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The Lead with Jake Tapper

First Televised Hearing In Georgia Election Case; Fulton Co. Prosecutors Say Trial Could Last Four Months; Judge Skeptical Of D.A. Willis' Proposed October Trial Date For All 19 Defendants In Georgia Case; Trump: I Would Testify In My Own Stand; CNN Poll: 68 Percent OF GOP Voters Say Classified Documents Case, 2020 Election Case Don't Impact Trump's Fitness For Office; Russia: "Tactically Left" Village Ukraine Says It Liberated; Gloria Johnson (D-TN), Is Interviewed About Her U.S. Senate Bid; U.N. Chief Warns Of "Climate Chaos" Amidst "Hottest Summer On Record". Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 06, 2023 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: When can we expect to see any sort of schedule? When are we going to -- when are we going to see Donald Trump in the courtroom?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it may be some time before we can see the former president in a courtroom on trial, Jake. The judge really raising some questions about what prosecutors are trying to do. They laid out a timeline. They say they can try to go to trial in October, and they say it's going to be a four month trial with about 150 witnesses. The judge immediately showing some skepticism about that plan because he said, you know, there's a lot of litigation between now and then that could make that impossible.

Of course, the reference there is the fact that Mark Meadows, one of the 19 people who is indicted in this racketeering case, is trying to remove his case. He wants to move his case out of state court into federal court, and that decision is pending by a federal judge. And what that judge rules could have a lot of implications, not only on the former president, of course, but also on other defendants. Here's the judge laying out his views of what this schedule and the difficulties of that schedule are.


JUDGE SCOTT MCAFEE, FULTON COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT: To kind of charge ahead without coming to some thoughts on this very soon might be risky. It just seems a bit unrealistic to think that we can handle all 19 and 40 something days.


PEREZ: And of course, Jake, he's not alone in just raising the logistical nightmare that 19 people -- putting 19 people on trial would be. And, of course, as you pointed out, he also said that the way Georgia's racketeering law works, these two defendants, Chesebro and Powell, they don't just get to separate themselves because they want to. That's not how the law works there.

TAPPER: And the judge ruled that those two defendants, Trump lawyer Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro, will be tried together on October 23, denying Chesebro's motion to sever his case from Powell's. What's behind that decision?

PEREZ: Well, the judge says that the way the Georgia law works, all the defendants who are accused of being part of the racketeering, a part of the conspiracy, they have to be tried together because that's the way the law is designed. And you know, almost the way he structured his ruling there, it gives a lot of incentive for some of the other defendants to make their own motions. And you saw that happening today. You saw Mark Meadows asking the judge to freeze this case while he tries to figure out what happens with his case. And then, of course, a couple of other defendants also made their own motions, Jake, to try to sever their cases, to try to separate themselves.

Again, the idea being, people are trying to figure out whether they want to go on trial perhaps with Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro or wait and try to go on trial with Donald Trump at some point.

TAPPER: And to complicate matters even more, former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, he still is waiting to hear whether a district judge is going to grant his move to have his case go from Georgia to federal court. When are we going to hear about that decision?

PEREZ: That decision could come at any moment, and the judge there really has been -- has a lot of things that are riding on that decision. One of the things that could happen, Jake, is that if he rules that Meadows' case has to be moved to federal court, that could mean that all of the defendants get to move their case to federal court. They all move together as one case.

Now, the other issue is that you have a number of other defendants, Jeffrey Clark and others, who are also making the same request. They have hearings coming up before the federal judge. So, again, we don't know when he's going to rule, but there's a lot that is riding on whatever decision he makes.

TAPPER: Evan Perez, thank you so much.

Let's talk about this all with former Nixon White House Counsel John Dean.

John, you know a little bit about millions of American households watching such a proceeding. The Watergate hearings, of course, were not in a courtroom, but it was more than 50 days of broadcasts and an administration on trial. What are your first thoughts when you hear about this televised hearing? Do you think it's a service or a disservice to the cause of justice?

