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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Tropical Storm Idalia To Hit Florida; Mark Meadows Testifies. Trump Gets March Trial Date; New Details On Racially Motivated Mass Shooting In Jacksonville; Three Dead After Racist Shooting In Jacksonville On Same Day Marchers In Dc Commemorate MLK's 1963 "Dream" Speech; CNN Visits Bulldozed Prigozhin Jet Crash Site; Spanish Prosecutor Opens Criminal Probe Into Soccer Chief. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired August 28, 2023 - 17:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to "The Lead." I'm Jake Tapper and we are following two big breaking stories this hour. It has been a day of huge developments in Donald Trump's various legal fights. In Fulton County, Georgia, Trump's former chief of staff, Mark Meadows has been on the stand, testifying, fighting to move his case from state to federal court to separate Trump -- separate from Trump and the other 17 co-defendants.

In Washington, D.C., the judge there set a trial date of March 4th, 2024 for Donald Trump. This is for the special counsel's investigation into the alleged plot to overturn the 2020 election nationwide. That trial date is one day before Super Tuesday, the height of the 2024 presidential campaign theoretically.

Our reporters and legal experts are here to break down every single detail of today's developments but we're going to start with more breaking news. Just moments ago, we got an update on Idalia, the tropical storm that is currently building in the Gulf of Mexico and barreling towards Florida. Evacuation orders have already been issued along Florida's west coast. Idalia is on track to be a major hurricane when it makes landfall.

Let's get right to CNN's meteorologist Chad Myers. And Chad, what is in the latest forecast?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: A top speed of 130 miles per hour now, up from 125 at the 11:00 a.m. advisory. More time in the water, very, very warm water, and an awful lot of watches and warnings here. Let's get right to them. Hurricane warnings now all the way south of Tampa, all the way up toward Apalachicola. Notice how many counties inland are also in the hurricane warning.

That's Gainesville, not quite to Tallahassee, but if this storm goes a little bit farther to the west, Tallahassee, you have a big storm on your hands. Now all of a sudden on the East Coast, all of the east winds, tropical storm warnings are now, watch is in effect here, for the east coast of Florida because of the other side of the storm. So here it is right now. It's only 70 miles per hour, only. But it's

about to jump over the western part, Pinar del Rio of Cuba. When it gets into that very warm water of the Gulf Stream to the southwest of the Dry Tortugas in Key West, that's when it's forecast to rapidly intensify, up to a 130 mile per hour storm. I know that says 120, but in between its 130, in between the forecast points that I have there on the map.

So, you get to realize here that a small curve, a small right turn, takes a major hurricane into very populated areas. You've been in Florida for a while and I've covered them. Charlie made a last-minute turn. Was supposed to hit Tampa? Where did it go? Punta Gorda. Ian was supposed to hit Tampa. Where did it go? Well down here, Fort Myers Beach. These things, as they rapidly intensify, can turn toward the right.

You cannot let your guard down. You need to be ready. And certainly, you need to be ready by tomorrow morning to go if you need to go. Run away from the water. If you have surge coming to your house, you need to get away from that surge. House can probably deal with some wind, although there will be surge of seven to maybe even 12 feet up there in Cedar Key. There will be wind gusts over 100.

That's going to put a lot of power lines down. Lots, millions maybe, of trees, these pine trees that are up here in this Big Bend area of Florida, they will come down. It will make travel almost impossible as soon as those trees fall over the roadways. You need to, if you are going to evacuate, if it's in your mind at all, tonight or tomorrow morning, first thing, because a lot of things are going to go down rapidly and you don't want to be stuck in your car behind a power line that's down and you can't go any farther. You want to go before that happens. Jake.

TAPPER: And Chad, my understanding is the storm could also possibly cause flooding in Georgia and North and South Carolina.

MYERS: Sure, sure, absolutely. Wind, of course, there will be tornadoes here in parts of Florida on that right side of the eye. There will be an awful lot of rainfall that comes down with it. And yes, even here out here in the middle of Franklin making another storm system, a major hurricane here making big waves in New Smyrna. But North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, you all could be under the gun for significant rain event, six to 10 inches. Not as much maybe as Matthew put down in the Carolinas, but that heavy rainfall is certainly a possibility.

