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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Sen. Ernst Brought Itay Chen's Parents To State Of The Union; Sen. Joni Ernst, (R-IA), Is Interviewed About Itay Chen; IDF: Itay Chen, Dual U.S. Citizen, Killed By Hamas On Oct. 7; Rep. Ken Buck Leaving Congress At End Of Next Week, Further Shrinking The Narrow Republican Majority; "New York Times" Focus Group Asks 10 Voters Who Backed Trump In 2016 And 2020 Why They Moved On; NYT: RFK, Jr. Confirms Aaron Rodgers, Jesse Ventura On VP Shortlist; Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) And Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT), Is Interviewed About Spy Chiefs Warn Of Heightened Threats To U.S.; New Hearing For Convicted Killer Scott Peterson. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 12, 2024 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: It's just that awful. His exit, as CNN has learned many House Republicans don't even want to be in the same room with each other these days.

Plus inside the minds of Trump supporters were with him in 2016, with him in 2020, but now say no more what they reveal should send a warning for the Biden campaign.

And leading this hour, grim news confirmed by Israeli Defense Forces earlier today. A dual American and Israeli citizen who we've told you about in the past, a young man 19 years old named Itay Chen, it turns out he was killed by Hamas terrorists on October 7. He was only 19 at the time of his murder until this news. He was believed to be among the more than 100 people still being held hostage by Hamas. Regular viewers of The Lead know we've spoken to Itay's parents on a number of occasions.

He was the second of three sons. He was a former Boy Scout, he was a fierce basketball player, especially computer basketball. Here's how his father Ruby described Itay to me back in November.


RUBY CHEN, FATHER OF ITAY CHEN: He's a very talented kid. He sings, he dances, so he's typically the life of the party. He has been in the Boy Scouts until the age of 18. So he mentors young kids. And maybe the most important part is he and his older brother play, you know, NBA 2K.

So, I get my ass whooped by my eldest son, so we need his youngest -- younger brother to come back so he could go back and play with him NBA 2K.


TAPPER: It was just last Thursday when Ruby and his wife Hagit were right here sitting next to me on set. And Ruby shared a dream.


R. CHEN: I actually have a dream two days ago, two nights ago where I saw the vision of President Biden flying to us and saying, well, your kid Itay, he's on a plane back home. I still hope that that might be able to happen.


TAPPER: Hagit described other family mark what would have been Itay's 20th birthday in January.


HAGIT CHEN, MOTHER OF ITAY CHEN: Yes, it's difficult. I know when it's all started I couldn't imagine he will not be at home on his 20th birthday. And he likes to, you know, celebrate big, he likes his birthday like any other person. And we just mentioned his birthday with family and good friends came with us, you know, to Jerusalem to the wall. We put -- you know, we pray together.


H. CHEN: Many people together, the people who love him pray for his return, safely return home.


TAPPER: Absolutely heartbreaking. Our deepest condolences to the Chen family as they grieve and begin this process. Itay Chen was murdered while serving Israel in the Gaza border on October 7. He was only 19 years old. Again an American and Israeli citizen may his memory be a blessing.

Ruby and Hagit Chen were guests at last week's State of the Union brought by both Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa. Senator Ernst joins us now.

And Senator Ernst, this is an American kid. He was a dual citizen, but he was an American citizen in addition to being an Israeli citizen. It's just heartbreaking. What is your response?

SEN. JONI ERNST (R-IA): It is heartbreaking, Jake. And my hope as I had gotten to know, Ruby and Hagit to and the other hostage families was that I would be part of that welcome home ceremony for all six of our American hostages. And today that hope was dashed, obviously, for Ruby and for Hagit with the loss of Itay. And it is devastating. It is the knowledge now that their son will not come home.

And we will pray that we say the others returned safely. But again, this family's hopes have been dashed and dashed at the hands of Hamas during that horrific October 7 attack on Israel.

TAPPER: What more needs to be done to get the hostages home and to get the remains of the hostages who were killed while they were in Gaza out of Gaza? Because I've heard some of the hostage families and I'm sure you've heard this too, they say that the Netanyahu government is too focused on the -- on destroying Hamas and not focused enough on doing everything they can to get the hostages home. What do you want to see happen?

