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The Lead with Jake Tapper

At Least 36 Killed In Catastrophic Maui Wildfires; 5 Americans Detained In Iran Released In House Arrest; Supreme Court Blocks $6 Billion Purdue Pharma Opioid Settlement And Will Hear Case This Fall; ProPublica: Justice Clarence Thomas Took Dozens Of Trips Paid For By Billionaire Friends; GOP Candidates Court Voters On First Day Of Iowa State Fair. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired August 10, 2023 - 16:00   ET



ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN HOST: How many miles? Six to eight miles in a sweltering heat. I get it. It's hard doing a three-hour TV show without running down the hall.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Which we didn't. But as a former golfer and someone with children, I would say, you go when you can go. That's what you do and then you just figure it out.

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: President Biden approves a disaster declaration for Hawaii, as that state continues to burn.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Unprecedented disaster, new images showing the power of flames ripping through communities in Hawaii. The death toll rises to 36 confirmed deaths, as crews anticipate that number growing even higher.

And President Biden's six billion dollar deal with Iran. Will the regime free five Americans in exchange for frozen funds? The first steps appear to be already in the works.

Plus, the deepest dive yet into the lavish lifestyle for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Luxury trips, private planes, big ticket gifts, all bankrolled by billionaires, detailed by "ProPublica", and never disclosed.


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

We start today with our national lead, and the utter devastation in many parts of Hawaii, with fears that the reality could be much worse than we know, because a lack of power and cell service complicates search and rescue efforts. At least 36 people have been killed, and what the state's lieutenant governor is calling unprecedented wildfires. Most of the fires on Maui island, where those deaths happened, are still not contained, according to local officials. It could take days or even weeks for power and cell phone service on the island to be restored. Issues that are making it incredibly hard for survivors to know, if their friends and family are okay.


DUSTIN KALEIOPU, LOST HIS HOME IN HAWAII: I have extended family, my grandmother, my uncle, my friends, family members, that we're looking for. So many people have gone missing. I will say, it is an unspoken fact, the death toll is way higher than 36.


TAPPER: This afternoon, President Biden approved a disaster declaration for Hawaii, which includes money that can be used for temporary housing and for home repairs. The state's governor estimates the damage to homes and buildings will be in the billions of dollars.

CNN's Veronica Miracle starts off our coverage from Maui, Hawaii, where one local resident tells her, that her town looks like a bomb went off.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're still out here. It's time to go.

VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chaos and panic, as the relentless wildfires continue to ravage the paradise island of Maui, leaving loss and destruction in its wake.


MIRACLE: Some residents escaping by boat, watching the flames engulf their town as they sailed away. We caught up with volunteers today in Kahului harbor, where they were loading up supplies to be taken to nearby Napili.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been hit by firebombs was big, they were sucking oxygen out of the air. People don't have oxygen to breathe. I think this is an absolutely top level national disaster. We've never seen anything like it, I've been here 32 years.

MIRACLE: Just the beginning of aid efforts that will be needed on this island of devastation.

DEANNE CRISWELL, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: What we're seeing is just this widespread devastation, across many different neighborhoods in Maui.

MIRACLE: Families waking up today, after losing their homes, possessions, and for some, their pets.

DUSTIN KELPIOPU, MAUI RESIDENT: This morning was completely devastating to see where we woke up. Seeing what our town had transformed into, just overnight. Everyone that I know and love, everyone that I'm related to, that I communicate with, my colleagues, friends, family, were all homeless.

LA PHENA DAVIS, LOST HOME TO FIRE IN MAUI: It's an extremely traumatic experience. There's a lot of -- a lot of emotion and trauma that's going to have to be dealt with for the whole community.

MIRACLE: The coast guard pulled more than 50 people from the ocean, who had jumped into escape the flames.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Still got dead bodies in the water, floating, and on the seawall.

