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The Lead with Jake Tapper

DOJ Release Scathing Report On Police Response To Uvalde Massacre; Tonight: CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall With Nikki Haley; E. Jean Carroll Finishes Testimony, Trump Not In Court Today; Trump: Presidents Can "Cross The Line" & Still Have Immunity; Awaiting House Vote On Bill To Keep Government Open Until Early March; House Republicans Interview Hunter Biden Ally & Lawyer Kevin Morris. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired January 18, 2024 - 16:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: The Buckingham Palace revealed that he will go undergo a procedure for a benign enlarged prostate next week. The queen also said he was looking forward to getting back to work.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Yeah, all the best to them and their health issues. Hopefully, it turns out right.

KEILAR: Yeah, certainly.

SANCHEZ: THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts in just a few seconds. Thanks for joining us today.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Nineteen dead students, two dead teachers, and the police force that failed them.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Five hundred plus pages detailing what went wrong on May 24, 2022. The Justice Department is out with its Uvalde report.

Coming up, what families of victims killed that day saying now about the long list of failures, the attorney general is calling out.

Plus, Donald Trump's latest immunity defense -- presidents can do anything even when they crossed the line, written in all caps online, in the middle of the night. Was it a message to his MAGA base or the U.S. Supreme Court?

And Israel's disturbing find in Gaza, during a search mission to find hostages taken by Hamas, the discovery at a cemetery leading to a brand new investigation.


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper live at New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire, the site of tonight's CNN town hall with GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley.

I'll be moderating the town hall and there is so much that New Hampshire voters want to ask the former U.N. ambassador and South Carolina governor before they go to vote in next Tuesday's primary, much more to come on the race for 2024.

But we're going to begin with our law and justice lead today -- the 2022 Robb Elementary School massacre in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and two teachers killed that could have been stopped much sooner. And that's what the U.S. Department of Justice's nearly 600- page report into the botched police response found.

Justice Department officials bluntly calling the 376 police officer response and unimaginable failure -- a failure to take any action at all for 77 minutes, even though police could hear 45 rounds of gunshots ringing out in the classrooms, even though there were numerous 911 calls made by a child inside one of the classrooms, there were parents begging to run into the school and save their children who were forced to stay outside the building. And the Justice Department's review of this epic failure by police does not stop there. Imagine being told by police that your child survived the shooting when in fact he or she did not? That's just a sliver of the chaos, confusion, contradictions, and lack of accountability that unfolded minutes after the shooter was killed and continued in the days, months, and more than a year after.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz, who has spent months investigating this deadly school shooting, has more on the Justice Department's scathing report and the reaction to it.


SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER (voice-over): A parent's worst nightmare and a national tragedy made worse, now that responding officers are blamed for serious failures in Uvalde by the U.S. Justice Department in a damning new report.

MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The law enforcement response at Robb Elementary school on May 24th, 2022, and in the hours and days after was a failure that should not have happened.

KIMBERLY MATA-RUBIO, MOTHER OF UVALDE VICTIM LEXI RUBIO: I hope that the failures and today it local officials do what wasn't done that day, do right by the victims and survivors of Robb Elementary terminations, criminal prosecution.

PROKUPECZ: Bursts of gunfire, reports of teachers were shot, a desperate 911 call from a trapped student, major events that should have prompted police to step in immediately. Instead, it took 77 minutes to kill the gunman, leaving 19 children and two teachers dead. The long awaited 575-page report is the fullest accounting of what happened, highlighting the serious failures in the police response.

JOSHUA KOSKOFF, LAWYER, KOSKOFF, KOSKOFF, AND BIEDER: These families didn't need 400 or 500-page government report so learn that law enforcement failed them in a historic way. PROKUPECZ: While quick to arrive to the scene, law enforcement

stopped outside the classroom where the gunman was on a killing spree inside, the report found.

GARLAND: I think the report concludes that had law enforcement agencies followed generally accepted practices in an active shooter situation and gone right after the shooter to stop him, lives would have been saved and people would have survived.

