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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Bipartisan Border Security Deal On Brink Of Collapse; Soon: House To Vote Whether To Impeach DHS Secy. Mayorkas; Rep. Tony Gonzales, (R-TX), Is Interviewed About Alejandro Mayorkas, Border Bill; Trump Bashes Border Bill, Urges GOP Lawmakers To Vote Against It; Father Of Released 9-Year-Old Hostage Discusses Her Recovery; Father Of Released 9-Year-Old Hostage Discusses Her Recovery; RNC Chief's Future Uncertain As Trump Publicly Casts Doubt; One Of Seven Migrants Accused Of Attacking NYPD Officers Appears In Court, Police Looking For Others. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 06, 2024 - 17:00   ET



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

A lot going on this hour. Right now, a floor debate in the U.S. House of Representatives ahead of a significant vote pushed by House Republicans whether or not to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, which could make him the first cabinet official impeached in nearly 150 years since War Secretary William Belknap in 1876. That was for corruption. And the U.S. Senate ultimately acquitted Belknap, which is almost certainly to happen again with Mayorkas, an acquittal with Democrats controlling the Senate chamber.

Also this hour, the counteroffer for a hostage deal from the terrorist group Hamas, which is calling for a complete ceasefire. I'm going to get the reaction from the father of nine-year-old Emily Hand. She spent nearly two months in Hamas captivity.

And leading this hour, the major ruling earlier today from a three judge appeals court panel agreeing that Donald Trump is not immune from prosecution for alleged crimes he may have committed when he was president. And giving Trump's team until only February 12, Monday, to file emergency action with the U.S. Supreme Court if they want to appeal. Let's get straight to CNN's Kaitlan Collins.

And Kaitlan, this was more than just a denial of Donald Trump's legal arguments. It was the judges unanimously rejecting and repudiating Donald Trump's actions around January 6.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I mean, they said it could be criminal. Now, Jake, they noted all of this is what's laid out in the indictment from Jack Smith. So they use the word allegations and allegedly a lot in here, but these judges get into what is at the heart of that indictment, what Trump is saying that he is immune from prosecution from. And they're saying that, you know, if he did what he's alleged to have done, that he was inserting himself into a process where a president has no role, the counting and certifying of the Electoral College votes. And they say that would undermine constitutionally established procedures laid out for the Congress.

And in addition to that, Jake, you know, their scathing argument about what his actions are around January 6. They also reject every single argument that his attorney made in front of them that day. Of course, we listened to it live as his attorney was in front of these three judges. And they basically say that all of these arguments are wrong. They almost kind of, you know -- they say that they misread past rulings, they say the idea that because he was impeached by the House and then acquitted in the Senate and that that would qualify as double jeopardy here, I mean, they seem to just outright dismiss and the claim that also that this would have a chilling effect on future presidents if Trump was not immune from this prosecution, they say actually it's the reverse that is more dangerous. The idea that a president is immune from everything.

And one part that they referenced, Jake, that stood out to me is what's known as the take care clause. It's that the president is supposed to make sure that the laws of this nation are faithfully executed. And they say it would be essentially quite the paradox if the one person whose task that is, whose job that is, would then be immune from following those laws.

TAPPER: What's been the reaction from Trump world?

COLLINS: They're not surprised. They did not think that they were going to get a ruling in their favor from these judges. I mean, they listened and they saw, you know, their attorney go in front of them, just as the rest of us did. I think what's surprising to them, Jake, though, is the timing here, because as important as the substance of this ruling is the timing that they gave the Trump legal team, and that is until next Monday to file an emergency request with the Supreme Court that would effectively pause this decision by this appeals court, and then it would be up to the Supreme Court to decide, did they take this up? What do they do?

Did they hold a lot of the timing in their hands? If that doesn't happen, Jake, and if it does go back to just this court, then we could see Judge Chutkan moving ahead with this case, potentially. That's a lot of unknowns, but in the next two weeks, we could find out a lot about when this case could potentially happen.

TAPPER: Does the Trump team think that the U.S. Supreme Court is going to get involved?

