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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Sources: Special Counsel Asking About Feb. 2020 Oval Office Meeting, Where Trump Praised Work Done To Secure Election; Texas, White House Spar Over Floating Border Barriers; Thousands Protest Judicial Overhaul Law In Israel; Ukraine Takes Credit In Moscow Drone As More Russian Missiles Strike Odesa; Alabama Lawmakers Refuse To Create Majority-Black Congressional District Despite Supreme Court Ruling; Authorities Use Dogs, Ground-Penetrating Radar In Search Of Gilgo Beach Suspect's New York Home. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired July 24, 2023 - 16:00   ET



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: She's known as little Messi and she wore number 16 on her jersey. She's the youngest player ever to represent Italy at the World Cup. Italy edged out Argentina with the late header from the oldest player on the squad, 33-year-old Christiana Girelli, who's actually a player on field yesterday, who is in for Argentina, that debuted for her nation before this player was even born.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: That is crazy, and by the way, to make the Italian national team at 16, it is a pretty easy impressive thing to do. Better than me at soccer.

THJE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.


BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN HOST: The special counsel is asking about yet another Oval Office meeting involving Donald Trump.

THE LEAD starts right now.

A new CNN exclusive, what did Donald Trump say behind closed doors? The Oval Office meeting about election security that has the attention of the special counsel. The brand new reporting you'll see only on CNN.

Plus, see you in court, Mr. President. The strong response from the government of Texas as the battle over floating barriers at the border heats up.

And protests and clashes stretched well into the night as Israel's hard right government overhaul its Supreme Court powers.


GOLODRYGA: Welcome to THE LEAD, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga, in for Jake Tapper. We start today in our law and justice lead with a CNN exclusive. We

learned special counsel Jack Smith is scrutinizing yet another Oval Office meeting as part of its investigation into efforts to over turn the 2020 election. Sources tell CNN prosecutors have asked former U.S. officials about a February 2020 meeting in which former President Donald Trump praised the work done to secure the upcoming presidential election, and the expansion of the use of paper ballots and security around vote tallies.

And that's a stark contrast to the voter conspiracy theories Trump publicly promoted just weeks later, and more aggressively in the run- up to the November election.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: I don't want to see a crooked election. This will be the most rigged election in history. They know it's going to be fraudulent. It's going to be fraud all over the place. I've been complaining very strongly about the ballots and the ballots are a disaster.


GOLODRYGA: The revelation of this meeting comes as the investigation appears to be in its final stages. With the D.C. grand jury scheduled to meet this week.

So let's bring in the team with the exclusive reporting. CNN's Sean Lyngaas and Evan Perez.

Sean, let's start with you. What happened at this February 2020 meeting?

SEAN LYNGAAS, CNN CYBERSECURITY REPORTER: Bianna, there was a lot that happened. It was an election security briefing. U.S. officials walked through the ways in which the election system was secure and telling Trump about mail-in ballots, security audits for voting, and a range of ways in which the election would be protected. And Trump, according to our sources, even suggested that he was so impressed by the work done to secure the election, that he even suggested doing a press conference where he could take credit for that work.

So, this is, as you say, a contrast to what he was saying just weeks later where he ramped up conspiracy theories and was full bore in the fact that the election was not going to turn into his favor, Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: That is fascinating that we know he wanted to hold a press conference to tout this. But, Sean, I do want to play a bit of what Trump was saying in public just a few weeks after that meeting in April of 2020. Take a listen.


TRUMP: The mail ballot, they cheat, OK? People cheat. Mail ballots are very dangerous thing for this country because they're cheaters. They're going to collect them. They're fraudulent in my cases. (END VIDEO CLIP)

GOLODRYGA: And, Sean, that was just a sample of what he said. There was a lot more of this kind of rhetoric.

LYNGAAS: Right, the rhetoric escalated exponentially really. So, quietly, in the weeks before it started to escalate, you have him acknowledging factual information from his briefers. So, that's why we're told special counsel office made examining this meeting because of what it says about Trump's mindset and how he absorbed very factual information that was reiterated to him and which remained true on election day. Some of these productions are why the U.S. officials declared the most secure in U.S. history, Bianna.