And more people die because of freshwater flooding now, Jake, than storm surge. People get away from the storm surge, but they don't know how to get or where they should go for this freshwater flooding in tropical systems.

TAPPER: Alright, Chad Myers, thanks so much. Turning now to our other top story. Just moments ago, testimony wrapped in Fulton County, Georgia.

[17:05:00] That's where former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is trying to convince a judge to move his case from state to federal court. Meadows is claiming that his participation in the attempts to subvert Georgia's election results were part of his official White House duties. CNN's Katelyn Polantz is outside the Fulton County Courthouse. Katelyn, now that testimony has wrapped, what's next?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Jake, now a judge has to decide whether Mark Meadows has made a substantial of enough case to him today as a witness testifying under oath here in Georgia federal court that he was doing something within his duties as the chief of staff as he was working with Donald Trump and even lawyers from the campaign, others with Trump's campaign, connecting them to legislators and also secretary of state in Georgia, others in the state of Georgia to try and either look at the election results or even contest them as Donald Trump wanted to do.

So, it's a very simple question that the judge has to make a decision on that has a lot of legal complexity to it. Right now, in court, the closing arguments of the day are taking place. There were three witnesses ultimately that testified here, surprisingly Meadows himself, a huge gamble from his attorneys to put him on the stand as a criminal defendant, but to enter testimony.

He was on the stand for around four hours or so. And then following lunch, there were two others who testified, Brad Raffensperger, the Secretary of State in Georgia, who received that call from Trump that Meadows was also on, where Trump was asking him to find votes. And then another lawyer, Kurt Hilbert, he also testified today in the court.

And so, the judge has heard all of this evidence from these witnesses, what the prosecution has asked them questions, that the defense side has asked questions as well, Meadows' defense lawyers. And now the judge will hear the legal arguments and we are waiting to see whether he will make a decision today. He very well may not. That doesn't often happen same day as a long proceeding like this in federal court.

TAPPER: Katelyn, moments ago the first defendant in this case pleaded and he pleaded not guilty. Tell us about that.

POLANTZ: Yeah, this is the first defendant to enter his initial pleading to be arraigned essentially. This is Ray Smith. He was a lawyer working around Donald Trump after the 2020 election in Georgia. He was in the room with fake electors as they were trying to cast those votes for Trump. He did enter his not guilty plea. We expect many more to come in. There are 19 defendants.

Ultimately, all of them would be very likely to be entering a not guilty pleading at this time, even if some of them do want to plead guilty ultimately. This is the arraignment process at work. We did get a date on the calendar for others to be arraigned if they want to do so in a court appearance, but it does appear that they can do it not in court itself or even over Zoom. That date is going to be September 6th. And the other thing, Jake, there are so many moving parts here. We

just got at CNN through an open records request several of the arrest statements or the arrest records from the sheriff's office, essentially the formal paperwork showing the defendants as they're being arrested with all of the data that either they self-submitted or that the jail collected for their processing.

TAPPER: Alright, including Donald Trump's presumably. Katelyn Polantz in Fulton County, Georgia for us. Thanks so much. There was also a movement in a different Trump legal battle. Today, Judge Tanya Chutkan set a trial date in the federal 2020 election interference case, March 4th, 2024. That is the day before Super Tuesday. And in between two other Trump trials. CNN senior justice correspondent Evan Perez joins us now. And Evan, things got pretty contentious during this hearing when the judge and the prosecutors and the defense attorneys were trying to discuss the trial date.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. John Lauro, one of the former president's attorneys, really took offense to the push by prosecutors to try to bring this case, to try to get this to trial as early as January of 2024. He called that request absurd and ridiculous. And he said that what prosecutors were trying to get was a show trial, not a fair trial.