COLLINS: They're hopeful. Does that mean that they think the U.S. Supreme Court is going to rule in Trump's favor? I mean, I think the question is, what arguments do they make before the Supreme Court is really what's key here, Jake, because his attorney can't go and make all the arguments that he just made here that were outright rejected by these three judges. I think we've talked to a lot of sources today who've said it would be surprising if, you know, opinion that was so carefully written, a ruling that was so carefully written was just outright rejected by the Supreme Court. We'll see. But I think there is a lot of hesitation about ultimately if the Supreme Court does take this up, how they would rule. TAPPER: They only need -- the Trump team people only need four of the nine justices to say they want to hear the case in order for that to happen. They don't need majority. Question is, of course, are there four?

Kaitlin Collins, thanks so much.

Turning to our politics lead and the border battle taking place right now on Capitol Hill, the Senate's bipartisan border bill legislation appears on the verge of collapse. This is a bill that Republicans in the Senate had demanded and nearly embraced until former President Trump spoke out against it. That essentially keeps the status quo at the border, giving Trump a campaign issue he can s against President Biden, he hopes.


Later this hour, the House is also going to vote on whether to impeach the U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. If successful, this would be the first time in nearly 150 years that a U.S. cabinet official was impeached. Republicans say this is about Mayorkas refusing to enforce border laws. That's a charge that Mayorkas and the White House dispute, all of it, of course, creates quite the sense of political dissonance, no solution for the border communities or those experiencing the crisis elsewhere in the country.

Joining us now, the mayor of El Paso, Texas, Oscar Leeser. El Paso, of course, runs along the U.S. Mexico border.

Mayor Leeser, there are several Republican congressmen from Texas who have come out against the Senate bipartisan border bill. Here's one of them, Congressman Chip Roy, a Republican from Texas, telling CNN's Kaitlan Collins that Trump's influence was not a factor in his decision to oppose the bill. Take a listen.


REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): I'm not waiting for him to tell me what to do. I'm in Texas. I need a solution now. This bill would not be a solution.

COLLINS: Congressman --

ROY: It would actually make it worse by cementing the bad policies into law.


TAPPER: What is your response, mayor?

MAYOR OSCAR LEESER, (D) EL PASO, TEXAS: You know, it's really important that this is a bipartisan bill and it's, you know, it's long overdue. And something that if you look at this immigration policies, immigration law that's been broken has been like this. Last time it was reformed was 27 years ago. So it's time we start moving forward. Now, if you look at the bill and you read the bill, the $20 billion helps us with securing the border, continuing to have more border patrol agents, more customs agents. But at the end of the day, it didn't fix the root of the problem, which is what we need to continue to work on. But this is really something if we continue to stay status quo, nothing will change. It's time -- really, it's about time that we did have a bipartisan bill that's going to really help us create something for our asylum seekers and continue to work with them.

You look at it, it -- the process is a little tougher. I get it. But also -- but once the process -- they go through the process, they'll be able to work immediately. And that's something that we've been asking for as border leaders. So, you know, we understand, we're here day in and day out, and we understand what needs to be done.

And at the end of the day, having a bipartisan bill that addresses a lot of the things that need to. We know the mandate, I get it. It's a mandate. But yet at the end of the day, we need to move forward so we can fix and then go to the root of the problem.

TAPPER: So, Mr. Mayor, El Paso is, I don't need to tell you, is one of the many border cities that directly deals with the constant influx of migrants. Do you think this bill would help ease whatever pressure you're experiencing on social services and law enforcement and housing and everything else in El Paso?

LEESER: Well, one of the things we've been very lucky here at El Paso, we've really had great support from the federal government. Secretary Mayorkas has really given us the funding and the tools we need to continue to move forward. We haven't been able to -- we don't have people out on the street right now. We had at one point over almost 3,000 people coming in daily. You know, our average right now for the year, we're somewhere a little over 400, 450. So we've had the tools to continue to work when we're at over 3,000.

But yes, this bill will continue to give us those resources. We need to continue to treat people human the way we need to treat people and the way we want to be treated.

TAPPER: What do you make of the Republican argument that President Biden right now has the power to shut down the border if he wants and he's just not doing that, and so this legislation is not really needed? And also a lot of Republicans might say, you know, if President Biden already has the power to do this and he's still not doing it, why do we need legislation anyway? They just have a mistrust of the process.