So, Evan, what does this mean for Jack Smith's investigations into Trump's actions?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, a couple of things we could draw from this. One of the things is the sheer breadth of this investigation. It is reaching way back into February of 2020. And we know that the special counsel has been really focused on trying to understand what the Trump -- what the former president seemed to believe, what he was being told by his experts, and then what he was being told by his non-experts.


These are people who are telling him that the election was stolen by Venezuela, by Italian satellites, by Chinese hacking. So that's what, you know, if you're the prosecutor, that's what you want to focus on, to try to determine whether he really believed this stuff, or whether this was all part of the -- the act that the former president was engaged in, as a way to overturn the election.

GOLODRYGA: And this is coming as we're waiting to hear from the grand jury.

Evan, I do want you to weigh in on new exclusive reporting from the CNN on new thousands of documents related to Rudy Giuliani. Explain the significance there.

PEREZ: Well, this is reporting from our Paula Reid. And this is only on Sunday that the special counsel was able to get their hands on the thousands of pages of documents that were in the possession of Bernie Kerik. He was working alongside Rudy Giuliani in this whole period where they were trying to find alleged fraud.

And this is been withheld, this special counsel -- the January 6 investigation on Capitol Hill had sought this. But he had never turned these over claiming that they were privileged. Well, now, as a result of some litigation from a couple of election workers in Georgia, these documents are now in the hands of the investigators and again they only got it on Sunday. It really tells us that there is so much more work that they're doing

behind the scenes, even, Bianna, if we expect that the grand jury is going to be sitting tomorrow, perhaps here in Washington. They tend to sit on Tuesday and Thursdays. And an indictment could come any day. It appears, certainly, a lot of work still left to be done by this investigative team, Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: And more information we continue to learn by the day. Sean Lyngaas and Evan Perez, great reporting. Thank you.

PEREZ: Thanks.

GOLODRYGA: I like to bring in my panel, Alyssa Farah Griffin, Tom Dupree and Bakari Sellers.

Great to see all of you.

So, Alyssa, I'm curious to get your response to this new reporting because you worked in the White House around this time. Did you notice a shift in the former president's attitude from praising election security to all of a sudden doubting it just a few weeks later?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This was remarkable to hear because I'm familiar with that meeting and I know there were others where former CISA's Chris Krebs have briefed the former president about just how secure American elections were and the many steps that have taken to put us in a place where we could trust the institution of elections.

But it was about I would say about April or May of 2020, the height of COVID and also the former president's poll numbers began to plummet, that he started raising doubts about mail-in voting. And I actually remember being in an Oval Office meeting about that time where the campaign called the president and I was sitting there and he -- they basically said stop casting doubt on mail-in voting. You're going to depress your own voter turnout.

So, I mean, I don't try to get into the mind of Donald Trump but I think a motivating factor in this election myth big lie was the fact for the first time he realized he might lose and he wanted to start paving the way for how he would say he didn't truly lose.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah. And this all speaks to the issue of intent because if he was briefed on these details, seemed to be proud of them and wanted to hold a press conference, what happened in those next few weeks that changed his mind? And about timing, Tom, what do you make of the timing in the difference between the nine months here before the election, and the change in the president's tone and view on election integrity?

TOM DUPREE, FORMER PRINCIPAL DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, G.W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION: Right. Well, the fact that nine months lapsed is not hugely significant to the jury. In other words, if Jack Smith could persuade that Trump can really thought our elections were secure at the beginning of 2020, it is unlikely his opinion would change by the end of 2020. And, look, I think what's significant here is that although we may not

want to get into the mind of Donald Trump, there are going to be some jurors in Washington, D.C., if he is indicted who will be asked to get into the mind to figure out whether or not he genuinely believed this election was tainted by fraud or not. And so, I think this evidence that this cybersecurity meeting will go a long way and will help Jack Smith show that President Trump knew or should have known that this election was not, in fact, taken by fraud, at least to the extent that it could have resulted in a different outcome.