MIRACLE: Nearly 11,000 customers remain without power. More than 2000 residents are in shelters, and many travelers are still stranded on the island. The National Guard reports, they dropped more than 150,000 gallons of water over the fires Wednesday, to help suppress the flames. And while the fires still rage on, the search and rescue efforts continue.

MAJ. GEN. KENNETH HARRA, ADJUTANT GENERAL, STATE OF HAWAII, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: The primary focus is to save lives and to prevent human suffering and then mitigate great property loss.

MIRACLE: Lieutenant Governor Sylvia Luke, toured the damage by helicopter Wednesday, and was shocked by what she witnessed.

LT. GOV. SYLVIA LUKE (D), HAWAII: It looked as if the whole town was devastated.


MIRACLE (on camera): Jake, these volunteers put out a call for help, and all of these supplies coming together here within the last hour.


They'll be loaded up on a boat, and taken to nearby Lahaina, close to Lahaina. Now, one of the biggest items they need, gasoline. We are told that some people are not able to leave, because they don't have enough gas in their car. That is why supply runs like this are so critical -- Jake.

TAPPER: Veronica Miracle on the island of Maui in Hawaii, thank you so much.

The FAA is restricting commercial and private flights from the fire areas, so that search and rescue teams can keep up their important work. But there are still evacuation flights getting out of Maui today, and headed to the big island. And for some of those people, they touchdown with only the clothes on their backs, knowing that their home and all of their belongings are gone.

CNN's Mike Valerio is outside the convention center in Honolulu, which has been turned into a makeshift shelter.

Mike, tell us what you're hearing from people arriving there after evacuating. MIKE VALERIO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, good morning from

Honolulu, 10:00 a.m. here.

And I think that to a person, you hear expressions of profound gratitude, because everybody who's coming here, a couple of yards in our backdrop, is coming fresh off the plane from the epicenter of the disaster zone, about 80 miles away from where we're standing.

And, you know, we've been here, Jake, since about midnight local time. It's now just after ten, I think that, you know, what has been so moving, when you see people who come off these buses, straight from the international airport, and you see in their faces expressions of sorrow, exhaustion, this consulate families who have witnessed so much again, from this disaster zone that they never thought was in the realm of possibility.

So, to that end, you're going to hear from a man who has helped coordinating this operation, turning the convention center into this makeshift shelter, within a matter of hours. And then a woman who witnessed the devastation of the disaster zone, listen to what they told us.


ILIHIA GIONSON, HAWAII TOURISM AUTHORITY PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER: We talk a lot about aloha, right, as that value. We talk a lot about the value of malama to care for, to cherish, to nurture, right? And it's one thing to talk about it. It's another thing to live it out.

JULIE BERLAND, TOURIST WHO EVACUATED FROM MAUI: It was devastating to see how much damage had been done. The entire hillside on of one area, where a lot of houses I believe were, was just wiped out. We saw a lot of burned out cars. And then the other section of town, where the old historic town was, was just blackened and ruined.


VALERIO: You know, Jake, the families we spoke to over the past couple hours, of described what they saw in Lahaina as just these intricate, beautiful sandcastles, you think of the beautiful sails of the ships, docks that have been there for generations, all wiped out in a matter of seconds, so arresting for people to see.

So, wrapping up the plan here for the rest of the day, Jake, authorities tell us that they only cared for just about 100 or so people overnight. But as this evacuation operation becomes more of a finally tuned machine out of Maui, they're expecting more people, whose lives were horribly disrupted, to come find solace here, or at least a temporary spot where they can regroup and figure out how to go on from here -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Mike Valerio in Honolulu, thanks so much.

Joining us to discuss, Clint Hansen, a Maui resident who took some of the stunning drone video of the wildfires that you've seen here on CNN. Clint, one of the worst things about being a journalist if you talk to

people on their worst day. On one of their worst days. I'm sorry to be doing that now. How are you doing? How are your families doing? How is your family doing? How are your friends doing? Is everybody at least safe unaccounted for?

