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The Lead with Jake Tapper

GOP Sen. Mitt Romney Announces He Won't Seek Re-election; Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), Is Interviewed About Trump And Gen. Milley Feud Over Leaked Plan To Attack Iran; New Book Raises Questions About JFK Assassination. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 13, 2023 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The senator's announcement today came as a real surprise.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question about it, because there was a hope that he would actually run for reelection, in fact, a lobbying campaign among some top Republicans urging him to do so. Senator Republican leader Mitch McConnell hoped that Mitt Romney would run, not necessarily because the sleep would flip, but because he represents a voice, an influential voice within the Republican Party, a more establishment voice, an anti-Trump voice, one that is waning in the Republican Party. Even though he was the party's presidential nominee in 2012, much has changed since then, something that he flatly acknowledged in his press conference just moments ago.

We had chance to talk to him on a wide range of subjects about his decision to step aside. He said that it's simply an issue about his age. By the time, if you were to run and win reelection, he would be in his 80s. He said that is -- there's people should not be in office in his 80s, he said repeatedly. He said it's time for a new generation of leaders.

He sharply criticized Donald Trump. He criticized Biden as well. He did believe he could win reelection, but he said it would be difficult acknowledging the politics within his party. Now, he also made clear time and again that his wing of the party is essentially in a middle -- in a battle with the Trump wing of the party. He argued that his wing is focused on policy.

It's focused on some of the key issues that are central to the Republican Party platform, not about a personality, which is the Trump wing of the party. That is what something that he says he will continue to focus on, Jake, in the months and weeks ahead, particularly after he leaves office making clear here. And, Jake, just take a listen to what he had to say moments ago.


SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): Have a say in how we leave the Earth and how they prepare for the future they're going to live in. So you guys have already seen the statement that I put out. I don't know that I want to repeat that, but if you have any questions, I just -- I mean, populism doesn't work. I quote that H.L. Mencken line, which is, to every complex problem, there's a solution which is simple, clear, and wrong. And unfortunately, that's what we're hearing.

And again, on the Trump wing of the party, I haven't heard policy other than saying we're going to build a wall. And by the way, he was president. He was president for four years. He built 50 miles. What did he get done? I said, well, how about the tax change?

Well, the tax, that was Paul Ryan. That wasn't the Biden plan. He did, of course, he had a health care plan, remember that? That was going to -- everybody's going to have low cost health insurance that was fabulous. Never proposed, never saw.

He was in four years. So it's not a policy centric approach. And --


RAJU: And, Jake, I asked him if he was misreading the party. Given the fact that Donald Trump is on this path to winning the Republican nomination, at least at the moment, looks like that he could certainly be the Republican nominee. And Romney being an outlier of sorts, he said, I'm not looking at changing the party within the next two years, he said, over the next decade. Jake.

TAPPER: Yes. He acknowledged you as an outlier when you put that question to him.

Manu, there was speculation that Romney could have been facing a tough reelection fight. Donald Trump certainly would have him in his target, would want to recruit somebody to defeat him, would have put some energy into that. Do you think that played a factor into this?

RAJU: It would have been a tough fight, no question about it. Romney was asked about that at this press conference. He said that he's seen polls have made him feel better about his standing back home, but he said he flatly realizes that a number of people simply disagreed with his position as his handling of Donald Trump. He said he had hoped that people within his party believed that he was standing on principle and they would reward him for that, but fully knowing full well that this would have been a battle to win reelection here, he suggested that perhaps that was not the reason why he wanted to step aside. He simply continued to point to his age as being the main factor here.

But no question, Jake, even though the safe seat -- is a safe Republican seat, and even though Republican voters in Utah are not as pro-Trump as some other red states in the union, it would have been a fight for him to win reelection, something they simply did not want to do at this stage of his life.

TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

Our panel's here to discuss. Charlie Dent, former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, is Senator Romney, like, the last Republican statesman in the Senate, do you think? CHARLIE DENT, (R) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE, PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I don't think he's the last one, but he certainly is an elder statesman in a party where we don't really like to listen to elder statesman too much anymore. So, but no, Mitt Romney, I think, is right in his analysis. There's no shame in retiring at the age of 80 or 77. It's OK.

