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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Federal Prosecutors Obtain Tape Of Trump Discussing Classified Document He Kept After Leaving White House; Sources: Former VP Mike Pence To Launch Presidential Bid Next Wednesday; Now: House Considering Rules For Debt Limit Vote; Ukraine: Explosion At Belarus- Russia-Ukraine Border Caused By Russia; Sen. Kaine Discusses His Vote On Debt Ceiling As Dems Fracture; GOP Chair Renews Threat To Hold FBI Director In Contempt. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired May 31, 2023 - 16:00 ET
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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: A new tape of Donald Trump. And this one is in the hands of federal prosecutors.
THE LEAD starts right now.
Breaking on CNN this minute, a meeting recorded. Sources telling CNN Donald Trump not only knew he kept classified documents, but talked about them in a meeting captured on tape. What sources say he discussed and the significance of what was said. The CNN justice team has the exclusive new reporting, breaking right now.
Plus, this hour, the debt limit deal put together a growing list of House Republicans and Democrats coming out saying they plan to vote no. I'll speak with one of them coming up.
And, bullet through a prayer book, a survivor who hid in a closet. The stark new details coming out in the trial for the Tree of Life synagogue mass shooting suspect.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
And we start today with breaking news. A new piece of evidence that undercuts Donald Trump's defense in the classified documents investigation. Sources telling CNN federal prosecutors have obtained an audio recording of a summer 2021 -- excuse me -- meeting where the former president acknowledges he held on to a classified Pentagon document about a potential attack against Iran.
The report indicates not only did Donald Trump know he had classified materials in his possession after he left the White House, but that Trump also seemed to know there were limits on what and how he could declassified records since he was no longer president.
Let's bring in CNN's Katelyn Polantz and Paula Reid, who are bringing this CNN exclusive reporting.
Paula, set the scene for us, where was this meeting, what was it about?
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: This meeting was back in the summer of 2021, at Trump's Bedminster golf club. And among the people in attendance were several Trump aides and two people working on an auto biography of Mark Meadows.
Mark Meadows was not in attendance at this meeting, but during this time, Trump was in the habit of having his aides recorded any conversations with journalists, writers, people working on books.
Sources tell us, on this tape, Trump says that he has a classified Pentagon document, describing a possible attack on Iran. We're also told you can hear paper rustling. It appears that he might be waving something around. It's unclear if he's waving this document that he's referring to, or if he's waving something else.
Now, perhaps more importantly for investigators, on this recording, you can hear Trump suggest that he would like to share this information with the people he's speaking with, but he acknowledges, there are limits to his power to declassify post-presidency. And as one source told me, that is a real problem.
TAPPER: That's a real problem, because it undercuts his entire argument.
Katelyn, what are investigators doing now that they have this recording?
KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Jake, they're building up an investigation around it. So, they have this audio recording, they're able to get it, and that is a very crucial piece of evidence, that we're told is quite important. Many people have said, it's very important in this investigation, at this stage.
We do know that they've also brought in people to talk to about this document, and also, about the recording itself, about this meeting at Bedminster, one of those people we saw going into the grand jury recently, and were able to confirm that person was in the meeting at Bedminster that we're talking about here.
But I should be very clear, we have not heard what this audio recording is. It is something that the Justice Department has, they clearly have heard, it's quite substantial for him. What we've been able to do is reconstruct what we can understand about what Donald Trump is saying there, or at least implying when he's holding up a paper and shaking it around.
TAPPER: And, Paula, just spell it out as clear as you can for, us why this is such an important, potentially, such an important piece of evidence, as seen through the lens of the classified document investigation?
REID: Well, the former president and his attorneys have given varying at times conflicting explanations for why he was not intentionally retaining classified materials. One of the explanations he gave at the town hall. Let's take a listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: No, I don't have anything. I have no classified documents. And, by the way, they become automatically declassified when I took them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: So, they're he saying it's automatic. His allies have also suggested that he had a standing declassification order. He also told Fox News that he declassified things with his mind.
But his lawyers told Congress that, in fact, the classified materials but it's very chaotic at the end of administration, and they didn't realize that they were there.
What he has heard saying, on this recording, undercuts all of those explanations.
