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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Trump's Legal Problems On Presidential Immunity And The Classified Documents Case; IDF Rescue Two Hostages Amidst Deadly Airstrikes; Sheryl Sandberg's Documentary Of Hamas's Sexual Atrocities; Sheryl Sandberg Documentary Focuses On Reports Of Sexual Violence By Hamas On And After October 7; Robert Kennedy Jr. Apologizes To Family Members Lashing Out At Him For Using JFK, RFK Images In Ad; Russia Recruits Nepali Men To Fight In Its War Against Ukraine. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 12, 2024 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to "The Lead." I'm Jake Tapper. This hour we're going to start with major breaking news when it comes to Donald Trump's legal challenges. Mr. Trump has just asked the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue of presidential immunity, whether he is immune from facing charges for any alleged crimes he committed while he was president.

Mr. Trump wants the justices to temporarily block a scathing decision handed down by the D.C. Circuit Court last week. One that flatly rejected his claims of immunity in the federal election subversion case. One that differentiated between President Trump and citizen Trump. Let's get straight to CNN Chief Legal Affairs correspondent Paula Reid. Paula, tell us what's going on.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you just laid it out, Jake, he is asking the Supreme Court to pause that appeals court ruling that found that he did not have immunity that would block him from being prosecuted at the federal level by Special Counsel Jack Smith on charges related to election subversion.

Now, if you talk to sources in and around the Trump legal team or legal experts, they all agree this is not one of his stronger arguments. They don't expect that ultimately, he will prevail, be granted immunity and be shielded from this prosecution. So, the Trump strategy, as much as it is about defending their clients' rights, they're also just trying to delay this trial, the federal election subversion trial until after the November 2024 election.

And they're using every possible option available to them and trying to exercise each one mostly to just delay push this back as long as they can. So today they're asking the Supreme Court to pause that lower court ruling. They also intend to file a full appeal to the Supreme Court. Now, they also might also go back down to the appeals court and ask the full court to hear this decision.

Last week, that scathing unanimous opinion you referenced, that was by three judges. But he technically has the option to ask a full panel of the D.C. Circuit Court to hear this as well. Again, there isn't an expectation that he would prevail, but it could be an option to delay this a little bit longer.

So now all eyes are on the Supreme Court, not even so much for what they're going to do, but how long it takes them to do it, because every day, every week that passes, that gets closer and closer to the election and makes it harder for the Special Counsel Jack Smith to bring this case.

Now the Supreme Court also in a unique position right now, they are having to contemplate two big cases related to former President Trump, either one of which could have an enormous impact on the election. Of course, last week they heard oral arguments from Trump's lawyers and a lawyer for voters in Colorado about whether Trump should appear on the ballot.

And now they're also looking at this question of presidential immunity. And it's not so much about immunity as it is about timing, how long it takes them to give them a final answer and exactly what they're gonna do here, because that would then give Jack Smith and former president Trump clarity on whether or not this case can even go before November.

TAPPER: All right, Paul Reed, stick around. Let's turn now to the other federal case against the former president that is rearing its head today related to his handling or mishandling of classified documents. CNN's Evan Perez is in Fort Pierce Florida right now. And Evan, Mr. Trump and his lawyers were in federal court today arguing in Florida that they deserve more access to evidence. Tell us about that.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. This was a hearing that was behind closed doors. It was in secret because it has to do with classified documents. This is of course, at the center of this case that has been brought against the former president for this allegedly mishandling classified documents at Mar-a-Lago.

Now, what he was here -- he was here with his lawyers meeting with the judge for about five hours earlier today. Right now, we believe the special counsel and his team, the government's lawyers are in there now having their turn talking to the judge. At issue, as you pointed out, is access to classified documents. In some cases, documents that the government says are so sensitive to national security that they're only producing summaries of some of those documents.

And of course, Trump's team is arguing that he should be able to see all of it, including things, anything that has to do that could help his, of course, his defense. As you noted, Jake, you know, this is also about the timing because we don't know when we're going to hear from this judge.

But certainly, in the next few weeks there are going to be a number of key motions by both sides that will determine whether this may schedule that the judge has set for a possible trial in the Mar-a-Lago case, whether that really stays on the calendar. The former president didn't speak to anybody when he came in. He did wave to a crowd of supporters. We saw the campaign handing out signs to some of those supporters outside the court, Jake.


