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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Trump Meets with Aides Ahead of Potential Indictment; 75M Under Air Quality Alerts from Wildfire Smoke; Supreme Court Backs Alabama Voters; Cornel West Launches Bid as Third-Party Candidate. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired June 08, 2023 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: So does the Trump team flinch every time the doorbell rings?

THE LEAD starts right now.

Donald Trump has been told he's a target of a federal investigation ahead of what could be his next legal fight, a possible indictment. We are in uncharted waters, people.

And a shifting hazard.


MAYOR MURIEL BOWSER (D), WASHINGTON, D.C.: If you don't have to be outside, then don't be outside.


TAPPER: That's the mayor of Washington, D.C. Dangerous thick smoke from Canadian wildfires is moving south. Major cities in the U.S. are elevating their alert as air quality is getting worse.

Plus, new Russian aggression on the battlefield. The significant losses for Ukraine as Ukrainian forces try to breach enemy lines.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

And we're going to start today with our law and justice lead. Donald Trump is gathering with his top aides in reaching out to allies on Capitol Hill ahead of possible criminal charges, criminal charges, being filed against him. Sources say the Justice Department recently told Trump's legal team that the former president is a target in the federal investigation into the possible mishandling of classified documents after he left office and, of course, possible obstruction of justice charges related to those documents.

The lead prosecutor in the case, John Harbach, there he is seen at the federal courthouse in Miami where a grand jury has heard witness testimony just this woke. CNN has also learn another key witness was interviewed by prosecutors earlier this year, a former official who was in charge of advising both the Trump and the Obama administrations on how to properly declassify materials.

As CNN's Paula Reid reports for us now, this testimony can undercut Trump's claims that he automatically declassified every document he took to his Florida resort, sometimes just using his mind.


REPORTER: Mr. Harbach, were you with you witness in front of the grand jury?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Special counsel prosecutor John Harbach refusing to answer questions about a possible Trump indictment outside the federal court in Miami today. The Justice Department recently informed the former president he is a target of a federal investigation into the possible mishandling of classified documents, multiple sources tell CNN.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't have any confirmation --

REID: The news comes just days after his lawyers met with special counsel Jack Smith and other officials at the main justice building in Washington, D.C., a source tells CNN that beyond initial greetings, Smith did not say a word during the meeting, but the target letter is a clear sign that prosecutors are looking at Trump, not just those around him and gives him the option to give his side to the grand jury if he chooses.

RYAN GOODMAN, CO-EDITOR IN CHIEF, JUST SECURITY: It does suggest an indictment is coming down the pike.

REID: He's currently hunkered down at his Bedminster, New Jersey golf club with some of his closest aides, and reacting on social media saying, I have assumed for years that I am a target of the weaponized DOJ and FBI.

CNN reporting exclusively that a former White House official in charge of advising the Trump administration on declassification told federal prosecutors Trump knew the proper process and followed it while in office, a claim supported by one of his own lawyers.

JIM TRUSTY, TRUMP LAWYER: He is aware of a bureaucratic process that can be used. He used that bureaucratic process in the middle of his presidency

REID: But out of step with Trump's public comments.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: And, by the way, they become automatically declassified when I took them.

REID: Trump's former lawyer Tim Parlatore who recently left the Trump team amid infighting revealed Wednesday that he has heard the bombshell audio recording of Trump discussing what he says is a classified document.

TIM PARLATORE, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: I was aware of the audio tape.

REID: But downplayed its significance.

PARLATORE: It's certainly not even clear what he's -- what he's specifically talking about.

REID: Special counsel prosecutors are also still calling witnesses in the January 6th probe, including Steve Bannon who was recently subpoenaed to testify about the events in and around the insurrection.

STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP ADVISER: All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. Just understand this. All hell is going to break loose tomorrow.


REID (on camera): And the Bannon subpoena, Jake, it's an important reminder that it appears that the special counsel's dual investigations are just on different timetables. It appears that the January 6th investigation could go on for several more months as they are still subpoenaing witnesses. We know they are still having informal interviews with some key witnesses.


And right now, what we're watching and waiting for are potential charges in the Mar-a-Lago documents investigation.

