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The Lead with Jake Tapper

DOJ Tells Trump He's Target In Classified Docs Probe; Former White House Official Told Prosecutors Trump Knew Proper Declassification Process; 75M Under Air Quality Alerts From Wildfire Smoke; Van Der Sloot Lands In Alabama, Faces Charges. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired June 08, 2023 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: A second special counsel grand jury has been meeting. We also have with us CNN Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez.

Evan, what's the significance of Special Counsel Smith deciding now is the time to inform Trump he's the target of his investigation?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, you know, the fact is that Donald Trump has known for months that he has been under investigation and prosecutors has had the option to notify him much earlier that he was the target of that investigation. Given the fact, obviously, that they did a search of Mar-a-Lago, but they chose to do that only in recent weeks, which tells us a lot. It tells us that they are near a decision to bring possible charges against the former president. Obviously, Jack Smith, the special counsel, works under Attorney General Merrick Garland, who could at the last minute, decide to intervene. But what this tells us a lot, and I think the reason why you see the Trump lawyers very concerned is that this signals that the special counsel is heading towards an indictment.

And the question is, you know, when that indictment might come, who else might be under it? And certainly, the former president should believe that, you know, at this point, he has the option to go to the prosecutors and say that he wants to speak to the grand jury, to present his own evidence and to try to persuade them at the last minute that they should not bring that case. We do not expect that Donald Trump will do that, Jake.

TAPPER: No, we don't.

Katelyn, the special counsel has enlisted a second, pardon me, second grand jury, this one in Florida, to examine and gather evidence in the classified documents investigation. What does that mean for this overall probe?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Jake, it could mean a lot of things. It could mean they still need witnesses, that they're trying to nail down the evidence. Or it could mean, really, that we are in the final days of the grand jury activity here. So, coupled with that target letter, we are now watching this unusual turn of this case.

A grand jury in Washington, D.C. had heard nearly every witness that you could possibly think of for months and months. There was Evan Corcoran, the former defense attorney of Donald Trump compelled to go to that grand jury twice and talk about his discussions directly with his client, Donald Trump. We also heard about Mark Meadows, the chief of staff at the White House, who was also involved in some of the document issues after Donald Trump left the White House and had that book that was being prepared that he was writing as an autobiography where Donald Trump spoke to his ghostwriter and some others about a document, a plan, a classified document for a military attack on Iran.

And so, it is really hard at this point, Jake. We've tracked dozens of people going in and out of the grand jury in Washington, D.C. Now, two days in a row, we see the grand jury here in Florida coming in or at least the prosecutors moving around that grand jury. A witness coming in yesterday who was around Donald Trump at a time, he wanted to make a public statement about returning boxes to the National Archives, which he didn't at that time turn over everything he had in his possession. And so what the culmination of this will be or whether the grand jury has more work to do before the Justice Department can make a decision, that is the big question right now, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Katelyn and Evan, thanks to you.

Now to a CNN exclusive. A key former White House official has told special counsel prosecutors that Donald Trump was well aware of the proper declassification process. CNN's Zachary Cohen breaks his story. He joins us now.

Zachary, what are you learning about this official and what did he tell the prosecutors?

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, Jake, this is a former White House official whose really whole job dealt with the declassification process and the classification process and the president's authority to do that. And this person met with prosecutors in the special counsel investigation related to Trump a couple of months ago and basically told them, look, the former president knew the process for declassifying documents. He did it the right way several different times while he was in office and gave them specific examples of those instances.

So it really is something that we've seen prosecutors in the time since that interview took place try to nail down on. They've interviewed dozens of witnesses, including senior former Trump officials who have talked about their conversations with Trump related to the process. We've seen them push for documents from the National Archives that really detail communications between those officials and Trump about declassification. So, this is something, when you talk about intent, something that prosecutors have tried to narrow down.

TAPPER: So, this is an individual in charge of, or at least expert in declassification for both Trump and Obama. The Obama administration, the Obama White House includes then Vice President Joe Biden. The special counsel is investigating both men when it comes to mishandling classified documents. This individual was asked about both. But you say there was a distinct difference in the line of questioning from prosecutors.