TAPPER: All right, Evan, stick around. Paula, stick around. Let me bring in CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig into this conversation. Elie, let me start with you, and let's begin with Trump's immunity claim. What are the different ways this could play out with the U.S. Supreme Court? What happens next?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: So, Jake, there's a lot of procedure happening here, but the real-world impact is this is almost certainly going to dictate whether Donald Trump faces trial on Jack Smith's election case before or after the 2024 election. Now, what Donald Trump's team has just asked the Supreme Court to do is issue a stay, which is essentially a pause, saying everything should be put on pause so we can pursue our full appellate rights in the Court of Appeals and then the Supreme Court.

That would ordinarily take many, many months. And so, the question is really, first of all, will the Supreme Court issue that stay, that pause? I think they will, at least for a limited time, so they can decide this question. But the bigger question is will the Supreme Court ultimately take this case?

If they do not take the case, it's going to go back down to the district court and I think we're very likely looking at a trial this summer. But if they do take this case and they set it on something close to a normal schedule, I think in all likelihood that would push the timeline here out until after the 2024 election. So that's how big the stakes are with this motion.

TAPPER: And Paula, how quickly are we going to hear from the U.S. Supreme Court?

REID: It's unclear, Jake. I mean it could take them a couple days, it could take them a couple weeks, and we know there is likely some choreography here. They are currently considering this question of ballot eligibility. Oral arguments went very well for Trump's lawyers last week. It is widely expected that he will win on that case, but again like I said even sources close to the former president acknowledged that the immunity case is not as strong.

Many of them don't expect the Supreme Court to take it up and even if they did, they don't expect him to win. So, watching closely to see if especially mindful of the optics, the Supreme Court under a lot of scrutiny for questions about partisanship, if they try to release these decisions close to one another, maybe a win and a loss for Trump.

TAPPER: And Elie, let's turn now to the other case, Special Counsel Jack Smith's case against Trump in Florida having to do with classified documents. The evidence that contains this classified material is further complicating this case. Elie, explain why and could that impact the trial timing?

HONIG: Yeah, I think it will, Jake. So, in an ordinary criminal prosecution, prosecutors have an obligation to turn over their evidence, their documents, their witness statements as early as possible. Certainly, they would be doing that by now in the Mar-a-Lago case. But the complication is that case involves all sorts of classified documents. And there's a special set of laws that apply in a scenario like this because typically the government, the prosecutors here, want to limit the types of classified information that they're turning over to the defendant, in this case Donald Trump.

And so that's what today's sort of all-day long negotiating session was about. How exactly are prosecutors going to turn this information over to Trump? How much of the classified information does he get to receive in the course of what we call discovery? And that inherently slows things down. So, this case is currently set for trial in late May, but I think it's very likely that this complication will push that date out quite a bit.

TAPPER: Evan, I want to invite you to do a little fact check for our viewers here because Donald Trump spoke about the classified documents case over the weekend at his rally in South Carolina. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: They didn't see the ones we had. We had them locked up and we had Secret Service all the time because I was president all the time.


TAPPER: So, were the classified documents Donald Trump had locked up, and was he president so there were Secret Service all over the place?

PEREZ: Well, look, the compound is protected by Secret Service, but the issue that is at center of this case is the fact that, you know, there are members of this private club who had full access to all parts of it. One of the things that you saw in the court documents when the former president was charged, Jake, you saw documents being held in a bathroom, in ballrooms, places where the public could go. So that's one of the issues that certainly led to the charges that you saw, the mishandling charges that the former president faces.

And of course, you have to remember that this case goes beyond the documents, it goes into the obstruction. The former president is accused of not only refusing to turn over documents after receiving a subpoena, but also basically telling people some of his co-defendants to lie to the FBI. So that's what the charge of the former president faces. And that's why, you know, the case is so much worse, frankly, than what then you saw the investigation of Joe Biden and the documents he had.

TAPPER: All right. Thanks, everyone. Appreciate it. Coming up next, inside that dramatic rescue of two Israeli hostages in Rafah, Gaza. Israel is now sharing how its forces pulled off the overnight operation to get the men out of the hands of Hamas.

