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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Zelenskyy Meets With Biden At White House; Russia Launches Attacks Across Ukraine; Zelenskyy Meets With Lawmakers In Plea For More Aid; Questions About Fox's Future As Rupert Murdoch Steps Down; FBI Assisting Investigation Into Allegations Of Torture At Off-Site Baton Rouge Police Warehouse Called The "Brave Cave"; Eagle Pass, Texas, Issues Emergency Over Migrant Surge. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired September 21, 2023 - 16:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I'm probably going to have more cake with my children. It's really -- it's just about them eating cake. So, yeah.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: That's very sweet. Well, the real gift is the one you give to us with your presence.

KEILAR: Oh, thanks, Boris. I really appreciate that. Thank you so much.

SANCHEZ: Of course.

KEILAR: Well, THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Quote, you give money, we give lives. That from the Ukrainian president in a plea to U.S. lawmakers.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy in D.C. first making his rounds on Capitol Hill and now he is at the White House. His pleas as House Republicans can't agree on how to fund the U.S. government, much less a foreign war.

And chances of a deal now stalled as lawmakers are sent home for the weekend.

Plus, a border emergency. Migrants flood a Texas town crawling under barbed wire, even costing a little boy his life, as his family tried to swim across the Rio Grande River.

And alleged horror in a warehouse dubbed the brave cave. The lawsuit accusing police of inappropriate strip searches of suspects, including a grandmother.


BROWN: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Pamela Brown, in for Jake Tapper. And we begin with our world lead as right now, President Joe Biden meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the White House. Zelenskyy on a laser focused mission right here on Washington, D.C., secure more aid at all costs.

Today, he's quoted as saying if we don't get the aid, we will lose the war. Russia even after 19 months of relentless attacks against Ukraine, showing no signs of slowing down. Just last night, multiple Ukrainian cities bombarded by a brutal wave of attacks.

But those stakes in mind, Zelenskyy today also went to the Pentagon, and held critical meetings on Capitol Hill where aid for Ukraine is a key sticking point for some Republicans in the House spending bill which could all lead to a government shutdown.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy denied Zelenskyy a meeting with the full Republican conference.

Let's begin at the White House with CNN's Kayla Tausche.

Kayla, busy day there for you. President Biden and Ukrainian President Zelenskyy are meeting right now. What do we know about this meeting and will Zelenskyy walk away with anything he's asking for in terms of aid?

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pam, we know that President Zelenskyy and President Biden are going to be having a bilateral meeting. President Biden is expected to introduce the Ukrainian leader to the former commerce secretary, Penny Pritzker, who's going to be serving as a top diplomat to assist the country in its rebuilding and recovery effort. But, of course, first things first, and that is taking care of the war that is happening on the ground in his country right now. To that end, Zelenskyy is also going to be making a presentation to the president's cabinet to give his battlefield perspective and to share more information about what Ukraine needs right now at this moment.

The Biden administration is expected to announce a new aid package, $325 million of artillery, anti-aircraft, and cluster munitions that the Biden administration says will help Ukraine in the near term on the ground in its counteroffensive with what it needs most right now. Notably, Pam, that's coming from an existing authorization from Congress. That is not new money.

The White House has said that Ukraine needs $24 billion to be able to sustain the war from October 1st through the end of the year and that they've already begun having conversations with Congress about what happens after that? But it's that $24 billion package that remains in limbo right now, with congressional leaders trying to find some path forward to keep the domestic priorities funded and to keep the government open in the coming weeks.

We will see what materializes, whether there can be any sort of agreement reached after Zelenskyy's visit today. Certainly, he is making a hard sell as part of this Capitol campaign but one end of Pennsylvania Avenue is far more supportive than the other -- Pam. BROWN: All right. Kayla Tausche, thank you so much.

Let's go now to Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, where CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen is standing by.

Fred, a wave of new Russian attacks last night in Ukraine underscoring why Zelenskyy is pleading for more funding.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, and just as President Zelenskyy got to Washington, D.C., is when that aerial attack was unleashed. It certainly was massive in the early hours of this morning, with the Russians launching ballistic missiles but also a wave of cruise missiles at targets mostly in the west of Ukraine but in central Ukraine as well, and the Ukrainian general staff said, look, the numbers are really staggering. And the Russians using ten nuclear-capable strategic bombers launched from an airfield in the west of Russia to fire cruise missiles at targets in Ukraine.


