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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Prominent Names Listed In Unsealed Epstein Documents; Army Officer Claims Retaliation For his Account Of Jan. 6 Response; Tonight: DeSantis & Haley In Spotlight At CNN Town Halls; Chris Christie: "I Made A Mistake" Endorsing Trump In 2016; Baltimore Mayor On Fighting Crime As Murder Rate Drops; Witness Recounts Horrific Rape & Killing Of Woman On Oct. 7. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired January 04, 2024 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: CNN's Jean Casarez has been combing through hundreds of pages that were released last night and brings us this report on what we're learning.


JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A new window to see the complicated company many of the world's most powerful people keep, sealed court filings pertaining to the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein were made public Wednesday, the first of many documents expected to be released in the coming days. Prominent figures, many who had been previously linked to Epstein like former President Bill Clinton and Donald Trump were named in the filings, though not accused of any wrongdoing. The documents stem from a civil defamation lawsuit that was settled in 2017 by Virginia Roberts Giuffre against Epstein's former confidant Ghislaine Maxwell. The unsealed filings contain a 2016 deposition from one of Epstein's alleged victims, Johanna Sjoberg.

MISTY MARRIS, TRIAL ATTORNEY: There was some new information that came out, especially with respect to the deposition of Johanna Sjoberg. And understanding who she is in this whole Epstein Webb, she was the primary accuser of Prince Andrew. Much of this information was her firsthand accounts of what she had seen, observed and heard in her dealings with Epstein.

CASAREZ (voice-over): Sjoberg recall that Epstein spoke to her about Bill Clinton, quote, "he said one time that Clinton like them young, referring to girls." When asked if Clinton was a friend of Epstein, she said, she understood Epstein had "dealings" with Clinton.

MARRIS: In her deposition, she says, I heard Jeffrey Epstein say this. So it's telephone, right? It's -- it would be hearsay in a court of law, it wouldn't be admissible in the civil case. So take that and extrapolate it to a criminal case, it certainly not going to move the needle on that front.

CASAREZ (voice-over): Clinton has not been accused of any crimes or wrongdoing related to Epstein. His spokesman on Wednesday reiterated the Clinton knew nothing of Epstein's crimes, and told CNN that it has now quote, "Been nearly 20 years since President Clinton last had contact with Epstein." In her deposition, Sjoberg also recalled a time she was with Epstein on one of his planes and pilots said he needed to land in Atlantic City, quote, "Jeffrey said, great, we'll call up Trump and we'll go to, I don't recall the name of the casino, but we'll go to the casino." Sjoberg said in her deposition, she never gave a massage to Trump. He is not accused of wrongdoing related to Epstein.

The Trump campaign responded to a request for comment by attacking the media. The documents also contain excerpts of depositions taken from Virginia Roberts Giuffre and Maxwell. Giuffre alleged in her deposition that Maxwell directed her to have sexual contact with people, including Prince Andrew. She previously reached an out of court settlement in her sexual assault lawsuit against him. Andrew has denied all the allegations.

Also a part of the new releases, Maxwell's own words.

HOLLY BALTZ, INVESTIGATIONS EDITOR, THE PALM BEACH POST: I saw some very interesting exchanges between Sigrid McCawley, she's an attorney who's represented many of the victims in many cases and Maxwell. There was one exchange in which McCawley asked Maxwell, did you ever tell anyone that you recruited girls in order to take pressure off yourself? And Maxwell retorted, you don't ask me questions like that.

CASAREZ (voice-over): Attorneys for Ghislaine Maxwell said in a statement on Wednesday, quote, "She has consistently and vehemently maintained her innocence." She is currently appealing a 20 year prison sentence following her 2021 conviction on five counts, including sex trafficking of a minor.


CASAREZ (on camera): Now there are three names that are still sealed in the documents that have been released so far. It's from the deposition of Virginia Giuffre. And according to this deposition, she says she was ordered to have relations with them. Now we know a little bit one is an unnamed prince. Another is an owner of a very large hotel chain. The third is just an unnamed person at this point.

And Jake, there are two J Doe, so we don't know if they're John or Jane, but they are contesting to be unsealed there before court right now. One judge is asking for more evidence in all this. Another judge is just allowing the process to go forward. So, we are now expecting more documents tonight.

