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The Lead with Jake Tapper
IRS Whistleblower Joins The Lead; IRS Whistleblower Reacts To High-Profile Oversight Hearing Into Hunter Biden; Rep. Daniel Goldman, (D-NY), Is Interviewed About Whistleblower's Allegations justice Dept. Mishandled Investigation; Rep. Dan Goldman Responds To Whistleblower Allegations Justice Dept. Mishandled Investigation; Murkowski: I'd Vote For Manchin In Rematch Of Trump & Biden; McCarthy Told Trump He Backed Expunging Impeachment But No Vote Being Scheduled; Police Say They've Been Unable To Verify Missing Alabama Woman's Story Since She Returned Home. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired July 20, 2023 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD), RANKING MEMBER, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Every other try by our colleagues to concoct a scandal about President Biden, this one is a complete and total bust.
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JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The Trump appointed U.S. attorney for Delaware, David Weiss, who is leading the investigation into Hunter Biden, has sent several letters to Congress responding to Republican questions about the authority he was granted and refuting the notion that he was in any way hamstrung or reined in by the Justice Department. Weiss writing, quote, "I want to make clear that, as the Attorney General has stated, I have been granted ultimate authority over this matter, including responsibility for deciding where, when, and whether to file charges. I have not requested special counsel designation." And once again, he asserted that his authority was paramount and said he had never, quote, "been denied the authority to bring charges in any jurisdiction."
So, with that said, IRS Special Agent Joseph Ziegler joins us now. Thanks so much for being here. We appreciate it.
Let me start with just the big picture here. What is your main allegation you're making about this investigation into Hunter Biden?
JOSEPH ZIEGLER, IRS SPECIAL AGENT: Well, I wanted to thank you so much for having me on your show. I think it's important that your audience hears essentially what I presented facts yesterday in my testimony. So my main allegation is the equitable treatment of taxpayers. We have to treat every taxpayer the same in investigating our cases with Department of justice.
And I think that's important that everyone understands that to have a fair justice system, we need to treat people the same. It doesn't matter what your political beliefs are, doesn't matter how much money you have, everyone should be treated the same.
TAPPER: Right. And the suggestion is that Hunter Biden was given special treatment and the U.S. attorney did not go -- proceed as aggressively as he would have had Hunter Biden been someone else.
So, David Weiss, as you know, the U.S. attorney said in a letter to judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, quote, "I have been granted ultimate authority over this matter, including responsibility for deciding where, when, and whether to file charges." I read that earlier. It wasn't just in this letter, he said it in multiple letters. Do you think he's not telling the truth?
ZIEGLER: So it's not -- I don't know his intentions with what he stated there, but what I can tell you is the facts. I know, based on conversations I had with assigned prosecutors, that he went to the Washington, D.C. U.S. Attorney's office bringing the case there, they told him no. He wanted to --
TAPPER: He wanted to charge Hunter Biden here in D.C. you mean?
ZIEGLER: So he wanted to bring the case there in D.C. to charge for the 2014 and 2015 tax shares. They told him no. And I think it's important that in his letter he said that his authority is geographically restricted to the district of Delaware. And if he needs to go outside of that, he needs to ask to partner with these other U.S. attorneys offices. And if they say no, then he needs to ask for that special attorney authority and he was assured that.
TAPPER: It's not counsel authority?
ZIEGLER: No, he says special attorney authority.
ZIEGLER: And I think it's important that you understand that they haven't turned over a document that says, here's the letter where we gave him the special attorney authority. And all we're trying to do is say that if this were anyone else, if this were Joe Taxpayer (ph), he would be getting a much different treatment than what was at place here.
TAPPER: Well, you're saying that there would be other charges in other jurisdictions. Is that what I'm taking from this?
ZIEGLER: So, the prosecutors assigned to this case --
TAPPER: Because he was charged. I mean, he did have a plea agreement in the -- I mean, he is going to go before a judge. I mean, it's not like he's not facing anything. I'm not excusing it, but I'm just saying there are these allegations and he is going to face a courtroom proceeding, et cetera.
ZIEGLER: So the four signed prosecutors of the case agreed with recommending felony and misdemeanor tax charges for Hunter Biden. David Weiss also agreed with that. And I know that from a meeting that I had with him in late August, early September. And on top of that, you have David Weiss, essentially -- so they all agreed to charging this -- the felony and misdemeanor. So DOJ policy on this is that their tax policy is that if you have a felony with a misdemeanor you have to charge the felony, and that's to prevent inequitable treatment of taxpayers.
TAPPER: And they didn't do that, is what you're saying?
ZIEGLER: And according to the charging document, they only charged two misdemeanors and one of those tax years related to 2018.
