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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Biden Delivers Warning On Threats To Democracy; House GOP Holds Impeachment Inquiry As Shutdown Looms; Tensions Erupt Between McCarthy And Gaetz Behind Closed Doors; Senator Menendez Tells Dem Colleagues He Will Not Resign; Mexico To Host Meeting On Migration. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired September 28, 2023 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: President Biden felt the nation needed a wake- up call when it came to democracy and on one man he thinks might be his biggest threats.

THE LEAD starts right now.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When we put partisanship aside and put country first -- I say we must, and we will.


TAPPER: Joe Biden's message today using the storied political legacy of John McCain to make his case against threats to democracy and Donald Trump, in a state where team Trump pulled out all the stops and some Cyber Ninjas to try to steal the electoral votes.

Plus, unmitigated disaster. That's how one House Republican aide today described the first impeachment hearing, one star Republican witness even saying current evidence does not support articles of impeachment. Was anything achieved for the House Republican caucus today?

And, America's mental health crisis. Some of the best minds coming together today to try to figure out why so many, especially young Americans are so unhappy, and what we can do to fix it.


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We're going to start with the breaking news. Just moments ago, President Biden wrapped up a speech in Arizona, a battle ground state, with a warning to the country, one that is at the very center of his 2024 re-election pitch.


BIDEN: I have always been clear -- democracy is not a partisan issue, it's an American issue. And there's something dangerous happening in America now. There's an extremist movement that does not share the basic beliefs in our democracy, the MAGA movement. Their extreme agenda, if carried out, would fundamentally alter the institutions of American democracy as we know it.


TAPPER: This is the latest in a series of direct attacks on Donald Trump and the MAGA movement and it comes at a moment of political uncertainty for President Biden. Sources say many senior Democrats have been calling for the president to spend more time directly attacking Trump in an effort to energize both voters and donors.


BIDEN: Regardless of party, that means respecting free and fair elections, accepting the outcome win or lose. It means you can't love your country only when you win.


Democracy means rejecting the repudiating political violence regardless of party. Such violence is never, never, never acceptable in America. It's undemocratic and it must never be normalized to advance political power.


TAPPER: Also notable both the time and the location of today's address. President Biden delivered his remarks just hours after the Republican presidential candidate and while Republicans on Capitol Hill hold their first hearing in their impeachment inquiry into President Biden and the location, Arizona, one of the five battleground states at the center of Trump's efforts to overturn the election in 2020, also the home of the late Republican Senator John McCain.

And by honoring McCain today, officials tell CNN President Biden was hoping to remind voters of an earlier era of bipartisan and loyalty to the U.S. Constitution.


BIDEN: I've come to honor the McCain Institute and Library because they are home of a proud Republican who put his country first. Our commitment should be no less because democracy should unite all Americans regardless of political affiliation.


TAPPER: Let's bring in CNN's Kristen Holmes.

Kristen, let's talk about an important reason. Trump as recently as this week has been signaling he would challenge the 2024 election results if he doesn't win. He definitionally describes him not winning as an indication that things are rigged or unfair. KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. I do

want to be clear here, Donald Trump the things that Biden is saying that he has done, he is saying them as well. He has essentially said that if he is reelected, that he wants to completely overhaul the government and upend the Democratic institutions as we know them, and that starts with these elections. It's not just 2020 as you mentioned the fact that his election denials led to an insurrection on Capitol Hill, but it's also 2024.


He has still not said that he would accept those election results in 2024.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Will you commit to accepting the results of the election regardless of the outcome?

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: If I think it's an honest election, I would be honored to.

They rigged the presidential election of 2020, and we're not going to allow them to rig the presidential election of 2024.

We will win bigger and better than ever before.

They rigged the presidential election in 2020, and we're not going to allow them to rig the presidential election in 2024.


HOLMES: And what was striking to me about what Biden was talking about is that, again, these are things that Donald Trump has said on the record, he has said them on his Truth Social page he has said them in speeches. But Biden was really amplifying that. If you look at where we are now versus when Trump was running for president the first time or when he was in office, he now has a much smaller platform. He's not on Twitter. He's not having all of his speeches covered.

And so, essentially, there's a chance that there's section of Americans who don't actually know what Donald Trump has been saying since he left office. I do want to go through some of these. He called for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, to be executed. He said he wants to bring the Department of Justice underneath the executive wing as part of getting rid of the deep state, but they also allow him to weaponize the Department of Justice against his enemies, making you it political.