Now, the Ukrainians say that 43 cruise missiles were launched by the Russians and thanks to some of the Western air defense systems they've already gotten, first and foremost, of course, from the United States, they were actually able to shoot a lot of those down.

But a lot of them also actually made it through and then hit targets. There were some civilian infrastructure that was hit, a hotel in a town of Cherkassy (ph) where a lot of people were wounded there. There were also five killed in the town of Kherson.

But really is also concerning the Ukrainians a lot, Pamela, is the fact that Ukraine's energy infrastructure was also hit. There were big power outages in parts of the country that some of which have still not been restored, but the Ukrainians are also saying that right now, as the temperature gets cooler, fall is progressing, we're moving into winter, they fear that the Russians could once again launch a bombardment campaign like they did all of last winter when they essentially tried to hit critical infrastructure trying to freeze essentially the Ukrainian population into submission.

So that, a big concern for the Ukrainians and I think that's also why before the meetings that President Zelenskyy of Ukraine had today with lawmakers and now with President Biden, he said that air defense was a big issue for the Ukrainians and certainly something where they need help. They've already received a lot of help from the U.S. and its allies but they say they need more modern Western air defense systems to try and keep their skies clear to protect that critical infrastructure, to protect civilian centers, but also to help with their counteroffensive because one of the big issues they have is aerial support.

BROWN: All right. Fred Pleitgen breaking it down for us in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, thank you.

Let's go now to CNN's Melanie Zanona on Capitol Hill. Melanie, some lawmakers there have been supportive of Zelenskyy's

quest for aid. Others, though, he's really running into a brick wall with.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yeah, Pam, and that divide right there is why there is just so much uncertainty in Washington right now, about whether Congress will approve additional aid for Ukraine and that is despite President Zelenskyy coming up to Capitol Hill today and making a direct plea to members for more aid.

Our Manu Raju reports that during a closed door meeting in the Senate, Zelenskyy said, you give us money, and we save lives. He also warned that if the United States was to back away from its commitment to Ukraine, that Ukraine could fall to Russia.

But there still is a block of hard-line conservatives who are still fiercely opposed to Ukraine aid, especially over here in the House, and that dynamic was really on full display in a pretty striking way today. Over in the Senate, you saw Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, and Mitch McConnell, the GOP leader, walking together flanking on each side of Zelenskyy as they walked into the Senate for their meeting.

But over in the House, Kevin McCarthy did not accompany Zelenskyy, in fact, he took some steps to distance himself from the Ukrainian president and did not want official photogs in the room although our colleague Andy Greer obtained some of him posing inside. But it just really speaks of the divide they are facing and hear it in their tone.

Just take a listen to the difference in the way McCarthy and McConnell are talking about Ukraine aid.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): This morning, I was proud to welcome President Zelenskyy to the Capitol. At the risk of repeating myself, Americans' support for Ukraine is not charity. It's an investment in our own direct interests.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Look, we've got to get our first our fiscal house taken care of here in America. I'm more than willing to look at that, but the one thing I know is if the president is only focused on that and had 10,000 people on the border and wants to ignore that, I think there are priorities here.


ZANONA: And Ukraine aid has become a point of contention in these government funding talks, which are still ongoing and just not a clear path forward at this moment, Pam.

BROWN: The Ukraine aid, we should note, is just one part of this massive fight over a spending plan, right, which could lead to a government shutdown in ten days from now. Where do things stand?

ZANONA: So, as of right now, GOP leaders have decided to send members home for the rest of the week after a tumultuous few days here in the House. They initially had planned to put a short-term funding bill on the floor on Saturday after they included a number of conservative priorities to try to win over hard-line critics. But that was not enough, so now, it's back to the drawing board and told the new strategy will be focusing on individual spending bills. They're long- term spending bills.

But the problem there is they would need to pass 11 individual spending bills within the next nine days or so in order to avoid a government shutdown, and those bills would be dead on arrive in the Senate so it looks increasingly clear that there will be a government shutdown -- Pam.

