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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Speaker McCarthy Directs GOP To Launch Biden Impeachment Inquiry; Source: Trump Spoke By Phone Today To Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik About GOP Impeachment Inquiry Strategy; Escapee Considered "Armed And Extremely Dangerous"; New Biography Reveals What Drives Elon Musk. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired September 12, 2023 - 16:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Any advice? I just don't remember it because I was so sleep deprived, honestly. No, it's so wonderful and I think it's so exciting. This little introduction, look at this beautiful family.


KEILAR: This is when everything expands, it is going to be amazing. Congratulations so much to the Fennells. We're so excited for you.



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Speaker Kevin McCarthy has announced a former impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, but on what grounds?

THE LEAD starts right now.

Under threat of being ousted himself, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy directs GOP-led committees to investigate the president and his connections to his son's business dealings. But even some House Republicans say they're not convinced evidence exists.

Plus, the Pennsylvania manhunt escalates dramatically. The escaped inmate who's eluded capture for almost two weeks is now armed as citizens in the area sit on their porches with guns ready to protect themselves from the convicted killer.

And moments ago, the NFL made it official, that Achilles injury has put long time NFL star quarterback Aaron Rodgers out for the entire season. Just four plays into his New York Jets career. Legendary NFL QB Joe Theismann, no stranger to devastating injury himself, will join us to discuss.


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

And we start in our politics lead with his speakership under threat from the MAGA right. Today, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy launched an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, looking for evidence for unproven allegations that when Biden was vice president, he personally financially benefited from foreign business dealings involving his son Hunter.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Now I would encourage the president and his team to fully cooperate with this investigation in the interest of transparency. We are committed to getting the answers for the American public, nothing more, nothing less. We will go wherever the evidence takes us.


TAPPER: A White House spokesperson responded to McCarthy's announcement saying, quote: House Republicans have been investigating the president for nine months and they've turned up no evidence of wrongdoing. He called it, quote extreme politics at its worst.

McCarthy initially had promised to launch this impeachment inquiry with a floor vote. He said that's how you would know it was serious business but since then, several Republicans insinuated they might not back the move, they might not vote for it, given the lack of evidence to support such a drastic action. So, McCarthy opted instead to skip a floor vote. He instead is sending the inquiry straight to the House committees.

Then, of course, there's the question as to why do it today? Well, Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz has been threatening to force a vote on the floor on whether to remove McCarthy as speaker if McCarthy stood in the way of impeachment inquiry. Remember, Gaetz was one of the thorns in Speaker McCarthy's side when McCarthy was trying to secure the speakership through 15 rounds of balloting back in January.

This moment was after Gaetz had voted present on McCarthy's 14th ballot vote for speaker. After this exchange, Gaetz swapped his present vote to yes, securing the speakership for McCarthy.

Our coverage of this issue starts with CNN's Melanie Zanona who's been on the Hill all day capturing the House reaction to McCarthy's controversial move.


MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER (voice-over): Kevin McCarthy facing threats to his speakership giving the green light to an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.

MCCARTHY: Today, I am directing our house committee to open a formal improvement inquiry into President Joe Biden.

ZANONA: A dramatic escalation of the House GOP's investigation into the president. MCCARTHY: House Republicans have uncovered serious and credible

allegations into President Biden's conduct. Taken together, these allegations paint a picture of a culture of corruption.

ZANONA: McCarthy today repeated several allegations made by some of his GOP colleagues, including that as vice president, Biden joined meetings with Hunter Biden's business partners, that the Treasury Department had flagged suspicious financial activity by the Biden family and that the president has lied about his knowledge of his family's business deals.

But House Republicans have so far not provided evidence that Biden directly profited off his son's business deals or made any decisions as vice president because of them.

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): There is zero evidence of any malfeasance on the part of President Joe Biden.


ZANONA: The effort has faced resistance from some in the GOP over the lack of evidence.

REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): What I wanted to do was look at the evidence. I said I'll go where the evidence stakes me. I'm reluctant to agree with Speaker McCarthy.

