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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Tonight: 7 GOP Presidential Candidates Face Off In 2nd Debate; Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin Won't Say Whether He Would Back Biden If Election Were Held Today; Police: More Than 50 People Arrested In Connection To Overnight Looting In Downtown Philadelphia; Man Cheered By Canadian Parliament Was In A Nazi Unit; 17 Suicides A Day Among Military Veterans. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired September 27, 2023 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to The Lead. I'm Jake Tapper.
This hour, oh, Canada. The standing ovation that created scandal for our neighbors to the north. How a room full of Canadian lawmakers ended up giving a standing o for a Ukrainian veteran who, it turns out, fought for the wrong side during World War II. After it was pointed out the guy fought with the Nazis, there's major new international repercussions today, including an apology from Justin Trudeau.
Plus, look at this video. A night of looting in Center City, Philadelphia. Shocking images of lawlessness prompting even more serious questions about basic safety in our cities in the United States.
And leading this hour, yes, the election music. You know I love it. A critical night in the Republican presidential race. Only seven will be allowed on the stage in this second debate instead of eight in the first round. Governor Asa Hutchinson, the one not making the cut tonight. Sorry, Governor.
The dominant candidate in this primary race also will not be on stage, Donald Trump, though that is voluntarily. Instead, Mr. Trump going to Michigan with a message for union workers, though oddly, he's chosen to do so at a non-union plant. We'll get to that later.
But let's start with a debate. CNN's Jeff Zeleny is in Simi Valley, California, where Republican candidates will take the stage in just a few hours.
Jeff, who made the stage? And how critical of a night is this for candidates looking to break through, which is, to be honest, all of them.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It is all of them, Jake. And it's a critical night for all seven of those candidates who will be on stage. At center stage once again is Florida governor Ron DeSantis. He also will be surrounded, this time by former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, as well as Ohio entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, and the rest of the field goes out on the stage from there. But yes, this is a scramble for second place, a race to be seen as the Trump alternative.
There's no doubt a lot has happened since that last debate in Milwaukee at the end of August. Certainly, there's a looming government shutdown, there is a massive strike that is, you know, potentially creating economic headwinds and waves in Michigan. Abortion policy is also much more front and center than it was even a month ago because of Donald Trump's own comments. So those are some of the new issues.
But many of these candidates, many of these campaigns simply want to have this night without Donald Trump to make their case, to make their introduction directly to the voters, largely of Iowa, largely of New Hampshire who are consuming a steady diet of Trump news. So they are trying to sort of get beyond that to make their own cases here. Of course, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, we're told, is going to go directly after the former president. That, of course, has been the centerpiece of his campaign.
But, Jake, what we're looking for here tonight are some of those new cross currents. The race has changed a bit since that last debate. Nikki Haley has been on the rise, at least somewhat. The Florida governor certainly has high stakes here in terms of trying to hold his position as the leading alternative, if you will. And, of course, former Vice President Mike Pence clearly also, he's on the end of the stage this time, still also trying to make his point as well and stay in this contest.
As you said, Asa Hutchison is not on the stage tonight, Jake. Seven are, but the next debate will not be until November, so this could be one of the biggest opportunities for all of these candidates to break through.
TAPPER: So, Jeff, I know you remember the last time I believe there was a Republican debate at the Reagan Library was 2015. I got to moderate it for CNN. I talked about Reagan quite a bit. It was 2015, the Republican Party was very different than what it is today. How much is former President Reagan's legacy factoring into tonight, if at all?
ZELENY: Jake, it's extraordinary to think of the changes just in eight short years. We do all remember that debate that you asked questions at, and the Reagan legacy was front and center in all that. Well, Donald Trump was just beginning to commandeer the Republican Party. At that point, though it was very much uncertain if he would win the primaries, become the nominee. Of course he did.
So, so much has changed. But I am told that several of the candidates are still going to deploy at least the legacy and the memory of Ronald Reagan, particularly on foreign policy. Look, former Vice President Mike Pence to invoke him, Nikki Haley as well. But, Jake, it feels entirely different here this time when you think of the history of Ronald Reagan. We did see several of the candidates go and pay their respects to the former president, who of course, is entombed here in Simi Valley.