BROWN: All right. Melanie Zanona, thank you so much.

So, the question looms as we heard from Melanie, how does a spending deal happen now with House members going home for the week? A Republican and a Democrat will join us with their take up next.

Plus, the new details just coming in on a bus crash involving high school band students. One person killed. Nearly 50 others hurt.

And, the drama of "Succession" playing out in real life. We'll talk about the impact of Rupert Murdoch's exit from Fox News.



BROWN: We're back with our politics lead.

Ukraine's president on Capitol Hill today urging lawmakers for more funding in the war against Russia. But this catfight happening among House Republicans is drowning out those pleas. By which Republicans you might ask -- well, as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy puts it, those that want to, quote, burn the whole place down.

All of this as a government shutdown looms over the country and, guess what, sources are telling CNN that House Republican leaders just sent their members home for the week.

I want to bring in Republican Congressman Mike Lawler of New York and Democratic Congressman Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey.

All right. Let's start with there, Congressman Lawler. As we just reported, your leadership is telling members they can go home for the rest of the week and the weekend and there had been plans for votes tomorrow and Saturday. What's going on there?

REP. MIKE LAWLER (R-NY): Well, as you can see, I'm still here. I just in a meeting downstairs, in the whip's office, continuing the conversations. Many of my colleagues are still here working, discussing, because, you know, we are nine days away from a shutdown and we cannot afford to go down that road.

I have said from the very beginning, I will do everything in my power to avoid a shutdown.


And that's why I'm still here working, and here with Congressman Gottheimer because we need to be able to have these conversation, not just within the House Republican conference, but on both sides of the aisle to avoid a shutdown.

BROWN: All right. We're going to talk more about that in a second. But, Congressman Gottheimer, you know, look, your colleague across the aisle, Congressman Lawler, might still be there, but others, they might be going home. They've just been given the all-clear to go home amid all of this. What do you make of that?

REP. JOSH GOTTHEIMER (D-NJ): Listen, what I make of it is, it's incredibly frustrating when the country looks at us and says, why can't you get your work done? Which is, frankly, when you have nine days until a shutdown, why yesterday and late into the evening the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group of 32 Democrats and 30 Republicans, we sat in a room and put together a bipartisan agreement to actually keep the lights on in the government, make sure that people, our veteran, our seniors, the military doesn't suffer with an unnecessary government shutdown and keep the country moving forward.

I think that's the kind of work we need and right now, getting extremists on the far right control things make no sense to me. I think common sense should prevail and that's what we've been working on.

BROWN: All right. Congressman Lawler, you said today that you're not going to be a party to a shutdown, but -- I mean, what are your plans to not be a party to prevent that because that's exactly the direction to which this seems to be headed.

LAWLER: Well, as I said, I just came from a meeting. I continue to push for the use of a continuing resolution to keep the government funded. I agree with many of my colleagues that we need to reduce spending. With all due respect to my colleague standing next to me, obviously, over the last two years, spending increased dramatically. I do want to rein that in. I do think that's why the American people elected a House Republican majority.

But they elected us to govern and we have that responsibility. And so, I say to my colleagues on the right -- yes, we got to rein in spending, yes, we need to work through the appropriations process but we cannot inflict pain on the American people in that process. A shutdown will only hurt the American people and that is what I am trying to avoid and it's why I'm willing to work across the aisle to ensure a CR passes but I will continue to talk to my colleagues in the House Republican majority to impress upon them the need to work together to govern.

We are in a divided government. The Democrats control the Senate and the White House, so we're not going to get everything we want and we have to work together to get there. GOTTHEIMER: And I'll just say there is a huge difference between as

Michael was pointing out between what's reasonable and draconian. The stuff coming out that we're reading about what they want to do to families in this country is draconian and crosses the line. There is a place for reasonableness and including, by the way, as we've been doing focus on paying down the debt and have a fiscal commission we've suggested as a way to move forward because I think you want to look at long-term deficit issues.