And I think that Mitt, you know, he's dedicated his life, much of his life, to public service, and he's been an adult. He's been talking about policy, the future, and, frankly, in a party that really wants to focus on Donald Trump and his grievances in the past. And so, I think it's a big loss for the party, and we're going to need voices to replace him.


TAPPER: You've spent a lot of time with him. You've done documentaries about Mitt Romney and Ann Romney. What do you think the country loses with him retiring from politics? We still get him for a little bit more time, but like he's stepping aside.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: An honest politician. I think that what you heard today in that press conference was somebody who was telling the truth as he sought, and he wasn't sugarcoating anything. He wasn't sugarcoating how he felt about Donald Trump. He wasn't sugarcoating about how he felt about House Republicans or the whole notion of an impeachment inquiry. He was saying that he hadn't seen any hard evidence.

And so, you know, he stands out in many ways, obviously, as a Republican who voted twice for impeachment. But also as somebody who went on the Senate floor and said that he had to stick with his ethics and his moral values, and that's why he had to vote for impeachment. So it's, you know, it's rarity these days that you don't get canned answers from people. And I think today what you saw is who Mitt Romney really is.

TAPPER: Alencia, as the Democrat at the table, I'm sure you disagree with Mitt Romney, a very conservative Republican on most issues. Is there any part of you that feels bad that he's leaving or is it just good riddance?

ALENCIA JOHNSON, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER, BIDEN CAMPAIGN: Well, I'm kind of in the middle, and that if there's going to be a Republican in the Senate, I would appreciate it in being a Mitt Romney who will stand up to a Donald Trump, right? Who actually voted to impeach him, right? That is really important that he is taking. You know, he's looking at our politics and what they are, regardless of the party affiliation and talking about that. But you know, the reality is, as a Democrat, I see it as an opportunity for us to hopefully run someone that could potentially win in Utah.

I mean, it's an uphill battle.


JOHNSON: It is an uphill battle.

TAPPER: I'm giving her a lot of side.

BORGER: Yes. Yes.

TAPPER: (INAUDIBLE) is not catching it, but Alencia is laughing because there was a --

JOHNSON: I am laughing.

TAPPER: -- there's a lot of side eye being given over here. It's Utah. That's a pretty --

JOHNSON: It is Utah.

TAPPER: -- conservative place.

JOHNSON: And I hope though --

BORGER: More conservative, I think so.

JOHNSON: I mean, I think the one thing that we do hope is that whoever wins the seat is not any more extreme than Mitt Romney, that they would maybe toe the line that he does.

TAPPER: OK, good luck with that.

So Romney is the only Republican member of Congress to vote twice to impeach Donald Trump as we noted. Romney sat down with McKay Coppins. This is interesting. They -- he is cooperating with a biography of him by McKay, who's a great writer for The Atlantic. In an excerpt from that biography published today in The Atlantic, the senator tells Coppins a few months after the insurrection, quote, "A very large portion of my party, he told me one day, really doesn't believe in the Constitution."

Later, he goes on to talk about democracy, telling Coppins, quote, "This is a very fragile thing, he told me. Authoritarianism is like a gargoyle lurking over the cathedral, ready to pounce. For the first time in his life, he wasn't sure if the cathedral would hold." What do you make of that?

DENT: Well, I'm afraid that Romney is speaking truth again here, that there is an element within the party that is really susceptible to these authoritarian impulses. I think that's true. I like to think that's not most of the party, but there are some, you know, who will listen to Donald Trump when he talks about suspending the Constitution, they think, hey, attaboy, no, I mean, there are people who will go down that road. I think -- I don't think it's the majority, but it comes back to leadership. We need people standing up and talking about democratic values, democratic with small d, democratic values and leading the base rather than they're being led by Donald Trump with no other narrative out there. And Trump is making all these crazy autocratic type statements that people will follow.

TAPPER: And by the way, just for the record, you were one of the first Republicans in Congress I remember standing up to Donald Trump. Just --

DENT: Oh, yes.

