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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Right Now: Trump In Court In New York Civil Fraud Trial; Bernie Kerik Asks For Immunity After Fulton County Subpoena; Gaetz Threatens To Oust The Speaker Of The House; Laphonza Butler Picked To Fill Feinstein's Senate Seat; Lack Of Accountability 5 Years After Journalist's Murder. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired October 02, 2023 - 16:00   ET



JESSICA DEAN, CNN HOST: It is an incredible story. Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman were award the prize for their research on messenger RNA vaccines which they published first published back in 2005. Their work didn't get a lot of attention back then but laid the foundation for the vaccine's which helped turn the tied on a pandemic. We all know mRNA vaccines now.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Yeah, it came in handy, all that research --

DEAN: Sure did.

SANCHEZ: -- in the midst of a global pandemic.

Hungarian-American biochemists Kariko and Weissman who's an American physician, they're ere both professors at the University of Pennsylvania. The executive vice president of UPenn School of Medicine says the pair's work has, quote, changed the world and indeed it has.

DEAN: It certainly has.

SANCHEZ: Jessica, thanks for being with us. Hope we get more time with us this week.

DEAN: Yeah, I'd love to. Yeah.

SANCHEZ: Thank you so much for joining us.

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Today, Donald Trump called the judge overseeing his fraud case a Trump hater. I'm not sure that was a smart move.

THE LEAD starts right now.

With millions of dollars on the line, and his future businesses in New York at stake, Donald Trump shows up for day one of his civil fraud trial blasting not only prosecutors, but insulting the very judge who will decide how much Trump must pay in a case where he's already been found liable for fraud.

And as Trump pleads his case, here comes some shocking comments and a new warning from one of his former longest serving White House officials. This official going on the record setting the record straight only on THE LEAD, exclusively confirming a number of very damning details about Donald Trump himself.

Plus, are the days numbered for Kevin McCarthy as speaker of House? Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz making some serious threats today. But will we see him follow through and will he have the votes?


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

And we start today with our law and justice lead. And Donald Trump turning a potentially devastating trial in New York into a campaign stop. The former president inside of the courtroom right now, attending the first day of a civil fraud trial against him and the Trump Organization. But Mr. Trump was not required to show up today, so why did he make an appearance?


REPORTER: Mr. Trump, why did you want to be here in person today?

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Because I want to watch this witch hunt myself. This is a pure witch hunt for purposes of interfering with the elections of the United States of America. It's totally illegal.


TAPPER: It is not totally illegal. It is perfectly legal.

It is also pretty easy to see why Donald Trump is so unhappy about this trial in addition to the embarrassment, it hits at the core of the very identity that he's built up over decades. This image of a super wealthy, incredibly successful businessman.

Before the trial even started, the judge found Trump and his co- defendants liable for fraud. He already ruled they grossly inflated the values of their assets and properties for years. And that decision could spell the end of Trump's business career in New York. That decision could cost him $250 million.

If the New York Attorney General Letitia James who was also sitting in court today, just a few feet away from Donald Trump, gets her way.


LETITIA JAMES, NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: My message is simple. No matter how powerful you are, no matter how much money you think you may have, no one is above the law. And it is my responsibility and my duty and my job to enforce it.


TAPPER: Now, if this notion of Donald Trump inflating his wealth, if it all sounds familiar, it's because this is not the first time Mr. Trump has been caught lying about his wealth. You might remember in 2018, a former reporter for the magazine "Forbes" came forward saying that Trump phoned him way back in 1984 claiming to be his own spokesman, a guy named John Barron. And John Barron called this reporter to lie about Donald Trump's net worth, so that Donald Trump could secure a better place on "Forbes Magazine's" list of Forbes richest people.

Here is just a snippet of the call. Here is John Barron.


TRUMP USING AN ALIAS JOHN BARRON: Most of the assets have been consolidated to Mr. Trump. You have down Fred Trump but I think you can really use Donald Trump now and you could consolidate it.



TAPPER: Now, the reason I even bring this old, old interview up is because it was raised in court today. One prosecutor said in his opening statement, while it may be one thing to exaggerate for "Forbes Magazine", you cannot do it while conducting business in the state of New York.

