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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Special Counsel Asks Supreme Court To Decide On Trump's Immunity; George Santos In Plea Deal For Criminal Case; Defamation Trial Of Rudy Giuliani Begins; Pregnant Woman In Texas Embroiled In A Legal Battle For Abortion; Families Of U.S.-Israeli Hostages Not Invited In White House Event; Israel Backed Qatar Sending Millions To Gaza For Years; Holocaust Survivor's Granddaughter On Hamas' Sexual Violence; Ukraine Turns To Cheaper Drones As U.S. Aid Stalls And Russia Advances. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired December 11, 2023 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Let's go right to CNN senior justice correspondent Evan Perez. Evan, this trial is set to start in March. How does this U.S. Supreme Court request impact that?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, that's exactly what the special counsel is trying to do. They're trying to make sure that this trial remains on track to get started in March because they know that eventually this case was going to come to the Supreme Court. They know that Donald Trump was going to and his lawyers were going to use the next couple of months to make filings to the courts to try to delay this trial. That has been the game all along.

And so, what they're asking for is for the court to take on head on the question of whether Trump is immune from prosecution for things that happened while he was in office, and then secondly, whether he essentially is barred from being tried in this case because of double jeopardy because he was obviously impeached by the Congress, but he was not convicted.

So that is one of the central questions that Jack Smith and his team is now asking. I'll read you just a part of this filing, which says in part, "A cornerstone of our constitutional order is that no person is above the law. The force of that principle is that it's zenith here, whereas here a grand jury has accused a former president of committing federal crimes to subvert the peaceful transfer of power to his lawfully elected successor. Nothing could be more vital to our democracy than a president who abuses the electoral system to remain in office is held accountable for criminal conduct."

Jake, this is obviously now the goal here is to try to expedite this. They're asking for the court to do this, to get the briefs going by December 18th. The goal is obviously to try to get this going before that March trial date comes near.

TAPPER: And Evan, Special Counsel Jack Smith notes a similar maneuver was used during the Nixon era. Tell us about that and how that case might apply.

PEREZ: Right. Well, if that is the precedent that they want to copy, then there we squarely, Jake, be able to get this done before that March trial date. In that case, which they cite in this brief, they point out that the Supreme Court rendered a decision within 16 days of hearing an argument and within two months of the first petition being made. And also, one of the things that if you read this brief, one of the things that Jack Smith does here, Jake, is they point out that this, this court, this current Supreme Court has kind of had a habit of expediting appeals.

For instance, in a Texas case involving student loans against the Biden administration, it's something that the Biden administration has not been happy about, certainly some of the critics of the court. So, they're pointing out that this court has been very willing to expedite other appeals and this one of course is of great importance.

TAPPER: Alright. Evan Perez, thanks so much. With us now to discuss former principal deputy assistant attorney general in the George W. Bush administration Tom Dupree. Tom, why would Special Counsel Jack Smith go directly to the Supreme Court instead of having it go through the normal appeals process?

TOM DUPREE, FORMER PRINCIPAL DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, GEORGE W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION: One reason only Jake. He wants to keep this trial date in place. He wants to keep this on track. He knows that time is not his friend. He knows that if he doesn't somehow get an expedited decision from the appeals courts in this case, that there is a very good chance that the former president will be able to delay the trial date, possibly until after the election.

TAPPER: This is a gamble though, right? I mean, there's a chance that the U.S. Supreme Court, which is 6-3 conservative, including three justices that Trump appointed, there's a chance that they take the case and say, yeah, Trump's immune from prosecution for things he did while he was president.

DUPREE: Absolutely. I mean, this is a roll of the dice. And, you know, I'm sure there were some folks in Jack Smith's camp who said, let's be very, very careful of what we wish for because we might get it. The Supreme Court might agree to take this case on an expedited basis, and to your point, they very well could rule against us, in which case it's game over pretty much for Jack Smith.

I think from his perspective, though, he thinks it's worth the gamble, because from his perspective, he's thinking, look, the Supreme Court is going to decide this case and this issue at some point. And it's much better from his perspective if they make their decision sooner rather than later.

