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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Biden: "Putin Has Already Lost The War" In Ukraine; Source: Sen. Tuberville And Secretary Austin Have Spoken After Tuberville Declined Initial Call From DOD; Secret Service Unable To Identify A Suspect Who Left Bag Of Cocaine Found In West Wing; China-Based Hackers Breach U.S. Government Emails; Pro-Trump Protesters File Suit Against Fox; U.S. Investigates Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired July 13, 2023 - 16:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Well, yeah, they have jaws that like crack seashells, so you don't want to mess around. That's why I think the people who see this otter, the otter has a rep, so they know.

And that little kid you saw him scooting away. He knows, don't mess with this thing.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: He knows, when they float upside down they hold hands.

KEILAR: So cute, aren't they?

SCIUTTO: There's that.

KEILAR: You know who else is cute? Jake Tapper.



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: After first declining to take the call, Senator Tuberville apparently found some time to talk to the secretary of defense today.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Might there be a breakthrough? After months of Tuberville blocking military promotions, the conversation happened today between Republican senator and the secretary of defense, as the secretary tells CNN, in an exclusive interview, this blockade by Tuberville has become a threat to national security.

And major questions for the Secret Service today as the agency says it's closing its case, and that they could not figure out who dropped a baggy of cocaine inside the White House.

Plus, one of California's premier hospitals facing a new federal civil rights investigation into its alleged treatment of pregnant Black women.


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. We're going to start with our world lead.

President Biden today made quite the bold statement about Putin's bloody war against Ukraine.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Putin's already lost the war. Putin has a real problem. How does he move from here? What does he do? There is no possibility of him winning the war in Ukraine.


TAPPER: He's already lost the war. That stunning assertion from Biden in the news conference in Helsinki, hot off the summit with NATO leaders. And as he reiterated, Ukraine's inevitable accession to the military alliance, Biden also declared there's no, quote, real prospect of Putin ever using nuclear weapons.

The president also weighed in with a pressing national security debate here in D.C., as I mentioned. Specifically, Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville's one-man hold on hundreds of military promotions of non- political flag officers, because Tuberville objects to a Biden Pentagon policy dealing with abortion.

Here was President Biden's response when asked about Tuberville's stance by CNN's Arlette Saenz in Finland's capital.


BIDEN: He's jeopardizing U.S. security with what he's doing. I expect the Republican Party to stand up.


TAPPER: At the same time that a top Marine Corps leader and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and nearly 250 other top military nominations are on hold, Russia's top generals are starting to drop like flies. One presumed dead, one mysteriously, quote, resting, and another canned -- all just in the past week.

Joining us now to discuss, the politics surrounding the military backlog, CNN's Kaitlan Collins and Manu Raju.

Kaitlan, there have been a few twists and turns on the story involving the senator from Alabama today.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, quite a bit of phone tag, if you will, Jake. Obviously, Defense Secretary Austin was with President Biden overseas at this incredibly important NATO summit. He was asked by Wolf Blitzer about this hold that Senator Tuberville has put in place, single-handedly, on these more than 200 military nominations, which are having a great effect on the Pentagon, according to Secretary Austin, and military readiness overall.

And so, after that conversation, I was told that Secretary Austin's office reached out to senator Tuberville's office, given he had been complaining that he had not heard anything from the White House, from President Biden or from Secretary Austin. Well, they reached out. They try to schedule a call, and what they were told, according to my source, that Senator Tuberville did not have time to speak to Secretary Austin today, or over the weekend. Of course, that is something that was a great frustration to the Pentagon, given they were trying to set up the call, that Senator Tuberville said, so clearly, he wanted.

He said they are not spoken since February -- the Pentagon says, they had a conversation back in March. But there is been staff level engagements since then over his protest of their policy. It was about an hour after that, Jake, they did finally connect on the phone, we are told. Secretary Austin and Senator Tuberville have spoken. They are expected to talk again next week.

