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The Lead with Jake Tapper

One-on-One With Former Rep. Liz Cheney; Cheney On Kevin McCarthy's Actions After 2020 Election; Liz Cheney On Trump's Former Attorneys; Cheney On "Significant Threat" Posed By Speaker Johnson; Cheney On Mike Pence; Cheney On The Threat Of A Trump "Dictatorship"; Liz Cheney On Fox's Role In Spreading Trump's Lies; One-On-One With Former Rep. Liz Cheney; Cheney: Once A President Decides They're Above The Law, Everything Unravels Nearly Immediately; Intense Fighting Reported In Gaza's Second-Largest City Two Months After Hamas Terror Attack In Israel. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired December 07, 2023 - 17:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. We started this hour with our politics lead. Vivek Ramaswamy, the Republican candidate with a predilection for conspiracy theories said at last night's presidential debate that, quote, "January 6 now does look like it was an inside job, unquote. To that, former Republican congresswoman Liz Cheney says he's right, but not in the way he means. Cheney says, yes, it was an inside job, it was Trump and then Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and Mike Johnson, who is now House speaker.

It was a whole host of cowards and enablers and coconspirators in the House and the Senate Cheney says. Many of whom had an epiphany on January 7, 2021, after they saw the hate and the destruction and the death, their lives rot, and who just as quickly lost their clarity and their principles when Trump phoenix like rose from the ashes. Cheney has a brand new book that has quickly become a bestseller. It's a stark warning to the nation and she says ignore it and her as our democracies peril.

And joining me now is former Republican congresswoman Liz Cheney. Her new book is "Oath and Honor, A Memoir and a Warning." It's very briskly written and a great historical record. But it's a good read --


TAPPER: -- also. So congratulations. The book opens two days after the 2020 election, you're talking to then Leader Kevin McCarthy, he tells you that Donald Trump, quote, "Knows it's over." And that he needs time to, quote, "Go through the stages of grief." And then almost immediately you see this on Fox News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: President Trump won this election. So everyone who's listening, do not be quiet, do not be -- do not be silent about this. We cannot allow this to happen before our very eyes.


TAPPER: This is a theme throughout the book so much so I could fill an hour of examples of Kevin McCarthy saying something to you that is rational and reality based.


TAPPER: And then going on T.V. and doing the exact opposite. For example, saying he's going to withdrawal objections to the electoral count and then doing the exact opposite. You go so far as to, at one point, Donald Trump uses a word, a euphemism, a feline euphemism to describe Kevin McCarthy, and you agree with him with Donald Trump. But it's worse than that because that cravenness, in your view, it really puts the country in jeopardy.

CHENEY: Right.

TAPPER: Why? Why is he like that?

CHENEY: Yes. You know, I don't know the why, but what I can tell you is, you know, it became very clear that when you're the leader and each time you have a choice to make, and you decide that you're going to do the wrong thing, you lead the whole conference in that direction. Now, there were people that were very certainly willing to go with them. But you know, it's situations for example, like when, when the issue of objecting to electoral votes came up, and you had these freshmen members who had just been elected, they hadn't been in office more than a couple of days and they were being asked to cast this crucially important vote, are you going to object to electoral votes? It was clear, there was no basis in the constitution for them to do so.

And I had a couple of them tell me that Kevin was meeting with him privately telling them this isn't that big a deal. Really? You know, the easy political vote is just to go ahead and object. And when you think about the damage that does when it's the leader, and he's actually telling people don't worry, essentially, about your constitutional obligations, here's the political expedient path to take. And of course, you know, we saw where that led Republicans through the course of, you know, the months leading up to January 6 and afterwards.

TAPPER: A lot of them were led by the nonsense being spewed by these attorneys, Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, Jenna Elli. There has been some admission that they were wrong, at least Jenna Ellis, who said this in a Georgia court.


JENNA ELLIS, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: I endeavored to represent my clients in the best of my ability. I relied on others, including lawyers with many more years of experience than I to provide me with true and reliable information. What I did not do but should have done, Your Honor, was to make sure that the facts the other lawyers alleged to be true were in fact true.


TAPPER: When she talks as if she's like an eight year old, she's a grown adult. But still, at least you did that. Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani still have not admitted that their actions were wrong. What do you think justice would look like for these attorneys that so misled the nation?

