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The Lead with Jake Tapper

House Searches For New Speaker After McCarthy Ousted; Rep. Steve Womack, (R-AR), Is Interviewed About Speakership, Kevin McCarthy; Sources: McCarthy Behind Move To Kick Pelosi Out Of Her Office; Nadine Menendez Hit And Killed A Man In A 2018 Car Crash; Marty Baron Details Jeff Bezos' Ownership Of Washington Post; More Than 1,300 Children And Teens Killed By Guns This Year. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired October 04, 2023 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Then seven of his Republican colleagues joined him. They all voted to kick McCarthy out of the speakership, joining with the minority party and achieving that for the first time in American history. Let's go straight to CNN's Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.

Manu, what sort of power struggles are playing out right now behind the scenes? And what can we expect to see over the next seven days?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there is scramble going on behind the scenes to succeed Kevin McCarthy. Already, two declared candidates in the race, Steve Scalise, the House Majority Leader, as well as the House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, meeting with their colleagues and trying to secure commitments, suggesting to them that they could unite this badly divided Republican Conference. But the question is, can they get there? There is ample anger still at those eight Republicans who voted to oust Kevin McCarthy and at Congressman Matt Gaetz, even as some calls within the GOP to boot him out of the House Republican Conference altogether. Those are still coming in questions about how that will play out.

But as we are hearing from Republicans on both sides of the Capitol concerned that the events of yesterday could undercut their ability to govern and raise serious questions about their ability to hold onto the control of the House.


SEN. MARKWAYNE MULLIN (R-OK): You've got eight people over there that say they stand on principle and policy and it's really all about, you know, self-promotion. It's beyond frustrating.

I would have a hard time actually saying they're true Republicans. They're about promoting themselves. They're Republicans by name and registration only. If they were for the party, they would have done what was best for the party.

What was the party doing now? We're not able to do anything. (END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: And that was one of Kevin McCarthy's closest allies now on the Senate who had served in the House, taking aim at those members. Now, behind the scenes, Jake, there is debate within the Republican Conference about how to go forward and whether or not can maintain that rule to allow one individual member to seek a speaker's ouster. Many members want the next speaker candidate to declare that is off the table, that they will change that rule, raise the threshold for calling for such a vote. That is not what the hardliners in the conference want. They want to maintain that issue.

And also, Jake, a question about how they'll deal with some key policy issues. Jim Jordan today told me that he is against more funding for Ukraine, going further than the position that Kevin McCarthy had even as he put the brakes on aid at this moment. Jake.

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

The House of Representatives had one of the most embarrassing weeks in history after firing the House Speaker for the first time ever in American history. And then what did House Republicans do after that? They took the rest of the week off, not exactly the response that many of you watching at home would have done if you had disgraced yourself so badly at work. In fact, the only evidence we've seen of any work going on right now among House Republicans is that acting House Speaker Republican Congressman Patrick McHenry kicked out two senior Democrats, Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, from their honorary offices inside the Capitol. So is any real work going on inside the House of Representatives right now? CNN's Tom Foreman is here to answer my annoying questions.

Tom, what is happening with the House now that they seem to be in limbo, purgatory, whatever you want to call it.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The most likely thing that is happening is that they're listening for the sound of a freight train, because that is the calendar right now. Look at this, even if they go forward with this House GOP meeting next week as planned, even if they somehow produced a speaker right now, they suddenly are up against five and a half weeks before a government shutdown deadline. That's the freight train I'm talking about right here. Five and a half weeks to handle an issue that was already wildly contentious that set the stage for exactly what has happened now. And you would have to navigate all of this with all the same people and a new speaker in place, figuring out how to do it.

Now, yes, as you point out, they do have a speaker pro tem. The rules allowed for that. Representative Patrick McHenry is in place. The question is, Jake, how much can he actually do? And in this unprecedented circumstance, there are many questions about that.

TAPPER: So we know Congressman Patrick McHenry, the temporary speaker, he's basically there to oversee the election of the new actual speaker and nothing else. So, what can't get done or is at least very unlikely to be able to get done now? FOREMAN: Yes, this is all very theoretical, and I like the way you're phrasing it. There were, Jake, I was talking to Manu earlier, and he made the point of saying, look, the Congressional Research Service said he can call people to order, he can make some basic rulings, he can see if they have a quorum, things like that, but basically, he's just there to pick a new speaker. So what does that mean? That means that all sorts of things that Democrats -- or that Republicans might want to deal with, Democrats as well, just can't be dealt with. The budget, we've already talked about, defense spending out there, which Republicans like to talk about a lot, this Ukraine debate that's going on, any improvements or changes at the border, any national emergencies that might come along, hopefully they don't, but that also goes into a kind of a slowdown.