Now all of this, as a high ranking Trump official goes on the record to me with his harshest criticism of Trump to date, and in a warning about the threat Trump seems to pose if elected in 2024 and that exclusive reporting is coming ahead THE LEAD.

But we're going to start in New York with CNN's Brynn Gingras who's outside of the courthouse in New York City.

Brynn, what is happening in the courtroom right now?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jake, well, the state's first witness is still on the stand, Donald Bender. He was Trump's and Trump Org's former accountant. He's basically getting questioned by the state about particular financial statements which come into question for this entire trial. But let's begin with the opening statements which were earlier today on the state's side, they basically presented a case to judge that Trump and his sons and Trump Org conspired together to commit years of fraud, inflating their assets in order to get better interest rates, better business loans and essentially said they knew that they were doing.

They said they're going to call a bunch of witnesses to the stand. One of them you're very familiar with, it's Michael Cohen. He said that they will be called to the stand to show basically why -- they believe that they inflated these assets. If you can remember, this whole case was brought based on Michael Cohen's testimony to Congress where he said, just that. Now on the defense's side, the defense attorneys said what you already

mentioned, that Trump has made his billions off of a real estate business empire doing good business, and doing it by the book, saying in sum, there is no illegality, there was no fraud. There are no victims. They even said that there were banks eager to do business with the Trumps.

Also eager is Trump himself. We know that he wants to testify in this trial. We don't know when that's going to happen. But we do expect it.

And I can tell you, Jake, the optics of this, as you've already shown your viewers, he's gone in and out of that courtroom to make statements to the press about what is happening behind closed doors. He, however, has not really acknowledged to the attorney general who made those statements at the courthouse steps right behind me, only acknowledging a little bit today but passing by her multiple times in this courtroom, only his son Eric Trump who is hitting behind him has gone over and shook her hand.

But again, this is just a start of a very long civil trial we're expecting it to last about three months, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Brynn Gingras outside of the courthouse in New York, thanks so much.

Let's bring in CNN chief legal analyst and anchor Laura Coates, and former federal prosecutor Elie Honig.

Laura, let's start with the key legal argument for Trump's legal team that Brynn just discussed, that the banks got repaid with interest, so really in their characterization, this is a victimless crime. There are no victims. Everybody got paid back. Even if they -- even if -- and I don't know that they're granted the idea that they're assets were overinflated, but even if they were, everyone got paid back with interests. So, where's the victim?

LAURA COATES, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, first of all, the notion that all is well that ends well does not really bode well in a courtroom of law when you have a number of things on the books that are so-called victimless. Imagine if you will somebody who is soliciting to take drugs. They want the drugs and somebody sold it to them. Who is the victim here? You might have a John and a prostitute, where is the, quote/unquote, victim here?

Our society is really built on a number of laws being on the books because society is offended and even though somebody has not been a so-called victim in a traditional sense, it is still nonetheless against the law. And that's the core of the prosecutions argument? It doesn't matter if there wasn't an ultimately, maybe even an insurance issue or a tax benefit, but they claim there was. The fact that you have engaged in fraudulent behavior, misstating, misrepresenting that which is actually objective, right?

You know what this scare footage is and what the assigned cost per footage would be, square foot, and you've inflated it for a number of reasons. This trial today is less so about whether a fraud was committed, though, Jake, and more about what you sought to gain from that and that's where the notion of a victimless crime or not victimless is going to come into play.

TAPPER: So, Eli, what's your response to that? Because let me just give you my point of view. I don't want to impugn everybody in real estate. I'm sure there are those fine, upstanding, ethical men and women. But to me, it looks like a folks in real estate are kind of shady and kind of play with numbers and worth of assets all the time.

I mean, look, obviously, Donald Trump lies a lot. And obviously he inflates the worth of his properties and such. But the argument that -- I mean, look, this is a judge trial not a jury trial. But if this were a jury trial -- I mean, the argument that look, no one got hurt and the banks and insurance companies got everything they wanted back and then some.


I mean, might that not be convincing for a jury?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think there could be something to that. Let me give you the technical side of that. First, the one count found for the attorney general against Donald Trump, it doesn't matter if there is a provable victim or provable loss. That does matter with respect to the other six counts which are still at play in this trial.

