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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Supreme Court Faces 11:59PM ET Deadline To Rule On Abortion Pill; Sources: Hunter Biden Attorneys To Meet With DOJ Officials Next Week; Source: IRS Whistleblower Says AG Garland Misled Congress; Russian Warplane Accidentally Bombs Its Own City; State Department: American Killed In Sudan Amid Heavy Fighting; Wagner Chief Calls CNN Report On Its Sudan Involvement An "Attempt At Provocation"; Men Charged In 2017 White Nationalist Torch Rally Appear In Court; GOP Leader Who Voted To Expel "Tennessee Three" Resigns. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired April 21, 2023 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Lawyers for Hunter Biden have an upcoming date with the Justice Department.

THE LEAD starts right now.

New questions for Attorney General Merrick Garland and his role in the Hunter Biden probe as an IRS agent trying to get whistleblower protection claims he has information that contradicts the attorney general's sworn testimony. This as Hunter Biden's lawyers book a sit- down with prosecutors.

Plus, as the nation waits to hear if the U.S. Supreme Court will keep a partial ban on a an abortion pill in place, Canada is now offering American women and girls access to the pill from north of the border.

And an American killed. As the volatile situation in Sudan gets even worse, the U.S. is now deploying troops nearby, ready to evacuate its embassy as other countries are going in to pull their citizens out.


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

We start today with our health lead. Any moment, the U.S. Supreme Court could rule on the most critical abortion case since it overturned Roe v. Wade last year. The justices have until 11:59 p.m. Eastern this evening to decide the future of the widely used abortion pill mifepristone. The bill is currently available, though a Texas judge moved to block the medication's approval and an appeals court headquartered in Louisiana decided to impose tough restrictions on how that medication can be accessed, at what point during the pregnancy it can be available and who is allowed to prescribe it. The high court now has to decide if any of that will stand.

Let's get straight to CNN's Jessica Schneider.

And, Jessica, what options does the Supreme Court have here? And when are they going to let us know what they've decided?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Lots of big questions, Jake, when. There are a number of options as these justices face down less than eight hours until their own self imposed deadline. It's possible they could institute another very short stay. But what's likely here is that all these justices, there may be justices, I should say, writing to either concur or dissent from the decision that really could come down at any time.

So if they do issue maybe a longer stay or otherwise, there are several options here, including that the Supreme Court could decide to hear this case on the merit before the end of the term, but what's really likely is that the justices will do one of two things. First of all, they could impose that longer term stay, which would put a hold on any restrictions, and it would maintain the status quo until this appeals process plays out. Of course, arguments in the Fifth it has already been scheduled in less than a month on May 17th or as the FDA is fearing, the Supreme Court could allow some or all of these restrictions to take effect.

That could mean that women beyond seven weeks of pregnancy would not be able to take the drug, even though they can get it right now up to 10 weeks. It could also impose more in person requirements for seeing a doctor and it could eliminate the mail option to receive this drug.

So, Jake, there is a lot at stake here, and it really does seem to be coming down to the wire as we approach midnight.

TAPPER: All right. Jessica Schneider, thank you so much.

Turning now to a CNN exclusive in our politics lead. Attorneys for the president's son Hunter will meet with senior Justice Department officials next week to discuss the long running investigation into Hunter Biden. This coming as CNN has learned that the unnamed senior political appointee that an IRS agent involved in the investigation of Hunter Biden claims gave misleading testimony to Congress about the Hunter Biden probe is Attorney General Merrick Garland. That IRS agent is seeking whistleblower protections to share information with Congress about what he or she alleges is mishandling and political interference in that probe.

CNN's Paula Reid is digging into this for us.

Paula, lawyers for Hunter Biden are scheduled to meet with Justice Department officials next week. That's your scoop right now.