One of the few things that seems like it could go forward would be the work of some committees. But what's the point of going forward if you don't know what direction you're going? Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Tom Foreman, thanks so much.

The drama on Capitol Hill is contributing to a gloomy outlook for U.S. Military aid to Ukraine. No House speaker means no additional money for the war torn country, at least for now. And once a new speaker is chosen, it's unclear if that person will support Ukraine at all. One contender, Congressman Jim Jordan, as you heard from Manu, already has suggested it will not be first on his list of priorities at all. And it's not just Jordan.

Ukraine's allies are worried that any speaker candidate will be pressured into ditching Ukraine aid as a condition of their colleagues' support, especially those in the MAGA caucus. Let's get right to CNN's Fred Pleitgen, who's in eastern Ukraine for us.

Fred, how rapidly is Ukraine draining the supply and funds that it already has?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Extremely rapidly. And we could see a lot of that over the past week that we've been here on the front lines in eastern Ukraine where a lot of the offensive actions that the Ukrainians are taking are currently going on. In fact, we were in one battle where the Ukrainians were using a lot of ammo that we know is western ammo to try and push the Russians back. And just earlier today, Jake, I was at an artillery position that the Ukrainians are using and they had a western supplied howitzer and American supplied ammunition.

And they told us that ammunition is extremely scarce already. They said at this current rate right now, for every shot that the Ukrainians can fire, the Russians can fire 10. And so obviously they understand that if there's any sort of holdups, any sort of delays in further U.S. aid, that situation is going to become a lot worse as they're trying to support the Ukrainian troops that are currently trying to advance. Now, one of the things that we do know is that for things like artillery, ammunition, howitzer ammunition, there are other NATO countries that can make up for some of those shortfalls if bad comes to worse. But there's also other things that only the United States can supply. If we look, for instance, at ammunition for the HIMARS, those multiple rocket launching system, but also the surface to air missile systems that the U.S. has provided to Ukraine, any sort of ammo for that rockets for that has to come from the United States, Jake.

TAPPER: And Fred, CNN was first to report that the U.S. is going to transfer thousands of seized Iranian weapons to Ukraine as Ukraine continues to wait for more funds. What kind of weapons are these?

PLEITGEN: Yes, these are mostly light weapons, as they call them here, but still weapons that certainly can make a difference. First of all, it's a million rounds of ammunition, which of course, is a lot and would go a long way for the Ukrainians, even at the rate that they're firing right now. A lot of it is rifles. It's thousands of rifles, most probably some sort of model of the AK47. But one of the things that we picked up on as went through that list and of course, CNN was the first to report on that is that there's also antitank guided missiles that are part of that as well. Seems as though it's 70 of those, which doesn't seem like a lot.

But of course, at the current rate that the Ukrainians are using these things, it's definitely something that could also make a difference as well. What we've seen on the battlefields here in Ukraine as we've been, you know, coming here over the past year and a half that this conflict or that this Russian invasion has been going on, is that the Ukrainians use those kind of weapons and they are very important to them, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. CNN's Fred Pleitgen in eastern Ukraine for us, thanks so much.

Our next guest presided over the chamber and banged the gavel when Kevin McCarthy became the first House Speaker in American history ever to be ousted by a floor vote.


REP. STEVE WOMACK (R-AR): The office of speaker of the House of the United States House of Representatives is hereby declared vacant.


TAPPER: Republican Congressman Steve Womack of Arkansas then called the motion to remove McCarthy, quote, "utterly irresponsible, counterproductive and a distraction from our duty," unquote. And Congressman Womack joins me now.

Congressman, you supported Kevin McCarthy. Do you know who you're going to support now?

WOMACK: I do. I do. Thanks, Jake, for having me. I'm a Scalise guy. Steve Scalise, I think, has earned the opportunity to lead this conference should he be elected conservative, bona fides, speak for themselves. He's got an operation in place. Look, he's an amazing person. He's a survivor. And I told him last night in a private phone call that as long as his doctors are good with it, as long as his wife, Jennifer, is good and his family is good with it, then I'm all in.

