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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Atty. Gen. Garland, House Republicans Face Off In Tense Hearing; Bipartisan "Problem Solvers" Inch Closer To Short-Term Deal; Rep. Tony Gonzales, (R-TX), Is Interviewed About Government Shutdown; Texas Republican RIPs GOP's Short Term Deal Over Border Saying It "Does Nothing To Keep America Safe."; Guardian: Fmr Trump Aide Cassidy Hutchinson Claims Rudy Giuliani Groped Her On January 6; President Biden Meets With Israeli PM Netanyahu In New York; Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Is Interviewed About Child Poverty Doubles After Child Tax Credit Expires. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired September 20, 2023 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Of course, those include investigations into the former president, Donald Trump and also the current president's son, Hunter Biden. But Republicans throughout this they kept pressing, especially when it came to Hunter Biden. They questioned the attorney general about any interactions or conversations he may have had with the FBI. To that, Garland really reflected distress that he did not interfere while at the same time refusing to answer any specifics about these ongoing investigations.
And Republicans, especially Jim Jordan, they kept pressing on why it took so long for David Weiss to be named special counsel. Of course, Garland just appointed Weiss special counsel last month. Even though this investigation into Hunter Biden has been ongoing for years. Here's the exchange with Jim Jordan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): After five years what stage are we in? We in the beginning stage, the middle stage, the end stage, the keep hiding the ball stage. What stage are we in?
MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think this one. I would go back to the videotape where I said I'm not permitted to discuss ongoing investigation.
JORDAN: Well, that -- isn't that convenient? Something changed in 31 to 32 days from July 10 to August 11. I think it's too brave. Whistleblowers came forward and a judge called BS on the plea deal. You guys tried to get past them. That's what I think happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: And the attorney general never did quite say what led to the ultimate appointment of the special counsel. But he did repeatedly insist that throughout this process Weiss was never given limits all these years of this investigation. Now, Jake, there was one Republican that did seem to come to Garland's defense somewhat. It was Colorado Republican Ken Buck. And he really said that Garland was in an impossible position and that even though the attorney general did keep on David Weiss as U.S. attorney in Delaware from the Trump administration, Buck does believe that Garland was bound to be slammed as bias no matter what he did or what powers he ultimately gave Weiss. So, you know, Buck also there trying to give Garland a compliment for attempting to remain apolitical in his role. Of course, that's a sentiment that the other Republicans, at least today, did not share, Jake.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. Jessica Schneider, thanks so much.
Let's get some reaction from our political experts. Garland insisted that the Justice Department is independent. He said it was not weaponized, not politicized, as Republicans repeatedly alleged. Here's part of what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GARLAND: Our job is not to do what is politically convenient. Our job is not to take orders from the president, from Congress or from anyone else about who or what to criminally investigate. As the President himself has said, and I reaffirmed today, I am not the President's lawyer. I will add, I am not Congress's prosecutor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So, Jen Jennings, I mean -- Scott Jennings, sorry, what do you think of this? I mean, like I understand that there's a lot of Republican skepticism of this, Scott, but do you see evidence that he has done President Biden's bidding?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think this is a case where multiple things can be true. Number one, it can be true that a grand jury saw enough evidence to indict Donald Trump, and for good reason. That's obviously happened. And that can be true. It can also be true that we all have eyes and ears and saw what happened on January the 6th and can draw our own conclusions about who was responsible. And it can be true that he really does need to be judged by a jury of his peers before the next election.
It can also be true, and is true, that it has been reported publicly that Joe Biden has told people in the White House in his inner circle that he was upset with Merrick Garland for not moving fast enough and that he personally believed that Donald Trump should be prosecuted. He has said in gaggles that he thought people who were going before the January 6 committee should be prosecuted. So, I think multiple things can be true here. But it's obvious that Biden has communicated his displeasure with, at least at one time, with how slow it was moving and how long it was taking to prosecute Donald Trump.