LEESER: Well, we need to continue to work together. And you know, does the President have the opportunity to do that? Yes. But do we need to make sure that we work as a country and that we work together? It's really important.

So, again, I go back to what I started saying was we need a bipartisan bill that keeps our country and we put our country first. And that's something that's really important. Let's put our country first and not a party. TAPPER: There's clearly still so much division about how to fix the country's immigration policies. If Congress cannot get it together, do you see Texas Governor Greg Abbot doing more to increase his efforts? He's defying the U.S. Supreme Court, he's defying the federal government and taking the issue further into the state of Texas's hands. Do you see that as the future potentially?

LEESER: No, the future is, again, like you said when you were talking to this now, that we need to unite our country, we need to start speaking with one voice. And that's going to be really important. And like I said, we've had such support from the federal government, Secretary Mayorkas, that we've been able to provide a service for our asylum seekers. They're not on the street today. They have a roof over their head.


They have warm meals. And then we're able to help them get to their final destination wherever they want to go. That could not have been possible without the help of the federal government. Where -- if you look at 99 percent of the people that come to El Paso are not coming to El Paso. They're coming to the United States.

So it's important that we have the resources to be able to help them, but also the resources to help our community. Because you can't put it on the back of the local taxpayers. That's an impossibility. So, it's been really something that we need to continue to work as one and unite our voice. If we unite our voice, we'll get a lot further.

TAPPER: Mayor Oscar Leeser of El Paso, Texas, thank you so much for your time.

Breaking news on Capitol Hill right now, the House is getting closer to a vote this hour that could lead to the impeachment of the first cabinet secretary in nearly 150 years. An action that will more than likely go absolutely nowhere in the U.S. Senate, where there's no appetite or little appetite, I should say, to impeach Secretary Mayorkas. So why go forward with it? Well, a House Republican will join me next.



TAPPER: Any moment now, the U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote on impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. And now senior House Republicans are growing worried that the effort might not actually pass as 11th hour absences and defections pop up. Let's bring in Republican Congressman Tony Gonzales from Texas.

Congressman, let's start with the vote to impeach the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Mayorkas. It's going to take place in a matter of minutes. There are a world of critics, even conservatives, who say House Republicans are turning policy disagreement into impeachment. Again, I've asked this of other House Republicans, what is the high crime and or misdemeanor here? And are you at all concerned about Democrats doing this to the next Republican president's cabinet officials because they don't like how they interpret the law?

REP. TONY GONZALES (R-TX): First off, thanks for having me on, Jake. And, yes, of course, Democrats are going to use this exact same technique. It's what happens in Washington. Round and round we go.

But what has he done? He's got -- what has secretary Mayorkas done to deserve to be impeached? He's gotten Americans killed. Just ask the Tambunga family that had to bury their grandmother and seven-year-old daughter. And we've had enough.

And America wants a change, Jake. Whether it's impeachment, whether it's resign, whether it's policy changes, it's very clear that whatever the Biden administration is currently doing is not working. People are dying due to fentanyl. The amount of folks on the terrorist watch list are coming over. I mean, we have had enough, and so it's time for the House of Republicans to come together and impeach Secretary Mayorkas.

TAPPER: Well, with all due respect, sir, people died as a result of undocumented immigrants who then committed illegal activities during the previous president as well. People died because of the fentanyl crisis under the previous president as well. And I don't recall -- I mean, I'm not saying that both administrations had the same treatment of the border, but I don't recall anybody on the Republican Party blaming those deaths on Donald Trump or his secretary of homeland security.

GONZALES: You know what, Jake, it's never been like this. A district like mine, two thirds of the Texas Mexico border, illegal immigration is not a new topic to us. We've seen it under every administration, but we've never seen it like this. And it's going the wrong direction. Every year, it keeps getting worse.

You think you've hit the bottom. What is this year going to look like? If President Biden gets reelected again, what does three years from now look like? Something has to change. And this is House Republicans standing up and saying that change needs to start with Secretary Mayorkas, not end, start with replacing Secretary Mayorkas.