And look, we need to rally behind coalesce around a speaker's candidate. Now, we have two already in the race. We need to coalesce as early as Tuesday night and get this vote taken as soon as possible so we can continue to move the work of the American people in the Congress.


TAPPER: I know it's early up, but do you have any idea what the vote count looks like?

WOMACK: None at all. I do not have a feel for how this is going to go. I said early on, and I believe this, that Scalise is one of those guys that could get McCarthy type support across the conference. He appeals to a broad section of the conference for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that he was shot many years ago and now he's dealing with another medical issue. But I do think his story resonates with a lot of people.

And -- plus, his operation is in place and he has the ability to fundraise. So, look, I think he has earned this right, but it's going to be a vote and we're going to have a --


WOMACK: -- maybe a binary choice, maybe not. So we'll see on Tuesday night.

TAPPER: So obviously what happened yesterday was an historic moment. It's never happened before in the history of this great republic. What was it like for you to preside over that moment?

WOMACK: It was very surreal, as I have discussed with others, knowing that I was going to preside, I had been asked earlier in the day and I knew the historical significance of what we're possibly about to do. And I went down and I spent some time with the parliamentarian because I wanted to go over all of the potential things that could happen in a highly emotionally charged, very contentious setting of the U.S. House of Representatives. And went through a lot of those different issues. There I learned that were going to be doing a roll call vote, which was going to take us the better part of an hour to complete. And so, having a good feel for what could possibly come up, you know, whether it's a point of order, you know, an appeal of the decision of the chair, those are the kinds of things you have to be prepared for.

And I knew a lot of people would be watching and I knew there'd be a lot of people in the chamber, in the gallery, and there were. But Jake, look, we didn't need this. We didn't need a situation where were going through something as serious as this and yet didn't have our act together in the chair and didn't look like things were in order. And I think we did a pretty good job of controlling the floor so as not to let things escalate into something contentious and terribly unproductive.

TAPPER: No, I mean, you did a great job presiding, but, you know, the general message is obviously one of chaos. Do you think Republicans will need to change this motion to vacate rules no matter who becomes speaker? I interviewed Congressman Graves earlier today, and he was reluctant to endorse his fellow Louisianan because he needs to know where Scalise stands on motion to vacate because he wants that rule gone.

WOMACK: I want that rule gone, I think it's absurd. There's a reason we have never done this in history before. And it's just absurd for us to be put in a situation where one person or just a small handful of people could paralyze Congress the way it is paralyzed right now. So I am in favor of a change in the rules package, but that'll be a vote of the conference. So we'll have to decide that as a group of people, and I believe in, you know, the will of the group. If we're going to do that, let's do it.

There's a lot of other things that people are talking about right now. Jake, I think more than anything, we need just a period of introspection. We need our members to go home. I'll go home tonight. We need to spend this weekend having kind of a very sobering conversation with ourselves about who are we? About what did we just do?

Why did we do it? How can we prevent it from happening in the future and then get about the business of electing a speaker? Reminder, we're on the clock right now. We have no timeouts left. This clock is running quickly to the middle of November. And then we're going to face what we faced last weekend, perhaps all over again, maybe this time without a confirmed speaker.

TAPPER: Your colleague, Mr. Congressman Graves also told me that he was glad that Speaker Pro Tem McHenry adjourned for the week because he thought if you all had continued in session, there could have been a fistfight, that it would have come to blows. Do you agree?

WOMACK: I agree with that, absolutely. I sit in those meetings, and it does get contentious, even in just basic terms. Yesterday was different, there was anger, there was frustration, and frankly, there was desperation going on. Here you have a paralyzed Congress and you got a lot of members sitting in the room with low ceilings, close quarters.

Look, I think it was the right thing to do to get us on out of there. Let us go home. Let's come back with a renewed sense of purpose and take this issue and quit making the House of Representatives the issue and this big speaker's battle the issue, and let's get about the work of the American people. That's what were hired to do. Let's get about doing that.

[17:15:12] TAPPER: Last question, sir, and I really do appreciate your time. In 1910, that was the last time there was a motion to vacate. And your fellow Republican speaker, Joe Cannon, he won that motion to vacate. But then Republicans went on to lose the House in the elections of 1912. Are you worried that the same thing is going to happen, that the mess of this, the chaos of this is going to hurt Republicans in 2024?

