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The Lead with Jake Tapper

John Kelly Reveals Trump's True Colors; Donald Trump Unfazed By Lawsuits; Trump In Court For First Day Of Fraud Trial; Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Is Interviewed About Gaetz Threatens To Oust McCarthy As House Speaker; "Burn Pits" Activist Awarded Nearly $2.5M. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired October 02, 2023 - 17:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to The Lead. I'm Jake Tapper.

This hour we just heard from Donald Trump as day one of his civil fraud case wrapped up. The former president just arrived back at Trump Tower. Although it's not clear whether he plans to attend when court resumes tomorrow morning.

This is a case that could have been in the hands of a jury instead a single judge who already found Trump liable for fraud will now decide how much he must pay up and it could be a quarter of a billion dollars.

Plus. Pushed out as a Texas state trooper over his health problems, developed while serving his country in Iraq. Health problems that he developed because of burn pits. This is a case we have followed here on The Lead for years. Today we're going to bring you some good news about a tragic case.

And leading this hour, a brand-new warning about Donald Trump's true character behind the scenes, this time from his longest serving White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly. On the record only here on The Lead, confirming insults about veterans and wounded and killed service members that the former president made behind closed doors. When Trump thought no one was watching. When Trump thought no one cared.

John Kelly setting the record straight about Trump's most stinging words about war heroes and military service members.

Our coverage starts with this exclusive reporting with former Chief of Staff John Kelly offering his strongest rebuke yet of Donald Trump.

Referring to Trump's recent comments about retired Joint Chief Chairman, General Mark Milley, Kelly called Trump, quote, "a person who cavalierly suggests that a selfless warrior who has served his country for 40 years in peacetime and war should lose his life for treason in expectation that someone will take action," unquote.

Kelly also called his former boss, quote, "a person who admires autocrats and murderous dictators," unquote, and there's more. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)


TAPPER: No other president has had so many former top aides making such harsh public assessments. Most recently, Cassidy Hutchinson.

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER AIDE TO WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF MARK MEADOWS: I think that Donald Trump is the most great threat that we will face to our democracy in our lifetime and potentially in American history.

TAPPER: She joins a growing chorus.

UNKNOWN: I think he's unfit for office.

WILLIAM BARR, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: He will always put his own interests and gratifying his own ego ahead of everything else.


TAPPER: And today, Trump's longest-serving former chief of staff, John Kelly, is chiming in with his harshest criticism yet. In an exclusive statement to CNN, Kelly says about Trump, what can I add that has not already been said? Calling President Trump, quote, "a person that has no idea what America stands for and has no idea what America is all about."

For the first time ever, Kelly sets the record straight with on-the- record confirmation of a number of damning details about Donald Trump from background sources, including from a 2020 Atlantic story reported with unnamed sources by editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg, including the stunning detail that Trump turned to Kelly on Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery in 2017 and asked, I don't get it. What was in it for them?


This is Kelly confirming on the record stories of Trump insulting Senator John McCain and former President George H.W. Bush because in Vietnam and in World War II, respectively, the former aviators were shot down. Kelly describes Trump as, quote, "a person that thinks those who defend their country in uniform or are shot down or seriously wounded in combat or spend years being tortured as POWs are all, quote, "suckers" because, quote, "there is nothing in it for them."

A person that did not want to be seen in the presence of military amputees because, quote, "it doesn't look good for me. A person that demonstrated open contempt for a gold star family for all gold star families on TV during the 2016 campaign and rants that are most precious heroes who gave their lives in America's defense are, quote, "losers and wouldn't visit their graves in France."

Kelly confirming on the record a story reported in the book "The Divider," where Trump tells Kelly he wants a military parade, like one he saw for Bastille Day in France, except he does not want any wounded veterans. Kelly confirming that Trump in 2018 in France refused to visit graves of Americans killed in World War I.

To CNN, Kelly calls Trump a hypocrite, saying he is, quote, "not truthful regarding his position on the protection of unborn life, on women, on minorities, on evangelical Christians, on Jews, on working men and women." And he concludes Trump is, quote, "a person that has nothing but contempt for our democratic institutions, our Constitution and the rule of law."

He concludes, "there is nothing more that can be said. God help us."

TRUMP: He's doing a great job as chief of staff.

TAPPER: A stunning repudiation by a man who worked side by side with Trump longer than any other of Trump's many chiefs of staff. Kelly also criticized Trump for saying that former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, General Mark Milley, should be executed. In a departure speech on Friday, Milley responded.