The judge immediately pushed back. Judge Tanya Chutkan said, okay, let's take the temperature down. And she went through methodically all of the time that the former president's lawyers have really had to prepare for a trial. And that's why in the end she said there was a public interest in having a prompt resolution of this case and why she set a date of March 4th, which, as you pointed out, is one day before the Super Tuesday primaries.

Now, what this means, Jake, is that, you know, after that primary, the former president is going to spend a lot of time in court. The prosecution has said that their case is going to take four to five -- four to six weeks to present, which means that the former president is not going to be able to be out campaigning.


He's going to be stuck inside that courtroom here in Washington instead of being out in the field. Jake?

TAPPER: We also learned quite a bit as the prosecution laid out its discovery today. Tell us more about that.

PEREZ: Yeah. Look, I mean, this is partly what was at issue. John Lauro, the former president's attorney, says he can't possibly get ready for trial. And one of the things -- the data points, I'll read you some of the data points that were brought up by prosecutors today. He said, you know, there's just too much for them to go through -- 12.8 million pages is what the prosecution has turned over as part of the discovery process, 47,000 pages is what prosecutors say are really key documents, and 27,000 pages have to do with the former president's social media posts on Twitter and on his own platform, Truth Social. So, it gives you a sense of the amount of data and documents that they

have to go through. But you can see those numbers there, Jake. The prosecutor said, look, 47,000 pages is not exactly the 12.8 million -- the picture that they have drawn, the defense has drawn, that it is impossible for them to go through.

The judge, by the way, pointed out that the former president, you know, he obviously he claims to be a billionaire, has the means, Jake, to have enough lawyers to go through this stuff and get ready for his trial.

TAPPER: Evan Perez, thanks so much. Coming up next, the political impact of Donald Trump's new trial date. Plus, we're going to hear from the security guard who turned away the Jacksonville gunman from the historically black college campus before the gunman shot and killed three black people at a nearby dollar store. Stay with us.



TAPPER: We are about to get updates to two major stories we're following today. Police at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill are going to hold a news briefing after ordering a lockdown of campus earlier today because of reports of a suspect who was deemed armed and dangerous. Also, authorities in Jacksonville, Florida are going to share more information about the racially motivated shooting, the racist shooting of three black people over the weekend there, and we'll watch both of these press conferences and bring you all the vital details.

Until then, we turn to the other big story in our coverage. A trial date has now been set in the federal election subversion trial for Donald Trump. Let's talk about the case and the politics surrounding it. Here with me now, S.E. Cupp, CNN political commentator, Jamal Simmons, former communications director for Vice President Kamala Harris, and Jeremy Saland, a criminal defense attorney and a former Manhattan prosecutor.

Jeremy, let me just start with the basic reaction that you have to this March 2024 election subversion trial date. Is that too soon, too far away? What do you make of it?

JEREMY SALAND, CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER: Jack Smith is no doubt happy, although he certainly could be happier. He's done a good job of limiting the scope of this indictment solely to Donald Trump so he can move it efficiently forward and the judge recognizes that and recognizes the importance of this trial in terms of the public needs to know and have an answer.

And Jack Smith and the court also was clear that these 47,000 documents that really are pertinent are the most important so this entire spectrum of documents, we're hearing millions and millions of this material is not everything that should hold them back. So, the judge is doing a good job, but I would expect there's a potential appeal waiting in the wings down the road. TAPPER: So just because for us laypeople here that aren't lawyers,

47,000 pages of documents, that is a lot, that is not a lot, that is manageable. What's your take?

SALAND: It's all relative, right? 47,000 could be a lot to some and a little to others, but he has the team and the ability and especially with today's technology to identify certain things that he's looking for.

TAPPER: Bit what about Trump's legal team?

SALAND: That's what I'm referring to.

TAPPER: You know Trump does have the team.

SALAND: Right. The point is he has the team to go and examine those documents. He knows what he's looking for and what they're about. And some of these documents, if I understand it correctly, are things that he should already have from social media, for example, and internal documents on his own. It's all not fresh new documents.

