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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Trump Suggests "Passionate Group Of Voters" Would Be Moe Dangerous Than In 2020 If He Were Imprisoned; Trump Classified Docs Trial Set For May 2024; DeSantis Says Jan 6. Attack "Was Not An Insurrection"; DOJ Warns Texas Of Legal Action For Migrant Barriers; New Barbie Movie Big For Business, Culture & Politics. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 21, 2023 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: It's going to be May. Former President Donald Trump now sets to go on trial in the classified documents case as early as May 2024. That means some Republican primary voters will still be weighing in on Trump's political fate as a jury considers his legal fate. This, as Trump suggests, if he were to go to prison, some of his so called, quote, "passionate supporters could make things dangerous." Let's bring in CNN's Evan Perez.

Evan, what do we know about why Judge Aileen Cannon settled on mid-May for the classified documents trial to start?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, it appears that she was persuaded by the arguments from the Trump defense team that there's a lot of litigation, there's a lot of things that they want to challenge with regard to this case. Obviously, it centers on classified information and classified documents. The former president disputes that they were even classified. And so, that's one of the things that she cites.

I'll read you just a part of her ruling, which she says, "The court will be faced with an extensive pretrial motion practice on a diverse number of legal and factual issues, all in connection with a 38 count indictment."

And, Jake, what we've seen already in this case is Walt Nauta, the former president's codefendant, has already eaten up one month just to get arraigned, right? That just -- that is something that is usually very perfunctory, and they've already eaten up one month just to do that. So, you can see what game -- what strategy the former president and his codefendant have been playing, and it is working. The prosecution had asked for a trial in December that seemed way aggressive, the judge said. But putting it in May really does put into the realm of possibility that we are not going to get to trial before Election Day simply because just a few more delays after that and you are now talking about a much later trial.

TAPPER: What might a mid-May trial date mean for Trump as the Republican frontrunner in the presidential race? PEREZ: Well, it means that well before a jury gets to decide on the former president's fate, the voters in the vast majority of the primaries will already have made their decision. And so, we'll see whether that means -- whether that has an impact on the electorate or not, Jake. We now know -- do know that obviously the convention is not till July of 2024, but a lot of the work that goes into deciding the fate of the Republican nominee, that is well done before late May.

TAPPER: All right, Evan Perez, thank you so much.

Let's discuss with our panel. We're going to discuss what the trial date means. But first, I want you to all listen to what Trump said this week when asked how his most ardent supporters might react if he were ultimately sent to jail.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's a very dangerous thing to even talk about.


TRUMP: Because we do have a tremendously passionate group of voters, much more passion than they had in 2020 and much more passion than they had in 2016, I think it would be very dangerous.


TAPPER: What's your reaction?

BRANDON VAN GRACK, CO-CHAIR NATIONAL SECURITY PRACTICE, MORRISON- FOERSTER: My reaction is, and it goes to something that Evan was talking about, which is I think the public's interest in having this trial as soon as possible is probably greater than any trial that we've probably ever heard of before. The voters need to hear this information. These are just allegations. They have the right to hear what the government's evidence is and what the jury is going to decide as quickly as possible. And you know, we have a made date now, but our hope is that it doesn't, you know, move any further back.

TAPPER: What do you think? I mean, when he says much more passion they had in 2020? I mean, we saw what happened in January 2021, that was some passion that became deadly.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE BOSTON GLOBE: And I'm sure this raises alarm bells for where this ends up being held. I mean, you saw in Georgia, they're already talking about the kind of security that they're going to need if and when that indictment comes down. So, this is going, I mean, between local law enforcement, federal law enforcement, that has to set off alarm bells because of what happened on January 6.

ROBERT DOAR, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: I think it's inexcusable and reprehensible, and it drives voters who are undecided or unhappy or discouraged about Trump, and there's a lot of them in the Republican Party further away from him. TAPPER: And what do you think?

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: This is vintage vile, dangerous Trump. He doesn't learn because he wants to use this to his advantage. But the reality is that, as you've said, we've seen it before, January 6, the shooting in El Paso, his words matter because his supporters really are passionate and they really do listen to him. His words really matter. So the more at this and incite because --

TAPPER: -- cited him to appear before the grand jury. John Lauro, the recent addition to Trump's legal team told Fox yesterday there is no reason for Trump to appear before a federal grand jury. Is that the right move, do you think?


