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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Soon: Debt Talks At White House Resume As Default Looms; Republican Sen. Tim Scott Launches Presidential Campaign; Suspect "Standing Silent," Judge Enters Not Guilty Pleas For Him; Parents Of Uvalde Shooting Victims Still Waiting For Answers; GOP Megadonor Defends Friendship With Clarence Thomas; Verified Twitter Accounts Share Fake Image Of "Explosion" Near Pentagon. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired May 22, 2023 - 16:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: What the heck are those?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: I look for comfort.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Is it like the mask where they give you special power when you put those on?

SANCHEZ: They do actually. It's made me more confident. I feel stronger, I feel more comfortable. Maybe not for the Oval Office, though, right?

KEILAR: I think not. I think -- you got to be comfortable, though. I think comfort.

SANCHEZ: A hundred percent.

SCIUTTO: I think style over comfort.



Ask him.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The U.S. might just be ten days away from defaulting. Could a meeting coming up in the next hour, change that.

THE LEAD starts right now.

President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy meeting in a matter of minutes. What's on and what's off the negotiating table as McCarthy insists he needs to see a deal this week to avoid default.

Plus, a new name in the 2024 presidential race.


SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm running for president of the United States of America.


TAPPER: Republican Tim Scott setting his sights on the White House and his GOP backers hope the senator from South Carolina can be the one to beat Trump and then Biden.

And a not guilty plea in the murders of four Idaho college students and the gag order keeping information secret in this case.


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. We're going to start today with our money lead.

Can they make a deal? In the next hour, President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will meet face to face at the White House as the United States careens towards an economic catastrophe that only those two can prevent we're just ten day away from the U.S. potentially running out of money to pay its bills, according to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. That could happen as soon as June 1st.

But the timeline could be even more urgent than that because this afternoon, Speaker McCarthy told CNN that a deal needs to be made this week for practical reasons if they are going to be able to actually craft the legislation to get across the finish line in time.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You need to have a deal tonight to avoid a default?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Look, I thought it would be better to have a deal sooner. I think we can get a deal tonight. We can get a deal tomorrow, but you got to get something done this week to be able to pass it and move it to Senate.


TAPPER: Now, failure to reach a deal would mean a debt default for the first time in the history of the United States of America. And that would lead to a likely recession and job losses and checks delayed for federal workers and pauses in Social Security payments.

Let's bring in CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.

Manu, you spoke with Kevin McCarthy not long ago. Is he optimistic that a deal can be made ahead of this meeting that he's about to have at the White House?

RAJU: Well, Jake, he says that the talks right now are at a sensitive moment, in which they need to start making critical decisions and get a deal some time this week in order to move through the legislative process, get it through the House, get it through the Senate. That would be a tall order. They have significant differences to bridge over federal spending, over certain policy issues that Republicans have been pushing for. And a negotiation that typically takes months, they have to deal with this in just a matter of days and so much riding on this, meaning tonight and the days ahead. He said a meeting that occurred earlier today between the top negotiators on both sides were just simply made to understand what their differences are before this key meeting tonight, but a deal must be in reach within days.


MCCARTHY: I think the discussions today were understanding both sides and furthering discussing the areas where we have difference of opinion so they can brief the president as well. I'll have a meeting with the president later today at 5:30.

RAJU: And the president gave them any of that? When you spoke to them last night, the negotiators, has he given any way on the issue of rolling back domestic spending levels like you've been asking?

MCCARTHY: Look, we have -- with nothing agreed to.

RAJU: But you have a majority of the House Republican conference to vote for, is that right?

MCCARTHY: Look, I firmly believe what we're negotiating right now, a majority of Republicans will see that it is a right place to put us in a right path.


RAJU: That is a key point at the end there because McCarthy would not say explicitly if a majority of House Republicans must support this deal. If a deal is reached in order to put that on the House floor, he just simply said he firmly believes that will be the case.