COHEN: Yes, this is what really makes this witness unique. It's really the only one that we know of that has talked to prosecutors in both the Trump and Biden document investigations. And they described very different experiences when they were talking to the two teams. With Trump, it was very, you know, it was very aggressively focused on direct interactions with Trump, who was having conversations with Trump, who was talking to him, meeting with him, specifically.


The Biden prosecutors were more focused on process, logistics. How were the boxes packed up and moved to his home in Delaware? This former official said that the vice president typically does not have any sort of a role in the packing process. So, distinguishing between those two investigations.

And my colleague Paula Reid (ph) has learned that this even appear to be a grand jury that's been set up in the Biden investigation. So that tells you a little bit about the lack of activity maybe compared to what has happened in the Trump investigation since.

TAPPER: Very interesting. Zachary Cohen, excellent reporting. Thanks so much.

Let's discuss right now with CNN's Sara Murray and former Trump White House lawyer Jim Schultz and former Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the George W. Bush administration, Tom Dupree.

So, Sara, you have some new reporting about how the Trump team has been bracing for the possibility that he could be indicted on multiple fronts. Tell us more.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Jake. I mean, we are learning that even though Trump believes that he's done nothing wrong, he's told people privately he does believe he's going to be indicted in this federal case when it comes to classified documents. But that's not the only one, I mean, he's also told people privately he believes he's going to be indicted in the criminal probe that's been ongoing in the Atlanta area looking at efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election there. He's actually seemed almost eager to be indicted in that case, one person told me, because he believes it's a politically potent argument for him to take on the district attorney there who's an elected Democrat. And then, of course, we know he already has one indictment under his belt because he was indicted in Manhattan where he pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts.

TAPPER: Right. Jim, this former White House official is telling prosecutors, this individual who was the expert on the declassification process for both Trump and Obama administrations, telling prosecutors that Trump was well aware of the declassification process. You worked in the Trump White House. Is that your understanding? And how problematic might this be for Trump? JIM SCHULTZ, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: So I didn't work in the national security space or declassification of documents based, none of that while I was in the White House. But I can tell you this, in any executive branch, whether it's a governor or president, I've worked in both in the governor's office as general counsel and I worked at White House counsel in the Trump administration, of course, there are going to be protocols that the executive is going to get from his lawyers, from national security advisors, and how to handle documents. So no surprise there that he would have had appropriate training, whether he followed it or not, is a different story. But -- and no surprise that he might not have followed certain protocols, right? This is -- it was the Donald Trump, right?

So, I mean, I'm not surprised. I don't think this is really all that significant, except for the fact that they were probably exactly what you said earlier, looking at perhaps intent, and then how did he do things differently then versus how he handled them in the end of the administration. And that's kind of what makes the Biden case and the Trump case different.

TAPPER: Yes. Very interesting.

Tom, you have a lot of experience working in the Justice Department. Does all of this recent activity suggest to you that an indictment is imminent?

TOM DUPREE, FORMER PRINCIPAL DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Without a doubt. Yes, absolutely. Look, prosecutors the unwritten rule of the Justice Department is prosecutors don't send target letters if they don't intend to indict. Well, I won't say it's an 100 percent certainty, it's a 99 percent certainty. In fact, I'm hard pressed to think back of instances where you would send a target letter and then ultimately decline to indict.

So I think it's a near certainty. The sending of this target letter is not the first chapter in a book, it's the last chapter or the penultimate chapter. It's done at the end of the process, when the investigation is complete or nearly complete. You've reached a preliminary conclusion, you're ready to move. You give that defendant a final, last clear chance to come in, plead their case to you, maybe it deters you, probably doesn't, but that's the next last chapter in the book.

TAPPER: And, Sara, sources are telling CNN, and this is no surprise, but Trump's team has been reaching out to his allies on Capitol Hill, the Matt Gaetzs and Marjorie Taylor Greenes of the world to get him to defend him ahead of this potential indictment, a playbook he's run before.

MURRAY: This is the classic Trump playbook. I mean, if you know that you are about to go through a negative news cycle, which you know, people generally view, if you're about to be indicted, that would be a negative news cycle. You try to think of how are you going to turn the echo chamber in your favor. And this is usually when we see Trump start blasting out fundraising e-mails. You know, they're already circulating these talking points, casting aspersions on Jack Smith, and, of course, reaching out to the allies, sort of readying them to sort of try to flood the airwaves, probably with notions that this is, you know, a politically motivated prosecution that Donald Trump is a former president shouldn't be prosecuted in the first place, that somehow this is really a scheme that's being crafted by Joe Biden.