CLINT HANSEN, MAUI RESIDENT: Yeah, you know, we are one of the lucky ones. I'm here on the south side in the fire that we had started over here, ended up petering out on the wind. The wind has been the biggest driving factor in fueling the flames. And why Lahaina's disaster was so bad.

Maui has had multiple fires that we've been juggling, and it's part of the reason why resources are scattered so thin, because a lot of the firefighters were dealing with evacuations in our country.

I'm in Kihei. I was taking footage throughout the night, and in order to make sure people understood where we sat, and how disastrous it could be. And whether or not we were going to be able to get through this. Unfortunately enough, it got pushed to a gully right where the wind stopped, and that created a natural firebrick.

So, as of right now, my main family is all safe and accounted for. I, also, in addition to selling real estate, own a paint ball field over on the west side. And a lot of our friends are missing. We're scouring the regular shelter lists, trying to get familiar names. You know, we are sending out text, but not hearing back, hoping that this is just a battery issue, or cellphone tower issue.


But it is -- it's really terrifying, as I've heard and we all know, this number of 36 people passing away is going to grow dramatically as time goes on. And rescue efforts continue.


We are asking everybody to pitch in and help, we've already made multiple runs to drop off supplies, food, clothes, diapers, wipes, anything that is of use, toiletries. I've had clients reaching out to me, offering their condos, vacancies up for people without shelter, just to get a couple of days in a nice bed. And some warm water, you know, a shower, if they're able to make it over here on the south side.


HANSEN: But hospitals just way overcapacity, thousands of people with injuries there. Let alone, the number of deaths, it's just well above 36, even though that number seems to be the official one.

TAPPER: Yeah, that's the number of confirmed dead, after the segments, over will tell our viewers ways they can help the citizens of Maui.

You have described the devastation as the worst day Maui will ever have. What is it like to watch parts of your community disappear? I cannot fathom such a thing.

HANSEN: Well, it came trickling in. You know, without the communication, we're only getting a few images, and it was mostly just verbiage, descriptions, this building gone, this building on. You know, pioneer in, gone. You know, harbor, gone. It's like it doesn't register. It sounds like, you know, it's words. It can't possibly be true.

And then when you see, it's literally all gone. It blows your mind. To have a fire storm move through and burn every boat down to the waterline, doesn't seem possible. But, you know, people are running for the lives, jumping in the ocean to escape.

And one of my friends have been fortunate enough was talking to his mom on the phone, had to get out of his car and jump into the ocean, telling him to take care of his daughter. That he loved her. Didn't hear from him for a day, fortunately, he was able to survive. Him and his girlfriend are pretty badly beaten up, emotionally and physically, he survived. Part of the reason was, it took so long to walk to the shelters, and the help. He was able to help multiple people on the way out there, which is why it took him so long to get there.

TAPPER: As somebody knows about real estate, you have an idea for construction and such. Do you have any idea how long it might take to rebuild?

HANSEN: You know, Maui is notorious for having difficulty issuing permits. We have to come up with some other process because our county is lacking, you know, enough field positions to do the job appropriately. So, I don't know if that means outsourcing or changing the dynamic where, you know, it's more of an insurance bond against the property to make sure it's safe as opposed to putting liability on accounting, instead, putting it on the insurance, so that people are protected, they're moving into a quality home.

But to replace, or even put a dent in what's happened in a timely manner, our current system can't keep up. So, that's one of the things I've just been scratching my head. There has to be a really big and drastic change in order to put people in a timely manner. The biggest fear is, people are going to have to leave.


HANSEN: There's not going to be a lot of options with being so isolated, people are going to have to move to the mainland. Only thing I can think is, maybe provide them funds. And then provide a certificate for having a first option on properties when things are being rebuilt back in Hawaii to get our Maui people home.

TAPPER: Yeah. Clint Hansen, thank you so much. Appreciate your time.

And for more information on how you can help the victims of Hawaii's wildfires, please head to -- We have a low list of vetted organizations that you can check out.