TAPPER: Right. It's information -- a lot of it is stuff he generated. S.E., so Trump's next campaign appearance, we're told, is with South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem. It's a rally there. On September 8th, Noem, deliberately, we're told, chose not to run for president because she was convinced Donald Trump was going to be the nominee.

But according to a "Washington Post" poll, Trump is the only candidate to actually lose support following last week's debate. Do you think that it's -- it is -- do you hold -- do you agree with Governor Noem that Donald Trump is going to be the nominee or do you think it's still a chance that it could be someone else?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I think Donald Trump is going to be the nominee because I haven't seen the willingness, the fortitude among the other candidates to really take him on and make a thing out of this unprecedented turn of events, these four indictments, the fact that he was probably going to be in prison at some point over the next year or two. They really aren't touching it that much. So yeah, I think he'll be the nominee.

But he's in a bit of a bind as he campaigns, because all he wants to talk about are the indictments and how they're coming after me, so they're going to go after you. He doesn't want to be talking about policy. But that's the exact opposite of what his lawyers are going to want him to do.

TAPPER: Right.

CUPP: So, every campaign event that he's going to go to, I imagine he's lawyers crying in a corner somewhere just, you know, bracing for this inevitable, you know, bad move.

TAPPER: I mean, meanwhile, we're told that House Speaker McCarthy is preparing for an impeachment inquiry and we're also told CNN is reporting that there is not yet unanimity among House Republicans for that. Regardless of, I mean, I don't even know what the impeachment inquiry is for yet and I don't think they've decided yet.

JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's an impeachment in search of a cause of a reason.

TAPPER: But regardless, I can't imagine Democrats are excited about anything having to do with airing Hunter Biden's dirty laundry and everything having to do with the millions of dollars he took in, the influence campaign alleged, et cetera.

SIMMONS: Nobody wants to talk about Hunter Biden.

TAPPER: Well, Republicans do.

SIMMONS: No Democrats goes hyped about Hunter Biden. But you know what I bet you also a bunch of people who are just watching the news don't want to hear about it either because a lot of people in America now have people in their families who've had drug addictions and have gone through tough times.


And so, here's the difference between what's happening with the Bidens and what's happening with Trump. Everybody said, Hunter Biden had a problem. We know it was a problem. And he's trying to rectify his problem. Hunter Biden was willing to go to court and admit to some of the problems that he's had. Donald Trump has never admitted to a single possible thing that he's done wrong.

And I think that's part of the issue, why people just don't want to hear anything else from Trump about this. And everyone will say, you know what, Hunter, he was a problem, but it's not the president's problem.

CUPP: But listen, I mean, you got to -- you have to keep in mind that as galvanizing as Trump's indictments are for him, you have to wonder if it will be just as galvanizing for Democrats if Republicans pick this impeachment fight and suddenly the stakes are higher. You might be a little careful with that, Republicans.

TAPPER: Jeremy, I want to ask you, Mark Meadows, the former White House Chief of Staff, testified today that his executive branch duties regularly included talking to state officials. And he's saying that this is one of the reasons why the case in Georgia should be moved from Georgia to federal court because this is part of his federal duties as White House Chief of Staff. And that includes when Trump or had him arrange a call with the Secretary of State of Georgia to quote-unquote, "find 11,780 votes so that he won Georgia." Do you think the judge is going to be inclined to agree?

SALAND: Yeah. This is a classic example that we call you admit what you can't deny and deny what you can't admit. He's in a stuck spot. He has no option but to go that route and it shouldn't be lost in anybody else that he is the one who testified. There was no other evidence on his behalf to corroborate what he was saying. He had to go that route because otherwise it's a Hatch Act violation, and you know, he's darned if he does and darned if he doesn't. He's really in that unenviable position. And no, to answer your

question directly, I think he loses. Period. I think it's a white- knuckle day for him. I mean, he must be stressed beyond belief and rightfully so.

TAPPER: Alright, Jeremy Saland and S.E. Cupp and Jamal Simmons, thanks one and all for being here. Really appreciate it. Coming up, police are giving an update right now on those racist murders of three black people in Jacksonville, Florida. We're going to bring you the developments in a moment.