ERNST: Well, I am a fierce advocate for these hostage families and whether it is working with the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whether it is additional pressure coming from this administration and President Biden on Egypt, on Qatar especially, and on those that might have influence over Hamas. I'm leaning heavily on Qatar right now. They really need to bring Hamas to the table, they need to push from us to release not only our American hostages, that is my priority, but absolutely all of those hostages that they are holding, whether they are alive or whether they are deceased, all of them need to come home.


Qatar can be a key there, we're leaning on the Prime Minister, they are a non-NATO ally. They need to step up and show us that they are a non-NATO ally. So, Jake, I'm going to continue to pressure everyone that I think can be involved in the return of these hostages.

TAPPER: It's much more philosophically, I'm older than you, I think. And I have to say that I remember when there were American hostages being held in the Middle East during the Iran hostage crisis --


TAPPER: -- '79, '80,' 81, and the whole country no matter what they thought about Iran policy or Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan or the Ayatollah or whether or not the United States was responsible for, you know, the coup, and Musudan (ph), the shah, whatever. Everybody agreed, get the American hostages home, get the innocent people home. Where is that spirit today? I don't feel it.

ERNST: Yes, absolutely, Jake. And this is the sorry state of affairs right now where we have American hostages being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. And yet, Jake, I would guarantee that most of -- most Americans don't realize that we have American hostages being held by Hamas. Nor do they realize that over 30 Americans were killed on October 7 by Hamas. And there is this division that we see across the United States now, where people are getting very, very confused about Hamas and the Palestinians involved.

So we've got to separate the two, whether it is Hamas, the terrorists that committed these atrocities, we need to condemn that and we need to force them to give our American hostages back. And I wish the American public could, you know, distinguish between the two. We really do need to target Hamas and their dastardly deeds, the evil doings from October 7th moving forward, and make sure that we are holding them to account. But again, Jake, I just think so many Americans don't realize the tragic loss of American life on October 7, and the fact that we still have innocent Americans that are being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

TAPPER: Republicans Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, thank you so much for your time and appreciate your joining us on this sad moment.

ERNST: And my condolence.

TAPPER: Yes. Coming up next, how not to resign from Congress, leaving a voicemail on the speaker's phone, the Republican Congressman who's surprised Capitol Hill today and what it reveals about the level of GOP dysfunction right now.



TAPPER: The Republican Party's incredible shrinking majority in the House of Representatives tops this hour's politics lead. The big news, Colorado Republican Congressman Ken Buck surprise announcement, he's resigning as of the end of this -- of next week. We knew he wasn't going to run for reelection. But now that's going to be an empty seat. Let's go to CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.

Manu, Congressman Buck already announced he's not seeking reelection. Why leave next week? Why not, you know, wait until December?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look, this surprised even the speaker of the House who said he did not get a heads up about this before Buck's surprise announcement saying that he would resign by next week, effectively tightening that already razor thin Republican majority. It's expected to drop it down to 218 to 213. Meaning that Mike Johnson cannot afford more than two Republican defections at any party line vote. And if there's any absences in the Republican side, one Republican defections all they can afford, which shows you the significance of every single seat in the United States House.

Now Buck explained his decision saying that essentially this is a place that is dysfunctional, can't get anything done. It's not a place that many members want to serve. And he emphasize that point speaking to our colleague Dana Bash earlier. Listen.


REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): But a lot of this is personal. And that's the problem. Instead of having the quorum, instead of operating in a professional manner, this place has just evolved into this bickering and nonsense and not really doing the job for the American people.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Is it that bad that you're saying, I'm done.

BUCK: It is the worst year of the nine year and three months that I've been in Congress. And having talked to former members, it's the worst year in 40, 50 years to be in Congress.


RAJU: And he's a member who has increasingly broken with his party in a number of key issues, whether it's the Biden impeachment, Mayorkas' impeachment. And of course, he was one of eight Republicans, Jake, who voted out Speaker McCarthy. And some people would say he is part of the problem for Thoreau plunging the institution into chaos. But nevertheless, the belief amongst so many members that I talked to on both sides of the aisle, including Ken Buck is that this place has been absolutely unproductive this year. And what's the point of staying in so many members now rushing for the exits, Jake.

TAPPER: Well, I mean, statistically, that's accurate. It's the least -- it's the least accomplished Congress since I think like the 1930s or something.

