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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Judge Decides Teixeira Must Stay Behind Bars Until Trial; D.C. Officer Accused Of Tipping-Off Proud Boys Leader About Arrest; DeSantis In New Hampshire Ahead Of Expected 2024 Launch; Arab League Welcomes Back Syria's Brutal Dictator. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 19, 2023 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Now, Air Force memo show his supervisors had previously warned him three times to stop deep diving into classified material. They even offered to train him on a new job after his first two warnings. CNN's Jason Carroll is outside the courthouse in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Jason, what was the judge's reasoning for not letting him out?

JASON CAROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, at one point, Jake, during the proceeding, the judge in this case, David Hennessy, he raised his voice and said that this is a defendant who simply did not care about who he put at risk. And as a result of that, letting him out on bail presented too much of a risk to the United States. He said the following, he said, "Records show a profound breach of the defendant's word that he would protect information and the security of the United States."

The judge in this case, David Hennessy, also went on to talk about who this defendant had hurt by releasing those troves of classified documents online, saying, "Who did he put at risk? You can make a list as long as a phone book, soldiers, medical personnel, Ukrainian personnel, Ukrainian soldiers. We don't know how many people he put at risk." He went on to say, "The government has said if you disclose this information, you put the United States at serious risk. And the defendant's response was, I don't give a" expletive. You can fill in the blank there.

Now, the defense, for its part, had argued that the defendant, in this case, did not try to flee when he's arrested. He also brought up -- the defendant's attorney had also brought up that his parents had put up their homes as collateral. But the judge, he acknowledged that, saying, I'm aware of all that, but at the end of the day, releasing him just presented too great a risk. Jake.

TAPPER: Jason, did the judge say anything about Teixeira's extremist views?

CARROLL: He did. I mean, he did. This was something that was brought up during the hearing as well. When we're talking about extremist views, remember, he had presented online these very extremist views, doing searches for -- about mass shootings, using racial slurs, using ethnic slurs, things like that. And the judge talked about this obsession that he had with guns. He said, "Some people like guns, some people like coins. There is nothing wrong with that. But based on the defendant's writings, the searches, there appears to be an unhealthy component to that."

And I want to bring up one other point, Jake, if I may. The judge at one point also had indicated that he had struggled with part of this, saying that he knew or that he really felt if he had let him out on bail, that this defendant in all likelihood, would have adhered to the conditions of the bail. But then he said the following. He said, but then when I look at him and I think, what if I'm wrong? What are the consequences of my decision? Jake.

TAPPER: All right, CNN's Jason Carroll outside the courthouse in Worcester, Mass, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Jack Teixeira wasn't exactly hiding his far-right views. Of the many warning signs, "The Washington Post" obtained this video shows him spewing vile, antisemitic and extremist views while firing his gun. Post also interviewed friends of Teixeira who say he used the term race war quite often. He even referred to himself as racist. CNN's Oren Liebermann is at the Pentagon with some new reporting.

Oren, you found that there was actually a Pentagon working group formed in 2021 to try to identify members of the military who had extremist views such as Teixeira.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, this, when you look back at it, looks like an effort that was tailor made to find and detect someone with a supremacist ideology or an extremist ideology like we're seeing especially in that video from Jack Teixeira and at least give the military options on how to deal with it. And yet two years later, in speaking with military officials and others familiar with the matter here, this effort was effectively abandoned, even though it had a focus on, for example, training on extremism, insider threat programs, military justice and policy and more. Again, efforts that seem almost tailor made to have dealt with a case like this. In fact, when we asked the Pentagon earlier this week where this effort stood, they said that two years later, only one of those had been completed the part on training, while they said the other five had people assigned to it.

