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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Former Trump Loyalists Shed New Light On G.A. Election Case In Leaked Video Statements; President To Meet With China's Xi At High- Stakes Summit; Adams: Will Let Investigators "Do Their Job Without Interference"; Rep. John James (R-MI), Is Interviewed About House Passing Funding Bill To Avoid Government Shutdown. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired November 14, 2023 - 17:00   ET




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

This hour President Biden just arriving in San Francisco preparing for his first meetings ahead of his one on one tomorrow with Chinese President Xi Jinping, this time unlike any of their past conversations.

Plus a defining vote for the new house speaker but does he have bigger problems as GOP colleagues are now physically throwing blows? House Republican will be here to talk about chaos in his conference.

And leading this our new video of co-defendants of Donald Trump's spelling out in chilling detail efforts to overturn the 2020 election with some new details you have not heard of before. This bombshell new video is out of Fulton County, Georgia, "The Washington Post" and ABC News obtained a series of recordings from the parts of the statements made by four of the defendants as part of their plea deals from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, former pro Trump lawyer Kenneth Chesebro, former Trump campaign lawyers Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis and Georgia bail bondsman, Scott Hall. Now, remember, this case stems from efforts to overturn Georgia's 2020 election results, 19 people were charged, including Donald Trump. Many revelations in today's news including the "Post" report, that Kenneth Chesebro, the architect behind the campaign's plot to put forward slates of fake electors, Chesebro admitted for the first time that he played a role transporting documents signed by fake electors from Wisconsin to Capitol Hill.

Those bogus electors were intended to be used as part of a plan to throw our democracy into chaos so Trump and his team could steal democracy from you. It gets worse. Trump attorney Jenna Ellis said that in late December, weeks after the election was called for Joe Biden and Trump had run out of legal options, Ellis said former White House aide Dan Scavino was unfazed. And you might wonder why. Why would he be unfazed? The answer, according to Ellis, well, it's quite chilling.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JENNA ELLIS, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: I emphasized him. I thought that the claims and the ability to challenge the election results was essentially over because of the dismissal, the Texas versus Pennsylvania case from the United States Supreme Court. And he said to me, and I kind of excited to say, well, we don't care, and we're not going to leave. And I said, what do you mean? And he said, well, the boss, meaning President Trump, and everyone understood the boss, that's what we all called him, he said the boss is not going to leave under any circumstances, we're just going to stay in power.

And I said to him, well, it doesn't quite work that way you realize and he said, we don't care.


TAPPER: We don't care. The boss is not going to leave under any circumstances, we are just going to stay in power. Those are quotes. Good lord.

Here's how Trump's attorney Steve Sadow responded, quote, "The only salient and telling fact is that President Trump left the White House on January 20, 2021, and returned to Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida. If this is the nonsense line of inquiry being pursued, it is one more reason that this political travesty of the case must be dismissed," unquote.

Now, look, I don't know, I'm not an attorney, but plans to be a squatter in the White House while preparing a plan that ultimately uses violence to prevent the counting of electoral votes? It seems like to me that could be salient and telling fact, again, I remind you I'm not an attorney.


And then there's Sidney Powell, an attorney, on video she tells prosecutors that Trump believed that he'd won.


SIDNEY POWELL, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: Well, he knew he'd been -- he was -- all his instincts told him he had been defrauded, that the election was a big fraud.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And when you say his instincts, did he ever describe that in any way? Did he ever point to any kind of proof or evidence or anything he was getting from his other attorneys or experts?

POWELL: Well, he talked about, you know, seeing the vote totals roll backwards on T.V.


TAPPER: Yes, see, that's not evidence. And he did not see that because that did not happen like so many claims Trump makes about the election. He did not see vote totals rollback on the T.V. That's in somebody's mind, maybe not a fact. It's actually provably and demonstrably false.

