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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Sources: McCarthy Expected To Leave Congress Before Term Ends; Jordan Works To Calm Fears He's Too Conservative To Be Speaker; Jailed Activist Narges Mohammed Wins Nobel Peace Prize; Bodies Found Improperly Stored At Colorado Funeral Home; McCarthy Denies Reports He's Leaving Congress. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired October 06, 2023 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Kevin McCarthy says bring it on. And by "it" I now mean a Fox News contributorship.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Sources telling CNN that just ousted speaker will leave Congress before the end of his term, perhaps as soon as a new speaker is elected. This as Donald Trump endorses a man once called a legislative terrorist by a past Republican speaker to be the next speaker.

Also ahead, eight years after Donald Trump came down the escalator and said Mexico is sending rapists to the U.S., in a new interview, Trump says undocumented immigrants are, quote, poisoning the blood of our country. We'll get reaction from one of his Republican presidential rivals.

Plus, a bold message exclusively to CNN from a female activist behind bars in Iran who was just awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.


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

Well, this was imminently predictable, why bother to continue to represent the good people of Bakersfield, California, as they elected you to do, when there is presumably money to be made -- money to be made?

We start today on Capitol Hill where just moments ago, sources told CNN that ousted House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is expected to resign from Congress before the end of his term. He is expected to stick around through the election for his replacement which is expected to start next week. We don't know when it will end.

Those same sources say McCarthy does not plan to get involved in the speakers race where the two leading candidates are Jim Jordan of Ohio, current chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the current House majority leader.

As of now, neither Jordan nor Scalise has claimed to have the magic 218 votes required to become the speaker. Scalise has been working the phones and courting GOP lawmakers privately, while Jordan is publicly making the case that he is the best messenger for the Republican Party ahead of the 2024 election where his close ally Donald Trump is the frontrunner for the presidential nomination. But in the last day or so, a couple of prominent Republicans have been issuing a stark warning about Jim Jordan, specifically about his role in attempting to overturn the presidential election of 2020.


LIZ CHENEY (R), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Jim Jordan knew more about what Donald Trump had planned for January 6 than any other member of the House of Representatives. Jim Jordan was involved -- was part of the conspiracy in which Donald Trump was engaged as he attempted to overturn the election.


TAPPER: That was former Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming, vice chair of the January 6 Select Committee on Wednesday in Minnesota. But Cheney is not the only Republican sounding the alarm. Here is Cassidy Hutchinson, the former top aide to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows of the Trump White House. And, of course, the star witness of the January 6 committee's public hearings.


CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER AIDE TO TRUMP WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF MARK MEADOWS: What Jim Jordan was privy to nearly everything if not everything about and pertaining to January 6. Jim Jordan can't be trusted with the Constitution.


TAPPER: Jim Jordan scored former President Trump's endorsement early this morning which could as no surprise to anyone if you take a closer look at the great lengths that Jordan went to to try to keep Trump in power after he lost the election.

Here is Jordan in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, attending a "Stop the Steal" rally two days after election day. In the weeks and months after that, Jordan went on various right wing media outlets where he attempted to sow distrust in the 2020 election and made baseless claims of election fraud.


REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): It's exactly what the Democrats wanted.


They knew President Trump was going to win on election night but they wanted to keep looking for and finding and counting ballots until they got over the top.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: Jordan's name appears throughout the bipartisan report from the House Select Committee investigating January 6. The report says that Jordan attended numerous post-election meetings, with senior White House officials and Rudy Giuliani, discussing how to challenge the election results.

The report also details how Jordan led a conference call on January 2nd discussing how to delay that joint session of Congress on January 6 to certify the electoral vote.

Jordan and Trump spoke later that night for 18 minutes according to the report. The night before January 6, Jim Jordan texted the White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Jordan said the Vice President Pence, quote, should call out all electoral votes that he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes at all, unquote. We know that is a power that the vice president does not actually have.

On January 6, Jordan talked to President Trump on the phone at least twice. In the January 6 Committee's final report, the committee concluded that Jordan was a, quote, significant player in the conspiracy who, quote, appears to have had materially relevant communications with Donald Trump or others in the White House but the committee did not know about the substance of those communications because Jordan, quote, failed to comply with the select committee's subpoenas, unquote.

So what happens to the country if Jim Jordan is elected speaker of the House?

Former Congresswoman Liz Cheney paints a pretty dire picture.