Coming up, that major deal the Biden administration is calling delicate, five Americans almost free, in exchange, Iran could get frozen funds.

Plus, as federal prosecutors push for a January trial for Donald Trump, how much does support does he have within the Republican Party still? We'll talk to former Republican governor, Chris Sununu.

And this just in, the Supreme Court is blocking a $6 billion Purdue Pharma opioid settlement. What we're learning about this from the Supreme Court, breaking right now, ahead.



TAPPER: Topping our world lead, a monumental development today in one of America's iciest foreign relationships. Five wrongfully detained Americans in Iran have been released from a notorious Iranian prison and are now on house arrest. But that's according to one of their lawyers. This would be the first death in a deal that includes the United States government agreeing to release a hefty $6 billion dollars of -- as of now, frozen Iranian funds.

Today, the three named and one unnamed American detention were moved from Tehran's notorious Evin prison to a hotel guarded by Iranian officials. The fifth American was already on house arrest before today.

CNN's Kylie Atwood reveals how two nations with no formal diplomatic relations made this deal.


KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Five Americans who have been in prison in Iran are now under house arrest, a major step towards freedom.


ATWOOD: Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz, and Emad Shargi have been imprisoned in Iran for years. The identity of the other two Americans is unknown.

The deal could make six billion dollars and Iranian funds held in South Korean more accessible to Tehran, while maintaining strict limitations on how those funds can be used. That's according to a source familiar with the negotiations. Iran also said that five Iranian prisoners in the U.S. would be released as part of the deal.


But the Biden administration still needs to work out some elements of the agreements in the coming weeks, leaving plenty of room for something to go wrong.

GENSER: All we know now today with any assurances they are out on house arrest, and what happens next is anyone's guess. ATWOOD: National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson called

the move to a house arrest, quote, an encouraging step, but said the Biden administration will not rest until they are back in the U.S., calling ongoing negotiations delicate.

Siamak Namazi is the longest held American prisoner, arrested in 2015 and left behind in multiple deals between the U.S. and Iran that freed other Americans. His brother, telling CNN this in 2021.

BABAK NAMAZI, BROTHER OF SIAMAK NAMAZI: Each time I saw light at the end of the tunnel, it turns out to be a fast moving train, unfortunately.

ATWOOD: And Siamak was so desperate to get out that he courageously called CNN's Christiane Amanpour from behind bars earlier this year.

SIAMAK NAMAZI, AMERICAN DETAINED IN IRAN: Desperate times call for desperate measures.


ATWOOD: Now, Jake, the negotiations to secure the release of these Americans are separate from conversations regarding Iran's nuclear deal -- nuclear program, excuse me, that's according to a source familiar with negotiations. But, progress here could, of course, facilitate for progress in other areas, according to that source. Jake.

TAPPER: All right. CNN's Kylie Atwood at the U.S. State Department, thanks so much.

Let's talk about more about this with Jared Gensler. He's the pro-bono council to Siamak Namazi.

Jared, Siamak was arrested in 2015 for allegedly having, quote, relations with a hostile state, unquote, since he's a dual Iranian U.S. citizen. His dad Bara was lured to Iran and then also spend time behind bars although he was literally so he could get medical help. Both men denied ever doing anything wrong.

Did Iran's government any attempt to share evidence of wrongdoing with you?

GENSLER: It was very, very narrowly shared. Siamak had been repeatedly interrogated on a range of things. He had been involved with a number of organizations in Washington that are very, very well known like the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, National Endowment for Democracy. And he was being questioned about those things.

But there really was no trial at all. In fact, he was just taken with his lawyer to meet the judge who handed him a 50-page judgment showing him he had been convicted. He wasn't able to take that with him. He does have the opportunity to read it and see that he was convicted and sentenced to ten years in jail. So, to say there was no due process is dramatic understatement.

TAPPER: How are Siamak and his family feeling today with this news?

GENSLER: Well, this is a great step forward. It's undeniable. There had been so many attempts that have failed. If I had $1 for every attempt, I probably have at least 100 bucks by now.

