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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Soon: Chris Christie Announces Presidential Run; Federal Prosecutors Using A Second Grand Jury In Florida As Part Of Trump Classified Documents Probe; PGA Tour Partners With Saudi-Backed LIV Golf Despite Past Criticism Of Regime's Human Rights Abuses; California AG Links Flights That Dropped Off Migrants In Sacramento To "State-Sanctioned Kidnapping"; New York Times: Mark Meadows Testified To Grand Jury In Special Counsel Investigation Of Trump. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired June 06, 2023 - 17:00   ET


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And as you mentioned, he is -- he has framed himself as someone who is not afraid to stand up to former president Donald Trump, who, as you also mentioned, he has had to work with in the past. And he's been candid about that, saying that he tried -- he thought he could make Donald Trump better, and then he failed. And he said that Trump not just fails Christie, but failed the country as well. And that is part of why he is pushing so hard.

Now, he is entering a growing GOP field that has grown by the day in recent days. And take a listen to how he's framed his positioning within some of those names we've already seen jump into the race.


CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: Whether it's Ron DeSantis or Nikki Haley or Mike Pence or Tim Scott, no one wants to say it. They want to cuddle up next to him, not let him get mad at them and hope that people say, all right, well, I don't like him, but I'll take one of those. Let me tell you, everybody, if this choice in this primary is between Trump and Trump light, Trump wins.


JIMENEZ: And Christie has officially filed his paperwork to run for president, according to an FEC filing. And we are expecting him to make that formal announcement at a town hall here at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire a little bit later this evening, Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. Omar Jimenez in Manchester, New Hampshire, thank you so much. We'll be watching.

Let's discuss. Kristen Soltis Anderson, let me start with you. Chris Christie can, of course, be a very colorful and brash character, even outrageous before we met Donald Trump as a politician. Here's a little bit from his time as governor.


CHRISTIE: After you graduate from law school, you conduct yourself like that in the courtroom, your rear end is going to get thrown in jail, idiot.

She should really be embarrassed at what a jerk she is.

You know, some may go down tonight, but ain't going to be jobs, sweetheart.

Hey, Gail (ph), you know what, first off, it's none of your business. I don't ask you where you send your kids to school. Don't bother me about where I send mine.

So, listen, you want to have the conversation later, I'm happy to have it, buddy. But until that time, sit down and shut up.


TAPPER: So, at the time, it was outrageous. But --


TAPPER: Right. But, I mean, like Donald Trump really changed a lot of things. That doesn't seem maybe as offensive. He didn't say anything racist. There were no lies in there. I mean, what do you think?

ANDERSON: Republican voters want someone who's going to be a fighter. And certainly what you saw in those clips is someone who's a fighter. The question is, do they want someone who's going to be a fighter against Donald Trump?

And I think that's the tough gamble that the Christie campaign is making here is that they're saying, look, we believe that there is a majority of the Republican Party that's ready to turn the page, but that they don't want somebody who's going to be kind of mealy mouthed about it and somebody who's just going to say, well, let's not talk about Donald Trump, let's pretend like he's not here. So they're gambling that Republican voters want someone who's got that fight, but I'm not yet convinced that Republican voters want that fight turned against Donald Trump.

That remains to be seen. We'll see how the first debate goes if he winds up gaining any steam from -- if he makes it on the stage, what will certainly be an all-out assault on Donald Trump.

TAPPER: What do you think, Alencia?

ALENCIA JOHNSON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, you know, look, I think we have seen clearly that the Republican Party base, particularly the primary voters, they are still all in for Donald Trump, right? That is why you have folks trying to attack him. But also, you have so many of the other people, the dozens of people in the Republican Party running for president, trying to not actually tick off that base because they know he's doing really well in the polls.

And so, Chris Christie is in an interesting position because if he shows himself the way that we just did in that montage, he actually seems very much like Donald Trump. But again, the Republican Party, they love Donald Trump. And the more you attack him, the more his base is ready to vote for him again.

TAPPER: So, David, obviously, Chris Christie not only endorsed Trump in 2016, I think a few weeks after he -- Trump won in the New Hampshire primary, and then he led Trump's transition team until, I think, Jared Kushner kind of fired him or whatever. But fast forward to now, he's very critical of Donald Trump. Listen to what he said at a New Hampshire town hall earlier this year.


CHRISTIE: But one of the reasons I think he can't come back is he failed us. He failed us as president based upon what he himself told us in 2015 and 2016 he would do if he became president. Everybody can be fooled once by a shuckster, by a T.V. star. But if we allow ourselves to be fooled twice, we have no one to blame but ourselves.


DAVID URBAN, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: What's the George Bush called shame on you?

TAPPER: Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, won't get fooled again. Right. An oldie buddy goody.