PROKUPECZ: Countless other issues identified in the report after the gunman was killed from the emergency medical response to how bereaved parents were told their children were dead.

VANITA GUPTA, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Many family members waited at the school for hours without status updates. At one point, hours after the shooting, an official incorrectly told families waiting for their children at the civic center that an additional bus of survivors was coming. It did not.

PROKUPECZ: Many family members of victims and survivors thankful for the federal report detailing what went wrong that horrific day, but they continue to demand accountability.

VERONICA MATA, MOTHER OF UVALDE VICTIM TESS MATA: We're grateful that we got what we have right now because its probably the most updated information that any of us have gotten.

JAZMIN CAZARES, SISTER OF UVALDE VICTIM JACKLYN CASAREZ: This is probably the most extensive piece that we have about all of the failures that happen that day. What else does she possibly need to prosecute or to remove these people from their positions of power when they can even do their jobs?

PROKUPECZ: The federal assessment does not make any recommendations for punitive steps for law enforcement. The Uvalde district attorney says she's continuing to investigate, but families say they want charges brought against the officers.

MATA: I think we're going to continue fighting. We're going to continue fighting that some type of changes made in honor of our kids.


PROKUPECZ (on camera): And, Jake, you would think that's something so horrific, such a horrific event would bring the community together, would bring the families, the support that they need. It did not happen. And this report highlights that.

For the families -- for the families today, Jake, they hope that with this report now, that all changes and perhaps it will be unity here and the support that they so much need will finally come.

TAPPER: Shimon Prokupecz in Uvalde, Texas, thank you so much for all your reporting since that horrible day.

Let's bring in Republican Congressman Tony Gonzales of Texas, whose congressional district includes Uvalde.

Congressman, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said today that, quote, lives would have been saved and people would have survived if the Uvalde police had moved in sooner to kill the shooter. What is your reaction to the Justice Department report?

REP. TONY GONZALES (R-TX): Yeah, it's a tough day for us that live and work around Uvalde. First, I want to thank you for covering the story I spoke with you that the day after the shooting from Uvalde and here we are nearly two years later and you're still covering it. I'm grateful for that.

You know, I spoke with the attorney general last week at length. I spoke with the assistant attorney general this week ahead of the releasing of this report. And, you know, anytime there is a shooting, whether it's in Perry, Iowa, or whether it's in Maine, we are almost re-victimized in Uvalde. And today's report is certainly opened up a lot of -- lot of old scars, but I also think it's important for us to acknowledge the mishaps, acknowledge the lack of communication, the lack of policy, the lack of reaction, understand that, and then fix it, and then find a way to make sure that what happened in Uvalde never happens again.

TAPPER: Listed in the Justice Department report are then school police chief Pete Arredondo, then acting Uvalde police chief Mariano Pargas, and Uvalde County sheriff Ruben Nolasco. Sheriff Nolasco was running for reelection. All three of them singled out for failing to lead.

I have to ask just off the off the top, how on earth does Sheriff Nolasco still have a job?

GONZALES: You know, that's -- that's up to the county of Uvalde to determine who they want to lead. I will say this and no ones really talking about this piece to it, Jake, is these officers that responded in some cases, you know, an officer's wife was in the -- it was in the classroom. There cousins were in the classroom, their neighbors were in the classroom.

It wasn't as if they weren't connected. The community is very small and very tight so there was a failure on many cases. But this sentiment that, you know, some folks were cowards and they didn't want to go in, that's the furthest thing from the truth. But there were a lot of breakdowns. And how do we fix it?

One of the discussions I had with the attorney general was out of this report. There's a lot of recommendations, and we have already started to work together, my office with the Department of Justice on how we fix some of these things, you know, with grants, with federal funding, talking to local leadership. And like you mentioned, how do you bring maybe new leadership in to fix -- to fix the ideas as well

TAPPER: Right. But obviously, the big lesson learned in 1999 during the Columbine shooting was the previous law enforcement way of thinking that you wait outside, doesn't work. That what law enforcement needs to do is run in immediately and that didn't happen. This is 23 years after Columbine.