Plus, we'll take a look at this moment in America with the founder of the 1619 Project. That's next.



TAPPER: Back to our "Law and Justice Lead." Right now, police in Jacksonville, Florida are giving the most recent update into their investigation detailing the moments of the racist shooter before he went to the Dollar General Store where he killed three innocent African-Americans on Saturday. CNN's Isabel Rosales has more now on the deadly attack that was fueled by racism.


ISABEL ROSALES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lieutenant Antonio Bailey hailed a hero for chasing off the gunman who later opened fire at a nearby Dollar General in Jacksonville, Florida on Saturday. That shooter first entered a parking lot at Edward Waters University, Florida's first historically black college.

ZACHARY FAISON, PRESIDENT, CEO, EDWARD WATERS UNIVERSITY: He could have gone anywhere. It's not by happenstance. It's not just, you know, on a whim that he chose to come to Florida's first historically black college or university.

ROSALES (voice-over): According to Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters, police have not reported finding any firm evidence a suspect intended to attack the university.

ANTONIO BAILEY, EDWARD WATERS UNIVERSITY POLICE: There were students that stopped me in that parking lot and advised that there were gunmen.

ROSALES (voice-over): The shooter drove off after being approached by Bailey.

BAILEY: To me, the students that, you know, we preach the same saying every day, you see something, say something. And the students they saw they said and I was able to approach that vehicle. I was definitely saddened that it was indeed a tragedy.

ROSALES (voice-over): The scene of the tragedy that followed now marked by flowers and crosses. A community grieving, three killed Saturday in the racist attack.

He hated blacks and I think he hated just about everyone that wasn't white. He made that very clear.

ROSALES (voice-over): Now, more information about the gunman identified as 21-year-old Ryan Palmeter. Deputies released this edited surveillance video at the Dollar General Store showing him in a tactical vest armed with a handgun and an AR-15 style rifle with swastikas drawn on it. Then he opened fire.

He understood what he was doing and he understood why he was doing it.

ROSALES (voice-over): The shooter had no criminal arrest history. The sheriff says he purchased a handgun in April and an AR-15 style rifle in June, both legally. Despite as a teenager being temporarily and voluntarily held under Florida's Baker Act for mental evaluation for up to 72 hours.

DONNA DEEGAN, MAYOR OF JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA: I don't know legally, given the way the laws are written right now in the state of Florida, that there was anything that could have been done and therein lies the frustration for me.

ROSALES (voice-over): The victims in Saturday's shooting identified a store employee, Anolt Joseph "AJ" Laguerre, Jr. and customers Angela Carr and Jerrald Gallion. His killing leaves a four-year-old fatherless.

SABRINA ROZIER, RELATIVE OF JERRALD GALLION: We're just trying to figure out how to tell his daughter that her dad's gone. It's hurtful because I thought racism was behind us, but evidently, it's not.

ROSALES (voice-over): The attack in Florida, the latest in a number of shootings targeting black people, including at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York last year and at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015.

TRACIE DAVIS, STATE SENATOR, JACKSONVILLE, FLOIDA: I'm angry. I'm sad to realize we are in 2023 and as a black person we are still hunted.

Because that's what that was. That was someone planning and executed three people.



ROSALES: And Jake, we have new information from a press conference that's happening right now at the sheriff's office. Deputies revealing that this shooter previously wore worked at a Dollar Tree. This is a Dollar General, where this shooting happened. They've also released three new videos here. We're not sure of the chronological order of these videos, but I'll tell you what, they indicate, the shooter going into a Family Dollar, a totally separate store. And then we have this video at Edward Waters University, the campus there, that HBCU. And we can see the shooter going behind a vehicle there and putting on a tactical vest. And of course, we know that after that, minutes after that, he showed up at this Dollar General. The final piece of video that authorities released just this moment is of police entering this Dollar General, and that is when deputies say that the gunman took his own life. Jake?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Isabel Rosales in Jacksonville, Florida, for us, thank you so much. Chilling video there. Saturday's racist shootings in Jacksonville cast a pall over what was supposed to be a day celebrating 60 years of progress on civil rights in America. Activists gathered on the national mall in Washington, D.C. to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the march on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and the Reverend Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech during the 1963 march, which actually today is the 60th anniversary of it, but the commemoration was over the weekend.