TAPPER: By report -- by saying that to people, not necessarily specifically to Garland?
JENNINGS: Well, I mean, he said it to people and it wound up on the front page of "The New York Times." So I assume Merrick Garland reads "The New York Times" and he doesn't have to pick up the phone to call the guy. That doesn't mean that the Justice Department is wrong, and it doesn't mean that the investigation or the indictments are inherently corrupt, but it does mean, you know, multiple things could be true here. And you know, it looks like, based on the polls today, Jake, the American people are going to have to render ultimate judgment on this next November.
JAMAL SIMMONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, there's a beer question here, Jake. The president, President Biden, that is, has been trying to reestablish some level of understanding that the Justice Department is an independent agency is going to act independently. The President is not talking to the Attorney General by all measures. No one has alleged that. He's not talking to the attorney general.
Now, if he talks to somebody who talks to somebody who talk to somebody, you know, this is Washington, everybody's doing that. So, I think the question here is are we going to have a Justice Department that is pursuing real crime, real criminals? And let's keep in mind, the question at hand is about Hunter Biden.
They have been investigating Hunter Biden for five years. If we go back one, two, three, four, five years, that's 2018, they have been going after him. And you know who was president in 2018? Donald Trump. So if the Republicans are upset that nothing happened in this investigation, they should start with being upset with Donald Trump and Bill Barr. If they couldn't find anything, I don't know anybody who could.
TAPPER: So beyond Hunter Biden, whose troubles took up a lot of the time of the hearing today, there were also questions about the prosecutions and investigations into Donald Trump. Trump said on Meet the Press that the charges he is facing as part of Special Counsel Jack Smith's classified documents and election interference probes are, quote, "Biden political indictments, "and that Biden, quote, said to the attorney general, "indict him," unquote. Now, obviously there is zero evidence of any of that. Garland was asked about that today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GARLAND: No one has told me to indict, and in this case, the decision to indict was made by the special counsel.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): So that statement the President made on Sunday was false?
GARLAND: I'm just going to say again that no one has told me who should be indicted in any matter like this. And the decision about indictment was made by Mr. Smith.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Scott, you think that will convince anybody?
JENNINGS: No. Look, I think Republicans, because Donald Trump has said this, will want to believe that these are political indictments. I think Democrats will want to believe that Donald Trump deserves it. And, you know, I mean, like I said a minute ago, I think that the ultimate judgment here, I mean, if Trump doesn't go to trial on anything before the election, I mean, I guess the American people are going to have to decide, you know, whether he deserves to be held responsible for any of this.
I mean, look, I take Merrick Garland at his word. He said this under oath today and I hope what he said is true and I don't have any evidence to indicate that it isn't true. But what I said earlier, I think what Trump is responding to are press reports that Biden was upset that he hadn't been prosecuted yet, which came, you know, in the last year. So, there's a lot of chum in the water, but I think maybe we all three believe none of it is going to move the most partisans among us as it relates to the public opinion on these matters.
TAPPER: Jamal, what do you think?
SIMMONS: You know, there are a lot of Democrats who are upset with Merrick Garland, the attorney general, right now because they think that he is overzealous when it comes to going after Hunter Biden. They think that maybe, perhaps he shouldn't have let an independent -- special counsel go after the President on the records case. Some people who think that Merrick Garland is protecting his own reputation more than he's doing his job as attorney general.
Now he's getting flak from the left for that while he's also getting flak today from the right. I think if you're Merrick Garland, that makes you believe perhaps you're doing the right thing, that you are taking on heat from all corners and you're trying to call balls and strikes as you see them and do justice without fear and favor -- fear of favor.
TAPPER: Scott Jennings, Jamal Simmons, thanks to both. You appreciate it.
Coming up next, the finger pointing outside the Capitol this afternoon that goes inside the funding fight and efforts or lack thereof, to prevent a government shutdown next week. And we will speak live with a former Trump White House insider on the explosive new claims from Cassidy Hutchinson's new book in the Guardian newspaper about Rudy Giuliani's actions regarding her on January 6. That's next.