VAN GRACK: Well, that's a -- so, it is a courtesy to get a card. In fact, the internal Department of Justice procedures encourages prosecutors to do exactly this, give a potential defendant the opportunity. But very few individuals actually avail themselves of the opportunity. What is surprising, though, is before in the Mar-a-Lago case, what we saw is the former President's attorneys reach out to the Department of Justice and make their case there. And I don't think we've seen reporting that such a meeting has happened yet.

TAPPER: No, we haven't.

Jackie, the trial date is not set in stone, of course. If Trump becomes a presumptive nominee by the time his trial rolls around, which is certainly possible, although he and Ted Cruz were still battling it out in May of 2016, could we see the team -- his team try to push the date again?

KUCINICH: Potentially. And they're trying to push it past the 2024 election, probably in the hopes that he is victorious and is able to. I mean, who knows what could happen then? That is extremely uncharted territory at this point.

However, if that mayday holds, you have to imagine they're going to do what they've done through all of this. They have fundraised, they've used it as a tool to gin at the base again. So, they'll try to make the most of this and turn it into an advantage. Whether it works and whether it turns off independent voters, that's the question.

TAPPER: So, today, a Pence supporter confronted Vice President Pence about Trump. It was really interesting. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would love to see you be president of the United States. I'm just going to give you an honest comment.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't believe you ever will be until the day you stand up to that man. I just believe that. And I hope -- and maybe you're too good a Christian to ever do that. Thank you for your time.

PENCE: Well, I don't know about too good a Christian. Some people did. We did a fair amount of standing up two and a half years ago.


TAPPER: So his response to that was some people believe we did a fair amount of standing up two and a half years ago. I suspect that's a reference to his refusal to try to unconstitutionally, you know, overturn the election as vice president presided --

DOAR: Under enormous pressure.

TAPPER: Yes, definitely.

DOAR: And he was a good man. He did the right thing. I think if you read his book, the last chapter of his book, especially, he's very critical of President Trump. He stands up to President Trump very strongly. He's not reflecting what's in his book in his campaign appearances, I guess, is a campaign judgment. But I'm kind of with the questioner in that back and forth.

TAPPER: Would you like to see him as president, theoretically?

DOAR: Yes, I'd like to see him as president more than the current president, that's for sure.

TAPPER: Maria, Trump's case was randomly assigned to Judge Aileen Cannon, whom Trump obviously appointed to the bench in 2020. She raised eyebrows for a ruling last year that favored the Trump team by allowing an outside review of documents that the FBI seized. An appeals court, a conservative appeals court over ruled drawn that some critics questioned whether she might have a bias toward Trump. What do you make of that now, given that she did not side with Trump, who wanted the trial date to be essentially never? I mean, after the presidential election?

CARDONA: Right, exactly. I think she probably learned from the first time that she was overturned. And hopefully she is looking at this and trying to be balanced, trying to not be biased. I obviously, as many people who think that Trump deserves everything that's hopefully coming to him, would rather have that done sooner rather than later, because I do think that there is a public safety issue here involved because of everything that we're talking about.

And I also think that from a Republican standpoint, I don't really think that it matters when this trial is going to happen. I don't think for the general election this is good at all, because what Trump has done and everything surrounding all of his criminality is going to continue to be front and center for the Republican primary, no matter how much all of his other opponents try to pretend to stand up to him.

TAPPER: You talked about how it'd be in the public's interest to have this trial take place as soon as possible, presumably, so before anybody votes, just to see the evidence, at least, because it's all just allegations, you said. Could you not also say that about the indictment that hasn't even happened yet about the January 6 investigation, which I personally think is a more significant investigation than the classified documents case? That seems pretty cut and dry. You either just like think he had the right to do it or not, but the January 6 investigation, what he did to overturn the election theory -- allegedly, I think more important.