He also said recently if reelected, the media would be -- coverage would be scrutinized, that why should people get to have the airwaves for no reason, that people would pay a big price in the media for their coverage. And he has talked very openly about the fact he wants to reinstate the Schedule F, which would essentially allow him to easily fire government employees, replace them with loyalists. And that last one is very interesting because that's not something that just Donald Trump wants to do. That has become really a platform of the Republican Party. I spoke to someone at Project 2025 who is preparing for Republican administration in 2025, that's one of their key components there to try and get rid of these bureaucratic employees that have these governmental job protections and replace them with loyalists.

TAPPER: All right. Kristen Holmes, thanks so much.

Let's discuss. Ron Brownstein, the battle for democracy was a successful message for Joe Biden in 2020. He was talking about the soul of America. We didn't particularly know about the -- how -- the extent to which Donald Trump was going to try to subvert actual democracy at the time.

In the 2022 midterms, a lot of people thought there was going to be a red wave. It didn't happen, in part, because of what happened in 2020.

Do you think it's still a winning message for Democrats, at least in the margins were to make a difference like places such as Arizona?

RON BROWNSTEIN, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: I mean, look, the first thing that has to be said is that for all the reasons Kristen laid out and many others, we are dealing with an unprecedented situation, at least since the civil war, where the dominant figure in one of our major parties is not committed to democracy in the way that we have understood it as a country. I mean, you probably have to go back to John Calhoun and the Democratic Party in the South before the civil war the last time you can say that.

Democracy was a surprising -- it surprised people the extent to which it was a valuable issue for Democrats in '22. I think if you look at the overall ledger of what's changed since Trump and Biden were last on the ballot together, you have more concerns about age and more concerns about inflation that are hurting Biden. You have abortion, and insurrection that are hurting Trump.

And when all of those combined, the likely outcome is that Biden's coalition will probably tilt even further upscale as you were talking about before. I mean, inflation and as you saw Trump's message this week is going to make it harder for him to match his 2020 numbers among voters around the median income who are feeling squeezed. But if you look at upscale voters, where the most receptive -- the most concerned about these institutions, about democracy, about abortion rights, he can hope to do even better than he did in 2020.

TAPPER: And yet, Karen, polls show that Joe Biden is really under water when it comes to approval on the economy, approval on immigration, and the border -- when it comes to approval in almost every realm. I mean, he's really facing I think it's some of the worst polling since Jimmy Carter. Do you think this is going to be enough?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely, because the other group that really cares about this is young voters, actually. They care very deeply. And people are still concerned about democracy. They understand that a weak democracy is bad for the economy. It is bad for their own pocketbooks.

I think the other thing though, I want to point out that the president was trying to do, again, is he was talking about that MAGA theme, right? And sort of again as we saw in 2022, kind of separating out that there's an extremist part of the Republican Party and there are moderate Republicans particularly in places like Arizona, independents, who did vote for him last time, who are still very concerned about our democracy.


I would argue, obviously, on some of the polling, I think it has been a little bit all over the place. I think state by state show a slightly different picture than some of the national polls. But I also think another part of this speech is to get Democratic voters, trying to get us revved up because --

TAPPER: The base.

FINNEY: The base because quite frankly, most Democrats aren't really paying that close of attention because we don't have to. We don't have a contested primary and so until it really is a head-to-head, I think these polls are going to continue to be all over the place.

TAPPER: Although Scott Jennings was here a second ago, David, and one of the points he was making was this, if this influences just 1 or 2 percent of Republicans in places like our beloved home Commonwealth of Pennsylvania --


TAPPER: -- or Arizona or Michigan, Wisconsin, where if you look at the 2022 results, it really did have -- in those places, in those states and commonwealths, election liars lost statewide, statewide.

URBAN: Right. And so, interestingly, as Ron points out, it's going to be Lower Marion, right, and you know, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, those are the places where this is kind of going to turn. And, you know, how many people are going to be receptive to the Biden message, how many people are excited about the ticket, right? How many people are going to show up and turn out versus how many people will come back in Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, the suburbs Altoona, Blair County, right, Johnstown, Uniontown, where Trump outperformed in Pennsylvania wildly, right?


URBAN: That's the question.

BROWNSTEIN: And both things may happen. Likely both things may happy.

You know, Biden -- the overwhelming likelihood I think is that Biden is going to need people in '24 who feel that he's not delivered for their interests --

URBAN: Yeah. BROWNSTEIN: -- to vote for him anyway because they think he better represents their values than Trump. And Democrats were able -- you know, all of the states those five key states, Democrats won seven of the nine, Senate and governor races, and in all of those states, at least 75 percent of the people were saying, they're describing the economy in negative terms. So, they were able to get people to make that leap. It could be harder in a presidential race but there is a precedent.