TAPPER: And, Katelyn, why was Donald so eager to talk about this document, this alleged document, about an attack on Iran?
POLANTZ: Well, Jake, at this point in time, Donald Trump was quite angry, because there were a lot of books coming out after his presidency about what happened in the last days of his presidency. And right at this July meeting, right before it, Susan Glasser of "The New Yorker", had published a story that said Trump's joint chiefs of -- the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, had basically argued to Trump he could not bomb Iran. He wanted to bomb around.
And so, in this circumstance, Donald Trump is trying to tell Milley, or trying to tell the people, that are in the room, that he has a document that would undercut General Milley. There is something that would discredit Milley's idea that he was trying to talk Trump out of bombing Iran.
And so, in his book, Mark Meadows, who is not in the meeting, but there are two people working on Meadows book for him, in this meeting. Meadows writes about exactly what Trump was recalling in this meeting. He says a four page -- Trump recalled a four page report typed up by Mark Milley himself, it contained the generals own plan to attack Iran, deploying massive numbers of troops. And so, the Justice Department is looking into what happened around
that document itself? This document with Mark Milley, that maybe the classified document that they're trying to trace, as well as what happened in this meeting, which Donald Trump is acknowledging, he had to declassify it, and then he couldn't after the president.
TAPPER: So, in the world according to Trump, this is a document from Milley that shows that Milley was the one that wanted to attack Iran, not him. And that this disproves a claim that was made in the Susan Glasser article?
POLANTZ: Or at least some sort of plan from the Pentagon, this is how you would go about attacking Iran.
TAPPER: Okay, interesting. Katelyn and Paul Reid, stick around.
I want to bring in CNN chief legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Laura Coates, as well as CNN senior legal analyst, Elie Honig, who's a former assistant U.S. attorney.
Laura, how significant could this reporting be, do you think?
LAURA COATES, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: It's extraordinarily so. And excellent reporting, ladies, on this very important matter, because the question everyone wants answered, what did he know and when did he know it? The idea of did he and was he aware that he was not able to retain classified documents? You can check that off the least for already of reasons.
Did he know that there was a classified procedure? Of course, he did. Did he intend to do so and retain it, even though he was aware that the NRA -- NARA, not NRA, that NARA actually wanted it back? Absolutely.
So, all you have now is the investigation trying to prove that the thing that alludes you, somebody's intent. You have intent, if this reporting is true, intent that is actually did happen.
For Jack Smith and his team, you have an otherwise clear cut case, documents in someone's possession, ought to be returned, was their intent? This suggests that there was. It's a very streamlined prosecutorial proof model.
TAPPER: And, Elie, sources say that prosecutors have asked witnesses about this recording, and ask them about this document on Iran. In front of the grand jury, how does this piece of evidence fit into whatever larger case is being built here?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Jake, this is a very big deal for prosecutors, and I think a very big problem for Donald Trump and his team, for a couple reasons. First of all, prosecutors love tapes because if you have a subject on tape, that's his own words, that his own voice. The defense can't say, well, some witnesses sort of fudging the truth.
It also establishes some basic things the prosecutors need to establish. One, knowledge. Trump knew he had these documents. Two, intent. He was going to use them, or potentially refer to them, as it suited his strategic needs, that goes to his intent.
And third, this whole claim that he declassified, well, here he is, in 2021, after he's left office saying, these are still classified. So, I can't show you. So, it shows not only that he didn't declassify, but that he's been lying about it in public. So, this is crucial evidence for prosecutors.
TAPPER: And, Paula, what's more important here, the fact that Trump retained this classified material, we know in this instance a document about Iran. Or the tape in which it seems to establish that he had the document, and that he knew he couldn't share it?
REID: Look, it's all problematic. The fact that he's admitting that he has this classified document, he retained, discussing in a public setting. The fact that he admits that there are limitations to his ability to classify post-presidency, I mean, I was expecting some pretty serious court fights, unprecedented constitutional questions -- I'm sure you guys are looking forward to that, too -- about his powers, post-presidency, things we never lead contemplated before.
This reporting undercuts all of that. And he also admits that he knows he has this document, which gives him no room to argue that, like President Biden or former Vice President Mike Pence, he had no idea. Things just got packed up inadvertently. It's a big (ph) problem.
