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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Trump Appeals Maine Ballot Ban; Trump Defense Strategy In Federal Jan. 6 Case Goes Beyond Delay Tactics; DeSantis-Haley Rivalry Dominates Iowa Airwaves; Passenger Jet Bursts Into Flames After Hitting Quake Relief Plane; Ukraine Begins 2024 Mourning Scores Killed In Russian Strikes; Border Security Negotiations Resume In Washington. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired January 02, 2024 - 17:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to The lead. I'm Jake Tapper.

This hour, just in, brand new charges against Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey going further than the accusations about gold bars, luxury cars, and cool hard cash. Now another country is in the pockets of the New Jersey Senator allegedly. Plus the scramble to learn how two planes ended up on a collision course on an airport runway in Japan before bursting into flames. Video shows the panic on the passenger plane as nearly 400 people on board all escaped alive before the inferno.

And leading this hour, the breaking news, the first major court filing from Donald Trump in 2024. Just a short while ago his team appealed the decision from Maine to remove him from the state's primary ballot. This is just one of many legal issues facing Mr. Trump colliding with the 2024 presidential election. CNN's Evan Perez is here.

And Evan, what is Trump's team basing this appeal in Maine on?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, what they're saying, Jake, is that the Maine secretary of state exceeded her authority to disqualify the former president based on the 14th Amendment. They say also that the 14th Amendment, the section three which says that you can't hold certain offices if you have engaged in insurrection against the United States, that that doesn't apply to the Office of the President, that this is not something that should even apply here. And they also say that, you know, she is basing this on all kinds of facts that are not true, that Trump is not actually and insurrectionists. So, on -- based on those arguments, the former president and his legal team are saying that the action by the secretary of state in Maine to disqualify the former president from the ballot should not be allowed to stand.

Of course, what this means now, just by filing this appeal, right, this stays that action. This means that he will continue to be listed on the ballot there in Maine pending the litigation that this now kicks off. TAPPER: And Trump is still facing similar challenges to his candidacy, including in Colorado --

PEREZ: In Colorado, right.

TAPPER: -- which also use the same 14th amendment argument --

PEREZ: Right.

TAPPER: -- that if you participated in an insurrection, engaged in insurrection, you're ineligible for the presidency.

PEREZ: Right.

TAPPER: How could an appeal of the Colorado ruling play out given that presumably that will go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court because it's by the Colorado Supreme Court?

PEREZ: Right, exactly. And that one's much further ahead because obviously, there was a trial that was held by a lower court judge and a ruling from the state Supreme Court. What we expect, Jake, any minute now the former president's legal team will file a request with the U.S. Supreme Court to try to stay and to stay that that ruling from the Colorado Supreme Court and to overturn it. Just by doing that, we expect that he will be able to be listed on the Colorado ballot, the primary ballot, because the deadline for that to be finalized is tomorrow. And whatever the U.S. Supreme Court decides is going to be the final answer.

TAPPER: All right, Evan Perez, thanks so much.

Joining us now to discuss Tom Dupree, the former Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General under President George W. Bush.

Tom, let's start with Trump's appeal in Maine, which just dropped. His lawyers are arguing that the Secretary of State in Maine who made this decision to remove from the ballot, they say she exceeded her authority. And she is politically biased against Trump, she's a Democrat, I believe, and certainly not a fan of Trump. That's true. But are those solid legal arguments?

TOM DUPREE, FMR. PRINCIPAL DEPUTY ASST. ATTORNEY GENERAL.: I think the Trump legal team Jake is on much stronger ground on their legal arguments about whether the 14th Amendment applies to the president whether it's self-executing, so to speak, rather than going after the alleged political bias of the Maine secretary of state. I don't think that's an argument that will get a lot of traction in the upper courts. I understand why they're making that argument to kind of set the table and try to put this in context of what they view as a politicized decision. But at the end of the day, I think their legal argument is going to rise or fall, depending on those other constitutional challenges to her ruling.

