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The Lead with Jake Tapper

GOP Rep. Santos Released on $500K Bond After Pleading Not Guilty; Tonight: Trump Faces Voters As Jury Finds Him Liable for Sexual Abuse; Rockets Fired At Israel Amid Deadly Israeli Airstrikes In Gaza; Texas Man Sentenced To 25 Years In Prison For Killing BLM Protester. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired May 10, 2023 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: A bad 24 hours for lying New York politicians.

THE LEAD starts right now.

One year ago, hardly anyone had heard the name George Santos. Oh, we do know him now, though. A wild scene today as the Republican congressman caught in lie after lie is arrested and charged on 13 criminal counts. Will George Santos, aka Anthony Devolder, aka Kitara Ravache stay in Congress, go on his own or will he be pushed out?

Plus, taking the stage, Donald Trump now hours away from facing questions at a CNN town hall one day after a jury found him liable for sexual abuse and defamation.

And, following the money. Republicans flagging what they call shady deals as they lay out their case against President Biden's family, including son hunter. Is there evidence behind these allegations?


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

And we start today with our politics lead, and a defiant Congressman George Santos, saying he has no plans to resign despite facing 13 criminal charges, including wire fraud and money laundering. Santos pleaded not guilty in a New York courtroom this afternoon before facing the news media where he insisted he is innocent.


REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): This is the beginning of the ability for me to address and defend myself. We have an indictment. We have all -- we have the information that the government wants to come after me on. And I'm going to comply.

I'm going to fight my battle. I'm going to deliver. I'm going to fight the witch-hunt. I'm going to take care of clearing my name and I look forward to doing that.

REPORTER: But you will not resign? SANTOS: I will not resign.


TAPPER: Prosecutors say that Santos used campaign funds for personal expenses, such as buying designer clothing and paying off his credit card bills. Prosecutors also allege Santos fraudulently applied for unemployment benefits during the pandemic, despite actually having a job.

As CNN's Paula Reid reports for us now, this is the latest in a string of embarrassing scandals for the New York Republican who has only been on the job for four months.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New York Republican Congressman George Santos adopting the Trump playbook after being indicted on 13 criminal counts.

SANTOS: The reality is, is it's a witch-hunt.

REID: Surrounded by reporters after his initial court appearance, Santos was pressed about allegations he fraudulently received more than $24,000 in unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic, while he was working at a Florida-based firm.

SANTOS: This is part of my defense. This is inaccurate information and I will get to clear my name on this -- during the pandemic, it wasn't very clear, I don't understand where the government is getting their information, but I will present my facts.

REID: The indictment spanning 20 pages, details allegations that Santos illegally solicited campaign contributions which were then funneled into his personal bank accounts and used for various personal expenses including credit card and car payments, personal bills and even designer clothes.

And federal prosecutors allege he made false statements on multiple financial disclosure statements filed with the House of Representatives prior to being elected in 2022. Taken together, the allegations in the indictment charge Santos with relying on repeated dishonesty and deception to ascend to the halls of Congress and enrich himself, the U.S. attorney said in a statement.

Santos pleaded not guilty to all charges and was released on $500,000 bond. After his successful 2022 election, he was exposed for a series of lies about his personal history.

SANTOS: Did I embellish my resume? Yes, I did. And I'm sorry.

REID: He lied about attending college, working for powerhouse financial firms, his mother being present at the World Trade Center during the 9/11 attacks.

SANTOS: Good morning. Shabbat shalom to everybody. REID: And even about being Jewish.

SANTOS: So as I said many times and I think you heard me say this, I always joke I'm Catholic, but I'm also Jew-ish, as in ish.


REID (on camera): As a condition of his release, the congressman can only travel to Washington, D.C. and New York. He says he'll go to D.C. tomorrow to vote on a border bill, but he wants to travel anywhere else in the continental United States, he's going to need to get permission.


As for any foreign travel, well, he had to surrender his passport to federal authorities -- Jake.

TAPPER: Paula Reid in glorious Central Islip, New York, for us, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

I want to bring in former federal prosecutor, Elie Honig.