COATES: By the way, that's the first time, thanks to reporting, that we know at least some part of the step since of these documents. Up until now, we've seen the photographs of the cover sheet, there's been a lot made of the fact, oh, - this just a cover sheet that was out there, essentially nothing inside there.
Now, we know the substance, at least in part of one document, in the severity of it. No wonder why there is conversation surrounding the unlawful disclosure of very secretive information, the potential diplomatic storm that could actually result from all of this.
And the idea that he was aware of it, that he knew the consequences of it, and was offering to look at it, nonetheless, and to undercut somebody of a high-ranking authority in our own government? Shocking.
TAPPER: So, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Mark Milley, is still the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Do we know if prosecutors have asked him about this?
POLANTZ: Yeah, our reporting team, with Kaitlan Collins as well, we are able to confirm that General Milley has been questioned by investigators. We also know that the prosecutors on this special counsel investigation, they also have been asking questions about Donald Trump's anger around Mark Milley. And also, if there were other circumstances where he may have wanted to show documents like this, or had documents.
Now, we don't have the answer to why Donald Trump still had this, but when we look at the course of what we are revealing here, and what this investigation is doing, one of the things that prosecutors really need to nail down, is whether Donald Trump knew he had this classified document, and if he's talking about Milley, and he's waving around something, he's referring to a document he has from Milley, that's quite important.
TAPPER: Elie, if you are on Trump's defense team, how might you defend this reporting?
HONIG: So, that's a tough one Jake. I think, first of all, they're going to want to see the actual transcript, and the recording itself. They may try to parse the words.
There may be a creative argument that -- well, he didn't legitimately think he was doing anything wrong. If so, why would he talk about it in front of these writers, these reporters? I said it's creative.
One thing I do want to stress, though, one important aspect of Paula and Katelyn and the team's reporting is that Trump's own team made these recordings at his request. There's really sort of shades of Nixon there.
New Jersey is what we call the one party state, meaning as long as one party to the conversation approved the recording, those recordings are going to be legal and potentially admissible against him.
TAPPER: And, Laura, reading the tea leaves of where Jackson is going in his investigation, it had seemed as though he was only possibly only going to go after the obstruction of justice charges. But this would suggest a broader, theoretically, a broader case.
COATES: Intent is really the final puzzle piece for any prosecutor. Hardest thing you can prove, you can't get into the mind of a person you're targeting. But it also makes it a broader case, you're right, away from obstruction, and now about the disclosure of information. Also, about other more expansive, is this document that was waved around reportedly, do they actually now have it? Or is it a part of another trove that is yet to be uncovered? It is expanding.
TAPPER: All right. Thanks one and all, great reporting. Really appreciate it.
Coming up, a key House vote is happening this hour, it will help determine the fate of the debt limit compromise deal.
Plus, what CNN is learning today about former Vice President Mike Pence, and exactly when he plans to get into the 2024 presidential race.
And what the Chinese government has to say about that aggressive new maneuver by one of its own fighter jets flying awfully close to U.S. spy plane.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Topping our 2024 lead, sources tell CNN, the former Vice President Mike Pence is set officially to join the Republican presidential race. Next week, with an announcement video in a kickoff speech in Iowa, the widely expected campaign launch will come just hours before the former vice president will join CNN's Dana Bash for a town hall in the Hawkeye State.
CNN's Jeff Zeleny is in Iowa, where the former VP will make his announcement, one week from today.
Jeff, Pence's relationship with his former boss, Donald Trump, and the MAGA voter base soured after he refused to overturn the election for him on January 6th. And complied instead with what he was able to do with the will of the people in the U.S. constitution. How is he planning to overcome that?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, that is the central question facing the candidacy of Mike Pence. He has long said, history, he believes, will hold Donald Trump accountable. It's an open question, though, if Republican voters will hold Donald Trump accountable for his role in election denialism and trying to incite violence on the Capitol on January 6th. Of course, Mike Pence and his family were deeply involved in.
But, of course, he's going after the Republican voters who are simply ready to turn the page. I'm a rally here that's about to begin for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. These Republicans also are ready to turn the page. So, there certainly is a growing field of Republican candidates here. Mike Pence will officially become one of those next week. As will new -- the former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
So, the wide of the never Trump lane is growing. But the question is, does that actually help President Trump?