Powell goes on to divulge that she pressed Donald Trump to appoint her special counsel in December 18 Oval Office meeting. And if he had done so she said she would have tried to seize election equipment. She even said she had considered using the military to get that equipment. Tellingly, Powell admits she had never even practiced election law before. When prosecutors asked her why Trump would rely on her for legal advice on election law when she had never worked in election law before she responded, quote, "Because we were the only ones willing to support his efforts to sustain the White House. I mean, everybody else was telling him to pack up and go," unquote.

I wonder why. At this point, Trump's attorney general and his White House attorneys who did have experience in election law, they were telling him he had lost the election. Just to get an idea of how tense things were in the office at that time. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You remember the December 21 meeting with Phil Waldron, Mark Meadows, and Rudy Giuliani that you went to?

POWELL: Oh, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell us about that?

POWELL: Yes, that's the one where Rudy got really ugly. There was a big shouting match, in which Rudy called me every name in the book. And I was the worst lawyer he'd ever seen in his life. There were no circumstances under which he'd work with me on anything. He told me (bleep).


TAPPER: And then we got this clip of Georgia bail bondsman, Scott Hall, he tried to claim he was merely a political tourist, flying to rural Coffee County on January 7 2021 when the voting systems were breached. It was a $10,000 charter flight. Prosecutors asked if he was reimbursed.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You could cost it that long (ph)?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you ever get reimburse (inaudible)?

HALL: I've been pardon my friend but I (bleep) (inaudible).


TAPPER: You and the whole country, pal.

With me now a CNN Anchor of "The Source" Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, these videos were leaked to "The Washington Post" and ABC News. Now Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis wants an emergency protective order to prevent other leaks. What do these videos tell you about the case that Fani Willis has been building against Trump?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, she's not happy that they came out, Jake. And she's denied that they came from the district attorney's office because her concern and what they've said in this emergency request for a motion to seal is that they're worried that it could lead to intimidation of these witnesses or harassment of the people that you see there, people clearly like Jenna Ellis, someone who spent a lot of time on the phone and with Donald Trump and around him in this time period, and obviously could -- has a lot to potentially offer to prosecutors in this case. But I think what we pick up from these videos, and what you see in these interviews is kind of the roadmap that prosecutors are going down with each of these witnesses. Maybe not entirely surprising, but we're seeing what they are confirming to them for the first time. And we've seen Fani Willis do this before, Jake, with other RICO cases where a lot of people have been indicted, a lot of people have gotten plea deals.

And often those plea deals in the past have led to potentially incriminating information that can be used to bolster her case against the remaining defendants. And so we don't know that that's going to happen in this case, but it very clearly appears to be the direction that she's headed with at least these witnesses and these co- defendants have now taken guilty pleas.

TAPPER: Kaitlan, I want to play another clip of Sidney Powell obtained by ABC News. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was President Trump's reaction when, I guess, this cadre of advisers would say you lost?

POWELL: It was like, well, they would say that and then they'd walk out, and he'd go, see, this is what I deal with all the time.


TAPPER: This is what I deal with all the time, all these reality based people. But it does show that he was told repeatedly that he lost the election.

COLLINS: Yes, well, she said that he was listening to his instincts when it came to weather not he lost the election. He certainly was not listening to the actual attorneys inside the White House and other senior advisors who were telling him that he had not.


And I think it goes to the point of this. And this could be potentially something that helps Trump, it's not totally clear where she says that she genuinely believed that Trump thought he had lost or that he had won the election. That's a question of whether or not that is something that Trump's attorneys tried to use as part of their defense here, because the question is, is anything that these co- defendants are coming in and saying now that they've taken guilty pleas, is it something that directly implicates Trump himself. And I think that is what the path that you're seeing them pursue here. But when it comes to Sidney Powell, I mean, that is why he was listening to crazy attorneys and that December 21 meeting that she was asked about, or his team crazy and team normal, because they were listening to them because they were telling him what he wanted to hear here, which is that he had won the election, which he had not.

