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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Sentencing Hearing For Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio; McConnell Speaks On Senate Floor, Downplays Freezing Episode; Judge Sets Hearing For Tomorrow In Georgia Election Case; Alex Murdaugh Attorneys File Motion For Mistrial; Manhunt For Escaped Killer Continues For 6th Day; Kim Jong Un May Meet Putin In Russia To Discuss Arms Deal. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired September 05, 2023 - 16:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Lots more news today. Of course, our colleague Jake Tapper will be covering.

And THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

And we're in the middle of a very busy afternoon as we come on air. Moments ago, we just saw the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on the Senate floor. This was the 81-year-old's first public appearance with cameras since that recent freezing episode in front of reporters.

Also right now, a sentencing hearing is underway for the man known as the chairman of the far right group, the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio is his name. He's the last of the five Proud Boy defendants to be sentenced for their convicted role in the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Prosecutors are pushing for 33 years in prison for Tarrio because he was convicted on seditious conspiracy charges. Defense attorneys are making their best arguments against that.

Also, a major show of force coming up on THE LEAD. The secretaries from three branches of the U.S. military calling on Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville to stop his hold on all military nominations. He's doing this because he objects to the Pentagon's abortion travel care policy. And in "Washington Post" op-ed, they call Tuberville's actions, quote, dangerous to national security. That from the secretaries of the Navy and the Air Force and the Army, all three will be here exclusively together in studio coming up.

We're going to start however, with that law and justice lead and the sentencing hearing for the chair of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, the hearing that's happening right now. This is the latest example of the criminal activity and the consequences around January 6.

We've seen four Proud Boys already given lengthy sentences after three of them were convicted of seditious experience. One of the most serious criminal charges you could be convicted of in the U.S. and not an easy charge to get a guilty verdict for.

CNN's Evan Perez is here to lay out the significance of the sentence.

Evan, what message could this send, especially given the fact that Tarrio was not even at the Capitol that day?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. He was not at the Capitol and prosecutors are making the case that, look, the Proud Boys are in a class by themselves. They were frankly the tip of the spear that led some of the mob into the Capitol on January 6. And they're saying that Enrique Tarrio has shown no remorse, far from it. He has given interviews just in the last few weeks in which he said the Proud Boys did nothing wrong.

Right now, prosecutors are stressing that to judge as he gets ready to issue a sentence. One of the things that you've heard from Enrique Tarrio's attorney is that Tarrio is not a terrorist. They're saying he said -- he is a misguided patriot. He also pointed out that because Enrique Tarrio was arrested just before January 6, he was not here, he was banned from being inside of the District of Columbia that day. And so, he could not have controlled what happened with the Proud Boys.

The judge, Timothy Kelly, responded, well, you made that argument to the jury and the jury did not believe that, Jake.

TAPPER: Right. They're considering terrorist charges against him.

How does his sentence compare to the other Proud Boy members? Are there different factors that are being weighed here?

PEREZ: Well, yeah, because he is the leadership. He is the leader of the group. That's what prosecutors are emphasizing and the judge seems to be going along with that. Again, right now, we're waiting for the judge to make a final decision.

But just to compare, Ethan Nordean, another of the leaders of the Proud Boys, he took over leadership because Tarrio was not able to be in the District of Columbia that day, he got 18 years. Jason Biggs got 17 years, Zachary Rehl, 15 years, and then, Dominic Pezzola, 10 years.

As you pointed out, the judge was weighing whether to add what prosecutors call a terrorism enhancement, that could add, you know, about 10 years or so to the sentence. The judge accepted that, Jake, but as he -- we don't know yet whether he's going to allow that to be part of the sentence. In the previous four sentencing, he accepted the terrorism enhancement but then brought it back down.

So we don't know yet whether he will allow that enhancement to increase and make the sentence for Enrique Tarrio even harsher. As you pointed out, prosecutors are asking for 33 years. And so, we'll see where he ends up in the next hour or so, Jake.