I mean, you know, we'll see what they put on the airways. But, yes, this is the classic Trump playbook.

TAPPER: Do you remember a few weeks ago when the E. Jean Carroll case was going on and Matt Gaetz started tweeting about Tara Reade, that woman who accused Joe Biden --


TAPPER: -- of sexual misconduct, like, back in his Senate days?


TAPPER: And then a few days later, what did Tara Reade do?

MURRAY: Tara Reade decided that she would like to be a Russian citizen.

TAPPER: So these plans don't always work out exactly --

MURRAY: Doesn't always, yes.

TAPPER: -- in the best way.

Jim, if Donald Trump is charged, what do you think the timeline would look like? And could there be a trial before the 2024 election?


SCHULTZ: I don't see a trial happening before the 2024 election. I just don't. I mean, it would really depend upon the judge, and it would be in Donald Trump's lawyers interest to extend that out as long as they possibly can, especially as it relates to a federal indictment. So, I think they're going to do everything they can to delay, delay., delay.

TAPPER: Yes. Tom, what do you think?

DUPREE: So, you know, my sense actually, is that this might move quicker than we think. And look, I agree that I think it depends in large part on the judge, but I think both the special counsel and frankly, even the Trump team do have an interest in getting this thing done sooner rather than later. The special counsel does not want this to interfere with the election more than it already will.

It inevitably will. But if you have a trial in, say, the summer of 2024, I think that's kind of catastrophic from the Justice Department's perspective. So I think they're going to have to move quickly. And then come next spring, if they don't have a trial date, they may well say, look, let's just punt and put this off after until after -- TAPPER: But Tom, the first debate -- the first Republican debates in

August. I mean, we're in June now, just to remind everyone, we're in June, the first Republican debates in two months. The Iowa caucuses are in January. That's just over six or seven months. I mean, we're already in the political season.

DUPREE: Absolutely, it's going to interfere with it. No question it's going to interfere. But to me, at least, there's a significant difference between having a trial occurring during those preliminary run up debates versus the final months of a general election when the entire nation's attention is focused on that race.

TAPPER: And Jim, if the special --

SCHULTZ: Yes, there's no --

TAPPER: Go ahead, Jim.


TAPPER: Yes, go.

SCHULTZ: I agree. I don't think there's any chance that we're going to have a trial in that August, September, October of 2024. If it looks like it's getting to that time, it's going to be kicked down the road. It would have to happen sooner than that, probably sooner than most of the primary elections in order to be really effective in this.

TAPPER: All right, thanks to one and all. Really appreciate it. Good to see you.

Republican candidates running against Trump are not holding back on their opinions about Trump's legal drama. How is this all playing out in the race for 2024? That's next.

Plus, the first steps on U.S. soil for Joran van der Sloot, the main suspect in Natalee Holloway's disappearance, oh, so many years ago.



TAPPER: Time for our politics lead. On the 2024 campaign trail, Republican presidential candidates are weighing in on the news that Donald Trump has been notified he's the target of the special counsel's investigation and could face a possible indictment. Take a listen.


CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) PRESIDENTITAL CANDIDATE: It's a bigger problem whether he's indicted or not because these are all self-inflicted wounds.

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is very, very dangerous to see and or feel like the Department of Justice is being weaponized against anyone in this country.

MIKE PENCE, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would hope that it would meet the very high threshold for the unprecedented action.


TAPPER: All right, my panel is here with me to discuss.

Ramesh, what do you make of these different responses from Republicans?

RAMESH PONNURU, EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: Well, I think one of the things that's going on here is that support for Trump in the Republican Party, although widespread is actually less widespread than the view that some of these prosecutions are abusive and are excessive. And so, the Republicans are aware that when Trump's been indicted in the past, it has worked to his political advantage. And they also want to appeal to not just the Trump voters, but to other voters who are kind of in the middle in the Republican primary.

TAPPER: And Kirsten, do you think there's room for nuance at all here? Like, for instance oh, D.A. Alvin Bragg's indictment in New York, that looks political, but Jack Smith, this looks kind of legit or --


TAPPER: For the Republican voters?

