Return to Transcripts main page

The Lead with Jake Tapper

Sources: Trump Employee Draining Pool Flooded Room At Mar-A- Lago Where Surveillance Video Logs Were Kept; Trump's Lawyers Meet With Justice Department Officials; Republican Field Set To Expand With 3 New Candidates; U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman: Ukraine Is "Well Prepared" For Counteroffensive; NTSB Investigating Plane Crash That Killed 4; Man Found Alive Days After Crash Kills 275 People. Aired 4- 5p ET

Aired June 05, 2023 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: It's always been uncharted waters when it comes to Donald Trump, but now, there's a literal flood.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Right now, exclusive CNN reporting about a flood in the server room at Trump's Mar-a-Lago, the same servers storing the security surveillance video from Trump's resort. This as Mr. Trump's lawyers meet with Justice Department officials today.

Then, come on in, the water's fine. The 2024 race set to grow by three more candidates as Governor Nikki Haley lands her sharpest blow yet on the Republican front runners, Trump and DeSantis.

Plus, military fighter jets going super sonic when a private plane doesn't respond while flying near the nation's capitol. Now, investigators are trying to figure out what went so horribly wrong.


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

Apologies for my voice. We start today with the law and justice lead and serious questions as to whether Donald Trump could face his first federal indictment ever.

Today, lawyers for the former president met with Justice Department officials here in Washington for 90 minutes, a possible sign that special counsel Jack Smith's investigation into how Trump handled classified documents and whether he obstructed justice could be nearing its final stages.

Adding fuel to the speculation that Trump's about to face some legal consequence is his own wild reaction on his own social media site, Truth Social, where he wrote, quote: How can the Justice Department possibly charge me, who did nothing wrong, when no other presidents were charged, when Joe Biden won't be charged for anything.

He goes on from there, but let's move on. Let's get right to CNN's Katelyn Polantz.

And, Katelyn, you have some exclusive new insight into the special counsel's investigation, especially as it concerns possible obstruction of justice. Tell us more.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: So, Jake, we have been hearing about this obstruction investigation and all these questions about what happened to the boxes that were moved, what was captured on surveillance footage after the Justice Department started seeking it and started to track down where documents moved throughout Mar-a-Lago, and what I am learning and have confirmed is that one of the things prosecutors are inquiring about is that there was a flood at Mar-a-Lago back October, specifically, one of the men -- a maintenance worker who was captured on some of this video, surveillance tape, helping to move some of the boxes in and out of that storage room. He drained the pool at Mar-a-Lago in October, and when that happened, it flooded a room and that room had IT equipment in it that had surveillance footage.

And so we don't know -- and it's not clear if prosecutors believe that this flood was intentional. It could have been a mistake. But it is one of these things that adds into this constellation of things that are suspicious to prosecutors, have raised questions.

And we know too that prosecutors have received some testimony and some answers about what happened there. And some of the testimony is that the video surveillance system wasn't damaged in this flood.

But all of these questions are going back to, did Donald Trump give some sort of direction, or did these people who were working for him, this maintenance worker and another man who was captured on tape moving boxes, while not his body man, were they taking steps to inquire about the surveillance footage or want to sort of screw up what the Justice Department was able to get as they were seeking evidence?

TAPPER: Yeah, you're giving me images of, like, the grandson of Rosemary Woods or something like that.

Turning back to the meeting between Trump's attorneys and the justice department, which happened earlier today, what might that signal about the timeline? At what point in a possible indictment do people in an investigation with a possible indictment do people meet with the lawyers for the suspect?

POLANTZ: Well, at the very least, it signals that Donald Trump's defense team wants to have a come to Jesus moment with the Justice Department in some way. They are afraid enough or wanting to know exactly where the investigation stands at a point so they can go in and talk to the main justice.

Now, this meeting is a little bit different than other meetings that happen at the end of an investigation, in that we know that the meetings -- the lawyers for Donald Trump asked for this meeting because they essentially have complaints about the special counsel, Jack Smith, and Jack Smith is not like any U.S. attorney. He's able to make his own charging decisions, separate from the attorney general, but that meeting today, it is a big moment in an investigation that has signaled that it's nearing its end.