But beyond that, this clearly is the party of Donald Trump, whether or not he's here. Jake.
TAPPER: Remember, Reagan's 11th commandment, thou shalt not speak ill of thy fellow Republican. Good times.
Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much.
TAPPER: Let's go now to CNN's Kristen Holmes in Clinton Township, Michigan. That's where Donald Trump is going to be instead of the debate stage in California.
Kristen, walk us through Mr. Trump's plans. Why did he decide on Michigan instead of the debate?
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, this is the clearest signal we have had from the Trump campaign that they are looking ahead to the general election beyond these primaries. If they were still focusing solely on the primaries, we'd likely see him in South Carolina or Iowa or New Hampshire. But instead, he is giving a primetime address to working class voters in the swing state of Michigan.
Now, a reminder, these voters and this state helped deliver him the White House in 2016, and it helped deliver President Biden the White House in 2020. And Trump wants to take some of those voters back. Now, obviously, we're in a very different scenario than were in 2016 because Trump has a political record. And one that union leaders have almost excoriated calling pro-business, anti-worker, anti-union. But the Trump advisors tell me they believe they can drive a wedge between these union leaders and the rank file members.
And they certainly want to show that tonight. I just want to show you over my shoulder here, Donald Trump always won for optics. They are going to fill a pen that is flanking Donald Trump while he speaks tonight with union members who are in support of Trump. And of course, they are all going to be holding up signs that say Union Members in support of Trump. So clearly trying to give that visual there.
We know that he's going to be focused a lot on the economy tonight. The big question, of course, is whether or not he can actually get these union members to vote for him in 2024.
TAPPER: Trump is making a play for Michigan voters amid this auto worker strike, but he's visiting a non-union plant. What's up with that?
HOLMES: So the campaign will have you know that these parts that are made here are going to union shops, but it does appear that there's another reason why they chose this location. One of the things that Donald Trump has routinely hit Biden over is electric vehicles. And he's gotten bigger and bigger on it in recent weeks, essentially saying that it will kill American jobs, that all the jobs are going to go overseas. Well, we heard from the president of Drake Enterprises, where this event is located at tonight, who said on Fox News that if electric cars were to take over, he would be out of business and everyone here would be out of a job. So clearly some messaging there and a preview to what we're going to hear in his speech tonight.
TAPPER: All right. Kristen Holmes, thanks so much.
Let's bring in CNN political commentator Ashley Allison, the former National Coalition's Director for Biden Harris 2020, and CNN Political Commentator Jonah Goldberg, the co-founder and editor in chief of The Dispatch.
What do you think Ronald Reagan would make of today's GOP?
JONAH GOLDBERG, FELLOW, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: He would be upset. I think -- I think, you can actually -- f you listen very closely, you can hear his spinning right now. I think that, you know -- I mean, you mentioned the 11th commandment thing, I think it's worth pointing out that one of the reasons why he had the 11th commandment was he didn't want to relitigate Watergate and Nixon, right? It was a way to sort of say, we're going to bring the party together.
That -- I think if Trump were not on the scene, we would be in an 11th commandment mode because that's how you would get past Trump is by getting past Trump. But Trump is this creature that is not going to leave the scene voluntarily. And it makes it very difficult to have any sort of norms or standards about party unity or anything like that because he thinks he's more important than the party.
TAPPER: There is something kind of Reaganesque, though, going on with Trump right now is -- in that I'm old enough to remember his achievement in getting Reagan Democrats, these blue collar industrial guys who normally would vote union and going for Reagan because their belief in a strong foreign -- in other issues, strong foreign policy, strong economy, that sort of thing. And a lot of those guys just never came back to the Democratic Party.