TAPPER: -- just so people. I remember doing an interview with you for a documentary we were doing --

DENT: Yes.

TAPPER: -- and I remember thinking, oh, my God, he's going to get clobbered.

BORGER: He's going to be get punished, right.

JOHNSON: Better.

DENT: Oh, yes.

TAPPER: And speaking of which, Donald Trump reacted to the news on Truth Social in his typical classy fashion. He wrote, "Fantastic news for America, the great state of Utah, and for the Republican Party, Mitt Romney, sometimes referred to as Pierre Delecto." That's actually funny. That was Mitt Romney's burner Twitter account. That's a good -- that's a clean shot.


TAPPER: "Pierre Delecto will not be seeking a second term in the U.S. senate where he did not serve with distinction. A big primary fight against him was in the offing, but now that will not be necessary. Congrats to all. Make America great again."

BORGER: How gracious. I mean, come on. So, look, he's an enemy of Mitt Romney's because Mitt Romney voted twice to impeach him. And as Romney said today, you know, there are some people who were all about grievances and who were all about retribution.

TAPPER: There is.

BORGER: And that's Exhibit A.

TAPPER: Yes. One of the other things that's interesting here, and it's not a subtext, it's a text, is Mitt Romney saying, if I ran for re- election and won, I would be in my mid eighty s at the end of my term. And saying -- basically he said clearly that both Biden and Trump should step aside for a new generation, but also, basically, you know, we shouldn't have people in their 80s in the Senate.


JOHNSON: You know, that's been a topic of conversation for a very long time and not just when it comes to the people running for president, right? Some of the senators, their ages are being discussed as well. And look, I tend to -- I appreciate what he said. I appreciate that he is addressing it on the knows, but I also will say, look, you all know I support President Biden, and he's very sharp, and he has proven time and time again that, you know, while people have concerns about his age, he is very smart and been able to do a lot of things historically that other presidents haven't been able to. So, I'm pretty biased here.

TAPPER: Thank you one and all. Appreciate it.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy spent today trying to persuade members of his own party, an impeachment inquiry into President Biden was an appropriate step. How it's still not appeasing some MAGA members. What they told CNN about the move, next.

And nearly 60 years after the assassination of President John f. Kennedy, a secret service agent who was with him that day will be here on this show with what he says is information about a key piece of evidence from the scene. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead impeachment bait and switch, that's how one hard right House Republican describes Speaker Kevin McCarthy's impeachment inquiry into President Biden. CNN's Melanie Zanona is on Capitol Hill for us.

Melanie, Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida is not letting McCarthy off the hook. In fact, today he accused him of gas lighting the Republicans.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, that's right. Matt Gaetz, of course, has long been a thorn in the side of leadership. But Gaetz thinks that McCarthy is only now going down this route because hardliners like Gaetz have been threatening his speakership. They are angry about spending issues. They are angry that McCarthy violated the deal he made to become speaker back in January. And they're angry that he hasn't moved more quickly on the topic of impeachment and the topic of subpoenas.

But let's take a listen to what Gaetz told me a little bit ago.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Because we've seen a history with Kevin McCarthy where when his own power is jeopardized, he gaslights an impeachment that will never be. It is a way to divert from the very failure to align to the commitment that was made in January. So, you know, I think Joe Biden deserves impeachment, no question about that. We may be forcing some votes on it in the coming days and weeks.


ZANONA: Now, McCarthy is serious about launching an impeachment inquiry. He has already directed his committees to move forward and there are efforts underway to begin planning. James Comer, the head of the House Oversight Committee, said they're going to have a hearing sometime this month to lay out what they have found so far. There's also going to be some briefings. They briefed Senate Republicans today.

They're going to be briefing House Republicans tomorrow to try to really give them a sense of where things stand, even though they have yet to prove, Jake, all of their allegations about Biden directly profiting off his son's business deals or proving that Biden made policy decisions because of them. But of course, an impeachment inquiry is different than actual impeachment articles. And it is clear that there are still skeptics. A lot of moderates are not on board yet, so there's still a lot of work to go for House Republicans here, Jake.

