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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis Testifies; Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT), Is Interviewed About Former FBI Informant Charged With Lying About The Bidens' Role In Ukraine Business; Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), Is Interviewed About House Intelligence Chairman Faces Blowback From GOP Colleagues Over National Security Threat Statement. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 15, 2024 - 17:00   ET





MACDOUGALD: That includes Mr. Wade as of the date you filled out this form, correct?

WILLIS: Yes. But he never gave me a gift of $100 or more. The only thing that I would say maybe went over that, but I don't think it ever did, is if we went to dinner and my meal was $100. But I don't think I've ever eaten $100 worth of food at a restaurant because I would not pay him back if we went to lunch or went to dinner. But trips, I paid him back for.

You know, I never thought about the money until you all brought it up. And I would be less than honest that says, I was giving him the money back because I was the district attorney. I didn't take gifts from him for a lot of personal reasons. Anyway, I did not take gifts from him.

MACDOUGALD: And so your reason for not disclosing any gifts from Mr. Wade on exhibit number 21 is that the aggregate amount, on a net basis, was less than $100 in the year 2022. Is that correct?

WILLIS: I did not accept a gift of him of more than $100 in 2022. But one exception to that, because I want us to be clear, is we probably went out to eat multiple times in the year. If you're considering eating a meal, you know, because went out multiple times, that probably went to the level of more than $100. But if we're doing tip for tat like that, I probably paid for as many meals as he paid for. And so, I did not receive any gifts from him.

MACDOUGALD: The question on the form --

WILLIS: I understand the question.

MACDOUGALD: -- it aggregate in excess of $100. And your testimony is that you did not receive, in the aggregate more than $100. JUDGE SCOTT MCAFEE, FULTON COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT: All right, Mr. McDougald, you can sit down now.

MACDOUGALD: I don't believe she answered that question, Your Honor. She answered as to specific individual gifts.

MCAFEE: And you're not listening to my answer, either, so we're done

MACDOUGALD: Very well.

MCAFEE: OK. Mr. Rice (ph).

RICE (PH): No further question, Your Honor.

MCAFEE: Mr. Gillen.


WILLIS: Good afternoon, sir.

GILLEN: A few questions here. I want to -- you saw the book here, "Find Me the Votes," that was shown to you, correct?

WILLIS: Yes, sir.

GILLEN: Your Honor, I would like to just tender this as an exhibit number 22.

MCAFEE: Is that your copy?

GILLEN: It is.

MCAFEE: All right. What exhibit is that going to be?

GILLEN: Twenty-two.

MCAFEE: All right.

GILLEN: I'm making the evidentiary contribution here to this. Now --

MCAFEE: Well, I guess you're tendering it. Is it with position of the state?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to object this to the relevance at this point as to (inaudible). There's no relevance at this point.

MCAFEE: Mr. Gillen, are you using this to --

GILLEN: to repeat.

MCAFEE: -- confront her with prior statements?

GILLEN: Yes, Your Honor. And statements that she made concerning her financial situation and laying the foundation for that, and that she gave these interviews to the authors. And so, this would document that. Let me ask her get this in the record, ask her questions about it.

MCAFEE: We could mark it for impeachment purposes. I'm a little wary of entering an entire 300 page book because I don't know exactly what every single line, if it would pass hearsay or relevance or et cetera, et cetera. But I don't think it needs to be admitted as an actual evidence for the record for you to do what you need to do with it, so.

GILLEN: Well, Your Honor, I understand. I just would --


GILLEN: -- again.

MCAFEE: Let's mark it exhibit 22, and I'll let you -- we'll move from there.

GILLEN: Thank, Your Honor.

Now, you were asked a little bit about this book before, correct?

WILLIS: I think Mrs. Merchant?

GILLEN: Ms. Merchant did.

WILLIS: Ask me some questions. Yes.

GILLEN: And gave about what? About six interviews to the authors of this book in a sit down.

WILLIS: No, sir.

GILLEN: You didn't.


GILLEN: Was it --

MCAFEE: She answered how many interviews she gave in her opinion.

GILLEN: How many, in your opinion, do you believe you gave, and how long did they last?

WILLIS: Two to three, maybe 20, 30 minutes.

GILLEN: So your testimony is, at most, you think, that you gave maybe an hour to an hour and a half interview to the authors of this book?

WILLIS: Oh, you mean in total?

GILLEN: In total, yes.

WILLIS: Maybe. Yes. Anywhere between -- definitely not more than two- ish hours.

GILLEN: OK. But you also were telling when -- they were -- the title of the book, of course, is a hard charging Georgia prosecutor, a rogue president, and the plot to steal American election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Objection, Your Honor. Relevance of the title.

MCAFEE: Why is the title of the book relevant, sir?

WILLIS: And I had no --

GILLEN: And then I'm going to ask her whether or not that was theme that they gave her when they talked with her.


MCAFEE: With the theme they gave her. What do you mean by that?


GILLEN: Well, because they sat down and they told her why they were there to interview her.

MCAFEE: And why does that matter?