We're joined now by Nikole Hannah-Jones, who covers racial injustice and other stories and other topics for The New York Times Magazine and won a Pulitzer Prize for the magazine's landmark 1619 Project describing the transatlantic slave trade and its legacy. First of all, Nikole, if it's OK if I call you Nikole, what's your reaction to this horrible shooting happening on the 60th, on the commemoration day, at least of the 60th anniversary of the march on Washington for Jobs and Freedom?

NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES, REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE: Well, I think that it is an awful and far too common reminder that as we seek to mark racism, racial injustice, as a thing of the past, that it is with us every day that we have not banished that ugly side of ourselves as Americans.

And many people were seeing the 60th anniversary of the march on Washington as, you know, talking about what we were fighting against a long time ago. But in fact, it was evoking a history to say that the struggle for equality, the struggle to end racism, the struggle to ensure and secure black Americans rights and full citizenship continues. And this is just a very devastating example of that.

TAPPER: Obviously, some things have improved for African Americans, for civil rights and voting rights and the like, since 1963, the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act among them. Do you think a lot of the racism is just more politely shielded and hidden? What's your take on how far we have come and how far we need to go as a society?

HANNAH-JONES: Yes. I mean, I absolutely would not pretend that America in 2023 is the same as America in 1963. But what's also clear is that we have forward progress and then we see retrenchment. And we are clearly in a period of retrenchment. So on most measures, the black- white poverty rates, if you look at unemployment rates for black Americans are still twice that of white Americans.

The racial wealth gap has remained unchanged for black Americans since Dr. King was assassinated. And the fact that we still see racialized violence regularly in this country shows that we still do have a long ways to go. The Supreme Court just struck down affirmative action, which was trying to help address that legacy. We know that the Supreme Court struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act and that it is harder for black Americans to vote than it was 10 years ago.

So I think that in America we become sometimes obsessed with this notion that progress, forward progress is inevitable. But backward progress happens in this country as well. And whether we're moving forward or not really is largely dependent upon who we are as a society. And we're in a society today that is deeply polarized along racial lines and where too many politicians understand that race is the original wedge issue and are creating the environment to see just the kind of violence that we witness in Jacksonville.


TAPPER: But the wedge issues are discussed differently today, right? I mean, in 1963, we were just three years away from Lester Maddox, a proud racist segregationist in Georgia, because becoming the governor of Georgia, Lester Maddox could not exist today. But Lester Maddox would not talk the way he did then today were he running, right? I mean, it's different. What are the wedge issues today that you hear?

HANNAH-JONES: Yes, I mean, absolutely. So, since 1968, it is no longer legal in this country to explicitly discriminate against black Americans. So, of course, we've learned over the last 60 years that you have to use different language, that you have to use language that appears to be race neutral, but that sends the same dog whistle. So we can look at, you know, Ron DeSantis running on this platform against what he's calling Wokeism.

But where those of us who study history, who understand the society that we live in, understand that's often coded as language against black Americans, as language against other marginalized groups. And how do we know that? Well, he also banned the teaching of African- American advanced placement studies in the state. So, yes, we do see a more coded language, but it's also a language of, you know, that's not often that coded. I mean, Donald Trump has, you know, came to office on a pretty openly white nationalist campaign.

We see people like Tucker Carlson who were allowed to have a major platform on the most watched cable news television in the country and who openly talked to white nationalist talking points. So we kind of have this wink and a nod racism, but it's barely concealed and all of us can hear it.

TAPPER: Nikole Hannah-Jones, thanks for being with us on this anniversary of the march on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. We appreciate it.

HANNAH-JONES: Thank you.