What's important here, this is not changed Senator Tuberville's position right now. He is still very much placing this hold on these promotions at this time.

TAPPER: Manu, you also caught up with the senator from Alabama in the capital. What did he have to say?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, he was unmoved by President Biden's criticism. President Biden accused Senator Tuberville of jeopardizing national security. That is not the view of Senator Tuberville. He thinks that Democrats want to move each of these individual nominations, they certainly could, although they'll eat up very precious floor time in the United States Senate.

And he also indicated that he wants to talk to President Biden about ending this policy on abortions, the senator is trying to get rid of.



SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE (R-AL): Doesn't like anybody who wants to sit down and visit and work a problem out. It sounds like somebody wants to argue about, I'm not in this to argue. I'm just in this to try to be fair, and do what's right. There's no chance of changing my position if we don't sit down and visit.

RAJU: I mean, the Republicans, he said the way this ends, is Republicans need to put pressure on you to relent.

TUBERVILLE: That's not going to happen. You know, I've already told, that's not going to happen. I'm doing it for -- not for Republican Party, I'm doing it for Republicans and Democrats and citizens of this country.

Calling me names is not going to work it out. The president of the United States, I'm glad he knows who I am now. But communication is the best way for negotiations. And there's been none.


RAJU: The Pentagon policy that Tuberville is attacking would provide reimbursements for service members or their families, or traveling out of state, to get abortion procedures. This also has scrambled the politics in the House as well. The House is considering a must pass bill to authorize a national security programs, defense programs, Republicans want to try to kill that abortion policy, as part of this bill. If they do, that that would cost them critical Democratic support, some Republican support, and scuttle that effort as well.

So, this issue, Jake, scrambling the politics in both chambers, as the Pentagon and the White House raised major concerns about these moves.

TAPPER: All right. Great. Manu Raju and Kaitlan Collins, thanks for the update on that.

An d, Kaitlan, of course, we're going to look for you on your new show, "THE SOURCE", which airs tonight and every weekday -- weeknight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

Let's bring in CNN's Wolf Blitzer, anchor of "THE SITUATION ROOM", which airs immediately after this show.

Wolf, in an exclusive interview today, you pressed Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin about Tuberville's block on these 250 promotions.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": I mean, it was very, very, very blunt and suggesting that what the senator is doing is undermining U.S. national security. That it must stop. And there are so many, as you correctly point, out hundreds of senior military officers who have not yet been confirmed by the U.S. Senate. They need to be confirmed in order to move on and protect the nation's security.

Let me play a little clip of the exclusive interview I had earlier today with the secretary of defense, in which he laid out the stakes for U.S. national security. Listen to this.


LLOYD AUSTIN, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: This is a national security issue. We just talked about, we sat down a couple of minutes ago, what a complex environment this is, you know, around -- around the world, quite frankly. We see the tough things that we're dealing with here in Europe, as we continue to provide support to Ukraine, and its efforts to defend its sovereign territory. We're working hard to make sure we keep the right balance in the Indo-Pacific, and strengthen our alliances.

And we need leaders to be able to do that. This is a -- this is a national security issue, it's a readiness issue, and we shouldn't kid ourselves. I think any members of the Senate Armed Services Committee knows that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Very blunt words from the secretary of defense, making it clear, in the interview with me, that he was willing to discuss this issue with the senator. But it's got to be resolved very quickly. There's so much going on, not only in Ukraine, but elsewhere around the world with Taiwan and China, for example.

He went through all of that, and the U.S. needs these senior military officers to be confirmed by the Senate so they can move on and protect the nation's security. Very blunt statement that the secretary of defense made in this exclusive interview.

It was a wide ranging interview, I must say, Jake. We went through a lot what's going on in Ukraine right now. We spoke about the U.S. decision to provide clustered munitions to Ukraine. And we learned later in the day, some of those cluster bombs have already started to arrive.

And he was very specific and making the case that what the U.S. is going to do is make sure the Ukrainians use these cluster munitions against military targets, specifically, Russian invaders. Those military targets, and not in civilian areas.