MARK MILLEY, FORMER U.S. CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: We don't take an oath to a king or queen or to a tyrant or a dictator. And we don't take an oath to a wannabe dictator.

TAPPER: Some of the people who know Donald Trump the best now warning of the threat they think he poses if elected in November 2024.


TAPPER: Now CNN reached out to the Trump campaign Monday afternoon telling officials at the campaign that a former administration official had confirmed on the record a number of the details about the 2020 Atlantic magazine story. We did not name John Kelly, but we wanted to seek comment about the substance of that story.

The Trump campaign responded with a statement insulting the character and credibility of retired Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley, who had nothing to do with the story. The Trump campaign also issued a statement insulting me, saying I should, quote, "stop peddling fake news from shady sources," unquote, which would be relevant, except the news is quite real and the source is quite impeccable.

I'd like to bring in someone who worked alongside John Kelly, former U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton.

John, thanks for joining us. So, for the first time, John Kelly, who's been very reluctant to do this on the record, but here he is confirming several stories that really offended him greatly, especially ones that had to do with his attitude towards veterans, wounded soldiers, killed soldiers.

Trump at Arlington Cemetery in 2017, standing among the graves of American soldiers who died in Afghanistan and Iraq and saying, I don't get it, what was in it for them. Trump calling Americans who died in World War I losers, not refusing to visit the cemeteries of World War I soldiers.

Trump not wanting wounded veterans in a military parade because it would, quote, "not be a good look for him." Did you hear any of these comments or anything like it? And do you have any reason to doubt John Kelly, knowing him as you do?

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, first, I have no reason whatever to doubt what John said. I think he was saying exactly what he heard from Trump. Some of those things he had told me, some occurred before I arrived at the White House.

The question of the Veterans Day, the Armistice Day celebration in France. I did not hear those comments there. I think I'm sure John heard them when I was out of the room doing something else. I don't have any doubt that what John Kelly said was true, none whatever.

TAPPER: Kelly's comments also square with the reporting from the Atlantic. A more recent story by Jeff Goldberg, a profile of General Milley, that Trump didn't react well to seeing a severely wounded army captain who was singing God Bless America at an event.


In this more recent story by Goldberg, the profile of Milley, Trump said to Milley, "why do you bring people like that here? No one wants to see that, the wounded," unquote. I have to say on a personal level, as somebody who tries to do a lot of work to help our wounded soldiers, I don't even understand this point of view. These are our bravest of the brave. And this man was commander in chief and wants to be commander in chief again and he doesn't want to see wounded soldiers? Explain that to me if you can.

BOLTON: Well, I can tell you what John Kelly once told me about the visit to Walter Reed that occurred before I arrived when most people when they see service members who have been grievously wounded are affected by it or stunned by the devotion to duty, the patriotism, the dedication of those who have sacrificed so much and endured such brutal wounds.

Trump, he said, tried to stay away from it. And John Kelly interpreted it. I think correctly, as cowardice on Trump's part, a fear that something like that could have happened to him, could happen to him, and he just didn't want to face it. I'm not a shrink. I don't make shrink diagnoses. But I think the cowardism analysis is correct.

TAPPER: Trump's obviously the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. He's neck and neck with President Biden in the general election, if not slightly ahead. Does it concern you that he could once again serve as commander in chief and the head of the armed forces.

BOLTON: Well, it appalls me that he could be elected president again. I don't have any sympathy for his potential opponents on the Democratic side. I didn't vote for Biden or Trump in 2020. I'd like to see a conservative Republican on the ticket. Donald Trump is not a conservative Republican.

And I think that, as I've said repeatedly on any number of occasions, he did damage in his first term, has largely been repaired. But that if he were elected to a second term, this time he might damage, that would be irreparable. This is a very dangerous period we're about to enter into here.

TAPPER: And John Kelly also says that Trump is, quote, "a person that has no idea what America stands for and has no idea what America is all about, a person who cavalierly suggests that a selfless warrior who has served his country for 40 years in peacetime and war," this is a reference to General Milley, "should lose his life for treason in expectation that someone will take action, a person who admires autocrats and murderous dictators, a person that has nothing but contempt for our democratic institutions, our constitution, and the rule of law."