As for the Pence strategy, I was with him in New Hampshire a couple weeks ago, his advisers tell me, he plans to talk about a deeply conservative record, his fiscal conservative record, trying to draw a distinction between just his vice presidency, but also his time as governor of Indiana, and his service in the Congress as an Indiana congressman, as well.
So, of course, it's a tough road for him, there is no doubt about it. There are so many Trump loyalists inside this party. But he believes that by focusing on his conservative record, he can make the party, as he will say, one of fiscal sanity. So, next week, he will formally jump into this race.
Jake, we're almost at a dozen candidates as we enter the summer.
TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny in Pella, Iowa, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
That Republican presidential town hall with Mike Pence is next Wednesday night at 9:00 Eastern with Dana Bash. Before that, when I will moderate a different town hall, this one with former governor and ambassador, Nikki Haley. That will be this coming Sunday night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN. Also live from Iowa.
Turning to our money lead, drama unfolding on the floor of the House of Representatives right this moment, as a vote is expected tonight on the debt ceiling compromise bill.
CNN's Manu Raju joins us now live from Capitol Hill.
Manu, tell us what's going on?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. This is the role that must be approved by the House, before the full House can consider the bill to suspend the debt limit till January 2025. Typically, these rules, essentially set a parameters for the floor debate. Typically, they're approved along straight party lines, no members from the majority party vote against. No members of the minority party vote for it.
This is different. Amid concerns from the far right and House Republican conference, Speaker McCarthy is struggling to get the votes on the -- just Republican votes alone, in order to get this rule approved. If all members are voting, he needs 218 votes, to get this approved.
Right now, he's 187 votes. There are 29 Republican votes voting against it. He can only afford to lose no more than four Republican votes, in order for any bill to be approved, along straight party lines. At the moment, Democrats themselves are voting against it.
That's where the direction for the Democratic leadership was to the rank and file, to vote against it. There are 42 Democrats who have not yet voted. They're holding out their votes, and they're expected, ultimately, to give the speaker the votes, in order to get this rule approved.
But it's very clear, the Democrats are trying to make the speaker sweat, trying to extract potentially some concessions, we'll see if any deals are cut on the House floor. But at the moment right now, the leadership does not -- on the Republican side does not have the votes to get this rule approved. Now, our colleagues within the chamber say the speaker in the chamber, he looks pretty relaxed, he does expect this rule ultimately get approved.
But at the moment right now, it's going very slowly, 188 votes in the affirmative, that's not enough, 188 Republican votes, 29 Republican votes against it, and counting. Five Republicans have now voted yet.
We'll see what ultimately happened here, Jake, but if and when this rule is approved, that will be the first step before the full House votes tonight to suspend the debt limit, passed this bill that was negotiated with the White House, Senate -- after weeks and weeks of negotiation, months of stand off between the two sides.
For the moment, drama playing out on the floor, as the speaker trying to get his first procedural vote approved, and right now, it doesn't have the votes -- Jake.
TAPPER: And, Manu, we're hearing that some members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus are threatening to use the, what's called, a motion to vacate, basically, it allows just one member to raise this as a move to oust McCarthy as speaker.
They're threatening to use this next week. Is that real?
RAJU: That is really an uncertain question, Jake, because as you mentioned, just one member can, essentially, call for this vote. They can't stop this vote from happening. If the speaker is unable to limit defections to more than -- no more than four, there are four or more, who want about a speaker, he's out a speaker, assuming all Democrats vote to remove him as well.
Conservatives have not made a final decision about whether to go that route. But some of them are very angry about whether -- the deal that was cut, didn't go far enough, and are weighing whether or not to go that far. That is a discussion for another day. The question, is whether the temperature will cool down a little bit if this bill passes.
And the big question tonight is how many Republicans ultimately vote for the underlying bill to raise the debt ceiling? The speaker and his team want to have a majority of House Republicans to get behind it. The speaker told me today, he's confident he will get a majority of Republicans voting for it. Some of the folks on the far-right, the Congressman Matt Gaetz, have warned that it's under a majority of House Republicans, that's what could trigger to efforts trying to oust him from the speakership.