GOLODRYGA: And, Bakari, to that point, after the 2020 election, the Department of Homeland Security released this statement saying, quote, the November 3rd election was most secure in American history. We know subsequently that Chris Krebs had been fired after that.

But the statement was we know based on the exact systems that Trump had praised during this 2020 election. So what do you make of that?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think that the actual firing and the retaliation is something that Jack Smith and the grand jury will take note of.

This meeting, though, I'm not so certain that it is going to go a long way in convincing someone that a crime was committed. I understand the fact that you have to prove intent or mens rea, I just don't think you get there by proving that Donald Trump is not smart or he's not a smart man. If that is a case, you could indict half of the United States Senate. So I don't think that is going to go far.

But I do believe the treasure trove of documents from Rudy Giuliani, when you start turning over people's emails, when you start turning over people's notes, text messages, et cetera, that's going further than Donald Trump doesn't believe in facts. I mean, that for me didn't hold a great deal of weight.

Firing someone for telling the truth, that retaliation, maybe. That sounds more like a civil employment case than anything else. But the treasure trove of documents from Rudy Giuliani definitely have to start getting Donald Trump nervous because what you notice on indictments, people start -- they start snitching up. They always snitch up on the top target. And that's what we're seeing here today.

Whether or not Meadows speaks or Giuliani speaks, all of those individuals snitching up is going to a detrimental effect on Donald Trump.

GOLODRYGA: Alyssa, do you agree? I mean, these documents actually came way of Bernie Kerik, who was advising the administration, a former president's administration there and his team. What do you make of that news?

GRIFFIN: Yeah. I think Bakari is right. I mean, at the end of the day, there are many folks who are deeply loyal to Donald Trump but at the end of the day, if they're risking incriminating themselves, I think they're going to end up cooperating. I think it's still very much an open question where Mark Meadows is in this investigation, where others, and the fact that at this point in time, we don't know if anyone else has received a target letter.

I think that that indicates that there are people cooperating with the grand jury and trying to help the special counsel and that -- that spells a lot of trouble for Donald Trump.

GOLODRYGA: Alyssa, I also want you to weigh in on this exchange the former president had with Sean Hannity. I know you don't want to go down the rabbit hole of trying to get into his head. But here's what he said at a town hall just last week.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Will you encourage your voters based on system we have to go along with the system of early voting and voting by mail, because I think if you don't, it's a big mistake.

TRUMP: No, no, no, I will. But those ballots get lost also, Sean. A lot of bad things happen to those ballots also. They're sent in early and all of a sudden, where are they? Bad -- look, we have very corrupt elections.


GOLODRYGA: So Trump is encouraging mail-in ballots yet continuing to still sow doubt. Alyssa, how are other Republican candidates responding to this?

GRIFFIN: Well, I don't know that other Republican candidates are weighing in but everyone around Donald Trump who knows how you win election has been trying to get him to stop attacking mail-in voting because it again depressing his own turnout. Donald Trump does decently well with senior citizens who, by the way, are a voting bloc that largely votes by mail-in voting. I even felt like Sean Hannity was trying to tee the softball up for him.

At the end of the day, it kind of raises two questions for me. I'm not entirely convinced that Donald Trump is running because of some grand vision for the future of the country. I think he's running to avoid indictment and potential jail time. He's just hoping to get enough votes.

But also, he's trying to tee this up for, if he loses again, how -- what is his excuse going to be for why he didn't, and it's kind of the January 6 story all over again. He can't lose. The problem is with the system despite the fact that we know we have extremely secure elections.

GOLODRYGA: And, Tom, we heard from Alyssa bringing up Mark Meadows asking where is he in all of this. We learn that federal prosecutors are interested in a specific text exchange where he apparently joked about Trump's election claims.

"The Washington Post" is reporting this. That Meadows wrote to a White House lawyer that his son, Atlanta area attorney Blake Meadows had been probing possible fraud and had found only a handful of possible votes cast in dead voters names, far short of what Trump was alleging. The lawyer teasingly responded that perhaps Meadows son could locate the thousands of votes Trump would need to win the election.