TAPPER: All right. Evan Perez, thank you so much. We'll come back to you when you have that news for us. Continuing with our law and justice lead. All 19 co-defendants in the

Georgia election subversion case have officially pleaded not guilty and waived their rights to an in-person arraignment. That means none of them are going to be show up tomorrow in Fulton County court. This all comes as we are waiting for a judge to decide if former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows' case will be moved to federal court.

The Georgia case is just one of four cases plaguing Donald Trump today right now.

Today, we're learning in the federal election subversion case, not Georgia, but federal, special counsel Jack Smith is still digging and still following the money.

CNN's Paula Reid has this exclusive reporting for us.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): All of the 19 defendants charged in the Georgia election interference case including former President Trump, have now entered pleas of not guilty.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: We did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong.

REID: Tuesday, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, along with six other defendants, all pleaded not guilty and waived their right to an arraignment in Fulton County, Georgia. This as CNN has learned that special counsel Jack Smith is widening his federal investigation.

JACK SMITH, SPECIAL COUNSEL: Our investigation of other individuals continues.

REID: Focusing on fundraising and efforts to breach voting equipment, raising the possibility of additional charges after the special counsel indicted Trump last month.

SMITH: Since the attack on our Capitol, the Department of Justice has remained committed to ensuring accountability for those criminally responsible for what happened that day. This case is brought consistent with that commitment.

REID: In recent weeks, investigators have asked multiple witnesses about former Trump 2020 election lawyer Sidney Powell.

SIDNEY POWELL, TRUMP CO-DEFENDANT: We have evidence of different numbers of votes being injected into the system.

REID: She was identified as a co-conspirator in the federal defendant and faces criminal charges in Georgia for allegedly helping coordinate and fund a multi-state plot to illegally access voting systems after the election. POWELL: There should never be another election conducted in this

county, I don't care if it is for local dog catcher using a Dominion machine.

REID: Witnesses have been asked whether Powell was able to provide any evidence of her conspiracy theories and about Powell's nonprofit, Defending the Republic, which raised money off election lies. According to invoices obtained by CNN, Defending the Republic hired forensic firms that ultimately accessed voting equipment in four swing states won by Biden -- Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Arizona.


TAPPER: And our thanks to Paula Reid for that report. We're going to talk with her more in the next block about all that means.

In our politics lead right now, the Senate is back from its five-week break today, with a gargantuan task to pass a spending bill within the next 16 legislative days or the U.S. government will shut down. And even though recess is over, Republican hardliners are still willing to play a game of chicken as the deadline approached hoping to force the White House and the Senate to accept a bundle of conservative priorities. This as one of the Senate's most powerful leaders just spoke moments ago after freezing up in front of TV cameras twice in just over a month.

Let's go to CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.

So, Manu, we just heard from Republican leader McConnell on the Senate floor. He seemed to speak fine just now. Did he address in any meaningful way this latest freezing incident?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He really only addressed it very briefly, Jake. He said that one moment got some considerable attention over his recess and then he decided to pivot on to the business at hand in the Senate, namely key issues such as funding the federal government, something they have to do before the end of the month, even as there are sharp disagreement about how to get there. That is one of the issues that he wanted to focus on, that things are moving forward as business as usual despite what happened over the last several -- happened last week, that drew this attention.

Now earlier today, he provided more information from his office through the Capitol Hill attending physician, Brian Monahan, who indicated that he had consulted with neurologists who had talked to Senator McConnell and examined Senator McConnell and after some results and looking at the MRI imaging, as well as some brain scans, had determined that seizure was not the reason for his pause, neither was a stroke or any other major health issues like Parkinson's.

But that is not what Mitch McConnell discussed on the Senate floor, instead pointing to what he did over the recess and what the Senate has to do in the weeks ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: At one particular moment of my time back home has received its fair share of attention in the press over the past week.


But I assure you, August was a busy and productive month for me and my staff back in the commonwealth.