TAPPER: So, let me just give you an opportunity to respond to some of the things that Democrats on Capitol Hill are saying. First of all, they're saying, why would a Trump appointed U.S. attorney, David Weiss, lie?
ZIEGLER: So I have no idea what his motives or what his beliefs are. All I can do is present the facts to Congress and it's for them to determine and the American people and the administration to make the proper decision on how to move forward.
TAPPER: So, let me ask you another question. So you're a 13-year- veteran of the IRS, is that correct?
ZIEGLER: I am.
TAPPER: OK. Is this the most high profile, most potentially politically sensitive case you've ever worked on?
ZIEGLER: Yes, I would say so.
TAPPER: And when you say that you saw abnormalities in this case, like what other cases are you comparing it to? Just the normal Joe Taxpayer case.
ZIEGLER: So, I'm actually working an even bigger case than this. Not as sensitive as this, but an even bigger case than this. And I can tell you the assigned prosecutors in that case have not acted anywhere near what we were going through being constantly hamstrung, not following normal process, the storage unit location that we wanted to do the search warrant on. I think that it's important for people to understand that we had a plan to move forward. Even David Weiss agreed with that plan. But then they were at the same time telling defense counsel that we know about this storage unit and that you need to turn over the records.
So were relying on him and his counsel to turn over those records to the government versus us going and getting those records.
TAPPER: So another -- you testified yesterday you wanted to interview President Biden's grandchildren, Hunter's grown children, right? They're adults. But you were told, no, you couldn't. Even without those interviews, you still had enough evidence, in your view, to recommend charges because he was deducting things related to them that he wouldn't be allowed to deduct in his taxes, right? I mean, so you already knew the crime had happened. You didn't -- the argument would be, you don't need to talk to Hunter's adult children, you already have the evidence that what he did was wrong. So tell me why that's not a satisfactory answer.
ZIEGLER: So when we work our tax cases and it's an expense that is deducted for -- as a business expense on someone's tax return, you have to -- essentially they're presumed that that's a business expense until you prove that it's not. So part of it is going to the third party to get those records, that's one step. And then interviewing that person to determine why was that expense made. And then a lot of times, those witnesses could lead you to other things. They could lead you to other evidence expenditures that might have been made related to them.
TAPPER: So, obviously, it's a politically sensitive case. And I don't disagree with you that theoretically everybody should be treated equally before the law and investigations like this.
One question I have is, because we hear Democrats saying this, that you and Shapley have not produced any evidence of criminality by President Biden. Is that -- when they say that, is that correct?
ZIEGLER: So what I can tell you and what we stated yesterday, we are working with the House Ways and Means. We are --
TAPPER: To get President Biden's taxes?
ZIEGLER: No. It's -- we are working with the House Ways and Means to any records that Congress has asked for related to this investigation. We are working through the process. They can vote on whether or not to release those to the full Congress. And that's the process that is a part of being a whistleblower.
TAPPER: So, this was cited and you were called before the committee because they're talking about -- the House Republicans are saying that the federal government has been weaponized against conservatives and Republicans. They give any number of examples of there being very aggressive treatment of Republicans and in their view, in their characterization, kid glove treatment for Democrats. You are a self- described Democrat, you worked at the IRS for 13 years, is that an accurate description based on what you've witnessed in those 13 years?
ZIEGLER: So I'm not going to speak to the weaponization of the government because I don't think that's appropriate for me. I'm just going to present the facts as I know them. I think one of the big things that I mentioned yesterday was we need to have an independent attorney with authority to come in here and see and make sure that things were done correctly to the law. And I think it's important that there may be ancillary offshoot cases from this that are sensitive that need to be investigated appropriately, that may not have venue in Delaware so we don't run into that same exact problem. That's -- all I'm trying to say is that we need to have someone in there to look at that.
TAPPER: Do you know of criminal charges against Hunter Biden that were not filed that definitively there is evidence, proof that they should be filed, that he should be facing justice for?
ZIEGLER: So, again, meeting with the attorney, assigned attorneys, we all -- and that included Department of Justice tax attorneys all agreed for felony and misdemeanor tax charges related to 2017, 2018, and 2019. I didn't see that in the charging document that was filed in Delaware.
TAPPER: And those charges would have been for what? Undeclared income?
ZIEGLER: So it would have been a false return tax charge, so it's 72061 and a false or, I'm sorry, tax evasion. So 7201. So, evading your income taxes.
TAPPER: So you tell me because you're the expert, not me, is it not possible that in the dealings with the Hunter Biden attorneys they just agreed, OK, we'll drop this in exchange for a plea of guilty? Because that does happen.