We do, though, think there is going to be a little bit more testimony at some part of this investigation.


And what we were able to confirm just a few minutes ago was that a grand jury in south Florida is expected to hear from a witness this week. It's not totally clear how that fits into the rest of the investigation.

TAPPER: This is part of that investigation? A grand jury in south Florida?

POLANTZ: Yes. We believe so. It is someone that is in one of Donald Trump's circles that would have some sort of insight into the documents investigation, and it does involve at least one prosecutor that's been working with the special counsel's office.

TAPPER: Fascinating stuff. Katelyn, stay here.

I want to bring in also, CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero and former principal deputy assistant attorney general, Tom Dupree.

Tom, what do you make of this news of the flood in the server room in the middle of an obstruction investigation? Do you think it's suspicious? What do you think this meeting between Trump and Trump's lawyers and the DOJ meeting? Those are two different questions.

Let's start with my Rosemary Woods reference. For people who don't know, she accidentally erased tapes of the Nixon White House.


TAPPER: I knew you get. It

DUPREE: The analogy was apt, Jake. I mean, that's exactly what it is, potentially. I mean, look, we need to know more. We need to know whether or not this alleged flood actually wiped out the surveillance video. If it did, yes, it's significant. Yes, it would be an astronomical coincidence if it happen. But we don't know that for sure yet.

So I guess would reserve -- is it's a suspicious, yes. Today's DOJ meeting to me is very significant. It tells me that we are nearing the end of the special counsel's investigation. We thought we were nearing the end for a long time. I think this is a signal that at least from the Trump defense team's perspective, this may be their last clear chance to try to head off a federal indictment.

They went in. They alleged prosecutorial misconduct. I'm not sure that was the right strategy. I suspect that appeal is going to fall on deaf ears before the special counsel. But it does signal that they're in the endgame. They've apparently advised their client.

We saw former president tweet. He expects a potential indictment soon. I think we are all realizing and recognizing that we are getting close to the end of the line here.

TAPPER: And, Carrie, let me just ask you, President Trump posting on Truth Social that all caps on his rant per usual, asking how could the DOJ come after me. Do you think that he is about to be indicted? I mean, reading the tea leaves, following this guy as we all have since 2015, if not before, I mean, what does it say to you?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's hard to say the reasons for and the timing for when he posts things. But it is possible that his lawyers went into the Justice Department in part at his request to see if they could learn any more information from the prosecutorial team about what might be coming.

So they went in and they made their case. They made their allegations about prosecutorial misconduct. But it also was an opportunity for them to listen and for them to hear if there's anything new that they could hear from Justice Department that they didn't know before and that they could tell him about.

TAPPER: So, Katelyn, can you tell us where this flood is in the timeline of this investigation? That seems like it might be important.

POLANTZ: Yeah, so it happens in October of last year. At that point in time there had already been the subpoena for documents to return them all. The room where the documents were kept, or at least where Evan Corcoran, Donald Trump's defense attorney, believed all the roadhouse records were kept.

He'd already gone through the room, turned over what he found. Then the FBI went in to search Mar-a-Lago. And so, this happens after the FBI search in August, about two months after.

One would think, when we were initially looking into this, it was why after? Why after? But then one of the things that appears to have caught prosecutors attention here is that there were repeated subpoenas and requests from the Justice Department pertaining to this surveillance footage, even after that search in August.

So, not only were other documents being recovered after the search and they were getting access to the surveillance footage, we know that at the end of August, or I'm sorry, at the end of October --

TAPPER: When the flood was, yeah.

POLANTZ: -- when the flood was, that was a point in time when the Justice Department came back in and asked again for the Trump organization to preserve all the surveillance footage.

Now, we don't know if these men who were captured on the tape moving boxes, how much they knew about those requests. But they certainly were interested in the surveillance footage. TAPPER: And, Tom, the grand jury's expected to hear testimony this

week from another witness as Katelyn said, and the probe into Trump's handling of classified documents. The first known sign of activity from this grand jury -- in a month, what do you make of that?

DUPREE: Yeah. Well, it tells me that Jack Smith is still, you know, crossing the Ts and dotting the Is. He clearly identified one additional witness who apparently had something sufficiently important to say that he's willing to go back before the grand jury and put it in.