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I think it's a service. I can tell you from personal experience, having been in 85 million households for a week that suddenly people understand things that they didn't begin to understand before and that's what will happen as a result of this being televised. That's one of the real issues in whether or not this case is removed to federal court. It's not likely the federal courts will televise it, it would take an exception to the rule to do so. And while there are efforts to make that happen, I don't think it will, it's very difficult to get those rules changed.


TAPPER: While prosecutors for the district attorney, Fani Willis, told the judge that the trial could take four months, the judge said today that he thought it could easily be eight months given, you know, the 19 defendants. Do you think the American people will have the attention span for eight months, potentially 150 witnesses?

JOHN DEAN: What happened during Watergate and what happened during the trials I've watched on television is interest waxes and wanes, and it depends a lot upon the witness, the issues, and they'll be in and out of the issues. There will be a few people, because I've talked to some over the years, who watch every single day, every single hour, and actually sometimes watch even replays. But by and large, the bulk of the public will be in and out of the proceedings but they'll be there for them, and that's the important thing. And that's why I think they should be televised.

TAPPER: I remember I was only five, but I remember my mom watching Watergate on the little black and white we had in our living room. It was one of my first memories.

District Attorney Willis also wants one massive trial for all 19 defendants, including Trump. She wants this on October 23rd, 19 defendants plus, obviously, their counsel. Just thinking about that sounds impossible and rather circus like.

JOHN DEAN: Jake, it's hard to imagine all 19 are going to go to trial. You know, they know the consequences. They are beginning to point fingers at Trump and each other. This is not likely to go en masse. Some will flip, some will do deals, some will find other ways to get out of this situation.

So I don't think all 19, I don't know how many will go, but I can understand why, as the prosecutor, there are certainly benefits to having all of them there. That happened in the Watergate trials. That did happen when the former chief of staff, Haldeman, the former top domestic advisor, Ehrlichman, the former attorney general, all of the -- those involved in the Watergate cover up were tried together. I think there were seven of them in the courtroom. I, again, was a witness for two weeks in that proceeding.

But you know, there is an advantage to the prosecutors having them there. And the most effective witness -- excuse me, defendant, was one who sat in a corner with nobody else around and got no judgment against them by the jury. The jury thought that person couldn't be involved. So there can be strategic locations even en mass trials like this.

TAPPER: At one point during Watergate, you drew up a list of names of figures who, in your opinion, had broken the law. You remarked, quote, "how in God's name could so many lawyers get involved in something like this?" And I'm wondering if you look at the list of Georgia defendants, seven of the 19 defendants are attorneys, if you're wondering the same thing.

JOHN DEAN: I have been wondering the same thing, particularly since I've tried to use Watergate in the last decade as a teaching tool for what lawyers shouldn't do and been out there and really thought maybe Watergate had an impact. It certainly required ethics being taught in law schools, required a national ethics exam. But now we've got to examine again whether indeed that has worked or had an impact or why it is that some lawyers are inclined to so easily cross the line.

TAPPER: John Dean, once again, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

JOHN DEAN: Thank you.

TAPPER: How are today's significant developments playing out in Trump world? Let's bring in one of the people who knows that world better than anyone, CNN Political Analyst Maggie Haberman, who of course, is also a Senior Political Correspondent for "The New York Times" where she won at least one Pulitzer Prize that I'm aware of. One?


TAPPER: One, OK. It's not bad. You'll take it.

HABERMAN: I was happy with it.


So, let me start. Today was the first televised hearing in the Georgia case, and I'm wondering what's going on in the minds of Trump people right now.

HABERMAN: So, the Georgia case is disturbing to them on a couple of levels. Number one is the scope, the sprawl of this. I don't think in Trump's mind this case bothers him in terms of the facts and the details. The prosecutor bothers him. He has been complaining about Fani Willis for months and months and months and months. And I think that is only going to continue.


HABERMAN: Well, because women in power, among other things, tend to upset him, people who he feels he's under attack from upset him. He has also attacked the male prosecutor, the Manhattan district attorney. But he has been very focused on her in particular, and this case has gotten to him. Also, don't forget, there's a tape recording of him or an audio recording of him in this case, too, actually. And that tends to upset him, too, when he's on tape.


This is all taking place, though, Jake, with an overlap with so many other cases that it's almost impossible to pull them apart in Trump land at this point. They just feel under siege at all times.