ZIEGLER: So I can tell you there's a lot of cases around the U.S. right now where people are being charged with both the felony and misdemeanor and not having the felony dropped off. So I think it's important that it's in the tax manual, their policy that states that if you have the felony and you have the evidence there and there's also a misdemeanor, you have to charge the felony in order to not have an equitable treatment of taxpayers.
TAPPER: And so in your mind, should Hunter Biden be sentenced to jail, sentenced to prison? Is that what you think justice would look like based on the crimes committed?
ZIEGLER: So again, I'm not here about Hunter Biden. I'm here about the bigger picture of all this. I blew the whistle because I saw inappropriate things being done throughout this investigation. I brought facts. I brought things that had happened as I recalled them to Congress.
My supervisor, Gary Shapley, did the same thing. And I think it's important for the American people, don't -- read our transcripts.
ZIEGLER: Read the transcripts, because we did that under oath. We can be -- if we said something, if we lied, willfully lied in that, that's so important that read what we said and you can determine for yourselves one way or the other.
TAPPER: Do you think that it's possible that because this was the President's son, there were extra sensitivities and extra protocols because of that that would have been extended to an investigation of a Republican president's son or daughter as well? But -- and since this is the highest profile, biggest, most sensitive investigation you ever were part of, you weren't used to that. But that really is just generally what happens when it has to do with any powerful family, any powerful -- and again, I'm not excusing it -- ZIEGLER: Yes.
TAPPER: -- but I'm just saying like, I'm wondering if this is just how like, the DuPonts would be treated or, you know, because you're from Delaware? You know --
ZIEGLER: I'm from Georgia.
TAPPER: OK, but you're working in Delaware.
TAPPER: You know what saying, like, that any powerful family might be treated with kid gloves like this. Again, I'm not saying that's right, but that -- maybe that's what happened.
ZIEGLER: Yes. And to that point, I mean, I think it's important that I understood that it was a politically sensitive case. I'm completely aware he was an attorney. Records had to go through a filter review, so I'm completely aware of all those problems. And that's why I think it's important that we have an independent attorney who has an authority, so a special counsel, independent attorney that can get in there and make sure that things are done correctly and that the proper charges are brought, that would restore faith in our justice.
TAPPER: Well, I know it's not an easy thing to be a whistleblower. I know it's not an easy thing to walk into the public and say things like this, and you're going to be attacked. You were attacked before by Trump people who thought that you were part of a conspiracy, and likely you're going to be attacked by the other side now.
Joseph Ziegler, thank you so much for coming on on the show. We appreciate it.
ZIEGLER: Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.
TAPPER: Coming up next, a Democratic member of the House Oversight Committee who questions Ziegler today will respond -- questions Ziegler yesterday, sorry, responds to Ziegler's comments just now. Then, what was taken from a Nevada house that was just searched in connection with Tupac Shakur's murder? We're going to talk to the host of the podcast Slow Burn who did an entire season on the Tupac and Biggie murder. Stay with us.
TAPPER: We're back and sticking with our politics lead. Moments ago, I spoke with IRS whistleblower Joseph Ziegler who alleges that the Justice Department did not follow normal procedures during its criminal investigation into Joe Biden's son, Hunter. Here to respond is Democratic Congressman Dan Goldman from New York, who's a member of the House Oversight Committee, was part of the hearing yesterday where Mr. Ziegler testified.
Congressman, good to see you. I want to get your reaction to what we just heard from Mr. Ziegler.
REP. DANIEL GOLDMAN (D-NY), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Well, first, I want to say about both of them, there is no question that they are diligent hardworking agents. And as I have encountered as a former federal prosecutor, many times agents are often disappointed after they put in tons of man hours. This was a five-year investigation. He testified of doing over 60 interviews, hundreds of thousands of documents that they may be frustrated that their ultimate recommendation was not granted.
But what's important is to understand the system here and how this works. When they made that recommendation to the Department of Justice Tax Division, their role is effectively over. The DOJ Tax Division then does an evaluation of the charges. The prosecutors there do.
They wrote in this case a 100 page memo that had tons of reservations and concerns about the case, which we know because they did not give a blanket approval for the charges, they instead assessed it with discretion, which means that it goes back to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the U.S. Attorney's Office discretionary decision whether or not to charge because there are reservations. Then the U.S. Attorney's Office gets that information, and they meet with defense lawyers, and defense lawyers make their presentation of their defenses and why the government is wrong in this case.
The agents in this case did not see that 100 page memo. They were not privy to the presentations by the defense attorneys. And they don't have to prove the case at trial, the prosecutors do. And that's why these very difficult charging decisions are made by prosecutors and not these agents.
TAPPER: Right. And so --
GOLDMAN: That's the disconnect that we have here.