But, Jake, I think bigger picture, people may look at this case and say we're talking about tens and hundreds of millions of dollars of over-inflation, why is this only a civil case and not a criminal case? Now, I have to sort of put myself inside the mindset of the attorney general and the D.A., which is part of this case earlier, but I think the fact that there was no provable victim, there was not someone who was, say, swindled out of money, who was robbed, who was never repaid -- these were banks, made loans, got repaid with interest, still technically a civil violation. Could also technically be a criminal violation but it makes it a less appealing case to bring in the criminal context. So, that may be well why this is a civil case and not a criminal one.

COATES: Well, if I may, on behalf --

TAPPER: Yes, please do.

COATES: Laura Coates on behalf of the people of the United States --


COATES: -- how about the people, who Eli, of course, has been as well, how about the people that don't get the same benefits based on inflated assets, the people who have tax that is owed, people who have to actually give the accurate assessment of the value of their property if their lucky enough to own it, according to the so-called American Dream. If they're able to secure a loan and in an industry which often times lays bear bias, whether it's implicit or otherwise, or, you know, algorithm based or otherwise, what about those people who say, well, you know what, alls well did not end well for me because I didn't have the benefit that perhaps Trump did.

I suspect on a jury of people who have either tried to get a loan, who have had to pay their taxes, who have had to do that which is required, will look at it very differently. But again, now it is just a judge who I'm sure has to pay his taxes as well.

TAPPER: Sure, no. It's a -- it's a good argument.

Elie, this judge -- this case is going it be decided by a judge not a jury. Trump did not seek a jury trial. Why not? Why would they want a judge to decide this? He's going to by the letter of the law and any of the emotional appeals or cynical appeals I'm making here. Wasn't that a mistake?

HONIG: Yeah, Jake, let's give Trump's legal team the benefit of the doubt and assume this was an intentional decision not to seek a jury trial. There's two reasons you do that. One is if you think the judge is sympathetic to you, that can't possibly the case here. This judge had been ruling against Trump for months now.

The other is if you think you have a very technical defense that you may not want to put in front of a jury but you may think would resonate better with a judge. We'll see or we'll see if this is just part of the overall political and dramatic packaging of this.

TAPPER: It's also possible that one of his lawyers screwed up and forgot to check the box. We don't know. We don't know. It's happened before.

Laura Coates and Elie Honig, thank you so much.

You can catch Laura on "CNN TONIGHT" on 11:00 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.

As this case in New York plays out, prosecutors down in Georgia are trying to line up witnesses for trial set to start in just three weeks. This is a criminal case and a key figure has been subpoenaed there. Co-conspirator number five also known as former New York Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik. Kerik -- Kerik wants immunity first. I'm going to talk to his attorney next.

Plus, California's historical appointment today to the U.S. Senate and the contention this major move creates back home.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: And we're back with our -- with more in our law and justice lead in a separate criminal case involving Donald Trump.

Today, the Fulton County, Georgia district attorney issued a subpoena to former New York Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik. Kerik's lawyer confirms that he is, in fact, co-conspirators number five in the indictment, in the Georgia election subversion case. Prosecutors want Kerik's testimony later this month because they think he could potentially shed light on major events in this investigation, given that Kerik was in several meetings with lawmakers in Pennsylvania and Arizona, two of the other states that Trump contested after the 2020 election.

With me now, Kerik's lawyer who also have previously resigned from Trump's legal team, Tim Parlatore.

Thanks for joining us, Tim.

Bernie Kerik was at a key meeting at the White House on November 25th, 2020, along with a group of Pennsylvania legislators and then President Trump, along with then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis. Now Cassidy Hutchinson, the former aide to Meadows, says this meeting touched on holding a special session of the Pennsylvania state legislature to appoint these fake electors, these Trump electors.

Why was Bernie Kerik at that meeting and were crimes discussed?

TIM PARLATORE, FORMER LAWYER FOR FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: So, Bernie Kerik was working with Rudy Giuliani as an investigator. So, he attended a lot of meetings alongside Rudy Giuliani. And from my understanding and everything that I've discussed with Mr. Kerik, and all of the evident I've seen, there was no criminality discussed whatsoever at that meeting. It was about different legislative actions that could be taken and everything was about doing things legally.

