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The Lead with Jake Tapper

NATO Unity Tested As Ukraine Pushes To Join; NATO Publicly Splits Over Cluster Bomb Decision; Trump Lawyers Face Deadline To Suggest Trial Date For Classified Documents Case. House Freedom Caucus Wrestles With Its Future; Intense Floods Trap Drivers, Wash Away Roads; Sarah Silverman Sues Tech Companies Over A.I. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired July 10, 2023 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Will Ukraine finally gets an invitation to NATO?

THE LEAD starts right now.

President Biden wheels down, the head of the critical NATO summit and Ukraine, pushing, pushing, pushing to join the roster. CNN is live as leaders from the 31-member nations meet.

Plus, calling them out. Watch special counsel Jack Smith is accusing Donald Trump's right-hand man, Walt Nauta, of trying to delay the federal government's prosecution of him in the classified documents case.

And the ones in 1,000-year rainfall behind the devastating flooding in parts of America's Northeast, including here in New York. The dramatic scenes as water forces its way into homes, trapping drivers on homes, and forcing some to swim to safety.


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

We start today with our world lead.

President Biden landing in Lithuania this afternoon with one goal at the top of his list, unity during dangerous trying times. The NATO summit officially kicks off in a few hours in the city of Vilnius.

Ukraine will be the main focus of the two-day meeting, but for the group that has been frankly stunningly united since Russia's invasion, there are public fractures in the alliance starting to emerge, ones President Biden will have to fix over the next few days, mainly over the president's decision to send cluster bombs to Ukraine's front lines, a weapon banned by more than 100 countries, including most of the allies who will be sitting around President Biden at that table in Lithuania.

World leaders will also have to decide when and how they will let Ukraine join NATO, a move President Biden told CNN cannot begin until the war is over.

Moments ago, we learned of another major development before the summit even starts. We're going to have more on that in a moment.

But let's start with CNN's Nic Robertson in London, where President Biden met with a key ally earlier today to kick off his trip.

And also with us, CNN's Natasha Bertrand who is in Vilnius, Lithuania, ahead of tomorrow's summit.

Natasha, Ukrainian leaders have been clear that they're looking for NATO members to take concrete steps towards Ukraine's membership.

Do we expect any decisions to be made on that front, though?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: You know, it's really difficult to say at this point, Jake. There could be some decisions about perhaps fast-tracking Ukraine's membership into NATO. The Ukrainian foreign minister tweeted today that there have been indications there been some kind of agreement among the alliance, that Ukraine could potentially skip some steps to joining NATO.

But it is unclear whether they will actually get that invitation, and that is something, of course, that President Zelenskyy has been pushing for, for months and months. They want that formal invitation, they want to concrete timetable, if not an invitation, for when they're actually going to be able to join the alliance, because, of course, this is existential for them. Joining the alliance means having the support of the entire -- every NATO country behind them should Russia attack them, of course, in the future, after there is a piece.

But that is something that the alliance still has not come to an agreement on as we heard President Biden say over the weekend, he does not think right now that Ukraine is ready to join NATO. He believes that they still need to make a number of reforms before they can join, and of course, the war in Ukraine needs to end. And so, this is something that's going to be top of mind over the next two days for the alliance as they figure out a path forward for the Ukrainians, Jake.

TAPPER: And, Nic, there's also an important context in the sense that this meeting of NATO comes after the Wagner mercenary group's short- lived revolt in Russia. Also, the meeting location is only 20 miles from the border of Belarus. That's a country that has aided Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

So, NATO leaders, they seem to be trying to put on this united front. But from your observations, does it look like that united front is actually real?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: You know, there's the Baltic states in the north that are closest to Belarus who feel it the most, and I think these are geographical decisions that have always sort of dogged this unity, the unity has been there. But the Baltics have been more forward-leaning, the Nordics were forward- leaning, some of the southern European nations, and perhaps France and Germany, less so as well, they've been slowed to come on board with some of the support, military support for Ukraine.

But in terms of where things stand, where the ground lies right now, ahead of this summit, I think there is a relative degree of unity still, and I think the announcement over Sweden's secession to NATO, you just referenced it there, I think that is significant, because at least it removes one of the big pieces that was sort of an ugly piece sitting on the jigsaw, sitting next to the jigsaw puzzle, that sort of getting in place now.