TAPPER: Yes. Speaking of audio recordings, take a listen to Donald Trump talking to Hewitt about testifying.


HUGH HEWITT, CONSERVATIVE RADIO HOST: If you have to go to trial, will you testify in your own defense?


HEWITT: You'll take the stand?

TRUMP: That I would. That I look forward to.


TAPPER: So, it's not a surprise that he would say that. Also not a surprise, we had Mr. Parlatore on earlier who said he didn't think that was such a great idea for any defendant. And I think it was fair to say he agreed with my assessment that Mr. Trump is not the most disciplined person who's ever taken a stand. Is there any chance that he actually takes a stand?

HABERMAN: I suppose there's always a chance, but to your point, it's not exactly the course that I think that his lawyers are likely to recommend. And Donald Trump's lawyers have been wrestling with him throughout not just this investigation, but the Mueller investigation when he was in the White House as well, when one of his first impulses was, I want to go meet with Robert Mueller because he believes that he can convince anyone of anything and that he can sell his case. And so I'm not surprised that he said that. But to your point, we've already seen a divergence in what he's willing to say publicly and what his lawyers are.

TAPPER: His lawyers probably told him, don't go on the CNN town hall and defame E. Jean Carroll again. But he did.

HABERMAN: I don't know if they put it in those terms, but I think certainly broadly, his lawyers have tried to get him to pare back his statements on a range of things --

TAPPER: Yes, but a federal judge today ruled --

HABERMAN: Definite was. Yes.

TAPPER: -- that he's liable for making those comments.


TAPPER: A new CNN poll asked Republicans and Republican leaning voters whether charges against Trump would disqualify him from the presidency or cast doubts on his fitness for the job. In both federal cases against him, the classified documents case and the 2020 election subversion case, 68 percent said not relevant to his fitness for the job. The results? Pretty identical. What's the deal?

HABERMAN: Look, Republican voters overwhelmingly, not entirely, but overwhelmingly are behind Trump at the moment. This is a campaign that is just beginning. You know, you can argue this in two different ways. One is that he has a really unshakable bond with Republican voters. And the other is that Republican voters are not yet dialed in to this primary.

There's a lot of reasons to think the former is more compelling only because he's a former president. He is stronger now than he was in 2016. These cases in the mind of a number of Republican voters are not legitimate. And I think that the -- a number of these voters would think that even if he wasn't saying it all the time, but the fact that he's saying it all the time is helping condition his supporters.

TAPPER: All right. Maggie Haberman, I really appreciate it. Thanks so much.

HABERMAN: Thank you.

TAPPER: Always good to see you.

Given all of Trump's legal troubles, his former vice president, Mike Pence, says Republicans need to make a choice. How is Pence framing the moment? That's next.

Plus, a federal judge is ruling just in on those dangerous floating barriers blocking parts of the Rio Grande River between Mexico and Texas. And this just in, tropical storm Lee is now Hurricane Lee. The forecast track for this storm, which is forecast to grow even stronger. That's ahead.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, met with his Republican conference today for the first time since his latest on camera freezing episode. Listen to what McConnell told reporters just a bit ago.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you say to those who are calling on you to step down? Do you have any plans to retire anytime soon?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: I have no announcements to make on that subject.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you say to those who --

MCCONNELL: I'm going to finish my term as leader and I'm going to finish my Senate term.


TAPPER: Yesterday, a Capitol physician released a letter saying he saw no evidence that McConnell had had a stroke or had a seizure disorder.

In our 2024 lead, Mike Pence today is taking on Donald Trump style populism. CNN's Jessica Dean is here fresh from the campaign trail with the details on what the Pence campaign billed is a policy speech called Populism versus Conservatism Republicans Time for Choosing. That's quite a foreboding title.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is a lengthy and foreboding title.


JESSICA DEAN: But it is, Jake, what we're seeing really play out within that party on the debate stage, on the campaign trail. And it is really this schism between populism and traditional Reagan esque conservatism. And we heard the former vice president really, in his sharpest, most direct way, going at this today with that speech and really distilling this down into a choice between those two things. He says that populism is an agenda stitched together by personal grievances and performative outrage and really making the case, that if the party goes that way, that they risk losing in 2024 in a general election, both at the top of the ballot and all the way down. But I'll let you listen to more of what he had to say.


