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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Federal Grand Jury Spotted For First Time Since Handing Up Trump Plot Indictment; Trump Pushes To Delay Hearing In 2020 Election Case; 3 Charged With Assault After Alabama Dock Brawl; West Gets "Sobering" Update on Counteroffensive; Iran's Hijab Crackdown Met With Defiance; Americans Now Hold A Record $1 Trillion In Credit Card Debt; NYT: Former Governor Cuomo's Sister Helped Smear His Accusers; Today: Ohio Voters Decide Proxy Fight For Abortion Rights. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired August 08, 2023 - 16:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: I don't go fishing a lot. I'm from New York City. I've never seen that floating in the water.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Probably other things in New York. But, I don't know, I would watch to catch a 70-pound fish. I would be mad. It was a marlin or something.

SCIUTTO: No reward? There was no reward. I think there was a reward.

KEILAR: Unfortunately, I don't think so.

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Donald Trump today predicting he will be stuck in court over some, quote, bullshit. His word, not mine.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Donald defiant. Back on the campaign trail this afternoon, pushing back on prosecutors who want to restrict what he can say publicly about the federal indictment.

Plus, that hideous river boat brawl. New charges just announced after a Black employee was rushed on an Alabama boating dock by a group of White men.

And, Americans in debt. For the first time ever, surpassing $1 trillion as more Americans pull from their own retirement savings for help.


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

We're going to start today with our law and justice lead.

The federal grand jury here in Washington, D.C., the same one that indicted Donald Trump last week, is back behind closed doors today, for the first time since handing down those unprecedented charges for Donald Trump's unprecedented actions. It's a clear sign that the investigation into the efforts to overturn the 2020 election is not over.

And it raises questions about six co-conspirators listed in the indictment and whether they could soon also face federal charges for their actions. We also just got some new court filings from both Trump's lawyers and special counsel Jack Smith's team. U.S. district judge Tanya Chutkan asked both sides to propose a day this week where they could discuss what restrictions if any should be placed on Mr. Trump's ability to publicly share evidence.

But Trump's team is now pushing to delay that meeting until next week, citing his busy legal schedule.

Let's get straight to Paula Reid.

Paula, let's start with the federal grand jury that met right down on the street today. Do we know how many more witnesses they will hear from and when more indictments could potentially come?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, our case that stakes out the courthouse for us, saw the grand jury come in today, they worked about half day but they did not appear to hear from any witnesses.

Now, we know yesterday. We, of course, broke the story on your show yesterday that the special counsel interviewed Bernie Kerik. Now, he is a close associate of co-conspirator number 1, Rudy Giuliani. This was a highly anticipated interview. We got a readout from it.

And I'm told that he did get a lot of questions, not only about Rudy Giuliani, but also about Sidney Powell, another one of the co- conspirators. But it does not appear, according to Kerik and his attorney, that they gave them sufficient evident to support a superseding indictment or a new indictment against, for example, Rudy Giuliani. And at this point, there are no plans for Kerik to go before the grand jury to testify.

But as of now, Jake, we know that the special counsel prosecutors are expected to sit down with at least one other witness and at this point, we're not aware of any plans to bring another witness before the grand jury over the next few days.

TAPPER: All right. Let's turn to this squabble between Trump's lawyers and the Justice Department over what evidence can be shared.

When do we expect to hear from Judge Chutkan?

REID: I would expect to hear from her pretty soon. We know Trump's lawyers, they're asking to delay any potential hearing over this protective order that will dictate that the extent to which the former president can share sensitive information that he learns about in the process of discovery. So, when they received the evidence that could be used at a trial. Now, she appears to want to do this hearing this week so the fact that the Trump lawyers are asking to delay it next week, that could be because of their schedules, but we know, part of the overall defense strategy in both of the special counsel prosecutions is to delay, delay, delay. And a delay of a few days doesn't seem like much, but if you do that a dozen times over the course of the investigation, and in this case, you could potentially help push a possible trial into after the election.

So I don't know if Judge Chutkan is going to go for that. So far, what we've seen from here, in her scheduling orders, is that she's trying to move this along as quickly as possible. She wouldn't even give them an extension to respond to her about the protective order.