TAPPER: Well, that might be a disconnect, but one of the things Ziegler was saying was not just that his recommendations weren't hurt. He was saying that he was hampered in his investigation. For instance, Hunter Biden deducted on his taxes, his kids college tuition. And that's not a legitimate deduction. And so, instead of just taking that paper evidence as sufficient, he wanted to go talk to the adult children of Hunter Biden.
And he said that that's just how normally an investigation would happen. But he was --
GOLDMAN: I disagree with that. I disagree with that.
GOLDMAN: Because you are -- you very rarely go interview the children of a subject of an investigation if they were not, in any way, indicated to be involved in this. And you especially don't when it is a sensitive investigation like this, that is a hyper over aggressive step that is unnecessary to prove that element of the case. And I think that's part of the problem here is that many of what their suggestions were are very over aggressive and did not take into consideration the fact that much of the conduct they were talking about was an election year where the subject's father was on the ballot.
So the, quote, "slow walking" that they talk about was actually done by Bill Barr's Justice Department because of election year sensitivities. And so, to the extent it was slow walked or he has issues with the search warrant, you know, that was the Bill Barr Justice Department. And we know Bill Barr was not afraid of abusing his power for the benefit of Donald Trump as he did with Michael Flynn and Roger Stone.
And he mentioned one other thing, Jake, the equitable treatment of taxpayers, let's talk about Roger Stone. Roger Stone settled with the Department of Justice in a case that was about the same amount of money as this case according to the agents. And he settled civilly, even though the allegations were that he essentially hid money in shell companies in order to evade paying those taxes.
GOLDMAN: And the vast majority of cases like Hunter Biden's, like Roger Stone's are settled civilly. So the fact that Hunter Biden is actually pleading guilty to any sort of criminal charge in a case like this --
GOLDMAN: -- where it would be really difficult to prove knowing intentional evasion, which is a very high standard is quite remarkable in and of itself.
TAPPER: What about another suggestion Mr. Ziegler made, which is that when U.S. Attorney Weiss wanted to step outside of his jurisdiction, Delaware, and work with other U.S. attorneys in other jurisdictions, such as Washington, D.C. keeping in mind that Mr. Weiss was appointed by Donald Trump and was kept in that office so as there not to be a conflict of interest with him being replaced by President Biden. But when he wanted to work with a Biden appointed U.S. attorney, that was constantly rejected, and he wasn't able to do that. What about that suggestion?
GOLDMAN: It's belied and undermined completely by Mr. Weiss's letter. And this is another thing where they clearly did not understand the process because in their Ways and Means testimony they only talked about a special counsel and Weiss saying that he was not going to be either allowed or asked for to become a special counsel which was a decision that Bill Barr made. But what they didn't understand or talk about is this special attorney under section 515. And what Mr. Weiss made very clear is he was not going to be a special counsel, he was not necessary. He would either partner with a different venue, a different district, or if not, he had full authority to pursue charges under --
TAPPER: Right. GOLDMAN: -- the special attorney statute. He never got to that point. He never was going to needed to file the charges, and ultimately Hunter Biden waived venue in order to do this in Delaware, they were in regular communication with the defense attorney. So this is yet another somewhat inflammatory allegation that's just belied by the facts that we're dealing with here.
TAPPER: Democratic Congressman Dan Goldman of New York, thank you so much. Appreciate your time.
GOLDMAN: Thanks, Jake.
TAPPER: Donald Trump waiting to hear if he's going to be indicted in the 2020 election investigation, a decision he could hear any moment. CNN has some brand new reporting about the special counsel's next step. Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our law and justice lead, the federal grand jury investigating Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election just wrapped up its work for the day. The grand jury met for more than six hours today. They heard testimony from at least one witness, a former Trump aide. The jury also could have voted on whether to indict Donald Trump or anyone else in the case. CNN's Paula Reid joins us live.
And Paula, you have some brand new reporting about the special counsel scheduling even more witness interviews in this investigation.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. As the anticipation builds for a likely indictment of former President Trump, we've learned that the special counsel will continue talking to witnesses for at least the next month. Of course, the former president says that he received this target letter over the past weekend. But in the weeks leading up to that, the special counsel had been in touch with many witnesses, but some of them have not yet been scheduled for interviews, and some of them aren't on the calendar until at least mid-August.
Now, this does not stop them from indicting former President Trump or anyone else. They could certainly file charges and then keep talking to witnesses. That's what we saw happen in the Mar-a-Lago documents case. They indicted former President Trump and Walt Nauta, and then they've continued their investigation, even sending out at least one new target letter. So it's clear that even if the former president is indicted over the next several days, the special counsel's work will continue.