What do we know about that?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We have learned that this meeting was actually requested by Hunter Biden's legal team in recent weeks and we're told, as is pretty routine, the Justice Department officials said, sure, come on in. That meeting is scheduled for next week. And we expect that present that meeting will be at least one top career Justice Department official as well as the U.S. attorney. Trump appointed u s attorney has been overseeing the investigation. There's no indication at this point that this is a final disposition

for the case. We know from our reporting that over the last year, there hasn't been many developments in this particular case. We know that they had whittled it down to several potential tax crime charges and one possible false statement charge related to the purchase of a gun.


But we reported that as you might remember last summer, they really haven't been many other developments since. So, it'll be interesting to see what comes with this meeting. But look, in recent months we have seen a much more aggressive approach from Hunter Biden's legal team. They have become far more litigious, firing off lawsuits against many people, including Garrett Ziegler, even the owner of a computer repair shop who they allege abused Hunter Biden's laptop. They've become much more aggressive.

Even here, you can see seeking an update on the DOJ case when they know it's going to make headlines.

TAPPER: And these are -- these are explosive allegations against the attorney general from this IRS agent.

REID: Yeah.

TAPPER: What do we know about the evidence that this agent has to support these claims?

REID: Not much at this point. According to our sources, this individual would testify that he believes Hunter Biden was treated differently inside the IRS in terms of how his tax returns were analyzed. He alleges that this case was mishandled and that there was political interference, which directly contradicts the testimony that the attorney general gave before Congress.

Well, look, at this point, this individual does not have whistleblower protection, and so far, they have not presented any evidence, but that is standard when you want whistleblower protections, you can't just go and disclose everything. You have to be protected first.

But again, there have also been a lot of promises about whistleblowers related to the Biden family that have not done come to fruition. So we're waiting to see what they can present.

TAPPER: Yeah, we have to wait to see the actual facts first.

Paula Reid, thank you so much. Stick around because I want to go to another CNN exclusive.

Damning newly revealed text messages from Trump operatives show that for the first time, in addition to trying to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia, Trump allies in that state were also strategizing. How to decertify the peach state's two Senate run offs in 2021, in which Democrats defeated both Trump backed candidates. CNN's Sara Murray has the details of this.

And, Sara, this plot involved data from a breached Georgia voting machine. Lay it off -- lay it out for us.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I mean, this is in mid-January 2021. There are these two operatives who have been hired by Trump's legal team, and they're talking about essentially what you could do with this data from this breached voting machine from a rural county in Georgia and these are text my colleague Zach Cohen obtained.

So, one of the operatives says here is the plan. Let's keep this close hold. We only have until Saturday to decide if we are going to use this report to try to decertify the Senate runoff election or if we hold it for a bigger moment.

Now, this is, of course, significant because we know a lot about the efforts to try to overturn the 2020 presidential election, but this is an indication that there are pro-Trump allies. Pro-Trump operatives who are trying to go a step further and attempt to disrupt the Senate runoff, Jake.

TAPPER: And this plot, it's part of the criminal investigation into election interference investigation led by Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis. What do we know about that?

MURRAY: Exactly. I mean, we know Willis has obtained information about this attempt to try to meddle in the Senate runoff elections or to think about meddling in the Senate runoff elections, and we know she's been looking at the breach in Coffee County, as he more broadly looks at election interference as part of this criminal investigation. She has been weighing potential racketeering charges, sort of deciding how many defendants could be in the mix.

If she does move forward with this case, could it include folks who were involved in this Coffee County situation? We are, of course, waiting for her to make any announcements about who, if anyone is going to charge in this case, those who come as early as this spring, Jake.

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

CNN's Paula Reid still with me, also joining us in studio, CNN anchor and senior legal analyst Laura Coates, and former Trump White House deputy press secretary Sarah Matthews to talk about all of this.

Laura, so the voting machine plot was being coordinated by Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell and other members of Trump's legal team, could this part of the criminal investigation reached Trump as well do you think?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It very well could. Remember, this is all about who knew what and who is directing the operation. If it's something where it was understood, as we've often heard, and catching with Donald Trump is understood this is what he wanted to rest to do. That's not going to hold a lot of carry a lot of water.

