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The Lead with Jake Tapper

NATO Statement: "Ukraine's Future Is In NATO"; Turkey Agrees To Back Sweden's NATO Deal; Georgia Jury That Could Indict Trump Sworn In; Dems Blast Tuberville for Blocking Military Nominations; PGA Tour Execs Explain the LIV Golf Deal; Catastrophic Flooding Swamps Vermont. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired July 11, 2023 - 16:00   ET



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: There was a TikTok video. Is it Instagram stuff?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Could be "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" dance videos?


SCIUTTO: I mean, these people, they've got very, you know?

BRIANNA KEILAR: Very popular.

SCIUTTO: Very popular taste, yes.

KEILAR: Well, I'm going to --

SANCHEZ: Pictures of bananas maybe.

KEILAR: Right? Probably maybe dancing bananas.

I'm going to tell my kids, listen, they don't want animals at the zoo watching X, Y, Z.

SCIUTTO: Exactly.

KEILAR: And you can't either.

SCIUTTO: And they're gorillas.

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER -- he's no gorilla -- starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The head of NATO insists Ukraine will become a member nation. Zelenskyy says, when?

THE LEAD starts right now.

Let me in -- the message from Ukrainian president who showed up at the NATO summit. Cheered on in a city square as he pushed to join the international alliance. His criticism about the process as Russian strikes were hitting his cities back home.

And will Donald Trump be indicted a third time? Today, a brand-new grand jury was selected to decide just that. While a different federal grand jury in D.C. is also hard at work.

Plus --


REPORTER: Do you believe that white nationalists are racist?

SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE (R-AL): Yes, if that's what racist is, yes.


TAPPER: It's not really a difficult question. What nationalists are racist, that's what the term means. And yet, Senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama keeps making a spectacle of himself and his struggle with trying to discuss this issue. He just gave yet another answer on the topic.


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

We start with our world lead and one of the most consequential gatherings for world powers in modern history, and a blow to Russian leader Vladimir Putin amid his bloody war on Ukraine, today the alliance reinvigorated by Turkey's about-face to make way for Sweden's membership, put out a carefully worded communique, announcing, quote, Ukraine's future is in NATO, unquote.

Despite that assurance, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is still demanding a clear timeline on his country's accession to the international group, as Russia launches strikes on at least three of the major cities in his home country.

CNN's Arlette Saenz is at the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, as the White House hails President Biden's role in the Turkey reversal as, as they see it, a legacy-making achievement.


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden arrived at the NATO summit, hoping to project strength through unity, but now, facing a major rift. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaking to a crowd of thousands.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Ukrainian battle flag --

SAENZ: Seeking a clear roadmap for his country to join NATO.

ZELENSKYY: I would like the summit to become a total assurance of decisions that we deserve. NATO will give Ukraine security. Ukraine will make NATO stronger.

SAENZ: NATO secretary general proposing a simplified entry process for Ukraine. But a communique from NATO allies tonight falls short of offering Zelenskyy any timeline to enter the alliance.

JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: We will issue an invitation for Ukraine to join NATO when allies agree and conditions are met.

SAENZ: Zelenskyy put NATO allies on blast in a tweet, stating, it's unprecedented and absurd when timeframe is not set neither for the invitation nor for Ukraine's membership. Uncertainty is weakness.

President Biden came into the summit saying Ukraine was not ready to join NATO, as Russia's war rages on, and said the country still needs to meet democratic reforms.

JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: I can't put a timetable on it. This is about the substance of democratic and security federal phones and getting this right. And of course, that in many ways turns on the particular steps that are taken.

SAENZ: The president walking a diplomatic tightrope on Ukraine. While at the same time, celebrating Sweden's expected acceptance into NATO, a move Turkey was blocking.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Defense with close allies in NATO, and I hope we can make it even be stronger.

SAENZ: A victory for Biden and his allies, resulting from months-long behind the scenes work.

BIDEN: You made all the more historic by the agreement you reached yesterday in the admission of Sweden.