He also downplayed the notion that perhaps there could be a revolt from the right flank of his conference if they were to cut a deal they didn't like. Some members of the so-called House Freedom Caucus abandon the talks with the president. Of course, the talks are still ongoing. But he still feels confident that he will be able to maintain the speakership and win over House Republicans.

But, first, Jake, order of business is to get a deal. It's uncertain that they can get there. Then, all the efforts to try to wrangle the votes will happen in the days ahead. But the pressure now on intensifying on the president and on the speaker, every day that a deal is not reached.


TAPPER: So, Manu, in that clip, you asked the speaker about their efforts to push the White House to agree to cap spending at a previous level. Another big sticking point for Republicans is they keep pushing, they want work requirements for individuals, certain individuals, able-bodied without dependents, to get government benefits. That's also still a requirement here, yes? RAJU: Yeah. It is a big part of the negotiations. McCarthy has

maintained for sometime that that's a red line, specifically talking about work requirements. They had initially pushed for on several programs including the Medicaid program that deals with low-income health insurance. The White House has said that's off the table. The Republicans are pushing for food stamps to have some work requirements there.

But when I talked to the speaker about that moments ago, he did not say that it is a red line, but indicated that it must be part of the discussion.


RAJU: That's still a red line for you?

MCCARTHY: Every study has shown it helps the economy, helps people, and it will help our supply chain, makes us less dependent upon China. Look, there's a number --

RAJU: Is that a red line? You had said it's a red line.

MCCARTHY: There's a number of places that we have been discussing, there's a number of places the president discussed. That's why we're going to get together. We're not going to cut the deal here, which I would have loved to be able to do. But we're going to work together, solve this problem and make America stronger.


RAJU: So again, any deal would likely have some level of spending cuts and perhaps some policy changes, including some discussion of a work requirements. If the White House were to go that direction, they could face a revolt from the left because a number of the Democrats don't want any sort of work rules on social safety net programs. So therein lies the very difficult balancing act in keeping everybody together, trying to get a deal and get this through Congress in a matter of days.

And, Jake, I asked the speaker about why he didn't make the same demands Republicans for spending cuts went on Donald Trump was president, when they suspended the debt limit three times. He said the speaker was different. He said it was Nancy Pelosi.

Well, Pelosi was the speaker one time when the debt limit was sort of suspended under Trump, the other two times, Republican Speaker Paul Ryan -- Jake.

TAPPER: And, you know, props to both you and the speaker, I have to say, because anybody who wasn't watching this a few hours ago live, he was just walking through the Statutory Hall where you are and you just grabbed him. And he took -- he answered your questions for like 15 minutes. So, good to see.

Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

Here to discuss, Mark Zandi, the chief economist for Moody's Analytics.

Mark, are you confident that Republicans and Democrats are going to get to make a deal in time and avoided fault?

MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MOODY'S ANALYTICS: Confident, Jake? That's a strong word. No. I mean, history would suggest that, you know, they will. There's going to be a lot of drama, and we're seeing the drama. They're going to take it right down to the wire. They're taking it right down to the wire.

But at the end of this, they passed a piece of legislation that increases the debt limit. They do it just in time. So, that's history. And, you know, if we forecast based on history, I'd say yes.

But, you know, I say as you just pointed out in your conversation, there's a lot of differences today compared to the path, compared to our vexed politics and kind of the make up the House, and a lot of other issues. So, there's No, it's hard to be confident in anything here.

TAPPER: Yeah. And Speaker McCarthy's talking about needing a deal this week, you know, Janet Yellen, the treasury secretary, says the money could start to run out June 1st. That's ten days. McCarthy says, you know, we need a deal this week so that we can write the legislation, so that the Senate in the house can both pass it.

What kind of impact is that going to have on the economy this rapidly approaching deadline as we get closer and closer? I mean, is the market going to start to, is the bottom going to start to fall out?

ZANDI: Well, I think with each passing day, if there's not a deal, the rhetoric turns darker and darker, yeah, I think we'll see a lot of red on the screen. And, you know, by this time next week, on the other side of Memorial Day, you know, if there's no deal in the rhetoric is still pretty dark, obviously that June 1st deadline is dead ahead. I think we'll start to see some pretty bad days in the market.