ASHLEY ALLISON, FORMER NATIONAL COALITIONS DIRECTOR FOR BIDEN-HARRIS 2020: Yes. And I think that's why you see him in Michigan today thinking that he can pull some of the UAW workers who are currently on strike to -- back to him if they voted for Joe Biden, knowing that Michigan is a strong battleground state. But the irony is is that he's not even at a union plant. So how are you supporting workers that are in labor when you don't even go to a plant where they're actually working? And really, what is your policy behind worker rights?
Trump is not a pro union president. The Republican Party is not traditionally a pro-worker party. So while some of those Reagan Democrats might be moving over to Donald Trump, I think the issues that we're seeing right now could keep them firmly in Biden's camp, particularly when you see how Joe Biden was historically the first president to ever go to a picket line yesterday and stood with workers.
ALLISON: And I think that is a really telling sign that they may be on the Biden camp for this election.
TAPPER: So let's look at -- let's look at the debate tonight. There's a new piece in Semafor that suggests that this is do or die for Ron DeSantis, who's still in the lead in several states and several polls. But one Republican consultant backing DeSantis is quoted in this piece saying, "If he doesn't do well here, in my opinion, he's got to drop out, if he doesn't want to be embarrassed." That might be a little premature. There hasn't even been one vote cast yet.
But what do you think? I mean, I -- he hasn't exactly been lightning in a bottle for him.
GOLDBERG: No, and I don't want to go all fact check here on you, but he is in the lead for second.
TAPPER: Excellent point.
TAPPER: Excellent point.
GOLDBERG: Yes. Look, I mean, I think the problem for DeSantis is that he spent a lot of time saying, wait till I run, wait till I announce, then I'll show you. Wait till this, wait till that, wait till the first debate. And the problem is that he just hasn't had the pop. In fact, he's sort of the --
GOLDBERG: He's regressed to the mean more than anything else. And I think one of the problems that we get into here in Washington and a lot of the punditry is we can really only talk about what's legible like, what's visible to us from our perch. And so that means we talk about national polls, which I don't think matter very much, and we talk about debates, which I don't think matter all that much. DeSantis had a good debate, according to a lot of the focus groups and that kind of stuff, but he didn't take off after it. Nikki Haley had a good debate, and she did.
I don't think it was necessarily because of the debate performance. I think it's because she's much better at retail politicking in places like New Hampshire and Iowa than DeSantis is. And that really matters in those first in the nation races. And it just -- it seems like DeSantis had a campaign designed for the very online right, right? He even literally announced on Twitter, and that went great.
GOLDBERG: And it shows you that his instincts were geared towards basically a Fox audience, a Twitter audience, and not the door to door gland heading audience that he needs to be good at. And I think that's what -- where -- why he's suffering.
TAPPER: And the other argument one could make is that DeSantis is running to Trump's right and there isn't a lot of room there, really. I mean, well, in terms of his support -- there is actually some room there, but his supporters on his right are locked in on Trump, really.
TAPPER: And Nikki Haley in some ways is kind of like leaning towards a general election already a little bit.
ALLISON: Well, I think that's a smart strategy for her, particularly if she isn't going to aggressively criticize Trump, which many think those in the Republican field should do right now, DeSantis is, I think, definitely running to the right of Donald Trump because he is trying to be Trump 2.0. If you don't like this guy, if you don't like what happened on January 6, we're not going to really talk about it. If you believe Donald Trump actually lost the election, I don't really want to talk about it in my campaign. But if you want the exact same policies, whether it's child separations, the culture wars, I'm your guy.
And I think Nikki Haley realizes by some of her answers that's not going to play well in a general election. So, you may fare well perhaps in a Republican primary, but will that be an agenda that can beat Joe Biden based on the way the American people feel on those issues? No, it's not.
GOLDBERG: Yes, I don't disagree with necessarily any of that. But I do think the focus on issues both in terms of like, labor unions and also on the DeSantis 2.0 stuff. The real problem with the DeSantis 2.0 strategy is releasing 2.0 only works when people want to get rid of 1.0.
GOLDBERG: And 1.0 is just out there, right?
GOLDBERG: And I don't think that a lot -- the voters that Trump is trying to go after tonight with the Michigan speech, he's going to appeal to them. Yes, he'll say things about union stuff and workers, but really a lot of our politics now is becoming basically coded culture war stuff and issues.