If it's a matter of directives, though, and here is an actual plot articulated in a way to conspired to commit some nefarious act. That's a whole different ballgame. We've already seen, of course, how text messages have been damaging and other cases involving voting machines as of this week alone, and so this plot continues to thicken and the more information they have, remember the special grand jury that was impaneled had subpoena power to get information to get evidentiary, you know, evidence in some respects, so this might be a further indication that that is all coming to a head. When is the question.

TAPPER: And, Sarah, just to remind our viewers, you quit in disgust on January 6th. What's your response to all this? What do you think of it all?

SARAH MATTHEWS, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: I think what's most shocking about those new text messages that we've seen released is that they came after January 6th. So not only were they Trump allies, you know, trying to co-conspire to overturn the election results in the lead up to January 6th, but it was after that, they were still trying and not just the 2020 presidential election, but the 2021 Georgia Senate runoff.


So I think that it's kind of appalling to me that they even after the destruction and disaster that was January 6 --

TAPPER: And death.

MATTHEWS: And death --


MATTHEWS: -- they still were trying to overturn the election results.

TAPPER: Pretty, pretty remarkable.

Let's turn to the Hunter Biden story if we can. The Republican House committee chairs have sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken asking him to explain his role in that public letter from former intel officials in which they if you -- you have to read the letter carefully, because some of the headlines and what President Biden later said about it is not actually what the letter said that, but the letter said that the Russians were certainly part -- trying to spread this information and it might be disinformation. They weren't really sure.

What's the significance of this do you think in terms of Secretary Blinken, who at the time was a lawyer on the on the Biden campaign?

REID: Exactly. Well, it feeds into a larger narrative that Republicans are seizing on right now, which is a Hunter Biden, right, is being helped not only by his father, his close advisers, but also by the larger national security apparatus. And what they would, of course, prefer is a criminal case against Hunter Biden, to seize on that. They were hoping that when we reported the case was heating up last summer that there would be charges, but that cases continue to linger. So instead, they're taking it to the court of public opinion.

But this letter is in no way as significant as a possible whistleblower who could come out and potentially undermined the handling of the Justice Department's investigation. That would potentially be really like a golden goose for them, but this point, we have no verification of that individual's allegations.

TAPPER: And what do you make of the fact that Hunter Biden's attorneys are meeting with the Justice Department next week? Paula broke the story notes that it's it was Hunter Biden's attorneys making the request, but still, he's been under investigation since 2018 at least.

COATES: He's probably exhausted from that, and the storm cloud that continuously lingers overhead. Not to mention there's a political reality of what it's like to have that continue to be there and the talking points that continue to flourish because it has not yet been settled.

You know the idea of a pending litigation or an ongoing investigation, these are phrases that can be your best friend if you are somebody who might benefit from it, or your worst enemy if you are the subject matter of it. And so, I suspect they're trying to get a handle on the overall timeline, to what extent they need to continue to be nervous, to what extent they need to continue to be proactive in other ways. But it still lingers, and the questions are still there, and it's very fair to ask, where is the status that investigation?

But it's not just on Merrick Garland's team as well. It's also out of Delaware. It's also the counsel appointed by Trump as well.

And so, it is prudent to know the status of that. But I suspect next week's meeting will be very fruitless for these particular litigants.

TAPPER: What's your take on the Hunter Biden story? Certainly, there was a lot of stuff in that laptop that turned out to be accurate once people -- once media organizations had an opportunity to actually investigate it. Certainly, a lot of stuff in there that was kind of gross.

MATTHEWS: And I think what is really telling about, um, now knowing that Antony Blinken was behind that letter from the intel community that tried to cast this as Russian propaganda and delegitimize the laptop? Biden himself use that letter from the intel community multiple times and referenced it to try to downplay the laptop say that it was delegitimize which, now we know the laptop is legitimate.

And I think that that's telling and I think all of these kind of controversy surrounding his son, coupled with Biden's poor approval rating, it's not a recipe for success heading into 2024 announcement next week.

