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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Jury Finds Trump Liable For Sexually Abusing & Defaming E. Jean Carroll; Exclusive: Rep. George Santos Charged By Justice Department; White House Debt Limit Talks Wrap Up Without A Breakthrough. Aired 5- 6p ET

Aired May 09, 2023 - 17:00   ET



PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Now, they also found that he defamed her when he called her accusations a hoax and a lie. And in terms of the defamation damages, they awarded her just under $3 million.

Now, they did not find that he raped her, but sexual abuse is a form of sexual assault. So, Jake, this is a victory for E. Jean Carroll, who sued the former president for battery and defamation based on these allegations that he raped her in a department store around 1996. Now, it is apparent that the former president is likely to appeal. But again, at this point, this is certainly a victory for E. Jean Carroll.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Yes. And Jean Casarez, obviously, President Trump's a lawyer trying to, you know, make a big deal out of the fact that the jury did not find him liable for rape. But this is a big verdict for E. Jean Carroll without question, $5 million Donald Trump found liable for both defamation and battery.

CASAREZ: It is very interesting that aspect, though, because it's definitely a victory for the plaintiffs, no question about it, for E. Jean Carroll, she got justice today in that courtroom. But this was a trial where she testified for hours, and she testified with great detail of how he raped her.

She went through every single bit of how she did it, and then she went immediately to her friends. She told them exactly what happened. Both of those friends who testified told her in 1997, he raped you.

And the jury did not believe, more likely than not because that's your standard legally, that he did rape her, they went to what is the second in line, which would be sexual abuse. I think it would be so fascinating to talk with the jurors because did some believe that he did rape her, others believe that he did not rape her, that it was sexual abuse, and it was a compromise, in a sense.

Remember those prior bad act witnesses that were so strong, that testified, that give such strength to the plaintiff's case, they both allege sexual abuse. And this pattern, that would be the pattern. If you follow the pattern, then this would have been sexual abuse. But I think it is striking and something that should not be ignored that in this rape case, they didn't find rape.

TAPPER: Paula, how do you think Trump's taped deposition played into this decision? In the deposition he said a lot of things that I bet influenced the jury to rule against them.

REID: Absolutely. That deposition certainly did not help his defense. As part of E. Jean Carroll's case, not only did she have to bolster her claim of what happened in that department store without any DNA evidence, without any eyewitnesses, she also had to establish that this was a pattern because that's how she was going to prove her case.

Show, look, it's not just me saying this, other people, other witnesses, as we heard allege a similar pattern of conduct. But they also used the infamous Access Hollywood tape where the former president talks about grabbing women.

And then in the deposition where that came up, he doubled down, which was pretty shocking, and again, support what Jean was just talking about, this pattern, establishing that this was all part of a pattern of conduct by the former president. Now, there was another big moment in that deposition where despite having said that E. Jean was not his type, he confused her with one of his ex-wives, Marla Maples. Let's take a listen to what he said.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't even know who the woman. Let's see. I don't know who -- it's Marla.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said Marla's in this photo?

TRUMP: That's Marla. Yes, that's my wife.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Which woman are you pointing to?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. That's E. Jean Carroll.

TRUMP: Here. Oh, OK. Oh, I see.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The person you just pointed to was E. Jean Carroll.

TRUMP: Who is that? Who is this?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The woman on the right is your then wife, Marla.

TRUMP: I don't know. This was the picture. I assume that's John Johnson (ph). Is that --


TRUMP: -- Carroll? Because it's very blurry.

(END VIDEO CLIP) REID: Now, of course, the former president did not take the stand here in this case. He didn't put on any defense. But certainly that deposition was not helpful for his case at all and really likely gave a boost to E. Jean Carroll, though we haven't heard from any of the jurors to explain exactly how it factored in, and it's unclear if we will because even at the end of today, the judge advised them to remain anonymous for a long time.

TAPPER: All right, Paula Reid and Jean Casarez, thanks so much.

Let's bring in Natasha Stoynoff. Ms. Stoynoff testified in E. Jean Carroll's case against Donald Trump. She had previously accused Trump of assaulting her at Mar-a-Lago while serving as a journalist for PEOPLE Magazine.

Natasha, if it's OK for me to call you that, thanks for joining us. What's your reaction to the verdict?

NATASHA STOYNOFF, FORMER PEOPLE WRITER AND DONALD TRUMP ACCUSER: I'm elated and very emotional about this. It's been an emotional week, I have to tell you. And I didn't expect the jury to have a response so fast. I didn't know what that was going to mean. And when I heard the news, I got to tell you, I was jumping up and down.


