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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Biden: Can't Allow Ukraine To Be "Carved Up"; House GOP Infighting Escalates Over Plan To Avoid Shutdown; FBI And IRS Officials Dispute IRS Whistleblowers' Allegation Of Political Interference In Hunter Biden Tax Investigation; Hunter Biden Sues IRS Over Release of His Tax Info; Russell Brand Denies Allegations Of Rape, Assault; Doc Shows How Zelenskyy Went From Comedian To War-Time Leader. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired September 19, 2023 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Most, if not all Republican senator think we ought to dress up to go to work. And so I can't imagine that we're going to be wearing jeans on the Senate floor anytime soon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: The thing is the definition of business attire has changed since the pandemic. So board shorts maybe on the Senate floor --
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I don't know about that. Boris.
THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.
SANCHEZ: Keep it casual, keep it casual.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: New York is known for its theater and there was quite a lot of drama there today.
THE LEAD starts right now.
World leaders taking the stage, pushing their priorities for some of the biggest issues of our time. Casting Russia's Vladimir Putin as global villain number one, while fighting against waning support for Ukraine.
And, here in D.C., a moderate House Republican calling his party a, quote, clown show. While infighting and name-calling do nothing to solve the more immediate problem of federal government set to shut down in just 12 days.
Plus, new allegations against celebrity Russell Brand as a new accuser comes forward. Police now looking into the multiple allegations of rape and sexual assault against the disgraced comedian. (MUSIC)
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
The world lead dominates the week with so much focus on foreign policy right now at the United Nations. It also comes against major accusations by one democracy, Canada, accusing another democracy, India, of directing an assassination on Canadian sovereign territory. We'll dive into that democracy versus democracy action in a bit.
Also ahead, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis coming out swinging against Donald Trump, on one of the most contentious election issues for Republican voters. We'll discuss that with one of the biggest names in conservative talk radio who's also calling some House Republicans hypocrites for their personal behavior.
Plus, this hour, we're going to talk to the Hollywood A-lister who is in the room and the bunker in Ukraine when bombs started falling. We'll see how he documented it.
But first, a daunting United Nations agenda as the world faces the highest number of violent conflicts at once since the 1940s. First and foremost, of course, Putin's now 18-month long bloody invasion of Ukraine. This afternoon in New York, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned the global leaders that Russia's invasion was, quote, not only about Ukraine.
CNN's Kayla Tausche is at the U.N. for us as member nations are attempting to gin up support for Ukraine under the lengthening shadow of war.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My fellow leaders, we gather once more at an inflection point in world history.
KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): U.S. President Joe Biden urging the United Nations to stand with Ukraine as war with Russia drags on and he battles for more aid money with his Congress.
BIDEN: When I ask you this, if we abandon the core principals of the United States to appease an aggressor, can any member stayed in this body feel confident that they are protected? If we allow Ukraine to be carved up, is the independence of any nation secure? I'd respectfully suggest the answer is no.
TAUSCHE: The message meant to galvanize many war-weary countries nearly 600 days after Russia's invasion that Ukraine could be any of them. Poland, Ukraine's neighbor to the West, knows that all too well.
PRES. ANDREZEJ DUDA, POLAND: On 1st September, 1939, Nazi Germany invaded my homeland, Poland. The Second World War broke out. On 17, September, 1939, we received a blow from another direction. The Soviet Union also made an onslaught on Poland. This is precisely why we understand the tragedy of Ukraine better than any other country in the world.
TAUSCHE: Poland has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine, providing military aid, transportation, and refuge for thousands.
DUDA: Upon Russian aggression in Ukraine, Poles have once again illustrated that solidarity is not only the great history, but that solidarity lives in us.
TAUSCHE: Ukraine's president making his first in-person visit to the forum, called on all countries to join the fight.
PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE: We must act united to defeat the aggressor and focus all our capabilities and energy on addressing these challenges.
TAUSCHE: And that the founding principles of the United Nations must be upheld.