TAPPER: Jack Smith's also asking the Supreme Court to weigh in on this question of double jeopardy because Trump's lawyers are arguing that because he was acquitted by the Senate in the impeachment trial, he cannot be criminally tried for the same actions. Again, I'm confused about that, though, because the Senate trial, there was no penalty. There was no prison, you know, at hand. There was no -- it was just -- impeachment is very different from a prison sentence.

DUPREE: Yeah, and look, there's a pretty good argument just on the plain text of the constitution that impeachment and criminal prosecution are separate things and that the founders envisioned that there could both be an impeachment proceeding and a subsequent criminal proceeding.


But then again, as we say so often in the world of Donald Trump and the law, we are in uncharted territory.

This is not a question the Supreme Court has had to wrestle with before. And I think you can make historic arguments on both sides. If the Supreme Court does agree to take this, they sure are going to have a lot to chew on.

TAPPER: I want to ask you also about Hunter Biden's legal case because today Hunter Biden asked the judge to throw out the three-count gun felony indictment that was filed in Delaware earlier in the year. Part of his legal argument is that parts of this plea deal that fell apart over the summer, it's actually still valid and it's supposed to block the Special Counsel Weiss from filing gun charges. Does he have a point? What do you think about that?

DUPREE: You know, I'm not too optimistic on Hunter Biden's chances here. His argument, as you said, is basically we had a deal and that deal is still in place, notwithstanding the fact that it seemed to blow up on the launch pad last summer. I think he's gonna have a bit of an uphill battle. My sense just from reading the tea leaves, the way the federal judge in Delaware has approached this case, is she thinks the deal is blown up too. She doesn't think that the prosecution is bound to any sort of agreement, and that they retain the freedom to charge him as they did.

Don't fault him for making the argument. He doesn't have a lot of cards to play, and so it doesn't surprise me they're making this argument, but I guess I wouldn't count on him winning the day on this one.

TAPPER: Alright, Tom Dupree, always good to see you. Thank you, sir. Just into our "Law and Justice Lead," guess who is in talks with federal prosecutors in hopes of striking a plea deal, former Republican Congressman George Santos, who is facing multiple federal charges including fraud and money laundering. Let's get to CNN's Brynn Gingras in New York. Brynn, what are we learning about a possible plea deal from Mr. Santos?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jake, 23 federal charges, of course, you probably remember. Some of that includes stealing identities of his campaign donors and using that money to further enrich his personal life, whether it came to buying expensive clothes or cosmetic procedures. What we're learning is coming from court records filed today.

He's expected for a status conference on those 23 charges tomorrow in the Eastern District of New York, but prosecutors signaling in those court records that they are in talks for a plea deal, asking the judge if they could have another status conference hearing scheduled 30 days from now, writing, "the parties are presently engaged in plea negotiations with the goal of resolving this matter without the need for a trial."

So, we'll see how that sort of shakes out. Of course, all the walls have been crumbling for George Santos, too, of his former campaign staff members, his treasurer, his chief fundraiser, those guys have both pleaded guilty to federal charges that they were facing and then of course he was recently kicked out of Congress as you also just mentioned.

We also know in the paperwork that prosecutors are going to be asking for his trial which was expected to begin next September to be actually pushed up to a May or June date. So, we'll keep an eye on this one but it does appear that there is some sort of talks that are happening which could strike a plea deal with the former congressman here in New York.

TAPPER: Alright, Brynn Gingras, thanks so much. Coming up, the pregnant challenged the state of Texas and its strict abortion laws that she carried a fetus that has a fatal condition. Her decision today could be life-saving, but it also could add to her legal problems. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Also, in our "Law and Justice Lead," Rudy Giuliani's trial began in D.C. today to determine how much in damages he will need to pay to election workers Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman. Giuliani has already been found liable for defaming the mother and daughter election workers after he falsely accused them of tampering with ballots in Georgia. CNN's Zachary Cohen is with us now. Zachary, what happened in court today and how much are these two innocent falsely maligned women seeking damages?

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yeah, Jake. They're seeking tens of millions of dollars in damages from Rudy Giuliani and look, just a starter, for, you know, defaming them and for the reputation they want the jury to consider anywhere between $15.5 million and $43 million in damages. And that doesn't even account for emotional damages and also punitive damages. They want to send a message and they want the jury to send a message with this dollar amount that they land on in this verdict.