The Russians have been using cluster bombs in Ukraine, but they've been doing it in populated areas, killing a whole bunch of civilians in the process. He says that the U.S. military is going to make sure the Ukrainian military doesn't do that.

It was really wide ranging interview. We're going to get to the whole thing during the 6:00 hour. Our viewers will be able to hear what the secretary of defense has to say.

TAPPER: All right. Wolf Blitzer, thanks so much.

And, again, Wolf is coming up on that exclusive interview with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, in "THE SITUATION ROOM", tonight at 6:00 p.m. Eastern, right after THE LEAD, only here on CNN.

Back on the battlefield in Ukraine, a Ukrainian official says 200 Russian soldiers were killed in a huge strike by the Ukrainians on a Russian base in Tokmak, Ukraine, currently occupied by the Russians.


CNN cannot confirm the Ukrainian claims. But a pro-Russian outlet reported, quote, massive, unquote, shelling in that area, which is a critical hub for Russian forces. Meanwhile, CNN's Alex Marquardt brings us an exclusive interview now with one of Ukraine's top generals, who tells CNN exactly how Ukrainians hope to deploy the newest big U.S. delivery.


ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Brigadier General Oleksander Tarnavsky is in charge of what is arguably the most important part of Ukraine's counteroffensive, trying to punch through the Russian defenses in southern Ukraine, and split Russia's forces.


MARQUARDT: Now, he told CNN exclusively, he has a powerful new weapon. American cluster munitions.

Have you use them already? And how much do you think they're going to change the fight?

We just got them. We haven't used them yet, he says. But they can radically change the battlefield. The enemy also understands that with getting this ammunition, we will have an advantage.

Radical changes are needed, as Ukraine's counteroffensive has made only modest gains in his area, riddled with mines. The Russians he said prepared intensely.

The counteroffensive is successful, but not as much as each of us would like, he tells us. They made very dense, complex minefields which are now located in the areas where Ukrainian equipment and personnel will go through.

Tarnavsky hopes Russians will abandon areas where clusters will be most effective. He says the munitions will be strictly used, away from civilians and only with the approval of senior leadership.

They've arrived as artillery ammunition is running low, and as news comes that a Ukrainian missile strike reportedly with a British cruise missile, killed a Russian rising star, Lieutenant General Oleg Tsokov, the most recent senior Russian killed in Ukraine so far.

Long-range ammunition that can reach well beyond the front, Tarnavsky says, is in dire need.

Long-range ammunition is affective, he says. This may be the most problematic issue today. It's like boxing, he adds. We hold the opponent at arm's length. At long distances, we defeat them effectively.


MARQUARDT: And, Jake, the Pentagon has just confirmed that these U.S. made cluster munitions are now in Ukraine. Now, these types of cluster munitions are banned by more than 100 countries. Those countries do not include Russia, Ukraine, or the United States.

Now, Russia has warned, if Ukraine does use these U.S. made clusters, they will be forced to respond and reciprocal manner, they say. But, Jake, as well for just noting, the Russians have been using their own cluster munitions since the very beginning of this war, and not just on the battlefield, but against civilians as well -- Jake.

TAPPER: Alex Marquardt in Dnipro, Ukraine, thank you so much.

Retired four star U.S. army general and former CIA director, David Petraeus, joins us now. He's the chairman of KKR Global Institute, which owns defense contracting firms. So, Petraeus does not work directly with those firms.

General, as we heard in Alex's reporting, the Ukrainian general thinks that even just the threat of these American cluster bombs could lead to Russian troops abandoning their positions. Do you think that's realistic? And do you support Biden's decision to send cluster bombs?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS (RET.), FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I strongly support the decision, Jake. And I do believe that the employment of these weapons will have a significant effect. There is a need for this kind of ammunition to help the Ukrainians to break through these belts of minefields, tank ditches, trench lines, dragons teeth and so forth. They are doing that very painstakingly right now.