ZELENSKYY: Weaponization must be restrained. War crimes must be punished. Deported people must come back home and occupier must return to their own land. We must be united to make it. And we'll do it. Slava Ukraini!
TAUSCHE (on camera): Amid high-profile absences including that of Russian President Vladimir Putin, growing questions about the relevance and the efficacy of the forum like the United Nations for international cooperation. Poland's president addressed that in his remarks. He says that the U.N. is much needed and that there is no better system available to deliver aid to those in need -- Jake.
TAPPER: We're going to talk to Poland's president in a second. But, Kayla, President Biden and President Zelenskyy are going to meet later this week back here in Washington, D.C. Tell us how that meeting is different from previous meetings the two have had.
TAUSCHE: Well, unlike previous meetings, this meeting is coming at a time where there really needs to be a sales pitch. President Biden is going to be meeting with Zelenskyy at the White House on Thursday. The White House has submitted to Congress a request for $24 billion in funding that would help Ukraine defend itself through the end of this calendar year. But Congress isn't sold. Zelenskyy is going to be on Capitol Hill as well.
But unlike previous visits, he's not expected to meet with the entirety of the Republican conference in the House of the Representatives. He is expected to meet with congressional leaders and Jake Sullivan, who is the national security adviser for the Biden administration has said that in some of his own conversations with congressional leaders, that he has gotten so optimism that there would be bipartisan support for some package for Ukraine without saying specifically that there could be support for the full $24 billion -- Jake. TAPPER: The reporting right now is that there is not support for more
aid for Ukraine, for financial aid for Ukraine among a majority of the House Republicans, who obviously have their slight majority in the House. Now that doesn't mean that there won't be aid to Ukraine. They could pass a bill that doesn't have it and goes to the Senate and they re-add it and then ultimately it gets added in conference committee.
But it is important for Zelenskyy to make his case to House Republicans. How difficult is that going to be?
TAUSCHE: It's going to be incredibly difficult, for the reasons that you just mentioned. Although there is some optimism and some hope on behalf of the administration that there would be some vehicles, some format for aid going forward. Even if it is not in the original proposal that Republicans come up with, that they feel that they could garner support for in the House.
Zelenskyy has a tall order on Capitol Hill. No doubt. And he seems to know that that is the case. We will see how he manages to galvanize that support if he is able to.
But it is also worth noting, Jake, that there is a very important meeting happening here at the United Nations in New York between Zelenskyy and the leaders of the United Nations and the Turkish leader about the future of the Black Sea grain deal. Russia has been bombing grain infrastructure and not allowing the passage of grain exports which is one of the biggest issues for food security around the world. They're hoping to find some sort of a breakthrough but there the administration says Russia is not going to allow any pathway for that grain and there's no immediate pathway at least according to the White House back into that deal for now.
TAPPER: All right. Kayla Tausche, thank you so much.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is sitting down with Wolf Blitzer and you could see that interview on CNN right after THE LEAD in "THE SITUATION ROOM." That's at 6:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.
Coming up, my one-on-one interview with the president of the Poland, Andrzej Duda. He was just warning world, remember World War II in terms of their not paying attention to Ukraine.
Also ahead, words such as stupidity and lunatics and clown car thrown around as House Republicans point fingers at each other for the lack of action to stop the government shutdown in 12 days.
Plus, Republican firebrand Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, the vibrant, animated, dare we say lit behavior as the kids say, that got her kicked out of a musical, "Beetlejuice". Why one conservative radio host says Republicans have no room to continue throwing stones if they keep behaving like this in public.
And new testimony directly contradicting an IRS whistleblower who came forward with claims about the president's son Hunter Biden.
All that coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
TAPPER: In our politics lead, welcome to family feud, House Republican edition. Republican infighting over a spending bill is on track to shout down the federal government in just 12 days. Today, the drama spilling out onto the Capitol steps.
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REP. MIKE LAWLER (R-NY): This is not conservative Republicanism. This is stupidity. You keep running lunatics and you're going to be in this position.
REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): I don't know whether we'll have the votes or not because I have a lot of conservative friends who like to beat their chest and thump around going oh, this isn't pure enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Those aforementioned, quote, conservative friends and lunatics are a group of hard-line Republicans who are blockading a continuing resolution, that's a spending bill, brokered in part by conservative Florida Congressman Byron Donalds, which would have enough support to make it through the Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Right now, my full effort is assembling a large enough coalition to defeat the Donalds continuing resolution. But we're certainly heading in that direction.
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TAPPER: The outcome of this Republican on Republican violence is, of course, impacting you, if there ends up being a government shutdown. Not to mention, of course, the larger issues of deficit spending and the refusal of Congress to work instructively in a bipartisan, bicameral fashion to steer the nation toward a sustainable budget path. But what am I talking about even?
This also impacts House Speaker McCarthy because those same hard-line Republicans holding up the spending bill right now are holdings Speaker McCarthy's job hostage in many ways by threatening to hold a vote to fire him from his speakership.
Let's discuss all of this and more with Erick Erickson, conservative radio host.
Erick, I know you want Congress to reduce spending. Do you think a government shutdown right now is the best way to do it? I guess I'm asking, are you with Bryon Donalds or are you with Matt Gaetz? ERICK ERICKSON, HOST, "THE ERICK ERICKSON SHOW": I like government shutdowns. I actually don't oppose them, but the Byron Donalds plan cuts government 8 percent, not for the -- not for future growth but actual current spending down by 8 percent, 1 percent for everywhere outside of the Defense Department and Department of Veterans' Affairs. That's pretty good deal. You've got hard-line Republican Congressman Chip Roy from Texas supporting the plan. The House Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry supported the plan. Those two guys are two of the most conservative members of the House.
So you got a couple though, who know there's a four-seat majority so they can kind of nickel and dime it. I don't know that anything they pass will actually get passed the Senate. But they have to come up with something to start the process with the Senate. And this sounds like a pretty good start.
TAPPER: So what do you think is motivating the Matt Gaetzes of the world?
ERICKSON: Matt Gaetz likes to be Matt Gaetz. He also was the guy who nearly forced another vote on the speaker back in January when everything was happening. He wants to look like he can get something out of this because he wanted to run for governor of Florida in 2026 against Byron Donalds so he wants to hurt the deal because Byron might run against him. But it has more to do with political performance than it does actual practical policy.
TAPPER: There is also this big question, do you think Speaker McCarthy is going to survive until November of 2024?
ERICKSON: You know, he's -- I'm not a huge fan, but he's been able to pull a lot of rabbits out of hats nobody expected him to. I mean, there is going to get a deal one way or the other. The problem for guys like Matt Gaetz is, if you can't pick up the Republicans, they start cutting a deal with the Democrats and suddenly you're real world spending cuts of government go away.
TAPPER: Let's talk about Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert of Colorado. She was recently kicked out of a performance of "Beetlejuice", the musical, for vaping and engaging in some R-rated groping with her date. You recently wrote, quote, we don't get to criticize the left's moral deviances when our side props up its own moral deviants. You have no moral authority to challenge the left's sexual standards which you defend the sexual deviances of the right, unquote.
And you're getting some pushback from your conservative listeners.
ERICKSON: Yeah, look, there are two camps within the Republican Party. One is you can't complain about the country being in decline when you continue to send people to Washington who participate in the decline. And the other is, we just someone to reliably fight against the left. The problem is so much of the right's argument against the left right now is cultural and it is based on moral. You hear a lot of conservatives say what the left is doing, the transgender agenda and the like is evil. Well, that's a moral claim. You can't then send people who are publicly flaunting their morality in public and have the public treat you seriously.
The other thing is, if Republicans really want people to fight, well, Lauren Boebert barely won her re-election in an off year in Colorado. In 2024, she's going to have President Biden's ground game in Colorado up against her in addition to the guy who almost beat her last time. So if you really are concerned about we need to fight the left, you got a very vulnerable congresswoman who might need to work on her private life instead of publicly revealing it on TV.