So, that vote, that threshold, is key. The question will be, if after this passes, if the calculation changes on the far right of the conference. But at the moment right now, the speaker doesn't seem too concerned about it. I asked him at this is -- if this makes a speaker any less secure, and he said, not at all -- Jake.
TAPPER: Yeah, there are four votes away now from that rule passing, 214, they just need four.
RAJU: Oh, yeah, Jake, yeah.
TAPPER: Now it's three, 215.
RAJU: Yeah, as you can see, Jake, Democrats are now giving the votes to get this passed. This is what we expected. They're going to hold out until the very end here, now Democrats breaking ranks, unusual. These rules typically approved along straight party lines, now, 26 Democrats and counting, 27 now getting to that magic number to pass the first rule.
TAPPER: There it is. They just -- there it is, 218. They just hit the magic number. That's the first procedural vote, looks like Speaker McCarthy is going to get that rule approved, and they'll proceed later tonight to a vote on the actual legislation.
Manu Raju, bringing us in real time the vote counting -- the vote casting, rather on Capitol Hill. Thanks so much.
As the House passes this rule, and then the debt ceiling bill, potentially, it will head to the U.S. Senate. It faces challenges there as well. One senator strongly against one of the amendments, added to the legislation. He's going to join me next.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: A failed North Korean satellite launch tops the worldly today. Today, North Korean state run news agency quickly admitted that a rocket carrying a satellite intended for outer space failed and crashed into the Yellow Sea. The North Korea Space Agency says it will investigate urgently and plans to relaunch as soon as possible.
South Korean officials attempt to clean up yet another accidental air raid siren alert, canceled 20 minutes after it was issued early this morning because of that North Korean launch. Later, the mayor of Seoul, South Korea, apologized for, quote, causing confusion.
Now, to China, where top government officials insist the United States is the one provoking them after a Chinese fighter pilot flew dangerously close to U.S. spy plane in international airspace over the South China Sea late last week. U.S. military officials call this a, quote, unnecessarily aggressive maneuver, as the relationship between the Chinese and U.S. governments grow icier year by the day.
China's defense minister snubbed U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin's invitation to meet this week. Today, U.S. secretary of state, Anthony Blinken, insisted that close call in the air underscores the need for, quote, regular open lines of communication, unquote.
Meanwhile, in Ukraine, a massive explosion near the intersection of the Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian borders today. Ukrainian officials say Russia is responsible. They argue the move shows that the Kremlin is nervous that Ukraine would potentially use that crucial border crossing for its intended impending counteroffensive.
Well, in Russia's border town of Belgorod, a, quote, massive strike injured four people, according to Russian officials there.
CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in Kyiv, as Russian officials are starting to sleep with one eye open.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): While the Ukrainians continue to deny being directly involved in the drone attack on Moscow, a senior adviser to Ukraine's presidency is warning the Russians, the war is coming to them.
MYKHAILO PODOLYAK, ADVISER TO UKRIANIAN PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION (through translator): All this will increase in scale, there will be an increase in the number of manifestations of the war, on the territory of the Russian Federation.
PLEITGEN: And Russia is not only feeling the heat around Moscow, the Ukrainians appear to be ramping up the pressure in the vast border regions between the two countries.
Local authorities in the Belgorod area say heavy shelling damaged residential and official buildings there, wounding several people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It was very scary, several bursts at once. This is not happened before.
PLEITGEN: Further south in the Krasnodar region, the Russians say two oil refineries were targeted by drones, the surveillance camera video seeming to show an explosion followed by a large fire at one of the facilities.
And to the north, authorities in the Bryansk area say they repelled a massive drone attack, while the Ukrainians believe the Russians are so nervous, they blew up a road in the border region nearby, to try and stop any possible Ukrainian advances. The U.S. says, it doesn't condone attacks on Russian territory.
JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESMAN: We have maintained our concerns about attacks on Russian soil. But we have been nothing but generous and fully committed to making sure that Ukraine can defend itself.
PLEITGEN: But some of the U.S.'s allies are less concerned.
JAMES CLEVERLY, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: Ukraine does have the legitimate right to defend itself. But it does also have the right to project force beyond its borders, to undermine Russia's ability to project force into Ukraine itself.
PLEITGEN: Those remarks caused major outrage on Kremlin-controlled TV, as Russia's security forces seem unable to prevent cross border raids.
