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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Special Counsel Defends Biden Classified Docs Investigation; Biden Speaks With Reporters At Meeting With Polish Leaders; Boeing Stock Closes Down Amid New Safety Concerns; Haiti's Prime Minister Resigns, Pledges To Stay In Role Until New Government Is Formed. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired March 12, 2024 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Special counsel Hur could have recommended charges against Joe Biden. Today, he tried to explain why he did not, tried.

THE LEAD starts right now.

The report by special counsel Robert Hur ripped apart today on Capitol Hill. Republicans questioning why no charges despite a report finding Joe Biden knowingly mishandled classified documents, Democrats on the other hand, accusing Hur of playing politics with lines in his report about Biden's age and memory. What did today's hearing really achieve? We'll talk to a Democrat who was in the room.

Plus, why did the Justice Department release a transcript of President Biden's interview with Robert Hur just as the special counsel was showing up on Capitol Hill. Coincidence? We're going to dig deeper into what that transcript reveals.

And confirmation today of tragic news that an American-Israeli hostage was killed by Hamas back in October. His parents were on THE LEAD just last week, you know them. The Chen family. New reaction ahead from a Republican senator who hosted the parents at the State of the Union on Thursday.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: And welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake -- Jake Tapper.

And we start today with our law and justice lead. The special counsel, who decided President Biden should not face charges over his mishandling of classified documents, appeared on Capitol Hill today in an incredibly partisan and at times testy hearing. Robert Hur pushing back on claims and attacks from both Republicans and Democrats trying to defend the lengthy report he wrote on why he came to this decision to not press charges against Joe Biden.

The report found Biden willfully retained classified information. It painted a picture of somebody that a jury would find forgetful, elderly, kind, old man. But Hur insisted today nothing he did was driven in any way by politics. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT HUR, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL: Partisan politics head no place whatsoever in my work. It had no place in the investigative steps that I took. It had no place in the decision that I made, and it had no place in a single word of my report.


TAPPER: And while Robert Hur decided to not recommend charges against the president, he pushed back on Democrats' claims that his report totally exonerated Biden instead saying he just didn't think he could win the case at trial if he did bring charges.


REP. DARRELL ISSA (R-CA): In this case, did you reach a conclusion that this man was outright innocent?

HUR: That conclusion is not reflected in my report, sir.

ISSA: You did not reach an idea that he had committed no wrong. You reached a conclusion that you would not prevail at trial and therefore did not take it forward. Is that correct?

HUR: Correct, Congressman.


TAPPER: And we are getting our first reaction from President Biden to this hearing. Just moments ago, he met with leaders of Poland at the White House. Prime minister and president longtime rivals united in their quest for more Ukraine, president and prime minister of Poland, I mean. Biden officially announced the new package of military aid for Ukraine now in its third year at war with Russia.

Let's listen. So they -- actually, we don't have the sound in yet.

Let's Paula Reid starts off our coverage.

Paula, tell us what you took away from the hearing while we wait for this Biden sound to come in.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Look, I spoke to sources close to Hur this morning before he went in. And they said his goal today is not make anyone happy. He said, if everybody is angry at you --

TAPPER: Now, I have to interrupt you. We have the sound from President Biden.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ceremony, the former secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, made this following statement, she said, when we stand together, no force on Earth is more powerful. We stand together no force on Earth that is more powerful.

I believe that then and I believe it now. And we see it then, Polish American troops serving side by side, NATO, and eastern flank, including in Poland. And we see it in our commitment to strengthen NATO's collective defenses. And I want to pause here and note that Poland is spending nearly 4 percent of his gross domestic product on defense.

Much of a purchasing American -- what American weapons systems and aircraft. And as double the NATO commitment, 4 percent. We also see it in our support for Ukraine and the force of Putin's vicious onslaught against Ukraine in a way that is border -- I want to describe it.


I want to thank you both for Poland's unwavering security and humanitarian assistance, including welcoming about 1 million Ukrainian refugees. As my mother would say, God love you, you're doing God's work. You really are, it's incredible what you're doing, what the Polish people are doing.