URBAN: Yes. Look, so I think, you know, as Kristen points out, it's going to be really interesting to see how this goes down. Chris Christie is an incredibly talented, able politician, right? In terms of being a political athlete, he's top of the game.


You know, today you see Jeff Rowe talking about DeSantis who's now going to -- they're going to run to the right of Trump, right? They're going to attack even further. They're going to become more MAGA than Donald Trump, right? So, to Kristen's point, do people want someone who's going to attack kind of Trump and the Trump base and what they stand for? Are they going to stand for that, right?

There's been some polling out that shows that Christie is the least popular amongst Republicans who is currently running amongst the Republican voters, right? So, he's probably the best general election candidate. He'll probably do very well in the Philly suburbs.


URBAN: But can he make it through the gauntlet of a Republican primary? That's the question.

TAPPER: What do you think?

ASHLEY ALLISON, FORMER NATIONAL COALITION FOR BIDEN HARRIS 2020: Well, we've said this before that the more people in the race, the more likely it is for Donald Trump to win. But I'm starting to think perhaps, maybe Republicans, some of them who are so anti-Trump, a DeSantis, a Pence, a Christie, are thinking maybe it's death by 1000 cuts to Donald Trump. And so, if by the end of the year, if we're still not polling well, we have still done enough damage to start to lower his poll numbers and one of us can rise to the top.

I agree, you know, I mean, I'm surprised I agree with Chris Christie, but you have to take Donald Trump on. You know, that's the only thing, David, that's the only way you'll get. All right?

URBAN: That's it for today. OK. All right.

ALLISON: You will not cut that ad, right. But you do have to take Donald Trump on. And right now DeSantis is, and it appears Christie will, and with Pence getting in the race tomorrow, he likely will as well. And maybe those three can really land some blows while the others see what happens to their poll numbers and maybe they will join soon.

URBAN: I would just say this, interesting we'll see what Chris Sununu does in New Hampshire. He says he's going to endorse. And does it make a difference? And who does he endorse?



URBAN: Right?

TAPPER: So, in New Hampshire, I doubt Chris Christie is going to spend much time in Iowa where evangelicals are -- and very religious voters, very conservative voters, are very strong. But New Hampshire, where about a third, if not more of the voters are Independent, there isn't going to be, at least as far as I can tell right now, a Democratic primary because President Biden is kind of running away from it, or there isn't going to be one, let's just put it that way. There's an opportunity theoretically there for Christie with all those Independents, I would think?

ANDERSON: The absence of Chris Sununu from the race does open up an interesting lane for someone to take on Donald Trump and try to bring some of those more Independent and moderate voters over. But you still have a bulk of the Republican Party and they are going to make up a majority of those voters who do like Donald Trump. I think the question is, when I look at data about what Republican voters want, about just between a fifth and a quarter of them are like, I'm for Trump and I'm only for Trump. But there's a big group that says I'm for Trump, but I'm considering other people.

Does Chris Christie box himself in by saying, look, if you're someone who's even considering Trump, you're an idiot and I don't want your vote. There's a way that this message can go too far and really restrict him to just too small a slice of the Republican electorate that even in a state like New Hampshire, where you do have these Independents and moderates, the math still doesn't quite work out.

TAPPER: And then, of course, there's the argument Chris Christie is going to make that he can win over those suburban voters in suburban Philadelphia, suburban Milwaukee, suburban Detroit that Donald Trump alienated because he is perceived as more moderate. JOHNSON: Well, I think that argument could potentially work in the Republican primary. But if we think about who can win a general election, we look at those moderates. They are looking at a lot of the key issues that voters are voting on from abortion to, you know, gun control to all of these issues that the Republican Party, as we start talking about with Ron DeSantis, they are going extremely to the right. Those issues don't work with moderates and Independents. And so, Chris Christie has to figure out a way, how can I navigate and get this nomination that they love the culture war, but then not seem too extreme if I want to actually have a chance on the national stage against Joe Biden.

TAPPER: All right. Thanks to one and all for being here.

Tomorrow night, former Vice President Mike Pence will take questions from voters in Iowa in a CNN Republican presidential town hall. My colleague Dana Bash will moderate that one. That's tomorrow night at 9:00 Eastern, only here on CNN.

Then there's Donald Trump just in. Brand new CNN reporting about another grand jury investigating his classified documents case, this one in Florida. And Republican Governor Ron DeSantis described as a small, pathetic man, an attack that might seem really up Donald Trump's alley, but this actually came from a Democrat.

Plus, CNN on the ground in Ukraine. See the new up close view of that massive dam collapse as Ukraine and Russia blame each other for the damage.