ZANONA: McCarthy has been facing pressure from the right and former President Donald Trump to move ahead.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Moments ago, Speaker McCarthy endorsed an impeachment inquiry, this is a baby step following weeks of pressure from house conservatives to do more. We must move faster.

ZANONA: A trio of House committees leading the way. The speaker has not put a timeline on the process. Though McCarthy ally Marjorie Taylor Greene said there's no rush.

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): I'm interested in going as long as it takes.

ZANONA: But marking a McCarthy reversal, no formal vote on the launch, aimed at protecting his most vulnerable members.

REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): That puts a lot of seats up at risk particularly for Republicans who won Biden districts.

ZANONA: House Republicans believe the public is on their side. According to a CNN poll, 61 percent of Americans believe Biden was involved in his son's business deals as vice president while 42 percent think he acted illegally. But some GOP senators are uncertain about McCarthy's approach.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): The way to make an inquiry legitimate is to have a vote as to whether or not you should have one at all rather than just the leadership deciding. ZANONA: And Democrats not sweating the threat of impeachment.

SEN. JOHN FETTERMAN (D-PA): It's devastating. Ooh, don't do it, please don't do it.


ZANONA (on camera): And, Jake, House Republicans have already taken their first official step as part of this official impeachment inquiry. That trio of House Committee sent a letter this afternoon to Attorney General Merrick Garland, requesting all information and documents about whether Hunter Biden's attorneys encouraged the Department of Justice to retaliate against these IRS whistle-blowers who have claimed that DOJ has mishandled or politicized the Hunter Biden criminal probe.

All of that something that the DOJ has denied, but no doubt, it is going to be a topic of conversation when Garland testifies over Congress next week -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Melanie Zanona on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

Let's talk about this with Republican strategist Garrett Ventry and Republican pollster and strategist, Kristen Soltis Anderson.

So, Garrett, McCarthy -- Speaker McCarthy told Breitbart less than two weeks ago, quote, to open an impeachment inquiry is a serious matter and House Republicans would not take it lightly or use it for political purposes. That's why if we move forward with an impeachment inquiry, it would occur through a vote on the floor of the People's House, and not through a declaration by one person.

Obviously, he's changed his minds, since then. What does it signal you to that he's doing it the opposite of the way he said he would do it two weeks ago that in his view, signal that it was serious?

GARRETT VENTRY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yeah, I think it's certainly a shift from two weeks ago. I mean, I think his team would admit that as well. I do think they still have taken this very seriously, it's taken them nine months to get to this point. I think things that Matt Gaetz said are not necessarily true. The timing I get that with the politics of it. But this is something House Republicans have talked about since July, August, going into September now.

I think it signals here that they really have kind of uncovered everything they can here through the normal procedure, right, through subpoena power, they've gotten stonewalled on the National Archives with the pseudonym e-mails, they've gotten stonewalls on letters -- a letter to the White House counsel. So I think what they need to do here is the impeachment inquiry gives them the expansive powers essentially here.

Now, there is a debate on procedure-wise. Typically, there would be a vote for this. I still would say the House speaker, the Constitution is pretty vague in terms of whether or not you actually have to vote on the inquiry. So I think they'll have the apex of power here have to go to court to battle these things out. But I think they have essentially done everything they could so an inquiry is necessary.

TAPPER: So, it doesn't seem though that he has, if he'd call for a vote, that he would have had the votes? Or maybe he just didn't even want to put the vulnerable or I don't know how vulnerable they are, but the Republicans from Biden districts in that position?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This is a challenge that McCarthy has with the caucus where the margins are very, very slim. He has a majority of but it's a very thin majority. So you need to make sure you are keeping your most moderate members happy and your most conservative members happy because you can't really afford to lose any of them.

So, this kind of represents a middle pack that tries to keep the moderates from rebelling too much while keeping the conservatives from rebelling, because remember this is all happening with a backdrop of government funding running out in just a couple of weeks and having to navigate what will no doubt be another contentious conflict between the sort of center and further right parts of that caucus.