VAN GRACK: Well, that's exactly right. In our system of justice, we have fact finders. They're called jurors, and we now have one case that's been indicted, and it seems like we're about to have another one. But until the jury, until this goes to the jury, they have to find these are still just allegations, and we won't actually get to see the government present evidence. And so, whether it's the Mar-a- Lago case, whether it's January 6, we should all, all of us potential voters want that information.


And we should get the benefit of those fact finders making a decision before we cast that vote. And that's why it's so important.

TAPPER: And in fairness to Donald Trump, Jack Smith, who I think it's unfair to call him a partisan, because he has prosecuted or been part of the prosecution team against John Edwards, the Democrat, and Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat. But those cases didn't go well for Jack Smith and his team, and neither did his prosecution of the Republican Virginia Governor Bob O'Donnell.

KUCINICH: Which is why this should be let to play out in the justice system and not keep pushing this back and back. But I just wanted to comment on something you said, Maria. The fact that most of them aren't standing up to Trump, I mean, his Republican --

CORDONA: Right, exactly not.

KUCINICH: -- opponents and they're not taking advantage of the fact there's this --

CARDONA: Exactly.

KUCINICH: -- potentially cornucopia of indictments that are rolling out throughout this race. Will they break because of the facts in one of these? Should they come down? Really, that will be a huge moment if they do, who's --


KUCINICH: -- not Chris Christie or an Asa Hutchinson who've already weighed in.


DOAR: It's a legitimate point to bring up the overreach of the Justice Department. They don't have the best record in all cases. They're not holier than thou. And so, yes, the prosecutor's got to make his case.

TAPPER: Yes. DOAR: He's got to prove the facts. And I think the American people want to see that happen. And it's an open question and a legitimate concern of Republican voters to think that the Justice Department and the Biden administration is overreaching.

TAPPER: So, we're going to have more panel. Stick around. I'll come to you first --

CARDONA: Thank you.

TAPPER: -- in the next panel, Maria, I promise. We'll have more to discuss.

Coming up, the head of the CIA has some advice for beleaguered head of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin. Make sure you know what you're eating, he says. Then, the new fight building between the Justice Department and Texas officials over border barriers and razor wire and more. Stick around.



TAPPER: In our world lead now, more Russian missile strikes on Ukraine's crucial port city of Odessa on the Black Sea, the Ukrainians say 21 people there have been killed over the past five days. Reuters, quotes, "The region's governor as saying the Russians are hitting grain terminals." The United Nations today warned that the attacks on Ukraine's ability to export grain will impact global food security, which, of course, will especially hurt developing countries. The Russians cancelled the previous deal to allow the export of Ukrainian grain. Earlier this week, they said they did so in retaliation for what they claim was a Ukrainian strike that damaged a key bridge to Crimea, a part of Ukraine that the Russians illegally seized in 2014.

In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin is seething about the continuing flow of weapons Ukraine is getting from its allies, especially from the United States. But as CNN's Fred Pleitgen reports for us now, Putin's isolation and alleged paranoia appear to be growing worse, according to experts, and officials at the CIA, among others, are noticing.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): With Ukraine now using U.S. supplied cluster munitions to try and penetrate the Russian army's entrenched positions on the southern front, Russian leader Vladimir Putin ripping into the U.S. and its allies for aiding Kyiv.

PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): The whole world can see that the supposedly invulnerable equipment that the west boasted about is on fire. And technically, it is often even inferior to some Soviet made weapons. Yes, of course, additional Western armaments can be supplied and thrown into battle. This, of course, causes us certain damage and prolongs the conflict. PLEITGEN (voice-over): But while Putin tries to project superiority on the battlefield, at home, the Kremlin continues to silence critical voices, even some of those supporting their war. Prominent military blogger Igor Girkin, who also goes by Igor Strelkov arrested today, his wife said, after remarks blasting the lack of progress of Russia's military campaign in Ukraine.

The situation with a special military operation and in the country in general is deplorable, to put it mildly, he said. This is a result of actions of the incumbent power. Girkin is a former colonel in Russia's security service FSB, and was the defense minister of the so called Donetsk People's Republic in eastern Ukraine when the Malaysian jetliner MH-17 was shot down there in 2014. Girkin was found guilty of mass murder in absentia by a Dutch court for involvement in the incident, which he has never acknowledged. While Girkin is considered a war criminal in Ukraine, he deems himself a Russian ultra nationalist who feels the war should be prosecuted even more brutally.