TAPPER: Yeah. You know, it's interesting because the letter was a lot more careful than two things, a lot more circumspect. The letter was -- President Biden, then candidate Biden overstated with the letter said. And Natasha Bertrand, who was then with "Politico", she wrote a very careful, very accurate story. And then some jabroni at "Politico" put a headline on it that also was like kind of misleading.

And those two acts by the headline writer at "Politico" and by Joe Biden overhyped what the intelligence community was actually saying, though, they were saying be careful of this material, they weren't going as far as Biden or that headline was saying.

REID: Yeah, it's a forced error, and now they can go back and push this narrative with some certainty, right? You were involved in this. You are not being honest. Why should we trust you when you say for example, he won't be charged? Or maybe this whistleblower doesn't have anything.

Again, it is a forced error on a story that I'm sure they wish would go away.


COATES: It goes to like core too of what Congressman Jim Jordan has been saying ever since Speaker McCarthy became Speaker McCarthy, the idea of the weaponization of the government. This is what forced error but also one of the things that can give greater fodder to that particular claim, although it can be baseless in many respects.

But this is going to continue until the American people ala the committees that want to know the information, actually get it.

TAPPER: Yeah. Well, let's see what happens. Let's see what the Justice Department has.

Paula, Laura, Sarah, thanks one and all for being here.

Coming up next, a surprise move in the war in Ukraine. How Russia ended up dropping a bomb on one of its own cities.


Plus, the day in court for men who prosecutors say march through the streets of Charlottesville, with the crowd spewing an antisemitic chants and more white chargers are coming now, nearly six years later.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our world lead, Russia says it accidentally bombed one of its own cities. Russian warplane dropped a bomb late Thursday on Belgorod, a Russian city home to more than 400,000 people, just 25 miles north of the Ukrainian border. Miraculously only two people were injured in the blast.

As CNN's Ben Wedeman reports the extensive damage left behind is a scene. Ukrainians are all too familiar with following Russia's deadly invasion. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This kind of destruction has been a common scene throughout Ukraine since the war started, but this time it was in Russia.

Residents of the city of Belgorod, close to the border with Ukraine, waking up to damaged buildings and destroyed road. The culprit: Russia itself. Moscow saying one of its aircraft accidentally struck the city. CCTV footage shows a first impact as the bomb penetrates the ground.


Moments later, a large explosion.

Residents feeling lucky it wasn't worse.

Thank god there are no dead, the Belgorod governor says.

While Russia was busy after shooting itself in the foot, Ukraine was meeting with its allies in Germany.

LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Welcome to the 11th meeting of the Ukraine defense contact group.

WEDEMAN: NATO and other international partners discussing additional support for Kyiv, ahead of a highly anticipated counteroffensive.

AUSTIN: More than a year later, Ukraine is still standing strong, and our support has not wavered. And I'm proud of the progress that we have made together.

WEDEMAN: But for Ukrainians, that progress has been slow. And while the front is barely shifted in months, vicious battles keep claiming lives.

On Friday, the Odesa opera announcing the death of one of its performers, artists turned soldier Rostyslav Yanchyshen, killed in battle protecting Ukraine's future, they said. He joined the armed forces on the first day of the war. When CNN visited last July, he had long left for the front, like many of the dancers there.

Those that stayed behind like Kateryna Kalchenko braving the stage to give Odesa a sense of normalcy, dancing in defiance, but very much still struggling.

I want the whole world to stop this horror so that innocent people and children stopped dying, Kateryna says. I asked for help and for people not to remain silent.

It's silence is how they began rehearsals this Friday, amid tears, one minute of silence for one of their own.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WEDEMAN (on camera): And today in the early hours, Russia launched 12 drones at Kyiv. In fact, we could hear some of the blast from where I'm standing. That was just hours after the secretary general of NATO came and pledged that Ukraine's future is in NATO. Today, Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, accused NATO of taken an aggressive posture towards Russia, treating it as an enemy -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Ben Wedeman reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine, for us. Thank you so much.

Coming up, what CNN is learning about an American killed in Sudan as the U.S. weights if and how to evacuate its embassy, as more violence erupts.