What do you make of the then White House chief of staff joking about election fraud?

DUPREE: Well, the first thing I would make of it is if Mark Meadows, in fact, just cooperating with the special counsel and has flipped, I would be concerned if I was Trump team. And he's been silent after the last few months, and I think there is a good chance that he may face potential exposure that he is cooperating with the special counsel. As far as the text exchange go, I mean, it's been remarkable in this case, to see how many of the behind closed door exchanges, often exchange very casually may turn out to have very significant implications.

I mean, here the obvious implications is that the chief of staff knew full well that they didn't have remotely sufficient evidence to change the outcome in any state, let alone the multiple states he needed to stay in office. So from the special counsel's perspective, it's kind of a gift from God in that he could go before the jury and say look these guys are saying one thing publicly, but behind closed doors, here's what they truly believe.

GOLODRYGA: Bakari, what do you think of this text? Significant for the special counsel's investigation?

SELLERS: Well, first of all, I'm Mark Meadows' son, I'm like, thanks, Dad, for including me in this federal investigation. But the fact, I think we're making a good point. If you tie in this text message to an overt act, if Mark Meadows knew that there wasn't enough votes to overturn, if they knew that there was no fraud perpetrated in some grand scheme but then went out and helped Donald Trump orchestrate fake electors or he helped make phone calls to pressure people into finding new votes, et cetera, then you have a criminal case against Mark Meadows and you have a criminal exposure.


That's how those two things tie in together. It's not just the intent, but it's also the overt act that is made and we'll see if they have both of them.

GOLODRYGA: All right, panel. We'll have to leave it there. Thank you all for your time. I appreciate it.

Well, we are monitoring what's becoming a very active night in Israel. It's after 11:00 p.m. there and protests -- well, they're still going strong. CNN is live in the middle of it all.

Plus, the Texas governor defying a federal request and keeping a water barrier in place designed to deter migrants. But, is it working?

Plus, another CNN exclusive. What's next for Ukraine as the country now admits that its counteroffensive is behind schedule.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) GOLODRYGA: See you in court, Mr. President. That's the response from Texas Governor Greg Abbott today as he officially defied a Justice Department request to remove floating barriers on the southern border.


CNN's Priscilla Alvarez is at the White House with more on President Biden's response but we'll start on the border in Eagle Pass, Texas, where CNN's Rosa Flores is live for us.

So, Rosa, how is Governor Abbott justifying this decision?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Governor Abbott is saying that he has sovereign authority by the state of Texas under the U.S. and Texas constitutions. Now here is what his defiance looked like on the Rio Grande. Take a look.

These are the buoys that are in question. They are four feet in diameter, and they are at the center of this controversy, and they're at the center of this Rio Grande River, the international boundary between the U.S. and Mexico. There are multiple treaties that govern this waterway. And Mexico has been concerned about these buoys because they're wondering if it's in their territory.

Now according to the U.S. state department, the state of Texas did not consult with the federal government before deploying the buoys and they also did not obtain permits. That, of course, raised a lot of questions about what Texas was doing and Texas not following the law. There are laws and regulations that govern this waterway and Texas just went ahead and did that.

Now the latest regarding the U.S. DOJ is that we've learned that the U.S. DOJ has filed suit against the state of Texas. We also just learned from the Texas attorney general's office that they are doubling down, they say that they are ready to defend Texas's right to have these border buoys.

So, Bianna, we're going to have to see what happens. It is a Texas size showdown here between the U.S. DOJ and Texas.

GOLODRYGA: It's not the first lawsuit that Texas has filed against the government.

But as promised, Priscilla, as we just heard from Rosa, the Justice Department has filed its lawsuit. So where do things go from here?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, they're going to see each other in court over this issue of the floating barriers along the Texas-Mexico border. But the big picture here is that this has been a delicate political issue for the White House. President Biden has come under criticism for his border policies from the left and the right, and there has been this ongoing feud especially with Texas Governor Abbott over the handling of the Texas-Mexico border.