Manu, Republican source tells CNN that many Republicans in the House are so frustrated with each other, which is a nice way of saying they hate each other. Many of them plan to skip an upcoming conference retreat. What's that about?

RAJU: Yes, that's right. This is taking place about four hours away from D.C. in West Virginia and many members that we're talking to are really saying that there's really no reason for them to go and large apart because they don't really want to even be around each other. This is the conference that has devolved into so much acrimony partisan internal bickering, sometimes private, goes out into public. We saw that all throughout the aftermath of Kevin McCarthy and now the inability to just pass simple pieces of legislation.


And one big reason why so many members is disrupts each other, they can't even move with simple agenda like they need to approve what's known as a rule, Jake, a procedural effort to try to move on to legislation, that's typically done along party lines. Now, they can't even pass a rule because of internal divisions. And it just shows you how tired members are of even being in the same room, Jake.

TAPPER: And most of us when we don't do our job, we get fired and we don't get paid. Manu Raju, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

The other explosive news from Capitol Hill is today's congressional hearing on President Biden's handling or mishandling of classified documents to hearing featuring former Special Counsel Robert Hur, in many ways it boiled down to an exercise in competing partisan agendas. First, there was the Republican agenda of attacking President Biden.


REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Pride and money is why he knowingly violated the rules. The oldest motives in the book, pride and money. You agree with that, Mr. Hur, you wrote it in your report.

ROBERT HUR, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL: That language and -- it does appear in the report and we did identify evidence supporting those assessments.


TAPPER: Then there were the Democrats and their agenda of defending President Biden and attacking former President Trump.


REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD), RANKING MEMBER, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: You also repeatedly contrast Biden's cooperation with the conduct of Donald Trump, you say, quote, "Most notably, after being given multiple chances to return classified documents and avoid prosecution, Mr. Trump allegedly did the opposite." According the indictment, he not only refused to return the documents for many months, but he also obstructed justice by enlisting others to destroy evidence and then to lie about it. Have you any reason to change your judgment about the differences between President Biden's cooperation in the former president's noncooperation?

HUR: No, I continue to stand by those words in my report.


TAPPER: There was also Robert Hur's agenda himself. He had an agenda of defending his report, his integrity, including the damning observations about President Biden's memory.


HUR: My assessment and the report about the relevance of the President's memory was necessary, and accurate, and fair. Most importantly, what I wrote is what I believe the evidence shows and what I expect jurors would perceive and believe. I did not sanitize my explanation. Nor did I disparage the President unfairly.


TAPPER: We got a lot to talk about with our panel. Let's plunge right in. Kristen, let me start with you. So Congressman Ken Buck, he says he's quitting, not just retiring at the end of his term, quitting next week because the dysfunction on Capitol Hill at an all-time high, he's over it. And he gave his notice to the speaker of the House, apparently, by leaving a voicemail 30 minutes before making his announcement public. What's your reaction?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Doesn't sound like a great workplace environment these days, like putting it mildly. This is a really unpleasant Congress to be a part of. He is not the first to head for the exits, he will probably not be the last. What is a little bit astonishing, though, is normally you expect this when a party is in the minority, being in the minority, especially on the House side is very frustrating. You feel like you're getting nothing done.

You feel like you're running into roadblocks. It can feel like -- look, being in public service is not about fun, but it is about service. And if you feel like you're not able to serve, I get why there's that frustration. But I do think it's curious to just walk away in the middle of your term, you run for office telling voters, please give me this two or four, six year term, whatever it is. So it's very curious that things have gotten so bad that he would walk away and just say you've got a week.


ANDERSON: Good luck.

TAPPER: Well, I mean, and former Speaker McCarthy did the same thing. Vote for me, vote for me, vote for me, and then just because the he wasn't speaker anymore, he was just like, all right, citizens of Bakersfield, smell you later. So, what's going on here? Because as Kristen points out, it's normal for there to be Democrats versus Republicans fighting and it's normal for the minority to hate being in the minority. They're completely impotent. But this is the majority party and they're fighting with each other, they're not complaining about Maxine Waters.