SAENZ: Only achieved, CNN has learned, after a critical diplomatic effort centered around a pair of old Senate colleagues, brokering a tenuous deal on selling F-16 fighter jets to Turkey.

In turn, Turkey stood aside, and Sweden expected to ascend to the alliance. The White House hoping the NATO expansion will send a message to Russia.

SULLIVAN: Rumors of the death of NATO unity were greatly exaggerated. Vladimir Putin has been counting on the West to crack, NATO to crack, transatlantic alliance to crack. He has been disappointed in every turn.



SAENZ (on camera): And President Biden tonight is skipping a leaders' dinner here in Vilnius, sending Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in his place instead. It is the third time the president has either left a dinner earlier skip it entirely at one of these summits. The White House says that it's in part so he can prepare for a major speech tomorrow. And the president also has that face to face meeting with Zelenskyy on deck for tomorrow, as they're trying to show further support for Ukraine amidst the war against Russia -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Arlette Saenz in Vilnius, Lithuania, traveling with President Biden, thank you so much.

We are getting some new insight now into the back channel diplomacy that got Turkey to finally agree to admit Sweden into NATO. A lot of it had to do with getting members of Congress on board with a plan for the U.S. to sell F-16 fighter jets to Turkey.

Let's get right to CNN's Kylie Atwood at the State Department for this part of the story.

So, Kylie, tell us more about this pressure campaign targeting certain lawmakers.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, what we're learning, Jake, is that there was an intensive effort by U.S. diplomats over the course of the last few months, really led by the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, Jeff Flake, who went up to Congress multiple times. He went one time with the U.S. ambassador to Greece, because there's also an arms sale being considered for the U.S. to give Greece F-35s, while they are also considering the potential sale of F-16s to Turkey, which had been held up by Congress.

What they were trying to do, meeting with members of Congress, was figure out how they could get Congress to a yes in terms of supplying these expect him to Turkey, which turkey was making pretty clear it needed an order for them to move forward and give the greenlight to Sweden to join NATO.

Now we have seen Turkey obviously move forward on the question of NATO and Sweden, but what we are watching to see now is what happens with this F-16's effort. And we know this has been a major focal point for the Turks. And what we are hearing from U.S. officials right now, is they are watching for tomorrow is a meeting between the prime minister of Greece, who is one of the original allies that has been at odds with Turkey, and the Turkish president who are going to essentially come to some sort of agreement, we understand it from U.S. officials, that are going to assuage the concerns of Senator Menendez who currently has a hold on the F-16s from the U.S. to Turkey -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Fascinating stuff. Kylie Atwood at the State Department for us, thank you so much.

Let's bring in Republican Congressman Mike Waltz of Florida. He's on the intelligence committee, the Armed Services Committee, the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Also a colonel in the Army National Guard and a combat decorated Green Beret.

Yeah, that's so much introduction to you, we're almost out of time, Congressman.


TAPPER: So, let me ask you, does NATO's reluctance to admit Ukraine right away, NATO is not doing it right away, does that give Putin a great light in any way to continue the war, do you think?

WALTZ: No, I don't think so, Jake. I think, actually, it's -- it's the right call. I would not be in favor of bringing Ukraine into NATO right now for a couple of reasons. Number one, they are actively in a war. So, as soon as they are in NATO, that triggers Article Five and that pulls in not only U.S. troops but all NATO member troops into the war with Russia, with a nuclear power.

But number two, I'm not in favor of expanding NATO any further beyond Finland and Sweden, who, by the way, both contribute more than 2 percent to their national defense, until the rest of NATO gets its act together. I mean, right now, we are sitting at nine out of the 32, including the two new members, only nine out of the 32, Jake, contribute 2 percent of their GDP, which they all pledged to do a decade ago.

So, look, at the end of the day, we cannot continue -- the U.S. taxpayer cannot continue to subsidize European defense. They are having their cake and eating it too. The U.S. is paying for defense, they are paying for their social programs.

And then finally, you know, every member has to be able to contribute to the collective defense of all others. And, obviously, Ukraine is not able to do that right now.

TAPPER: Right.