That said, we have seen, I think, a slowing of the pace of the Smith investigation in terms of new witnesses he's reaching out to. We've seen he's doing the classic pyramid, where is going to more and more senior people -- again, all of which points in the same direction that we are much closer to the end of this process than we are to the beginning. But it's still not finish.

I mean, look, the fact that the Trump lawyers are meeting with him, the fact that he still bringing witnesses before the grand jury, doesn't suggest that the cake is totally baked.


But it's pretty far baked at this point.

TAPPER: And, Carrie, we don't know -- speaking of working your way up the pyramid, we still don't know if Trump's former chief of staff at the White House, Mark Meadows, who knows a lot, theoretically, if he has been interviewed by the special counsel, Jack Smith. But he could be a key witness.

What information could he offer on this investigation? And don't you think by now it's likely that he's talked?

CORDERO: Well, Mark Meadows is a critical figure with respect to investigations across the board. Remember, Jack Smith, the special counsel's investigative team and looking not only at the classified documents investigation and the associated obstruction piece of that. But really the January six piece. That's where I think Mark Meadows has the most to offer the Justice Department in terms of the January 6th investigation itself.

He certainly was there. He was present. He is a key figure in this, who I think is on the public side. We don't know a lot, which reveals to me that probably on the investigative side, there is more information that he has or has the ability to provide.

TAPPER: And, meanwhile, Trump is running for president. And Special Counsel Jack Smith, he's got to obviously be aware of this. It'll be nice to think, well that's not going to play any role. But it has to, right?

POLANTZ: Jake, this is the reason that Attorney General, Merrick Garland, appointed a special counsel, because Donald Trump was a candidate for president. And made it very clear he was running for president. And that this could be one of those issues where the department wanted to have a special counsel, to have a little bit of distance politically. So that the special counsel could make his own decision.

Now, of course, when we have seen Donald Trump's attorneys put a letter out publicly to the Justice Department, saying they wanted to have this meeting that they had today, they made clear that they do believe that this is something that the department should stand down on, because Donald Trump is running for president. That they believe it could be perceived as a political investigation. They've certainly said that over and over again.

But, the Department of Justice, I'm sure you both would say, makes its decisions based on the facts, follows the facts. We do talk about a quiet period that they go into, for bringing overt steps in investigation, including indictments. But that period is actually pretty short.

It would occur before the primaries. But it would be about two months or so if they're going to observe it.

TAPPER: Yeah, those are coming up. The first debate is in two months. It's in August, primary debate. The first primaries, the Iowa caucuses, no official date yet, it's in January. That's seven months away. I mean, how would that affect his schedule?

DUPREE: Look, I think we're going to see, with so many things in the Trump era, we're going to see a first in American history. I think we're going to see a presidential campaign unfurling at the same time that one of the leading candidates in all likelihood under federal indictment. That's what's going to happen here.

From what we've seen, it may not slow Trump down. I mean, he made to the ultimate in compartmentalization, fighting off charges on one hand, running for president on the other hand. I mean, will it affect the race? To be determined. So far, it hasn't really seemed to have that dramatic effect on his base.

The former president, in some strange way, seems to draw strength from all of this. It will be uncharted territory. The idea of running for president at the same time you're trying to keep yourself out of prison is a challenge. And will be a first.

TAPPER: With all due respect, I don't think it's going to be compartmentalization. I think he's going to absorb it does, look at what they're doing to me. They come after you next.


POLANTZ: Every court appearance is also a political appearance.

TAPPER: Yeah, 100 percent.

Tom Dupree, Carrie Cordero, Katelyn Polantz, thank you so much.

As Donald Trump faces these new legal problems, more political rivals are lining up to challenge him, including officially now, his own former vice president -- speaking of unprecedented.

Plus, Ukraine's new weapon. How sabotage agents could help in its attacks on Russia's side of the border. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Cue the music. There it is, the election music. Love it.

Only two months until the first Republican presidential debate, seven months until the first of the nation Iowa caucuses.

And today, former Vice President Mike Pence formally entered the presidential race to run against his former boss. Before all the fanfare planned for later this week, including a speech and the CNN town hall with my colleague, Dana Bash, today, he quietly filed his paperwork declaring his candidacy.