TAPPER: You have also called out various Republican public officials for alleged infidelities or not so alleged. Do you think it's possible that Donald Trump just changed Republican standards when it comes to that issue?
ERICKSON: Yeah, I think it made the Republicans comfortable behaving like Trump. The problem here, though, Jake, and I've written this now for about five years, every Republican who decides to act like Donald Trump winds up losing ultimately. People do impressions of Donald Trump and they're not Trump.
Voters like Donald Trump. They don't like these other people. They could tolerate one guy. But tolerating every Republican at some point, you have enough Republican voters who say, I'm tired of picking the lesser of two evils. It's still evil. I think I'm going to sit it out.
And just as Democrats are seeing nonwhite voters started to say, I'm getting nothing from Biden, I may stay home, you're going to have a lot of Christian Republican voters who say, I'm kind of tired of holding my nose. I think I'm going to stay home and that hurts their turnout.
TAPPER: Erick Erickson, always good to have you on, thank you so much. Good to see you.
ERICKSON: Thank you.
TAPPER: Coming up next, the new witnesses coming forward in Hunter Biden's tax fraud investigation. They're directly contradicting whistleblowers who've already come forward. We'll talk to one of those whistleblowers.
Plus, this major programming note for THE LEAD. Next week, I will be speaking with former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson who was chief of staff for Mark Meadows, you remember her testimony before the January 6th Committee and you could see that next Tuesday right here on THE LEAD at 4:00 Eastern.
TAPPER: In our law and justice lead, new testimony from FBI and IRS officials seems to contradict some of the key claims from an IRS whistleblower who alleges there was political inference in the federal criminal investigation of Hunter Biden's taxes. But this could just as easily be our political lead because the whistleblower's claims play into the Republican narrative that the Hunter Biden investigation was slow walked by a politicized and weaponized Justice Department.
We're joined by CNN's Kara Scannell and Sara Murray to help sort all this out.
Kara, first to you, tell us about this whistleblower, his claims and who exactly is disputing them.
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. So the IRS whistleblower, Gary Shapley, has testified before the committee saying at this October 2022 meeting, with law enforcement officials, the U.S. attorney overseeing the Hunter Biden investigation David Weiss had said that he didn't have ultimate decision-making authority on whether to bring the case. And that he had asked for and was denied special counsel status.
So, now, three top law enforcement officials who were in the meeting, including Shapley's supervisor and the head of the FBI office investigating Hunter Biden cast doubts on that. They say they have no recollection of that happening. The FBI special agent said it is in his recollection, if he had said that, that he would have remembered it. So, pretty strong denials there.
Now, Shapley's attorneys saying that Shapley, unlike the others, has handwritten notes and he memorized those in an email to his supervisor. So, they're standing by their version of the story, Jake.
TAPPER: And, Kara, while FBI and IRS officials are contesting some of the whistleblower IRS agent Gary Shapley's claims, they are also confirming the things that he said, right?
SCANNELL: Yeah. They're confirming certain parts of his recollection from that meeting, specifically that the U.S. Attorney David Weiss said that he tried to team up with U.S. attorneys in both Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles on potential tax charges, and that neither one of those U.S. attorneys wanted to go along and join this investigation. So that does confirm what Shapley has testified.
Now one of the officials said he didn't take that to mean that Weiss couldn't move forward. It just meant they have to figure out another way to do that, Jake.
TAPPER: And, Sara, Attorney General Merrick Garland is due to testify on Capitol Hill tomorrow before the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee at a hearing on what Republicans allege is the politicization and weaponization of the Justice Department under Garland's leader slip and under Joe Biden. We are expecting some fireworks.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. I mean, this is an opportunity for Republicans on this committee to get their pound of flesh. Obviously, Jim Jordan has had a lot of complaints about how the Justice Department conducts itself and how the FBI has conducted a number of investigations and, of course, at top of mind is how the Hunter Biden investigation has been conducted and I think we're going to see fireworks because there is a lot of frustration especially on the side of House Republicans who are going to want answers to some specific investigations including this Hunter Biden investigation.