[17:10:00] Plus, Sheryl Sandberg is going to stop by. She's making a new documentary. She interviewed women once held hostage by Hamas. She heard accounts that they shared with her of sexual violence by the terrorist group, including rape. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Our "World Lead" now, two dual Israeli-Argentinian citizens, 60-year-old Fernando Simon Marman and 70-year-old Louis Har, are now safely back with their families after being rescued overnight from Gaza, where they spent more than four months in captivity by the terrorist group Hamas. CNN's Jeremy Diamond has more on Israel's military rescue operation, which included a series of deadly airstrikes in Rafah where more than one million mostly displaced Palestinian civilians are sheltering. And a warning, this story contains some disturbing images.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Louis Har and Fernando Marman are all smiles aboard an Israeli military helicopter. After 128 days in Hamas's captivity, they are going home, rescued by Israeli special forces. Hours later, the two men, embracing their families for the first time in months, overwhelmed with emotion.


EDAN BEGERANO, LOUIS HAR'S SON-IN-LAW: A lot of tears, hugs. Not many words, just being together, surrounded by the family, and surrounded by our beloved people that were without us for so long. Mentally, they look okay, physically they look okay, but I'm sure that, you know, we're going to have ups and downs in the coming days or weeks.

DIAMOND (voice-over): The Israeli military released this video of the dramatic moment they were taken to safety, the result of a daring overnight raid in Rafah, Gaza's southernmost city. At 1:49 a.m., Israeli special forces breaching a residential building where intelligence indicated they were being held on the second floor.

DANIEL HAGARI, ISRAELI ARMY SPOKESPERSON (through translation): From the moment they broke into the apartment, the Yamam fighters hugged and protected Louis and Fernando with their bodies. And a daring battle and heavy exchange of fire began in several locations at the same time with many terrorists.

DIAMOND (voice-over): As they escaped, the Israeli Air Force launching heavy strikes on Rafah. They say it was to divert Hamas's fighters in the area. But among the dead and the injured, there are also civilians, including children.

Inside Kuwait's specialty hospital, a girl trembles in shock. Streaks of blood run down the face of the boy in front of her. At least 94 people killed in the overnight strikes, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Hamas-controlled Gaza. Scores more injured or still under the rubble. Survivors recounting the horrors of the previous night. USAMA SIYAM, WOUNDED IN ISRAELI AIRSTRIKE (through translation): I

took all my kids and put them in one room, a small room, and told them to stay there because if we left, we would die. Once I went back to close the outside door and once, I locked it, I found the stones on top of my head. I didn't know what happened until I was taken out.

DIAMOND (voice-over): The overnight strikes offering just a glimpse of the devastation that could come, as Israel vows its next offensive will come here.

IBRAHIM ABU JABER, RAFAH RESIDENT (through translation): One hundred martyrs in five minutes is a very large number. What if the actual invasion took place? One hundred people were killed in different places. What if there was an attack where they were all gathered? I think the martyrs will be in the thousands.


DIAMOND (on camera): And Jake, those concerns, those fears about what an Israeli military offensive in Rafah could bring have yet to be allayed. The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doubling down on the military necessity of carrying out that offensive despite rampant international concern, including from the United States.

But still, Jake, no details yet from the Israeli military about how or what they will do with the 1.4 million Palestinians living in that city, how to evacuate them, where to go, questions that still remain. Jake?

TAPPER: Yeah, questions that I began asking the Israeli government on October 7th. Where are the innocent people supposed to go? They've never really had a good answer to that. Jeremy Diamond in Tel Aviv, thanks so much.

Some women held hostage by Hamas are out of custody and recounting gruesome acts by the terrorist group, sexual violence and rape. Former tech executive Sheryl Sandberg spoke with some of these women for a new documentary she's filming. Coming up, I'm going to talk to Sandberg and talk about what she is sharing exclusively with "The Lead." That's next.



TAPPER: Back with our "World Lead," Israeli authorities and the United Nations are investigating widespread reports of rape and sexual violence used by Hamas on October 7th against Israeli girls and women and some men. And after the attacks, while hostages were, and in many cases still are, being held captive in Gaza, despite mounting evidence Hamas, which the United States government classifies as a terrorist organization, Hamas has repeatedly denied the allegations.

Sheryl Sandberg, the former COO of Meta, who stepped down from its board last month, has been speaking out against the sexual violence, including at the United Nations back in December, where she called the U.N.'s relative silence unacceptable. And now Sandberg is bringing more attention to the issue in a new documentary film she's been filming in Israel.

She's sharing a clip from her interview with one of the freed hostages, 18-year-old Agam Goldstein-Almog, exclusively with "The Lead" right now. We want to show it to you, though we want to warn our viewers this contains disturbing accounts of sexual violence.