TAPPER: Back with our politics lead, up on the Hill as lawmakers race to come to an agreement on a short term spending bill before the government shuts down in just 10 days, CNN's own Manu Raju tracked down some of the more, shall we say, opinionated Republicans this afternoon. Here's a taste.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): With all due respect to my concern for colleagues, let them go explain why they don't support that. It's completely inexplicable and I think it's indefensible. So, you know, here we said, so now we got to go try to figure out how to move the ball forward. But we had agreement in good faith with people across the conference.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The speaker's job be in peril if he relies on Democrats?
ROY: It wouldn't be a good move.
REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Now, if Republican moderates want to go team up with Democrats and sign a discharge petition to take over the floor with Democrats, well, they'll be signing their own political death warrant, and they'll be handing it to their executioner because it'll be the very Democrats they act in concert with who will hunt them during the upcoming election season.
REP. TIM BURCHETT (R-TN): I would never like to see a shutdown, but if that's where it's going that's where it's going.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Let's bring in Texas Republican Congressman Tony Gonzales. He's on the House Appropriations Committee and is a member of the Bipartisan Problem Solvers caucus, which met today.
Congressman Gonzalez, we know at a Republican conference meeting that started at 04:00 p.m., it's still ongoing, you just came from there. Take us inside negotiations today. Where are things?
REP. TONY GONZALES (R-TX), APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE: Yes, Jake. Well, first we got to stop lying to the American public. You know, Washington politicians are failing America. President Biden is responsible for this failure, the Senate is responsible for this failure, and House Republicans are responsible for this failure if the government shuts down.
I left a meeting where we were talking about top line numbers that we know for sure the Senate isn't going to pass or consider at all. That's like determining what color your bedroom is going to be. Is it going to be red or is it going to be blue when your mortgage is due on Monday. So, we're not having serious conversations. It's always somebody else's fault but ours, and it's absolutely dangerous to the American public if we have this shutdown.
TAPPER: You want to pass a bill that the Senate will go along with and President Biden will sign into law, a short term spending bill, is that right?
GONZALES: Yes. I'm of the mindset that this country is void of serious leaders that want to solve serious problems. The border is certainly serious, national security is certainly serious. Making sure our government doesn't shut down should absolutely be serious. We should be having serious conversations.
In the House, I sit on the Appropriations Committee. My expectation is a conservative budget that tackles some of the excess spending, makes sure that we secure the border, some of these things that the American public have elected House Republicans to do, and then the Senate works through it, and then old ultimately, it gets to a point where the President of the United States will sign it into law. We are light years away from any of that right now.
TAPPER: You represent a large swath of the Texas Mexico border. You said you're against the current Republican proposal for the continuing resolution. The White House estimates that that continuing resolution in its current form would eliminate 800 customs and border protection agents and officers. Are you surprised that your fellow Republicans, many of whom campaign on the crisis at the border are in support of this plan?
GONZALES: Jake, everybody's lying to the American public. You know, we passed -- House Republicans passed H.R. 2 months ago and it was a very conservative bill, knowing full well that bill was never going to become law in a district like mine 800 miles of the southern border. Today is the two year anniversary of what happened in Del Rio. We all remember the Haitians under the bridge. We'll fast forward two years and now there are thousands of Venezuelans in Eagle Pass under a bridge, I mean, the exact same situation.
It's absolutely chaotic. We got to have real solutions. Part of those real solutions is enforcing the laws that are on the books. Every president has had to do this, President Trump, President Obama, Clinton, Bush. And that's simply, if you do not qualify for asylum, you send them back to their country of origin. These are the level of discussions we need to have instead of the finger pointing of whose fault it is because it's not fair to the American public.