TAPPER: Our world lead now, an American killed in Sudan, one of more than 400 people killed after seven days of bloodshed in that country. According to the World Health Organization, innocent lives caught in a war between two men fighting for power, generals of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and Sudan's armed forces, warring armies ones that used to share power and even work together to overthrow Sudan's brutal dictator in 2019, but then started fighting.

Just a few hours ago, a breakthrough of sorts. Sudan's military finally agreed to a three-day ceasefire to allow the majority Muslim nation a period of peace during the normally joyful celebration of Eid, the end of Ramadan. Now hope that aid will arrive during this period as people are growing desperate, calling for food, water, medical treatment.

Meanwhile, hundreds of American marines are just across the border at a U.S. base in the Republic of Djibouti ready to get U.S. embassy personnel out of Sudan if needed. But still, no plan for the other estimated 16,000 Americans in that country.

Let's get right to CNN's Kylie Atwood at the State Department for us.

Kylie, what more do we know about this American who was killed?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, unfortunately, Jake, we really don't know anything about the circumstances surrounding the death of this American. What we do know is that the State Department is in touch with their family. And, of course, this comes as hundreds of Sudanese citizens have died as a result of this outbreak fighting.


VEDANT PATEL, STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON: We're still monitoring and paying close attention to the situation on the ground. A decision has not been made. But I would push back on the notion that we are acting too late. That is certainly not the case. We have -- we have been working diligently. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ATWOOD: Obviously that sound bite was from the State Department spokesman, deputy spokesperson earlier today talking about the fact that they don't believe that they are acting too late here to get out the U.S. diplomats who are in the country.

Of course, I posed that question to the spokesperson because you'll remember, Jake, it was just a year and a half ago that we were reporting on the State Department scrambling to get out the U.S. diplomats that were in Afghanistan. The White House just recently said that one of the lessons that they learned from that was to prioritize early evacuation when there is a degrading security situation. What the spokesperson for the State Department and the White House is saying that there's been no decision made to get out those diplomats to evacuate them at this time.

Of course, we're continuing to watch that decision making. And then as you noted, there are those 16,000 Americans that are in the country. Of course, many of those are likely Sudanese American citizens, but there's no plan to provide assistance to those Americans to get out of the country.

Now, the State Department has been telling Americans not to travel to Sudan since the summer of 2021. So that's quite a bit of time here, but what they're saying is that they should be sheltering in place right now and not expecting U.S. support to get out of the country.


TAPPER: All right. Kylie Atwood, thank you so much.

This afternoon, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Russian private military group, mercenaries, known as the Wagner Army, responded to CNN's exclusive reporting, which revealed that Wagner was influencing the conflict in Sudan by providing heavy weaponry to help the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.

CNN's Nima Elbagir broke this exclusive reporting on THE LEAD for us and she joins us again now.

Nima, what is -- what is what is Prigozhin have to say?

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, after ignoring us for a couple of days, he's now calling our reporting an attempt at provocation, saying: Let me reiterate once more, Wagner PMC is in no way involved in the Sudanese conflict. Questions from the media about any assistance to General Dagalo or General al-Burhan or any other individuals in Sudan are nothing more than an attempt at provocation.

He also separately released a statement offering perhaps, unhelpfully, to mediate in the conflict between the two generals, Jake.

TAPPER: And, Nima, a father of five tells CNN that he was forced to skip prayers earlier today and lay on the floor with his children for three hours just to stay safe from all those stray bullets in Sudan's capital, Khartoum.

You're from Khartoum.


TAPPER: How unusual is it to see continued violence like this?

ELBAGIR: This is the first time really. We -- Khartoum has been very much buttress from a lot of the instability, at first, it was a huge country. It's the third largest in Africa. So the capital itself has been kept sterile from a lot of the insecurity of the other regions.

It's really beautiful. I would say that. It's my hometown, but it lies at the meeting of the two Niles, the meeting of the Blue Nile and the White Nile and normally on Eid, at this time of year, all of the banks of the Nile would be covered with tables and people with their children and music.