TAPPER: And going back to Jenna Ellis' claim with what Dan Scavino told her that Trump was just not going to leave the White House, he was just going to keep holding on to power. You were the White House correspondent for CNN at the time. Do you think he really was just going to squat, stay there forever?

COLLINS: I think some people certainly feared that. I mean, when you listen to other, Alyssa Farah Griffin made this good point last night about Dan Scavino is that, you know, he's someone who was a golf caddy for Trump that came up, that Trump elevated him he became obviously a manager of his social media, that's what he was known for and became kind of this brain like Trump when it came to tweeting. But he also was a deputy chief of staff inside the White House and had a very high ranking position inside the West Wing, and he was someone who was making that comment at a Christmas party at the White House, Jenna Ellis says. But still, regardless, was making that comment to an attorney who was representing him. And so, I think that there was certainly a lot of fear inside the White House and trepidation about what exactly was going to happen that day. And that was alleviated when he did actually get on Marine One and leave Washington hours before Biden's inauguration.

TAPPER: All right. Kaitlin Collins, thanks so much.

I want to turn to Republican Strategist Kevin Madden and Democratic Strategist Karen Finney.

Kevin, when prosecutors asked Sidney Powell why Trump would use her for legal advice when she had never practiced election law before, which by the way, pretty good question, she said it's because they were the only ones willing to support his efforts to sustain the White House. Listen to this clip obtained by ABC News.


POWELL: I was the most experienced federal practitioner at the crib. Did I know anything about election law? No.


TAPPER: What does that clip tell you about who would be in a Trump administration if he gets back in the White House in the second term?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think he tells you that anybody who's experienced and anybody who's qualified, would not be in good favor with Donald Trump. I think what he always has done is surround himself with enablers, folks who are going to provide him all of the leeway he needs to operate just as he sees fit. And the only thing he really cares about is Donald Trump. He has a contempt for the law. He has a contempt for protocols. He's always focused on what's good for Donald Trump.

And if you think about what the advice that he got from people like Scavino, and even Jenna Ellis and others, that was pretty much in line with what Donald Trump wanted to hear. So that's I think what's jarring about some of this video is that we're finally seeing them, that all of these enablers when they are faced with, you know, under oath, having to deal with the truth that they come in contact with, you know, they're -- they come face to face with their own lives, and it doesn't work out well.

TAPPER: So, Karen, Sidney Powell still seems pretty out there, I have to say, Jenna Ellis, maybe less so. I want to read you this from "The Washington Post," quote, "Powell prosecutor she still believes," pardon me, "still believes election machines flipped votes for Biden and believes many past elections have been flipped too," quote, "Bush stole Ohio in 2004, she said. But they pressed her on the issue, asking how she can know that after admitting that she doesn't personally understand how the machines work."

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And she also said she actually doesn't know election law either. I think that was --

TAPPER: So doesn't know how the machines work, doesn't know election law, and --

FINNEY: But just wants to go out there and just say whatever.

TAPPER: Future special counsel Sidney Powell.

FINNEY: Right. Exactly. Look, it shows -- I mean, there may be a legal reason why she is trying to continue to make the argument that that is what she truly believed and that she believed that is what Trump truly believed. Obviously not true, Joe Biden did win the election. But you know --

TAPPER: And so did George W. Bush.

FINNEY: Yes, he did. However, I think the thing I would point out, the -- it's all very jarring, but we've seen this movie before time and time again with the Trump team. Clearly things are happening behind the scenes. He's saying something publicly that we know not to be true. Later we find out even the people who were saying backing him up, knew it wasn't true. And in this case, you know with the Dan Scavino comment in the comment today from the Trump team, again, trying to walk it back, right? And I think it is a reminder to us that we have to take very seriously everything Donald Trump says, all of the threats because clearly he meant it.



TAPPER: We all take it seriously. Kevin, Karen, thanks so much. Good to see you.