TAPPER: Well, I imagine a part of it was because you told your story to them and they believed you. I mean, that must have been some of what you went through.

STOYNOFF: Very much so. For many of us who came forward in 2016, it's been a long road, and we've dealt with a lot of people not believing our story. So, to give the story under oath and have a jury believe it is a very heart, you know, heartwarming, vindicating feeling, just a feeling of hope that when you tell the truth, you can be believed.

TAPPER: Obviously, you're one of more than a dozen women who have made such allegations against the former president. What led you to -- into that courtroom? I'm not sure if you're comfortable talking about it, but how did you come to be one of the women testifying that day?

STOYNOFF: Well, her team asked me if I would, and I think the belief was that I helped show a pattern and that it would be helpful for the jury to hear that. And when they asked me, I just thought it's something that I had to do.

TAPPER: Was it difficult?

STOYNOFF: It was difficult leading up to it. And amazingly, once I got into the stand, I am -- I just felt like it was me and the jury and that I was telling them what happened. Everything else around me just sort of disappeared. It was like this strange sort of Zen moment of truth where I was finally telling it in an area that was very -- in a medium that was very serious and important and nothing else mattered. So, the difficulty sort of disappeared once I got on the stand. TAPPER: This is kind of a difficult question, but do you think it's that people don't believe you? Or do you think that the people who vote for Donald Trump anyway just don't care?

STOYNOFF: I think it's a combination of both. I think that they hear all sorts of negative news about the women that were liars, so on -- the first step is that they don't believe. And then I think that there's a certain group that think it probably happened and don't care. And that really is actually the most heartbreaking to me.

TAPPER: And as somebody who was assaulted by Donald Trump, per your testimony under oath, what is it like to see him leading in the polls, not just for the Republican presidential nomination, but most recently in an ABC News Washington Post poll leading against Joe Biden for the presidency, removing politics from it, just talking about what you experienced and what so many other women have testified under oath and in public about their experiences with him assaulting them?

STOYNOFF: Well, first, I'm never quite sure anymore what to believe when we hear about polls, so I don't take it too seriously.

TAPPER: Fair. Yes.

STOYNOFF: And then, second, I just hold on to hope that the American people have learned a lot over the last four to six years and will make a wiser choice in 2024 than they did in 2016. I just -- I have hope for the American people.

TAPPER: Natasha Stoynoff, it's a brave thing to come forward to tell a story about an assault, and it's a brave thing to do so before a jury, and it's a brave thing to do so right now. So, I thank you. And I thank you for what you're doing, not just for justice in E. Jean Carroll's case or your case, but also for all the girls and women who don't deserve to be assaulted out there.

STOYNOFF: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Appreciate it.

Here to discuss, CNN's chief Legal Analyst and former Federal Prosecutor Laura Coates. Also joining us, Renato Mariotti, also a former Federal Prosecutor.

Renato, quick verdict by the jury, quick verdict even surprising Donald Trump's attorney, Mr. Tacopina, what do you make of that?

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, it certainly suggests that the jury found the evidence very compelling. And I really think Trump and his team are to blame for that. I mean, it did not put up a defense, he did not testify, he was not even present for the trial. So, really, I think they made this job very easy for the jury. And so I'm not surprised that the jury reached the verdict that it did.

TAPPER: Laura, does it undermine Mr. Tacopina's attempt to try to get Donald Trump an appeal, the fact that they really didn't stage much of a defense?


LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, in the civil world, he's not required to actually testify or appear. And that seems very counterintuitive to anyone who would be accused of something as significant as sexual assault in this category, but he's not required to do so. So his absence is not going to be the reason he will say, hey, the jury did not give my client a fair shot. That was his choice to do so.

The more fertile grounds to actually appeal would be on the area of testimony that was allowed to be heard by the jury. They heard this category for a prior bad act evidence. If you remember from the Cosby trial, obviously different circumstances, and that was a criminal context, there was a lot about how and who could actually testify about things that were alleged to have happened that were not charged outside of the context of these specific allegations.

There was more than one person who was allowed to testify, as you just interviewed as well, about this very notion. So, the idea of whether that was unduly prejudicial is going to be the real crux of an appeal in this matter.

He's already alluded to possibly looking at the jury pool somehow being tainted. If there is some basis under the voir dire principles to suggest that they did not have an unbiased jury or had reason to believe people were biased and chosen, nonetheless, that would be the right ground. But other than that, not much to stand on.