Last, night of course the spotlight was on CNN town hall with former South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley, Trump's former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny takes a look now at what is bound to be a very busy week in the 2024 race.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Republican presidential contest is expanding and intensifying.

NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We've let guys do it for a while. It might be time for a woman to get it done.

ZELENY: As the anyone but Trumps lane grows even more crowded this week, with former vice president, Mike Pence, former New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum set to join the race.

As these rivals open their campaigns, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is sharpening her differences, telling Iowa voters at a CNN town hall Sunday night that former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, have not been straight with voters about the viability of Social Security.

HALEY: I know that Trump and DeSantis have both said that they're not going to deal with entitlement reform. All you're doing is leaving it for the next president. That's leaving a lot of Americans in trouble.

ZELENY: Haley took particular aim at DeSantis, in hopes of slowing his rise. By blasting Florida's legal battle with Disney as hypocritical.

HALEY: He went and basically gave the highest corporate subsidies in Florida history to Disney. But because they went and criticized him, now he's going to spend taxpayer dollars on a lawsuit.

ZELENY: Haley's competition is multiplying with Pence formerly filing his paperwork today, ahead of a former announcement in Iowa.

CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: Still so many good friends here.

ZELENY: Christie is set to declare Tuesday in New Hampshire. And Burgum, a businessman-turned-governor, introducing himself in a new video.

GOV. DOUG BURGUM (R), NORTH DAKOTA: Anger, yelling and fighting, that's not going to cut it anymore. Let's get things done.

ZELENY: Today, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu making a different decision, telling CNN's Dana Bash, he would not seek the GOP presidential nomination.

GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: I don't mind who gets into the field, but given where the polls are right now, every candidate needs to understand the responsibility of getting out and getting out quickly if it's not working.


ZELENY: The former president looms large over the race, the biggest clear beneficiary of a bigger field, as the contenders work to distinguish themselves in hopes of a one-on-one contest with him.

South Carolina Senator Tim Scott stopped by The View today on ABC, for a face to face conversation about race and opportunity in America.

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of the reasons I'm on the show is because of the comments were made on the show, that the only way for a young African American kid to be successful in this country is to be the exception, and not the rule. That is a dangerous, offensive disgusting message to send to our young people today.


ZELENY (on camera): And this is a very busy week of this 2024 campaign. You can feel the intensity increasing, and Chris Christie will be getting in tomorrow and New Hampshire, in a town hall at San Anselm College.

But, Jake, we are getting a new -- some new sentiment from the former president about his former vice president. We should point out, this is a historic moment here. Vice president running against a former president, never mind the acrimony between them.

But he oddly has some kind words for him, the former president says this: I wish him a lot of luck. He's a nice person. We had a very good relationship until the very end. Then he goes on to repeat the lies about how the former vice president could have overturned, not certify the election.

So, clearly, a couple years have gone by, it's the same song between the two. But the question is, what is Mike Pence's lane? Talking to a lot of Republican voters in Iowa, we both spent the weekend. It's clear that some are interested in his message of a fiscal conservatism, evangelicals are interested in him.

But it's a pretty narrow lane. Of course, so many Trump supporters are opposed to his candidacy. He was received very warmly this weekend in Iowa. So, we will see. That's why he's obviously starting his race there on Wednesday.

TAPPER: Yeah, Trump has been pretty nice and welcoming about everybody going into the race, except for Ron DeSantis.

ZELENY: And the reason is, a big field benefits Trump.

TAPPER: Yeah, I think I've seen that movie before.

ZELENY: For sure.

TAPPER: Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much.

Tune in Wednesday night, my colleague Dana Bash will moderate the CNN Republican presidential town hall with former Vice President Mike Pence, again, in beautiful Iowa. That's Wednesday night at 9:00 Eastern, only here on CNN.

Coming up, will competition sparked conflict with China? An exclusive interview with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley. That's next.



TAPPER: In our world lead, pictures hoping to silence 1000 words. The message here from Ukraine's military is a plea for silence around its long awaited counteroffensive against Russian forces. Officials are discouraging public speculation or social media posts, saying it could only help the Russian enemy.