I have to ask also, do you have any idea why the Uvalde County District Attorney Christina Mitchell has not filed any charges against any of the law enforcement officers who failed that day? Is there not a relevant criminal statute?

GONZALES: I do not know why she hasn't. But I do know -- you know, there was a reason why the mayor at the time reached out to Department of Justice and requested this independent review, if there will, because there was a lot of infighting. And I think is very important and I applaud the Department of Justice for putting together this very comprehensive minute by minute account of what occurred, you know, that will never bring the children back, but we do have to learn from this.

And once again, we have to find real tangible solutions that bring -- that makes sure this doesn't happen again, and it can't just be rhetoric, right? We can't just wait for the next shooting.

I'll also say this, too, is since the Uvalde shooting, we've seen several school shootings. We've seen several different incidences where you have seen local law enforcement, if you will, almost learn from what happened in Uvalde and run to the fire. So I hope that continues to be the standard throughout our country.

TAPPER: Lastly, whether its red flag laws or raising the age where somebody can purchase or even possess a firearm, is there any gun restriction that you support now that you didn't support before Uvalde, that might have helped prevent this?

GONZALES: You know, I continue to look for common sense things I do not support a weapons ban of any sort. I do not support a universal background check of any sort. I do not support anything that infringes upon the Constitution or, or prevents those from having due process.

I do, however, support and I do think we can work in a manner that protects the Constitution and protects our children. And that is the space I'm looking for top-rated. I think there's a lot of people more and more people. Jake, have a direct story of a shooting in their district or their state, and I do think there is there is of growing number of lawmakers that do want to have sensible solutions. I'm committed to that. And I look forward to continue to work with my colleagues and the White House to find reasonable solutions.

TAPPER: Why don't you support universal background checks? If people have to go through background checks to buy a firearm at a gun store, why shouldn't they have to go through it at a gun show, especially when there are clearly individuals -- we've seen a lot of shootings in the last few years from individuals who clearly are not right in a basic background check might have prevented tragedy.

GONZALES: Yeah. It's about due process. It's about how long and in some cases, you know, a backlog of a background check will prevent someone, a person from legally purchasing -- purchasing a firearm. So that's what I don't want to see happen, is a person who is legally abiding by the rules doing everything they can not be able to purchase a firearm in a reasonable amount of time because there's this excess backlog.

I did, however, support the Safer Communities Act and very proud of that, and that extended background checks for minors. And since that piece of legislation has signed into law, there's been over 400 similar Uvalde shootings that have been prevented. And I think that's an opportunity that we can grow on, that type of legislation.

TAPPER: Republican Congressman Tony Gonzales of Texas, good to see you, sir, as always.

GONZALES: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Here in New Hampshire, we are counting down to tonight's CNN town hall with former Governor Nikki Haley. She's facing new political attacks from Donald Trump, but this is not Iowa. How those attacks might play here in New Hampshire. I'm going to talk to a Republican insider in this state, next.


[16: 17:50]

TAPPER: And we're back with our 2024 lead. Cue that music, the election jam.

In just a few hours, I will moderate a Republican president central town hall with Nikki Haley. Some recent polls in this state have shown the former South Carolina governor within striking distance of Donald Trump. A win for Haley here on Tuesday could reshape the presidential race as we know it, and a loss would certainly bring more uncertainty about whether any Republican candidate is capable of mounting any sort of serious challenge to Donald Trump.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is in nearby Manchester, New Hampshire.

Jeff, is Nikki Haley ramping up attacks and criticisms of Donald Trump as we get closer to this New Hampshire primary?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESOPNDENT: Jake, she's definitely responding much more forcefully to the attacks that really have been coming fast and furiously ever since the Iowa caucuses. I was with Nikki Haley earlier today and I'm not sure I've seen her that aggressive and sharpen her responses to the former president. She said if he's going to lie about me, I'll tell the truth about him.


NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Trump says things, Americans aren't stupid to just believe what he says. The reality is, who lost the House for us? Who lost the Senate? Who lost the White House? Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Donald Trump.

Nikki Haley will win every single one of those back for us. I've proven that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ZELENY: So that's an electability argument there, responding specifically to the former president who last night here in New Hampshire said that a vote for Nikki Haley is a vote for Joe Biden. So she clearly is trying to make that electability argument as well as pushing back against some of his false -- that television ads on Social Security, the border, and much more, Jake.

TAPPER: And, Jeff, a few weeks ago, it looked like she had real momentum here in New Hampshire. What are you hearing from voters in New Hampshire today?

ZELENY: Well, talking to a lot of voters out here, Jake, they're no doubt that the undeclared voters in New Hampshire, about 40 percent of the state's electorate is the central part of her campaign strategy. But at the town halls and rallies, she's been having, we're also finding many Republicans, former Trump supporters, who are also very interested in supporting her.

Here's a conversation with Susan Rice in Rochester last night.


SUSAN RICE, HALEY SUPPORTER: I really like Nikki Haley.


I'm a staunch Republican. I have been my entire life, and I think it's time to have a woman as the president. I like her foreign policies. I like the fact that she has a good understanding of our southern border, and what she wants to do for that.


ZELENY: So that is someone who voted for Trump twice in 2016 and again in 2020. So, sort of belying the argument that Trump's been making that Nikki Haley is trying to infiltrate the primary in his words by only having moderates vote in it. There's no doubt that many Republicans also interested in turning the page. The question, of course, is just how many.

But, Jake, without a doubt, five days before the New Hampshire primary and incredibly different phase, a more aggressive phase from Nikki Haley -- Jake.

TAPPER: Yeah, I also talked to a two time Trump voter who seems intrigued by Nikki Haley and a little tired of Donald Trump, though she still doesn't know how she's going to vote.

Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much.

Let's discuss now with a prominent figure in Granite State politics, former New Hampshire Republican Party chairman Steve Duprey, who is supporting Nikki Haley, who was also a senior adviser to John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign.

Steve, good to see again. In this 2024 Republican primary, you first supported Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, then he dropped out. Then you switch to Nikki Haley.

Why her? And do you want to hear her go after Trump more directly going forward, including in tonight's town hall?

STEVE DUPREY, FORMER CHAIRMAN, NEW HAMPSHIRE REPUBLICAN PARTY: Well, I think she should. When you're attacked, you need to respond. She needs to show she can be as forceful, but do so without being petty and insulting, which I think helps distinguish her. I think with Nikki Haley, what you get is not only turning the page on older politicians, but somebody who can deliver on a conservative agenda without the chaos, without the drama, without the tweets.

And I think she's getting a good base of support among Republicans who say, hey, I liked some of the ideas that Donald Trump espoused as president but I want somebody who gets it done and doesn't pick needless fights. So let's turn the page.

I'm hearing that from Republicans and then independents, as you know, gave a big margin to McCain in 2000, helped bring him back in 2008. She's appealing to them as well, as somebody who is just beyond all this drama and chaos.

TAPPER: Nikki Haley said she would not participate in proposed debates by CNN, by ABC News. So those were canceled. She said she wouldn't do it unless Donald Trump were there. And obviously Donald Trump is refusing to debate anyone.

Do you agree with Haley's move? Was that the right thing to do?

DUPREY: Well, while I feel sorry and I loved those debates and I have a number of RNC colleagues coming up to witness the New Hampshire primary, I think it was a smart strategic move because it basically gave airtime to a candidacy that I think is dying. And that's Governor DeSantis's. Why let a candidate who's so far behind in the polls, not really competing in New Hampshire have airtime to attack you? I think she's tactically and strategically, it's very smart to say, I only want to debate Joe Biden or Donald Trump.

So even though it doesn't make for great opportunity to get a broader audience, I think tactically it was the right decision to not give Governor DeSantis anymore airtime as his campaign seems to be faltering.