Now just to give you some context here, this is was an operation that the Texas governor launched in 2021. And over the course of the last two years, there have been internal discussions within the administration as they watched what he was doing along the Texas- Mexico border when it came to the migrants and then also sending migrants to Democratic-led cities.

But it wasn't until last week that we saw the Justice Department threaten this legal action against Abbott, really escalating this feud and now creating a showdown between Abbott and Biden. Now, the White House is calling the actions by Abbott both dangerous and unlawful.

Take a listen to what the White House press secretary said just moments ago.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What you see the governor doing is danger and unlawful and it's actually hurting the process. It's hurting the process of what we're trying to do. And instead of wanting to -- undermining, I should say -- instead of coming to the table and trying to figure out a way to work together, he continues to do this really cruel, unjust and inhumane ways of moving forward with a system that has been broken for decades.


ALVAREZ: Now when I talked to officials about this, this is not only what they see as mistreatment of migrants because of actions of Texas governor, but how it interferes with federal government operations, agents on the ground already facing challenges and difficulties with Texas troopers who historically they have worked really well with. So, all of this coming to a head. It will be in court and we'll hear from both sides on how they move forward with these floating barriers -- Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Of course, we'll continue to cover the story and follow any developments.

Priscilla Alvarez at the White House and Rosa Flores at the border, thank you both.

Well, CNN is also on the ground this hour in Israel. The vote today that led to this protest in mass throughout the country and why this scene could play out for some time to come.



GOLODRYGA: We are back with our world lead.

And protests erupting in Israel today as the far right government voted to strip power from the Supreme Court. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who pushed the bills argues that the Supreme Court no longer represents the will of people but opponents point out that the Supreme Court is the only check on Netanyahu and his government.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in Jerusalem for us. So, Fred, it is 11:00 p.m. there and nearly midnight in the country,

and these scenes are not letting up. What are you seeing around you?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you're absolutely right, Bianna. They certainly aren't letting up. If you look around me, we can pan around a little bit. You can see that there are still a lot of protests in the street here.

The cops just came out here a couple of minutes ago before we went to air and were trying to clear the street. You could see there are still protests trying to open it to traffic again. But really this junction which is a major one here in Jerusalem has been held by the protesters for better part of the day.

And there were some ugly scenes, Bianna, let's say about an hour and a half ago when the police charged the protesters with water cannon, trucks also lifting people off, off the streets, hand carrying them away. Protesters vowing to return and not to let up, as they continue to fight against this judicial overhaul bill which has happened.

It is already being appealed not just by the opposition, but by other groups who want essentially the Supreme Court to say that that bill needs to be null and void. Now, of course, if that does happen, then you do have a major constitutional crisis here in this country, which doesn't have a written constitution at all.


If that happens, because, of course, the crux of these laws that are now under consideration, the first one, of course, has already been waived to the Knesset today, is to curtail the powers of the Supreme Court and that is what these people are fighting against as you mentioned. They are saying that the Supreme Court really is only real check on power of the government here in this country, Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: And, ironically, this now goes to the Supreme Court to ultimately decide here, and we don't know what's going to happen after they do.

Fred, just a few days ago, I spoke with Israeli President Isaac Herzog after his trip to Washington where he met with President Biden and spoke before a joint session of Congress. Now, he has acted at the main mediator on this issue and I asked him about the hundreds of Air Force reservists who threaten not to show up for duty if this bill passed.

Listen to part of his response.


PRESIDENT ISAAC HERZOG, ISRAEL: I hope that the issue of not serving, not going on reserve duty, I really truly, I said it on numerous occasions, should be out of the political debate. I know I'm a bit perhaps naive at this stage but I sincerely hope it will fade away.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GOLODRYGA: And, Fred, it has not faded away. In fact, the number of reservists, most significantly air force reservists are threatening not to serve has only grown. How is Netanyahu government responding to that some say could be a national security issue?

PLEITGEN: Yeah, they're saying that it is outrageous. They're saying that the people do need to continue to serve the country. It was quite interesting because it's not just the Netanyahu government but also the military leader who said these need to be separate issues and people do need to continue to serve because the unity of the Israeli defense forces is so key here for this country.