FINNEY: I would argue there may be one other thing that happen, because I'm seeing this among some of the members of my own family who are conservative, military folks who voted for Trump the first time.

URBAN: We'll get them back, don't worry.


FINNEY: No, actually, you know what? They're not going to vote. They're not going to vote for Biden if it's Trump they're just not going to vote. I think that's the other challenge Republicans may have. People may not vote for Biden they may just not vote at all.

URBAN: Well, John King -- John King talked about this, right? This is 50,000 to 75,000 in all these states. This has been a huge universe. This is a very small thing, four states, yeah, four states, five states. But -- and also, yeah --

FINNEY: Let me talk about 2016, it doesn't take --


URBAN: I know. Listen, I was there, I was there. I was on the ground, I was one of those 45,000 in Pennsylvania.

But, you know, let's not count out Cornel West and the impact he might have as a third party, right?

TAPPER: Sure, absolutely.

URBAN: If he's running on the Green Party ticket, Jill Stein got 3 percent of the vote.


URBAN: Cornel West is an articulate guy, very smart, savvy, right?

TAPPER: Oh, yeah.

URBAN: He's on Fox News, he's out there. He's working.

TAPPER: We've had him on. We've had him on.


URBAN: Yeah. So, I'm saying, he's going -- it will be interesting to see -- it will be interesting to see if that peels off any. That's not great for Democrats and the current administration as well.

So it's going to be very interesting. Everybody thinks this is turn off the TV and go home this is going to be, you know, very tough. Very tough race.

TAPPER: One of the interesting things that Kristen Holmes was making, the point she was making is that a lot of the stuff the President Biden is talking about is just facts in terms of what Donald Trump is saying. I mean like maybe they would describe them differently, but basically Donald Trump is not making any bones about what he wants to do in another term.

BROWNSTEIN: As I said, we are in a situation we have not been in before as a country, where we have the dominant figure in one of our major parties is running, has not only behaved in a way in the past but is promising more of the same in the future of challenges to the basic pillars of American democracy.

TAPPER: Accepting the election results.

BROWNSTEIN: Accepting election.

TAPPER: Peaceful transfer of power.

BROWNSTEIN: Yeah, hanging the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

TAPPER: Or your own vice president.

BROWNSTEIN: Revoking -- yeah, revoking the licenses of networks that -- trying to revoke the license of networks that criticize you. Now, you know, not every voter is going say this is the decisive the people who are worried about affording the necessities of life and there maybe people think Donald Trump was better for the economy than Joe Biden. But what '22 showed us is a reductionist view that simply says who is better for my interest is the winning hand in America politics, no longer true.

TAPPER: And one other point on this is in Arizona, I think there are a lot of Democrats, maybe, you maybe not, I'm not sure, who were worried that Katie Hobbs, the then attorney general -- secretary of state was not running the most aggressive charismatic campaign and she still won because she was running against a more charismatic but also less hinged candidate, more election denying candidate in Kari Lake, because there were enough Republicans that were like, I don't want this nonsense.


URBAN: It's exhaustion.

FINNEY: That's right, agree. It is exhaustion.

And something you teased at the top of the show Americans are depressed. I mean, in their own lives, Americans are dealing with this a lot. URBAN: I would just tell you, if Donald Trump would stop looking in

the rearview mirror and just start talking about energy independence, talk about the economy, the things that the people are really affecting folks and saying we did better, we can do better, it would be a different race.

TAPPER: Well, if my aunt were my uncle, et cetera.

Everyone, stay with me. We'll come back to the panel.

We're going to Capitol Hill next where Republicans rolled out some witnesses after witnesses in their first impeachment inquiry trying to tie President Biden to the sleaze and corruption they allege are there with Biden family members and associates. Were they successful?

Plus, another F-bomb thrown in a testy exchange that does nothing to solve the bigger problem. The government headed for a shutdown in less than three days. Stay with us.


TAPPER: In just over two days, look at that, two days, seven hours, 39 minutes, 38 seconds, the government, U.S. government could shut down, if the House and Senate are unable to come to an agreement on how to fund the U.S. government which is this is just what happens in fully functional societies.


This means millions of Americans will lose their paychecks after tomorrow. Members of Congress, don't worry about them, though, they will still continue to receive theirs.