TAPPER: So, Renato, I think it's fair to say that E. Jean Carroll's, her case was not a slam dunk. There -- you know, she couldn't -- she didn't know the year it took place, there are other questions that Mr. Tacopina was able to bring up. I think Donald Trump made E. Jean Carroll's case easier with his testimony.

I want to run a piece of his video deposition when he's asked about the Access Hollywood tape from 2006 in which he infamously claimed that people like him, stars, could grab women by their genitals because they're so famous. Here's part of that deposition. I want to get your reaction to on the other.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In this video, I just start kissing them, it's like a magnet. Just kiss, I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything. That's what you said, correct?

TRUMP: Well, historically, that's true with stars.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's true with stars that they can grab women by the pussy?

TRUMP: Well, that's what -- it's -- if you look over the last million years, I guess that's been largely true. Not always, but largely true. Unfortunately or fortunately.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You consider yourself to be a star?

TRUMP; I think you can say that, yes.


TAPPER: So, just to underline this, he says that stars like him, I'm paraphrasing obviously, stars like him can get away with sexually assault women -- sexually assaulting women. Unfortunately or fortunately, quote, "unfortunately or fortunately." That must have just been a gift to E. Jean Carroll's case, don't you think, Renato?

MARIOTTI: Yes, absolutely. And it's absolutely indefensible, right? So, you know, if he had -- if that deposition was full of him talking about how tortured he felt, that someone would accuse him of this because he would never do anything of that sort and he just can't imagine that it, would have been one thing, right?

That's what you would expect somebody, a normal person, to react to something like that. But somebody like Donald Trump, frankly, I think he revealed something to the jury, which is he's not bothered by this concept.

He not only, you know, is saying, look, this is -- you know, the Access Hollywood tape is something I said long ago and I didn't really believe, and I feel horrible I said it. He basically was defending it, saying, it's absolutely true. And he -- I don't know how you could say anything's fortunate about sexual assault. It's a violent crime and it's disgusting. And frankly, the jury as, like I said, he made the jury's job very easy.

TAPPER: Renato Mariotti, Laura Coates, thanks to both of you.

Much more in this major verdict, the jury finding Donald Trump liable for sexually abusing E. Jean Carroll. What this case could mean for Trump's 2024 presidential campaign. That's next.



TAPPER: Donald Trump reacting again to the verdict this afternoon that found him liable for sexual abuse. He reacted on his Truth Social media account posting in all caps, "Very unfair trial," exclamation point.

Let's bring in CNN Political Commentators Alyssa Farah Griffin, Scott Jennings, and Ashley Allison.

Alyssa, you served as Donald Trump's communications director at the White House. Do you think a jury finding him liable for sexual abuse will have any impact on whether or not he becomes the presidential nominee for the Republican Party?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I guess the answer is it should. Now, this is one of the many firsts in history that Donald Trump has managed to achieve a new low. I think, you know, back in 2016, there were a number of us, myself included, women who were concerned about, you know, allegations against him, comments that he has made. But this is now something that a court -- a jury, I should say, of his peers found him guilty of. They said that, yes, he committed sexual abuse and defamation.

We cannot afford to put this man up as Republicans if we actually want to win because women will run from voting for him. Keep in mind that one in three women will be a victim of sexual assault in their lifetime. Those are not people who are going to vote for somebody who's now been credibly found to have been guilty of doing this to this poor woman.

TAPPER: Scott Jennings, do you agree?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it's -- I've had a lot of analysis thoughts here. Number one, nothing we heard in this trial is really revelatory. I mean, a lot of things we found out about Donald Trump we already knew, and Republicans nominated him twice, and, you know, he's a frontrunner for a third time, that's number one.

Number two, I think a lot of Republicans will rationalize this by saying, well, it happened in New York and you can find a jury in New York, you know, find Donald Trump guilty of anything. And number three, a lot of Republicans are going to say, oh, we're now taking mid '90s sexual accusations seriously in our politics?

So that's what you're going to hear out of the people who support him. I think this gets thrown in the bag with the Bragg indictment, this whatever happens in Georgia, January 6, the documents, and by the time we start voting, that bag is going to feel pretty heavy to a lot of Republicans, and as Alyssa said, a lot of Republican women, I assume, will agree.