And it's really heartbreaking to think that this year, all of those beautiful memories that I and my sisters and brother and our friends have along those banks of that river that the children today are sheltering on the floor with their parents.

I called my cousin a couple of days ago, and that's exactly what she was doing, Jake. She was talking to me on the floor with her children around her, and I can't imagine having to survive that with small children. I can't imagine having to survive that at a time of year that is supposed to be a time for families to come together for people to be so divided, sheltering in their homes on their own. It's really difficult to think about it, Jake.

TAPPER: Yeah. Nima Elbagir, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Let's bring in Dr. Mohamed Eisa. He's the secretary general for the Sudanese American Physicians Association. He joins us on the phone from Sudan's capital, Khartoum, where Wi-Fi and cell service or rather spotty.

Dr. Eisa, Sudan's doctors union, says 70 percent of hospitals in conflict areas are shut down. How dire is the emergency medical situation there?

DR. MOHAMED EISA, SECRETARY GENERAL, SUDANESE AMERICAN PHYSICIANS ASSOCIATION (via telephone): It's extremely dire, and unfortunately, the hospital the health care system might collapse very soon, unfortunately, Jake.

TAPPER: Now that there's a new ceasefire, do you -- do you think aid will be able to reach hospitals?

EISA: Well, we're hearing distant sounds of gunfire here, and they're definitely much less than what was happening today, and the previous two attempts for ceasefire were violated unfortunately. So we'll see how this one goes. But ultimately, if it goes through and everything stays calm, that's going to help restart the hospitals and the medical facilities with supplies that will give the chance for the injured to make it to the hospitals and also for the families to bury the dead.

TAPPER: The ceasefire comes along with Eid, the Muslim holiday celebrating the end of Ramadan. The last few ceasefires didn't work.

Do you think this one taking place associated with this holy day of Eid, do you think this could be different?

EISA: I would hope so. I would hope so, Jake. But throughout the day today, which is the fairest day of Eid, they were -- we were under attack by all sort of guns and heavy machinery, fighters and air fighter strikes. So we would hope that for the next two days, the families and the people of Sudan would still be able to celebrate the Eid.


TAPPER: You told National Public Radio here in the U.S. that this war between these two men and their militaries is affecting, quote, only the innocents. How hopeful are you if at all that there could be a peaceful resolution sometime soon, maybe even right after the 72-hour ceasefire?

EISA: We demand extremely hopeful that the ceasefire will happen at some point, particularly after the three days of ceasefire that was announced just tonight. But most importantly here, Jake, is that we need a lot of attention to the health care system situation right now.

TAPPER: Dr. Mohamed Eisa, thank you so much and best of luck to you.

Moments ago, charges were officially dismissed against actor Alec Baldwin. What this development could mean for the movie set armorer who is still facing charges.

Plus, CNN is in Charlottesville as men indicated in that 2017 racist antisemitic Charlottesville tiki torch rally appeared in court. Why are charges coming nearly six years later?

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead, day in court for two of the men who prosecutors say brazenly carried tiki torches through Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 with those racist and antisemitic crowd members chanting "Jews will not replace us", among other vile slogans. You'll recall, the next day at the Unite the Right rally, 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed when a one of the guys from this group drove his car into a crowd.

It's taken more -- more recent prosecutor to get a grand jury on this case. This is nearly six years after the fact. That grand jury indicted three men this week.

CNN's Brian Todd was at the courthouse today as two of those men appeared before a Judge.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): August 11th, 2017, a menacing torch march in Charlottesville, Virginia. Hundreds of white nationalists march on the campus of the University of Virginia recorded in this documentary by the news outlet, Vice, wielding torches, chanting racist slogans.

WHITE NATIONALISTS: Jews will not replace us!

TODD: Including one slogan that was a notorious reference.