So I would expect a decision quickly and I would be surprised if she let this hearing slide until next week.

TAPPER: All right. Paula Reid, thanks so much.

Joining us now to discuss, Tom Dupree. He served as the principal deputy assistant attorney general under George W. Bush.

Tom, let's start with the grand jury meeting today. We know that none of the co-conspirators alluded to in the indictment have, as of now, been charged with anything. CNN has identified five of the six as former Trump lawyers, Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman and Sidney Powell, former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark and pro-Trump lawyer Kenneth Chesebro.


What do you think the likelihood is that some, if not all, of the six co-conspirators will be charged?

TOM DUPREE, FORMER PRINCIPAL DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, G.W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION: I think it's very likely that most if not all of them will be charged. I think what the special counsel is thinking here is he basically wanted to plant a flag with this original indictment.

He constructed a case that's streamlined. He initially named a single defendant. The special counsel understands he's in a race against the clock. And so, I think he made a strategic, deliberate, tactical decision to name just former President Trump for now, but there's is no question in my mind, based on the allegations in that indictment and the evidence we know the special counsel is already gathered to date that indictments are almost certainly forthcoming for all those unnamed coconspirators.

TAPPER: Do you think they would be charged, theoretically, if they are, separately from Trump?

DUPREE: That's a great question. My guess is probably not, but it wouldn't surprise me if he did the charge separately. It seems to me, most naturally, that they will basically be added to this case, as it currently exists, just because the evidence is overlapping, the legal theories and all likelihood are also going to be overlapping. And it might seem a little artificial if they were charged separately. That said it doesn't mean that all would be tried together, or that

the cases would all be proceed on the same schedule. I think the special counsel's far and away number one priority is moving the case against President Trump and let the other cases fall in its wake.

TAPPER: Let's talk about the debate over evidence sharing. Prosecutors want to restrict what Trump and his team will be able to share publicly in terms of the evidence. Part of their new argument is that they feel Trump's team wants to try this case in the press. Prosecutors point to the arguments that Trump's lawyer made when he appeared on Sunday shows two days ago.

Is there a strong legal argument that can be made based on that?

DUPREE: Look, I think both sides have a reasonable argument to be honest. I think that from the special counsel's perspective, this is just from their view a standard protective order, that they're asking the judge to approve, not that different from what you would impose in other cases.

I think from former President Trump's perspective, he does see this as an infringement on his ability to offer public commentary. As we know, this is not a criminal defendant who remains mum and follows the advice of his lawyers to stay silent. To the contrary, he offers running commentary, often zests the commentary on the proceedings, on everything -- the judge, his opponent, the special counsel.

So I think they're going to be pushing as hard as they can to help complete freedom to comment on the evidence. My best guests here, Jake, is that the judge is going to come down somewhere in the middle. I would be a little surprised if she approved what seems to be a pretty broad protective order that the special counsel is demanding. But on the other hand, I can't imagine a world where she gets former President Trump free reign to continue commenting and to comment on evidence.

TAPPER: Zesty is your word on it. Uh-huh. Zesty, it's an interesting --

DUPREE: That was my word of choice, Jake.

TAPPER: Well-chosen.


DUPREE: It's what I could have used.

TAPPER: Well chosen. But to play devil's advocate, why should anyone believe that Donald Trump should follow any restrictions at all at this point? Given the fact that he has this propensity, as you note, to offer free-flowing commentary one way or another?

DUPREE: Oh, look, I think that the first battle is going to be the scope of the protective order. I think the second battle is when the special counsel accuses former President Trump of violating whatever protective order is imposed. I suspect that regardless of what the judge says, I don't think that this could have that dramatic an effect on what former President Trump says publicly.

So I think that we are in a world, this is the first of wet are going to be many long battles over the course of the month. Concerning commentary that former President Trump offers on these proceedings as they move ahead.