WOMACK: I do. I do. It is -- and look, you don't have to think terribly, practically, to understand that were given a very thin majority, very thin, four or five seat majority when we took office earlier this year. And the American people are watching us every day. And they have to be deciding in their own collective minds as to whether or not we have the ability to govern the House of Representatives.

And if we can come back, I think time is still on our side, we can write this ship, but we can't come back on Tuesday, still be terribly divided and let this whole speaker's race persist now for days or weeks on end. We need it done. We need to get about the work of the American people, and we need to do it with dispatch right now.

TAPPER: Safe travels back to Arkansas, sir. Good to see you. Thank you so much.

WOMACK: Thank you, Jake. Always good to be with you.

TAPPER: I appreciate it.

Sources described the CNN mean girl treatment by Kevin McCarthy with Nancy Pelosi right after he was kicked out of the speakership. This one sounds like a middle school cafeteria story, not something from Capitol Hill. We got to talk about this one. That's next.



TAPPER: And we're back with CNN exclusive reporting. Republican sources saying that former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, he himself was behind the move to kick Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer out of their honorary office spaces in the Capitol. The hideaways which happened just hours after McCarthy's ouster. Let's discuss with my panel.

Ramesh, Republicans say it's because Pelosi's office is the office of the preceding speaker, and now that McCarthy has been fired, he's the preceding speaker. Democrats believe it's a retaliation because Democrats did not step in to save McCarthy. What do you think?

RAMESH PONNURU, EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: I think that Republicans are taking a kind of pleasure in this that is not solely attributable to the rules being enforced in a consistent manner. I think sometimes revenge is a dish best served extremely peddily (ph).

TAPPER: Yes, I agree. Steve Scalise and Jim Jordan are definitely running for speaker. A couple other names have been floated, Congressman Kevin Hern of Oklahoma. What do you think is going to happen? I mean, I know it's early.

We just had Congressman Womack on. He's a big Scalise booster.


TAPPER: But even he said he has no idea what the vote count will look like. Normally there would be -- I have to say, like, just traditionally, I've been in this town for a few decades now, It would generally just go to the next person.


TAPPER: I mean, that's how it's kind of been. Do you think --

SINGLETON: Those have changed.

TAPPER: Those days have changed.


TAPPER: And it's fine. It's an election. Nothing wrong with it. But what do you think is going to happen?

SINGLETON: I mean, if I were a betting person, I would put my money on Scalise. I think most of his staffers have far more experience compared to someone like a Jim Jordan or some of the other names in terms of their ability overall to whip enough votes to build the support to ultimately become speaker. But something that I think is interesting here, Jake, is I think there should be some concern about the ability to continue raising money the way McCarthy did. I just co- hosted an event two months ago for Republicans on behalf of the speaker, it was a very successful event, and one of the things that I found very interesting among some of the participants there, some of them were not even conservatives, but they liked McCarthy, particularly from a business perspective. And I'm not certain if some of the other names we've heard thus far will be able to have that gravitas.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, listen, and I think that was part of Kevin McCarthy's appeal, right? He seemed sort of like a standard issue moderate chamber of commerce Republican, right? He, of course, had his appeal to folks like Marjorie Taylor Greene and his way of being MAGA and going to genuine flex before Donald Trump, but at the same time, just the sort of establishment wing of the party liked him. You saw, obviously, a lot of moderates back him as well. And so I think a question is, does he sort of stay in that role?

Some people are like, does he retire? Does he stay? Sounds like he's going to have a very big office, Nancy Pelosi's old office. And if it's Jordan, I think some people are maybe worried about what would the Republican brand be like if it's Jim Jordan, who is a bit of a fire brand, who's certainly much more on the MAGA wing than someone like Steve Scalise.

TAPPER: He sure does seem to be more -- I mean, Steve Scalise is a very conservative --


TAPPER: -- Republican, but Jim Jordan does seem to be more of a MAGA type candidate. I mean, Donald Trump hasn't endorsed anybody yet. We don't know if he will. Although there was this reporting from Donald Trump's unofficial White House chief of staff, Sean Hannity, that's what they used to refer to him as, on his show last night. Take a listen.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Sources telling me at this hour some House Republicans have been in contact with and have started an effort to draft former President Donald Trump to be the next speaker. And I have been told that President Trump might be open to helping the Republican Party, at least in the short term, if necessary.