And they want to make sure that this is acted as a deterrent so that people in the future don't target poll workers and election workers the way that they were targeted. And you mentioned that Rudy Giuliani's already been found liable. That's really important to remember. The judge has already determined that he did defame these two innocent poll workers in Georgia.

And we just caught up with Rudy Giuliani a few minutes ago coming out of court. Take a listen to what he said after today's day in court.


RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: You've heard one side. Stay tuned for my testimony. It'll be under oath. Like Russian collusion. Like being accused of being --


COHEN: So, Rudy Giuliani clearly thinks that he's the best person to get on the witness stand and convince this jury not to award tens of millions of dollars in damages. He's the only witness the defense plans to call in this case. Meanwhile, the plaintiffs have a series of witnesses, video deposition. So, we'll have to see what the jury ultimately decides.

TAPPER: He really thinks that testifying is a good idea? What is he gonna say?

COHEN: It's a great question, Jake. And apparently, we'll have to stay tuned for his testimony, but again, he's the only witness the defense in this case plans to call so it'll be up to him. You know, his fate will rest solely in his hands.

TAPPER: Okay. Zachary Cohen, thanks so much. Big developments in our "Health Lead" today in the case of Kate Cox you might remember her. She's the Texas woman who is suing the state of Texas in order to get an emergency abortion only to have the attorney general there, Ken Paxton, fight her all the way to the Texas Supreme Court. We have learned that Cox has left Texas so that she can get an abortion elsewhere.

CNN's Ed Lavandera joins us from Dallas. And Ed, obviously we know that she has tried so many -- thirteen, which -- what means that if she is forced to carry this child a term, the child will -- is expected to die like within a day or two and this actually could result in her being sterile and it could cause health problems for her. Tell us more about how she came to this decision to leave the state to get an abortion.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate Cox's lawyers have been saying for the last week that she had filed this lawsuit because she wanted to have the abortion performed here in Texas where she's close to family, it's close to home, and that was the reason why she decided to file and not travel out of state earlier. But after a weekend of being in what her lawyers describe as legal limbo and that the clock was ticking, they have decided to leave the state to have this procedure done.

We'll go back to Friday, that was the day that Ken Paxton, the Republican attorney general here in Texas, took this case to the Texas Supreme Court. And we have been waiting all weekend long and into today for a ruling from the Supreme Court. That came just a day after an Austin judge granted Kate Cox the ability to have a legal abortion through a temporary restraining order on the state's abortion law.

Her lawyers said in a statement this afternoon or today saying that her health is on the line. She's been in and out of the emergency room and she couldn't wait any longer. This is why judges and politicians should not be making health care decisions for pregnant people. They are not doctors.

Over the weekend, Jake, Ken Paxton filed another motion with the Texas Supreme Court saying that in their view, Kate Cox had not proven that this pregnancy threatened her life and her future fertility shouldn't be considered in this particular case as a reason for why she would meet the medical exemption. So, the intensity of everything that has gone on for the last few days, her lawyer said that Kate Cox had spent all weekend in bed and that they got to today and made the decision to leave the state. Jake?

TAPPER: Ed Lavandera, thanks so much. Let's bring in my panel to discuss. CNN's Kristen Holmes, Jonah Goldberg, who's editor-in-chief of "The Dispatch" and Democratic strategist Paul Begala. Paul, this is your beloved home state of Texas. What do you make of it?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: You know, on the day the Dobbs decision came down, my fellow Texan, Cecile Richards, told me, this will not age well. I said, what do you mean? She said, well, like Obergefell, the gay marriage case, it aged well. The more we lived under it, the more people accepted it, the more people think it's fine for gay people to get married.

She's like, every day there will be a new case, there will be a new tragedy, there will be a new woman. And Ms. Cox is the first case in Texas, she will not be the last. This is going to continue to happen as long as judges and politicians are making decisions that women used to be able to make for themselves.