GOLDBERG: I don't think there are lot of voters out there who were voting on issues. If they were, at some point they would be disappointed because Trump has changed his position on virtually all of the issues and yet they stay with him. It's much more of a personality thing.
TAPPER: So there are two independent voters that I'm going to run clips from, two undecided voters. The first one is Cassidy Hutchinson, who I interviewed yesterday, and she was disappointed that so few candidates said that they would not vote for Donald Trump if he were a convicted felon. Here's a little -- the two were Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson, who didn't make the debate stage tonight. Here's a little bit of that part of the interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER AIDE TO W.H. CHIEF OF STAFF MARK MEADOWS: I had a lot of hope with Nikki Haley. I thought that she had very intelligent and well fleshed out answers on things. Even Mike Pence, yes, I was really disappointed when I saw Mike Pence raise his hand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So that's a Republican who actually cares about democracy, and she's looking for a pro-democracy Republican. Now I'm going to play Joe Manchin of West Virginia who talked to our own Kasie Hunt on her CNN Max show, I believe, and he has not committed to voting for Biden. Let's run that sound.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: If the election were being held today, would you vote for Joe Biden for reelection?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Well, I never thought about that because I have not gotten to that point yet. I think there's an awful lot to be sorted out before you can come down to it.
HUNT: So you're not saying yes? You're not saying yes you would vote for him for reelection today?
MANCHIN: I'm not saying yes or no on this. I'm just saying that I'm looking at the state of my country where I believe that we need to be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLDBERG: Yes. I mean, look, I think he's a patriotic, decent guy. I don't think it's because he's looking at the state of the country. He's looking at the fact that --
TAPPER: He might run.
GOLDBERG: Well, he's also looking from the fact that he comes from a state where he's the last elected Democrat. He will be the last elected Democrat. The state was the most pro-Trump state, I think, of any state in the union. And going out and --
TAPPER: I think Wyoming.
GOLDBERG: OK, fair enough. But going out and saying you're all in for Biden doesn't help him for either of those purposes, running as a third party thing or for running for reelection in his own state. And so he's got to play coy. I don't think it's all that much more complicated than that.
TAPPER: And Joe Biden, meanwhile, he does this prodemocracy thing people might understand -- not really fully understand why he does it. I think he does it for the Cassidy Hutchinson Republicans out there.
ALLISON: Absolutely. I mean, after you look at someone like Cassidy, who really put it on the line by denouncing Trump and testifying in front of the January 6 committee, for Mike Pence, her former boss, not to even say I would not vote for Donald Trump after he certified the elections, sure, I was disappointed too. And that's definitely who Joe Biden thinks he can bring over and keep in his column.
TAPPER: Jonah, Ashley, thanks so much for being here. I appreciate it.
After the debate, turn to CNN for analysis with Anderson Cooper and Dana Bash. That begins tonight at 11;00 Eastern.
Just in. New comments from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy with roughly three days until a government shutdown, will we see a deal to stop what seems to be likely on the way? Plus, the day in court for Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey and his wife. Menendez is planning to address his colleagues on Capitol Hill soon, at least. I think it's 30 Democrats in the Senate have called on him to resign. We're going to talk about this approach next.
TAPPER: Just in, some new comments from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Capitol Hill about this government funding fight, including the new strategy he is backing, a short term continuing resolution that insists on funding for border security. Here is what Speaker McCarthy had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: Don't think money solves the problem because what has happened here, it's been the President's policies that has made the border wide open. And I've worked with Sinema and others. There are Democrat elected members who want the border secure as well because they see what's happening to their own states. This is why I don't understand why the President would ignore this problem continue when both sides are the ask -- both sides are asking to help solve this problem together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: You see the countdown clock there three days, six hours, 37 minutes, 30 seconds. Congress has less than four days to go until the government runs out of funding and a shutdown goes into effect.