TAPPER: Now you say that Bernie Kerik should be granted immunity in exchange for testifying. Why? What kind of testimony does he have to offer?

PARLATORE: Sure. So, you know, I don't know exactly what they want him to testify about. But the Fulton County district attorney's office reached out to me and they were demanding that he come down and testify and I said to them, look, you have publicly identified him as being a co-conspirator and, you know, the Supreme Court case law and this is very clear, when you publicly accuse somebody of a crime and then want to compel them to come in and testify, they have a Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination, if they haven't done anything wrong.

And so, no competent criminal lawyer would allow him to come in and answer questions. You know, he's going to plead the Fifth. Are you planning on giving him immunity?

And this is one thing that I think has been lost today. We didn't ask for immunity. And Mr. Kerik isn't seeking immunity. If they want him to testify, then the hurdle that they have to overcome so that he won't plead the Fifth is they have to give him immunity.


And that's the --

TAPPER: Right. But you said they publicly identified him but he was an unindicted, unnamed co-conspirators, wasn't he?

PARLATORE: Well, it's been pretty clear who a lot of these co- conspirators are. And so when they describe someone like that, co- conspirator number five is clearly Mr. Kerik and your network has been on top of that as far as identifying all of these people. So simply the fact that they didn't say his name in the document doesn't change the fact that they have identified him, you know, by his actions as being a member of this conspiracy, and that is something that then implicates the Fifth Amendment.

TAPPER: So you say prosecutors have told you, quote, if we waned to indict Mr. Kerik, we would have already done so. And your client is one of 30 unindicted co-conspirators in your case. So it doesn't seem like Fani Willis might suddenly decide to go after your client. It seems like -- based on what they told you, that they don't want to indict him. They want him to testify.

Does he have -- did he witness any criminality? Does he have testimony that is worth his testimony?

PARLATORE: Well, this -- from my understanding, he does not have anything that would indicate criminality by the president, by Rudy Giuliani, or any member of the Giuliani team. Would he potentially be helpful in a case against Sidney Powell? I think he would. And I think that that's kind of a wrinkle to this case that is difficult on a whole bunch of different levels.

So I could see why they would want him to testify relevant to Sidney Powell. But, if you're not willing to give him the basic protections that any normal prosecutor in any other prosecuting office in the country would do, then you are just not going to be able to force him to testify.

TAPPER: Is Sidney Powell the only one that he might have evidence against or testimony against? Are there other individuals that he might have witnessed something that is worth discussing?

PARLATORE: In this group, it is primarily Sidney Powell, because, you know, the testimony that he has is that Rudy Giuliani and his whole team, they were pursuing leads. They were hampered by lack of time, a lack of resources and so that prevented them from being able to chase everything down completely. It certainly did lead to certain inaccuracies.

But when they talk about people putting out knowingly false claims, Kerik and others will point right over at Sidney Powell and say, hey, what they're accusing us of, she did. And then he's going to be able to testify about that's why she was fired. That is why president Trump told her she wasn't allowed back in the White House.

It's actually in a weird way very exculpatory to President Trump and to Rudy Giuliani to say, yeah, there was somebody doing something wrong, Sidney Powell, and that's why we got rid of her. That's why we distanced herself from her.

So I do think it is problematic for her, but in inculpating her, it also exculpates Rudy Giuliani and Trump.

TAPPER: Why were her crazy comments any different from anybody else's?

PARLATORE: Because she was pushing things that had already been found not to be true.

TAPPER: Okay. I mean, I think a lot of people were pushing things not to be found to be true, but to be continued. We'll have you back and talk more about this.

Tim Parlatore, always good to have you have on. Thank you so much.

PARLATORE: Thank you.

TAPPER: Next, we're heading to Capitol Hill, busy news day today. Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz says he is not backing away from his threat to oust House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, but who has the votes? That's the real question.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: And we're back with our politics lead.