I know you agree with some of that because it was in your book, "The Room Where It Happened." The idea, it was interesting though that Kelly put in there that he thinks Trump accusing Milley of treason was done in order to encourage someone to act on that.

BOLTON: Well, look, it's entirely possible. Trump uses the word treason quite a bit. He called me a traitor. Others in his administration, Mike Pompeo called me a traitor for writing a book. That's the way they do things. And it's entirely possible that's what Trump wants to see.

I think the central point of what John Kelly said in that particular quotation goes to really the essence of Donald Trump. The only thing he cares about is Donald Trump. Everything else is instrumental.

The idea that he has a philosophy that we have really much of an idea at all of what he will do in a second term, freed from any electoral guardrails, remember he can't run for a third term, so the political constraints that he faced in his first term will be largely non- existent, simply enhance the danger of what may happen in a second term.

And there are a lot of other Republicans who can actually be reasonable presidents of the United States. The party has to find a way to find that person and nominate him or her.

TAPPER: Former U.S. National Security Advisor and U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, thanks so much for your time. I really appreciate it, sir.

BOLTON: Thank you.

TAPPER: Again, these are confirmed comments made to set the record straight by John Kelly talking about the former commander in chief. I want to get reaction by someone who served in uniform. That's next.


[17:18:14] TAPPER: And we're back with more of our exclusive reporting. Former White House Chief of Staff to Donald Trump, John Kelly, confirming and adding new context to several stories regarding Trump's thoughts and attitude toward wounded veterans and killed veterans.

Kelly calling Trump a person, quote, "who thinks those who defend their country in uniform or are shot down or seriously wounded in combat or spend years being tortured as POWs are all suckers because," quote, "there's nothing in it for them, who did not want to be seen in the presence of military amputees because, quote, "it doesn't look good for me, who demonstrated open contempt for all Gold Star families and rants that our most precious heroes who gave their lives in America's defense are losers and wouldn't visit their graves in France."

Joining me now is retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton. So, Colonel, a lot of these stories were reported in the Atlantic magazine by Jeffrey Goldberg and in the book "The Divider" by Susan Glasser and Peter Baker, but they were on background.

Now we have Trump's longest serving White House Chief of Staff confirming them on the record, his name attached to them, and expressing abject disgust with Donald Trump for those attitudes. You're a veteran. What's your response?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, you know, every time you hear something like this, Jake, you're amazed that somebody like that could have actually been the commander-in-chief. And it doesn't matter about party affiliation or anything like that or ideology even, but what does matter is taking care of the troops.

One of the key things that's instilled in commanders is that they must take care of their troops. And that should extend from the lowest- level commander, like a platoon-level command, all the way up to the commander-in-chief.


And when that isn't done, that really affects morale, it affects the ability of the force to move forward, it affects everything that you can imagine for the military, including readiness.

TAPPER: I just don't even understand it, because, I mean, we were just talking about this with John Bolton, but when I see a wounded veteran, I think what a hero, you know, when you sign up or when you're drafted for older generations, you know, you are going, that is an act of heroism unto itself when you sign up or when you, you know, go into Vietnam or you go to Iraq or Afghanistan, you are putting yourself in harm's way.


TAPPER: Knowing you could lose your life or a limb or your eyesight. And when you see somebody, I mean, we have wounded veterans on the show all the time. We just had one on a week ago today. And when you see somebody like that, you think, God, his life has forever changed or her life has forever changed. And how heroic and you know, I don't know if I would have the courage or strength to do that.

LEIGHTON: Well, yes, absolutely. And I think the key thing is that these people, all of us who have served, you know, we look inside ourselves and we look to something greater. We look for something that we can do to protect the nation and other people around the world.

So, it's not just for America, it's really for other people as well. But when somebody is wounded, you take care of them. You know, it's like the motto that you have in front of the Veterans Administration, which basically is to take care of the widow, the orphan, and the wounded veteran because they are the ones who have served, who have borne the brunt of not only their injuries, but also of the sacrifice that they had to make in order to serve in this way.

And they happen to, in that sense, get unlucky by being wounded. They could have, you know, there could have been other things that have happened, but those who have been wounded, those who have died, those who have, even those hidden injuries like post-traumatic stress and other injuries like TBI. Those are the kinds of things that everybody should be looking to help protect. You and I both have done things for veterans.