MIKE PENCE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We've come to a Republican time for choosing. Will we embrace the traditional conservative agenda that's led our party and our nation to victory and prosperity now for more than half a century? Or will we choose to go down the path of populism and decline?


JESSICA DEAN: And he did call out some of his rivals by name, Trump, DeSantis, Ramaswamy, again making the case that this is the time to choose. But, Jake, the question really is, what do GOP voters want, right? Is this the way of the party today? Or is this the party that existed years ago when Reagan was popular, when George Bush was popular? And that is the question in a nutshell, in front of a lot of these voters.


JESSICA DEAN: Which direction they want to go.

TAPPER: Or is it even about policy at all --

JESSICA DEAN: Is it? Right.

TAPPER: -- versus about candidates and personality?


TAPPER: There's also this move by a Washington based advocacy group suing to keep Trump off the 2024 Republican primary ballot in Colorado. What's that about?

JESSICA DEAN: So this is based around the 14th Amendment -- part of the 14th Amendment that bans insurrectionists from holding office. And there has been mounting swirl within the legal community about, could this keep Trump off the ballot? This is the first major test of that question, legal test of this question. So this is in Colorado. It is by this watchdog group, and it's the first high profile case to kind of try this theory out, essentially.


Of course, Trump has said he's done nothing wrong, and he says there's no legal basis toss him off the ballot. We do know it's been applied exactly a couple of times, two times, I think, since the late 1800 when it was used against confederate -- former confederate soldiers a lot. Ultimately, it sounds like many legal scholars are expecting that the Supreme Court may have to weigh in on this down the road at some point.

TAPPER: All right, Jessica Dean, thanks so much.

This just in from Texas, a federal judge has ordered that state to remove floating barriers put up in the Rio Grande River. Those barriers are aimed at deterring migrants from using the river to cross from Mexico into the United States illegally. Today's ruling bars the state of Texas from placing additional buoys in the river. And this is a victory for the Biden administration after they first sued the state of Texas in July. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has argued that the barriers are necessary because the Biden administration is simply not doing enough to stop illegal immigration.

Coming up next, the significance of Secretary of State Antony Blinken's unannounced trip to Ukraine today and the all in approach by the Biden administration. Stay with us.



TAPPER: And topping our world lead, how is Ukraine's counter offensive really going? It's nearly impossible to verify every Ukrainian or Russian claim about the incremental battlefield gains or losses. But it is certainly a question on the minds of U.S. lawmakers and the Biden administration as everyone squabbles over continued aid to the war battered country. And it's clearly really on the minds of Secretary of State Antony Blinken, evident in his surprise trip to Kyiv today. He talked diplomacy and shared McDonald's fries with his counterpart.

And he met with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy as the U.S. and Ukraine attempt to align before the big U.N. conference later this month. Today's diplomatic mission was against the stark backdrop of war and the deadliest Russian attack on Ukraine in months. Ukrainian officials say a missile exploded at a market in the eastern Donetsk region of Ukraine, 17 people were killed, including a child. Let's get right to CNN's Kylie Atwood at the State Department and Kayla Tausche at the White House.

Kylie, we know Republican hardliners are a no on new aid to Ukraine for this upcoming spending fight on the Hill, but Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says now is not the time to go, quote, "wobbly on aid." How did Secretary Blinken explain this fracture to Zelenskyy today?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, the Secretary of State said that he is working with Congress on supplemental funding for Ukraine. He really didn't get into the fracture at all, not in terms of what he said publicly. We did hear from Zelenskyy for his part, who expressed his gratitude to Congress for the unity when it comes to continued support for Ukraine. But that doesn't mean that this fracture, even if it is a minority of Republicans, isn't going to create road bumps for this administration over the course of the next few weeks.