TAPPER: Jean, just your best guests, are we, the public, going to find out the names of any of these high rolling friends of Jeff Epstein who actually victimized these young women, these victims of sexual human trafficking? Are we ever going to find out those names definitively?


CASAREZ: Let's look at the facts, there is some documentation from the court when they said they were going to release these documents. They said some names were not be unsealed because of privacy interests at this point, and the privacy interests outweighed the public's access at this point. Now, what's the underlying meaning of that? We don't know. So, we'll just have to wait and see, Jake, if that falls into that category.

TAPPER: All right, Jean Casarez, thanks so much.

Let's bring in investigative journalist and the executive producer of the podcast and docu series "Chasing Ghislaine," which examines Ghislaine Maxwell's relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, Vicky Ward brings -- joins us again.

Vicky, good to see you again. Thanks so much for joining. What are your initial takeaways from going through this first batch of more than 900 pages of unsealed documents?

VICKY WARD, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, "CHASING GHISLAINE": Well, Jake, to be honest, I was not that surprised by the prominent names. You know, Virginia Giuffre has been public for a long time about those names. I just found it really sickening portrait of what went on in Jeffrey Epstein's homes for so long in at such scale. I mean, what -- having visibility onto a lot of these names really do is really made this horrendous, criminal sexual enterprise, unfortunately, very vivid. Some of the anecdotes and some of the, you know, the stories we didn't know before, there's a butler who described his role as being like a human ATM, doling out cash to the women, some of them children who, you know, came in and out of the home in Palm Beach daily.

It was really difficult to read. And to be honest, that was the overwhelming impression that stuck with me.

TAPPER: Now, we should note, obviously, that someone's name appearing as an associate of Jeffrey Epstein does not mean definitively that that person has committed or been accused of any wrongdoing. But that said, are there any names that you were surprised to see in this first patch of documents?

WARD: David Copperfield, the magician. I hadn't particularly heard about him before. Michael Jackson, hadn't heard that one before. I did know -- I had read about Stephen Hawking visiting Jeffrey Epstein's Island. Because you have to remember, I mean, the -- Jeffrey Epstein used scientists and academics brilliantly as sort of camouflage.

It gave him a respectability with which to then mingle with powerful rich politicians like Bill Clinton. You know, billionaires like Leslie Wexner. You know, he was very brilliant actually at manipulating the plutocracy, just as much as he was able to manipulate young vulnerable girls.

TAPPER: Again, we should note, former President Bill Clinton's name appears, he has not been accused with evidence of any wrongdoing. But what is your reaction to this 2016 deposition by Johanna Sjoberg recounting the conversation she had with Epstein, in which Epstein said about Clinton that he likes them young.

WARD: Right. Well, you know, unfortunately, I dealt with Jeffrey Epstein way back in 2002 when I had to write a profile of him for Vanity Fair magazine. And you know, Jeffrey Epstein would often invoke the names of his famous and powerful friends. And to be honest, you have no idea how much of it was just braggadocio, you know, used to threaten me that, you know, Leslie Wexner, who was a business associate of him at the time would, you know, could possibly pull advertising if you didn't like what I was going to write. You know, it's -- as Jean said earlier, you know, it's hearsay.

And with Epstein, you just don't know. It's hard to sort out the wheat from the chaff.

TAPPER: Yes. You also say that these documents offer a shocking reminder of the role that other women played in keeping this ecosystem of abuse going. Abuse, we should note, by men, but women played a role. Tell us about that.

WARD: Yes, I mean, it's, I think, having the names of the women now visible in public, it's really jarring to read these names Emmy (ph), Sarah (ph), Nadia (ph). And obviously we don't know what roles went on in terms of, did they cooperate with the feds regarding Ghislaine Maxwell's criminal conviction, we don't know what's going on behind the scenes. But what you can see, just in these depositions is a really sickening pyramid where, you know, Ghislaine Maxwell is at the center. She even describes herself at one point as a mother hen that these women come in probably as victims for the first time, but then they go out and they recruit other women who recruit other women who all end up doing Jeffrey Epstein's bidding. And it's really distressing.