In terms of the cluster munitions, look, I think what we heard from the British prime minister today, his spokesman saying, yes, when he was with President Biden, he did address the issue, that as a signatory to the cluster munitions convention, that he has to dissuade others from using them, and that did come up in the conversation.

But he went on to say, look, I understand the position that President Biden was in. So, I think, you know, there's an understanding that these are tensions that there are things sort of get ripped apart right now. That's I think where we're at.

TAPPER: So, Nic, you just made a reference to this. But moments ago, we learned that deal has been made when it comes to Sweden's bid to join NATO.

Tell us about that, about the holdup, and what's included in the agreement.

ROBERTSON: Yeah. This is Jens Stoltenberg, secretary general of NATO, meeting with President Erdogan, and the Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson.

This is a significant move. In the hours earlier, it was seem that President Erdogan was holding the whole deal up because he said he wanted to become a member of the European Union which has being brought on.

So, what has Sweden done here is given some additional security guarantees to Turkey over and above the fact that it's already changed its constitution and laws that made the demands that Turkey made last year about some terror groups, it's added another couple of countries to those terror groups. It's going to improve its economic ties and relations. It's going to have annual meetings with Turkey, and it's going to start reselling Turkey weapons again. All of that, to get into NATO, but it looks like they're there.

TAPPER: All right. Nic Robertson in London, and Natasha Bertrand in Lithuania, thanks to both of you.

Also on the NATO agenda, it's future security assistance for Ukraine. Experts tell CNN they're watching to see if that future security assistance includes more F-16 fighter jets, but before the meeting begins, allies are making it clear that they are not going to be joining the U.S. when it comes to sending controversial cluster bombs to the front lines, which can fail, and then detonate years later, risking civilian lives.

CNN's Alex Marquardt is live in the Ukrainians capital of Kyiv for us.

And, Alex, the White House continuing to defend the decision. President Biden said it wasn't an easy decision, but it was the one he reached. What's the reaction there on the ground there?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, Ukrainians are quite happy to be receiving them. This is something that they've been asking for for quite some time. We've done a lot of reporting around the lobbying efforts that Ukrainian officials have made to get the Biden administration to send these very controversial munitions.

The arguments that we've heard time and time again from the Ukrainian officials would later be echoed by the Biden administration. Essentially, that these cluster munitions will only be used against Russian troops. They won't be used in civilian areas.

Of course, Russia is already using cluster munitions here in Ukraine. The Ukrainians have argued that these will be much more effective, Jake. These cluster munitions, they're called DPICMs. They are fired from an artillery cannon. They're 155 millimeters. They are much more lethal than your standard 155 millimeter shell.

And so, Ukrainians have said that they'll be much more effective against those Russian troops at a very critical moments, in this counteroffensive, which is progressing quite slowly.

Now, it is interesting Jake, when we heard from the Biden administration, what they did emphasize was that it was a supply issue. They acknowledged that they'd be more effective, but right now, the Biden administration has been arguing that Ukraine has been running low on the more traditional artillery shells -- Jake.

TAPPER: Alex, do we know if Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy plans to actually go to Lithuania, to visit the NATO summit?

MARQUARDT: Not yet. There's a very good chance, but he hasn't announced yet. We just heard his nightly addressed. He did see that there will be a number of bilateral meetings by Ukrainian officials with European and NATO partners.

We know, of course, that there is a meeting of the NATO Ukraine council, the secretary general of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, said, that Zelenskyy would take park, not clear whether that means virtual or in person, he has been traveling quite a bit lately. So, there's a very good chance that he goes. But Zelenskyy has said firmly that he's not going to go just for fun. He wants some concrete results from this meeting, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Alex Marquardt in Kyiv, Ukraine, thanks so much.

Joining us now to discuss, the former deputy director of national intelligence, Beth Sanner. Also with us, Steve Hall, who was the former CIA chief for Russia operations.

Beth, President Biden said ahead of the summit that Ukraine should not be able to join NATO until the war is over, he also said that they're not ready. Multiple NATO officials told CNN that those comments were regrettable because they take away the focus from all the things that NATO has done from Ukraine and focused instead on what NATO is not doing for Ukraine.

Do you agree that that's a big distraction?

BETH SANNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes and no. I think that President Biden is known for sometime saying exactly what he's thinking. But let's also keep in mind that President Zelenskyy has said publicly that he does not expect Ukraine to join NATO until after the war, and what he's looking for are concrete steps.