Now, the Secretary did focus in on the progress that Ukraine has made since he last visited the country. That was around this time last year. Listen to how he describe that.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: In the years since I was last here, Ukraine has taken back more than 50 percent of the territory that Russia has ceased from it since February of 2022. In the current counteroffensive, we are seeing real progress over the last few weeks. As it happens, President Zelenskyy just returned from the front line, so I was able to hear directly from him his assessment of the counter offensive. And I think it very much matches our own, which is, as I said, real progress in recent weeks.


ATWOOD: Now, Jake, this is a shift in tone from what we have heard from U.S. officials about the counter offensive largely over the last few months. They have said it hasn't gone as quickly as they have liked. Privately, they have been critical of the tactics that Ukrainians have used on the battlefield. But the Secretary really striking a positive note here and saying that the new security assistance, the new military assistance that will be coming to the Ukrainians, he hopes, will continue to build the momentum of this counter offensive.

TAPPER: Kayla, is there a plan B from the Biden White House if Congress ultimately does not have the votes to increase aid to Ukraine?

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The short answer, Jake, at least today, is no. A senior Biden aide tells me that despite some of those public proclamations from Republicans that the administration still remains committed to passing that supplemental package that includes aid for both Ukraine and domestic disasters together. Yesterday, I had an opportunity to ask the national security adviser a question directly about what assurances the White House has even gotten from Congress to sense that's even possible. Here's what Sullivan said.


JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We've been working with both the Senate and the House. We've had constructive conversations on a bipartisan basis in both chambers. We believe we will be able to secure the necessary funding as we go forward. I'm not going to speak to assurances per se, but the conversations have been constructive, they've been positive, they've been substantive. And we anticipate being able to work our way through to a sound package so that Ukraine can get what it needs.


TAUSCHE: So at least publicly remaining extremely optimistic about the viability of that package, it's $24 billion for Ukraine through the end of the calendar year. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Kayla Tausche and Kylie Atwood, thanks to both of you. Appreciate it. You're looking at a destroyed donated British tank on Ukraine's southern front, this one apparently near Robotyne, the same southeastern village Ukraine says it recently liberated. But Russia says it went a little differently. They claim its troops, quote, tactically left that town, which now essentially no longer exists.

CNN's international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson's with us. Nic, give us the real deal. What happened in Robotyne? And what does this example reveal about the big picture of the counter offensive and how it's really going?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Look, we both have to recognize, everyone has to recognize that both sides in the conflict are going to try to play up their gains and minimize their losses. It's clear the Russians have had losses here. It was along their front line of defenses. They have been holding out against this Ukrainian counteroffensive. The Ukrainians are describing the situation in Robotyne and just to the east of it, in Verbove, and even to the south, about two and a half miles south of Robotyne, a town called Novopokrovka. They're saying that they're consolidating their gains there.

Now, these are relatively small villages, but they're on small highways, and that's important. They're on the road to a place called Tokmak. That's the sort of next big objective, if you will, for the Ukrainians as they push. So significant that the Ukrainians have taken that ground. So no surprise that we've heard from both the Russian Defense Ministry. We've heard from the Russia's imposed official in the region, civilian official in the region there in Zaporizhzhia and from military war bloggers with the Russian forces, all saying Robotyne has gone differently, as you say there, the town is flattened, there's no tactical change, is what the Russians are saying.

All that's happened is the troops have now pulled back to a tree line. And indeed, they're saying there is no cover from artillery in Robotyne. That was our problem. Now we've pulled out. Now it's Ukrainians problem. But the reality is, yes, I was going to say, the reality is the Russians have had to pull out. They didn't ever want to do that.

TAPPER: Right. And there's some cautious optimism that Russia's second lines of defense might be weaker than the first ones. And we've seen these pictures of Russia's intense dragons, tooth trenches in the south. What might await Ukrainian troops after those?

ROBERTSON: Better days is what the commander of southern forces is saying and his deputy. They're saying, look, the minefields ahead of the first line of defense were really dense. It slowed us down. It channeled us into very narrow avenues of attack. It made us vulnerable. It made the attack slow, and we took heavy casualties. They were frank about that.

But they say the second line of defense is the minefields are not as dense. They can attack therefore over a broader front more quickly. And if they can force a big enough gap this is the big if here, right? If they can force a big enough gap, then they get behind those first, second, third lines, and then they can outflank the Russians, who will then perhaps go into retreat. That would be their aim.