So how did we get to this point? Extremism was one of the first issues Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin tried to deal with when he came in January 2021, this is just several weeks after January 6. And there was essentially a two part effort here. One was the Countering Extremist Activity Working Group and the other was Bishop Garrison, who was put in charge of that group, a black West Point graduate who had served two tours in Iraq. But soon after coming into the position, Garrison came under a withering barrage of attack from some Republicans as well as right wing media for tweets he had posted before coming into this position critical of former President Donald Trump. And the sources we spoke with essentially say that the attack was so long that eventually Garrison lost the support of those here in the Pentagon and not only did he go away, but so too did the effort he was working on, Jake.


TAPPER: What happened to these efforts to counter extremist activity within the military?

LIEBERMANN: The Countering Extremist Activity Working Group put out its report in December 2021, it tried to offer a better, more usable, more specific, exact definition of what extremist activity is. But officials we've spoken with say it effectively fell flat. Another source familiar with the matter said it became clear that the Pentagon was going to focus its changes on incremental changes and changes at the margin instead of trying to deal with big changes to this big issue because it became politically too difficult to deal with and there were simply other things higher on the agenda, the Afghanistan withdrawal, sexual assault and harassment, preventing suicides, for example.

Jake, the key question here, would this have stopped Teixeira? One official we spoke with said it's unclear to answer in a specific case, but it may have stopped other Teixeiras.

TAPPER: CNN's Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon for us, thanks so much.

Joining us now to discuss this case, CNN Chief Law Enforcement and Intelligence Analyst John Miller and CNN National Security Analyst Juliette Kayyem.

John, clearly the judge didn't think Teixeira would keep his word if he were allowed to be released before trial.

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, I think the judge is looking at a pattern of youthful irresponsible, immature and unpredictable behaviour. When you see the breadth of this case, the amount of material leaked, Teixeira's sensitivity of the material leaked, the high classification of the material leaked.

And look, it makes sense on paper. He's got roots in the community. He's got a mom and dad who love him, who live in the neighborhood, they're going to watch him at home. He would wear ankle monitor. They would be responsible for him.

He's actually not a bad case for bail, as Magistrate Hennessy said, but we all know the story of Edward Snowden, who you know, when he had the chance to escape, escaped to a hostile foreign power, Russia, with all the secrets he had and those in his head, which all could be shared with them. So, I think this is a risk reward matter for the magistrate where he just said there's too much here to risk it.

TAPPER: And Juliette, back to what Oren just reported, you used to work at the Department of Homeland Security, is it even possible to vet government officials for extremist views?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY, DHS: It would be very hard. I mean, you'd have to do -- we just don't have the resources to do that kind of social media search or the dark web search or even the gaming search if we see in this case.

Look, what the Pentagon won't say is that they've got a recruitment problem in terms of their numbers. We are falling short and so that means that they need to get people on board faster than maybe a more rigorous review will allow. So you just have that tension between recruitment and then, of course, radicalization.

But I will say, looking at this case, and in many of these cases, this is a, you know, command staff problem. You know, one mistake maybe I'm just looking at the wrong stuff. Two reprimands, as we know he's already had, is something weird is going on with this guy. By the third, when the disciplinary officer says, why is he looking at things he shouldn't be looking at? Like red alarms should be going off at that stage. So I really view this as a command staff problem as much as a recruitment problem.

TAPPER: John, the memos show Teixeira's supervisors believed he was, quote, "potentially ignoring a cease and desist order" he was given last September to stop deep diving into intelligence. So, it's not like they weren't aware this was a potential problem. It's pretty egregious. Why didn't they take more serious action?

MILLER: So the why there, we don't have the answer to, but the why there is the answer to why is the commanding officer of that air base in Cape Cod on ice right now? Why is the executive officer on ice, too? Why has that base been shut down from its intelligence collection and dissemination missions? Because the Air Force and the Pentagon realized this was not a place that was operating under controls.

As Juliette hit it on the head, any one of those three things should have been a referral to the base security officer and then a referral to OSI, the Office of Special Investigations of the Air Force to say, why is our techie, the guy who's supposed to make sure everything stays plugged in and the systems are running, why is he reading intelligence that has nothing to do with his job? Why is he showing up at a briefing and asking pointed strategic questions about an operation that are very specific? Why is he making notes from classified documents? That alone should have been enough to say, we're putting you on ice and we're going to have some serious questions about where did those notes go, what were they for, where did you put them? And then deep dive into his social media and into the rest of it. All of that should have happened way before this stumbled into the public arena.