Putin's grip on power was only recently challenged by the uprising of the Wagner private military company and its boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin. Now, the Russian leader wants to calm things down, CIA Director William Burns believes.

WILLIAM BURNS, CIA DIRECTOR: Putin is trying to buy time as he considers what to do with Wagner and what to do with Prigozhin. You know, Putin hates, in my experience anyway, the image that he's overreacting to things.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): But that doesn't mean Prigozhin is forgiven, Burns says.

BURNS: If I were Prigozhin, I wouldn't fire my food taster.


PLEITGEN: At that same event, Jake, the CIA director also calling Vladimir Putin the ultimate apostle of payback, which obviously could spell trouble for Yevgeny Prigozhin down the line. And if you look at Igor Girkin, for instance, I mean, we have to keep in mind this was one of Putin's most important figures back in 2014, now he's in jail. He's been ordered to remain there at least -- until at least September 18 and could face up to five years in prison for alleged extremism, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much.

Also in our world lead today, the power of social media to force change and perhaps justice. In India, viral and, frankly, disgusting video of women being dragged naked through the streets has forced authorities to pay attention to a gang rape incident they had been ignoring. This happened in India's state of Manipur in the eastern part of the country, far from its bigger, more cosmopolitan cities. CNN's Vedika Sud has more details.



VEDIKA SUD, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): Anger in the northeastern state of Manipur and across the country. In Delhi, huge crowds gathered protesting after graphic video showing two women being sexually assaulted circulated online.

(on camera): In the 26, second horrific clip that's gone viral on social media, two women were forced to walk naked on a road with a mob of at least three dozen men surrounding them. The women were groped and sexually assaulted. They were terrified, crying out for help, covering their bare bodies with their hands. They were led to a field where they were allegedly gang raped.

(voice-over): The horrific incident took place on May 4, but police only made arrests after the video surfaced. A massive manhunt is underway for potential other suspects. The sexual assault has renewed attention on Manipur, which has been grappling with ethnic clashes since May.

More than a hundred people have been killed and tens of thousands displaced during violent clashes between two communities, the Kuki is a tribal group in the state and the majority Meitei population. They're fighting over access to government benefits.

Despite the violence, India's Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has been silent for weeks. But the video and the national outrage over it got him to finally make a public statement.

NARENDA MODI, PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA (through translator): And I want to assure the countrymen that no culprit will be spared. The law, with all its might and strictness, will take steps one by one. Whatever has happened with the daughters of Manipur will never be forgiven.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The order is only one.

SUD (voice-over): But the opposition wants more from the prime minister.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we want a discussion here on Manipur. We want a discussion. And the prime minister has to open his mouth. Manipur, Manipur, Manipur.

SUD (voice-over): Despite the prime minister's assurances, Manipur remains tense. Women in the state have torched the house of one suspect, and questions remain as to why it took so long for authorities to take action. It could take months for peace to return to the state.


SUD: It's taken a video to wake up authorities in Manipur. There have only been a handful of arrests till now for a brutal crime committed in the first week of May. Here in Delhi, parliament has been adjourned till Monday after house proceedings were repeatedly disrupted over the ongoing violence in Manipur. Jake.

TAPPER: Our thanks to CNN's Vedika Sud for that report.

Vice President Kamala Harris heading to Florida, taking on the state's latest education controversy. History now at the center of today's politics. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, Vice President Kamala Harris making a last minute change to her schedule in order to go to Florida today to condemn the state's controversial new standards for how black history is taught in public schools. Among other changes, the state will now teach students, quote, "how slaves develop skills, which in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit," unquote. CNN's Jasmine Wright is following this controversy.

