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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Special Counsel Durham Concludes FBI Never Should Have Launched Trump-Russia Probe; McCarthy Pessimistic On Talks: "We Have No Agreements"; Orange County, NY Files Lawsuits Attempting To Stop NYC from Temporarily Housing Migrants Within The City; Twitter Blocks Content In Turkey a Day Before Election; At Least Three Dead In New Mexico Mass Shooting. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired May 15, 2023 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Did Trump's hopes for the Durham investigation come true? Well, the report just dropped.

And THE LEAD starts right now.

Investigating the investigation. After three years, millions of dollars, special counsel John Durham finally releases his report into whether the FBI had a legitimate reason to investigate Trump in 2016. So what did he conclude?

Plus, a congressman's staffer and intern on her first day both attacked today by a man with a metal baseball bat. Details we're just getting in from police.

And the Florida culture wars continue. This time a fifth grade teacher says she's being investigated for showing her class a 2022 animated Disney movie rated PG-13. The alleged offender is Ethan, an animated gay teen character.


Welcome to THE LEAD.

I'm Jake Tapper. And we start today with breaking news. The year's long investigation is over. And John Durham, the special counsel investigating whether there was any misconduct by the FBI in the Trump-Russia investigation just released his findings.

For years Donald Trump and his supporters pinned their hopes on the investigation by the former U.S. attorney for Connecticut. John Durham named special counsel by Attorney General Bill Barr, Trump and his allies arguing it would exonerate him from any hint of improper behavior regarding the Russian government's attempts to interfere in the 2016 election.

Durham is coming, was the slogan and meme tweeted by Republican lawmakers and the president's family, hinting that Durham would lead to bombshell indictments of those who investigated Trump. Now, the bombshell indictments did not happen. Durham did get one

minor court victory, two court losses. But President Trump appeared so confident of what Durham would find, he openly pressured the special counsel to release the findings before the 2020 election.

Regardless, the report is here, it has dropped. And it might have not produced everything of what some Republicans hope for, it is regardless devastating to the FBI, and to a degree it does exonerate Donald Trump.

Let's bring in CNN senior justice correspondent Evan Perez.

Evan, what exactly did Durham find in this report?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the bottom line finding from John Durham's four-year investigation is that the FBI moved very quickly to investigate these allegations of connections of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and that they did so by ignoring a lot of evidence that would have led them to drop that altogether.

He's saying that they may have had reason to open a preliminary investigation, an assessment. Perhaps these are very, very low-level investigations. But certainly, what he finds is that there wasn't enough there to support the FBI's decision to open a full-blown investigation of this -- of the Trump-Russia ties back in 2016. I'll tell you one part of what he writes here.

He says that it seems highly likely that at a minimum, confirmation bias played a significant role in the FBI's acceptance of extraordinarily serious allegations derived from uncorroborated information that had not been subjected to the typical exacting analysis that the FBI usually uses.

He goes on to say that the FBI discounted or willfully ignored material information that did not support the narrative of a collusive relationship between Trump and Russia. There was a lot of very sharp criticism here of the former FBI leadership, James Comey, Andy McCabe, who were running the FBI and oversaw a lot of these -- a lot of the steps that the report goes into, Jake.

But as you pointed out, bottom line, there are no additional charges. Nobody is bringing charges against Comey or anybody else that former President Trump kept saying he expected them to. There was a former Trump -- I'm sorry, a former Clinton campaign outside lawyer who was brought up on charges.

He was acquitted. Again, in here there's a footnote that points out there's no chargeable crimes against people in the Clinton campaign. Again, something that the former president said he expected this investigation to find, Jake.


TAPPER: So, it's very interesting. First of all, we should note that when President Biden took office, there were two special counsels -- one U.S. attorney and one special counsel that he let continue doing their jobs. One was John Durham doing this case, and the other was the U.S. attorney in Delaware investigating Hunter. So that is why this was allowed to proceed.

A couple quotes here from Durham's report. One, based on the review of Crossfire Hurricane, that's the investigation into Trump and Russia, and related intelligence activities, we concluded the Justice Department and FBI failed to uphold their important mission of strict fidelity to the law in connection with certain events and activities described in the report.

He says about, quote, certain -- about regarding certain personnel intimately involved in the matter there was a, quote, predisposition to open an investigation into Trump.

He is basically saying -- these are not criminal allegations, but he's saying that these were unprofessional and failed to meet the standards of the Justice Department and the FBI.