Elie, you had a chance to look at the case the feds are bringing. How strong is the evidence?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It's a strong case, Jake, and it's a straightforward case. First thing to understand, this is not all one thing. There is really three separate fraud schemes alleged here.

First of all, the scheme to essentially embezzle from his own campaign money. He raised money from donors and basically used it to buy his own luxury goods.

Second of all, a straight up old-fashioned unemployment scheme. He collected $24,000 plus in unemployment while he was working.

And, third, he lied to Congress about his finances. In some instances, he vastly overstated. In others, he vastly understated.

And one thing that really jumps out to me about this indictment, Jake, it's a paper case. It's not based on testimony from some cooperating co-conspirator. And so, there's a lot less for George Santos to attack and defend himself.

TAPPER: If he is convicted, what kind of punishment is he likely looking at, do you think?

HONIG: If George Santos is convicted, Jake this is a jail case. Now, we hear these maximums, 20 years, that is the maximum here. We need to sort of look past that. Nobody is going to get anything near 20 years.

But if you look at the federal sentencing guidelines and we're in federal court here, if he's convicted, conservatively, this is a two to three-year prison case. And sometimes in state cases, you'll hear these numbers that someone

is sentenced to but they'll only do a very small fraction. That's not the case federally. In federal court, if you are sentenced to X in prison, you serve at least 85 percent of that. So, the stakes here are very high and very real.

TAPPER: If the evidence as strong as you say, do you think prosecutors would even be open to making a deal or would they want to take this to trial? Let's be honest, when it comes to prosecutors, the pelt, the hide of a sitting congressman, you know, that's bragging rights.

HONIG: Oh, 100 percent, Jake. If there is a deal to be had, I have no question prosecutors would take it. If George Santos is willing to admit his guilt and agree to a substantial sentence, the fact is 95 percent plus of all federal cases resolve in guilty pleas. But you have to have both parties on board and I think this one, given George Santos' stance is likely to fall in the small percentage of cases that goes to trial, which would raise the stakes for both sides.

TAPPER: Let me ask you a serious question. This guy ain't right. Something's wrong with him, right? I mean, nobody tells this many lies without there being something up.

Is there an insanity defense available for him? Would you advise him to do that?

HONIG: I don't think he has an insanity defense available to him. The bar there especially in federal court is very, very high. You have to essentially show a person doesn't even understand the nature of the actions that they are undertaking here.

And George Santos, as much as he seems to have a major, major problem, he's just a habitual liar, that doesn't get you over that very high bar for a mental incompetency defense.

TAPPER: He says he's running for re-election. How long is this going to take? I mean, could he be on the ballot in November 2024?

HONIG: The cold reality is yes, unless he loses a primary. The only way to get rid of him, Jake, legally, constitutionally is expulsion. The House can throw out a member with two-thirds of the vote, but if you do the math there, that's going to take about 77 Republicans to join with all 213 or so Democrats. That seems unlikely.

In the meantime, this case, when you go through discovery, trial, sentencing, and then appeal, nothing is final until appeal, that could take us right up to near or perhaps even beyond the 2024 election. So if members of the House are not willing to kick him out, he could very much be part of that body right up through the next election.

TAPPER: And as you pointed out before, members of Congress are loathe to eject somebody and just to be clear here, he's been arrested, he has not been convicted. He's not been convicted. He's innocent until proven guilty.

Elie Honig, thank you so much.

A number of Republicans, however, have been publicly calling on Congressman Santos who is an embarrassment to their party to resign. They call him a distraction, they do call him an embarrassment.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, however, who has a very slim majority and needs Santos' vote to stay in power, McCarthy is standing by his man.

CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill for us.

Manu, the House Republicans complaining about Santos -- I mean, are they going to do anything or just complain?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is the big question here. There is some expectation that the House Ethics Committee could come and make some findings in the coming weeks, could take months, and if those findings allege that Congressman Santos broke the law, perhaps that could change the dynamic on Capitol Hill. It forces members to vote to expel him.

Remember, there are two ways for Santos to no longer be a congressman. One is to resign. He made clear he's not resigning. In fact, saying that he's going to run for reelection. The other is to force an expulsion vote, which would require the support of two-thirds of the full house.