TAPPER: So -- but let me ask you about a poll, because one of our polls taken at the end of August shows that 44 percent of voters think that Biden -- President Biden acted appropriately during these Hunter investigations, 55 percent of voters think he acted inappropriately regarding the investigations into Hunter Biden.


That's the general electorate, that's not even the base of Republicans.

So, clearly, voters aren't buying President Biden's explanations even if there are House Republicans who say I don't see any evidence of wrongdoing that would merit an impeachment.

ANDERSON: Certainly, and the numbers that you talked about just a few moments ago before this was a about over six in 10 Americans in CNN's polling say they believe that when Biden was vice president, he was probably involved in some of Hunter Biden's dealings. Now, only four in 10 said they thought he had done something illegal. It's that interesting gap between 60-some percent and 40-some percent that's going to be crucial here.

Everybody else is already in their camps. They've decided that they think Biden did something super illegal or no, he's probably innocent. This is just nonsense.

But this impeachment inquiry as it moves forward, it could have potential benefits to Republicans politically if they do uncover something that puts a further stamp on, hey, look we said something was wrong here and now we have proof.

But if it backfires, if they don't actually find anything, there are risks to the party in power. Just like at House Republicans during the Bill Clinton impeachment. It wound up not accruing to their political benefit at all, and Newt Gingrich had to step down as speaker. So, this can cut both ways.

TAPPER: Right, it is a risk, right? I mean, not only did Democrats I think pick up seats in 1998, which was odd, and unusual but it was widely interrupted as people not liking House Republicans impeaching Bill Clinton. And, also, we've seen the rally around the flag effect for Donald Trump frankly. Like this could ultimately in some ways help Biden, I mean, is that not a possibility?

VENTRY: It's always a possibility with impeachment like you said here.


VENTRY: I think the Clinton impeachment versus this impeachment is much different here. You are talking about, you know, sexual relationship with potential corruption and a bribery scheme which Republicans are saying, obviously, you're going to have to get your hands on those tapes, and the allegations they've made.

TAPPER: But also, Bill Clinton did it. Bill Clinton does wrong. We don't know what Joe Biden did.

VENTRY: Totally fair there. What I'm saying here is this, I think what the allegations House Republicans are saying there's been a lot of pushback on evidence. Evidence can be a firsthand testimony in court, and a congressional hearing.

TAPPER: Right.

VENTRY: You have Devon Archer as a firsthand witness, pictured golfing with Joe Biden. He has a letter from Joe Biden on official vice presidential letterhead. He clearly was involved, a long-time friend and business associate of Hunter Biden. He is saying he was put on speaker phone.

Now, we know Joe Biden, the shift from the White House is very interesting. It went from, you know, he had no knowledge of Hunter Biden's business dealings to he's not in business with Hunter Biden. That's a -- that's a major shift.

So, we know he clearly lied about the business dealings. We know he was at least involved in phone calls and dinners. And there is a question, and I think House Republicans are going to have to get to the bottom of this with the investigation inquiry. Was there a shift of policy? And a lot of House Republicans would argue the firing of Ukrainian prosecutor by Hunter Biden was on a board getting a million dollars a year and that publicly bragging about it in 2018 potentially could have been Joe Biden using policy to shift to help Hunter Biden.

TAPPER: Right. I mean, I don't want to get into the whole thing with Viktor Shokin, but obviously, the firing of Viktor Shokin was something that like the Western world wanted, it wasn't just Joe Biden, but again, that's -- we have gone through that in 2019, quite a lot of length.

They do want to show you this exchange on Twitter today. Matt Gaetz tweeted, they had been pushing for impeachment for weeks and Marjorie Taylor Greene responded to him saying, correction, my friend, I introduced articles of impeachment against Joe Biden for his corrupt business dealings in Ukraine and China while he was vice president on his very first day in office. You wouldn't cosponsor those and I had to drag you kicking and screaming to get to you co-sponsor my articles on the border. Who has really been making the push?

I mean, there is going to be some infighting here as we say.