TAPPER: And Tom, Oregon could be the next state, a third state that tries to bar Trump from a primary ballot. Should Trump's legal team be concerned about that state and even more joining the effort? [17:05:01]

DUPREE: Well, I think they need to be concerned anywhere that people are trying to strike him from the ballot I mean if your former President Trump's lawyer and there are states that are trying to knock you off the ballot, absolutely, you have to fight that wherever it happens. That said, I don't think that the Oregon proceedings are ultimately going to kind of drive the overall outcome here. I think as Evan reported, it's really the Colorado case that's kind of the lead dog in this fight. That's the case that's going to go up first to the United States Supreme Court. And I think there's a very good chance that if and when the United States Supreme Court takes the Colorado case, it will announce a rule of law, a rule of decision that will apply to all of the states considering these 14th Amendment challenges. So whatever the Supreme Court says in the Colorado case, I think will likely apply also to the proceedings in Maine and to Oregon.

TAPPER: There's this article today in Rolling Stone magazine saying that Trump's attorneys are going to turn the federal election subversion case from Special Counsel Jack Smith into a, quote, "MAGA freak show" and try to flood the trial with all these various conspiracy theories. Do you think they'll be able to succeed in getting these conspiracy theories into the trial? And what impact could that have?

DUPREE: From what we've seen, if the district court judge here, Jake, I think the Trump team is going to have an uphill battle if they tried to flood the zone with irrelevant information along those lines. We have seen that this is a judge who is pretty serious about running a tight ship in a courtroom, about ensuring that the case focuses on the facts, on the legal issues. And I think she'll frankly, probably ratchet it up a little bit once a jury is impaneled and start tearing evidence in this case. I think she is going to be very protective of the evidence that comes into the record, the evidence that this jury hears, and so I suspect that she will do her best. I don't know, we'll see how successful she is.

But she will do her best to keep the Trump legal team on a fairly tight leash in terms of the types of evidence that they can introduce at this trial.

TAPPER: What concerns do you have when you see how heavily involved the U.S. Supreme Court already is in this year's presidential election? Especially, I mean, when you think of Bush v. Gore in 2000, which was only after the election did they get involved?

DUPREE: Right. And I think that's a real concern, Jake. I think that there's certainly a perception out there in the United States, a lot of people have the view that the Supreme Court and frankly, a lot of our courts are political actors and make decisions on political grounds rather than on legal or constitutional grounds. And I think that danger is heightened anytime the Supreme Court dives into the political fray. I think the justices themselves are very aware of that concern. Certainly Chief Justice Roberts is very protective of the institution. And so this is not a job that they take lightly. I don't think any of the justices have any eagerness to get involved in the 2024 election. In fact, they'd like to stay away from it if they can. However, I think events are leaving them virtually no choice. So I think it's something they are going to have to get involved in, but I think they are going to be very judicious in the number of cases that they decide.

And they are going to do their absolute best to decide these cases in a way that insulates them, if possible, from any taint of politics or suggestion that they're politically motivated here.

TAPPER: All right, Tom Dupree thanks so much.

Let's turn now to some breaking news. New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat, is now facing new allegations from federal prosecutors relating to his bribery and extortion scheme allegedly. A superseding indictment was just made public and CNN's Kara Scannell has been going over it for us.

Kara, what are the prosecutors now alleging about Senator Menendez?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, Jake, you may remember where Menendez was first indicted he was charged with aiding the government of Egypt and also an extensive corruption and bribery scheme. These new allegations that were brought up by an indictment today by the grand jury alleges that Menendez had taken steps to benefit the country of Qatar. Now this is part of the bribery allegations. He's not accused of being a foreign agent for Qatar. But according to prosecutors, Menendez had accepted some gifts including racecar tickets from the government of Egypt, and he was doing this to try to help his friend, another codefendant in this case, a New Jersey, real estate developer, obtained a multimillion dollar investment from the Qatari Investment Fund.

According to prosecutors, Menendez had initiated meetings with a member of the royal family in Qatar with this businessman and made other introductions. They also had several private meetings together and in exchange, Menendez had said -- made public statements that were favorable and supportive praising Qatar. And he in a encrypted text message in this indictment, they alleged that he had encouraged his friend, the businessman, to send these public statements praising Qatar to the Qatari officials to try to help smooth over the steel and before a meeting that the New Jersey businessman had had in London with a Qatari investors. While they were still trying to negotiate this deal, Menendez allegedly sent a text message to one of the Qatari officials encouraging him to move ahead. So prosecutors say in exchange for this, Menendez had received racecar tickets from the Qataris and a gold bar from the New Jersey businessman.