Today, the United States is announcing an emergency package for Ukraine using cost-savings from previously approved Pentagon contracts. The package includes munitions and round to help Ukraine hold the line against Russia's brutal attacks for the next couple of weeks which I have the authority to do without asking Congress for some more money, right now. What I've asked him for a lot more money.

And so, we're not nearly enough for what were announcing the day. Congress must pass the bipartisan national security bill now, which includes urgent funding for Ukraine. We must act before it literally is too late, before it's too late because as Poland (ph) remembers, Russia won't stop at Ukraine. Putin will keep going, putting Europe, the United States, the entire free world at risk in my view.

So thank you both again for being here at this critical time. And with that, Mr. President, I handed over to you. The floor is yours.

PRES. ANDRZEJ DUDA, POLAND: Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, exactly 25 years ago on the 12th of March, 1999, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, join the strongest alliance in the world, the dream of many generations of Poles came true. There is no better place to celebrate this special anniversary than the White House.

Courageous decisions were made right here, the capital of the United States by both Democrats and Republicans. NATO expanded to the east.

Poland joined the free world, the West where it has always belonged. And for those courageous decisions and for their unwavering support. I would like to thank all the Americans who contributed to them. I express these thanks to you, Mr. President, bearing in mind that at the time, you were one of the leaders of the support in the U.S. Senate for Poland succession to NATO. I thank you on behalf of millions of Poles.

During these 25 years, we have shown that we are a reliable and proven airline even when our soldiers fought side-by-side with American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Poland knows and a few other countries in the world that security comes at a price. That is why we spent more than 4 percent of our GDP on maintaining and modernizing our armed forces.

This is the highest percentage in the alliance. Russia's aggression against Ukraine clearly demonstrated that the United States is and should remain the security leader. But other allies must take more responsibility for the security of the alliance as a whole. That is why I believe it's necessary for all NATO countries to increase their defense spending from 2 to 3 percent of GDP.

Two percent was good ten years ago. Now, 3 percent is required in response to the full scale war launched by Russia, right beyond NATO's eastern border.


TAPPER: All right. Let's bring in CNN senior White House correspondent MJ Lee, because we know that President Biden, that's a tape turn, so we know what happens and he doesn't take questions and he doesn't say anything else, President Biden.

The president clearly trying to keep the focus on the announcement here on more aid for Ukraine, not on anything else.

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. As you said, the president didn't take any questions from reporters in the room just moments after this Robert Hur hearing had wrapped up. The president making clear that this announcement of a $300 million new package for Ukraine, that it's not even nearly enough. He said that Vladimir Putin is not going to stop at Ukraine. He's going to keep going.

I should note, Jake, this package comes as a bit of a surprise given that the administration has been saying for weeks and weeks that the money that the U.S. can provide to Ukraine has completely dried up, that the pot that the U.S. would dip into has essentially just run out of resources. And what the administration is saying now is that they were able to approve an additional $300 million because of unanticipated cost savings from the Defense Department.

But I should be very clear that the White House is making clear that this is a modest package, that it does not give Ukraine everything that it needs, that it only helps Ukraine for a short period of time. And that again, it is only a matter of weeks before Ukraine is again going to run out of ammunition.

And this is why you heard the president once again and Jake Sullivan did the same thing in this briefing with reporters that the Senate, House Speaker Mike Johnson, needs to take up the bill that came out of the Senate, the national security bill, that has some $60 billion of aid for Ukraine.


Obviously, no signs right now that the speaker is interested in doing that, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. MJ Lee at the White House for us, thanks so much.

Back to our other breaking news story, today, special counsel Robert Hur on Capitol Hill today, trying to defend his decision to not recommend charges against President Biden for his mishandling of classified documents, also trying to defend the fact that he seemed to take some shots at Biden's age and mental acuity in the report.

CNN's Paula Reid takes a closer look now at how Hur tried to fend off attacks from both sides while defending the integrity of his work.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you swear or affirm under --

REID (voice-over): Former special counsel Robert Hur grilled by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle today about his investigation into President Biden's mishandling of classified documents.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Mr. Hur, why did he do it? Why did Joe Biden, in your words, willfully retained and disclosed classified materials? I mean, he knew the law, in an office like 50 years.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): You exonerated him. I know that the term willful retention --


JAYAPAL: Mr. Hur, it's my time.