GILLEN: Well, I think it matters because it shows -- but they want her to give her version of what her life story is. This is a light bomb is a life story of her. So that's why it's relevant. But if the court thinks it's not, then --

MCAFEE: No, no, it could be relevant to your issue of the forensic misconduct that has been alleged and maybe some of the motives at play when it comes to forensic misconduct. But I'm not seeing, again, what we're here for today was the relationship and or any financial elements of it.

GILLEN: Correct. Well, I think it clearly relevant to the forensic misconduct, also relevant to the personal interest in terms of the finances. Let me --

WILLIS: I didn't make $0.10 off that book.

GILLEN: Pardon me?

WILLIS: I didn't make $0.10 off that book.

GILLEN: I didn't ask whether you made any money.

WILLIS: OK. I just --

GILLEN: I didn't ask whether you made any money.

MCAFEE: Do you have any other statements that she hadn't already been confronted with by Ms. Merchant?

GILLEN: Well, other than -- I want to focus on when you were telling them about your financial straits and you're living kind of month to month, that is what your financial status was back in 2018 after your election, correct. MCAFEE: Mr. Gillen, we covered that at length. You just -- if you're at the end of the line, I'm sorry about that, but we got to find new ground.

GILLEN: Well, you know, let me move on to my point here. So the point is that what you're telling us is that you were in financial straits, but really that your testimony today is you had a cash hoard of maybe up to $10,000 in cash where you laid your head at night so that you would dip out and there would be no record of it. Correct?

WILLIS: That's not what I'm telling you, sir. That's not at all what I'm telling you. What I'm telling you is that throughout the course of my life, I have always kept cash in my house. That cash has ranged from times, you know, my father will probably be ashamed of this because he would say it should be more, but that cash at times has ranged from $500 to maybe $9,000. And he would be like, that is not what I told you to do.

I've always had that amount of money. What I've told you is that when I travel, you do better negotiating when you travel. If you have cash, you can -- you go to get the cab. They say, oh, we going to charge you 300 for the day. Well, I got American cash, will you take it for 150?

And so it's my practice to take money when I travel. We're not talking about a whole lot of money. We're going to the Bahamas, 1500 in cash is in my pocket, or at the most, 2500. Belize was actually probably the most money I've ever taken, and it was taken because it was a big deal. My 50th birthday sucked. His 50th birthday -- it sucked, it was tear up, no.

And so --

GILLEN: Your Honor, I'd like to get back to some questions here.

WILLIS: I'm trying to answer it.

MCAFEE: I think it would help if we move the question here.

GILLEN: So let's move to the specific yes or no here. Have you told us today that you would keep a cash forward in your residence up to about $9,000, yes or no?

WILLIS: Throughout the course of my adult life. And so, let's even be more specific than that. Probably from the time --

GILLEN: Your Honor, I'm only asking for yes or no revenue (ph) speech.

MCAFEE: And we have already covered this.

GILLEN: Yes, but I'm trying to.

MCAFEE: So, let me get to that point. I know you're laying the foundation, but it's already been laid, so.


GILLEN: The filibuster is here. I'm trying to move through the filibuster.

WILLIS: Yes, but we're not talking about a lot of -- and so, it could be 2,000, it could be 1,500, it could be 7,500. It just depends on how -- what you're doing at that time. What I'm telling you is when I traveled, I took cash. I find that when you travel, especially to foreign countries, the American dollar does well, and it's good to have cash. You can negotiate with the taxi driver, with the jet skis, with -- and it's not a lot of money we're talking about.

GILLEN: Your Honor --

MCAFEE: OK. Understood, Ms. Willis.

GILLEN: We need to -- we need to cut off the --

MCAFEE: Let's get to -- let's get to a question, Mr. Gillen.

GILLEN: So, you have cash in your house, but you had a lien -- a tax lien on your property, is that right?

WILLIS: I don't believe I had a tax lien on my property.

GILLEN: You don't have a tax lien on your property.

MCAFEE: You got to talk up a lot of, Mr. Hunt (ph).


MCAFEE: OK, we already covered that. Mr. Gillen. I need new ground here.

GILLEN: I'm asking the question. I'm trying to figure out how someone can have a tax lien --

MCAFEE: Been ask that question.

GILLEN: -- but not use the money that they allegedly said they have.

MCAFEE: Well, I think Ms. Merchant asked that exact same question. She said she didn't use the money to pay her tax lien. So what's your question that's new?

GILLEN: So, I was going to build on that to say --

MCAFEE: No more building. It's already built.

GILLEN: All right.

WILLIS: It's the same way you pay a bill.

MCAFEE: Just put the top on it if you need to. OK?

WILLIS: It's the same way you owe a bill and go shopping.

GILLEN: Well, now, you know, have you ever used -- did you say earlier that you use Cash App? WILLIS: When I would pay Robin Bryant, I use Cash App.

GILLEN: What is Cash App, for the record?

MCAFEE: I don't need to know that for the record. Let's keep going.

GILLEN: Well, and so if you're paying Robin with Cash App, why aren't you paying -- allegedly paying Mr. --


WILLIS: There's no alleged here.

GILLEN: Why aren't you paying, allegedly, Mr. Wade with Cash App?

WILLIS: I don't think Mr. Wade does Cash App.

GILLEN: Did you ask him?

WILLIS: I think he's told me he doesn't do Cash App.