[17:20: 09]

TAPPER: And Ashley, obviously, as both Alyssa and Scott have alluded to, E. Jean Carroll is hardly the first woman to publicly accuse Donald Trump of sexually assaulting her. In fact, we know of at least 12 other women who have accused him of sexual harassment or sexual assault or sexual misconduct. We heard from one of them earlier in the hour, Natasha Stoynoff, who testified in the E. Jean Carroll case. It doesn't seem to have an impact significantly enough to not make him competitive.

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first, I think that this is important for sexual assault survivors to see that no one is above the law, and that if you sexually assault someone, even if you are the former President of the United States, you can be held liable. So I think that's the first point.

I do think, though, the tapes, the Access Hollywood tapes that played in 2016 were very damning, and yet some people said, oh, that was just locker room talk. Well, now in a deposition, we have Donald Trump saying, no, that's actually the way it is, I do think I'm larger than life and I'm above the law.

And I think many women voters and honestly, male voters who supported him in 2016, who then came over to Joe Biden in 2020, will stay on the Democratic side if he is the Republican nominee. But also those folks who might not have been engaged will say, I don't want someone like this representing my country and be more engaged.

The final point I would say to Scott's comment about the '90s is like, we have a whole new electorate right now. I couldn't even vote then. And so, the way we view sexual assault and the importance of holding people accountable, I think will play. So young people, women and people who believe survivors will play a factor in this 2024 race.

We still have a long ways to go. It might not prevent him from being the Republican nominee, but I think it could stop him from being the next president again.

TAPPER: Alyssa, what was your reaction, having worked for Donald Trump in the White House, where people were still saying things along the lines of that, you know, about the Access Hollywood tape, that's just locker room talk. Although I will say, having been in plenty of locker rooms, I've never heard of anyone bragging about committing sexual assault.

When he, Donald Trump, in the video deposition that was in this trial, basically said that it wasn't locker room talk, he basically said, yes, this is how it is, it's been like this for a million years, and stars like me can get away with it. And then he said, unfortunately or fortunately, what was your reaction to that or fortunately?

GRIFFIN: Listen, when Donald Trump tells you who he is, believe him. I mean, that is -- this is -- we wanted to chalk it up to locker room talk in 2016, it was not locker room talk. Now he is credibly, he's been -- he's now been charged with or I should say held liable in this case for actually committing sexual assault, like, I cannot underscore that enough.

That your guest before made an incredibly important point, any man or woman who was falsely accused would be the first person to show up and to defend themselves in a rape allegation or a sexual assault allegation. He couldn't be bothered to show up.

I have countless cases of what I considered impropriety in the White House that I brought to the chief of staff because I thought the way he engaged with women was dangerous. This is -- I mean, we know these facts, the patterns have laid out. And now this is something that's not just speculation, it's not just allegations, it is a jury of his peers deciding that he did this.

TAPPER: Wait, you brought to Mark Meadows, the chief of staff, or other chiefs of staff incidents that you witnessed of Donald Trump behaving inappropriately with women?

GRIFFIN: I did. As well as former White House Press secretary Stephanie Grisham and others, nothing that rises to this level but things that I would consider improper and that I had a duty to report. And this is all out there. Voters need to pay attention, and folks in my own party need to stop making apologies for this man.

TAPPER: Is there anything more you can tell us about this?

GRIFFIN: I -- if I'm able to, I will share more.

TAPPER: All right. You have to come on this show to tell it, though.

Alyssa Farah Griffin, Scott Jennings, Ashley Allison, don't let me see you showing up in prime time with these stories. I got you so much. All right, thank you, guys. Appreciate it.

This verdict comes just one day before the CNN exclusive town hall. Donald Trump is going to take questions from CNN's Kaitlan Collins in New Hampshire Republican primary voters. That's tomorrow night at 8:00 Eastern only here on CNN.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy just came out of the White House after meeting with President Biden and congressional leaders, other congressional leaders, there's Mitch McConnell, and there were some Democrats there as well, Schumer and Hakeem Jeffries. Is there going to be a deal on the debt ceiling or are we going to go into economic freefall? We're going to hear from Speaker McCarthy on the other side of the brick. Stay with us.



TAPPER: And we're back with breaking news, different breaking news. A CNN exclusive, Republican Congressman George Santos of New York is now facing criminal charges. Sources telling CNN's Evan Perez that federal prosecutors have filed charges against the New York freshman and serial liar. He's expected to appear in court as soon as tomorrow. Let's bring in Evan Perez who's breaking the story for us.