ANDERSON: Absolutely. Marjorie Taylor Greene has a very interesting journey over the last year where she wound up being one of McCarthy's advocates within that Freedom Caucus world, to the point where it kind of got her on the outs with those folks. So, there's a lot of contentiousness within the Republican conference.

Now thinking that Joe Biden is not a good president, that unifies them. Thinking that Joe Biden definitely broke the law, that's not something that necessarily unifies all Republicans.

TAPPER: All right. To be continued. We're going to have a lot of coverage of this, I imagine, in the future.

Kristen Soltis Anderson, Garrett Ventry, good to see both of you. Good to see you again.

2024 GOP candidates might not give Speaker McCarthy that much political cover to launch his impeachment inquiry. Governor Chris Christie is going to be here.

Plus, the brutal killer who has escaped prison and has eluded capture for almost two weeks is now armed. How this changes the manhunt in Pennsylvania.

And the man behind Tesla, SpaceX and who recently took over Twitter now known as X, Elon Musk -- what drives this peculiar mind. A brand new book tries to answer that. I'm going to talk to the author this hour.



TAPPER: This just into our political lead. A source tells CNN that former President Donald Trump and House Republican Conference chair, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik of New York, spoke by phone today about the House Republican impeachment inquiry strategy.

Also, CNN has learned that Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene had dinner with former President Trump at Bedminster on Sunday, and they also discussed the impeachment inquiry.

We're joined now by Republican presidential candidate and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

What do you make of Donald Trump's involvement or at least interest in this? CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it's no shock, Jake.

You know, look, he's been, you know, begging for this for quite sometime. So, I'm not the least bit shocked by Donald Trump trying to inject himself into House Republican Caucus decisions in a way that he thinks will help him.

But in the end, whatever happens to Joe Biden, one way or another, Donald Trump still has a lot of his own issues to deal with. So he probably should keep focused on keeping his eye on the ball.

TAPPER: You said that this is cheapening impeachment this inquiry. What do you mean by that?

CHRISTIE: Well, what I said was, Jake, if in fact, you don't have greater facts than what you have now it would be cheapening impeachment. And I think we've been in a process where I said this morning was we've been in a process of doing that for a number of years. It's not just what's happening today, but what happened during some of the Trump years and also during what happened during some of the Clinton years as well.


So, I think we need to be careful about that.

I do think that an investigation needs to be had both by congressional oversight and by the special counsel. There's enough smoke here that you need to look. The president was really unequivocal about saying that he had no involvement of any kind in his son's business dealings and we now have a business partner of Hunter's that says something different than that. That in and of itself is not enough to start an impeachment proceeding.

But to have an investigation that and all another things that have gone on, I think there are enough to go and begin an investigation. That's what's happening. Let's see where the facts lead us.

TAPPER: "Puck's" Tara Palmeri repots that Democrat David Brock says he intends to use his Democratic firm to go on the offensive and distribute opposition research targeting family members of various congressional Republicans and how they have benefited from their parents' position in the way that Hunter presumably has from his father's position.

What do you make of that? That seems kind of like what we saw during the Clinton impeachment, people going after Henry Hyde and the like?

CHRISTIE: Yeah, look, this is what our politics unfortunately has devolved into, Jake in recent years. And look, this part of what's happened in the last two presidencies. You know, Donald Trump's folks, his children, Jared and Ivanka in particular, benefiting greatly from his time as president -- billions of dollars from the Saudis, half a billion dollars or so from the Qataris and the Emiratis. People have big questions about that as well.

And I think when you add that, why would anybody have hired Hunter Biden to do anything if his last name wasn't Biden? I think everybody in this country is disgusted by it, but I think everyone's going to have their house looked at if they're going to throw stones. And so, that's the way politics looks these days.

But if your family has not done something that should lead you to be concerned or embarrassed, then have you nothing to worry about.

TAPPER: Congress is gearing up for a big fight over spending as you know. If you were president right now, how would you avoid a government shutdown how would you take on the larger debt and deficit crisis?

CHRISTIE: Well, Jake, look, what you have to do is, first of all, let people know that we've got to reduce our spending and our debt. I would do it as a new president by introducing in my first double digit zero based budgeting. I would start every federal program back at zero and then make the department justice that spending.