And Jasmine, these changes, we should note they're part of an overall package of changes, two curriculum pushed by Florida's Republican running for president. What did Vice President Harris have to say?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Jake, she absolutely slammed Republicans, including Ron DeSantis, though she didn't mention him by name, fully waiting until these cultural war issues that the Biden administrations feel will, at least in some part, dominate the 2024 election. So we saw her not only accuse what she likes to call so called leaders of pushing propaganda, but she also said that they were willfully misleading children about the impacts and the negative things about slavery, as well as other parts of American history inside of this new standards.

Now, the administration has been talking about issues like book bans, and now the right to learn an increasing pace over the last few months since President Biden launched his campaign for the 2024 election. Really trying to show that they are on top of it as they're trying to galvanize their base voters on this issue. And that's exactly what we saw Vice President Kamala Harris do in Florida. Take a listen.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We know the history and let us not let these politicians who are trying to divide our country win. Because you see what they are doing, what they are doing is they are creating these unnecessary debates. This is unnecessary to debate whether enslaved people benefited from slavery. Are you kidding me? Are we supposed to debate that?


WRIGHT: Now, that type of performance that we saw from the Vice President exactly why Biden administration officials are putting her in that place. They know that she is good on these issues. They're in her wheelhouse as a former prosecutor and there's something she can talk about very specifically and they know that has a positive impact on voters in the base, like black women. Also, of course, this was put together quickly for the administration trying to show the American people that they can respond to these types of issues fast and also very seriously. Jake.

TAPPER: Jasmine, this is the second time this week that the Biden administration has directly gone after Governor DeSantis. That's something they were not doing before, really.

WRIGHT: Yes. Jake, two times in one week is no mistake. And it's really, we're seeing them expand in real time. Who is on their target list when it comes to attacks? Of course, in the past few months, we've seen the campaign really focus on President Trump and the threat that they feel that he has to democracy. But now they're widening it into these cultural issues, these hot ticket issues that they know really excite their base voters, including really attacking Ron DeSantis, who we know is an architect of a lot of the conversations that we talk about from a day to day.

Now, Vice President Harris, she's been on a tour across the country talking about these issues very clearly, really a rights tour, talking about freedoms as trying to put really the Biden administration, her and President Biden as the last safeguard against Republicans trying to claw back at these freedoms. But I think both Vice President Harris and President Biden talk really targeting Ron DeSantis, who is on top of a lot of these issues that come up on their day to day cultural war issues.

TAPPER: That's right. Jasmine Wright, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

We're back with our panel. Eva, let me just give the response from the Florida Department of Education and the DeSantis administration. They're standing by. This assertion that saves benefit from slavery. They're noting, first of all, this is just one small part about what is being taught about slavery, which is one small part of an overall curriculum revamp.

And they say on this one issue, two members of Florida's African American history standards workgroup released a statement defending the claim, writing, quote, the intent of this particular benchmark clarification is to show that some slaves developed highly specialized trades from which they benefited. This is factual and well documented. They cite numerous instances, including, you know, John Henry learning how to be a blacksmith.

Governor DeSantis also directly went after Vice President Harris tweeting, quote, Democrats like Kamala Harris have to lie about Florida's educational standards to cover for their agenda of indoctrinating students and pushing sexual topics onto children.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: So I suspected that this would be the response from the state. Listen, Governor DeSantis relishes this battle. It's a good thing that Vice President Harris is engaging with him in this way. And this is how I suspected that this would play out. I will say, aside from the politics, I think that we all need to sort of reflect that we are at a time in this country where, based on where you live and the politics of your state, you are going to learn a different set of facts about something as foundational as slavery in America. And it's just a remarkable moment that really transcends politics.

TAPPER: DeSantis also making some controversial remarks about the January 6th attack on the Capitol. Take a listen.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was not an insurrection. These are people that were there to attend a rally and then they were there to protest. Now it devolved, and it devolved into a riot. But the idea that this was a plan to somehow overthrow the government of the United States is not true. It ended up devolving, you know, in ways that was unfortunate, of course, but to say that they were seditionists is just wrong.


TAPPER: Yes. We should note that obviously there are a lot of different people who went into the Capitol that day. More than a dozen members of the far right Proud Boys and Oath Keeper groups have been found guilty literally of sedition, of seditious conspiracy related to January 6th. What do you make of it?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Look, this is the latest example in a couple of weeks ago he was in New Hampshire and he said he wasn't there on January 6th, so he's not sure what happened. This is the latest in an example of the Florida governor trying to not alienate Trump based voters, if you will, as he tries to walk this very fine line through the Republican primary electorate.