Evan, tell us more. What do we know about the charges specifically?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, right now we do not know the exact nature of these charges. We know that these have been filed under seal with the federal court in the eastern district of New York. That's of course, the court that has jurisdiction over representative Santos' district, which is in Queens and Long Island.

We know that at this point he's expected to appear in federal court to answer these charges in Islip tomorrow. That's as soon as tomorrow in Eastern District of New York. Now, again, we don't know the charges. We know that the Justice Department, public integrity, prosecutors, the FBI, of course, prosecutors there in the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn have been investigating the congressman for a number of allegations, including charges or claims rather that he falsified some of his campaign finance filings.

So those are among the things that we expect prosecutors may be able to shed some more light on when we see these charges finally announced tomorrow. Now, this is the congressman, obviously, Jake, that you've talked about many times on this program. He took office just in January. And in just a few months, of course, it's come to light a number just of the stunning number of falsehoods and lies that he's told as part of his campaign and the lead up to his campaign and in the years prior. I'll just recite just a few of them, including his claim on his resume that he worked at Goldman Sachs and Citibank. He said that he played -- he was a star volleyball player for Baruch College where he said he got a degree. None of those things were true.

He claimed, obviously that also that he had Jewish heritage. Something, again, that has been shown to be false. And, you know, the congressman has repeatedly said that he is not a criminal, that he's not been charged with anything. We do know, though, in recent weeks that he did admit to a fraud charge in Brazil some number of years ago. Jake?

TAPPER: Yeah. Leslie Jones once said on the Daily Show, do how much you have to lie to be known as the lying congressman? Which says something. But of course, lying to the public is not necessarily against the law. Some of the allegations you're talking about obviously aren't, including campaign finance violations, potentially, allegedly fraud, stealing from that veteran who had the sick dog. Has Santos or his legal team, if one exists, responded to your reporting?

PEREZ: We reached out to George Santos' lawyer this afternoon. He declined to comment, said that he's not going to comment on any of these allegations until he sees fit. We did see our Capitol Hill team, Manu Raju and others saw him walking the halls earlier today. He did not tell us anything about what his plans are for travel to New York tomorrow, but again, that's where we expect that he's going to be able to answer these charges for the first time, Jake, in the Eastern District of New York.

TAPPER: Let's bring in CNN's Manu Raju. Manu, Santos, also under investigation on Capitol Hill before the House Ethics Committee. But of course, that's a rather toothless organization. Generally speaking, this seems more significant.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, no question about it. Also it'll be interesting to see how Kevin McCarthy, the speaker, responds to this because for some time he has not called on George Santos to resign. In large part because if Santos were to resign, this would open up a special election in a district that Joe Biden carried in 2020, something that could potentially flip to the Democrats and narrow Kevin McCarthy's already razor thin majority. Which is why McCarthy for some time has said, let's let the investigations play out.

He has pointed to the House Ethics investigation as one in which he'll ultimately decide on how to respond to George Santos, whether he would call him to resign, saying, let's see what the House Ethics Committee comes up with. We do know that the Ethics Committee is pressing head with this investigation how long that they'll come to reach any conclusion remains to be seen. But now that he has been indicted, George Santos, the question will be

whether that changes the leadership calculation at all, whether Kevin McCarthy will come out and call for George Santos to resign. There are rules within the House Republican Conference that for any member who has been indicted, they automatically lose their committee assignments. Recall, though, earlier this year, Santos ultimately voluntarily stepped down from his Committee assignments after discussions with McCarthy.

So whether there'll be any other punitive measures remain to be seen. Also uncertain whether Santos will try to fight this in court, whether he will try to run for reelection. He did announce just a few weeks ago he planned to run for reelection despite the mounting opposition from Republican leaders back home. And also many within his own conference still said that he would try to fight and try to win this electorally. Will that change his mindset now that he has been indicted?

All big questions, but also a big question for the speaker, what will he do about this controversial member who has now been indicted within his conference? Something that can narrow his majority if he were to step aside? All big things that will certainly be on the Speaker's mind and Santos' mind in the days ahead, Jake?

TAPPER: Well, I think you answered your question in it, but I hear what you're saying. Let's bring in former federal prosecutor Elie Honig. Elie, how serious of a legal case could this be?


ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Jake, I guess that'll be the big thing that we find out tomorrow when we take a look at this indictment. Important to understand it is not a crime to lie to the public. It is not a crime to lie about what you're going to do when you get in office. It's not a crime to lie about your background. What is a crime, however, and what might be the case here, we don't know, is to lie in your Federal Election Commission filings, to lie about your campaign expenditures.