We need to start right back at ground zero. If we don't do that, then we're assuming spending that's in the trillions of dollars in this country, some of which may be completely unnecessary or no longer useful for when it was originally intended to be.

So, we need to start at zero and work our way back up. That's what I would encourage Congress and the president do. I'm sure they won't. So when I'm president in January, 2025, I'm going to have the chance to do that.

By the way, Jake, I did that in New Jersey. When we have an $11 billion deficit on a $29 billion budget that was left to me by Jon Corzine, and we eliminated 683 individual programs on the poor (ph), doing zero-based budgeting. We probably would not have eliminated those programs but for doing it that way and I think it can work not to balance the budget, on the federal level but to start to get our deficits down and add much less to our debt.

TAPPER: I'm going to start asking presidential candidates this question, you're the first person. Tell me one policy you would enact as president within your first year that would make the lives of the American people better?

CHRISTIE: Well, what I would do in my first year, Jake, in fact on the first day, is to partner the National Guard with our Customs and Border Patrol people at the border with the specific task of interdicting fentanyl before it comes across the border.

We had 110,000 Americans of every race, gender, background socioeconomic status die of overdose in the last year. It's the leading killer now among 18 to 34-year-olds. And we need to stop this fentanyl from coming in across the border, and it will improve every neighborhood in this country when we get this fentanyl out of our neighborhoods and get folks away from dying of overdoses from this incredibly lethal Chinese generated drug.

So that's something I would do not on the first year, Jake, but on the first day to try to slow down the crossing of our border of folks who are carrying fentanyl for the Mexican drug cartels.

TAPPER: Presidential candidate Chris Christie, thank you so much for your time.


CHRISTIE: Jake, thanks for having me on today. Appreciate it.

TAPPER: Coming up next, in Pennsylvania, how authorities today are defending their search for Danelo Cavalcante who is now armed with a gun being on the run for 13 straight days, despite multiple sightings in the same general area.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our national lead, Danelo Cavalcante the brutal killer who crab walked the walls of the Pennsylvania prison and escaped now has a gun and police say he is desperate enough to use it. Police say that Cavalcante who has been on the run for nearly two weeks stole a .22- caliber rifle with a scope and flashlight mounted on it from a homeowner's garage last night.


A reminder, this man killed his ex-girlfriend in front of her two children and is also suspected of a murder in Brazil.

CNN's Danny Freeman starts off our coverage on the manhunt that now involves about 500 members of law enforcement.


LT. COL. GEORGE BIVENS, PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE: Cavalcante is considered armed and extremely dangerous.

DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The manhunt for escaped inmate Danelo Cavalcante escalating dramatically as Pennsylvania state police reveal the convicted murder now has a deadly weapon.

BIVENS: He is now armed with a .22-caliber rifle with a scope and flashlight mounted on it.

FREEMAN: The stunning development happening overnight. Police say around 8:00, a woman driving close to where Cavalcante ditched this stolen dairy farm van thought she saw the fugitive crouched on a road. Police arrived and followed muddy footprints to discover Cavalcante's discarded prison shoes.

BIVENS: Information was received from another resident in that immediate area that a pair of work boots had been stolen from a porch at her residence.

FREEMAN: Search dogs tried to track Cavalcante's scent but couldn't find him, according to authorities. Then, less than two hours later, at 10:10, police said Cavalcante emerged began spotting the .22- caliber rifle with a scope, flashlight and ammo leaning in the corner of an open garage.

But as he went for the weapon a resident inside the garage saw Cavalcante and fired his own handgun at him multiple times.

Cavalcante still got away with the rifle.

BIVENS: We have no reason to believe that he is injured as a resulted of that shooting. I think he's just trying to survive and avoid being captured.

FREEMAN: Police said officers arrived on scene within minutes but lost him. Today, Lieutenant Colonel George Bivens defended the operation that has failed to capture the inmate after 13 days.

BIVENS: Our law enforcement people have done an amazing job tracking him and locating him that proverbial needling in the haystack and they've located that needle repeatedly. Nothing has gone wrong.