TAPPER: All right. Nic Robertson, thanks so much. Appreciate it.


Two big announcements in the race for 2024, the launch of two new campaigns for the U.S. Senate won by a member of the so called Tennessee Three, the Democrats who stayed that controversial protest at their State House. The uphill battle she's likely up against that's ahead.


TAPPER: In our 2024 Lead, new developments that will make one of the many U.S. Senate races we're going to have next year a lot more interesting. In Tennessee, Democratic State Legislator Gloria Johnson just announced a bid to unseat Republican Incumbent Senator Republican Marsha Blackburn. Johnson is one of the so called Tennessee Three who faced expulsion from the state House of Representatives last spring, along with fellow Democratic Representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson.

Johnson pushed for gun reforms following a mass shooting at a Nashville school. Republicans accused them of knowingly and intentionally bringing disorder and dishonor to the state House of Representatives during a protest inside that House Chamber. Jones and Pearson, who are black, were expelled, but they were also eventually reappointed then reelected. Johnson, who is white, was not expelled, a decision that she categorized as racially motivated. And she joins us now for her first CNN interview as a candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Thanks for joining us, Representative. This does sound like a rather uphill battle. Trump won Tennessee by 33 points in 2020. Why are you running for the U.S. Senate? GLORIA JOHNSON (D-TN), SENATE CANDIDATE: Well, you know, what we see here in Tennessee, there are more Democrats and Independents than there are Republicans. And Tennesseans have had their eyes open to the extremism in our states. We see that Marsha Blackburn is voting against healthcare for veterans. She's voting against keeping drug prescription prices low for senior citizens. It's extreme and it's out of touch.

And Tennessee families need someone who is working for them. We're building a broad coalition of Democrats, Independents and Republicans. I've outperformed the top of the ticket in my district election cycle after election cycle. We're going to be able to do that. But what we are really building there's something happening on the ground in Tennessee. And it started when they did expel two of our members almost expel myself. People all over the state, all over the country, started paying attention and they saw what was happening in the State House as the extremist Republicans who were trying to silence not only their own members, but silence members in the galleries and committees and all of those things. And Tennesseans are fed up.


TAPPER: Marsha Blackburn as a Senator is votes pretty consistently with how she voted as a member of the House, and she won decisively, decisively in 2018 by something like 10 or 11 points, even though she was running against a pretty popular Democratic governor, Phil Bredesen, and he even had the endorsement of Taylor Swift, Nashville Royalty. How are you going to be able to do better than Governor Bredesen?

JOHNSON: As I said, it's been a change these last five years. The extremism is being seen by everyone across the state. We are building a broad, multiracial, multigenerational coalition to win this race. We're going to bring independents, Democrats, and some Republicans who were fed up. When we saw the gun violence happened at Covenant School. And the Republicans pretend they were going to do something, then refuse to do something, and absolutely betray the 80 percent, 80 percent, that means Republicans, Democrats and Independents in Tennessee who wanted to see common sense gun legislation.

They betrayed those families by not even discussing gun violence in the special session. And everyone knows that Marsha Blackburn is in the pocket of the NRA. That's just the reality. And what I think -- I'm sorry.

TAPPER: No. Go ahead.

JOHNSON: So what we are seeing here, it's a multipartisan coalition coming together. They worked all summer long. They went to see their representatives, they e-mailed. I talked to some of the Covenant moms, e-mailed Marsha Blackburn multiple times and heard nothing back.

TAPPER: So you think that gun reforms and gun control is going to be a major issue in this race and it's going to help you beat Senator Blackburn? JOHNSON: I think common sense, gun legislation like background checks, universal background checks and safe storage and red flag laws are overwhelmingly supported by all parties and they are ignoring that. And so, yes, it will be an issue. People in Tennessee, they want someone who's going to work and fight for them to have lower prescription drugs to cut costs for those in the middle class and working Tennesseans.

It seems that Marsha Blackburn works for the wealthy and the well- connected and the special interests, not working for Tennessee families. She doesn't -- they don't hear from her.