But right now, the House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, is indicating he will let this process play out. He is not yet calling on him to resign, as he says that Santos has a right to try to clear his name in the court process.


But in talking to a number of other Republican senators and congressmen, they're making clear in their view it is time for Santos to go.


SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): He should have resigned a long time ago. He's an embarrassment to our party. He's embarrassment to the United States Congress.

RAJU: Would it be better if he resigned?

REP. STEVE WOMACK (R-AR): Oh, absolutely. It is a distraction. And it is a punch line for a lot of commentary regarding the Republican Party that we don't need. And I just -- I feel like he should have done the right thing.

REP. NICHOLAS LALOTA (R-NY): I think he needs to go right away. I hope he resigns.

REP. BUDDY CARTER (R-GA): He's responsible to his constituents and his district and not to me. (END VIDEO CLIPS)

RAJU: So that last congressman, Congressman Buddy Carter, among some members who say they're not going to go as far as calling on him to resign, aligning themselves with Speaker McCarthy.

And for Speaker McCarthy, if Santos were to resign, that could be a political headache for him because doing so could open up a special election that could essentially lead to this seat flipping to the Democrats because this district tends to tilt Democratic and already McCarthy battling with a very narrow House majority. It is so narrow, he's having trouble trying to get a bill passed tomorrow to deal with border security.

But Congressman Santos indicating that he will come back tomorrow to deliver potentially a key vote to get that border bill over the finish line, a sign of why that vote is so important for Kevin McCarthy yet to call on Santos to resign even as he's concerned and others are about the calls that Santos is making clear he plans to run for re- election as they're worried about the prospects of holding on to that seat.

TAPPER: All right. Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks.

Joining us to now discuss is Jody Kass Finkel, the coordinator of a group of voters from Santos' district in Long Island who want to see him removed from office.

Jody, did you vote for George Santos in November? Luke Russert


TAPPER: So let me ask you a question, just devil's advocate here, I think it is great that you're being active in this, it is great that you're involved in politics, what do you say to somebody who might say, where was this activism a year ago? That's a Democratic district and Democrats didn't turn out to vote for the Democrat and Santos won?

CASS FINKEL: Well, he won by a total being -- totally being an impostor. He is the first time that we have ever had someone who is an impostor seated in Congress. And folks believed him, you know? Each of his lies were very specific to try and get to each segment of the population of this district.

And if he had won a fair election, I and other Democrats and other folks in the district would have accepted him. But when it came out that he had -- that the entire campaign was a lie and his -- the revelations started to emerge, you know, it was just absolutely enraging. The people in the district are absolutely infuriated and also we are terribly embarrassed by him.

TAPPER: Yeah, I don't know -- I don't know that he's first impostor in Congress. He's certainly the first one of -- at this level. I'll give him that. There certainly have been impostors in Congress before, people who lied about their war record and -- KASS FINKEL: There have certainly been people who lied, but I think

there's a difference here in that he does not represent the will of the people. And that's a really important fundamental tenet of our Constitution and because, you know, we voted in somebody who is Jewish, and half black and a real estate tycoon, and very highly educated, with incredible work experience, and that is who we voted for and that is not who we got. And I don't think you can find anyone in the history of the elections that actually meets that test.

TAPPER: Well, certainly not to the degree, absolutely. If the House does not expel Santos, he's expected to keep serving in Congress, he said he's going to run for re-election, what's your group going to do?

KASS FINKEL: So, we're doing everything we can to get him removed. We are looking at a bunch of different things, but the truth of the matter is, look, you know, this could happen as soon as tomorrow if Kevin McCarthy had an ounce of shame and was willing to do the right thing here both for the people of New York 03 and also for the country. He could tell Santos there's the door and you got to go use it.

So, right now, Santos still enjoys the support of Kevin McCarthy and Elise Stefanik and the Republican leadership in Washington. And that is really a problem.


They are doing so much damage, not just to the voters in New York 03 and since we haven't had meaningful representation in -- more than four months, but they're doing damage to our country. People -- Stefanik and McCarthy said over and over again how important election integrity is.