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

Let's discuss all of this. We have with us, Tom Dupree, who served as the principal deputy assistant attorney general under George W. Bush. We also have with us, CNN's Kristen Holmes. And, of course, Abby Philip.

Tom, walk us through what we can see play out here if charges are filed. How would we even know?

TOM DUPREE, FORMER PRINCIPAL DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, I think we'll know fairly soon after they are filed. It doesn't have to be instantaneous, but I would certainly anticipate within 24 hours, maybe not terribly different what we saw happen in New York.

It does appear that the Trump team is ready for this. He is behaving like a man who anticipates being indicted in the next 48 to 72 hours. He's gathered his forces in Bedminster. He's got his team around them. He's making public statements, his lawyer met with the Justice Department.

All the indicators suggest that the Trump team thinks an indictment is imminent. The only person knows for certain, of course, is Jack Smith. He's given his cards close to the vest.

TAPPER: How much information you think would be contained in the indictment with a layout substantial evidence?

DUPREE: I think they would. I mean, look, in a case like this, I think it would be very peculiar to say the least for Jack Smith to file an indictment, you know, a 30,000 foot level, where he says I found evidence of obstruction of justice, evidence to follow.

I think he's got to include specific allegations. He's got to put some of the evidence, maybe all of this evidence that he's gathered to date in that indictment. At least to give the public confidence, that this is not a fishing expedition, this is not a political prosecution, this is a prosecution based on the rule of law, and on the evidence that he's gathered.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And in that way, it might be that the New York case in which you -- Trump was indicted on a separate matter, might be instructive. I mean, the DOJ will not say that. They don't want to say that any of these things play into this. But in that case, some of the details were left out and were left --

TAPPER: A lot.

PHILLIP: A lot of the details were left out and left to be sorted out in the courtroom. It will be critical whether or not these documents that come with a possible indictment are detailed enough, and specific enough to support the charges. And from a political perspective, I think that many Republicans, and you heard this from Mike Pence last night, with Dana Bash at the town hall, they are going to defend Trump until they are forced to not to.


PHILLIP: To not defend him. What will make that change happen is if the evidence that is available to the public, in a charging phase, is incredibly significant. So, we will see if that happens.

TAPPER: Take us behind the scenes right now with Donald Trump and his team. What's going through their minds? What are they doing?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, for the last several weeks, Trump had been telling people around him, asking them really, do you think he's going to get indicted? That shifted in the last several days. Now he is saying he believes that he is likely to be indicted.

And it's not just him. His team believes that as well. They are bracing themselves for this. They actually believe he'll be indicted, likely in this case, as well as the Georgia probe.

However, they are not just sitting around, waiting for it to happen. Now, they're actually trying to do as we're talking about, get Republicans out there to defend them. They're calling their allies on the Hill. They want those staunch supporters on the airwaves, talking about how this is a political persecution, how this is election interference.

And Donald Trump himself is actually making some of these calls. He is talking to some of these representatives on the Hill, telling them how he feels, telling them about this indictment. So, they believe they're ready for this, but they're also still don't really have any sort of plan in place once it happens. I mean, we are all in uncharted territory. And I do want to note, even

though they are saying that they believe that this is eminent, they have no real reason to believe that, other than what we've all seen. I mean, this is all the testimony of mark meadows, the target letter. If they're not getting any kind of heads up, from the Department of Justice at this point.

TAPPER: If this does happen, if the indictment happens relatively soon, let's say, in the next couple of weeks. Would there be a trial before the 2024 election?

DUPREE: I think there would be, absolutely. I think there would be. I think it's certainly in the Justice Department's interest to get it over with sooner rather than later.

President Trump, it's a closer question, but I do think, ultimately, it would be in it his interest to litigate it before the election, too.

The other interesting thing is, I think the timing of this, how this plays out, there will be a big difference if the special counsel elects to prosecute in Washington, because I'm the Trump defense team and he charges me in Washington, I will tie that up in litigation for months, saying this should be done in Florida. That may be one reason why the special counsel, if he indicts in Florida, decided to do there, where the jury poll will be less favorable, but he can move things along much quicker.

TAPPER: So you can really divide Republicans right now into two groups. One is the group like Chris Christie and Asa Hutchison who are basically along the lines of, like, he brought this on himself. And if he's found guilty, he should be disqualified from being the nominee, et cetera.