TAPPER: John Miller and Juliette Kayyem, thanks to both of you.

Coming up, a look at the sensitive information about the insurrection, a Washington, D.C. police officer was allegedly sharing with the leader of the far-right group, the Proud Boys, since convicted of sedition. Plus, a new Trump opponent makes it official. Gets into the 2024 Republican presidential race, while another potential candidate is about to jump in himself.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TAPPER: In our law and justice lead, shocking news today, a D.C. police lieutenant in charge of intelligence has been arrested and charged with lying to federal investigators about his communications with Proud Boys leader, Enrique Tarrio, who was indicted and then convicted of sedition. The indictment lays out a series of encrypted text messages between Lieutenant Shane Lamond and Tarrio sharing sensitive information about the January 6 Capitol insurrection investigation. Back in March, Tarrio was convicted of seditious conspiracy for his role in the Capitol riots scene. CNN's Paula Reid is with us now.


Paula, what kind of information was Lamond, who was head of intelligence -- supervisor intelligence for the Homeland Security Unit of the Metropolitan Police Department here in D.C. what was he sharing with the Proud Boys?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: This indictment, Jake, is unbelievable. And for anyone who doesn't know, the Proud Boys are a self-professed Western chauvinist group and Lamond is a 24-year veteran of the police, and as you noted at the time, he was head of the intelligence division of the police department. And according to this indictment, Lamond was in touch with Tarrio, dating all the way back to July 2019, sharing information with him about law enforcement activities related to the Proud Boys and even about Tarrio himself. They communicated approximately 500 times.

Now, in December 2020, shortly after the 2020 election, Tarrio stole and burned a Black Lives Matter flag from a church. Now, he was eventually arrested and charged with that offense. But this indictment reveals that Lamond was sharing information about that ongoing investigation with Tarrio as it was happening, including apparently tipping him off about his imminent arrest.

Now, after January 6, the two continued communicating and according to this indictment, he would text him, for example, Lamond said, quote, "How are you holding up? I checked on your charges and the possession of high-capacity mags is a felony." That went on January 7.

Later that day, Tarrio texted him saying, "Hey, I have someone you guys might be looking for. She had Maryland police go to her house yesterday. She thinks they came because of capital stuff." "Copy? Not that I'm aware offhand, but I will check. I know you are working on identifying a number of people." "Let me know if she's on your list, I'll have her turn herself in."

Later, Tarrio, he wrote Tarrio and said, "Nope. Not on our list." But obviously didn't ask who it was or follow up to get any additional information about how this person could have been involved. Now, again, this is pretty incredible. I mean, this is a law enforcement official sharing this with someone who has been at that point, arrested and charged for another offense and then is involved in one of the most high-profile criminal investigations in the country. Now, Lamont has been charged with one count of obstruction of justice and three counts of making false statements because eventually, Jake, when he was asked about all this by investigators, he misled them.

TAPPER: All right. Paula Reid, thanks so much.

Here to discuss is Michael Fanone, former D.C. Metropolitan Police officer and CNN Law Enforcement Analyst.

So, Michael, you actually know Shane Lamond? What do you know about him and does this surprise you?

MICHAEL FANONE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I had a few occasions to meet with Shane. We never worked together in the same units. But I spent two decades with the Metropolitan Police Department working in primarily proactive units that were intelligence driven. And so I'm very familiar with source work, developing cooperating witnesses, cooperating informants sources.

And I think that well -- first I think it's important to understand who Shane is and what his position was within the department. Shane Lamond was a lieutenant, a veteran officer with the department who worked as the head of our intelligence office. That's a citywide unit that's charged with collecting, vetting and then potentially disseminating intelligence that's gained from a whole host of different sources, whether it's social media, human intelligence.