AGAM GOLDSTEIN-ALMOG, FREED HOSTAGE (voice-over): Every time we talked about it, at least one of the people said that they had suffered sexual and physical abuse, about half of them. And I haven't talked to all of the girls who are there. They all talked about their kidnapping. Where she was kidnapped from, what they did to her, what she saw. Each was kidnapped from a different place.

That's when we learned that some of them were held alone. They said that no one was being held alone, only in pairs. Girls are not alone. But some of them were alone for the entire time.

SHERYL SANDBERG, FORMER CHIEFG OPERATING OFFICER, META: Can you talk about what they told you?

GOLDSTEIN-ALMOG (through translation): I talked to one of them one evening, and I asked her how they treated her, what she had been through.


She started crying, and I cried with her. We were crying together and then she started telling me. He told her on the last day she was being moved to a different place. She stayed in an apartment with one guard. He told her that they have to move. Go get ready. Go wash yourself at the sink. She went into the bathroom and washed her armpit.

And then he came into the bathroom and held a gun to her head. He started kissing her and she started crying. She told me, you know how when you cry your mouth is like this? This is what it was like. But he wouldn't stop kissing me. He took off all her clothes and touched her all over her body. He asked her to touch his genitals in different ways and he also touched hers.

She told me that she couldn't stop crying and that he wouldn't stop doing what he was doing. He enjoyed it. For 30 minutes the gun was pointed at her head. She had no choice. I asked her, did you, do it? Did you do what he asked you to do? She said, what do you mean? Of course. I had no other option.

He never put his gun away from her head. And then he told her, go get dressed and left the bathroom. They went back to the living room. She told me that her ears were ringing and she couldn't stop crying. She was in shock. Then they moved her to a different place, and she never saw him again. He told her not to tell anyone.

(END VIDEOTAPE) TAPPER: And Sheryl Sandberg joins us now. You had been speaking out about these atrocities. What motivated you to make this documentary?

SANDBERG: You know, when this happened on October 7, then the evidence started coming out about the sexual violence, rape, genital mutilation, you know, you spoke out early. This really starts with you, Jake, but the silence was really deafening. And I think it's really important that we never tolerate this form of sexual violence ever.

It happened clearly in Israel on October 7. It's happening in other places in the world right now, but people are denying it, particularly because of a polarization around the October 7th attack. And so, this documentary is giving people a chance to bear witness to hear directly from people who were there, saw things, heard things, first responders who saw the bodies.

And the story that this tells about how these women and some men spent the very last moments of their lives. It's a story that you can't not look at, look at directly. See what's happening and make sure we hold the perpetrators accountable.

TAPPER: Yeah, and obviously as we heard from that clip these crimes are likely going on right now with the hostages still in Gaza. Why do you think the international community generally speaking, has remained so silent and not even taking a position or acknowledging that these attacks occurred?

SANDBERG: I mean, that's been the thing that I think has upset me and so many people. I think what happened is that this moment was so polarized that while people were upset about the sexual violence, they were afraid to speak out. And we need to separate these things no matter what you think should happen in Israel, no matter what you think should happen anywhere on any political decision stage.

What matters is that sexual violence is never tolerated and that means speaking out against it. You know, that interview I did with Agam, I mean, she's this beautiful 18-year-old girl living on a kibbutz dedicated to peace. Like, kibbutz is very peace-loving community, the people who believe in two states, who believe in peace with their neighbors.

And you know, it was a normal day, and she watched her father killed in front of her, then she watched her sister killed in front of her, and she and her mother and two younger brothers were driven to Gaza where they remained for over 50 days as hostages.


And the stuff she shared was the stories she heard from other female hostages of things that were happening in captivity. And therefore, we should all be very afraid they're still happening today. And that's unacceptable. No matter what else you think should happen. There's no 18-year-old girl in the world who should have her world stored that way. You shouldn't be held as a hostage, who should be subjected to or other people held with her subjected to that kind of sexual assault. It's unacceptable.

TAPPER: What has surprised you the most when you talk to the survivors like Agam?

SANDBERG: Their strength. You look at that young woman and she's so resilient. I also for the documentary interviewed her mom, her mom has lost her husband, had to protect three children in captivity. They don't want to be spokespeople for this. They are speaking out because they want those hostages back. And they want Hamas held accountable for terror and violence and sexual violence.