In our law and justice lead today, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of the Garden State of New Jersey pleaded not guilty to corruption related charges in a federal courtroom. The senator and his wife are accused of accepting hundreds, hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes. At least 30 of his fellow Senate Democrats have called upon him to resign. CNN's Paula Reid joins me now from New York across the river from New Jersey.
Paula, walk us through what happened in court today.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, this was the first hearing for the senator and his wife since those charges were filed last week. They both entered pleas of not guilty through their respective attorneys. They're also both expected to relinquish their personal passports, but the senator will be allowed to keep his official passport for any travel related to his day job as a senior lawmaker.
Now, they declined to answer any questions as they were exiting federal court today. But they are expected to be back here at federal court early next week for their first hearing before the judge who will handle this case through what is expected to be a trial.
TAPPER: And Paula, a growing of -- a growing number of Menendez's Democratic colleagues, 30 --
TAPPER: -- out of 50, are calling for his resignation. He's going to address them tomorrow?
REID: Yes, it could be a bit of an awkward meeting, Jake. As you just noted, more than half of his Democratic senate colleagues are calling for him to resign. So far, he has remained defiant even in the wake of these calls for him to step down. We expect also tomorrow during this meeting that Senator Cardin will be named the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, a post that Menendez had to vacate after this indictment. But it is likely that his colleagues are going to have a lot of tough questions for him in the wake of these charges.
TAPPER: How does this case differ from some of the public corruption cases that we've seen in the past? Ted Stevens, Governor McDonnell, another one against Menendez. John Edwards, all of which, all of which fell apart?
REID: Exactly. Even when the public integrity section of the Justice Department was able to get a conviction. For example, the governor, Bob McDonnell, the Supreme Court overturned that. Made it really difficult for them to really get convictions when they are accusing politicians of taking either gifts or possible bribes in exchange for wielding political influence. This is something that Menendez has pointed to repeatedly over the past few days noting that he has previously been charged and was not convicted.
But one of the key differences with this case, Jake, is the fact that at the heart of this case is the accusation that the senator shared sensitive information with a foreign government against U.S. interests. That is really a distinguishing factor from those other cases and part of why this case is so serious and likely why so many of his colleagues are calling for him to step down.
TAPPER: Paula Reid, thanks so much. Police say this wild night of straight lawlessness in my beloved hometown of Philadelphia was a coordinated crime. What else are they now saying about the looting on Chestnut and Walnut streets? That's next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TAPPER: In our national lead, this is what downtown Philly looked like last night when a crowd of people ransacked an Apple Store, a Foot Locker, a Lululemon, and several other businesses in Center City. The looting was so bad, Philadelphia closed all of its liquor stores today after 18 of them were broken into. More than 50 people, including three teenagers, have been arrested in what police suspect was a coordinated crime spree.
CNN's Danny Freeman is in Philadelphia's Center City district right now. Danny, this all happened about 30 minutes after some peaceful protests, apparently completely separate, had ended.
DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. And because of that, it was really a frustrating and troublesome night here in Philadelphia for so many people. Police reporting that there were more than 70 incidents related to looting last night. And as you said, it was all after really peaceful protests concerning that court decision about an officer who killed Eddie Irizarry back in August.
But police wanted to make something very clear last night and today that they will continue to arrest those who are responsible for the looting and also that the looters were not protesters. They were, as police called them, criminal opportunists. So, Jake, here's how this all started. Basically, it started around 8:00 p.m., like you said, about 30 or 40 minutes after that protest by city hall had concluded. Then looters descended on a Foot Locker right here behind me in Center City.
Police arrived, but then those people swarmed away. Then they went to a Lululemon, an Apple Store, and then other parts of Philadelphia as well. Jake, police say that some of the people may have spread the word about looting last night over social media and even suggested there may have been a caravan of a select group of people who were going to specific spots in Philadelphia. Police saying incredibly disrespectful and disgusting acts against citizens here in the city.
But again, many arrests and, Jake, we're seeing more Philadelphia police resources tonight out in the city behind us. Jake?
TAPPER: And according to the Philly police, there have been more than 820 retail thefts in the city in just the last two weeks, more than 820. Have police or city officials talked about how they plan to tackle this?