TAPPER: All right. Tom Dupree, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Turning to our politics lead now, and what's happening on the other side of the 2024 race. At this hour, President Biden is in Arizona where in just a few minutes he is set to tour the Grand Canyon. Earlier today, President Biden delivered a speech on protecting public lands and he dedicated a new national monument around the Grand Canyon, part of a Southwest swing by President Biden, to mark the one- year anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act, this landmark legislation that focus on climate and the economy.

He's also, we should note, doing so in a battleground state that he won in 2020, and wants to win again.

Let's discuss -- Ayesha, thanks so much for being here. So the White House clearly trying to gin up excitement for President Biden's 2024 campaign.


TAPPER: His, CNN's polls from last week found that President Biden's approval rating is only at 41 percent. Only 37 percent of Americans approve of his handling of the economy.

I said this in our staff meeting today, I feel like I have been noting this for three years? President Biden is out there heralding such and such, and the American people disapproved overwhelmingly.


Three years in, we're still having this conversation?

RASCOE: Still having the conversation because there is not -- the connection isn't happening. And I know it has to be frustrating for his staff, because when you look at the economy, when you look at the raw numbers, there is a lot of good there. Unemployment is relatively low, there have been -- you know, inflation coming down.

But people aren't feeling that way. I think part of it is because when you have inflation. That is such a pocketbook issue, and it really hit people where they hurt. You've got interest rates up. It cost 1 million dollars to get a house.

I'm just talking about around here. I might be complaining just about myself, but it's a lot. Everything feels more expensive. And I think that's the issue that they have, is that they have not been able to connect and make people feel like Biden has done something for them. And I think it is hard, because Biden is not that kind of candidate that gets people all worked up in their hearts to feel, you know, very warm and fuzzy about him. TAPPER: Yeah. And, Margaret, there's some major news on the other side

of the presidential race today. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has replaced his campaign manager, as his campaign continues to struggle to catch fire, the way he and his supporters thought it would have done by now. He has dropped in the polls pretty consistently since he launched his campaign.

What do you make of this latest move?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, the move satisfies a number of boxes for Governor DeSantis. One, his team, his donors, everybody was sort of demanding it. It's like when you're stuck in the mud, you have to make a change. And the campaign manager makes sense.

But number two, the person that he is tapping has been his chief of staff in the governor's office. This is someone who has got some national experience. He staffed the commerce secretary under Donald Trump. He has been involved in that kind of nexus of political stuff that you can do, under the auspices of governor, like moving the migrants to blue places like, you know, whatever, Martha's Vineyard, et cetera.

And so, this is obviously someone you trust. Is it going to work? I don't know, maybe, what has he got to lose?

But there is a pattern and practice. You remember Donald Trump has dumped a number of campaign managers, it worked in 2016. It did not get him over the finish line in 2020. But if you do it early enough, it can serve as a reset. And DeSantis is looking for different ways to reset. This is one of them.

TAPPER: And, Ayesha, the DeSantis campaign told "The Messenger" that this was their last, quote, reload. If DeSantis fails to catch fire after the first debate, which is in a couple of weeks, is that a sign that maybe the staffing isn't the issue?

RASCOE: I think that's the issue that he has. Is it the staffing, or is it him? I feel like he was a rebound boyfriend, right? Like you get -- you have a bad break up, you get with the new person and it's all hot and heavy efforts. But then, after the honeymoon period, it kind of fizzles out, and you want that whole thing back?

That's what the GOP wants. They want that old thing. They want Trump, the tried and true, the steady, all of that.

And it just does not feel like DeSantis has figured out how he can hit Trump, and make damage, like he knows how to hit the left. He does not know how to hit Trump, and to get to the nomination you have to go through Trump. Not through the left.

TAPPER: And, Margaret, when it comes to the debate, listen to what Donald Trump said during the campaign stop this afternoon.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Okay, are you ready? We take a free poll. Should I do that debate?


TRUMP: Maybe we will do something else.


TAPPER: That seemed to be people chanting no and doing the thumbs down. By the way, that's not a poll.


TALEV: For the record --

TAPPER: For the record, that's not a poll. But do you think he's considering showing up?

TALEV: Does it matter? Because what he's telling us what we already know, which is that whether he shows up or not, it will be a predicate for the conversation he wants to have. The terms he wants to have it.