In fact, they're carrying out a strategy that might be described, in fact, the U.K. chief of defense staff described it as, starve, stretch and strike. So, they're specifically going after key locations, like that strike that was announced, not verified, but announced, against a reserve forces assembly area, headquarters, ammo supply points, fuel depots, and artillery pieces, because the artillery is the big key pillar on this battlefield. And that's the challenge as they're trying to painstakingly clear lanes through these minefields.

So, this edition will be very important. It's also important, because the supplies of artillery and rockets are starting to run low, the consumption rate is astonishing. And we're still ramping up along with other 155 number howitzer ammunition in particular.

So, this is an important contribution, and again, one that I strongly support. By the way, the areas are already heavily dotted, they will have to be cleared.


The Russian cluster bombs have a much higher failure rate, dud rate. This rate is considerably lower, 2.5 and below percent. And so, keep in mind as well, this is Ukrainians deciding to use these munitions on their soil, not someone else's soil, in the process of liberating their territory.

TAPPER: Put on your CIA director cap for a moment. What do you think went through Putin's mind today when President Biden declared that Putin has already lost a war?

PETRAEUS: Well, Putin, of course, is still in denial. He doesn't look in the mirror yet and see a leader who made a catastrophically bad decision for his country that he set up to make Russia great again, really has made NATO great again. Of course, now, we're going to see another member of NATO joined, adding Sweden to Finland already having joined as a result of this Russian invasion.

And he doesn't yet acknowledge that Russia will not be able to out- suffer the Ukrainians, the Europeans, and the Americans. But that has to be creeping into his mind. The casualties have been enormous, many, many times the loss is just in the first year and a half that they took in a decade in Afghanistan, which was, of course, unsustainable. And now, the bite on the economy is really starting as well. I'm sure

you have seen that there are current counties by 93 percent over this year last time. So, he's got problems, at-home and then he has problems with his mutinous Wagner group commander, the loss of very senior officer, the most senior so far that you announced earlier.

And, of course, the firing of one of its most popular frontline commanders, Major General Popov, the commandant, a little bit less than 30,000 Russians, who play well with the troops. He's a very charismatic figure, had real flair, his call sign was Spartacus, he calls his soldiers gladiators, and he was complaining about the inadequacy of their provisions and support for him in particular with the lack of fire-finding radars that enable them to conduct accurate counter fire against the Ukrainians, and a number of other issues that he raised to them.

And so, they fired him. These are not heartening signs, if you are overseeing this operation from the Kremlin.

TAPPER: Retired four-star general David Petraeus, good to say you, sir, thanks so much.

Coming up next, the hard to believe decision by the U.S. Secret Service and its investigation into that baggy of cocaine mysteriously found at the White House.

Plus, the latest lawsuit against Fox News, this time from a January 6th protester, who says the network and one of its hosts, tried to destroy his life. We're going to talk to his attorney.

And a cabinet secretary for President Biden targeted in cyberattack. What the criminals may have been looking for.


TAPPER: In our law and justice lead today about that baggy of cocaine found two Sundays ago in the West Wing of the White House? Well, the U.S. Secret Service says that they simply cannot solve the mystery as to whose it is. They cannot figure out who left drugs in one of the most secure and most monitored buildings in the known universe.

Plus, the Secret Service says they cannot identify a suspect or even the specific day that someone left the cocaine behind in the White House. Investigators also claim there is no surveillance video. There are no fingerprints or DNA evidence on the baggy.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond was the first to report that the Secret Service investigation is now coming to a close, and he joins us now.

Jeremy, you work in the White House ever day. It's filled with surveillance cameras. How can there possibly be a blind spot in the area where specifically hundreds of staff and tourists pass through each day?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jake, it is boggling to see that there is this blind spot that exists apparently in one of the most secure parts of the building, which is the West Wing. And the thing is we've been told by Secret Service officials that there was no camera trained on those cubbies directly, and that is where that baggy of cocaine was found, was inside one of these cubbies at the lower level entrance to the West Wing. Now, one piece of information to note here is that that is the entrance that these tour groups that go through the West Wing actually use to get in there.