TAPPER: This is your semi regular reminder that you do not actually have to be a member of the House of Representatives to be speaker of the House. Your thoughts?

PONNURU: Well, it's not in the text of the Constitution. It's arguably implied in the Constitution. Look, American politics has gotten pretty ridiculous, but I don't think it's gotten quite this ridiculous. I think the idea that for --

TAPPER: Somewhere a monkey's paw --

PONNURU: Yes, right.

TAPPER: -- just released a finger.

PONNURU: Well, look, Donald Trump was not interested even in weighing in on this race. Is he really going to want to go through actually running the U.S. House?

TAPPER: It's a lot of work.

HENDERSON: It's a lot of work. Yes.


SINGLETON: But I would say, Jake, is very interesting about this, Donald Trump didn't say anything to come to Kevin McCarthy's defense compared to the first time where, remember, he made phone calls to individuals on the floor and from some of the conversations that I've had with individuals, some people believe that this is sort of something that the former president liked to have seen. In part because a lot of his people wondered why didn't McCarthy come out and endorse the former president?


SINGLETON: He was asked several times and sort of danced around it.

HENDERSON: And I guess he's --

TAPPER: Trump is also a little bit busy.

HENDERSON: That's what I was going to say.

TAPPER: Running for president --

HENDERSON: Yes, yes. And lots of --

TAPPER: -- and several defendants positions.

HENDERSON: Yes. He's in the courtroom spending his days there and railing against the system. And listen, I think his people came out and said he has fans on both sides --


HENDERSON: -- and he clearly does. And, listen, I think it's also clear that even if he would have made the calls, it's not clear that he could have saved him --


HENDERSON: -- at this point. And I don't think --

PONNURU: And he wouldn't want to lose.

HENDERSON: He wouldn't want to be on the losing side. Yes.

PONNURU: And he wouldn't want to lose. Yes.

TAPPER: So CNN's Manu Raju asked Congressman Jim Jordan, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, if he would change the motion to vacate, the motion that McCarthy somewhat --

HENDERSON: Foolishly.

TAPPER: -- foolishly agreed to.


TAPPER: Although it maybe was the only way he could get the speakership, which allows one single member to go to the floor of the House and make a motion to oust the speaker. Here's what Jim Jordan told Manu.


RAJU: Will you change the motion to vacate?

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): That's up to the conference. That's not my call.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: That's up to the conference. That's not my call. That's not actually true. I mean, because if it were up to the conference, the conference would say, get rid of it. But in order to get votes, Scalise, Jordan, whatever, are going to have to take a position on it, right?

PONNURU: Well, there are some calls to change the --

TAPPER: A lot of calls.


PONNURU: But it is a little hard.

TAPPER: But not from Matt Gaetz.

PONNURU: Well, how do you get 218 votes?

TAPPER: Right.

PONNURU: Be a -- and it's going to be hard because the people who really like the ability aren't going to want to give up the ability to get rid of a speaker.

SINGLETON: This sets a terrible precedent. And I think the next speaker, Jake, is going to have to acquiesce to these guys who have a government shut on them at 43 days.


SINGLETON: Are we going to see a repeat of this in nine months of Matthew Gaetz saying, well, I don't like this particular position, therefore I'm going to file a motion to vacate the chair again?



HENDERSON: I think --

TAPPER: Yes you are.


TAPPER: I'm answering your question.



TAPPER: Yes, you are.

SINGLETON: See you in nine months. Yes.

HENDERSON: Totally, yes.

TAPPER: All right. Thanks, one and all. Appreciate it.


TAPPER: A stunning report today, a stunning report from "The New York Times" digging into that indictment against Democratic Senator Bob Menendez and finding a deadly crash, a car crash from 2018 that might explain a lot about some of the allegations about the senator and his wife. Stay with us.



TAPPER: A new report in "The New York Times" reveals that Democratic Senator Bob Hernandez's wife, Nadine, hit and killed a man with her car in 2018, before she and the senator were married. And this car crash is allegedly what started the bribe that was listed in last month's federal indictment against Senator Menendez, his wife and three others.

The indictment claims that two of those co-defendants offered to help buy Nadine Menendez a new Mercedes in exchange for the senator interfering in the prosecution of one of the co-defendant's business associates. Nadine Menendez's lawyer told "The New York Times," quote, my understanding was this individual ran in front of her car and she was not at fault, unquote.