TAPPER: Well, let's talk about the bipartisan national security and border deal that appears to be completely falling apart in the U.S. Senate right now. House Speaker Mike Johnson called the bill dead on arrival. The National Border Patrol Council, and you know these people, this is the Border Patrol union, they're backing this bill. They say, quote, "While not perfect, the Border Act of 2024 is a step in the right direction and is far better than the current status quo."

I don't think I need to remind you, but just to inform our viewers, the National Border Patrol Council, conservative group, they endorsed you in 2021. They endorsed Donald Trump for president in 2020. Are they wrong?

GONZALES: I appreciate the National Border Security Council's, you know, support as far as understanding the topic. They know it inside and out, but it's very clear that the Senate border deal is going nowhere. Heck, even Senator Lankford, who wrote the dang bill, is now kind of having to see -- realize that it's not going to go anywhere.

I'd like to talk about what happens next, Jake. Everyone's talking about this bill is dead. It's not going anywhere. What happens next?

This is what I think happens next. I think President Biden should look into parts of this bill that make sense, which is increasing funding for ICE and ERO and let's turn up the amount of deportation flights for people that do not qualify for asylum. That would help. Let's surge immigration judges to the border, that would help get cases heard in days, not years. And the third part, let's get to the root of the issue.

The root of the issue is the cartels. It's time for us to stop fighting one another as Americans and fight the real enemy, which is the cartels. Let's label cartels as terrorist organizations and take the gloves off.

TAPPER: Senator Lankford is backing off the bill -- support for his own bill because of House Republicans and Senate Republicans walking away from it. A number of the items you just mentioned would be included in this bill, including surging asylum judges and the like to the border, making it tougher to declare asylum.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board, a very conservative group, they write today, quote, "Do Republicans want to better secure the U.S. border, or do they want to keep what has become an open soar festering for another year as an election issue," unquote. And then it goes on to say, "This is the most restrictive migrant legislation in decades. If Republicans pass up this rare chance at border reform, they may not get a better one, unquote."


And I have to say, as somebody who has covered this issue now for decades, and this is more conservative than any other border compromise I've ever seen, is it more conservative than something only Republicans pass? No. But something that could get through the Senate and get to President Biden's desk? Absolutely.

How do you respond to critics who look at what your party is doing and says, I don't know, that these guys actually want to solve this problem? The Border Patrol union wants this bill. They want this bill. How can you tell them that they're wrong?

GONZALES: Well, it's pretty clear that it can't get through the Senate. And it's pretty clear that there's Democrats that aren't supporting this bill. So this bill is going nowhere fast. That shouldn't surprise you. There are a lot of people in Washington that don't want to see any change.

There are folks, advocates on the left side that this is Christmas time for them. They love seeing people coming over. Remember, there was a member of Congress that hosted the vice president in El Paso and said, this is -- welcome to the new Ellis Island. So there are people that want to see this happen. On the other end, there are people that love to be able to go look at this chaos that they're providing.

Meanwhile, Americans are the ones that are having to pay for this crisis. So, yes, I think there is a lot of politics that are being played. I look at it through the lens of this way. This bill was 370 pages long. It probably should have been 10 pages. So let's get rid of all the fat and let's find a border security bill that is meaningful, that can get through the finish line, that's what I'm committed to doing.

I'm not giving up. This is what I'm committing to doing. And I'm looking forward to finding partners that ultimately do want to solve this border crisis.

TAPPER: The fact that this bill is failing is not the fault of Democrats. The fact that this bill is failing is the fault of Republicans. I mean, that's just obvious to anybody covering it. And it is the most conservative immigration bill or border bill that I've seen in this town in 25 years of covering this issue.

GONZALES: Yes. Jake, I just pointed -- I just pointed --

TAPPER: But do you do not -- let me just ask you this --


TAPPER: -- do you deny that the reason that this is falling apart is because Donald Trump wants this as an election issue to use as a bat to pummel Joe Biden with. Do you deny that that's the reason, the root of the failure?

GONZALES: Jake, I was pointing out that there are Senate Democrats that have come out and said that they won't support this bill. So it isn't just Republicans. And yes, there are a lot of people that don't want to see any change occur, right? They want the status quo to keep going.