Menendez has pleaded not guilty to the other charges. He has vigorously denied any wrongdoing. And he has not stepped down from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee where he was chairman until the additional indictment came down. He is due to go to trial in May, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Kara Scannell with the latest on Senator Bob Menendez, thanks so much.

With 13 days until the Iowa caucuses, man, only 13 days, new attack ads are rolling out from Donald Trump's Republican rivals. How the candidates are choosing to make their closing arguments. And one major factor not mentioned in the new videos. That's next.


TAPPER: In our 2024 lead, the first actual votes are in less than two weeks. Cue the music. Yes. That's my jam, and my panelists, it's their jam, too.

It's officially January, which means we are literally days away from the official start of the 2024 primary season primary and caucus season, I should say. CNN is hosting a debate between Ambassador Nikki Haley and Governor Ron DeSantis in Des Moines Iowa next week. Dana Bash and I will be moderating that on Wednesday night. The state's Republican caucus' will be the following week, that's just 13 days from today followed by the New Hampshire primary on January 23.


To help us kick off this big political month, we have with us Republican pollster and strategist, Kristen Soltis Anderson, and Democratic strategist, Karen Finney.

Kristen, it's your jam, right? I mean you love --

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It is. It is. I said like my blood pressure goes up.

TAPPER: You love it. You love it. It's like ACDC.

First of all, let's talk about our top story today, Trump's legal team is appealing the decision by Maine Secretary of State to try to remove him from the state's primary ballot. We've never seen anything like this. Of course, we've thought we've also never seen a president actually trying to foment violence at the Capitol to stop the counting of votes. What do you make of it?

ANDERSON: I continue to believe that every time he states take him off the ballot, whether the primary or eventually if he becomes the nominee tried to do it for the general that it would be appropriate for the Supreme Court to intervene. Because I don't think that in this case, it's good for voters to not have the chance to decide that they don't want to have Donald Trump. But I frankly think it would be politically smart for Joe Biden to come out and say, everybody who is on my side, I get it, I've said that what I think he did that day was insurrection, but I'm not afraid of this guy. And I think voters are going to choose me in the end. I think that'd be politically savvy for him.

TAPPER: What do you think? KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I agree with that point, I would love to see and say, I'm not afraid him, I'm going to take you on, let's do this. But I do think what's interesting about the Maine case is remember, he was on CNN earlier today, the gentleman who brought the case is a Republican state senator who had voted for Trump, who was so horrified by January 6, that he filed this. He didn't think he should be on ballot. What's important about that is we are seeing in the polls, we saw on that big "New York Times" poll, there is increasingly vote, there are increasingly voters, Republican, Independents who say a conviction would be a factor that would have them not vote for Trump. And I think, you know, as these cases start because, you know, the calendar didn't show the court dates -- now the court dates.

TAPPER: Right.

FINNEY: We're learning lots of new information every week. Expect that pace is going to kick up here in January. And we don't know what impact that may have on general election voters in the way that we're seeing, though, in the primary, you know, Trump is obviously doing quite well.

TAPPER: So, speaking of the primary, Ambassador Haley's out with a new campaign ad attacking Governor DeSantis. Here's a little clip.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ron DeSantis is lying because he's losing. DeSantis called China, Florida's most important trading partner. DeSantis even allowed a Chinese military contractor to expand just miles from a U.S. Naval Base. Phony Ron DeSantis, too lame to lead, too weak to win.


TAPPER: Honestly, I'm not numb to it. That's strong language, phony Ron DeSantis, too lame to lead, to weak to win. What do you think?