GILLEN: OK, so that's the reason why you didn't use Cash App.

WILLIS: He's sitting next to me, I hand him the money.

GILLEN: Because there would be a record in Cash App of your making payments, correct?

WILLIS: Yes, but I didn't think that I was making a record in personal relationship.

GILLEN: Because when you're filing your -- and I know that I'm going to move into this financial statement here. You were asked just a second ago about your nondisclosure form or your -- excuse me, your disclosure form of an exhibit 21, where we agree that Mr. Wade is a prohibited source. Correct?

WILLIS: I don't -- what I agree to is I don't believe he's given me gifts. You would like to classify these trips as gifts, but I've always paid my fair share on these trips, so I did not look at them as gifts. I don't think that what this -- is will do disclosing and they can tell me if they mean something different. I don't think it means that if you go to dinner with somebody over the course of a year and it gets to 100, you're supposed to report it. If my understanding of that is wrong, I've probably been to lunches with a couple of people that over the course of a year they paid, I paid.

GILLEN: Let me -- prohibited source means --

MCAFEE: We already went over this, Mr. Gillen. Mr. MacDougald --

GILLEN: Well, Your Honor, I have to lay the foundation here before I can follow up with my next question.

MCAFEE: I don't know why you have to.


MCAFEE: The questions have been made.

GILLEN: Then your 2022 disclosure form did not list any of the thousands and thousands of dollars that Mr. Wade paid for on trips that you were on. Isn't that correct?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Objection, (inaudible) answer.

WILLIS: That's because Mr. Wade was paid that money back or he was paid due to the fact that I bought the plane ticket or I paid for the hotel. There were never money that he gave me. That wasn't the nature of our relationship. You know, there's so many men, and Mr. Wade is one of them, where the nature of the relationship is they're just paying a woman.

The nature of our relationship is companionship and friendship. Despite the way people would like to paint certain women, it's just not true.

GILLEN: Final question. And not a single solitary documentary piece of evidence --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Asked and answered --

GILLEN: showing that you have withdrawn the cash to pay --

MCAFEE: All right. Mr. Gillen --

WILLIS: That's not accurate.

GILLEN: Thank you.

MCAFEE: OK. Mr. McCullough (ph) on behalf of Mr. Floyd.

MCCULLOUGH: No further question.

MCAFEE: All right. And Mr. Cromwell on behalf of Ms. Latham.

WILLIAM CROMWELL, CATHY LATHAM DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Great thing about coming last is both of your questions. I had one question. Ms. Willis, can you hear me?

WILLIS: Yes, sir.

CROMWELL: In the time period between February of 2021 and January of 2022, while you were staying at the Yeartie condo, did your father ever come and visit you during that time period at the Yeartie condo?

WILLIS: He did not.

CROMWELL: That's all I have. Thank you, Your Honor.

MCAFEE: All right, Ms. Cross, I would imagine you have a number of topics to cover with Ms. Willis that'll take more than 10 to 15 minutes? ANNA GREEN CROSS, ATTORNEY FOR FULTON COUNTY DA'S OFFICE: I do.

MCAFEE: OK. And I think we've reached a stopping point for today. And so, Ms. Willis, I'd ask if you can step down now. And I'd also remind you that you're not to discuss your testimony or that of any other witness until tomorrow morning. Is that clear? And we'll begin again at 09:00 a.m.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nine a.m. (inaudible).

MCAFEE: We'll do 09:00 a.m. this time tomorrow. Before we recess for today, I want to check in on logistics. And I'll ask Ms. Merchant, once the testimony of Ms. Willis has concluded, how many other witnesses do you anticipate calling?

ASHLEIGH MERCHANT, MICHAEL ROMAN DEFENSE ATTORNEY: (Inaudible). And then we subpoenaed those records that could state the objectives.

MCAFEE: We can handle that now. Ms. Willis, you can step down. You're done for the day.

WILLIS: Do you want me to leave the courtroom?

MCAFEE: Or you can sit at the council table. We don't major the witness box.

All right. So, two witnesses and then querying other defense counsel. I know, Mr. Gillen, there was a potential witness that was objected to by the state, so there's another one there, and we can talk about that. Were there any other witnesses anticipated from any defense counsel?

All right. Seeing no show of hands. And then, Ms. Cross, any witnesses on your behalf?

CROSS: I expect so, your honor. And I expect that to take four to five hours.

MCAFEE: OK. And how many witnesses would you imagine?

CROSS: Without committing myself to a final number, my best guess at this point would be three people.


MCAFEE: OK. All right.

MERCHANT: Let me know who -- I mean, I gave them our witnesses. We're supposed to give witnesses from evidentiary hearing, from guessing that one is John Floyd. But I don't know anybody else.

MCAFEE: All right. No, I understand, Ms. Merchant. However, I don't think at this point there's any statutory requirement. We have the standing order for expert witnesses, and if state doesn't want to extend that courtesy, then I think you're stuck with it. All right? CROSS: I'm certainly happy to represent, but Mr. Floyd will be a witness. That the other witnesses will be impeaching of this year (ph).

MCAFEE: OK. All right, let's take up these last couple issues here before we break, then, the issue of the Delta Airlines records. Ms. -- the motion to quash was filed by the state on behalf of Mr. Willis, I believe.

