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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Biden Faces Protest Vote In Michigan Primary Over Gaza; Rep. Jared Golden, (D-ME), Is Interviewed About Ukraine Fund, Mike Johnson, Border Security, Israel; Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick,(R-PA), Is Interviewed About Ukraine Fund, Mike Johnson, Border Security; Bipartisan Bill Tries To Go Around Speaker To Fund Ukraine And Border Security; Bipartisan Bill Tries To Go Around Speaker To Fund Ukraine And Border Security; Biden Faces Key Test In Michigan As Some Dems Push For "Uncommitted" Vote Over Handling Of War In Gaza; Negotiators Caution Against Biden's Optimism Suggesting Gaza Ceasefire Deal Is Close. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 27, 2024 - 17:00   ET




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

This hour, one man, one man could hold the fate of Ukraine in his hands. And today that man, the speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, was cornered by the President of the United States and his fellow top congressional leaders at what is being called by the Senate majority leader of one of the most intense meetings he's ever been to in the Oval Office. We'll have more on that.

Plus, it was the site of one of the most brutal atrocities of the Russian invasion. Bodies tied up and shot, rapes, mass killings. CNN's Christiane Amanpour returns to Bucha, Ukraine, two years later.

Leading this hour, we are very close to learning whether President Biden has a major problem in a crucial battleground state. The final primary before Super Tuesday is underway in Michigan, and there is a movement against Biden within his own party over the ongoing war in Gaza. Joining us now from Waterford, Michigan, is CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez.

Omar, what are you hearing on the ground from voters, especially any voters who are going to vote uncommitted to protest Biden's policy vis-a-vis Israel and Gaza?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so we've heard a wide range from a lot of different voters, for example, on the Trump side of things, for those voters, it seemed immigration and the economy were top of mind. Biden voters, it seemed the economy and human decency in the White House was top of mind. And for some of those voters who, one in particular we spoke to who didn't exactly take the step to vote uncommitted but he voted for Marianne Williamson, who, of course, announced she was suspending earlier this month, but for the very reason that he did not agree with how President Biden was handling the Israel Hamas war. And this voter told us that he voted for Biden in 2020, but that this was too far and that the civilian death toll in Gaza was where he drew the line.

Now, as we know, there is a major movement from the Listen to Michigan campaign as it's been put out to vote uncommitted again to protest that very same thing. And what's significant about here in Michigan is this state has the largest Arab American population of any state in the country, just under 150,000, which is significant because that's the margin that Joe Biden won the state back in 2020.

Now, it spoke about the range that we've been hearing from, folks. Obviously, we're not expecting any surprises as far as who's going to win the primary on the Biden side or the Trump side of things. But those general election clues are what people are looking for. Take a listen to some voters that we spoke today about how they felt about Biden and Trump.


CATHERINE SHELKO, MICHIGAN VOTER: Donald Trump is, what, three years younger than him? We're not talking about a big difference here. And again, I think Joe will surround himself with good, smart, capable people that will guide him if he's on the wrong path. But he is a good human being. I couldn't say that about Donald Trump.

KEITH BRUNSON, RETIRED UAW MEMBER: I'm a UAW member. You know, a retired UAW member, and I should be more Democratic than anything else. But you know, like Biden said, I don't work for you. And he hasn't. Has it worked for me? And his policies aren't working for me.


JIMENEZ: Now, from a voting perspective, from a pure numbers perspective, what was interesting about this cycle is that this is the first election test we've seen since the state allowed early in person voting. And a lot of people took advantage of that by the tens of thousands. But also absentee voting, when you combine those two, over a million people already voted. And when you take a look at the fact that over a little bit more than 2 million people voted in 2020, primary, obviously a huge chunk, which is -- I'm going to say that's why there aren't that many people here at this point right now, because it's not like people aren't voting. But what we've seen at this location has definitely been a little quieter than what we've seen in the past, at least according to some of the election officials here.

TAPPER: All right, Omar Jimenez, thank you so much.

Joining us live from Salt Lake City is Kylie Atwood. She's traveling with Nikki Haley's campaign.

And Kylie, Governor Haley is bracing for another potential major loss against Donald Trump. What is she saying about that?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. I mean, Nikki Haley is really trying to focus on what's in front of her. And one of the cases that she has increasingly made to voters about Donald Trump not having a path forward is because of all of the drama surrounding him, he's really focused in on the things that he has said, the actions that he has taken, particularly the fact that he has used campaign donations to pay legal bills. And in a conversation with the Wall Street Journal earlier today, she said that she believes that he may be in survival mode with this campaign, using the campaign to pay those legal fees, using it to avoid legal peril, and then going on to say that is like suicide for the country. Some really strong language from her today.


She also is on CNN, and she essentially made this case to Republicans as they should be choosing her to save the party.


NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are telling you, for all the Republican Party, we are in a ship with a hole in it. You can either ignore the hole and go down with the ship or you can acknowledge that we've got to look for a life raft.


ATWOOD: So we'll have to see what happens for Nikki Haley's campaign tonight in Michigan. But then she is headed on to Super Tuesday states coming here to Utah tomorrow. This is one of those 15 states that votes on Super Tuesday. And it'll be interesting to see what happens in Michigan because how well she does there could give us some indication for how well she might do in these other states because she has not been able to spend the amount of time, energy and resources in all of these states that she has in those early states that she still hasn't beat Donald Trump. Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Kylie Atwood, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Joining us now to discuss the Michigan primary is Lavora Barnes. She's the chair of the Michigan Democratic Party.

Chair Barnes, thanks for joining us. How concerned are you about this campaign to encourage Democrats to vote uncommitted instead of for President Biden to send a message that he should stop funding Israel and he should support an immediate ceasefire in Gaza?

LAVORA BARNES, CHAIR, MICHIGAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Jake, we worked hard to be part of the early state process of the Democratic primaries for just this reason, so that our voters could have their voices heard, so that our voters could participate early in the process and make sure that the candidate was listening to them and listening to their issues. And that's what's happening now. These folks have made their voices heard, and I believe President Biden has heard them. Based on what he said yesterday about a ceasefire and the possibility of that happening as early as next week, it's clear to me that he has heard the voices of these Michiganders who've spoken up loudly. And I'm thrilled that they're participating. I'm thrilled that they're going to vote and pulling a democratic ballot. And I'm looking forward to taking that enthusiasm into November where we will win by beating Donald Trump once again here in Michigan.

TAPPER: So you think that President Biden's comments about the ceasefire yesterday to the press and then also on the Seth Meyers show, you think that was a direct result of this campaign in Michigan, to encourage people to vote uncommitted, to protest his position when it comes to Israel and Gaza?

BARNES: I believe this is a president of compassion and empathy. He's shown it over and over again. I know that he's been working on this for a long time behind the scenes. And I think that yesterday's language that he used and the timing of it suggests to me that he's heard the voters, not just in Michigan, but all over the country, but loudest, of course, here in Michigan, where our community has made it very clear that these are the words they wanted to hear from him.

TAPPER: So, let me ask you about the uncommitted vote. In previous primaries, Democratic and Republican, it's been roughly 20,000 people who have voted uncommitted without a protest campaign just --

BARNES: Right.

TAPPER: That's what they do in 2012 and 2016 and 2020. How many uncommitted votes do you think are going to be registered today in the Democratic primary, and do you think it will be more than 20,000? It's hard to take anything lower than 20,000 as necessarily any sort of indication of a protest vote, given that's the floor, right?

BARNES: Voters here in Michigan have the right to choose that uncommitted vote. And folks have done it every cycle that I've been part of the party process. And I think that as we look forward, which is what I want to do to November, we're going to take all of these folks with their enthusiasm for participating in this process and make sure we're telling the story of who Joe Biden is, what Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have done for Americans and for Michiganders. And, of course, the contrast of who Donald Trump is and what he's been very clear about what he wants to do when he's president again and what he did when he was president. And when we make that contrast and tell that story, the numbers that will matter are the votes that show up in November for Joe Biden when we win Michigan again.

TAPPER: When President Biden went to Michigan earlier this month, he met with union workers. He seemed to avoid areas such as Dearborn, where there are these large Arab American and Muslim American communities. Do you think he should have visited Dearborn? Do you think he should have engaged with those communities more?

BARNES: The President sent his aides to Dearborn multiple times, and he will continue to listen to that community. And I expect to see the President here in Michigan moving forward as we go through this election. There's time for him to get here and have these conversations.

[17:10:04] TAPPER: If there are more than 20,000 uncommitted votes, will you be worried about -- because it seems to be -- about November, because it seems to be like that is a muscle flexing, like, look at us, and if you continue to ignore us, we might not turn out. And as you know, President Trump won in 2016, beating Hillary Clinton --

BARNES: I know.

TAPPER: -- by around 10,000 votes.

BARNES: Yes. I don't worry. I work, Jake. And at the state party, we have rebuilt ourselves after that 2016 loss to make sure that we're having conversations with voters all over the state all the time, year round organizing on the ground, that means on the phones, on the doors, in the social media. And we're going to continue that, telling the story of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and the work they've done and telling the story, of course, of who Donald Trump truly is.

We're going to keep telling that story to folks. And I think as we get to November, where the clear choice is between those two men, our folks will choose Joe Biden. And Joe Biden will win again.

TAPPER: Lavora Barnes, thanks so much for your time today. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, CNN returns to Bucha, Ukraine, two years after Putin's army committed brutal atrocities during their month long occupations. Survivors still asking, how could this happen?

And intense talks at the White House today over funding for Ukraine. With the House speaker facing major pressure to unblock an aid package. What Speaker Johnson is saying after that meeting tonight? Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our world lead now, images of the smoldering wreckage and carnage in Bucha, Ukraine became some of the most damning evidence and haunting images of the brutal Russian atrocities in the earliest days of Putin's invasion. Now, two years later, as U.S. aid for Ukraine dries up, CNN's chief international correspondent and anchor Christiane Amanpour has returned. A warning, some of the footage you're about to see is quite graphic.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice-over): Father Andriy Halavin of St Andrew's Church walks me through Bucha's grizzly place in history. Hundreds were brutally killed here during Russia's month long occupation, including women, children, the elderly.


AMANPOUR: Oh my God. 1923 to 2022.

HALAVIN: Yes. Yes.

AMANPOUR: Ninety-nine years old and a child of two years old.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): These people died not during the fighting but during the occupation, says Father Andriy. When the Russian world came here and this is its face, these are corpses. These are rape people. This is every apartment and house looted. This is the face of the Russian world.

HALAVIN: On this place, two townships.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Father Andriy became known after the Russians were pushed back for revealing the site of a mass grave just here on his church grounds, filled with 160 people. He shows me the original posting about it on Facebook. March 12, 2022, when Russian forces were still occupying Bucha. And from this memorial, you can see that red house, most of the family was killed as they tried to flee. When the Russians turned a heavy machine gun on their car, it still haunts and horrifies the grandmother, Valentyna Chekmarova.

It's very hard for me to remember this. Two years have passed and it seems like it happened today, she says. I saw them off to get out of this hell, but they didn't. They were shot.

This is the fate they were trying to escape. The main street, Yablunska, in this residential Kyiv suburb strewn with bodies, all clearly civilians. The discovery of basement torture and execution centers. People forced to kneel and lie with hands tied behind their backs. Women and girls raped.

TETIANA USTYMENKO, RESIDENT OF BUCHA (through translator): How could this happen? How could this happen?

AMANPOUR: Standing in Yablunska Street today feels a little like standing in a graveyard. It's where the horrors of the Russian invasion were first exposed, and it remains a field of evidence, a memorial and a pilgrimage site.

PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE (through translator): We believe that these are war crimes and this all would be recognized as a genocide by the world.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): President Zelensky came here April 4, 2022 right after his forces drove the Russians out. And he brings all his international visitors and world leaders to Bucha to remind the world just what they're fighting against. Moscow has claimed without evidence that this was all staged and was a planned media campaign.

Ruslan Kravchenko was the war crimes prosecutor. He's now governor of the Kyiv region.

Do you remember when the Russians said it was fake and the bodies were fake and that the Ukrainians had killed people themselves, he asked me, when we seized the phones, we proved to the whole world that it was the Russians who killed people Ukrainians.

Ruslan says the war crimes investigations continue using a trove of evidence from multiple cameras, phones and other recordings. But when they inform the Russian soldiers they identify, they don't cooperate. And Father Andriy tells us the awful truth is that bodies are still being discovered today, two years on.

From time to time, we find someone by accident, he says. The Russians had hidden their bodies somewhere and we find them. So unfortunately, the number of people who died is increasing.

Christiane Amanpour, CNN, Bucha.



TAPPER: And back home, a White House meeting today over funding for Ukraine apparently got very heated with the speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, under pressure to unblock the aid package that the Senate passed. Two House members working to go around Speaker Johnson, join us next.


TAPPER: In our national lead, President Biden gathered congressional leaders in the Oval Office today. Among the topics, the money that Ukrainian forces desperately need in their fight against Russia.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ukraine, I think the need is urgent. I hope we get to speak to that a little bit. And I think the kind consequences of inaction every day in Ukraine are dire.



TAPPER: On the Senate side, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, called this one of the most intense meetings he's ever had in the Oval Office. Republican Leader Mitch McConnell spoke of, quote, making real headway. But the reality of the situation is, the fate of the funding for Ukraine and Israel rests now with the speaker of the House, Mike Johnson. I'm joined now by two member of the House who say they no longer are willing to wait for Speaker Johnson and they're trying to force a vote themselves through what's called a discharge petition. With us are Republican Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick of the great commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Democratic Congressman Jared Golden from the great state of Maine.

Congressman Golden, let me start with you. You're both pitching this pared down proposal for Ukraine aid, border security and Israel aid also, right? Forty-nine billion instead of 60 billion. And this move is a discharge petition. Just to explain very quickly, you need 218 votes to pass something on the floor of the House. In this case, you need 218 signatures even to force it onto the floor for a vote, even if the speaker opposes it. How many votes do -- how many signatures do you have on the discharge petition right now?

REP. JARED GOLDEN (D-ME): Well, right now, I think I would actually leave it to Brian to answer that question because he submitted the discharge petition itself. But I think the answer is we don't necessarily have any because we haven't been back in session and we should be in session given the twin crises that Brian and I are trying to deal with, which is the crisis at our southern border and, of course, the crisis on the battlefield in Ukraine that we're trying to avert. So, you know, I think a key point here is the Democratic minority has often tried to use the discharge petition as a tool for trying to pressure, you know, the majority, no matter who is in the majority.

And as a way to try and force things to the House floor, I've yet to see any members of the, you know, Republican majority sign any discharge petition. So what's significant about this is the fact that ours is led by a Republican, Brian Fitzpatrick, who's trying to do the right thing here out of an acknowledgment of the importance of these issues and how timely they are.

TAPPER: I'm old enough to remember Republicans forcing something onto the floor in the discharge petition, but they were led by Newt Gingrich. I think this was 1993, 1994. Congressman golden, before we go to Congressman Fitzpatrick, there's funding for Israel in this as well, right?

Congressman Golden?

GOLDEN: Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you were directing to to my colleague, Brian. I hear you now.

TAPPER: There's funding for Israel?

GOLDEN: Of course, funding for Israel, funding for Taiwan.

TAPPER: So -- right.

GOLDEN: But the main part here is funding for Ukraine.

TAPPER: Ukraine and the border. The reason I ask is because there are some Democrats like in the squad and others who won't support it because of funding for Israel. And I'm wondering if you think that's going to be an impediment to getting Democratic signatures.

GOLDEN: I think that getting anything done as it relates to supporting our allies in the fight in Ukraine, in Israel, supporting Taiwan, and addressing the crisis at the border is going to have to grow out of the middle. And so I'm not as concerned about people on the far left or far right.

TAPPER: So, Congressman Fitzpatrick, are there other Republicans that will join you? This is, as Congressman Holden was alluding, this is bold of you to do, brave of you to do. Are there other Republicans that will join you in going around Speaker Johnson to force a vote on funding for Ukraine?

REP. BRIAN FITZPATRICK (R-PA): There is. In fact, I spoke to several just last night. And I wouldn't necessarily phrase this, Jake, as going around anybody, this is just to add a pressure point. You know, the politics are very, very tough, as you are well aware on the House, there's a two vote margin in the House for Republicans, a two vote Democrat margin in the Senate on very, very tough existential, time sensitive issues. So, we're not trying to circumvent or and run anyone, quite to the contrary.

We're trying to put an additional pressure point on something that has to happen.

As you know, Jake, I used to live in Ukraine. I was an FBI agent in Kyiv. I just got back from Kyiv a few days ago, and I spoke at length to President Zelenskyy in Munich with Chairman Turner, Hakeem Jeffries. And you know, he has weeks and not months before Russia makes a major breakthrough on those front lines. This is a legacy type issue, we cannot sit back and play politics with people's lives.

And one of the things that Jared and I have been working on is tying, you know, borders, you know, across the globe, both, you know, Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and our own southern border, because if we're going to sustain this effort, because Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Kim Jong Un, the ayatollah. They're not going away. They're persistent. They're persistent threats. So we have to have a persistent message. And the persistent message is that borders and democracies are inextricably intertwined and democracies are necessary for freedom. And we cannot have a situation where, you know, Advika falls to Russia, as it did in the past week, and Laken Riley passes away, gets killed, I'm sorry. Gets murdered in Georgia. And in the past seven days as well, Jake, 200 families had to bury their child for fentanyl overdoses that we can link directly back to the southern border. So this is a message about borders and democracies and how they're interlinked.


TAPPER: So you said that you have talked to Republicans who are willing to sign the discharge petition. Can you name any of them?

FITZPATRICK: No, I'd rather not. I'm going to keep our conversations private out of respect to them.

TAPPER: So, Congressman Golden, one of the reasons that this is $49 billion instead of $60 billion is because money for humanitarian aid for Gaza is not included in this. Why is it not included?

GOLDEN: Well, for starters, Brian and I really wanted to boil the bill out of the Senate down to its base and start from a place where we could agree and where we think many Dems and Republicans can agree. What is the greatest kind of emergency? What is most pressing? And we think the answer to that is getting control at our border, giving tools to the border patrol to do that.

And secondly, it is military assistance to the battlefield in Ukraine. We're not opposed to humanitarian aid. And in fact, Brian has set up a process where if we get this bill to the floor, there will be amendments and opportunities to let the House decide whether or not to include humanitarian aid. Some people think that should be given. Some people think it should be in the form of a loan. So we're open to the debate.

TAPPER: Yes. So you talked about the need for there to be security at the southern border and the border security part of this legislation that you two are pushing and want the signatures of 218 of your fellow congressmen and women to force it onto the floor for a vote. It reinstates the remain in Mexico policy. And I'm wondering, Congressman Fitzpatrick, that seems like something that would be a sweetener for Republicans that even goes farther, that part of it goes farther than the compromise legislation that was worked on in the Senate. But I'm wondering if, however much I like what you guys are doing and however much I think the discharge petition process should be used all the time. I'm wondering if you almost are naively believing that people want to solve the problem as opposed to run on it in November.

FITZPATRICK: Well, that's on every single member to make that decision for themselves and their districts. I will tell you, Jake, that the battle that Ukraine is fighting against Russia is not just about Ukraine. This is about freedom versus dictatorship. We have dictators across the globe that are trying to re-litigate the outcome of World War II. Democracy prevailed in World War II. And yet you have these dictators that are rising some, by the way, even in NATO-type countries. NATO countries like Turkey and Hungary that are backsliding towards dictatorship. So this is a grave threat.

And we either side on the perspective of freedom and democracy or we don't. And that's a decision that everybody needs to make. But to make this argument over the long term, Jake, we have to be about borders.

And if you support our border, you have to support other democracies borders. And if you support borders of our allies overseas, you have to defend our border. And that's what our bill is about. And we're willing to die on this hill. Jake, this is time-sensitive, is existential, and this is a legacy-type item.

TAPPER: All right, Congressman Brian Fitzgerald -- Fitzpatrick rather of Pennsylvania and Jared Golden of Maine, thanks to both of you. Best of luck with the discharge petition.

FITZPATRICK: You bet. Thanks.

GOLDEN: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: More to come with our political panel on the aid fight and President Biden's battle in Michigan to win back the support of some democratic voters breaking with him over the war in Gaza. We're about to learn how many very soon. Stay with us.


[17:38:39] TAPPER: In our politics, Lead President Biden is urging congressional leaders to try to reach an agreement on desperately needed aid to Ukraine. He hosted Leaders Schumer and McConnell, speaker Johnson, and Leader Jeffries in the Oval Office earlier. The President also talks about aid to Israel. And that is a major issue in today's Democratic primary in Michigan where there is a movement underway on the left to have Democratic voters go uncommitted, instead of for Biden. This would be a protest against Biden's refusal to call for an immediate ceasefire without conditions in Gaza.

Let's bring in our political panel. We have with us Republican strategist Alice Stewart, Former National Coalition's Director for the 2020 Biden Harris Campaign, Ashley Allison, and CNN Senior Political Analyst Ron Brownstein. Ron, let me just start with you.

So after that tense meeting, House Speaker Johnson told reporters at the White House, he thinks that Congress, quote, "must take care of America's needs first, before any agreement on Ukraine aid can get through". America's needs, I guess defines the border.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, we are in the upside down, right? I mean, you know, Mike Johnson has refused to bring to the floor of the bipartisan border bill that would have probably passed the Senate with 60 votes if the House had been willing to do it. And then he says that the reason they can't deal with it is because you know, there's no legislation on it. This is a momentous moment, though.

I think, you know, it's important understand, like the magnitude of what we're watching. When Dwight Eisenhower beat Robert Taft at 1952 it was viewed as the victory in the Republican Party of the internationalist over the isolationist forces that has been the balance of power in every Republican presidency since even under Trump, there was a significant remnant of Reaganite internationalists in the Congress, and even in his administration, who resisted this kind of Neo nationalist inward pulling.

Now we're in a situation where a majority of House Republicans voted against Ukraine aid, a majority of Senate Republicans voted against it, the House will not even take it up. We are watching the bookend to really 70 years of political history and one that takes the Republican Party in an extraordinarily new direction that we haven't seen really since before World War II.


TAPPER: Although speaker Johnson could have his cake and eat it too if he doesn't lobby against the Fitzpatrick, Golden proposal that we just talked about with these members of Congress. And just to reiterate, for those just joining us, a Republican and a Democrat have a pared- down aid bill $49 billion, aid to Ukraine, aid to Israel, aid to Taiwan and aid to the border. It is more conservative than the bill that they were working on in the Senate because it has no humanitarian aid for Gaza. And it has the remain in Mexico policy at the border. But Fitzpatrick is saying it would be an open amendment process. So people, the will of the people could actually work its way. Now for some reason, that's not how our Congress functions. But in my

mind, what's the problem with getting it out on the floor, having people vote for amendments, make it better make it -- make it a better bill, I don't care, but have something happen?

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, to a logical person who actually wants to do the job that they were elected, or in some instances hired to do, they wouldn't do it. But that's not what Mike Johnson wants to do. He said over and over, I want to meet with the President, well, you just met with the President. Let's move something forward.

But they are obstructionist. They want to campaign on the issue of the border. And then when Democrats said and gave great concessions to Ron's point on the immigration bill, they stopped it because they want it to be red meat to their base. They are not interested in governing. They are not interested in protecting democracy here or in Ukraine. And they are really playing gambling with this the stability of America's role in the world, and also our stability as a country. And it's unfortunate.

And to my final point is, you know, Ron was said that it's a book into a 70 year. But that book and had a massive whiplash just about eight years ago. And that became because of Donald Trump, who is taking this party into a direction that doesn't want democracy.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And here's the real problem here. In Washington is Congress and members of Congress are so transactional. They won't give you X unless you give them why. And that goes on both sides of the aisle. And if you really take a look at all of these issues that we're talking about, whether it's Israel, whether it's whether it's Ukraine, whether it's even Taiwan and the border, each and every one of these are worthy of support from both sides, in and of themselves, because they are so important. And Republicans could get what they want on each of these issues. And Democrats could also get what they want. But that doesn't happen in Washington anymore.

And not only is it disingenuous in terms of getting things done, it's dangerous, because now we're having the crisis at the border. And we have the escalation of the crisis that we have asked in Israel and Ukraine. And all of these are issues that if they were smart, and did the job that they were hired to do, they would handle these individually and get things done.

TAPPER: Well, and Speaker Johnson won't even put it put the Senate bill on the floor. If it if it was on the floor, it would probably pass, it probably get most Democrats and a big chunk of Republicans. But that's the risk of flooding, the will of the people work its way work its way. Works its way onto the floor.

STEWART: Well, and the big part of that. And I was encouraged when he came out today saying he was optimistic that they would make progress, at least on the spending bill. But the problem with many Republicans is not necessarily many Republicans as Donald Trump. He is the one calling all the shots and they were afraid to stand up to him. And Johnson and many of the House Republicans anyway want more of a version of H.R.2, which is what they put forth, which they see as a better way to secure the border and limit the asylum process.

But again, their desire to stick with H.R.2 or nothing gives us a situation where we have no progress at the border, and they're letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. And meanwhile, there's a crisis at the border.

TAPPER: Let me ask you a question. What if H.R.2 came to the -- which the House passed a very conservative border bill went to the Senate and speaker, I'm sorry. And Leader Schumer let it come up for a vote, right? I mean, that would never happen because he opposed it. He opposes it. And then Donald Trump said, I don't want that to pass either.

BROWNSTEIN: They wouldn't pass.

TAPPER: I don't want that dress either. Because I want this issue.

BROWNSTEIN: No. Look, Donald Trump has broken the will of the Republican Party to resist him on almost on almost any front. I mean, you're seeing John Thune endorsing those reports. McConnell, getting ready to do so. I think it would be hard for the remain in Mexico is a is a hard piece for Democrats. I even wonder if there's 218 votes in the House for that version that they've come forward with.

But look, I mean, the Senate bill, the things that understand whether Senate bill is that all of the quote, concessions to Democrats were in issues other than immigration. I mean the immigration policy pretty consistently moves in a Republican direction, in particular, by changing the standard that you need for asylum in a way that would significantly reduce the number of asylum seekers we even get to first base.


And that was a clear conservative victory doesn't have everything they want. But as for Allison's point, in the old days, if you are getting a Ronald Reagan to say, you know, 75% agreement, you're my friend, not my enemy. If you're getting 75% of what you want, and giving a very little on the other side, you would take it. Now, it's a very different world.

TAPPER: By the way, the number of immigrant major immigration bills that passed when Donald Trump was president and controlled the House and the Senate, zero. Absolutely zero. Everyone, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up next. President Biden said he thinks that Gaza ceasefire deal could be reached by early next week. But both Israeli and Hamas officials are casting doubt on that. Stay with us.


[17:50:08] TAPPER: In our world lead, negotiators working on a hostage and ceasefire deal in Gaza and Israel are cautioning against President Biden's optimism that a deal could be reached by next Monday. And Israeli official tells CNN that Israel was surprised by Biden's timeline, while a Qatari official said that disagreements remain over how many Israeli hostages will be exchanged for how many Palestinian prisoners and whether Israeli troops will withdraw entirely from Gaza during the ceasefire. President Biden last night also outlined that idea that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has all been rejected.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF USA: There's a process underway, that I think if we get that that temporary ceasefire, we're going to be able to move in a direction where we can change the dynamic and not have a two-state solution immediately been a process to get to a two-state solution.