ANDERSON: Well, I think she knows that coming in a strong second in Iowa is something that would very much help her chances in New Hampshire. You saw her test out some of these arguments in the last Republican debate. And you've also seen Ron DeSantis try to hit her on the issue of China as well. Because frankly, being tough on China is one of those issues that does unify the more conventional establishment wing of the GOP with the more MAGA Trump kind of wing. So by making these attacks, I'm going after someone else from not being tough enough on China. It's a way to both try to knock somebody else off your vote share, but also make the case that you are strong and tough. That's why both DeSantis and Haley have chosen this issue to go after one another.

TAPPER: They're both trailing as of now DeSantis in Iowa by around 30 points. Although we should say 13 days is a lifetime anything could happen. But what do you make of it?

FINNEY: Literally every -- anything. Look, I think she also knew that she has to show toughness. And since she can't quite bring herself to attack Trump, why not go after Ron DeSantis. And Ron DeSantis having attacked her on China, again, it's kind of a way to just muddy the waters and make it a wash.

TAPPER: So we have this debate that Dana and I will be moderating coming up and Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis have both qualified for the stage. As of now the only other person that is qualified in terms of the requirements is Donald Trump, but he has said he's not going to attend. Haley put out a statement today that says, "With only three candidates qualifying, it's time for Donald Trump to show up. As the debate stage continues to shrink, it's getting harder for Donald Trump to hide." And a DeSantis spokesperson posted on Twitter now known as X, "We understand Donald Trump is scared to get on the stage because he'd have to finally explain why he didn't build the wall, added nearly a trillion dollars to the debt and turn the country over to Fauci. But even Gavin Newsom had the courage to stand on the stage to debate his own failed record against Ron DeSantis."

Do you think it still, at this point, is a good strategy for Donald Trump to skip these debates? I mean, now, this is the first one that's going to be this small. I can understand he's not going to like one where there's like 30 people, but DeSantis and Haley are both credible candidates, he should be there. Shouldn't he?


ANDERSON: So we're in football playoff season right now and that's the way I used to hear voters talk about this a couple of months ago that it was a kind of OK for Donald Trump to sit out the quarterfinals, maybe even the semi finals. But we've reached the final round, I was -- less than two weeks away. And so, if it was ever going to hurt Donald Trump missing this debate on the 10th, may be the one. But I'm still skeptical that him doing anything but playing a very safe strategy, just get through Iowa, have the blowout that he's expecting, that's probably the safer strategy. But if it was ever going to hurt him, this is when it would hurt him.

FINNEY: You know what, if you're Donald Trump, you have -- there's no reason to show up. Bad for CNN and the American public, although he's going to be on Fox. But you know, from his perspective, his campaign has done so much also behind the scenes to make sure that they can shore up this nomination by March. You know, changing the rules in California, some of the things they're doing with the RNC. Again, he doesn't have to show up, A, because he's got the support and the numbers, B, they're working behind the scenes to rig, to use his term, the rules. So, why show up when you can just keep doing what you're doing?

TAPPER: I mean, there's lots of -- there's lots of answers I could give you.


TAPPER: One is, it shows respect for the American people and Republican voters, right? I mean, like, I'm willing to take some tough questions. He's not going to face any tough questions that go on before Fox.


TAPPER: I mean, you know?

FINNEY: I mean, yes, I agree with you. I just think Trump is running more like we ran -- we saw him in 2016 with the benefit of the relationships he has, again, with the GOP, state party chairs and the RNC. He's trying to run as a surgeon. And being on the stage, I agree with you that it would be the right thing to do. I --

TAPPER: I don't just mean the right thing. But you know, this just reminds me of something. I'm not comparing Trump and Obama. So everybody put down your laptops, put down your iPhones, but I do remember in 2012, I was a White House correspondent. And Obama went like a year or so only really doing generally soft interviews, friendly interviews.

And that first debate with Romney, he wished he was bad, because he hadn't been with anybody really challenging him. Now, I don't know what it's going to happen when and if Biden and Trump actually ever face off, but I don't think Trump's going to be in fighting shape.

ANDERSON: It's total risk aversion. But frankly, if I was Donald Trump right now, that's the strategy I would pick, risk aversion. Even knowing that every time he's tried to counter program one of these debates, it's been kind of a dud, if not a disaster. And I don't expect that he's going to make a lot of fireworks or do a lot that will really change the dynamics of the race. He doesn't want to change the dynamics of the race, because right now he's on track to be the Republican nominee.