You heard it here first, Israel ambassador to the U.N. told me moments ago he assesses Israel can end this phase of its war with Hamas in, quote, "a matter of weeks." The situation on the ground there now before that happens. That's ahead.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you address the hostages directly and give them a message of hope and resilience in this troubling time?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF UNTED STATES: Yes, I can. I've been talking with people involved every single day. I believe it's going to happen but I don't want to get into detail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's your message for the families?

BIDEN: Hang in there, we're coming.


TAPPER: President Biden expressing his optimism today about the potential release of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza senior. U.S. official tells CNN that an agreement could see the release of dozens of women and children kidnapped in the October 7 attack in exchange for a sustained pause in fighting.

In Israel, family members of the hostages held by Hamas who have grown impatient with the Netanyahu government have begun a five day march from Tel Aviv to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem to demand action for the release of all the hostages. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is live in Sderot Israel and Nada Bashir is live for us in Jerusalem.


Jeremy, where do the negotiations stand at this hour?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, you just heard President Biden expressing some optimism about the prospects of a deal saying that he believes it's going to happen. And now at the same time, a senior U.S. official is telling CNN that Israel and Hamas are inching closer to a potential deal. And despite that optimism, though, and the very real progress that is being made that appears to be being made in these negotiations, it's important to remember that just a few weeks ago, we thought a deal was perhaps in hand and then those talks broke down again. So important to inject a little bit of skepticism here right off the top. But this deal that is being discussed, the parameters of them go effectively as follows, Hamas would release somewhere between 50 to maybe 70 hostages, that is the number that they have put out as a possibility.

Israel would an exchange release some Palestinian prisoners, and also agree to a ceasefire that could last as long as five days. But some of the major questions here still revolve around exactly how many hostages, exactly how many Palestinian prisoners, and exactly how long that potential ceasefire would last. We did see today, Jake, in Tel Aviv, families of hostages beginning a five day march to Jerusalem, clearly trying to ramp up the pressure on the Israeli government to reach some kind of deal to bring their loved ones home.

TAPPER: And, Nada, today the United Nation says only one hospital in northern Gaza remains operational. The situation in Gaza is just so dire.

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Absolutely has been deteriorating for some time now. But clearly, these hospitals are now on the brink of total collapse in Northern Gaza. We heard earlier today from a British Palestinian doctor, Ghassan Abu-Sittah, who is in the Al-Ahli Baptist hospital, that is the last remaining functioning Hospital in northern Gaza. And the situation there as he described it is catastrophic. Take a listen.


GHASSAN ABU-SITTAH, DOCTOR IN GAZA: Today we were joined by an obstetrician gynecologist because we also have a number of pregnant women who needed cesarean sections. We are doing extremely painful wound procedures with no anesthetic because we don't have any left. It's a very, very bleak and difficult situation. Every raid we get more wounded and the hospital gets stacked up more and more with patients.


BASHIR: Now of course, Jake, there is huge concern around the situation also at the Al Shifa Hospital, Gaza's largest hospital. As we know, there are hundreds of patients still in this hospital which has run out of fuel supplies to power the hospital. It has run out of oxygen supplies including in the neonatal unit. We saw that dramatic video, shocking video of premature babies being transferred from the neonatal unit where oxygen supplies had run out, be huddled together wrapped in foil and blankets trying to keep them warm so that they can survive a huge amount of concern there. We know the IDF, the Israeli military has said that they are looking to provide support when it comes to providing incubators and an evacuation route potentially, but no details just yet on what that evacuation route could look like.

And as we know, there have been calls for civilians to evacuate for some time now. The situation around the hospital is unsafe as many doctors have said, they are too afraid for their patients and for civilians to leave the hospital.

TAPPER: Nada Bashir, Jeremy Diamond, thanks to both of you.

Coming up next, why there's so much hype around President Biden's meeting tomorrow with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Stay with us.