TAPPER: Yes. Vicky Ward, thank you so much. We'll have you back for future tranches released of these names. We're going to stay on top of this story. These young girls and women deserve justice. Thank you again.

This coming Saturday, we'll mark three years since that deadly attack at the U.S. Capitol. A top lawyer for the D.C. National Guard tried to report problems with the response as a whistleblower, he says. And now he says he faced retaliation for what he said. He's going to join me next.


TAPPER: In our law and justice lead, as the United States comes up on three years since that horrible day, the January 6 attack on the Capitol, a former lawyer for the D.C. National Guard says he is facing retaliation from the U.S. Army. Colonel Earl Matthews is accusing the brother of former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, General Charles Flynn, as well as Army Lieutenant General Walter Piatt of being, quote, "absolute and unmitigated liars." He made that accusation in a 36 page memo sent to the now disbanded January 6 Select Committee.

[17:15:25] Colonel Matthews said the two men lied to Congress in an attempt to rewrite how the military responded to the January 6 attack. And Colonel Earl Matthews and his attorney Andrew Bakaj join us right now. Thanks for being here. Appreciate it.

Let me start with you, Colonel Matthews. So key to this dispute is who was responsible for that four hour delay it took to deploy the National Guard as rioters breached the Capitol. In the memo you sent to Congress, you accuse the Pentagon of being behind that delay. And you point to these two people who you claimed were concerned with optics, instead of security. Tell us about that.

COL. EARL G. MATTHEWS, FORMER STAFF JUDGE ADVOCATE, D.C. NATIONAL GUARD: Well, just to be clear, Walter Piatt and Michael -- and --

TAPPER: Charles.

MATTHEWS: -- Charles Flynn were not in chain of command. But they were key advisors and key action officers for the Secretary Army, it wasn't a chain of command. So what they did and said mattered. And, you know, my concern was not really what they did on January 6, but what they did after in the aftermath, as we tried to discover what happened. And you mentioned that I was the senior legal officer for D.C. National Guard, a little bit more about my background, I was actually the chief legal officer Department of the Army.

So between January 2000 -- I'm sorry, June 2017 and January '18, I was the acting general counsel of the Army. So I know Mike -- I'm sorry, I know Ryan McCarthy, the Secretary of Army was a good friend of mine, Mark Milley, Chris Miller, Secretary of Defense, they were personal friends of mine. I was a senior official at the NSC senior legal for Defense. So, my issue is, Jake, that I -- in November 2021, a DOD IG report came out because I reviewed it was flawed, it's filled with --


MATTHEWS: Factual inaccuracies --


MATTHEWS: -- deliberate misspelled representations, half-truths why Army officials, and I was concerned. Why was I concerned? Because I love the United States Army, I'm a soldier. At the core of the Army, ethos is integrity. It's that Army value which undergirds everything we do. And I saw Army officers not telling the truth, lying about it, and nothing was done about it.



TAPPER: Go ahead, Andrew, I mean --

BAKAJ: Well, and that's the thing about this complaint.


BAKAJ: The reason why we file the whistleblower reprisal complaint is because Colonel Matthews has been retaliated against because he brought forward his concerns to Congress, and federal law just prohibit retaliation against military officers, because they make a protected disclosure, meaning a disclosure of a violation of law, rule or regulation. And so right now, what we're doing is we're trying to ensure that Colonel Matthews is being treated with the dignity and respect that he should be afforded. And we're looking forward to having these issues brought to light. So that way, the forcing functions with the public knowledge of what happened on January 6 can allow for an independent investigation of all of these issues.


BAKAJ: So that way, Army values can be ensured.

MATTHEWS: But more importantly, Jake, I'm a big boy, I'm not a crybaby here. You know, what happen to me is rapid. So, what I really care about is the Army and about the Army (inaudible) to itself. And what my main concern was that when our memo came out with the Army double down, and said they still by Piatt and Flynn, that they support it and believe their testimony was completely accurate. Now, in my memorandum, I have a section called lying under oath, which I go line by line, through obvious misrepresentation, obvious misstatements of fact.

TAPPER: Do you have evidence beyond your testimony? I'm not saying I --


TAPPER: -- dispute your testimony --


TAPPER: -- but do you have evidence beyond that, that proves that they were lying in there -- in what they told Congress?