CROSS: I didn't file a motion, Your Honor.

MCAFEE: Oh, excuse me.

CROSS: But my representation was that I just got notice of them, I think it was yesterday.


CROSS: And so, now that I've had the review of them, I object to the general fishing expedition. I've introduced a new record today that was from Delta. My knowledge that there's going to be no further new production in the Delta record. I don't want to burden the court with anything. If the court wants to take a look at it and see if there's anything different than that, I don't have an objection. I just -- I don't like the --

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, let us break away now from this hearing. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. And you have been listening and watching the breaking news. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis testified in a courtroom.

A judge is considering whether she should be disqualified from the Trump election subversion case in Georgia as the Trump team wants her to be. The testimony from Willis, contentious at times. Trump and his codefendants are trying to remove her and ultimately to derail the case based on allegations that she and Nathan Wade, the special prosecutor that she hired to lead the case, engaged in an improper relationship from which she financially benefited. Willis engaging in a fiery back and forth at times with the attorneys questioning her. She insisted she did nothing inappropriate.

Let's play just one exchange just before the judge called a break that gives you a small taste of some of what played out over the previous few hours.


WILLIS: Let's be clear, because you've lied in this. Let me tell you which one you lied in. Right here. I think you lied right here.

No, no, no, this is the truth, judge. It is a lie. It is a lie.

MCAFEE: All right. Ms. Willis. Mr. Senna (ph), thank you. We're going to take five minutes.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: CNN anchor, former federal prosecutor, Laura Coates, is with me. She's been listening to all of this outside the courthouse.

And, Laura, when this romantic relationship between Nathan Wade and Fani Willis started and ended was the main point in today's hearing.

LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR & CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I have been completely riveted all day listening to this. The big question before this judge today was not an episode out of so called real housewives. It was about whether there was a romantic relationship from which finding Willis derived a financial benefit in actually bringing this case. That was what needed to be proven. That is the conflict of interest that could potentially lead to disqualification.

And just so you know, Jake, it's not just her who would need to be disqualified, it'd be the entire team. A separate entity would come in, replace that team. They're not beholden to try to follow what she indicted or even continue with the case. But there was never a moment where either Nathan Wade nor Fani Willis actually conceded that their relationship began before he was hired as special counsel and part of the team.

There was a witness, a former friend, a former employee of the DA's office in Fulton County, Ms. Yeartie, from whom Fani Willis leased a condo, who said, absolutely, they were romantically involved back in 2019.

Now, there was an axe to grind they did bring out. This woman had been a former employee. She resigned on penalty, eventually being fired. There is obviously a contentious relationship now going between her and Fani Willis.

And you know what was really surprising, Jake? The attorney asking questions, did not follow up. Did not ask questions like, well, how speedily did you actually see them romantically involved? She mentioned kissing and hugging, didn't say the location or the time frame. That was a point of issue here.

But ultimately, the issue is, was there a financial benefit? And they had a very hard time creating that through line from point A to point B.

TAPPER: Yes. And just to be clear, I mean, taking notes here, Fani Willis said she hired him in, I believe, the end -- the fall or the end of 2021. Their relationship began somewhere around February or April of 2022. And then this very revealing answer about when the relationship ended, she said that he would probably say that the relationship ended in June or July of 2022 -- I'm sorry, June or July of 2023, because that's when their physical relationship ended. But it wasn't until August 2023 where they had what she called the hard conversation and that's when, in her mind, the relationship ended. This is significant to the extent that any of this is significant, because the indictment was brought down against Donald Trump on August 14.

[17:20:48] COATES: Yes.

TAPPER: What exactly are the Trump attorneys saying? I understand the whole idea that she hired him and he was her boyfriend at the time, which she denies and he denies, paid him a lot of money, and then she and he lived high on the hog, going on vacations, going out to meals, et cetera, et cetera. What's the significance of when the relationship ended?

COATES: Well, what they're trying to establish is somehow that they wanted to maintain contact with one another and use the actual indictment and the litigation as a pretextual reason to do so, that this was all a master plan, essentially, to maintain their companionship and their romance and be able to have, and derive a financial benefit as a result. Consequences be damned.

Now, they have to actually get to the meat of the matter. None of what we've heard today has anything to do with the underlying facts of the actual indictment. And remember, the standard by which you must prove for somebody to get disqualified means that the nature of this relationship would have been such a conflict of interest as to deny Donald Trump or the other, what, 17 defendants, some of whom have already pled guilty of a fair trial. That's the connection that has to be made here.

But remember, ultimately, there's also the shame factor here. Can you imagine, Jake, if were sitting here today and watching, say, Jack Smith on the stand, testifying about his sexual relationships, what impact that would have on an overall jury pool, on a credibility assessment, trying to parse through whether he began or ended a relationship, whether he was married, the technicality or not, whether he was paying for trips or somebody was paying him back on Cash App, part of the whole point of this was to really maybe death by a thousand cuts in credibility that we're not talking about. And this court is not talking about the underlying facts here. But they've done themselves no favors here. There is the optics.