WALTZ: They are not able to contribute to the defense of others. So, I think it's the right call for them.

TAPPER: Yeah. So, you've endorsed president -- former President Trump in his 2024 bid. President Trump is insisting he's going to end the war in Ukraine within 24 hours if he is elected. I'm not trying to be snarky here, I'm legitimately curious, has he shared this strategy to end it in 24 hours with you?

WALTZ: No, Jake, he hasn't. And I don't think it would take President Trump literally on that timeline. But I think what he is speaking to is there are other ways that we can drive this war to some type of peaceful conclusion.

For example, you know, why aren't we flooding the international market with American oil and gas? It drives down the price of oil. It's cleaner gas than Russian gas. Let's starve Putin of the resources that he has, rather than allowing China -- keeping the price high, allowing China to purchase Russian oil and gas, and then exhausting our own stockpiles to fight at the other end of it.

So I think what President Trump is getting to, a lot of people are saying, what does success look like? A blank check, as long as it takes, is not a strategic. And another endless war is not something the United States can afford.

You know, let's drive this effort, as the leader of NATO, as the leader of the free world, to some type of conclusion.

TAPPER: Uh-huh. I want to ask you about what is going on in the military right now, because the Pentagon is trying to increase pressure on your fellow Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama. He has single-handedly holding all promotions, all senior military nominations because he objects to the Pentagon policy of paying for service members who want to go to another state if they want to be able to get an abortion. And obviously, a lot of people in the Pentagon, a lot of people in the national security community are saying this is literally putting the U.S. readiness and national security at risk.

Would you like him to drop the hold on all these promotions?

WALTZ: You know, Jake, you are skipping over there that the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee in Congress and many others practically begged the Pentagon not to politicize this issue of abortion, not to dive the Pentagon head long into it. They're paying for the travel and paying for the lodging of military members to travel wherever they want to go, wherever they think the state laws are most favorable.

I mean, they really should not have politicized this issue. And, oh, by the way, it's illegal with the Hyde Act. So, that's -- that's his issue.

Look, I think that right now, yes, we have an acting commandant of the Marine Corps. He is doing the job. We need to resolve this issue, and it's a broader issue of the Pentagon, basically, saying to service members, if you don't like state law, whether it's on abortion, maybe it's on the Second Amendment, maybe on some other issue, education policy that you don't think is favorable, then we will relocate you or we'll pay for you to go somewhere else. And I -- that is a Pandora's box that I wish this Pentagon hadn't opened.

TAPPER: Yeah, the Hyde Amendment says that you can't use federal funds to pay for abortion. It doesn't say anything about a travel.


WALTZ: Wait, timeout. These are federal funds. This is -- this is-- these are federal funds. They are appropriated dollars to the Pentagon, out of the Pentagon's defense budget, that they are paying for travel and paying for lodging in unlimited numbers. There's no cap on it.

That is a direct violation of the Hyde Amendment. I mean, there's just no question about it. And the Pentagon is essentially shrugging their shoulders at the law.

TAPPER: I don't think that is correct about the Hyde Amendment, but I don't think you and I -- I don't think you and I are going to resolve that right now. But I take your point about the Pandora's box.

Republican Congressman Mike Waltz, thank you so much for your time. And as always, thank you for your service. Good to see you.

WALTZ: All right. Hey. Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: With cameras rolling today, a jury was selected in Fulton County, Georgia. What we know about the group to likely consider yet another indictment against Donald Trump.

Then, some of the power players behind the PGA partnership with Saudi- backed LIV Golf. Why they claimed today they had no choice but to strike the deal with the group that today had involved -- previously described as shady.

Plus, the fear in parts of America's Northeastern United States as swollen rivers of flood more towns.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our law and justice lead today, you are watching a judge in Fulton County, Georgia, swearing in 26 members of a grand jury. They will soon be tasked with a monumental decision. Whether to hand a former president his third indictments in as many months, and it was -- it would be a Georgia indictment.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis launched an investigation in early 2021 after Mr. Trump and his allies tried to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia.

CNN's Nick Valencia is live for us in Atlanta.