But not hurt people, not hurt our veterans or seniors, not cut military pay, right, and make sure we look out for people and there's a way to do both and that's what we're proposing, a reasonable commonsense bipartisan way forward. And you cannot bend to extremism, and I think that's one of the big lessons of right now for the Republicans that the extremists don't want to solve problems, they actually just want to muck things up and burn the place down as Speaker McCarthy said.

LAWLER: Well, and as somebody coming from New York, you know, one of the biggest crises we're dealing with right now is the migrant crisis, and dealing with our southern border is critical, and even within this framework, we have bipartisan agreement to work towards securing our border.

And I think these issues are so kite critical and it's so important that we put aside differences and focus on solving the problem advancing forward the work on behalf of the American people, keeping the government operating and continuing to work through the appropriations process in the coming weeks to make sure that we get a budget and a bill for the American people that puts them on the right fiscal path forward.

BROWN: Let me follow up with you. You bring up the border and heard Speaker McCarthy today amid the visit from Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, say, look what's happening with our southern border. How can we be focused on what is going on in Ukraine when we have this happening at the border?

But, Congressman Lawler, Congressman Byron Donalds said Tuesday that it's not a good time for Zelenskyy to be here and the House is essentially broke. And I'm wondering what you think about that. What kind of message does that send to the international community?

LAWLER: Well, listen, I was proud to welcome President Zelenskyy here earlier today. I saw him in the hallway, greeted him and I told him, I will continue to support the effort in Ukraine.

My wife is from Moldova. Her family lives about 30 miles from the Ukraine border. So this is -- this is personal. I mean, the reality is, if Ukraine were to fall, other former Soviet satellite countries would fall with it.

And we need to be resolute.

[16:20:01] Vladimir Putin is a vile dictator and thug, I have supported funding in Ukraine and I will continue to do that, and the vast majority of Congress does.

Yes, I understand my colleagues' concerns about transparency and accountability in how these funds are spent. I support that. But we cannot give up on this mission and let Vladimir Putin be successful.

BROWN: The reality is polls are showing that American support for Ukraine is waning. Congressman Gottheimer, on that note, how do you convince Americans living paycheck to paycheck is somehow the United States' responsibility a year and a half into this war?

GOTTHEIMER: Because if Putin wins and is able to spread his hate and tyranny across the region, as Michael just talking about, the cost to America would be significant. And the threats to American citizens would be significant.

You know, we're the greatest country in the world. We can make sure we fight dictators and take care of America and we need to do both as we have throughout our history and that's what I say to folks and, by the way, they're on board and understand Putin running wild is unacceptable and we have to keep up the fight but make sure we fight for them.

Which is exactly what we're doing right now, fighting back against the ideas of some extremists who say we actually to fund security, hurt law enforcement at home, hurt our veteran, hurt our seniors, which is unacceptable, right? And our plan, we put out in the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan, it includes support with transparency, with accountability, all those things are important.

I guess that's the big takeaway. You can do both if you're smart. You can make sure you're fiscally responsibility -- responsible and invest in the things we need in our country. That's exactly what the both of us are working on.

BROWN: All right. Democratic Congressman Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and Republican Congressman Mike Lawler of New York, thank you both for that conversation.


LAWLER: Thank you.

BROWN: Well, the influence at Fox now that the TV giant at the network, Rupert Murdoch, is stepping down. We'll discuss after this break.



BROWN: In our politics lead, a "Succession" episode playing out in real life. Rupert Murdoch has stepped down as head of Fox, handing over the reins to his son Lachlan. It marks the end of the reign of a man that could be credited for influencing American politics more than any other in the last decades but also came with a cost for Fox, that price tag hit nearly $800 million in a settlement to Dominion Voting Systems for lying to viewers repeatedly about the 2020 election.

Private communications revealed in that suit that Murdoch felt Trump had become increasingly mad by the end of his term and urged executives to help Republican candidates in the Georgia Senate runoff elections, quote, any way we can.

So let's discuss all of this with our panel.

I want to just talk about the overarching impact, Kristen, of Rupert Murdoch. You know, you talk to Republican voters all the time. How would you define his influence in shaping conservatives' world view?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Fox News is very influential with conservatives. And even if, you know, you say look at the ratings of a top rated prime time show, it'll be a couple million viewers which is no small potatoes in TV news, but it's also a very small drop in the bucket when you think of all voters in America.