There are the moments where people are questioning what the motivation may have been. But at the end of the day, they need to establish, to disqualify her that there was a financial benefit such that it would deny Trump a fair trial or any of the other defendants. And so far, this judge does not seem to be particularly persuaded or visibly persuaded in that direction. In fact, I was actually surprised that she took the stand. It seemed as though before she walked into the courtroom in a very theatrical way and appeared before a camera, that he seemed to be inclined to question why they needed her to testify.

And lo and behold, she appeared nonetheless.

TAPPER: Yes. I mean, there's so many issues here. One of them is none of this has to do with whether or not Donald Trump and his minions tried to steal Georgia completely. You know, that --

COATES: She said as much.

TAPPER: Yes. COATES: She said as much.

TAPPER: But second of all, of course, is what the Trump folks are doing, which is, look, this is tough stuff. If you're going to take Donald Trump on, his lawyers are going to do everything they can to fight back. And that includes potentially smearing the district attorney.

And then there's the third step, which is Richard Nixon once said, I gave them a sword. This was stupid of her to get romantically involved with somebody that worked in her office, whether he considered himself an employee or not. Stupid is not necessarily criminal. Stupid is not necessarily corrupt. But it was unwise.

On the point that you're talking about, this allegation that Fani Willis financially benefited from hiring Nathan Wade, was there any evidence at all proving that allegation?

COATES: You know, whatever presentation was there was very, very tenuous. What was happening from Nathan Wade, for example, is he talked about deriving sources of income from different sources, right? His private practice, and then from the state of Georgia or Fulton county. What the lawyers bringing in this action seemed to want to suggest was that him and Fani Willis began at zero. And therefore, the only income coming in to their --

TAPPER: Right.

COATES: -- you know, coffer is their accounts came from that. And therefore, there was a through line between every dollar spent came from this. When in reality, the testimony came in and said that they had income, that there was a pot of money, and they used their resources from that. That's not enough yet to determine the financial benefit.


TAPPER: All right, let's bring in Charlie Bailey, former senior assistant district attorney of Fulton County, who has worked closely with Fani Willis. His wife is on Willis's communications team. And Charlie was in court for today's hearing.

Good to see you again, Charlie. So, Fani Willis brought charges against the former president, a move of huge significance, put her squarely in the spotlight, squarely in the sights of Donald Trump's legal team, even if the judge does not disqualify her from the case, based on what you saw in court today, did her decision to have a romantic relationship with a lead prosecutor, did it jeopardize her case? Did it potentially jeopardize her credibility with a jury?

CHARLIE BAILEY, FORMER SENIOR ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY OF FULTON COUNTY: No, I don't think it jeopardized the case and didn't jeopardize her credibility. I think the credibility that was jeopardized today is these lawyers that put lies in filings got way out over their skis, claiming they knew things to be true that were proven today to be false. I mean, I think the big takeaway from today also, I mean it's outrageous the fact that somebody like Donald Trump, who's been adjudicated a sexual assaulter, is going to question a consensual relationship between two single adults. I mean, it's the height of hypocrisy.

And so the only credibility here at issue are those defendants in there. I think Fani spoke for herself about her own credibility.

TAPPER: So, she kept on saying that the Trump and the attorneys for Trump and the attorney's for Trump's minions who are also charged, she has many codefendants in this case, lied about her and filled these legal documents with lies. You just alluded to it. What lies specifically is she talking about?

BAILEY: Well, this is what they said. All right, so let's be clear. This is what they said in these motions. They said Fani Willis led an almost two year investigation, hundreds of witnesses, hundreds and thousands of documents. Special grand jury went through awful threats, some of the worst, most vile and dangerous threats you can think of. She did all that, brought a case against the former president and a bunch of his associates, not because the evidence and the law required it, but because she wanted to hire somebody that could pay for a trip to Aruba because she couldn't pay for her own trip.

That is what they said. And, Jake, if that was true, she'd go down as one of the most corrupt district attorneys in the history of this country. And so that is the lie. And that is what they have to convince that judge is the truth. And what we saw today is it's a full on bunch of lies, the whole thing.

TAPPER: There's also an illusion that one of the attorneys made, one of the defense attorneys going after her made about a, quote, that she said in 2021 about how she would never have a romantic relationship with an employee. She said something about, you know, not having a relationship with somebody under her. She differentiated today saying that the -- her former boyfriend would never, you know, concede that he was an employee or worked under her. Is that persuasive, do you think?

BAILEY: I mean, it's the way -- I'm assuming through her testimony that's the way Nathan feels about it. I mean, it's not an odd way to think about it. You've got special assistant district attorneys, they're private attorneys, they're not employees under the law, they work on a contract basis, and to think of themselves as more as colleagues. I mean -- you've watched her today, Jake. I don't think anybody's confused about who's in charge.

I mean, Fani Willis is the district attorney, not Nathan Wade. But I understand the distinction.

TAPPER: Yes. And then lastly, there was also this. She wanted to -- she seemed to want to talk a lot about her relationship with Nathan and why they are no longer together. And it seemed to be along the lines of, and I'm paraphrasing, but this -- she was pretty clear about the fact that Nathan Wade, according to her, had a difficult time dealing with her as an equal. She quoted him saying something like, the only thing a woman could do for him is make him a sandwich or something like that.