CHENEY: If the Republicans decide that Jim Jordan should be speaker of the House, there would no longer be any possible way to argue that group of elected Republicans could be counted on to defend the Constitution.


TAPPER: CNN reached out to Jordan's office for reaction to these comments from Cheney and Hutchinson and from the January 6 Select Committee. We did not get a response. If we get one, we will share it with you.

CNN's Lauren Fox starts off our coverage today with a closer look at how the man once called a legislative terrorist by former Republican House Speaker John Boehner of his fellow state of Ohio has become a frontrunner for the speakership.


JORDAN: And, look, I like the job I got now. I never wanted to do this job. But someone has to, who can -- who can bring the team together and can communicate to the country. LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jim Jordan,

once a thorn in the side of GOP leaders, now vying to lead them as House speaker after Kevin McCarthy was booted from the role.

JORDAN: I disagree with, you know, what took place, but those guys are friends of mine.

FOX: The Ohio congressman, the chairman of the powerful Judiciary Committee.

JORDAN: The fix is in.

FOX: And known for his aggressive pursuit of an impeachment inquiry into President Biden.

JORDAN: This inquiry is so darn important.

FOX: It boosted his authority within the GOP conference, and earned him the endorsement of Donald Trump. Jordan voted against certifying the 2020 election.

JORDAN: Americans instinctively know there was something wrong with this election.

FOX: And was involved in conversations with the White House around the time of January 6, including a 10 minute call with Trump the morning of the attack.

JORDAN: I talked to the president a couple times that day but I don't remember the times.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Concerns that are out there --

FOX: Republicans nominated him to the January 6 committee. But then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected him.

Prior to his time in congress, Jordan served as an assistant coach for Ohio State's wrestling program, coming under fire after several former wrestlers claimed that Jordan knew about the sexual abuse allegations involving team doctor, Richard Strauss.

In 2020, six former wrestlers told CNN they were present when Jordan heard of or responded to sexual misconduct complaints about the doctor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He heard what I said.

FOX: Jordan has emphatically denied that he knew anything about Strauss's abuse when he worked at Ohio State between 1987 and 1995. Strauss died by suicide in 2005.

JORDAN: Look, if I had known there was some kind of problem, some of kind of abuse, I would have helped out our athletes. What they're saying is just not true.

FOX: An independent report did not specifically name Jordan, or any wrestling coach at Ohio State. But it did say 22 coaches were aware of rumors and complaints about Strauss.

On Capitol Hill, Jordan made a name for himself during the Benghazi hearings.

JORDAN: Where did the false narrative start? It started with you, Madam Secretary.

FOX: But he also gained a reputation as an agitator for party leaders. As a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, he was part of the group that often tangled with then Speaker John Boehner, prompting Boehner to later call him a legislative terrorist.

Now, Jordan says as speaker, he's the only one that will be able to unite a deeply divided party.


JORDAN: I think that I can do that. If I didn't think I can do that, I wouldn't run.

FOX: Lauren Fox, CNN, Capitol Hill.


TAPPER: And our thanks to Lauren Fox on Capitol for that.

Joining us now to discuss Democratic Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California and Republican, former congressman, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who both served together on the House January 6 Select Committee.

Congressman Kinzinger, let me start with you. And do you share the opinion of Congresswoman Cheney and Cassidy Hutchinson, that Jim Jordan is not committed to democracy and the Constitution?

ADAM KINZINGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I absolutely do. I mean, all have you to do is look at his record, look at January 6th, and everything leading up to that. Look at -- I think you played the sound bite where he says, you know, how did -- in essence, how did 74 million people not be enough to win an election? So, we're going to keep looking until we find something. Well, that's not how the Constitution works.

And the thing you need to understand about Jim Jordan is he's a true believer but he truly believes that the Democrats or the left is an enemy of America, and he will do anything, even extra constitutionally to defeat them. That's his general belief. I would put him in the camp of Christian nationalists where he believes he is truly fighting these dark forces and the Constitution in some cases is an impediment to him being able to fight those forces.

It's very dangerous for this country, very dangerous for the House, and I'll just say this to my Republican colleagues, really dangerous to the future of the Republican Party, especially if you're the party that still ascribes to Lincoln, Reagan, et cetera. TAPPER: Congresswoman Lofgren, you just heard about Congressman

Kinzinger about what his view of what Jim Jordan thinks about the left, that's you. What do you -- what do you think?