What's so powerful so often about Fox's role in the ecosystem is once something comes up on Fox, it can spread through blogs, online, et cetera and you've seen this where big talent has left Fox over the last decade that Fox has remained strong and in that first place position among conservatives even as big names have left the network.

BROWN: I'm interested in getting your perspective, Kate, because you were with the Biden White House which would clearly give you a different perspective. How do you see Murdoch's influence and how that might have Democrats to shift their strategies?

KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I tell you, when I was in the Biden White House, we would make decisions about putting folks on Fox. We didn't decide we could write off, count out the Fox audience, even recognizing that, you know, most of them were not what you would call a persuadable voter. But they are -- they do have so much influence in the ecosystem that we didn't feel like we could just abandon talking to the Fox -- to the Fox audience.

So we had to make choices about which messages we thought their audience would listen to and who -- and which messengers we thought they would listen to, you know? But I think overall, the long-term impact that Rupert Murdoch is going to have as we look back is he's contributed to the undermining of a sense of faith in institutions in this country, some of the guardrails that have historically been kind of nonpartisan, journalism, you know, the courts and I think that's a really -- that's a really dangerous thing and I think that's a piece of his legacy that will extend beyond just -- you know, this election cycle or the next that we will have to grapple with.

BROWN: Do you think him leaving will change anything at Fox now his -- Lachlan, his son, taking over?

ANDERSON: I don't think so. I mean, reports are generally that the network, the folks running the network have been running the network for some time, that his son has been heavily involved for sometime. And I also think that Fox has found a formula for their viewers that those viewers really like, and sometimes, it's not necessarily covering something from a right or left perspective, it's the types of story.

You know, for instance, right now, I bet if we turned on Fox, there would be lots of coverage of a chaotic situation down at the border. That's a story that Fox viewers really care a lot about. And so, Rupert Murdoch to his credit sort of understood there was this large audience out there in America that said, we want to see news that we feel reflects our values. They found that in Fox, even as it evolved a lot over the years.

BROWN: How do you see it in terms of the change in leadership of Fox, changing how Democrats might deal with them? You mentioned when at the White House you couldn't turn a blind eye to them even though maybe these weren't people persuadable for Democrats.

How did you determine how and when to have someone from the administration appear on Fox?

BEDINGFIELD: Well, any time we felt like we were speaking to somebody's kitchen table concerns, so particularly when we had people out who were talking about the Biden economic agenda, were talking about, you know, what president Biden and the administration were doing to make people's lives better around their kitchen table, we would take that message to Fox.

We would also take a lot of our national security messages to Fox because despite what you see on display and the rift on Capitol Hill right now, you know, largely, the Fox audience is generally -- generally tends to be sort of pro a strong America, pro a strong America in the world, and so we would make that argument as well. But we had to think and make calculated decisions about how to do that because you don't always get a fair hearing, to say the least.

And there's a certain cynicism, I would argue, in the Fox ethos that makes it hard to just -- to put the facts out there and have them resonate. So, we would have to be -- we would have to be very specific about it.

ANDERSON: And I really give credit to anybody who goes on to a media outlet where they are entering sort of tough territory and going to answer questions. It may be different than they're getting from other media outlets. I know whenever their folks were conservatives who go on programs that are quite progressive, that sometimes yields the best television because you really are getting an interesting friction, you're getting audiences exposed to things they might not hear about.

BEDINGFIELD: Absolutely.

BROWN: I think that's important. They're being challenged in a way they're not going to be challenged otherwise. That could go -- that could really be, you know, across the board.

BEDINGFIELD: Exactly. And it's good -- it's good for the discourse and at a time when people are so hardened into their camps and there are so few truly persuadable voters or people who are truly open to hearing arguments from the other side, that -- it's important to do that.

BROWN: Yeah. No, I agree, and I think as a journalist, it's important for people to be exposed to world views that are different from their own, right, not just having their own views reinforced.

But when you look at Fox and you talk about the change in leadership now and how you don't think that is going to change much, Fox has been through a lot lately, right? We should remind viewers this is only the latest change. We've seen high-profile primetime voices from Bill O'Reilly to Tucker Carlson gone.