I mean, the 2011 debt limit drama might be a good analog. Back then, the stock market fell a 3 percent in a couple three week period when they were going through the same kind of thing we're going through now. And we had days that we're down 5 percent. Just to put that in context, that would mean today, the Dow would fall 1,500 points.

So, I wouldn't rule that out.


ZANDI: By the way, Jake, that maybe what's necessary to actually light a fire and get lawmakers to generate political will necessary to sign on the dotted line and increase the limit.

TAPPER: Yeah, although that is obviously a lot of wealth that is poof, disappearing. Before leaving Japan, President Biden said he couldn't promise other world leaders that the U.S. would not default. He obviously then turned and blamed Republicans entirely. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can't guarantee that they wouldn't force a default by doing something outrageous.


TAPPER: Now from what you've seen from Republicans so far, these work requirements for able-bodied individuals with no dependents, for social safety net programs, clawing back unspent COVID relief funds, cap at previous years levels.


Would you describe those demands as unreasonable?

ZANDI: No. That's what you would expect from Republican side of the converse. These are the things they're focused on. It's not all surprising. I think there's got to be a compromise there, Jake. I mean, I don't think these are game-changing kind of expectations by the Republicans. And I think the Democrats can, you know, get them to move in certain respects. If this works for both of them, and we get a deal.

You know, at the end of the day, all the stuff we are talking about now is small potatoes in comparison to if we breach the debt limit and someone doesn't get paid on time. The cost in the -- are enormous in the near-time. We're going to recession, nobody wants that. It's going to make our fiscal situation even worse.

And we're going to pay more in interest going forward because investors are going to say that themselves look, you guys did at this time, what about next time in the time after? You've got to pay me a higher interest rate to compensate for that risk.

So, these things that we are debating and discussing, I can't -- it is -- it would be unimaginable to me that Republicans and Democrats can't come together and find a compromise on them so that we don't go down that dark path.

TAPPER: Yeah, I mean, I remember 12 years ago, or whenever it was, as the White House correspondent, covering the fact that S&P downgraded the U.S. credit rating from AAA to AA. Could that happen again, do you think?

ZANDI: I -- you know, I'm not -- I don't speak for the agency, and what they -- and each agency is different. They each have their own methodologies. The Moody's methodology, though, is downgrade would only occur if the Treasury missed a payment on the debt, on the bonds. I think that is highly unlikely, even if we breach. I suspect the Treasury would prioritize its debt payments above everything else, at least for a while.

So, no, I think the bar for that is very -- for downgrade, is pretty high. You know, there will eventually be a downgrade if there is a breach and it goes on for a while, hard to imagine there wouldn't be, but the bar here, I think, here is pretty high.

Mark Zandi, thanks so much. Good to see you again.

Coming up next, what Republican Tim Scott is up against as he enters the 2024 presidential race. Fellow South Carolina Congresswoman Nancy Mace will be here.

Plus, how are Republican megadonor is defending his friendship and gifts -- his generous gifts to Clarence Thomas as lawmakers question those luxury trips and other presents to the Supreme Court justice.

And the real life panic today after a fake picture of the Pentagon popped up on social media. We'll show it to you.



TAPPER: Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina officially announcing today he is running for the Republican presidential nomination. The only black Republican in the Senate, Scott has long been considered a rising star in the Grand Old Party.

His campaign already receiving a big boost today. Senator John Thune, the number two ranking Senate Republican, already announcing his support for Scott.

As CNN's Eva McKend reports, even though Trump is the major hurdle that Senator Scott will need to overcome initially, today, Scott focused his attacks on Democrats and the left.



EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER (voice-over): South Carolina Senator Tim Scott officially jumping into the 2024 presidential race.

SCOTT: We live in the land where it is absolutely possible for a kid raised in poverty, in a single parent household, in a small apartment, to one day serve in the people's house. And maybe even the White House.