TAPPER: President Biden arrived in California this afternoon for a meeting among the heads of state of the countries that border the Pacific Ocean. The real highlight will come tomorrow when President Biden will sit down with Chinese President Xi Jinping. They've met many times before, of course, but this time will be quite different. U.S. China relations appear to be at their lowest point since both countries normalized relations in 1979. This year, we've seen the Chinese spy balloon drift over the U.S., extensive Chinese saber rattling, military exercises around Taiwan summit between Xi and Russia's Vladimir Putin and on and on and on. China's economy, however, is struggling in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump era tariffs are still in place. Biden likes them. Pressure keeps building for U.S. to ban the popular Chinese app. TikTok. CNN's David Culver joins us now from San Francisco with a preview.

David, what exactly are Biden and Xi specifically meeting about? What do they hope to get out of this meeting?

DAVID CULVER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a bit overwhelming, Jake, when you listen to that list that you just went through of the points of contention between these two countries. I mean, where do you begin? What do you prioritize? How do you start a meeting like this? And for the U.S., that's generally where we start to see the messaging ahead of these meetings.

That tends to be where the transparency is. And it seems to be their focus is on maybe seeing a crackdown on fentanyl, perhaps reestablishing communications between the two countries militaries, maybe even something on climate, but you got to take a step back from all of that and say, the bigger focus is just going to be stopping the free fall, a downward spiral that is U.S.-China relations right now bring it to a level point. And perhaps this meeting, Jake, tomorrow is a start to that.


TAPPER: Both leaders, I have to say need something of a win here, don't they? Both are in a much weaker position than they were during the last year meeting, the last time they met in Bali.

CULVER: So let's look at President Biden first. He's in campaign mode, right? So he's hoping, of course, to stabilize U.S.-China relations in this meeting. But at the same time, he cannot come across looking soft on China. For President Xi, it's a bit different in his path to leadership and sustaining that path in China. And he's coming off what was this time last year, a securing of a near unprecedented third term, making him the undisputed ruler there and perhaps setting the groundwork for him to rule for life.

That said, as you pointed out earlier, China needs help right now. They are struggling economically. They have a housing marketing crisis. They have youth unemployment at record highs. And businesses, particularly American and other international businesses are really hesitant to do business in China. And so that is something that President Xi is hoping to perhaps go on a charm offensive and woo them back to, Jake.

TAPPER: Even though Biden and Xi need each other in a way here, it also seems like they can't really concede a clear win to the other.

CULVER: Domestic optics are going to be everything for President Biden, it's in that same sense of campaign mode, the most popular sentiment, even it means the divided U.S. is perhaps being tough on China. So he's got to sustain that. For President Xi, I mean the messaging is a bit easier, quite frankly, and the state media is obviously heavily controlled. You've got social media in China that's tightly monitored and censored.

So the immediate messaging will, of course, back in China look like a win for President Xi. However, substance has to follow. And that is to say, if the economy continues to falter, will you risk social stability in China? And I can tell you that is one thing, that the leadership, the Chinese Communist Party, is not willing to sacrifice, Jake.

TAPPER: Yes, much easier to declare when if you don't have any freedom of the press. David Culver, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Joining us now, David Axelrod, former senior adviser to President Obama. David, let's start with all the foreign policy challenges that Biden has on his plate. He's got this meeting with Chinese President Xi. Is he under more pressure to improve ties with Xi, and get some deliverables? Or do you think to project strength?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think a little of both, Jake. As David said, this thing has been spiraling for several years now. And there's real danger, you talk about everything that's on his plate, you don't want to add a heightened crisis with China. And you've seen a succession of Cabinet members visiting China over the last several months, including the Secretary of State to pave the way for this conversation.

You've also seen by the way, you mentioned state media. State media has taken a decided turn in its attitude toward America in recent weeks and months. Well, weeks certainly, leading up to this meeting, which suggests to me that they understand too, that they need certain things from the United States. But you're quite right. You can't look like you've been taken by the Chinese. And I'm pretty sure the President knows that. And they've planned for that.