TAPPER: Also, under this Republican proposal, the government would not be allowed to fund non-governmental organizations or NGOs that provide shelter to migrants. Is your district prepared for NGOs to not be allowed to provide shelter for migrants?
GONZALES: You know right now we're not prepared. And right now our capacity is completely overwhelmed. Yesterday, the mayor of Eagle Pass declared a state of emergency. Another factor is little known fact, the city of Eagle Pass has received zero federal dollars from Biden. You know, of course, money's going other places New York City, the city of Eagle Pass is getting absolutely crushed right now.
Nobody is having a serious conversation on it. Some of the things that we need to do is we need to add more border patrol agents to it and start enforcing this law. This shouldn't be a political issue. We shouldn't bring up things that are fake and have no chance of passing just so we can blame each other. These people right now are in Eagle Pass today, tomorrow they're in L.A., they're in Chicago, they're all over the country.
We need to come together and solve this problem in a real meaningful way.
TAPPER: Texas Republican Congressman Tony Gonzales, thanks for coming on. Good to see you again, sir.
GONZALES: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: A 2024 presidential candidate believes they can get gas prices down to $2 a gallon. That is quite an ambitious pledge. Who's making it? We'll tell you next.
TAPPER: Let's cue the election music for today's 2024 lead. Nice. Nice. Former President Donald Trump is in Iowa today and teasing even more visits to the state as he renews attention to his 2024 campaign. Then there is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, he's deep in oil country today and making a big promise $2 a gallon in his first year in office he says. He has a long ways to go.
Today's national average, according to AAA is $3.87 a gallon that's $0.20 higher than last year. CNN's Jessica Dean is in midland Texas, today, where DeSantis is making this pitch.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Today it's great to be back in west Texas.
JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Florida governor and 2024 GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis unveiling his energy policy in the heart of oil country.
DESANTIS: I will restore our freedom to fuel. I will ensure that the United States of America is the dominant energy producer in the entire world.
DEAN (voice-over): DeSantis' plan includes ramping up domestic oil and gas exploration and production, removing the United States from the Paris Climate Accords and other net zero emissions commitments, allowing more pipelines and mining on federal lands, and repealing President Joe Biden's electric vehicle subsidies and other Biden supported legislation targeted at supporting electric vehicles. DeSantis also pledged to get gas prices to $2 a gallon, though presidents have limited tools at their disposal to control prices at the pump.
DESANTIS: I think we can definitely get under three and towards two, and the reality is we're going to have a very favorable environment for this.
DEAN (voice-over): While DeSantis acknowledged climate disasters are, quote, "problematic," he said much of the discussion around it is fear mongering. DESANTIS: The climate clearly has changed. You can judge that, I think objectively. I think the question is, what policy posture are we going to take from that?
DEAN (voice-over): As governor of Florida, DeSantis finds himself confronting some of the top concerns posed by climate change, from rising sea levels to more intense hurricanes.
(on camera): We've seen things just recently, like the flooding this summer, the smoke that came in from the Canadian wildfire. How concerned are you about climate change? Where do you prioritize that? And what do you say to Americans who are concerned about that? Particularly parents who are worried about, like, their kids can't go play out when it's smoky like that.
DESANTIS: In a major instance like that, I mean, obviously those are things we have to deal with, and those are problematic. I mean we deal with hurricanes in Florida, we deal with fires, too, in Florida. But what I would say is when Joe Biden says that he's more worried, like, in 10 years with the climate than a nuclear war, I mean, I'm sorry, that's just not true.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
DEAN: DeSantis also making the case here that Americans are actually safer from climate disasters due to oil and gas. Using the example, Jake, of the recent hurricane in Florida, he said it was because of oil and gas He was able to get the power back on for a lot of Floridians. Jake.
TAPPER: And Jess, even though Donald Trump is perhaps more responsible for Roe v. Wade being overturned than anyone other than Mitch McConnell, he went after Ron DeSantis on Sunday for signing into law a six week abortion ban. It's almost basically, essentially a full abortion ban. DeSantis has really been going after Trump for that. What did he have to say today?