If this weekend's last-minute deal to save the U.S. federal government from a disastrous shutdown was not dramatic enough, there is more. Hard-line Republicans are furious with their Speaker Kevin McCarthy for working with Democrats to get that short-term spending bill across the finish line and just yesterday, Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz told me that he is ready to try to kick McCarthy out of the speaker's office. He said he's going to offer a motion to vacate this week. It is a threat he repeated on the House floor earlier today.

Starting that process only takes one vote, finishing it would require 218. A simple majority.

As CNN's Manu Raju reports, Democrats could be McCarthy's only hope to keep his job.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kevin McCarthy's speakership in peril as he tried to stave off a right wing revolt led by Congressman Matt Gaetz, who's trying to do something never successfully executed, ousting the sitting speaker through a vote in the House, and promising to do it over and over again, until McCarthy is no longer speaker.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOSUE: You've got to understand why we're here.

RAJU: The main reason, McCarthy relied on Democrats to help keep the government open until next month. Are you worried about throwing this institution into chaos? Paralyzing

an institution that your party runs?

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): You talk about chaos as if it's me forcing a few votes and filing a if you motions. You don't know chaos until you've seen where this Congress and this uni-party is bringing us.

RAJU: For Gaetz to succeed, he would need the support of at least five House Republicans. All Democrats voted to eject McCarthy. Then the House would be paralyzed and until a new speaker could be elected.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that members should be looking at for stronger leadership.

RAJU: House Democratic leaders have not yet decided how to vote, and what concession to seek from McCarthy.

REP. ADAM SMITH (D-WA): I am not happy with Kevin McCarthy as speaker but a friend of mine says, it can always be worse.

RAJU: Others not eager to give McCarthy a lifeline.

TAPPER: Would you vote to vacate?

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): Would I cast that vote? Absolutely.

RAJU: Once Gaetz filed a motion, the House would vote within two days. Today, the speaker would not say whether he would have to cut a deal with Democrats to keep his job, even as the speaker accused Gaetz of retaliating over an ethics investigation he faces, something the Florida Republican denies.


MCCARTHY: You always count me out, right?

RAJU: I'm just asking the possibilities.

MCCARTHY: I'm just telling you the same thing I tell you every time, I never give up.

RAJU: The last time a similar vote happened in 1910. But Joseph Cannon remained as speaker as his powers were weakened, and just the threat in 2015 of ousting John Boehner led to his abrupt resignation as speaker.

McCarthy plans to fight it, even as he is facing more pressure from the right wing to abandon billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine.

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): He can't do it. It would be a violation of the Hastert rule which is a long held rule by Republican majorities that the speaker cannot bring a bill to the floor if the majority of the majority doesn't support it.

RAJU: All this frustration builds among McCarthy's allies. REP. RICK ALLEN (R-GA): I just pray for wisdom, for matt and clarity

on this, because I think that would be terrible for America.


RAJU (on camera): Now, today, Gaetz accused Kevin McCarthy of cutting a side deal with Joe Biden over funding Ukraine something the president seemed to suggest yesterday. Today, McCarthy denied that was the case. Gaetz also indicated that he plans to continue to push for a vote to seek McCarthy's ouster over and over again.

And, Jake, also McCarthy -- Gaetz told me that he spoke to one person in particular, former President Trump, but he denied -- he decided to not tell me exactly what they spoke about, declined to comment further -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

We're about to see another barrier broken in the U.S. Senate. California Governor Gavin Newsom has just appointed Laphonza Butler to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Senator Dianne Feinstein.

CNN's Kyung Lah lays out what this means for the heated Senate race that was already underway.


LAPHONZA BUTLER (D-CA), U.S. SENATOR-DESIGNATE: Because our story is the story of how when women win, we all win.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Seated next to her young daughter and wife, California's future senator, Laphonza Butler, speaking then as the head of Emily's List.

BUTLER: Young women, older women, all women -- this is where our power lies.

LAH: Butler, who has roots in California's most powerful unions, moves from the advocacy world to the U.S. Senate as California's Governor Gavin Newsom appoints his long time Democratic ally to fill the late Dianne Feinstein's seat.

BUTLER: Our bodies belong to us. Our freedoms are not up for debate.

LAH: In appointing Butler to the Senate, Newsom fulfills a promise to select a Black woman.