TAPPER: Jonah, on Sunday I asked Republican Senator J.D. Vance of Ohio about this case. He said he didn't know much about it, but he did -- he had said that voters don't trust his party about this. I said is these types of case one of it? He said something really interesting. Take a listen to this.


SEN. J.D. VANCE (R-OH): We have to accept that people do not want blanket abortion bans. They just don't. If people see Republicans not as the party that's trying to make it easier to have babies, but it's just trying to take people's rights away, then we're going to lose.


TAPPER: I mean, it's an interesting point from somebody who is against a legal abortion.

JONAH GOLDBERG, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yeah, and he's also, I mean, it's also important to remember he's sort of now Trump's main spokesperson in the Senate -- TAPPER: Right.

GOLDBERG: -- and this is a messaging that Trump has been trying to play with as well. Look, I am essentially a pro-lifer and I do not understand why supposedly pro-life Republicans keep picking these kinds of hills to die on. It is the kind of thing that you're going to lose more voters than win. It's perfect evidence about how Dobbs does not going to age well.

And you know, Vance did a pretty good job about talking about this compared to a lot of other Republicans, but the entire party is largely the part, you know, the dog that caught the car and they'd done 50 years of work to figure out how to overturn Roe and about five minutes of thought about what a post-Roe United States looks like, and they have not figured out how to talk about it.

TAPPER: Chief Justice Roberts tried to provide a path, but it wasn't listened to. Kristen, this doesn't seem to be hurting Republicans, at least in a vacuum, when you look at these polls. Brand-new CNN polls showing major warning signs for Biden in two key battleground states.

In Michigan, Donald Trump leads President Biden by five points, 49 to 44. Trump's lead is double in Georgia, 50 percent, to Biden's 40 percent. And these new numbers come just as Trump is not only skipping another Republican debate but also skipped his planned testimony in his New York fraud case today.

Clearly there is also this strategy as we've discussed before that his team whether or not Donald Trump is aware of this, seems to think that the less the public sees of him the better.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you look at those poll numbers, maybe they're onto something.


HOLMES: And when you talk about the strategy for skipping the testimony versus the campaign, testimony was different. He wanted to go up there. He wanted to defend his property, his businesses. He had essentially convinced his lawyers that was something he was going to do and when he was cross-examined by the prosecution. He felt like he didn't get to really say his piece.


Now he was convinced in these conversations with lawyers and allies that it's actually a greater risk than reward for him to take the stand again and decide ultimately not to testify. This really isn't the first time we've seen this. Donald Trump has often said, at least to media, that he wants to testify in various trials only to later not actually show up and say that the lawyers convinced him otherwise. So that was the legal part of this.

But when it comes to the campaign part, they do have a less robust schedule this time than we saw in 2016, far less than his own Republican rivals, and he isn't on the debate stage. TAPPER: He's eight years older.

HOLMES: He is eight years older, and he's also not on the debate stage. We know that part of this is because they think that he'll be a punching bag. They also think, why do we have to do this if we have such a commanding lead. And they have told me that they might pivot strategies, at least when it comes to campaign stops, not really debates, I think, or beyond that now, but ramping up in certain states. But they keep seeing these poll numbers and they don't feel that they need to be going to 99 counties in Iowa.

BEGALA: I mean they're right. They're clearly right.


BEGALA: Mr. Trump in the Des Moines register poll, which is I think a terrific poll, was 43 in the last poll. He's 51 today. 51. He is ahead in Iowa, which is only 34 days away by 32 points. The record victory for Republican in Iowa caucuses is 13. Bob Dole in 1988. He's ahead by 32 with 34 days to go. So, it's working. I mean, I don't support Mr. Trump, but they clearly did the right thing in skipping these debates.

TAPPER: But the other thing, Jonah, is this is in a vacuum, as we discussed. It doesn't have, first of all, to year away, but second of all, this is before who knows how much money, but that maybe a billion dollars is spent pointing out to voters that Donald Trump other than Mitch McConnell is the person who is more single-handedly responsible for the overturning of Roe v Wade than anyone in the world. And that will resonate with some voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin.