POWERS: Yes. No, I don't think -- yes, I don't think that's what's going to happen. I think that he's going to turn, at least with the people that really support him, there's always the voters that are, you know, the swing voters or the suburban moms, that kind of thing. But for the average hardcore Republican voter and Trump supporter, they're going to -- I think they're going to see this as him being persecuted, right? And especially when you have also presidential candidates saying.

TAPPER: Yes, well, it's also theme of his election, right?


TAPPER: They're persecuting me.

Audie Cornish, Pence is challenging his former boss in the race. And in his campaign announcement made one of the strongest rebukes of Trump yet. I'm going to play that, the rebuke. And then what Pence said on Fox following the rebuke.


PENCE: Anyone who asks someone else to put them over the Constitution should never be president of the United States again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of the requirements is that you vow to support whoever becomes the eventual nominee of your party. Will you commit to that? PENCE: I will absolutely support the Republican nominee for president in 2024.


TAPPER: So how do you reconcile that? Or is it --

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, remember the RNC was trying to avoid, like, a bunch of bickering by saying, if you even want to be in a debate, you have to make a pledge saying that you're going to support whatever candidate is there in 2024. But also, Pence has always tried to walk this line between, gee, that was a bad day, and let's put it behind us.

That's not that unusual, right? When people -- when Nixon got pardoned, there was a lot of controversy then too, but it was the same argument. We need to put something divisive behind us. I don't know if that will work here, but I think it was a great line of questioning by Dana at the town hall, et cetera, about it not just being about Trump, also about all the people who would be prosecuted for being part of the insurrection that day.

And even what's going on with Jack Smith is a good reflection of the fact that Trump didn't do anything in isolation. People helped him do all the things we're talking about, whether it's moving documents or, you know, hiding this information or that information, there are people around him who are part of that and kind of discouraging that kind of behavior going forward requires these investigations.

TAPPER: Very interesting.

We have with us Ben Terris of "The Washington Post." He's got this great new book called "The Big Break," where you look at how Washington changed during the Trump years and much, much more. One of the segments you write, quote, "Trump's arrival in Washington represented a big break in how the city operated. He surrounded himself with outsiders, power structures reorganized around those who knew him or his family and those who could flatter and influence his base. He changed the way the game was played, only it wasn't actually a game at all."


You say Trump changed the game. Do you think any of his primary rivals DeSantis, Haley, Christie, Pence, et cetera, et cetera, do you think any of them have any idea how to play the game as Trump does?

BEN TERRIS, STYLE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, I mean, almost definitely not, right? I mean, you look at Washington right now. This book I wrote is two years of work trying to explore Washington after Trump. But what I found is there is no Washington after Trump. He's around.

TAPPER: Right.

TERRIS: The shadow of Trump is everywhere. And you know, to Audie's point over here about Pence not being able to say, I wouldn't support Trump if he's the nominee, it looks like Trump is likely going to be the nominee, not definitely, I wouldn't predict it. But if you can't even say that, then are you able to play the same game as Trump? Do you think Trump would say the same thing? I don't know.

PONNURU: Yes. The core problem with the Pence campaign is that the message is, I am very proud and honored to have served in the administration of this enemy of the Constitution, right?

TAPPER: Right. But I mean, isn't that also Nikki Haley's problem? And I mean, would have been Mike Pompeo's if he had run? I mean, like these are people who are proud of their accomplishments, and then -- but they say, but like something changed after Election Day.

PONNURU: Right. Or like Ron DeSantis, they are saying something like, he served his purpose and it's time to move on, it's time to turn the page. That's the kind of message they end up having to give, because the frontal attack saying, you know, it wasn't a successful presidency or he should never have been president is one that very few Republican primary voters believe.

CORNISH: But one theme from Ben's book I want to bring up is this idea of the gamble. And I know you must look at all of these candidates and see one big gamble going on. If something happens to Trump, will I be the last candidate standing?

TERRIS: Yes. This book is filled with gamblers. I mean, it's filled with weirdos and exciting people and, you know, all sorts of drama and tension, but everyone is making a bet of sorts, right? There's a character in this book who's making actual bets on races that he's polling, but there's also all these people who are working for Trump or trying to get rich or powerful or influential by attaching themselves to him. And so, yes, they're betting, if this guy could win again, I can be part of that and I can be successful.