Of course, much of the current stalemate lies at the feet of House Republicans because they are divided. They can't even pass a short- term bill, one that includes border security, or pass the Senate approved bipartisan bill which doesn't have border funding but will keep the government open until mid-November. And despite the financial emergency this all puts the country into, House Republicans today still found some time do not worry folks to hold the first hearing of their impeachment inquiry for President Biden, which just ended after about six hours with an announcement from the chairman of the House Oversight Committee James Comer.

He plans to subpoena the bank records of Hunter Biden, the president's son, and James Biden, the president's brother, later today. Republicans are raising many of the same, as yet, unproven allegations that President Biden, himself, personally financially benefited from Hunter's business dealings.

But, but as CNN Sara Murray reports, the Republicans' own witnesses today undercut the premise of this impeachment inquiry.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): House Republicans putting forth plenty of bombast.

REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): If we had a box of all the foreign money the Biden took it would have received to the ceiling.

MURRAY: But as Democrats noted, no new evidence.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): What's missing despite years of investigation is the smoking gun that connects Joe Biden to his never- do-well son's corruption.

MURRAY: As the GOP convened its first hearing in the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.

REP. JASON SMITHI (R-MO): Whether it was lunches, phone calls, White House meetings, or official foreign trips, Hunter Biden cashed in by arranging access to Joe Biden, the family brand.

MURRAY: Republicans kicking off an impeachment inquiry that set to explore whether Joe Biden performed any official acts, traded access, or offered the perception of access in exchange for money from foreign interest to either him or his family.

Also on the GOP agenda, whether Joe Biden meddled in investigations into Hunter Biden. But the GOP has not uncovered any proof Joe Biden benefited from his son Hunter Biden's overseas business deals or intervened in Hunter Biden's criminal prosecution.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): In your testimony today, are you presenting any firsthand witness account of crimes committed by the president of the United States?


MURRAY: Even as Republicans tried to drive home claims of Biden family corruption --

REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): Hunter Biden referred to access to his father as the keys to his family's only asset. Those words are going to come back and haunt Hunter Biden, and his family forever.

MURRAY: Their own witnesses failed to back them up, noting that Republicans are currently operating on allegations rather than hard facts.

TURLEY: I do not believe that the current evidence would support articles of impeachment that is something that an inquiry has to establish.

BRUCE DUBINSKY, FORENSIC ACCOUNTANT: I'm not here today to even suggest that there was corruption, fraud or any wrongdoing. In my opinion more information needs to be gathered and assessed before I would make such an assessment.

MURRAY: In a hearing that at times grew testy.

COMER: You keep speaking about no evidence, why don't y'all just listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm trying to introduce evidence.

COMER: You have already had your share of evidence.


MURRAY: Democrats ultimately slammed their colleagues for pressing ahead with an impeachment inquiry amid a looming government shutdown.

DEL. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: It is incredible that we are holding this sham hearing two days before the government will shut down.


MURRAY (on camera): Now, these Republican witnesses today, they clearly thought that there were questions to be asked, Jake, by these members of Congress but the members walk into this as if they already have the answers already have the facts. That wasn't the case. I mean, Republican lawmakers who are watching this blame other Republican aides did not think it went particularly well.

One senior GOP aide said it was an unmitigated disaster and pointed to the fact that there were these witnesses who couldn't back up the core premise of what a number of these Republican lawmakers are saying.

TAPPER: Well, one of them said there was -- that Joe Biden took a bribe, and that was -- that's unproven, anonymous allegation.

MURRAY: There's a lot of those, a lot of those unproven allegations that sort of come from the Republican lawmakers' mouth and again are not backed up by the facts that they actually have.

TAPPER: Let's just see the facts and the evidence. I mean, if that exists, let's see it.

MURRAY: Well, it wasn't coming from these witnesses today. We'll see.

TAPPER: All right, Sara Murray, thanks so much.

Meanwhile, the dysfunction among House Republicans on the government spending issue is getting uglier. Some Republican on Republican violence. Sources tell CNN that the words scum bag and F-off -- not F- off -- were directed at Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida from members of his own party today.

CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill.


Manu Raju, F-off, Logan Roy used to say on "Succession" on HBO. I suppose, we're cable, we could say it, but it's an afternoon show. We like family people watching. We like the kids watching we want to keep the parents allowing them to watch. It's a civics lesson of sort.