But it seems to me, you know, yes, there were people in Washington that day who did not enter the Capitol. Yes, there were people who came for protests as we know. But clearly the people in the Capitol that should be like settled discussion by this point. I'm not sure what the upside for him is talking about this, but given the venue where he was at a conservative podcast, he simply, you know, is trying to, like many others, to run this obstacle course, if you will, by not alienating based voters.

TAPPER: Some of these issues, though, Governor DeSantis clearly relishes. I mean, I'm not sure if he wants to talk about January 6th or not. He generally says, I want to look forward, not back. But he's also out there urging Florida's pension fund manager to consider legal action against the parent company of Bud Light, because Bud Light stock price has fallen amid all the backlash. Two, it's, you know, to be honest, minor partnership with a social media influencer who's trans a TikTok influencer, and that would impact tens of millions of dollars the state has invested in the company. Take a look.


DESANTIS: We're going to be launching an inquiry about Bud Light and InBev, and it could be something that leads to a derivative lawsuit filed on behalf of the shareholders of the Florida pension fund because at the end of the day, there's got to be penalties for when you put business aside to focus on your social agenda at the expense of hardworking people. (END VIDEO CLIP)


TAPPER: Now, somebody, an observer might say, DeSantis helped lead the charge to boycott Bud Light for that. Now, I mean --

ROBERT DOAR, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: Well, I'm of course light drinker, so that's the first thing. So this has been good for them. But on these cultural issues, especially ones concerning school children and school curriculum, those are legitimate issues.


DOAR: I raised four children. My wife was the president of a local school board and for a public school system. The curriculum doesn't always get it right, and sometimes it tilts left. A lot of times it tilts left. And I think there's been a reaction in the country to these curriculums to get it more of a balance. And I think what the vice president is doing is taking out of context the effort to do that, to find the most egregious or controversial language and blow it up. And part of the reason she's doing that is because they want to run against Donald Trump. They don't want to run against DeSantis.

TAPPER: Oh, you think they're trying to sandbag him now?

DOAR: Oh, yes, take him down so that -- they want Trump.

TAPPER: But just to play devil's advocate here, doesn't this help DeSantis? It elevates him. It make --

DOAR: Well, they went after him, anytime you have bad press, anytime somebody's saying things like this, some of this has undermined his support among more middle of the road Republican voters. There's evidence of that in the polling that he's lost college educated Republicans. He may not care about those, and this could work with him for the base. But, you know, they're attacking DeSantis because they want to run against Trump.

TAPPER: Do you think, you're the Democrat here, do you think that DeSantis would be tougher to beat than Trump for Biden?

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIC: I don't. And I know that there might be people who disagree with me. But I don't because of what he's doing. He is so outside of the mainstream, Jake, that aside from how vile it is what he's doing, especially in terms of what he's trying to change, in terms of black history. And the vice president is right, but it's not just unnecessary, it's dangerous what he's doing to insinuate that there was anything positive about the most heinous crime against humanity that has occurred in history.

I think it makes him a historical Neanderthal. And I think that because of that, because of everything else that he's doing, because he's so obsessed going against the woke agenda, the leftist agenda, he's not doing anything for the American people. He's not doing anything that is helping American families live a better life. He's not doing anything to help kids try to figure out a better future. I would absolutely love to run against that.

TAPPER: Final word.

DOAR: The AI scholars just released a report today that showed that among those Republican voters who don't like Trump and don't like Biden, when they -- it's Trump -- it's DeSantis versus Biden. DeSantis wins big. When it's Biden versus Trump --

TAPPER: Biden wins big. Interesting.

ZELENY: The generational thing is one of the reasons.

TAPPER: Yes, absolutely. Thanks to one and all for being here.


The federal government says it plans to take legal action against Texas over these floating border barriers. Why the Biden administration says the barriers are making the border crisis worse. That's next.