This is prime example of how they don't care about election integrity. The election was not fair. It was a total -- it was a total con on the people of New York 03 and so, you know, shame on them for allowing this to go forward.

TAPPER: Jody Kass Finkel, thanks so much for your time. Appreciate it.

He may be standing by George Santos, but Speaker McCarthy took swift action today against Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib. Why he canceled her event today and said it traffics in antisemitic tropes about Israel.

And in Texas, will the governor there go through with pardoning a sergeant, convicted of murder, now that he's been sentenced to 25 years in prison?

Plus, Trump prepares to hit the stage tonight. The likely strategy as he gets ready to face New Hampshire Republican voters here on CNN.


TAPPER: In our politics lead, a jury finds former President Donald Trump liable for sexual abuse and defamation and orders him to give $5 million to the victim.


And tonight, Mr. Trump will have to answer to voters. The CNN town hall stage is set in New Hampshire for the Republican presidential primary front-runner.

Here to discuss, CNN chief national affairs correspondent Jeff Zeleny and CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger.

So, Jeff, let me start with the obvious. I mean, a jury awarded E. Jean Carroll $5 million for defamation and sexual abuse. Some of the Republican responses that we've seen, Senator Marco Rubio calling the jury, calling his fellow Americans, a joke. That's his word, not mine.

How do you think Republican voters are going to take it?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: We'll see. I think if you are a Republican who is an always Trumper, you are going to follow him until the end of the Earth, you will believe what he says.

But there is a sense of Republican exhaustion out there. I travel around the country talking to voters, there are plenty of Republicans who, A, want to win the White House, and are worried about what this will do in a general election. Of course, there is a long way between here and there.

But I think in the short-term, any of his answers tonight on this, I would be stunned if anything new suddenly comes from his mouth. We probably know that he's going to say I didn't know her, this is a witch-hunt, et cetera. So, but when you start to pile up all these things, there is no one in Trump's orbit who thinks this is good for him.

Different than the Alvin Bragg situation in Manhattan. That sort of galvanized his base and really caused him to get a bit of a lead going here in the primary. But I think this is different because the very voters he's trying to win over and reach here are likely offended by this behavior.

TAPPER: Hold on, Gloria, but I want to pick up on something Jeff just dropped, which is the idea of the aggregate of all this.


TAPPER: You have the Alvin Bragg case, which has to deal with the hush money payments to an adult film star. Of course, we also have E. Jean Carroll. We also have investigations, special counsel and the handling of classified documents and special investigation by special counsel into January 6th. And, of course, the investigation going on, the grand jury down there in Georgia having to do with trying to flip the election, steal the election.

I don't doubt that the ride or die crowd, Kayleigh McEnany and the whole network they're in, got it, but what about the people who flipped? What about the suburban moms? What about the moderate Republicans?

BORGER: That's the problem for Donald Trump. He's got to enlarge his base. Say he gets the nomination, right?

These things become a huge problem, particularly suburban women, for example, when the guy is held liable for sexual assault. That is an issue. Let's see what happens with the special counsel. Let's see what happens with the Atlanta grand jury.

I was talking to Republican strategist who said, look, this isn't going to hurt him in the primary, which is why you haven't seen a lot of his opponents come out against him aside from Chris Christie, potential opponent, Asa Hutchinson has on the E. Jean Carroll thing.

But what does it do? What does it do in a general election when you have to get more people to vote for you? What does it do with independent voters who are on the fence here?

I mean, this doesn't enlarge his base. If you're an independent voter, and you're thinking, you know, I might go for Donald Trump again, do you think what happened yesterday convinces you to vote for Donald Trump?

TAPPER: Also what is interesting is how his would be challengers in the Republican presidential primary are handling this. Chris Christie might run, very aggressive. You have Governor Asa Hutchinson who is running, aggressive, another reason why we shouldn't vote for Trump.

But then you have Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, both of them saying not really for me to weigh in, I haven't really been paying attention, et cetera.

BORGER: And Mike Pence also.

TAPPER: Mike Pence, he said -- he never saw --


BORGER: He never saw it.

TAPPER: He should talk to Alyssa Farah Griffin --

BORGER: Right.