And these cubbies are where visitors are asked to leave their phones before they enter the West Wing because you're not allowed to take pictures inside that space. That being said, the Secret Service combed through hundreds of visitor logs of individuals who wept through the White House over those last several days, and they simply were not able to conclusively determine which one of those individuals may have left the baggy. They weren't even able to conclude whether or not it happened on that Sunday when that baggy was discovered at the White House.

The baggy was sent to FBI labs for DNA and fingerprint analysis. No conclusive hits came back from that, and so ultimately after more than ten days, the Secret Service deciding to wrap up its investigation with no suspect found, and they briefed lawmakers on that very fact today.

TAPPER: There was a lot of strong reaction on the Hill today to the close of this investigation.

Take a listen to Republican Congressman Tim Burchett from Tennessee.


REP. TIM BURCHETT (R-TN): They don't know who it is, and they -- it's a complete failure. I mean, this thing is ridiculous. And I don't know if it's a diversion or not because it's a pretty good diversion. A lot of people are upset about it because they don't -- it's clear the Secret Service is failing at their job.


TAPPER: Does the White House think that questions about this are going to go away with the close of the investigation?

DIAMOND: I mean, they're certainly hoping so, Jake. They're hoping this is the last day we're talking about cocaine in the White House. But that being said I think what you just heard there from Congressman Burchett shows these questions are going to continue.

The White House in a statement said that they had been briefed on this, and that they are reviewing the information that the Secret Service provided. I think the question going forward is does the secret service make any changes to its security protocols.


Do they resolve this blind spot and perhaps other blind spots that may exist around the West Wing? Jake?

TAPPER: All right. Jeremy Diamond at the White House, thanks so much.

Coming up next, the new effort to hold an actual human accountable when art financial intelligence generates inaccurate information.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: Our tech lead now. Today, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with a top Chinese diplomat and Blinken delivered a warning. He said keep up the hacking against the U.S. and, quote, we'll respond appropriately.

Just this week, Microsoft and the U.S. government announced China' based hackers had breached e-mail accounts of at least two dozen organizations, including U.S. government agencies. A source tells CNN that includes the secretary of commerce's e-mail account.

And with us now, Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna of California and Republican Congressman Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin. Both are on the Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the U.S. and China, which meets tonight. Mike Gallagher is the chair of that. And they're also on the Armed Services Subcommittee on Cyber, I.T. and Innovation.

Congressman Khanna, these Chinese hackers are snooping around the state department. They even accessed the e-mails of the secretary of commerce. What do you think they're hoping to find?

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Well, frankly, it's not very relevant what they're hoping to find. What's relevant is that they can't be doing this, and we know the cyber threat is significant not just to our government but to Taiwan, to many of our allies, and we need to make sure that we have all the resources to our cyber command to tackle this so that we have both offensive and defensive capability and that we make it clear to the Chinese it's simply unacceptable.

TAPPER: Congressman Gallagher, Chairman Gallagher. Some members of Congress were reportedly targeted in this hack. Do you have any idea specifically who was targeted and if any sensitive information was breached?

REP. MIKE GALLAGHER (R-WI): I do not. But I think as a member of Congress you have to assume that you are a target, particularly a target of the Chinese communist party. And you have to take steps to make yourself a hard target.

One thing I think it would be wise for us to invest in is basic cyber hygiene and education as well as broader counter intelligence hygiene and education for your average member of Congress. A lot of people come here without national security experience. They may new to this concept so having a better process when we onboard people to make sure we're doing two-factor authentication to me is a logical common sense step forward. TAPPER: Congressman Khanna, I also want to discuss the work that you

two do together on the subcommittee specifically when it comes to artificial intelligence or A.I. The FTC, the Federal Trade Commission, is investigating open A.I. for possible violations of consumer protection law. They're also seeking records from the maker of ChatGPT about how they handle personal data. They're worried about the potential to give users inaccurate information.