TAPPER: In that horrible killing, the killer in the Covenant School, I believe the killer had a manifesto and there are news media outlets trying to get that released and law enforcement won't release it. Do you support releasing the killer's manifesto?

JOHNSON: To my understanding, according to the Covenant parents, that's absolutely not what is not what's happening. I'm told that one of the senators, one of the Republican Senators has a lawsuit. And so it is tied up right now. I know that there are members who have seen those writings, but the reality is, we know how the event happened. We know how the shooter got the guns. We don't need that information to act and to take action. And you don't write new legislation for every mass shooting that happens.

We've had shootings in restaurants, in churches, and we've got to keep the whole community safe. And we know, based on data and research, what works. But instead, we've got a party held hostage by the NRA and the Tennessee Firearms Association.

TAPPER: All right. Representative Gloria Johnson, thank you so much. Appreciate your time. And we did reach out to Senator Blackburn's office to see if she would like to join us as well. We have yet to hear a response, but welcome her on the show.

CNN senior data reporter Harry Enten is here with me. And, Harry, the last time Senator Blackburn ran, as I noted, her highness, Taylor Swift, came out against -- I'm not saying that lightly. I live in a house of Swifties. Taylor Swift came out against her. And even with Taylor Swift against her, Marsha Blackburn won.

You heard what Gloria Johnson says she can bring to this race common sense gun reforms and her characterization will be essential to it. I think it could be tough for her. What do you think?


HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: I think it will be very tough for her. I mean, the last Democrat to win the United States Senate race in the state of Tennessee was Al Gore back in 1990. That's 33 years ago. You mentioned Donald Trump easily won the state by over 20 percentage points. We had a governor's race back in 2022, Republican Bill Lee won by over 30 percentage points. You just put the math together. I have to be honest. The message that we just heard seemed better fit for a United States Senate race in New York rather than one in Tennessee.

TAPPER: You don't mean that as an insult. You're from New York?

ENTEN: Yes, I'm from New York.

TAPPER: I just want to make sure if anybody couldn't tell from your accent.


TAPPER: Let's talk about another hot Senate race. A former colleague of ours, former Republican Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan, announced that he is going to run for Senate. There's a retiring Democratic senator in Michigan. What does that race look like?

ENTEN: I mean, look, I think Michigan will sort of be a key test as to whether or not the Republican Party is actually going to nominate someone who has a chance of winning the general election. We saw in 2022 Michigan up and down the ballot. Republicans nominated election deniers. It didn't work out for them. I think it's going to be interesting to see on the Republican side whether there's a split in the moderate vote with Peter Meijer potentially also running on the Democratic side. Elissa Slotkin looks like the heavy favorite to win the Democratic nomination.

TAPPER: Right. Mike Rogers is another sane Republican. The question is, can a sane Republican win the nomination in that state?

ENTEN: I don't know.

TAPPER: Meijer and Rogers are both sane.

ENTEN: Correct.

TAPPER: Will that hurt them, are you saying that?

ENTEN: Yes. I'm saying that it could split the vote. There's only so much of the vote in the Republican Party that actually believes the 2020 election was legitimate.

TAPPER: Which it was.

ENTEN: Which it was obviously.

TAPPER: Bigger picture, Democrats right now barely control the Senate. They have 51 seats, including the Independents who caucus with them, Angus King and Bernie Sanders. What does the battle look like in 2024?

ENTEN: Look, Democrats control over 20 of the seats that are up for reelection. I think the key question is, can they hold on in states that Donald Trump won twice, states like Montana, states like West Virginia, the states like Ohio, and that, I think, will ultimately determine it. They can't just win purple states. They have to win red states as well.

TAPPER: Those are going to be tough, Sherrod Brown, Joe Manchin and Jon Tester.


TAPPER: I don't know. Do you think all three of them can hold their seat?

ENTEN: Probably not. Probably not. But look, I've learned in this era, never say never.

TAPPER: All right. Wise words. Harry Enten, thank you so much.

ENTEN: Thank you.

TAPPER: The new storm to watch Hurricane Lee, gaining strength in warm Atlantic waters. Where is it heading, we'll tell you next.