And that gets into why she repaid him money in her testimony on her own behalf, that she would never want to have somebody paying for trips for her. Is that what she was driving at?

BAILEY: Yes. And that's consistent with the Fani that I know. I mean, this is a strong, independent woman who doesn't rely on anybody. And doesn't need a man to make her way in the world. And I think that's one of the reasons, on top of being called corrupt and everything, but a child of God, that she was so angry about these allegations and she has full right to be.

TAPPER: All right, Charlie Bailey, thanks so much for your time. Appreciate it. Much more on the dramatic day in Fulton County, Georgia ahead.

We're also following other breaking news. A former FBI informant charged in connection with a case involving Hunter Biden. What that means for the Republicans' investigation in the House. Stay with us.


TAPPER: And we have more breaking news for you this afternoon. A former FBI informant has been charged for lying about President Biden and Biden's son Hunter, and their involvement in business dealings with Ukrainian energy company, Burisma. Now, the reason why this is significant is that this individual and his testimony was a major aspect of the claims by Republicans that President Biden himself had benefited from his son's business operations. Let's get straight to CNN's Evan Perez. Evan, what exactly are they saying about this FBI informant?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the name of the informant is Alexander Smirnov. He was arrested today by the FBI. And according to the FBI, he lied to the FBI when he made some claims, including the fact he said that Joe Biden received or was getting paid $5 million and that Hunter Biden was getting paid $5 million in order to assist Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company on which Hunter Biden was serving as a -- on the board of directors back during the time that Joe Biden was vice president.


Of course, that is explosive allegations and that's what's really fueled the Republican drive to impeach the President. They've also, obviously, this has driven a lot of the allegations that there was corruption, that the former then vice president was corrupt and trading favors when he was the sitting vice president. I'll read you just a part of what the FBI says, but it really comes down to this, right?

They say that, in short, you know, the defendant's story to the FBI is a fabrication. They say it's an amalgam of otherwise unremarkable business meetings and contacts that actually occurred but at a later date than he claimed and for the purpose of pitching business, pitching Burisma on the defendant's services and products. So what the FBI now says and what David Weiss, the special counsel who has charged Hunter Biden in two separate cases in Delaware and in Los Angeles, this case is being brought by David Weiss against this informant. What they're saying is that all of that was false and that this now -- he is now facing these charges of false statements and making -- creating a false and fictitious document. Those are the two charges that he's facing now in Los Angeles, Jake.

TAPPER: And just to remind folks who Smirnov is because they might not know the name.

PEREZ: Right.

TAPPER: This was the individual that had claimed that he had been told by somebody who ran Burisma --

PEREZ: Right.

TAPPER: -- that Joe Biden himself was going to get $5 million for all these shady dealings.

PEREZ: Right.

TAPPER: This is the guy that Senator Chuck Grassley was insisting that this FBI report be revealed to the public.

PEREZ: Correct.

TAPPER: This was the guy who basically provided hours worth of content on "Fox," especially in prime time. This was the guy who James Comer, the guy who runs the House Oversight Committee, was relying on as a major source of information. And the FBI is saying the guy's a liar. In fact, so much so we're charging him with a crime.

PEREZ: Correct, Jake. I mean, look, again, what the Republicans are saying is that one of the reasons why they were relying on him is that they believed he was credible, that the FBI was using him as an informant, and that gave him credibility. What we've now -- what we're seeing, though, in these documents, in this indictment is that all of that was fictitious.

He came up with this story after Joe Biden became the presumptive candidate for the Democrats in 2020. And of course, after he had already gone to Republicans to make some of those allegations to Chuck Grassley and two others.

TAPPER: It reminds me to a degree of during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings when all these people were making wild allegations, false allegations about the man that is now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. And then there was this move to just like, release all this information. Well, allegations are not facts. And just because somebody has reported something to the FBI doesn't mean it's true. And we saw all this wild stuff released about Brett Kavanaugh, who was unfairly smeared by a lot of this. Here we have apparently the same situation, except it's against Joe Biden. PEREZ: Right, exactly. And by the way, I mean, people come to the FBI all the time, make allegations. The FBI puts it down in these documents called a 1023. And that's what Republicans then release to the public.

TAPPER: Yes, that seems, in retrospect, wildly irresponsible just to release 1023s without any sort of context as to how credible an individual might be. And now we know the FBI thinks this guy's not credible at all.

PEREZ: Right, made it all up.

TAPPER: All right, Evan Perez, thanks so much. Appreciate it. The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee is going to be here next. We'll talk to him about this.


Plus, more importantly, perhaps, that cryptic message from his Republican counterpart about a potential national security threat. We'll be right back.


TAPPER: And we're back with the World Lead, a full court press from the White House and from Capitol Hill today to try to tamp down fears of the alarming threat we heard about yesterday.


JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESMAN: There is no immediate threat to anyone's safety. We are not talking about a weapon that can be used to attack human beings or cause physical destruction here on earth.

REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA), HOUSE SPEAKER: I want to assure the American people there is no need for public alarm.


TAPPER: The sense of urgency began with a vague message from the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Republican Congressman Mike Turner of Ohio, who claimed yesterday that his committee had, quote, information concerning a serious national security threat. Turner requested, quote, President Biden declassify all information relating to this threat, unquote.