TAPPER: In our National Lead, the Department of Justice has told the State of Texas it plans legal action against the use of these floating barriers in the Rio Grande River. In a letter to Governor Greg Abbott, prosecutors state that the floating barriers violate federal law and raise serious humanitarian concerns.

This, of course, is separate from the Department of Justice looking into, quote, troubling reports from ranger medics about treatment of migrants crossing the border, including orders to push migrants back into the Rio Grande River, plus disturbing instances such as an allegation that a 19-year-old woman was trapped in wire while having a miscarriage. CNN's Priscilla Alvarez joins me live in studio. Priscilla, what did the Justice Department state in this letter?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Simply put, they didn't have authorization to put the floating barriers in the Rio Grande and the Justice Department is citing a clause of the law to that effect. But the humanitarian concern is important here, and they go on to say in the letter, and I'm going to read this part to you. The state of Texas actions violate federal law, raise humanitarian concerns, present serious risks to public safety and the environment, and may interfere with the federal government's ability to carry out its official duties.

This is an escalation in the feud between Texas Governor Greg Abbott and President Biden over the handling of the U.S.-Mexico border. Sources I've talked to said there were internal discussions for months within the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department to take some action against Texas. But they had never reached the point to do so. We're seeing that play out this week with that letter to Texas Governor Abbott just yesterday.

And we should also note to your point this is unrelated to the mistreatment of migrants. That is an ongoing assessment by the Justice Department. But there is a connection here because these are barriers that pose a potential drowning risk to migrants and that there are accounts of migrants getting stuck and getting hurt in these barriers. The White House saying in a statement just moments ago, it is cruel and it is dangerous.

TAPPER: How has the state of Texas responded to this?

ALVAREZ: Well, in a tweet, the governor said that it is their sovereign authority to defend our border. So they are staying firm on their position to put floating barriers in the river. Now, the Justice Department did give the state until Monday afternoon to respond to their letter. If they don't, they are prepared to take Texas to court over this issue.

TAPPER: All right, Priscilla Alvarez, fascinating and depressing story. I appreciate it.


Coming up, living in a doll's world. The complex business of Barbie has everyone seeing pink.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Barbie, can I come to your house tonight?

MARGOT ROBBIE, ACTRESS: Sure. I don't have anything big planned. Just a giant blowout party with all the Barbies and planned choreography and a bespoke song, you should stop by.



TAPPER: If you're seeing a lot of pink today, you're not alone. Barbie Mania has taken over as the new Barbie film. Directed by the great Greta Gerwig and distributed by CNN's parent company, Warner Brothers, Discovery, opens in theaters across the country. CNN's Sara Sidner sat down with the stars of the movie Margot Robbie and America Ferrera and asked a question the movie poses to the audience.


SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: Everyone makes Barbie into who they think she is because she doesn't talk, she doesn't walk, so we use our imaginations. How did you decide who Barbie was going to be in this film?


ROBBIE: To be honest, Greta knew from the beginning, really, that she wanted Barbie to have the classic hero's journey. She actually used Buddha's journey to enlightenment as a reference, and I was like, OK, wow. I didn't see that coming. But now that you've said it does make perfect sense.

And so suddenly, she did have this framework of a narrative, and within that, we could have all these conversations on so many different levels. And what we wanted to do with those conversations is kind of honor the legacy that the 64 years of Barbie has, you know, created, you know, and also bring it into today's day, you know, have culturally relevant conversations.


TAPPER: Not surprisingly, Barbie is also entering political conversations with Republican Senate Committee making memes of prominent Democrats such as Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden as Barbies. In Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer capitalizing on Barbie's popularity, sharing her favorite color. CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich takes a look now at the political business of Barbie.


VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Barbie mania, Barbie curious fans strutting into theaters on opening day in what could be one of the biggest box office weekends since the pandemic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a love story.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): Barbie can be a polarizing figure.

TANYA LEE STONE, AUTHOR, "THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE BARBIE": I think the most interesting thing about Barbie is that she is a conduit for interesting conversation and controversy.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): Author Tanya Lee Stone says some see Barbie as a feminist icon, while others see her as sending the wrong message to women.