TAPPER: Well, you can say it's faltering, but he did meet her in Iowa, right?

DUPREY: He did better in Iowa, but he put almost all of his eggs in that basket. She really didn't play there until the polls looked like she might pull off a second. I'm sure she was disappointed that not quite make that one. I think that would have given her from boast, but she certainly has put the effort in here and this is a very important state.

This state is important for her as Iowa was for Governor DeSantis.

TAPPER: A couple of weeks ago, Chris Christie was in third place here in New Hampshire, then he pulled out. Who do you think -- he was polling at 12 percentage points in New Hampshire before he dropped out. Common sense might say that those votes will go to DeSantis in some ways because he's open suddenly said he would not accept a vice presidential job offer from Trump. Nikki Haley has not. Chris Christie made that argument many times.

You support Haley. You're also anti-Trump. What are you hearing from Christie voters? So where are they going?

DUPREY: And be honest, I really love Governor Christie and I think he would have made a fine president, I think because he just was attacking the base of Trump voters so aggressively that that created a ceiling on his vote. I think the overwhelming majority of those voters are going to go to Nikki Haley.

They're not only people who probably don't care for President Trump, but they want some again, who's not full of the chaos. So I think virtually all those votes will go towards Haley. That's going to be a tremendous boost for her.

TAPPER: Steve Duprey, good to see you again. Thanks so much.

Nikki Haley is going to make her case to the voters tonight in the CNN Republican presidential town hall, in this room I'm sitting in right now.


I'm going to moderate that discussion tonight here at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN, on CNN Max.

Coming up next on THE LEAD, the all caps immunity defense from Donald Trump posted on Truth Social in the wee small hours of the night. Who did he really want to read that message? Perhaps a U.S. Supreme Court justice?

Stay with us.


TAPPER: Continuing with our law and justice lead today, E. Jean Carroll finished testifying today in the New York trial to decide how much money in additional damages, if any, former President Donald Trump must pay her.

It has been calmer in the courtroom today, perhaps because Donald Trump isn't there. He's in Florida, attending the funeral of his mother-in-law.

E. Jean Carroll is asking for more than $10 million in damages, in addition to the $5 million that the court previously awarded her. Last year, as you may recall, a jury found that Trump did sexually abused Carroll in a department store dressing room in 1996, and then subsequently, he defamed her while publicly denying her claims and viciously attacking her credibility.

Speaking of Trump, late last night, 1:59 a.m. Eastern Time to be exact, Mr. Trump authored a potentially incriminating all caps post on social media. I'll spare you the most of the entire 147 word rant, where Trump argues president should enjoy absolute immunity from all criminal punishment.

But this line does seem particularly important, quote, even events that cross the line must fall under total immunity. That's in all caps as I noted, that tirade just one week after Trumps attorney argued in a court of law that a U.S. president cannot be prosecuted for ordering, ordering SEAL Team Six to assassinate a political opponent unless first impeached and convicted by the Senate.

Let's bring in our expert CNN team.

Joan, this Truth Social post ends with "God bless the Supreme Court". So one thing is maybe it's aimed at the Supreme Court. What might Supreme Court justices be thinking right now as they prepare to take up this immunity claim after the appeals court showdown?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Good to see you, Jake, and you know, no matter what legal proceeding Donald Trump is undergoing, the Supreme Court, all caps, is always on his mind. But the Supreme Court is also watching what's happening on the immunity question and the appellate court. It knows the contours of this case because both sides presented the general outlines in December when Special Counsel Jack Smith tried to get the Supreme Court to intervene early. They sent it back, of course, had the appellate court look at it, and I suspect that many of the justices are aware of the kinds of legal issues that emerged last week when the three-judge panel heard the case.

And I think they would extend from even the most basic question of do courts have jurisdiction at this moment to look at the immunity question? Remember that were in the middle of proceedings and sometimes these appeals of discrete issues have to wait to the very end of a case. It's an interim appeal here and the lower court is hearing it, but we know that the lower court was also struggling with the jurisdictional question as the Supreme Court itself might, and then on the merits, Jake, I'm sure that they would have similar questions about whether okay. So if he lacks total immunity as his lawyers are arguing, what defenses might be left to him.