TAPPER: A few minutes ago, we called it Tropical Storm Lee. Now it's all grown up, Hurricane Lee. It's headed toward the eastern Caribbean. Meteorologist Chad Myers is tracking this one. Chad, this could strengthen even quickly, even more quickly. Where's it headed?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is headed still to the middle of the Atlantic because that's where it is. This is going to take many days, maybe even two weeks to get really close to any land. Even at the end of these models, it's slowing down. But right now, a 75 miles per hour storm. And yes, it is cruising to the north of the Leeward Islands, to the north of Puerto Rico.

And I've done something I'd never do here, but I've taken all the models, we do the spaghetti models all the time. I've put them under the cone so you can see how well the models are really reacting to the space out here. And I think that's where we're going to see now for the at least the next couple of days. This thing's in very warm water. It's going to intensify to 150 miles per hour storm. But guess what's out here?

That is the remnant water of Hurricane Franklin, a category four hurricane we didn't talk much about because it was way out there in the Atlantic. But it wrecked the water, it cooled it off. So that may help us at least a little bit, kind of slow this thing down before it eventually heads toward any landfall. Many of the models and this is still 10 days away, start to turn this to the right and away from land.

But Jake, this is still something you absolutely need to watch, because this will be a category four hurricane in the warm water before it gets to that cooler water. So there's a long way for this to go, and this could certainly be something to watch for the entire eastern seaboard and for that matter, all the way up toward Nova Scotia.

TAPPER: All right. Chad Myers, thanks so much. The climate crisis is causing the record warm ocean waters fueling storms such as Hurricane Lee. It's also creating these blistering heat waves. And it comes as the world experienced the hottest summer on record. CNN's Bill Weir is following this story for us. Bill, help us understand the gravity of the data from the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service.

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, it's not just that we broke the record, it's we shattered it and leaps. Usually you see these records broken by 100th of a degree. This surpasses the last 30 year average by almost two thirds of a full degree Celsius here. So the oceans have been hiding sort of our fossil fuel sins for a long time, absorbing 90 percent of the heat where it wasn't obvious to us of -- most those of us who lived on land, but now it really, really is.

TAPPER: And you've covered hurricanes, floods, wildfires glaciers melting in Greenland, you name it, you've done a lot of it for our show, covering this horrible climate crisis that's happening right before our eyes, maybe even more quickly and more expeditiously than you even thought it was going to happen.

WEIR: Yes.

TAPPER: How much has this intensified every time?

WEIR: It has intensified things. You know, the thing that I take away, especially from the Maui story, is we suffer from the lack of worst imagination, you know. We just -- we can't imagine a world in which something like these events happen. And when they do, everybody is going through the sort of the five stages of grief at the same time. It's just startling. So the clarion call to everyone is, this may be the coolest summer we have for the rest of our lives, and we need to prepare accordingly. The tighter communities will suffer the least. We need to embrace adaptation is part of this now. It's baked in.

TAPPER: When you -- you can talk about the trailer of imagination, which is a phrase that you and I remember from 9/11, it's like Maui is not an island that people worried about forest fires.


WEIR: Exactly. Yes.

TAPPER: Or a hurricane hundreds of miles away, but all of a sudden you have this very dry summer and this hurricane and the spark and nobody even thinks about this.

WEIR: Exactly. No one's having defensible spaces around their home in Maui the way you would in paradise, California, in the forest. But we have to think about unimaginable confluences of these disasters. There was news today. A lot of this of course is being driven by fossil fuel use which seems to be going down. Not at all. I mean, the news will be I've been doing so many of these stories about new records.

The day I come out here and say Exxon or Saudi Aramco has announced that they're shutting down a project that will be news. But the Biden administration today did set aside about 10 million acres in Alaska on the North Slope, the Willow Project, which many activists on TikTok tried to fight. Still going forward. But there's a little piece set aside from --

TAPPER: Right. In Alaska that Trump had approved and the Biden people are now shutting down.

WEIR: Exactly.

TAPPER: Won't make a huge difference in and of itself. Bill Weir, thanks so much.

Dramatic developments today in the Trump legal cases from a first televised hearing to a former employee cooperating with the special counsel. Much more ahead with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer. He is in "THE SITUATION ROOM". I'll see you tomorrow.