FREEMAN: Yes, Jake, retail theft has been something that Philadelphia police have been dealing with not just in the past two weeks, but for a little while now, especially in this Center City district. What I'll say is that police were asked, basically, if they gave enough heads up to these businesses in Center City that there might be a concern about looting. The managing director acknowledged they could have done better to communicate that with businesses and the business community, but it is something that they have clearly stated, especially after last night. It is a priority for them moving forward. Jake?
TAPPER: All right, Danny Freeman in Philly, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
The theft and organized crime we saw in Philly last night is a reason why Target says it will close at least nine of its stores in several major cities. Two in Seattle, Washington, three in Portland, Oregon, three in Oakland and San Francisco and California and one in New York City. CNN's Veronica Miracle is following the story. Veronica, is crime really the main reason why Target is closing these specific stores?
VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, there is some skepticism whether big box retailers are using crime as an excuse to close down stores that aren't doing well. But I will tell you, at least here at this San Francisco Target, we spoke to a lot of regulars, and they say they believe that crime is the reason for at least this store closure. I spoke with a man who's lived across the street for three years, and he says on a regular basis, every day he sees multiple people running out of the store with stolen items. Take a listen to his firsthand account.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARVEY ZEPEDA, SAN FRANCISCO RESIDENT: I see tons of homeless come up in here every single day. I can't say that everyone's stealing, but I would say a majority of them, they come in here just to steal, to resell it, to do whatever they do with the money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MIRACLE: And Target did give us a statement saying that before they made this decision, they invested heavily in strategies to prevent and stop theft and organized retail crime by adding more security team members, using third party guard services, and implementing theft deterrent tools across their business. But Jake, ultimately it was not enough to stop those nine stores from being shut down.
This all does align with new data just released by the National Retail Federation, which reports that 28 percent of retailers are closing locations due to crime. Jake?
TAPPER: Do we know how these closures in general impact the local economies for the surrounding communities?
MIRACLE: Well, just like food deserts, these people are now going to have to leave this area. They're going to have to go to other locations, they'll have to travel farther, and then those remaining stores are going to get busier. And then we're already seeing an impact here. So these store hours have changed. Just today here, it's supposed to open at 9:00. They opened at 10:00. So there was a line of cars of people waiting, people being turned away.
We understand that this is the same situation that happened in New York at one of the Target stores as well. Now, I did go inside. I spoke to an employee and I asked her what she plans on doing. She told me that she just found out about this store closure last night, the same time as the general public, and that employees are being given the option to move to other store locations. Jake?
TAPPER: All right, Veronica Miracle in San Francisco, thanks so much.
Canada has a problem, a growing international problem. It started with an embarrassing standing ovation for a Ukrainian veteran who, it turns out, had fought with the wrong side in World War II. The resignation that followed and the apology and what could be next in this grim saga, that's coming up.
TAPPER: Back to our World Lead, and an apology today day from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for a, quote, deeply embarrassing act by the Canadian government a few days ago. It all started last Friday when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited the Canadian parliament in Ottawa. During the ceremony, the speaker of parliament introduced a 98-year-old Ukrainian World War II veteran who was watching from the gallery.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY ROTA, CANADIAN HOUSE SPEAKER: He's a Ukrainian hero, a Canadian hero.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Yaroslav Hunka got a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd, which, to be fair, presumably did not know anything about him at the time. Hunka even got a raised fist gesture, a respect from President Zelenskyy, who definitely did not know anything about him at the time. Here's the problem, and it's a doozy. Hunka in World War II fought for what it's fair to say was the wrong side. Hunka belonged to a Ukrainian unit that swore loyalty to the Nazis.
A Canadian human rights organization says Hunka's unit, quote, was responsible for the mass murder of innocent civilians with a level of brutality and malice that is unimaginable. CNN's Paula Newton is following the scandal for us from our Canadian bureau and its fallout, which is considerable and now has both political and legal ramifications. Paula, I mean oh, Canada, this is embarrassing. How did it even happen? PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is beyond embarrassing, Jake. Most people have attached the word shameful to this and for good reason. How did it happen? One was an error in vetting. But let's be clear. This wasn't just that they didn't vet him properly. This is a matter of historical ignorance, and many people in Canada are now saying that as well.