CHENEY: Yes. Well, I mean, I think you've, you've seen in both of those cases, in the case of Giuliani, his license to practice law has been suspended. I mean, Sidney Powell's assertion in one of the Dominion cases was that no reasonable person would actually believe the claims that she was making.

TAPPER: Which is true, by the way.

CHENEY: Yes. But an interesting defense for her to be making. And I think it's really a situation where people are to imagine that if Donald Trump were to have a second term, these are the kind of unethical lawyers that he would have around him, those who are willing to help him violate the law. And I think that's something people need to keep in mind as they look at 2024.


He would not have around him the kinds of people like Pat Cipollone, for example, Jeff Rosen, Rich Donoghue, the people that actually stopped him from doing even more damage this last time around.

TAPPER: But do you think having their licenses to practice law being taken away? Do you think these slaps on the wrist they've gotten is enough? Do you think that there needs to be some more serious charges?

CHENEY: I think it's very important. You know, we've looked at what the Department of Justice, how they began their investigations about -- around January 6, they began with, you know, in some ways, the foot soldiers, they began with the people who invaded the Capitol. And I think it's very important that they now have expanded that that's got to go all the way up to the top. Accountability is really crucially important. Without accountability for everybody, including Donald Trump, including those lawyers around him, those others around him who helped him with his plot to overturn the election, without that accountability, you can be confident this is going to happen again and again.

TAPPER: I think it's very likely that in a second Trump term, we would see a leadership role of some sort of for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. And you might recall, I know you recall --


TAPPER: -- on December 7, Paxton petitioned the Supreme Court to challenge the election results in a number of states that Biden won.


TAPPER: In response, then Congressman Mike Johnson, who was a friend and fellow colleague of yours, he was in your incoming freshman class, he send an e-mail to House Republicans that read, quote, "President Trump called me this morning to express his great appreciation for our effort to file an amicus brief in the Texas case. He specifically asked me to contact all Republican members of the House and Senate today and request that all join on our -- to our brief. Trump said he will be anxiously awaiting the final list to review."

He was pushing this forward. He was misrepresenting actually what the amicus brief said. Do you think that Mike Johnson, I know that you liked him at the time, do you think that he actually believed what was in that amicus brief?

CHENEY: I think that he was aware that what he was doing was wrong. And that was both with respect to the amicus brief as well as with respect to the objections and the assertions he was making. He had this stunning sort of claim that he kept making, which was that because we are convinced, those are the words he use, because Congress, in his phrase, was convinced that states had violated the Constitution, we had the authority to throw out electoral votes. You know, that is a stunning assertion to make, and it ignores the rulings of the courts and it ignores the certification process that went on in each of those states.

With the amicus brief, he kept assuring members that this really was not a brief that was making claims about the facts. But in fact, it was making claims about the facts. And it was making claims that had already been heard and rejected by courts in each of these states, by federal courts, and state courts. And so, while each member of Congress is obviously responsible for anything they sign, and they all, you know, should have been reading that brief, the fact that Johnson was, you know, again and again, claiming, in this case, knowledge of facts about irregularities in the election, you know, about which he had no basis himself to know. And I think that that raises serious, ethical questions. And, of course, you know, the court, within a couple of hours of receiving the amicus brief declined to hear the case.

TAPPER: He's now the speaker of the House. He's number two in line for the presidency. Do you think that our democracy is at risk with Mike Johnson as speaker of the House?

CHENEY: I do think that we have to be very concerned about the fact that he has shown, a willingness to take steps that he knows to be wrong in order to placate Donald Trump. And that was the thing that surprised me the most, I think. I had not understood that that was Mike's character. I thought that he was a man of character and a man of honor. But when I watched again and again and again, throughout this period, his willingness, you know, essentially to do things without any basis in law. And it wasn't just me, I talk in the book about Kevin McCarthy's own chief legal counsel who herself confronted Johnson about the flaws in his arguments. And she e-mailed me and said, he knows he's wrong and yet he was continuing to do it anyway. So, when you have somebody with that approach who's the vice chair of the Republican conference, you know, you can make the case it's not as dangerous. I was obviously concerned enough about it that I wrote these parts of the book before he was speaker when you have somebody who's willing to do that who's speaker the House that really does, I think presents a significant threat. And you imagine January 6, 2025 when the new House is counting electoral votes, imagine the possibility that the election gets thrown into the House. And I think it's important that he not be the speaker that day.