RAJU: So the question now will be how does -- do senators respond to this as well. McConnell will be meeting with his leadership team in just a matter of moments. He's spoken to several of them over the phone over the last several days, Jake, and he will meet with his full Republican conference tomorrow.

TAPPER: All right. Manu Raju, thanks so much.

With us now, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. He's the member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, thanks for joining us.

So, after Leader McConnell's first freezing incident back in July, you told CNN that you felt that he was still very much in control of the Republican Caucus. Now after this latest freezing episode, we did hear some Republicans express concern and want to have more transparency about his health.

Do you still have the same level of confidence in McConnell's ability to lead his caucus in the Senate?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Well, it is no secret that I don't agree with the decisions that Senator McConnell makes on behalf of his caucus, but these are still pretty isolated incidents. There was some letter from the House physician, from the attending physician today ruling out some other perhaps more serious diagnoses. I have had the chance to interact with Senator McConnell and find him to very much still in charge of that caucus.

So, my hope is that these are isolated incidences and I think it's a decision that his caucus is going to have to make as to whether he continues. It certainly appears that he can continue to be able to do that job.

TAPPER: The federal government is scheduled to shut down until a funding bill is passed by September 30th. The sides that are negotiating are not on the same page. Maybe not even in the same book.

Are you confident that even a short-term spending bill could be passed at least to keep the government open through the end of the year?

MURPHY: I'm not confident of anything given this House Republican majority. They seem to be making it up as they go along from day-to- day, adding demands as hours tick by. What I know is that in the Senate we have already advanced every single appropriations bill for every single department with bipartisan support.

So the appropriations committee has voted all of the appropriations bills to the floor, every single one of bills had the majority of Democrats and Republicans supporting them. So we've shown that even in this fraught political climate, even with a lot of right-wingers in the Senate Republican conference, we could get bipartisan agreement on this budget.

So, no, I'm not confident that these arsonists in charge of the House Republican conference will agree to anything but what I know is that there's a template for how you get a bipartisan deal done, the Senate Appropriations Committee has shown how to do that.

TAPPER: Even passing a short-term spending bill could still be a problem for House Speaker McCarthy as some hard line Republicans are threatening to oppose any rule if the bill falls short of their demands. Some want the White House's request for supplemental spending on Ukraine aid to be separate entirely from the short-term spending bill.

Is there any room for compromise on that issue, do you think?

MURPHY: I hope that the House Republicans don't abandon Ukraine. They are in need of additional assistance. Just in the last four days they've started to make substantial progress. And if the story of the next 30 days right as Ukraine is making progress on the front lines is that the Republicans in charge of the House of Representatives are contemplating abandoned Ukraine, that has implications for the freedom of Ukraine and I would argue the freedom of the transatlantic alliance.

So I hope that we will hold fast to our decision, our collective decision to continue to fund Ukraine, and that means including some additional funding for Ukraine in this supplemental request that will likely be attached to a continuing agreement for funding the federal government.

TAPPER: There is a new CNN poll out showing that Republican voter support for Trump is holding. Fewer than half are seriously worried that his criminal charges are going to harm his chances in 2024.

What do you think President Biden should take away from this as he prepares to possibly face Trump in a rematch?

MURPHY: I just think Trump is going to be their candidate. I don't know that I wish for that. I know that's probably a good political outcome for Democrats but the country is going to suffer having to go through another election with Donald Trump as a mainstream candidate. Ultimately, I don't think Trump picks up any additional support beyond what he had in 2020. I don't think anything that he's done over the last four years has convinced Americans that didn't want to keep him in government to -- to hand government back to him.

So I know that it's probably the best candidate that Biden could run against. But I think it is bad for the nation if Donald Trump stays at center of our politics. [16:15:00]

TAPPER: Not only a majority of voters, but a majority of Democrats in a separate poll last week suggested that they thought Joe Biden was too old to be president. Just didn't have the sharpness and the faculties to do the job anymore. He's obviously the oldest person ever to hold the job. He's 80 years old right now, I believe he'd be 82 if he were inaugurated in -- for another term.