They're just not going to get. They're not going to get the kinds of responses that they want to get out of Attorney General Merrick Garland when there are ongoing investigations, when there are ongoing prosecutions on the table. So, I suspect he'll be getting an earful on Capitol Hill tomorrow.
TAPPER: And, Sara, meanwhile, House committees are moving full speed ahead on Republicans' new impeachment inquiry that they voted for or they didn't vote rather by McCarthy pushed to them, aimed at President Joe Biden. Tell us about that.
MURRAY: Yeah, that is right. I mean, it sounds like the three committees are still working on a document to outline what exactly the scope of this impeachment inquiry is going to be. But House oversight is already moving ahead with a hearing they've scheduled for next week and House Oversight Chairman James Comer is telling our Annie Grayer that they do plan to move ahead soon with subpoenas for Hunter Biden and James Biden personal bank records.
Now, we've sort of seen the committee move around those two individuals, go to banks, go to other associates trying to get this information. This will be the first time when they do issue these subpoenas that they're going directly to members of Joe Biden's family and seeking this kind of banking information, Jake.
TAPPER: And, Kara, all of this is playing against the back drop of Hunter Biden's legal team, pursuing a more aggressive strategy both legally and in the public relations front?
SCANNELL: Yeah. Jake, that's right. I mean, they're definitely putting forward a more aggressive strategy, including in some of their dealings with the Hill. I know, and as we saw yesterday, Biden filed a lawsuit against IRS saying that his privacy rights were violated when the whistleblowers went forward and disclosed that he was under investigation. And then went beyond that in some interviews and talked about some of the specific details of his tax returns. So they filed that lawsuit, it is one of what we may see to be more aggressive action that they're taking, Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Kara Scannell and Sara Murray, thanks to you. Appreciate it.
Another whistleblower mentioned in a new lawsuit from Hunter Biden is going to join me. What does he say about the disputed claims? We'll talk about that next.
TAPPER: We're continuing with our law and justice/politics lead and CNN's new reporting that testimony from FBI officials contradicts key claims from IRS whistleblower Gary Shapley who alleges there was political interference in that federal criminal investigation of Hunter Biden's taxes. This comes the day after Hunter Biden and his attorneys filed a lawsuit against the IRS, accusing the agency and its agents of illegally releasing his tax information.
I'm joined by another IRS whistleblower who has testified under oath before Congress, Joseph Ziegler, who's been on the show before.
Thanks for joining us. Appreciate it.
So you were here on THE LEAD back on July 20th, that's the day after you and Gary Shapley testified before the House Oversight Committee. This week, Hunter Biden and his attorneys filed a lawsuit against the IRS, claiming that the IRS improperly released Hunter Biden's confidential tax information and the lawsuit mentioned you by name, and says, quote, in a July 20th, 2023 interview with Jake Tapper of CNN, Mr. Ziegler alleged for the first time publicly that he recommended felony and misdemeanor charges for Mr. Biden for tax year 2017.
Let's roll that part of the interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Do you know of criminal charges against Hunter Biden that were not filed that definitively there is evidence, proof that they should be filed, that he should be facing justice for?
JOSEPH ZIEGLER, IRS SPECIAL AGENT: So, again, meeting with the attorney, assigned attorneys, we all -- and that included Department of Justice tax attorneys, all agreed for felony and misdemeanor tax charges related to 2017, 2018 and 2019. I didn't see that in that charging document that was filed in Delaware.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So I want to give you an opportunity to respond to something that Hunter Biden's lawsuit says. They say that under oath, you had previously stated that you only recommended misdemeanor charges for Mr. Biden for tax year 2017, not as you -- as you told me on my show, related to 2017, 2018 and 2019.