DEAN: He sure has. I think this is really an issue where DeSantis and his team feel like they can really put a wedge between himself and Trump voters, especially those evangelicals who perhaps might live in Iowa where they're going to have those caucuses. But what he said today in an interview with NBC News -- or with ABC News, rather, Jake, is that he called Trump's comments a big mistake and he made the case to voters that Trump is simply not the candidate that he was in 2015. DeSantis saying that he's drifted away from where he was on a lot of these positions in 2015, again seeking to really capitalize the difference on this abortion issue, which he thinks will be a winner for him when it comes to seeing people at the polls. Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Jessica Dean in Midland, Texas, thank you so much.
President Joe Biden met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York today. But did the Israeli leader get that coveted invite to the White House? I'm going to talk to Israel's ambassador to the U.S. who was in that meeting next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:31:23]
TAPPER: Quote, like a wolf closing in on its prey, unquote. That's how former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson describes former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani approaching her and groping her on January 6th, 2021. The shocking allegation is made in Hutchinson's new book "Enough," which comes out next Tuesday. The quotes were first reported by "The Guardian" newspaper and confirmed to CNN. The former top White House aide turned star witness in the January 6th hearings writes in her book, according to "The Guardian," that before Trump spoke on January 6th in front of his supporters at that rally, and before his supporters marched on and many of whom then attacked Congress, Trump's lawyer Giuliani approached Cassidy Hutchinson backstage.
Quote, Rudy wraps one arm around my body, closing the space that was separating us. I lower my eyes and watch his free hand reach for the hem of my blazer. By the way, he says, fingering the fabric, I'm loving this leather jacket on you. His hand slips under my blazer, then my skirt. She writes, quote, I feel his frozen fingers trail up my thigh. He tilts his chin up. The whites of his eyes look jaundiced. My eyes dart to John Eastman, who flashes a leering grin. I fight against the tension in my muscles and recoil from Rudy's grip, filled with rage, I storm through the tent on yet another quest for Mark, unquote. Meadows, the White House chief of staff and Cassidy Hutchinson's boss. "The Guardian" newspaper says that the book describes Hutchinson's experiences leading up to January 6th as she, quote, experienced anger, bewilderment, and a creeping sense of dread that something really horrible was going to happen, unquote.
Now in response to this leaked excerpt published in "The Guardian," Ted Goodman, a political advisor to Mayor Giuliani, issued a statement this afternoon saying, quote, it's fair to ask Cassidy Hutchinson why she is just now coming out with these allegations from two and a half years ago as part of the marketing campaign for her upcoming book release. This is a disgusting lie against Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a man whose distinguished career in public service includes taking down the mafia, cleaning up New York City and comforting the nation following September 11th, unquote.
Lawyers former Trump attorney John Eastman also responded. They said, quote, Dr. Eastman categorically denies the allegation that he witnessed the conduct Ms. Hutchinson apparently attributes to Mayor Giuliani in her forthcoming book, or that he flashed a leering smile at Ms. Hutchinson at that time, or at any time. Eastman does not recall ever having met Ms. Hutchinson and did not even know who she was until her public testimony before the Select Committee in the House of Representatives in June 2022, unquote.
The lawyers also said that Eastman is considering suing, quote, those responsible for making of publishing these libelous allegations, unquote. Though he has not made any filings in court at this time, and it's not really clear what exactly we would be libelous.
[17:35:01] Next week, in her first CNN interview, Cassidy Hutchinson will share her story with me, and you can see that interview next Tuesday right here on the lead beginning at 4:00 eastern. We will be right back.