TAPPER: Just in, new details about that second grand jury that's been meeting in the Trump classified documents investigation. Sources say that this jury, which is based in southern Florida, has heard testimony from multiple witnesses in recent weeks and is set to hear from at least two more witnesses. Let's get straight to CNN's Kristen Holmes, who's breaking this for us.

Kristen, so this is in the same jurisdiction where the search warrant for Mar-a-Lago was approved. Tell us more.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. So, what we know so far is that this grand jury has been meeting in a courthouse in Miami, and they have recently heard, as you said, from a number of witnesses. They are expected to hear from another witness in this investigation into the classified probes tomorrow, and after that, at least one more witness.

Now, what's not clear is why exactly they have this second grand jury. And I talked to a number of sources close to Trump who said that they were also unsure why this grand jury was convening, why they were hearing the case. One thing to note is that Jack Smith has the authority as a special counsel to operate and bring charges in any jurisdiction. So this is completely within his purview. Now, as you mentioned, the court that signed off on that search warrant for Mar-a-Lago was in the Southern district in Florida. The other thing about that's interesting is a U.S. -- an assistant U.S. attorney from the Miami bureau was present when that search was executed in Mar-a-Lago.


And one thing to bring up here is that there have been questions about venue since before the special counsel even took over this investigation because it dealt with taking documents from the White House to Trump's Florida resort. So, that has always been up. But again, it is still unclear why exactly they are -- have convened the second grand jury, why they have are hearing -- excuse me, why they have bringing witnesses in front of the second grand jury, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Kristen Holmes with that breaking news, thanks so much.

Let's bring in CNN Senior Legal Analyst and former federal prosecutor Elie Honig to talk about this.

Elie, up until now, we've only known of the one grand jury in the Trump documents case, the grand jury here in Washington, D.C. But now we're hearing more because of our great reporters about multiple witnesses testifying to a grand jury in Florida. What could that mean for this case?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Jake, it's a really interesting development. I see two broad possibilities. One is this could be a convenience measure. If there are certain witnesses who can't or won't travel outside of Florida, What you can do as a prosecutor is take their testimony in a federal grand jury down there and then take the transcript and just read it to your main grand jury in D.C.

The other possibility is prosecutors could be examining the possibility of charging this case down in the Southern District of Florida. They would have the ability to do that. Prosecutors, when you have a crime, you have to charge it in one of the districts where some of the criminal conduct occurred. You do have some leeway as a Prosecutor, but you have to get it right. If you charge in the wrong district, the case will get thrown out.

TAPPER: So theoretically, could it be some sort of criminal charge, and I'm just speculating here, some sort of criminal charge having to do with holding the documents improperly in Florida and then the obstruction of justice charge in Washington, D.C. or something like that, would they charge in two different jurisdictions at the same time?

HONIG: Theoretically, you can do that, but I do not think prosecutors would do that. That would be a practical and logistical mess. You'd then have two cases in two different courtrooms. You'd have to have two trials going on at the same time. I think prosecutors are going to have to essentially decide, are we charging this in D.C. or Florida? Now, the advantage to D.C. for prosecutors, let's just be real here, Donald Trump is very unpopular. He got 5.4% of the vote in D.C. in 2020. The jury pool is going to be way better for prosecutors in D.C.

But venue is clearer to me in Florida because that's where the documents were kept, that's certainly where the obstructive acts occurred. And so, if they charge in D.C., they do run the risk of not having the proper venue here, which is a very high stakes risk.

TAPPER: Although you could argue that if they get an indictment in Florida, it will have more credibility, because that's a state that Donald Trump won twice. We know trump's lawyers met with Justice Department officials yesterday. Did defense lawyers ever succeed in changing prosecutors minds when they have these meetings? They are obviously trying to convince them to not pursue an indictment against Mr. Trump.

HONIG: I would say rarely, but not never. There are times when prosecutors already have their minds made up, but you still give the defense lawyer the meeting as a professional courtesy. But there are cases where it's a close call, where a powerful, persuasive, substantive presentation by defense lawyers can convince prosecutors not to charge or to charge less serious conduct. I'll tell you, there were times when I was persuaded as a prosecutor, but if I had to put a number on, I would say it's in the low single digit of percentages.

TAPPER: All right, Elie Honig, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

HONIG: Thank you. All right.

TAPPER: The PGA Tour's jaw dropping move today. They are partnering with the group they've been criticizing, LIV Golf, Saudi funded LIV Golf. Bob Costas is here with his reaction. Plus, a woman who says the PGA Tour should be ashamed of its, quote, "hypocrisy and greed." Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our world lead, stunning pictures from the Russian controlled Kherson region of Ukraine. A critical dam blown up leading to massive flooding and evacuations. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy saying Russian terrorists are responsible. Russia, of course, blaming Ukraine for sabotaging the dam.