TAPPER: Melanie, at least one of the House committees that is part of this impeachment inquiry is already planning its first hearing.

ZANONA: Yes, that's right. So that's the House Oversight Committee. They have not yet announced what witnesses are going to be or what that's going to look like or whether they would have new evidence at this point. A lot of what we heard has been these recycled allegations that we've been hearing. And a lot of these committees have already been at work trying to bring in witnesses, trying to get their hands on bank records, but they are trying to move forward and show that they have momentum with this impeachment inquiry.

Again, it's unclear how long this timeline is going to be when they're going to wrap it up, but a lot of Republicans telling us they want to finish it before the end of this year, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Melanie Zanona, thanks so much.

Now to the race for 2024, let's cue that music, the special election music. Yes. Yes.

The next Republican presidential debate is exactly two weeks away. Looking to repeat his standout performance from the first one, at least that's what many critics said, is presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy. Today, Ramaswamy, speaking at a conservative think tank here in D.C. about gutting the FBI, the Department of Education and other federal agencies, effectively promised to lay off thousands of federal workers. CNN's Eva McKend has more for us now on Ramaswamy's speech and his efforts to differentiate himself from the Republican presidential frontrunner former president Donald Trump.


VIVEK RAMASWAMY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE; We're going to get a lot of pushback to this speech, I have no doubt about it.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy vowing to go further than Donald Trump in reducing the size of the federal government.

RAMASWAMY: This vision is not an original vision. Excellent presidents from Reagan to Trump have spoken to the same ideal, and I give credit to Donald Trump for taking more steps than have been taken in a generation.

MCKEND (voice-over): During his 2016 campaign for the White House, Trump made a rallying cry out of cutting the federal bureaucracy.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is time to drain the swamp in Washington, D.C.

MCKEND (voice-over): Now, Ramaswamy, who is attempting to seize the label of political outsider, is making the case he would be the presidential hopeful best able to accomplish that task.

RAMASWAMY: I do think it takes an outsider who has, if I may say, complete and total disregard for the norms of Washington, D.C. And I'm guilty as charged on that.

MCKEND (voice-over): Speaking at a Trump aligned think tank in Washington, Ramaswamy unveiling his proposal to eliminate at least five major government agencies, including the Department of Education, the FBI, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It's part of a push by the political newcomer to reduce the federal workforce by 75 percent.

RAMASWAMY: The people who we elect to run the government ought to be the ones who actually run the government, not the managerial bureaucracy in three letter government agencies.

MCKEND (voice-over): Past Republican presidents have proposed sweeping cuts to the federal government only to encounter significant obstacles. Ronald Reagan called for eliminating the Departments of Education and Energy, but both agencies still exist.


NORMAN ORNSTEIN, SENIOR EMERITUS FELLOW, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: Presidents can't just willy-nilly fire a million employees, abolish agencies, and do it without involvement by Congress. And frankly, no Congress would go along with a crazy plan like this.

MCKEND (voice-over): Trump has said he wants to move the Department of Education responsibilities to the states. And Ron DeSantis has discussed closing agencies, too, the IRS and Departments of Commerce, Energy and Education. But Ramaswamy goes further.

RAMASWAMY: Do we want incremental reform or do we want revolution?


MCKEND: This marks another radical policy proposal from the 38-year- old Ohio entrepreneur who has shaken up the political field with pronouncements like raising the voting age to 25 and eliminating automatic citizenship to American born citizens -- American born children, rather, of undocumented immigrants. Running to the right of his opponents, Ramaswamy is convinced, if elected, his latest plan can survive legal challenges given the current makeup of the Supreme Court. So, Jake, he met with some of us reporters after that speech and on the record but off camera briefing, and he essentially said, the reason why I think I can do all of this is given the makeup of the court.

TAPPER: All right, very interesting. We're going to be taking many more deep dives into these policy proposals from these candidates. Thanks so much, Eva McKend. Really appreciate it.