So, you know, this is an important step forward. At the same time, you know, as was noted, you know, we need to take this through its final conclusion, and I was heartened by hearing the Iranian government say that the five will be pardons in exchange for prisoners, Iranian prisoners in the United States.

The fact they publicly committed to that is great, but at the end of the day, I think we all know that until the plane has taken off in Iranian airspace, that I can't count really on anything.

TAPPER: How will life under house arrest in Iran, what does that look like?

GENSLER: So, I think it's better than one might imagine. They're being held in a hotel, in a reasonably good hotel in Tehran.

The five Americans are being held together and are able to talk to each other. They're able to be with family. They're able to have better food. They have their own bed. They have their own shower.

You know, when they were living in prison, they were in dormitories with eight or ten people per room. They have mass showers they have to share, and let's say not so high quality food. So, it's a step forward in terms of their treatment, but I think all them know better than anybody that until it's done, it's not done.

TAPPER: Jared Gensler, thank you. Stay in touch. We want to keep covering the story until that plane has taken off and then landed back here in the United States.

GENSLER: Thanks so much.

TAPPER: Coming up next, the details just coming in to CNN about the Supreme Court now blocking a $6 billion Purdue Pharma opioid settlement.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: This news just into CNN in our health lead, the Supreme Court has blocked Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, from going forward with bankruptcy proceedings and a $6.6 billion settlement.

This was part of an arrangement that would ultimately offer the Sackler family, the founders of Purdue Pharma, broad protection from opioid-related civil claims. The Supreme Court says they will now take up this case and hear arguments about it in December.

Let's bring in CNN's Jean Casarez and Joan Biskupic.

Jean, what exactly was in this settlement?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, when it began in 2019, when the bankruptcy was declared by Purdue Pharma, all of the civil suits, and there were so many around the country against the Sacklers, against Purdue Pharma, they all were channeled into the bankruptcy action. That was one of the first things they did.

And people need to realize how huge this was. This involved states. This involved counties. This involved townships. This involved tribal nations, all over the country.

And I remember being in the courtroom and it was filled with attorneys, attorneys by phone all over the country.

So, they started negotiating.


They've been negotiating for years on this since 2019 and they finally determined. And there's a handful of states that were opposed to this, but it was really symbolically. At the end, they decided that what would happen is that the Sacklers would pay out approximately $6 billion to individual claimants, to states, to abatement procedures involving crisis medications that could be given to people.

And in lieu of that, their names would be taken off buildings around the country also that was part of it. But in lieu of that, they would not face civil suits going forward, because the monies would be going towards everything that I just described.

And here's the impact of this, those people that were the victims, and that they wanted money and $6 billion is going to all of that. This will be stopped in its tracks.

So, no one, no community, no abatement proceedings, no medications, will be going for the short term to those entities that so need it.

TAPPER: Joan, are you surprised that the U.S. Supreme Court has not only block this settlement that had been agreed upon, but that they're also going to take up the case?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Well, Jake, those are pretty dramatic terms that Jean just outlined and the solicitors general of the United States actually use them in her arguments to try and get the Supreme Court to intervene and say that this is an exceptional agreement, unprecedented, in the scope of it is something that, you know, maybe should be blocked and encouraging the justice to take it up say, look at -- lower courts are divided out there on situations when companies, when parties can be released to liability. So, it is -- in some ways, it's surprising that they're intervening at this stage, but this is the most crucial stage.

And they have set it on a pretty fast track. They have ordered fairly quick briefing schedule and the case would be heard in early December with the resolution, Jake, probably by the end of June of next year. So, you know, it's -- when you think of the opioid addiction crisis in America and the responsibility of Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family, this is a pretty unprecedented settlement, so that's why the Supreme Court has intervened at this point, Jake.

Already, Joan Biskupic and Jean Casarez, thanks.