The speaker himself resigned, but then Prime Minister Justin Trudeau coming out just a few hours ago and apologizing. But more than that, Jake, he made the point that this was incredibly troubling for Ukraine itself and does not help their ongoing battle with Russia. Listen,.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: It is extremely troubling to think that this egregious error is being politicized by Russia and its supporters to provide false propaganda about what Ukraine is fighting for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: I mean this really gave Russia a propaganda win, and many know it, especially since Russia used the pretense, of course, denazifying Ukraine in order to justify their invasion in the first place. Jake?
TAPPER: And now Poland wants to extradite Hunka.
NEWTON: Listen Poland, the Polish government confirmed to CNN that they are in fact looking at any evidence that they may have in order to finally bring this man to justice if indeed it proves to be true that he committed any war crimes and pledged allegiance to Adolf Hitler. What's interesting here, and Jewish groups in Canada say absolutely appalling, is that they've been fighting for decades to have those holocaust records made public. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL MOSTYN, CEO OF B'NAI B'RITH CANADA: And so by not doing the right thing in the past, it led to this absolute international disaster today. And so let's move forward. And the government needs to show leadership on this, and it needs to be done yesterday. It's really unfair to everyone. And again, least of all to our vets who fought against the Nazis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: You know, B'nai B'rith says, look, if this had happened decades ago, we would have the evidence we needed to know that a man like this, perhaps a former Nazi, was living quietly in northern Ontario in Canada. At issue here, I've asked the justice department here in Canada. They refused to comment except to tell me that we don't have an extradition. Canada does not have an extradition treaty with Poland. I don't know why that's relevant, Jake. There are other ways to extradite people. It just involves more paperwork. But we'll continue to follow this story, especially where it concerns Poland and trying to get that evidence. TAPPER: Yikes. Paula Newton, thanks so much.
Coming up next, one of the most tragic issues facing the United States, one that needs our attention. I need you to hear this one. We'll be right back.
TAPPER: In our National Lead, with numbers showing an average of 17 veterans a day dying by suicide here in the United States, 17. The Department of Veterans Affairs has partnered with the Ad Council to produce a series of videos encouraging veterans to reach out for help, help that is here. The VA itself got some help. These videos were directed by Catherine Bigelow, who, you might remember, won an Oscar for best Director for the film The Hurt Locker. Here's a sample.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you ever asked for help yourself?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's always tough, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I always feel like I can solve my own problems, but eventually, you know, you just can't deal with it on your own.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once you take that first step, there's so much support.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Powerful stuff. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough joins us now. So tell us about how this particular program came about. How'd you get Catherine Bigelow involved? I mean that's, she's a director of some serious stature.
DENIS MCDONOUGH, VETERANS AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Yes. Well, our partners at the Ad Council made that happen. And I think a person of her stature wanting to make sure that she's involved in an effort like this underscores the fact that the whole country has a role to play, that suicide is preventable, and we just got to make sure that we're exercising every option that we have to do that. But her willingness to do this speaks to the American people's dedication to making sure we're doing right by our vets.
TAPPER: So I've been a journalist for a few decades now. I've been doing this show for 10 years. That number of suicides by veterans a day has gone down. Is -- to what do you attribute that?
MCDONOUGH: Well, it's going down, and we attribute to a lot of things and a leading set of issues relate to the fact that our communities recognize that this is a challenge for all of us. Due to a lot of interest on the Capitol Hill, we're now investing in community partners. Places that know their veterans best to make sure that their reaching out to them, not waiting for a crisis. Directing veterans to places like VA.gov/reach, where they can get scientifically proven interventions and knowledge now before a crisis, so that they're ready.
But the bottom line is communities, families, battle buddies, VA, everybody's looking out for our vets, so we're getting better at it. But you know what, Jake? We have a long way to go.