Coming up, a police dog, a plane with heat sensing technology, and some tall, tall grass. Stunning new details emerging about the now captured Pennsylvania fugitive who had been on the run for 14 days after escaping from a Chester County, Pennsylvania prison. That's next.



TAPPER: In our national lead, new pictures just in to CNN from the U.S. Marshal Service showing the exact moment that the escaped killer was caught after 14 days on the run. Heat seeking technology and a canine were used to find and capture Danelo Cavalcante as he apparently slept atop his stolen rifle in the tall, tall grass of Chester County, Pennsylvania. The convicted murderer who escaped from the Pennsylvania prison by crab walking his way out now heading back to a life behind bars along with a new felony escape charge. CNN's Danny Freeman has more on how this wild cat and mouse chase ended.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The subject is in custody. Repeating, subject is in custody.

DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After 14 days, multiple search perimeters and hundreds of law enforcement officers combing woods, farms and creeks, escaped inmate Danelo Cavalcante is finally caught.

LT. COL. GEORGE BIVENS, PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE: It is a true pleasure to stand here this morning and talk to all of you about bringing this manhunt to a successful conclusion.

FREEMAN (voice-over): The convicted murderer who crab walked out of a Chester County prison seen this morning from above by CNN affiliate CBS News, Philadelphia in cuffs, disheveled and bloody.

GOV. JOSH SHAPIRO (D-PA): It was apprehended this morning with no shots fired.

FREEMAN (voice-over): The dramatic capture set in motion just after midnight Wednesday. Police got a call about a burglary alarm near Prizer Road toward the eastern edge of the law enforcement perimeter set up in northern Chester County. Tactical teams rushed to the area but couldn't find anything until support arrived from above.

BIVENS: There was an aircraft overhead utilizing FLIR technology and close to 01:00 a.m. picked up a heat signal that they began to track.

FREEMAN (voice-over): But then came a storm.

BIVENS: We had a weather system that also came in, and we had lightning that was flashing all around, and it caused the aircraft to have to depart the area. FREEMAN (voice-over): But police said the tactical teams stayed on the ground and secured the area through the storm. Then shortly after 08:00 a.m., the storm gone, the team moved in on this wooded area behind a local business.

BIVENS: They were able to move in very quietly. They had the element of surprise. Cavalcante did not realize he was surrounded until that had occurred. That did not stop him from trying to escape.

FREEMAN (voice-over): The man, who had avoided police for two weeks made one last effort to crawl away, but a Border Patrol dog stopped him.

BIVENS: He continued to resist, but was forcibly taken into custody. No one was injured as a result of that. He did sustain a minor bite wound.

FREEMAN (on camera): So from your perspective, this was one of the best opportunities they had to get him.

DOUG BREWER, WITNESSED INMATE'S CAPTURE: The walkie (ph), yes, yes, because if he got out of here, it had been real tough.

FREEMAN (voice-over): Doug Brewer works right up against the wooded area where Cavalcante was found.

BREWER: It was just kind of nice to, you know, to know that they got him and, you know, we can go back to life. You know, go back to doing our thing normally.

FREEMAN (voice-over): And relief felt by the family of Deborah Brandao, the woman Cavalcante brutally stabbed in front of her two young children.

DEB RYAN, CHESTER COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: One of the first calls we made upon learning about this capture was to the Brandao family, who, as you can imagine, had been living in a complete nightmare. They can now finally sleep again.


TAPPER: Danny, let's go back to those stunning new photos of Cavalcante's capture. You're near where they captured him this morning. Walk us through how you knew something was happening.

That's right, Jake. Well, earlier this morning, we recognized that something was happening because helicopters really began to circle very tightly around this area, which was about a mile down the road from where we have been for the duration of this part of the perimeter and this part of Chester county.


But like you said, Jake, this photo just released by the U.S. Marshals just really captures not just the intensity of the moment this capture happened this morning, but also the intense dense of the woods that are right behind me in this forest. And you can see Cavalcante on the ground. You can see all of these law enforcement officers apprehending him right there.