Nick, explain exactly what this new grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, will do and when we could expect any possible charges or announcement that there won't be any charges?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, here in Fulton County, two grand juries were seated today. One of them will be given the historic task of deciding whether or not to bring state charges against the former president and some of the biggest names in his orbit. This grand jury will have evidence gathered by the special purpose grand jury in their many months of work for District Attorney Fani Willis in their evidence gathering. They had subpoena power and heard from 75 witnesses, which included White House aides, former Trump advisor, Georgia officials, after they finished hearing the witnesses, they took charging documents to the district attorney here, Fani Willis.

Fani Willis will now take those charging recommendations to this grand jury that were seated today, one of them, and try to pursue criminal indictment against the former president and some of those in his orbit.

What's really interesting about these grand juries, Jake, is not only over the course of the next two months will they meet twice a week, but they're going to be hearing ordinary criminal cases from Fulton County. But eventually, Fani Willis will take that Trump case to them and they are going to have to decide, whether or not to pursue indictments.

As far as timeline, we anticipate a decision on a potential indictment will come as early as August -- Jake.

TAPPER: Meanwhile, Trump is also facing these federal charges, in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case.


How is he planning to fight those charges?

VALENCIA: Well, he is fighting them, indeed. And that's probably not a surprise to many people, along with his codefendant, Walt Nauta. They are asking for a delay in this until after the presidential election, saying that there's really just no way to see an impartial jury while the presidential campaign is underway -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Nick Valencia, thank you so much.

Coming up next, what Senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama told CNN late this afternoon about what nationalists, after many, many, many differing answers that he's had on the subject of white nationalists.



TAPPER: Topping our politics lead today, President Biden's nominee could be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force General C.Q. Brown, testified today before members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, as he seeks confirmation to become the nation's highest ranking military officer.

But, Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama is currently holding up the nominations of more than 200 senior military officials, non-political positions, including the nominee to the head the Marine Corps, which is now left without a Senate confirmed leader for the first time in 164 years.

All of this leads in doubt when a confirmation vote for General Brow will actually take place.

Current chairman, General Mark Milley, must leave his post at the end of September.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is live for us in the Pentagon.

Oren, what do we know about whether Tuberville is planning to hold up this nomination of C.Q. Brown to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs, as well, in addition to all of the other flag officers?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, from what we've heard from Senator Tommy Tuberville today and over the last couple of days, certainly added General Charles Q. Brown or C.Q. Brown to this long list and growing list of nominations that are on hold because of Tuberville.

And that creates a situation in the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where you don't have a Senate confirmed chief. The vice chairman will step in as the acting chairman. C.Q. Brown is in this sort of limbo. He will no longer be the air force chief of staff, and he can't yet be the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

So you have this problematic position. Tuberville has insisted there is no risk of the national security and will not affect military readiness, that's despite Brown himself saying it will affect readiness. General Eric Smith, who is the nominee to be the commandant of the Marine Corps, as you just mentioned, has said it will affect readiness. As has Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, said that just yesterday.

Brown was asked about the effects on the military and he went on quite a bit at length about the different ways in which this hurts the military. First, it backs up the entire promotion process. It creates a tremendous amount of uncertainty for families who are trying to figure out if and when they will move. And then he talked about the question of retention, and how it affects that.


GEN. C.Q. BROWN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN NOMINEE: We have more junior officers who now look up and say, that this is the challenges that we may have to deal with in the future, I mean, I'm going to balance between my family and serving in a senior position. And we will lose talent, because of those challenges.


LIEBERMANN: Tuberville says the Senate can vote on these one at a time. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer hasn't wanted to go in that direction.

First, it would take months to go through this list of 200-plus senior military officers and counting. And second, he doesn't want to normalize this block that you see from Tuberville -- Jake.

TAPPER: What are you learning about how the Pentagon is planning to increase pressure on Tuberville? I was asking a Republican member of the House Armed Services Committee earlier today, earlier on the show, Congressman Mike Waltz, who did not seem particularly sympathetic to the Biden administration on this issue.