MCKEND: The only Black Republican in the Senate, Scott emphasizing his personal story.

SCOTT: I'm living proof that America is the land of opportunity, and not a land of oppression.

MCKEND: Scott pitching himself to Republican voters as a formidable challenger to President Joe Biden.

SCOTT: Our nation, our values, and our people, are strong. But our president is weak.

MCKEND: And appealing directly to the GOP base on border security.

SCOTT: If our southern border is unsafe and insecure, it's not our country.

MCKEND: And over culture wars.

SCOTT: I will be the president who destroys the liberal lie, that America is an evil country.

MCKEND: Among those introducing Scott, John Thune, the Senate's number two Republican, who was backing Scott's bid.

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD), MINORITY WHIP: Tim Scott is the real deal.

MCKEND: Scott joins a growing field of GOP hopefuls.

SCOTT: That's why I'm the candidate the far left fears the most. I disrupt their narrative. I threaten their control. The truth of my life disrupts their lies.

MCKEND: Including former South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley, who appointed Scott to the Senate in 2012, and former president, Donald Trump, who congratulated Scott, writing: Tim is a big step up from Ron Desanctimonious, who is totally unelectable -- choosing instead to go after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is expected to announce his bid in the coming days.

SCOTT: Our party, and our nation, are standing at a time for choosing.

MCKEND: Scott striking a more optimistic message, setting up a contrast with Trump and DeSantis.

SCOTT: Victimhood or victory?

CROWD: Victory!

SCOTT: Grievance or greatness?

CROWD: Greatness!

SCOTT: I choose freedom and hope, and opportunity. Will you choose it with me?



MCKEND (on camera): Scott will continue his pitch to voters this week in Iowa and New Hampshire.


Democrats, already blasting his entry into the 2024 contest, saying that he supports policies like restrictive abortion access,, arguing, it's an extension of the MAGA agenda -- Jake. TAPPER: Eva McKend in North Charleston South Carolina, for us, thanks so much.

Joining us now to discuss, Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace of South Carolina.

Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining.

You now have -- well, we now have two high profile South Carolinians running for the Republican nomination, Tim Scott, joining former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley in the race today.

Who's your favorite?

REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): Well, they are both residents of the Lowcountry in my district in South Carolina's first congressional district. Tim Scott is the eternal optimist and I love his positive message.

And Nikki Haley has always been a fighter who's never lost a campaign. And so, as a fellow South Carolina, and I stand very proud today to see both of my constituents in the race for president. It's an exciting time and exciting day in South Carolina.

TAPPER: I like how you referred to them as your constituents. I mean --

MACE: They are.

TAPPER: I know, I know, they are.

MACE: It's wild, right? It's so wild.

TAPPER: How do your constituents, such as Governor Haley and Senator Scott, how can they get attention in a contest where we are already are seeing the front runner, Donald Trump, dominate the race to such a great extent and he's so ahead in the polls?

MACE: Right. We're still very early on. We haven't even gotten to summer yet. But I will tell you, Donald Trump is the man to beat in the Republican primary. We saw the Durham report recently where we saw folks of the administration really target him without any evidence, for example, you're going to see that really, see him rise because of the way that mega Republicans feel that he was targeted when he was president.

That will be a very hard thing to be. Maybe there's opportunity for others in this race. Looks like we're going to have eight people, a crowded field. We have Iowa, New Hampshire, but the first in the south race will be South Carolina. I would say, all of eyes on South Carolina because traditionally, whoever wins the South Carolina primary goes on to win the nomination.

And I think it's going to be an exciting race, and we'll see who else jumps in by the end of summer. TAPPER: So, you have been a critic of Trump, but you've also said

you're going to vote for whoever wins the Republican presidential nomination. Would you rather vote for -- would you rather have someone other than Donald Trump? Would you rather have Nikki Haley or Tim Scott, or Ron DeSantis?