And, Jake, perhaps most importantly, you can see that border patrol canine at the bottom of the screen, that dog really responsible for stopping Cavalcante as he tried to make one final escape, but that did not work, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Danny Freeman, thank you so much and great coverage. You've been covering this now for two weeks. You've done a fantastic job. Good job, man.

FREEMAN: Thank you.

TAPPER: Be sure to tune into CNN tonight. Laura Coates takes a look at the Manhunt: Capturing a Killer. That's at 11:00 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.

Outgoing Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley speaking out to CNN today about former president Donald Trump's accusation that Milley wanted the U.S. to attack Iran. That story is next.



TAPPER: A federal judge has ruled to restrict former President Donald Trump's access to classified information as Mr. Trump prepares to head to trial for allegedly criminally mishandling sensitive national security secrets. The federal indictment includes Trump's handling of a classified Pentagon document about a potential attack on Iran.

You can hear Trump blame his Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, for wanting to attack Iran. This is a recording at his Bedminster resort in audio, exclusively obtained by CNN last June.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Isn't it amazing? I have a big pile of papers, this thing just came up. Look. This was him. They presented me this. This is off the record, but they presented me this. This wasn't done by me. This was him. All sorts of stuff, pages long, look.


TAPPER: As General Mark Milley prepares to retire as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He sat down for an exit interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria. And here's what he had to say specifically about who was pressing whom to attack Iran.


FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, CNN'S FAREED ZAKARIA'S GPS ANCHOR: There's a specific accusation about you made by the former President's Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, and he says that there is this four-page memo attack plan to attack for the United States to attack Iran. Trump himself has talked about this. This is the famous classified document that he was waving around. But Meadows makes the accusation that you were pressing President Trump to attack Iran. There are other reports that say, in fact, it was Trump who was pressing you. What is the accurate statement here?

GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Well, Fareed, look, it'd be very inappropriate for me to comment on anything that's under a current federal investigation, so I won't. But let me just say this. As the chairman or any member of the joint chiefs, our job is to render advice. We have plans for all kinds of things. And when we render advice, typically we say course of action, one, two, or three. We talk about the costs and the risks and we make recommendations. And I can assure you that not one time have I ever recommended to attack Iran.

ZAKARIA: When Trump talks about, you know, this plan and he says, you know, they've been pushing it on me, or he sort of implies that this is a document that presumably goes through the options and gives the President the final decision.

MILLEY: I don't know the document they're talking about. I've never seen, you know, no one's presented me what it is they're talking about. So I really still can't comment on it. But I can assure you that, you know, a military attack in Iran is a very, very serious undertaking. We have capabilities, we have plans that's not particularly unusual to comment on that. But I am not going to go further and discuss any of the details. But I can tell you with certainty that this chairman never recommended a wholesale attack on Iran.

And to do that, I think, would require a significant degree of risk that we may or may not want to take, given the circumstances. But that part of it didn't happen. And I'm not sure, I don't know the exact quotes that Mr. Meadows said, but I can assure you I know what I've done, and it's not to recommend an attack on Iran.


TAPPER: Joining me to discuss is Congressman and Chairman of the Select House Committee on Intelligence, Mike Turner of Ohio. Thanks so much for joining us, Chairman. What's your reaction to General Milley's response that he never recommended a wholesale attack on Iran?

REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, of course I believe him. I mean, he has great credibility, and I've been with him in meetings concerning Iran, and I've never seen any indication of his desire or willingness to make recommendations that would result in a military conflict. But I think what's important here about what he just said is, you know, any of our adversaries, you would expect that, of course, our military is looking at what options would be necessary in case there was a conflict that, you know, illuminates to us what capabilities we need, what capabilities they have. Those types of exercises or reviewing is what you would expect of your military for all of our adversaries, especially those self- declared and who are also antagonistic to our allies.

TAPPER: Aside from Trump and General Milley pointing the finger at each other over who might have wanted to attack Iran, it is obviously, as you note, the job of the military to create dozens of contingency plans over any possible ways to protect national security. We just don't expect leaders to discuss those plans publicly or, you know, in -- with individuals who can't be trusted to keep that information, you know, discreet.