TAPPER: And Paula, tell us about this unusual moment in court today involving the special counsel.
REID: Well, Jake, it was a crazy day in federal court here in Washington, all eyes were on the grand jury, but there was some spillover drama because Will Russell was the witness who's going before the grand jury. Once again. He's a close Trump aide, been before the special counsel before. He is represented by Stan Woodward, who represents a lot of the witnesses in these investigations, and even a defendant, Walt Nauta.
Well, Woodward was with his client, Will Russell, and the grand jury appearance went late, so he was late for another hearing representing another defendant. And the judge in that case got pretty mad and made him explain why he was late. And Woodward revealed that there had actually been a fight over executive privilege during Will Russell's appearance before the grand jury.
Then the judge insisted that one of the special counsel prosecutors come up from the grand jury and talk to him about exactly what happened. Now, some of this, Jake, it's just judges being judges, right? Black or obitus, nobody messes with my schedule. But the interesting nugget here is that there was some sort of issue with executive privilege in talking to Will Russell.
Not terribly surprising because they've had issues with that in the past. Of course, we expect he'd be asked about the former president, but just another example of how the special counsel's work continues, and it's clearly not done because they're running up against privilege issues.
TAPPER: All right. Paula Reid, thanks so much.
Let's discuss all of this. And I have to say, guys, some breaking news while we were on the air today, it was sent to me by our good friend Margaret Hoover, who does firing line over on PBS. Take a listen to independent, well, I think she's a Republican again. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska talking about West Virginia Moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who has been making moves with this group, No Labels, suggesting he might run for president as a third party candidate. Here is Murkowski asked about this in a way. Take a listen.
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SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-AK): If it's a matchup between Biden and Trump, I know exactly where I'd go. I would go with Joe Manchin. I am one who doesn't like to use my vote for the lesser of evils. I want to be proactive in who I think could do the job. I think Manchin could do the job. But will our system allow for that? That I don't know.
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TAPPER: let's go to the person at the table who I think this bothers the most.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I know. I know he can't win.
TAPPER: Who can't win?
BEGALA: Joe Manchin, a third party.
TAPPER: She doesn't care. BEGALA: She says, I don't know if he can win. She's throwing away her vote and she's electing Donald Trump. She's an important senator. I like, Manchin. I like him a lot. He's a good guy. But Ross Perot spent millions and millions and millions of dollars. He got the votes of one out of five Americans and zero electoral votes. Teddy Roosevelt had not only been president, he won the Nobel Peace Prize and he ran as a third party. He lost. All he did was throw the election to the other party.
TAPPER: George Wallace got electoral votes.
BEGALA: He got five. He got 46. He got five states, Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas. What do they have in common? They were looking for a racist regional candidate. Manchin is not that. He's a decent guy and a moderate. And the problem for the Biden people is Biden won moderates by a margin of 30, 30. So every vote a moderate gets, and Manchin gets, No Labels gets, everyone will come right out of Joe Biden it will elect Donald Trump. It's irrefutable math.
TAPPER: What do you think Ramash?
RAMESH PONNURU, EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: I think that Manchin might not be able to be president, but he's got a better shot of being president than of getting reelected senator in West Virginia right now with as Republican as that state has gone. I tell you what. He's not going to get West Virginia's electoral votes if he's the presidential candidate.
I think it is -- this is one of those things where the early polling will always show a third party candidate, particularly somebody who's a sitting senator, not some nobody, as having decent chance. But we saw, I think, in 2016, when you had the most unpopular set of presidential candidates we've ever had, that a lot of that melts away in the end. And so I agree with Paul, it's not going to be different this time.
ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This concern, though, not just Murkowski basically saying that she would vote for Manchin, but this concern over the two candidates and being in a position where you have to basically vote for the lesser of two evils, I have to say that is something that is echoed by voters that I've spoken to in recent months.
I mean, this is a concern amongst Democrats, too. And it's a reason why when you have someone like Cornell West entering the race, when you have all this attention increasingly on Manchin as well, him recently going to a No Labels as well event, this is a point of concern for those in the White House because, as you just mentioned, independents, moderates.
Whenever you hear the President go out and say, go to Pennsylvania and make a speech about the economy or talk about how the jobs he's creating don't need college degrees, it's to go after those independents, this is a point of concern for them. TAPPER: And Gloria, just polling indicates, 65 percent of the American people do not want Joe Biden to be president in 2024, 60 percent of the American people feel that way about Donald Trump. I mean, there is an opening, theoretically.
GLORIA PAZMINO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And I think that's what this No Labels movement, if we could call it that at this stage, is trying to tap into. And I think what Zolan said is exactly what I was thinking about as you were mentioning all of the history. The woman who does my hair and knows that I have this job often says to me, you know, I just don't like either one of them.