MACE: I would rather have someone other than Joe Biden. Look at what is going on with the debt ceiling today. He's finally coming back to the United States to sit down face to face with Kevin McCarthy. We are facing possible default and a huge economic crisis. And he was nowhere to be found this weekend.

I want to make sure, as someone who represents a very purple district, a bellwether state, about bellwether district, that we have a nominee in a vice presidential nominee that will represent and win the White House. Keep the U.S. in Republican hands, and maybe even flip the senate because if you look at us economically, we've got to have someone who's physically conservative.

We also need to have a nominee who can address abortion. That's the number to issue in purple states and in purple districts around the country. We've addressed it in our district. I want to see the nominee also address it in the upcoming primary.

TAPPER: Just -- I don't know that it's fair to say Joe Biden was nowhere to be found. He was at the G7 summit in Japan.

MACE: Well, he wasn't here in the U.S. negotiating a deal --

TAPPER: OK, but I'm just saying, he wasn't golfing, that's my only point.

But let's talk about the negotiations over the debt ceiling because we're just ten days away from what economists would be a catastrophic default. As a member of Congress, as a Republican, who has with all the House Republicans, standing behind Kevin McCarthy completely unified as of right now, can you guarantee the U.S. will not default on its debt obligation?

MACE: We don't have to default, unless the president wants us to. We can prioritize spending on June 1st to pay the interest on the debt. In terms of tax revenues, we get 11 times the interest on the debt annually. There's no reason to default. But that does mean that we can't pay all of our bills in time.

But I think what you've seen in some of the reach in polling with "The Associated Press" and others, 63 percent of the Americans want U.S. Congress and the president to address our deficit to reduce our deficit. I'm advocating for no new taxes. I'm advocating to free spending.

I'm also -- I believe we need to have work requirements. And for the 52 percent of federal employees who aren't showing up to work, maybe those are the first ones who should get fired if they're not doing their job because the average American has to go to work to get their paycheck every week. But some in the federal government don't have to, and that's not fair.

TAPPER: So you are in favor of work requirements, this is one of the sticking points for individuals receiving some of the social safety net programs. My understanding from what speaker McCarthy just told Manu Raju in the expect spot you're standing about an hour or so ago, is that this would apply just to able-bodied individuals, recipients who do not have dependence. Is that right?

MACE: That's what my understanding is as well.

And, look, the president, Joe Biden, he supported work requirements in past years.


So I don't understand why it's so controversial today.

And again, Jake, you know we have a divided Congress. We ought to be working together on this issue. Both parties, Republicans and Democrats alike, created the deficit that we have today. Both parties need to sit down and fix it.

TAPPER: Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace of South Carolina, thank so much for your time. Appreciate it.

MACE: Thanks. Jake

TAPPER: Coming up next, a day in court today for the man accused of killing four Idaho college students. Plus, efforts to challenge the judge's order and make more information public in the case.


TAPPER: In our national lead, standing silent.


The man accused of murdering four University of Idaho students last fall refusing to enter a plea in court today. So, the judge did it for him, entering pleas of not guilty.

CNN's Veronica Miracle reports on this uncommon move, standing silent, and whether prosecutors will ultimately pursue the death penalty in this case.


VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The suspect in the brutal stabbings of four University of Idaho students, walking him without can't handcuffs into an Idaho courtroom today.

JUDGE: All rise.

MIRACLE: In a highly you usual move, remained silent when asked for his plea to one burglary charge and four counts of first-degree murder. The judge entered not guilty pleas for each charge. Bryan Kohberger,

looking only at his attorney and the judge during the proceedings did respond to questions.

JUDGE: Do you understand these rights?


JUDGE: Any questions about your rights?


MIRACLE: Kohberger appeared to read the indictment, as the judge in this case read the charges.

JUDGE: Count four, murder in the first degree.

MIRACLE: He's charged in the November killings of Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle, Madison Mogen, and Kaylee Goncalves.

Kohberger affirming that he understood the charges against him, did not appear to react with any emotions.

