buddhist New Year festival. Families, the elderly, and dozens and dozens of children.

(INAUDIBLE), cries this man. What did these kids do wrong?

At 07:45 a.m., a military jet dropped a bomb on the building where they'd gathered, according to witnesses. Minutes later an MI-35 attack helicopter mowed down survivors and continued to circle for the next 15 minutes, firing at anyone who moved.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We heard a boom. I hit the ground and there was a huge cloud of smoke. I got up and realized my daughter was missing.

COREN (voice-over): As the wounded screamed for help, this man searched among the dead and injured for his three-year-old daughter and his parents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It was a killing field. There were people scattered everywhere. A woman with burst intestines died in front of me. I was shaking. Why would they kill their own civilians?

COREN (voice-over): And then after several hours, he found them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): My father was cut in half from the waist. My mother's body unrecognizable. My daughter was headless.

COREN (voice-over): He says he lost seven family members. Others lost their entire family. With fears of more aerial attacks, villagers quickly gathered the bodies for cremation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Burn. Burn. Burn. We are trying to burn the flesh of the dead.

COREN (voice-over): The day's final death toll, according to the National Unity government, 186 people killed, the deadliest attack since the junta seized power in a coup more than two years ago.

The military confirmed the bombings, saying they were targeting rebel forces who've been fighting Myanmar's military government. But CNN has interviewed over half a dozen eyewitnesses of last week's attack who say the target was civilians.

This man lost 30 relatives, including young nieces and nephews.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I don't know why they targeted a place full of pregnant women, children and the elderly. The military are not human. They are more savage than animals.

COREN (voice-over): During our interview, a jet flies over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They said jet fighter is coming.

(on-camera): Jet fighters coming?

(voice-over): The threat ever present.

While the latest massacre sparked international condemnation of the junta and the countries that support them, such as China and Russia, the families of the victims say it's just more empty words.

How many more children have to die before the world's leaders take action? Pleads this man. Grieving the loss of his baby niece. He says, this is genocide.

Anna Coren, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE) TAPPER: And our thanks to Anna Coren for that incredible journalism.

How students in just three words upended the search for one school district superintendent? That's next.



TAPPER: Today, House Republicans passed a bill that would ban transgender athletes from competing in women's and girls' sports at federally funded schools and educational institutions. The bill is not expected to pass the democratic controlled Senate.

In western Massachusetts, the divisive gender issue has a school system in Easthampton struggling to find a new superintendent. CNN's Omar Jimenez explains why.


VITO PERRONE, FORMER CANDIDATE FOR EASTHAMPTON SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT: When I walked in this building today to meet with a group, I felt like I was coming home. I don't think I could have kept a smile off my face if I tried.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is how Vito Perrone's journey began to superintendent of the Easthampton School District in the Springfield, Massachusetts area.

PERRONE: Which is in a position I've always aspired to. But he says it all ended with three words in an email. "Ladies, good evening." As he addressed the committee chair and her executive assistant, laying out contract requests for his salary, vacation days, and more.


It ended up, though, being a goodnight for his chances at superintendent, he believes, telling CNN he was told it was a micro- aggression, that he apologized. And when he was growing up, "Ladies and gentlemen was a term of respect. People talk about a teachable moment in the classroom. Could that have been a teachable moment? Unfortunately never got the chance."

He's got in support, though, from many in the Easthampton community where he was once a principal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's an embarrassment. I think it's been a tremendous superintendent here.

MAURITA EATON, EASTHAMPTON RESIDENT: It's a term that's used for respect. Maybe it's old fashioned to some people, but I think it's overblown and was used an excuse not to hire him.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): Part of a statement released from the chair of the school committee says, "I was insulted," but also noting it wasn't their only concern. Laying out requests, Peronne made in that email over salary, vacation and sick days. "There were too many concerns before we had even begun negotiating the rest of the contract," the statement continued, despite Perrone feeling these were just requests that they never got to any negotiations.

JOE GANNON, EASTHAMPTON RESIDENT: They made the right decision. I just wish it hadn't been another freaking piece of bloody meat thrown into the pool with the culture war/

JIMENEZ (voice-over): Perrone's opportunity was rescinded. So they went to the next candidate, who was flagged by a student shortly after as having posted, quote, conservative transphobic rhetoric on social media, complaining about transwomen in high school athletics.