But I get the point that by making that statement, you are distracting everybody from the fact that all of the things that need to be done at this summit in terms of creating that very concrete roadmap. And, you know, my concern is that they won't have enough detail in that plan.

TAPPER: Steve, do you think President Zelenskyy is going to go to the NATO summit and do you think that NATO leaders are going to make him any kind of assurances about Ukraine membership?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes and yes. I think that he will go. I think any assurances that are given to President Zelenskyy, especially the more meaty ones, the more serious ones, will probably be done behind closed doors because, of course, although Ukraine does have an official contact point with NATO, it's not a NATO member yet. If NATO's going to be a little bit careful in leadership I think is going to be cautious with regard to what they say publicly.

I mean, it is bureaucratically, I mean, and a dozer bureaucracy like any other large organization, and there are things that a country has to do to join. Those can be weighed, but it does not sound like NATO is there yet with regard to -- with regard to Ukraine at this exact moment. liberty to discuss this with Ukraine at this moment.

TAPPER: Steve, this meeting comes on the heel of the failed mutiny in Russia by the Wagner mercenary group. How closely do you think Putin is watching what happens in Lithuania? And how -- how remarkable do you think it is that this is kind of just been swept under the rug and disappeared? This major uprising, they disappeared in a matter of a day or two?

HALL: Yeah. So, I think there's no doubt that Putin is going to be watching what happens in the NATO summit very carefully, because NATO's always a big thing for him. It's probably his number one threat besides perhaps the United States itself.

But, I mean, you know, if you had told, you know, Beth and I when we worked together many years ago in the CIA, hey, this is what's going to happen, this warlord is going to almost make it to Moscow and that he's going to have a three-hour meeting, supposedly, if you believe what the Kremlin says with Putin after Putin called him a traitor -- I mean, it's just -- it's just crazy what's going on. I think what is going on, the reason that you're seeing that is because Putin is really concerned with regard to Prigozhin, with regard to the sport that he got and perhaps with regard to the elite inside the Kremlin who's watching all of this and wondering about Putin and his long term viability.

TAPPER: And, Beth, obviously, it's not just the Ukraine that wants to join NATO. What do you make of the announcement just moments ago that Turkey is doing an about-face and it is going to support Sweden's bid to join the NATO alliance.

SANNER: I mean, is this not fascinating? In the call yesterday with President Biden -- between President Biden and President Erdogan, Erdogan has been, you know, negotiating, essentially quid pro quos even though no one says it out loud. F-16s, other guarantees, this really is not about Sweden. This is about the United States and Turkey and Turkey's role.

He played his hand too hard by putting in the E.U. membership on the table. I think -- you know, he really wants to be seen by NATO as the person who comes in and saves the day, not as the spoiler. And all of a sudden, he played his hand a little bit too much and he started looking like the spoiler. And I think he had to back off.

So, here we are. And it's a really good day, but there are real complications coming up right now between Erdogan and Putin. That will have to be worked out.

TAPPER: Yeah. Beth Sanner, Steve Hall, thanks to both of you for your expertise.

And coming up, the deadline Donald Trump faces today in a classified documents prosecution against him, and the legal pushback from the man, his right-hand man, accused of hiding his boxes in Mar-a-Lago.

Plus, the strong opinions about Trump tearing apart the united front of Republicans in the House of Representatives.

And how comedian Sarah Silverman is taking on artificial intelligence in a new lawsuit.



TAPPER: In our law and justice lead today, today is the deadline for former President Donald Trump and his aide Walt Nauta to suggest a trial date in that classified documents prosecution. The Justice Department has asked for the trial to begin in mid-December.

Let's turn to some of the most informed voices on everything in Trump legal world, we have with us Kaitlan Collins, CNN anchor of "THE SOURCE", which premiers tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN; former federal prosecutor Elie Honig, and, of course, "The New York Times'" Maggie Haberman.

So, Kaitlan, I mean, I don't even know who to start with because it's like a bounty of brilliant people, but I'll start with you. The deadline comes as we're hearing special counsel Jack Smith investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election results could be coming to a close.

What are you hearing about that timeline?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, it's not totally clear to anyone, I think, especially the attorneys of the people who may very well be indicted and this investigation, when this is actually going to happen. But people are bracing for it, it's something that they're kind of every day trying to read the tea leaves to see what's going to happen.