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Well, it's not true. I mean, Adam can tell you that our bipartisan January 6th committee worked very professionally and in an apolitical way to get to the truth of what happened on January 6th and leading up to it. And what we found I agree with Adam.

I mean, Jordan was up to his neck in this plot for all we could see. He refused to provide us the information we needed. But it looked from the contacts that we could identify that he was heavily identified in the plot to overturn the election, overturn the Constitution. So, I don't think that's what America needs and certainly, I take offense to the idea that I'm not patriotic. I work hard to defend the Constitution.

TAPPER: Congressman Kinzinger, are you surprised that Kevin McCarthy, according to our sources, plans to leave Congress now that he's no longer speaker?

KINZINGER: No, I'm not surprised because he's always been about himself. It's always been about becoming speaker. That's his -- that's been his instinct since the day he took that first oath I guess in 2006 when he was elected. Everything he did was to become speaker.

He became speaker but he obviously was a failed speaker as we see now, and I don't think his ego would allow him to stick around for the next year and a half. I would actually encourage him to resign now so he's not there to vote for somebody like Jim Jordan, force Jim Jordan to, you know, try to win 218 with one less vote. This is going to leave -- so just think about this from a selfish perspective, the Republican majority is now going to be down to whatever it will be, like three or something like that. But again, Kevin McCarthy cares about one person, and that's Kevin McCarthy.

That's the whole reason Kevin went for the day after January 6, calling it what it was, an insurrection, to basically three weeks later putting the paddles on Donald Trump down in Mar-a-Lago and resurrecting his political career.

TAPPER: Congresswoman Lofgren, there's a lot of Republicans trying to blame Democrats for Speaker McCarthy losing his job. Obviously, you all voted in favor of the motion to vacate, although it is obviously also a tradition the minority party never votes for the opposition party to be speaker.

You told your Democratic colleagues that you would resign before you supported Kevin McCarthy. What's your response to him resigning from Congress?

LOFGREN: Well, you know, I don't know Kevin that well, but he is part of the Trump conspiracy to overturn our democracy and consequently, it's not someone I could support, that he is resigning. I don't know. I will say this -- his predecessor and mentor in the Congress, Bill

Thomas, a very conservative guy who I didn't always agree with but an honest conservative. Bill, has now rejected his former protege Kevin McCarthy and has spoken out against him because, I think, his character is lacking, his character to go to Trump, to try and adhere to the plan to overturn the Constitution for personal ambition and now I guess, to leave for money.


So it's not a good look.

TAPPER: Yeah. We saw something like that play out in Missouri also with Senator Danforth, a very conservative statesman character rejecting Josh Hawley.

Last word, Congressman Kinzinger. What's your word to your -- of advice to anybody of the, you know, center right more moderate conservatives like yourself to try to decide what to do in terms of the Jordan Scalise race?

LOFGREN: I say hold out, hold out. Play the game that they played to depose Kevin McCarthy. You will not support somebody like Jim Jordan ever, under any circumstance, and particularly because this will be very close to the end of USA for Ukraine, and there are real impacts to this.

And I also got to say, the idea that the Democrats that come and save McCarthy, I can tell you I served in Congress for 12 years, there wouldn't have been a single Republican vote to save Nancy Pelosi in a similar situation. It is absolutely insane to try to put this dysfunction on the Democrats.

This is owned by the march to the far right and the Republican Party, a once great party that has now lost it and is trending towards fascism.

TAPPER: Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren --

LOFGREN: Thank you, Adam.

TAPPER: -- and former Congressman Adam Kinzinger, thanks for being here. I really appreciate it.

Despite Jim Jordan's political Republicans want to keep it behind closed doors. How Republican up-roar shut down a proposed Fox debate over the speaker contest. That's ahead.

And later this hour, this horrific scene when an odor led authorities to a Colorado funeral home.

Stay with us.


[16:20:27] TAPPER: We're back with our politics lead and the news that former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is expected to resign from Congress before the end of his term. This comes as Fox was all set to host a joint forum with the Republican candidates for House speaker but just as soon as that was announced, it was canceled because both declared candidates, Congressman Jim Jordan and Congressman Steve Scalise said no. They were not going to participate because of -- well, we don't know because of, but this was after reports of major backlash from their fellow Republicans to the televised debate from House Republicans.