FREEMAN: Nearly 500 law enforcement agents have now descended on a new perimeter in Chester County's South Coventry Township, about 25 miles north of the prison where Cavalcante crab-walked to freedom.

Armored vehicles, horses and helicopters and troopers with long guns flooding the area Tuesday hoping to end this search.

BIVENS: It's a large area, wooded, hilly terrain. It's not something that it's a matter of just sending a few people in and searching. As I said we've had a number of tactical teams operating in there through the night. We continue to have teams operating in there now.

It will take a long time to clear that entire area but we will continue until we do locate him.


FREEMAN (on camera): And, Jake, another fascinating piece of information that we learned today police believe that Cavalcante actually knows where he is and believe that he's been in this area before, all the more reason why police are pleading with residents to keep your homes locked, keep your cars locked and remain vigilant -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Danny Freeman in Chester County, Pennsylvania, thank you so much.

A highly anticipated new book out today profiles tech billionaire Elon Musk. It tells about his personal life, his motivations as a businessman and the book includes an explosive claim about Musk's satellite operations in Ukraine, a claim that had to be tweaked. The author of that new book will join us next.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our tech lead, how did Elon Musk go from a quirky visionary who wants to save the electric car and create interplanetary travel to a perceived bigot platforming white supremacist and ruining Twitter?

Well, whatever you think of Elon Musk, he is here to stay, and he is unquestionably having an impact on the world. He now owns X, once called Twitter, which is capturing the data of its users.

He owns Tesla which captures enormous amounts of data, including video of its drivers and is reinventing the electric vehicle. Tesla now also owns Solar City, trying to be the largest supplier of solar energy in the world.

He also owns SpaceX, which is the first private woman to send people and supplies into space, and he gets billions of U.S. tax dollars from NASA.

Should we be scared? Should we be grateful?

Here with us to describe it all, Walter Isaacson, the former head of CNN. He has written biographies on a number of geniuses who have changed the world, from Leonardo da Vinci, to Albert Einstein, to Steve Jobs, and now, Elon Musk, in a brand new book out today, 615 pages, after trailing, shadowing Elon Musk for two years.

And I have to say, just for anybody who is afraid of the size, you write it in kind of like bite sized little stories so nobody should be afraid that they can't read this. It's very digestible.

WALTER ISAACSON, AUTHOR, "ELON MUSK": Thank you very much, Jake. It's a rollicking tale and he's doing, as you just said, six or seven things at once. So, you got to interweave the tapestry with some of these stories.

TAPPER: So, let's start at the beginning because he grew up in South Africa. His father was brutal. The culture there at the time did not help going away to this camp where literally kids every couple of years, one of them would die, and if one of them would be killed. His father's influence might be responsible for some of the darker sides of his personality.

Tell us about that.

ISAACSON: Absolutely, right. I mean, he grew up you say about that wilderness camp, first time he went there he was a scrawny awkward kid beaten up all the time. He took his food, loses a lot of weight. But the next time, he goes he's gotten bigger. He's learned a little judo. And he said, they still beat me up and I learned to punch them as hard as I could in the nose and then maybe they could have second thoughts.

And almost that's a metaphor for the pugnaciousness that you see in him now. But when he got beaten up in school once and so blooded, he had to go to the hospital, the scars were actually worse when he came home and his father made him stand in front of him and berated him for more than an hour, calling him stupid, saying it was his fault, taking the side of the person who beat him up.


So there are lots of demons dancing around in his head and I show how the demons lead to a dark side of him, almost a demon mode, but also how those demons are sometimes turned into drives, drives that have allowed him to do things that others haven't been able to do.

TAPPER: You see him on Twitter or X quite a bit punching down, attacking people who are weaker than him, who are less powerful than him. He goes after the trans community, he platforms white supremacists. Why does he do that?

ISAACSON: You know, he's had an addiction to Twitter and a pugnaciousness and an impulsiveness that sometimes immature and juvenile, sometimes just mean and cruel. I think, you know, like a flamethrower to him and you're right, sometimes he not only allows people with -- but he amplifies them he engages with them and it's changed Twitter.