TAPPER: But can I tell you another theory I've heard posited from a Republican friend is that he doesn't want to stand next to these two, young, attractive, smart, I'm not talking about me and Dana, I'm talking about Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley. He doesn't because they -- this is -- this other person's theories, well again, put down your phones, but like he thinks that they will make him look old. And like he's lost a step.

FINNEY: That could be part of the consideration. I mean, look, he is able to show that he's in fighting shape when he comes out of the courtroom, right? And he's spouts off or in some of these tweets he puts on, or not tweets on, on Truth Social. And again, it's a way to control the dosage. And I think that's part of the campaign's strategy here. And you're right, he would that you're -- whoever this theory belongs to, is correct. He would look the difference would be far more parents standing on stage with them.

TAPPER: All right. Thanks to both you great to see both. Reminder -- Happy New Year to both of you. A reminder, CNN Republican presidential debate, it's next Wednesday. I'm going to moderate alongside my friend and colleague, Dana Bash. It's live from Des Moines at 09:00 p.m. Eastern. Only here on CNN.

Coming up next in The Lead, what is now an international effort to investigate this, a deadly collision at an airport in Tokyo. The most populated city in the world five people on one plane died. All 379 people on the other survive thankfully, could something like this theoretically happen at an airport near you? Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our world lead, investigators in Japan are currently trying to figure out how two planes ended up on a collision course before exploding into a massive fireball. All passengers and crew on board the Japan Airlines Flight were thankfully able to evacuate the burning plane but the people on the coastguard plane were not so lucky. CNN's Will Ripley is in Tokyo following the miraculous escape and the investigation into the crash that also killed the five crew members on board the Japanese Coast Guard aircraft.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A Japan airlines jet touches down in Tokyo, the cabin calm until passengers look out the window. We saw a fire coming out of the engines and I found it strange Satoshi Yamake tells CNN. Within seconds black smoke billowing through the aircraft.

The Airbus A350-900 packed with nearly 400 passengers and crew, including parents with young children. He says some passengers were scared especially the kids and women. The scene outside even scarier, people on other planes captured the chaos.

GUY MAESTRE, EYEWITNESS: And just as we were starting to pick up some speed, e heard that big bangs and I and I saw that flame that was making a trace. And then we saw a plane that was inflamed

RIPLEY (voice-over): The runways, full for a Tuesday evening. Haneda Airport in the heart of Tokyo handling extra holiday traffic and a Japan Coast Guard plane with six crew members carrying badly needed relief to parts of Japan jolted by a massive 7.5 magnitude earthquake The quake causing widespread destruction, dozens of deaths just hours into the new year. Japan's transportation minister says, the Coast Guard Captain was badly hurt. Five other crew members killed. A very different outcome for the Japan Airlines jet, with just seconds to spare, 12 crew members safely evacuated all 367 passengers, including eight children under the age of two, only a handful had to go to the hospital. Everyone walked away as flames fully engulfed the plane. For a nation obsessed with transportation safety, one burning question, how could the new year begin like this?


And there is new cockpit audio, Jake, revealing that the plane that Japan Airlines jet did have clearance to land everything was normal until all of a sudden they were right on top of this Coast Guard aircraft, both planes with that very violent explosion. It is truly extraordinary. That there are about 400 people who are alive this morning as the Japan now investigates why those four Coast Guard, five Coast Guard crew members died. Why those -- both of those planes were on the same runway at the same time, a runway that is still closed at this hour, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Will Ripley, thank you so much. Let's bring in CNN's aviation analyst Miles O'Brien. Miles CNN's obtained this audio of Japan Airlines Flight Crew reading back landing clearance indicating that that plane had been cleared to land. What does that tell you about the role of air traffic control and the role that it may have played in this situation?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, it does appear, Jake, that the balance of concern and blame is heading in the direction of that Coast Guard aircraft flown by the Japanese. But there's still more of this tale to be unfolding here. And that is the relative confusion that can exist between the person on the frequency talking to landing aircraft, the tower frequency, and the ground frequency, which is another frequency and another person.