In the old days, I think this might be true, there was a mythical old days where if you would have debates, it would be around the issues, and you would say, what differentiates front candidate from the other. If I put my vote towards this person, what would I be getting as a result in terms of policy, in terms of reliability? You pledge me on stage, and you will have to follow through on that pledge.

I think that's all different now, and that this is a show. I'm not trying to pooh-pooh debates. I'm a journalist. I'll cover debate, great. But what this is telling us is that he is seeing this as another stage for the show, and not a real decision about whether to discuss substance in a serious setting.

TAPPER: Right. Ayesha, we should know that former Vice President Mike Pence is the latest candidate to qualify for the debate stage. What does that say about this race that seven other candidates qualified for that stage before the most recent vice president of the United States?

RASCOE: I think it shows how right now, we know it's not traditional. This is not traditional politics. And it shows how much of a problem Pence has, because what is his argument for why you should vote for him? He doesn't really, like, when it comes to the base, like his whole case would be, what he did with Donald Trump.


But Donald Trump does not want him. So now he has to make the case for, why should I be the one? And I don't think he has come up with that. He has not come up with the reason for Mike Pence. And I think a lot of them have to answer that question. I don't know that they have answered it.

TAPPER: There are a few people that still haven't made the state. Former Governor Asa Hutchinson, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, do you think it's campaign ending if you cannot make the big stage?

TALEV: Yeah.


TALEV: I'm not sure. It might be campaign and then if you do make the debate stage by the way. It seems like there's such a limited window. In order for any of those folks to breakthrough, two things have to happen. They need to rise quickly, and something needs to happen to change Donald Trump's dynamic. Otherwise, this is a one-man contest.

TAPPER: Maybe a fourth indictment might be the challenge?

TALEV: Maybe.

TAPPER: Unlikely.

Ayesha and Margaret, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, the charges just in from that riverfront brawl. And the questions police have after reviewing the tape.

And, the crackdown in Iran on women willing to live their lives when the regime may think that the world isn't watching?



TAPPER: In our law and justice lead, moments ago in Montgomery, Alabama, police charged three men with assault for their involvement in a chaotic and violent brawl over the weekend. Some viewers might find this video disturbing. Punches thrown, people hit with chairs. Someone even tossed into the water, all of it unfolded on a popular riverfront dock, as police try to get the situation under control.

CNN's Ryan Young is in Montgomery, where police gave an update on their investigation.

And, Ryan, you just spoke with Montgomery's police chief, and the mayor. What do they have to say?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Also, Jake, we just got a picture of Damien Pickett. He is the copilot of this vote. He is the man getting attacked over and over after getting off this boat. And we learned that the man is quite beloved by the crew on the boat.

In fact, Jake, as we take you live here, we want to show you the boat that's now docked here. This is the normal position for this vote. They were trapped out there on the water. And apparently, all of these boats were lined up, stopping them from being able to dock.

For about a half an hour to 45 minutes, they kept asking people on the boat to move. And at some point, Mr. Pickett came across to try to move the boats so this boat Harriett II could dock. And that's when all of this chaos broke out. And if you listen to the mayor, the police chief, they were quite

disappointed about how this city has been framed over the last few hours, because obviously, this has gone quite viral.

Take a listen to them, and the charges that could be coming next.


CHIEF DARRYL ALBERT, MONTGOMERY POLICE: We put everything that we had into making sure that the right charges are presented, and that these folks will face the appropriate charges, in their day in court.

MAYOR STEVEN REED, MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA: I think it tells really a story of people who took some bad actions, did not use good judgment and in some cases just had no regard for authority. And that's problematic at any time you had in our city.


YOUNG: Yeah, three men are going to face assault, third, that's what they call it here, there are misdemeanor charges. One man is already under arrest, they wouldn't tell us which of the men are under arrest right now. Two others will probably be picked up in Selma at some point. But as you can understand, this video has been traumatizing.

Talking to people on the boat, they say watching the copilot come across and being hit like that over and over again. And then the people did not try to flee, they actually walked around, and engage even more. And so, there's additional questions here about whether or not more people who were on the boat will face charges.