Does that matter in terms of the messages they deliver to U.S. voters?

ANDERSON: Well, there certainly have been changes in their lineup over the years. There have been changes in leadership. You know, Roger Ailes had enormous influence at the network, ran it for quite sometime. So there have been lots of changes, but it's always sort of been able to come back to this understanding of, like, there's this conservative group out there that really wants to hear the stories that they care about covered that has a very clear sense of how they view the world and is looking for news that speaks to that.

And so individual people who have been in primetime whether Bill O'Reilly, whether it's Tucker Carlson who have left the network have often tried to find a new home whether online trying to build their own platform but the Fox brand is just very strong, and the ability to draw in viewers to that means it's been a little challenging for anybody to leave that nest and succeed a lot on their own.

BROWN: But they still have prominent voices like Sean Hannity, right, who we know from January 6 Committee hearings and the Dominion lawsuit was actively advising former President Trump, and his allies, as well. I'm wondering, Kate, how do you see his role now that we're in election season again?

BEDINGFIELD: Well, this is the other piece of what Fox built that can be dangerous, the bleeding between opinion and journalism and Sean Hannity would say, I'm an opinion-maker, I'm not a journalist.

But if he is presenting himself to his audience as authoritative voice and not being candid about the private conversations that he's having with Donald Trump and his team, the texts back and forth with Mark Meadows, then, you know, that's not providing all of the information to the audience in a way that allows them to make decisions about what am I hearing, what filter am I getting this through.

And that's very dangerous. The melding -- the blurring, I should say of opinion and journalism, that's a dangerous thing.

BROWN: Kate Bedingfield, Kristen Soltis Anderson, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Up next, new details coming in on a deadly bus crash involving high school band students.

Plus, the alleged horror in a police warehouse in Louisiana dubbed the brave cave. That's now spelled out in two federal lawsuits, an attorney representing the plaintiffs joining us next.



BROWN: And we are back with our national lead. We're getting these live images from a serious bus crash in New York state. This one involving high school students. One person has died. At least 48 people were injured, three severely.

Police are investigating how the bus taking high school students to a band camp overturned on Interstate 84 in Orange County. New York Governor Kathy Hochul issued this statement just moments ago, saying: We are grateful for the first responders whose speedy actions saved live and will continue to support them however necessary. Our hearts are with all of those who are impacted by this horrific situation.

And to the buried lead, that's stories that we feel deserve more attention and a warning for you. The details here might be disturbing. This one, a second federal lawsuit alleging horrors inside a warehouse in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It is nicknamed, quote, the brave cave.

Inside, two plaintiffs claim they strip searched by officers on a so- called street crimes unit. One says he was tortured. And this most recent plaintiff is a grandmother, Ternell Brown. She claims Baton Rouge officers pulled her over and her husband back in June and she was taken to this brave cave when officers became suspicious of her two different prescription pills in the same container.

Well, her lawsuit claims she was held at that police warehouse for two hours and officers forced her to prove that she was, quote, not hiding contraband in her vagina or rectum. Baton Rouge police say it was a narcotics processing facility and all operations have been disbanded and reassigned.


And the mayor says an officer named Troy Lawrence Jr., deputy chief of patrol operations, has left. CNN did not reach out to attorneys for Lawrence. The police union and others named in the lawsuit for comment but have not reached back. We did reach out, we should note. Now, apparently, he has resigned, that officer.

I want to bring in attorney -- an attorney for Ternell Brown, Ryan Thompson.

Really disturbing details coming out of these lawsuits, Ryan, and this incident with the grandmother was only three months ago. How is Ternell doing?

RYAN K. THOMPSON, ATTORNEY REPRESENTING TERNELL BROWN AND JEREMY LEE: She's still physically and emotionally shaken by this. I did speak to her today again, that was something that was very traumatic, traumatic for anyone. So, she's still recovering. However all the phone calls and support she receives keeps her in good spirits.

BROWN: You also represent the plaintiff in the first lawsuit concerning this brave cave, Jeremy Lee. Tell us what happened to him.