And you're probably going to have each of them coming away saying that they've improved relations to the degree they could. They've taken some steps on some issues like fentanyl, for example, which would be good for Biden. And no one's going to go away with a huge victory here.

TAPPER: Of course, the biggest foreign policy item on his plate right now, President Biden's plate right now is what's going on in the Middle East and Israel's war against Hamas and the catastrophe facing the Palestinian people in Gaza. When you were in the Obama White House, which Obama had famously or infamously frost the relations with Benjamin Netanyahu, can you talk at all about that dynamic? And is there anything that you think President Biden should be doing differently right now?

AXELROD: We'll look, I think President Obama came to office with a deep conviction that that the status quo couldn't hold and that there needed to be a two state solution that had been talked about for decades. The first visits he made and I was there was with Arab leaders urging them to be helpful in bringing the Palestinians on board for a two-state solution.

But as you know, the Prime Minister was not eager for that. And the settlement policy that his successive administrations has pursued has made that more and more of a remote possibility. And so that was a source of tension between the administration, by the same token, the Obama administration provided more military aid to Israel than any previous administration maintaining their qualitative military edge.


So, you know, on that score, relationships were good. But on the issue of how to deal with the Palestinians, and how to deal with this, you know, large question of how you resolve this long running saga, there was real tension.

TAPPER: And what do you make of this moment we're in with rising anti- Semitism worldwide and in the United States, there's obviously a spike in Islamophobia, as well, which is horrific, but just in terms of events, statistically, the anti-Semitism is off the charts.

AXELROD: Yes, Jake, you know, I'm speaking to you not just to the former senior adviser to the president, but also as the son of a refugee from Eastern Europe, who fled during the pogroms, this kind of, you know, the environment that I fear, you know, violence against Jews simply because of who they were and chaos that reigned as a result of it.

So this has very, very significant echoes to Jews in this country. And you know, this is a global issue, you know, America is a focal point, but anti-Semitism has been on the rise for some time. So it's worrisome. You know, these echoes of history are worrisome to American Jews and Jews around the world.

TAPPER: David Axelrod, thank you so much. Good to see you, sir.

Coming up next, the first public comments from New York City Mayor Eric Adams about the federal investigation into his campaign fundraising. Is there a chance that Mayor Adams is potentially facing jail time? Stay with us.


[17:41:00] TAPPER: In our Law and Justice Lead, New York City Mayor repeatedly saying today that he is fully cooperating with the FBI's investigation into his campaign fundraising. Eric Adams is here.


MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D-NY): As a former member of law enforcement, it is always my view -- is always my belief, don't interfere with ongoing review. And don't try to do these reviews, you know, to the press.


TAPPER: This after it was revealed last week that the FBI had seized Mayor Adams phones and iPad, further escalating allegations of foreign money funneled to his campaign. Let's bring in CNN's John Miller. We should note he was deputy commissioner of the NYPD, briefly working under Mayor Adams. He left in 2022. John, Mayor Adams and his administration are staying tight lipped about this investigation. What are your sources telling you about the investigation?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, we're calling it an investigation. The Mayor is calling it a review and calling the investigators reviewers. So it's more than that. And it's closer to the end now than it is to the beginning. This investigation has been going on eight months, they've gathered records that show employees and associates of a Brooklyn-based Turkish owned construction company, gave donations to the Adams campaign and then got the money back, making them straw donors.

But what we don't know is how is that connected beyond the individuals at that company or maybe people in the campaign to the mayor. So that is the part we can't see.

TAPPER: Could we seriously be talking about the Mayor of New York City facing jail time? Is that possible here?