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. I mean, when you look at this, you have these extreme folks in the Republican Party right now there in the House that outdo by, you know, blinking the wrong way, almost like they did with Kevin McCarthy. And I think Mike Johnson fills that tension with his party. And then you have people who are frustrated, like a Ken Buck who says like, this is ridiculous. Like we can't just keep flipping -- not that I'm like standing by and defending Kim buck by any stretch policy there.

TAPPER: You can defense something (inaudible).

ALLISON: But I think that he's saying like, this is ridiculous, we have to be able to continue the business of the people, but that's not what the Republicans want to do. And so, they also -- they are in the majority in the House, but they're not in the Senate and they don't have the White House and they don't want to compromise either. So they're throwing their hands up in frustration but realizing that they don't have the levers to actually advance an agenda. And when they get an opportunity to advance the agenda they still say no for various reasons mainly because Donald Trump doesn't want them to be.


But if you are so frustrated with your colleagues that you won't go to a retreat with them, that you can't just finish your term out. It does talk about what type of environment that is. And it also thinks that shows how weak of a speaker Mike Johnson is that one of your own members basically ghost you, you know, and saying, like, I don't want to -- I don't want to work for you anymore, and so I'm out of here in a week.

TAPPER: What's interesting, there are a few panels, a few committees, we should note, I was about to say this as a way of defending like some people are getting things done. Right. So you have the House Foreign Affairs Committee, McCaul and from Brooklyn, come on, Ranking Democrat --


TAPPER: Meeks, Gregory Meeks, sorry. I've been on air for seven hours today. So McCaul and Gregory Meeks, they work really well together, right? They don't always agree. You have the Intelligence Committee. I think we're going to have the Democrat and Republican from the Intelligence Committee, Turner and Himes on to talk about their work. And then I was going to say at the China committee, right?

ANDERSON: Right. Congressman Gallagher is also --

TAPPER: But he's stepping down like a shining star of the Republican Party.


TAPPER: He's a Marine, he's handsome, he's smart. He's like a, I don't know, moderates a word, but he's like solid and --

ANDERSON: Pragmatic.

TAPPER: -- pragmatic. And he's retiring because he's sick of the two. Again, this is the majority party. I don't -- I've never seen anything like this.

ANDERSON: Well, the question that I would have for somebody like Ken Buck, who is saying, I'm out and I'm out now is what is it that you're going to do a week from now, when you are not in Congress that is going to help move the country forward? I have no doubt that someone like Mike Gallagher or someone like Cathy McMorris Rodgers or any of these other members --

TAPPER: Another one who's stepping down.

ANDERSON: -- who have said, you know what --

TAPPER: The chair Commerce Committee.

ANDERSON: There may be something that they have in mind to try to help the country where they say, being in Congress, isn't it, I'm going to do this other thing instead.


ANDERSON: I would be interested to see --


TAPPER: I mean, how much do you ever buy that?

ANDERSON: You better watch in too much west wing.

TAPPER: Yes, but I mean, how much do you ever buy that? I'm sure there are people who go on to become successful professors or whatever.

ANDERSON: Well, it's clear they're being in Congress, right, it's clear they're being in Congress right now does not feel like a way to advance your ideas, your agenda, so.

TAPPER: So I know, she blames it on the extreme Republicans, right?

ALLISON: Well, I don't think it has to be that way, though. You can get things done. But you have to be an adult and work with people --

TAPPER: And compromise.

ALLISON: -- and compromise. Like you and I do not agree with everything, but we can have a cordial conversation and get to --

TAPPER: I bet you can ask to do a budget.

ALLISON: We could probably --

TAPPER: I bet you could.

ALLISON: -- get more, I mean leave it to (inaudible), right?

TAPPER: Right?

ALLISON: We could get more done I feel like between the two of us with differing opinions in many of these people, because they don't want to be adults. They don't want to do the basic things you learn as a child about compromising, being kind, like leading with dignity. Instead, they're acting like children. And so they're stepping -- and then they're quitting their jobs after it.

TAPPER: You're a pollster. What are your polls say? I mean, is any of this going to have any impact? Or are we just going to be here next year with the same ineffectual members of Congress, the same people who hold things up hostage? I'm guessing they're going to change the motion to vacate rule.

So it's not just one person can remove a speaker or force a vote to remove a speaker? But beyond that, I mean, is there any momentum on people -- it's always the American people hate Congress, but they love their own member of Congress.