THOMPSON: Yeah, so back in January, I was contacted by Mr. Lee's mother and stated she had not spoken to her son and that she was very concerned about him. At that point in time, once I was retained, I went to go do a welfare check on Mr. Lee at the prison.

And instantly once I saw Mr. Lee, I knew that something was wrong. There were a bump above his head. Mr. Lee complained of urinating blood when he was using the rest room and there were also physical signs of some type of bruising around the ribs.

Later on, I found out that Mr. Lee was tone to the hospital and he was diagnosed with a fractured rib. According to Mr. Lee, once he was arrested at a home, he was then transported to what we now foe to be the brave cave, says that upon entry into the brave cave, Officer Troy Lawrence and other officers started to take off their body worn cameras, and said once he entered into the warehouse, he said he was instantly attacked by Mr. Lawrence and several other officers. Another officer performed a leg sweep and what transpired there he described as a gang style beating.

Once that occurred, Mr. Lee was then interviewed, interrogated without counsel being present. At that point in time, again, he was then transported to the parish prison. Once he was transported to parish prison, Baton Rouge parish prison, did not admit -- did not allow him to come in and he was then taken to the hospital and that's where he was diagnosed with fractured ribs.

BROWN: Wow. Baton Rouge police for their part say that this building has been around for about 20 years. You've said since your clients have come forward you've heard from others. You said you may be only scratching the surface on claims.

How many people do you believe may have been illegally strip searched here?

THOMPSON: So, there was a press conference that was held by Baton Rouge police department when we first broke the story whereby they stated 350 people were taken to that site the year before maybe 650. I personally have spoken to 20 people and everyone I've spoken to said they were strip searched in a sexually humiliating way. So, at this point, I can confirm 20 but I think it's in the thousands.

BROWN: Wow. The deputy chief and other Baton Rouge officers said they had never heard of this facility called the brave cave until just recently. Do you believe that?

THOMPSON: I want to think that all law enforcement have integrity so I'll take him at his word. Now, whether or not that is the truth amongst the rank and file, I don't believe that because clearly an officer used this term, the brave cave. It should also be noted that the brave cave is connected to a unit that was disbanded years ago through the Baton Rouge area violence elimination which is a federal program that was funded by the federal government here to address violence.

So the fact that that unit was disbanded and officers still using the term brave cave tells me that someone knew something but I'll take the chief at his word. He's always been a man of integrity but I do believe that the rank and file knew about this name and knew what was going on there.

BROWN: According to the Baton Rouge Police Department, officers in the street crimes unit have been disbanded and reassigned. Are you satisfied with that response?

THOMPSON: I -- well, myself, Attorney Jessica Hawkins (ph), and Professor Thomas Frank (ph), we believe that what occurred is criminal. And so, we're awaiting for individuals to be arrested and/or indicted. And so, though they disbanded the unit I'm waiting for someone to be arrested.

We did a press conference and brother Garrett Chambers (ph) spoke so eloquently where he talked about the fact that the average everyday citizen, if there is a crime that an officer believes committed, they're not allowed to go home.


They're arrested right then and then, and I believe at this point in time, those individuals that were involved in Jeremy Lee and Ms. Brown's case should be arrested immediately with all due speed.

BROWN: Ryan Thompson, thank you.

THOMPSON: Thank you so much, ma'am. Have a good day.

BROWN: You too.

THOMPSON: Well, a 3-year-old little boy drowned. Thousands of others continue to risk their lives. We are on the border to show you where the state of the migrant crisis stands right now.


BROWN: In our national lead, the humanitarian crisis developing on the U.S. southern border. We are learning today that a 3-year-old boy drowned yesterday afternoon after being swept away by the Rio Grande River currently trying to cross with his family near Eagle Pass, Texas.


The current I should say. That's according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

A U.S. Homeland Security official tells CNN 8,600 migrants have been arrested crossing the U.S. southern border in the last 24 hours. The White House will deploy an additional 800 troops to assist the growing surge after the mayor of Eagle Pass, Texas, declared a state of emergency.

CNN's Ed Lavandera joins us now live from Eagle Pass, Texas.