You and I used to be on a lot with our friends who got our little anointed with blue checks and it was, you know, sweet conversation. And now, it's a more pugnacious place but it's also a place where more voices are being heard.

TAPPER: From an early age, especially once he left South Africa as a teen for Canada and then the U.S., he had -- he had a drive to do something. He found a purpose in trying to get humans to Mars. He still thinks for humans to survive that we need to be able to be a multi-planetary species.

ISAACSON: You know, he's driven by three things and that's the first of them. And it sounds strange, he talks about human consciousness being so rare in that if we don't become multi-planetary, human species may get wiped out some day.

And I used to think the first 10 times I heard him say it, it was a type of pep talk you give at, you know, team building meetings or on podcasts. But, as a kid who had read hitchhikers guide to the universe, to galaxy once too often, I actually think he truly believe that engaging in space travel is a mandatory adventuresome thing that humans need to do.

TAPPER: He made his first big waves in the tech world when he helped to create PayPal with Peter Teal and others. He wanted to call it X. That's going to come back a bunch of time in his life, X.

ISAACSON: All the time.

TAPPER: Then he kept his desire to leave Earth and he founded SpaceX.

You lay out and throw the book how Musk demands what feel like unrealistic goals and deadlines to his staff. Have you this whole conversation with one of his former colleagues about what you call or what he calls the asshole factor, pardon my French, I'm just quoting the book, about whether or not it's all part of who he is and that part of his personality cannot be removed from the part that actually succeeds.

I mean, SpaceX now does function as kind of a private arm of NASA, bringing people and supplies to the Space Station. Do you think it is part of him? I mean, Thomas Edison was no picnic either.

ISAACSON: You know, John McNeil who once served as president of Tesla under Musk said that to me, he said he's a total asshole at times. He doesn't have empathy. But that drives things and he gets things done. And he said I'm not sure that's a price worth paying. He said, maybe it is, maybe if it gets us electric vehicles, but then John McNeil also said, I wouldn't want to be that way.

So I tell the story in the book, obviously, readers are going to have to decide, anything a biographer does, whether it's of Thomas Jefferson or James Watson or Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, you will see the driven and dark strands. And the question is, how tightly are they interwoven? Can you eliminate -- could you have eliminated the dark strands of Elon Musk and still have that whole tapestry? And that's what the book explains.

TAPPER: Stick around. I have more questions for you. You said you would clarify part of your book for future editions about Musk and whether his Starlink satellite communications is enabled or not enabled Ukraine in Crimea. I want to ask you about the confusion and about Musk's move to buy Twitter and much more. We're going to squeeze in a quick break. We'll be right back.




TAPPER: We are back with our tech lead and the author and my friend Walter Isaacson, author of the new biography on Elon Musk. It's a really good read and shockingly easy breezy read.

Walter, authors, journalists generally do not like to be part of the story but have you now acknowledged that you're going to have to correct one portion of the book that over the weekend I asked some public figures about. So, let's just dive into this. You write in the book that Ukraine last fall was going to attack the Russian navy near Crimea and it was going to use Musk's Starlink to help guide its sea drones and you wrote, quote, throughout the evening and into the night, Musk personally took charge of the situation, allowing the use of Starlink for the attack he concluded could be a disaster for the world, so he secretly told his engineers to turn off coverage within 100 kilometers of the Crimean coast, unquote.

And then, obviously, the sea drones didn't work. Tell us what exactly is going to be corrected and what the reality -- what the accurate story is?

ISAACSON: Absolutely, and thank you for asking, because that night he was in a real high state of anxiety that this could cause World War Three. [16:50:06]

It could cause nuclear response. And he told me, we're not allowing Starlink to be used for this drone sub attack. And I thought and wrote that he turned it off that night. And later, he said to me, no, it was already turned off, I just reaffirmed our policy.

And so, instead of turning it off that night, he just reaffirmed that it had been turned off. It's called geofencing. And what they had done is within 100 kilometers of the Crimean coast, geofence so that Starlink would not work, it would not enable this. But the Ukrainians didn't know.