Joining us now is CNN's John Miller. John, thanks for joining us. So, according to "The Times," Mrs. Menendez was not tested for drinking or drugs after the crash. How unusual is it for police to not check for that after a deadly car accident?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, in the state of New Jersey, to get a test like that in a motor vehicle accident, even one with a fatality, there has to be not probable cause, but at least reasonable suspicion observed by the officer that the person might be in intoxicated condition or on drugs that would be slurred speech, unsteady on her feet, smell of alcohol on the breath.

And police don't observe any of that at the scene, according to their report. And when you look at the video, she's articulating the words clearly. She appears to be steady, so it's not something that they could have done absent one of those factors.

TAPPER: Toward the video, a retired police officer arriving on the scene saying that his wife was friends with Ms. Menendez and was asking about any potential charges. Does that raise your antenna at all?

MILLER: I mean, it would raise my antenna just because it should. But if you listen to at least what's recorded on tape, I think what's more significant is what he's not asking. What he's asking is he's a retired officer. He's asking if the prosecutor's office is going to be involved. in Bergen County, New Jersey, if there's a fatal accident, the prosecutor's office actually runs the team along with the sheriff's department that comes to the scene of fatal accidents and investigates.

What he's not asking is he's not taking the officer on the side and saying, is there anything we can do? Can you help us out? Is there a professional courtesy? He's just asking if the prosecutor's office is going to be notified. And he's told, yes, it is. And he says, Well, I understand why, indicating that he understands the victim has passed away.

TAPPER: So Richard Koop was the individual killed in the accident, and his family has lots of questions. Who makes the call on whether an investigation into a fatal car accident like this stays open or is closed?

MILLER: Well, this happens in the township of Bogota, New Jersey, and their police department responds, and they immediately control the scene. But ultimately, the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office and the Sheriff's Bureau of Criminal Investigation take over the processing of the scene and make the determination on criminal charges.


In this case, there were no criminal charges brought. There was no summons issued based on the video they recovered and her statements. She said, I was driving along. The individual darted out between cars. And the next thing I know, you know, he was on top of my windshield. That is roughly it. Absent something to disprove that it would have been difficult for them to bring a criminal charge.

They issued a subpoena for her phone, though, and Jake, this is important. It means, was she texting when she didn't see him? Was she talking on the phone? Was she doing something else? And we don't have in any of these reports the results of that subpoena. So a couple of more questions we have to run down.

TAPPER: All right, John Miller, thanks so much. Really appreciate it. Former President Trump has had a lot to say about "The Washington Post" and its owner, Jeff Bezos. We're going to go behind the scenes of that fight with the man who was stuck in the middle of it. Stay with us.



TAPPER: As democracy unfolds, albeit messily before our eyes, this week, most of America's journalists are trying to cover it as best we can and with as much objectivity as possible. Quote, we are not at war. We are at work, that mantra from "Washington Post" legend Marty Baron, 17 Pulitzer Prizes under his belt, including 10 at "The Washington Post" where he was the executive editor for nearly a decade. Before that, he was editor of the "Boston Globe."

Notably during its landmark investigation into the Catholic Church, concealing the fact that priests were sexually abusing children. That coverage was later portrayed in the Oscar winning movie "Spotlight." And now Marty Baron has a new memoir titled, "Collision of Power: Trump, Bezos and the Washington Post. It is out now. And he is here to talk about it. Thanks so much for being here, Marty. Really appreciate it.


TAPPER: So I want to start with "Washington Post" contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi, because this week marks five years since he was brutally murdered at the direction of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman MBS, and according to U.S. Intelligence. In your book, you write that the Trump administration thought "The Washington Post" was, quote, irrationally obsessed with his murder. And you write that Trump would come to acknowledge during -- doing MBS a big favor. I saved his ass, Trump told Bob Woodward for his 2020 boo, Rage. I was able to get Congress to leave him alone. Very bizarre thing to brag about, but I have to say Trump is one of the reasons, but he's not the only reason that MBS has gotten away with murder in front of -- all of our eyes I think.

BARON: No. I mean I think that's right. I mean, look, obviously a lot of people want to protect Saudi Arabia. It's the source of a tremendous amount of oil. The U.S. has alliances with Saudi Arabia as well. But, you know, he's been protected by Congress. He's been protected by Trump. He's been protected by Jared Kushner, who now is managing $2 billion in assets from Saudi Arabia.