REID: Biden's memory took center stage as Hur said in his report that he did not charge Biden because he believed a jury would see him as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): You find in your report that the elements of a federal criminal violation are met, but then you apply this senile cooperator theory, that because Joe Biden cooperated and the elevator didn't go to the top floor, you don't get a conviction.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): You understood when you made that decision, didn't you, Mr. Hur, that you would ignite a political firestorm with that language, didn't you?

HUR: Congressman, politics played no part whatsoever in my investigative steps.

SCHIFF: You cannot tell me you're so naive as to think your words who would not have created a political firestorm? You understood that.

REID: Hur told the committee he stood by the words in his report.

HUR: My assessment and the report about the relevance of the president's memory was necessary and accurate and fair. REID: He was also pressed on the differences between Biden's case and

that of former President Trump. Those being that Biden returned the documents, he allowed for searches, various properties, and even sat for a voluntary interview with the special counsel.

REP. TED LIEU (D-CA): Did you find that President Biden engaged in a conspiracy to obstruct justice?

HUR: No.

LIEU: Did you find that President Biden engaged in a scheme to conceal?

HUR: No.

REID: Hur repeatedly made it clear he did not exonerate the president.

REP. KEVIN KILEY (R-CA): Mr. Hur, did you completely exonerated President Biden?

HUR: That is not what my report does.

REID: Hur also emphasized that he was making a legal conclusion about Biden's mental state, not a medical one.

REP. SCOTT FITZGERALD (R-WI): Mr. Hur, based on your report, did you find that the president was senile?

HUR: I did not. That conclusion does not appear in my report.


REID: After the hearing. Chairman Jordan said that he is interested in the recording of the interview that President Biden did with special counsel Hur. Now, Hur, now the former special counsel, he's back to being a private citizen, he deferred to the Justice Department and the White House as to whether that recording will be released.

Jake, I think it's highly unlikely they will release that, but that will not stop Republicans from making that audio recording likely an issue over the next seven months.

TAPPER: All right. Paula Reid, thanks so much.

My next guest question Robert Hur in today's hearing. He's Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California, joins me now.

Thank you so much, Congressman Schiff.

The basic argument you're making is that by calling President Biden a sympathetic, well-meaning old man, elderly man with a poor memory, which is how he thought he would come across to a jury, that that's political. But what part of that construct is inaccurate?

I mean, I assume you think he's sympathetic and well-meaning. He's 81 and his memory, you know, it doesn't seem great. It's not horrible, but I don't understand the outrage.

SCHIFF: Well, it's simple as this. As a prosecutor, the department policy is you don't go out of your way to essentially vilify each of the reputation of someone when you're making a declination decision. What you put in your report is just what's necessary to support the conclusions of the reports.

So fair game to say, he was asked about these documents that didn't recall how they got to the university. It is not appropriate to engage in a subjective generalized essentially political assessment that is fodder during a campaign year. And he knew exactly what he was doing when he chose that language.

You know, he has conducted I'm sure as any lawyer with his experience dozens and dozens of depositions, I deposed Karl Rove for the Judiciary Committee. He claimed a failure of dozens and dozens of times. There was ever suggestion that he was doing it because of his advanced age.

That was simply gratuitously.

TAPPER: No, he wasn't 81, Karl Rove.

SCHIFF: Yeah. No, he wasn't, but with the failure --

TAPPER: Well, we're reading. I mean, you know, he does have -- I mean, look, I don't know that I would be any better if somebody is throwing names and dates at me, and I was 81 years old.


But, you know, he does have issues here and there. Was that 19 -- was that 2017? Was that 2016?

It's not, you know, disqualifying, but he does have some memory issues.

SCHIFF: Well, that is a perfectly fair issue for political campaign. It's not a politically, not perfectly fair issue for a prosecutor to make in a declination decision.


SCHIFF: You know, more than fine for her to say with respect to this category of documents or that, this is what the president said. But this was deliberate. It was as if Hur decided there's not enough evidence to prosecute him. So I'm going to politically slime him instead.