PEREZ: Jake, the stunning thing about this report is that we frankly know a lot of this. The inspector general, the Justice Department did a 500-page report that came out in late 2019, and that one told us a lot of these findings that Durham is now confirming, frankly. One of the reasons why Durham was brought on board was supposedly to go beyond what the inspector general of the Justice Department found in their investigation.

One of the things they were supposed to do was to tell us a lot about what the intelligence community was doing. It turns out they didn't find much there in the intelligence community, and certainly not to support the suspicions that they had that there was a cabal of people from the FBI and the intelligence community who were out to get Donald Trump. That appears to have fallen flat as part of this investigation.

And so, look, there's a lot in here that should make the FBI have to come back and answer some more questions including some of the changes that they said they've made to make sure something like this never happens again. But the bottom line from what we see here at the end of a four-year investigation really doesn't tell us a hell of a lot more than what we knew a couple years ago when the inspector general took a look at many of these things and came away with 17 troubled -- very big, troubling findings they said the FBI needed to fix, Jake.

TAPPER: Yeah. So, another thing. Rachel Cohen, who is a spokeswoman -- communications director for Mark Warner who is the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, she notes -- and this is important context -- that the Senate intelligence committee spent 3- 1/2 years reviewing millions of documents and interviewing hundreds of witnesses, this is on Twitter, and concluded that the FBI had ample cause for concern in 2016.

She notes that the committee, the Senate intelligence committee at the time was led by Republicans. She's referring to former North Carolina Senator Richard Burr. Again, both of these facts can be true at the same time.

PEREZ: Right.

TAPPER: It is possible that the FBI had legitimate cause for concern and it is also possible that some individuals in the FBI got ahead over their skis and were not as professional as they should have been.

PEREZ: Right, exactly. One of the things you come away with from this report, and it was surprising to see him say it, because if you remember, in 2019, Durham came out with a very highly unusual statement in which he said he disagreed with a key finding of the inspector general which said that, you know, there was plenty of reason for the justice department, for the FBI to investigate the Trump campaign. He said he disagreed with that.

In today's report, Durham says that he sees reason for the FBI to at least take a look at some of the initial tips that led to what became Crossfire Hurricane. He said the FBI had reason to investigate, at least preliminary. What he doesn't see is the reason for a full-blown investigation according to this report.

Jake, one of the interesting -- one of the things that stood out to me, if you remember the former president kept saying he was going to find evidence of deep state spying. Well, there is a part here that talks about a confidential human source, essentially a spy, who was tasked with going to a Clinton campaign fund-raiser. Let me repeat that. A Clinton campaign fund-raiser because the FBI had gotten information that somebody was saying that perhaps a foreign government might be expecting some favors from a future Clinton presidency.


So there you have it. The FBI was spying on the Clinton campaign, according to John Durham's report.

TAPPER: Has the FBI responded at all to the Durham report?

PEREZ: They have. Christopher Wray, the FBI director put out a statement just a little while ago saying that a lot of the changes that the FBI has made will make sure that things like this don't happen again.

And, you know, the FBI wants to point out, Jake, that a lot of the leadership, a lot of the people who were involved in decisions that are in for very sharp criticism from this report, they're gone from the FBI.

TAPPER: And the current FBI director was appointed by President Trump, not that that has stopped him from criticizing Christopher Wray.

Evan Perez, thank you so much.

PEREZ: Sure.

TAPPER: Let's bring in former federal prosecutor Elie Honig and CNN's Sara Murray. So, here it is, all 300-plus pages, Elie. The bottom line, Durham has

found that the FBI should never have launched a full-blown investigation into relationships or allegations of relationships between Trump, his associates in his campaign and the Russian government.

What's your response?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Jake, there's no surprise in that conclusion. It was a forgone conclusion from the start.

Let's remember how John Durham came to be special counsel. In the middle of 2019 when Mueller concluded his investigation, Donald Trump was taking to Twitter regularly saying, all caps, investigate the investigators. Shortly thereafter, Bill Barr appointed John Durham to do this investigation.

And there was a really important and I think revealing moment. In December of 2019, DOJ's own inspector general came out with the point that there were missteps, however, there was ample ground to open an investigation. And right away. John Durham came out with a public statement and said I disagree with that. That was three-and-change years ago.

So, it doesn't mean Durham's findings are valid or invalid, but there's absolutely no surprise that he's come out where he has.