And as CNN's Fred Pleitgen reports, the explosion comes as Ukrainian forces have been making gains on the battlefield.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Masses of water gushing from the gaping hole in the destroyed Nova Kakhovka dam in Russian controlled territory here in South Ukraine. Massive flooding quickly inundating villages on both shores of the mighty Dnipro River, impacting areas controlled by Ukrainians and by the Russians.

(on camera): As you can see, there's a massive rescue effort going on here. The local authorities are using boats and also heavy trucks to get as many people out of the zone as they can.

(voice-over): Sixty-five-year-old Nadiejda Chernoshova (ph) was stranded in her home with her cat Sonya (ph) for hours, fearing for her life. Now I'm not scared, she says, but there it was scary. Why, I ask. Because of the water. The water came, and you don't know from where it comes and where it will go.

The authorities here say they've evacuated hundreds of people throughout the day at times under Russian fire, the head of Kherson's military administration tells me. We have the water, he says. Mines, mines are floating to here, and this district is constantly being shelled. Two policemen were injured while evacuating people.

Kyiv blames Moscow for allegedly blowing up the dam. And angry Ukrainian president saying the Russians are trying to derail Ukraine's current battlefield games.

It was mined by the Russian occupiers, he says, and they blew it up. This, once again, demonstrates the cynicism with which Russia treats the people whose land it has captured.


The destruction of the dam comes as Ukrainian forces have been making gains on the battlefield, what some believe may be the early stages of Kyiv's long awaited counter offensive, even though the Ukrainians haven't confirmed that.

Russia's army did eyes blowing up the dam, instead blaming the Ukrainians. Aiming to prevent the offensive operations by the Russian army on this section of the front line, the Kyiv regime committed an act of sabotage, or rather terrorist act, the defense minister said.

While the floodwaters are affecting ever more areas around Kherson, upstream, the levels are critically low around the Zaporizhzhia power plant, the biggest in all of Europe, which relies on a pond connected to the river for cooling. The international atomic energy agency says, so far there's no danger, but that could change.

RAFAEL GROSSI, INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY: It is therefore vital that this cooling pond, this cooling ponds remains intact. Nothing must be done to potentially undermine its integrity.


PLEITGEN: So as you can see there, Jake, a difficult and certainly dangerous situation that's unfolding here in southern Ukraine. There were two things really that stood out to us today. On the one hand, it was how fast the water levels are actually rising, but also how much shelling is still going on. And by the way, it's still going on tonight as we speak as well. And there's one local official who we spoke to who said that he believes that more than 1000 houses are inundated just in the areas controlled by Ukrainians. Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Fred Pleitgen in Kherson, Ukraine, thank you so much for that report.

Our sports lead now kind of an outrageous story. One might be tempted to say that PGA Tour merging with Saudi backed LIV Golf creates strange bedfellows. Except we know how the Saudis got the PGA Tour into that bed with a lot of money. The merger ends a fierce litigation laced feud between the two businesses and tees off a firestorm of controversy, given how the PGA Tour previously had noted Saudi government human rights abuses and Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman's 2018 assassination order, according to U.S. Intelligence of Washington Post journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashogi. Not to mention the PGA Tour's previous embrace of 9/11 families to remind folks of the allegations of Saudi government complicity in the 911 terrorist attacks.

One year ago this month, full of righteous anger, PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan invoked 9/11 to attack Saudi backed LIV Golf, saying this.


JAY MONAHAN, PGA TOUR COMMISSIONER: And I would ask, you know, any player that has left or any player that would ever consider leaving have you ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour?


TAPPER: Not then, but today, presumably after the check cleared, Monahan said, quote, "This will engender a new era in global golf, for the better," unquote.

Here to discuss, CNN Contributor and sports broadcasting legend, Bob Costas.

Bob, great to see you. Democratic Senator Chris Murphy today tweeted, quote, "So weird. PGA officials were in my office just months ago talking about how the Saudi's human rights record should disqualify them from having a stake in a major American sport. I guess maybe their concerns weren't really about human rights," unquote. Is there any way to argue that this was not about money?

BOB COSTAS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I can't see any way. This is an explanation, certainly not a justification. There was litigation going back and forth, we've discussed that before. All of that is off the table, although technically the DOJ is still investigating the PGA in terms of possible antitrust violations. But I assume that will go away in light of all this.

And when you look at it strictly from a monetary perspective, the PGA can be wildly successful, the previous PGA on its own terms. But those terms can never come close to the bottomless well of funds of the private investment fund the Saudis run. We're talking about hundreds of billions of dollars. So they could eventually just bleed all the players away from a PGA or at least many of them, and compromise the quality of the PGA Tour. As most golf fans know, this doesn't affect the majors, you can be a LIV Golf player and still play in the majors as witness Brooks Koepka, who recently won the PGA.