And if there was some sort of disconnect between those two individuals, that could be a factor. There are reports that the Coast Guard aircraft was told to hold short of that runway. And for reasons we don't understand had obviously taxied into it. So these things will get sorted out. There are tapes that will be played both in the cockpits and, of course the air traffic control radio communications, and of course, individuals in each of those three places, air traffic control, the air bus, and the Coast Guard aircraft are all able to testify to what they thought was happening. So it'll come out very soon.

TAPPER: When you look at the huge fireball that erupted at the moment of impact. Why do you think that Coast Guard plane was the only aircraft to sustain fatalities?

O'BRIEN: Well, it's -- some of this is just sheer maths and physics and Airbus A350 is a huge aircraft upwards of 400 people versus a twin engine turboprop. And so some of that, perhaps to the crew, it appears might have seen something at the last minute and tried to make it hop over the aircraft somewhat to make it more of a glancing blow. But the fact is, it's still an extraordinary event here that we're talking about this really dramatic collision. And 379 people, every last person on board that airliner survived. It's truly extraordinary, and a testament to a little bit of technology, a sharp cabin crew that did their job well.

And frankly, let's not forget that ultimately, these passengers saved themselves by getting up in relatively orderly way not trying to get their carry-on bag and sliding down those slides and they're all alive today as a result.

TAPPER: Safety regulations require the evacuation of all passengers in 90 seconds, 90 seconds. So while it's a miracle, everyone on board the Japan Airlines Flight survived this evacuation apparently followed protocol.

O'BRIEN: Yes, you know, I don't love the term miracle because so much work has gone into this idea, so much effort in putting less flammable materials inside these aircraft cabins so much thought into how many exits and slides and what the flight crew should say and what -- how they should execute on that. All that came together here. But I will say this, Jake, a lot of us were skeptical on these big wide bodied aircraft, whether it really was practical to get some group that large out of an aircraft in that much time.

And here we have a real life demonstration that it can be done. So, you know, all of us who fly should bear this in mind, pay little attention to that briefing. There are crashes that are survivable. But it's not purely by chance.

TAPPER: All right. Well, a good point, good point. Miles O'Brien, thanks so much.


Coming up next, Russia's new air assault launching at least 500 missiles and drones on Ukraine in the last five days alone in dangerously close to NATO territory in Poland, stay with us.


TAPPER: Back with our World Lead, as Russia pummels Ukraine with airstrikes, 500 this week according to Ukraine. Poland is also on high alert. Its military scrambled fighter jets earlier today in order to secure Polish airspace during the latest Russian barrage on Ukraine. This just days after Polish authorities say a Russian missile entered then disappeared off their radar. CNN's Nic Robertson reports now in the latest deadly Russian attacks on Ukrainian civilians as the country nearing two years of war begins 2024 mourning the dozens killed since Friday.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Ukrainians on the receiving end of another massive missile salvo from Russia. The new year beginning just as the last one ended, facing ferocious attacks not on the front lines, but hitting civilians and cities. Elena, a retired figure skating coach, describes her near miss. The house rocked, the T.V. went out, there was a violent rumble, she says, it was scary. I didn't know what to do. The fourth floor was on fire.


Anna, who also had an EMS both angry and lucky, it was hell. It was real hell. It was a direct hit with a Kinzhal in the yard, she says, right between the blocks of the building. It was just a complete shock. There are no military facilities around here.

The capital Kyiv late last year, Putin's target of choice.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Almost 100 missiles of various types. At least 70 missiles were shut down. Almost 60 of them were shut down in the Kyiv area. Kharkiv was also hit hard. ROBERTSON (voice-over): In a rare and exclusive interview, the country's top general telling CNN, civilians will die without continued Western support.

GEN. VALERII ZALUZHNYI, COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF ARMED FORCES OF UKRAINE (through translator): the Air Force of Ukraine shut down all 10 Russian Kinzhal missiles using Patriot surface to air missiles. This is a record. If these Kinzhal have reached their targets, the consequences would have been catastrophic.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): The hypersonic Kinzhal missile, one of Russia's fastest and potentially Ukrainian civilians biggest threat.