The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff tells CNN that Ukraine is very well prepared for that counteroffensive. But it's still too early to tell what the outcome might be.

Army General Mark Milley spoke exclusively with CNN Pentagon correspondent Oren Liebermann in Normandy, France, where the general was about to finish his term as joint chief chairman. He's marking the 79th anniversary of D-Day.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): General Mark Milley in Normandy, marking the beginning of the largest counteroffensive in modern European history, as the world waits for another counteroffensive in Ukraine.

GEN. MARK MILLEY, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: I think the Ukrainians are very well prepared, as you know, very well, you United States and other allied countries in Europe and really around the world have provided training and ammunition, and the advice and intelligence, et cetera, to Ukrainians and supporting them. They're in a war. It's an existential threat for the very survival of Ukraine, and it has greater meaning to the rest of the world.

LIEBERMANN: Ukraine and its agents have carried out a number of attacks inside Russia, including a drone attack in Moscow. U.S. officials have exclusively told CNN, as part of a complex network of saboteurs inside Russia.

MILLEY: Any war has risk. There's always risk. There's risk of escalation, clearly, in this particular case.

So, we'll have to watch that very carefully. If Russia escalates against Ukraine, then that's a part of the give and take of war.

LIEBERMANN: Milley also spoke about the tension with China, just days after a Chinese warship cut of a U.S. Navy vessel in the Taiwan straight, at a distance of 150 yards, dangerously close.

MILLEY: Both countries are significant powers. Great powers, if you want to call it that. In the world today, both countries have significant amounts of nuclear weapons. They've got large and capable militaries.

So, a conflict between great powers, arguably for sure we are in competition. And arguably, we are in confrontation. But we're not yet in conflict.

LIEBERMANN: Milley says conversation with Beijing is key to avoid conflict.

MILLEY: And I personally don't think that war between China and the United States is inevitable. I don't think it's imminent. But it needs to stay in a status of competition.

In order to do that, countries have to talk to each other. In times of crisis, it's necessary to de-escalate.

LIEBERMANN: But at a defense conference in Singapore last week, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, only shook hands with his Chinese counterpart who refused a formal meeting. Milley hasn't spoken to his counter point in several months.

MILLEY: I have not had the opportunity to talk to my counterpart. I talked to my previous counterpart. We've sent out the messages, and they've sent messages back and forth. So, there are some communications going back and forth, but we would like to have an opportunity to talk. I think they would like to have an opportunity to talk.

LIEBERMANN: Back in Washington, Milley says he spoke with Senator Tommy Tuberville over a one-man blockade in the nomination of more than 200 general officers, a number that could triple by the end of summer and affect military readiness.

MILLEY: It's a large number. And then you figure everyone is to replace someone else and somebody else is going to replace them. So you multiply it by three.

So, you're really looking at potentially somewhere between 1,000, 2,000 officers are impacted. Most of them married, so now you're looking at about another 4,000 family members.


LIEBERMANN: This could be a backup of the whole system it sounds like.

MILLEY: It will be a backup of the whole system. It's becoming a backup of the whole system.

LIEBERMANN: In congressional hearings, the chairman of the joint chiefs has repeatedly defended the apartment after accusations of being too woke, an issue he says is exaggerated.

MILLEY: We are about fighting and winning on battlefields. We are all about readiness. We are all about readiness now, and the future of modernization. I think the accusations of woke are grossly exaggerated.


LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Milley will mark 44 years in service this month, of course it will be the last four of those that are the last highly scrutinized, a position that is given in the ear of the president on key issues like Ukraine, and Afghanistan, but also put him in the crosshairs of criticism in the attacks on the Defense Department.

Jake, it's worth pointing out in China for a second, the White House has doubled down on its criticism of Chinese encounters between the U.S. and Chinese military here, saying they were unsafe and unprofessional, calling on China to act and behave better in the international airspace and along international waterways.

Still, the U.S. says they're making some progress in trying to reopen and reestablish some of those lines of communication.

TAPPER: Yeah, we'll have more on that near miss on the water, later in the show.

Oren Liebermann in Normandy, France, thank you so much.