TAPPER: OK. What he would say, where he hear is, I had to explain why I wasn't prosecuting him. You've made that decision as a prosecutor, right? I'm not going to take the -- I assume I'm not going to take this case before a jury because I don't know that we could win it. This person is going to seem sympathetic or I can't prove beyond a reasonable doubt, et cetera. And that's -- I mean, look, part of what he said in his testimony

today was, you know, that we thought he did things willfully but he explained, President Biden explain things that he forgot or whatever, and we couldn't necessarily impugn the claim of -- that he just innocently forgot. We couldn't do that. That was another thing that he said.

What -- didn't he have a responsibility, Hur, to explain why he wasn't prosecuting this person?

SCHIFF: Yes. And that explanation can be -- we didn't find sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury that he met all of the elements of defense. We couldn't prove this beyond a reasonable doubt. We couldn't prove that beyond a reasonable doubt.

What you don't do -- Department of Justice policy is not only observe care and not essentially pejoratizing, damaging the reputation, injecting yourself in a political campaign, but doing the opposite. Hur understood this report would be public. He knew every word of --

TAPPER: It was going to FOIA no matter what. It was going to come out, no matter what, right?

SCHIFF: Well, one more than that, he knew that Garland was going to release it. And he knew that Garland wasn't --

TAPPER: Garland had pledged he was going to release it.

SCHIFF: He said he was going to release it.

TAPPER: Right.

SCHIFF: And of course, if he had edited any part of it, that would have been a huge issue. So he knew this was coming out and they were plenty of ways for him to meet his prosecuted -- prosecutorial duty by saying, you know, with specific reference to this document or that, the president didn't recall or claimed it didn't recall. And we can't prove that that wasn't true.

TAPPER: He also has a whole section in there in which he explains why what President Trump is accused of doing is much worse than what President Biden is accused of doing.

Did that not belong in there, too?

SCHIFF: You know, it's fair to say that we declined here because of these facts, they went forward here because of these facts. The two are not the same.

That is perfectly fine to do without going into gratuitously insulting Donald Trump anymore than gratuitously the insulting Joe Biden. But, but this was calculated, this was deliberate, and the idea that someone of his experience would not know that or wouldn't -- well, I was supposed to be a confidential report kept coming back to this confidential language.

That was I think horribly misleading when he knew --

TAPPER: He knew was going to be released. Sure.

SCHIFF: Absolutely understood that.

TAPPER: I just think that he felt like he had a special obligation to explain why he wasn't going to prosecute somebody that he thought had actually broken the law.

SCHIFF: Well, yes. But that does not include a generalized pejorative attack in a political manner. And that's exactly what that was.

TAPPER: Let me ask you about the general election. Because as people who watch the show likely know, you are running for Senate in California and it's between you and Republican Steve Garvey, former Dodgers great.

But I assume, by the way, that you've rooted for Steve Garvey in the past when he was a baseball player. Is that --

SCHIFF: Well, to be candid, I'm from Boston, so I was rooting for the Red Sox.

TAPPER: Oh, my God, don't tell the voters of California.

SCHIFF: I represent the area around Dodger Stadium, I'm also Dodger fan.

TAPPER: Okay. Interesting.

Anyway, are you worried at all about how some of the negative characterizations of President Biden, including how he's portrayed in this Hur report, could impact you at all in your election because he will obviously be at the top of the ballot?

SCHIFF: I am much less concerned about the effect of the presidential race on my own race, which I'm going to take very seriously and campaign hard on, than I am any prospect that Donald Trump could go near the levers of power again, somebody who says he wants to be a dictator on day one, someone who's is undermining a NATO allowance -- alliance as someone who was proud of the fact that he outlawed by his appointments to the Supreme Court reproductive freedom. I don't want him going anywhere near the Oval Office and that is the overriding consideration for me.

TAPPER: Let me ask you because you had -- there was -- you actually won fairly easily, you had a clever way, that's a nice way to describe it. Clever way of campaigning, which was you ran against Steve Garvey because it's a jungle primary. So, the top two vote-getters are the ones that you'll face off against. It will theoretically be easier for you to beat a Republican in California.


You campaigned in those ads against Steve Garvey, which might have helped him get the vote out. This is not unprecedented. We've seen the same thing and it kind of thing in American politics. Josh Shapiro, the governor of Pennsylvania, did it against Doug Mastriano, but one of your opponents, Katie Porter, Democratic Congresswoman complained in her concession and since then on Twitter, saying her campaign had to withstand, quote, an onslaught of billionaire spending millions to rig this election.

What's your reaction? Let me just state -- that's not rigging an election. That's not what rigging an election is.

Now, maybe she didn't like your tactics, but that's not rigging an election. What was your reaction to how she's handled her loss?

SCHIFF: Well, first of all, she called and left me a message on Friday. Very graciously congratulated me, so I want to acknowledge receiving that call.

That term rigging an election is a very specific term, now in the Trumpian era, which suggests ballot stuffing, fraud, et cetera. Those all those false allegations attacking the integrity of our election system. No Democrat should be using that language and what I think is notable is the Democratic Party quickly said, hey, no, that's -- you don't go there.

Republicans on the other hand, have embraced the big lie, continue to embrace it. There is a real, I think, incredible difference between the parties when it comes to defensive democracy. But we just do not use that language.

TAPPER: All right. Well, congratulations on the election and hope to talk, keep talking to you this election season. And obviously we're sending out an invitation to Mr. Garvey as well if he wants to come on the show.

Just as special counsel Hur showed up on Capitol Hill, the Justice Department released the transcript of an interview with Biden that was used in Hur's report and that transcript was important when you contention at the hearing today, could the transcript have been released sooner? That part of the story next.



TAPPER: Ahead of today's hearing with special counsel, Robert Hur, the U.S. Department of Justice, handed over transcripts of President Biden's interview with the special counsel, giving them to Congress.

The interview lasted more than five hours over two days in October.

CNN's Evan Perez joins us now.

And, Evan, this transfer script I have it here. Oh, it's heavy. Hold on. It's taken me a second to pick it up. This transcript, this details every word President Biden said in his interview. What stood out to you? EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, one of the still one of the mystifying things, Jake, has to do with the reference to Beau Biden, which of course made the president and Democrats so angry by dimension of Beau Biden and the fact that the president didn't remember the year that he died, at least according to the transcript. I'm sorry, according to the report.

Now, we reviewed the transcript and you see a lot more of the context there and you see that President Biden is the one that brings up Beau Biden and it comes as part of a question, a discussion about him thinking about his political future and looking at how he referred to documents that were having to do with that. And President Biden brings up the context and says, you know, the 2017, 2017, 2018 era.

And then he says, I remember the time-frame -- I remember the time frame. My son was either deployed or dying and then he says what year, what month did Beau die? Oh, God, May 30th. And then there was another -- a couple of people in the room who say 2015. And the president says, it's 25th -- 2015.

And so that is one of the, again, one of the most important parts of this report because it has been the thing that has that Democrats say was abused to portrayed the president as someone who is elderly, who didn't really have it all together. And so what you see, what the transcript is, you see a lot more of the contexts. I mean, one of his long answers that he gives about his son. And obviously, it was something that was obviously very close to his heart, Jake.

TAPPER: And, Evan, there are many instances in here about President Biden giving rather lengthy answers.

He's a storyteller. He's, you know, an old Irish pile of your (ph). At one point, the special counsel even has to say, I'd love to hear more about this, but we need to focus, something like that.

PEREZ: Right? Exactly. It happened a couple of times, Jake, there was one where he speaks for about ten minutes after he's asked about how dark commence came to be in a certain location and then there was one that I found quite, quite interesting, as, you know, where the president is asked about the location of documents and the president goes on to do a roughly five or six minute answered that covers everything from building a transcontinental railroad in Africa to China, to all kinds of other parts of policy, things, of course that President Biden finds really interesting.

And Robert Hur find it says, Mr. President, I'm sorry to interrupt you, but we do have a lot of material to go over here. It's classic Biden, but it is one of the indications that you see of this, of how five hours came to be concealed, Jake.

TAPPER: Yeah. No practice. It says I'm just reading here at page 67, probably one of the best parts to being vice president and president. And I get to drive all these electric vehicles. I have, damn, they're quick.

You know, I think -- I think about this. You have one of those big four by fours. I think it's a Ford Bronco, whatever it is, zero to 60 in 46. And Hur is like yes, that's fast.