Since Kamala Harris left in 2021 to serve as vice president, there have been no Black women serving in the chamber. Newsom also avoids a political pickle with three congressional Democrats already running for the Senate seat, Adam Schiff, Katie Porter, and Barbara Lee, who had lobbied publicly to be Newsom's choice.

REP. BARBARA LEE (D-CA): Of course, it would have been great if I -- because I did want to fill the vacancy, if in fact that occurred. But listen, we all have to focus on what we're doing and I'm running very seriously.

LAH: Newsom's office said Butler's appointment comes without any strings attached, so she could run or not run for the Senate seat in 2024. Before she's been sworn in, some Democrats say she should not.

REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D-CA): I just think it's terribly unfair that she would do so. And the word around here is that whom ever he appointed would not run and be air dropped into this is simply not fair and by the way, I don't think many people know her.

LAH: Butler has four months before California's primary to change that as the sitting senator. Only the third Black woman in U.S. history and the first black lesbian to openly serve in the U.S. Senate.

AIMEE ALLISON, FOUNDER & PRESIDENT, SHE THE PEOPLE: I like to think of it as a embarrassment of riches. There are so many talented Black women who have never had a shot at being in the Senate and we hope that behind the scenes, as the dust settles, that we will as a movement figure out who to get behind and get a path to victory here in California, so that Black women are represented in the long-term.


LAH (on camera): Now, soon to be Senator Butler moved to Maryland in 2021 so lead Emily's List. She registered to vote there in 2022. We reached out to Governor Newsom and he says -- his office says, rather, that she has already reregistered to vote in the state of California, Jake. She's a long time resident of California, tracing about 20 years of residency here -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Kyung Lah, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Sources have repeatedly told CNN about damning statements Trump made while president. Now a former Trump White House official who heard those remarks firsthand is setting the record straight and confirming them on the report.


It is reported -- reporting you'll see exclusively on THE LEAD, coming up. Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our politics lead, House Republicans at war with themselves while Senate Democrats hang on to control in a closely divided chamber after Laphonza Butler was picked to be California's newest senator, after the death of Dianne Feinstein.

Let's discuss with Republican strategist Doug Heye and former deputy assistant to President Biden, Rohini Kosoglu.

Rohini, I want you to listen to what Democratic Congressman John Garamendi from California's eighth district told CNN's Kasie Hunt earlier today when asked if the new senator, Senator Butler, should run for a full term because he was pretty emphatic. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GARAMENDI: No. I don't think believe she should. There are three exceptional candidates working more than a year. I just think it's terribly unfair that she would do so. And the word around here is that whomever he appointed would not run.



TAPPER: So there was in idea that Newsom was going to appoint a caretaker and there are these three candidates, Barbara Lee and Katie Porter and Adam Schiff running for the seat but then it was taken off the table. That it doesn't -- that Senator Butler can run if she wants. What's your take?

ROHINI KOSOGLU, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Listen, I think it's up to her if she wants to do it. I think the governor rightfully knew that as he was looking at a short list of people, that it seemed like the right thing to do was to allow somebody to make that decision on behalf of California, if they feel like they're going to be the best person to represent California moving forward.

TAPPER: And, Doug, Butler's appointment allowed Newsom to stay out of the fight. But it seems that Congresswoman Barbara Lee, I mean, Newsom has said if he needed to appoint somebody to the seat, because Kamala Harris, when she became vice president, he appointed Alex Padilla into that seat. He said if there was another one, a Black woman would get that position.

Barbara Lee has made it clear she was disappointed that she didn't get in. And the Congressional Black Caucus also said that they wanted her, Barbara Lee to be named to the position, although that was off the table for Newsom because she wants to keep the seat.

Lee was critical of Newsom saying the idea that a Black woman should be appointed only as a caretaker to simply check a box is insulting to countless Black women across this country that have carried the Democratic Party to victory election after election. Tough spot for Newsom in a way.

DOUG HEYE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think there was a no-win situation for Newsom. Whatever decision he was going to make, somebody was going to be angry and now with the new senator, she does have a leg up if she decided to announce. She is a brand-new face is -- not in California, where she did use to live, but really fresh on the political scene in an explosive way.