ZALUZHNYI (through translator): There is no reason to believe that the enemy will stop there. That is why we need more systems and ammunition for them.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): The north eastern city of Kharkiv, also bearing the brunt of Putin's New Year's Day promise to escalate strikes, civilians, the casualties, despite Putin's claims to be targeting only military installations.

ZALUZHNYI (through translator): As of now, there are 44 wounded, all civilians. One local resident died as a result of the strike on this location. There were three attacks areas in the city center.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): The death toll claiming not long after he spoke 2024 already on the same track as 2023. Pain and suffering in unwelcome abundance.


ROBERTSON (on camera): Well, we know that Putin is going after these infrastructure, the vital infrastructure like electricity, which took a pummeling last year and hasn't been rebuilt up properly. But what is really going after here, I think, is to create psychological as well as physical pain, because he knows and he's coming into 2024, I think a lot more confidently. They came in 2023 as far as Ukraine is concerned, he knows that if he can beat down the population, it's going to make it much easier for him or he can perhaps get more gains at the negotiating table when eventually that happens. Putin plays a long game, this is part of it.

TAPPER: All right, Nic Robertson, thanks so much. Now to a different conflict and a courageous, firsthand account of the horrors suffered as a hostage held by Hamas.


MIA SCHEM, FREED HOSTAGE (through audio translation): I suffered a holocaust.


TAPPER: I suffered a holocaust, she said, 21-year-old, Mia Schem, was one of the first to try and flee the nova music festival when Hamas attacked on October 7th. The tires of her car was shot out before she was shot in the arm and left for dead until she called out for help to a man she thought was a fellow concert goer but unfortunately was in fact, a terrorist with Hamas. Mia Schem was held for 55 days and she recounted her traumatic experience to channel 13 in Israel.

She was first taken to a house in Gaza, she says, forced to attend to her own wounds in a windowless dark room.


SCHEM (through audio translation): I was afraid of being raped, that was my biggest fear there. His wife was outside the room with their children, that's the only reason why he didn't rape me.


TAPPER: Mia was taken to a hospital for surgery and then moved from house to house, forced to change her own bandages, kept in the dark without food for days at a time, she says.


SCHEM (through audio translation): By the way, a week later, I see my mom at a press conference. There was a T.V. at the house, and Al Jazeera aired news reruns, so the terrorist tells me, come look, in order to hurt me, come see your mom to hurt me, not in a sense of, look, she's mentioning you on the news.


TAPPER: Mia was forced to make a propaganda video for Hamas claiming that she was being treated well when of course nothing could have been further from the truth. As Israeli airstrikes landed around the houses where she was being held, she would force her hand out the bathroom window hoping a drone might capture her tattoo and lead to her rescue. But then Mia was taken to the tunnels.



SCHEM (through audio translation): I can't go into detail about that. I met hostages during my five days in the tunnels. There were six- seven of us inside a 2.5 square meter room, one on top of the other, inside a cage, getting one pita bread per day, no air.


TAPPER: After five days underground in those tunnels, Mia, was one of the hostages released into negotiation and she was brought by the Red Cross to the IDF, the Israel Defense Forces. And then into the waiting arms of her mother who was obviously desperate to hold on to her daughter. But freedom at this point for me brings its own pain and guilt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SCHEM (through audio translation): It's leaving that place and apologizing that you get to leave, and feeling guilty because others are left behind, telling you, Mia, please, please don't let them forget about us. It's feeling guilty and apologizing saying, I'm sorry that I get to leave. That's why I still haven't come to terms with returning home, I can't, because there are others out there.


TAPPER: Mia is now recovering at a hospital with her family by her side working to heal the damage done to her arm, the physical damage. Sadly those emotional wounds will surely be with her for the rest of her life. We'll be right back.