But the strength they have inside them. Someone was -- when I was in Israel said it really well. She said the people of Israel aren't as broken as people can be and as strong as people can be. Because they are facing, you know, not just what happened but a certain amount of denial about what happened. And the reason I went there to bear witness myself make this documentary myself, was so that people can hear directly from the people who had these experiences. And I think when you hear these stories, you hear the firsthand views. You can't deny what happened.

TAPPER: After speaking to some of these freed hostages. How concerned are you about the other young women still being held captive in Gaza?

SANDBERG: Deeply, deeply concerned, how can you not be? The story we just watched that you just played is of an experience another young girl, this young woman is having or had in captivity. You know, and I think we've lots of evidence knowing that this has happened in captivity, if it's happened before, it's highly likely to be happening.

You know, I think the other thing that this documentary really aims to help fix is people denying that sexual violence happened. I mean, a Hamas spokesperson has come out and said, rape is against our religion, it didn't happen. But not only did it happen, it happened to systematically. The definition of a war crime, crimes against humanity are things that are premeditated that happened at multiple locations.

Almost every location where the terrorists were, the bodies that were discovered, and we have all of this from first responders, people who saw it in this documentary, I've walked through the fields where these bodies were found, they're naked and they're bloody. And there's no other explanation for that bet that, you know, this is a lot of people. This is women and men. And this was systematic. It was not just in one place.

And if you're trying to terrorize people, if you're trying to inflict trauma on individuals, but also on a country, sexual violence, unfortunately is a tactic that is very effective. It has been used throughout the generations and it cannot be used in any situation. And that is what we are trying to help this documentary, bring to light and have people remember deep in their hearts, that this is never OK ever.

TAPPER: Important work. The documentary, as I understand it, is due to come out in April. We'll cover it more then. Sheryl Sandberg, thank you so much.

SANDBERG: Thank you for having me.

TAPPER: Just into CNN, new details about Robert Hur, the special counsel who wrote that blistering report about President Biden and Biden's mishandling of classified documents. The new push to bring if not hauled the special counsel before Congress to testify, that's next.



TAPPER: We're back with our 2024 Lead, music. Thank you. In 12 days, Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley will know if her efforts to slow Donald Trump's march toward the nomination in her home state of South Carolina were successful or not, early voting for that state's primary is now underway. Let's bring in the political panel Doug Heye and Kate Bedingfield. Thank you so much for being here. So last hour, I spoke with Nikki Haley and here's how she framed her argument against her primary opponent, Mr. Trump. Take a listen.


NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's a pattern of losing that everything he touches, he loses. We saw it in 2018. We saw it in 2020. We saw it in 2022. How many more times do we have to go back to the same person and say and then finally decide maybe he's the problem?


TAPPER: I want to get your reaction because right now there's a brand new CBS News/YouGov poll that was just released 5 o'clock Eastern, 65 percent of Republicans in South Carolina don't see Trump as a problem. They favor him. They're going to be, who would you vote for today? Nikki Haley, only getting 30 percent.

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's unfortunately not surprising. I would agree with pretty much everything that Nikki Haley said in your interview I watched earlier. And everything she said over the past few weeks, but for the larger part of the party. It's not the Trump core base. It's the Republican Party. It reminds me of Bill Murray speech and meatballs. It just doesn't matter. They're either not listening to it or if they hear it, they turn against it anyways. One, because they're Trump loyalists through and through. Two, they're not looking at this South Carolina voters is what Nikki Haley did as governor, all politics are national for Republican primary voters that benefits Trump.

TAPPER: I appreciate the HIPAA pop culture references, almost came out in 1980 I think, in 1979.

HEYE: '79.

TAPPER: '79, all right. Kate can look it up later. Kate, so CNN has new reporting that House Republicans are in talks with Special Counsel Hur to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee about his report scathing in parts about Biden's handling or mishandling of classified documents. The report is obviously fuel a lot of talk, conversation even on this show, about Mr. Biden's age and his acuity.


Yesterday, ABC News/Ipsos released a poll conducted after the release of that report and found a majority of Americans, 59 percent think that both Joe Biden and Donald Trump are too old to serve as another term as president, 27 percent say only Biden compared to 3 percent that say only Trump is too old to serve, 11 percent say neither is too old for another term.

So the majority of Americans say both of them are too old. But there's another 27 percent that say, Biden is too old. We should note that this poll was taken over two days as a smaller sample size and it's typical. Today, President Biden decided to take a note and not being an angry old man about this, but to try to treat it with humor. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I've been around, I know I don't look like but I've been around a while. I do remember that.