So you represent Silicon Valley. We know the concerns about A.I. and ChatGPT. What concerns are you hearing from the executives there?

KHANNA: Well, there are obviously concerns. There's concerns about what this technology can do in potentially killer robots or things that get out of control. There are concerns about what it could do in terms of discrimination or not having good data in and bad outcomes, and that's why Mike and I last night did a chat with Elon Musk and even he called for regulation and a regulation agency, so we have smart regulation.

My concern with the FTC, I mean, I'm -- I don't want to say whether they're doing this as correct or not, I defer to them. But we can't have policy by agency lawsuits. We need to have Congress come up with some principles, and if Congress decides, not agencies, have ad hoc cases.

TAPPER: Yeah. Well, I mean, leaders of Silicon Valley, people involved in the A.I. space have been practically begging for regulation.

Chairman Gallagher, why won't Congress act? It seems as though it's obvious that something needs to be done and quickly.

GALLAGHER: I think we will. I think we must. I think there is a problem of basic technological fluency when you're dealing with members of Congress. That's why it's so important to have someone like Ro Khanna who, you know, is from the technology innovation capital of America kind of be acting as a thought leader on these issues.

One thing I know for certain is that if we pause or if we fail to strike the appropriate balance between guarding against the worst use cases of A.I., the killer robot hypothesis, while also ensuring that we dominate the innovation in this space, the Chinese communist party will beat us in the A.I. race. And I can guarantee you, they will use this technology for evil.

So finding a way in which we keep our foot on the gas when it comes to innovation but take the concerns about ethical use of A.I. seriously is the balance we have to strike going forward.

TAPPER: So, Chairman Gallagher, Congressman Khanna mentioned you sat down with Elon Musk for a chat on Twitter Spaces about A.I. Musk said that he believes China is on team humanity. That's a term he used, and that China would be willing to work with the international community on common guidelines for A.I.

Do you agree with that, Chairman Gallagher, that China's on team humanity?

GALLAGHER: No, I disagree strongly and said as much in the moment. And again, the issue is not with the Chinese people, it's with the Chinese communist party, which is, in fact, not only launching cyber attacks, stealing our intellectual property, attempting coerce us economically but also attempting war by attempting to take Taiwan, by political warfare and if necessary by force and, of course, committing genocide.


So, I don't know how you can be on team humanity when you're actively committing genocide.

So, in my view is that the Chinese communist party is the foremost enemy of freedom around the world right now and we don't do ourselves any favor by ignoring that fact, and they've proven time and again they can't be trusted to act as constructive actors in a variety of international fora.

TAPPER: Congressman Khanna, Musk once said that A.I. could cause civilization destruction. But now, he's announced the formation of his own A.I. company.

You've observed what Musk has done with Twitter. Do you trust him with a product that could in his own words destroy civilization?

KHANNA: Well, I don't trust if there are not regulations. But Musk last night himself said you need something like the FDA to regulate A.I. One of the things that was interesting is he said, look, he puts it at 70, 80 percent probability that A.I. could be used for good things, for personalizing education, personalizing health outcomes, bringing back manufacturing, because we're improving supply chains.

But we need to regulate it, and we need to have standards. And, you know, one of the things I respect about Chairman Gallagher is he's not looked at the China committee or on the armed services to score political points. He wants to have a reasonable conversation. That's what it's going to take to actually get something done.

TAPPER: Congressman Ro Khanna, Chairman Mike Gallagher, thanks to both of you.

GALLAGHER: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up next, the allegations behind the latest lawsuit against Fox and the January 6th protester bringing them on.



TAPPER: In our law and justice lead, believe it or not yet another defamation lawsuit against Fox, accusing that network of engaging in a years long effort of spreading lies and destroying lives. Yet another one. In this latest lawsuit, Ray Epps, a Trump supporter, seen at the

Capitol grounds on January 6, though not among those who breached the building. He accuses Fox and its former top-rated host Tucker Carlson of promoting untrue, right wing conspiracy theory, suggesting that Epps was actually an FBI plant, sent there to lure Trump's supporters to attack the Capitol. This nutty theory has upended Epps' life.