TAPPER: Sara, obviously, nuance is not really a part of Donald Trump's lexicon or the political lexicon in general. I assume that Trump and his allies are going to claim complete exoneration from this report.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, this report doesn't refer to the deep state necessarily. That's not going to stop Donald Trump from saying the deep state was out to get him. We've also seen House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan already come out and say he wants John Durham to testify next week.

And, look, Republicans, especially Jim Jordan, has made a big deal about trying to investigate what they call the so-called weaponization of the federal government and who they decide to prosecute, how they decide to prosecute. So, they're going to use this to fit into their narrative.

Frankly, they've also gone out of their way to make the argument that Donald Trump has been unfairly persecuted. I mean, they talked about that when it comes to the search of Mar-a-Lago, when it comes to Trump's retention of documents.

So, this is more ammunition for them to make the argument that conservatives, that the former president are treated differently under the eyes of justice in this country. I suspect we're going to see and hear a lot more of that, especially from Jim Jordan.

TAPPER: Elie, Durham's investigations, in terms of the pelts on his wall is not very impressive. One minor conviction, two losses at trial. Would any prosecutor consider that a success in terms of finding criminality in the misdeeds here?

HONIG: Absolutely not, Jake. In terms of criminal prosecutions, this case was an outright bust. It has been going on for four years.

Here is the bottom line tally. Two people indicted, went to trial, found not guilty. Wrongly charged, acquitted and cleared by a jury. A third person pled guilty and was sentenced to probation. No time in jail.

So, any way look at this from a prosecutorial lens, it was a failure and subs optimal use, I'll say, of four years' worth of resources.

TAPPER: So, the conclusions, Sara, I mean, they are pretty soon. Durham says they should not have launched -- the FBI should not have launched a full scale investigation into Trump and Russia. He says -- he seems to suggest there was a lot of unprofessional behavior at DOJ and the FBI and people had a predisposition, that's his word, to investigate Trump and to believe the worst and they had different standards.

It's also true that there was a lot of smoke, right? I mean, there was that meeting between the Trump campaign, Kushner, Don Jr. and others, that whole thing about, if it's what you say it is, I love it, especially later in the summer.

There is, you know, Manafort giving polling information to Konstantin Kilimnik. There is stuff as the Senate Intelligence Committee communications director points out that would raise alarms.


MURRAY: Well, yeah. There's also how sort of publicly cozy Donald Trump was when he talked about Putin, when he talked about Russia that sort of raised red flags for people throughout the campaign. I think what you saw here is there were some legitimate concerns among investigators, both at the Justice Department as well as Hill investigators, including Republicans on Capitol Hill, who wanted to look into this.

As you point out, this was done in some ways, you know, you can say it was a sloppy fashion. You can say it was a nefarious fashion, when you look at people that may have had preconceptions or political bias in how they pursued this. Now, it all comes in the plain. And again, that's all going to be used as ammunition on Capitol Hill.

TAPPER: All right. Sara Murray, Elie Honig, thanks to both of you for joining us for the breaking news.

Keep it here for a reaction to this report from special counsel John Durham. As it comes in, we'll bring it to you.

Plus, frustration on Capitol Hill today from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy as he insisted a debt deal needs to happen this week before the U.S. runs out of money at the beginning of June to pay its bills.

And were military veterans experiencing homelessness kicked out of a New York hotel to make way for migrants? We're going to get both sides of that story next.



TAPPER: Turning now to the very real threat of an economic catastrophe. We're only 17 days from the deadline when, according to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, the U.S. government will run out of money to pay its bills. And with that, a possible recession, deep employment, big hits to retirement savings, a pause on Social Security benefits, on and on.

Key negotiators are meeting behind the scenes today but Speaker Kevin McCarthy says they remain far apart.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I appreciate the president finally willing to talk after 97 days, but there is no movement. We're only a couple weeks away. If you look at the timeline to pass something in the House and pass something in the Senate, you've got have something done by this weekend. And we are nowhere near any of that.


TAPPER: Tomorrow, President Biden is expected to sit down with congressional leaders, and we will tell you more when that happens.

In our world lead, the crisis at the U.S./Mexico border which is spilling into other major American cities. The mayors of New York, and Chicago, and Denver and Washington, D.C. are asking President Biden for a meeting to discuss the surge of migrants to their cities. While he waits for more federal help, New York City Mayor Eric Adams is facing major pushback from leaders in his own state over his plans to relocate migrants to suburbs outside New York City.