PLEITGEN: So, as you can see there, Jake, a bit of an uneasiness about -- among the Russian propaganda.
At the same time, a senior Ukrainian official who's telling us that the strikes that you're seeing right now, whether it's a fuel refineries on Russian territory, or whether or not it's areas that are occupied by Russia in Ukraine, all of those are precursors to the large scale counteroffensive by the Ukrainians, which they've, of course, been preparing for, for very long time, in which they now say, is eminent, Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Fred Pleitgen in Kyiv, Ukraine, for us, thank you so much Virginia
Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine joins us now.
Senator, I know you want to talk about the debt ceiling bill, I'll get to that one second but you're on the foreign relations committee, so I do want to get your take on this new pattern of attacks on Russian soil. The White House has made it clear that it does not support any attacks by Ukraine or anyone else on Russia. But is that realistic? Considering what Russia has been doing to the people of Ukraine, innocent civilians, targeted for more than a year?
SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA): Well, Jake, that is the U.S. position, and it ought to be the U.S. position. But Ukraine is defending itself. Russia has conducted an illegal invasion, Russia is engaged in massive human rights abuses. We just came from a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing about the human rights abuses being committed by Russia.
And so, you know, this raises concerns about escalation. But Ukraine is trying to defend itself. And I'm not going to stand here and be the judge of people trying to protect their homeland from an illegal invasion.
TAPPER: Let's turn back to the major news on Capitol Hill right now, the debt ceiling. You clearly have some major concerns with the provision, added to this bill, to green light the controversial Mountain Valley pipeline from West Virginia to Virginia. It's championed by a Democratic senator, from West Virginia, Joe Manchin, who's running for reelection.
You plan to file an amendment to get rid of it.
Are you going to vote no on the entire bill, if you're amendment fails?
KAINE: Jake, that's moving a couple steps down the board, I haven't got there yet. I'm just insisting on amid an amendment. You correctly point out, we're trying to do a debt ceiling bill. The White House in their negotiation added a completely unrelated provision, there is nothing about green-lighting the Mountain Valley pipeline that has anything to do with the debt ceiling.
And I think it's a very bad policy. I think every project should have to go through permitting processes, if it gets approved, then you can build it. If it doesn't, you have to make it better till you get approved.
But what Congress shouldn't do is pick one project in the country and give it a greenlight, and exempt it from all permitting processes.
To build a pipeline, you got to take people's land, Jake. You got to take their land. And people in Appalachia, they don't give up their land for this.
If there is a process that says the nation needs it, that's one thing. But Congress exempting the operators of this pipeline from the normal permitting rules, it's just not something I can support. Now, I made it plain to my colleagues and to the White House for months and months and months, why they would add this without talking to me about it is beyond me. TAPPER: Well, isn't this the Joe Manchin reelection protection act? I
mean, isn't that the idea?
KAINE: You know, you have to ask them. I mean, look, they did work with Joe on this in the Inflation Reduction Act. They promised him, hey, look, we're going to make it happen. They tried added to the defense bill. They tried to add it to, you know, a year and appropriations.
What about a permitting reform bill? Put it in that and do it in regular order. There's bipartisan support for permitting reform, that's where something like this should go. What you should do is make the permitting reform process better, and then make Mountain Valley go through that.
And they can do it. Their big company, with resources they can do it. But exempted completely is just something this project runs through two states. My colleague and friend, Joe Manchin, think this is good for West Virginia.
But I think forcing Virginians who don't want to give up their land to have to give up their land under eminent domain for something that will do them no good, whatsoever. Congress should not be forcing them to do that.
TAPPER: So, President Biden has been known to watch this show. Is there anything you want to tell him? Given that he didn't call you to give a heads up? You can say something to him right now.
KAINE: President Biden should watch this show, Jake, it's a good show.
TAPPER: Thank you.
KAINE: Look, I mean, I -- I just -- I am a loyal President Biden guy. I endorsed him in the Virginia primary. I campaigned hard for him. I'm working every way I can to cooperate with him.
This is a big deal in Virginia and we are sort of cut out of it. I would love to, you know -- you know, hear from the White House any reason. I mean, I did get a call from John Podesta to say, hey, look, okay, I get you. I get what you're upset. I didn't hear a good reason for why they do this without us.