TAPPER: It's pretty amazing actually, because other than Kevin McCarthy, it's probably Mike Johnson that you write about the most in terms of members of Congress that were collaborators, coconspirators with Donald Trump. And you obviously wrote it before he was Speaker of the House.

CHENEY: Right.

TAPPER: That shows how much you were concerned about the role he played.

There is one soundbite from this week that Congresswoman Cheney says she wants every American to see and to hear. Plus coming up, what she says about the power of Fox and its influence on politics. Stay with us.


TAPPER: And we're back with more of our big interview with former vice chair of the January 6 committee, Liz Cheney.

Looking forward to a potential second Trump term, during that period between Donald Trump losing and Joe Biden becoming president, the inauguration, Kash Patel who served on Trump's National Security Council became Chief of Staff to the -- in the Pentagon.



TAPPER: And earlier this week he said this on Steve Bannon's podcast. Take a listen.


KASH PATEL, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO ACTING SECRETARY OF DEFENSE UNDER TRUMP ADMIN: We will go out and find the conspirators not just in government but in the media. Yes, we're going to come after the people in the media who lied about American citizens who helped Joe Biden rig presidential elections. We're going to come after you. Whether it's criminally or civilly, we'll figure that out.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: So Patel said he would follow the facts and the law, but this is a preview for what would happen --

CHENEY: Right.

TAPPER: -- in a second Trump term. Axios is reporting today that a Trump cabinet would likely include Patel, Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon, and others. What do you think when you hear that? What do you what do you hear when you think about a second Trump term?

CHENEY: Look, I hope every American watches that clip that you just showed, because if you imagine the people who are on the absolute fringe, the people who are the least responsible, people who may well be unstable, and you imagine giving them supreme and ultimate power, that's what Donald Trump would do. He would take somebody like Kash Patel, making assertions like that and give him authority. I don't know, they're talking about, you know, Kash as the head of the CIA potentially.

Now, one of the things that we also know is that Donald Trump tried to appoint him to other positions before he made him Chief of Staff at the Pentagon. And, you know, reportedly, the CIA director, then Gina Haspel, threatened to resign. That's the only reason that Kash didn't end up at the CIA earlier. But these are people who have no -- there's no fitness for any appointed position for, you know, they have no place exercising any kind of authority. But those are the types of people who would be around Donald Trump if he were reelected.

TAPPER: I don't think the American people truly have an idea how close we came to complete anarchy and potentially a complete erosion --


TAPPER: -- of democracy. And the days before January 6, you or worrying, as are many Republicans, many in the media about whether Vice President Mike Pence is going to try to stop the certification --


TAPPER: -- of the election results. And the truth is, even though that Mike Pence did a heroic thing and did the right thing, at the end of the day, it was an open question.

CHENEY: Right.

TAPPER: It was an open question until that morning. Former Speaker Paul Ryan texts you that he's worried that Pence is going to break. And just to remind everybody, here's what Pence had said down in Georgia before the special Senate elections earlier that week.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I share the concerns of millions of Americans about voting irregularities. And I promise you come this Wednesday. We'll have our day in Congress. We'll hear the objection. We'll hear the evidence. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: I mean, he did the right thing in the end.

CHENEY: Right.

TAPPER: And he deserves to be praised for that. But I mean, I understand why Paul Ryan was worried.

CHENEY: Yes. I would say a couple of things. First of all, we know now from the work of the select committee, for example, and the testimony of people like Greg Jacob, who was his counsel, that the vice president, a number of times, made clear to Donald Trump, that he could not take the steps that Trump wanted him to take. And the Vice President Pence divides up his authority. He, you know, was clear with President Trump that he is vice president did not have the authority to reject electoral votes.

But he does argue that the House, that the Congress has the authority to reject electoral votes, and I think he's clearly wrong on that second part. But you know, there's a phone call that I was on on January 4, where for the first time I understood and this, you know, I had been invited this call because I was on a list of --

TAPPER: They forgot to take you off the list.

CHENEY: Trump surrogates.