So, Ed, you've been watching this crisis unfold at the border in real time. You've seen this kind of thing happen before. Why the surge now?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the question that many people are trying to figure out. I can tell you in our reporting throughout the course of the day in speaking with the migrants who we witnessed cross over, hundreds and hundreds at a time today, many of them tell us, and many of the ones that were crossing here in Venezuela, the vast majority of them were from Venezuela.

So those are people who've been -- and they told us they've been waiting on the Mexican side of the border for several months in many cases as they tried to go through what is known as the CBP One app. And basically, this is an application process that allows migrants to set up an appointment to present their asylum case.

Many of these migrants have been telling us they've been waiting months and months to get through. And a sense of desperation is setting in. That's why you're seeing these massive numbers in part showing up on the American side of the river, creating a great deal of headaches for the border patrol agents, state authorities and the local officials who are trying to be able to cope with the amount of people here that are arriving.

But by and large, what we're hearing from the migrants who say they're tired of waiting, that there's a sense of desperation setting in and they just wanted to get across.

BROWN: It's just awful, I mean, how dangerous the conditions are. This little 3-year-old boy drowning. It reminded me of that horrible situation a few years ago where you had the dad, the Salvadoran migrant, and his toddler drowning there.

You spoke to a group of Venezuelan migrants today attempting to cross that river. Tell us more about what you're seeing. Why are they taking these risks?

LAVANDERA: Well, if you see the razor wire you see behind me, that group of migrants that we saw basically just crawling underneath a couple of them had figured out a way to lift up the wire and that allowed the group that was -- spent hours waiting on the edge of the river there to get in. This is all unfolding as state authorities, Border Patrol agents were standing there waiting for them to get through and then they were taken into custody.

Many of these people-- in fact, it was kind of a surreal scene. The first man that came across he stood up and instantly apologized to the United States for entering illegally. But as I mentioned, it's really the sense of desperation. And these migrants tell us they are willing to take their chances with the immigration process here and if that means they'll be deported then they'll deal with that. But it's almost like they've gotten to the point where they're tired of waiting and they want to push along into the system to see what may or may not happen for them.

BROWN: And you've also spoken to local law enforcement. What are they telling you about this current influx?

LAVANDERA: Well, we spoke with the local sheriff here in Eagle Pass, who's very concerned about how all of this is happening. And you know, there is a great deal of organized crime on the other side, and that's why you see predominantly vast numbers of Venezuelans arriving here on the Mexican side of the border from Eagle Pass. You know, that's not by accident.

And so, a lot of these -- the sheriff is very concerned that there are bigger forces at play here, smuggling operations that will prey on these people once they are processed and given the paperwork needed to be able to stay in the United States. And they say they've been seeing smuggling operations and people coming here to Eagle Pass to move these migrants to other parts of the country.

So these are the different types of issues and concerns that law enforcement that we've spoken with here say they have at this moment.

BROWN: Ed Lavandera, thank you so much, from Eagle Pass, Texas.

And here in D.C., the stakes are growing higher with just nine days to fund the federal government before a shutdown. Yet lawmakers appear to be leaving, sent home for the weekend. What we are learning about negotiations or lack thereof, coming up.



BROWN: In our sports lead, the first medical doctor to play in the NFL is retiring. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif announced on Instagram that after nine years in the NFL, he will be stepping off the field. The 32-year-old offensive lineman was in his third year of medical school when the Kansas City Chiefs drafted him. And while playing he continued his studies, returning to Montreal in the off-season to work in the hospital.

When he was on the field, he helped the Chiefs win their first Super Bowl in 50 years back in 2020. Only months after the Super Bowl win, Duvernay-Tardif was the first NFL player to opt out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, choosing instead to return to a long- term care facility in Montreal.

Well, a big interview is coming up next week right here on THE LEAD. Jake Tapper will sit down with Cassidy Hutchinson in her first interview with CNN. She was a top aide for former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. She was also that star witness for the January 6th committee who gave damning testimony about Donald Trump's actions on the day of the Capitol attack.

Jake's interview with Cassidy Hutchinson is next Tuesday. Again, you can see it right here on THE LEAD.

Be sure to follow me on Instagram @pamelabrowncnn, or write the show at X @TheLeadCNN. I'll see you tonight on "ANDERSON COOPER 360".

Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer and "THE SITUATION ROOM".