But you can understand, this is really racially charging things up. Because when you watch the video, you do see an older Black man being beaten by several white people. And then, of course, at that point, people rushed on to help him out. So you can understand the fear and anger here.

TAPPER: Yeah, it's a grim scene. Ryan Young, in Montgomery, Alabama. Thanks so much.

Coming up next, what sources are revealing to CNN about the sobering reality around Ukraine's counteroffensive. What might be recalibrated in this war, as it continues to drag on?

And, they accused former New York governor, Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment. And now, new revelations of a stealth campaign to smear their reputations. A new reporting from "The New York Times" ahead.



TAPPER: Topping our world lead today, a sobering reality check on Ukraine's long anticipated counteroffensive, which seems to be falling short of what the U.S. and Ukraine's Western allies had hoped.

CNN's chief national correspondent Jim Sciutto has new reporting on this for us.

And, Jim, according to your sources, what is going wrong? Why haven't Ukrainian forces been able to retake more territory from the Russians?

SCIUTTO: Partly, this is a story about Russian defenses. They have months to dig in, in the east. They have three defensive belts, heavily mined, tens of thousands of mines literally. A complex network of trenches, where they are highly dug in. And they have some air support, to a greater degree than Ukrainians have as they are assaulting this.

The assaulting force is always going to be at a disadvantage. They say you want to be 3 to 1 at least. Ukrainians are about 1 to 1. It's just a really, really tough job for Ukrainian forces trying to --

TAPPER: And as you describe the Russian tactics, trenches, minds, barbwire. I mean, honestly, it sounds liberal or one, which was, of course, more than a century ago. Are there are not modern weapons or tactics that could break through these old tactics?

SCIUTTO: There are. I mean, there are devices that could go through minefields, blow up some of those mines. Of course, there's mine detection equipment, and so on. And, of course, as we've covered for weeks and months, the Ukrainians have been supplied with highly advanced U.S. Bradley fighting vehicles for instance, armored personnel carriers, German Leopard tanks. But what I've been told is the training on those systems, has really been quite short. Eight weeks on some of these systems. And, it seems there is now a growing feeling that the attempt to transform Ukrainian armed forces into large mechanized fighting units, which takes U.S. forces months, years of training to do, to try to do that weeks, it may have been a bridge too far.

TAPPER: So, given all of the difficulties, are the Ukrainians adjusting their tactics?

SCIUTTO: They are in some ways. They're doing more dismounted attacks, in effect, leaving the armored vehicles, and attacking as best they can. But, they've also been pulling back some of their forces, Ukrainian forces, they endured just staggering losses Jake, in these assaults, both in terms of KIA, but also wounded inaction from mines, horrible wounds.


And Ukrainian commanders, understandably hold some of those units back, to reduce those casualties. They became more casualty-averse, but that adjustment by its nature has meant that the progress has been more plodding.

TAPPER: And what is ahead? I mean, we have fall coming up. What is Putin hoping for?

SCIUTTO: Well, Putin is hoping to wait everybody out. And he thinks he can wait, not just the Ukrainians out, but the West, he hopes over time, the West will grow impatient with Ukraine, more divided and therefore less likely to support him. That's his hope.

Ukrainians, though, and their Western backers say they still have fight in them. But I will just tell you, from speaking to these forces for weeks and months going back to before the war started, this is the most pessimistic I've heard.

TAPPER: OK. Jim Sciutto, thanks so much. Great reporting.

And in our world lead, it has been nearly a year since the death, some would say murder, of 22-year-old Mahsa Jina Amini, a Kurdish Iranian woman who died in the custody of Iran's so-called morality police after she showed just a little bit of her hair. Iranian women, nonetheless, are still courageously defying the regime, refusing to wear the hijab in public.

But as CNN's Jomana Karadsheh reports, the merciless efforts to stop these women are getting increasingly dangerous.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Iran's brave women are fighting for their freedom with every day acts of defiance like this, out on the streets without the mandatory hijab. This video appeared to show a woman harassed and called a criminal for refusing to cover up. The days of being afraid of you are over, she said.