MATTHEWS: Sure. Well, if you look at Charles Flynn's testimony on June 2021 to House Oversight Committee, and you look at his test -- his transcribed deposition from January 6 committee totally contradictory. In his June 2021 testimony, he claims that he immediately move to establish a team of 40 officers and noncommissioned officers to get 154 D.C. National Guardsmen to the Capitol. Now I say in my memo, that's a total misrepresentation.


MATTHEWS: He had no role whatsoever in doing that. And again, Jake, I was the chief legal officer for Department of Army. I'm well known to folks in the Army, they know me, my reputation is solid. I'm telling you, that Charles Flynn is -- his statements are totally false and misleading.

TAPPER: Yes. MATTHEWS: And I outline all of it. And then --

TAPPER: I just want to give you a chance to respond to something because the Army just gave us a new statement.


TAPPER: And they said, quote, "While I can't comment on an ongoing action, I can say, as we had before that the Army's actions on January 6th have been well documented and reported on, and General Flynn, Charles Flynn, and Lieutenant Gen. Piatt have been open honest and thorough in their sworn testimony with Congress and Department of Defense investigators. We stand by all testimony and facts provided to date and vigorously reject any allegations to the contrary."


MATTHEWS: Well, I just hope that people look at Charles Flynn's transcribed deposition testimony and compare it to his June 2021 testimony, totally contradictory. Shows he lied. If you go back -- if you go to the Appendix 2 of the January 6 committee findings, it show most of the stuff he says it's just not true. And --

BAKAJ: And you cooperate with that investigation?

MATTHEWS: Exactly. I was the -- exactly. And I spoke to members of the blue team who were conducting that investigation, the investigative team, they acknowledged to me that much of what was said was not accurate.


MATTHEWS: But they said that they could not -- I mean, they could tell the committee but it was up to the committee to release that. And I think there was a lot of things to focus on the security element in the military.

TAPPER: You think that the January 6 committee was more focused on Donald Trump --

MATTHEWS: Yes. And I think --

TAPPER: -- than on things that should be addressed in terms of security, if there's a future incident?

MATTHEWS: Exactly. And I think they wanted to hold back in the Army and not come out.

BAKAJ: And I think your disclosure, in fact, rebutting or I should say going point by point with the DOD IG's findings --


BAKAJ: -- is really important because that gives an opportunity for DOD to relook and reexamine what they need to do. What they need to do to get to the ground truth. TAPPER: You're not in uniform today because you're not here as an officer, but you are still --

MATTHEWS: I'm a reserve officer.

TAPPER: You're reserve officer.

MATTHEWS: So, yes.

TAPPER: OK. Colonel Earl Matthews, Andrew Bakaj, thanks to both of you for being here.

BAKAJ: Thank you.

TAPPER: Really appreciate it. Stay in touch with us about how this all goes.

As we speak, CNN crews are putting the final touches on the stage for back to back town halls tonight in Iowa. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis will be up first, then Ambassador Nikki Haley. What might help them break through tonight before voters get to set the real tone and make the real choices in the 2024 race. We're going to get into that next. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our 2024 lead -- 2024, cue the music. Yes. Stages sets, just two hours CNN's going to host two town halls, Governor Ron DeSantis and Ambassador Nikki Haley. Guys, we're going to start at 09:00 p.m. Eastern this evening, just a few hours away. This comes as we're only 11 days away from the Iowa caucuses when the first votes in the 2024 presidential race will actually be cast.

Republican Strategist Alice Stewart and Democratic Strategist Karen Finney are here with me now.

So Alice, Iowa votes first followed by New Hampshire, Nikki Haley made some comments about this that her opponents are seizing upon. Take a listen.


NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know Iowa starts it, you know that you correct it. You know that you continue to go --

GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it was incredibly disrespectful to Iowans to say somehow their votes need to be, quote, "corrected." I think she's trying to provide an excuse for her not doing well.


TAPPER: All right. So, she was talking to a New Hampshire audience. And there is this history of New Hampshire voting differently than Iowa, whether it's Iowa going for Obama, New Hampshire going for Hillary, or Iowa going for Ted Cruz, you remember that.