So bottom line, Jake, they could go narrow, they could go broad, or they could say we will decide no case before its time

TAPPER: And, Paula, you note that of the 147 words in this 1:59 a.m. Truth Social post. The key word is absolute, as in absolute immunity. Explain why.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, well, look, presidents enjoy immunity for many lawsuits. That's how they're able to govern while in office is how they can conduct wars and implement policy without having personal liability. But the limits of this when it comes to arrest or criminal

prosecution, have never been tested because no former president has ever been charged with a crime. And here as I noted, you have to be able to govern. So the first issue here is -- well, is what Trump was doing in and around election subversion, part of his official duties?

Well, the special counsel says absolutely not. But Trumps lawyers argue, well, if you prosecute a president for this, that'll open a Pandora's box. You go after Biden for what's going on at the border. But again, the special counsel says, no, there has to be limits that there's no limits on this immunity, then you effectively have a king.

Now, of Trump's own former lawyers, Tim Parlatore, he told me exactly who he thinks has the better argument here. Let's take a lesson


TIM PARLATORE, FORMER LAWYER FOR FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP: This point. Jack smith does have the better argument I never really bought into the idea of immunity being a winning argument here. It is something however, that I think is going to be helpful in his plans to try and delay the trial.


REID: Yeah, the judge is considering this issue right now. They seem skeptical of this idea of absolute immunity, which is why they were tossing out these hypotheticals about SEAL Team Six political assassinations. And Trump's lawyer said that possibly if Trump could be prosecuted, but only after he is impeach, but Trumps seeming to suggest here that no murder would not be actually something you come after a president for under any circumstances or through any process.

TAPPER: And, Alayna, this was a 1:59 a.m. post.


Do you think it reached Trump's intended audience?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: You know, I do. I think that this post was not really about legal issues, but more about a political strategy. We've seen Donald Trump use this and implement this type of tactic before. He is trying to get ahead of a potential ruling by posting about it on social media and arguing that he thinks he is or deserves absolute immunity.

Then we've seen in poll after poll that this type of tactic does work at with his base. And we've also seen Donald Trump, you know, his voluntary court appearances, reeling against his legal issues repeatedly online as well as on the campaign trail, does very well with his base.

But I think the question, Jake, that still remains is, how will this be viewed by general or potential general election voters? We know that many people are increasingly growing concerned about whether Donald Trump, if elected in 2024, would abuse his power and abuse the office. And this is another argument that they can point to. It's also ammunition being given to President Joe Biden, who as we've seen, has increasingly ramped up his attacks, likening Trump to being a threat to democracy, and so, this is more ammunition for him as well.

And one thing I also just wanted the point out that I find very interesting is that this is not a ruling or a case that is brought before the Supreme Court yet. So I think that this kind of shows that Donald Trump may intend to lose or may anticipate that he's going to lose at the federal appeals level. And so this is him also just trying to get around that and free frame the narrative to in the court of public opinion and not the court of law

TAPPER: And, Joan, bigger picture, this Supreme Court, the U.S. Supreme Court probably does not want to be thrown into election disputes, at least chief justice Roberts probably doesn't want that to happen. What might they be thinking overall about all of these Trump cases? And the larger role they're assured goodly going to play in the election?

BISKUPIC: Yeah. Jake, you're exactly right. The chief justice is known for his caution, known to want to avoid the politics of election litigation, and especially known to one avoid anything that has to do with Donald Trump in his troubles. But I think at this point, given this case and given the other case that's now pending before the justices, this testing whether he needs he can be removed from the ballot because if of its role in the January 6 attack on the capital, I think the justices are ready to seize the moment. They've accepted the fact that they're going to be in the middle of that.