GOLDBERG: Yes. So first of all, one thought about Bob Dole having the second-best record so far, maybe the key is to campaign while talking about yourself in the third person. Both Trump and Dole do that, right? So, Jonah Goldberg had another (inaudible). I think a general truism of the last couple years or going back to 2020-2019 even, is that when Joe Biden dominates the news it's good for Donald Trump and when Donald Trump dominates the news it's good for Joe Biden.

Unless you are really slavishly addicted to loving or hating Donald Trump, most people aren't hearing a lot from Donald Trump.


GOLDBERG: And Joe Biden has been front and center for a good long time. That will change if trump gets the nomination which looks likely right now. And the torrent of negative stuff that'll be thrown at Trump will be -- and the coverage that he'll start getting, at minimum remind a lot of people about why they wanted somebody other than him the last time. So, I do think the polls will even out a little bit.

TAPPER: Quickly, is that true that will he continue to try to do -- that Trump continue to try to do this basement campaign even after he gets nomination?

HOLMES: It's unclear. I think that he will debate. They say that they want to debate Joe Biden if he is the nominee. That's something that they feel very strongly about. And I really think it's going to depend on what the polls look like and what his popularity looks like. You have to keep in mind, he is going to be in multiple trials, at least one. They believe that this January 6 trial will happen, even if it gets pushed, it might not be on that day.

So even if he is going out there and campaigning, he's not going to be able to be on the campaign trail every day. If that case is eight weeks, that's eight weeks he's likely going to have to sit in a courtroom. That means only Saturdays and Sundays off, so campaigning two days a week, but also, as you mentioned, that is exhausting.


HOLMES: And that is -- and this is not somebody who wants to be exhausted.

TAPPER: Well, he's 77.

HOLMES: He's 77. So, I think this is going to be difficult to navigate how that looks.

TAPPER: Thanks all. The next big events of the 2024 calendar are this week and they're right here on CNN. Tomorrow I'm going to host a Republican presidential town hall with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Then Wednesday, Abby Phillip will step into the spotlight, a moderated discussion between voters and Vivek Ramaswamy, both start at 9:00 Eastern. Again, only here on CNN.

Coming up, Hamas and its funding, why critics say Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to blame for the terrorist group and one source of its money. Stay with us.



TAPPER: This just in to CNN, several family members of American citizen hostages kidnapped and missing in Gaza had asked to attend a Hanukkah reception tonight at the White House, but reportedly never got invitations. Let's go to CNN's MJ Lee at the White House. MJ, what happened here? Is it too late for the White House to rectify the situation?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I don't think it's too late because the reception hasn't happened yet, but this is a Hanukkah reception that the White House is hosting tonight to celebrate the fifth night of Hanukkah hosted by the President and the First Lady. And what one of the family members of the families that have their family members that are missing in Gaza still believed to have been abducted by Hamas on October 7.

They told me that they had reached out to the White House because several of the families were in town this week, had asked for an invitation to this event, but that they ultimately did not get invited. The White House did not respond to a request for comment. Look, these are family members that are desperately trying to bring

attention to the fact that there are still eight dual American citizens that are still missing, that are still unaccounted for. Obviously, the formal negotiations to get more hostages out, we saw those break down earlier this month. So, there are a lot of questions right now and these families are very desperate for any kind of news, any kind of movement that they are seeing from the White House as well as the Israeli government on how their family members are going to get out. Jake?


TAPPER: We know that people at the White House watch this show. If they have any questions, reach out to us and we'll involve MJ and we'll fix this problem if it can be fixed.

Also in our World Lead today, former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, just called for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign. Indyk joins a chorus of other critics furious over news of a controversial deal that Netanyahu made years ago. In 2018, he started to allow hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to flow into Gaza. That aid came in the form of cash stuffed into suitcases, which CNN and investigative and Israeli investigative network found was delivered by Qatari diplomats, despite protests raised by members of Netanyahu's own cabinet and within Israel's security establishment. CNN's Nima Elbagir follows the money as Netanyahu's critics blame him for the massive gamble that clearly did not pay off.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE (voice-over): Israel's mourning continues even as the clamor around Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu grows, questioning whether his policies helped prop up Hamas. In a series of interviews with key Israeli players, CNN and the Israeli investigative platform Shomrim were told how Netanyahu allowed Qatari cash donations to Hamas for years without supervision, despite concerns from within his own government.