TAPPER: Yes, I mean, you got a lot of really sketchy dudes to trust you and tell you their stories. They're really, really well done.

Do you think Chris Christie will be the assassin that all the Republican candidates wanted there to be in 2016? But nobody was willing to step up and take on Trump head on until it was too late. But now they actually have somebody, you know, it was all just like Jeb Bush was sitting there, well, I'll wait for someone to --


TAPPER: -- take out Trump and then I will become the nominee.


TAPPER: Well, now they actually have Chris Christie there who's going to try to do it.

POWERS: I mean, it feels like that's his entire purpose.

TAPPER: Right. POWERS: That that is actually what he's doing. And if there's one thing he's good at, it's attacking people and being pugilistic and mixing it up. So, I think that's what he's going to do. I'm just pretty skeptical that it's going to make that much of a difference.

CORNISH: But he's doing it on behalf of Trump for a long time. I mean, I think --


CORNISH: -- that's the switch that's confusing. That being said, nobody has tried it yet. We just don't have a really good example of someone taking on Trump on stage face to face in that kind of candidate forum and coming out for the better. I think that that's really the question.

POWERS: Yes. I mean, that's what I was going to say. I think that's clearly what he's going to do. I just don't know that he could be successful at it --

CORNISH: We know he's going to try.

POWERS: -- because he's going to --

CORNISH: We don't know if he will.

POWERS: No, I mean, he's going to attack, yes.

CORNISH: You make up with a new nickname and, you know --

POWERS: Yes. But the question is, is Trump going to make mincemeat of him or is it just going to -- nobody's going to care, right? It's just going to happen and everyone's going to ignore it.

PONNURU: But I wouldn't assume that Christie's aggression will be exclusively directed at Donald Trump. And I think that would be a very unsafe assumption for the other candidates.

TAPPER: That's interesting.


TAPPER: Ramesh, I wanted to ask you because Pat Robertson, who founded the Christian Broadcasting Network and he turned evangelical Christians, along with some other players like Jerry Falwell, into really a very powerful political force. He died today at age 93. How do you think he shaped the Republican Party that we know today?

PONNURU: Well, there's no question that religious conservatism as an organized movement owes a great deal to Pat Robertson as a leader. And I'm sorry to say, although I support a lot of the religious conservative causes that he also helped to mainstream some rather kooky and fringe ideas, particularly with his turn to conspiracy theorizing about the illuminati.

TAPPER: Yes, that was interesting. Thanks, one and all for being here. And of course, don't forget people, it's Audie Cornish Thursday, and that means you should not miss the new episode of "The Assignment with Audie Cornish." This episode, she's taking a closer look at the effect of social media on kids and how families are fighting back against big tech. You should check it out wherever you get your podcasts.

And then, of course, you can check it out on Sunday night when they do -- when there's a documentary version. I'm very excited to see that. We'll talk more about that tomorrow.


Coming up, East Coasters dealing with all that smoke. This next one is for you. We're going to help you decipher what those air quality numbers mean when you open weather apps on your phone. Don't forget to buy Ben's book, "The Big Break."


TAPPER: In our health lead, New York officials are calling the poor air quality caused by the Canadian wildfires, quote, "a public health crisis." Residents are still being urged to wear masks and all of New York City's public schools, the nation's largest school district, will have remote classes tomorrow. CNN's Miguel Marquez is near the Hudson River in New York.

Miguel, has the air improved at all in New York since yesterday?


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's improved enormously. It is still smoky, but not nearly as bad as it was yesterday. I want to show you. We're right on here on the Hudson. You can see the Statue of Liberty there off in the distance. It's probably a couple of miles from us. And you can see just that haze. That is not fog. That is not mist. That is smoke still in this area. But the smoke and the weather conditions that are causing it are still creating a massive problem for a huge swath of the country, affecting every from Wyoming in the west to Louisiana in the south, all the way to Georgia. Just an incredible amount of smoke, a couple of MLB, Major League Baseball games were canceled or postponed yesterday. Another one today, horse racing at Belmont also canceled. As you mentioned, the schools here in New York City canceled.