TAPPER: In our World Lead, President Biden met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today in New York, marking the first time the two leaders have met since Netanyahu returned to office last December. Biden offering Netanyahu a warm welcome before telling reporters the two would discuss some big policy issues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, we're going to discuss some of the hard issues, and that is upholding Democratic values that lie at the heart of our partnership, including checks and balances in our systems and preserving a path to a negotiated two state solution and ensuring that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Joining us now to discuss Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan. Ambassador Erdan, thanks so much for joining us. So you, correct me if I'm wrong, you were in parts of the meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Biden. What can you tell us about how the meeting went?
GILAD ERDAN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Well, I can tell you that it was a very warm meeting. It lasted more than an hour. They held an open discussion, but it was so warm that all of us, we were left out of the room. So both leaders, they held the meeting only in four eyes, as we say. But it was really a very important meeting. And the President invited Prime Minister Netanyahu, already invited him to visit Washington and meet him in the Oval Office.
And most of the meeting was focused on how to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear capabilities and obviously also how to advance the new circle of peace that we have now in the Middle East and especially, of course, the peace with Saudi Arabia that we are so grateful to the United States, the administration that they are doing all these efforts to try and achieve this historic peace.
TAPPER: What can you tell us about those efforts with Saudi Arabia? Because there have been discussions about there needing to be some efforts to bring some autonomy, some efforts at Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank in order for the Saudis to agree to full diplomatic arrangements. What more can you tell us about that?
ERDAN: Let me just first say that if such a peace with Saudi Arabia achieved, that definitely will be a game changer in the Middle East because of the unique status of Saudi Arabia as the guardian of -- the protector of the holiest site for Islam. Obviously, the Saudis, and they made it clear publicly, that they want to see also some progress regarding the Palestinians.
We are willing to discuss some concessions or maybe economic steps that could ease and help the Palestinians daily life. But still, you know, it's being led by the administration. We don't want to make any damages. And once we will be -- we'll be presented with the whole package, we'll be able to decide upon our priorities. But I want to maybe remind your viewers that three years ago, we just celebrated three years to the Abram Accords when we normalize relations with the UAE, with Bahrain, with Morocco. There was also a price that Israel paid.
We agreed to postpone applying the Israeli law in some areas of the West Bank, what we call Judean Samaria. And I'm sure that because many people today in Israel, they understand the importance of having peace with Saudi Arabia, then the Prime Minister and the government would decide upon our priorities once a full deal would be presented by the administration.
TAPPER: In addition to that, there has been increased talks in the United States about tying foreign aid with more of an insistence on human rights in the countries where there are human rate -- that are receiving the human aid. Given the status of Palestinians in the West Bank, not in Israel itself, but in the West Bank, do you think that there would be more willingness in the Israeli government, among the Israeli public to reconsider how the Palestinians are treated, how the Palestinians are able to or not able to self-rule, if that meant losing some of the aid from the United States?
ERDAN: Well, look, thank God Israel's economy is booming, is prosperous. But I think that, you know, the security aid that we receive and we are grateful to the United States for receiving this security aid is mutually beneficial. It's not only helping the United States, we are sharing intelligence, you know, our missile defense systems are also defending American troops in Iraq and in other areas of the world.
Our intelligence agencies are helping to protect also American citizens from terror attacks. So we should separate between this important military aid that we receive from our closest ally, the United States of America, and the need to always try and improve the daily life of the Palestinians. We suggested a variety of economic projects. You know, we held the Aqaba talks. We have many economic projects that we want to advance.
Unfortunately, the Palestinians and the Palestinian leadership, we just saw President Abbas, the Palestinian President, blaming the Jews for the Holocaust. He's continuing to pay terrorists with salaries. You know, he's continuing to incite terrorism, glorify terrorists. So the problem is not on our side. The problem is that because of political reasons, because of hate, Palestinian hate, they continue to prevent any prospect for peace, for prosperity for their own people. There's nothing that we would like more than to see them advancing and having a better quality of life.
TAPPER: All right, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, thank you so much. Have an easy fast this Yom Kippur.
ERDAN: Thank you, Jake. Thank you for having me.