Are all of those Americans, 77 percent of the American people, wrong?

MURPHY: Well, I read that poll, too. And I just think we have to do a better job of explaining to the American people the job that Joe Biden is doing.

Listen, I think it would be legitimate to question any candidates' age if there is evidence that that is having a bearing on the quality of the job that is being done. But we are in a full employment economy, with wages growing. We have a reputation that is approving all around the world. Joe Biden has an unparalleled streak of legislative successes even on the toughest issues out there like guns. I just don't think there is evidence to show that Joe Biden isn't doing the job.

In fact, there's evidence to suggest that he's getting more achievement than any other first term president in our political lifetime. So, yeah, I get it, that people registering in these polls a concern about a candidate's age when they hit the age of the president, but in this case, 80 years old is not slowing Joe Biden down. He's doing a exceptional job and we have to explain that to the American people.

TAPPER: First Lady Jill Biden tested positive for COVID-19. We obviously hope she's doing okay and wish for a speedy recovery. We're asked for more details on whether the president was with his wife when she began showing COVID symptoms. He has not changed his busy schedule.

Just today, he presented the Medal of Honor to an 81-year-old army captain, Larry Taylor, who was awarded I believe the Silver Star in Vietnam.

What do you make of that choice? Was that an unnecessary health risk?

MURPHY: Well, I think as leaders we says that everybody needs to follow CDC guidelines and we need to follow CDC guidelines and that means not applying a different standard. And right now, the CDC guidelines say that even if you've been around someone who had COVID, if you're not showing symptoms and if you don't test positive, then you don't need to interrupt your daily schedule.

And so, I think the president is doing exactly what the CDC said he should do. That is what I have done since the worst of this crisis has passed and I don't think I have any different recommendation for them.

TAPPER: You just had COVID, too, right? MURPHY: I just had it as well. So I'm following CDC guidelines, I'm

not wearing a mask as I'm talking to you, but I'm trying to wear a mask even outside of the five-day window.

TAPPER: All right. Hope you're felling better.

MURPHY: Thanks.

TAPPER: Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, appreciate it.

MURPHY: Appreciate it.

TAPPER: Coming up, more new developments in that Georgia election subversion case, what to expect at a hearing tomorrow now set for tomorrow, a hearing that will be televised.

Plus, a twist in the Murdaugh family murders, a South Carolina attorney convicted of killing his wife and son. His own lawyers say new evidence is worthy of a new trial.



TAPPER: And we're back with our law and justice lead.

A critical hearing in the Georgia elections case has been set for tomorrow. Judge Scott McAfee, who is overseeing the case, says the hearing will address scheduling for the trial and possibly breaking up the case.

CNN senior legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid joins me, along with CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel.

I might have -- is McAfee? Or McAfee? Do we know how to pronounce the judge's name?

REID: McAfee.

TAPPER: McAfee, okay then. What will you be watching? These are new names that we were --

REID: They are new names, and the judges keep changing.

TAPPER: Right.

REID: A magistrate judge, a real judge.

Look, it's not just me who'll be watching. So shout out to the state of Georgia for having cameras in court. Everyone can watch, so shout out to the state of Georgia for having cameras in court, right? Everyone can watch this process play out.

And we know the big theme tomorrow is timing. Scheduling, not incredibly sexy but it is the biggest theme in this case. It matters.

TAPPER: Right.

REID: Trump wants to delay this until after the election. Prosecutors want to move it quickly and you have 19 defendants here, 19, and Fani Willis has said that she wants to try them all at once, two of them, Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro, have both said that they want to sever, they want to have their own cases to move this along more quickly.

So, tomorrow, I'm watching to see what the district attorney says, what the district attorney, Fani Willis, says when the judge says, look, what's your good faith estimate of how long it's going to take you to do this with 19 people? Because that's what she's expected to come to court with tomorrow. I'm going to be fascinated, not only to be able to see this play out on TV but also how exactly she intends to do this with 19 defendants. I mean, it's just -- that's really hard to imagine.