And you'll recall there was reporting that George Santos' campaign claimed this whole series of expenditures for $199 because the limit over which you have to detail those expenditures is $200. I think that was awfully suspicious. I'd be looking for some official false statements charge here. Again, we're speculating, but based on what the public reporting is.

TAPPER: CNN chief legal analyst Laura Coates is also joining us again. Laura, sorry, I thought you were going to get the hour off after all of our Trump conversation, but now we have another legal matter dealing with a different lying New York politician. How is this going to play out in court when Santos appears as soon as obviously we don't know the charges, but walk us through the choreography, if you would?

COATES: Well, first we're going to know more about the actual charges, if it's sealed, of course, if it's -- whether they're going to actually release the public and what a judge would know about an arraignment and whether this is going to be a multiple indictment or one or more.

Remember, you can oftentimes amend an indictment to include more offenses later on. There might be conversations already about the grand jury testimony that came in if there was a grand jury empanelled in this particular matter.

And we're going to learn more about this, frankly, likely as George Santos does. But as Elie articulated, the nature of the charges, the number of the charges might not be known, but certainly the substance of what we know to be the underlying cause for the investigation has been quite clear. And if you follow the trail of money, the idea of thinking about whether transparency and accountability can be actually served for the electorate, that's going to be the key for any campaign finance or election related matter.

What was known, what was relayed to the public, and did the electorate have a meaningful opportunity to elect a candidate of their choosing based on verifiable truthful information? We take election related matters very seriously in this country because we want to have that level of transparency and accountability and the access to having someone you want in office. Remember, Speaker McCarthy was very reluctant to say what they would do about this seat, trying to kick the can down the road to suggest that if there was a crime that occurred, then they would take action.

Well, if the domino begins to fall and the charges come in criminally, the question I have is how will this actually manifest politically and for the questions and reasons that Evan said the idea of having an open seat in this instance when you had the potential for a Democrat to come in and claim it, is going to be quite odd in this new Congress.

TAPPER: And Elie Honig, I think I know the answer to this, but can Santos serve in Congress as this legal case proceeds? Can he serve in Congress if he's convicted?

HONIG: It can, Jake. The only way to get rid of a member of the U.S. Congress, the House of the Senate, is by expulsion. Now, the constitution tells us that requires a two-thirds vote of that body. So you would have to see Republicans join with Democrats to do that. There have only been five members of the U.S. House ever expelled in the history of this country. Three of them were confederates, former confederates shortly after the Civil War.

The fourth was somebody from Pennsylvania, from outside of the Philly area who was expelled in the 70s or the 80s and the fifth was a congressman named James Traficant who had been convicted of a crime. So there's going to be a big question here for Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans, which is now that we have reporting and we'll see tomorrow that George Santos has been indicted. Are you willing to allow him to keep on serving?

TAPPER: Who is the one from the Philly area, was that Ozzie Myers?

HONIG: Michael Myers I think was the name. Ozzie Myers, yes. TAPPER: Yeah. That was my congressman, man. I know who that. That's in -- that's not outside Philly. That's in Philly. We're proud of our boy. He's in prison again for a different offense by the way. Evan, we're told these charges were filed under seal, so we don't know exactly what they are.

PEREZ: Right.

TAPPER: Can you walk us through some of the laws? As we noted, it's obviously not illegal for politicians to lie to the public, lie to each other, lie to the media. But Santos has been accused of breaking laws. What are some of them?

PEREZ: Well, you know, the biggest one here and the most problematic one for the Congressman is that every time he filed something false, if it indeed is these entries that were claimed for $199 because it was right under the limit of what should be detailed for his campaign expenses, for his campaign expenditures. All of those are federal crimes, Jake. And so you're looking at the possibility he could be facing a number of charges just related to the paperwork that he's filed there.


And, you know, the way this works is, you know, the Congressman and his legal team would be told by the FBI, by the Justice Department here, you've been indicted, and here's your choice. You could either turn yourself in to the FBI. He was here in Washington today. He could turn himself in here and be transported by the FBI, by the U.S. marshals to New York.

I mean, you've heard of Con Air, right? Well, it often in times involves a bus. You take a slow bus to New York, or you could fly yourself to New York and turn yourself in at the federal court there. And so we expect, if past this prologue, that the congressman will avail himself of that chance to turn himself in New York. And so that's when we expect to see publicly all of the different charges that he's facing.