So, help us clear that up?
ZIEGLER: So, Jake, I really appreciate you for having me on the show. So this lawsuit that was filed yesterday, this is a -- this is an effort to silence me and Gary. This is an effort to silence future whistleblowers from coming forward. This is an effort to silence IRS people from coming forward to Congress.
And it just -- it's disappointing, it is disappointing and disheartening. And what I would point everyone to is we followed the law. We followed the whistleblower law. Congress wrote into law 6103 provisions which protects taxpayer information.
That law was written by Congress and they also added a caveat for whistleblowers, 6303 F-5 and we presented to the House Ways and Means Committee and they voted that out of the committee and then now that is it is public information, you could find that information on the website.
So that was publicly available information. We came on and I came on your show and I discussed information that was within my transcript. And that -- and I stick by what I said in my transcript to the House Ways and Means Committee.
TAPPER: So is that -- that you recommended misdemeanor charges for tax year 2017? Or 2017, 2018 and 2019? I'm just trying to clear it up. I'm not -- I'm not trying to get you.
ZIEGLER: No, I appreciate that. In my testimony, the House Ways and Means Committee, in addition to my testimony in front of the House Oversight Committee, there was a meeting that way held in August of 2022, where the DOJ tax attorneys recommended tax charges for tax years 2017, 2018 and 2019.
I'm sorry, they recommended at approval for the charges. So, essentially, it went to the next step of the review process and that's what I testified in front of the committee.
TAPPER: The lawsuit also said, quote, these agents' putative whistleblower status cannot and does not shield them from the wrongful conduct in making unauthorized public disclosures that are not permitted by the whistleblower process. In fact, the whistleblower is supposed to uncover government misconduct, not the details of that employees' opinion about the alleged wrongdoing of a private person.
What's your response to that?
ZIEGLER: So us being whistleblowers, this is bigger than the Hunter Biden investigation. At the end of the day, we came forward under whistleblower status that the Department of Justice was treating taxpayers differently, that they were providing preferential treatment to a taxpayer and this is mal -- so the actual statute said if there is misconduct related to tax information, we have an avenue where we're allowed to come in front of the committee and testify.
We've actually received guidance recently from our commissioner that backs up that information. And then I know another thing that's out there is that people are like, well why didn't they blow the whistle up in their agency. I wrote an email to my leadership, including the commissioner of the IRS. Do you know what they did to that email? They told me I potentially broke the law, and that I should refrain from ever sending anything outside of the chain of command.
I mean, if that isn't a blow to any whistleblower to muzzle them from saying information that you believe is misconduct, then whistleblowers are an important fundamental part of our society.
TAPPER: Yeah. I mean, I hear what you're saying. Your argument to the second point by the Hunter Biden lawyers is you were not whistleblowing on a private citizen. You were not whistleblowing on Hunter Biden. You are whistleblowing on, in your view, misconduct by the higher ups at DOJ and the IRS that were not treating somebody the way anybody else would be treated.
Am I reading -- am I hearing you correctly?
ZIEGLER: Absolutely. That should concern all of your viewers that if we have a Department of Justice that is treating one taxpayer differently than another taxpayer, that there is problem there, and there needs to be mechanisms within the Department of Justice that prevent that from happening. I mean, there's -- it is just -- from -- from an apolitical standpoint, we can't have that happening in our government.
TAPPER: Joe Ziegler, thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it.
ZIEGLER: I really appreciate you having me.
TAPPER: Coming up next, the Hollywood actor who happened to be in Ukraine when Russian bombs first started dropping last year. See his incredible footage. That's next.
TAPPER: In our popular culture lead, we're following the now sadly familiar story of a popular celebrity's career in the process of crashing and burning because of horrifying sexual assault allegations. This latest incidents involved 48-year-old comedian and actor Russell Brand. Americans might remember him for his 2009 hit movie "Forgetting Sara Marshall". He's been a hit in U.K. for decades, first as a standup comedian and TV host.