Let's discuss all of this with former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent of the great commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and former Republican Congressman Fred Upton of Michigan, who was one of only 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump after January 6.

Congressman Upton, what's your response to the news that Kevin McCarthy is expected to leave Congress in the middle of his term now that he has been ejected as speaker.

FRED UPTON (R), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE, MICHIGAN: Oh, I think that that was a given. I mean, former speakers don't like to stick around. I'm actually surprised that Nancy Pelosi is still there. She was elected in 1986, she lost the gavel of course, but you know, Kevin doesn't want to walk down that center aisle and see Matt Gaetz and those guys sit in their normal little spot.

So, yeah, he's going to leave pretty quickly. He's got a lot of different opportunities. He's not used to doing constituent service, that's for sure. So time to get, to do something else. So that's -- you know, completely understandable.

TAPPER: Congressman Dent, let's talk about this canceled speaker forum on Fox. A source close to both Scalise and Jordan tells CNN they ultimately agreed it would not be wise to participate and Kevin Hern, the congressman from Oklahoma considering a bid for speaker, he posted, quote, we need to make this decision as a conference not on TV. The Republican conference needs a family discussion.

What made Fox or anybody who was in favor of this think that the public or that the members of Congress, the Republicans were clamoring for a televised debate over a position that they can't even vote on or agree upon right now?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I've mentioned on television early today that I thought having a televised debate on Fox News was one of the dumbest ideas I ever heard. Just for this reason, I knew Republican members would be outraged. And, again, these are -- as Kevin Hern just said, these are family conversations not to be aired in public. And further, what were these guying going to negotiate away on Fox News? Were they going to make commitments on Ukraine a condition on becoming speaker, or what kind of idiotic things might they have thrown away on television. These conversations have to happen among the members, not this wider audience.

So I'm glad they scrapped it. But it was an absolutely boneheaded idea to think that was good. In fact, I wonder if some of these guys really have a sense of the conference if they're willing to go on television. It just shows the outside of these outside groups that they some on the inside of how the Republican conference works.


DENT: That is a major --

TAPPER: Congressman Upton, you served in the House for 36 years. When you left in November, you called Congress, quote, more toxic than ever before. As you look at the way McCarthy was ousted from the speakership, is it even more toxic than since you left?

UPTON: You know, it really is. I mean, it's amazing. I mean, even looking at the public (INAUDIBLE) Charlie and Adam Kinzinger are good friends, you know that they've only passed 13 bills that headed to the president's desk this year. I mean, that's -- you know, none of the appropriations bills. I mean, it just -- it's so toxic, it's so partisan, not only on the House floor, but in the committee process as well.

You know, I think Americans across the country are seeing what's the matter with this bunch. It's almost a pox on both houses in terms of the inability to work in a solid bipartisan civil basis.


And, Congressman Dent, both Republican members of the January 6th Committee, Congresswoman Liz Cheney, and Congressman Adam Kinzinger, both former members now, are expressing serious concerns about Jim Jordan as speaker. They say he cannot be trusted to uphold the Constitution. He cannot be trusted with the speakership. He tried to overturn the election, are you also concerned?

DENT: Of course. In fact, I think that the bigger problem for Jim Jordan is going to be many of these pragmatic more moderate members and those very competitive seats who recognize that if Jim Jordan is speaker could it be presented an enormous liability to them in their districts.

So there's a real political implication here. I would concur that Jim Jordan is going to have to explain a lot. I mean, you just ran a clip from the Ohio state situation, all the election denial business. I think there's a -- I have to think even among those members who aren't going to say anything publicly, they would really fear a Speaker Jordan.

Fred and I were there. You know, Jim was good at -- he was good at blowing up deals. He was never putting them together. He was always the guy that was a thorn in the side of the leadership and now he's going to try to run as the guy who will unify the conference? Boy, that's going to be a pretty tall order for him.

TAPPER: Yeah, John Boehner called him a legislative terrorist.

Congressman Upton, given the concerns that Cheney and Kinzinger have about Congressman Jordan and his commitments to democracy, his commitment to the Constitution, are you worried about the role he might play as speaker?

UPTON: Yeah, I mean, you look at what he's done on the Judiciary Committee, I mean that's one of the more partisan committees in the House. But you know, they blocked the immigration reform. There was a pretty good bipartisan deal a few years ago to do border security as well as a pathway for Dreamers to get citizenship, gun legislation, he was even an AMBER alert for an active shooter, a voluntary program that states could follow.