TAPPER: All right. Senator Tim Kaine from the great commonwealth of Virginia, thank you so much for being here. Appreciate it.
KAINE: You bet.
TAPPER: Was President Biden never involved in a criminal scheme with a foreign national? We're looking for evidence, or at least Republicans are, on Capitol Hill. We'll tell you what they found, if anything, that leader of that committee is pressuring the FBI director for an evidence to help prove his case.
TAPPER: In our law and justice lead, a standoff over a Biden document continues to escalate in Congress. Today, FBI Director Christopher Wray spoke with GOP House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer and Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Those two want FBI Director Wray to hand over internal documents, that they say will shed light into an allegation that then Vice President Joe Biden was involved in a criminal scheme of some sort, with a foreign national. Comer is threatening to hold FBI Director Wray, who, of course, was appointed by Trump, in contempt of Congress, if the FBI continues to refuse to comply with the subpoena.
CNN's Sara Murray joins us now.
Sara, FBI Director Wray, he made quite the offer today on the phone call. What did he say?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, according to sources familiar with this call, Christopher Wray basically said he will allow James Comer to view this document that Comer has been seeking.
So, you know, this is an accommodation we have seen other members of the administration make when it comes to other committees doing oversight on other things. But we're also learning that Comer basically told Wray on the call, look, this doesn't mean we're not going to proceed with contempt.
I think the view of Comer is this is not the same getting to go and review the document, is having that document handed over to Congress and being able to, essentially -- to share that document with all the members of the committee -- Jake.
TAPPER: So, it is in this offer that Wray made. Would Comer be the only one allowed to see the document?
MURRAY: Well, normally, this way this works, the chairman and ranking member will get to see the document, and we do expect that Jamie Raskin is going to be able to see. It but this line of this dysfunction of this committee, they did not do a call together with Director Wray.
And here's where a spokesperson for the committee, Dem, said: Since Chairman Comer refused to allow Ranking Member Raskin to participate in his call with Director Wray this afternoon, the ranking member secured a separate call this afternoon so that Director Wray can brief him on the information the FBI is providing in response to the committee's subpoena.
So, that I think gives you some insight into how well things between Republicans and Democrats on that committee.
TAPPER: Right, what exactly they're trying to investigate? What is the allegation? Would this prove it, one way or the other? MURRAY: I mean, the allegation is that when Joe Biden was vice
president, he was involved in some sort of alleged criminal scheme where a foreign national, essentially, tries to pay him off. There's nothing to indicate that this is a verified rumor. The White House has dismissed it, and called this all, you know, a GOP charade that is designed to try and hurt Joe Biden's poll numbers.
And even the FBI, you know, writing to this committee, trying to lay out what they're so hesitant to hand this document over and says this is unsubstantiated information.
A confidential source comes in, speaks to the FBI, they use this form to sort of memorialize that conversation. But this is information from one person.
It doesn't tell you, you know, did the FBI check this out? Is somebody else contradicts them? Is this the person who, you know, is a crazy person who came in from the street and decided they wanted to share this information from the FBI?
So, we really still won't have a sense, even when Congress gets to go view this information, even if they get a copy of the document if there's any veracity to what they're talking about.
TAPPER: Yeah, I mean, I remember from the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, like any wacko can make any allegation, call it in to the FBI or whatever. The question is, what's the case file show?
MURRAY: Right, exactly. And, you know, if Comer is able to, you know, he's going to get to see it, but if he is able to get a copy of it, the question is then where are you going to go with it? Are you actually going to try to speak to the FBI and substantiate whether it was investigated, whether they found anything, and if they say, look, we look into this and we found nothing, are you going to share that with the American public?
TRAPPER: Right, before I get tweets, let me say, I'm talking about all the unsubstantiated, wild, anonymous allegations against Kavanaugh. Just to be clear.
Sara Murray, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
Strong evidence revealed at the trial for that mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue, a prayer book shredded by a bullet. Body footage from that day, we're going to go live to the federal courthouse in Pittsburgh, next.