ANDERSON: Well, we've seen that dynamic change a little bit, people are frustrated with their own member of Congress, but you also have the problem where in many of these districts, they're pretty safe, the number of districts --



ANDERSON: -- that are genuinely competitive is very low.

TAPPER: Jeremy (ph) (inaudible), Rick (ph) (inaudible), yes.

ANDERSON: And so because of the polarization and the fact that, you know, even if people say incumbents aren't good, I -- we need more change, we need more change. The irony, too, is that when there is a lot of turnover in Congress, that doesn't always unlocked --

ALLISON: Right. ANDERSON: -- tons of productivity. It means --

TAPPER: Right.

ANDERSON: -- you then suddenly have a whole bunch of people in who might just be there to throw bombs and they don't know how to get things done.

ALLISON: But this isn't good for the --

ANDERSON: So that's the double edged sword.

ALLISON: This is terrible for the Republican majority in terms of just vote counting.

TAPPER: Yes, and getting things done also.

ALLISON: I mean, getting things done. Yes.

TAPPER: You guys are so good. I want you to stick around. We're going to have talk more in the next block in the 2024 race. President Biden and Donald Trump are not the only candidates, Robert Kennedy Jr. still in the race. And a new poll gauge just how much public support he has.

Plus, the brand new report naming potential RFK Jr. VP running mates on the shortlist, a former NFL quarterback and a former pro-wrestler, stay with us.



TAPPER: It's time for our 2024 lead, which -- thank you. Appreciate it. The election music, you know it's my jam. Both President Joe Biden and Donald Trump are going to likely hit a big moment tonight. Both of them are almost certainly going to meet the threshold to clinch their party's nominations for president as results come in from primary contests in Georgia and Washington State and Mississippi and Hawaii. Let's bring back our panel.

All right, Kristen, let me start with you. You moderated "New York Times" focus group with 10 Independents and Republicans who voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020, but are not going to vote for Trump now. The goal was to see why Trump lost their support. What's your biggest takeaway? And can Biden win them?

ANDERSON: So there are two big takeaways for me, one was that the RFK Jr. factor is more serious than I may have considered it beforehand. I thought a lot of people who were telling pollsters like me that they were voting for RFK, Jr. were doing it because they saw Kennedy and they thought, oh, Kennedy, that seems great. But for many of these voters, they felt like he had inherited this anti-establishment mantle, that many of the reasons why they liked Donald Trump to begin with. He says when he thinks he doesn't care that the establishment hates him, et cetera, et cetera, make them like RFK Jr. The second thing was the impact of something like January 6, which I have been not dismissive of but I thought, you know, there's things like cost of living, et cetera, that are really going to drive this election more. But for many of these voters in this focus group for them, they were with Donald Trump. And that's where they got off the train said, I just can't do it a third time knowing what I saw.


TAPPER: Interesting. And so Ashley, Kristen just said a lot of what I'm about to read in the focus group, but there's a part of it that she didn't. What's clear, is that Mr. Trump is no longer the outsider voice that resonated with these voters in 2016. Some said the role has been taken on by RFK. They're responding pretty viscerally to things he has said into his anti-establishment, beholden-to-nobody image. Here's the part that's interesting that you didn't say, indeed, a major takeaway from the focus group is that the Kennedy factor in this election should be taken pretty seriously in the swing states, where he's likely to make the ballot this fall. But that's not necessarily only an alarm for Republicans, right, that could be an alarm for Democrats.

ALLISON: Yes, you know, we are in this moment, right now, we know that the majority of Americans don't want to see this matchup with Donald Trump and Joe Biden. And so --

TAPPER: Worst to be ever?

ALLISON: I'm not going to say that.

TAPPER: I'm just joking. But that's what they think. That's what they think, not me.

ALLISON: But to that point, is that a third party candidate, give somebody an option.

TAPPER: A place to go.

ALLISON: A place to go and still engaged. And that goes for people who are not interested in maybe in being a part of Joe Biden's large coalition that was built in 2020 but also those folks that are saying to your point around Donald Trump. So the question is, do they cut -- count each other out? So if one for one, one goes for Trump and one goes for Biden, the problem is if you're running a campaign, we know these -- the margins of victories are going to be so tight, you really can't afford to lose anyone, especially not to a third party candidate. And just history has shown when there are third party candidates, most recently, it usually cuts against the Democratic candidate.