I think the reason they think it's going to happen in the near future, however you define that, is because there's been a lot of activity within his office, he has been bringing people in. The people who --

TAPPER: Jack Smith has been bringing people, yeah.

COLLINS: And with very aggressive deadlines. They don't -- they're not allowing people to delay or come in later or postpone. It's a very quick turnaround of what they want to hear from people.

And so, I think it's raising questions of what this is going to look like, and of course what he's asking the people who are coming in about, which are key moments here with the fake electors, that crazy Oval Office meeting. Those are all the things that they believe it could be the end of the investigation.

TAPPER: So, you and I go way back when it comes to that the December 18th Oval Office investigation --


TAPPER: -- because you and I talked -- right after you found out about it, you and I spoke on the phone and you are really worried because there are these powerful people talking about unconstitutional things, marshal law, seizing the voting machines.

So, we know that special counsel Jack Smith is now looking into the meeting.

How might this play into the investigation?

HABERMAN: In a couple of ways, Jake. I mean, I think one way is that they're looking at Trump's mindset for one. The fact that meeting took place a couple of hours before. You know, the meeting ended without him signing any of these executive orders that were not -- special counsel, Sidney Powell, and to use the government apparatus to do so.


None of these orders were drafted by his White House.

It ended without him taking action on, that but it let -- it was a couple of hours before he first tweeted, you know, come to this rally on January 6.

TAPPER: On January 6.

HABERMAN: Will be wild.

TAPPER: Will be wild, yeah.

HABERMAN: So, on his mindset, is how he wanted to use the government, and was thinking about using the government.

But we don't know exactly what might come of it. We do know from a number of people who live have been interviewed, to Kaitlan's point, a bunch of folks have been, there has been a focus on the lawyers, there's been a focus on Sidney Powell in particular, who was in that meeting.

And because there are so many tentacles of this January 6th investigation, this is not the documents case which was a discreet fact set. This was very different, and it could play out in different ways.

TAPPER: And, Elie, let's talk about that, because if he does -- if special counsel Jack Smith does indict Donald Trump on this, in the January 6 investigation, how on earth the courts manage three different indictments you have in the hush money case in New York, you have in the classified documents case, you also have January 6th and then also potentially the Georgia election meddling.

I mean, how does the court system even begin to maneuver this?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, we used this unprecedented quit a bit. I've never heard or seen anybody who has been under three different indictments, if we get one more, never mind four, from four different jurisdictions at the same time. This will be a mess.

TAPPER: Right, because classified documents is in Florida and January 6th would theoretically be in D.C.

HONIG: Right. And that we would have state -- we have the state charge here in Manhattan. And what I think is going to happen -- some of this could play to Donald Trump's advantage because his best defense here, his best strategy is delay. You can't -- we will not try three or four cases between now and the election. I think it's not even 100 percent certain that we would try one of them.

And, ultimately, can't these prosecutors get together and prioritize? Because I think we can all agree, anyone can agree, if you take the allegations as true, January 6th is the most important.

TAPPER: Right.

HONIG: The documents are second. And Alvin Bragg's case is far, far behind, yet he's the only one who has a concrete trial that he's really taking up the prime trial real estate now in March and April. They can coordinate but there's no indication they have on that.

TAPPER: On the classified documents case, today, the special counsel Jack Smith accused Trump aide Walt Nauta of trying to delay, specifically saying his lawyer wasn't prepared for this hearing scheduled for Friday because his lawyers are going to be in D.C. What do you make of this?

HONIG: Delays is a strategy. Delay is the strategy here. Every step of the way, Donald Trump and Walt Nauta, two defendants, are going to drag their feet and delay and kick --

TAPPER: Is that normal, though? Is that -- yeah.

HONIG: Yes. We used to say it's like trying to put a toddler to bed, right? Delay, delay, delay, drag it out. But it's a strategy here, and this is just a proceeding to discuss how the proceeding is going to go. And yet, even so, Walt Nauta is saying one of my lawyers is out of town, let's push it off.

DOJ is right to push back, and I think the judge is going to reject the effort to postpone here.

TAPPER: And, Kaitlan, the deadline the Trump legal team is facing today to tell the court their preferred timeline for this trial date. What do you think Trump's strategy will be when it comes to selecting a date? Because he can't obviously just delay it forever. That's not an option.