As I think Elie and Laura have pointed out, the fact remains that a lot of what has made the biggest splashiest headlines are likely not federal crimes, right? Some of the things about his resume padding, Baruch College star volleyball player, the fact that he claimed that he was a producer on Spiderman, things like that, which have made a lot of us laugh, are likely not federal crimes that they can bring.

But, you know, the fact that some of these campaign filings, which he has amended, by the way, indicate that there are problems there, and he knows that there are problems there. And that's where the FBI, that's where the public integrity prosecutors have plenty to work with to bring charges.

TAPPER: A big day for law and order and consequences in New York. I feel like Logan and Briscoe are going to show up any second, and I want to sign you guys out with the doink doink, but I can't. But thank you of all of us -- all of you, for being here. We're following several major stories this afternoon. There are the federal charges against Republican Congressman George Santos. Then there's the verdict finding Donald Trump liable of sexual abuse and defamation.

There is also here in Washington, a major showdown at the White House. Speaker McCarthy made remarks after meeting with President Biden and his fellow congressional leaders. We're going to go to the White House next. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Moments ago, a critical meeting ended at the White House. President Biden hosted the top Republicans and Democrats in Congress, as they are all trying to avert an economic catastrophe. We hope they're trying. Let's bring in CNN's Jeremy Diamond at the White House, and CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill. So, Jeremy, we just heard from Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the Republican and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Republican in the Senate? What was their takeaway from the meeting?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, heading into this meeting, White House officials told me that the President was defiant in holding the line, that he was demanding a clean debt ceiling increase. And clearly that's exactly what happened. The President maintained his line, the Speaker maintained his line. And according to the Speaker of the House, everyone simply reiterated their positions. Listen.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: The House has raised the debt ceiling and passed the bill. That's why we had a meeting today. Everybody in this meeting reiterated the positions they were at. I didn't see any new movement. The President said the staff should get back together. But I was very clear with the President, we have now just two weeks to go.


DIAMOND: After those remarks, the Speaker continued to plead his case that he believes the President should engage in good faith negotiations about spending. The President, for his part, he has said he's willing to have those conversations, but simply not with the question of default being used as a bargaining chip here.

Now, we also heard from the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who said that the President explicitly asked the Speaker of the House to take default off the table. Senator Schumer said that the Speaker would not do so, continuing to reiterate his belief that spending should be negotiated at the same time.

Now, where do we go from here? The only thing that seems to have emerged is that there's an agreement at least to keep talking. Staff from both sides are going to continue to have discussions. And then the four congressional leaders, I'm told, are expected to return to the White House on Friday to meet once again with the President.

TAPPER: And Manu, Speaker McCarthy says there's going to be another meeting with President Biden on Friday. But, you know, we can't ignore the timeline here. We got about three weeks to go. The House isn't even in session for all the next three weeks.

RAJU: Yes, and it will take time to get any sort of deal that could be cut, get that drafted into legislative text, go through the process, sell members on this, and try to push it through the House that takes some time and even takes longer to get it through the United States Senate. So getting this all done by June 1st, which could potentially be the date of the first ever debt default, something that could have drastic economic consequences, that is really in question here.

The Speaker did tell a group of reporters earlier today, he told us that he believes that any deal in principle needs to be reached by next week in order to meet that very tight time frame. So the question is, what exactly are the -- what's going to happen between now and Fridays as Jeremy noted, that's when the principals will meet the big. The four congressional leaders will meet again at the White House on Friday, but staff level discussions will happen between now and then.

Will they start to discuss any sort of framework, any sort of outline of what could be agreed to as part of the debt limit increase? The hearing what the leader said out of that meeting, it is going to be a very high bar to clear in order to avert default, in order to get an agreement, as both sides reiterated their positions at this meeting. So what ultimately will come of this is still a major question.

But, Jake, this is really the only game in town. There are no other discussions happening on Capitol Hill to avert a debt default. It has to happen among the leaders, and McCarthy and Biden in particular. And right now, there is a long way to go to avert that default, Jake.

TAPPER: Yeah, no other conversations happening, although we should know. We've known this was coming for months, if not years. Jeremy, quick action by you because as Evan Perez was breaking that story about the federal charges against Congressman George Santos, you were able to ask Speaker McCarthy about it, what did he have to say?