TAPPER: There is a chance, obviously, that Mr. Trump and some of the others could have their cases moved to federal court in which case they would not be televised. But if that doesn't happen --


TAPPER: -- all of them would be televised.

GANGEL: Right. So the Georgia case --

TAPPER: The Georgia case.

GANGEL: -- would be televised.


GANGEL: Tomorrow, I'm not so excited because none of the defendants will be there.

REID: That would be better.

GANGEL: But we will see -- we will see the judge. And if this happens in Georgia court, I think it is a real question whether this makes a difference. We've seen Trump's poll numbers, our poll today going up despite these --

TAPPER: Only among Republicans.

GANGEL: And Republican-leaning independents.

TAPPER: Is that true? With them, too?

GANGEL: Yeah, the numbers -- the numbers have at least held. But it's very different to see a courtroom in action. Go back and think about when we saw even just the still shot of Donald Trump in the New York courtroom when he was in Georgia, it is different to see a trial in real time. I think, although with Donald Trump, you never know.

TAPPER: And, Paula, back to your reporting earlier in the show. It is notable that the special counsel's investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election results is continuing even after Trump has been indicted.

Do you think we could see special counsel Smith file more charges in this case, possibly against for example Sidney Powell, the lawyer?

REID: Well, it's only possible. We know that January 6 indictment was narrowly tailored. It was just focused on former President Trump. It is designed to be possible, right, to bring this entire case before the 2024 election.


But, prosecutors also mentioned six co-conspirators. And it's interesting because we've identified at least five of them and that short list is the same short list that we as reporters covering this for the past few years had as the people who were most likely to be charged based on the evidence we knew investigators were getting. That includes people like John Eastman, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell.

So, what we've known for years that investigators have gathered and now, this new reporting from Zach Cohen and I that over the past few weeks, they have been asking very specific questions of multiple witnesses about Sidney Powell, suggesting, yes, it is possible there could be additional charges. But only Jack Smith knows for sure.

TAPPER: And we still don't know who that sixth person is, the sixth co-conspirator?

REID: As for the last story on that I read, right, before I came up here because I was off for 10 days, no. But there might have been an update I missed. I think I know who it is, but we don't know in the report.

TAPPER: And you talked about how all these legal cases have helped Trump consolidate Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. What about independents in general and the electorate in general?

GANGEL: So, what we've seen thus far is that the cases the investigations are helping Trump. The question is when the trials start, will that have an impact, thus far, we're not seeing that.

But bottom line, I've spoken to both Democrats and Republicans political sources, Senator Murphy who you just spoke to seemed to think that this would be a good opponent for President Biden to have Trump, the sources I talk to think that Trump is a serious opponent for Biden. They take it very seriously. They point to the fact that this is a handful of battleground states very few votes, a couple thousand votes in a handful of states could make a difference.

That said we're a year away.

TAPPER: Right.

GANGEL: And the poll is a snapshot in time and there's always, perhaps an October surprise not this October, but -- TAPPER: Or maybe both.

GANGEL: Right.

TAPPER: And also, with all these codefendants in Georgia, and unindicted unnamed co-conspirators in the federal case, we might start to see people turning on Trump and, in fact, some of the legal findings, we are seeing that, right?

REID: Yeah, across the cases you are seeing people like technology employee down at Mar-a-Lago, Yuscil Tavares, now changing his story, not so much on the Trump team.

We're also seeing people just as a point of strategy, right? There's some GOP operatives in the Fulton County case who are saying, we did everything at Trump's direction. But part of that is just a strategy to get this removed to federal court, it's not necessarily flipping.

But, look, I'm watching as this Georgia case moves on -- 19 defendants, right? People will likely start actually flipping on the former president particularly people who he is not helping pay their legal bills. So, we know he's headlining a fund-raiser for Rudy Giuliani. Keep your friends close, your codefendants closer.

TAPPER: All right. Jamie Gangel and Paula Reid, thanks so much.