CHENEY: I assume that's what happened. And that was the first time I understood the details of this plan to have Vice President Pence actually reject legitimate votes to use these fake electors as an excuse to reject the votes. And that was a terrifying moment. I did not know on that day, you know, that the vice president and his counsel had at the same time been talking to the Senate parliamentarian and working through language that would make clear he couldn't do that. But it really sort of brought home how you know, what a close run thing it was.

And I didn't know if we were going to have fake electors carried into the chamber of the House, fake electoral votes. And so that whole day of trying to understand exactly how we could stop it if in fact the vice president was going to do the wrong thing was a sickening day in many ways.

TAPPER: And he -- look, if the next time it's vice president Kristi Noem --

CHENEY: Right.

TAPPER: -- or JD Vance or Tucker Carlson, who knows?

CHENEY: Well, and we also know now, you know, that apparently the vice president considered not even presiding that day.

TAPPER: Right.

CHENEY: Chuck Grassley suggested he was going to be --

TAPPER: Right.

CHENEY: -- chair and that, you know, it could have been a very serious -- much more serious constitutional crisis.


TAPPER: There's a moment during the Capitol attack when Jim Jordan tries to help you saying, quote, "We need to get the ladies off the aisle of the House floor." And you say to him, "Get away from me. You effing did this." I assume you didn't say effing. What was interesting about this moment to me, is first of all, he's acting like this big, strong man who's going to protect you and he's being sexist.

But also, in addition to the sexism of the moment, he's actually the weaker person. That's the irony of the sexism. He's the weak one in that dynamic. You've been strong, he's been weak. And that must have been doubly infuriating in terms of the sexism.

CHENEY: It was. But -- and there's another thing too, which is, what did Jim know?

TAPPER: Right.

CHENEY: What did he know? You know, it was clear by that point that these lies about the election, the lies that Trump was telling those were the lies that had brought these people to Washington. Jim had clearly been one of the leading figures in the House and spreading those lies.

TAPPER: We still don't know.

CHENEY: We don't know everything that he did.


CHENEY: And I think he owes the American people the answers to that. He, of course, refused to comply with the select committee subpoena. But what did he know? Why did -- you know, why was he so concerned about danger, about getting me off the aisle? And then as you point out, it was certainly ridiculous.

TAPPER: Ashli Babbitt was shot at 244 on January 6, defensible shot according to Markwayne Mullin and other members of Congress who were not so willing to say that publicly after it was very clear that Donald Trump was still ascendant. You described that shortly after a White House staffer handed Trump a note.


TAPPER: It said one civilian gunshot wound to chest at door of House chamber. So Trump knew pretty quickly about Babbitt's death. And yet he didn't call for peace on Twitter for another 30 minutes and didn't ask the rioters to go home for another 90 minutes, even though he knew a civilian, likely one of his own supporters had been killed.

CHENEY: Yes. So, I think this is a really important point that sometimes gets lost that the select committee had testimony and this is in our report that there was a White House employee who saw the note sitting on the dining room table in front of Trump. So Trump's in the dining room, he has been handed a note that there had been a gunshot wound to a civilian at the door to the House chamber.

TAPPER: To the chest.

CHENEY: To the chest, right. And he's watching the violence on television. And he won't tell the mob to stop it. So I think for all of the politicization that we've seen, all of the whitewashing that goes on about January 6, that fundamental fact of how depraved as a human being you have to be to sit there and watch this unfold in -- with glee and not take steps to tell these people to go home.

TAPPER: It's unbelievable. You're right about Fox, the T.V. channel a lot, network, they were a huge part of how these lies obviously spread across the country. They're a huge part of why January 6 happen. There again today challenging, this book, challenging your warnings about how if Trump gets elected again, he might never step down if he wins. Take a listen to what Bret Baier had to say earlier this week about your warning.


BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: We saw four years of Donald Trump, were there issues that crossed lines? Yes, they raised all kinds of questions. But did people for the most part live their lives and were there checks and balances? Yes, there were. Would it be a dictatorship that doesn't step down from office? It's hard for me to back that up as of yet.


TAPPER: And his colleague, Laura Ingraham, tweeted, asking how you think Trump would end elections? Quote, "Is he going to send out a tweet? Does he have a hidden army we've never seen? What on earth is she thinking?"