LIEBERMANN: And that's part of the problem here, is how do you create pressure on Tuberville? There are the normal back channel conversations between legislative affairs staff here, and the Senate Armed Services Committee. The idea there, according to defense officials, is to try to put some pressure on Tuberville, but also to try to get Republicans to put pressure on Tuberville.

And then there's also a more public campaign. .DOD has essentially a list of affects on personnel, for military spouses leaving their jobs and waiting to try to figure out where they can move to, children leaving schools and waiting to enroll at other schools, so there are human effects, and that is what DOD is trying to put out there to create a public awareness campaign around this, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon, thanks.

Let's talk more about this with CNN senior political analyst Nia- Malika Henderson, along with Kaitlan Collins, anchor of CNN's brand new 9:00 p.m. program, "THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS".

Kaitlan, we'll start with you. You made a lot of news last night, your interview with Senator Tuberville. He told you he's not going to stop the military confirmation hold up because the Senate could take up each of more than 200 nominations separately. But, as Oren just noted, that could take months.

And Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed specifically says the process to do that would take 688 hours, 84 eight-hour legislative days. So that's not really a serious counter proposal.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, and this isn't a Senate that we've seen has done a lot of work. I mean, they just had a two-week recess. They're about to go in a month-long recess in August. So, when they do have that time on the floor, they obviously don't plan to use it for something like this.

I think what's important here, Jake, is how this is causing a divide, even within Tuberville's own party, something that he has pushed back against. But his premise here on the idea of the Pentagon paying for the travel and the paid time off, not the actual service, I should note, is something that a lot of Republicans aren't in favor of.


This isn't a policy that you would likely see put in place, obviously, if Donald Trump was in office, or any other Republican.

But what they disagree with on their fellow senator here is the tactic that he's using, because we've seen senators before tried to protest, essentially, what a nominee or a policy by holding up a nominee. But typically, those are civil nominees. Those are political people.

These are military officers, who aren't getting their promotions because of this. And, the point that I made to Senator Tuberville last night was, it's not hurting Biden directly, or Defense Secretary Austin. It's hurting his families, because it affects the way they can move to different school districts, whether or not their spouses can accept new jobs, their pay raise.

Some of these officers, I should note, Jake, they are starting in an acting position in these new roles. They don't get backdated pay, so not going to get paid, even though they are doing a job under a different title right now.

TAPPER: Yeah, families that sacrificed for United States.

Nia, Kaitlan also pressed Senator Tuberville about his difficulty condemning white nationalism, which has been a months-long issue for the senator. Today, Senator Tuberville tried to clean up his messy interview with Kaitlan. Take -- take a listen.


SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE (R-AL): I'm totally against racism. And if Democrats want to say that white nationalists are racist, I'm totally against that, too.

REPORTER: But that's not a Democratic definition. The definition of white nationalists --

TUBERVILLE: Well, that's your definition. My definition of racism --

REPORTER: It is the definition.


REPORTER: The definition of --

TUBERVILLE: Next question. Next question.

REPORTER: -- the belief that white race is superior to all other races.

TUBERVILLE: Racism is totally out of the question.

REPORTER: So do you believe that white nationalists are racists?

TUBERVILLE: Yes, if that's what a racist is, yes.


TAPPER: Okay, boy, so that didn't cleared anything.

And just for those who are out there wondering. White nationalism is racism. It is the belief that whites are superior to other races. That's what it means, that's the definition. That's not a Democratic definition, that's the definition.

But after that, Senator Tuberville finally told our Manu Raju, off camera, that white supremacists are racist.

Now, Nia-Malika, this is a 68-year-old white man who's lived almost his entire life in the South. Do you find it credible, that he actually is having difficulty with the definition of this? Or, is there something perhaps more nefarious going on?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Listen, you know, when I saw this interview last night with Kaitlan Collins, it really reminded me of something Donald Trump did, when he sort of feigned ignorance around the Proud Boys, feigned ignorance around David Duke. Supposedly, he didn't have any idea who David Duke was, or what he stood for. This is when he was running for president.