MILLER: Well, anything's possible. But we're a long way away from it, meaning for that to happen. And remember, I mean, to put this in context, they did seize the mayor's phones, his iPads. And they did so pursuant to a search warrant signed by a federal judge, which is based on the idea that there's probable cause to believe that there's evidence of illegal activity on those devices.

So that takes us a step towards the mayor being a target, at least by you could infer that by the idea that they had the search warrant for his phones. However, he would still have to be charged. He hasn't been accused of wrongdoing. He would still have to be indicted, that would have to probably take a year between then and trial. And if they brought him to trial, they'd still have to make that case. So we're a little ahead of ourselves there. But clearly, they are looking at him hard and people around him even harder.

TAPPER: Meanwhile, on a separate matter, we're seeing new pictures today of the cocaine that was found inside the White House this summer here in locker number 50, right by the West Wing entrance. And yet to this day, the Secret Service claims that they have no idea who put it there.

MILLER: So this boils down to a question of resources, really. What the Secret Service did is they viewed the video of people coming and going. As you know, you don't have to sign up for the locker, you just, you know, open the locker. You take the key. They dusted the locker for prints. They traced, they sent the package to the FBI lab to have it swab for DNA. They even tested the powder inside to make sure it was all cocaine and not something weaponized to affect people in the White House either with fentanyl or anthrax or some foreign substance.

But at the end of the day, they don't have a picture of who went to that locker, turn that key, may have left that package in there or how many people pass by it and between. And it just wasn't worth that continued investigative resources for a case where even if they identified the person under local law in Washington, D.C., it would have amounted to much.

TAPPER: John Miller, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

A live look at Capitol Hill now we're getting close to what might be something of a defining moment for the brand new Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson. This is coming after a day of confrontation, Republican on Republican violence. It actually got physical. How will this all play out?



TAPPER: Politics now right now, the House of Representatives is voting on a funding bill to avoid a government shutdown ahead of Friday's critical deadline. It is the first major leadership test for newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana. Let's bring back CNN's Manu Raju who's on Capitol Hill with his Mike Wallace jacket. Manu, are there enough House Republicans and Democrats for that matter who will rally behind speaker Johnson and pass what I believe is just basically a clean government spending bill?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, in fact, it already has the votes to pass the House of Representatives. It has not been gobbled close but from what we can tell from our colleagues in the chambers. There's one minute remaining in this vote. They have enough votes to pass it. So this is going to be the big question how many Republicans vote against it and how many Democrats support it? Democrats are getting behind it, Jake, because it does not include spending cuts. That's the reason why a lot of Republicans are voting against it. Democratic leaders who said that they would line up behind it. It does need two thirds majority of the House to pass this 290 votes on the House floor.


We do expect that to be exceeded because of Democratic support. The question is going to be the blowback that the new speaker may face for this because of the fact that he's using the same tactic that the former Speaker Kevin McCarthy did to avoid a government shutdown back in October, what he did then pass the government funding bill without spending cuts, rely on Democrats to get it out of the House. That cost him his job. At the moment, Johnson's job is not insecure, he's secure. But there are still a lot of concerns of blowback from the right as you hear, Jake, they're calling the vote right now expected to pass the House, then on to the Senate likely and next couple of days, ultimately to the President's desk, only kicking the can down the road, Jake, January and February, the next deadlines to avoid a shutdown.

TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju, thank you so much. And it sounds like Congressman Womack is saying that the yeas have it. Let's bring in Republican Congressman John James of Michigan. Bang. It just -- he just gobbled it in and it passed. Congressman James, thanks for joining us. You voted in support of speaker Johnson's plan. He's putting forward a budget that would be approved by the Senate in the White House. So this basically, he -- I mean, I know he was just like, thrust into this position. He didn't really have a choice here delaying any bigger spending fight into next year. This just keeps the government open.

He does appear to be at least for now pushing aside the harder right flank of the Republican Conference. How do you see him negotiating and navigating this in the future?