When it comes to Donald Trump, the American people will decide in November. They want Donald Trump on the ballot. Many people want a change in which the direction is going, and many people are going to vote for Donald Trump. So, I think in that case, you know, the former president looks at it through the lens of, heck, I didn't have an immigration bill. You know, I was able to secure the border.

I just -- all I ask is the Biden administration -- Biden should think back to when he was the vice president. What did President Obama do? And how do you implement some of those policies? I get it. You don't want to use Trump policies, don't use Trump policies, use Obama policies that work.

A community like mine, we need help today. And there's things that the president Biden can absolutely enact today, like deport people that do not qualify for asylum.

TAPPER: Republican Congressman Tony Gonzales of Texas, good to see you, sir. Thank you so much.

GONZALES: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: We're going to keep watching that House floor and the impeachment vote. Also ahead, the father of Emily Hand, that nine- year-old who was kidnapped by the terrorist group Hamas and spent seven weeks as a hostage of that group. We're going to ask him what he makes of this counterproposal being offered by the terrorist group Hamas today when it comes to a ceasefire and possibly releasing even more hostages. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Back with our world lead now. Of the 132 hostages held in Gaza, about 30 of them are believed to have been killed, their bodies still in the hands of the terrorists of Hamas according to Israel. One hundred ten hostages have been released so far. As the U.S., Qatar and Egypt attempt to get Israel and Hamas to reach some sort of deal for the remaining hostages, today, some movement, but still no guarantee, after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that Hamas has responded to the latest, quote, "expanded proposal."

As we learn more about the hostages who have been released and their recovery, joining us now, the father of Emily Hand, Thomas Hand. You might remember, nine-year-old Emily was released on November 25 after about 50 days in Hamas captivity.

Thomas, I can't imagine such a horrific, traumatic ordeal for such a little girl. How is she doing today?

THOMAS HAND, FATHER OF RELEASED ISRAELI HOSTAGE: She's doing amazingly well. I guess it's the power of resilience in children. She's bounced back. Yes.

TAPPER: You and Emily recently spoke to some Israeli media. I want to play just a short clip for our viewers. Look at that beautiful little girl. Let's run the clip.


T. HAND: She actually has code words for Gaza terrorists. She has lots and lots of code words. It's -- what's "olive"?

EMILY HAND, RELESED HOSTAGE (through translator): Terrorists.

T. HAND (through translator): Terrorists.

Any food or item that she doesn't like, she transfers that word. That's her code.


TAPPER: So I guess she doesn't like olives.

T. HAND: Doesn't like olives.

TAPPER: Doesn't like olives. Why do you think using code words helps her?

T. HAND: I've asked her. She says she doesn't like using the words of hostage terrorist. Yes, all the bad words, she doesn't want any association with it.


TAPPER: So we're learning more about this possible new deal to get hostages out. Given your experience, what's your take? Do you think the Israeli government should do anything they can to get the remaining hostages back free, or do you think there should be some limits to what Israel offers? What's your basic take on it?

HAND: Yes. As a father, you would give everything. You'd give up your own life? I would have -- when Emily was there, I would have happily swapped if there was a chance, I'd give up my own life.

TAPPER: Do you think that the Netanyahu government is doing enough? Are they focused enough? I've seen protests in the streets. The hostage families are basically a movement in Israel pressuring the Netanyahu government. What do you think?

HAND: To be honest, I haven't seen the news in weeks.


HAND: There's both sides to every story. The families will be absolutely demanding their family back, their loved ones, and they'll give anything that they can to get them back.

TAPPER: Did Emily talk about other hostages that she saw while she was being kept in captivity?

HAND: I know she was with Itai Svirsky. She was with Raya, of course, Hila. She doesn't really talk about them, though. She just tells me that she was with them.

TAPPER: Was she treated OK when she was over there? I mean, aside from the horrific act of kidnapping and the murder of her mom and all that, like, which is a lot.

HAND: Yes.

TAPPER: But how were they to her according to what she tells you?

HAND: Compared to other groups, she was in reasonable hands.

TAPPER: Right. We've heard of sexual assault against some of the older girls.

HAND: Yes. There was no beatings, there was no molesting, just lack of food, lack of clean water. They weren't allowed to go to the toilet without closing the door. They had to go to the toilet without open. No showers.