These days, by offering wellness advice and anti-establishments sermons on social media, especially on his YouTube channel.
Over the weekend, "The Times of London" and "Sunday Times" newspaper, along with the British broadcaster Channel 4 published and broadcast results of a joint investigation in which four women alleged Brand sexually assaulted them in separate instances between the years 2006 and 2013.
We're joined now by CNN reporter Anna Stewart.
Anna, tell us more about the accusations?
ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER: So this is a multi-years investigation by these media outlets and the allegations made by the four women in the investigation include rape, sexual assault, and emotional abuse. And as you said, this was very much at the height of Russell Brand's fame. Not just in the U.K., where he was already a very famous presenter and comedian, but also in Hollywood where he was really a rising star at the time.
Now, I'm going to play you some sound from one of the woman who share their experiences. She's called Alice. In the documentary, it's not actually her real name. She said she was in an emotionally abusive relationship with Russell Brand, that he sexually assaulted her and all of this, Jake, when she was just 16 years old.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Russell engaged in the behaviors of a groomer. Looking back, I didn't even know what that was then or what that looked like.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Alice goes on to say that Russell Brand helped her lie to her parents so she could sneak out and so on and essentially said that he groomed her. She wants the U.K. law to change so that consent is higher than 16 years old. CNN cannot independently confirm the allegations.
Before the documentary released on Saturday night, Russell Brand released a statement denying all of the allegations and we'll play that for you now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSSELL BRAND, ACTOR: As I've written about extensively in my books, I was very, very promiscuous. Now, during that time of promiscuity, the relationships that I had were absolutely always consensual.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: The allegations are serious and they are criminal. The women who made the allegations in the joint investigation haven't reported those crimes at this stage to the Met police. At this stage, this isn't being investigated by the police force here.
TAPPER: Anna, this is now just -- this is now more than just journalism, journalists. London's metropolitan police are investigating yet another allegation, a fifth woman?
STEWART: So, the -- the four women in the joint investigation hadn't yet reported the crimes to police in London. However, when we spoke to the Met police yesterday and asked whether any reports had been made, they didn't name Russell Brand but they told us another separate allegation had been made over the weekend, and this one dates back to 2003.
So, a few years before the dates that the investigation deals with. 2003, a sexual assault in central London which means there are at least five women now who are making these allegations against Russell Brand but only one at this stage to the police.
But the met police have said that they have they've spoken to channel 4, to "The Sunday Times". They want the sources to know how they can report these as crimes to the police even many years after the date.
TAPPER: Anna, YouTube is doing something right now. Taking action against Brand and his YouTube channel? STEWART: Yeah. The fallout continues really. So, YouTube has said that
he has violated their creative responsibility policy, which essentially takes note of behavior both on and off the platform. So they're going to stop Russell Brand from being able essentially to make any money from his YouTube platform.
In addition to that, the BBC today has said they are removing some online content involving Russell Brand from their platforms. They say it fell below public expectations, Channel 4 has already removed content involving Russell Brand. So, the fallout really continues -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Anna Stewart, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
Turning back to our world lead, timing is everything and when actor and director Sean Penn found himself in a bunker with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, on the very first day of Russia's full- scale invasion of Ukraine, Penn seized the opportunity. More than 18 months after this Russian missile started falling on Kyiv, there is a new intimate look at the early days of the war and how a rising politician with an unusual back story became the stoic face of countering Putin's aggression.
And joining you now, actor and director Sean Penn. His new documentary "Superpower", which is fantastic, is now streaming on Paramount+.
So you set to make out a documentary about Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and his unorthodox, unusual rise to power and then the war broke out and you happened to be there in the bunker, the presidential palace, February 24th, 2022, when he transformed in real time from this former TV personality comedian, could he do this job even, to the Churchill of our era, many people think.
Let's play a little clip for our viewers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does he want?
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: He wants to --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What does he want?
ZELENSKYY: He wants us to be dead. He hated me.