CHENEY: Well, I would say first in response to Brett, he already tried to seize power once. So, you know, it shouldn't be hard for anybody to imagine that he will do it again. And that's exactly what he was doing on January 6, and no president has ever done that before. With respect to sort of the mechanics of how he would do this, Donald Trump will refuse to obey the rulings of the courts, he's already made clear that he will not abide by the rulings of the courts. And if you think about that, in the context of elections, you know, he can -- and he's also, frankly, already suggested postponing elections.

But imagine a situation for example where he concocts an emergency, where he works with state legislators or with Republican officials in the states to suggest that there has been some sort of an emergency that will, you know, prevent the holding of elections in those states. People say, well, the courts will step in, federal courts will, you know, issue an order suggesting that the states have to comply, they've got to go forward with elections or they have to certify the legitimate winner. Donald Trump won't enforce those rulings. And so I would ask people like Laura Ingraham, who's an attorney, to think very carefully about what happens if a president of the United States will not enforce the rulings of the courts. And you can talk all you want about checks and balances, about separation of powers but at the end of the day that is such a fundamental piece of what keeps us a constitutional republic, that once a president refuses to do that, once a president says, I'm going to be a dictator for a day, once the president decides that he's above the law as Donald Trump has, everything unravels nearly immediately.


TAPPER: You're being polite about Fox. In the book you note that they have spread numerous lies, not only the $787.5 million settlement that they had to pay to Dominion, but that thing that they ran on Fox nation, whatever it was called Patriot Purge, or whatever. And they had a documentary about the truth about the election that they refuse to air, that there was an anchor that was trying to bury the hatchet between you and Trump, because he's the best way to defeat Kamala Harris, as if that's a role for a journalist. I mean, it's -- don't you see them as part of the reason this all happened?

CHENEY: Yes, you know, I think that that there's no question that they've played a damaging and dangerous role in spreading the big lie. And I say that as somebody who --

TAPPER: You used to work for them.

CHENEY: I used to work for Fox. And in many ways, you know, I remember my time at Fox was a time when Charles Krauthammer was alive, was with us, was one of the leading voices, maybe the conscience of Fox News, of course, sadly, we've lost him. But the extent to which time and time again, they have spread lies.

Clearly, our media has a hugely important role to play here. I hope that Fox will begin to come around. I hope that they'll recognize the power that they have and the importance of the truth. But I am -- I questioned very much what I understood to be this decision that they were not going to air, you know, what I had proposed, what I had spoken to former Speaker Ryan about this documentary about the truth and defeating the big lie, but yet they did go ahead and air Patriot Purge.

TAPPER: Coming up, Liz Cheney on why she has not endorsed anyone in the 2024 Republican presidential race. Her response. Plus what she specifically has to say about Chris Christie. Stay with us.



TAPPER: And we're back with former Congresswoman Liz Cheney.

Let's talk about some things in the news. There was the fourth Republican debate last night, Chris Christie seemed to be the only one really going after Donald Trump. Take a listen.


CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You all be heading to the polls to vote. And that's something that Donald Trump will not be able to do because he will be convicted of felonies before then. And his right to vote will be taken away. You know, you -- look.


TAPPER: He's the only one that has the clear analysis of Donald Trump the way you do, but you haven't endorsed him why?

LIZ CHENEY, AUTHOR, "OATH AND HONOR: A MEMOIR AND A WARNING": Well, I haven't endorsed anybody in the primary. I certainly applaud what Governor Christie is doing in his commitment to the truth. I don't know that it would help anybody in the primary if I endorse them. But I think people need to recognize there were four people on that stage, three of whom have said that they would vote for Donald Trump even if he is a convicted felon by the time of the election.

And, you know, that's something that really needs to get everybody pause. But I think Governor Christie did a tremendous job at helping people understand and face the truth about this moment that we're in.

TAPPER: I just want to ask you about the presidents of Harvard, MIT and the University of Pennsylvania, facing some intense criticism even calls for the resignation after their testimony on Capitol Hill. They were asked whether or not it would violate their code of conduct in terms of whether or not it would be constitute harassment if there were calls for the genocide of Jews on their campus. What did you think? I don't know if you saw clips of that.