TAPPER: What lessons have you learned from her recovery that might help other people?

HAND: Initially, when you meet them, if you're lucky enough to get them back, if you have a pet, any kind of pet, bring it along. Bring along their favorite food, favorite toys, anything to reconnect them with their previous life. They've been living another life for 122 days now.

TAPPER: Yes. Tomorrow will be four months to this day. You've been meeting with lawmakers, that's the reason you're in Washington, D.C. Tell us about those meetings and meetings with the Biden administration or anyone else. How are those meetings going?

HAND: Very well. Yes, we've been received very, very well. It's a combined political movement from the Knesset. Like both sides of the house. It's a united front, which I don't think it's happened ever before. That's how committed Israelis to getting them back.

TAPPER: And what's your response when you see Americans ripping down the posters of hostages? Americans calling for a ceasefire, but not calling for the release of the hostages, as somebody who had a little girl kidnapped by Hamas, how do you react to that?

HAND: I find it absolutely amazing, to be honest. They've been kidnapped, taken away from their families, and it's just a poster saying they're kidnapped. It's a fact. It's a statement of fact. And it's like they're being denied twice. I don't understand. I honestly don't understand the posters being taken down. I cannot understand that. I've tried, believe me, I've really tried to get into the minds. I just cannot find a way to think. What satisfaction do you get out of it? What do you do? What is it saying?

TAPPER: I could tell you what they say, but I'm not going to argue on their behalf because I think absolutely inhumane. I'm so glad that your daughter is back with you. I'm sorry that you went through what you went through. And I wish you guys nothing but the best and continued healing. Thank you for joining us today.


HAND: Thanks for having me. I'm sorry I wasn't more eloquent, but --

TAPPER: You're perfectly eloquent, perfectly eloquent.

Coming up, the growing tension between Donald Trump and the Republican Party Chair Ronna McDaniel, whom Trump now seems to want replaced. Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our Politics Lead, trouble in MAGA paradise or trouble in chairadise. Take your pick. RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel may not be feeling too great about job security right now, as former President Trump is privately floating names to replace her. McDaniel and Trump met at Mar-a-Lago for more than two hours last night. Sources called it a cordial meeting. So what's the issue here? She's been pretty loyal to Donald Trump. Well, Donald Trump and his team apparently think that the RNC has a money problem. They're right about that. Some have also blamed McDaniel for GOP losses in 2022. I don't know about that. On Sunday, Donald Trump said this.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How's Ronna McDaniel doing?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think she did great when she ran Michigan for me. I think she did OK initially in the RNC. I would say right now there'll probably be some changes made.


TAPPER: Let's discuss with our panel. Kristen, let me start with you. So Ronna McDaniel has been very loyal to Donald Trump, which is supposed to count for a lot in his book. I mean, she's even gone out and said that Nikki Haley doesn't have a path so the, you know, what's going on? And what does this say about his hold on the party that it looks like she's headed for the exits?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. So the thing that -- maybe there's a little inside baseball, but typically when you have the White House, the RNC or the DNC is kind of the unofficial political arm of whoever the president is. So when she first came in as RNC chair, her job was to be loyal through and through to Donald Trump. He was the president. But once he's no longer president, then your job as the chair of the party is the party first. Not any one individual, not the president, not the White House.

And so her role has changed while she has been RNC chair, the nature of that job. And it means that suddenly that can read as, oh, have you been disloyal to me? And remember, for Donald Trump, there is almost no such thing as too loyal. There is always a sort of a seeking of a scapegoat or, oh, you maybe have betrayed me in this way. And so she is -- but in a long line of people who have been kind of thrown under the Trump bus in this fashion.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR I was just going to say it feels more like she's being thrown under the bus because, let's be honest, 2022, he had some things to do with her life.

TAPPER: You have a lot to do with the failure.

FINNEY: I was trying to be generous, but sure, not to mention --

TAPPER: He, again, picked a bunch of candidates that had no chance of winning.

FINNEY: Who lost, right. Not to mention, I mean, he's had pretty much operational control of the fundraising and the ground game coming out of the RNC.