And then you have every other Republican, Nikki Haley -- well, we don't know what Nikki Haley is going to land, but Mike Pence included, Ron DeSantis, who are saying, this is all political, the Justice Department is political. How strong do you think the evidence has to be to get to DeSantis's and the Pence's to be like, well, this looks really bad?

PHILLIP: First of all, I think it's going to be a little bit harder to say. One of the interesting things about this case is that we don't know quite a lot, it seems, especially based on some of the reporting.

TAPPER: Very little, yeah.

PHILLIP: We know very little.

I also think, even among the sort of Trump defenders camp, you will probably have to sub-divide those people, too, because I can see a Mike Pence, taking a look at the evidence on the national security issue, I could see this of Nikki Haley as well, these are some of the candidates who are trying to position themselves as foreign policy hawks. And at the heart of this case, this documents case, we know based on

our reporting at least one of the documents involved a document that pertains to national security, potential plans that have to do with an attack on Iran. There may very well be a very strong national security component there that might -- have much more of an effect on a Nikki Haley and a Mike Pence, than it would on a Ron DeSantis, who wants to be on the populist right of Donald Trump and might want to downplay some of those things, because he doesn't want to be seen as more hawkish than Trump on things like that.

We'll see. But to me, one of the through lines of all of this, the top secret nature of some of these documents, is going to be the degree to which these documents are sensitive and significant to national security, and how carelessly they were handled, and the why of it all, why would former President Trump want to hold on to them? And not give them back?

TAPPER: So, a big theme of Donald Trump's candidacy, the first time in 2016, was grievance. Here are all the things that are wrong this country. Now, it really has, in 2020 and 2024, it looks like, turned to persecution. I am being persecuted. Obviously, he is already trying to turn this, these pending possible indictments, as well as the case in New York, into an asset.

We can run some of the sound of campaign ad, which even features a special counsel, Jack Smith, as well as -- there's Jack Smith with the beard. There's Mr. Mueller. There's Alvin Bragg. This is part of a campaign ad, literally. This is -- I mean, this is their main talking point right now.

HOLMES: It is. And I go back to when Trump did his first rally in Texas, 2024. And he was right as the Manhattan indictment was looming. And if you listen to the speech, it was, essentially, all grievances. How everyone was out to get him.

It was a very dark speech. It wasn't a problem, as you said, with America. It was problems that were facing him, and that he is the voice for all the people, and he's actually just standing in their way.

TAPPER: Right.

HOLMES: And they are attacking the Trump MAGA voters, but he's the one who is in front of them, and so, he's taking all the incoming hit.

So, that is a big theme of this. And that is also, as we know, that's why he's calling these allies, he wants them out there saying this, too. Talking about how this is election interference.

That's not going to end, and they believe, and Trump himself is part of his campaign, that believes that this is going to help him, that this is going to give him a boost in those poll numbers. This is going to increase his fundraising dollars.

Now, I do also want to point out, there are some very senior advisers to Trump, who I've talked to, who do not believe this is a good thing. They think this is actually a terrible thing.

TAPPER: Of course, it's not.

HOLMES: Even if it ends up okay, there is a lot of concern that this is not going to help him in a general election.

TAPPER: He escaped two impeachments, or at least two conviction votes. It's still his place in history, in a lot of suburban voters turned off.

PHILLIP: There's short term and there's long term. He may fund-raise, he may rally the Republican base, but it is a bad thing to be indicted. That's just a fact. And --

TAPPER: Where I come from.

PHILLIP: Right, in my world, it's bad to be indicted. But on top of, I mean, he was impeached once and he lost the presidential race. Let's not forget that part of it.

In parts of Trump world, they don't believe he lost. But he did lose that election, and so, the serious people in Trump's orbit understand the challenges that this would present to them. And they're taking it seriously for that.

HOLMES: Well, and particularly, just one thing to note here, is that the people around him, who are building this campaign this time around, they know that Trump needs to broaden his base if he's going to win. It's obviously not something it's going to help that effort.

TAPPER: Why do they think that if he won the last time? That doesn't make any sense?

All right, moving on. Thanks one and all. Appreciate it.