JUDGE: Do you understand the charge of count five, murder in first degree?


MIRACLE: Or appear to look around the courtroom where victims families like the Goncalves remained fix on him during the proceedings.

Kohberger has been in custody since December, after he was arrested at his parents' Pennsylvania home. More than a month after the murders. He was tracked down after police zeroed in a white Hyundai Elantra spotted near the crime scene and the disruption of the intruder by a surviving roommate identified as D.M., who said she heard crying, and saw a masked man that night clad in black clothing and noting his height, weight, and bushy eyebrows, according to the probable cause affidavit.

Investigators say they found Kohberger's father's DNA on trash recovered from his family's home, which was a close match to the DNA on a tanned leather night she left at the crime scene, according to the affidavit.

Now the prosecution has 60 days to decide whether they will pursue the death penalty in this case.


MIRACLE (on camera): And, Jake, there were also two separate hearings today discussing the gag order. A judge put a gag order in place which says that attorneys representing people involved in the case, as well as the prosecution in the police, they cannot publicly comment. A media coalition wants this completely vacated and the Goncalves family, one of the victims' families, wants this amended. So, they want to be able to talk about it. The media wants to be able to get more information.

The judge says he's going to be hearing these cases in a motion on June 9th. It's at that time that he is also going to be reviewing and deciding whether cameras should be allowed in court during trial -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Veronica Miracle, thanks so much.

Wednesday will mark one year since the second deadliest school shooting in the history of the United States, when the lives of 19 fourth graders, and two teachers, were stolen by a gunman at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

And one unanswered question still remains, why? Why did police wait for 77 minutes to enter that classroom and take down the shooter?

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz has been covering the story since the beginning. He sat down with families whose lives have forever been changed for the worst. For the past year, these parents have been asking officials for answers, and not getting them.

Those families knew CNN was able to obtain the footage of what happened that day through sources. In many cases, they asked Shimon and CNN to show them the moments that their children were evacuated from the classrooms after the gunman had been taken down. They said they needed to see what their children experienced. They hoped it would help them, and help others understand what this kind of violence does two children.

I want to warn you, what we are about to show you, you might find upsetting or disturbing.


SUBTITLE: 4 grader Kendall Olivares is wounded and lose consciousness on the bus to the hospital. The officers frantically try to keep her awake. Her mother, Kristina Olivares, is seeing this for the first time.



TAPPER: And those are the ones who survived.

Shimon joins us now.

Shimon, what was it like showing these families this footage that they have been begging to see. That the officials won't let them, that they've never seen before?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It was one of the toughest things I've probably ever had to do, certainly as a journalist, to sit there and have to show this to these families. They asked for it. You know? I hesitated to do, it Jake. But eventually, they're persistent, and then wanting to see this, they felt it was important.

As you said, so they can know what their kids went through. We also showed video to another mother of her daughter, of when she was rescued. This is Jaime Torres, she's the mother. She asked to see the moment her mother was rescued. Her daughter called 911.

What you will see in the video is that she's covered in blood. But just keep in mind, this is not her blood, Jake, this is the blood of other students and other victims. She used that blood so that the shooter could think she was dead. Take a listen.


PROKUPECZ: That was her. Did you hear? Did you recognize her?

She also wanted to watch a video of her daughter and other children placed on a school bus and taken to the hospital. The video is disturbing. Chloe wasn't physically hurt during the attack. And remember, the blood you're about to see is not hers.

CHLOE TORRES, UVALDE SHOOTING SURVIVOR: I was on the phone with a police officer.



PROKUPECZ: If you want me to stop, let me know. Okay? Are you okay, do you want me to stop? Are you okay, do you want me to stop? Are you okay?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can go home with your mom, okay?

TORRES: I can't go home to my mom. She's not here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can go home with your dad, okay?


PROKUPECZ: There Jake, of course, it's just incredibly difficult to watch and to see that. But again, this is something the families really wanted people to see. For Chloe Torres, the little girl, life is pretty difficult now. She has pretty -- she suffers from PSTD. She's afraid to go into confined spaces.