Today, the White House confirmed that the threat is related to anti- satellite capability being developed but not yet deployed by Russia. Congressman Jim Himes joins me now. He is the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, I want to get your reaction to all this in a moment, but first, we have this breaking news. A former FBI informant charged with lying to the FBI, those claims he made about President Biden and Hunter Biden's involvement with the Ukrainian company Burisma. The man, Alexander Smirnov, he's been rather pivotal to the allegations from the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, James Comer, not to mention numerous "Fox" primetime hosts that there was evidence that Biden benefited to the tune of millions of dollars from Hunter Biden's business dealings. What's your reaction to this allegation, or rather this indictment?


REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, Jake, I'm not at all surprised. I mean, you know, whatever my Republican friends build impeachment inquiries on, or whatever they build this sort of edifice of MAGA outrage on, eventually turns out not to be true, including, you know, as you pointed out, the whole underpinning of the President should be impeached thing, turns out to be, you know, largely resting on lies.

Now, you know, I wish I could say that that's going to make a real difference here, because what we know is that you can impeach somebody without any crimes, without any misdemeanors, right? Because we just saw the impeachment of Secretary Mayorkas. Maybe my Republican friends don't like the way he's doing his job, but they, you know, failed in that impeachment to come up with a single example of a high crime or misdemeanor. So, yes, shocking, but not at all surprising. And I don't think it'll change the narrative around here.

TAPPER: Let's turn to what was shocking breaking news yesterday, and that has to do with what Chairman Turner put out that message. The national security advisor at the White House, Jake Sullivan, said that you were supposed to get a briefing on this supposed threat today. I understand you can't talk about classified information, but what can you tell us about what you learned about this threat at today's briefing?

HIMES: Yes, so, as you just said, the briefing happened. We were joined by the national security advisor and the director of national intelligence, and we heard a lot of what we already knew about the nature of this threat. And you heard Kirby describe it as anti- satellite weapon. You heard him say something that I was saying yesterday, which is, it is not an immediate threat to the American people. It is like any number of threats that we learned about on the Intelligence Committee, it's something that we need to, you know, be thoughtful about, address, work through. I'm sorry that created a massive sort of feeding frenzy and a panic yesterday, but what we learned in the meeting today was that, you know, this is something that they have known about for a long time.

They've got a number of strategies to deal with it. And, you know, hopefully, this doesn't become the norm for how we, you know, how we deal with threats on the Intelligence Committee.

TAPPER: I don't want to speak for you, but it does seem to me like you and Chairman Turner have a good relationship, have a good working relationship. He does seem to be a smart and serious person. What was the deal with that press release yesterday, with that statement? HIMES: Yes. And you're right. The Committee and people who follow Washington will know this prior to Mike Turner becoming chairman, prior to me becoming ranking member, it had been brutally split by an awful lot of the Trump related stuff. And so we really dedicated ourselves to working together in a bipartisan way. And I think we have a really functional committee right now.

So, you know, I'm not going to second guess what the chairman was, you know, what his intentions were, what he was trying to do. I wish the communications, put it this way, had been a lot more private than they were. It's not unusual, Jake, for, by the way, the Committee to vote to make information available to members of Congress. But we usually do that pretty quietly. But you're absolutely right. Look, I think from now we can move on and hopefully not, you know, cause panics in future.

TAPPER: All right, Democratic Congressman Jim Himes, Ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee. Thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.

HIMES: Thank you, Jake.


TAPPER: House Republican Dan Crenshaw from Texas is headed to the camera. I'm going to ask him about the statement about a national security threat from the Intelligence Committee chairman. Does he think it was out of line? What's his take? We'll be right back.


TAPPER: We're back and continue to follow the breaking news. The indictment that just dropped charging a former FBI informant with lying about President Biden and his son, Hunter Biden's, involvement in business dealings with Ukrainian energy company, Burisma Holdings, which would seem to undercut an aspect of the Republicans' impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden himself, though not necessarily the charges against Hunter.

We've also been following, as you saw in my interview with the Intelligence Committee, Ranking Democrat Jim Himes. The new intelligence released by the White House today saying that Russia is developing a weapon with nuclear capabilities for space which would theoretically pose a significant threat to the United States' ability to control its own nuclear weapons.

Joining us now, Republican from Texas, Congressman Dan Crenshaw, who serves on the House Intelligence Committee and is a retired Navy Seal. Congressman Crenshaw, good to see you. I want to get your reaction. I want to get to the national security threat in a second. But first, I know you just came before the camera, and you probably haven't had a chance to read the indictment against this FBI informant, but do you have any reaction to the fact that he has been indicted for lying to the FBI?

REP. DAN CRENSHAW (R-TX): Not much. Look, I'm not on the Oversight Committee. I'm not deeply involved in those investigations. This is honestly the first time I've heard of anyone accusing Biden of taking $5 million from Burisma. That's a very specific accusation. I don't recall hearing that before. What we've seen from the Oversight Committee, what they've revealed is a lot of smoke. I mean, they'll fully admit there's not a smoking gun, but there's a lot of smoke of shell companies, money transfers that are unaccounted for, things like that. That's the kind of stuff I've heard about. I've never actually even heard about this. So whether it undercuts the case or not, I'm not really sure.