TAPPER: So, he might have been trying to get information from Enrique Tarrio is what you're saying? I mean --

FANONE: Correct. You know, there are aspects of the indictment, when I read it, that I think the average person would find to be incredibly troubling, statements that were made that seem to suggest that Lieutenant Lamond was sympathetic to Enrique Tarrio or the Proud Boys. It's a possibility. That being said, if you work with sources, you know that, you know, it's really all about manipulation. Your job is to extract intelligence. Lying to them, making them feel as though they're your friend is part of that job.

TAPPER: So that's interesting because there is this conversation two days after January 6. Lamond says, "Looks like the feds are locking people up for rioting at the Capitol. I hope none of you guys were among them." Tarrio says, "So far, from what I'm seeing and hearing, we're good." Lamond says, "Great to hear. Of course, I can't say it officially, but personally, I support you all and don't want to see your group's name and reputation dragged through the mud."

So you're saying it's possible that this is Shane Lamond actually just doing his job? He doesn't actually believe -- he doesn't actually like the Proud Boys. He's -- you're just saying it's a possibility he was saying that to Enrique Tarrio as part of his efforts to get information.


FANONE: Absolutely. And again, I don't know. Really a lot of this comes down to what was Lieutenant Lamond's motivations throughout this. You know, was he naive? Was he dumb or was he dirty? I think that, you know, some of the questions that I have after reading through the indictment is, was Shane Lamond documenting these interactions with Enrique Tarrio? Was he disseminating that information throughout the department? Another questions I have are why was he suggesting to Tarrio to switch to encrypted apps rather than continue the exchange on a platform that would allow for the documentation of those communications? If you work in source work like I did, you know that you have to document each interaction that you have with the confidential informant. That's departmental policy.

TAPPER: So, this is really interesting, Mike (ph), and I'm glad you're saying that. So, I guess one of the questions I would have is, all right, if I'm Shane Lamond, I'm supervisor of intelligence for D.C. police, Homeland Security, and part of my job is doing what you're saying, building sources, building trust, getting information, et cetera, investigators come to me, why not just tell them the truth? Because what he's charged with is actually, as far as I know, not tipping off Enrique Tarrio, he's charged with obstruction of justice and lying to investigators, three counts of lying. So, wouldn't investigators, wouldn't people in the FBI or the Justice Department be sophisticated enough to know if this is, in fact, him doing what you're giving him the benefit of the doubt, theoretically, if you're saying it's a possibility, if he's just doing that, why not just say that to investigators who certainly understand the idea of building trust with bad guys?

FANONE: Yes, I mean, again, that's part of this indictment that raises eyebrows, and I find troubling.


FANONE: It's not consistent with anything that I had ever done in the course of my career in working with sources.

TAPPER: Yes, because you would do the same, not the same thing, but you would try to build -- I mean, again, when you're a cop and you're working confidential informants, they're generally bad guys, right? I mean, that's the problem with sometimes is you're not, you know, making friends with a good Samaritan, you're making friends with people who are bad people.

FANONE: Correct. I mean, I had a judge one time tell me, conspiracies born in hell rarely have angels as witnesses.

TAPPER: Right.

FANONE: So that's the type of people that you're working with. And again, you know, I've lied to sources, I've manipulated sources, but at the end of the day, I extract information, I don't provide them with information. Now, there are certain circumstances some people were asking me today about, you know, why would he provide them information about an imminent arrest? Well, you know, there are people that -- there are investigators in our department I can think of, you know, who would share that information with the defendant in the hopes that this individual or to arrange for that individual to turn himself in. TAPPER: To make it peaceful so that --

FANONE: Right.

TAPPER: -- so no cop gets killed.

FANONE: I don't know -- again, it comes down to what were Shane Lamond's motivations? What were his intentions? And I think he has some, you know, certainly has to answer some questions.

TAPPER: Yes. Well, that was really very interesting, Michael Fanone. Thank you so much. I appreciate it. And I guess we're going to hopefully hear some answers from Shane Lamond to these questions you have given everything.