Flights have continued to be interrupted. There were some out of Philadelphia that were interrupted today because that visibility is just so poor when the smoke gets heavy. The effects of the smoke, everything from coughing and headaches on the mild side to asthma attacks and shortness of breath on the more serious side, authorities telling people to stay inside if you can, wear a mask, KN95 or N95 is the best. And if you have underlying lung conditions, very, very important to either use masks or stay indoors and try to keep out of the smoke as much as possible.

When will it all go away? At least for the Northeast, it looks like in the next 24 hours it will get even better than it is today. But it's going to be a while before those fires, just massive fires. We are hundreds of miles away from them and you can smell them here in New York City still just incredible to consider how big these fires are. Jake?

TAPPER: Miguel, is New York sending any help to Canada to assist their attempts to fight the wildfires?

MARQUEZ: New York State is sending its firefighters north to help Canada. The U.S. government also calling up every federal resource they can. The President saying today that already 600 hotshots and smoke jumpers are up in Canada working. New York State sending more as well. But it looks, there are hundreds of fires burning in Canada. They're going to need all the help they can get. Jake?

TAPPER: Miguel Marquez in New York, thank you so much.

Meteorologist Chad Myers is with us now. He's tracking this hazardous smoke. Chad, when people open their weather apps on their smartphones and they see air quality numbers at 300 or higher, what does that mean?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: That means hazardous. That means you really need to be inside. It doesn't matter if you're a sensitive group or not, that is for everyone. And I did see some numbers that were approaching 300, even some over 400 on our map. So the number that we have in Atlanta right now is 70 outside. The number that I have in the studio on this PM 2.5 Detector is five. So that's 12 times better than what it is outside. That's why they say to stay inside. The air filters in your house just kind of all help out.

Now watch me light one match and watch this because this goes quick. I'm going to light one match and put this smoke near this detector and watch where it goes. It just starts jumping and going. And all of a sudden it'll peg 999. That's as high as it goes. There's not a one. So we can't get over 1,000. But that's from one match. And that's what these numbers mean. This over 100, really bad for sensitive groups, over 150 into 200, you really need to be inside as much as you possibly can.

There are the pictures now visibility is getting better. It is getting better across a lot of North America from New York City all the way down to Philadelphia. Even now from the D.C. cam, I can actually see Virginia. And for most of the day I couldn't see it, our visibility around two and a half miles now in D.C. But still in that orange and red category for many cities, for millions and millions of people right now.

And still in the 100, 200, and there are some spots still around. I think some of these numbers are a little bit old, but still above where we think hazardous is. This is a computer model. This is what the model believes the smoke will look like, what it is right now and where it will go over the next 24 and then I'll stop it in 48 hours for the Belmont because that's where the horses may be running in all of that smoke. The good news is a lot of that goes away tomorrow. Now it's completely gone by Tuesday, but this is still hanging around. Not as concentrated, not as orange, but even by Saturday morning, there are still some people out there that will have that unhealthy for sensitive groups. But then what happens? We get a big low pressure to spin through here and push all of that away. That's what we need right now is just the wind to push it away. It doesn't help to where it's pushed, but most of it will go past the Atlantic Ocean and then fall into the ocean itself getting rid of that PM 2.5, that stuff that just gets stuck in your lungs.

TAPPER: All right, Chad Myers in the CNN Weather Center, thank you so much. Appreciate it.


Moments ago, Joran van der Sloot arrived in the United States for the first time, booked in Alabama as he faces charges related to the disappearance of poor Natalee Holloway in Aruba 18 years ago. What led prosecutors to finally bring him here to the United States? That's next.

And this programming note. CNN's Kaitlan Collins will have an exclusive interview with the U.K. Prime minister Rishi Sunak, who met with President Joe Biden earlier today. You can see that interview tonight on CNN Primetime at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.


TAPPER: And we're back with our World Lead this afternoon. Joran van der Sloot, the prime suspect in the 2005 disappearance of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway arrived at an Alabama prison to get processed on a temporary transfer from his Peruvian prison cell. Van der Sloot faces chunk charges in the U.S. for scamming Holloway's grieving mother out of tens of thousands of dollars. CNN's Jean Casarez reports for us from Birmingham in this latest grizzly chapter in the Holloway family's 18-year search for answers.



JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joran van der Sloot landing at Birmingham's airport on an FBI Gulfstream 550 executive jet in U.S. custody. First steps on American soil in the hometown of Natalee Holloway. She was last seen with van der Sloot during her high school graduation trip to Aruba in 2005. Later declared dead, but her remains were never found.

Van der Sloot is the prime suspect. He is serving time in Peru's maximum security prison Challapalca for a different killing, the 2010 murder of Peruvian woman Stephanie Flores. Saturday wearing a thick coat as he left the prison in the Andes, he signed papers and underwent medical tests before being transferred to Lima in preparation for going to the United States.

He faces U.S. federal charges for extorting Natalee Holloway's mother, Beth, out of tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for telling her where the remains of her daughter were located. Van der Sloot said they were in gravel under a home's foundation in Aruba, but he later e-mailed to say it was all a lie. U.S. prosecutors say that amounts to wire fraud. Now he is on his way to answer the charges in a U.S. court.

CARLOS LOPEZ AEDO, INTERPOL LIMA CHIEF (through translator): The fact is, we have complied with both the presidential and a judicial resolution authorizing the transfer.

CASAREZ (voice-over): Early Wednesday morning, Interpol took custody of van der Sloot and drove him to the Air Force base near Lima.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing to say, Joran? Nothing to say?

CASAREZ (voice-over): After smiling for a photo with Interpol agents, van der Sloot was handed over to the FBI for the six hour flight to Alabama, a cell in an American jail and a court appearance expected tomorrow.


CASAREZ: Joran van der Sloot is currently being held at the Hoover City Jail. This is a local facility in a suburb right outside of Birmingham. His arraignment, his initial appearance is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. local time tomorrow, according to court documents at this point, the federal public defender's office will be representing him. At this initial appearance, he will be apprised of his constitutional right. The indictment can be read if not waived by the defense, and he will have to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Jean Casarez in Birmingham, thank you so much.


Last night on CNN Mike Pence argued why he thinks kids 18 years and younger should not be able to get any sort of transgender surgery or hormone treatment, despite what their parents or doctors say. I'm going to get a response next from a conservative father who has a transgender son. Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our Health Lead, Vice President Mike Pence last night in our CNN town hall added his support to Republican efforts to ban trans kids from being able to get hormone therapy or puberty blockers or sexual reassignment surgery, giving state governments the power to overrule parents and physicians.


MIKE PENCE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would tell them that I love everybody. I'd put my arm around them and their parents. But before they had a chemical or surgical procedure, I would say, wait, just wait. I mean, there's some people, maybe there's exception, but most people before you're 18 years of age, there's a reason we got that cut off for all kinds of categories in our society. You just don't really know what you want in life. You don't know who you really are.


TAPPER: The U.S. this year has seen a record number of bills targeting transition treatment for transgender minors. House Bill 68 in Ohio is among these efforts. We were surprised when we heard this testimony recently in an Ohio State House hearing from a self-described anti- woke Christian Republican who has a transgender son.


RICK COLBY, OHIO REPUBLICAN PARENT OF TRANSGENDER SON: The people wanting to ban gender affirming care have no idea what it is like to be transgender or to have a transgender child. This is not something that's done on a whim. My son has a masculine soul, and he said he's felt this way since he was five. You've got to go easy on this. This is a terrible bill.


TAPPER: And with us now is that father, Ohio Republican Rick Colby, and his son Ashton. Thanks, both of you for being here. Ashton, let me start with you. Former Vice President Pence says most people don't know who they are before the age of 18, and that's why he doesn't think any transition related care should be allowed before then, regardless of what the individual or their parents or their doctors say. What's your response to that?

ASHTON COLBY, TRANS ACTIVIST: I would be sure that he would be offended if I asked him if he knew he was who he was at his age at 16. He knew he was a man at 16, a young man. And so everyone does really know at that age.

TAPPER: And Rick, Ashton transitioned as an adult. What was it like watching Ashton try to fit in as a girl and a young woman?

R. COLBY: Well, I would defer to Ashton for more detail on that, for his personal experience, but I know as a dad that he was full of inner turmoil when he was female. And I racked my brain to try to find answer to what it was and eventually found out when he was 19, he was at college, he was near suicide and did not see a path forward as a woman.