But for the most part LIV, in fact, entirely because the PGA banned them. LIV Golf players like Phil Mickelson and Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau and others can't play on the PGA Tour until now. Now they all come back under one umbrella. I understand that the PGA players are meeting now in Canada, the Canadian Open going on there this coming weekend, they're meeting there. And a lot of them have to be very upset.


Some of them declined large money offers into the hundreds of millions, in many cases, to join LIV Golf out of moral principle. But then there was also the aspect of all the prestige and the historical validity resides with the PGA and the quality of competition. For whatever reason, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and many others were not tempted by the money offered by LIV Golf. Now the LIV golfers come back in. They've already pocketed all this money. They didn't have to win anything to do it just for showing up.

If you're a PGA player who remained loyal to the PGA, you're going to have some problems with that when you stand on the first tee alongside one of the defectors who's now come back.

TAPPER: Yes. And "The Washington Post" reports that talks on this deal had taken place in secret. Only a small number of people were even aware that a merger was imminent. And there are PGA players that are shocked. Mackenzie Hughes tweeted, quote, nothing like finding out through Twitter that we're merging with a tour that we said we'd never do that with. Do the players who still have moral objections to partnering with a country like Saudi Arabia and a regime that oppresses people and murders people, et cetera, et cetera. Do they have any real recourse here?

COSTAS: No. We've talked about it in this context before, Jake. If you're an Olympic athlete and you don't think the IOC should have put an Olympics in Putin's Russia or twice in Beijing, you're not aligning yourself with them. You're not being directly compensated by them. You just go, same thing with the soccer player if you objects to where FIFA puts the World Cup. But in this case, if you're a professional golfer, what are you going to do other than retire? You can have any moral objection where are you going to play where there's any prestige and any kind of living to be made other than in this new arrangement.

TAPPER: Bob Costas, the latest in sports watching. Thank you so much. Appreciate it. And joining us now, Terry Strada, national chair for 9/11 Families United. She lost her husband Tom in the September 11th terrorist attacks. Terry, what are you hearing from other 9/11 families today as the PGA, previously embracing you and your organization and opposing Saudi backed LIV golf, now cozying up to them, giving them a big smooch. TERRY STRADA, NATIONAL CHAIR, 9/11 FAMILIES UNITED: Everyone is feeling the same way outraged, disappointed, angry, disgusted that chair -- that Monahan could now sell the PGA to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, knowing that they are culpable in murdering our loved ones.

TAPPER: PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, who you're referring to, he made some comments about the LIV Golf a year ago this month. They didn't age very well. Take a listen to this part of it.


JAY MONAHAN, PGA TOUR COMMISSIONER: I think you'd have to be living under a rock to not know that there are significant implications. And as it relates to the families of 9/11, I have two families that are close to me that lost loved ones, and so my heart goes out to them.


TAPPER: I guess he'd have to be living under a rock. He said, maybe he's living under that rock. Today, he's praising Saudi Arabia's private investment fund for the new partnership. What do you make of this 180?

STRADA: Again, just completely disgusted with his choice to side with the Kingdom when, yes, he used the 9/11 family's storyline, our pain and our suffering to promote his choice to say no to everything about LIV a year ago. And now, like you just said, a complete 180, and saying that this is going to be good for golf, this is going to be good for our players. He sold out every single one of us. He turned his back on the 9/11 community and he sold out his players, his fans, the golf base, the American people. And for what? What changed that he decided to do this and take a stand with the Kingdom and against the 9/11 families. It's despicable. He's disgusting.

TAPPER: So PGA had been pretty aggressively I don't know if they were officially partnering with the 9/11 families, but unofficially pointing journalists and others to your objections to LIV golf. Did they give you any sort of heads up that this decision was coming?

STRADA: No. They're all a bunch of cowards. I had spoken to many people in the organization back a year ago when LIV announced they're coming out. And they were all eager to talk to us. Yes. Eager to even offer money to, you know, go out and promote, you know, this truth that we have about the Kingdom and the role that they played in 9/11. Not one of them had the courage, the gumption, anything to give us a heads up, to call us, to talk to us about it, to share any of this with us.

They just decided to help the regime sports wash their reputation, to take these billions of dollars and say, you know, ignore the billions of dollars that they used to spend on terrorism, on al-Qaeda, on terrorist attacks like September 11th. Let's just put that all behind us because now they're going to throw billions of dollars at golf.