So, what I think Tommy Tuberville is up to, is sort of trying to mainstream white nationalist ideology, mainstream the term white nationalism. So, in that interview, it sort of confusing because on the, one hand he says listen, racism is bad. White nationalism, if you want to call it that, that's not great.

So, but I think that's what he's up to. And listen, this is part of a long tradition, I think particularly among white Southerners of a certain age, a sort of downplaying racism in the South, downplaying racism in America, downplaying a racist themselves, and so there he is. He seems to suggest that white nationalist are just sort of ordinary white Americans, who love their country.

So, listen, again, I don't think it's by accident that he is doing. It I think it's something that really has led to, for instance, Nick Fuentes being a headliner at a college Republican convention. Nick Fuentes dining with Donald Trump, this kind of mainstreaming of white nationalism ideology, it's something obviously that I think we see increasingly among conservatives, among the alt-right. And I think that's what he's up to, even as he walks it back.

It's almost too late, because he's been at this kind of mainstreaming, and watering down this term for many, many months.

TAPPER: We'll, and then, Kaitlan, take a listen to what Senator Tuberville said last October, at a rally about Democrats.


TUBERVILLE: What some people say, well, they're soft on crime. No, they're not soft crime, they are pro-crime. They want crime.

They want crime, because they want to take over what you've got. They want to control what you have. They want reparations, because they think the people who do the crime are owed that, bullshit. They are not owed that.


TAPPER: So, just to be pretty clear here, Senator Tuberville, in addition to falsely saying that Democrats want crying, that's a quote. They want crime, they want reparations. That is the discussion on whether descendants of slaves should be paid reparations. They want reparations, because they think the people that do the crime, are owed that.

That is, Kaitlan, the most abjectly racist statement I have heard from a U.S. senator in my life.


COLLINS: And can I say something about this? You know, I was actually looking into Tuberville's past comments, when we were getting prepared to interview him last night, and obviously, he was before he was a U.S. senator, he was a football coach. He was on Ole Miss in the '90s. And there was a story about how he played a pretty significant role, according to people who were there at the time, and getting the student body, when they came to games, to stop waving around the Confederate flag, as they were doing in the '90s. He was talked about how it hurt recruiting efforts, how Black families were coming on recruiting visits to the school. And that was affecting it, he said.

And, he kind of made a comment last night, also to me saying, as he was saying I don't believe in racism, I don't like racism, while also not, you know, denouncing white nationalists, and saying they don't belong in the U.S. military. He made a comment saying, that he has spent more time amount minorities than almost anyone else on Capitol Hill, referencing his days as a football coach. Obviously, there are many people, lawmakers on Capitol Hill, who would take issue with that, Jake, for obvious reasons.

I just think it's notable to go from a moment like that in the '90s, where he's going and asking the students to do this, to then defending those comments. And you can see how he was being pressed by Rachel Scott earlier today, and how he kind of snap at her when he was elaborating. And she was pressing him, to just stay clearly his views on this.

TAPPER: Right, but, of course, not wanting a Confederate flag flown because it hurts recruiting efforts to your football team, is not the same thing is not wanting the Confederate flag flown --

COLLINS: No, it's just -- yeah.

TAPPER: -- because it's a flag representing treason, traitors, and racism.

COLLINS: Yeah, it's just an interesting, the evolution of those comments, and where he is now. And of course, what he said last fall as well.

TAPPER: Kaitlan, Nia-Malika, thanks so much.

And you should always join Kaitlan, tonight 9:00 p.m., on "THE SOURCE". Her guest this evening, former vice president, current Republican presidential candidate Mike Pence. That is tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

Next here on THE LEAD, top PGA execs on Capitol Hill today, giving their reasoning for partnering with Saudi-backed LIV golf. A vocal critic of the deal was there to hear it, we're going to talk to her about what she heard, that's next.



TAPPER: In our sports league, top PGA tour officials were hauled to Capitol Hill today to answer questions about its so-called partnership with the Saudi -backed LIV golf. Officials told Senate lawmakers, they had no choice but to partner with LIV golf, and the Saudi government. They say to pretend a takeover.