TAPPER: What a coincidence?

BARON: Yes, it is a strange coincidence, isn't it? You know, I mean it's really something. I mean, it's kind of like an incredible payoff that's right out in the open.

TAPPER: Let's turn to Jeff Bezos who owns "The Washington Post." As we all remember, Trump incessantly bashed Bezos and his ownership of "The Washington Post." You insist Bezos never weighed in on editorial decisions. But you also write in the book, Donald Trump had to be a less pleasurable subject for Bezos, though he was obviously giving stories about him a close read.

In one passage, Bezos seemed to suggest that "The Post" should make an endorsement in the 2016 race. You were considering not endorsing at all. That does seem to be counting the count as weighing in a little bit. No?

BARON: Well, look, I mean, he's the owner. He had some role in the editorial pages, which I was not involved in the editorial pages. I was overseeing our news coverage.

TAPPER: OK. So he didn't weigh in on the news?

BARON: Oh, yes. I mean, the editorial page editor, Fred Hiatt, the late Fred Hiatt, brought up when and if we make an endorsement. But Jeff said, well, what do you mean, when and if? He felt that the paper should make an endorsement. And clearly, "The Post" had run a lot of critical editorials about Donald Trump, and that was a natural endorsement to make, and that's what they ultimately did. TAPPER: And Trump really declared war on Bezos, talking about how Amazon shouldn't get deals when it came to postage because of "The Washington Post" coverage of Trump. I mean, I've never seen you describe it. Well, tell us how you describe it?

BARON: Well, I mean, look, Trump was arguing that it was getting too much of a deal, that it was getting a deal, but there was really no evidence that it was getting any deal whatsoever. And Trump argued that their postal rates should be increased, should be doubled. Then he said tripled. Then he said quadrupled.

TAPPER: Right.

BARON: I mean, I might imagine that he was making these numbers up, right? And then he intervened in a cloud computing contract, a $10 billion cloud computing contract. It looked like Amazon was the lead bidder for that. And Trump intervened, and then it did not go to Amazon.

TAPPER: So I want to bring up something that I disagree with you on, if that's OK. So Felicia Sonmez, a former "Post" reporter who was highly critical of "The Post's" leadership, and you're critical of how often she tweeted. And I don't want to get into that and your social media policies, because I certainly understand where you're coming from. But there's one specific instance that I think you're wrong.

Just over an hour after TMZ reported that Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant died, she tweeted a link to a "Daily Beast" story titled, quote, Kobe Bryant's disturbing rape case, the DNA evidence, the accuser story, and the half confession. And you objected to that. She was put on administrative leave while "The Post" investigated. She had violated the company's social media policy.

In your book, you described being livid over her tweet. First of all, I can't think of anything more journalistic in the sense that we are the ones that are supposed to bring up the most uncomfortable truths to the public than that tweet. And second of all, I bet there were millions of rape survivors and sexual assault survivors that saw her tweet and thought, thank God somebody out there is speaking for me.


BARON: Sure. Look, I mean when we have done obituary on controversial people, we always bring up their moments of dishonor. We discuss that. We report on that. But we also assign certain people to do those kinds of stories. We don't expect anybody in the newsroom to decide to throw out commentary as they wish, whenever they wish, and whatever manner they wish.

And so, of course, were going to deal with those rape allegations and the obituary that were writing. She decided to put out a tweet less than an hour after it had been confirmed by "The Associated Press." The death of Kobe Bryant had been confirmed by "The Associated Press." She wasn't involved in the story. We didn't ask her to be involved in the story. And we take great care in our coverage of sensitive issues to write those stories in a sensitive way and to decide when we're going to publish it. We can't have any one of a thousand people on our staff decide, taking responsibility themselves to say how we should cover a particular story. We assign particular reporters to do it. They have editors, and they're the ones who make those judgments.

TAPPER: Right. But unless you're just going to ban everybody on your staff from tweeting and social media posts completely, I don't -- I still just don't understand what she did wrong. I mean, look, I'm from Philadelphia, OK? Kobe Bryant went to Lower Marion High School. His dad coached at my high school, girls varsity basketball. I want to believe the myth about Kobe Bryant too. But there is this ugly incident in 2003. I don't want to think about it, and I certainly didn't want to think about it after he died. But what Felicia did is journalism.

BARON: Well, I mean, look, we as editors decide who's going to cover a story, how we're going to cover a story. You do that here.