GILAD: -- per month.


GILAD: Sleaze $160 million. It's more than billion check. It's simple mathematics.

ELBAGIR: It's a lot of money.

GILAD: A lot of money. Dollars in Gaza is like $20 in U.S. For them it was like a relief. It was like oxygen. Can you live without oxygen? No. So it's dramatic, historic mistake. ELBAGIR (voice-over): Former Israeli prime minister and former defense minister Naftali Bennett says he was among those repeatedly raising concerns to Netanyahu. When Bennett became prime minister in 2021, he put a stop to the suitcases of cash to Hamas, moving the transfer of financial support to Hamas from cash to a U.N. mechanism.

NAFTALI BENNETT, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I stopped the cash suitcases because I believe that horrendous mistake to allow Hamas to have all these suitcases full of cash that goes directly to reordering themselves against Israelis. Why would we feed them cash to kill us?

ELBAGIR (voice-over): The cash deliveries were supposed to help. Among other humanitarian needs pay Gaza civil servants and pictures in 2018 showed workers lining up to receive $100 bills. Israel approved the deal in a security Cabinet meeting in August 2018. During a previous Netanyahu tenure as prime minister and Israeli official defended Netanyahu's decision telling CNN, successive Israeli government enabled money to go to Gaza. Not in order to strengthen Hamas, but to prevent a humanitarian crisis. That's true. But no one else approved it in cash. Former Prime Minister Bennett says that Netanyahu underestimated Hamas.

BENNETT: I think the approach towards Hamas was one of sort of nuisance type terror organization that can shoot rockets, can cause a bit of havoc here and there, but not much more than that.

ELBAGIR: So underestimate.

BENNETT: And -- absolutely. And in that sense, we've learned the lesson. We have to believe our enemies.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): This lesson has become a turning point for Israel. One even longtime Netanyahu allies like Speaker Hauser acknowledged.

ZVIKA HAUSER, FORMER CHAIR, KNESSET DEFENSE & FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: That was an strategic lesson for the Israeli society that you can talk a lot about peace, you can try to do a lot of things. You can come to the White House to the -- and get some Nobel Prizes. But in some point, enough is enough. And if you ask me what symbolizes October 7th, October 7th mostly symbolized the Israeli society. No more take risks.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Risks such as this, hitting the toll of human suffering and international calls to slow the pummeling of Gaza. Before Israel is satisfied, Hamas has been destroyed, whatever the cost.

Nima Elbagir, CNN, Tel Aviv.


TAPPER: And our thanks to CNN's Nima Elbagir for that report.

Coming up, a new powerful call to action in the face of Hamas's horrific sex crimes and rapes against women and girls in Israel, the voice delivering the charge will join me next.



BERMAN: In our World Lead, quote, if people don't speak up, evil operates with impunity, unquote. These words written in a powerful new opinion piece for CNN titled, after my grandmother's ordeal in the Holocaust, I have to speak out against sexual violence by Hamas on October 7th. And the author Alexi Ashe Meyers joins us. She's an attorney and advocate for girls and women in New York. Her grandmother, Clara, barely made it out of Nazi Germany. Clara Harris was just 17 in Poland when a German officer told her he would save her family under one condition that she had sex with him so he raped her and he had lied about saving her family.

Nazis ended up brutally executing her grandparents, her mother, her father, two little sisters and brother. Clara's granddaughter Alexi Ashe Meyers joins us now. Alexi, what a horrifying story. Your grandmother often told stories of the Holocaust you say. But it wasn't until she was on her deathbed that she revealed this awful story about her rape. Tell me about her and what was it like to hear this?


ALEXI ASHE MEYERS, DIRECTOR OF ANTI-TRAFFICKING POLICY, SANCTUARY FOR FAMILIES: Yes, so my grandparents talked about their stories of survival often. It probably not at first, but by the time I was born, and my cousins and I were always around. They started to share bits of their story. And it was stories about, you know, growing up in Tarnopol, Poland and their religion and their family and all the way through the Holocaust.