COLLINS: He would like it to be after the 2024 election and between up here -- between that and inauguration. I mean, they in their minds think this is not going to happen before the 2024 election. Now, whether or not Judge Cannon goes along with that, that is the wildcard here, to see what that looks like.

Obviously, Jack Smith has proposed to stay of a December trial date. They don't think it's going to happen then but they will try to push it. But, I mean, we just sent out, the Iowa caucuses are going to be on January 15th.

TAPPER: Right.

COLLINS: So, it's all of those, you know, prime trial real estate was a great phrase but it's all of those competing factors but they are going to try to push it as far as they can.

TAPPER: So, Maggie, obviously, Trump is out there saying that every time he gets indicted, his poll numbers go up, and there is some validity to that. But in December, if there is this classified documents case begins there and let's just remember, this is a case that has been bashed by his former defense secretary, his former attorney general, his former chief of staff John Kelly and on and on and on, do you think that taking place one month before the Iowa caucuses could actually maybe hurt him?

HABERMAN: That's the big X factor to me, Jake. We have not seen a dynamic where he is having to face evidence being presented every day, witnesses testifying every day. It would also depend on how much it's breaking through, and how much voters care and what else is happening in the world.

But I do think it's an unknown. It's certainly something the other candidates who are competing against him in the Republican primary and in the Iowa caucuses are hoping will happen. They are hoping that this trial takes place before the caucuses. That is in some ways their best bet, because otherwise, I guess you have to explain to me what's going to stop him.

We don't know what's going to happen. Predictions are not of much value, as we know. But so far, it's two indictments and it has done nothing to shake his voters. So we'll see if an actual trial is a thing that does that.

TAPPER: If this all does get pushed to after the 2024 election, the more serious cases, not Alvin Bragg, and Donald Trump wins, can he just dismiss the special counsel -- I mean, like what happens legally?

HONIG: If this gets pushed beyond the election and he wins, they're all dead on the vine, all four of them, let's say, hypothetically. First of all, the federal cases, Donald Trump can either order his DOJ to dismiss those.


Or he can pardon himself. We don't know if that's constitutional. But the only way to challenge it is DOJ would have to indict him and then they litigate it, but it will be his DOJ at that point.

The two state cases we don't have any sort of case law on point, but I will just tell you, there is no possible chance that state level prosecutors will be permitted to try a sitting president. So this is all or nothing for him if he can get it pushed.

TAPPER: All right. Elie Honig, Maggie Haberman and Kaitlan Collins, thanks to all of you.

And don't forget to join Kaitlan tonight for the debut of her brand new show. It's called "the source". Her first guests include Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin of Virginian and Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville, who's holding up all those military promotions. That's tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

Coming up next, tension in one of the most secretive circles in Congress, the secret sessions, the hidden agendas. Is all the pressure reaching a boiling point?

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, the far-right House Freedom Caucus has been a perennial thorn in the side of Republican leadership forever. Most recently, 18 of its 20 members were among those who voted against Kevin McCarthy during January's protracted health speaker election, but as the group's membership has expanded, fractures have grown within the caucus over tactics, and Trump, and allegiances to House leadership. Those tensions boiling over last month with the expulsion of Republican firebrand Congressman Marjorie Taylor Greene.

CNN's Melanie Zanona is live for us on Capitol Hill.

Now, Melanie, what exactly led the group to push out Congresswoman Greene?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, Jake, it really boils down to the fact that Marjorie Taylor Greene has become such a close ally of Speaker Kevin McCarthy and the Freedom Caucus feels like this runs counter to the funding mission, which is to be a thorn in the side of leadership. But tensions have gotten so high, and they feel like they can't trust Greene to the point where I've been told that there is now this little subgroup that has been having this secret side meetings to talk strategy, because they didn't feel like they could trust Marjorie Taylor Greene to be in the room, and not essentially go tell on them to Speaker McCarthy about their tactics.

I want to read you what one of those members told me. They said, people don't feel comfortable talking in Freedom Caucus meetings because of Marjorie and others. So, the group is sort of broken up. The Freedom Caucus is not what it was when former Republican House Speaker John Boehner was in office.

And, indeed, the group has been struggling to find its footing, and find its real sense of purpose in the post-Trump years and since Republicans have taken the majority, they have been split over tactic, over strategy, and even over whether to support former President Donald Trump. And in the course of those reporting with my colleague Andy Greer, we learned that there's actually two Freedom Caucus members, Chip Roy and Ken Buck, who contemplated quitting the Freedom Caucus after the January 6th attack on the Capitol.