But we also know is that California is a very big state. And Barbara Lee and others have been running for a while. They're organized in all of California counties and she might have a leg up because she's the new flavor in the news today but putting that team together takes time and money and she doesn't have those.

TAPPER: Do you think -- I mean, is there any serious way she could mount a serious campaign? I mean, specially given -- I mean, these are three people -- three political operators and I don't mean that in a pejorative sense. But Adam Schiff, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee, these are three experienced tough politicians. I think it would be pretty tough to get in the race.

KOSOGLU: Well, there are -- there's no question they're all fantastic represents, but at the end of the day, she would have to decide to make her case to California voters. She spent her career -- as Governor Newsome has said, she spent her career for almost two decades as a labor leader, so that's how most people know her in California fighting for people's wages, fighting for workers to have better working conditions.

So she has to take the case if she chooses to do it, and she has to work with, you know, that whole career that she's had and what she would run on if she decided to do that.

HEYE: And she would have to do that now.

TAPPER: Yeah. Let's turn to clash between Kevin McCarthy and Matt Gaetz, because it's out there and it's ugly. Gaetz is still threatening to move to oust as speaker. Yesterday, I spoke with both Gaetz and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on how either Gaetz or McCarthy could get to 218 votes either to keep his speakership or to vacate the speakership.

And if either -- if Gaetz would be willing to work with Democrats to get their help or if Ocasio-Cortez would be willing to negotiate to have her vote be not for sale, but it is a bargaining chip. Look, it's not unheard of in Congress. Take a listen.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I will make no deal with Democrats and concede no terms to them. I actually think Democrats should vote against Speaker McCarthy for free.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): Unless there's a real conversation between the Republican and Democratic caucuses and Republican and Democratic leadership about what that would mean, but I don't think we give up votes for free.


TAPPER: So say that she would be happy to vote to vacate Kevin McCarthy, not a fan. How do you see this playing out?

KOSOGLU: So, listen, I have been on Capitol Hill for almost two decades and so I've been through many near government shutdown and government shutdown, and what I could tell you is that whenever there is an inter party fight like this, when it's gone to the point of even discussions of motion to vacate, there's real dysfunction in every minute that is covered about the interparty fighting. It's Republicans not being able to make the case about how they want to move forward and lead. So what we've been seeing out of the White House is this very almost

precision-like approach about explaining to people what this means if there was a government shutdown and how they don't have a plan to move forward. So, it will be interesting to see what happens with this fight, but I could tell you that many people in Congress are sitting there watching and they know the reason as to why Congress's approval ratings are so low.


TAPPER: And, Doug, when asked by CNN's Manu Raju today if he was prepared to send the Republican-controlled Congress into chaos, and paralysis, he didn't back down. Take a listen.


GAETZ: You talk about chaos as if it's me forcing a few votes and filing a few motions. Real chaos is when the American people have to go through the austerity that is coming if we continue to have $2 trillion annual deficits. You don't know chaos until you have seen where this Congress and this uniparty is bringing us.


TAPPER: So, this is what I told him yesterday. I mean, look, he's right, the debt and the deficit is a real problem. The interest is money that we could be spending on education, health care, et cetera. But is what he's doing getting us any closer to solving the problem?

HEYE: No, this isn't replacing, say, George Santos, or Bob Menendez. This is a constitutional role. It means that the House immediately plunges in chaos and it means that the edible arrangements, gift package that Vladimir Putin is sending Matt Gaetz will get bigger and bigger with every move that he makes.

TAPPER: All right. Thank you so much to both of you.

Day one of Trump's civil fraud case has just wrapped up. Live images of his motorcade there heading back to Trump Tower. An update from the courthouse in just a moment.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our world today, today marks five years, five years since "Washington Post" journalist Jamal Khashoggi was brutally murdered and dismembered at the direction of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to U.S. intelligence agencies.

In 2021, the office of the director of national intelligence released its declassified report that found in black and white, quote, Saudi Arabia's crown prince Mohammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey, to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Despite, Mohammad bin Salman or MBS has denied direct responsibility.