LEIGHTON: We try very hard to look at them. I think one of the proudest things that I've ever been able to do is help a wounded veteran get promoted, stay in the Air Force and get promoted in spite of his wounds. That is something that I will always think about very proudly just because I was able to help that one person in that particular case.

And even little things with other wounded veterans becomes really important to do that and it becomes important that anybody who aspires to be the commander in chief, that that person really take into account what it means to send people into battle, to send people into harm's way.

You think about what Franklin Roosevelt thought about or what Abraham Lincoln thought about.

TAPPER: But Cedric, this guy, I mean, John Kelly says that Donald Trump, when he was in France for the centennial anniversary of the end of World War I in 2018, wouldn't even go to two different graves of American soldiers who helped end the war in World -- in World War I, who helped end that war under the great general Black Jack Pershing, because he thought they were suckers and losers.

LEIGHTON: Well, --

TAPPER: I mean, I don't even understand that. They were heroes.

LEIGHTON: They were absolute heroes, and there's no question about it. And I think everybody who, you know, thinks that it was acceptable to behave in that way, they should spend a time at a place like the Marine Corps Museum, because that place actually shows what it was -- what it was like during World War I. And places like that -- (CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: A lot of them died of illness.

LEIGHTON: Absolutely. Illness, wounds, other factors and they saved Europe at that time. The same, the veterans in World War II did the same thing as well.

TAPPER: They absolutely saved Europe, 100 percent. Trump loves to quote an apocryphal story about Black Jack Pershing having to do with this nonsense about Muslims in the Philippines. That's not a true story. This is the actual heroism of Pershing. He doesn't want to talk about that.

Anyway, Cedric, I digress. Thank you so much. Retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton. Thanks so much.

Let's turn to CNN chief correspondent and anchor of The Source, Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, are you surprised at all to see John Kelly setting the record straight, going on the record saying, he heard these stories, he heard this, this happened, and going on to offer this sharp rebuke, the sharpest one yet of Donald Trump.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: No, I'm not surprised. I think General Kelly has been very clear in his statements, reflecting on his time working for Trump, serving as his chief of staff, a role that I should note he took in a very different way than other chiefs of staff that Trump had, whether it was Reince Priebus, Mick Mulvaney, Mark Meadows.

John Kelly was someone who monitored the call logs, really tried to restrict access to the Oval Office, really tried to constrain Trump in a way that we did not see other senior aides do to that degree. And he's been very blunt, I think, about his assessment of Trump, saying that he doesn't -- that he lacks moral character, that he lacks judgment.


Really, I mean, blunt comments. I know in Trump world everything has kind of turned upside down, but to hear a former chief of staff say that about the president they served under is quite remarkable.

But When I was looking what he told you, Jake, about Trump's past comments about Gold Star families, all of this, a lot of that was before John Kelly went to serve as the chief of staff in the Trump West Wing. And I think it reflects how at that time period, there were still officials who thought that they could -- that they could come in, that they could change Trump, that they could somehow work to make him a better president, or that he would feel differently once he was in the Oval Office. And very clearly from John Kelly's assessment, that was not the case.

TAPPER: Trump's still by far the leading Republican for the nomination by more than 30 points. So far, legal indictments, criticism from other Republicans, former members of his administration, criticism from Cassidy Hutchinson, criticism from John Bolton, criticism from general after general, administration official after administration official have yet to damage him, or even bring him down in the polls.

Might John Kelly going on the record confirming that he had these insults for wounded veterans, for soldiers, marines killed in the line of duty, might that have an effect? Or is there just nothing that will have an impact whatsoever?

COLLINS: I think typically it would have an impact. And typically, a judge in a pre-trial motion saying that you have committed fraud and you inflated your riches would also hurt a leading Republican candidate. And we just don't see that happen with Trump.

And I think it's something that mystifies Republicans, and clearly, none of that has stopped him or halted him. He has only continued to be boosted as he has run and faced all these issues and been in courtrooms or had comments like the ones that John Kelly revealed to you, Jake.

One other thing I would note is about the wounded veteran who sang God Bless America at that welcome ceremony for Mark Milley when he became the joint chiefs chairman. At his farewell ceremony on Friday at the base in Washington, that same wounded veteran came out and sang God Bless America again.

Of course, before Miller referred to Trump as a wannabe dictator, I think very clearly an intentional move on his part.

TAPPER: Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much. And you can catch Kaitlan on The Source at 9 p.m. only here on CNN.