They were two members that were very vocal about not supporting Trump's effort to overturn the 2020 election. Now, they ultimately stayed in the group, but since then, they have become some of these Freedom Caucus members who have been deviating from the pack, and often find themselves doing their own thing.

So, just a lot of growing concern in the Freedom Caucus about the future of this group as they wrestle with their identity, Jake.

TAPPER: And we should note, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, who cofounded the caucus, and was the group's first chairman, he has also grown increasingly close to House leadership, Kevin McCarthy, and the like. Has he been spared from criticism?

ZANONA: It's a really interesting, because he has not been getting as many arrows as Marjorie Taylor Greene, in part because he is not as vocal about his ties to leadership, he isn't as vocally critical of some of those House Freedom Caucus colleagues, for not falling in line, but we have learned that behind the scenes, there has been growing resentment towards, even Jim Jordan, someone who has been a conservative staple on the right.

We're told that Bob Good, a conservative member of the Freedom Caucus, has been calling Jim Jordan a RINO, a Republican in name only, behind his back. And we're also told that Jim Jordan was one of the few Freedom Caucus members who actually supported keeping Greene in the Freedom Caucus. So, just some a more prominent examples of how the Freedom Caucus has really split -- Jake.

TAPPER: Melanie Zanona in the Capitol Hill for us, thanks so much.

For some insight, let's bring in former Republican congressman, CNN political commentator Adam Kinzinger.

Congressman, good to see you.

When you are in Congress, the House Freedom Caucus was at times an extremely powerful group, its members essentially forced Speaker John Boehner to resign back in 2015. They might even be more powerful now because McCarthy's margin is so slim four, five votes.

So, what do you make of all of this? The growing fractures within the caucus? Voting Marjorie Taylor Greene out because they can't trust here. They think that she's eyes and ears for Kevin McCarthy and all the rest.

ADAM KINZINGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You hate to see it, don't you? I mean, look, it's -- the irony of this is if you go back to when we had our broader conference meetings, and that's when the Republican members of Congress got together and talked strategy, it was always the freedom -- I call it the freedom club, the freedom club, or freedom caucus people that were the ones that would go out and tell the press, everything that happened in there.

And so, they were formed initially as -- their idea was we are going to get conservative policy by basically stopping everything short of whatever our goalpost is, and then moving that goalpost. I was a conservative that believed you don't legislatively terrorize, you actually keep the government running and try to advance as conservatively as you can in that context.

And so, there was a lot of stress and fracture. And now, what's happened is you have a party that's not based on principle anymore. I hate to say it, it's true.

It's not based on smaller government, it's based on whatever the outrage of the day is, or support for Donald Trump, and when you have a personality, or you have an institution based on nothing but kind of the whims of the moment, there is going to be fracture, because it turns into personalities, and it turns into fundraising. I think that's a lot of what you're seeing right now.

TAPPER: So, there's one conservative House lawmaker often aligned with the group who told CNN the Freedom Caucus's days are, quote, numbered. It's interesting that this individual would not go on the record, which shows the Freedom Caucus is still pretty powerful.

But do you agree with that basic idea that its days are numbered?

KINZINGER: Yeah, I think so, because it was founded for the sole goal of basically tanking stuff that they did not want to have happen. When you're in the majority, it's difficult to deal that because you either passed nothing, or you end up passing stuff that there is no way the rest of the country is going to support.

Well, when you are not based on principles, people are sitting around trying to kind of live their old days in high school, in essence in the early days of the freedom club, and instead it's become about how can we fund-raise? How can we create an outrage to raise money? By the way, a whole another conversation is about the fundraising problem in this country, and it turns into a personality conflict.

And when it's the House of Representatives, we all love to pretend that were the nicest people in the world, the truth is a lot of people in politics are killers, politically speaking. And it's hard to get along with somebody because you like them. So, that's what you're seeing now, is this kind of devolution of an interest in ideas, and kind of an evolution into fundraising, and personalities.

TAPPER: As you remember, no doubt, has Speaker John Boehner once referred to the Freedom Caucus as, quote, legislative terrorists. They basically forced his resignation since then. It's fair to say that their views, which were once considered far-right, have become much more mainstream within the Republican Party since Donald Trump took over the party at least.

How much do you think that explains what's going on with this group? The fact that, you know, they are basically the dog that caught the bus?