So, it's his inability to work with the January 6th committee and, you know, what did he know? He didn't turn over his phone calls. He didn't do a number of things from that awful day. Of course, I was there that day as well.

So, it's -- you know, it's going to be a different place should he win.

TAPPER: Former Congressman Charlie Dent, former Congressman Fred Upton, thanks to both of you. Really appreciate it. Good to see both of you.

DENT: Thanks, Jake.

UPTON: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up next, the audio recordings and letters from behind bars from an activist in Iran who was just awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our world lead, Narges Mohammadi, a jailed activist whose name has become synonymous with the battle for human rights in Iran, has won this year's Nobel Peace Prize for her, quote, fight against the oppression of women in Iran and her fight to promote human rights and freedom for all.

Mohammadi's resiliency against Iranian regime has come with a severe price. She has been jailed for most of the past two decades.

Right now, Mohammadi is inside Iran's notorious Evin prison, serving a ten-year term, sentenced to 154 lashes, accused of actions against national security and propaganda against Iran. And for the past 18 months, Mohammadi has been banned from speaking with her husband and her children.

Yes, Mohammadi is imprisoned, but she is not silent. Despite the sacrifices of both her family and her freedom, Mohammadi has not backed down in the fight against the Iranian regime's oppression.

Before she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Mohammadi shared with CNN recordings and a letter from behind bars.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh who has led the network's coverage of the nationwide protest in Iran has this exclusive report.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Not even the darkest cells of the notorious Evin prison have silenced this fearless fighter for freedom.

Narges Mohammadi, her life has been a cycle of arrest and re-arrest. And now serving a ten-year prison term and sentenced to 154 lashes. Not only has the regime taken away her freedom, the last time she held her twins Ali and Kiana was eight years ago. They were only eight.

For her activism, Mohammadi has been accused of actions against national security and propaganda against the state, and she's now facing more charges as she continues to defiantly speak out from behind bars.

In an exclusive recording from inside Evin, Mohammadi reads excerpts of a letter she sent CNN.

NARGES MOHAMMADI, IRANIAN ACTIVIST (through translator): This letter is not written by a free feminist in a developed, democratic society, benefitting from civil protest methods and human rights, but rather by an imprisoned woman who like millions of Iranian women has been living under the authority and oppression of a military system with ideological, patriarchal and tyrannical foundations.

Since the age of six, deprived of life, youth, femininity and motherhood.

KARADSHEH: In her lengthy letter, Mohammadi rails against the regime's compulsory hijab. Mohammadi calls out what she says is the hypocrisy of the religious authorities -- female protesters and prisoners sexually assaulted.

As Iranians rose up on the streets last year, she lent her powerful voice to the uprising and for that, she was recently sentenced to another year in prison.

But that has not deterred Mohammadi who with the help of intermediaries responded to CNN questions in writing, detailing incidents of sexual assaults dating back to 1999. She also mentions her own experience.


But since the protests she says, they have increased significantly, describing them now as systematic.

She writes: In prison, I've heard the narratives of three protesting women who were sexually assaulted. One of them was a well-known activist of the student movement who upon entering the prison filed a complaint with the authorities and announced that after being arrested on the street, her one hand and one leg were cuffed and tied. And in that position she was sexually assaulted.

I went with one of my cell mates under the pretext of taking food for a prisoner. We saw bruises on her stomach, thighs, arms and legs.

The Iranian regime has denied allegations including a CNN investigation of using sexual violence and rape to suppress the protests, calling them baseless and false.

Mohammadi, an unstoppable force, her fight extending deep inside Evin where she leads women who continue to protest.

Their chants of "women, life, freedom" captured in this recording shared with CNN.

They sing the Farsi rendition of "Bella Ciao", the Italian anti- fascist resistance song now an anthem for Iran's freedom movement.


KARADSHEH (on camera): And, Jake, as you would expect, the Iranian regime is condemning the decision by the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, calling this politically motivated and biased. And human rights organizations around the world yet again are calling for the immediate release of this fearless human rights defender.

And we have to mention, Jake, we don't even know if she has received the news. Her family is telling us that on Thursdays and Fridays she is not allowed phone calls because the women who are in Evin prison, political prisoners, they are not allowed phone calls on Thursdays and on Thursday. But in the past few days, she did prepare a statement because she was short listed for the award and we received a copy of that statement and she is vowing to continue this battle against oppression for human rights, for her people, for Iran, and she says that she is ready to stay in jail the rest of her life for that, Jake.