Nearly a year after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Jina Amini in the custody of the so-called morality police, the uprising sparked by her death may have been crushed by a bloody crackdown, but not the will of those standing up for their most basic of rights. Countless women have been defying the establishment choosing not to wear the compulsory hijab.

And now, the regime is lashing out with a campaign of renewed repression, announcing the return of morality police patrols.

IRANIAN WOMAN (through translator): Being a woman in Iran is now harder than ever. Because of all of the attention, our privacy and safety is a wish. You should always be worried and careful about police.

KARADSHEH: This young woman we're not identified for her safety spoke to us from inside Iran.

IRANIAN WOMAN (through translator): The morality police are mostly in metro stations and sometimes on the streets. They warn you. If you disobey, they take video or photos. And normal people who are still in the government side work like paparazzi.

KARADSHEH: And that's not all. Authorities are considering a draconian new bill that would make failure to abide by the strict Islamic dress code a more severe offense with unprecedentedly harsh penalties, including five to ten year jail sentences and fines of more than $8,000. This may be just a warning to intimidate those who dare to dissent, but an intensified crackdown has been well underway. This chilling video released by a group affiliated with the security apparatus captures some of the terrifying tactics, facial recognition technology being used to identify and threaten unveiled women.

Cameras are everywhere, thousands have had their cars confiscated according to amnesty international and women without a veil are being denied access to education and public services.

Perhaps even more disturbing is courts have been imposing degrading punishments on women including counseling sessions for, quote, anti- social behavior claiming government buildings and washing corpses in morgues.

IRANIAN WOMAN (through translator): I couldn't believe the mortuary punishment until I saw some judgment papers with my own eyes which was washing corpses for a month.

KARADSHEH: Are you and other women around you scared when you're out in public?

IRANIAN WOMAN (through translator): The first days were scary, but with time, the courage inside everyone grows and now, no one is scared. People were just waiting for a spark. And that happened last year. We keep going for the kids who were murdered during the protests.

KARADSHEH: Many like her say this is not just about the hijab. This is about standing up to tyranny and they're not backing down.

IRANIAN WOMAN (through translator): Most people believe in freedom now because they've tasted it. We know about the punishments but we know everything has a cost and if this is the cost of freedom, we're ready to pay for that. I'm sure we will see Iran breathing again one day.

KARADSHEH: Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, London.


TAPPER: And our thanks to Jomana Karadsheh.

America's credit card debt is hitting a collective $1 trillion. Might that be a warning sign about the economy? We're going to have expert opinion next.



TAPPER: In our money lead today, for the first time ever, America's credit card debt has surpassed $1 trillion. That's according to new data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

With me now, Mark Zandi, the chief economist for Moody Analytics, to break this down for us.

Mark, what does that mean for all of us? That U.S. credit card debt has surpassed a trillion dollars?

MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MOODY ANALYTICS: Well, Jake, it indicates that there are some Americans that are under significant financial stress. I think particularly low income households, middle income households, folks in less than 60K, 70K a year, they got rocked by the very high inflation and if you're paying more for filling your gas tank or putting groceries on table or paying your rent, turn to credit cards to help out and fill that purchasing power gap. So I think we've seen a lot of borrowing as a result of that.

Middle income households and high household is no problem. You know, they're using their cards but to borrow. They're paying their cards back each month. But for lower income households, I do think it indicates some financial stress.


TAPPER: So, meanwhile, the people are getting shish kebab, right, because they have this credit card because inflation is so high and then the Federal Reserve in order to reduce inflation is raising interest rates. So their debt is becoming even more expensive.

Is this -- how troubled are you by this spot of the economy? Like, it seems very reminiscent in some ways of the housing problem in 2008?

ZANDI: No, not to that degree, Jake. Clearly it is a problem and you're absolutely right, it is not only that these households have taken on a lot more credit card debt, but interest rates on those cards have risen quite significantly. So there are interest payments. You know, every month, they got to shell out now more interests to service that debt. And then, of course, that means they have less to spend on everything else.