RON PRICE, PGA TOUR CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER: Our players, and our charities win. I don't know that anyone is losing. I think it benefits all of our --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no individuals that are going to be losing, because of this financially.

PRICE: No, sir, because we are healing a fracture -- a fracture in professional golf.


TAPPER: This is, of course, more than about saving golf. It's about a lot of money. This deal involves the Saudi government. Despite the PGA tour's past criticism about the Saudi regime's record on human rights abuses, and the U.S. intelligence saying it was clearly Saudi crown prince and prime minister Mohammed bin Salman who gave the order to assassinate "Washington Post" journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the regime's record also, of course, includes allegations of complicity in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Let's bring in Terry Strada. She's a national chair for 9/11 Families United, and lost her husband Tom in the 9/11 attack.

Terry, good to see you as always.

So, you and your organization, you were there for today's Senate hearing. What was your response? What did you make of it?

TERRY STRADA, NATIONAL CHAIR, 9/11 FAMILIES UNITED: It was bizarre. It was really hard to sit there and watch Jimmie Dunne get trotted in to spew the Saudi talking points about how this is all for the good of the game of golf, it's good for world peace, is what he fell short of saying. And it was remarkable that he also said that some men did something on that day. That's how he described 9/11.

And he fails to understand, the role that the kingdom played in facilitating the attacks against this country. He said, they are Saudi nationals over in Saudi Arabia, that we don't want them to think Americans hate them.

Well, Mr. Dunne, we don't hate Saudi Arabian nationals. What we are trying to do is hold the kingdom, the Saudi government, the same House of Saul that was in power in 2001, is still in power today. And we need to hold him accountable for September 11th.

And this deal that they made, in the darkness of the night, they gave us no details today. They couldn't tell us anything about what's coming next. It was just very bizarre.

TAPPER: Yeah, it's not about the Saudi people, of course. The Saudi people are also victims of the Saudi regime, and their human rights abuses and oppression.

Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin today, defended the PGA Tour's position of negotiating this deal, with the Saudis. Let's play this, and here is his reasoning.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): But it would be grossly unfair to expect the PGA tour to bear the full burden of holding Saudi Arabia accountable. After all, anyone who drives a car or uses oil-based products just help fill the coffers of the Saudi public investment fund.


TAPPER: How do you respond to that? What do you make of that argument?

STRADA: Yeah, I was disappointed in that being an argument made against holding the kingdom accountable for September 11th. Yes, we do business with them on that level, with the oil. We all know that.

But that doesn't excuse what they did to us on September 11th. And we are not asking the PGAT to hold them accountable. We are asking them to stop allowing them to sports-wash away the sins that they committed on this country, and that they killed nearly 3,000 Americans on American soil. And that the PGAT is now giving him a much larger platform to wash away their sins.


And I think they have the nerve to say today that the governor of PIF, he just wants a membership at Augusta. I mean, that's what they're trading away? Our opportunity at accountability, is for membership to Augusta? They have a lot of nerve today, a lot of things they said on the Hill.

TAPPER: Listen to this comment from a board member of the PGA Tour 's governing body, who responded to allegations of Saudi's complicity in the 9/11 attacks. Take a listen.


DUNNE: If any person, had remotest connection to an attack on our country, and the murder of my friends, I am the last guy that would be sitting at the table.


TAPPER: What did you make of that?

STRADA: Again, he's missing the point. That possibly, the governor of PIF had nothing to do with 9/11. I don't know if that's true or not.

But we are talking about the government of Saudi Arabia, and that is who they are in bed with. Now that is who they are bringing into this country, and allowing them to take over golf.

They could take a stand against. They don't have to cave to the kingdom. But, they are so long and thinking that, if this governor had nothing to do with it, who I'm dealing with, had nothing to do it -- no, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the government officials were definitely involved in attacking us on 9/11. They set up the support network that was needed for the 19 hijackers to come here, and carry out the attacks. If he doesn't know that, he needs to be educated.

TAPPER: Terry Strada, as always, may your husband's memory be a blessing. Thank you so much for joining us.