Here to discuss is Orange County, New York executive Steve Neuhaus.

Mr. Neuhaus, thanks so much for joining us.

So, you're suing Mayor Adams to stop these buses from coming into Orange County. Tell us why you think that's necessary.

STEVEN NEUHAUS, COUNTY EXECUTIVE, ORANGE COUNTY, NY: Good to see you, Jake. Thanks for having me on.

So, myself and the county and Rockland County, just south of us, filed a lawsuit last week, and we're trying to get a stop on New York City sending any up here at least for the time being because we have really no information on who they are, have they been vetted, how long are they staying, what is their status. Literally what the city has been doing is just renting hotels and taking them over, turning them into homeless shelters.

TAPPER: So, in response to complaints about transporting migrants, a spokesman from Mayor Adams' office said, quote, we need other elected officials around the state and the country to do their part, unquote.

What do you make of this argument that, you know, we're all in this, that migrants, tens of thousands of them are crossing the border and coming here for various reasons, most of them for a better life, and escaping poverty, and escaping violence and the rest, and that every part of the country needs to do its part? That's what Mayor Adams is saying.

NEUHAUS: I think majority overwhelming of these folks are doing the same thing my parents did. They came here for a better lifestyle, the American Dream. There's just got to be a better plan. We have a very -- the communication has been very lackluster in -- between the governor and the mayor. That's I think improving over the last couple days. I think there's better options.

There's other counties that have, like, empty dormitories, other facilities that can better accommodate these folks. We're in the beautiful Hudson Valley where we have West Point. We had the graduation this weekend, they canceled all those reservations -- air show, wettings, veterans that you've heard recently have been displaced.

So, all these type of people have been removed from this hotel to make way for this. We think there would be a better plan in place.

TAPPER: Yeah, I mean, it's a pretty shocking how little planning there's been.

Let's talk about the story of the veterans who are homeless. This is a story about 20 homeless veterans who were being housed in an Orange County, New York hotel. They say and a leader of a local non-profit says they were told to leave to make room for migrants.

Now, a New York City official tells CNN that this story is not true. Quote, we would never want to push a veteran out of a room they reserved and it's sad that some have made these allegations in attempt to pit our veterans against a vulnerable population like asylum seekers, unquote.

Who is telling the truth here?

NEUHAUS: I think what happened here is you had a hotel that wasn't fully occupied, right? You had New York City come in and say I will take every room for the next oh open up until January 1st. That's how long we have them rented that we've seen the records.

So anybody that's in there they canceled. These veterans were under a non-profit. They weren't directly under my care. They were under a non-profit called YIT. And that's -- they were given the boot and since placed at another hotel.

So, I don't think -- do I think the city meant to push them out of there? No. But did they want to occupy as many rooms as they could? Yeah. In the meantime, did they disrupt a lot of people's lives? Yes.

TAPPER: So, can you just tell us, we cover a lot of veterans issues on this show, a population of this country that doesn't get the treatment they deserve, considering everything they sacrificed for us.

Are those 20 veterans okay? Or do they have a new place to stay? Are they being taken care of?


NEUHAUS: You -- they are being taken care of. And you're talking to a veteran himself. I'm still in the reserves. I'm a commander in the navy.

And we made sure that they were taken care of right away. And actually, the outpouring of the public to donate food to them as well has been really overwhelming.

So, I think a lot of people compassionate -- even the folks, the immigrants sent all over the country, there's a lot of people that are angry at the process, but Americans are generous people and have come out and said what can we do to help.

TAPPER: Yeah, Steven Neuhaus, thank you so much. Appreciate your time today.

NEUHAUS: Thanks, Jake. Thank you.

TAPPER: And thanks for your service. Thank you for your service as well, sir. Appreciate it.

NEUHAUS: Thank you.

TAPPER: Ahead, what appeared to look like Twitter's move to possibly interfere in the elections of a major NATO ally.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Big story in our world lead. Turkey, home to NATO's second largest army and a key power broker on the edge of the Western and Eastern world, Turkey and the citizens of Turkey may be yearning for change after Sunday's presidential election ended in narrow margin.

Strongman president of nine years, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, just got over 49 percent of the vote, his opponent often dubbed the Gandhi of Turkey, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, got nearly 45 percent.

Now, according to a state-run news agency, now, because neither men got the sufficient number needed, it's headed to a runoff at the end of the month.