The lawsuit comes on the heels, of course, of Fox's historic $787.5 million defamation settlement with Dominion Voting Systems and a $12 million settlement to resolve a discrimination lawsuit from a former Fox producer.

Joining us now, Ray Epps' attorney, Michael Teter.

Mr. Teter, thanks for joining us.

So, the lawsuit claims Fox and the host suggested repeatedly that your client was part of a secret FBI plot to orchestrate the January 6th riot. Obviously, the nutty, false theory.

But lay this out for us. How did this happen?

MICHAEL TETER, ATTORNEY FOR RAY EPPS: Well, they didn't just suggest it. They told their viewers it was true. It began somewhat early with the view from (INAUDIBLE), a right-wing former Trump official who speculated and stated that Ray Epps must have been the linchpin of the fed-surrection is what they labeled it because the FBI had originally posted a picture of Ray Epps on their website looking for information about him.

And after Ray had contacted the FBI and provided all the information, they ultimately removed him from the website because they had identified him. So that led to the theory that he must have been a federal agent, odd considering the FBI would not have listed him to begin with on their website if he was working for them.

TAPPER: So how have these lies upended your client's life? What was the -- so that's the cause, all these lies put out there by a whole bunch of individuals including on Fox, but what we've also heard, you know, Republicans in the House and Senate spewing them as well, or at least leaning into them. What was the affect? If that's the cause what was the affect on Ray Epps' life?

The moment that Fox and Mr. Carlson began talking Ray Epps on their shows, Ray Epps and his wife began receiving death threats in the mail, in voicemails, in text messages. People began driving past their house where they had not just their home but also their wedding venue business, having guns, pointing guns outside their trucks and cars as they drove past and found bullet casings on their grounds.

They were inundated with threats to the point where at one point, a local FBI agent alerted Ray to the fact there were credible threats against Ray on the Dark Web, and even Rickey Shiffer (ph) who was the man who attacked the FBI office in Cincinnati, Ohio, referred to Ray Epps in his truth social biography. So, he -- Ray became a focal point for the right-wing conspiracy theory after Fox began talking about him, and it took off and viewers and others began harassing and intimidating and threatening both Ray and Robyn.

TAPPER: So, Mr. Ray asked Fox for a retraction in March. What was Fox's response?

TETER: We did not receive a response to that request, and then after an airing of a "60 Minutes" episode then obviously the next night, it's well-known Fox did fire Tucker Carlson.

TAPPER: So, your client, Mr. Epps, is -- at least he was a big believer in Donald Trump. He was there because he believed in the Stop the Steal cause and all that. He used to watch Fox or maybe he still does, I don't know.

But has any of this caused him to rethink all of these people including that particular TV channel and all the lies they tell?


I mean, he has now been victim and seen up close how reckless and how little they care about truth and facts.

TETER: Ray is an unlikely villain for the right-wing and for Fox. As you said, he was a Trump supporter. He was there on January 6th because he believed what Fox had been saying about the election being stolen.

He now questions that, sure. And he questions many of the things that the right-wing media and Fox and its personalities have spewed about others because he knows when there's a lie told about him, he knows it's a lie, and so it makes him question the voracity of all the things that Fox emits and their personalities have been saying.

TAPPER: Well, it's just -- it's just a horrible, horrible tragedy that he and his wife have had to go through this.

Michael Teter, thanks so much. We appreciate it.

TETER: Thank you.

TAPPER: The Justice Department has launched a civil rights investigation into the treatment of pregnant Black women at Los Angeles' prestigious Cedar Sinai Medical Center. The woman's story behind the case, that's next.