And if either one of them is going to be the nominee, I don't know if I'm going to vote. And this is someone who is not watching T.V. all day long and following every single political move. So I think they're trying to --
TAPPER: That's most people.
PAZMINO: Exactly. So they're trying to tap into something that is real, certainly something that I've heard before speaking to voters. People have this feeling of just being dissatisfied with both candidates.
TAPPER: So something else interesting that happened today. We know that Kevin McCarthy, the Speaker, has been trying to get back into Trump's good graces after his interview a week or so ago in which he said that he wasn't sure that Donald Trump was the strongest candidate for 2024.
Well, he got a phone call after that. He got back immediately. There was a text message that went out from Kevin McCarthy saying Donald Trump is the strongest one. Now, a source tells CNN that McCarthy is backing symbolic resolutions that would expunge Trump's two impeachments, including the second impeachment, which had to do with how much Donald Trump should be held responsible for what happened in January 6th at the Capitol.
And just to remind people, as Kevin McCarthy is talking about expunging that impeachment, which he voted against, this is what Kevin McCarthy, when the blood was still wet on the floor of the Capitol had to say about Donald Trump on January 6th.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: President bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PONNURU: Yes, well, I mean, he bore responsibility also for telling the lies that got the mob there in the first place. The thing is, even if there's an expungement of this impeachment, the House did, in fact, impeach Donald Trump twice. And in that second impeachment, more senators of the president's party voted for conviction than had ever happened in American history.
Those are just facts of the historical record now, and there's nothing that the House can do now to undo that. What I think is going on here is that McCarthy is using this promise as a way of stalling on his own presidential endorsement. I think it's quite interesting that McCarthy hasn't endorsed Trump for the nomination yet. And I have to imagine that Trump is going to continue to put some serious pressure on him to do this just that.
BEGALA: McCarthy will never bring this to a vote.
BEGALA: Yes, because it's idiotic. He has 18 members. Yes, exactly. He's got 18 members, 18. He's got a five seat margin, 18 of those hold districts that Joe Biden won. Why would he put them through that meat grinder? Why would he if he -- it's -- if he doesn't, Hakeem Jeffries should just send a gift basket, the Democratic leader, over to Kevin. He's never -- the first obligation of leadership is to protect your vulnerable members.
His majority makers are those moderates who hold Biden seats, and he's going to make them vote to expunge Trump's impeachment?
TAPPER: One other issue I want to bring up is the Florida Board of Education has just approved, I think, yesterday new standards for how black history should be taught in the state's public schools. Among the changes, Florida students are now going to learn about some of the supposed positive benefits of slavery. I'm just going to read from the state's new academic standards guide. Quote, instruction includes how slaves developed skills which in some instances could be applied for their personal benefit. I don't even know what to say about that.
PAZMINO: I mean, what could you say about it?
KANNO-YOUNGS: I mean, we often talk about things like this in terms of politics and whether or not someone's playing to the right of Trump. But I thought that at the meeting in Florida when this passed, the comments from teachers themselves really got to the point. And one teacher in the Tampa Bay Times basically said, if we're only highlighting those who worked to end slavery but not those who worked to further or enact it, then we're leaving students to fill in the blanks there.
And the implication there was that we're not actually doing this in favor of our students and we're actually harming them and harming their education in the process. And I think it's important to remember that it seems like right now, in pursuit of politics, there's an effort almost to comfort those that may feel guilty about this period of American history rather than ensure sort of the accurate portrayal of American history.
PAZMINO: Well, so much of our history is uncomfortable, right? And that is a key part of the educational process that children must go through and that people must go through in order to understand what happened so that it doesn't happen again. And this suggestion that there might have been some personal benefits to slavery, free labor, stolen labor, is just I mean, I don't know how you put that into a curriculum and try to explain it to students that are trying to learn the history of this country.
So again, culture wars, DeSantis, part of what he says he wants to bring to the entire country should he be president. It's a sign of what he thinks should be done.
TAPPER: Thanks to one all. Appreciate it.
Coming up next, the mysterious case of Carlee Russell, she's the Alabama woman who disappeared after a 911 call, then reemerged 48, 49 hours later. Why police are having such a hard time verifying what she told detectives. Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our Law and Justice Lead, a mysterious case that has left Alabama police with more questions than answers, shall we say. Last week, Carlee Russell called 911 about a toddler she said was walking along alone on the side of a highway.
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CARLEE RUSSELL, VICTIM: Hi, I am on Interstate 459 and there is a kid just walking by themselves.