TAPPER: CNN visits the site where the plane carrying Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin went down inside Russia. We'll show you next.


[17:41:37] TAPPER: Back with our World Lead, five days after the plane carrying Wagner warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin fell out of the sky north of Moscow, CNN visited the site only to see a barren field bulldozed with a small makeshift memorial with flowers and a Wagner uniform badge. CNN's Matthew Chance is inside Russia for us, as officials there deny any involvement in the deadly crash and Russians remember Prigozhin's legacy.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We don't expect to see these scenes on Russian state television. When it comes to the Wagner leader who challenged the Kremlin, then died in a plane crash, there's a virtual media blackout on public grief. And Wagner supporters like Dmitri in Moscow are simply not being heard.

Yevgeny Prigozhin's death, he says, just confirms that there are fewer and fewer of us who really think about our country, our history and our goals. Prigozhin really showed everyone how it should be done, he adds. Wagner did a great job, says Maria, and they are heroes of our country. But of course, everyone makes mistakes, she explains.

But in Russia, some mistakes can be fatal. The Kremlin is slammed as absolute lies, allegations Prigozhin was killed for leading this abortive military uprising in June. But the fact his plane plunged to the ground two months after to the day has fueled suspicions. Many doubt the official investigation would ever reveal state involvement.

Already there were concerns at how quickly and carelessly. Evidence has been dragged from the crash scene. And when CNN visited Monday morning, it had already been flattened and cleared. Just a small memorial to mark the spot. But the memory of the Wagner leader may not be so easily erased.

All of us are angry at what happened, says this former military officer now running for political office in the Russian Far East. We all considered Prigozhin our primary commander in the special military operation, he told crowds of mourners.

The Kremlin may not like it, but even in death, Russia's mercenary leader continues to strike a chord.


CHANCE: Well, Jake, the next significant event is likely to be Prigozhin's funeral, a date for which has not yet been officially announced. The concern for the Kremlin is that it could see yet more public support for the killed mercenary leader and, of course, for his criticism of the Kremlin's conduct of the Ukraine war. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Matthew Chance for us in Moscow, thank you so much.

Joining us now to discuss former Secretary of Defense Under President Trump, Mark Esper. Secretary Esper, good to see you. So the former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote an opinion piece in "The Daily Mail" where he says Putin, quote, must have killed old Prigozhin, and quote. I cannot think of another example of such ostentatious and uninhibited savagery by a world leader, not in our lifetimes, unquote.


Former Prime Minister Johnson argues that this event is the ultimate proof that there can never be a negotiated peace deal with Putin in Ukraine. What's your take on it all?

MARK ESPER, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY, TRUMP ADMINISTRATION: Well, my take is that the Prime Minister is stating the --

TAPPER: I think Secretary Esper has frozen up there and we will take a quick break and bring him back.

Coming up, with a kiss that could result in criminal charges and has sparked a global outcry. That's next.


TAPPER: Back with me now, the former secretary of defense under President Trump, Mark Esper. Before the glitch, Secretary Esper, I had asked you about your take on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, former prime minister, suggesting that Putin must have killed Prigozhin, and therefore that suggests he cannot be trusted for any sort of settlements, any sort of negotiation, when it comes to his invasion of Ukraine. Your take?


ESPER: Well, I think the prime minister is basically correct. Everybody believes that Putin is behind it. The Kremlin is the only ones denying it. And why, it's because Prigozhin was popular, particularly among the right and the far right pro military, so much so that there are tributes happening all across Russia to Prigozhin.

And then as of today, the Kremlin is being pressed about having a state funeral for him and whether or not Putin would attend. So it's a really tricky situation for Putin right now. And, of course, it does underscore the fact that you cannot trust Vladimir Putin. We've seen this, his interactions with countries, his commitment to treaties with the United States and elsewhere. You cannot trust Russia.