TAPPER: And New Hampshire -- and New Hampshire going for Trump. There is this history. But what do you make of it?

STEWART: Look, I think -- look, you look at historically, Iowa generally -- whoever wins the Iowa caucus, doesn't necessarily mean they're going to be the nominee for the party and certainly in the general election. But you still have to love and respect those Iowa voters.


STEWART: You have to be out there right now 11 days out, we're in the 11th hour, you're gripping and grinning with those people. You're not giving them the backhand. And I think that was a mistake. Clearly, they're looking at where they feel they're going to land in Iowa, potentially third place, but they are doing strong in New Hampshire and South Carolina. She's really playing to that audience.

But you have to remember, everything you say is on television and being recorded. And the people in Iowa are certainly going to hear that. But I think right now she's banking on doing well in Iowa and doing a strong finish in New Hampshire and South Carolina. But the reality is, you never want to take Iowa for granted. And you certainly don't want to insult them.

KAREN FINNEY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: But you know, there's also a competition between Iowa and New Hampshire that goes back, you know, for a long time. So, I actually viewed that, as she knows her chances in New Hampshire are better. She's doing much better in the polls. DeSantis is trying to make his stand in Iowa. And so this was a way to kind of juice the electorate a little bit to say, come on you all, I know you can turn out for me.

I mean, we've seen that dynamic as well. So I sort of took -- I agree with you. I wouldn't advise, you know, sloughing off any voters at this point, but I think she was trying to kind of appeal to New Hampshire voters and say, come on, I'm counting on you.

STEWART: Yes. And if there are any voters in Iowa that were kind of on the fence, I think they probably may have dropped it in a different -- in a different backyard after that statement.


TAPPER: We'll see. So Alice, for the first time in the 2024 election cycle, Trump is out with a new ad attacking Nikki Haley in New Hampshire, giving you an idea of how good her momentum is in New Hampshire. Here's a little clip of it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Haley and Biden oppose Trump's border wall, confirm warnings of terrorists sneaking into our southern border, yet Haley joined Biden in opposing Trump's visitor ban from terrorists nations. Haley's weakness puts us in grave danger.


TAPPER: OK, well, the visitor ban was the Muslim ban, which is --

FINNEY: Yes --

TAPPER: -- which is pretty unpopular by a lot of people. But in terms of Trump opposing -- in terms of Haley opposing Trump's border wall, Haley says that's not true that the Trump people are taking comments out of context. She said the border wall would not be enough. But this is clear evidence that he sees her as a threat.

STEWART: Clearly. Look, Trump's never let the facts get in the way of a good ad and this is no exception to that. Look, he is obviously seeing her as a threat in New Hampshire and that is why he's putting this ad out there.

If you notice, up until now, his main attacks and ads and pushback on social media have been against President Biden, thinking he is going to mop the floor in the primary and take on Joe Biden, which is a smart strategy. But if you see them having to go after and spend good hard money on ads against another Republican, he clearly sees her as a threat in New Hampshire. And if I were the Haley campaign, I would say bring it on, and double down on this issue.

TAPPER: There's another ad that I want to show you also airing, I think this is a digital ad from Chris Christie. Pretty interesting. Take a listen.


CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have an admission to make. Eight years ago, when I decided to endorse Donald Trump for president, I did it because he was winning. And I did it, because I thought I can make him a better candidate, and a better president. Well, I was wrong. I made a mistake.


TAPPER: What do you think?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN COMMENTATOR: You know, it's too late, Chris, come on now. Nobody's I mean, that's what I would say that nobody's buying it. I mean, he made a valiant effort to try to see if he could make some inroads with a slice of the electorate that was in the GOP primary that was open to that message. There aren't enough voters. Clearly it's not working. He hasn't gained momentum. He had a small bump early on, and now, I mean it's nice. I think it's a lovely ad, but it's just not working at this point. I don't think it's going to -- I think what we're going to see at the end of New Hampshire is a lot more calls for him to get out.