TAPPER: But she was just a tweeting. It was just a tweet.

BARON: It wasn't just a tweet. OK? It was a tweet at a particular moment, in a particular way that created an enormous reaction where people focused on us at "The Washington Post" as opposed to focusing on our coverage of Kobe Bryant. Of course were going to cover that, and we did. And we had covered those rape allegations aggressively beforehand.

TAPPER: Yes, but why did "The Post" and why did you respond so strongly to it, do you think?

BARON: Because we didn't ask her to get involved in that story. We don't feel she should have been involved in that story. The people who should have been involved in that story were the people we assigned to be involved in that story and it distracted attention from the coverage that were undertaking.

TAPPER: I guess the only other thing I want to ask about this is a 2018 CDC study shows that 81 percent of women and 43 percent of men in the U.S. reported experienced some form of sexual harassment and or assault in their lifetime. You yourself, when you were at the "Boston Globe," did so much for victims of sexual assault, the victims of the Catholic Church. And I just wonder if maybe you have a blind spot on this.

BARON: Well, I don't think I have a blind spot on this. And I'm glad that you pointed that out. I mean, look, we did enormous work at the "Boston Globe" to highlight sexual abuse by priests and the cover of that sexual abuse.

TAPPER: Yes, 100 percent.

BARON: Exactly.

TAPPER: I just brought it up. BARON: But the fact that, OK, Jake. But we took great care with how we did those stories.

TAPPER: Right.

BARON: We didn't have everybody tweeting whatever they wanted. We didn't have people tweeting about celibacy or anything like that.


BARON: We picked the reporters to work on that. We selected the headlines. We were very careful with the headlines. We were very careful with how those stories were written. And that's what a news organization is supposed to do. Let's decide how we are going to cover these sensitive issues. That's what we wanted to do in the case of Kobe Bryant. Let's assign the right reporters to work on it. Let's have editors involved in those discussions and in the formation of that coverage. And those are the people who should focus on it, not just anybody on the staff.

TAPPER: Look, it's OK that I agree with you on 95 percent of the book and we disagree on a tweet. Marty Baron, the book is Collision of Power, congratulations. It's great to have you here.

BARON: Thank you.


TAPPER: We'll be right back.


TAPPER: Sad story in our National Lead, a university's homecoming celebration thrown into chaos by gunfire, leaving five people, four of them students injured. Thankfully with non-life threatening injuries after shots erupted outside a crowded homecoming event last night.

Right now, police in Baltimore are searching for a suspect, but they say they believe the five victims shot were unintended targets. The shooting at Morgan State University is now one of at least 531 mass shootings in this country so far this year, 531 and 58 shootings on school grounds.

In 2020, guns became the number one killer of American children if you include those up to 19. Guns kill more kids each year in the U.S. than cars, than cancer, than poison. That is a statistic that is unique to the United States. This just isn't the case in any other comparable country in the world. Since January 1st this year, more than 1,300 kids and teens have been killed by gunfire.

That is 1,300 birthdays that will not be celebrated next year, 1,300 heartbroken families. This month, CNN is telling some of these children's stories how they died is important, but let's also remember how they lived. Stories such as 10-year-old Frankie Rosiles, who loved science and math and would have celebrated his 11th birthday today.


LORI ROSILES, FRANKIE ROSILES' MOTHER: He walked into the room and lit it up. His presence was always felt. He loved to laugh and just have a good time and goof around. He was just different from all the other kids, you know.


CROWD: Happy birthday, dear Frank. Happy birthday to you.

L. ROSILES: He cared deeply about people and his friends and his family, just everyone and everything. He was like an old soul trapped in a little kid's body, you know. He just had so much life in him. He was like a light.

FRANKIE ROSILES, SHOOTING VICTIM: Hi, guys. It's Frankie Shows, Frank T.V.

L. ROSILES: He like loved to play baseball. He just loved to be a part of the team, you know. He loved the anime. His birthday is in October, so he wanted me to get him a costume. And it's the Demon Slayer. And that's the costume that he had. I buried him in that costume and it was perfect. It was perfect.

Just every day waking up without him here is hard. It's just like a hole, I just feel empty. I feel empty inside. And like, there's just nothing. He was my baby. He was my baby.


TAPPER: Please read the CNN series that profiles America's youngest gun victims at Our coverage continues with Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room right after this.