And another presidential candidate, without the legal drama, has launched his own bid for president. You know his name, maybe, Cornel West. We're going to hear his pitch when he joins me later this hour.

Also, wildfire smoke seeping farther south. How long the hazardous haze will be an issue for some of the biggest cities along the East Coast of the United States.

Plus, today's Supreme Court ruling, it specifically sides with Back voters in Alabama.



TAPPER: In our health lead now, the source of all that East Coaster and United States smoke, more than 430 wildfires that are burning right now up north in Canada. The hazardous smoke caused by these Canadian fires is creating this ominous and apocalyptic orange haze throughout the New York region. And now that a nearly inescapable smoke is smothering other locales, such as Philadelphia, Baltimore, here in Washington, D.C. So thick the smoke, it's seeping into buildings, into transit systems.

CNN's Brian Todd reports for us from the nation's capital, where the new air conditions are so bad, officials say it is unhealthy for everyone.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thick haze rolling into the Mid-Atlantic today, causing more health warnings and scattered cancellations, around 75 million Americans now under air quality alerts as the smoke from Canada's wildfires continues to move south, Philadelphia, Baltimore and D.C., showing readings today that range from very unhealthy in purple, to even hazardous in maroon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Getting off the metro, I felt I couldn't really breathe or catch my breath.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is much thicker than I was expecting. I was very surprised by how hazy it is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a little worried, I'm not going to lie.

TODD: The Washington Nationals baseball game postponed. Horse racing at New York's Belmont Park, canceled. Zoos closed in D.C. and New York. D.C. and Baltimore parks, suspending outdoor recreation.

MAYOR BRANDON SCOTT (D), BALTIMORE: There will be no track practice, no outdoor sporting events, any of that, through Friday.

TODD: Schools in D.C. and some suburbs, canceling outdoor recesses and sports.


A few school districts in the Northeast closing schools entirely. A brief ground stop at New York's LaGuardia airport this morning, as well as flight delays at New York in Philadelphia. The advice of authorities there: wear a mask if you have to go out.

BOWSER: If you don't have to be outside, then don't be outside.

TODD: At greatest risk, those with respiratory problems, as well as senior citizens, children, and those who are pregnant.

But even if you are healthy --

DR. KORIN HUDSON, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, MEDSTAR HEALTH: This is like smoking. And so, it's cumulative exposure is good about people at the greatest risk, even if they are healthy at baseline.

TODD: Over the next 48 hours, the smoke is forecasted to continue to spreading south. But compared to yesterday, New York City today is seeing some signs of improvement.

MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK CITY: We may see continue improvement later tonight and overnight. TODD: But could this happen more often?

PROF. DANIEL WESTERVELT, ANTI-POLLUTION ADVISER TO U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT: With increasing climate change in increasing warming, we can expect more and more of these kind of wildfires to continue.


TODD: And we can give you a really good visual of how thick the smoke and haze is here in the D.C. area.

We're going to zoom past where I am at the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington, we're at a normal day in a straight line, you could see very clearly the monuments in Washington. But look, in the haze here, you can barely see. You can see the Lincoln Memorial better now than you could a couple of hours ago. Then, even further behind, at the Washington monument.

And then if we zoom in even tighter, you can barely make out the U.S. Capitol in the background. But I can tell you Jake, a couple of hours ago, that Capitol was not visible at all. We are told that relief, really serious really did in the Washington, D.C. area may not come until later in the weekend, if not later -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Brian Todd at the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington, thanks so much.

Coming up, what U.S. officials described as a significant loss for Ukraine after trying to make a run on Russian forces.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: And topping our world lead, this afternoon at the White House, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak thanked the United States for its steadfast support for Ukraine, nearly a year and a half into the biggest ground war in Europe since World War II.


RISHI SUNAK, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The U.K. is proud of our contributions, including providing tanks, long-range weapons, and training Ukrainian soldiers. But let no one doubt, U.S. leadership and resources are the decisive contribution, allowing the forces of democracy and freedom to prevail.


TAPPER: CNN's Jim Sciutto joins us now with new reporting.

And, Jim, despite all of the support for Ukraine from the West, U.S. officials tell you, that Ukraine has been suffering significant losses on the battlefield. Show us where? JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right,

significant losses indeed, and stiffer than expected Russian resistance. This taking place in an initial push here around Bakhmut, Ukrainian forces pushing towards these Russian controlled territories.