TAPPER: The comms director who said she reported an incident to Mark Meadows, the chief of staff, because of Donald Trump being inappropriate with a woman at the White House.

ZELENY: What this tells us is this, this tells us that there are still several Republican rivals who are afraid of him and they're trying to court his voters and they believe there is no path for them if they get cross ways with the voters.

But if they learned any lessons from 2016, as Chris Christie knows, he believes you have to take him on front on. He calls it a frontal attack. So I thought that the comments from Asa Hutchinson, he said I respect

the jury.

BORGER: Right.

ZELENY: Long time prosecutor, and really at odds with --

TAPPER: Also, by the way, he was also one of the House members that went after Bill Clinton during impeachment in the '90s, yeah.


BORGER: He did lead impeachment, along with Lindsey Graham.


ZELENY: He said he respected the jury. This is the first time a jury, a jury of his peers, you can say, oh, they're from New York City -- well, that's where Donald Trump is from.

TAPPER: Yeah, they know him pretty well there.

ZELENY: Yeah, this is the first time a jury weighed in.

So, look, I think the rivals are still afraid of him without question. Nikki Haley was on Hugh Hewitt this morning and said I'm not going to weigh in on that.


There are some voters that are gettable for the Republican candidates if they do weigh in on that.

TAPPER: Can I say something? Like Nikki Haley going after Don Lemon for his comments, I get it, I understand why nobody liked those comments. But that's more offensive to Nikki Haley than a jury finding Donald Trump liable for sexually assaulting her? That like --

BORGER: She worked for Donald Trump.

TAPPER: Is there no sense of standards and proportion here?

BORGER: I don't think there is a sense of proportion when you're going to face him in a Republican primary. I think that's -- that's the problem we're talking about.

And, remember, when you take on Donald Trump frontally, as Chris Christie is doing, and we know he's very capable of doing that, Asa Hutchinson as well, Marco Rubio, in 2016 did that. And it backfired.

TAPPER: But did it late.

BORGER: Yes, but it backfired.

TAPPER: And poorly. BORGER: And poorly. But the question is how do you do it well? And

that question has not yet been answered, really. And maybe Chris Christie will be able to do it, but will he be considered a bully if he does it? It is a really difficult dance to do, taking on Donald Trump.

TAPPER: So, speaking of taking on Donald Trump, let me say he's not allowed me to interview him since June 2016. That is seven years. The last time he was, like, he was attacking Judge Curiel during the Donald Trump university case, and, you know, I was slightly assertive in, like, trying to get to the point of you're calling -- you're attacking him for being a Mexican when, first of all, he's an American from Indiana, but that's a definition of racism. Here is an excerpt of that.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: This judge is giving us unfair rulings. Now I say why. I'm building a wall, okay. And it is a wall between Mexico. Not another country.

TAPPER: He's not from Mexico.

TRUMP: In my opinion --

TAPPER: He's from Indiana.

TRUMP: He's Mexican heritage and he's very proud of it.


TAPPER: It went on and on and on.

The only point I'm making here is in the last couple of years, and for much of his time in the White House, he refused to sit for anything remotely like that. There are a couple of exceptions. He's ensconced with the safe bubble of Fox folks and whatever, right wing folks that are just praise him and whatever don't challenge him at all, even on basic things.

Is he ready for Kaitlan tonight? Is he ready for the Republican voters that have questions for him tonight?

ZELENY: We'll see. I'm not sure -- he has a thin skin. I'm not sure he's ready for -- to answer the questions, like he did actually did in 2015 and '16. He went on any show that would take him, for sure.

So, I'm not -- you know, most presidents, most former presidents live inside of a rarified era. We'll see if he is. There is a sense around him. He's the same person. We should point that out again and again. He's not likely to change at 76 years old.

But his campaign is different and more professional and they want him to be in front of audiences like this. So we'll see how he adapts to that. I don't have an answer to it, so wait and see. BORGER: I'm sure he's getting a lot of advice. When you talk to his

lawyers, he doesn't take their advice. The question is he going to take the advice of the political team around him, which will be to cool it down? But we'll see.