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TAPPER: Then Carlee Russell disappeared. She disappeared for 49 hours before suddenly showing up at her family's house. Her mother believes that her daughter was abducted, but since Russell's return, police say they cannot verify most of her story and internet searches on Russell's phone before her disappearance have only added to the mystery.
The searches include, quote, do you have to pay for an Amber Alert? How to take money from a register without being caught? One way bus tickets in the movie "Taken." Joining us now to discuss CNN's John Miller, who's been following this case. John, help us understand where the investigation stands now.
JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: So police were able to interview her after she said she escaped for her captors for a second time, made it home, she was taken to a hospital, examined. She was physically OK. She had a cut and a ripped shirt. And at the hospital, they found $107 hidden inside her sock. You'll note her purse, phone, and everything was left behind in the car. A lot of problems with this story that are vexing for police. Her claim was that as she was going to watch the baby who was walking along the highway, she got out of the car to check on the baby, and a man and a woman came out of the woods. They grabbed her, dragged her through the woods over a fence. Next thing she knew, she was in the back of an 18-wheeler going down the road. She could hear a man's voice, a woman's voice, and a baby crying.
She escaped the 18-wheeler and then jumped into a car. I mean, ran away, but they caught her. They brought her to a house. She was disrobed. They blindfolded. She thinks they took pictures of her. Then she was back in a car. Then she escaped and found her way home. So the 49 hours is kind of a hard to graph story of a very strange abduction.
Now her parents are standing with her. They say they're worried about her emotional well-being and that the abductors are captured. Police obviously have a lot of questions about how this could have happened, how no one else could have seen this baby, how during the 911 call where she said she was watching the baby, her car managed to travel 600 yards or the distance of three full football fields. So they want to talk to her again.
TAPPER: If it comes out that this did not happen and we don't know that's the case, although that's what people are wondering. Could she potentially face charges?
MILELR: So she could. But police have been extraordinarily careful but also sensitive, Jake, about how they describe this extraordinarily unlikely chain of events by saying they want to talk to her again. They need to continue their investigation and get more information. So if it's a false report, she could be charged with making a false report. That could be a thing that they could use to get her help, if she needs help. Or they could get to a place where they work with her family, and if she needs help, they get her help.
TAPPER: All right, John Miller, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
Coming up next, a look at the sleeper hit of the summer. It's only being beaten at the box office by Tom Cruise's new "Mission Impossible" movie. And a new development in the Tupac Shakur murder case from 1996. Details about the items police took when they searched in Nevada home. We're going to talk to the host of Slow Burn, the podcast that did an entire season on the Tupac and Biggie murder. Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our Pop Culture Lead. What's that? I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you over the "Sound of Freedom" movie breaking in money at the box office. This indie film is closing in on $100 million, and last weekend was second only Tom Cruise's new "Mission Impossible" film, promoted heavily by conservatives and Republican politicians. Donald Trump held a screening in Bedminster last night. Tom Foreman is now going to explain the phenomena behind the "Sound of Freedom." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is the fastest growing international crime network that the world has ever seen.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "Sound of Freedom" is a flag waving hit promoters say is based on the true story of a U.S. Federal agent who quit his job to more aggressively chase child sex traffickers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you doing it?
JIM CAVIEZEL, ACTOR, "SOUND OF FREEDOM": That's God children are not for sale.
FOREMAN (voice-over): But for star Jim Caviezel, it is also a crusade for countless kids who were trafficked.
CAVIEZEL: It's disgusting that the media hasn't covered it like they should.
FOREMAN (voice-over): The problem --
CAVIEZEL: May you join Saint Michael and all the angels in defending God and sending Lucifer and his henchmen straight right back to Hell where they belong.
FOREMAN (voice-over): While the movie is not about conspiracy theories, Caviezel, a devout Christian, has often shared views similar to those of conspiracy theorists, who have argued Hollywood elites, Democrats and others are running a secret cabal of child traffickers. Such lies led to an armed attack in 2016 on a D.C. pizza place where victims were falsely believed held. Caviezel has talked about a false idea that children are being snatched so a chemical called adrenochrome can be harvested from their bodies.
CAVIEZEL: This is 10 times more potent than heroin, and it has some mystical qualities as far as making you look younger.
FOREMAN (voice-over): A scathing review in Rolling Stone notes that while the movie reflects none of those falsehoods directly, it also fails to note how many victims are teenagers trafficked by family members or people they know.
MILES KLEE, WRITER, ROLLING STONE: There's nothing about harvesting children for organs or drinking their blood, but the implication is still that there is a very powerful pedophile elite that is operating a global ring.
FOREMAN (voice-over): Still at the box office only the latest "Mission Impossible" is selling more tickets. The "Sound of Freedom" closing in on $100 million in revenue. And it's all steadily fueling Caviezel's conviction that this movie can be a movement.