They've destroyed the PGA tour. It is dead, as it was known before today. I feel sorry for every high school player, every college player that dreams of being on the PGA Tour because they just took that all away from them. It's all now owned and run by the Kingdom. I feel bad for the players that stood by the PGA and said, we're not going to go to LIV. We're not going to take that kind of money. We're going to stand by you. And Jay Monahan does this to them, you know, it's -- like I said, despicable, there's words I can't use on T.V., but he really is the lowest, you know, scum of the earth at this moment.


TAPPER: We're cable. You can say anything you want, FYI. But today, 9/11 Families United sent a letter to the Department of Justice urging DOJ to investigate potential violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA. You say some of Saudi Arabia's paid agents, including ones that might have ties to LIV Gulf, have not filed under that act. In your view, does today's news of this partnership increase the urgency for DOJ to look into this?

STRADA: I believe so, yes. I believe there's very serious FARA violations going on that need to be examined. And we also, Congress might need to now start to look at their tax exempt status because is the PGA still going to be able to have that with all of this money, with all of this influence from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This is a sports washing entity. Its only sole purpose is to change the image of the Kingdom. So every single person that's partaking in that, yes, needs to file their pharaohs. They need to follow the rule of the law. They -- we need full transparency on who's doing what and what money is being spent. All of that needs to be examined further.

TAPPER: Terry Strada, we honor your husband's memory and thank you so much for being with us.

STRADA: Thank you.

TAPPER: What California's Attorney General calls state sanctioned kidnapping. That's next.



TAPPER: In our National Lead, California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, is going after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, on Twitter, calling him, quote, a small, pathetic man, adding a description of the state's California's definition of kidnapping charges all alluding to Florida's possible involvement in flying dozens of migrants and dropping them off in Sacramento on Friday and then again on Monday.

In a statement just into CNN, the state of Florida took credit for the transportation of these migrants, claiming they participated in the relocation voluntarily. Now, California's Attorney General is investigating and evaluating potential criminal or civil action. And California Attorney General Bob Bonta -- Rob Bonta joins us now. Attorney General Bonta, thanks so much for joining us. You've been referring to this movement of migrants as state sanctioned kidnapping. Doesn't that seem a little strong? ROB BONTA (D-CA), ATTORNEY GENERAL: We are looking at the possibility of criminal liability, including kidnapping and related other crimes, including false imprisonment, based on the same major elements here, which is deception, lying, fraudulent, misrepresentation, plus the movement of the asylum seekers across state lines over thousands of miles. So we believe that it's appropriate to call actions what they are and to call out the inhumanity, cruelty and the political gamesmanship here, which is really falling on the backs of human beings and people here, all for cheap political gain.

TAPPER: How many of these asylum seekers have arrived on these flights to Sacramento from Florida?

BONTA: To be clear, the flights are from Texas. Not one of them ever set in Florida, so which is very interesting. They're using Florida tax dollars to pay for a corporation on the ground in Texas to move migrants from Texas to New Mexico, then to Sacramento. But 16 came on Friday, 20 came on Monday, 36 total.

TAPPER: And they're paid for by Florida taxpayers. Have you talked to the asylum seekers? Have they said, we thought were going to, and then somewhere else? I mean, where is there deception involved here? That seems to be what you're suggesting.

BONTA: Yes, it's an official state program with the state of Florida. There's a $10 million budget allocation that's been used to pay for it, to pay for the transportation costs here and Martha's Vineyard and potentially other incidents. And, yes, I spoke directly with the 16 or among the 16 who were present, asylum seekers who arrived on Friday. I spoke with them on Saturday with the governor, with the first partner. And they told me, a number of them told me they didn't know where they were until they were there. And they said, where are we? And they realized that they -- they were told they were in Sacramento.

They also were promised help finding jobs, and there was no help provided to them to find jobs. Instead, they were left on the doorstep of a diocese and deserted abandoned and dumped. And the people told them, we will be right back. And they never came back. They never intended to come back. So we believe that's wrong and very possibly illegal.

TAPPER: Have you or Governor Newsom talked with your counterparts in Florida or Texas about these flights?

BONTA: Not at this time. Speaking for me, I have not -- I'm not sure who the governor has spoken to.

TAPPER: Are you getting any guidance or support from President Biden or the White House?

BONTA: I believe the governor has spoken to the White House. At this time, I have not.

TAPPER: The argument from the likes of Governor Abbott or Governor DeSantis is that it's unfair that Biden's weak border policies this is their terminology, not mine results in so many asylum seekers going to Florida, and they want other states to have to share the burden. What would your response to that be?

BONTA: The place, time, and manner for discussing important policy issues like this. It can happen through Congress, through the Democratic process and elections. They -- we have a President in the United States and a Congress that has certain policies in place. One of them is our asylum seeking process. It has been pursued and has been pursued lawfully to our understanding by all 36 of these individuals who have hearings to seek asylum here in the United States of America.