TAPPER: Better way to deal with it than the angry old man yells at Cloud.

KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I do think that's a really effective way to deal with it. Because he's also he's showing his in on a -- showing he gets it, right? He's showing he understands that people have this concern. So I think for him to acknowledge it, and then do what he did kind of in the rest of that clip, which is pivot to, you know, here are the things that I'm getting done. Here's what my second term will look like. I mean, ultimately, what we see in the polling that you just cited, right, is age going to be a factor in this race, yet it is. You know, Joe Biden is 81. Donald Trump is 77. That's going to be something that voters take into account.

It is not going to be the defining issue in this race, I don't believe that. I think there are going to be many other issues, including who's going to protect your right to abortion, who's going to protect your right to vote and ensure that our democracy goes forward, who's going to not allow Russia to roll into to Europe, you know, as they so desire, which is what Trump essentially invited them to do over the weekend. So there are going to be other issues aside from just age that are going to be decisive in this race.

TAPPER: Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who's running as an independent for president is apologizing to any family members who were hurt by this ad that a RFK Jr. Super PAC ran, last night during the Super Bowl. Let's run a little clip of it.




TAPPER: Obviously this is a reference to his uncle's presidential campaign had in 1960? Let's play a part of that from former President John F. Kennedy. Then Senator Kennedy, side by side.




TAPPER: So the Super PAC, American values 2024 spent $7 million to air the ad. Many members of the Kennedy family were not happy about it. They had images of their parents or grandparents used without them being consulted. And also they don't like their cousin's presidential campaign or his a scientific views on vaccines and the like. What do you make of it?

HEYE: Well, that, you know, they've been unhappy for a long time and they've been public about it. Obviously RFK is messaging as he's invoking his uncle is a long way away from Frank Sinatra, redoing the lyrics to high hopes in 1960, which he did for JFK. But he's resonating because some of these bizarre conspiracy theories have sounding boards throughout the country. People want that kind of messaging. And the other is he has a last name that everybody knows. He starts with a name ID that most other candidates don't have other than, say, Trump and obviously, the incumbent president.

But also, you know, as I was following I know that Twitter isn't real life, but as I was looking at responses to the ad during the Super Bowl, you know, people were critiquing the ad, I took a different view. We had millions and millions of people tuned in, the biggest event of the year on television, and he was able to send a message to voters who liked the poll you referenced aren't excited about a Biden Trump rematch? I think it was money well spent.

TAPPER: Yes, we should note that this Super PAC American voters 2024 has received $15 million in donations from a Republican mega donor and Trump backer named Timothy Mellon. We should also note that even though he apologized to his family and said that he really doesn't have anything to do with this Super PAC, which legally he's not allowed to have anything to do with the Super PAC. It is his pinned tweet.


TAPPER: Meaning, like, if you go to his Twitter page --



TAPPER: -- that's what he wants everybody to see. So I'm not sure how sincere --

BEDINGFIELD: No. Absolutely and apologizing to his family is just ensuring the stays in the news cycle for another day too, right? I mean, he just wants to draw attention to the ad. He wants to draw attention to his candidate.

TAPPER: How worried are you as somebody that wants Biden to be elected that he's going to take Democratic votes?

BEDINGFIELD: I worry about that, absolutely. I think we -- I mean, look, in 2020, Joe Biden won by essentially 45,000 votes in three states. I mean, this and I expect that this race will be just as close. So I think anybody who is trying to run a third party campaign where they're ultimately not going to win an electoral vote, I cannot imagine a world where RFK Jr. actually wins an electoral vote, but he will potentially take some of the popular vote. That's going to be -- I do think that is going to be a problem.

So I think what you pointed out about and I think what you pointed out about the fact that Trump donors are funding his campaign tells you a lot about what you need to know about how they view what RFK Jr. is going to do in this race. Kate and Doug, thank you so much.

Coming up next, another CNN exclusive lured by a chance to escape poverty, thousands of men were recruited to fight and in many case die for Russia. Stay with us.