TAPPER: If this is the first you've heard about it, then it sounds like you don't read the tweets of Marjorie Taylor Greene. So we will move on from there. Back to the Russian anti-satellite capabilities, a much more significant story. Members of your own party are now talking about whether the Intelligence Committee Chairman, Mike Turner, should have released that statement on Wednesday about the serious national security threat. Take a listen to Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): We put out our concern with Chairman Turner gaslighting the country on these things. And I worry that the motivation to draw so much attention to this is less about intelligence and national security and more about a politician who wants to send $60 billion to Ukraine and wants to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.



TAPPER: What's your reaction to that?

CRENSHAW: I mean, I'm confused, you know, and I talk to Matt about this often. We have very big differences on how we see foreign policy. And look, we took a vote on the Intel Committee to let the rest of the members know about a classified issue that includes Matt Gaetz, that includes everybody who's complaining about it. So I'm not so sure why they're complaining about that.

We voted to give you more information so that you are more informed with your future decisions. And they're calling it cynical. They're saying it was designed, you know, to be released this week. That's just not true. The reason it happened this week, it was following multiple conversations with the White House and Chairman Turner, and it was also following new intel revelations and confirmation of those facts. So this is not some conspiracy to pass FISA.

It wasn't even Intel Committee's idea to do FISA this week, by the way. That was a scheduling decision made by the speaker's team. So I just, you know, look, everybody should want more information so that you can make better decisions. And, yes, it just so happens that if you know more things, you might have different opinions about these really sensitive aspects of national security.

TAPPER: It's interesting. So do you think it was timed at all to affect the vote on aid for Ukraine, given the fact that Russia obviously is an enemy of the United States of America, despite the fact that a chunk of the Republican Party these days seems to have some odd affinity for Vladimir Putin?

CRENSHAW: Yes. No. Look, I do not think that was Chairman Turner's intentions. He's obviously just as I am. I am pro defeating Russia. I do want my colleagues to have more information, and I find it strange that they'd be upset that we give them that information. But the timing of this was coincidental, I mean because, look, we've been sending money to Ukraine for a long time. So the revelation of something about Russia, one could argue that it was -- you could argue at any moment in time that it was about delivering more Ukraine aid, which would so it's nonsense, these accusations. I've heard of people wanting to, you know, investigate Turner. It's ridiculous.

TAPPER: Do you, look, I certainly, as a journalist and as a citizen, I want more information, 100 percent, do you think that there was any -- is there anything that you could find to criticize in the way Chairman Turner released this information because it did panic a lot of people?

CRENSHAW: Look, I reread the statement just because I knew you'd asked that. And it felt like a pretty bland statement. And look, I think you knew it was going to have some kind of effect. You're going to have reporters at your door. And so it probably would have been important to say, look, we're not talking about an imminent threat. We're talking about a dangerous capability that I think the public and the world should know about because it affects more than just us, of course. So, you know, I don't have a lot of criticism for it because I do believe that it should be declassified.

TAPPER: If Russia ultimately is able to deploy technology, that means the United States loses control of our own nuclear weapons. That does seem terrifying.

CRENSHAW: It would. That's why people should know about this. Yes. There's a lot of our lifestyle around the world relies on our ability to use satellites. Some are hardened to that kind of thing, some are not. But look, it's a capability that's out there. It's not an imminent threat, and it's something people should know about and they should know who they're dealing with, I think. And I think information is important.

TAPPER: Do you think it underscores the need to send funds to Ukraine to continue to sap the strength and the technology and the power of Vladimir Putin?

CRENSHAW: I actually don't. This is why I think the counterarguments against Turner and saying this was some, you know, cynical response to giving Ukraine money. They make no sense because our argument never relied on whether Russia was a threat with dangerous capabilities. That was never our argument. Our argument is that you can't allow sovereign countries to be invaded because people want to take their stuff.

All right, we haven't seen that since the World War II era. And if you go back to that pre-World War II world order where everyone's just invading everyone, well, you're not going to have the lifestyle that you like, right? There's a domino effect there. And so we have an interest in stopping that, to stop a greater war, because if they beat Ukraine, they're on the border of four more NATO countries. That's our argument.

Our argument has never been, we're worried that Russia is going to nuke us. You know, they've had nuclear weapons this whole time that can target the U.S. So this isn't like a new thing necessarily. So it's never been our argument. And the accusations that this is some cynical ploy to get more Ukraine aided it doesn't make sense on its face.

TAPPER: Well, that never stopped conspiracy theorists before. Congressman Dan Crenshaw, Republican of Texas, good to see you as always, thanks so much.


CRENSHAW: Appreciate it.

TAPPER: From Fulton County to Capitol Hill, scandal in politics is everywhere. And this weekend I'm going to dive into the topic in a brand new series. Join me Sunday night for the premiere of my new CNN original series. It's called the United States of Scandal. We take the time to examine what drives someone to break the rules and what happens when they're caught. Again, the CNN original series is called United States of Scandal. The premiere is Sunday night at 9:00 Eastern only here on CNN.

Our coverage continues now with Brianna Keilar in for Wolf Blitzer right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." I'll see you tomorrow.