And I think the schedule that they set out for the other case, the one involving whether Trump can be removed from ballot shows that they're ready to act quickly. And I think once the D.C. circuit rules on this immunity question, we'll probably see some quick action, which frankly, as I said, could involve not taking it right now for jurisdictional reasons, but at least I think they understand that only those nine justices have the final say on the law, and Donald Trumps certainly recognizes that. And that's why he said, Jake, God bless the Supreme Court.

TAPPER: All right. Thanks to all of you. Appreciate it.

We know you hear this next one all the time. The federal government is headed for a shutdown. I feel like I've told you that 100 times over the last five years, a deadline is coming up tomorrow. The negotiations do seem to be a little bit different this time. We're going to go live to Capitol Hill, next.



TAPPER: Back to our politics lead, but not the presidential race and yes, this is a story that I've told you countless times over the past ten years and I can't believe I have to tell it to you again. But the U.S. government is supposed to run out of money tomorrow, and the U.S. government could shut down, although Congress is currently working on a short-term fix right now.

Let's go to Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.

Manu, I can't believe we're doing this again. It's a staggeringly incompetent and disgraceful.

All right, moving on. This afternoon, the Senate passed a bill to keep the government open until early March. What's the House going to do?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're about to pass it, Jake, and guess what? They're going to have to do this again in just over a month time, because this is just a short term spending bill that would keep the government open until early March and at that point, Congress will have to decide once again, shut down the government, pass another short-term extension, or actually pass legislation to keep the government open until the end of the current fiscal year, which ends at the end of September.

Remember, they're supposed to pass this back on October 1st, but Congress couldn't get a deal. They pass a short-term extension that led to the ouster of Kevin McCarthy, the then-speaker, because members on the far right did not like the deal that he cut to allow the government to stay open. He had to step aside. Mike Johnson came in past another short-term extension.

Johnson said he wouldn't move on anyway for short-term extension. But guess what? He had to do it facing another shutdown deadline. So they are kicking the can down the road. There are about to pass it in the House. And then once again, had to figure out what to do come February as they run into that early March deadline, Jake.

TAPPER: You said kicking the can down the road, drink.

In the bigger picture, you have new reporting about President Trump getting involved to try to scuttle this possible deal on immigration. Democrats and Republicans in the Senate working hard on a deal, and Trump wants to blow it up.

RAJU: Yeah, this is really caused a new wrinkle in these very complex negotiations that had been going on for months, senators, handful of senators have been trying to cut a major immigration deal, put more restrictions on the southern border of Mexico. This is not going to go as far as what House Republicans wanted, but it will go much further than what many Democrats are willing to accept. Why? Because Republicans have insisted any changes to border laws must happen first before they agree to greenlight billions of dollars in more aid to Ukraine at this critical time in the war against Russia. That has led to these hard fought negotiations.

But just last night, Donald Trump posted on social media that they should not accept any deal that he considers less than perfect, which is causing a lot of concerns within the ranks and worries among Republicans that that could be enough to sway Republicans to vote against any deal

[16:45:16] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MIKE BRAUN (R-IN): I think it's going to weigh in heavily.

RAJU: But will it be harder to get behind a deal if President Trump opposes.

BRAUN: I think so. I think that you see the increasing number of senators that have been endorsing President Trump. And it's got the whole next not that far away now, the discussion 6, 8 months ago would be different. So that's going to weigh more heavily as well.

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): There are some folks without question that don't want to get any solution to a problem because they think that might help the other side. You think Donald Trump has an influence on Republicans? Yeah.


RAJU: Jake, this comes in an absolutely critical time because Senate leaders are pushing hard. He tried to get this immigration deal along with aid to Ukraine, aid to Israel, aid to Taiwan. In one massive package, bring it to the floor as soon as next week, and there -- the negotiators believe they are moving closer to reaching a deal, but there could be a situation deal is reached. Donald Trump calls it insufficient. Many Republicans revolt against it. Perhaps it could get it out of the Democratic-led Senate.

But where does it go? And the Republican led house that was leading to questions because Mike Johnson, the speaker there, has indicated that he wants the Republican plan, perhaps he's not indicated he's willing to go is where the senators are willing to go at this moment. But have Donald Trump pushes him to oppose it, many Republicans in the House will also oppose it.