TAPPER: We'll see.

Jeff Zeleny, Gloria Borger, thanks so much.

We're going to see, as I just said, how Trump responds to it all tonight. He's going to take questions from CNN's Kaitlan Collins as well as New Hampshire Republican primary voters. The CNN Republican presidential town hall starts at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

Coming up, dramatic images coming in from the Middle East. More than 400 rockets fired in the last 48 hours upon Israel. What is behind the heavy escalation of violence and why is this time different?



TAPPER: Topping our world lead, at least 21 Palestinians are dead in Gaza, and over half a million Israelis were in or near shelters today, according to officials in the region in a rash of renewed violence.

On Tuesday, the Israeli defense forces struck the tightly packed city of Gaza in a planned operation according to the IDF. They said they killed three commanders of the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad, which the U.S. considers to be a terrorist organization, and they also killed ten other men, women and children.

Today, the IDF says hundreds of rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel at the population at large.

CNN's Hadas Gold is in Israel as sirens blare and the death toll climbs.


HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After the tense quiet, the expected storm. Palestinian militants firing hundreds of rockets from Gaza towards Israel starting Wednesday afternoon. Reaching as far deep as Tel Aviv, sending beachgoers running for cover, much of the barrage, though, focused on southern Israel.

A seemingly delayed response by the militants to Israel killing three top Islamic jihad commanders early Tuesday morning.

In Gaza, meanwhile, the casualties mounting. One child among those killed Wednesday. Israel carrying out additional air strikes targeting, it says dozens of rocket launchers, weapons sites and more belonging to the Iranian backed Islamic Jihad.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warning that the campaign will continue. BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We

say to the terrorists and their neighbors, we see you everywhere. You cannot hide. And we choose the place and the time to hit you. We and not you.

GOLD: Hamas standing alongside the Islamic Jihad, vowing unity in their response as news of a possible Egyptian brokered cease-fire swirled in the evening, only to be met with more rocket barrages in Israel and more air strikes in Gaza.


The possibility of quiet slipping into the night.


GOLD (on camera): Now, Jake, the latest numbers we have from the IDF is more than 469 rockets have been fired today from Gaza into Israel. The IDF saying they have struck more than 133 targets in Gaza. It has been quiet for the first time so far today for the last hour or so. There have been reports of and a cease-fire in the works but no word that that is near completion.

TAPPER: Hadas, there have been accusations that the IDF operation Tuesday was politically motivated at least to a degree in order to get Prime Minister Netanyahu's more conservative, more right wing allies back on board with his team.

What can you tell us about that?

GOLD: The last week, more than 100 rockets were fired by Islamic Jihad toward Israel, and Itamar Ben-Gvir, the national security minister, his party boycotted votes in parliament because they said it was a weak response. Israeli military they said struck inconsequential targets, no militants were killed.

That changed after Tuesday's operation where three senior commanders were killed and now back on board and they're voting. But at the end of the day, I don't think the Israeli military will take on these operations with the political motivation. Keep in mind, one of those commanders that was killed had been wanted by Israel for at least two decades -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Hadas Gold in Jerusalem, thanks so much.

Turning to our politics lead here in Washington, D.C., this year, Israel is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the country's founding in 1948, which happened in the wake of the state sponsored slaughter of 6 million Jews in Europe by Nazi Germany.

To commemorate this date, Michigan Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib announced she would be speaking at an event in the U.S. Capitol's visitor center to mark al Nakba. Nakba means the catastrophe, she wants to lament the founding of Israel.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, this Nakba events are held by Palestinians and their supporters and anti-Israel activists every year on May 15th. Tlaib is the daughter of Palestinian immigrants and we also should point out, of course, that criticizing Israel or its government is not necessarily antisemitic, but Congresswoman Tlaib has a history of making remarks that many of her fellow Democratic members of Congress have described as antisemitic.

Some of the co-sponsors of this event such as Jewish Voice for Peace Action and Americans for Justice and Palestine Action are described by the Anti-Defamation League as groups that traffic in antisemitism.

However you feel about it, late last night, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced on Twitter that he is canceling Congresswoman Tlaib's event, saying he will host a bipartisan discussion on the long relationship between the United States and Israel.