TURNER: Well, certainly it has, you know, a -- it sounds as if it's extraordinary. I think brings greater attention to the fact that it looks like the United States is antagonist, when in fact we're dealing with Iran who is, you know, aggressor throughout their area and continues to threaten both the United States and our allies. So I think it also mischaracterized the situation that we're trying to address here.

But, you know, we didn't take any military action against Iran. And I think you would, as you had just said, expect that our military would understand in all of our adversaries, especially those that are self- declared, and that those who have such great capabilities to do exercises, to do planning in case we find ourselves in a conflict.

TAPPER: Biggest news among House Republicans this week, of course, is Speaker Kevin McCarthy calling to open a formal impeachment inquiry against President Biden. Based on any evidence you have seen, do you support this inquiry and don't you think there should have been a vote as he pledged, just like 12 days ago there was going to be?

TURNER: Well, Nancy Pelosi as you know, had no vote when she opened an inquiry. This is just an inquiry, meaning an investigation. What it goes to is the next step of giving Congress additional tools and subpoena power for documents that they need. I think Chairman Comer has done a great job and the documents that he's found, he's put up on the Oversight House website that show the monies, the accounts, the issues of where there's real question as to what Hunter Biden and what Joe Biden himself might have been doing. And so certainly the investigation needs to continue.

TAPPER: Congressman Mike Turner, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it. And you can see more of Fareed Zakaria's interview with General Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on GPS this Sunday at 10:00 a.m.

Coming up, he was one of the Secret Service agents at John F. Kennedy's side when the President was assassinated in Dallas. And now he's sharing a story about one of the bullets that's raising new questions about what actually happened that horrible day. That former Secret Service agent will be here to tell me his story, next.


[17:46:11] TAPPER: In our National Lead, a new version of what might have happened to the magic bullet that was key to the official story of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. According to the Warren Commission report, this is in a new book called "The Final Witness: A Kennedy Secret Service Agent Breaks His Silence After 60 Years." The book is by one time Secret Service agent Paul Landis, who was then in his late 20s and provided security for the First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy.

Now, Landis's book is adding to the controversy over what has been called the Magic Bullet Theory, a reference to the Warren Commission's conclusion that before the fatal shot hit Kennedy in the head, a single bullet, recovered almost intact, passed through Kennedy's throat and continued on to seriously wound Texas Governor John Connally in the seat in front of Kennedy. Landis was in the car directly behind President Kennedy's limousine on November 22nd, 1963. He heard the shots and he saw with his own eyes much of what happened.

Landis filed reports and continued working in the security detail for Mrs. Kennedy. But he left the Secret Service less than a year after the assassination. And he never mentioned then his own moment with that single intact bullet until he says he found out the Warren Commission report did not match his memory.

Landis writes, quote the super bullet hadn't been on Governor Connally's stretcher in trauma room number two. I recognized it as the bullet I had found in the limo and placed next to President Kennedy's feet in trauma room number one. That assertion has kicked up a debate over the so called Magic Bullet, and former Secret Service Agent Paul Landis joins us now to talk about his book. Thank you so much for joining us, sir. So you were in the car directly behind Kennedy's during the Dallas motorcade. What do you remember about the shots being fired?

PAUL LANDIS, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: I was riding on the right rear bumper, the half back, the follow up car, and we had just completed our turn off of Houston Street onto Elm. And the two cars, the President's limo, half back, the follow up car, were just straightening out when I heard a loud report that I recognized as coming from a high powered rifle. And I immediately turned, looked over my shoulder to the right where the sound had come from, and I couldn't see anything right away.

And I turned quickly and looked at the President, and President Kennedy was kind of leaning a little bit to his left towards Mrs. Kennedy. There was a second shot. Again, I saw no reaction from where I was inside the President's limo. And we were starting to move at a little higher rate of speed. Clint Hill was racing towards the President's limo. And almost immediately after the second shot, there was a third report and we passed under the overpass and raced from there to Parkland Memorial Hospital.

TAPPER: Yes, I want to get to what happened at the hospital, but just to clarify, do you think there was only one gunman?