KINZINGER: I think there's a lot to that. I mean, I think, you know, I could go through, if we had a 20-minute segment, some of the dealings I had with them, and some of those areas. But overtime, particularly with -- keep in mind, a lot of these folks were against Donald Trump, until he became president. And they became his biggest allies.

And so, yeah, they ended up getting a lot of what they wanted, a lot of what they want is dysfunction. I'm not saying that to be mean, it's just true. They don't believe in the role of the federal government, they don't believe it should be doing anything at all really, or much of anything.

And so, now, they are sitting there basically with a speaker that frankly has been toeing the line with what they have been demanding. He gave a lot of concessions to become speaker. That's pretty obvious.

And so, now, it's like what's the purpose of this, you know? If the whole Republican Party, Republican caucus is now the freedom club, why do you need a freedom club? And so, I think that's a lot of what they're dealing with. And so, it will probably continue a name only. They will be the freedom -- FINOs, freedom club in only. I do think its days are limited.

TAPPER: Speaking of a name only, I mean, what do you make of the fact that members of the House Freedom Caucus are referring to Marjorie Taylor Greene and Jim Jordan as unreliable conservatives, one of them, I think it was Congressman Good, referring Jim Jordan as a RINO. I mean, these are MAGA stalwarts.

KINZINGER: Because, Jake, conservatism has no meeting anymore. People don't think I'm a conservative, but if I want to reluctantly of things that I believe, you'd see that I'm pretty center-right, I would consider myself a conservative.

But that doesn't matter anymore. What is now is an allegiance to Donald Trump, or whatever the outrage is. Maybe it's Disney today. Maybe it's Target today. Whatever that outrage is now what defines conservatism.

So, you know, Jim Jordan I think falls in line with that definition, and so does Marjorie Taylor Greene, but that's where the personality issue comes into play. Jim Jordan is his own person. He doesn't need the Freedom Caucus because he's famous and can raise money. Marjorie Taylor Greene is the same.

People are jealous of that and they also look and say, I don't need you guys anymore.

TAPPER: Interesting. Former Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, good to see you as always.

Coming up next, towns lost, properties destroyed, and now, at least one person has been killed. The havoc being wreaked in the Northeast of the United States of America, as some areas get the worst flooding they've seen in years.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our "Earth Matters" series, extreme and excessive flooding covering much of the Northeastern United States right now, especially parts of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, and the Hudson Valley just north of New York City.

The aftermath from Sunday severe storms, still pummeling these areas, swamping roadways, trapping drivers, forcing dozens of rescues. Search and rescue team say they've rescued at least 50 people just in Vermont today. That's your strength of these waters killing at least one woman in New York state who has swept away.

Meteorologists Chad Myers reports now for us on the dangerous rainfall that has put millions under flood alerts.


CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Deadly flooding drenches the northeast. Historic rainfall killing at least one person, dozens of others rescued from life-threatening floodwaters. Nearly 9 million people are under flood alerts right now, with more than eight inches of rain falling in a 24-hour period, in some parts of New York. Homes inundated with water in Rockland County.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look at the peoples doors.

MYERS: Just north in West Point, more than seven a half inches fell in just six hours on Sunday. That's a one in 1,000-year rainfall event for that area. According to CNN analysis of NOAA's data.

In Orange County, one woman was swept away by floodwaters.

STEVE NEUHAUS, ORANGE COUNTY EXECUTIVE: She was in the bottom of a ravine.

MYERS: Their county executive says that emergency service has conducted 50 significant water rescues, and right now, there are no reports of anyone missing.

NEUHAUS: I saw army active duty soldiers up to their bellies.


We were walking to cars to make sure that people got out.

MYERS: Eighty-year-old Richard Beyers says this is some of the worst flooding he's ever seen. He was rescued by boat from his home on Sunday.

RICHARD BEYERS, NEW YORK RESIDENT RESCUED IN FLOOD: I'm just depressed and sad, that this is happening. I knew I was going to lose a lot of stuff.

MYERS: People being forced from their homes and cars all across the Northeast.

Reading, Pennsylvania, shattering its 70-year-old daily rainfall record by nearly two inches.

Vermont also hit incredibly hard, and it's still raining.

The state's search and rescue coordinator declaring some towns inaccessible Monday afternoon.

MIKE CANNON, VERMONT URBAN SEARCH AND RESCUE TEAM: We have stiff daughter team in that area trying to gain access so we can continue doing welfare checks.