Khashoggi was Saudi born but a long-term resident of the United States, and a fierce critic of the oppressive Saudi regime, which is presumably why he was killed for his words, for his ideas.

On October 2nd, 2018, Khashoggi went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to get paperwork that would have allowed him to marry his fiancee, Hatice Cengiz. He was never seen in public again. In the days ask weeks that followed, brutal details of his killing came to light, including his dismembering with a bone saw inflicted by Saudi agents sent by MBS, as was the premeditated plan to murder Khashoggi.

What did not follow, however, was any serious effort to hold MBS directly accountable. In fact, MBS's only consolidated power since then. So, how does a world leader get away with ordering the murder of a renowned "Washington Post" journalist and U.S. resident? How does that happen?

Well, a month after his murder, the U.S. sanctioned 17 Saudi government officials, but not him. Not MBS. Not the crown prince. A few days later, then President Donald Trump weighed in, and he sowed some seeds of doubt saying maybe MBS knew about it, maybe he didn't.

A year after Khashoggi's killing, then candidate Biden promised to make Saudi Arabia a pariah nation. And when Biden took office in 2021, he ordered the release of that intelligence report, making it clear that MBS ordered the hit.

Following that report, 76 Saudis were banned from getting U.S. visas, but MBS was not one of them. Some Saudis were also sanctioned, but again, you guessed it, MBS was not sanctioned.

When asked why, Biden's Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE : So what we've done by the actions that we've taken is really not to rupture the relationship but to recalibrate it, to be more in line with our interests and our values, and I think that we have to understand as well that this is -- this is bigger than any one person.


TAPPER: In 2022, MBS got another pass, the Biden administration determined that he would be immune from a case, brought against him by Khashoggi's fiancee. Why you might ask? Well, Biden's Justice Department argued, while calling Khashoggi's murder, quote, heinous, that MBS recently made the Saudi prime minister was therefore as a result qualified for immunity because he was the foreign head of a government, which is likely exactly how MBS planned it, according to one legal scholar.

Either way, the word pariah for the Biden administration sure does not mean what it meant when I studied for my SATs. Here's Biden fist bumping MBS in 2022. Here's Biden two days before the 9/11 anniversary at the G20 summit just last month all smiles.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby deflected on THE LEAD just two weeks ago. Take a listen.


JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESPERSON: No, look, the crown prince put his hand out, the president shook it, he shook a lot of hands at the G20.


TAPPER: So, as I asked you before, how does a world leader get away with ordering the murder of a renowned "Washington Post" journalist and U.S. resident? Khashoggi's editor at the "Washington Post", Karen Attiah, remembers attending "Time" magazine's party after her late colleague was named its 2018 person of the year.

She writes, quote: After a few minutes the image of Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman appeared. His April 2018 cover was headlined charm offensive.


Should the world buy what the crown prince is selling? I realize then that the party was a celebration of all that "Time" magazine had done that year. I had forgotten that MBS was one of Time's 100 most influential people in the world in 2018. So a murder victim and his alleged killer were shown on the same level in the same way, both of them party props. It was an ominous expression of modern journalism's obsession with bothsidesism, its constant impulse to give oppressors as much care and elevation as those they oppress, unquote.

And while we're on that subject, last week, MBS himself appeared on a different channel here in the U.S. where the host asked about the accusation of murder, and then seemed to rush to defend MBS. The host saying, I've heard you address this several times, saying you didn't order the murder, saying it was horrible and a mistake, and that as a leader you take responsibility, as a leader of the country, unquote. I'm quoting the interviewer here. The interviewer.

Remember, also, the Saudis started LIV Golf and hired American golfers to sports-wash their human rights abuses and their role in 9/11, and their murder of Jamal Khashoggi, all points that were driven home with great passion by the PGA Tour until PGA Tour made a deal with LIV Golf in June. And suddenly, those issues didn't matter so much.

So, how did Saudi's crown prince and now prime minister get away with murder? I'll tell you how, right in front of our eyes and with a lot of help.

Straight ahead, exclusive new CNN reporting, top officials in Donald Trump's White House shares shocking details only on the lead. What that official confirms about Trump's spoken views about service members who were wounded or killed in the line of duty.

You're not going to want to miss this. Stay with us.