But I do think, Bianna, that it is an extremely important question. Certainly one that was very important among the protesters here today and we did see actually a lot of reservists who were at the protest, some of them wrestling with the police to try to stage a sit-in here who were wearing reservist t-shirts, who said, look, we really don't know whether or not they still want to serve or be able to serve a country that is at deeply divided as this one is right now. It's a huge question. It is not only about reserves. It's also speaking to a family who said their daughters are about to go serve in the military.

Of course, we know there is mandatory military service for men and women in this country. And they said, look, it's also a big issue for us. Unity right now and certainly the strength of the IDF is something that's on everybody's mind and that also transcends the questions of the reservists as well, Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah, these protests not letting up, entering 29 weeks now.

Fred Pleitgen in Jerusalem, thank you so much and stay safe.

Well, Ukraine is taking credit for today's drone strike on Moscow and Russian annexed Crimea. This after Ukraine says Russia targeted its grain stocks on the Danube River overnight and continued attacks on Odesa where Russian missiles damaged at least 25 historical monuments over the weekend, including Odesa's biggest cathedral.

The city's mayor says the cathedral now is structurally unsound.

CNN's Alex Marquardt spoke exclusively with the Ukraine's defense minister about the escalating violence.


ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Russia has pounded Odesa, so too has Ukraine stepped up strikes on Russian occupied Crimea. At least five attacks in the past week, including a drone strike today on a Russian ammunition depot.

Are you escalating your attacks against the peninsula?

OLEKSII REZNIKOV, UKRAINIAN DEFENSE MINISTER: I would not say that we are not escalating something. We're fighting for our freedom. MARQUARDT: This weekend, we sat down for a wide-ranging exclusive TV

interview with Ukraine's defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, who admitted that while Ukraine's counteroffensive is behind schedule, Ukraine strikes deep into Crimea and beyond will become the norm.

REZNIKOV: It means that we will use every option to hit their fuel depot, ammunition depot, their artillery systems.

MARQUARDT: It was rare to see Ukraine claim responsibility for the attack on the Kerch Bridge. Is it your goal to permanently disable the bridge?

REZNIKOV: It's normal tactics to ruin logistic lines of your enemy, to stop the options to get more ammunition, to get more food, to get more food and et cetera, et cetera. That is why we will use this tactics against them.

MARQUARDT: Russia's latest attack in the Odesa region early on Monday morning was the closest they had struck to NATO territory. Drones destroying a grain hangar near the border with Romania, the latest in a series of Russian attacks on food storage.

REZNIKOV: So, this approach is absolute, but this is so real, and that's why it is -- new evidence that there are a country or real terrorists. They're a terrorist state.

MARQUARDT: Have you been surprised at how ferocious these attacks have been?

REZNIKOV: Honestly, not, because after the February of last year, it's very difficult to surprise me.


MARQUARDT: After almost two months, Ukraine's highly anticipated counteroffensive have produced few gains. Russian troops are on the offensive in the east while Ukrainian progress is modest at best in the south.

REZNIKOV: I think that is a misperception that every counteroffensive should be quick. We had a time to prepare our armed forces with our partners. But they also had a time to make security zone, with the trenches, with their mines.

MARQUARDT: You knew you were going to face tough Russian defenses, so is this a question of needing more equipment or is it a question of Ukrainian forces not necessarily fighting in the way they should be?

REZNIKOV: It's a question of the ammunition, and the artillery shells, of the more artillery systems. It's the question that we have a very long battlefield life also. And we have against us big quantity of enemies.

MARQUARDT: Do you acknowledge, though, that the plan is behind schedule?


MARQUARDT: This week, Reznikov says Ukraine owes a Pentagon a report on how the highly controversial American cluster munitions that were sent to Ukraine have been used against Russian troops.

Are you able to say where the cluster munitions have been most effective?

REZNIKOV: They will be most effective against they're artillery systems and also they will be efficient against their armed personal carriers or infantry fighting vehicles. They will be good against their infantry in the fields.