With me now to discuss, Republican Congressman Brad Wenstrup of Ohio, and Democratic Congressman Jason Crow of Colorado. They are both veterans, and here to talk about their bipartisan bill to help Afghan nationals who were employed on behalf of the U.S. military during the 20-year war there, and are still living in constant danger under the Taliban.

Before I get to that though, I want to ask you both about what we just heard from General Milley about Ukraine. Do you think they are ready for this long promised counteroffensive?

Let me start with Congressman Wenstrup, because he out-ranks you, Captain Crow.

Colonel, please?

REP. BRAD WENSTRUP (R-OH): It would appear that they already in many ways, and I'll go to one in particular. They have the will for this. You know, the people in Ukraine know what freedom looked like, and they do not want it taken away, whereas the Russian military is in a different situation. I don't think it's even that popular within the Russian populous as it is. So, that's one of the advantages for the Ukrainians going up.

What goes on in Ukraine does matter. And China is watching every bit of this. And so, it's important. But what we want to see for the United States and European allies in particular, is what is our aid doing? How are we trying to help put an end to this, so that Ukraine can be a sovereign nation once again?

TAPPER: And, Congressman Crow, let me ask you, CNN has also learned that Ukraine is located sabotage units in Russia and has given those sabotage agents drones to stage attacks. What do you make of that? Does that increase the danger of this war expanding or even drawing in NATO nations?

REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): Well, I couldn't agree more with my friend brad. You better believe the Ukrainians are ready. They have the grit, the will, the determination to fight in a way that someone who is always fighting for their children, for their home, for their neighborhoods, will always fight, with all of their strength and their will.

So, the Russians actually have something really in store for them and I would encourage the Russian soldiers to lay down their arms and return home, or at least leave the battlefield because this is not a nation to be fighting. And listen, we've always been clear as the United States that we were going to give them the equipment, the training, the resources to fight.

But this is the Ukrainians fight. They know how to take this fight to the battlefield to the Russians. They know how to spread the Russians out. They know how to strike deep.

They are not going to use the U.S. munitions to do so. They have respected our request to avoid doing that. There's no reason to believe that they will not continue to respect that. The Ukrainians are doing exactly what they need to do.

TAPPER: Congressman Wenstrup, turning to your new bill, the Afghan Allies Protection Act. This would extend the Afghan special immigrant visa program by five years. It would provide in eligibility exemption for those injured or killed in the line of duty, and authorize an additional 20,000 special immigrant visas. It extends and expands a program already in place.

How urgent is this need, do you think?

WENSTRUP: I think it's very urgent. I think it's actually later than we would like, because when you have so many people, as you mentioned, that are waiting to hear, this is a promise that we made us America, that you work with us, and you will have the opportunity, if you fulfill all the guidelines, to come to the United States.

I know that I engaged with two of my interpreters that are now in the United States, both U.S. citizens, both practicing physicians in the United States of America. This is who we have waiting to come into the United States of America. People that want to be Americans. And want to do what they can for this country, and they already did it just the same way as our troops did.

TAPPER: Congressman Crow, what about the backlog at the U.S. State Department on this? Is there pressure that needs to be put on Secretary Blinken and President Biden on this?


CROW: Well, Jake, Brad is absolutely right. This bill has to pass as a bipartisan and bicameral bill. So, Brad and I in the House, Senator Shaheen and Wicker on the Senate side. The backlog is an essential part of this. We have tens of thousands of Afghan partners who fought with us, who got injured with us, some of whom were killed fighting right beside our friends.

I may not be here today, if it hadn't been for some of those translators and interpreters who fought with us and sacrificed so much. So, we have to get this done. This bill not only expands the number of visas, because we've almost exhausted the number of these us, but it streamlines the process. It allows for remote processing, because we don't have an embassy in Afghanistan anymore. It allows for all they're really critical ways to cut bureaucratic red tape, and bring these people to the United States so they can start their new lives.

TAPPER: So, Congressman Wenstrup, this is a companion bill. As you noted, to the one introduced on the other side of Capitol Hill by Senator Roger Wicker, and Senator Jeanne Shaheen. As you know, an effort to include something like this in the omnibus spending bill was held up by Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa. He raised objections over what he says lack criteria for special visa immigrant program eligibility.

I don't know what his positions going to be on your legislation here. But does he need to be pushed? Can you get him to stop obstructing this?