TAPPER: In our National Lead, border negotiators are back in Washington, D.C. as the U.S. Senate resumed talks to try to find a compromise between Democrats and Republicans to increase border security. This comment says border crossings have reached a record high in December with border authorities encountering more than 225,000 migrants. CNN's Ed Lavandera is at the border in Eagle Pass, Texas. Ed, what's happening at the border today?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know this news as these border negotiators are working comes just as a group of Republican lawmakers are expected to visit here in Eagle Pass tomorrow. It's actually slowed down rather dramatically from what we've seen in recent weeks. As you mentioned, Jake, 225,000 crossings here in the month of December according to Homeland Security statistics, and you know, that is a staggering number to say the least.

So there were thousands coming across here in Eagle Pass just several weeks ago. I spoke with the local sheriff here a little while ago who said that it has been under 100 on a day like today so it slowed down. But they're also say they are bracing for more people to come in the future. But right now, on the eve of this visit from lawmakers a low and the number of people crossing the border here in Eagle Pass.

TAPPER: And turning to the border negotiations in the Senate and Republicans are still pushing for tightening standards for people who seek asylum, expanding expedited removals of migrants from the United States. Where do negotiations stand right now?

LAVANDERA: Well, Senator Chris Murphy said today that a small group of Republican and Democratic senators have been meeting the negotiating throughout the holiday break to try to get some common ground here on this border security bill. Senator Murphy says that they are hoping that they will have some sort of update to be able to give senators when they come back to Washington next week. But he also says it's not clear that they will have some sort of concrete details and plan to present to all of them or any kind of deal or break through on this border security bill by the time they make it to Washington next week. TAPPER: And today, the Biden administration asked the Supreme Court to let the Border Patrol remove that razor wire on the U.S. Mexico border. And this is obviously an escalation in this dispute between the Biden administration and the administration in Texas of Governor Abbott.

LAVANDERA: Right. This has been going on for months now where Texas authorities in various places from El Paso all the way down to the Rio Grande Valley have been putting razor wire right on the river's edge, where it's making it much more difficult for people to get onto the shore after wading through the river. You might be able to see it there in the distance. In some of those places, border patrol agents that I've spoken with over the last year have needed to cut through that wire to reach people who needed help or to just take people into custody and this has become a huge flashpoint between Texas and the federal government.

This has been tied up in courts, the Texas suing to keep border patrol agents from cutting this razor wire. And now the Biden administration asking the Supreme Court to reverse the previous court rulings to allow border patrol agents to cut through that wire if they need to.

TAPPER: All right, Ed Lavandera thanks so much.

Tomorrow in his first CNN interview, I'm going to speak one on one with House Speaker Mike Johnson about the border security. That's tomorrow right here on The Lead beginning at 4 o'clock Eastern. And the subject again will be the border.

Coming up, Mickey Mouse as you have never seen him before.



TAPPER: In our Earth matters series, an important measurement key to one of the most pressing issues of our time, the Earth's dwindling supply of water. Today California's Department of Water Resources conducted the first snow survey of the season finding below average conditions just 30 percent of the typical level of snow for January and while California's reservoirs are still above average thanks to last year's impressive snowpack. Officials note there remains so much uncertainty about what the rest of this year's winter season may or may not bring.

In our Pop Culture Lead today, the mouse is out that's a tag of a new movie trailer starring Mickey Mouse. But Mickey Mouse's trap is not the next Disney classic, it is an upcoming live action horror movie not produced by Disney.

How is this possible? Well, the copyright for the 1928 Steamboat Willie Mickey Mouse film expired yesterday. Meaning that particular image of Mickey Mouse is now in the public domain. And it's not the only one, another Mickey based horror film was announced in a press release today. Not quite the fairy tale ending for the world's most famous mouse. Two big nights coming up on CNN, first back to back CNN Republican presidential town halls this Thursday night, CNN's Kaitlan Collins will moderate the first conversation with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Thursday and then Erin Burnett will host a town hall with former ambassador Nikki Haley both Thursday night 9:00 and 10:00 only here on CNN. And then next week, Dana Bash and I will moderate the CNN Republican presidential debate. That will be on January 10th just five days before the GOP Iowa caucuses.


The debate is live from Des Moines at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, that's next Wednesday, a week from tomorrow only here on CNN. 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. Happy New Year. I'll see you tomorrow.