CNN reached out to Congresswoman Tlaib's office regarding her level of involvement with the event and what speaker McCarthy did but we have not heard back.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott pledged to pardon a sergeant convicted of murder. Does the calculus change at all after the judge today sentenced him to 25 years in prison for the murder?



TAPPER: In our national lead, all eyes on Texas Governor Greg Abbott right now to see if he's going to pardon Daniel Perry.

Perry, the former Army sergeant, convicted of murdering a protester at a Black Lives Matter rally in 2020. He was sentenced today to 25 years in prison for that murder. Before Perry had been sentenced, Abbott, prompted by Fox anchor Tucker Carlson at the time, has said he wanted to pardon him. And he said he was going to reach out to the pardon and parole board to expedite a review of Perry's case.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov joins me now live.

Lucy, a very emotional sentencing hearing today, you say.

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, it was extremely emotional, Jake, as that judge read the sentence 25 years in prison minus the time served for the murder of 28-year-old Garrett Foster, we saw Daniel Perry burst into tears, he leaned forward, his head was in his hands crying.

The prosecution had requested at least 25 years. They cited Perry's years long history of making racist comments in messages and social media posts in which he effectively advocated for violence. His defense team, though, said that Perry's actions were justified as self-defense. They wanted the judge to consider Perry's decade of military service as the mitigating factor.

But Garrett Foster also served. He was an Air Force veteran, here is his sister addressing Perry after that sentencing. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I see no remorse for what you've done. You can't even look at my family. The urge you had to kill someone, you swore to protect this country and its Constitution and then you killed somebody for exercising their constitutional rights to protest.


KAFANOV: A lot of emotion there. Perry's defense team is planning to appeal -- Jake.

TAPPER: Protests -- sorry, prosecutors have highlighted since the conviction, highlighted a stream of racist and inflammatory social media posts that Perry wrote prior to the shooting. They were not introduced at trial, we should note. They were deemed too prejudicial. Is that having any impact on this potential pardon?

I would think Governor Perry -- I mean, I'm sorry, Governor Abbott might -- he went out, he said what he said, probably didn't know about these racist posts, I would guess. Has this given him any pause?

KAFANOV: Well, we haven't heard from the governor, CNN has reached out, no comment as of yet. But the way it works under Texas law is basically the governor can only pardon someone if that board of pardons and paroles recommends it, which they are looking into the matter, we don't know whether they're going to issue their decision.

Now, the D.A. today accused Abbott of inserting politics into this case by asking the board for the expedited review and the defense firing back in a statement and I quote, while we are aware of the criticism that has unfairly surrounded Governor Abbott's expressed interest to pardon Sergeant Perry, that criticism fails to account for the fact that the pardons process was designed to be a check on the system.


In the event that Sergeant Perry is pardoned, it would simply reflect the strong self-defense loss that exists in Texas. We are -- we do know from the D.A. that they will be making a presentation to the pardon and parole board and that they will be hearing from the victims families, but that process, Jake, is expected to play out over the next few weeks. It is going to be a while before we have a decision -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Lucy Kafanov, thanks so much.

Coming up, what can happen when you leave a world you know to explore the unknown? How that turned out for Luke Russert, the son of the late great TV icon Tim Russert? That's next.



TAPPER: And we're back with our pop culture lead today.

A new memoir that explores what happens when you leave behind everything you know for a chance to try to find what truly makes you happy and make peace with grief. The book is called "Look for Me There: Grieving My Father, Finding Myself" by Luke Russert. He is, of course, the son of the late legendary journalist Tim Russert who we lost in 2008. The book is out now and doing very well and Luke is here.

Thanks so much. It's -- I read the whole thing.


TAPPER: It is very beautifully written, I have to say. You can tell you and your editor worked hard on the prose. I guess the first question I have is, you know, you obviously after your father died you became a political reporter for NBC and MSNBC, but then you left.

You said you were, quote, unfulfilled and unhappy. There were a number of things that led to that including a lecture from House Speaker John Boehner.