And as John Kelly gives this warning, Donald Trump himself today seemed to use his civil fraud case as a campaign stop his comments just moments ago on this trial that puts his entire business operation in New York at risk. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our Law and Justice Lead, just moments ago, Donald Trump arrived back at Trump Tower after attending day one, day one of his civil fraud trial, a trial that could mean the end of his business operations in New York. It could cost him a quarter of a billion dollars. You heard that right, a quarter of a billion dollars. Let's bring in CNN's Brynn Gingras. Brynn, so Donald Trump spoke as he left the courthouse. What did he have to say?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake, and he said in his comments, many of which he made today, but in these last comments, he said that the last five minutes of court today were outstanding. Well, let me explain to you why. Essentially, the person who was on the stand and who will continue on the stand tomorrow is Donald Bender. That is the former accountant for Trump and

And the state's attorneys spent several hours questioning Bender on financial documents that relate to alleged crimes from 2011. Now, that is outside the Statute of Limitations. The court has already decided the crimes alleged have to be from 2014 and on. And so the fact that this was continued on for three hours, the judge said, was he's hoping the state's attorneys are going to connect the dots between what they're alleging prior to 2014 to what happened and is relevant to this particular trial.

And he said in that, I trust that you can relate the 2011 documents to something that happened later, or else this has been a waste of time, so Trump very happy to hear that from the judge, of course, particularly because he fought in appeals court and won when the Statute of Limitations would be established.

So that is why he was a bit more jovial in his last comments, Jake. But he did take many times before that to disparage the judge in those comments in the hallway. And also, of course, Letitia James, the New York Attorney General, who's brought this civil trial against him and being in.

TAPPER: And being in court today seemed to fit into Trump's campaign strategy, which is, as always, portray himself as a victim.

GINGRAS: Yes, absolutely. Listen, he, like I said, came out several times. Anytime there really was a break in court to make comments, to use the typical taglines, we've heard from him that this is a witch hunt. His attorney is even making that case in the courtroom during opening statements as well, which the judge shot down. It's unclear, Jake, at this point, if he is going to return to court tomorrow and continue this, he's saying that, you know what, this is taking him away from his campaign. But we all know very well that he is getting his time in front of the camera, which is important to his campaign. So we'll be on the lookout to see what he decides for day two of this trial.

TAPPER: Brynn Gingras, thanks so much. Really appreciate it.


TAPPER: Yes, OK. All bluster, but no bite. That's what some are asking tonight about Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz and his threats to oust House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. I'm going to talk with a Republican member of Congress next. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our Politics Lead, the infighting between House Republicans is getting even uglier. Today, Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz took to the House floor. He repeated his threat to try to oust Kevin McCarthy from the speakership after McCarthy made that deal with Democrats last Saturday to avoid the government shutdown.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): It is going to be difficult for my Republican friends to keep calling President Biden feeble while he continues to take Speaker McCarthy's lunch money in every negotiation. So for all the crocodile tears about what may happen later this week about a motion to vacate, working with the Democrats is a yellow brick road that has been paved by Speaker McCarthy.


TAPPER: Matt Gaetz never metaphor he didn't like. Joining us now, New York Republican Congressman Mike Lawler of New York. Congressman, good to see you. What are you hearing from your Republican colleagues today? You've called Gaetz's reasoning a diatribe of delusional thinking. You have called him a charlatan. Obviously, your respect for Matt Gaetz knows bounds. What are you hearing from your colleagues?

REP. MIKE LAWLER (R-NY): Well, I think there's a broad consensus within the conference that what he is doing is destructive, that it undermines the work that were elected to do. The American people elected a House Republican majority to govern and to serve as a check and balance on the Biden agenda. There is no disagreement within the conference about the need to cut spending, about the need to change course when it comes to policy, and there's no disagreement about the need to do single subject appropriations bills.


And in fact, we have been doing that work. House Republicans have passed four of the 12 bills which account for roughly 70 percent of discretionary spending. Senate Democrats have passed exactly zero. So we are doing the work. This will be a major distraction from that work. Obviously, we extended government funding by 45 days so that we could complete this important work on behalf of the American people and fight for border security.

I would remind everybody that the reason that we couldn't do that in this CR was because of Matt Gaetz and some of my colleagues that voted against the Conservative CR that the Speaker put forth that would have cut spending by 8 percent and would have enacted H.R. 2 to help secure our border.