Now, to be clear, this was always expected to be difficult. Why, because Russian forces are dug in in multiple lines, sometimes two, three, four deep. In addition to that, this is a literal minefield. They have been planting mines for months now. They have had a long time to prepare.

And those Ukrainian forces being met, not with just with those minefields, but also shoulder fired weapons, mortars, grenades, et cetera. And that's been responsible, I'm told, by U.S. officials, with both losses and heavy equipment and in personnel. One of the officials saying those losses are sadly, significant.

TAPPER: And, Jim, tell us more about the kind of equipment that Ukraine is losing, as they attempt this advance?

SCIUTTO: Well, as you know, one of the big focus is beyond long-range missile systems, artillery, et cetera is to supply Ukrainians with armored personnel carriers, including the MRAP. You and I rode in these in Afghanistan, in Iraq. They are built specifically to protect troops against mines, other forms of attack. But they can be vulnerable. The U.S. is providing hundreds of them to the Ukrainians, and I am told that some of these have been lost in that initial push, as well as other armored personnel carriers.

Now to be clear, that initial push is not the only push. The Ukrainian counteroffensive, long expected and anticipated, is expected to come not just towards Bakhmut, but other targets where Russian forces currently occupying. I'm also told that these initial losses are not expected to define the success of this counteroffensive, Jake. That is, this was expected to be difficult, it is just beginning, and U.S. officials have high hopes for the Ukrainians can accomplish.

TAPPER: All right. Jim Sciutto, thank you so much, appreciate it.

Moments ago, CNN's Kaitlan Collins spoke exclusively with U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak about his meeting with President Biden, and Putin's brutal war in Ukraine. You can see that tonight, on "CNN PRIMETIME" at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

Now to southern Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited the port city of Kherson today to survey the extensive damage from a catastrophic dam breach earlier this week, as both Russia and Ukraine continue to blame each other for the deadly deluge. A top Red Cross official says displace land mines floating in the waters are, quote, a big problem there.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in Zaporizhzhia, as Russia claims to be thwarting Ukrainian attacks in the south.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Breaking news on Kremlin-controlled TV, claiming Moscow's forces are facing massive attacks in southern Ukraine.

OLGA SKABEEVA, RUSSIAN STATE TV ANCHOR (through translator): Ukrainian forces attacked with NATO tanks and light armored vehicles. Our army has fought off these attacks.

PLEITGEN: Russia's defense ministry releasing aerial videos like this one allegedly showing their forces targeting, advancing Ukrainian formations in the Zaporizhzhia region.


Moscow also claims to have taken out a modern Western anti-aircraft radar system close to the front lines.

On a visit to an arms depot, Russia's defense minister urging faster weapons deliveries.

The enemy tried to advance today, he says, so this equipment is needed. Let's hurry up.

While the Ukrainians have not confirmed offensive operations and CNN can't independently verify the specific Russian claims, U.S. officials have told CNN the Russians are putting up stiff resistance.

Ukraine's leadership says they understand their counteroffensive will be long and tough and they will need lots of armor to penetrate Russia's defenses. They showed us this repair and modification shop where they fix up mostly vehicles captured from the Russians, including this modern troop transporter.

Even with all the Western equipment that the Ukrainians have already received, they still have a lot less than the Russians do. That's why every tank and every armored vehicle that they can get back on the battlefield will be vital for Ukraine's war effort.

That includes even seemingly destroyed vehicles like this blown up armored personnel carrier, the project manager tells me.

BOHDAN OSTAPCHUK, PROJECT COORDINATOR: All this we can restore the units.

PLEITGEN: Further along the southern front line, the situation in the areas flooded by the recent destruction of a major dam is deteriorating. Ukraine and Russia accusing each other of targeting operations to rescue flood victims.

Ukraine's chief rabbi dodging for cover as shells rain down.

MOSHE AZMAN, CHIEF RABBI OF UKRAINE: To bring people here from over the river and the Russians --

PLEITGEN: The Ukrainians say several people were wounded in Kherson as the authorities continue to fight to bring those stranded to safety. (END VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN (on camera): And, Jake, whether it's a coincidence or not, it appears as though the shells came raining down on that area where people who were being evacuated were actually being brought on shore just shortly after the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited that area, unclear whether or not the Russians were trying to target him.