And it's not lost on me. The great irony that Florida not a border state, Florida is sending migrants from Texas to California, a border state, the state with the most immigrants in the United States of America, a place that lives and thrives with immigrants to do what? To show us how to live and thrive with immigrants? We know how. It's too late for that. And so it's a political stunt. It's cheap and it's cruel, and it's on the backs of human beings.

TAPPER: California Attorney General Rob Bonta, thank you so much. Appreciate your time, sir.

BONTA: Thank you, Mr. Tapper. Good to see you.

TAPPER: Just in, "The New York Times" reporting, Mark Meadows testified in a grand jury investigation that reporting next.



TAPPER: We have some breaking news for you now. Mark Meadows, the former Chief of Staff for President Donald Trump, has testified before a federal grand jury in investigations being led by the Special Counsel's office, this is according to "The New York Times." I want to bring back CNN senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Elie Honig. Elie, the story broken by Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Swan and Michael Schmidt suggests that they don't know when this testimony took place, but it was related to both the investigation into Mr. Trump's attempt to hold on to power the January 6th investigation and also into the special documents investigation, pretty big win for the special counsel, Jack Smith, to secure the testimony of Mark Meadows.

HONIG: Yes, Jake, this is significant in a few respects. First of all, Mark Meadows was one of the last remaining major witnesses who we knew was outstanding, who until this point we did not know had testified. Now he has testified if it's in a grand jury, he has testified under oath. He obviously was very close to Donald Trump throughout the lead up to and during January 6th. I think he's the single most important witness as to January 6th.

And as you said, he would have relevant information potentially as well about the retention of sensitive or classified documents that underlies the Mar-a-Lago examination and investigation. So Mark Meadows is a crucial witness on both of the matters that the Special Counsel has before him right now.

TAPPER: And the January 6th Select Committee in the House led by Congressman Bennie Thompson and Congresswoman Liz Cheney, they were unable to get the testimony of Mark Meadows. So this is potentially very significant. I personally, as a journalist, have a lot of questions for him about these conversations. One of the questions is what exactly did he convey to the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, if anything, leading up to that time? There's talk of him reaching out to Meadows, reaching out to Roger Stone, reaching out to Michael Flynn, who are the individuals that had the relationships with those far right paramilitary groups?

HONIG: Yes, I think that's exactly the issue with Mark Meadows. He seems to have been a fulcrum of communications. Everything went through Mark Meadows. And we'll recall Meadows actually did cooperate briefly with the January 6th Committee, and he turned over those hundreds or thousands of very revealing text messages where we saw members of Congress, members of Donald Trump's own family, white House advisors, reaching out to Mark Meadows, saying essentially, you've got to do something. You've got to get him to do something. Now, Mark Meadows then suddenly hit a wall and basically said, no, I'm not cooperating anymore. And he was actually held in contempt by the January 6th Committee, although DOJ declined to prosecute him.

So one of the big questions I have about the testimony that we're now learning Mark Meadows gave is, under what conditions did he give that testimony? We know that he raised an executive privilege objection, basically saying, I can't testify about these confidential communications with the President. But he lost that fight. He and Donald Trump lost that fight in court. I wonder whether Mark Meadows took the Fifth and had to be given immunity in order to testify. And it's really important to know, did he have any agreement in place with prosecutors that underlined his testimony?

TAPPER: Yes. I mean, we don't know whether he did this voluntarily, because he's a good citizen and cares about law and justice and the United States of America, or if he was worried that the DOJ maybe had something on him and potentially they could have pursued the contempt of Congress charges. And that's all we -- that's what we know. There might have been other things.

HONIG: Yes, I think that's exactly right, Jake. And let's remember, any person, including Mark Meadows, always has the right to take the Fifth. And frankly, if I was advising Mark Meadows, even if he falls into a gray area, the easy advice here is take the Fifth. Don't take the risk of incriminating yourself. Now, there's a way you can reach a deal for testimony in a situation like this where Meadows, if I was representing Meadows, I would say he's willing to testify DOJ if you give him immunity, meaning he will testify, but you cannot use his testimony against him, and essentially that means you cannot prosecute him.

Those type of deals are quite common. We don't know whether that's what happened here with Mark Meadows, but the fact that he testified, I think, raises that question. Was there some sort of deal in place? And that doesn't mean to suggest that there's any sort of nefarious deal, but what was the agreement and what were the specific terms on which he testified here?

TAPPER: So that's the January 6th investigation that I was talking about in terms of the questions about the communications and what you said about him being the fulcrum of communications. What about the classified documents investigation? One assumes Mark Meadows, the White House Chief of Staff, would have some sort of supervisory role when it comes to packing up boxes, Donald Trump not exactly known for being a detailed, oriented individual.