A day before Turkish voters went to vote, Twitter, according to critics, put its thumbs or wings on the scale. Twitter's official global government affairs account tweeted this: In response to legal process and to ensure Twitter remains available to the people of Turkey, we've taken access to restrict access to some content in Turkey today.

CNN media analyst Sara Fischer is watching this all closely for us.

Sara, Twitter's CEO Elon Musk, he came to fore here when it comes to social media, proclaiming himself to something of a free speech absolutist. How does that square with him giving into Erdogan's demands and censuring some content?

SARA FISCHER, SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER, AXIOS: It's a great question because when he first floated the idea about buying Twitter, he was saying he's a free speech absolutist but he would adhere to the local laws in the countries in which Twitter exists. And so, clearly, this is an example where those two concepts come to a head.

Now, this isn't new. India, other countries have long requested that Twitter and other social media programs restrict access or block certain accounts. And they have in the past complied with such orders. What's different here, Jake, is that the leaders of those companies at the time didn't push so aggressively to say that they were free speech absolutists and then get caught flat food-footed when they actually had to make a move.

TAPPER: And it's also true like the previous ownership of Twitter pushed back more right when Turkey and Erdogan pushed for this. I remember seeing Twitter saying, okay, Twitter is going to go down in some parts of Turkey because we're not going to adhere to the demands made by the Erdogan government.

FISCHER: They have. And, you know, also, Twitter used to be a publicly-traded company, Jake, and they would put out transparency reports roughly every quarter to allow us in the public to see which countries are demanding for tweets be removed and which countries were not.

Now that it's a private company, we don't have any of that visibility, which may be why Elon Musk and his team feel the need to call out in real time when they're getting this request and what they're doing about it. But the thing that we're all going to be watching is that this could set a precedent under new the Elon Musk's Twitter for how he deals with government requests to take down information or block access moving forward.

TAPPER: Right. So, I mean, it was to a degree transparent. Twitter did announce they were doing this at the request of the Turkish government. Have Musk or Twitter revealed what content and which accounts Erdogan and his government wanted blocked in Turkey?

FISCHER: No, they haven't. I think sometimes there are security reasons for doing that. You don't want the name of a person or an account or the type of content that is being blocked to be out there publicly, one, because people could game the system and tried to test the limits. But, then, two, other people could be attacked.

So, I understand why they're not revealing the names of the accounts but again, if Elon Musk is going to come out as a free speech absolutist, people are going to want a little bit more transparency why he's going against his own rules.

TAPPER: Although he won't be in charge for much longer, right? I mean, he's picked a new CEO and said that he's gong to scale back his role.

Tell us more about that?

FISCHER: Yeah. So, he selected Linda Yaccarino, who is one of the biggest names in the advertising industry. She comes from over a decade at NBCUniversal. This is a very strategic pick for Elon Musk.

Yaccarino actually has the trust of most major advertisers which is something that Twitter really needs right now. You've seen analysts reports that have marked down the company's value in large because advertisers are fleeing the platform worried about brand safety.

Yaccarino, one would hope, is going to bring back some of that trust. But, of course, Jake, the big question is, how much autonomy and control is she going to have? Elon Musk isn't fully exiting the company. He says he will remain chief technology officer.

TAPPER: All right. Sara Fischer, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

Coming up next, a Florida teacher says she's under investigation for showing a recent Disney movie to fifth graders. And it seems to be -- the problem seems to be that the film included an animated gay teenage character. The teacher will tell us about the steps she says she took to try to avoid this kind of fallout.



TAPPER: And we're back with our national lead, and a mass shooting in New Mexico. At least three people killed, two police officers injured. This is in northern New Mexico.

Police say multiple officers were involved in the shooting.

Let's get right to CNN's Camila Bernal.

Camila, tell us what happened.

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jake. So, there are very limited details here in terms of what exactly happened. But authorities are saying what you mentioned, three people dead and at least two officers that were injured in this shooting. Authorities saying there were multiple officers that were here.

And of those officers that were responding to this active shooter, two were injured. One of them was with the Farmington police department, the other with the New Mexico police department, who we're told they were taken to the hospital and those two officers are in stable condition at the moment. Now, officials also saying that they essentially confronted the

shooter and killed him at the scene. Now, we do not have information in terms of his or her identity, but they do say that there is no longer a threat in this community. They're also saying that they do not believe there is a second suspect in this case. There were at least four schools that went on emergency lockdown. That lockdown has been lifted.