But, now, we're not in the same ballpark that happened in '08, '09. Again, middle income households, and high income households, the folks that do the bulk of the spending, they're in fine shape. They're debt loads are actually pretty close to record lows and they've done a very good job of locking in the previous record low interest rates through mortgage refinancing and so they're sitting in a good spot. But for low income households, you know, they're struggling with all of this.

TAPPER: So the consumer and producer price index reports are set to be released at the end of the week. They'll show signs of whether inflation is continuing to cool. What are you going to be looking out for?

ZANDI: Yeah, this is good news, particularly for those low income households struggling with high inflation. Inflation is coming back in. It is slowing dramatically and we should get a good report on Thursday, to still show an increase but a small increase in over consumer price inflation.

And the most encouragingly, it will indicate, I think, that all of the trend lines look really good here. So cost of housing services, and vehicle prices, food prices, they're all stable to down and that should continue as we look through the remainder of the year into next. And that is very encouraging.

So, all of this stress that people have been under, because of the high inflation, that stress should ease in the report should indicate that.

TAPPER: I like it when you bring us good news, Mark. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

A new spin on an old tactic -- smearing the reputation of women who make high-profile sexual harassment allegations. Coming up, new reporting from "The New York Times" about former Governor Andrew Cuomo and his sister.



TAPPER: And we're back with our national lead. A story of generational power and back channel image rehabilitation, "The New York Times" reports that former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's sister coordinated with an existing group of Democratic supporters, mostly older women, active on Twitter to help to fix his public image. This was in 2021 after multiple women accused the Democratic governor of sexual harassment.

Madeline Cuomo, the governor's sister, reportedly encouraged group called We Decide New York, WDNY, to publicly attack if not smear the accusers, including Charlotte Bennett, Cuomo's former aide who alleges that the governor asked her inappropriate questions about her sex life, claims that former Governor Cuomo has denied. One of the group's leaders reportedly tweeted threats such as this one at Bennett, quote: Your life will be dissected like a frog in a high school science class. This after Madeline Cuomo reportedly encouraged members of group to post photos of Bennett from her Instagram which Madeline Cuomo said made Bennett look like a, quote, bimbo.

Madeline reportedly told the We Decide ladies that the governor was, quote, seeing everything but in public she said he was not involved. Though the group's official We Decide Twitter page still states, quote: We stand by New York Governor Cuomo. "The New York Times" reports that the group has since fractured a tad. The group's president told CNN today, the board of WDNY will not condone the repugnant behavior of Madeline Cuomo.

CNN has also reached to the governor and his sister and a spokesperson said Andrew Cuomo does not personally have nor does he follow social media accounts and he was not directly or indirectly involved in these online efforts when he's had something to say, he has held back from doing so publicly. And his sister Madeline Cuomo tells CNN, quote, to the extent I invoked his name, so the group felt it was appropriate but it was not with my brother's direction or with his knowledge, unquote.

Joining us now, the attorney representing Charlotte Bennett, Debra Katz.

Ms. Katz, thanks for joining us.

You called Madeline Cuomo's role in all of this, quote, shocking but not surprising, unquote. And you say you're looking to use some of "The New York Times" reporting in Charlotte Bennett's lawsuit against the governor. How?

DEBRA KATZ, ATTORNEY REPRSENTING FORMER AIDE TO GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, CHARLOTTE BENNETT: Well, we know from this reporting that Madeline Cuomo did what we knew was happening, which is part of a concerted campaign to try to smear and intimidate complainants from coming forward.

Andrew Cuomo was a bully. He surrounded himself with people who tried to intimidate and bully women who came forward and this is shocking this behavior exists but it is not surprising because this is the hallmark of the Cuomo administration. He was a bully and his sister was too.

TAPPER: You heard in a statement to CNN that Madeline Cuomo denies that any of this was at her brother's direction. Obviously that's not the suggestion made in the trove of emails and phone messages an the like that "The New York Times" reviewed.


So which do you believe?

KATZ: I believe what she said to members of the group. But we will take discovery. We will depose Madeline Cuomo. We will depose Andrew Cuomo and we will depose members of this group.

It is clear to us that Andrew Cuomo had a group of advisers who were doing everything that they could to try to beat back the women who were coming forward, and this was just part of the campaign. No one took action without it being sanctioned and being directed by then governor and former governor and his inner circle.