Let's bring in the attorney general of Ohio, Dave Yost. Ohio is one of the eight states, as well as Washington D.C. that are part of the six billion dollar settlement. You might remember Ohio as, of course, tragically one of the epicenters of the opioid crisis.

General Yost, thanks for joining us.

Did you want the Supreme Court to take up the case or did you want them to allow the settlement to move forward?

DAVE YOST (R), OHIO ATTORNEY GENERAL: We wanted the settlement to move forward. This is money that's not flowing to individual claimant families. It's coming back equally important to our communities and into our states, to fight back against this avalanche of addiction that was architected by the Sacklers.

TAPPER: What is -- I'm going to ask you a question I haven't asked anybody before. What's the best argument for the people who disagree with you? The best argument being made by, for instance, solicitor general, people who want the Supreme Court to review this case. They disagree with the settlement.

I realize I'm asking you to state something you don't agree with, but what is their best case?

YOST: Well, I think there's probably two arguments on the other side. The first is that there's a lack of due process in the discharging that is just fundamentally unfair to watch the Sacklers go away. The problem with that is that under the law, we can get to Purdue Pharma. The individual family money is behind that is much more difficult, legally in most of our states.

The other issue, which is kind of a policy issue, is what we do with these mass torts that are so massive, they're existential lawsuits, and to maximize the recovery for the wrongs done. You have to have some kind of means of marshalling all these claims. And this is going to be an interesting argument at the Supreme Court.

TAPPER: And your argument is, correct me if I'm wrong, there are people in Ohio and the other states who need help now, who need that money now, organizations that need to help people who are still suffering in this epidemic that continues to take thousands of lives a year. Is that right?

YOST: That's absolutely correct. And as the Court of Appeals said, bankruptcy is a creature of compromises.


It's a messy process of competing interest.

TAPPER: We've seen some preliminary data showing that drug overdose deaths have leveled off, but still, more than 100,000 Americans losing their lives from overdoses nationally, most of them I believe, opioids. How is Ohio working to alleviate the crisis?

YOST: Well, we have a coalition, we called the One Ohio Foundation that has all our local governments and state governments. We are sharing the money from these various lawsuits to bring it back to the local level for treatment, for prevention, for enforcement because this war is fought on the ground of our streets, of our cities and our counties.

And it's so important to get this money flowing. It's been since 2019 that this bankruptcy proceeding has been going on. The best thing I can say about today's decision to hear the case is at least they set it for December.

TAPPER: Yeah. Can you imagine if terrorists killed hundreds of thousand Americans a year? This is us doing it to ourselves.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, thank you so much for your time. As always, we appreciate it.

YOST: Thank you, sir.

TAPPER: It was "ProPublica" that first revealed the name of the one man footing the bill for some fancy trips benefiting Supreme Court Clarence Thomas.

And now, "ProPublica" is telling us about three more billionaire friends, with the most extensive look yet into the Thomas's lavish lifestyle which we should note, was not disclosed by Justice Thomas. That's ahead.



TAPPER: It must be nice to have lots of friends who are billionaires. Free luxury vacations, private jet rides, sporting event tickets, yacht cruises. Of course, I'm talking about the friends of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and "ProPublica's" bombshell reporting today as CNN's Tom Foreman explains the report adds new urgency to questions about transparency and ethics on and off the bench.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The most complete accounting yet of the high life of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas shows much, much more than previously known. More private jets, more fancy vacations, more sporting events, all gifts from mega rich businessmen and documented through public and private records, plus interviews by "ProPublica".

BRETT MURPHY, PROPUBLICA REPORTER: Justice Thomas has been living a life of extreme luxury for 30 years underwritten by at least four different ultra-wealthy benefactors.

FOREMAN: Earlier reports have revealed lavish gifts to Thomas, including a house for his mother, and his nine-day vacation in Indonesia from conservative billionaire Harlan Crow.


FOREMAN: Who also underwrote a film about Thomas's humble taste.

THOMAS: I prefer the RV parks.