So, again, there is no longer a threat in this area, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Camila Bernal, thank you so much.

Coming up, this is Disney's PG-rated movie "Strange World." In addition to a zany and heartwarming story, which you might expect from an animated film, it also features a gay teen romance. It's rated PG.

And now, a fifth grade teacher says she's under investigation by the Florida Department of Education after she showed the film to her students.

As CNN's Isabel Rosales reports for us, the complain is related to the controversial legislation that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed last year.



ISABEL ROSALES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): First-year Florida teacher Jenna Barbee is under fire for showing her fifth grade class a Disney movie "Strange World."

Her intent, she says, was to teach the class about the environment. The film features a family of explorers banning together to navigate the world.

BARBEE: So, I thought that was just a beautiful message to send to my kids, working together, chasing your dreams, compassion.

ROSALES: Instead, it led to the ire of a school board member, Shannon Rodriguez, also a parent of one of Barbee's students.

SHANNON RODRIGUEZ, PARENT: I'm not going to stand by and allow this minority to infiltrate our schools. God did put me here.

ROSALES: And Barbee says that triggered an investigation from the Florida Department of Investigation. Barbee showed CNN this letter she says is from the state saying: This office has determined an investigation is warranted into allegations that you engaged in inappropriate conduct.

CARTOON CHARACTER: You must be Diazo. He talks about you all the time.

CARTOON CHARACTER: Not all the time.

ROSALES: "Strange World" features a gay character and may violate Florida's Parental Rights and Education Act signed into law last year by Governor Ron DeSantis. The controversial bill bans certain instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms.

Hernando County School sent this announcement home to parents: While not the main plot of the movie, parts of the story involves a male character having feelings for another male character. In the future, this movie will not be shown.

The school district confirms to CNN the state is investigating Barbee. Rodriguez claimed Barbee broke school policy because she did not get the specific movie approved by school administration.

RODRIGUEZ: It is not a teacher's job to impose their beliefs on a child, religious, sexual orientation, gender identity, any of the above, but allowing movies such as this assists teachers in opening a door -- and please hear me -- they assist teachers for opening a door to conversations that have no place in our classrooms.

ROSALES: Barbee insists she did the follow the rules, telling CNN every child had a previously signed permission slip from a parent approving for PG movies to be shown in a classroom.

BARBEE: Nobody had a process in place where individual movies got approved. Now that I had this situation happen, there's a whole process in place where you have to get every single movie approved at the letter to the admins, to the parents back.

ROSALES: Teachers who violate the Florida parental rights bill can be suspended or have their teaching licenses revoked.

BARBEE: I don't want them to terminate me right now.


ROSALES (on camera): And, Jake, we did get a response from the Florida Department of Education who says an investigator will review that complaint, also saying an attorney will advise the commissioner on the next steps to be taken care. Also adding, quote: I understand the individual in question has discussed her case publicly. However, we will not allow politics and media pressure to dictate our process.

CNN has also reached out to the school board member, Shannon Rodriguez, for comment. We have not heard back -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Isabel Rosales, thank you so much.

Coming up next, when fiction resembles reality. How close did that new episode of "Succession" come to the very real 2020 election night? I'm going to speak with two political experts who consulted on the script.



TAPPER: In our pop culture lead, spoiler alert, kind of. Without going into too much detail, last night's episode of "Succession" on our sister channel HBO Max told the story involving political pressure on a conservative cable news network's decision desk during a presidential election.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every vote must be counted. This is about the future of the country.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can't say a false flag --




TAPPER: The episode titled "America decides" takes place on a close election need where the Roy family, not America, actually decides whether to make a premature call to throw at the very least momentum to their favored candidate who is the conservative in the race.

Now, given the text messages that we all saw in Dominion's defamation lawsuit against Fox where supposed neutral anchors discussed leaning on the decision desk, because of political pressures, it might have seemed chilling to you instead of entertaining.

With me now, Eric Schultz, former secretary in the Obama White House, and Ben Ginsberg, a former attorney for President George W. Bush and Mitt Romney, and former RNC general counsel, both political consultants for success.

First of all, congratulations on being part of a such a cool show.

Ben, let me start with you because the episode is eerily similar even though I think you guys taped it months ahead from some of the things we learned in court material from Dominion's lawsuit against fox. Top anchors, talent, Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch endorsing lies to keep viewers around, and we learned about claims of pressure on the decision desk.