TAPPER: Yes, let's talk about that because there was a Senate hearing a few days ago of the Veterans Affairs Committee, and they talked a lot about, and rightly so, a recent VA Inspector General's report slamming the handling in 2021, I believe it was, of a suicidal veteran in Texas who reached the Veterans Crisis Line via text. He was a patient who had a history of PTSD, attention deficit disorder, depressive disorder, alcohol use.
The patient texted somebody at the VA, and the VA responder did notify anybody in the person's family or alert first responders, didn't change from text to phone. The patient did die by suicide within an hour of the last text. The report brought the scathing response from your fellow Democrat, Senator Jon Tester at the hearing. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JON TESTER (D-MT), CHAIRMAN, VETERANS' AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: This is really frustrating for me to say, but we got to do better. We just got to do better. This is just -- it's -- this isn't saleable. It's keeping people out of our military when we need more people in our military. It's ruining lives. It's ruining families. And so we all need to work together to make sure this happens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: I'm sure you agree you got to do better. What are you going to do to make sure you do?
MCDONOUGH: Well, first of all, obviously we're incredibly saddened by this incident, and our heart goes out to the family of that veteran, the friends of that veteran. And the first thing that we are going to do is learn every lesson we can from this. We're really grateful for the inspector general digging into this. We've concurred with each of his recommendations for us, and we've begun implementing those with great urgency to ensure that we don't repeat that kind of incident.
And we are seeing some evidence that we are making good progress on the Veterans Crisis Line since we shortened it to 988. And as a veteran, if you're in crisis today, they need only dial 988 and press 1, and they'll be in touch with our crisis responders. Since we changed that number to just those three digits, 988, we've seen an increase in 15 percent in the number of calls, texts, and chats at the Veteran crisis line.
The time to respond under 10 seconds. So we're getting better at this. We recognize every second counts. And when an incident like this one, as heartbreaking as it is occurs, we have to learn every lesson from it.
TAPPER: Well, one of the senators in that hearing said that there was an individual at the VA, the director of that program, who tried to interfere in the inspector general's report, and that person still works for the VA. It might have been removed from the directorship. Do you know what I'm talking about?
MCDONOUGH: I'm very familiar with the IG report. And we take, look, the IG is a critical partner to VA and to our success at VA. So we take his reports very, very seriously. So we're digging into that report. As I said, we've concurred with each of the recommendations, and we're moving out with urgency on them.
TAPPER: Most importantly, if there is anybody watching right now who is a veteran or who loves a veteran or cares about a veteran who needs help, call 988.
MCDONOUGH: Call 988, press 1. If you are in crisis and you want to see somebody under a new law, you can go to a VA hospital or to any healthcare facility whether or not you're enrolled at VA, and you can get emergency mental health care today, 32,000, more than 32,000 veterans have availed themselves of that opportunity since we started doing that earlier this year. It's a bipartisan law enacted by Congress.
Mr. Takano wrote that law in the House. It's a very good tool, 32,000 vets have availed themselves of it. Call us at 988, press 1. Visit any healthcare facility and we'll get you covered.
TAPPER: All right, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough, thanks for being here. I appreciate it. We're going to squeeze in a quick commercial. We'll be right back.
TAPPER: Some breaking news into CNN, the judge overseeing the special counsel's 2020 election interference case against Donald Trump here in Washington, D.C. will not recuse herself from the case. CNN's Evan Perez is standing by. Evan, another loss for Trump's team.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. And look, this was always a long shot case argument by the former president and his legal team. Judges almost never recuse themselves except in very extraordinary circumstances. And here, the judge said that the former president's case, his arguments has not really reached that standard. They say, the judge said that her statements from the bench in previous sentencings does not really mean that she cannot be impartial in overseeing this case.
This is something that the former president and his legal team had said was the reason why. The public needs to have confidence that this case was going to be handled impartially. Jake? TAPPER: Evan Perez, thank you so much.
Our coverage continues now with Pamela Brown in for Wolf Blitzer, but still in The Situation Room. I'll see you tomorrow.