Coming up, could there soon be a new trial for Alex Murdaugh, the former South Carolina attorney in prison, convicted of killing his wife and son. His defense team just spoke the new evidence that they say should change circumstances in this case.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: And we're back with our law and justice lead in the push for a new trial for Alex Murdaugh. You might remember him. He's the South Carolina man convicted of killing his wife and son. Today, Murdaugh's attorneys filed a motion with the South Carolina court of appeals alleging jury tampering by the clerk of the courts.

Among their claims that the clerk told jurors not to be, quote, fooled by Murdaugh's testimony in his own defense.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher is in Columbia, South Carolina, for us.

And, Dianne, Murdaugh's lawyers allege that this clerk betrayed her oath in the hope for money and fame.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, the pursuit of book deal and television appearances, that is the motivation theory presented in this 65-page filing this motion today by the defense attorneys for convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh. They say that Colleton County clerk of court, Rebecca "Becky" Hill, you may remember she read off these guilty verdicts returned by the jury back in March to the entire world as they watch. Well, they say that she also tampered with the jury.

Now, again these are just allegations but they're very serious and they are bombshell allegations really. They claim that the clerk of court tampered with the jury by advising them not to believe Murdaugh's testimony and other evidence that was presented by the defense, pressuring them to reach a quick guilty verdict and even misrepresenting a critical and material information to the trial judge in her campaign to remove a juror. She believed to be favorable to the defense.

Now, we have reached out to Becky Hill. She's not returned in any comment, responding to this motion. But the filing does include two sworn affidavits, one from a juror, one from a juror that was dismissed. And again, very serious allegations in here.

The defense attorneys say that initially the jurors did not want to speak with them. But that changed after Becky Hill's book was published last month.


JIM GRIFFIN, ATTORNEY FOR ALEX MURDAUGH: In the aftermath of the verdict, we had received information that we needed to look into what happened in the jury room. We started down that road and we met a zone of silence. When the clerk of court wrote her book, published her book, that zone of silence collapsed and jurors were upset about that the ones we talked with.


And they were more than willing to come forward and tell us the things that we had sort of heard through a whisper campaign.


GALLAGHER: Now, again, we have reached out to Becky Hill for comment. South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson also releasing a statement saying that the state is currently reviewing the defense's latest motion.

The defense team also sent a letter, Jake, to the U.S. attorney here in South Carolina asking for an urgent federal investigation into these allegations of jury tampering because the Colleton County clerk of court is an elected official. They said that their client, Alex Murdaugh, who is currently serving two consecutive life sentences for the murder of his wife and son, they said that he was astonished by these revelations.

TAPPER: All right. Dianne Gallagher in Columbia, South Carolina, for us. Thanks so much.

Let's talk about this with trial attorney, Misty Marris.

Misty, if it's true that the clerk of the court, Rebecca Hill, told the jurors not to be, quote, fooled by Murdaugh's testimony in his own defense, if it's true that she said that and that did in fact play a role in pressuring the jury to come to any sort of quick decision and that she did it for a book deal, is that grounds for a mistrial?

MISTY MARRIS, TRIAL ATTORNEY: Jake, it is incredibly problematic and if true, it would be strong grounds to throw out this verdict and get a new trial. There's a long road ahead, though, because, of course, these are allegations. So the first step is when there's credible allegations, like what we've seen here and the defense is trying to show that credibility by virtue of these juror affidavits that were attached to the filing, that triggers an evidentiary hearing.

And at that hearing these allegations would be explored. Evidence would be presented, there would be testimony. It's like a mini-trial.

And at that point, there's a determination about whether or not those comments constitute harmless error. And harmless error means that it wouldn't have mattered for the outcome. About you the when you're talking about an official, an elected official commenting on the veracity of evidence, whether or not to believe testimony that is absolutely central to the defense of the case. So if true, there are very strong grounds to overturn this verdict.

TAPPER: I mean, if true, it sounds remarkably unprofessional. The motion cites at least three sworn affidavits, two from jurors, one from a dismissed juror as well as excerpts from Ms. Hill's book as evidence for this case.