You can't negotiate with the Senate and the White House if you don't have a bill passed, which we saw during the debt ceiling negotiations because we're able to pass Limit, Save, Grow and get that through the House. Chuck Schumer was sidelined because he couldn't pass anything through the Senate and we were able to negotiate with the President.

TAPPER: So what Congressman Gaetz said to me, I said, if you had voted for the bill that Speaker McCarthy put forward on Friday, which was the lower spending bill, that would have gone to the Senate. The Senate would have rejected it, but passed their own bill, and then there would have been a conference committee and Republicans would have been in a stronger position. There would have been less spending and whatever came out of that Committee. And then that would have gone to Biden, et cetera.

He said that's not what would have happened. There hasn't been a conference committee on a continuing resolution since the 90s, the Senate would have just jammed the House with a bill and then that would have gone to Biden, blah, blah. Was he right?

LAWLER: That's almost what happened because of his irrational behavior. We were able to pass a clean CR with disaster relief and we will work on the issue of Ukraine and border security down the road precisely because he would not support a CR that had spending cuts and border security. Whether there was a conference committee or not, the reality is the speaker would have been in a position to negotiate with Senator Schumer, with the White House over a short term spending gap measure because Matt undermined that process. There was only one choice, which was to keep the American government open and funded so as not to harm the American people or worsen, a already fragile economy because Bidenomics has failed so miserably. That is his fault, not the Speaker's.

TAPPER: So on the House floor today, Gaetz accused Speaker McCarthy and also on my show yesterday, Gaetz accused Speaker McCarthy of making a secret deal with President Biden on this aid for Ukraine. McCarthy denies that, although President Biden did say there was some sort of deal when it comes to Ukraine, I'm not really sure what the President's talking about.

But there is the bigger issue here is that there is no money for Ukraine in the spending bill that passed Saturday. I believe that you support further aid for Ukraine. What's going to happen? What should Congress do?

LAWLER: Well, listen, I was not willing to shutdown the American government over foreign aid. To me, that would be unacceptable. I do support the spending in Ukraine to support their efforts and to beat back Russian aggression. Russia is in an unholy alliance with China, North Korea, and Iran, and it's a threat to the United States economy and our national security. So we need to combat that malign influence of Russia. But that is going to have to be negotiated.

There's no secret deal. There's no side deal. It's a reality. The President and the Senate are pushing for more funding in Ukraine. A majority of members in the House support funding in Ukraine. So it's a reality that we have to deal with. The question is, will we get border security for the American people? Will we get spending cuts on behalf of the American people to right size a bloated and out of control federal government?

That is what is going on here. So for Matt to say, oh, this is some secret deal, wake up, dude. I mean, this is absolutely ridiculous, and it's just him trying to latch on to something else to create chaos and try to use as a vehicle to remove the speaker. I would note Matt Gaetz refers to the speaker breaking promises, the speaker breaking the rules. The only person who has broken the Republican Conference rules is Matt Gaetz.


He voted against the majority of the majority when it came to our choice for speaker. He voted to take down rules on the House floor. And now, despite the fact that our conference rules require a majority of the majority to bring a motion to vacate, he threatening to do it himself. So Matt has been a singular destructive force within the conference. And the American people should understand that what he is doing is not conservative. It is not conservative Republicanism. He is a charlatan and I stand by that.

TAPPER: Republican Congressman Mike Lawler of the empire state, New York. Good to see you, sir. Thanks so much.

Coming up next, a legal victory worth millions for a person you know if you watch The Lead. He's going to join us live. That's next.



TAPPER: Now for our Buried Lead, that's what we call stories we think are not getting enough attention. Last Friday, this is good news, I promise, last Friday, a Texas jury awarded nearly $2.5 million, $2.5 million, to a former Texas state trooper who had essentially been forced out of his job because of health problems he had developed after being exposed to burn pits in Iraq where he was serving his country. A little background, burn pits were used by the U.S. Military in Iraq and Afghanistan to destroy trash and munitions and hazardous chemicals and even human and medical waste.

More than 3 million veterans may have been exposed to the toxic fumes from the fires, according to the VA. My next guests are among those affected, Le Roy Torres. He's a former Texas state trooper and army reservist. He returned from his year-long deployment to Iraq with these health issues and that interfered with his daily work as a Texas state trooper rather than accommodating him because of his service, the Texas Department of Public Safety abruptly fired him and he sued. And his case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court before he was even able to sue and take them to trial.