WENSTRUP: Well, we had to talk to any of those that don't quite understand what we understand, you know? It's easy for someone who hasn't been there, that doesn't fully appreciate what actually takes place in war and how these are people that are loyal to the United States of America. And that we need to fulfill our promises.

And that's the big part of it. America has got to be a country that fulfills its promises, especially when they're helping us during war. And that should be the number one priority for people that maybe don't think it's the greatest program in many ways. It is a great program because these are people that deserve what they have learned.

TAPPER: Congressman Brad Wenstrup, and Jason Crow, thank you so much for your service. Thanks for being here. And thanks for pushing for this. It's a very important piece of legislation that we talk about a lot on the show.

WENSTRUP: Thank, you

CROW: Thank you.

TAPPER: A deadly midair mystery. Military jets are scrambled when a pilot of a private plane does not respond, while flying near the nation's capital, and then crashes.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead, that was the sonic boom that rattled many people and pets around Virginia and Washington, D.C. on Sunday afternoon. The sound was caused by F-16 military jets that rush to try and intercept the private plane before that plane crashed into a rural area of central Virginia just west of Charlottesville. All four people on board the plane were killed in the crash.

CNN's Brian Todd is live for us in Vesuvius, Virginia, a few miles away from the crash site.

So, Brian, do we know anything about who is on the plane?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, there's information that at least two members of one family that owns a company called Encore Motors in Florida, were on board that plane, along with a nanny and the pilot, who has not yet been named.

This afternoon, we also have new information on the flight's path, the military response to it, and what investigators are combing through at the crash site.


TODD (voice-over): Tonight, the wreckage has been found of a private jet that crashed in Virginia after flying hundreds of miles past its destination. But the reasons remain unclear for the mystery flight that passed right over the D.C. area and prompted fighter jets to scramble. Investigators describe highly fragmented wreckage in very mountainous terrain.

ADAM GERHARDT, SENIOR AIR SAFETY INVESTIGATOR, NTSB: The airplane, the engines, the weather conditions, pilot qualifications, the maintenance records, all aspects will be of course items that we routinely look at.

TODD: The flight path shows a take off from Tennessee, at its destination on New York's Long Island, the plane turns but doesn't land. Instead it keeps flying at 34,000 feet. Right into highly restrictive airspace near Washington, D.C.

The capital briefly placed on an elevated alert. And Air National Guard pilot scrambled to intercept, causing a sonic boom heard around the beltway.

But NORAD says the pilots got no response to flybys, flares, or radio calls.

AIR NATIONAL GUARD PILOT: Air National Guard fighter on guard. If you hear this transmission, contact us.

TODD: Authorities say the plane was not shot down, but if it appeared to be a threat --

MAJOR GENERAL SCOTT CLANCY (RET), FORMER NORAD DEPUTY COMMANDER: They do have the ability to shoot down a civilian aircraft, if that is required.

TODD: The plane was tracked until it crashed into the mountains of central Virginia. There were four people on board. Among the possible causes --

PETER GOELZ, FORMER NTSB MANAGING DIRECTOR: It's rare, but it happens that a jet aircraft like this will gradually lose pressurization, which will incapacitate the captain and the passengers. They might not be aware of it. And that all of the sudden, it creeps up on you. And you are going to sleep. And there's no waking up.

TODD: First responders, telling CNN, there were no survivors, just a crater and small debris fragments and signs of human remains.

CHIEF GREG SCHACHT, AUGUSTA COUNTY FIRE AND RESCUE: Very hard to get to. A lot of overgrowth. They had areas where they actually had to get on their hands and knees to crawl to get under the brush to get into it.

GOELZ: It's going to be very difficult to recover, certainly any avionics or any important wreckage information for the victims on the plane. We won't be able to tell whether they had any signs of oxygen deprivation.


TODD (on camera): And we have new information just in from our colleague, Pete Muntean, citing a source familiar with the military response to this incident, saying that the pilot was observed a slumped over his seat during the course of this flight.


Investigators now looking at hypoxia as a possible major factor in this.

Hypoxia, a condition that causes pilots to become unconscious if they're not wearing oxygen masks at a certain height. Jake?