Would you call that compelling evidence? Would a judge?

MARRIS: So it is compelling enough, I don't see how there isn't this evidentiary hearing. Because, of course, with allegations there's -- the prosecution has now the burden of proof to refute them should there be with this hearing.

But, Jake, to your point, this is not just unprofessional if true, it's potentially criminal. It's most certainly grounds for a huge problem from a work competitive from an elected official perspective but it could even go beyond that. Because remember, the jury is instructed by the judge every single day. You cannot communicate about this case with anyone. No third party.

Now you have allegations that somebody in a position of power, a court clerk acting under the defense says the color of state, is telling the jurors what evidence they should consider and whether or not the defendant should be believed. Quite frankly, if it's true, it's stunning and it would most certainly warrant further investigation not just with respect to the trial from the evidentiary hearing but also potentially on the state or federal level from a criminal perspective.

TAPPER: So if this were to result in the case being thrown out and then there was another trial, which I assume they would put on trial again, would they be able to find an impartial jury, do you think?

MARRIS: It's going to be really tough. You have to go through this whole voir dire process, something that has always been the law in these high-profile cases we've covered many together just the fact that something as high-profile does not mean that a jury is automatically biased or prejudiced. There's just a more stringent and deep dive in that voir dire process.

But remember, Jake, if this is to be overturned and we have a new trial, it's what's called de novo. You truly start from scratch. There could be different evidence.

Would Murdaugh testify again? That's really one of the critical questions. Now, we're far away from that. Because we first have to go through this process of the evidentiary hearing, that motion has to be granted and then the inquiry about whether or not this is actually constitute harmful error, whether or not it's true. All of that needs to be explored.

But if true, we could really see a brand new trial and who knows how that would play out. So this was truly a bombshell today.

TAPPER: A stunning turn of events.

Misty Marris, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

A manhunt intensifying for that inmate who escaped from that Pennsylvania prison in Chester County. One man who lives in the search area says the fugitive broke into his house.


Hear his encounter with the convicted killer, next.


TAPPER: In our national lead, a game of cat and mouse is now escalating between hundreds of law enforcement officers and one very dangerous, very missing escaped inmate. Police today widening the search perimeter for Danelo Cavalcante one day after saying they had it contained within a two-mile area near Chester County prison, west of Philadelphia.

CNN's Danny Freeman shares new surveillance images of Cavalcante and explores how this convicted murderer managed to evade capture now for six days, leaving a community on edge.


DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The manhunt for escaped Pennsylvania inmate Danelo Cavalcante is intensifying.

LT. COL. GEORGE BIVENS, PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE: He's clearly in escape mode but he's desperate.


FREEMAN: Pennsylvania state police expanding their initial search perimeter after a sixth sighting of the convicted murderer. Police say these nighttime photos show Cavalcante walking past trail cameras Monday night.

BIVENS: The photos confirm that Cavalcante has not changed his appearance but also that he has obtained a backpack, a duffel sling- type pack and a hooded sweatshirt.

FREEMAN: Authorities say they do not know where Cavalcante picked up the new supplies.

The images were captured at the popular tourist destination, Longwood Gardens, a sprawling site with more than two hundred acres of the gardens, meadows and trails, adding to the already challenging terrain in the area.

BIVENS: What have you though are significant parcels of wooded area with a lot of undergrowth so thick that our searchers can't be more than a couple yards apart where they at times lose sight of one another.

FREEMAN: The search has now expanded about five miles south of the Chester County prison where Cavalcante escaped last Thursday. The latest sighting causing two school districts in the area to shut down for the day. Police helicopters circling the area are now playing a recorded message from Cavalcante's mother urging him to surrender as the community remains on edge.

RYAN DRUMMOND, SAYS CAVALCANTE CAME INTO HIS HOME WHILE FAMILY WAS SLEEPING: I woke up my wife, I said, hey, I think there might be somebody downstairs.

FREEMAN: Ryan Drummond lives in the area and says last Friday, Cavalcante came into house while his family was sleeping.