TAPPER: Our health lead now. A routine caesarean section gone horribly wrong for one Black mother. That's the basis for a lawsuit that sparked a federal civil rights investigation into one of the most well-known hospitals in the U.S., Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

CNN's Stephanie Elam now takes a closer look at the allegations about the hospital's treatment of Black expectant mothers. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Black mothers in labor and delivery it can be a matter of life and death.

WILLIAMS: Unfortunately, those voices that matter most are not those of Brown and Black women.

ELAM: Now, the Department of Health and Human Services is launching an investigation into how Black mothers are treated while giving birth. At the center of the probe is Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Following a civil rights lawsuit filed against the hospital in 2022.

WILLIAMS: For our Black birthing patients, we have the impact of systemic racism.

ELAM: The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate of any developed nation. And for black women the death rate is even higher as they face a greater risk of potentially deadly complications from issues like hemorrhages, hypertension and cardiovascular disease while giving birth.

WILLIAMS: America is in a maternal health crisis for all birthing people. We have 31 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. But for Black women, that number is 69.

ELAM: That's for 2021, the most recent data, Williams says, who compared that to Sweden, where there were only 5 deaths.

Charles Johnson's wife, Kira, died 12 hours after giving birth to her second son by caesarean section at Cedars in 2016.

CHARLES JOHNSON, WIFE DIED AFTER CESAREAN SECTION: Held her by her hands, I said please, look, my wife isn't doing well.

ELAM: Johnson told CNN his pleas for help were repeatedly ignored by the hospital's staff for hours.

JOHNSON: This woman looked me directly in my eyes and she said, sir, your wife just isn't a priority right now.

ELAM: After his wife died, Johnson filed lawsuits against Cedars- Sinai. They have since been resolved. The hospital has publicly denied wrongdoing.

Cedars-Sinai issued a statement saying in part they have long been concerned with national disparities in Black maternal health and are working on protocols aimed at improving black maternal and infant health among other initiatives.

CDC data shows that Black women are 2 1/2 times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. Even highly educated, economically advantaged black women like Kira, a successful entrepreneur who spoke five languages.

JOHNSON: There were 3 1/2 liters of blood in her abdomen from where she had been allowed to bleed internally for almost ten hours. And her heart stopped immediately.

ELAM: A spokesperson from HHS asked about the investigation into Cedars-Sinai's treatment of Black women in childbirth would not comment specifically on, quote, this ongoing investigation, but told CNN, maternal health is a priority and one in which the HHS Office of Civil Rights is working on around the country to ensure equity and equality in health care.

Health advocates say Black women need providers who take their concerns seriously and help ensure they survive to raise their children.

WILLIAMS: If you have the opportunity to get care in a culturally concordant setting it makes a huge difference.

ELAM: What is something you would advise one of your patients to do?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you don't feel like you're being heard, advocate for yourself.


ELAM (on camera): And these statistical discrepancies are just too wide for a civilized society, many people looking at this say, and that's why they've got to do something about this. And that's why both Dr. Williams and Dr. Swiner (ph) said to me that it's important that no one engage with the medical system alone, that they have an advocate, someone who is there and saying she needs help right now, this person needs care right now.

And obviously, going forward dealing with systemic racism that it even if doctors don't mean to discriminate, they can actually go ahead and work through that so everyone gets the care they need, Jake.

TAPPER: Stephanie Elam, thanks so much.

Just in, Jared Kushner, the son-in-law and former senior adviser to former president Donald Trump, Jared Kushner has reportedly testified before a federal grand jury. What we're learning about his testimony. That's coming up.



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

This hour, what could be a transformative decision for women's health care in the United States. Today, the Food and Drug Administration approved the very first birth control pill that you can get over the counter without a prescription. Then, Hollywood is shut down. Actors and actresses voting to strike,

making this the first time in 63 years that actors are striking at the same time as the writers. Will there be any new episodes of your favorite TV shows come the fall?

But first, we're leading this hour with some breaking news. Jared Kushner apparently testified before a federal grand jury, investigating efforts to overturn the 2020 election.