Nonetheless, the shelling went on for a considerable amount of time. The most recent info that we have is that eight people were wounded in that shell, of course, a traumatizing event not just for the people who were wounded there but, of course, for all those rescuers who are continuing to go out this on the water and try to get people out of their houses while that shelling is going on.

Some of the video that we've seen from Kherson certainly looks extremely scare we people there on rubber boats trying to evacuate folks and then at the same time the shells popping down into the water, a really difficult situation. It was quite interesting because Volodymyr Zelenskyy after he visited that area, he said that he believes that the situation, as we heard is catastrophic, but he thinks the situation is even worse in the legs occupied areas and he called for a swift and clear response by the international community -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, CNN's Fred Pleitgen in Zaporizhzhia for us, thanks so much.

The unexpected ruling at the U.S. Supreme Court today that sides with Black voters in Alabama.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, a Supreme Court ruling that nobody really saw coming. A majority of the court today ordered Alabama officials to redraw their state's congressional map to allow an additional Black majority congressional district. In other words, it's giving more opportunities for minority voters to elect a candidate of their choice and not have the Black vote diluted in congressional districts. Two conservative justices sided with the three liberals.

With us now to discuss, CNN chief national affairs correspondent Jeff Zeleny and CNN's Supreme Court reporter Ariane de Vogue.

Ariane, most folks, most observers did not expect the ruling to go this way. Explain what happened.

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Oh, you're right. Look, the maps had only one Black majority district despite the fact that there's 27 percent Blacks in the state. A lower court said that violates the Voting Rights Act, ordered these new maps, and the state went right to the Supreme Court and everybody thought that this Supreme Court was going to really gut Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

And instead, that is not what we got. Chief Justice John Roberts writing for the majority, instead he left section 2 alone. He ordered new maps, basically Alabama had said these challengers, they can't take race into consideration in the early times of drawing these maps, and he rejected that 100 percent. Here's what he wrote. The contention that map--makers must be entirely blind to race has no footing in our section 2 case law.

It was so stunning. I got so many e-mails from investigate right experts who did not -- who did not expect this at all. The vote, Roberts and the liberals with conservative Brett Kavanaugh all on the same side here, 5-4.

TAPPER: Very interesting. Very interesting.

Jeff, how does this ruling impact the political landscape, not just in Alabama but beyond?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, in Alabama, first and foremost, as Ariane was saying, there's one Black district, which means there's one Democratic member of Congress. There are seven seats. So they are likely to get one more seat there.

But the activists and Democrats I was talking to today, I believe that Louisiana sees an opportunity and North Carolina potentially as well, other southern states as well. In a House where there's such a narrow majority, we're talking the number of votes on one hand, it is a big deal.

Now in North Carolina, there is something interesting going on. Republicans are expected to gain some seats, so it's hard to say at the end of the day in November 2024 after the election what it's going to be exactly, but in Alabama for sure, Democrats are likely to get one more seat.

But beyond that, it was incredibly surprising ruling just because everyone had assumed that the Supreme Court was moving so far in a conservative direction. There were no boundaries. The Voting Rights Act was going to be gutted.

That didn't happen, so just one more example that Chief Justice John Roberts, you know, trying to hold the court at least a bit more in the middle.

TAPPER: And, Ariane, Chief Justice Roberts not only sided with the liberals, he wrote the majority opinion?

DE VOGUE: Right. That's why this is so surprising. As a young lawyer in the Reagan Justice Department, he went after the Voting Rights Act.

Just in 2013, he wrote a big decision that practically gutted a separate section of the law, so this was not on anyone's bingo card. Nobody thought that Chief Justice John Roberts here was going to do what he did. That said, that doesn't mean that overnight he's become this huge liberal. We've got other cases. TAPPER: No, no.

DE VOGUE: We've got affirmative action.


DE VOGUE: We've got LGBTQ rights. But here the liberals didn't even have to pick up their pencils and write a thing. They got exactly what they wanted.

TAPPER: Roberts, maybe as soon as next week, is going to vote to take away affirmative action in college admissions.