Were you surprised when all this -- the news stories about Dominion came out after you consulted on this drama?

BEN GINSBERG, FORMER RNC COUNSEL: Yeah, Is it art imitating life or life imitating art? Yeah, it was a little bit chilling about how eerily similar the whole thing was. I mean, the personalities involved. The pressures on a news organization, where I came from, which is campaigns and how they would react in the moment and what they might be able to depend on from news organizations. Yeah. It was really quite something.

TAPPER: Yeah. I have to say, like I wouldn't even know how to lean on a decision desk here at CNN. Like I don't even know who is there. There's a big firewall, but that's not what we saw last night on HBO Max on the fictional ATN network.

Eric, it's not what we saw in the Dominion text. There's a moment in the episode where ATN calls the state even though there's not going to be a clear winner in that state that night, and then they stick with the decision. It seemed very similar to what we saw in 2020.

According to the book "The Divider," written by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser, Fox anchor Bret Baier wrote in an email to Fox president Jay Wallace about the call Fox made for Arizona for Biden. He said, quote, it's hurting us, the sooner we pull it, even if it guess us major egg and we put it back in his column, the better we are in my opinion, unquote.

We should note that Arizona was never in Trump's column. So putting it back in Trump's column makes no sense.

And according to "The Daily Beast", there was a different exchange better Tucker Carlson and Bret Baier, and where Baier wrote, I pressed them, about the decision desk, to slow. I think they will slow-walk Nevada.

Just to be clear, Eric, you didn't know of any of this when you and the writers at "Succession" were talking -- were doing this episode about political pressure on the decision desk?

ERIC SCHULTZ, FORMER DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Yes. I think that -- we've known for a while that the writers on the show are brilliant, funny and creative and now, we know they're really prescient. I think -- we started working on the show last spring.

Obviously the revelations -- the latest revelations about Fox and Dominion came out much more recently. But I think you're right. The writers are always looking for real life analogs to sort of play off of.

Obviously, Fox's call for Arizona in 2020 put them out on a ledge. A lot of the other networks were not willing to go there at that point. What that did, that boxed them in from calling other states because they would have been the first network to have announced President- elect Joe Biden. And so, the writers I think in this show determined on its head and sort of play with, if they weren't willing to go out and, in fact, reverse their motives, what that would look like.

TAPPER: And, Ben, this is a nightmare scenario of what I imagine somebody like you and somebody like Eric imagine goes on. The truth is most networks and I used to work at ABC and now I work at CNN, have a complete firewall where there are just statisticians and experts talking about whether or not to make a call based on the math, not based on the politics. But, boy, you got it right on ATN, because that really seems like that was going on behind the scenes at Fox. GINSBERG: Yeah. I mean, look, I sort of flashback to the experience

of 2000 in Florida where, as you'll recall, because you wrote the book, Jake --


GINSBERG: -- calls were made early in the evening that Al Gore had won Florida. Yet, Karl Rove and the folks in Austin realized that those numbers were wrong. They called in to Fox or to the networks, and the decision desks, and showed them why the call was wrong.

So, it's not that there's zero contact between campaigns and news organizations. What was so shocking about this one is that no organization would make a call like this with that many outstanding votes.

TAPPER: Yeah. Anyway, congratulations. It's great to have you guys here. Ben Ginsberg, Eric Schultz, thanks so much.


SCHULTZ: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up, new reaction to the major report from special counsel John Durham finding that the FBI in his view had no reason to open up a full investigation into former president -- or then- candidate Donald Trump and Russia.



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

This hour, new trouble for NBA star Ja Morant. The Memphis Grizzlies suspended him again after being seen in an Instagram live video with a gun again.

Plus, the devastating report about the FBI. Donald Trump and Russia and the 2016 election, the findings in the 300-page-plus Durham report.

And leading this hour, we've seen a rash of political violence in the U.S. in recent years. There's the insurrection on Capitol Hill, obviously. A man arrested outside the home of Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh, attempted to carry out an assassination attempt. Paul Pelosi, the husband of then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had his head smashed with a hammer by an intruder at their California home.

All of this seemingly incited by political reasons. And today, we've seen another politically motivated attack, two congressional staffers at the Virginia office of Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly were attacked by an assailant with a metal baseball bat. The congressman says the attacker entered the office and asked for him before wielding the bat against his staff.

CNN's Jessica Schneider is Fairfax, Virginia, outside Congressman Connolly's office.