CHENEY: I did. And I actually watched the clip several times. I thought it was disgusting. I thought it was stunning to see the lack of willingness of these leaders of what are supposed to be the best educational institutions, not just in the United States, but around the world unwilling to say very clearly that calling for the genocide of Jews constitutes harassment, the notion that somehow there's a context in which, you know, those kinds of comments wouldn't be harassment.

It is really troubling what we're seeing on campuses around this country, people suggesting and it's not just on campuses. I mean, we saw it with Congresswoman Jayapal, who I understood, clarified her remarks, but, you know, there's no clarification that can explain and justify anything except complete horror and standing against the slaughter, the attacks that we saw on October 7th. I think there's -- it tells you about sort of a sense in our society today, of people unwilling to stand up against this growing anti-Semitism, it's very dangerous. And that's, you know, it's a critical place where, again, that shouldn't be a partisan issue.

TAPPER: All right, Congresswoman Liz Cheney, thanks so much for your time today. Really appreciate it. The book again, is "Oath And Honor." It's already a bestseller and it's only been out for a couple of days. Congratulations. Good to see you.

CHENEY: Thank you, Jake. Great to be with you as always.


TAPPER: And my panel is here to react to that interview, including what Liz Cheney says is the significant threat to democracy posed by the new House Speaker Mike Johnson. We'll talk about all of it next.


TAPPER: So we're back with our Politics Lead. As you just saw, I sat down with former Republican congresswoman Liz Cheney to talk about her new book, "Oath and Honor" where she warns of the dangers of a second Trump presidency saying everything in this great democracy could unravel if a president decides he is above the law, let's discuss with our Augusta panel. Let's start with getting your top takeaways on what you heard from Liz Cheney. First of all, Amanda, great to have you back. Don't be a stranger. What stands out to you the most?

AMANDA CARPENTER, WRITER AND EDITOR, PROTECT DEMOCRACY: You know, listen to her talk and just the vivid detail of the horror she experienced and being confronted by the lies as evidenced by what happened on January 6th. Look, like, I think a lot about like, why did Liz Cheney turn and break when she did and why and why do other people break from Trumpism and why? And it's really not until they're confronted personally with that ugliness because then until then you can kind of go along with the policies and say I'm here for the Republican Party and good things didn't happen in the administration. But then it lands on your plate and what do you do.


And she had a sense of responsibility that she had to do something different going forward. And so that's when she obviously started speaking out for in favor of impeachment, but also decided what I think is really important, modeling what it takes to be part of a successful bipartisan pro-democracy coalition. And she modeled that by then serving on the January 6th Committee.


CARPENTER: And what was important about that, too, I think, for other Republicans contemplating what they should be doing going forward is that she didn't have to check her conservative principles and identity at the door to do it. She could just say, I have these values of upholding democracy, peaceful transfer of power and shutting down this ugliness so that we can have the freedom to have these political debates. And so, I don't know what she's going to do going forward. But I do hope that that model she serves of saying, these are the things that matter most to us, as Americans that hold us together. We'll worry about the other politics later.

And so I hope it, you know, it took Liz Cheney seeing it firsthand to come to that conclusion. I hope she can help explain to people like, I hope you don't have to see this first hand. TAPPER: Right.

CARPENTER: I hope this doesn't come to your door. But I can tell you as a messenger what it was like.

TAPPER: Yes. You have some experience with this. Audi, what stands out to you?

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm a sucker for detail. And it was interesting hearing her talk about the former speaker McCarthy sitting with freshmen and saying, don't worry about it.


CORNISH: You know, every time there's a mass exodus retirements, et cetera, a new little baby flock of lawmakers come in. And it turns out, they're pretty impressionable. And in a very intense, scary situation, which this was we -- she described lawmakers who were frankly somewhat afraid of their constituents, and certainly on that day. And she also said, I think, in particular, talking about a potential Trump cabinet.

Imagine the people on the absolute fringe least responsible, may well be unstable, imagine giving them power. She was pretty specific about her concerns.

TAPPER: Yes. And the other thing that's interesting is, there is so much in the book about Mike Johnson, the new speaker, so much. He is the second most mentioned member of Congress other than Kevin McCarthy more than Jim Jordan, more than Steve Scalise or Elise Stefanik.

CORNISH: And before he became speaker. Yes.

TAPPER: And this is before he was speaker. And it was just because of how appalled she was, by this behavior of this person that she thought was a friend and thought was ethical.