FANONE: Can I add one more thing, though, Jake?

TAPPER: Yes, yes.

FANONE: I think it's important to note as well that, you know, Shane Lamond was in charge of the intel unit and the intel unit was, at least in part, responsible for the Metropolitan Police Department's posture on January 6. And to remind everyone what the posture was that day, we were at full deployment. We had every single officer that was working. We were aware of the potential for violence on January 6 at least a week in advance.

TAPPER: Yes, you guys were way ahead of where a lot of other people were, a lot of other law enforcement and military agencies. Very interesting. Mike Fanone, always great to have you. Thank you so much.

FANONE: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up, a key Biden ally telling CNN the real reason why President Biden wants to shake up the voting calendar heading into 2024. Candor coming your way.



TAPPER: Brand new to the 2024 race, Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina. Senator Scott made an official with paperwork today. Sources say we're going to see the same next week from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. He is reportedly telling donors that he is the only Republican who can actually win.

Joining us now, Democratic strategist Karen Finney and Republican Strategist Alice Stewart. Thanks so much for being here. Really appreciate it.

Alice, let me start with you since you're the Republican.


TAPPER: Senator Scott entering the race with an optimistic message, a lot of charisma and $22 million. Is this a possibility? Do you see a lane for it?

STEWART: There is a lane. It is a very narrow lane, but there is a lane for someone beside Trump and DeSantis. We've got a lot of time between now and the Iowa caucus and certainly the nomination process.

Look, Tim Scott has all those things in his favor, as you're talking about. The money is awesome. He's got a tremendous war chest. But his optimism is great, his Killum of kindness, personality is going to be extremely beneficial on the campaign trail and his ability to do retail politics. But he is liked in his state, he is respected here on Capitol Hill.


And one of the things he has is ace in the hole as he goes into Iowa. He has a really good relationship with Senator Joni Ernst and she is working him around the powers that be in the state of Iowa, which is extremely critical.

And getting a first good step out in Iowa is really key to him. But, you know, the good thing is what he is doing, he's not really beating up on Republicans right now. He's showing a contrast with the Democrats. And what he sees as the party of victimhood and division. I think he's got a good opportunity because of his ability to engage in retail politics.

TAPPER: So Florida Governor DeSantis, we are told, will announce his candidacy next week. Here is what he had to say in first in the nation primary state, New Hampshire, earlier today.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): And to be a front runner, it's easy to go out and take positions that are really popular at the time. It's harder to dig in and really cut against the grain. Not going to be easy, but I honestly believe that we have an opportunity to write the ship and to get this whole country going.


TAPPER: OK, I know you're not a fan. I know you're a fan. Take off your Democrat hat for one second. As a -- just as a political analyst, he has a message that one could say like he's in there actually doing stuff.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, well, OK. But you have to look at what he is doing, how the voters in his state perceive what he's doing. I mean obviously, take a moment, if you go back to Tim Scott, they are running in very different lanes in the Republican primary. Now the question becomes where is the Republican primary electorate?

And I think the problem for both of them, at least in this moment, is support for Trump seems to be deepening and hardening despite the fact that he's been indicted and found guilty in another case. And we now know that in August we'll have potentially another indictment coming forward so.

TAPPER: In Georgia, you have the Fulton County, right?

FINNEY: Yes. So I mean I think that's the challenge for both of them. But sure, I mean the question is going to be though for DeSantis, can he sell that agenda, you know, make America like Florida? I think he said something like that, right? Can you sell that to a general election electorate?

And the last thing I'll say quickly on DeSantis is the thing about this Disney announcement today where they said they're pulling this billion dollar effort to build office space that is in part similar to something that happened during COVID when he took on the cruise line industry, where he's putting his ideology ahead of economic development and jobs. I don't know if that's going to wear well.

STEWART: He's got a good message in terms of what he has been saying, in terms of, look, in order to govern, in order to lead this country, you have to win you have to accomplish things. You have to be able to get things done. And he is showing against Donald Trump, governing is not about social media. It's not about building a brand. It is not about your personal grievances. It is about winning.