STEWART: Yes. And there's a lot of Republicans that share that sentiment, they have buyer's remorse. They voted for Trump once and possibly twice, thinking that he would grow into the office, he would tone down the divisive rhetoric, and he didn't. And people are looking to turn the page. I do think the best chance for people that share that sentiment with Governor Christie is, let's find another candidate and the party writ large, one candidate, winner the field after Iowa, New Hampshire, and let's have a good head to head competition between a non-Trump candidate and Donald Trump. And then we have a fighting chance.

TAPPER: And who -- you like Haley?

STEWART: Look, I'm for anyone that can take on Joe Biden and win. And I don't have a dog in this hunt in terms of who the non-Trump candidate should be. But if you're looking at head to head against Biden, most of the polls show Nikki Haley has a better chance --

FINNEY: Yes. And I think, again, we're seeing that, yes, many Republicans may feel that way. But that is not who is coming out to vote in the primary unless there's some, you know, crazy thing happens in New Hampshire. So far, it hasn't seen that that message has really caught on enough to motivate people.

TAPPER: All right, Karen and Alice, thanks so much. Good to have you here.

The CNN town halls begin tonight at 9:00 Eastern. CNN's Kaitlan Collins will moderate the first conversation with Ron DeSantis. Then Erin Burnett will host Nikki Haley. Then next Wednesday, I'm going to moderate the CNN Republican presidential debate with my colleague, Dana Bash. That's January 10th also live from Des Moines. You should also, by the way, tune into The Situation Room after this show if you want to see an interview with Chris Christie himself.

In this first week of 2024, several big cities can now report that their murder rates went down last year. That's noteworthy and positive. But in many cases, overall crime including violent crime went up. So what can authorities do about this? I'm going to ask one big city mayor next.



TAPPER: Back with our Law and Justice Lead now, a big city police departments all over the United States are reporting lower murder rates in 2023 plunging between 11 percent to 20 percent in cities such as New York and Philadelphia, Detroit, Phoenix, Los Angeles. CNN's Omar Jimenez has been diving into the data. Omar, is this just a blip these lower murder rates or part of a larger trend?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so as you show the homicide rates for the five biggest cities in the United States, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Phoenix all fell by over 10 percent, places like Philadelphia and Baltimore saw drops in homicides, over 20 percent. So it does appear to be a downward trend, but at least compared to 2020, which is significant because that was the first year of the pandemic and more. But that was also the first year that many of these cities saw a major spike in homicides, so a downward trend at least compared to there.

Now for many of these cities, they also saw decreases in shootings as well, which is oftentimes a better indicator of at least a willingness to commit violence that said, not every place saw decreases, places like Washington, D.C., saw an increase in murders by over 30 percent and got to a level of homicides not seen in a decade there. And when you look at a place like Memphis, murders jumped over 40 percent through September when you have places like Detroit that saw their lowest levels of murders since the 60s. So that's sort of the picture when it comes to murders.

That said, we were also looking at nonviolent and violent crime as well, because that's a little bit more of a complicated picture. When you look at Chicago, for example, murders and shootings down double digits. But when you look at things like car thefts and robberies, those were up 20 and 30 percent, specifically since 2019, car thefts in Chicago up over 200 percent. In Philadelphia was a similar story, retail thefts up almost 30 percent, and car thefts up almost 70 percent.

And that reflects a little bit of what we've seen nationwide. So there are a lot of factors at play when it comes to feeling safe. And I do just want to say that as we've been talking about numbers, specifically when it comes to homicides, these are still individuals lives that were lost and decreases in numbers doesn't bring back some of the people that were shot and killed in many cases, Jake.

TAPPER: Omar Jimenez, thanks so much.

Let's bring in the mayor of Baltimore, Brandon Scott. Mayor Scott, thanks for joining us. So Baltimore had fewer than 300 homicides in 2023. That's the lowest number since 2014, still too many people, but it is the lowest. What do you think works and what do you think doesn't work when it comes to reducing the murder rate in Baltimore?

MAYOR BRANDON SCOTT (D), BALTIMORE: Well, Jake, I think, I thank you for having me, we have to start off by understanding not only that we see 300 homicides in these years following 2015 much in my lifetime, and that's what pushed me in the public service. We did something that Baltimore had never done before. We created a comprehensive violence prevention plan that focused on in addition to making sure that our Police Department was operating in a better way investing historic investments into community violence intervention, building an ecosystem working with community groups, expanding our hospital based violence response, making sure that we're focusing in on those who are most at risk to be the victim of perpetrator, of gun violence in our city through our group violence reduction strategy, where we give them the option to change their life.