CAVIEZEL: "Sound of Freedom" is one of those films that can legitimately change this world.
FOREMAN: Homeland Security and the Department of Education say the most common age for kids to be sex trafficked is between 11 and 14. And whether you focus on those children or younger kids who appear in this movie a lot, this is a terribly serious matter. So supporters of this film are outraged that anyone would question its message.
But critics are just as concerned that this movie is painting a crusading version of the issue that is misleading, that it dances too close to the conspiratorial edge. And in doing so, they fear it may draw attention away from established, less cinematic efforts to help kids in trouble. Jake?
TAPPER: All right, Tom Foreman, thank you so much.
In our Law and Justice Lead, new details about the search executed this week in connection with the 1996 murder of Tupac Shakur, the actor and rapper. CNN obtained the warrant that reveals Las Vegas Police searched a home in Henderson, Nevada, which is connected to Dwayne Keith Davis. Davis is a self-proclaimed witness to the shooting and believed to be the uncle of Orlando Anderson, who has long been suspected of being involved in Tupac Shakur's murder.
Anderson denied it to CNN before his death. And a gang related shooting in 1998. Police were told, took several tablets, an iPhone, five computers, USB hard drives, and even a copy of a magazine about Tupac Shakur. With me now, Joel Anderson, a writer for Slate and host of the Slow Burn podcast for season three, which focused on the murders of Tupac and Biggie his current season is about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
So, Joel, police are making new moves nearly 30 years after Tupac's murder, how significant is this?
JOEL ANDERSON, WRITER, SLATE: Well, it's a pretty big deal. Greg Kading, the LAPD detective who led the last big investigation into these deaths about a decade ago, had predicted that no one will ever get prosecuted or convicted. But that might have been frustration because it certainly seems like they're on the trail here. And Keefe D has been the primary witness for almost 25 years at this point.
He was at the scene. He says that he was there with the gunman, who was his nephew, Orlando Anderson. And, I mean, they've been looking into him for over 25 years, so they're moving on him now certainly seems to indicate that maybe something is afoot.
TAPPER: The affidavit requests -- requesting the warrant shows that police were also looking for notes, writings, ledgers, any other handwritten, or type documents concerning television shows, documentaries, YouTube episodes, book manuscripts and movies concerning the murder of Tupac Shakur, unquote. What does that suggest to you?
ANDERSON: Well, I mean, the thing about Keefe D, Keith Davis, he has been talking about these murders for a very long time in YouTube interviews, in his own book, Compton Street Legend and in other avenues, in other mediums. So it probably is just the fact that he's got all the evidence there, right there at his house.
I mean, it's not like he's running from it. He said, hey guys, I was there at the scene of the shooting and he's got all this other information. So I think that's probably what it means to me is that they're not wasting any more time anymore and they're willing to move in on him. And in the last couple of months, Keefe D has spoken up a little bit more, made some other claims that were sort of outlandish about getting paid by a rapper to do this killing. So it's drawn a lot more attention to him in the last couple of months, for sure.
TAPPER: What does it mean to you as somebody who did a whole season of a podcast? A great season, by the way, season three of Slow Burn on Slate's podcasts, but a whole season on the fact that these crimes, Biggie and Tupac, were never solved, the fact that, here we are, it's 2023, this took place in 1996. There is still police investigation going on. What does it mean to you?
ANDERSON: Well, I think that it certainly captures the imagination of the public, these two, you know, insanely talented young black celebrities who are cut down even before the prime of their careers, that there's still some interest and that people feel that there needs to be some justice in their murders. Like, I don't know if that's actually going to happen, but it certainly seems that people are pushing them on all sides to continue to look in this case.
And I'll even say four years ago when we called to look into this case with the Las Vegas police, they said that this was an active and open investigation, active and ongoing investigation. So it certainly seems that there are a lot of people that are pushing them to look into this, and that's only a good thing. I think people want to get some closure here to the extent that's possible.
TAPPER: Agreed. Agreed. Joel Anderson, thanks so much. Keep up the great work, as always.
ANDERSON: Thanks, Jake, good to have on.
TAPPER: And I have a brand new thriller on bookshelves right now. It's called All the Demons Are Here. It's a wild ride through a bizarre era for our nation, the 1970s features Evel Knievel, Elvis, post- Watergate, mistrust, cults, disco, the Summer of Sam, the rise of tabloids, UFOs, cults, more, USA Today called it one of the must reads of the week. I'd be honored if you would check it out. You can order it now.
You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Bluesky if you have an invite, TikTok at JakeTapper. Threads, you can tweet the show at TheLeadCNN. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM". See you tomorrow.