TAPPER: In our national lead, authorities are looking into what led to a building to partially collapse in eastern Iowa. This is happening in Davenport, right across the Mississippi River from Illinois. Part of a six-story apartment building fell on Sunday. At least five people are still missing, and officials fear two of them might be trapped inside the building, which could topple further at any moment.
Crews managed to rescue nine people, but the search effort may need to stop, because the wreckage is just too fragile and too dangerous for crews to go into. The city's fire marshal got a bit emotional when talking about this difficult situation. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM MORRIS, DAVENPORT FIRE MARSHAL: We want to get everybody out, and we want to do it right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Those who were able to get out are now displaced. The buildings owner is facing a safety violation from the city.
In our law and justice lead, today was the second day of testimony in the trial for the admitted gunman who killed 11 innocent people at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue back in October 2018. The shooting is the deadliest antisemitic attack in the history of the United States.
CNN's Danny Freeman was in the courthouse today as one of the survivors of the shooting took to the witness stand to describe how she hid in a closet during the crash.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're staying on the channel from everybody else.
DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, we are getting a new look into the horror inside of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. This new video from a police body camera released Wednesday shows Tree of Life rabbi Jeffrey Myers fleeing from the temple after police finally rescued him. The rabbi, clutching his yarmulke, prayer shawl, which he wore through the entire attack.
When prosecutors asked what he was thinking as he fled, he testified, I asked God to forgive me because I couldn't save them, the other congregants.
RABBI JEFFEY MYERS, RABBI, TREE OF LIFE SYNAGOGUE: Nothing can prepare you for an experience like this. Particularly as a religious leader, to see your flock slaughtered.
FREEMAN: This video among dozens of other exhibits released by the court, one image shows a rifle magazine on the floor of a hallway. Another shows crime scene tape and blood on the ground.
This image shows the Tree of Life prayer book, with an apparent bullet hole in the top. Rabbi Myers testified he kept the book after the massacre, saying, it is a witness to the horror of the day. One day, when I am not there, this book tells a story that needs to be told. The accused killer, Robert Bowers, spent day two of the trial intently
watching multiple witnesses for the prosecution take the stand. Bowers has pleaded not guilty to all 63 charges. Carol Black was in the synagogue that morning, and recalled hiding in a closet as bullets rang out, saying she watched her friend, Melvin Wax, died in front of her. Black escaped, but her brother, Richard Gottfried, did not survive. She was the first family member of a victim to testify.
Gottfried, Wax, and Daniel Stein, all members of the New Light Congregation, were killed.
STEPHEN COHEN, CO-PRESIDENT, NEW LIGHT CONGREGATION: Richard, Dan and Mel were best friends throughout. They were our religious hearts.
FREEMAN: Maggie Feinstein, director of 10.27 Healing Partnership, has been watching the trial in court with impacted families each day.
MAGGIE FEINSTEIN, DIRECTOR, 10.27 HEALING PARTNERSHIP: There is no doubt that some people feel relief. Some people feel dread, people feel every range of feelings. But yes, some people feel relief because this is very important, the idea that justice could happen.
FREEMAN (on camera): And, Jake, one interesting thing is that we've gone through nine witnesses now, dispatchers, survivors, of course one of the rabbis, and lead defense attorney Judy Clark has not cross- examined any of those witnesses just yet. So, we'll be keeping an eye on that to see if it changes in the days and weeks -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Danny Freeman in Pittsburgh, thank you so much.
Coming up next, a CNN exclusive audio of Donald Trump exists and prosecutors have it. It seems to undermine what he has said about classified documents that he kept improperly after leaving office.
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
This hour, it's getting pretty crowded out on the campaign trail as we learn yet to more Republican presidential candidates are about to throw their hats into the ring and take on Donald Trump. They both used to be Trumps besties.
Plus, more than 564,000 American lives lost and countless others devastated by opioids. And now, the family whose company gave America OxyContin has been granted civil immunity in exchange for $6 billion meant to address the crisis. Where will that money go?
And we are leading this hour with exclusive new CNN reporting about Donald Trump and his handling of classified documents. Sources telling CNN that the special counsel Jack Smith has obtained an audio recording of Trump saying that he held on to a classified Pentagon documents about a potential attack on Iran.
The recording is from a meeting in summer 2021, and it seems to indicate Trump knew that he had classified materials in his possession after leaving the White House.