But, you know, the families are doing. It they're doing this as best they can. And what they can do to try to help her, Jake.

TAPPER: Yeah, it's so important, what you do. It really is accountability journalism and service journalism, Shimon.

Earlier today, Uvalde officials held a news conference. This is not because of your special last night on CNN, but because of the upcoming one year anniversary of the school shooting. Did anything constructive come out of that?

PROKUPECZ: No, and that's the problem. Family members are there. Reporters are there. The mayor spoke. Other officials spoke.

The thing is, the mayor is even frustrated. He said, look, I know everyone wants answers. I can't give you the answers because I don't have the information.

We, at CNN, have more information than he does. In fact, many times when we've brought information to him, he's taken some kind of action. So, he's frustrated by that. He's saying, we are at this year now, and yet, I'm still fighting to get information so that I can make changes here on the local level, at the police department, and with other city officials. Because he does, he does believe that he's going to make changes and certainly he's going to have to fire some officers.

TAPPER: Shimon Prokupecz, thank you so much.

Friends can talk about business, but when does it crossed a line? What Republican megadonor Harlan Crow is now saying without his friendship with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In a politics lead, a Republican megadonor is defending his friendship with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. In a new interview with "Atlantic Magazine", Harlan Crow says he and Justice Thomas talk about life, they listen to Motown, and, sure, they talk a bit about work but with Supreme Court friendship comes supreme accountability.

And Crow's motives have been under scrutiny after reports revealed he has funded luxury travel for Thomas and his wife, and bought the home of Thomas's mother in a private real estate deal, and more.

CNN's Ariane De Vogue joins us now.

So, Ariane, Crow was asked if he ever talk specifically about Supreme Court cases with Justice Thomas. What's the answer?

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Right, this is his most extensive interview so far, and he even said he hoped it's his last, but he does address this. He does address those luxury trips on the planes and on the yachts, and he basically said in the article, it's not realistic for two people to be friends and not talk about their jobs from time to time.

He said, for instance, Thomas would talk about his fondness for his clerks, the time that he bumped into Justice Breyer at a Target Store, but he draws the line about talking about cases. He said it would be wrong for him to talk about court cases. From my point of view, this is off limits. He and I don't go there. And then he also brought up those real estate deals. Remember, he did a deal with Thomas, he bought the house where Thomas's mother still lives, says one day he wants to turn it into a museum, and in this article he says he's totally baffled by the criticism on this. He said it was a fair market transaction, and I had a purpose. I don't see the foot fault here.

And, of course, it comes now as Congress is beginning to look into and ask more questions of Crow, of Thomas, of the court in general.

TAPPER: Right, the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is controlled by Democrats, they are not going to take him at his word, Harlan Crow.

VOGUE: Right, they have asked Crow's lawyers for details about this, with tax implications. So far, he has said that he is not going to answer that. That is a separation of powers issues, he doesn't -- he's not going to do it, and Congress is exceeding its authority in making those requests.

TAPPER: All right. Ariane De Vogue, thanks so much.

The dangerous side of A.I., see the fake picture the Pentagon today, or what people thought was the Pentagon, that caused the scare.


TAPPER: Just in on our tech lead, TikTok is suing the state of Montana over the recently passed law that bans TikTok, a popular app in the state, which starts early next year. TikTok claims that the law violates the U.S. Constitution, including the First Amendment protection of speech.


The company also alleges that concerns that the Chinese government could access the data of TikTok users are, quote, unfounded. Now, the law, signed by the state's governor last week, would impose a $10,000 a day fine on TikTok or App Stores for making the app available in Montana starting on January 1st.

Staying in our tech lead, an image of an explosion at the Pentagon today found its way on to international news networks. It caused the stock network to dip. There was no explosion at the Pentagon, however. The image, we are going to show it to you, it's fake. That's why we put A.I.-generated fake image there. Artificial intelligence appears to be the culprit.

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan is with us now.