And if they don't, bring the full weight of law enforcement down on them. Doing all of those things is how we've been able to reduce homicides in Baltimore, having the largest single year drop on record for Baltimore from one year to the next. And all the same time, Jake, while seeing our police department have fewer arrests, illegal arrests happening under our consent decree taking 20 to 100 illegal guns off, nothing is a one stop shop for reducing homicides and shootings. You have to do all of it. It has to be comprehensive. And that's what it should be done.

TAPPER: I don't want to take anything away from the achievements of your policies. But we should also note Baltimore, as a city saw a sizable 8 percent dip in population over the last 12 years according to the census. Is that a factor as well in the dropping murder rate?

SCOTT: No. When you look at where we've been historically in Baltimore, right, but also understanding the folks that have been leaving, they're not the folks in neighborhoods that had been impacted by the violence, can't pick up and just leave. We're talking about understanding that Baltimore has buck national trends, right, in the history of our city when all the other cities, we're seeing reductions of Baltimore, we're seeing increases, right? And this past year, we saw a reduction, but we saw a reduction and that was almost twice that of the national average having a 20 percent reduction in homicides in Baltimore.

TAPPER: So your strategy specifically, as you described, it targets some of the most violent offenders. Other big city mayors, such as Philadelphia's new mayor, Cheryl Parker, she's declared a blanket public safety emergency, with an emphasis on shutting down all open air drug markets. Why do you think your approach is better?

SCOTT: Well, I don't disagree with my sister mayor's approach. I just think that our approach is the one that's been proven to work and our city, right? And when you think about that, we're going after the most violent groups, and they're operating drug shops, that's stuff that we're going to continuously do. But I will remind everybody that when we had zero tolerance policies in Baltimore, and everything was about getting drugs and drugs off the streets, violence didn't drop. We have to see that when you focus on the groups, those that are most responsible for the violence, is how you get the significant amount of drop in homicides in our city, we're going to continue to go after people that are dealing illegal drugs, using guns no matter who they are.

But we know there's a small group of people, Jake, who are the ones committing the acts of violence, and we go to them and tell them, quite frankly, they get a letter directly from me, the mayor, that says, we know who you are, we know what you do. This is your last chance. We will give you every resource to change your life. But if you don't, we're going to bring the hammer down on you. But when you're doing that when you have safe streets, community violence intervention workers who are out there, credible message is doing the work. When you're partnering with community organizations like we are us and challenge to change here in Baltimore who are doing the work, when you're investing into victim services and hospital based response, it's a collective approach.

All of it has to matter. When you focus on the guns no matter where they come from, what was 60 percent of our guns coming from outside of the state. We have to do all of it. Simply going after drugs is not going to reduce violence. TAPPER: Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, continued success, I hope you get that murder rate down to zero. And thank you so much for being with us today.


Coming up next on THE LEAD, a man who witnessed one of the most horrific events of the initial Hamas attack on October 7th, his story is tough to hear. It's tough to hear what human beings are capable of doing to another -- what Hamas is capable of doing to innocent people. Yet it is important to know what happened from eyewitnesses. We're going to hear his account, next.


TAPPER: The more time that passes since the October 7th attacks by Hamas on Israel, the more we are learning about the sexual violence and rapes Hamas terrorists committed against Israeli girls and women. Hamas, a terrorist organization that lies all the time has of course denied claims of rape or sexual assault. And witnesses, the ones that are able to speak out are beginning to speak out about what they have seen firsthand. We want to warn you the details of what you're about to hear from one witness we just spoke to are disturbing.

And one of those witnesses is 24-year-old Roz Cohen who attended that Nova Festival with his friends and he survived. Roz, I know none of this is easy to talk about. But it's important that the world hear from witnesses while you were hiding out that day hiding from Hamas. You saw five men, five of these terrorists, pulling a young woman out of a van. Tell us what you saw next.