What led to a member of Congress telling Matt Gaetz to F-off?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there has been a lot of tension between Matt Gaetz and really much of the House GOP Conference but particularly with the speaker of the House. Of course, Gaetz has been threatening for weeks to try to force a vote seeking McCarthy's ouster as a speaker, something that he continues to wield as the government is on the cusp for potentially shutting down this weekend.

Now, Gaetz believes that McCarthy's allies have been bashing him. He has been paying conservative influencers to bash Gaetz on social media. That's what Gaetz confronted McCarthy over in a closed door meeting this morning. He accused the speaker of being behind this effort. The speaker denied this and said he would not waste his time or money on Matt Gaetz, and also contended he's spending about $5 million he just recently transferred over to the GOP effort to take back the House majority. That's when he was focusing on.

Then that's what some members in the room grumbled were overheard by others saying that Gaetz should F-off, calling him a scum bag and the like. So that went back and forth, Jake, but of course, this is all coloring the debate right now within the House GOP about how to fund the government.

TAPPER: All right. We're told that the chairman of the House Oversight Committee James Comer is talking right now. Let's dip into that and hear what he has to say.

REPORTER: This was a text message from Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez accusing him and your staff or manipulating that and not including the full conversation, the conversation between Hunter Biden and his uncle about alimony and child support payments. That was something going back to January 6th Committee, Congressman Jordan was very critical of Congressman Schiff of some of the visuals he displayed, accusing him of the putting things in text messages that weren't in the text message, or displaying things that lacked context. What's your response to that?

COMER: I don't know. I have to look and see. I don't know exactly what happened there with the texts but I'll certainly find out.

REPORTER: Chairman Comer, with regard to Ukraine and Viktor Shokin, in 2019, a lot of people from State Department testified that Joe Biden was just implementing the policy that they all have developed. So, how would you deal with that, for those people that staked in --

COMER: Well, look, we just found that e-mail that Jim Jordan mentioned in the closing statement that said the actual position from the Biden -- from the Obama State Department was that Shokin was doing a good job, that congratulations on the great work you're doing.

So, that's why we're going to continue the investigation. I think we had a great hearing today. We established the basis for impeachment inquiry. That was the objective. We did that. We presented the evidence. Many of you -- I don't know what more evidence you need. I mean, what

do the Bidens do for the $20 million? That's the question. You may not like the evidence and you may be sullen that there's no evidence, but let me assure you that the American people aren't buying what you're selling. They want to know what did this family do to get $20 million and what level of involvement did Joe Biden have and that's what we are looking into. Now I have to floor for House votes. Thank you all.

TAPPER: All right. That was the chairman of the House Oversight Committee James Comer taking some questions from reporters after his committee hearing. This was the first hearing for the impeachment inquiry into President Biden. Obviously, there are a lot of questions about what the Republicans on the committee refer to as Biden family and associates which does not include President Biden but Biden family and associates and the money that they have raised from various business dealings some of which may be questionable some of which may not be.

Let's go back to Manu Raju.

Manu, at this point, the question remains is there anything tying direct evidence that any of this money went to President Biden when he was vice president or when he was private citizen or when he was president and so far there have been allegations, and rumors but I have not seen any evidence like in terms of like a bank statement, in terms of anything other than hearsay?

Even this FBI statement of somebody, a credible FBI source hearing that they the head of Burisma said that he gave money in what sounds like a shady transfer of funds that was two Bidens -- two different Bidens but I don't know which Bidens there were. There are a lot of Bidens running around here?

RAJU: Yeah, they're trying to establish that, right, Jake.

They're trying to say that the money that went to Hunter Biden actually benefited Joe Biden that has been their challenge all along throughout this investigation -- coming up with the proof to show that Joe Biden personally benefited financially by Hunter Biden's business dealings.

There have been some -- they've gotten some evidence showing some wire transfers to the Biden family home. It's not clear whether this was actually something that the former -- the current president and former vice president benefited from in any way financially. This was all Hunter Biden himself.

Or whether Joe Biden took official action while serving as vice president to help out his son in any of his business dealings. That's been something they have been trying to prove all along throughout this investigation. Something that they act knowledge that they still don't have the definitive evidence of yet.

So Jake, there's still even among Republicans questions that they have about whether they can actually prove that Joe Biden acted in any corrupt way. But you can hear from the chairman right there, he believes the president did. He believes -- plans to press ahead, including with subpoenas for Hunter Biden's business records that could potentially end up in court if Hunter Biden does not comply in any way with that issue or if they are not able to get that key information.