TAPPER: You know, I will say, having seen a lot of online activity and mobs going after people, especially women who make accusations against powerful men. It really makes you wonder how much, if any of it is organic versus how much of it is being pushed by these high profile men?

KATZ: Well, I think that's a really key point here. Obviously, in terms of Charlotte Bennett's case, this is a watershed moment. We now have peeked behind the screen and see what actually happened. But as someone who represents victims of sexual violence and sexual harassment, this is what everyone fears if they come forward.

And now, we have the most concrete record of exactly what happens, 4,000 texts from Madeline Cuomo and these individuals coordinating efforts to smear the women who came forward. And the timing every time Andrew Cuomo was in trouble, there would be efforts to smear the women. It was coordinated. And we see that.

And that's exactly what women fear coming forward against the powerful, because they don't want to be treated like this.

TAPPER: Does this make your client Charlotte Bennett feel relieved in any way, in a weird way, in the fact that this wasn't necessarily organic, it was basically a political army on the Internet of trolls? KATZ: I think Charlotte knew from the very beginning that this wasn't

organic, that this was a coordinated effort. This is exactly what then Governor Cuomo and former Governor Cuomo did to people who came forward. He would try to smear them, discredit them.

And it was a shot at other people who came forward to not do that because who would want to be treated this way. One of the trolls puts on the internet saying your life is going to be dissected like a frog in a high school science class. Who would want that kind of scrutiny and consider that image. It's such a violent image.

TAPPER: Yeah. Debra Katz, thank you so much for your time. Really appreciate it.

KATZ: Thank you for having me.

TAPPER: Coming up next, Ohio's issue number one, why critics argue Republicans are using this special election happening right now to change the rules on abortion rights so they don't have to deal with what the majority wants.



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

This hour, a breakthrough study involving a popular weight loss drug and the risk for heart attacks and strokes. Why it could impact insurance coverage of the drug.

Plus, a major 2024 campaign shake-up among the Republican presidential hopefuls. Might this impact who lands on the first debate stage?

But leading this hour, voters are heading to the polls in Ohio for a special election that could determine the future of abortion rights in the state even though abortion is technically not on the ballot. This could be a referendum on what may be one of the biggest issues in the 2024 race.

We're going to start with CNN's Jeff Zeleny. He is in Columbus, Ohio, for us.

Jeff, what exactly is on this ballot?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, this is all about whether a simple majority is needed to pass an amendment to the state's constitution, or if it would require a super majority. At issue as you said is that November question on enshrining abortion rights in the state's constitution.

But think of it as a two-step process here, because Republican lawmakers called this special election for today to try and raise the threshold. And by doing that, it's called issue one. That's all voters are deciding here today. That would raise the threshold from a simple majority of 50 percent needed to approve an amendment to the state's constitution to 60 percent needed to approve an amendment to the state's constitution.

But that's not all. It would also make it more difficult for normal people, citizens to put forward an amendment to the state's Constitution. Right now something signatures are only needed in 44 of the state's 88 counties. If this issue 1 were to go forward, this would require signatures to be gathered in all 88 Ohio counties, effectively allowing one county to block the rules of the rest of the state.

So that is the simple issue here. Is it a majority vote or a super majority vote? And a very interesting crossing of party lines here in this debate as well.

TAPPER: So, Jeff, what do you say to somebody who looks at this and says this just looks like the anti-abortion politicians felt they were going to lose in November on whether to enshrine abortion rights into the state constitution, which would have only required a majority vote? So now we're trying to change the rules on how to pass a constitutional amendment so that the minority gets to have sway over the majority. In other words, if 59 percent of Ohioans say no, they want abortion rights in the state constitution, that's still not going to be enough under these new rules if they pass.

ZELENY: That's right. It would take 60 percent. And Jake, this is coming in the context of what happened last summer in the wake of the Supreme Court decision. Just about a year ago, we saw the amendment in Kansas pass to enshrine abortion rights there, just shy of 60 percent. In Kentucky, another red state, just shy of 60 percent as well.