Present Biden says, yeah, by the way, you know how it works? It's really cool. And mister -- and Hur's like, sir, I would love to hear much more about this, but I do have a few more questions to get through.

Biden keeps going. You can take 30 seconds, but you put your foot on the break, you hit a button. I mean, you know, old storyteller.

Evan Perez, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it.

Despite his report and his testimony today, special counsel Robert Hur, likely will not get the last word on President Biden and the classified documents. How the fallout from the hearing we will be used in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: We're back with our law and justice lead.

Moments ago, the White House reacted to special counsel Robert Hur's testimony today, saying the White House officials believed the hearing was enough to put this matter to bed. No more classified documents issue, they say.

My panels here.

Jonah, neither side got special counsel Hur to say exactly what they wanted him to say. Democrats wanted him to say this report exonerates him and I shouldn't have put in all that stuff about his memory, and Republicans wanted to say you're right. I made a mistake. I should have prosecuted him.

Nobody walked away happy.

JONAH GOLDBERG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah. Which to me puts me on team Robert Hur like, I think it like -- it's not always true that being attacked from both sides means you're doing something, right. But in this case, I actually think it's true, it's a hothouse of presidential campaign partisanship going on.

I think it -- his position is tenable and I think its probably right on the law. You can second guess a lot of it, but I'm -- you know, I think its good that a prosecutor didn't actually give either side exactly what it wanted.

TAPPER: And speaking of second guessing, now you have to take a listen to one of the most tense exchanges between special counsel Hur and Democratic Congressman Hank Johnson of Georgia.



REP. HANK JOHNSON (D-GA): You are a Republican, though, aren't you?

ROBERT HUR, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL: I am a registered Republican.

JOHNSON: Yes, sir. And you're doing everything you can do to get President Trump re-elected so that you can get appointed as a federal judge or perhaps to another position in a Department of Justice. Isn't that correct?

HUR: Congressman, I have no such aspirations. I can assure you.


TAPPER: Now, in Robert Hur's defense, I don't want this to be a Robert Hur stand panel, but in Robert Hur's defense, there's a whole section in his report on Biden in which he explains why Trump did is worse than what Biden is accused of doing. So he is eliminated himself from any consideration for Trump I would say.

NAYYERA HAQ, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF CABINET AFFAIRS, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Well, the challenge that you have is of course the hyperpartisan environment that this committee exists in right now, there are somewhat functional committees. Otherwise, this is not considered one of them, right? This committee could have looked at the report and talked about the -- what were the gaps and proof because there were facts laid out, but didn't rise to the level of proof. But individuals chose to make this deeply partisan.

And, one of the things I think is challenging about this is you want your officials to be apolitical but even Robert Mueller was appointed under certain president, right? And that was a part of the conversation about him as well, and it's like, oh, FBI Director Wray, you know, who he was appointed by.

And so this comes up knowing that this is going to come up because we've seen this playbook with reports over and over again. I am rather surprised that Hur just didn't take it off the table and not register or de-register himself 59 or rather 49 percent of Americans are currently politically unaffiliated. So he would have been with a big group of people who just didn't want to be registered with a political party right now.

GOLDBERG: Nayyera, also, he pushed back multiple times, Democrats tried to say that is report included exoneration of President Biden.

Take a listen.


HUR: I need to go back and make sure that I take -- take note of the word that you used. Exoneration, that is not on a word that we used in the report. That's not part of my task as a prosecutor.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Mr. Hur, I'm going to continue with my question. I'm going to continue with my questions. I know that that the term -- I know that the term --

HUR: -- the judgment that I received, that I ultimately reached, (INAUDIBLE) whether sufficient evidence existed such as the likely outcome would be a conviction.

JAYAPAL: You didn't -- you exonerated him. I know that the term willful retention has --

HUR: I did not exonerate him. That word does appear in the report.

JAYAPAL: Mr. Hur, it's my time.


TAPPER: You know what that reminds me? Actually, it reminds me of what Republicans tried to do with the Mueller report, which did not exonerate Donald Trump. It just said, were not going to prosecute him. And by the way, here's all these obstruction of justices, just, you know --

HAQ: And actually, Trump did not get charged with obstruction of justice, but you had many other people who did. I think more than 34 people. And there were criminal proceedings that came from that. And so it's just the flip of what we saw happen with the Russia investigation that we continue to see.

Unfortunately, with the Russia investigation, we did see many people in the national security community who were discussing this on the surface. And the facts, and we're just not seeing that with the classified documents story, knowing that Donald Trump has his own challenges in that space.

TAPPER: Yeah. Yeah, just to be clear, I'm not comparing the two offenses in any way. I'm just saying, claiming something -- claiming a document that doesn't exonerate the politician you like.

HAQ: It's the court of public opinion versus legal opinion. And that was fundamentally the disconnect we see.

TAPPER: Public domain, right.

GOLDBERG: Also, just, not to put my civics hat on, but our system doesn't really do exoneration.

TAPPER: And it should, by the way.

GOLDBERG: In a criminal case, you get -- if you're -- if you get off from the charges, you're found not guilty, you're not found innocent, right?

HAQ: Yeah.

GOLDBERG: And the idea that a prosecutors report that unless it's comp -- unless what was truly like, it is actually impossible that Joe Biden committed any of these alleged facts. It can't exonerate him. I personally think like I know this was going to for political reasons, the reports going to have to get out in the matter what. But Merrick Garland's getting off pretty light here since it's his decision to release the report.

TAPPER: Well, he said that before Hur was appointed. I'm going to release this publicly. It was so politically charged. He had to though.

GOLDBERG: No, no, I get the political reality of it, but like Hur was under a legal obligation to explain himself to the attorney general. It was not -- you know, and the idea that he is trying to do this for a judgeship. I think its kind of a slander. So I think kudos to him versus the people on both sides.

TAPPER: All right. Thanks one and all for being here. I appreciate it, Jonah Goldberg, Nayyera Haq.

Ahead, a frightening moment on yet another Boeing flight, this time a passenger says the pilot lost control of the plane. Could you imagine? Was it an isolated incident? The question stacking up when the scrutiny on Boeing.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our money lead if you own Boeing stock, I am sorry. It closed down over 4 percent today after yet another round of really just horrible news involving the quality of Boeing airliners. But if you think that's bad, be grateful. You weren't actually on the Boeing jet where a malfunction yesterday caused a nosedive that pinned passengers to the ceiling.

CNN's Pete Muntean has the scary details.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New images show the aftermath of Monday's mysterious in-flight jolt on a Chilean Boeing 787.

Latam Airlines says a technical event caused a strong movement on board, injuring 50 passengers who peppered the pilots with questions.

BRIAN JOKAT, LATAM FLIGHT 800 PASSENGER: I immediately engaged with him and said, what was that? And he openly admitted, he said, I lost control of the plane. My gauges just kind of went blank on me, and that's when the plane just took a dive.

MUNTEAN: Boeing says it is standing by to help investigate the incident. The latest involving a Boeing plane following the Alaska airlines door plug blowout in January, a wheel falling off a United flight last week, and hydraulic fluid traveling from another United flight during takeoff from Sydney this week.


MARY SCHIAVO, FORMER TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT INSPECTOR GENERAL: People are pretty wary of Boeing right now. And when anything happens on a Boeing, people want to know.

MUNTEAN: Though, there was no clear link between each incident, Boeing remains under the microscope of federal investigator. The Federal Aviation Administration now says it has completed its review of the 737 production line with "The New York Times" reporting Boeing failed 33 of 89 quality control audits.

MICHAEL WHITAKER, FAA ADMINISTRATOR: It wasn't just paperwork issues and sometimes it's ordered that work is done. Sometimes it's tool management at it sounds kind of pedestrian, but it's really important in a factory that you have a way of tracking your tools effectively, so that you have the right tool and you know, you didn't leave it behind.

MUNTEAN: FAA scrutiny follows anger from the National Transportation Safety Board, which blasted Boeing on Capitol Hill last week for failing to provide records that detailed the omission of key bolts from the Alaska Airlines plane. Boeing says those records do not exist.

JENNIFER HOMENDY, CHAIR, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: We don't have the records. We don't have the names of the 25 people that is in charge of doing that work in that facility. It's absurd that two months later, we don't have that.


MUNTEAN (on camera): Tonight, Boeing is responding to the findings from the FAA's audit. A new company memo instructs workers to precisely follow every step when building airplanes.