But, Jake, this has been the challenge all along for the Republicans, tying it directly to Joe Biden, tying Hunter Biden's actions to Joe Biden, something they have not been able to find definitive evidence of just yet.

TAPPER: Yeah. And we should just note, I mean, on that issue of wire transfers from China to the Biden family home, one, during the Republican -- I'm sorry -- during the presidential debates, then Vice President Biden denied that his son got a penny from China, and that was not true. And two, we know that Hunter Biden was actually living with his parents during this period that the money transferred to the Biden family home in Delaware. And we know that from these same Republicans that told us this in a couple years ago, they disclosed this through their oversight investigations.

RAJU: Yeah, and, look, there's also questions about what Joe Biden did with -- while Hunter Biden was meeting with foreign -- some of these foreign business associates. We have heard that there was testimony from Hunter Biden's associate Devon Archer who came before the committee said there are about 20 interactions or so of Joe Biden talking with some of Hunter Biden's business associates.

But that same witness said that there were no actual business that was discussed in that meeting. It was more niceties and talking about the weather and the like. So that's been the challenge all along for them, to try to show some action that Joe Biden took beyond just this interaction that maybe questionable but no evidence at least from that testimony that Joe Biden was involved with Hunter Biden's efforts here.

TAPPER: All right. Manu Raju, thanks so much.

Let's discuss all this with the panel.

So, David, all of this going on -- and look, the House Oversight Committee, this is their responsibility to investigate things of import to the American people. I mean, there's a lot of import to the American people, I personally wish that there were more investigations whether it's Democrats or Republicans in charge of Congress of what the pharmaceutical industry has done in term of opioid epidemic which seems to me, of much more importance and what's going on with fentanyl in this country. Tens of thousands of Americans dying than this.

But be that as it may, there's about to be a government shutdown because House Republicans can't even agree on a bill that won't even pass the Senate. So --


TAPPER: So, what do you think of the timing of all this?

URBAN: It sucks obviously, right? I think you can say that in the afternoon.

TAPPER: Oh, yeah. That's fine.

URBAN: You can say that in the afternoon.

TAPPER: You can say anything you want. I'm just trying to get the kids to watch.

URBAN: So, look, it's sad that we're at this point, right, look, I don't agree with congressman gates on many things, right but I do think that Congress has some basic responsibilities, right?

Pass a budget. Pass the 13 appropriation bills, right? Stay and do your work.


URBAN: Basic stuff. That's what the American people expect. You know, you hire somebody, you hire electrician to come fix your broken light they fix your light. You hire somebody, a congressman, you expect them to go to D.C. and legislate.

So these are the basic things that I think should be getting at. Whether Democrats or Republicans are in charge. And so, you know, going away for the weekend, not doing stuff, not grinding the grind from day one, you know, everything should be focused at this point on trying to get a solution.

I think unfortunately, the speaker is in a spot where he has a small handful of people who are just intransigent they're just going to hold their breath until they turn blue and shut the government down. They want to be able beat their chests.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He has options, though. I mean, he --

TAPPER: Who has options?

BROWNSTEIN: The speaker.

URBAN: Well, he won't -- he won't be speaker.

BROWNSTEIN: He might not be speaker. Ultimately, they are not going to shut down the government forever. Ultimately, they will have to be --

URBAN: Ten days.

BROWNSTEIN: Ultimately, there will have to be a deal to reopen the government that deal will have to go through a Democratic Senate and Democratic president.


So, he could there's a portion of the caucus going back to the -- the Boehner, the Ryan speakerships that have always felt they have to show -- doing whatever they can to kind of advance their agenda. But in the end McCarthy has to make a deal that Democrats will accept. So he could do that now and not go through the performative exercise or shutting down the government --

TAPPER: But the only people that would vote for that, you were saying, with some House Republicans moderates and Democrats.


TAPPER: But then he would lose his speakership.

BROWNSTEIN: He might or he might not.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I was going to say, here's the thing, he's probably going to lose his speakership either way. I mean, does anybody really think that Kevin McCarthy is going to be speaker a month from now?


FINNEY: You do? Do you think -- okay.

URBAN: He's going to be speaker because there's no other option. There's no other option.

FINNEY: I have a bridge. It goes to unicorn lane, I'm going to talk to you about it.

URBAN: There's no other option.

FINNEY: No, but, you know, I mean, this is a game that Republicans have played over and over and over again.

URBAN: I don't disagree.

FINNEY: 1995, 2013, 2018, 2023, what's -- what does this all have in common? A GOP-controlled house where we had to shut down government.