And, Donie, where did this fake image come from, and how did this information, misinformation, spread so quickly?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jake, there's two real parts to this. There's first, Elon Musk's Twitter. A lot of your viewers might remember the saga about the blue check marks on Twitter, the verified check marks, Musk has basically taken those away and is selling them now to people who want to get a blue check mark.

So, before, if you had a blue tick on Twitter, it would mean that Twitter had verified that you are the person or the organization you are claiming to be. That's not really the case.

So what happened this morning is that somebody posted using an account that they claimed was linked to the Bloomberg News organization, posting that A.I. generated image, and claiming there had been some sort of explosion at the pentagon. That then got shared across multiple other verified accounts, and we saw it on other platforms to, but we don't know right now who pushed this.

And then there's the A.I. side of this. So multiple experts we've spoken to and others who have absurd this online say that this is an image generated by artificial intelligence, and you can see there, particularly people who are familiar with Washington, that the building in the picture, it is not the Pentagon. And it goes to show that even when a crude fake like this comes out, and some verified accounts on Twitter, that, you know, you can still cause a lot of trouble for the stock market to dip and to trick some organizations.

TAPPER: Yeah. Look, I mean, we are in a whole new world here. We see artificial intelligence being used to create misinformation, we're going to see much, much more and the big fear, what kind of role could that play in the upcoming election?

O'SULLIVAN: Yeah. It certainly could supercharge the misinformation environment, right? I mean, especially, we've seen some extremely realistic A.I. generated images, of people like Trump and Ron DeSantis.

And also, of course, fake audio. I mean , you think back to history, the role that audio has played in election campaigns, a leaked tape is the word, the "Access Hollywood" tape. That could very now easily be faked, but also on the flip side of that, if a real tape were to emerge, you know, a candidate could claim I never said that. That's a fake. So we are living in the dystopia.

TAPPER: All right. Donie O'Sullivan, thanks so much.

Just in to CNN, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen checking the math on her estimate for the U.S. hitting a default by June 1st in a letter today to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other congressional leaders. Yellen writes, quote, with an additional week of information now available, I am writing to note that we estimate that it is highly likely that Treasury will no longer be able to satisfy all of the governments obligations a Congress has not acted to raise or suspend the debt limit by early June, and potentially as early as June 1st, end quote.

Speaker McCarthy, President Biden, are set to meet at the White House in roughly 30 minutes, we expect them to speak at the beginning of that meeting and at the end as well. We will keep you posted on any headlines.

Also, just into CNN, the written notes taken by a Trump attorney that revealed the former presidents efforts to push back on a Justice Department subpoena into it's classified documents case. Our justice team is confirming this now. We're going to have more on the other side of this break.



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

This hour, a high school graduation in Mississippi is making national headlines for authorities there refusing to allow a trans girl student to wear a dress under her graduation gown, and now another student has been punished as well.

Plus, we are just 30 minutes away from a key meeting between President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in an effort to avert what could be financial catastrophe for the United States, if a deal is not reached in the next ten days.

And leading this hour, notes from Donald Trump's lawyer showed that the former president wanted to fight the federal subpoena demanding that he returned classified documents from his time in office. That's according to sources familiar with the notes taken by Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran, which have been turned over to special counsel Jack Smith.

The notes are allegedly about conversations between Trump and his legal team after they received the subpoena last May, but before a key meeting between Trump's team and the Justice Department, where Trump's attorney say they had handed over the classified documents, all of them.

CNN's Paula Reid is here now.

Paula, walk us through what these notes reportedly say.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the team and I have learned that these notes revealed the conversations that the former president had with his then-attorney, Evan Corcoran, after they received a subpoena from the Justice Department demanding that he returned any classified documents in his possession.

Now, we've learned that during these conversations, he wanted to know what they could do to push back on this. How would they fight? What were their options?

Now, some people have said these are significant because of course the special counsel is looking into possible obstruction of justice. But some other sources have pointed out, these are reasonable questions to ask your attorney when you receive a subpoena.