TAPPER: Those paper, for his legal fees of the RNC. FINNEY: So exactly. So of course, they don't have a lot of money, by the way. So it's -- but she is definitely the fall person. And she was involved in the fake elector scare scandal in Michigan. We heard those phone messages that she was part of.

TAPPER: Karen, let me ask you a tough question now. Nikki Haley's out there bashing Donald Trump for his age and coherence. And then Dean Phillips, the Democratic congressman, he's doing the same to Biden and he just posted a clip from Biden's remarks today. Let's roll one of the clips.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is some movement, and I don't want to, well, maybe I'll choose my words, there's some movement. There's been a response from -- there's been a response from the opposition, but, yes, I'm sorry, from Hamas. But it seems to be a little over the top.


TAPPER: So, you know, not as sharp as performance. Phillips goes on to post along with a different clip as well. Shame on all of you for pretending everything is OK. You are leading us and him into a disaster and you damn well know it.

FINNEY: Shame on you, Dean Phillips. I'm so sick of you. Take your Republican advisor and go home. Look, that was not his best performance. However, we all remember when he was giving a press conference and you could literally see our Secretary of State looking at him as he was clearly about to say something he did not want him to say. My read of that was he was also thinking as he was talking about, what can I say? What can I not say?

TAPPER: Very sensitive topic.

FINNEY: Yes. And here's what I want to say, but let me not screw this up. So I mean, come on. Look, but again, it's no secret how old both of these men are. And it's clearly, I mean, Nikki Haley had an ad out. I thought it was kind of funny about grumpy old men. This is going to continue to be an issue. I guess the way I also look at it, though, is I think I'd rather have Joe Biden negotiating with Netanyahu to get the hostages out than Dean Phillips on the phone with that.

TAPPER: So, Kristen, on that note of how these two men project, you pointed to a recent "NBC News" poll on Twitter recently that asks voters whom they view as more competent and efficient, 48 percent said Donald Trump, 32 percent said Joe Biden. And you said you think this is the whole ballgame, the difference in this number, 48 percent to 32 percent. What do you mean?

ANDERSON: What I mean is that, look, take something like the economy. The economy is probably going to get better as we head toward November, right? So right now, these huge gaps that we see where Donald Trump is just, you know, cleaning Joe Biden's clock on the economy, that could change. This question of competence is, I think, a harder thing to change. And surely I think Democrats are going to spend a lot of money trying to remind Americans what it was like when Donald Trump was president. So this is also a number that has plenty of room to change between now and November. But every data point I see, voters are looking for stability. They're looking for calm. They're looking for somebody to be in the control room. And if the choice is Donald Trump, who is --


TAPPER: Stability and calm?

ANDERSON: Right. I hear you, I hear you. But Joe Biden, who maybe projected that enough in 2020 but is not really projecting it now, the fact that the gap on that question is now actually skewing in Donald Trump's favor should be a huge wake up call to Democrats, that while what Dean Phillips has to say does not seem to be resonating with Democratic primary voters, Dean Phillips is not going anywhere in the democratic primary.

TAPPER: Right.

ANDERSON: His sounding of the alarm, I don't think he's so wrong to do so for Democrats.

TAPPER: And Karen, sources tell CNN that President Biden is repeatedly asking his advisors, why are Americans continuing to not feel positive about the economy when inflation is down, the jobs market is great, consumers are spending. Advisors are cautiously telling Biden that something like Kristen said, if those trend lines continue, consumer sentiment will course correct. But do you agree that, you know, it will all take care of itself? Or is there an issue here about the perception of the economy and also the perception of how much of his hands on this issue Biden has because of this perception of the competency and efficiency issue?

FINNEY: Well, I certainly think the competency conversation shifts when you have the two of them on a debate stage together, which Donald Trump has recently said he'd like to debate Joe Biden. I'd love to see the two of them having --

TAPPER: Let's have it right here on The Lead.

FINNEY: Why not, come on.

TAPPER: Donald Trump, Joe Biden, one-on-one right here.

FINNEY: You're willing to moderate, right, Jake?

TAPPER: Absolutely. Right now.