TAPPER: The people will ultimately win that fight against the Iranian regime. I don't know when, but they ultimately will win, the Iranian people.

Jomana Karadsheh, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up ahead to Colorado and what looked like a typical neighborhood funeral home, but wait until you hear what authorities say was going on inside. The FBI is getting involved in this one. You will want to hear what it is.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: A horrific scene is how the sheriff described the inside of a Colorado funeral home now under investigation after neighbors reported and odor coming from the facility. Hours ago, we learned even more shocking details from the Fremont County coroner. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RANDY KELLER, FREMONT COUNTY CORONER: After making entry into the facility, we found over 100 decedents who were improperly stored and has created a hazardous scene.


TAPPER: The Return to Nature Funeral Home is known for offering green burials and described on its website as, quote, no chemicals, metal or unnatural term, just you and the earth.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov joins us from Wheat Ridge, Colorado.

Lucy, what more are we learning from the authorities?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jake, an absolutely gruesome discovery. Authorities say that they found the remains of more than 115 bodies that were improperly stored at this Return to Nature Funeral Home in Penrose, which is about 30 miles south of Colorado Springs.

Now, the Fremont County sheriff's office was initially tipped off to what they described as a foul stench at this facility. They returned with a search warrant the next day and discovered these bodies. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the FBI are helping out with the investigation.

But right now, the priority is for hazmat teams to effectively comb through this scene to gather all of the remains which then need to be processed and identified. The families will need to be informed. And this could be a very lengthy process. Take a listen.


KELLER: Forensic identification through fingerprints, medical or dental records or possibly DNA will need to be completed. With the number of decedents we have in this facility, and the identification process that needs to be completed, this could take several months.


KAFANOV: Now, officials say that there is no threat to the public, but one of the deputy coroners did sustain a rash of some type and had to be taken to the hospital which is why they have deployed the hazmat teams to the scene. Obviously a lot of questions and concerns by the community and authorities say that their priority right now is the focus on the impact of the families, Jake.

TAPPER: And, Lucy, more can you tell us about the funeral home? And have any arrests been made?

KAFANOV: Yeah, there is no arrests made as of yet. Officials do say that it is too early to say whether a crime was actually committed. This is all part of the investigation. The company itself specializes in what they say are chemical-free

cremations and so-called natural burials. Public records do show it was established about six years ago in Colorado Springs, and that the registration of the funeral home expired with the state at the end of last year. We do hear from officials that the owners of the facility have been cooperative with the investigation, but obviously, a lot more questions than answers at this point -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Lucy Kafanov in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, thanks so much for that report.

And just in, a political plot twist. Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy is commenting on the reports from sources close to him that he is considering resigning from Congress.


And he's contradicting them. We'll have more on that next.


TAPPER: Just in to our politics lead, former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is now denying reports from his camp that he plans to resign midterm, after his ouster by members of his own party earlier this week.

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

So, Melanie, what is McCarthy saying, and what do you think is the reason for all the confusion?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, so Speaker Kevin McCarthy just talked to reporters. I was there. He said he is not resigning. He has more work to do. He wants to help the Republican Party build back the majority and expand the majority next year.


But he has sent different signals behind closed doors. In fact, sources that we talked to said he was even talking about, you know, if I leave, I would at least want to stay through the speaker's election next week. And he also said at his press conference, after he was removed, that when he was asked whether he will resign, he said it's something I'm going to look at.

So, clearly, he was considering it at some point. Also behind closed doors, he told members he wants to go home and to spend time with his family.

But at this point, Kevin McCarthy says he is sticking around. He has more work to do. Let's take a listen.


REPORTER: You're not resigning?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): No, I'm not resigning.

REPORTER: So, you'll stay the entire term.

MCCARTHY: I'll stay. So, don't worry, I've got a lot --

REPORTER: Are you running for re-election?


REPORTER: Yes, you will run or, yes, you're thinking about running?

MCCARTHY: We're going to keep the majority, I'm going to help the people I have here and we're going to expand it further.


ZANONA: And again, just the big picture here, there's so much uncertainty in the GOP. They still do not know who's going to replace Kevin McCarthy. They are scrambling to pick their next leader. And no one knows exactly how that race is going to take place next week, Jake.