Each of them had harrowing stories of survival and strength. And it really taught me that there was absolutely no choice but to speak up in the face of hate. And that atrocities like this can only happen when people don't speak up. And they happen in a vacuum of silence. And so it really instilled this deep sense of me. But when my grandmother was dying, and I was actually only 10, at the time, she spent her last summer living with us. And she confided this story in my -- to my mother.

And I know that's really young to have shared it with me, but my mother did share it with me at the time, probably not really knowing how to process it, and where else to go with it. And it's something that I've lived with my whole life. But I don't think I quite understood the impact of that story and of my grandparents legacy, until recently, until October 7th.

BERMAN: Yes. And this in part compelled you to write this op-ed to speak out about the sexual violence and rapes against Israeli women and girls committed by Hamas on October 7th. Tell us about that.

MEYERS: So I work in for a nonprofit that combats gender based violence. I lend my voice every day to survivors of gender-based violence of sexual violence of human trafficking. And the goal of these organizations and organizations that we work with is to give survivors a voice. And what I've seen in the last few months is that many organizations whose core value it is to stand with survivors, aren't.

They're demanding proof and evidence beyond a standard that we do even for prosecutions in this country. They are erasing the experience of these women and girls that were brutalized by Hamas on October 7th. And by doing that they're compounding the trauma. They are empowering the perpetrators who prey on vulnerable women and girls and that nobody will believe them. It's a tactic to use by perpetrators to get their victims to not speak up.

And sadly, these women can't speak up because many of them were murdered and don't even have a voice. So it's so important that people with platforms that organizations with platforms stand up for survivors of the sexual assault on October 7th, whether you believe in I -- you know, it's not a two sides situation, when you're talking about sexual violence and rape. It's just astounding to me that there's any silence when we're talking about the sexual violence committed.

TAPPER: Yes, it doesn't have anything to do with the two-state solution or what's going on in Gaza or the IDF for Netanyahu or it has nothing to do with it. It's just atrocities on October 7th exist in their own bubble. Do you think that learning about what happened to your grandmother when you were so young impacted your decision to become an advocate for these victims?

MEYERS: It absolutely did. The pathway to where I am now is a bit circuitous from I studied international war crimes in The Hague. I was a prosecutor, prosecuting sexual violence cases. And now I do advocacy. And my main focus is on strengthening laws for human trafficking victims. And in all of these scenarios, I was moved to stand up for people who don't have a voice and that was something that was instilled in me from day one from when I was, you know, I played Anne Frank in the Anne Frank exhibit in Albuquerque, New Mexico when I was seven.

I -- it was just a topic that was always present in my house. And something that I've been thinking about a lot these last two months is a phrase that my grandfather said all the time. He was also survived the concentration camps. And he would say all the time, the Nazis were evil monsters. But by far, the bystanders were the worse. He just felt so betrayed by those who didn't stand up for him.

He was a dentist. He had clients. He had friends. He had neighbors. And those people who didn't use a voice to stand up for him and his community and his family just plagued him for the rest of his life.

TAPPER: And you must be concerned about the hostages that are still there. Particularly the young women, a lot of them in the army and a lot of them civilians in their teens 20s, 30s, and I've heard a lot of people in Israel and even many in the Biden administration expressed fear that -- and we've heard some of the survivors come -- some of the kidnap people who were released say that they're probably being sexually abused by Hamas. [17:45:21]

MEYERS: It's very likely that they're still being sexually abused by Hamas. And I think it's really important when we're thinking about the hostages to picture them, even saying the hostages sort of removes us a little bit. But these are young women and girls, the ones we pass on the street at our kids gymnastics at school, and it's happening to them. And when they're returned, they're going to have such complex trauma and I hope that they get all of the trauma informed care that they really deserve. And we need to demand that they come home now.

TAPPER: Yes. It'd be nice if people were marching the streets for that. Alexei Ashe Meyers, thanks so much for your time today for your advocacy in general. Really appreciate it.

MEYERS: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up, what war looks like now in Ukraine as its President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrives here in Washington trying to get more help for his country?