REP. JOHN JAMES (R-MI): Well, bipartisanship shouldn't be controversial, especially when the reality states that we have a razor thin majority in the House. We have a Democrat Senate, we have a Democrat president. Ultimately, if you say you care about the American people, well, paying our customs and border patrol agencies caring for the American people, paying our military members and making sure our veterans maintain their health care and mental health services is caring about the American people working in a bipartisan manner to get this spending bill through so that we can get our conservative appropriations bills through the House and then negotiate with the Senate to make sure that we fund the government while we're also looking forward to the future.

So we're not bankrupting our children's teachers is essential. We have to walk and chew gum at the same time. I'm very proud to support this continued funding so that we don't shut the government down.

TAPPER: Yes, everything you said just sounds completely sane. So I'm really confused. But OK, let's move on to another matter, which does not so sane, which is the some dysfunction. Congressman Burchett claimed that he was elbowed in the kidneys by former Speaker McCarthy. And then on the Senate side, a U.S. senator stood up to basically to fight a witness. Here's that moment in the Senate. I don't know if you heard it earlier. This is a Senator Markwayne Mullin.


SEN. MARKWAYNE MULLIN (R-OK): You want to do it now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd love to do it right now.

MULLIN: We'll stay in your butt up then.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You stand your butt up.


TAPPER: So I'm not going to hold you accountable for what goes on in the Senate. I know it's a whole other body. You guys, I don't even know if you're allowed to mention them. But what's going on with Kevin McCarthy like shooting an elbow to the kidneys of Congressman Burchett. There was even a witness to it, a reporter from NPR?

JAMES: Yes, I can't comment on that. I've spent most of my day advocating for Israel aid. And talking about what I saw when I was over in Tel Aviv, talking with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, talking with the defense foreign -- defense minister and also families of 240 hostages, that our behind enemy lines held captive by Hamas. I'm not involved in that school yard of stuff. We have the American people's business to attend to. And that's where my focus is right now.

TAPPER: So let's talk about what you saw on Israel, which is obviously more important than the schoolyard nonsense, although offline, you're going to have to tell me what you think. But what did you see in Israel that maybe you couldn't have understood? Or that you learned there that you wouldn't have gotten just from reading about it or talking on the phone from here, what stood out to you the most from your visit?

JAMES: War is hell. And a lot of the things that I saw, while I was over there and video, mirrored what I saw when I was serving in Iraq in YFO 709, the same heinous tactics that were deployed by the people who are trying to kill American soldiers are deploying those same tactics against innocent Israeli and Palestinian people. Hamas must absolutely be defeated, and Israel has the right to self-defense.

But one of the things that I was very heartened to hear is even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu echoed his commitment toward protecting innocent civilians, innocent Palestinians and protecting Israelis, who are quite rightly fearful and desperately want to bring their family members back but also make sure this never happens again. So we need to make sure that we give Israel the resources and funds they need to defend themselves.


And we need to work with our allies, most notably Egypt that needs to be doing more and do everything that we can to destroy Hamas and continue moving the region forward. And I think expanding Abraham Accords would be a great way to continue to pursue peace in the region after we destroy Hamas and support Israel's absolutely themselves.

TAPPER: Well, let's hope the war and soon and both Israel and the Palestinians are able to live in peace together sometime soon. I know we're all praying for it. Republican Congressman John James in the great state of Michigan, thanks so much for your time, sir. Appreciate it. Give it here for reaction to this vote on the hill. We're back after this quick break.


TAPPER: In our world lead, Iceland could face its world its worst volcanic eruption in 50 years, authorities have declared a state of emergency in order of the evacuation of the small coastal town of Grindavik after observing magma swell toward the surface. But the town isn't the only thing in danger, a geothermal plant that powers the entire peninsula is only four miles away. Authorities are preparing to build a trench around the plant to prevent lava from reaching it.

If you ever miss an episode of The Lead, you can listen to the show once you get your podcasts. Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room. I will see you tomorrow.