TAPPER: OK. Well, good for him for sticking around and doing the job his voters put him there to do.

Do we know if Congressman McCarthy plans to get involved in the speaker race at all?

ZANONA: Yes, he says he's not going to get involved, that he's going to stay on the sidelines here. And the two men running in the race are people that are somewhat close to Kevin McCarthy.

You have Steve Scalise. This is his top deputy for a very long time, but they have had a somewhat frosty relationship over the years, because Scalise was always seen as someone waiting in the wings, potentially, to step up to the plate if Kevin McCarthy were ever to stumble or step aside. So, they've long sort of been seen as frenemies here on Capitol Hill.

Then you have Jim Jordan. He is someone who is the House Judiciary chairman. He has become a very strong Kevin McCarthy ally in recent years because Kevin McCarthy took him under his wing and made him House Judiciary chairman as part of his effort to bring the Freedom Caucus more into the fold.

But Kevin McCarthy says he doesn't want to get involved, but he does want to see the conference find someone to lead them. And he wants to help steady what has been a very -- traumatic, I guess, chaotic experience inside the House Republican conference over these last few days.

TAPPER: So, it doesn't seem as though either candidate as of right now has 218 votes. Do you get a sense that Donald Trump's endorsement of Jim Jordan has had any impact on the race at all? Or do you think the people that are lining up behind Jordan, who are the Trump-y kinds of folks who would have gone to Jordan anyway, who, to be frank, is the Trumpier kind of candidate anyway?

ZANONA: Yeah. I think that endorsement probably cuts both ways, right? Of course, it's a big deal to have that endorsement, at least on the far right. But to your point, Jake, those candidates or those Republicans were probably going to be supporting Jim Jordan anyway. So, I'm not sure it moves the needle that much. Also, it's going to be a closed door secret ballot, at least on the first initial vote Republicans take.

And on the other side of it, that endorsement doesn't do anything to win over moderates. Centrists, of course, are going to be a key constituency in this speaker's race, and Jim Jordan knows that. He has actually been directly reaching out to those members, trying to make the case he is the best positioned to unite this bitterly divided GOP, in part because he does have the ear of the Freedom Caucus, which has been behind a lot of the chaos that we've seen over the last few months in this Congress.

So, Steve Scalise making his speech to moderates. Obviously, both of them know that at the end of the day that at the end of the day, they're going to need as many votes as possible. But, Jake, what I can tell you is that a lot of Republicans say that before they go a House floor vote, they want to have this sorted out. They do not want that dysfunction on display like it was in January, where it took Kevin McCarthy 15 rounds to become speaker.

So, they really want to get behind closed doors, hash this out. They'll close their conference meeting where they elect a speaker. And then they really want to make sure that whoever that person is, they're going to have 218 votes before they go to House floor, Jake.

TAPPER: See, what I wonder is, there was an era when Tom DeLay was a very powerful member of Congress, but he was perceived as too toxic, too radioactive is actually a better word for it, too radioactive to become the speaker of the House. And I think he even understood that, that he would be a liability with the Republicans in more moderate districts.

And I just -- I wonder if the more moderate Republicans worry that if Speaker Jordan would be radioactive in their districts because he is -- you know, Liz Cheney is out there talking about how he is part of the January 6 conspiracy. He's all over the report. He clearly was trying to overturn the election.

ZANONA: Right. And he's also the face of the Biden impeachment inquiry. So, yes, there are moderates who are concerned about that.

But others are really keeping their powder dry and are actually telling me that they're open to a potentially Jim Jordan as speaker. But to your point, this is a very different Republican Party than we've seen in the last decade or so.

TAPPER: Indeed, Melanie Zanona on Capitol Hill for us, thanks so much.

[16:55:01] With so much going on this week, a request by Donald Trump, this may have gone under the radar. He asked the judge to dismiss one of his criminal cases, and that request could have major domino effects on another case. We'll explain what may have prosecutors worried. That's next.


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

This hour, today's economic shocker, 336,000 jobs added in the U.S., twice what was expected. But so many Americans say they're still struggling and they don't think the economy is doing well. So, will that sentiment, and not the numbers, win over at the ballot box?

Plus, CNN on the scene of a mass exodus. We're talking tens of thousands leaving by the day after the collapse of their government. We'll take you to that part of the world.