Jeff, it was ten years ago this month that you were with the late civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis of Georgia when the Supreme Court struck down a big part of the Voting Rights Act. Tell us about that.

ZELENY: I was thinking about that today. The late congressman was watching this ruling happen, watching our friend Terry Moran from ABC News, they are talking about this rule, and he said, you know, it put a dagger at the heart of the Voting Rights Act. So he was very disappointed, very forlorn of what was going to happen to the rest of the Voting Rights Act.


ZELENY: So you have to imagine that he was smiling and thinking all is not lost with his Voting Rights Act, of course, which he marched as a student. He was --

TAPPER: He bled for, yeah.

ZELENY: He did bleed for it on the -- on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama. So this was something -- I guess, just a reminder that we don't always know. He always talked about the arc, of course, of the moral universe as long as it bends towards justice. It's certainly his supporters thought that today.

TAPPER: It's not that it heads towards justice. It bends towards justice meaning it's an effort.

ZELENY: Right.

TAPPER: It's back and forth.

ZELENY: As President Obama always said that as well. I mean, it's not a straight line.

TAPPER: All right. Ariane, Jeff, good to see both of you.

He became a harsh critic of Barack Obama's time in office. He tried to help Senator Bernie Sanders to run for president, and now Cornel West is launching a bid of his own and he will join me next. We'll talk about why he thinks he's the best candidate for this political moment.

Stay with us.



ZELENY: In our 2024 lead, the field is growing in the 2024 presidential race with former Vice President Mike Pence and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum entering the race. The total number of Republican candidates now stands at 12. This comes as two Democrats are challenging President Biden for the White House in the Democratic primary. That's RFK Jr. and Marianne Williamson.

And just this week, a third-party candidate jumped into the race, Dr. Cornel West, who launched his bid as member of the People's Party.

And Dr. West joins us now.

So, Dr. West, let me start with the obvious question: how -- are you running to win? Are you running to get your issues of importance that you think Joe Biden is not paying enough attention to, to the forefront?

DR. CORNEL WEST, PEOPLE'S PARTY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I mean, one, my dear brother, you always have a calling to win. You want to bear witness at the highest level of quality, integrity and honesty that you can. So, yes, I'm trying to push toward the finish line, why? Because I want to reintroduce America to the best of itself, and it's fairly clear that brother Trump, a neo-fascist gangster, not the best. Brother Biden, neo-liberal hypocrite, not the best.

I want the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., (INAUDIBLE), Abraham Joshua Herschel and Edward Said, Chief Joseph (ph) and Grace Lee Bald (ph) and Luis Moreno, those are those fighting for poor and working people. Both parties stand in the way of the impoverished and poor and working people. Both parties tied to Wall Street, militarism, Pentagon, tied to Silicon Valley. What about the 60 percent oppresses America of all colors who are struggling every day and month to put food on the table and are hardly doing it while the 1 percent is simply tied to their quest --

TAPPER: Mm-hmm.

WEST: -- of a luxurious life?

American democracy not just is at stake, but the whole planet, Brother Jake. You know that, with fossil fuels and look at the debt ceiling agreement. We can make a deal with brother Manchin in terms of his pipeline that will do in not just working class people's spaces but ecological collapse given what's going on on the East Coast, but we can't make a deal with him in terms of voting rights when you go offer the filibuster, that's brother Biden.

We need something better. Where's the best of the country?

TAPPER: Yeah. WEST: Not just the working people here but around the world, because

the militarism abroad is something that I'm deeply concerned about. Be it in Latin America, be it in Africa, be it in the Middle East.

TAPPER: So, I hear you, but these elections often do come down to a binary choice between the Democrat and the Republican.

Dr. Laurence Tribe, a Harvard University professor as you were, tweeted: WTF. You know what that stands for. Does Cornel West really want to help the GOP nominee win the way Ralph Nader helped George W. Bush defeat Al Gore in 2000?


Please stop this foolishness before you really hurt the things you care to help, unquote.

His fear obviously that would sap away enough votes of progressives who otherwise would vote for Joe Biden and thus deliver the White House to the Republican, making things worse than they would be under Biden in Laurence Tribe's view.

Your response?

WEST: Well, one, I mean, brother Tribe, he's looking at the world again through these Manichean views. You got either this or that. Tweedledee, Tweedledum, Frick or Frack.