And I made the mistake of thinking that decision had been made that night, in fact, the decision the geofence had been made before. He just reaffirmed it that night. But it does get to the question of, should he allow, should he have allowed Starlink to be used for the sneak attack on the Russian fleet in Crimea? By the way, should he be the one to have the power to make that decision?

TAPPER: Yeah. Right, and his fear was that he was convinced that some Russian official had told him that Crimea was a red line and they would use nukes, although obviously the Russians are constantly threatening to use nukes. But as you know, the question why Elon Musk the one that gets to make that decision. Obviously, he was practically speaking. But is that how the world is supposed to function?

ISAACSON: He made -- right, and you know he made that decision that night which is don't allow it to be used for this drone attack. So that's the essence of it. And the question is, you know, should he have been given that power.

Well, first of all, no, probably, I don't think ordinary citizens should have that much power. And I think he finally come to that conclusion. I asked him that night, have you talked to Jake Sullivan, the national security advisor? Have you talked to General Mark Milley, the head of the joint chiefs? He said, yes, I'm in communications with them.

And the way they finally resolved it because even he feels this is too much of an onus on him is that he will sell some of the Starlink services, some of the dishes, he been donating them all to Ukraine but he would sell some to the U.S. military intelligence services and even create a military model called a Star Shield and now, the U.S. government gets to make those decisions. And it's not on him.

TAPPER: Let's go back to Twitter. There are a few reasons that Musk wanted to buy it. First, he had a lot of cash on hand. Second, he liked the product, he's a addicted to Twitter. Third, there's as lot of user data to be gleaned from Twitter. And finally, he says he wants to defend speak from what he calls woke culture.

And you write in the book, quote, there was an oddness too his new found anti-woke fervor and occasional endorsements of alt right conspiracy theories. It came in waves, like his demon-mode personality. It was not his default setting, unquote. So how do you see his takeover of Twitter or X as he now calls it? It's lost a lot of value.

ISAACSON: And one of the other things he was wanting to do when he did it is we talked a moment ago about PayPal, his original company called which was going to be a payment system, a platform in which people could buy and sell content, doing other things, and social media. That gets turned into PayPal, he gets kicked out.

He told me early when April when he was just deciding to buy Twitter, he said, this will help fulfill my vision of It will be more than just a chit-chat site. You are right, too, there's a lot of data there. That's almost what we in Louisiana call land yap, something extra that came with it.

Also, there were times especially late at night when he was in dark moods that he was so worked up about the woke mind culture that he thought Twitter was censoring too many people, especially on the populous right.

TAPPER: Yeah, the new book is called "Elon Musk". It's an enjoyable and enlightening read about a powerful, powerful tech billionaire.

Walter Isaacson, thank you. Good luck with the book. Good to see you again.

ISAACSON: Good to see you again, Jake.

TAPPER: CNN's Manu Raju, doing as he does best, holding members of Congress to account. What some hard-line conservatives told Manu just moments about Speaker McCarthy's announcement today that he was going to launch an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. That's next.



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

This hour, Aaron Rodgers is out for the rest of the season after tearing his Achilles in the fourth play of the season opener. What that means for the New York Jets' season? We're going to talk to the legendary quarterback Joe Theismann who suffered one of the most memorable injuries in NFL history.

Plus, a handshake that has many, many nations on edge. North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has disembarked his heavily armored train in Russia and he could be meeting Vladimir Putin at any moment.

And leading this hour, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has launched an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. Republicans say they're searching for evidence when he was vice president, Biden personally profited from foreign business deals involving his son, hunter, but Republicans have literally been looking for evidence of this for years and have not yet found any. Initially, Speaker McCarthy said he would launch this impeachment

inquiry with a floor vote. He said two weeks ago that would be the only way to prove this was a serious matter, but several House Republicans insinuated they might not back the move given the lack of evidence. So McCarthy decided to skip the floor vote. He's instead sending the inquiry straight to House committees.

Our coverage today starts with CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.