TAPPER: And also the gorilla being killed and some of that nonsense bumping one of your hits.

But tell me, like, how did -- how did you end up with traveling the world as the solution at least temporarily?

RUSSERT: I think when you go travel, you are escaping, right? And what I figured out not until later on, originally it was escape, get me out of here, I want to be alone with the voices in my own head and figure out who I am independent of the D.C. bubble, independent of my last name, independent of my family.

But when I started to go out there and travel, I started to figure out, okay, the more comfortable I become in uncertainty, the more fulfilled I feel as a human being. And the better as a person I become. And so that was something that I started to notice as I went to more places, which was, okay, I'm picking up little bits and pieces of culture around the world, and they're making me feel like a more educated, like a less ignorant, more fulfilled human being.

But it is one of those things where I think it is a combination of the escapism, but also putting yourself in that position to listen to your own thoughts, which, for me, I had never done. I threw myself into that job and really avoided the tough conversations about grief.

TAPPER: Yeah. And, look, it is tough to lose a parent, you also had an especially close relationship with your father, who was in a especially larger than life figure.

The book, it is not just about grief, but grief is obviously about -- in it, in its DNA and about how you dealt with it, the conversations with your father, hearing your dad's voice, and I wonder, we're now 15 years away from your dad's passing, what would you say to 22-year-old Luke Russert about -- if you could go back and tell yourself that, something that week or that month, what would you tell yourself about grief and how it is going to look 15 years later?

RUSSERT: I often think about that because I look back at that kid, he was trying so hard, and it wasn't arrested development because there is this belief that if you got away too far from 22-year-old Luke and that means you would lose dad, too. If I had the opportunity to go back to 22-year-old Luke, I would say you got to do three things.

Number one, go off somewhere and cry, just cry your eyes out, and get it all out. I never did that. I cried one time, the night that he had passed and that was when it came out. I didn't cry after that for a long time.

Number two, I would say is put your phone away, disconnect, and listen to the thoughts in your own mind, your own head.

And number three, it is okay to be you. Don't do what society expects of you. Don't do what your parents expect of you. Don't do what everyone is telling you to do. Go out there and think, okay, what is going to make me comfortable because you don't want to white knuckle anything because the white knuckling leads to anxiety, which makes you less of a fulfilled person and ultimately makes you unhappy.

TAPPER: So your dad in his book about his dad --


TAPPER: -- he wrote a letter to you, you mentioned it in the epilogue. He said in this letter to you: As grandpa likes to say, the world doesn't owe you a favor. You do owe this world something to live a good and decent and meaningful life would be the ultimate affirmation of grandpa's lessons and values.

Have you figured out how to do that, to live a good and decent and meaningful life?

RUSSERT: I think we're all a work in progress. But what I have figured out is I'm very much at peace with losing my father. I miss him every single day, but I don't get upset about it. And I think that helps me much more on the path of living a good and decent and meaningful life.

And the one thing I will say is the response so far from this book, all these folks that have reached out to me and said, you've been -- your book has helped me process the loss of a parent or a spouse or a child, that means the world to me, and I'm so happy that I accomplished it. That was the original goal, to help make someone feel a little less lost.

TAPPER: We both know your dad was proud of you, even when you didn't deserve it. I do -- I do think that he would -- that wherever he is, he is very proud of you right now.

RUSSERT: I appreciate that, Jake.

TAPPER: Thank you so much for being here.

RUSSERT: Thanks for having me.

TAPPER: We appreciate it. Buy the book. It's a -- it's a meaningful trip. "Look for Me There", it's called, "Grieving My Father, Finding Myself," by Luke Russert.


Coming up, U.S. officials say they encountered more than 10,000 migrants on the American side of the border yesterday alone, but get this -- 155,000 are also estimated to be on the Mexican side waiting to cross. What could happen once that key immigration policy expires tomorrow?


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

This hour, the Florida Department of Education rejected dozens of social studies textbooks. Why mentions of the national anthem and George Floyd got removed and what they were replaced with.

Plus, a groundbreaking vote. Women in the United States one step closer to having access to birth control pills without needing a prescription. This would be for first time ever. What needs to happen next to make this a reality?