FOREMAN: Now, the list of benefactors includes three more names according to "ProPublica", David Sokol, Wayne Huizenga and Tony Novelly.

The report says the four moguls collectively treated Thomas to 38 destination vacations, including a previously unreported voyage on a yacht around Bahamas, 26 private jet flights, plus an additional eight by helicopter, a dozen VIP passage to professional and college sporting events, two stays at luxury resorts in Florida and Jamaica, and one standing invitation to an uber exclusive golf club.

The dollar value, likely in the millions, little of which appeared in required financial disclosures according to "ProPublica". Thomas has previously said he didn't feel the need to disclose some gifts.

And that worries Jeremy Fogel, an expert on judicial ethics and a former judge.

JEREMY FOGEL, BERKELEY JUDICIAL INSTITUTE: I simply couldn't have done this, and even if the people involved didn't have interest before the court, it's -- it is just the idea that you are receiving gifts of this magnitude.

FOREMAN: Associate justices make about $285,000 a year. In 2001, when they made about $100,000 less, Thomas spoke up.

THOMAS: The job is not worth doing for what they pay. It's not worth doing for the grief, but it is worth doing for the principle.

FOREMAN: Now, he bristles at questions about his principles. He calls Crow merely a friend. Crow says they never talk about Thomas's work and the new report found none of these wealthy pals seemed to have had cases before the court. Still --

MURPHY: It's one of which one of these new benefactors, just like Harlan Crow, came into his life after he was appointed to the Supreme Court. That's why it's so problematic from an ethics standpoint.


FOREMAN (on camera): There is no evidence that these rich friends broke any laws or rules by giving these extraordinary gifts, and it is unclear if Thomas technically did anything wrong by accepting. So, defenders of the benefactor's and the justices are calling this a smear job. But, the earlier revelation spurred an outcry in for this court to

come up with much more strict and transparent rules about such financial matters. And this report will only make that drumbeat louder.

TAPPER: Yeah. Tom Foreman, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, the big event that has politicians racing to see butter cows and blue ribbon pigs.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, the smell of 800 pound butter cow, which signifies it's time for the Iowa state fair. As that famous event begins, fairgoers hope to win ribbons, Republican presidential candidates hope to gain critical votes in the state's first in the nation caucus.

Today, former Vice President Mike Pence is there, and he's getting ready to speak. Former President Trump will attend this weekend.

With us now is New Hampshire Republican Governor Chris Sununu, joins us to discuss.

You are not heading to the Iowa state fair, but you are in the first in the nation primary state. I know you're involved with candidates in other ways.

Last night, you introduce former Governor Chris Christie to a town hall event in New Hampshire. You said you're not ready to endorse a Republican candidate yet, but you have rolled out endorsing a third party No Labels ticket.

Are you advising No Labels to stay out of the race altogether?


GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: No, no, not really. I mean, I'm not really talking up with them other than I know their path is to kind of fill the gap. If it were a Trump-Biden ticket for the 70 percent of America who doesn't want to see any of that, right? So, that's my sense of that is the gap they will choose to fill. But my sense is they will probably make the decision sometime next spring.

The good news is, I don't think it is going to be a Trump-Biden ticket. I really don't. I have my doubts on both of them even though I understand they're leading in the polls today. Long way to go before Iowa and New Hampshire.

And already, if you're just on the Republican side, Trump is having trouble in the polls. Three out of the last five polls have under 40 percent. So, when the conversations are happening, some of these other candidates are making headway and they're slowly separating. We haven't even had the first debate yet. So, I think is a lot to come the next few months.

TAPPER: Is it possible that after the Iowa caucuses and as the candidates head east to New Hampshire, you will endorse someone, especially if it is an important comparative to you to have a strong non-Trump Republican candidate?