CORNISH: I was surprised at her shock, you know, that she was saying, originally, I perceived him to be A, B and C and like, lo and behold, he actually was leading the charge. It was the same way she described "Fox." And one thing I haven't heard here or in her book tour, in general, is a reflection about how she came to be a fringe in her own party. I'm not hearing an understanding of why she lost so bad in Wyoming, why the punishment has been, this kind of excommunication from the party in such a way.

In order to defeat Trump, I feel like Republicans like her have not yet like figured out what it is. And if she can't do it, what are we talking about running for office?

TAPPER: Well, maybe you can speak to that? What do you think?

CARPENTER: Yes. Here's what I'm hopeful for is sort of what is happening to justify a Trump 2.0 going forward is that the larger conservative infrastructure has sort of ceded to this idea of unfettered executive power to do whatever you like, in a way that was evidenced by his power to overturn election.

CORNISH: You're saying that's killing?

CARPENTER: The ground has shifted, but people like Liz Cheney understand the difference. They know that is not conservative, that is authoritarian. And so what I've seen other conservatives who've while this closely like a Judge Boudin or George Conway, are coming together to have like a Republicans for rule of law type of group, I think that is going to be critical, going forward where Republicans can explain the difference between what are timeless conservative principles that have led to success in the past, and what is different and how this is authoritarian. And we will have a break from it. But there needs to be a place for where those people can go. And make those arguments.

CORNISH: There is, but there's a difference between books sales and votes.

CARPENTER: Of course.

CORNISH: And I don't think I have seen for those people who have put out these books, there's been a number of them who say I had this change of heart or who just who talked about what that experience was like for them. They have not figured out how to survive into the next version of the party.

CARPENTER: I really like when I hear Cheney talk about, she seems to really enjoy reaching out to young conservatives, particularly young conservative women. I would expect her and I would encourage her to keep developing efforts on that part.

TAPPER: But here's the question, do any of the hosts on "Fox" have the guts to have her on their show? That's my question. Matt out and Liz Cheney disagree on everything, everything except for democracy. But she had him on, that her on.

CORNISH: You're assuming that she is relevant to their audience. And that's something you got to think about.

TAPPER: Well, democracy is relevant to all of us once you get rid of democracy --


CARPENTER: I love to see her go.

TAPPER: Once you get rid of democracy you get rid of everything else then it's just one person telling you everything and there's no gay rights, there's no drill, baby drill, there's no debates. It's just one person to telling you how it is. Amanda, Audie, by the way, just in case you've forgotten, it's Audie Cornish Thursday.

CORNISH: There's a dance that goes with this now.

TAPPER: There's a dance, but I haven't -- I'm not ready to introduce it to the public yet. But Audie -- well, you know what it is. Audie's podcast is called The Assignment with Audie Cornish. It's fantastic. Download it anywhere you get your podcasts and hopefully this is not the last time we see Amanda Carpenter for the next couple years.

Breaking, new details on that gunman behind the deadly shooting at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, his weapons plus several letters sent before yesterday's tragic shooting. That's next.


TAPPER: Some updates on some of the shootings we've been telling you about. Police identified the man behind the shooting at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas yesterday, 67-year-old Anthony James Polito, that's the last time you'll hear me say his name. Officials say he legally bought his gun last year and had a handgun and nine loaded magazines on him. The Las Vegas sheriff says before the shooting, he mailed 22 letters to various university employees across the country and they found a document similar to the last will and testament at his home.


And update now to the breaking news we brought you just in the last hour. Police say that the man in custody for firing shots at an Albany synagogue had allegedly said free Palestine before being taken into custody. The incident is now being investigated as a hate crime. New York Governor Kathy Hochul says she has directed police to increase patrols given that tonight is the first night of Hanukkah.

Tonight in Tel Aviv, Israel a somber gathering by families of 138 remaining Israeli hostages, lighting 138 branches on a menorah. It also is a day that marks two months since Israel launched its war with Hamas, because of Hamas is October 7th attacks on Israel, brutal attacks in which 1,200 individuals are killed most of them civilians.

Let's bring in CNN political and foreign policy analyst Barak Ravid. Barak, thanks so much for being here. Do Israel's national security goals remain the same if they were as they were at the start of the war two months ago, which I believe were destroy Hamas, get back the hostages?