TAPPER: A disturbing story in our World Lead, Russia is bolstering its military strength or weaknesses by putting paid fighters or mercenaries from other countries on their frontlines in its war against Ukraine. A CNN exclusive report shows as many as 15,000 men from Nepal have already been recruited by the Kremlin, lured with promises of money. CNN's Matthew Chance went to Nepal, and heard from those who have managed to make it back alive.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It should be a world apart from the battlefields of Ukraine. But this Himalayan state has become an unlikely casualty of Russia's brutal war. Nepalis, like Ramchandra, who escaped the Russian army with his life, and praying for his comrades still fighting on the frontlines. He took a bullet and shrapnel in Ukraine, he told me. And so many Nepalis killed.

Some complained they were sent forward, while Russian troops held back he tells me, but the main problem was the language barrier. Sometimes you couldn't even understand where you're supposed to be going, he says, which way to point your gun. But that chaos hasn't stopped Nepalis signing up. Many posting upbeat videos on social media of their military training in Russia, where they're meant to be prepared for the hardships of the Ukraine war is in use. In reality, several former Nepali recruits tell CNN, they were sent into battle, after barely two weeks to fight for the Kremlin armed with a rifle and a contract for a few $1,000, a month of fortune in Nepal, where unemployment is high.

CHANCE: Well, the vast majority of Nepalis fighting for Russia in Ukraine are doing it for the money, and they come from these downhill, impoverished areas across the country. We've actually come to one of them now on the outskirts of Kathmandu to meet a woman who in the past few days has learned that her husband has been killed fighting in that distant war.

Hello. Hi. Namaste, namaste.

CHANCE (voice-over): He was with a unit of Nepalis battling Ukrainians, she tells me, when he was gunned down. It was my husband's friend, his Nepali commander in Ukraine, who called me in the middle of the night and told me he'd been killed, she tells me, still shocked at the news. There's been no notification from the Russians, she adds, nothing.

It's a growing frustration with Russia's treatment of Nepalis as cannon fodder in the Ukraine war, shared with these protesters near the Russian Embassy in Kathmandu.


CHANCE (voice-over): And the Nepali foreign minister who told me he's pressed Moscow to curb recruitment to no avail.

N. P. SAUD, NEPALI FOREIGN MINISTER: They have told me that they will sort it out the concern of Nepal.

CHANCE: So they told you they will sort it out.

SAUD: Yes.

CHANCE: But they haven't done anything yet.

SAUD: Yet, they didn't have -- we don't have any information of doing anything.

CHANCE (voice-over): There's not much information either on how many Nepalis or even fighting for Russia about 200 according to Nepali officials, but multiple sources, including campaigners, lawmakers and returning fighters, tell CNN as many as 15,000 Nepalis could be fighting in Ukraine.

CHANCE: Well, we've asked the Russians how many Nepalis they've recruited and how many have been killed in what the Kremlin calls its special military operation. So far, there's been no response. But there are concerns here in Nepal, the casualty figures, maybe high. CNN has learned that hundreds of Nepalis who joined the Russian military are out of contact, and it's uncertain if they're dead or alive. CHANCE (voice-over): Januka, a young Nepali mother, is assuming the worst. husband hasn't called for more than two months now. The children asked me when their dad is coming home, she sobs, even if he doesn't love us anymore. We just want to see his face. But another Nepali recruit to Russia's war may never be seen again.


Matthew Chance, CNN, Katmandu in Nepal.


TAPPER: Matthew Chance, thank you so much for that report. We'll be right back.


TAPPER: Fresh off his team's huge victory. Look out for a Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes tonight on CNN. He's going to talk about the Chiefs incredible comeback win with our own Abby Phillip, that's tonight on News Night at 10:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN and streaming on Max. You don't want to miss it.

As many of us were getting our game day menu set this weekend, a rather remarkable life event was happening for a beloved CNN family member. Pamela Brown welcomed her new baby, Henry Redwood Lincoln Wright, into the world. Look at that. Look at that guy. Henry is six 6 pounds, 12.5 ounces, 20 inches long. Henry arrived very early Saturday morning to 2:22 a.m. just in time to help kick off weekend festivities. Congratulations to Pamela and Adam and the entire Wright family. We love you. We can't wait to meet him. Only Pamela Brown could look that good after delivering a baby.


A heads up about this coming Sunday, check out my series, The United States of Scandal. It's a closer look at some of the most outrageous, iconic, fascinating political controversies of the modern era. We speak to Rod Blagojevich and Rielle Hunter who was John Edward's girlfriend and Jim McGreevey and Valerie Plame and so many more. The series premieres this Sunday night at 9:00 Eastern right here on CNN. I can't wait for you to see it.

Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in the Situation Room. I'll see you tomorrow.