MARQUARDT (voice-over): And, Bianna, Reznikov told me that he believes those cluster munitions are four times more effective or four times more lethal than the standard artillery round.

I also asked the defense minister if there is any progress in getting that American long range missile they've been asking for for so long. It has a range of about 200 miles, 300 kilometers, it's called ATACMS. He said there has been no movement on that front.

He thinks that the U.S. is waiting to see how Ukraine uses recently acquired British and French cruise missiles. But he is certainly hoping that they will be coming soon. He says that there are plenty of Russian targets in Russian occupied areas in Ukraine -- Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Interesting interview. Sobering to hear him say how little surprises him at this stage in the war as well.

Alex Marquardt, reporting in Odesa, Ukraine, thank you.

Well, next, the move by Republicans in Alabama that defies a Supreme Court order. I'll speak with one of the state Democrats calling them out.



GOLODRYGA: In our politics lead, Alabama state Republicans are defying Supreme Court orders, refusing to redraw a congressional map that adds a second majority black district or, quote, something quite close to it that better correlates with the state's 27 percent black population.

The new map includes one congressional district with a 50 percent Black voting age population and a second district with roughly 40 percent.

Let's bring in Alabama State Representative Chris England.

Chris, you worked on the redistricting committee and were opposed to this new map. I asked you during the break if this decision surprised you, and you said, sadly, no. Explain why.

CHRIS ENGLAND (D), ALABAMA STATE HOUSE: Alabama is very familiar and comfortable with the federal court telling us to what do. And I figured we could take, initially, I was maybe naively optimistic at the beginning of the week that we would take the ultimate path this time, considering that we had an alternative plan that we offered on the senator, the congressional plan that fit the VRA, matched the court order and followed state traditional redistricting principles, and we could all come together and pass that map and satisfy the court and then move on to having an election in fall.

But again, Alabama does what Alabama does. And this process itself appeared to be scripted. It wasn't transparent at all to point that the maps that did pass did not withstand any public scrutiny or input and ultimately, we passed a map that many people didn't see until Friday morning, maybe an hour or so before they voted on it. So, here we are today, a map that openly defied the Supreme Court's order and will likely end up back in court.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah. Well, this is being appealed to a federal court. And we know that a hearing was scheduled for mid-August. What are you hoping that court does here? You've said that you believe this map was drawn directly to get the issue back before the Supreme Court?

ENGLAND: Yeah. I hope that the court does what it does for Alabama. It saves us from ourselves. And if you look at the map itself, it is almost like they went to the court order, and they created a checklist of what we could do wrong and did it. And it rehashes when they passed the bill, the bill itself actually rehashes arguments that were rejected by the Supreme Court and if you look, everyone keeps repeating, it was a majority minority district or something close to it.

Well, 39 percent, 39.9 percent is not close to it. So it is clear this is not creating the opportunity and also does not comply with the court order.

GOLODRYGA: And state is backing its decision here thus far. Your colleague, Republican State Senator Steve Livingston, said that he heard from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy about this new map and he said McCarthy told Livingston he wanted to keep his majority.

What's your response to that?

ENGLAND: Yeah, the Alabama citizens would prefer that we follow the Supreme Court order. And it is interesting that a party that talks about law and order -- it only matters when it's convenient.


And for months now people have been telling us it's abide by court's order, for example, in the Dobb's case, abide by the court's order.

But when the court issues an order that's inconvenient, we just ignore it. And then play political games with our constituency and use our constituency basically as collateral damage, to maintain a majority in -- and have a process that is supposed to be controlled by people who aren't even here.

So, again, it's frustrating as a Black legislator who represents a district that was created by a court order many years ago for the same reason, to have Alabama now basically defy a court order to maintain status quo.

GOLODRYGA: Quickly in this final minute with you, the Alabama attorney general said that the legislature's new plan complies with the Voting Rights Act by, quote, fairly applying traditional districting principles that were blessed by the Supreme Court. He seems to think they have legal ground here.