BARAK RAVID, CNN POLITICAL & FOREIGN POLICY ANALYST: I think those are still the goals. But as we went into this operation in southern Gaza and Khan Yunis, I think it was the first time that we really saw those two goals collide. Because the decision needs to be made on, you know, whether Israel is going to give it another try or try somewhere else to, you know, reach another deal on hostages or go to the south and try to put more military pressure on Hamas the decision was made to go for the latter. And, you know, we see it everyday now.

TAPPER: Right. They're surrounding the house of the head of Hamas right now. Do you anticipate the military operations will ultimately slow down? Is Israel close to finishing its ultimate military goal?

RAVID: I think a lot depends on this question of how do you get the most wanted guy in Gaza, which is Yahya Sinwar, Hamas leader? If tomorrow Israel gets in, I think we can say for certain that we'll see a decrease in the military operation. But if not, I think this thing will continue. Because right now, if you ask people in the IDF or the government, that's the number one goal to get Yahya Sinwar.

TAPPER: There's that one guy.

RAVID: That's one guy because that's I think the Israeli government realized that if you want to try and show that one thing that you can do, that shows that how Hamas stops to govern Gaza? Or how do you say one, getting his head is one way to do it.

TAPPER: Many Israelis hold the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responsible for the government's failure and the IDF failure to prevent the October 7th attack by Hamas. When I was in Israel a few weeks ago, I didn't meet anyone who thought he would survive, and polls indicate he had something like 25 percent support. Where is he politically do you think?

RAVID: I think it's during this week of pause when the hostages were coming out, he had some very small boost in his popularity. But this has gone down since then, I think between 75 to 80 percent of Israelis say that the war needs to continue. And at the same time, they say that once it's over, Netanyahu needs to resign, which is very interesting. And but at the end of the day, he still has 64 fingers in the Knesset out of 120. That's a majority.

TAPPER: Right.

RAVID: So as long as that's the case, he can try and cling on. The main question is, once this high intensity phase of the war is over, the reservists are discharged, how big the demonstrations that everybody expects that to happen, how big they're going to be.

TAPPER: But does this provide an incentive for him to extend the war longer than it needs to be, needs to go on just so he can prevent and postpone the demonstrations?

RAVID: This is a thesis that a lot of people are raising. But at the end of the day, he cannot control things on his own.

TAPPER: Right.

RAVID: There's the IDF. There's his coalition partner in this emergency government Benny Gantz. If he resigns if he leaves the government, that's a signal for the rest of the Israelis that the war is practically over.

TAPPER: A lot of people think Benny Gantz was likely going to be the next prime minister.

RAVID: Well, if the elections were today that that would be the result but they're not.

TAPPER: All right, Barak Ravid, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

RAVID: Thank you Jake. Happy Hanukkah.

[17:54:54] TAPPER: Thank you. To you as well, sir. And to anybody out there celebrating, Happy Hanukkah. We'll be right back.


TAPPER: Tomorrow on THE LEAD, we will have an exclusive interview with Sheryl Sandberg, the former chief operating officer of Facebook and a longtime advocate for the rights of women and girls. We'll talk to her about why she felt so compelled to go to the United Nations this week to speak up on the horrific acts of Hamas and how Hamas use sexual violence and rape as a war tactic and its October 7th attacks on Israel.

Sandberg obviously an influential voice, look for that interview tomorrow here on THE LEAD beginning at 4 o'clock Eastern. And next week two town halls on CNN, Tuesday I will moderate a conversation between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the voters of Iowa, then Wednesday CNN's Abby Phillip, the host of town hall with Republican candidate Vivek Ramaswamy. Both will start at 9:00 p.m. Eastern plus streaming on CNN, Max, and CNN mobile apps.

Until then or until tomorrow rather, you can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Threads, X, formerly known as Twitter, and on the TikTok at JakeTapper. You can tweet the show at TheLeadCNN. If you ever miss an episode a lead you can listen to the show once you get your podcasts.


Our coverage continues now not with Wolf Blitzer, no, no, with Pamela Brown. She's in for Wolf Blitzer. But still, she's in a place I like to call "THE SITUATION ROOM" right next door. Happy Hanukkah. See you tomorrow.