He hate us. We don't know why.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: He doesn't even look like the same guy today, a year and a half later, you know, he became this transfused --
You were there for the transformation, what was that like?
SEAN PENN, ACTOR AND DIRECTOR: Well, as you said, we were not intending to make a film that was going to have this narrative because this narrative had not at least publicly begun. Of course, there had been the border conflicts since 2014. But Ukraine was in essence a country in peace for all of those years and still was as we got there in the week that preceded the invasion for what was going to end up being our first meeting with him.
We'd started this before COVID, and the travel restrictions were such that we were -- we had to put it off. By the time we were able to get back and meet with him face to face, it was February, and of course the drums had gotten a lot louder by then, and I had said to him during COVID when we met on Zoom that I didn't want him to commit to participating in our film about him until he'd met me face to face without cameras.
So we were shooting everywhere, but not with him. And so that first meeting ended up on the 23rd, the day before the invasion, and I met this very warm, very bright, very, you know, there's a -- in most professions, I think there's a wink of kindred spirit that happens, him having been an actor, and me an actor.
And it came out where he said I felt that he was going to be willing to do more than just participate but be unguarded, and we went back to the hotel knowing that we were going to start shooting the next day, and tried to lay down for a little sleep, and the rockets started coming in, and then I was very surprised that the president's office called and said he was going to follow through on meeting with us, and it was on that first day of the invasion.
TAPPER: President Biden and Zelenskyy have a complicated relationship. There's a new book by Frank Foer where Biden is reported as losing his temper with Zelenskyy. Tell us if -- what Zelenskyy had to say to you about the relationship.
PENN: For one thing, the Ukrainians and President Zelenskyy does not want American troops. He says it in the film. Enough have died in enough wars.
They want to fight this war, but we have to help them and supply them. So, I could understand the frustration. I have a lot of respect for President Biden, but I think that anybody in the decisive position right now is really failing the aspiration of America, and I really hope that he takes far more decisive action, and by that, no more smoke and mirrors about how long it takes to train.
All of those things were myths, the maintenance, the fueling, the ammunition. It's all myths, and the reality of it is by now, they could have had the F-16s long in the air and it would have saved a lot of lives already lost and that will be lost. So all the things that we are going to eventually do, we should do
now. This president should do it. I think it's certainly a principle win, and I think it's a political win.
TAPPER: So I went to Ukraine in April of last year, and I went to a town that had been -- there was no military center there. There was no strategic area there. It was just a town full of people, and the Russians had just destroyed it, just knocked down apartment buildings, just slaughtered people also.
You've spent so much time in disaster zones. You visited a woman's destroyed apartment right after it was shelled by Russian missiles. She joked with you, she said, I'm not going to offer any tea, I'm going to be a rude host.
It seems to be the spirit and resolve of the Ukrainian people.
PENN: I keep describing it as such a moment of time when history sort of plays its role in the future, and what we're dreaming that's going to be. And it's why we should all as individuals and as a government, as a country, really tie our wagons to the Ukrainians because it's the -- it's the hope of us rebuilding that aspiration that is our experiment that is our -- that is the country we love in theory.
TAPPER: Sean Penn, thank you so much. Congratulations on the film. It's -- "Superpower" is on Paramount+ right now. Really appreciate it.
PENN: Thanks, Jake.
TAPPER: A murder in Canada causing an international uproar. Was the world's largest democracy behind the killing? That's next.
And this just in, what Hunter Biden plans to plea after new federal gun charges against him.
Plus, his big request to the judge about how he wants his initial court appearance to go down.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
This hour, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis taking on his Republican and primary rival Donald Trump, telling Republicans, hey, Donald Trump is about to sell you out. These new direct attacks as DeSantis is trying to claw his way up the political polls in the race for 2024.
Plus, this hour, the leader of Iran speaking now at the evening session of the United Nations General Assembly. His comments on the same day that Americans once held prisoners unjustly in Iran arrived back on U.S. soil.