TODD: A prelude to what happened the next day, the so-called Unite the Right rally on Saturday, August 12th, white supremacists clashing with counter protesters, a car driven by a white nationalist rammed into a crowd of protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

PROFESSOR ANNE COUGHLIN, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA SCHOOL OF LAW: It was very traumatic. It has been difficult for many of us to come back to these places without being -- without remembering the trauma that those days inflicted.

TODD: Tonight, three white nationalists involved in that August 11th torch march facing justice in Charlottesville. Will Zachary Smith, Tyler Bradley Dykes and Dallas Medina, all charged with burning an object with intent to intimidate, a felony. One of the men, Will Zachary Smith, is also charged with violating a statute that makes it illegal to maliciously release a chemical irritant such as tear gas.

In the courtroom today, Dykes was denied bond, providing Judge Claude Worrell said, quote, the court can't believe you will be on good behavior, citing incidents the prosecutor said showed Dykes has engaged in antisemitic behavior since 2017. The judge granted an attorney's request to reschedule Will Zachary Smith's hearing to May 3rd.

Nearly six years after the torch march and the infamous rally the next day, many wonder why these charges are coming now.

COUGHLIN: It takes time to investigate. It takes time to nail down all of the facts so we can imagine that the investigation would take some time.

TODD: The county's former commonwealth attorney declined to pursue charges related to the August 2017 demonstrations when he was in office. University of Virginia Law professor Anne Coughlin says both the defense and prosecutors will have strategic decisions to make about their arguments.

COUGHLIN: The defense may try to argue that their conduct was no more than political speech and therefore it's protected by the First Amendment. And the prosecutor, of course, will say, no, you crossed the line from protected speech and you committed conduct that was threatening and you did that with the intent to terrify and intimidate other people.


TODD (on camera): None of the three defendants charged in this case have yet entered a plea. We reached out to the office of the lead prosecutor, the commonwealth attorney, James Hingeley, to ask if he intends to pursue charges against any of the hundreds of others who took part in that torch march in 2017, or the supremacist rally the next day. We have not heard back on that -- Jake.

TAPPER: And there was a dramatic moment in court today. What can you tell us about that?

TODD: Right, Jake, the elderly father of one of the defendants, the defendant Tyler Bradley Dykes, his elderly father came in to testify today trying to build some trust with the judge, talking about his son's job and that he would live at home if he was allowed out on bond. Then the prosecutor, cross examined the elderly father and laid out a string of alleged antisemitic and possibly illegal things that this man had done since 2017 and asked this elderly father if he knew about any of it. The father said he did not.

And that was part of the reason that the judge did not grant bond. The father looked really heartbroken and shocked by all of it -- Jake.

TAPPER: Brian Todd in Charlottesville, thanks so much.

Also in our national lead, someone's sick idea of a prank killed a young woman in Colorado and the victim was 20-year-old Alexa Bartell. Authorities say that the individuals threw a large rock at her car windshield and then ended up killing her. This happened Wednesday night around 10:00 near Boulder, just outside Denver.


That same night, someone threw rocks at four other drivers hitting their windshields. The Jefferson County sheriff's office says Alexa Bartell was on the phone with a friend when the rock hit her car when the call went -- then went silent. Her friend tracked cartels phone and found the 20 year old dead. Authorities believe the culprit was in a light colored pickup truck or SUV. They're asking the public for help tracking down this person.

Coming up, the accusations against the Republican lawmaker in Tennessee. That's right. A Republican lawmaker his own party, said nothing of it when calling out Democrats for violating the rules on decorum. You might know.



TAPPER: In our politics, lead those who work in glass state houses shouldn't throw stones.

A Republican Tennessee House member who voted to expel those three Democratic members for breaking House decorum rules, you might remember, has just resigned over breaking House harassment rules.

Scotty Campbell's resignation came hours after Nashville TV station WTVF confronted him about sexual harassment allegations involving a legislative intern.


SCOTTY CAMPBELL (R), TENNESSEE STATE HOUSE: But I did not know that I workplace policy could be enforced when you're not at work.