ENGLAND: Yeah, he did as well. But every argument that was made was rejected and we've adopted a losing strategy to go back to the same Supreme Court that has ordered us to do the exact opposite. And it's interesting because it only appears to me that the only change in the argument is we're going to try to remind you that we're supposed to be all conservatives here, we're all Republicans. And maybe you should take another look at this.

It's almost like speed limit being 70, we're going to go 100 and then ask you to change the speed limit to 100. And this is essentially what we're doing. But I don't think any court whether it be the district court or the Supreme Court of the United States is going to look too kindly to a state legislature blatantly disregarding an order.

GOLODRYGA: We're about to find out. Alabama State Representative Chris England, thank you for your time.

New drone video shows authorities back at the scene in the Gilgo Beach today as they investigate the serial murders in Long Island New York. The priority for crews trying to sort through an overwhelming amount of evidence.



GOLODRYGA: In the national lead, a turning point in the Gilgo Beach murders investigations involving suspected serial killer Rex Heuermann.

Authorities are drowning in evidence as they searched through the suspect's New York home, from top to bottom. Police dogs and ground penetrating radar are on site looking for clues or items that could be linked to the victims.

CNN's John Miller is following this case for us.

So, John, any word on what officials are looking for, either in the house or the backyard?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: In the backyard, they're looking for either additional victims or perhaps property from some of his victims or souvenirs he may have buried. You know, the ground penetrating radar is supposed to show anomalies under ground that could be human remains or could be property or things that don't show up in the rest of the ground. So, they've dug up some spots. But they have a lot of work to do.

The evidence they found in the house, they have to bring to the medical examiner to swab to see if trace DNA can be matched to any of the victims and then possibly to show those items to family members of the victims to say this watch, this ring, this item of clothing, do you recognize this as something unique that you would remember belonging to your sister or your daughter?

GOLODRYGA: And we know police are looking at the suspect's South Carolina property in Chester County. "The News & Reporter" newspaper says there's a search warrant over possible trophies the accused killer may have stashed there. What more do we know about this?

MILLER: That is a piece of property he owns. He's got some land there, adjacent to his brother's place. It's where they recovered the green truck that was the very thing that connected his name to this case. And what they're wondering is, are there things that he might have brought down there that are related to these crimes or are there things that may be related to other crimes that he may have -- that we may not be aware of that happened between long island and South Carolina?

GOLODRYGA: Just chilling.

John Miller, thank you so much.

MILLER: You're welcome. Thanks.

GOLODRYGA: Well, next, see the dramatic heart stopping moves to save a baby locked in a car in 100-degree heat.

But, first, CNN's Wolf Blitzer with a look at what's up next in "THE SITUATION ROOM".

Wolf, always great to see you.

WOLF BLITZER CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": And vice versa, thank you, Bianna.

I'll get reaction from Republican presidential candidate Asa Hutchinson to his failure, at least so far, to qualify for the first GOP presidential debate in a month. Is the former Arkansas governor feeling pressure to quit the race as Senator Mitt Romney is now urging GOP mega donors to pull funding from what he describes as non-viable White House hopefuls. That and much more coming up right at the top of the hour here in "THE SITUATION ROOM".



GOLODRYGA: And we are back with our national lead. Video making the rounds on social media today shows a quick-thinking response after an infant was locked inside a car in sweltering Texas heat. Police in Harlingen, a south Texas city near the border, say a mother and father accidentally locked their car in a grocery store parking lot with their baby still inside last Wednesday. The group, including the father, broke the front windshield before crawling inside to get the child out. The high temperature Wednesday -- get this -- was 101 degrees in Harlingen. Fortunately first responders say the baby was just okay. Just horrifying.

Defense attorneys for the man accused of killing four University of Idaho students face a deadline today to give an alibi for their client. Bryan Kohberger is accused of the four deadly stabbings last November. Investigators say DNA linked to Kohberger was found on the sheath of a knife that is believed to be the murder weapon. He's set to go on trial this October.

Well, that is it for us this hour. You can follow me on Twitter @BiannaGolodryga or follow me the show, why don't you both? @TheLead. If you ever miss an episode of THE LEAD, you can listen to show wherever you get your podcast.

Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM".