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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Prosecutor's Divorce Attorney Testifies In Fani Willis Case; New York City Mayor Eric Adams Calls For Change To NYC Sanctuary Policies, Breaking With Decades Of Precedent; Biden Faces Protest Vote In Michigan Primary Over Gaza; Report: Police Car Chases Kill Hundreds Every Year, Most Killed Aren't The Drivers Fleeing The Cops. Aired 4- 5p ET

Aired February 27, 2024 - 16:00   ET



You have been watching one of the star witnesses in the case in which they are trying to -- the Trump team is trying to push to disqualify Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. This witness was ordered back to the stand just a short time ago.


This push, of course, Trump and his, some of his co-defendants trying to impeach her, essentially. Terrence Bradley is the witness. He was the divorce attorney for Fulton County prosecutor Nathan Wade. And Mr. Bradley was today repeatedly pressed with new questions about the romantic relationship between his former client, Mr. Wade, and District Attorney Fani Willis.


TERRENCE BRADLEY, FORMER LAW PARTNER AND DIVORCE LAWYER FOR NATHAN WADE: I do not have knowledge of it starting or when it started. I don't recall any -- any specific dates.

LAWYER: Judge, he doesn't remember much of anything right now. And so, I'm trying to create a timeline to hopefully piece this together.

BRADLEY: This is however many years ago, I may not -- don't recall, but no, I don't.


TAPPER: Believe it or not, with all that is at stake in Georgia, with the allegations of a president who tried to steal an election. This messy business, this legal drama about this messy business is now threatening the future of District Attorney Willis' role at the helm of this important case.

Let's bring in my colleague and friend, CNN anchor, senior legal analyst, Laura Coates.

Laura, so bottom line, do you think the witness, Mr. Bradley, do you think his testimony has undermined Fani Willis' credibility? LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: I think it has undermined the credibility of

the arguments made by both Nathan Willis -- Nathan Wade, excuse me, and also Fani Willis for these reasons: first of all, here's why were here. This person you may recall was already called to testify about a week-and-a-half ago. The reason he left is because of the attorney- client privilege. Now, you know, if you are actually communicating with your attorney, in furtherance of getting legal advice, it is privileged and that privilege belongs to the client, not the attorney.

The judge, however, had what was called an in camera discussion. That's a fancy way of saying you and I are going to talk one-on-one with no one present. I'm going to determine whether or not your conversations that you had should fall within that privilege.

The judge made a ruling. They said, look, as it relates to communications about whether there was a relationship between Fani Willis and Nathan Wade? That ain't privilege. You can testify to it. He doesn't want to be here for that reason.

So, now, he's being asked questions about that, and now he's got to kind of convenient amnesia. He doesn't recall a lot of different details. He comes across as somebody who was gossiping with the attorney. That's bringing this disqualification proceeding, that he was aware that the motion it was about gathering information, and nonetheless, he disclosed that he says that they were engaged in in relationship earlier than they said.

But now today, he said it was all speculation, all speculation. He had no personal knowledge and he kept using a phrase, anything I learned was from my client, which became synonymous with Nathan Wade was the one who told me.

Now there was a really important moment with Sadow, that is the attorney for Donald Trump. Remember this is the one who is saying, look, I don't believe anything you have to say. He asked him, wait a second. You're speculating. You were asked by an attorney that you knew was representing a co-defendant in this case. And in return, you offer a speculation. Why not just say if you really didn't know, I don't know? He offered no sound explanation as to why.

The judge seems throughout this entire proceeding a little impatient compared to the first time we saw this entire thing. Why? Because he wants them to focus on the specific nature of the testimony.

And remember, Jake, we're all here not because this is a part of "Real Housewives" episode or we are just nosy. It is because they asked him to disqualify Fani Willis based on a conflict of interest that would make a defendant impossible to have a fair trial.

TAPPER: And let's listen. They have resumed.

BRADLEY: I've spoken to Mr. Wade personally in a year, two years actually, when I left the firm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ms. Willis? BRADLEY: I never -- minor action (ph) when Ms. Willis was never where I would pick up phone and talk to or that she would or anything like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you didn't hang out with Ms. Willis, you didn't have a personal relationship with her?

BRADLEY: No, I never had a personal relationship. I've mentioned before that I went to a dinner that was after she was elected that was at a steakhouse, but it was some 75 to 100 people there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you knew of her. You just didn't have a business relationship or a personal relationship with her, at least a close one?

BRADLEY: I knew of her from my -- she was in a D.A.'s office and I had criminal cases, but I did not personally know her know, no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And not having known her, not really hanging out with her, you've got a contract for her office.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to just objective to cumulative asked and answered throughout the --

JUDGE: Sure. I think we covered this ground on the 16th about the contracts. And do you have a -- are you going somewhere else with this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am, judge. If you give me a little latitude of time --

JUDGE: Okay. You may proceed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got a contract from the office, not knowing or having a good relationship -- or good working business relationship with Ms. Willis?

BRADLEY: That's correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's because Nathan Wade steered that contract to you.

BRADLEY: I don't know how it came about, but it was presented to me at the office about the contract, correct?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who presented it to you, Mr. Wade?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that -- and he owed you money you said at one point?

BRADLEY: Say that again?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He owed you money at one point?

BRADLEY: I don't recall saying that he owes me money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he owe you money at one point?

BRADLEY: Not that I recall saying that Mr. Way owes me or owed me money. I don't recall ever saying that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't ask whether you ever said that. I said did he owe you or did he owe you money in the past?

BRADLEY: No, he didn't owe me money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And so, he steered this contract to you, to your office and you weren't really talking to him and talked to him for two years?

BRADLEY: The contract was in 2021. I didn't leave until 2022.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you didn't talk within that whole time?

BRADLEY: I left in 2022. I haven't really spoke to him since 2022, is what I stated. When I left June of 2022, around June, August dates of 2022.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Other than your -- going to one of the last questions. Other than your attorney, who do you speak with today about giving testimony in this case today?

BRADLEY: I spoke to my attorneys, Charles Graham and BC Chopra (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I have nothing further, Your Honor.

JUDGE: All right

And again, ill just double-check to make sure did Mr. Cromwell ever join us via Zoom? Do we --


JUDGE: All right. Thank you. So just for the record, Mr. Cromwell has been apparently watching the proceeding and waived his client's presence and didn't have any other questions as well.

So turning it over to Mr. Body (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I have no questions.

JUDGE: All right.

Mr. Bradley, you can step down. Thank you, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Judge, you want these exhibits?


JUDGE: And what -- just by way of proffer, what about the texts?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just to admit to when other people asked about the texts, some of them were any records today, so I organized them and talk about today. So I just organize them. I just wanted reported reference to have them --

JUDGE: Okay. Okay

And do we need Mr. Bradley for that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't believe so.

JUDGE: Have you mark them?


JUDGE: Have you showed them to the state?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I gave them a copy of the state. So, these are --

JUDGE: Mr. Bradley, just hang on just for one second just to make sure.


JUDGE: And while he's looking at that, Mr. Bradley handed me defense exhibit 23, 24, 25.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Judge, I didn't realize I think they were in my folder.

JUDGE: Oh, is that from the hearing on Friday? All right. Well, thanks for returning those reasons.

Let me --


JUDGE: Okay. So I've got 23, 24, 25. Anything else in your binder?

Good. Okay. And have we come to any conclusions on what -- I'm sorry, had you marked it?

TAPPER: All right. So it sounds like they're wrapping up there. Let's come back here and talk to Laura Coates. One of the things that's interesting about this case, Laura, is that this gentleman, the witness, Mr. Bradley used to be -- he was -- he was the divorce attorney from Mr. Wade with whom Fani Willis had this relationship, and they used to be law partners. Then there was apparently some sort of falling out.


TAPPER: And was it during this period when they had the falling out that Mr. Bradley was quite the Chatty Cathy about the relationship that his former client had with Fani Willis? [16:10:04]

COATES: He was asked that precise question whether Nathan Wade and him were still friends at the time that he communicated with the attorney, Ms. Merchant, who is the one leading this motion disqualify Fani Willis in the office. He had a really long pregnant pause and then he said, yes, we were friends.

And you could feel the weight of that moment. Why? Because he's in a very tough position. Only as an attorney who has been -- here having to be compelled to really testify here today. But also because he was aware that the nature of the communications from Ms. Merchant was about fact-gathering, and he had information that he was willing to relay.

Now the credibility thing comes in here, Jake, because he is now saying on the stand today that he didn't really have any basis for the things he was saying, he was speculating. But do you know he was asked by one of the attorneys, did you lie to Ms. Merchant when you said these things about the relationship, whether there were things like did Nathan Wade have a garage door opener to Fani Willis's private home or office, whether they had sex in this facility or not, whether they were romantically involved.

And he said, I don't recall. That's what respect to he was lying. He then said I was speculating. The lawyer said, we're both lawyers. That's a weasely word.

He was, you know, a little bit argumentative there, but said, did you lie? I was speculating. I can't recall. The reason this is so important here is again, why were here. This is a motion to disqualify a prosecutor and the office in a very consequential case, but originally had 18 co-defendants, one of whom is a former president of United States.

TAPPER: Right.

COATES: If she is just qualified based on some finding that she financially or personally benefited, then another committee, a prosecuting counsel in Georgia, then steps in and decides who will replace her and her team. There's no timeline when you got to do that. There's no requirement that they follow that grand juries indictment. They could dismiss the case, they could expand the case, they could to take away some defendants.

This is really consequential. And here we are talking about decisions made, talking about the nature of relationship, and a judge trying to decide whether the moving party has met their burden to disqualifier.

TAPPER: What is exactly the burden to disqualify her based on? Because let's assume what we know that Fani Willis and Nathan Wade had a relationship. That is true. And we know that she was in charge of his salary and he was paid money, right? I mean, that's accurate as well.

I guess -- two things. One is of course, all of this was just stunningly reckless by District Attorney Willis and Mr. Wade. I mean, stunningly reckless. You're trying to prosecute a former president of the United States.

What are you doing, doing anything, anything that could undermine that incredibly important case, the case of your life?

Like whether it's a DUI, not paying your taxes, having an illicit relationship, whatever it is. So let's put that aside for one second, okay? Because obviously, I grant the motion of recklessness. But what -- what specifically about this behavior undermines the case that she is building.

COATES: That's the rub. There is nothing that we have heard so far that has talked about any aspect of the underlying allegations contained in the indictment. This case is about a conflict of interest based on that admitted relationship. But the requirement and the burden of proof is that that relationship, that conflict of interests provided a benefit, a personal benefit, likely financial to Fani Willis, such that it would make it impossible for Donald Trump or any of those remaining co-defendants to have a fair trial.

In other words, something about the nature of it will put the thumb on the scale to such a degree that your intention in your incentive is to keep the case going or to try the case to continue to derive that benefit, not with an eye towards justice or to your burden of proof. That's the rub here.

Now, they have to actually prove that neither prosecution you're seeing on the screen right now, they have normally the burden of proof in the criminal case. They always have it.

In this instance, it is the party that's trying to disqualify him. That has to prove that conflict.

So far, what do we have? We've got an admitted romantic affair. Yep. You've got that. You've got discussions about trips that were taken and payments that were either reimbursed or otherwise.

Notably, you have Terrence Bradley on the stand contradicting an earlier statement by Nathan Wade that he never used his credit card. There was never reimbursement. There may have been other trips are not accounted for, but ultimately, Jake, they have to prove that the money that came in was the personal -- was personally benefited or a beneficiary that was Fani Willis.

But remember, you're talking about a man who's got more than one source of income.


Why is that important? Well, because for you to draw that through line between what Fani Willis and her office were providing as a financial salary to Nathan Wade. And what was ultimately spent and what assume only one source of income. There's a commingling of sorts of funds between his private practice --

TAPPER: Right.

COATES: -- his existing income and salary imbalance, and this.

And they had not yet proven that $1 is tied to the employment.

TAPPER: Right. So, look, if this were Fani Willis in relationship with a juror? Or will --

COATES: Yeah, yeah. Gosh, don't put that into --

TAPPER: No, no, but a juror or a witness, I can understand. Sure. You can't do that. That's correct.

COATES: Uh-huh.

TAPPER: This is a relationship with her own prosecutor --


TAPPER: Right?

Again, incredibly reckless. And I'm not justifying it, but the idea is that somehow she only brought this case so that she could hire him and then they could go on vacation together. Is that -- is that the insinuation?

COATES: That is the insinuation that really lends itself to absurdity, right? And by the way, this is not the first instance you've heard of a romantic relationship between attorney -- I mean, defense constant prosecutors have had romantic liaison. Cops as witnesses and beyond. Judges and beyond.

This is not something that is the most novel concept. The issue here, you have to really do that, you know, stretch the imagination to suggest it was all this conspiracy. I know how we can stay together. We'll make this case a RICO case. Have all these charges have 18 defendants, including Donald Trump, you know, it's going to have a ferocious legal team who you've seen so far.

Also, we can take occasional trips to Florida or do a day trip to places like Tennessee and beyond.

TAPPER: Right, that's what I'm saying like that.

COATES: It doesn't make sense, but here's the problem. Optics does have an impact on a jury, but the judge in this case is the one who has to decide, did you prove to me that those defendants can not have a fair trial, that the thumb is such on the scale that you have undermined the pursuit of justice? So far, we've got a lot of details, a lot of questions about but when it started, but you need that through line for this judge.

TAPPER: Yeah. I mean, the only thing that I have had conclusively proven to me so far is that there are a lot of reckless lawyers in Atlanta, including the witness today, who is just like, why is he gossiping about a former client? I mean, is that even -- well, I mean --

COATES: Do we gossip? Yeah.

TAPPER: No. But I mean, like is that a ground for disbarment to like, be telling secrets about your former client? Is that not -- I mean --

COATES: Well, don't answer that.

TAPPER: I'm going to come back to that.

Joining us now to parse even more of what today's testimony means for this pretty singular legal cases is CNN senior legal analyst and former assistant U.S. attorney, Elie Honig. We're also joined point by Charlie Bailey, former senior assistant district attorney of Fulton County.

Charlie has worked closely with Fani Willis. His wife is on Willis' communications team. He was inside the courtroom for today's hearing. I'm sure he's going to have a couple of things to say about what I just said.

Elie, let me start with what you heard in today's testimony by Terrence Bradley. Do you think that Fani Willis is in any trouble today based on his testimony?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Jake, I think what we just saw as two hours of preposterous, non-credible testimony from Mr. Bradley. Mr. Bradley is a lawyer. He's an officer of the court. He's testifying about events that are recent and important.

And yet when it came to virtually anything of any substance, his response was, I don't recall or I was speculating. And let's understand how this person came onto the radar to begin with. He was asked by the defense lawyers in writing in a text, did the relationship between Nathan Wade and Fani Willis start before the D.A. hired Nathan Wade and his answer in writing was, quote, absolutely. And then on his own, he offered up specifics about when and how they met. He said they met at this particular CLE, Continuing Legal Education conference.

And today he said, well, I was speculating. That's ridiculous. Why would you make up out of whole cloth some specific place where people met and when he was asked about, why did you speculate, you know what his answer was? I don't recall.

There's no way you can credit that witness the question now though, and you are because getting to this is is there a concrete enough conflict of interests made out here? I agree with you. I agree with Laura. The waters are very muddy on that.

But the problem is the D.A. and Nathan Wade have now testified under oath that this relationship started after Mr. Wade was hired, and if that turns out to be false, then they have an even bigger problem on their hands.

TAPPER: So, Charlie, you were inside the courtroom today. Do you agree with Elie and what stood out to you? CHARLIE BAILEY, FORMER SENIOR ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY OF FULTON COUNTY: No, I don't agree with what Elie said. But, you know, what we saw here today is a witness has said they don't recall when the relationship started, is not in dispute that a relationship starting at some point, it did start. He doesn't recall when and he said that when he was gossiping, that he was gossiping. He was gossiping and speculating.

And I think, you know, anybody knows that he shouldn't have done that. Obviously, you shouldn't be gossiping about things that serious, but we already know some of the things he said were flat-out false.


There's an illusion in Ms. Merchant's motion that they live together in 2020, right? You remember that? She put that in the motion. She said that came from Mr. Bradley.

Well, we know that's not true from the testimony of Fani's father. There's this further statement about them taking the daughter out to California to live. She's -- the daughter's never lived in California.

So why was he making up things out of whole cloth? I don't know. Sometimes people lies. Maybe he was upset about the way he was fired from the firm but none of that has anything to do with the charge made by Ms. Merchant and Mr. Sadow and these other attorneys. And to me, that is the most reckless conduct here.

TAPPER: Elie, you intimated that if it can be proven that the relationship between District Attorney Fani Willis and her prosecutor, Mr. Wade, if that relationship started before she hired him, that that would be a real blow for her.

Why would she lie about such a thing? Does that relate more to -- are you supposed to hire somebody that you're having a relationship with or might that have to do with his divorce.

HONIG: So this goes to the heart of the whole dispute here. The narrative offered up by Donald Trump and the co-defendants, Mr. Roman was essentially this: Fani Willis was in a romantic relationship with Mr. Wade first. Mr. Wade, a man who's never prosecuted a felony criminal trial was then chosen by Fani Willis, according to the defendants, because of that relationship to lead this massive case. And then as a result of that, Mr. Wade has been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, some of which have made their way to Fani Willis indirectly through vacations and that sort of thing.

The counternarrative that the D.A. chose to pursue is no, no, no. He was hired for his merits. There was no pre-existing romantic relationship, but after he was hired, the relationship developed. These things happen. There was never any sort of plan or intentionality about it.

So the question of when was an important issue to begin with. And now it's amplified many times over because the D.A. has taken a very strong under oath position that it did not start until after. And the question to me, Jake, is who will the judge credit? Will the

judge credit that scene that we just saw from Mr. Bradley? I don't recall. I don't recall. It was speculation or will he credit the written specific texts that Mr. Bradley sent before when asked again if there was a relationship beforehand, his response was absolutely and then he gave details.

So it's hard to believe he was lying then and then today in court when it was all I don't recall, today was the truthful part.

TAPPER: Charlie, I want you to listen to what District Attorney Fani Willis testified earlier this month when she was asked about her relationship with her prosecutor, Nathan Wade. Take a listen.


FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I just I want to be clear because my credibility is being evaluated here, right? We were friends. We hung out. Prior to November of 2021, in November of 2021, I hired him. I do not consider our relationship to have become romantic until early of 2022.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has he ever visited you at the place you lay your head?

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


WILLIS: No, no, no, no. This is a true. It is a lie. It is a lie


TAPPER: Now, since then, Charlie, a private investigator working for Trump, says that they uncovered cell phone data alleging some contradictions, including visits from Wade, the prosecutor, to the area of five when he lost his condo in 2021. That is earlier than when she testified the relationship with them began and it hours that would suggest that it was not just how you doing visit.

How do you respond to that?

BAILEY: Well, first, this person that they had analyzed this cell phone data is not an expert. And he said that in his own affidavit. It's not admissible in court. I've handled cell tower data it as a prosecutor, very first thing is it's not like if I handed it to you, Jake, it's just a spreadsheet with a bunch of numbers on it. You wouldn't know what to do with it? I wouldn't know what to do with it.

You have to have an expert to even be able to tell you what it is. This guy says is in his own affidavit, he's not an expert .So that's the first thing.

Secondly, though, they already testified both Fani and Mr. Wade that they were at that condo in Hapeville more than 10 times in 2021? If you even accept the explanation of the private investigator that Nathan Wade's phone pinging down in the neighborhood 35 times. That's not inconsistent.

Furthermore, in the response of the D.A.'s office filed, they were able to point out that Fani was in a different place, upwards of ten times in those specific thing -- in specific times that the defense attorneys are trying to say Nathan and Fani are there together?

So, it doesn't even stand for the proposition that the defense is trying to offer it for. It's not contradictory. It's corroboration of what's already been testified to.

TAPPER: All right. Thanks, Elie. Thanks, Charlie. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, New York City's mayor breaking with decades of precedent. He says he wants a change in the sanctuary city policy there. That developing news ahead.



TAPPER: In our national lead, New York City's Mayor Eric Adams is breaking with decades of precedent. Today, he called for drastic changes to the city sanctuary city policies. The shift could land undocumented immigrants accused of a serious crime into the hands of ICE or Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. The mayor's new push comes in the wake of several high-profile crimes involving recently arrived migrants in the city of New York, including the recent shooting of a tourist during a robbery inside a Times Square clothing store.

Here's how the mayor is justifying his desire for a shift.


MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK CITY: I don't believe people who are violent in our city and commit repeated crimes should have the privilege of being in our city.


I wanted -- I want to go back to the standards of the previous mayors who I believe subscribe to my belief for that people who are suspected of committing serious crimes in his city should be held accountable.


TAPPER: CNN's Gloria Pazmino has been following the story for us.

Gloria, how significant is this policy shift?

GLORIA PAZMINO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, it's pretty significant in the sense that words really matter in this debate. Right here, you have Eric Adams, the mayor of the largest city in the country, who is dealing with this migrant crisis. And as you said, following these high-profile crimes that have involved undocumented migrants, he has a taking this new position, suggesting that the city needs to reevaluate its sanctuary policy.

Now, New York has had at sanctuary city policies on its books going back all the way to the 1980s. Mayor Ed Koch was mayor. But those changes were enshrined into law in 2014. And essentially what they say is that the NYPD cannot cooperate with federal authorities to enforce immigration law.

One thing that its important that's gotten lost in the discussion here is that there are exceptions in the law where people who are convicted and that is the keyword there, convicted of certain crimes, including violent offenses, are eventually turned over to immigration enforcement.

But the mayor appears to be suggesting he believes that change should happen, so that people are turned over when they are accused of a crime. That would be a significant change, something that supporters of sanctuary city policies say would put undocumented and immigrant communities at risk because they are usually more vulnerable to crime and often afraid to reach out to law enforcement.

So, a significant shift in language here. But as you know, words really matter in this context.

TAPPER: Yeah, this also comes after a couple of other incidents. You have the murder of Laken Riley that UGA nursing student and the undocumented immigrant from Venezuela who is accused of killing her supposedly was arrested and charged with a serious crime in New York City as well, and somehow was still able to walk free.

And then you have were showing his image right now in Phoenix, there's this case, so there's this suspect who the local Maricopa County prosecutor refuses to extradite him back to New York because I believe -- she's a woman. She says, the prosecutor says she doesn't trust New York to handle this case because it is a sanctuary city, right?

So I mean, it comes -- it's not just that incident that we talked about at the top with the murder and assault in the store. It's also these other cases.

PAZMINO: Yeah. And that's why this is so significant because we've had these high-profile cases and we've seen how the political conversation has sometimes dominated what should happen during what's essentially the right to due process, right? In the case of Arizona, the D.A. there has sort of taking a political position saying that the D.A. here in Manhattan isn't going to properly prosecute the case that that this man is accused in.

One thing to remember here, Jake, is that these crimes that you just mentioned, if these people were to be convicted of those offenses, the likeliest outcome is that they would be convicted -- excuse me, that they would be deported at the ending of their of their process. And that's what the whole argument is around a right to due process and whether or not people are going to get it in the front end of allegedly committing a crime or not, if they'll just be turned over to ICE and likely deported without that right to due process.

TAPPER: Gloria Pazmino, thanks so much.

Coming up next, a moment of truth for President Biden and a critical primary day. Many Democrats in Michigan, a state that propelled him to the White House in 2020, are voting against him right now because of how he is handling the situation in Gaza. We'll explain, next.



TAPPER: Now to the first 2024 primary in a battleground state and a major test for President Biden's reelection campaign.

President Biden is expected to win Michigan's Democratic primary today. That's not in question, but we are waiting to see whether voters in the Wolverine Sstate who have been told to vote uncommitted on the ballot today in order to protests, Biden's handling of Israel's war in Gaza will turn out in force and demonstrate their ability to swing the election to Trump in November in Michigan, striking fear in the heart of the White House.

Now we saw Biden trying to get out ahead of this vote yesterday with his comments that a ceasefire in Gaza could be near, as near as perhaps next Monday. Meantime, Donald Trump is also a favorite to win tonight, and the Republican primary, but voters also have the option of former Governor Nikki Haley. Haley has received roughly 40 percent of the vote in South Carolina and New Hampshire, the two previous primaries. Polls close just under four hours from now.

Haley told CNN earlier she would have liked to have campaigned more in Michigan, but she stated this as her goal tonight.


NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our goal is to be competitive. It's always been to be competitive.


And if you're getting 40 percent in all the early states, that's making a point.


TAPPER: Haley also making quite a point today by saying, if Trump wins the GOP nomination, it would be like, quote, suicide for our country, unquote.

Jeff Zeleny is live for us in Detroit.

And, Jeff, Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, a member of the squad, she represents that area where you are. She's urging voters to pick up uncommitted on their ballot. What could tonight's primary results tell us about Biden's coalition in this key battleground state.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, one thing it will show is really how deep those cracks are in the Biden coalition. Of course, a former president Joe Biden, if you think back to four years ago right now, he really consolidated the entire Democratic Party from left through the center. That now is a question. There are many concerns among the Arab communities here, the Muslim American communities as well, but extends far beyond that.

This is not just simply limited to Dearborn, which, of course, is where the concentration of Arab Americans and Muslim Americans live, and extends to younger voters, progressive voters, Black voters, others.

So, Jake, this is something that the White House is viewing as a warning sign. They've already gotten the message to some degree, the president was here earlier this month, he sent his advisers out a couple of times. The question is, will there be a policy change?

And that's what this vote for uncommitted is about tonight. It's a protest vote for sure. They are trying to urge the administration to change their policy in the Middle East. Now the White House has been saying consistently, it's not going to be guided by a public opinion or political opinion.

But, Jake, there is no doubt about it that Michigan is so central to either sides reelection here, those 15 electoral votes in November will be key to Joe Biden's reelection or to Donald Trumps election as well.

He won in 2016, Joe Biden won in 2020, but the outcome of that uncommitted tonight, the strength of that the court certainly is going to show how deep those cracks are in the coalition. And I'm told (ph) the White House has to do and the president has to do in the eight months to come after tonight -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much.

Joining us down, Michigan's top election official, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

Secretary Benson, thanks so much for joining us.

You've noted that more than 1 million early and absentee votes have already been cast suggesting high turnout. One of the major questions hanging over the Democratic primary today is how many voting uncommitted.

Now in previous primaries both Democrat and Republican, usually 20,000 people fuller so vote uncommitted. I think there was about 30,000 in the Republican primary for years ago. But generally speaking, it's 20,000.

Have you seen any of the results? What do you think would be a high number for this uncommitted effort if we assume that 20,000 is the floor? JOCELYN BENSON (D), MICHIGAN SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, thanks for

having me and no, we don't see any results of any fronts until after the polls close. They're not even calculated by any machines. And so, no one knows until after the polls close what anything is going to look like.

But I've been traveling the state today and visiting early voting sites in the 10 days prior, and what I've seen is a lot of enthusiasm, frankly, for the president and a lot of recognition of the importance of being heard and that some people feel he is hearing them, especially with the announcement of the call for attempts for a ceasefire next week.

So my job is simply to just to make sure however, anyone expresses their vote that they've got the tools to do so. But we are seeing a lot of voter enthusiasm across the board and a lot of recognition that the eyes of the nation are on Michigan, not just in this election, but will be this fall. And I think voters are going to be participating in a way that reflects the responsibility they feel to really define the future, not just for our state, but for our nation.

TAPPER: Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has said it's possible 10,000 people could vote uncommitted. Now, 10,000 is about to margin that Trump won the state by in 2016, although it was a Biden won it by about 150,000 in 2020.

As I noted, around 20,000 people uncommitted voted uncommitted in years when there wasn't any sort of campaign for uncommitted.

How high do you think the number could go? When do you think it would be high enough so Biden should worry?

BENSON: So we're looking at 1 million citizens have already voted, maybe another million will vote today. And so on top of that, were recognizing that in 2012, the uncommitted votes among Democrats was 10 percent of the total Democratic turnout. And that was in 2012, which one could argue is a bit of equivalent year to this one where you've got an incumbent Democratic president running for reelection in a presidential primary.

And then in 2020, as you mentioned, 20,000 which was about 1 percent of Democrats, voted on committed a nearly 30,000 or 4 percent of Republicans voted on committed, so about 5 percent total. So what we should be looking for really is the percentage of the total turnout that is voting on committed bid on both sides to see if it sends any message.


But to also recognize it's really not rare where there's a camp -- whether there is a campaign for uncommitted or not, for citizens to choose at this stage of the election to be uncommitted even when there's an incumbent Democratic president on the ballot who was in 2012, was very popular.

We got to take all well that into the context of what we read night. But also not neglect the fact that there is a clear statement being made by citizens young voters, in particular, as well as citizens throughout southeast Michigan, that they do want to President Biden here, they want him to continue to show up listening to citizens, and they want to see some progress and hopefully an end to this terrible conflict overseas. And they expect him as their president to really push to ensure that conflict comes to an end.

TAPPER: In 2020, Michigan was among the places where Trump supporters tried to thwart the will of the people. Protesters stormed a Detroit vote counting center, armed protesters descended on your home. Are you worried about that kind of disgusting behavior repeating itself in November?