And DeSantis' message on putting the culture of losing behind the Republican Party and getting to the culture of winning, that is where Republicans want to go.

TAPPER: So wait, Karen, I want to change the subject because there's this great interview that Chris Wallace did with Jim Clyburn, the congressman from South Carolina, the dean of the delegation, one of the senior Democrats in the House. Obviously, South Carolina helped propel Joe Biden to the Democratic nomination in 2020.

And Clyburn is his want, was pretty candid with Chris Wallace when talking about why Biden doesn't necessarily want Iowa or New Hampshire to be the first races in the Democratic contest, why he wants South Carolina. Take a look.


REP. JIM CLYBURN (R-SC): I don't think you're stacking the deck. I think you're avoiding embarrassment. And that is what he is attempting to avoid here, and I would expect anybody to do the same.

CHRIS WALLACE, CNN ANCHOR: You think that Iowa and New Hampshire present the possibility of embarrassment for President Joe Biden?

CLYBURN: Well, if you do not have the demographics as required for Democrats in the general election, and neither one of those states have the demographics that are favorable to Democrats in the general.


TAPPER: OK, first of all, let me just say that's true about Iowa. That's not true about New Hampshire. Democrats have won New Hampshire over and over again in presidential contests. But more importantly, I mean Clyburn is saying, yes, we didn't want to risk Joe Biden losing or having an embarrassing win in Iowa, New Hampshire.

FINNEY: I actually take a different view of what he said, having been in this since 2005, when we first moved South Carolina and Nevada up. The whole goal, remember after 2004 with John Kerry's loss was we have to have our candidates competing in more diverse electorates to show their strength. We saw that in 2016. One of the advantages that Hillary had, she did not as well early on, but then grew strength from South Carolina and Nevada and showed that she could win a diverse electorate, which, as a Democrat, you have to do.

I think that's part of what he was trying is saying the second part of his answer, that it's about demographics. I don't know that I agree that it would be about being embarrassed as much as I think it's for our party. We have to show strength early on with all kinds of voters.


STEWART: Well, refreshing honesty about this would be embarrassing if Biden were to lose the first two states. But look, hats off to Congressman Clyburn. His endorsement for Biden was invaluable, and if he is able to use that as an opportunity to move South Carolina up further in the primary process, good for him. But it also sort of indicates that his endorsement was more transactional as opposed to ideological. But if he can do that, good for South Carolina.

TAPPER: We got to go there. But great stuff. Thank you so much, guys, Karen Finney and Alice Stewart.

Embracing a killer, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad getting a warm welcome from other Arab leaders despite, you know, killing thousands of his own people. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our world lead, what the United States calls an affront to human rights and basic dignity. And it's hard to argue. Iran state news media says three men who took part in the country's recent protests were executed today. Amnesty International says their convictions were rushed and based on confessions obtained through torture also very, very easy to believe. Iran claims that these three men who were executed took part in a deadly attack on security guards during last year's nationwide protests.

Iran has spent months stamping out protests. Protest over the death of Mahsa Jina Amini, a young woman who died in the custody of the so called morality police after being picked up for not wearing her headscarf correctly.

Also in our World Lead, a jarring contrast at today's Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia. Even though they welcomed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Arab League, 22 Arab countries in the Middle East and Africa also welcomed back into their bosom, brutal, ruthless dictator Bashar al-Assad of Syria, who has been an unwelcome global pariah since Assad began slaughtering his own people in 2011. CNN's Jomana Karadsheh spoke with Syrian refugees who are, frankly, just sick and discouraged by the Arab League's attempt to normalize a man that they see as a monster.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Assad or we burn the country, vowed his supporters, and the country burned. It was a regime's existential battle where no holds were barred, hundreds of thousands of lives lost, maybe many more. And millions forced into a miserable existence far from home, victims of a civil war.

Their pain was the world's to see atrocities so shocking, yet the world did little. Twelve years on Assad still denies attacking civilians and claims he was fighting terrorism. Now the ruthless president who unleashed hell on his people with the help of his ally Russia, is not only a free man, he's now welcomed in some world capitals with red carpets and handshakes.

WAFA MOSTAFA, SYRIAN ACTIVIST/FATHER MISSING IN SYRIA: This is about the man who is responsible for the pain and for the suffering that I've been going through in the past 10 years.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): Wafa Mostafa counts the days since she last saw her father, more than 3,600 days of searching, waiting, campaigning. Ali Mustafa vanished into the black hole of the regime's prison system. One of more than 130,000 forcibly disappeared by the regime.

MOSTAFA: Instead of normalizing Assad, now, after 12 years, they should have, you know, held him accountable for the war crimes he have committed, for the war crimes that he is most importantly for the war crimes he is still committing.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): Bringing Bashar al-Assad back into the regional fold, Arab leaders argue, is for stability in the Middle East, is for an end to a refugee burden its neighbors say they no longer can bear. Those who survived his brutal battle for survival now face a new Middle East, a new reality, where they fear they may be forced back to the horrors of Assad's regime.

NABIL AL OTHMAN, SYRIAN ACTIVIST/REFUGEE IN TURKEY (through translator): It's a monstrous regime in every sense of the word. I'm from Idlib where he used chemical weapons and banned weaponry against us.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): Twenty-seven-year-old Nabil Al Othman is a former rebel, now an activist. Like millions of other Syrians, he found safety in Turkey. But with anti-immigrant sentiments on the rise and the fate of Syrian refugees now at the heart of the country's political debate, Syrians feel their safe space is shrinking.

AL OTHMAN (through translator): Even if the whole world normalizes this regime, Syrians will never trust it. For me, going back to this monstrous criminal is impossible. If I return, I'll be sent straight to jail, torture, and to my death. KARADSHEH (voice-over): For more than a decade, they begged the world to end their nightmare, but they were left to face it all alone, and now face a world where their oppressor got away with it.

MOSTAFA: I think that instead of welcoming Assad to Riyadh, I think he should be welcomed to the ICC. There is still this hope that, you know, my father will be free. I might be able to save him one day. But, you know, normalization feels like the end of everything. It feels like the end of this hope. It feels like the end of, you know, what started in 2011. And it feels like the end of my life.


KARADSHEH: And, Jake, victims of the Syrian regime are describing this victory lap by Assad today as a painful, shameful, and just terrifying moment. And they're also questioning what message this sends to autocratic regimes around the world that continue to terrorize their own people. This is a man whose regime is accused of well documented war crimes and crimes against humanity. And not only does he appear to have gotten away with it, he's welcomed with red carpets, embraces, and handshakes.

And these victims tell us, Jake, that their only hope for any justice and accountability in the future is the West that continues to shun Assad and treat him as a pariah.


TAPPER: Absolutely shameful. Jomana Karadsheh in Istanbul, thank you so much.

Florida is the latest state to target medical care for transgender kids. We're talking to a doctor of adolescent medicine about what this new ban might mean for patients.


TAPPER: In our Health Lead, Texas and Florida are two of the latest states to ban minors access to gender reassignment surgeries and puberty blocking medication and hormone therapies. At least 128 bills targeting these kinds of treatments for transgender individuals have been introduced in 33 state legislatures across the U.S. this year, according to the ACLU. We're going to talk about this now with Dr. Meredith McNamara. She's an assistant professor at the Yale School of Medicine and an adolescent medicine specialist.


So, Dr. McNamara, there are probably viewers out there who think, look, people under 18 are too young to have these treatments, some of which seem irreversible. What would you say to them?

DR. MEREDITHE MCNAMARA, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, YALE SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Well, Jake, thanks for having me. I just want to jump straight into this. You're never too young to know who you are. And the other thing I would just say is that the medical protocols that are used to treat transgender youth are very safe, thoughtful, and individualized. As a physician, I have full faith and confidence in the medical care that we provide.

TAPPER: So what about those out there who might think, OK, maybe puberty blockers and hormone therapies would be OK for people under 18? But gender reassignment is such a drastic measure because it seems so permanent, it makes sense to hold off. What would you say to them?

MCNAMARA: Well, permanent change is oftentimes what people who experience gender dysphoria need and want to thrive. And the level of state intrusion into medical decision making and best practice is really jarring. I've never practiced medicine in a time where this is happening.

TAPPER: The way that some of these governors and legislators talk about this, they depict it as warped, sick parents and warped, sick doctors preying on and mutilating children. As somebody who deals with this kinds of situation with kids with gender dysphoria and the like, how do you see it?

MCNAMARA: Wow. Yes. I mean, it's so jarring to hear it said like that, but yes, that's --

TAPPER: Please understand that's not -- I'm just saying this is how conservative Republicans out there in Florida and Idaho, that's how they talk about this publicly.

MCNAMARA: Yes. It's really scary to hear those ideas take root. Transgender young people are some of the strongest, most vibrant, and exciting patients that I've had the pleasure of working with. Their families are caring and strong. Their clinicians, my colleagues are compassionate. And the types of people that you want to have your back, the type of people that you want to live in your community. So, you know, that narrative, it's just wrong.

TAPPER: Do any of these individuals that you see passing these laws, have they ever reached out to you? Have they ever tried to understand what's going on? Have they ever, and as far as somebody active in the community to do these health treatments, is there ever, like, trying to understand what's going on in your experience?

MCNAMARA: Yes, there is a transnational campaign of disinformation. Disinformation is false information. It's intentionally spread to mislead people. State legislators and governors and attorneys general have access to good, sound information in the jurisdiction of these bans. They choose not to engage with experts who can provide them the right information, who can tell them that gender affirming care is valuable to trans youth, that it saves lives, that it helps youth live authentic and healthy teenage years so that they turn into healthy, functional teenage adults or adults, excuse me.

But yes, no one's ever reached out to me. No one's ever reached out to my colleagues. No one's ever really taken seriously the positions of every major medical organization which has endorsed the importance of this care. So I'm really glad you asked that.

TAPPER: Well, I'm glad that we reached out to you, and I hope you'll come back. Dr. Meredith McNamara. Thank you so much.

MCNAMARA: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up next, Harry and Meghan denied the strongly worded statement their representatives received to their special request. Plus, Wolf Blitzer has a look at what's coming up tonight in The Situation Room. Wolf?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Jake. I'm going to get some insight into the debt ceiling standoff from the former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers. Those talks, as pausing today after the two sides hit several major snags, and that puts a deal out of reach by this weekend, and that's less than two weeks before the potential default deadline.


I'll ask the former Secretary how President Biden should handle the current impasse and whether he could even sidestep the negotiations entirely by invoking the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as some Democrats are demanding. All of that, a lot more coming up right at the top of the hour here in The Situation.


TAPPER: In our Pop Culture Lead, Harry and Meghan are demanding that the photo agency whose paparazzi chased them in New York City this week hand over the photos from the chase. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex legal team asked for the photographs in a letter. But lawyers for the U.S. photo agency, which is called Backgrid, evoked the American revolution in their response, saying, quote, perhaps you should sit down with your client and advise them that his English rules of royal prerogative to demand that the citizenry hand over their property to the crown were rejected by this country long ago. We stand by our founding fathers. That's a nice way to stand by your paparazzi, I guess. While Backgrid has opened an investigation into the pursuit, the agency says there were no near crashes during the incident.

Sunday on State of the Union, Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and more that's Sunday morning at 9:00 and noon eastern. You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Bluesky, if you have an invite and the TikTok, I'm back on it at JakeTapper. You can tweet the show at the LeadCNN. If you ever miss an episode, you can listen to the lead whence you get your podcasts. All two hours, just sitting there like a delicious summer fruit salad.


Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in a place I like to call The Situation Room. See us on day morning.