TAPPER: Brian, do planes this small have black boxes, and if so, our investigators looking for one?

TODD: We are told Jake that investigators are at the site looking for black boxes. The problem here is that this particular jet is not required to have a black box. Some of them are outfitted with them anyway. Obviously, if they can find something like that it will be invaluable in this investigation.

TAPPER: All right. Brian Todd in Vesuvius, Virginia, thank you so much.

The plans to finally move the key suspect in the Natalee Holloway disappearance here to the United States, that's next.



TAPPER: In our world lead, rescuers found at least one survivor days after one of the deadliest train accident in the history of India. At least 275 people were killed. More than 1,000 others injured.

A high speed train on Friday was diverted off its track, and right into the path of a parked cargo train.

CNN's Ivan Watson is near the crash scene where the investigation not only focuses on how the mistake happened, but who might be responsible.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is what happens when a passenger train moving at 80 miles per hour, that's around 128 kilometers per hour, slams into an immovable object. You get enormous train cars like this thrown over, overturned as if they were children's toys.

Now just days ago, this was the scene of one of the deadliest train disasters in modern Indian history. Already, the railroad has been reopened and we can see what looks like a brand-new modern train moving it down the tracks here. That is even as scores of people are still looking for their missing loved ones from the accident that took place on Friday night.

Now the initial accident, authorities say, was caused by a switching malfunction. So a passenger train was moved onto a track where there was a parked freight train, loaded with iron ore. And that crash sent some of the train cars into the other track where there was an approaching passenger train coming from the other side. So that mistake led to absolutely catastrophic results.

As you can see, the railroad here has been reopened. We have another train moving through right now. The railroad system in India, it dates back in origins to when this country was a British colony. It is essential to this country, more than 13 million people a day move around on trains in India. So, that's part of why the authorities have worked so hard to reopen the rails after the train crash.

I'm going to show you over here, this is an example of a railroad station in the Indian countryside. It also happens to be just within sight, if you see the lights down there, of where the terrible train crash happened on Friday night.

The very next day, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he was supposed to go inaugurate a brand-new high speed train. Instead, he had to rush to the crash to survey the recovery efforts and to meet with some of the survivors. The Indian government has great ambitions to modernize this country. But as this terrible tragedy has highlighted, there's also a lot of work to be done to maintain aging and essential infrastructure.

Ivan Watson, CNN, in Odisha state, in eastern India.


TAPPER: And our thanks to Ivan Watson for that report.

Also in our world lead, Joran van der Sloot, the prime suspect in the disappearance of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway, will be temporarily handed over to the U.S. government on Thursday. Van der Sloot is said to stand trial in U.S. on extortion and fraud charges. Related to an alleged plot to extort the Holloways after their daughter's disappearance in Aruba in 2005.

Over the weekend, van der Sloot was transferred from a maximum security prison in southern Peru to a prison in Lima, where he will stay until he's handed over to the U.S. government on Thursday. Van der Sloot was already in that prison because he was convicted in 2012 of murdering a different 21-year-old woman in his hotel room.

Coming up, a look at the Democratic presidential candidate who is polling well above 10 percent. That's higher than Ron DeSantis on the Republican side.



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

This hour, will reality bite for Apple? Apple just unveiled a new virtual reality headset that costs thousands of dollars. The question, of course, what will people be using it for and who's going to pay $3,000?

Plus, new reporting a pool being drained at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago and a flooded server room. Why it's playing a part in the special counsel investigation into Mr. Trump's handling of classified documents?

And leading this hour, a very busy week for the 2024 presidential race. Today, the former Vice President Mike Pence filed paperwork to officially declare his candidacy.

Tomorrow, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is also expected to jump into the race. This comes just hours after another candidate, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, broke with the GOP frontrunners, Trump and Ron DeSantis, during a CNN town hall that I moderated last night.

Let's bring in CNN political director David Chalian.

David, how much will the next few days change the race for the Republican nomination do you think?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, listen, if you are not named Trump, that means that, you know, maybe half to two thirds of the party is available potentially, to you. And what is happening as the field expands, Jake, with each of these candidates is that they are going to have to thin that stuff pretty -- pretty thinly. They're going to have to slice it pretty thinly.