TAPPER: But here's the thing, like at least in previous shutdowns, it was about something, right?


TAPPER: In 2013, it was about the fact that people like Ted Cruz wanted to get rid of Obamacare. Now you might want agree with it but they wanted to get rid of Obamacare. I'm not really quite sure what this is about?

URBAN: This is a little bit of the border, a little bit about Ukraine. A little bit, here's little -- there's smattering of all different, you know --

TAPPER: But a majority of House Republicans support Ukraine.

URBAN: Absolutely, they do.

FINNEY: But -- and the problem is part of what is coming out is foul language between Matt Gaetz and Kevin McCarthy.

TAPPER: Well, let's talk about that because, David, there was drama behind closed doors between McCarthy and Gaetz. Gaetz is leading the charge to oust him, and also he's just the fly in the ointment on any sort of deal. Gaetz confronted McCarthy about whether McCarthy's allies were paying conservative influencers to bash Gaetz on social media posts.

McCarthy reportedly responded he would not waste his time or money on Gaetz.

URBAN: I probably believe that that exchange occurred, maybe a little bit more flowery language, as you alluded to, right?


URBAN: Look, there's no love lost between the two, clearly. But if you are Matt Gaetz, if I got to talk to Matt Gaetz, I'd say, what's your option? What's -- you pull the thread here, what's your plan, Matt Gaetz?

At the end of the day, how are you advancing the cause of the American people. Matt Gaetz I think wants to run for, you know, governor in Florida. He's kind of posturing to be the next tough guy, right? But how he is helping his constituents? How's he helping Americans?

He doesn't have a solution. He's not putting forward a solution saying, here are the three things I'd like to accomplish, and then I'll vote for your -- I'll vote for your bill.

FINNEY: Exactly to Jake's point there's not any clear message coming through about here's our principle about why we're holding this. I think ultimately that is going to be --

URBAN: That's why we get a black eye every time you do this.


URBAN: Every time.

TAPPER: Thank you to our panel.

More than half of all Senate Democrats are -- now have gone on the record and said they would like their colleague, Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, to resign. The Democrat from New Jersey addressed the members of his party today behind closed doors. How that meeting went. That's next.



TAPPER: And we're back with our politics lead with a dusting of our money lead. While Costco says new one ounce gold bars are flying off the shelves, Senator Menendez's gold bars are apparently not weighing him down at all, at least not in public. This afternoon, the New Jersey Democrat told his colleagues he will

not resign even though 30 of his 50 fellow Senate Democrats have asked him to do just that, after the Foreign Relations Committee chairman was indicted by the Justice Department, again.

This scathing indictment alleges sweeping corruption, bribes, and most notably that Menendez, quote, secretly aided the government of Egypt. Those bribes came in the form of those aforementioned gold bars, cold hard cash and a Mercedes convertible.

CNN's Melanie Zanona is on Capitol Hill for us.

Melanie, really, it seems the only repercussions so far is that Menendez is not the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman anymore, right?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Right, and that's only temporary. He's only temporarily stepping down as chairman from that committee. Ben Cardin has already taken over. He was the next in line.

But I will say, Jake, that Ben Cardin has not yet said he is comfortable with Menendez continuing to serve on the panel or receiving classified briefings, given the nature of the allegations against him.

Let's listen to what Cardin told reporters earlier today.


SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD): The primary issue that I think we have to take up depending on what happens today and what his decisions are, which I don't know, but, I think there are some questions that need to be answered.


ZANONA: Now, Menendez did have an opportunity to address his colleagues behind closed doors today and we are told that during that meeting he reiterated he was not going to resign. He defended his record on Egypt, and he also said that he was not going to get into the nitty-gritty about his changes and the gold bars, that he didn't want to preview his legal defense strategy.

He also said that prosecutors have long been after him and that he has been unfairly targeted. But not everyone was buying that argument. Senators that were leaving that room said their minds were not changed and they continue to say that he should step down from his post.

TAPPER: Melanie, I say as a Philadelphian, we in Pennsylvania tend to give a little guff to our friends across the river in New Jersey, but the feud between Pennsylvania Senator Fetterman and Menendez from New Jersey is far beyond that?

ZANONA: Yeah, that's exactly right. Fetterman was the very first senator to come out and call for Menendez's resignation. He has been very vocal and outspoken. Interestingly, though, Fetterman did not attend the closed door meeting today where Menendez was speaking.