TAPPER: Let's turn back to our Law and Justice Lead and those shocking allegations made by former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson in her new book, "Enough." According to "The Guardian" newspaper, which obtained excerpts of the book, Hutchinson claims that Rudy Giuliani groped her backstage against of the January 6th -- ahead of the January 6th rally before Trump spoke to his supporters and before they stormed the Capitol.
The quotes were first reported by "The Guardian" and confirmed to CNN. Giuliani denies through a political advisor what happened, what Hutchinson claims happened. I want to bring in Alyssa Farah Griffin, former Trump White House communications director. You have worked with both Cassidy Hutchinson and you know Rudy Giuliani, who was obviously had close ties to the Trump White House. Whom do you believe? Did you -- have you heard about this before today?
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I unequivocally believe my friend Cassie Hutchinson. She's somebody I know to be a person of her word. And she had told me something similar with probably a little less detail than I saw in the Guardian reporting, but just about him getting handsy. And I want to be careful in saying this, but it was a known fact within the Trump White House that Rudy Giuliani was a liability.
There was often a worry that he would show up to the White House complex perhaps inebriated to the point where I was actually given a directive from the President to make sure that he wasn't trying to do stand ups on television on the White House lawn because you just weren't sure what he was going to do, what he was going to say. This frankly, tracks with things that have been reported before that Giuliani has done.
And, I mean, I think it's a shame for a lot of us who once admired the former mayor to see him descend into this. But I absolutely believe her account, and it doesn't in any way shock me that this happened and no one in the Trump White House hierarchy did anything about it at the time.
TAPPER: Alyssa I have to say, having covered the Trump campaign and then the Trump White House, this is not the first time we've heard about somebody associated with Trump or Trump himself behaving in a manner toward women that can charitably be described as boorish.
GRIFFIN: Well, certainly. And I think that there are folks, whether supporters of his, those of us who worked for him, who wanted to believe that some of the worst allegations against him maybe weren't true and you wanted to try to see the best in the man that was elected the leader of the free world. But I personally witnessed behavior that I thought was inappropriate.
I've spoken openly that I reported behavior that I thought was inappropriate by the former president to female staff, to the former White House chief of staff. Nothing was done about it at the time. And listen, you're the company you keep. The former president was very close to Rudy Giuliani. He knew the reputation he had. He knew the concerns that he shared and that his staff shared about how he might arrive at the White House and how he might conduct himself, yet he kept him around.
And, by the way, took his advice about, you know, how we're going to challenge the election results over his handpicked White House Counsel. The whole thing is a mess. It shouldn't be really a surprise to anyone. But it's still stunning in this day and age that a White House staffer would experience that on the ellipse of the White House. And, you know, we wouldn't even know about it until she has to write about it in her book.
TAPPER: I want to turn to another big story today dealing with Donald Trump. "ABC" and "The New York Times" are reporting that former President Trump told an aide, Molly Michael, to not tell investigators about the boxes of classified documents that he kept at Mar-a-Lago. This is post presidency. But you know Ms. Michael, because you worked with her in the Trump White House. How credible is her testimony? What was her relationship with Donald Trump like, if she is telling investigators that that's what he told her, to not tell investigators the truth about these documents, would you believe her?
GRIFFIN: I certainly would believe her word. Listen, I would describe Molly Michael as a highly professional individual who I think took a lot of pride in her job. She was essentially the gatekeeper into the Oval Office, so her desk was an outer Oval. The former president would, you know, holler to her to get this senator on the line, bring this person in. She was also responsible for trying to keep certain people out of the outer Oval. But she was enough of a loyalist to him that she followed him to Mar-a-Lago in the post presidency.
She's not somebody who by any means would have ever wanted to turn against Donald Trump. But she's also someone I think highly enough of to think she also would tell the truth under oath. I completely believe her accounting of this. I think she knows the stakes. And I do think she's somebody who took her public service seriously. So I believe what she's saying.
TAPPER: Alyssa Farah Griffin, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it.