Not long after being selected, she pulled out of the running, continuing the ongoing saga for the school district.


JIMENEZ: Now we've tried to reach out to that candidate, Erica Faginski-Stark, but we haven't heard back. I should also mention the school committee executive assistant, one of the two ladies, as was initially addressed in the email, has come out after the fact and says she likes the term lady and that she stands by it. She sees it as a term of respect, but she also said that she respects anyone who may be offended by that term.

The next meeting for the school committee is on Tuesday, where they have on the schedule trying to search for another candidate for superintendent. We'll see if this next candidate actually sticks, Jake.

TAPPER: Omar Jimenez, thank you so much.

In our politics lead, we could soon see the U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, officially known as the Chief Justice of the United States, summoned to Capitol Hill. CNN's Alex Marquardt in for Wolf Blitzer, and he's going to have this next in The Situation Room.

Alex, why would he be summoned to Capitol Hill?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, because this is all part of the fallout around Clarence Thomas, the justice of the Supreme Court. It was recently revealed by ProPublica that for years, decades even, he and his wife accepted gifts and luxury travel from the Republican mega donor Harlan Crow.

So Jake, there have been growing calls on Capitol Hill among Democrats for action to be taken against Thomas. For example, the senator from Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal, calling for Thomas to be subpoenaed. That was, of course, roundly rejected by Republicans.

So perhaps as a compromise, we're seeing the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Dick Durbin, now inviting, not subpoenaing, but inviting the Chief Justice to appear in a hearing in about a week and a half. We have yet to hear back from the Chief Justice.

TAPPER: It's high time for a code of ethics for all, all nine of the justices, not just Clarence Thomas.

Alex Marquardt, we're going to see you at the top of the hour. Still ahead on the lead, you think your boss is bad? An employee selling his dog so that he can return to the office, and his CEO applauds him. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Topping our money lead, the latest head tilting tale of return to the office. Utah Tech CEO James Clarke applauded one of his employees for selling his family dog after the CEO demanded that his staff return to in person work. In a bit of a rant, Clarke challenged his employees at the digital marketing firm Clearlink to work harder than he does. And he suggested mothers on his staff might be better off quitting.

CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich is all over this story. Vanessa, that's not all. Tell us more of what Mr. Clarke had to say.

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS & POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: This was a rough town hall for Mr. Clarke. He's clearly frustrated that his employees are not back in the office full time. But we're in a different work era, Jake. People are working hybrid. They're working remotely.

As you mentioned, he applauded his employee who sold his dog in order to comply with back to work orders. Clarke said he did feel heartbroken about that. He also said that he found it rare that his employees, particularly women, could be full time caregivers and parents and also work full time. He also questioned whether some of his employees were working second jobs and using artificial intelligence to do their jobs at Clearlink.

He also said this, listen.


JAMES CLARKE, CEO, CLEARLINK: Some have already quietly quit their positions but are taking a paycheck. In one month, this year alone, I got data that about 30 of you didn't even open or crack open laptops, and those were all remote employees, including their manager, for a whole month.


YURKEVICH: Now, Clearlink did not respond directly to the comments made by their CEO, but they did send us this statement. They said, quote, "To help achieve our collective goals, Clearlink recently announced a return to office of four days a week for the majority of our Utah-based employees. We look forward to having these team members join us at our new world class global headquarters in Draper, Utah, and appreciate the efforts of all of our committed team members, which includes those who work in the office and those who will continue to work remotely as we accomplish our best work together." Certainly this statement, Jake, a different tone than the CEO took. I should also mention this is a tight labor market right now. Employees and job seekers have options. Many companies looking to retain employees and hire new ones. TBD on what happens at Clearlink. Jake?

TAPPER: Vanessa Yurkevich, thanks so much.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at JakeTapper. You can tweet the show at TheLeadCNN. If you ever miss an episode of the show, you can listen to The Lead from whence you get your podcast all two hours just sitting there like a big, delicious sizzling steak off the grill.

Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Alex Marquardt, he's in for Wolf Blitzer right next door in a place I like to call The Situation Room. I'll see you tomorrow.