He said there's nothing he can say. The only honorable thing for him to do at this point is to step down. But, our Manu Raju reported that Menendez did make a veiled reference at Senator Fetterman and said he's disappointed in one of the senators who's been vocally critical of him, and everyone in the room interpreted that as a shot at Fetterman -- Jake.

TAPPER: Yeah. Melanie Zanona, on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

Families trekking miles through the jungle then going on rafts, jam- packed vans, even more walking. CNN joins migrants on their desperate journeys. That's next.


TAPPER: In our world lead, Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador says he will invite officials from about 10 countries to come and discuss migration flows and to present a proposal of his own to try to address the crisis. But he did not give any specifics.

This does come as Mexico has promised to try to slow the surge of migrants crossing its southern border with Guatemala and continuing north into the United States.

CNN's David Culver is as you know along the Mexican-Guatemalan border in the south of Mexico, where migrants are determined to continue their dangerous journey north.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They stick together throughout. No one left behind from falls to steep climbs.

A lot of young children so some of them are just basically being carried out. It's a dead-end. They started to got wrong way for the moment and now they're backtracking a little bit.

Setback after setback.

He's saying that they paid, were promised another pickup on the other side but it seems like that driver just took off with their money. This just part of a day's journey for these migrants, a day that started not here in southern Mexico but across the Suchiate River in Guatemala.

With passports stamped, we take the official land crossing, stepping into a vibrant Tecun Uman. In the state of the town square we meet two families from Venezuela traveling as one.

They're saying they're ready to cross. They welcome us to join. Seven years old.

A 15-minute stroll to the river after 18 grueling days on the road. Jemeler Rodriguez (ph) tells me it's been costly.

She says going through the jungle is like dealing with the mafia. She says you have to pay in order to leave. They had to pay $250 a person. As they arrive at the river, another expense, the crossing.

Meanwhile, we go back to the Mexico side using the official entry and hop onto a raft. We're waiting for the two families that we met to make their way across and they're about to board a raft and meet us in the middle as they cross illegally into Mexico.

Their raft drifts over the border and we meet again in Mexico.

They're saying they're headed to the land of opportunity. Migrant children scramble to help tug them to shore. They step off into Ciudad Hidalgo, a small border town. It allows for just a moment of joy only for the kids.

Their goal tonight, Tapachula, to get Mexican transit documents. They learn they are not as close as they had hoped, 20 miles normally an hour's drive but there's a catch.

Is that your van?

They're getting on right now. Because they never entered Mexico legally, they need to avoid the multiple migration checkpoints. Otherwise, the Mexican drivers could be accused of smuggling.

Every crevice of the van filled then they're off, on the road for only about 10 minutes we watch as they pull over just before the first checkpoint. Everyone out. They walk the direction they think they're supposed to head.

You can tell they're basically just trying to figure out their way as they go. They have no real guide. They were told some general instructions and now they're just trying to figure it out.

Weeding through brush and high grass, up and down hills they squirt around the first migration checkpoint but on the other side the same driver who they paid to wait for them has taken off.

So, they're trying to get another van. Looks like for now they'll just keep walking. A few minutes pass another van pulls up. Fifteen minutes later another stop, another checkpoint walk around. Thirty minutes after that yet another, this one takes them on a bridge directly over the migration checkpoint.

Back on the van they go. Before sunset, they make it Tapachula, relieved, sure, also overwhelmed thinking about the unknowns ahead, but determined to keep moving north. Smiling and waving. We'll see you later, they tell us.


CULVER (on camera): You notice it's not a good-bye, Jake, it's a "we'll see you later", because they are determined to get to the U.S. side. Now when they get to Tapachula, the reason they're so keen to get here from the 20 miles or so where we are the actual border crossing is because they want to join this line. You can see this is where a lot of the folks are trying to get some of those documentation, transit documents, even if they can claim asylum here in Mexico.

That would help them to not worry about being here illegally. They don't have to then dodge those migration checkpoints. One other thing that's worth noting is that as we've been out here for the past few days, we've notice the just how lax a lot of the enforcement is for migration.


You got a lot of these illegal projects happening right in front of Mexican officials even with the checkpoints, it's really not all that strict.

TAPPER: Yeah, CNN's David Culver near the Mexican-Guatemalan border, thank you so much. Great work.

You were supposed to get something substantive out of this. Take a look.




TAPPER: I'm sorry what? Did anyone make out any of that? The second Republican debate where candidates got a prime time opportunity to make their case to undecided voters, how to make sense of where the candidates stand right with less than four months to go before the first actual contest in the 2024 race. That's next.