TAPPER: Let's bring in Barak Ravid, CNN Political and Global Affairs Analyst and Foreign Policy Reporter for Axios. Barak, good to see you.

So you have new reporting, breaking this evening that in the midst of these hostage and ceasefire talks, the U.S. is seeking written assurances from Israeli leaders that they will abide by international law while using weaponry provided by the U.S. What is Israel's response?

BARAK RAVID, CNN POLITICAL AND GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I think, Jake, that the Israelis are really concerned about this thing. Israeli officials told me that Prime Minister Netanyahu is freaking out about this because he or somebody else from his government will have to commit in writing not only not to use U.S. weapons in a way that is contributed directly to international law, but you will also have to commit in writing to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, any humanitarian aid from the U.S. or that has the support of the U.S. and not in any way hamper this aid from entering Gaza, something that as far as we know, is not exactly the case right now.

This thing is a result by the way of a new policy announced by President Biden just a few weeks ago, and U.S. officials told the Israelis today that they expect to get this written commitment by mid- March, which is two weeks from now.

TAPPER: If Netanyahu and his government fail to comply with this U.S.demand with this policy, what will the U.S. do?

RAVID: Well, according to this policy, if Netanyahu doesn't provide such assurances in writing, and if the Secretary of State doesn't certify that, you know, he's okay with those assurances, then what happens is that arms shipments from the U.S. to Israel will be paused will be suspended. So, you know, and so we're basically two to three weeks away from such a scenario if Netanyahu doesn't provide those assurances. TAPPER: Without a ceasefire deal, President Biden said he warned Netanyahu that Israel will lose global support. If it continues down its current path, Netanyahu made a point of pushing back on that with a video message. What did Netanyahu have to say?

RAVID: You know, it was interesting, not only what he had to say, but how he said. The Prime Minister's Office issued a statement that said here is a video with Prime Ministers and the Prime Minister Netanyahu in response to President Biden, so I wanted to make sure that it's clear to everybody that he's pushing back on what Biden said. And Netanhayu, basically based his argument on a new poll that said that four out of every five Americans support Israel, and only one in every five Americans support Hamas. And he basically told by the look, the majority of Americans are with me, and not with you. That was the undertone of what he was trying to say, which is when you think about it takes us back to other arguments Netanhayu had with other US presidents like President Obama, like President Clinton, it starts to feel way.

TAPPER: All right. Barak Ravid, thank you so much for that reporting and those insights. Coming up next, justice for the murder of Run-DMC Jam Master Jay, two decades later. Stay with us.

Frank Sinatra had had connections with the mafia, and


TAPPER: Internationally today, a jury found two men guilty of murder in one of music's most shocking murders. Jam Master Jay was the DJ at the heart of the pioneering hip-hop group Run-DMC. He was tragically killed in a recording studio back in Jamaica, Queens in 2002. It took almost 18 years for anyone to even be charged. A jury found his childhood friend Ronald Washington and Jay's godson, Carl Jordan Jr. guilty. Prosecutors say the shooting stemmed from a dispute over drugs. A third defendant Jay Bryant was charged last year. He is set to stand trial in 2026.

In our money lead today, Macy's is downsizing and going upscale in an attempt to stay relevant the company is closing 150 stores, 50 of the underperforming stores will shut their doors this year. The others will follow in coming years. Macy says it is turning its focus to its more successful luxury brands such as Bloomingdale's and Blue Mercury. That would mean building smaller stores away from traditional shopping malls. As shoppers move away from malls, smaller stores are more profitable because they have fewer workers and less merchandise.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Threads, X, formerly known as Twitter, and on the TikTok at Jake Tapper. You can follow the show on exit, The Lead CNN.