MYERS: At least 19 people were rescued, and two dozen more were evacuated as flash flooding continues in the state.

Neighboring Massachusetts sending their emergency task force members to help out.

GOV. PHIL SCOTT (R), VERMONT: It's going on for days and that's my concern.


MYERS (on camera): There is more, Jake, there is more rain falling right now. I know that seems inconceivable to the people up here, that have dealt with this now for 36 hours. Burlington getting the heaviest rainfall right now, and that's not going to stop. This is almost nor'easter type weather with wind coming in off the ocean blowing in more humidity, blowing in more rain. It is not snow, this is a significant flash flood event for the northeast -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Chad Myers, thank you so much.

Comedian Sarah Silverman says artificial intelligence is ripping her off. Her new lawsuit against two tech giants is next.



TAPPER: In our tech lead today, comedian Sarah Silverman is taking on two tech giant. She's suing Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, plus OpenAI. That's the maker of ChatGPT.

Silverman says they used her words, without her approval. This could open the door to a potential major challenge to the future of artificial intelligence. Sara Fischer is the senior media reporter at "Axios" and a CNN media


Sara, how could this present a serious legal challenge to the content used by A.I. tools? Explain what's going on here.

SARA FISCHER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Yeah, Jake, so when you take a look at some of these big artificial intelligence platforms, they need to train their algorithms off of something. Now, typically, they are going after large data sets, that's why you've seen companies like Reddit and Twitter try to lockdown some of their data.

In this case, Sarah Silverman and two other authors are alleging that Meta and OpenAI, which is the company that is the parent to ChatGPT, leverage data sets that included their works. Meaning, it included their books without their permissions. They also say that when they presented summaries of their books to users, they didn't explain any of the copyright information.

Now, it's a big deal, Jake, because if these big companies are found legally liable for illegally using some of this information, it will dramatically change how they can train their algorithms to make this stuff useful to everyday consumers like you and me. The challenge though, of course, is that long term, we are going to have to see so many of these court cases play out in order to understand really to what extent they're battling copyright law or not.

TAPPER: So the head of OpenAI has said that their company is working on ways that A.I. is using their material, or your style that you'll get paid for that, it's not practical though?

FISCHER: Well, if we can come up with some sort of legal liability framework, then, yes, it would be practical. You know, if you think about other industries, let's take music for example, we do have third-party sort of payment processors that can dictate how artists get paid when various tech platforms through music. There could be ways in which these types of OpenAI companies can't figure out ways to pay various artists, publishers musicians, et cetera, for their work when they're being used to trying their algorithms, and, in fact, a lot of news companies already having those conversations with A.I. platforms.

But those terms have not yet been set. And so, in the interim, that's what gives people like Sarah Silverman and various authors and musicians sort of a legal, you know, framework to be able to sue these companies, because they have not yet gotten paid.

TAPPER: I'm also reminded of when the digitalization of whole libraries by Google. Google would digitize libraries. And that's different in the sense that they're not stealing, they're not plagiarizing. But is that relevant at all to this?

FISCHER: You can learn from instances in the past and how we've come up with other models to train algorithms. I mean, artificial intelligence is becoming more advanced, but it's not entirely new. What's difference here, and what Sara Silverman and these other authors are alleging is that not only did you find our works, and digitize them, but you summarize them without our permission. You did not disclose to anybody that these are copyright protected works.

I think in the future, we should expect to see a lot more lawsuits like that.

TAPPER: All right. Sara Fischer, fascinating, fascinating case.

Coming up next, what the Kremlin is saying, and not saying about that three-hour meeting that they say Putin had with Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin. Stay with us.



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

This hour, trying to take the zip out of the summer's hottest new energy drink. There are claims that a single can of prime has more than six times the amount of caffeine as one can of Coca-Cola. And teens, they're drinking it up, what every parent out there needs to know.

Plus, the Trump legal team facing a new deadline in the classified documents prosecution. How their legal maneuvers could have a major impact on 2024 presidential race.

But leading this hour, to be a fly on the wall in that meeting, if it actually happens, the Kremlin now says Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Wagner group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin just five days after the failed mutiny at the end of June that attempted to oust Russia's top military leaders. That meeting reportedly lasting three hours, including at least 30 top military commanders, the Kremlin says. Prigozhin's current whereabouts, however, are not publicly known.