And then they'll lead to questions about whether anything at all can get done. It's, of course, this issue immigration front and center in the campaign is Donald Trump has seized on it and is not eager and giving Joe Biden a critical campaign victory, legislative victory in the heat of this campaign -- Jake.

TAPPER: And, Manu, they get -- they get paid whether they accomplish anything or not, right?

RAJU: That's absolutely right. And he could pass legislation to change that. But I'm not expecting that to happen anytime soon.

TAPPER: I was just -- I was just checking most people when they have jobs where they don't accomplish anything, they don't get -- they don't -- they get fired. Anyway, Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

We're going to keep an eye on that vote on Capitol Hill and the chances of a potential government shutdown. We're going to be right back.



TAPPER: In our law and justice lead, a lawyer and confidant of Hunter Biden appeared on Capitol Hill today for a closed-door interview with lawmakers. It's part of the Republican-led impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.

Let's bring in CNN's Annie Grayer, who is following the investigators investigations into Hunter Biden and the committees investigating him. And what are lawmakers hoping to learn from Hunter Biden's lawyer, Kevin Morris, who we just saw on the screen.

ANNIE GRAYER, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, Jake Republicans have had a lot of questions about the relationship between Morris and Hunter Biden, so much so they've made it part of their impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, and that's because Morris has loaned Hunter millions of dollars to help Hunter pay his taxes. And Republicans have a lot of questions about that.

Morris met behind closed doors with both Democrats and Republicans today for around six hours. And what's almost to be expected at this point, Jake is Republicans, Democrats came out with pretty different views about what Morris said. James Comer, who's the oversight chair, said that he still has a lot of questions about these loans more first made to Hunter, and even went as far as to say that Morris, who's a Democratic donor made these loans, is part of a way to curry favor with the president.

Now, Jamie Raskin, who is the top Democrat on the oversight committee, had an entirely different picture to pain and said that there was no wrongdoing here, that Morris talked about his long relationship with Hunter and that there was never any conversations with the White House where the president about these loans, and he fully expects Hunter to pay him back.

So this is just another example of how closed-door testimony each side comes out with their own story and I think it's just going to be another example of where I'm going to have to wait to get the transcript to really get the full picture here.

TAPPER: Yeah. We're waiting for those transcripts, Chairman Comer. Release them.

The Republican effort to hold Hunter Biden in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify behind closed doors as they requested. That has been put on hold as negotiations over his testimony continue with Hunter Biden's legal team. Where do those negotiations stand right now?

GRAYER: Those negotiations are ongoing and there has been a lot of back-and-forth here. So just to take you back to last week, Republicans were planning to move forward on holding Hunter Biden in criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to sit for a closed-door deposition. Hunter had maintained he only wanted to testify publicly, but then, Hunter's lawyer Abbe Lowell sent a letter to Congress and said, hey, issue us a new subpoena, and lets talk about how we can make testimony happened.

So, I'm told from sources that a new subpoena hasn't been issued yet, but the both sides are engaging. And, Jake, if Republicans are able to get testimony from the president's son who is so crucial to their investigation into the president, it would be a really big deal, but we just have to see where this ends up.

TAPPER: All right. Annie Grayer, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, inside that detailed report out today from the U.S. Justice Department on the tragic Uvalde school massacre. The Attorney General Merrick Garland held a news conference, then he sat down with CNN's Evan Perez.


What Garland said about investigating this tragedy versus being there in Uvalde and seeing where such young victims and teachers lost their lives his exclusive interview with CNN is next.


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper live from Manchester, New Hampshire, five days ahead of this state's crucial primary. We are on the site of tonight's CNN town hall with the former Governor Nikki Haley.

The GOP front runner Donald Trump has been with characteristics, subtlety, reminding voters of Haley's Indian heritage. He has been falsely suggesting she cannot be elected president because her immigrant parents were not citizens at the time of her birth.