So we brought him home and we started therapy. And that's when he told me one day, we were driving back from somewhere in the driveway. He said, dad, I think I want to be a man. And I didn't have a frame of reference for it, but I said, bud, you don't have to do this alone. We'll be in this together. We'll get the best care. We'll figure it out. And then I went inside the house and I thought to myself, what is the best care? I don't know. This was 11 years ago. It's very different then than it is now. It's much better now.

TAPPER: And Ashton, we had a trans kid on the show a few weeks ago from Idaho when I asked this question about why does this have to happen before 18? And that kid said, because I would have committed suicide. Is that honestly what it comes down to if you had not been able to transition?

A. COLBY: Yes. I really felt like that it was either going to be life or death, and I chose to stick around. Luckily, I was able to be supported by my dad, and I was able to transition early at 19. And I've known since I was a young person, and I only wish I would have known that transitioning physically through hormone replacement therapy or getting surgery was available to me. I would've -- I didn't know about it over a decade ago. Now we know.

And I am -- I mentor a lot of these young people, and I'm fielding their questions and their concerns, and they're terrified of these bills, and they lay in bed at night and they wonder if they should end their lives. And I have to tell them, your life is worth living. And even if it takes some time, like, I believe the world's getting better, and I'm so glad I was able to transition as young as I did.

TAPPER: And Rick, you know, you describe yourself as a Christian Republican who's anti-woke. I imagine you have friends and acquaintances who would put themselves in the same category. What's their response when you speak so personally and so forcefully about why this legislation is wrong?

R. COLBY: Well, I think it's important to make the distinction among Republicans that there is a small faction that is anti-trans and then there is a middle ground of Republicans who may not publicly say something in support, but privately behind the scenes, and I know a lot of them will ask how Ashton is doing. They, you know, see my posts on social media and they're supportive.

There are generally folks that want people to be the fullest expression of who they can be and have an economic opportunity for young people and not throw roadblocks in front of them. So I'm not so sure that's uniform among the Republican Party. The Republican Party, ideally, is about the individual and not groups and the individual achieving all they can achieve in life. So I think there's more support than people realize.

And I got involved because I was watching this being portrayed as some kind of left wing thing, that there were left wing parents forcing their children to become transgender, and that's not the case. That's far from reality.

TAPPER: Ashton, final word/

A. COLBY: I'm going to say the final word to the young people that are out there that are suffering. You are loved, even if you have to have a surrogate dad like him, there are people out there who support you and love you, and your life is worth living.

TAPPER: Rick and Ashton Colby, thank you so much for being with us today. We appreciate it.

A. COLBY: Thank you.

R. COLBY: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up next, a panicked period for parents and the bravery of their 10-year-old daughter, lost in the woods for more than 24 hours. Plus a busy evening coming up in the Situation Room. Let's check in with our old friend, Wolf Blitzer. Wolf?


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Jake, we've got lots of news coming up in the Situation Room, including the President's top national security spokesman, John Kirby. He'll join us live with new U.S. assessments of the war in Ukraine and that catastrophic dam collapse that unleashed a flooding disaster there. Is the U.S. prepared to do more to help flood victims as Ukraine accuses Russia of shooting at rescue workers? And where does that Ukrainian counter offensive stand right now? We'll discuss all of that much more coming up in the Situation Room right at the top of the hour.


TAPPER: In our National Lead an incredible story of bravery and survival. Ten-year-old Shunghla Mashwani was found alive after spending more than 24 hours by herself lost in the woods of Washington State. Her family was spending this past Sunday in the Cascade Mountains, and Shunghla was playing in the woods when she suddenly realized she was separated from her family and she was by herself and all alone. Her dad said it happened in an instant.

Crews launched a massive search in the steep and rugged terrain. Shunghla hiked downstream through dense forest, the 10-year-old saying she knew it was the right thing to do to follow the river after spending the cold night by herself alone, Shunghla was found on Monday, about a mile and a half away, with only minor scratches. The brave girl said she was not scared and just wanted to find her dad. And God bless. We're so glad she did.


You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Bluesky if you have an invite and I'm back on the TikTok at JakeTapper. You can tweet the show at TheleadCNN. If you ever miss an episode of the show, you can listen to The Lead once you get your podcast. All two hours just sitting there like a big order of EBA's pizza. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in a place I like to call the Situation Room.