FINNEY: Let's do it. So there's that. But sure, it continues to be a problem. And one of the things I thought was really interesting was our own White House correspondents talking about how last week when Biden was in Michigan, an African American gentleman spent a half hour with him in the car and got out and said, I didn't know all these things about what Biden has done for black Americans. That continues to be a problem. That is disinformation. That is a lack of being able to communicate with people where they are about the economy in the way that they live it.

TAPPER: OK, so that's one Michigan voter, 50 million to go.

FINNEY: There we go.

TAPPER: Seventy-five million to go, whatever it is. Kristen Soltis Anderson and Karen Finney, and of course, we'll have the debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump coming up next. Just joking.

What could be a nation -- what very well now could be a nationwide search for those thought to be responsible for attacking New York police officers in Times Square, police say they were migrants. They had been released from custody without bail. Why? Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our National Lead right now, one of the seven migrants accused of attacking two New York City police officers outside a migrant shelter appeared in court today. Another of the seven was not charged. And the other five, well, police are still trying to track them down after they were released from custody without bail, a decision by Manhattan's district attorney that has drawn scrutiny from the state's governor. CNN's John Miller is with me. John, are police confident they can track down everyone involved in this attack?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, they're still working on identifying and bringing charges against people who were on that video who they have not yet identified. But, you know, four of these suspects who were released on their own recognizance, including more than one who had -- who were out on supervised release from other charges at the time they were arrested here, NYPD detectives believe, boarded a bus last week headed for the Mexican border. And they don't have a very high level of confidence that if they made it to the border, they're actually going to get them back.

So the question is, are they even allowed to go looking for them since they were released on their own recognizance as long as they show up in court on March 4th. So far, they haven't broken a law. So police are a little hamstrung about being able to chase them.

TAPPER: John, in a separate but not unrelated incident, the NYPD arrested at least seven migrants connected to more than 60 robberies across New York City. Tell us more about that.

MILLER: So this is a really interesting case. This is, you know, like "Fagin" and "The Artful Dodger." There's an individual charged in that case named Victor Parra who allegedly ran a communications network where he would put out the word that he was looking for phones that groups of people would get on scooters. The driver of the scooter would get $100 and the snatcher, the guy who got off the boat at the back and would grab the phone, would get $600 and they would turn in all the phones they collected to this individual.

Now here's a piece of video where they grab a phone from a woman. She is dragged down the street and ends know hitting a bicycle hookup on the sidewalk in a -- with a lot of force. And this was making them thousands of dollars. Parra allegedly had a tech guy who would do two things. One, he'd break into the phone, get all the financial information, and then try to steal the phone owner's money out of accounts.

And two, clean out the phone and give it to Parra, who allegedly would send them down to South America for resale. So he was not only robbing the victims of their phones, but trying to steal their money and then selling their phones out of the country. A number of those people are now in custody. They're still hunting for the mastermind Parra.

TAPPER: John Miller, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

MILLER: Thanks Jake.

TAPPER: We're keeping an eye on the House floor. Soon we expect the vote to possibly impeach the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas. We're going to bring you that live.

Plus, see the rather small but critical plane bolt that led to that gaping hole in the side of that Alaska Airlines flight. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Now we have some breaking news for you now, Special Counsel Robert Hur is expected to release his report in the coming days, finishing his investigation into President Biden's handling of classified documents. That's according to sources who say that the report is expected to go into significant detail about what the special counsel's team found. CNN has previously reported that Special Counsel Hur is not planning to bring any criminal charges.

In our National Lead, new findings in the investigation into why a panel called a door plug blew off an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 mid- flight last month. Federal investigators say at least three of the four bolts that were supposed to be holding the door plug in place were missing when the plane left a Boeing factory late last year. Here's CNN's Pete Muntean with a quick look at how these bolts were supposed to work.



PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: This is the actual type of bolt. This is AN6 bolt, pretty common in aviation. This is the bolt itself. There's a castle nut here and then a cotter pin to keep this all together. At one point, there was some conjecture that maybe the cotter pin was missing that would cause this castle nut to work itself free. In actuality, the NTSB says none of these bolts were in place at the time of this blowout last month.


TAPPER: Boeing says it is taking steps to make sure this doesn't happen again. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room. I'll see you tomorrow.