Torres and his wife, Rosie, also co-founded Burn Pits 360. That's an organization we've covered a lot dedicated to helping burn pit victims. And Le Roy and Rosie join us now. You know them. You've seen them on the show before. First of all, congratulations, Rosie and Le Roy. I would say to you during the commercial break, I can't believe the system worked. We've been following this all for years. Burn Pits 360, you got all that worked out and I mean, there's still more to do, but people are getting money and help and the Supreme Court ruled the right way and you got your $2.5 million. And what's your reaction? Le Roy, you start.

LE ROY TORRES, ACTIVIST AND ADVOCATE FOR VETERANS AND FIRST RESPONDERS: Well, Jake, thanks for having us this afternoon. And you know what? After almost seven years, that, you know, justice finally prevailed from, you know, just starting our battle, county courting, going up to the legal system and to the U.S. Supreme Court and then finally getting that opportunity to bring our battle back to Texas. Finally, September 29th, after over this decade of this injustice that was served, that finally I have that piece.

TAPPER: It's amazing. It's amazing. Rosie, I mean, congratulations. ROSIE TORRES, ACTIVIST AND ADVOCATE FOR VETERANS AND FIRST RESPONDERS: Jake, thank you. I mean, as you know, we've said it before, we couldn't have done it without Le Roy's amazing legal team. But this was a result of an injustice that happened to Le Roy, you know. I stood by him to advocate for him and many veterans just like Le Roy. This has never been just about Le Roy, but about the injustice of life after war and making sure that, you know, states don't just get to say that they're sovereign because they're the state.

So it's overwhelming. We're so grateful. Again, we couldn't do it without this amazing team that I know Le Roy is going to talk about here in a minute, but we're just grateful to God that we're here today, at this moment with this decision.

TAPPER: Yes. Let me make it clear, this is a wonderful day and a wonderful decision, but those heartless bastards that made this long, long struggle necessary should never sleep soundly again for the rest of their lives, 100 percent, you know, you're not saying that, but I'm saying that. Le Roy stars and stripes, quote, you're saying, as citizen soldiers, we deserve to keep our professions when we return from serving our nation, we should not have to bear the burden alone due to illnesses or injuries caused by an instrumentality of war, unquote. Elaborate on that for us if you would.

L. TORRES: You know, Jake, it's like we, you know, we fulfill that oath when we go overseas and just the beginning of serving our country, but, you know, when we get back that we expect that same loyalty for us if we come back injured or over an illness. And we have that expectation that we come back as citizen soldiers, as reservists and to come back to Texas and that it was questionable because of my permanent lung injury that cannot be accommodated.

And that was devastating because this was my childhood dream. And to know that we had to take our battle all the way to the highest court in the land, this just -- this should not have happened, you know, I was sitting there last week reflecting, you know, in the courtroom like, I shouldn't even have to be here. All I did was I served my nation. And the argument was that the argument wasn't it was military discrimination, but it was the accommodation of the USRA that was violated.

TAPPER: And, Rosie, do you think this victory is going to help other burn pit victims?

R. TORRES: Absolutely. I mean, Jake, we hear time and time again every day since we established the organization 13 years ago that men and women are coming back with these invisible wounds of war and they're facing, you know, again not only the injustice of not being, you know, they're being served by denial. And so we took that all the way to Congress for the PACT Act. But again, they're facing the injustice of job loss and them not accommodating and fulfilling the intent of the law. So, yes, it's going to set legal precedents at a national level and here in the state of Texas.


TAPPER: All right, you guys are the best. God bless. Thanks so much for coming on. We really appreciate it, Le Roy and Rosie Torres.

R. TORRES: Yes. We can say thank you to Andrew Tutt from Arnold & Porter, Brian Lawler, Steve Chapman. Thank you.

TAPPER: Yes, thank you to those guys, of course. But mostly thank you to you two. Really appreciate it.

Coming up, while you'll want to make sure your cell phone is working properly on Wednesday afternoon, that's ahead.


TAPPER: What's up? You're probably going to hear screeching alert from your cell phone on Wednesday afternoon. But do not panic. Federal government says it plans to test its emergency alert system at 2:20. p.m. Eastern. That's 11:20 a.m. Pacific. The noise will come with a message that reads, quote, this is a test of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed. So just relax, OK? It's going to be OK.


Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in the Situation Room. I'll see you tomorrow.