STRADA: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up next, CNN is on the scene as an extreme flooding event is unfolding right now in the Northeastern United States.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our "Earth Matters" lead, extreme weather is slamming communities across the United States. Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas are suffering from sweltering temperatures. A series of strong storms have left other states, including Oklahoma and Vermont, in Upstate New York, reeling from flooding.

Scientists often blame climate change for more of these kinds of severe storms.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is in Vermont, where people say they've never seen anything like this.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Record rainfall, massive amounts of water inundating nearly the entire state of Vermont.

GOV. PHIL SCOTT (R), VERMONT: We are not out of the woods, this is nowhere near over.

MARQUEZ: Reservoirs, meant to control flooding, overflowing. North of the state's capital, the Wrightsville dam just inches from overflow. It could dump even more water into the already swollen Winooski River, receding slowly in some places, but other parts of the state, still on alert.

Downtown Montpelier, state street, a fast moving river completely impassable, with the water lapping at the state house lawn.

Water rescues continuing, over 100 so far. Jesus Garcia and his family were staying in an Airbnb. His family, their hosts, and the family dog Arly (PH evacuated.

You want to get out, there because you just weren't sure was going to happen?

JESUS GARCIA, VISITING VERMONT FROM TEXAS: We just saw how strong the current was. I mean, look at it. It's pretty strong. So, if they can knock a few branches off, imagine what it could do to our house. So, we are just playing it safe.

MARQUEZ: Right. You weren't sure if it was going to keep rising?

GARCIA: Yeah, we didn't know. We didn't know. Like I said, we're not -- we're not from here, so we did know what the weather is like. And yeah, it's been, I've never seen anything like this, it's pretty crazy.

BETSY HART, RESIDENT: All of the water was rising quickly, after being pretty tame most of the morning. And, all of the sudden, it was in the house.

MARQUEZ: Rainfall for weeks on end, saturating the state. As a result, the water only had one place to go, over land, washing away roads, causing massive property damage, and putting people like Don Hancock out of their homes.

And so, you are wet from head to toe without any shoes on. I mean --

DON HANCOCK, RESIDENT: It went down when I come across.

MARQUEZ: So, you lost your shoes getting across here?

HANCOCK: Yeah, I couldn't find the rope, so I took two heavy duty extension cords, tied them to their, and tied into the back of the truck.

MARQUEZ: Extreme weather, the new American and global normal. Oklahoma City drenched with life-threatening rainfall.

And flooding only the start, extreme heat baking other parts of the country. Yesterday, temperature alerts affecting more than 40 million people, from California to Florida.


MARQUEZ (on camera): So, I am on Bailey Street in Montpelier, and it was a little difficult to get. Here the water is still up to about my waist. Here I have a live camera here, I want to show you what it's going to look like it's going to be a lot of mud.

This stuff is incredibly thick, very, very silty mud, six maybe 12 inches in some places. And then, lots of debris. That's the Winooski River there, and just massive amounts of debris, everything from lots of lots of trees to refrigerators, and lots of building material.

Jake, it's going to be a long time before they clean this one up. Back to you.

TAPPER: Oh, that's just devastation everywhere you look.

Miguel Marquez, thank you so much.

And just in, a new development in one of the monumental cases this, monumental murder cases of the 20th century, after five decades in prison, one of the loyal followers of Charles Manson, the so-called creepy crawlies, is finally free.

Plus, we'll tell you about the hazing scandal that led Northwestern University to fire its longtime head football coach. I'm going to talk to a former member of the team, and a student reporter, who helped break the story.



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

This hour, Northwestern University's head football coach fired after 17 seasons over hazing allegations. We're going to talk to a former player, as well as one of the student reporters who broke the story, detailing the alleged hazing rituals that allegedly involved sexual coercion.

Plus, one state has spent 20 billion of your tax dollars to try to fix a growing problem. But instead, the problem has gotten worse. How does that even happening?

And leading this hour, there is a brand-new grand jury being empaneled that could be tasked with whether to indict Donald Trump.