DIAMOND: Yeah, Jake, this story was breaking as the Speaker was talking, so he certainly had not yet seen the news. But what he said was, I will look at the charges. I asked him specific whether or not he believes Congressman Santos should be removed from office, and that was the only response that he offered. The Speaker has previously said that if it is found that Congressman Santos violated the law, that he believes that he should be removed from office.

The Speaker was also asked for a reaction to this Trump defamation and battery lawsuit in which the President was found liable for sexual abuse. And the Speaker said, let me find out what happened. On that point, though, Jake, that news broke before the Speaker went into this meeting with the White House. Clearly, he did not want to offer his full take on that yet. TAPPER: Manu, how do you think Republicans on Capitol Hill are going to react to the news? And we should probably delineate there are New York Republicans like Congressman Lawler and others who have attacked him and said he should resign. And then there's the large body of the House Republicans that really have been pretty mum about Mr. Santos.

RAJU: Yeah. They want him to go away, even though they're not saying it publicly. And the question will be how McCarthy will deal with this. In order to remove Santos from office, either has to resign or the House needs to expel him. That requires two-thirds majority in the U.S. House in order to do that. That means there needs to be support from the Speaker, from the other leaders, from most of the Republican conference in order to do that.

And that will require Republican leadership support to get there. So if Santos comes out and denies the charges, pleads not guilty, and says he's going to fight it in court, does McCarthy side with Santos or does he decide to push him out? But as I mentioned, that could create electoral problems for him. He's tried to avoid any sort of special election with a vacancy in that swing district that favors Democrats, which is why for so long, he has essentially said, let this investigation play out.

And now that charges are being filed, a different dynamic here in the House. Republican leaders have yet to decide how to deal with that, Jake.

TAPPER: Jeremy Diamond, Manu Raju both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Thanks so much. Aside from all these major developments in the political world, we are also following a stunning development in Utah, a bizarre story, a horrible story. A woman whose husband died wrote a book about dealing with grief, a children's book. She has now been charged with having murdered her husband, details next.



TAPPER: A bizarre story in our National Lead now. A Utah woman who wrote a children's book about grief after her husband died last year is now being charged with his murder. Kouri Richins is accused of having poisoned her husband, Eric Richins, with a deadly dose of fentanyl. The 33-year-old author faces several felony charges, including aggravated murder. CNN's Nick Watt is following this horrific story that's taken such a dark turn. Nick, tell us more.

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, from the court documents, here is what we are learning. The medical examiner says that they found five times the lethal dose of fentanyl in Eric Richins after he died and that fentanyl was, they say, orally ingested. We also know that his wife, Kouri Richins, made him a drink the night before, served it to him in bed at about 9:00 p.m. It was a Moscow mule cocktail. Now, that all happened last, March 2022.

This March, Kouri Richins was out promoting her book that she says she wrote with her three young kids, a book she dedicated to that husband, to that father who she is now accused of murdering. So she basically wrote this book about grief. And now she is being accused of inflicting that grief on her children. Now, what seems to have been key in this investigation were phone records. Authorities say that they found on Kouri Richins' phone contacts with a known drug dealer.

Three separate deals. Apparently, just in early February, she got a second dose of drugs, having asked for, quote, the Michael Jackson stuff, asked for stronger drugs. She then got another dose of fentanyl. And it was just a few days after getting that second dose of fentanyl, according to authorities from this dealer that her husband Eric was found dead of a fentanyl overdose. Obviously three kids are involved, we don't know what is happening with them, but we know that she, Kouri Richins, is behind bars right now, Jake.

TAPPER: So I just went on to Amazon and looked for Kouri Richins book, it's called "Are You With Me?" I don't think I can find it on Amazon here.

WATT: No, I looked first thing this morning, Jake, and it was on Amazon. I checked a little while later and it was no longer there. She is going to be appearing in court again in a few weeks. We will see where this goes. But the authorities seem very, very confident with the evidence that they have, the phone records, the toxicology that she indeed killed her husband.

It was extraordinary to see her on local T.V. promoting this book, talking about how she and her children have managed to get through the loss of this great husband, this great father and then just weeks later to see her behind bars charged with his murder. An extraordinary story and we will be keeping on top of it.


TAPPER: Yeah, and just for the record, I wasn't going to buy it on Amazon, I just wanted to see, I wanted to see if it was available. What a horrible story, this poor kids. Nick Watt, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

The major stories this evening, a jury finding Donald Trump liable of sexually assaulting and defaming E. Jean Carroll. The Justice Department charging Republican Congressman George Santos. The White House meeting about the showdown over the death ceiling. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room. I'll see you tomorrow.