SUNUNU: Oh, absolutely. I think I would consider doing that even before the Iowa caucuses. Look, I'm not sure 100 percent how much my endorsement helped or doesn't help, but I do believe in narrowing this field down. I do believe in -- my sense is getting it down to five or six candidates in Iowa, for five going into New Hampshire, and then coming out of New Hampshire you have a one-on-one race with the former president and somebody else. That's where he's in trouble because he cannot hold 50 percent of the Republican base.

TAPPER: Perhaps one of the reasons why is because he is now facing three criminal indictments with a fourth possibly going to come down soon in Georgia.

Here is you and what you said a couple months ago about the classified documents case against Trump.


SUNUNU: Everyone has to be very straightforward and transparent about it and acknowledge the realities of the severity of these accusations. This is nothing like anything we've seen before. It is very likely, I think, it's going to come down to some kind of guilty verdict on the president, at least on some of these charges.


TAPPER: Now, we should not use of not ruled out supporting Trump if he does become Republican nominee for president. You made it clear that such your preference.

Can you explain how a vote for Biden would be worse than a vote for a man that you believe could be a convicted felon?

SUNUNU: Well, look, it's not going to come down to those two, and I have to say, if Trump loses and when he loses, it's not because of the indictments, it's really not. It is because we are moving forward. We're not going backwards.

That's the big -- when you talk to Republicans on the round, they're not sanctioned like me to be with anymore because of the indictments. They're saying, well, I'm not going to be with them anymore because we did that. It's yesterday's news, we need a fresh face and ideas and moving forward, this country forward.

So, it's really not about the indictments directly. I think Joe Biden has a lot of problems, obviously whether it's the Hunter Biden issue. Even if it's his own health, I mean, God bless him. He's a very older -- much older guy. He doesn't quite have his fast ball -- neither of them do. I think it's an opportunity for both parties to find a generational

move forward with that next generation, that next kind of push of energy, some of that can galvanize on the Republican side. Young voters, independent voters, suburban moms, if you're not doing, that we're not winning.

So, we need a candidate that can close the deal in November and obviously the former president ain't it.

TAPPER: This week at a rally in your state, Donald Trump vowed to bring a full service Veteran Affairs hospital to New Hampshire. Then, he slammed you for being governor of the only state that does not have one. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: The only state that doesn't have one.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Because of our corrupt governor!

TRUMP: I was waiting for that.

Selfish, selfish guy. At the same time, he ran for president and he got two points. He ran without running, he didn't want to announce he wanted to run, but it's a shame.


TAPPER: All right. Just a quick fact check, there's no evidence that you're corrupt, I don't think you're selfish, but that's my personal opinion.

SUNUNU: Thank you.

TAPPER: But you did not run for president.

But beyond that, let me just ask you about the substance of that. Do you have any plans to bring in a full service V.A. hospital to New Hampshire? Is that something you want to push for? And what is your response to Donald Trump saying all that about you?

SUNUNU: Two things. Look, he was upset and said I didn't help him enough in 2020. It's, like, yeah, okay, so the former president is realizing he can't win New Hampshire without my help. You know, shocking self awareness for a guy who lives in fantasyland all the time.

As for -- as for the V.A. hospital, look, we are one of the best states in the country for veterans and veterans services. And if the federal V.A. wants to expand into a full hospital here, that's fine. I'm more -- I believe more in community-based services when you're talking about mental health, opioid treatment, recovery homeless issues, for veterans, specifically for veterans.

Having one old centralized location, I'm not saying it's a bad model, but it's a little bit old school. We're a little bit kind of modern in how we're doing things here. We make it more community based.


Not to say everyone has to be in the centralized location.

TAPPER: All right. Republican Governor Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, live free or die, thanks for being with us.

SUNUNU: Thank you, buddy.

TAPPER: Next, that major deal that appears to be in the works to free five American detainees in Iran in exchange for frozen Iranian funds in the billions. I'll press the White House on how this deal came to be, and that would cause.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: And welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

This hour, at least 36 people are dead and there are fears of the number of lives lost the wildfires that continue to scorch Hawaii. We're going to get another update on the aftermath on the ground in Maui.