STONE: There were just as many people sending me stories about how Barbie made them feel less than or inferior or gave them body image issues as there were people who felt that she was empowering to them.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): Even some of the movie's stars didn't see Barbie as influential at first.

AMERICA FERRERA, ACTRESS: I was not a Barbie girl.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): But the new movie puts Barbie in the real world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have to go to the real world.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): With real problems, an identity crisis.

FERRERA: Barbie in the real world. That's impossible.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): And President Barbie is the first female president. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Turn to the Barbie next to you. Tell her how much you love her.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): President Barbie has been around since 1992, but she wasn't always embraced. Here she is on SNL in 2016, the first time a woman claimed a party nomination for president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first Barbie commander-in-chief.


YURKEVICH (voice-over): Now, seven years later, Barbie is back in the political arena and being celebrated. Here's Lil Gretch, Michigan. Governor Gretchen Whitmer's look alike Barbie, driving in front of the State Capitol in a made in Michigan pink convertible.


YURKEVICH (voice-over): She's signing legislation, talking battery manufacturing, and infrastructure. Barbie's been an icon, tweeted Whitmer. And a reminder that it's so important to support one another and create systems that allow more people to achieve their own dreams no matter who they are, what they look like, or what they wear, let's keep fighting for that dream world.


YURKEVICH: And here, outside of the AMC Theater in New York City, no lines yet, Jake, but shows are playing every half hour to hour. But we have seen a lot of Barbie core pink, people in bright pink, light pink heading into theater. I spoke to two young girls who had just seen the movie. They said that they were surprised by how much Barbie was about women's empowerment. They loved it. They thought it gave Barbie a deeper experience. And it also, Jake, deepened their love for Barbie.

TAPPER: And Vanessa, we should note Barbie is not the only really big summer movie opening right now. Christopher Nolan's "Oppenheimer" also is debuting this weekend.

YURKEVICH: Yes, it's the double showing. It's being called Barbieheimer. I actually just ran into a woman who was dressed as Barbie. Her boyfriend was dressed as Oppenheimer, and they had just gone out of the Barbie show. They were taking a little intermission, and they were then heading in to see Oppenheimer. We know a lot of friends and couples are doing this, and that's why people are expecting this to be such a big weekend with the double feature of Barbie and Oppenheimer.

But Jake, that is over four hours plus of movie going. But, hey, it's the weekend. Maybe people have time for that. Jake?

TAPPER: Right. For some reason, I have the image of a very pink mushroom cloud. Vanessa Yurkevich, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

[17:54:36] Still ahead, celebrating the legacy and legend of Tony Bennett, Harry Connick Jr. and Michael Buble share how the singer inspired them. That's ahead.


TAPPER: In our National Lead today, President Biden selected Admiral Lisa Franchetti to be the new top officer of the U.S. Navy. If confirmed, Admiral Franchetti would be the first woman in the Navy's history to hold the job and the first woman in the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Admiral Franchetti has served in the Navy for more than 38 years and is the current Vice Chief of Naval Operations.

However, she will likely join a growing group of senior officers who will have to wait for their confirmation, as Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville has continued his hold on senior military nominations because he opposes the Pentagon's policies when it comes to travel to get abortions.

I have a brand new thriller on sale right now. It's called, All the Demons Are Here. A wild ride through a bizarre era for our nation, the 1970s with Evel Knievel and the death of Elvis, post-Watergate, mistrust, cults, disco, the Summer of Sam, UFOs, and much more. I would be honored if you would check it out. You can get it in bookstores now. Makes a good summer read, one would think.

Be sure to tune in this Sunday to State of the Union. My colleague Dana Bash will talk to Republican presidential candidate and former Vice President Mike Pence, Democratic Congresswoman and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Governor of Utah, Spencer Cox, and the Governor of Colorado, Jared Polis. It's at 9:00 a.m. and noon Eastern.


Until then, you can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Threads, Twitter, Bluesky, if you have an invite. The TikTok, I'm back on it at JakeTapper. Or you can tweet the show at TheLeadCNN. Our coverage continues now with Jim Acosta. He's in for Wolf Blitzer in a place I like to call "THE SITUATION ROOM". See you soon.