ROZ COHEN, WITNESS: I hide in the bush. And 30 meters from the bush, I saw a white van that arrived near the bush. And from the van, five guys, five civilians is from Gaza, normal civilians is not soldiers from Nocbus (ph) soldiers. It was the regular people from Gaza with the normal clothes and they started to pull her clothes off. It was like half a circle and the girl was in the middle of the circle. And after they pulled the clothes off of the girl and they started to -- one of them started to rape her.


And it was something like 40 seconds. And after he raped her, he take a knife and he kill her, murder her. And after he did it, he continued to rape the dead body.

TAPPER: What was the attitude of this group while they were doing this? Where were they angry? Were they cursing? Were they -- what were they doing?

COHEN: They don't was angry. They always laugh. I think it was for fun. They murdered a lot of people for fun. They always laugh.

TAPPER: What did they do after they raped her and killed her? And what did they do after that?

COHEN: They started to run after a one couple, boy and a girl that they saw and they murder them too.

TAPPER: With knives?

COHEN: With a knife and the axes.

TAPPER: You know there are people out there who deny that there were rapes or sexual assaults against Israeli women on October 7th. I know you're a witness, what do you say to the people who deny that these things happened?

COHEN: It's effect. I don't like what I saw it's what happened. If someone say that it's not happened is a liar because until this moment that I stand here and talk with you, always think about what if so, in this moment in the bush?

TAPPER: How did you manage to survive that day?

COHEN: So I keep hiding in the same bush, something like nine hours until the Israeli soldiers found us and take us.

TAPPER: What else did you see that day that you think the world needs to know about?

COHEN: Before I arrived to the bush, I'm running in a opened field. There were something like 300 people and it was like a rage, the Hamas shoot from right, from left and from behind in the open field and so a lot of dead bodies. I was very close to some girl. And when I passed there, I look back and I heard that she fell on the ground and I'm looking back to the girl and enough so that she get shot in the head. I'm looking at the girl but I can't help their -- helped her.


COHEN: I can't. So I'm keeping run away until I get to the bush.

TAPPER: I also understand that your girlfriend that you went to the festival with did not make it out alive. Tell us about her.

COHEN: Her name is Maya. We're dating for something like two months. And I came to the festival because she go to the festival and I wanted to be with her, they murder the journey started in a 6:30 a.m. She go with her friends to the road. They wanted to escape. And me and my friend, Sean (ph), and my cousin, Yum (ph), we decided to stay in the open area because we didn't want to be a target. Hamas seen something like 1,000 cars together, so they shoot to them all the rockets, so we didn't want to be in the road with a lot of cars because it's like one car, they get shot with a rocket and then another car and another car and another car.

So when she go with her friends in 7:00 a.m., the Hamas start to -- they did a ambush in the road. And I can't keep that in 7:00 something like this. They murdered Maya and their friend, Karina (ph).

TAPPER: It's awful. What else do you want the world to know about that day, Roz? What else should the world know?


COHEN: I want the world know that we are strong. And no matter who is coming to try to beat us, we are here forever.

TAPPER: Roz Cohen, thank you so much for telling us your story. We appreciate it.

COHEN: Thank you.

TAPPER: And we'll be right back.


TAPPER: A Las Vegas judge is recovering after a stunning courtroom attack caught on video. The defendant jumped over the bench yesterday and started pummeling the judge. The defendant was in court facing a battery charge. The judge had just denied his probation request. The local district attorney says, the judge has some bruises and has shaken up understandably but will be OK. A marshal was also injured in the attack. The defendant now faces 13 new charges for those actions yesterday.

A quick pop over to the 2024 lead, we mentioned this a lot because it's a big deal back to back town halls this evening, Ron DeSantis, in 9:00 Eastern. Then Nikki Haley at 10:00 moderated by Kaitlan and Erin only tonight, only here on CNN.


Next Wednesday I'm going to moderate the CNN Republican presidential debate along with my colleague, Dana Bash. We will also be live from Des Moines in beautiful Iowa. Until tomorrow, you can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Threads X, formerly known as Twitter and on the TikTok at JakeTapper. You follow the show on X at TheLeadCNN. If you ever miss an episode a lead you can listen to the show once you get your podcasts, all two hours just sitting there like a delicious ripe peach.

Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM". I'll see you tomorrow.