DRUMMOND: What I decided to do was flip the light switch on and off three, four or five times, pause, and then he flipped the light switch from downstairs three or four times which was the moment of like oh, my God, this guy is down there.

FREEMAN: Thankfully, Ryan says he only took food and then left. Police urging residents to stay vigilant as the manhunt continues.

BIVENS: He will slip up. He did here. He walked into a trail camp and didn't know it. He'll slip up. We're making him move and that's a good thing.


FREEMAN (on camera): Jake, Pennsylvania state police estimate there are well over 200 officers now participating in this manhunt. That includes new resources from both the FBI and from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. All of these officers hoping for a peaceful resolution here -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Danny Freeman in West Chester, thanks so much.

Coming up next, the latest that we're learning about a possible meeting between Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un. What could Russia want from North Korea when it comes to weapons?

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Topping our world lead a meeting that the United States government definitely does not want to happen. Governments of Russia and North Korea are, quote, actively advancing negotiations for an arms deal, according to the U.S. State Department.

Another top U.S. official says it may be a sign of how much a failure Russia's war on Ukraine has been. Now, the world is speculating where and when a Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin meet up might take place. "New York Times" reports Kim will likely travel by armored train to the Russian city of Vladivostok, just north of North Korea's border.

CNN's Paula Hancocks lays out what the notorious nations might get out of their ends of the deal.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first and last meeting between the current leaders of Russia and North Korea was more than four years ago. Since then, Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine and his military efforts are faltering.

So for Kim Jong-un, the power dynamics have changed.

DAVID SANGER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: A large power is now depend on him that hasn't happened in a while. The second thing he gains is the possibility of access to more oil. Yet the moment that Kim Jong-un is testing ballistic missiles, particularly the long-range ones, many of which have designed commonalities with Russian missiles, he can get a lot of help there.

HANCOCKS: U.S. officials believe Moscow could receive multiple types of munitions from Pyongyang in any arms deal, which could be used on the frontlines in Ukraine.

The Biden administration believes North Korea already delivered infantry rockets and missiles for use by Russian mercenary force Wagner late last year.

DOO JIN-HO, RESEARCH FELLOW, INSTITUTE FOR DEFENSE ANALYSES (through translator): Russia and North Korea has something in common, interoperability of convention weapons. For example, North Korea's 152 millimeter artillery ammunition and 122 millimeter multiple rocket launcher ammunition can be used on Russian weapons immediately.

HANCOCKS: U.S. officials assess Kim Jong-un may travel to Russia to meet Vladimir Putin this month. There is an eastern economic forum in Vladivostok next week. Letters of support have been exchanged between the two leaders. Russia's defense minister was given the red carpet treatment by Kim in

Pyongyang in July, the north's military capabilities were on full display. And South Korean's intelligence agency says a second Russian delegation visited at the start of August. By August 8th, a Russian plane is believed to have transferred unknown military supplies from Pyongyang, no evidence or destination given. Pyongyang and Moscow deny any potential arms deal.

CARL SCHUSTER, FORMER DIRECTOR, U.S. PACIFIC COMMAND'S JOINT INTELLIGENCE CENTER: Kim is becoming more paranoid than normal over the last four or five years so for him this alliance makes him look less isolated, it provides a psychological boost for him and his inner circle.


HANCOCKS: Now, there's a lot that both countries stand to gain from this, Jake, not just militarily but also politically. United by a common enemy, the United States -- Jake.

TAPPER: Paula Hancocks in South Korea for us, thanks so much.


An important exclusive interview coming up next on THE LEAD. Three secretaries from three branches of the U.S. military, all of them here in studio with a united front, calling out Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville and his hold on all military nominations.

Stay with us.


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

This hour, an historic moment for Republican politics in Texas, holding impeachment hearings for one of their own, the states attorney general, Ken Paxton, his not guilty plea today, as the trial got underway for the firebrand Trump ally, accused of abusing his power, and bribery, and corruption.