LANDIS: I did. I only heard three shots. Yes, they all came from the rear. The third shot we were so close to the overpass, it sounded like the sound was there or came from that direction. But it was later when I learned that there had been three cartridge cases founded in the schoolbook depository, and everything was kind of associated with Oswald at that point.


TAPPER: Right. Let's get to your actions after the motorcade arrived at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. You write that you saw two bullet fragments sitting in a pool of blood. You picked one up and you put it back. Then you say you found an intact bullet in the seat. And you write, quote, it was a completely intact bullet. It had been hidden behind Mrs. Kennedy all the time she was seated. No wonder I hadn't seen it sooner. I picked it up and quickly examined it. It was approximately two inches long and in almost perfect condition. It was not distorted in any way and had rifle striations running lengthwide along the sides. Man, oh man, oh man, I thought. What should I do? And you write that you put it in your pocket. Why'd you put it in your pocket?

LANDIS: I started to put it back, and then I hesitated for a moment because I had looked around when I had been scanning the back area, I saw no Secret Service agents there to secure the car. And we were getting ready to exit the limo. And I didn't want to leave the bullet there because I was afraid people were starting to converge towards the car. I thought a souvenir hunter. Somebody might see that. I didn't want to have the press be taking pictures or doing anything like that.

TAPPER: And then you write that you put the bullet on the stainless steel examination table where President Kennedy was being treated. The examination table is not the same thing as the gurney used to bring Kennedy from the limousine into the hospital. Exactly where did you put the bullet and why did you put it there?

LANDIS: With the crowd, I got just pushed into that room. I was right behind Mrs. Kennedy when we're entering the room. I stepped behind her to keep her from getting pushed. And the crowd, she stepped to the side, to the left, just inside the doorway when we entered the trauma room. People were pushing and shoving, and I just got shoved right up against the examination table.

And it just so happened I was right there next to the President's feet. People were coming in. It was chaos. And at that moment, I thought, well, this is the perfect place to leave the bullet. It should be with the President's body. It's an important piece of evidence, and this was the opportunity to leave it. So I slipped it out of my pocket, put it next to the President's shoes.

TAPPER: Obviously, witnessing the Kennedy assassination must have been hugely traumatic. Is that why this account is different from what you said at the time? Why are the memories new?

LANDIS: Well, that's pretty tough at the time. Everything was pretty stressful for all the agents. There was a lot of rushing around trying just to figure things out, what to do. Vice President Johnson had been rushed into the hospital. I wasn't aware of where he was or what was happening with him. I just stayed in view of Mrs. Kennedy. And I kept trying -- I was afraid I was going to pass out. And I kept telling myself, I got to hang in or I've got to hang in there.

And at one point, somebody came out of the trauma room one said, anybody know the President's blood type. And Clint Hill, Roy Kellerman both reached for their pill folds and Roy Kellerman got the answer first.

TAPPER: It does seem as though this new account calls into question the so called magic bullet theory that perhaps this provides new information, but it doesn't necessarily change the conclusion of who assassinated President Kennedy. I mean is that what you want people to take away from that specific part of this larger narrative in your book?

LANDIS: When I wrote my book, all I wanted to do was tell people what I saw and what I did. It was not to take away from my feelings. I had never read the Warren Commission report. I wasn't interviewed. I expected to be. I was afraid I would because I afraid I was going to break down and be an embarrassment to the Secret Service.


I was -- all I saw that whole weekend was, I had like a newsreel tape going through my mind over and over of the President's head exploding. And it was a pretty tough time for me, and that's why I ended up leaving the service. I said I was going to give myself six months. If I didn't feel any better, I was out of here.

And I reached the point where I thought I was going to be not a good agent. I was lose confidence in myself. And I just felt that if I got away, if I stayed, I would have been an embarrassment to the Secret Service and failed in some way or another.

TAPPER: Paul Landis, thank you so much. Congratulations on your book. It was an honor talking to you. Again, the name of the book is the final witness. It comes out October 10th, but you can preorder it now. We really appreciate your time today, sir.

LANDIS: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up next, the political impact of Republican Senator Mitt Romney announcing he will not run for reelection.