BENSON: Yeah. You know what we saw in 2020, particularly after the election, was that people who are unhappy with the results tried to overturn those results.

And the people who felt the brunt of those attacks and those lies where the election workers. And I spoke with an election worker today in Detroit who actually was there in Cobo Hall, was then Cobo Hall in Detroit in 2020 when people were banging on the doors, trying to get in and interfere with accounting process. And he said, what I think reflects how were all kind of feeling is that we're back, we're here, we are determined to do our jobs and protect the will of the voters. We know what were up against.

We experienced it firsthand in 2020, but we're prepared for any type of challenge and pressure to come again and we are prepared to protect the votes of the people of Michigan, whatever they may be in 2024, we consider it our duty. Were proud of fulfill our duty, and I see more enthusiasm and devotion to that responsibility than I frankly ever have before in this position as the chief election officer for the state.

TAPPER: Secretary Jocelyn Benson, thanks so much.

Coming up next, a deadly and growing problem in America, a stunning new report on police car chases and how many innocent lives are being claimed while police are in hot pursuit.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our law and justice lead today, police car chases end with hundreds dead every year in the United States, most of those killed are not the drivers fleeing the police. The police officer, a passenger, or a bystander, are far more likely to be killed.

Investigative journalists at "The San Francisco Chronicle" dug through the records. They found the federal government is significantly under counting the lives lost. In truth, at least 3,336 people were killed as a result of police pursuits from 2017 through 2020, "The Chronicle" concludes, more than 52,600 people were injured during that time from the same reason.

And despite some cities putting tougher policies in place, limiting when police can chase, the problem appears to be getting worse, 2020 and 2021 were the two deadliest years on record.

I'm joined now by reporter Susie Nielson, one of the co-authors of this report. Thank you so much.

So how many Americans are killed or injured due to police chases?

SUSIE NEILSON, DATA REPORTER, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE: Yeah. So Jake, the problem is big and it's getting bigger. So -- in we found that in 2020 and 2021, nearly 700 people died from police chases in both of those years. So that's almost two people a day on average.

TAPPER: Why does there not appear to be any reliable federal data on what we know is a -- is a dangerous part of policing, sometimes a necessary part of policing, but always dangerous.

NEILSON: Yes, absolutely. And you know, I think most experts agree that a police should be allowed to pursue people suspected of violent crimes, but the reality is, the vast majority of these chases are initiated over minor infractions, traffic stops, a -- maybe a broken taillight. We have a chase in our story that was initiated over a cracked windshield, speeding five miles an hour above the speed limit.

We found that the reason the federal government is undercounting these deaths is its part of a broader problem with police use of force. You know, other news -- other newspapers before us have found that the federal government also significantly undercounts police shootings. But, you know, we thought that police chases where an even more hidden use of deadly force. You don't often see it described as a use of force, but that's what it is.

TAPPER: Some cities have put into place stricter rules about when police can and should chase a suspect. Have those stricter rules have -- have they had any impact?

NEILSON: So yes, we found that in some cities that have instituted restrictive policies, pursuit deaths and injuries do fall, but even when cities do impose these policies, officers who violate them are very rarely held accountable. So we submitted theft like hundreds of records, requests about police officer who were accused of violating their own department's policies and fatal chases.

And we found that just five of them were charged -- were convicted of crimes, very, very few people, very, very few officers are charged with crimes related to misconduct. And I believe in that same dataset, only 20 were fired, most received very light discipline, if any discipline at all.


TAPPER: And we should note, it's often dangerous for the police officers themselves to pursue criminals, or suspected criminals, they die in these pursuits more than the people they're pursuing, right? NEILSON: Well, we actually found just about 15 police officers over

five -- five or six years, six years, died in these chases. But it is indeed quite dangerous for these officers. They get injured very often.

You know, it's -- many of our experts called police chases the most dangerous thing that police officers literally doing their jobs. And so it's worth asking, you know, if we care about both the police officers and the civilians they're sworn to protect. Why are we allowing this activity to go so unregulated across the United States?

TAPPER: Important journalism from Susie Neilson. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up. CNN's Christiane Amanpour on the ground in Bucha, Ukraine. This is two years after Russia's brutal occupation, with evidence of mass murders there, of course. She says returning to Bucha felt like standing in a graveyard.

Stay with us.