So it's a dubious enterprise to consider some type of negotiated agreement with Putin. Meanwhile, Ukraine has been more aggressive about using drones to attack Russia inside its own borders. Washington Post columnist Max Boot wrote this today, quote, Biden's fears, once understandable, now seem excessive. The Ukrainian drone strikes inside Russia should relieve exaggerated fears about the consequences of crossing Putin's supposed red lines. Providing more aid to Ukraine won't significantly raise the risk of a wider war, unquote. Do you agree? Do you think Biden is too worried about red lines still?

ESPER: Oh, he's been worried from the beginning, too worried? I've argued it's been the delay in arms deliveries from HIMARS to Patriots to M-1 tanks, to Bradley Fighting Vehicles, to F-16s. I mean, the list goes on and on. And frankly, it's a reason why I think the counteroffensive right now is not moving out quickly enough. And then on top of that, Jake, as you began, look, they've been steering away or kind of not supporting Ukraine's drone attacks on Moscow.

Why shouldn't Ukraine respond to Russia's attacks? They've been killing Ukrainians bombing maternity wards and hospitals, raping and killing, kidnapping children. My goodness. I think it's important for Ukraine to send a signal that they want to bring this war back to Russia.

TAPPER: On Sunday, the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said he thinks the U.S. will offer his country an Israel like relationship with similar security guarantees, regardless of who is in the White House. Do you see that happening? That does not sound like the attitude that either Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis have about Ukraine.

ESPER: Well, I can't see it happening just like an Israeli commitment, the Israeli model, so to speak. I mean, there are some major differences, right? Deep, deep ties between Israel and United States that you don't necessarily have between us and Ukraine. Plus the fact that Israel doesn't face a nuclear armed adversary in the Middle East, and nor does Ukraine have nuclear weapons like Israel.

So I think there are some big differences that will make it something less than what Israel has, but I think you'll see arms deliveries and training and other type of security systems continue. It just simply won't be just like the Israeli model.

TAPPER: Former Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, good to see you. Thanks for coming.

ESPER: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: In our Sports Lead, an historic victory tainted by scandal. Spanish prosecutors now opening an investigation into a Spanish soccer chief looking into whether the unwanted kiss he gave to a Woman's World Cup winner constitutes sexual assault. CNN's Atika Shubert is in Madrid for us.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the streets of Madrid tonight, demands for Spain's soccer president, Luis Rubiales to get a so called red card and face criminal prosecution for the infamous unwanted kiss. The head of Spanish football planted on striker Jenni Hermoso after Spain won the Women's World Cup. A kiss she says, that was not consensual, drawing support from her colleagues and much of the country.

PALOMA TORRES, PROTESTED SOCCER CHIEF'S KISS OF SPANISH PLAYER JENNIFER HERMOSO: I mean, I think we are all very angry at this because all women have suffered some kind of abuse. We -- like the moment we saw the images, we automatically thought about our bosses, our professors, our teachers in school.

SHUBERT (voice-over): Both sides are digging in. But now, days after FIFA provisionally suspended Rubiales from all football related activities at national and international levels, Spanish prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into a possible instance of, quote, sexual aggression. As protesters rallied in the streets, the Royal Spanish Football Federation called on Rubiales to resign after an emergency meeting. Desperate to steer away out of the crisis and prevent it from affecting Spain's vaunted football teams from playing international games.


In his hometown of Montreal, Rubiales' family rallied at church, his mother apparently on hunger strike to support her son. I think this massive lynching of an honest and loyal person is shameful, his cousin said. I know him perfectly well, and what he is going through is unfair.

The incident has become more than a national scandal. It is now a rallying cry both for supporters of women's rights and for those who feel threatened by their demands.


SHUBERT: You know, Jake, initially when Luis Rubiales defiantly said he would not resign, a number of men in the federation who were in the room with him actually applauded him. But now some of those very men are asking him to resign, just increasing the pressure on him. In addition to the hundreds of people that showed up right here in this plaza on the streets of Madrid, the pressure is only going to increase to get him to go. Jake?

TAPPER: Atika Schubert in Madrid for us, thanks so much.

We're standing by for an update that led to that frightening campus lockdown at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. That's coming up next in the Situation Room.