Neofascist catastrophe, neoliberal disaster. Are disasters better catastrophes? Absolutely. But are disasters disasters? Absolutely still.

So the idea that brother Trump would reduce -- brother Tribe would reduce what I'm trying to do and focus on this unbelievable suffering of social and working people around the world as some ego, vanity, I say, Good God Almighty, what are you doing, do you actually think that the rich legacy that the figures that I talked about can be reduced to their ego vanity when they moved in the electrical political context?

Part of the problem is it's people who believe either the Democrats or Republicans have left out serious discussion of mass incarceration, left out of what's been going on around the world, 800 military bases around the world. From the vantage point of the West Bank, our oppressed Palestinian brothers and sisters. What does it look like the bombs dropped by the U.S. government, by either party? Same is true with working people and other parts of the world.

This is a moral and a spiritual issue. It's not simply narrow strategic thinking of neoliberals who view the world in terms of either Republicans or Democrats.

Brother Jake, we will never defeat fascism, which is on the march, by milquetoast neoliberals. Neoliberalism will only be a care-taking postponement of the fascism. We've got to get at the source of it.

That's why I'm going straight into Trump country, my brother. I talk to some of my white brothers and sisters who are following the neofascist pied piper.

I'm concerned about your suffering. Look another way, the words of Martin King. Let us embrace one another by accenting our best. That includes acknowledging those who right now are on the other side.

We want re-alignment. We want what my dear brother Clifton West calls a paradigm shift in American politics. That's in part what this is about, my brother.

TAPPER: Let me ask you just a practical question. Where do the people's party, where will you be on the ballot? Will you be on the ballot in Michigan? Will you be on the ballot in Wisconsin?

I don't think the people's party was on the ballot in all 50 states last time. Are you hoping to get on the ballot in every state or even just the battleground states?

WEST: We're trying to get on the ballot in every state, which means we've got to get the requisite signatures in each state. We are in process of ensuring to make sure we get on that ballot. As you know, people's parties broke away from brother Bernie's attempt in 2016. So we're very new at this in that regard.

But most importantly, we just want to make sure that our fellow citizens get a chance to see what the best of America's about. The best of America, the best of any nation is about, fighting for poor and working people no matter what color, gender, sexual orientation, and not just confining it to the states.

I'm talking about solidarity with Iranians dealing with fascists, Iranian elites. I'm talking about solidarity with workers in Brazil. I'm talking about solidarity with workers in Guatemala.

This is an international project, my brother. That's what Martin Luther King was concerned when he said the bombs dropped in Vietnam fall in ghettos and hoods and barrios and poor white sections. We have got a professional managerial class that has turned its back too often to the plight of the most vulnerable.

That's my tradition. That's -- that's what this campaign is all about, my brother.

TAPPER: So Dr. West, I have a ton more questions but we're out of time. You can see by the clock.

Come back. I'm going to just cut and paste and we're going to ask these questions about your policies and your platforms next time you're here. Open invitation. We love having you on.

WEST: No, indeed, salute you, brother. You stay strong. God bless your loved ones, man.

TAPPER: You too as well, Dr. West. Thank you so much for joining us.

WEST: Yeah. TAPPER: Coming up, a former White House official interviewed in both the Biden and Trump classified documents cases with distinct differences in the lines of questioning. The CNN exclusive reporting coming up next.



TAPPER: And welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

This hour, exactly what are you breathing in if you're on the east coast? We're going to show you just how much smoke it takes to create the dangerous levels that we're seeing all the -- all the way up and down the East Coast of the United States.

Plus, the politics against transgender health care for children. 2024 GOP candidate Mike Pence made his case on CNN last night.


MIKE PENCE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to protect kids from the radical gender ideology and say no chemical or surgical gender transition before you're 18.


TAPPER: We're going to talk to a conservative Republican from Ohio who has a transgender child and talk to them about what Mr. Pence said.

And leading this hour, Donald Trump's legal team standing by for a possible indictment after the former president was told he is the target of a federal investigation.

Let's bring in CNN's Katelyn Polantz in Miami where a second special counsel grand jury has been meeting p. We also have with us, CNN senior justice correspondent Evan Perez.