HONIG: That's exactly where I'd be asking Mark Meadows to focus on. What was happening in those days and hours leading up to January 20th, 2021, as Donald Trump was preparing to leave office. What instructions were you given, Mark Meadows by Donald Trump? What instructions did you give to White House staff, to Archives personnel, about how to pack up documents, about how to go through documents, about which documents should stay, which documents should go to Mar-a-Lago?

Did you know that some documents were being sent to Mar-a-Lago? Did you or anyone else review them? Did you have any conversations with Donald Trump about the status of those documents, the fact that they may have been classified? All of those, I think, are crucial to putting together really what was happening during a very important stretch right before those documents left the White House and went down to Mar-a-Lago.

TAPPER: And let's remember, the star witness, I think it's fair to say, of the January 6th hearings from the House like Committee on January 6th was Cassidy Hutchinson. Cassidy Hutchinson was the assistant to Mark Meadows. Therefore, she saw and heard a lot of things, although certainly not as much as her boss, the White House Chief of staff, Mark Meadows, who no doubt knows much, much more.

HONIG: I am sure that prosecutors went through Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony in front of the January 6th Committee that we all remember about a year ago and any other testimony she's given to a grand jury with a highlighter and use that as one of the bases on which to question Mark Meadows. Like you said, Jake, Cassidy Hutchinson was a top advisor and counselor to Mark Meadows. And she gave us testimony about various things that she observed firsthand and various conversations she had with Mark Meadows.

And there were other critical conversations that Cassidy Hutchinson testified about that happened right before January 6th where she said Meadows went and met with the President. Now, I wasn't in there for that conversation, but Meadows told me that here's what said or Meadows didn't really tell me much about it. And so what you want to do as a prosecutor is go through each of those and go, OK, now we've pierced executive privilege.

You cannot hide behind that. Tell us what you and Donald Trump discussed in the White House or elsewhere in those crucial days and hours leading up to January 6th.

TAPPER: Let's bring in former Justice Department official Tom Dupree to the conversation. Tom, Mark Meadows has testified. According to "The New York Times," Maggie Haberman, Mike Schmidt and Jonathan Swan, we don't know specifically when this was. If you were a prosecutor, what would you want Mark Meadows to tell you about either the January 6th investigation or the secret documents, top secret documents investigation.

TOM DUPREE, FORMER PRINCIPAL DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Where to begin on that one? Look, Mark Meadows was at the center of all of this. He was literally by the President's side during some of the most critical events, certainly in the lead up to January 6th. He was obviously one of his, if not the top adviser to the President. And so he can tell you a wealth of information both about the facts about what the President said, what the President did, but he also, importantly, can shed light on the President's intent.

For example, did the President truly believe that there was a fraud in the election sufficient to overturn the outcome, or was it something where he knew in his heart that there wasn't enough to go on? Meadows is a key player in all of this. The fact that he has testified before the grand jury is hugely significant, and I think will have probably produced lots of evidence for the special counsel to make use of.

TAPPER: Talking about the credibility that Meadows brings to this investigation, given how close he was to Donald Trump, given that there's no way you can portray him as anti-Trump.

DUPREE: You know, that's a great point. And certainly Meadows is someone who has always been viewed as just side by side in lockstep with the former President. It's hard to paint him as anti-Trumper. And it's interesting we've seen so many of the President's former senior advisers, the people closest to him, who, after they've left the administration, have been very critical. They've been very candid about their conversations with the President and in many cases, exceedingly critical.

Former Attorney General Barr is a perfect example of that. It will be interesting when we find out what exactly Meadows said, whether he did effectively turn on the President or at least criticize or condemn the President, or whether he still is trying to be loyal to the President and maybe either not sharing everything he knows or at least trying to put a positive spin on it. But either way you slice it's a huge event.

TAPPER: Elie, do you think that this means that we're nearing the end? I mean, Mark Meadows would be pretty high on that food pyramid.

HONIG: It's a really important indicator. Jake, I think if you had asked me that question 24 hours ago, I would have said, well, we're not quite at the end yet, because they still haven't talked to Mark Meadows. Well, he's the last major puzzle piece that had remained to be put into the overall puzzle. So I think now that they've spoken to him, I think, A, they have a complete consummate insiders perspective. And B, I think they've sort of closed the circle here on talking to the key advisers around Donald Trump, both with respect to January 6th and with respect to Mar-a-Lago. So to me, it's one more indicator that we're really getting into the end game of both of these investigations. [18:00:10]

TAPPER: The end game. Elie Honig and Tom Dupree, thanks so much. Our breaking news coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer in a place right next door. I like to call it "THE SITUATION ROOM." I'll see you tomorrow.