TAPPER: In our World Lead, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrives here in Washington, D.C. this evening. His mission is to convince lawmakers to give Ukraine more aid as billions of dollars are currently held up in Congress by a disagreement over many things. Primarily, it seems U.S. border policy. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is in Ukraine right now with a look at how the military is doing more with less.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice- over): Out of Kherson City, pass the bridge, the Russians invaded and left on, you reach a new phase of hope and anxiety in this war. Down on the edge of the Dnipro River on who's isolated right bank, lone groups of Ukrainians are making rare advances into Russian occupied land. But it's tiny tools. Hand rigged donated drones and small gains. The U.S. is stalling on the big money Ukraine needs to make the breakthrough the West wants and you can feel the anger at that here.

It is relentless work. I think it'll be very difficult without American help, he says. Our supplies are also ending, so we need theirs. We've had days so busy we launched 15 to 20. And I got 10 minutes rest between flights, the pilot says. I never imagined this would be my war. It's the PlayStation generation headsets directing cheap single use drones on a one way flight into Russian lines.

WALSH: It's just saying that the weather is cleared up. The fog was just settled over the river. And the Russians are very aware of this threat and you can see them now trying to find the target.

WALSH (voice-over): This keeps the Russians off the roads by day and helps Ukraine take ground. Now they maneuver towards a Russian checkpoint. Killing here somehow remote, yet also intimate.

Another price target emerges their Russian equivalent drone unit hiding in a red roofed house worth sending two drones at. The first as it closes in, taken out by jamming. The second picks it up. At night, another unit elsewhere near the city takes over. Thermal imaging help them find Russians hiding in the woods across the river near Krynki, a village where Ukraine has a valuable foothold.

This unit, too, were hunted and use a cheap device to spot the frequency used by a Russian drone passing above. This operator dons a new cloak as he launches a drone off the roof. See how it reduces his heat signature, probably invisible to the Russians above. The night in battered Kherson city is no respite for civilians.

Sirens, yes, but also a series of Shahid Russian attack drones.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lights off, lights off.

WALSH (voice-over): They close on us, the motor wind lower as it passes over our heads. Anti-aircraft guns pierced the blackout. There really is little life to be enjoyed here. And what's left to rush is that the news, there are rare food handouts. They're fast gone. The shelling is relentless. A woman injured here the night before a neighbor knocked off her feet.

ZHANA, KHERSON RESIDENT (through translator): I drink. But yesterday, I drank a bottle of wine. We all have our guardian angels. We human are resilient.

WALSH (voice-over): Kherson liberated last year is still in the grip of the war. And unless they push the Russians back, a dark and bloody normal awaits.

WALSH: And the summer we saw kids out here playing and it's not just a bit of winter that's forced them indoors. It's the fear of artillery strikes at any time with a protective wall now built around the children's playground the sense really of a city getting ready for a bit more of life on the ground, some of it in bomb shelters.

WALSH (voice-over): Especially here at the maternity hospital still open for tiny miracles and readying this basement to be their new ward. Built by the Soviets for a nuclear war, it's now a shelter because the floors above have been hit again and again. But there are sparks of life here. Even if this is the view Yevgenia (ph) had when she gave birth just seven hours earlier.


YEVGENIA (ph), KHERSON RESIDENT (through translator): It's not scary we've got used to the shelling. I've been here since the start of the war and occupation. We'll only leave if the heating goes off.

WALSH (voice-over): Kira (ph) conceived in spring, when an end to the war was imaginable, but born into a city last to Russia's slow grind to nothing.

Nick Payton Walsh, CNN, Kherson, Ukraine.


TAPPER: And our thanks to Nick Payton Walsh for that report.

This just in, the U.S. Supreme Court has responded this Special Counsel Jack Smith, and they say they will expedite consideration of his request for the justices to rule on Donald Trump's possible immunity in the federal election subversion case, the impact of this major request ahead.



TAPPER: A Minnesota man is free tonight after spending 19 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit. Marvin Haynes was sentenced to life in prison in 2005 for killing a flower shop clerk. Today, a judge overturned his wrongful conviction after prosecutors concluded he did not get a fair trial after all. The Great North Innocence Project representing Haynes argued detectives used, quote, problematic police lineup procedures and, quote, faulty eyewitness accounts.

Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer next door in The Situation Room. I will see you tomorrow.