And a reminder, you can see Cassidy Hutchinson's first interview on CNN Tuesday, six days from now, right here on The Lead. We'll be right back.
TAPPER: We're back with the Very Lead, those are stories we feel deserve more attention. A sobering statistic from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the child poverty rate in the United States has more than doubled in the last year, from 5.2 percent to 12.4 percent. Democratic New York Congressman Jamal Bowman blames Congress for the rise writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, quote, let me be very clear, things like the Child Tax Credit and SNAP reduce child poverty by refusing to extend and expand these lifesaving programs. Congress is complicit in this crisis.
And Congressman Bowman joins us now. Congressman, good to have you on. It can be difficult to see the direct result of government policies on people's lives, but this seems pretty clear. The expanded Child Tax Credit gave more money or tax credits to low income families after it took effect, child poverty dropped to record lows. Why did Congress let it run out?
REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN (D-NY): Republicans let the Child Tax Credit run out after Democrats cut child poverty in half by 50 percent in 2021. If we are not taking care of our children, we do not have a democracy. We do not have a society. When you see high child poverty, you see high levels of childhood trauma. You see high levels of children struggling with mental health and substance abuse, and you see higher levels of violence. So it is on us to do something about this issue once and for all, not year to year. We need to end child poverty in America once and for all.
TAPPER: I spoke with Senator Bernie Sanders, who doesn't only blame Republicans for letting these programs expire. This is Sunday. Take a listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT): What we put in that tax credit that substantially lowered childhood poverty in America, we put that into the American Rescue Plan. We try to put it back into so called build back better plan, which had zero Republican support and did not have the support of Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinema.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So he's also saying that Manchin and Sinema were to blame.
BOWMAN: That's exactly right. The cowardly way in which Manchin and Sinema continue to govern astonishes me. I come from education. I worked with the most vulnerable children in our country for 20 years before coming to Congress. And then I have two members of my own party in the Senate, not in the House. Democrats in the House did the right thing.
Two members of my own party in the Senate vote against continuing to cut childhood poverty. They also voted against higher taxes for corporations. They also voted against and didn't support a higher minimum wage. So when you have Democrats not supporting the most vulnerable, you really have elected officials who have lost their way. And we lost the reason why were brought here and voted into Congress in the first place to do the work for the people, not our own pockets and not the wealthiest among us.
TAPPER: So I'm a little older than you, and I remember long before Obamacare, there was a thing called I think it was called CHIP. It was Orrin Hatch and Ted Kennedy coming together to pass health care for kids. The idea being that, OK, we're not going to provide universal health care for adults, but we can all agree kids should have it. Same thing here with poverty, I'm supposing, what about just the idea of trying to work across the aisle, get Democrats and Republicans just to push for that? Is there any way that you think the Democrats and Republicans could come together just on that issue?
BOWMAN: Not with the current Republicans in the House. This is a non- starter for them. They don't want to do anything as it relates to ending child poverty or passing legislation that supports affordability and helps those who are most vulnerable. That includes child poverty, that includes childcare. That includes affordable housing. That includes doing anything on climate change. That includes doing anything on gun violence, which is still a number one killer of children in our country.
So the current Republicans in Congress do not want to help our children or the most vulnerable people. That's why we have to vote them out next year and vote the right people in office who are going to respond to the crises we are in as it relates to our children.
TAPPER: But are you sure about mean have you reached out to like Congressman Lawler needs Democratic votes to win reelection. I mean, like, I get you're a very partisan Democrat. Is it not possible that there's a Republican you can work with as long as you don't sound when you talk to him the way you just sounded talking to me?
BOWMAN: Well, I talked to Congressman Lawler all the time. He's right next door to me and he hasn't shown the ability to lead. We need leadership and he has not led on any of the issues I mentioned.
TAPPER: All right. Democratic Congressman Jamaal Bowman, we'll have you back. Thanks so much for coming on today. I appreciate it.
Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room.