TAPPER: Oh, okay. Well, it turns out it can. Scotty Campbell had been under investigation by the state house ethics subcommittee, and its report had been released since March 29th, that's one week before Campbell and other Republicans voted to expel the Tennessee three for their protests, their unruly protests on the House floor over gun reform.

CNN's Ryan Young is with me now.

Ryan, what is Scotty Campbell have to say about all this?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, as you can imagine he's not saying much in this case, especially after all this is sort of played out. And, of course, like you just indicated it was March 29th when this complaint came in from an intern, and they were investigating this, and they were able to substantiate some of the claims here, and he said he didn't realize having consensual conversation with two adults away from the state capital could be something that could get him into trouble.

But if in the language in this that we can't even report all of it because WTVF has this investigation, something that's very salacious, in fact, take a listen to the confrontation that happened with that state lawmaker and the reporter.


REPORTER: They broke the House rules and decorum and you broke the House policies regarding sexual harassment, according to this letter.

CAMPBELL: I had a consensual conversation with adults, and when the adults informed me that we could talk and that there weren't guardrails, I talked to who I thought were my friends.


YOUNG: Jake, clearly, in life, when someone's a superior, there are guardrails at all times. And after that interview, there was this simple resignation letter that came out to 18 yesterday. And there's so many questions about this.

We'll also say that subcommittee is sort of sealed. So we'll share with this to you, that says discrimination, harassment in any form will not be tolerated. And this says, in accordance with the policy and Rule 82, no further information concerning this complaint will be released.

And so what we do know is all this stuff was playing out in the state house last week and as you saw, and they were talking about the Tennessee Three, and that violation that happened on the state floor. This subcommittee was actually investigating him for these complaints against these two young ladies interns, and in the end, it ended up with this resignation, which no one's going to fill in the gaps with exactly what was said, how was said, and when it was said, Jake.

So a lot of questions there in Tennessee about what happens next. But obviously there's lawmaker has now had to resign.

TAPPER: But just to be clear, he's not -- he's not denying that he said inappropriate things to these two young women, these interns, sexually inappropriate things. It's just it's just that he's saying like, oh, but we I didn't say it at the actual Tennessee state house.

RYAN: Not only is he not denying, he said, he said something to friends and went on in that report to even say the next time. If he were to talk to an intern, he would record the conversation, of course. Later on, he then resigned. Jake. So obviously he's not denying that he may have said some inappropriate things.

TAPPER: It's funny what offends some people and what doesn't offend them at the same time, interesting.

Ryan Young, thanks so much.

As promised, CNN's staying on top of the fallout from that toxic train wreck in East Palestine, Ohio. Coming up, the major financial burden people there may now have to face if they want to move away from the area, so sullied. I'll ask Ohio Governor Mike DeWine about it all. That's coming up.



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

This hour, Republican state lawmakers are refusing to let a Democratic state rep who is transgender speak after she made a passionate plea against the bill that would ban hormone treatments and surgery for transgender miners in the state of Montana. That State Rep. Zooey Zephyr will join us live.

Plus, should cars be recalled because they're able to be stolen easily. Well, that's what several attorneys general are demanding. Is your car on this list?

And leading this hour, the U.S. Supreme Court on the clock. The justices have until 11:59 eastern this evening to decide the future of a widely used abortion pill, the most crucial abortion case since the court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer. At stake, the availability of mifepristone, the first in a two-drug regimen used to end pregnancies up to 10 weeks. That pill is used in about half of the abortions across the U.S. It's also prescribed after miscarriages and for some women experiencing menopause.

If the pill is restricted or banned in the U.S., Canadian officials now say they are prepared to provide access to the pill to Americans.

Let's get straight to CNN Supreme Court analyst Joan Biskupic.

Joan, when do we expect to hear from the court? And what are the options here?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Good evening, Jake. We're now at the normal close of business. We do not have an order yet from the court, so clearly something is not going smoothly.

It was just one week ago that Justice Alito said that they could decide this by Wednesday night. Then he came back and bought 48 more hours, and here we are closing in on that deadline of 11:59 p.m.