The ripple effects of Boeing struggles are also being felt by airlines. Southwest and United Airlines are now both hiring fewer pilots this year because Boeing cannot deliver planes fast enough.

Southwest CEO Bob Jordan's message to Boeing today, Jake, fix it.

TAPPER: Pete, it wasn't already standard operating procedure to follow every instruction when building airplanes?

MUNTEAN: Bit understated, I think, yeah.

TAPPER: I would think that that would -- okay. Well, I don't build airplanes, but I think follow every instruction --

MUNTEAN: It's usually good to put in every bolt and screw.

TAPPER: It would seem to me.

Pete Muntean, thanks so much.

MUNTEAN: Thanks, Jake. TAPPER: Gangs in Haiti got the resignation they wanted from the prime minister, but that still may not be enough to restore any sense of social order and push back the criminal rings, trying to even further take over the country.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our world lead today, despite the prime minister of Haiti vowing to resign, a coalition of gangs in Haiti is refusing to accept any new government picked by a transitional council, signaling that the violence that is already engulfing Haiti will continue.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann reports now on Haiti's social order that is really on the brink of complete and utter collapse.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For more than a week, Haiti's marauding gangs prevented Prime Minister Ariel Henry from returning to the country he was supposed to lead.

Until finally, Henry reached a breaking point and agreed on Monday night to resign.

ARIEL HENRY, OUTGOING PRIME MINISTER OF HAITI (through translator): My government will leave immediately after the inauguration of the council. There will be a caretaker government until they name a prime minister and a new cabinet. Haiti needs peace, Haiti needs stability.

OPPMANN: Henry had traveled from Haiti to Kenya to sign an agreement with the government there, to provide troops to fight the out-of- control gangs, terrorizing his beleaguered nation. Once he left, the gangs, united to further batter the Haitian government in a series of coordinated attacks.

The latest explosion of violence leading to a massive jailbreak that freed thousands of prisoners, close the country's main airport indefinitely enforced the United States and other embassies to evacuate diplomats by helicopter. The news of Henry's impending resignation is not placating the leaders of gangs though, who've threatened an all-out civil war.

JIMMY "BARBECUE" CHIERIZER, HAITIAN GANG LEADER (through translator): We, (INAUDIBLE), are demanding that the Haitian people must choose the person who will lead the country.

OPPMANN: But it is the Haitian people who are suffering the most. More than 300,000 have been displaced by the violence the U.N. says.

Gangs blocked access to food, water, and hospitals, using hunger and sexual violence as weapons of war. Bodies of their victims lie uncollected on the streets. On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with regional leaders in Jamaica and announced an increase us funding to the security mission to be led by Kenyan troops.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm announcing today that the United States Department of Defense is doubling its approved support for the mission from $100 to $200 million, and that brings the total us support to $300 million for this effort.

OPPMANN: Following the announcement that Henry will resign, Kenyan officials now saying a government needs to be in place in Haiti before their troops can deploy, creating more doubt of what exactly they will have boots on the ground to begin fighting their heavily armed local gangs.

For too many Haitians, living in a country where there is no longer a functioning government, no escape from the violence, it is already too late.


OPPMANN: And Jake, according to the World Food Programme, 1 million Haitians, 1 million people in Haiti are on the verge of famine. They simply cannot wait any longer for political solution to the failed state their country has become -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Patrick Oppmann covering the Haiti crisis in Havana, Cuba. Thank you so much.

Today, a terrifying in fear confirmed American Israeli hostage, Itay Chen, it turns out, was killed by the terrorist group Hamas.


He was murdered actually back in October. The IDF just informed his parents. His parents, Ruby and Hagit, you might remember, they've been on the show several times, most recently, just a few days ago. We're going to reaction to this horrible news next from a Republican senator who hosted the Chen family last week at the State of the Union Address.


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

In this hour, the elephant in the room breaking open and a big away Republican dysfunction and dissatisfaction on Capitol Hill.

Congressman Ken Buck, Republican of Colorado, who already had announced this term would be his last now says he is leaving Congress next week. It's just that awful. His exit CNN lets learn many House Republicans don't even want to be in the same room with each other these days.