ANDERSON: I think if these folks that I talked to do wind up ending up going with one of the major party candidates, it is more likely that they would come home to Trump than Biden based on what they said in the groups. Only one of our participants said I have switched all the way to being a Biden voter. The rest were, I'm going to write in, I might stay home I might be RFK Jr. And for many of them on contrast between Trump and Biden things like mental acuity, they still gave Trump the edge. On things like the economy, they still gave Trump the edge.

They were turned off by the way Trump has handled his legal situation, January 6th, et cetera. And they felt like he had lost some of that anti-establishment shine that he had had earlier on. But they still had not fallen in love in any way, shape or form with President Biden. And I do think in some ways people have long thought this RFK Jr. thing is more of a threat to Biden than Trump. I came away from this focus group, a little more up in the air about which major party candidate --

TAPPER: And the "New York Times" is reporting that RFK Jr.'s list of potential running mates includes Aaron Rodgers, famed vaccine denier and Sandy Hook truther, who now sits on the sidelines and is paid millions of dollars for the New York Jets and former Minnesota Governor and professional wrestler and actor, Jesse Ventura. Thoughts?

ALLISON: Well, he's going for the celebrity appeal. I mean, he's taking a book out of Donald Trump's playbook where he thinks that if he wants to get this popularity, you know, if you don't know the Kennedy name, that these folks are people who can really bring folks in. Now I will say, I think if you're a Jesse Ventura or Aaron Rodgers, you're probably not a Joe Biden person. And so I do think it cuts against Donald Trump more so. But I would -- I can confidently say having either one as vice president in the United States would be terrible.

ANDERSON: I would need to talk to my friends in Packers nation to see to what extent Aaron Rodgers would scramble things in the great swing state of Wisconsin.

TAPPER: Interesting, but don't they think he's a turncoat?

ANDERSON: That's what I wonder. That's what I wonder.

TAPPER: Oh, interesting, right. In New York is not exactly a swing state. That's not really, well, he hasn't picked him yet. The Republican National Committee laid off dozens of staffers yesterday, after Donald Trump's handpick team took over including his daughter- in-law, Lara Trump, Eric's wife, these cuts go beyond the norm. I mean, usually there's some cleaning house but this is more than that. Some Republican operatives are going -- wondering about the capabilities of the RNC going forward, especially in terms of fielding a ground operation, what do you think?

ANDERSON: Well, it's really going to fall to other committees, if you are running for the Senate. The NRSC is who you're going to have to turn to. If you're running for house, the NRCC is who you're going to have to turn to. The RNC normally is primarily about the presidential campaign anyways. But this just really puts a big bold underline.

ALLISON: And I feel like this kind of harkens back to 2016, where Donald Trump was running kind of a makeshift campaign without real ground infrastructure. It feels like not having a strong RNC plays to that, but he does now have a stronger campaign outside of it. TAPPER: Yes. Although the people that ran his campaign so far are taking over and they are really good. I don't know about this staffing.

ANDERSON: You can no longer say he's not the establishment.

ALLISON: No, he is the establishment, but his campaign managers ran a pretty flawless campaign for the primaries.


TAPPER: Ashley Allison and Kristen Soltis Anderson, thanks so much.

CNN will have live coverage as results come in from across the United States this evening. It's Super Tuesday number two, numero dos. Special coverage starts at 7 o'clock Eastern here on CNN streaming on Max and on ESPN, The Ocho.


Next here on The Lead, a warning today from the head of the FBI about known or suspected terrorists coming across the southern border, stay with us.


TAPPER: Turning to another crucial hearing on Capitol Hill today in our World Lead, fresh and alarming testimony from the top spy and intelligence chiefs of the United States. They told the House Intelligence Committee about various and looming threats from Russia, China, artificial intelligence, not to mention the terrorist threat to the United States at a whole quote, another level. Listen to FBI Chief Christopher Wray.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: We have seen over the last, I think five years an increase in the number of KSDs or known or suspected terrorists attempting to cross the southern border.



TAPPER: Joining us now for a bipartisan interview, the chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence Congressman Mike Turner Republican of Ohio and the ranking Democrat Congressman Jim Himes, a Democrat from Connecticut. Thanks to both you for joining us.

REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH), CHAIR, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Hey, thanks, Jake. Happy birthday.


TAPPER: Oh, thank you so much. I appreciate you. Boy, you guys really are on the Intelligence Committee.


HIMES: We know.

TAPPER: You've been briefed. So let me start with you Ranking Member Himes, because I want to ask about the border. It's such a politically fraught issue for any president. But the statistics we're hearing are alarming. Is President Biden doing enough to address these specific concerns about terrorists entering the United States?

HIMES: Well, Jake, the way I'd answer that is by saying that more needs to be done on the border, no country can have a border in which lots of people are coming across. We don't know who they are. Now, look, I also feel very strongly that we talk about this rooted in truth, right? And the reality is that the quote, the number you just quoted, the number of KSDs coming across the southern border, that represent a true terrorist threat is actually pretty small. It's in the double digits, many of those who have come across are actually Colombian nationals that may have been associated with one of the revolutionary groups there, including groups that are no longer designated as terrorists.

So yes, we need to do a much better job securing our border, but we also need to talk about the border and about immigration in ways that doesn't raise the risk in immigrant communities and inside this country.

TAPPER: Chairman Turner, do you agree with your colleague's assessment?

TURNER: Well, I think what's critical here is if you listen to the words of Director Wray. He is saying that right now, that the terrorist threat, the threat for an actual terrorist attack occurring inside the United States, by individuals who have crossed over the southern border, who have either known ties or are affiliated with terrorist groups organization is the highest that it's been, really at times he said even since 9/11.

That's a real serious warning from the director of the FBI. It's something that needs to be at the highest of our level of concern, as does the southern border in which they're crossing.

TAPPER: Chairman Turner, let's turn to Russia and the war on Ukraine. You questioned CIA Director William Burns, who just got back from his 10th visit to Ukraine. Let's play some of that.


BILL BURNS, CIA DIRECTOR: Ukraine is not running out of courage and tenacity. They're running out of ammunition, and we're running out of time to help them.


TAPPER: Now the House Speaker Mike Johnson wants to wait until the government funding bill is done. And then some Republicans are hoping he'll bring the Ukraine aid package to the House floor, which would also include restrictions on the border. Are you trying? Are you able to convince Speaker Johnson that that timeline might not be quickly -- they might not be quick enough?

TURNER: I think it's absolutely clear that we're at a critical point with Ukraine. They are fighting mightily. But Russia is aware of their dwindling supplies. The United States needs to resupply them. This aid package needs to be approved. This is critical. This is the issue of democracies versus authoritarian regimes. We cannot allow Putin to win here. And certainly, you know, this is about the self determination of people that Ukrainians deserve our help and support and they certainly are getting it from around the world and from other NATO allies.

TAPPER: Ranking Member Himes there is a bill that Republican Congressman Fitzpatrick and Democratic Congressman Golden have put together that would be an aid package similar to the one that passed the Senate, but a little different, I think it's 49 billion instead of 60 billion. It doesn't include some humanitarian aid, but it would provide this aid for a Ukraine.

And right now members can force it onto the floor of the House if they sign what's called a discharge petition. But it sounds as though neither Speaker Johnson nor the head of the Democrats, Hakeem Jeffries, wants members to do that. Why not?

HIMES: Well, Jake, there's actually a discharge petition on the floor right now. It's a discharge petition run by Jim McGovern, I actually just signed it, that would discharge force onto the floor of the Senate Bill. Now remember, the Senate Bill got 70 Senate votes in an environment where nothing gets 70 Senate votes strong bipartisan support, and it ticks all the boxes. It's got Ukraine, it's got Israel, it's got humanitarian aid for Gaza, it has Indo PAYCOM. The speaker for reasons I don't understand is decided that that won't come to the floor. But that's a mechanism we can do.

Look, there are a bunch of mechanisms. The speaker could bring that to the floor. He could change his mind. We could use a discharge petition. I've heard the speaker say he might try to break the bill up into its component parts and put them on the floor one at a time. The critical thing is that it gets done because Mike's exactly right. We are out of time. And it's not just about Russia and Ukraine. It is about China, North Korea and Iran, looking at us and saying have the Americans got out of the business of defending democracy.

And to date we have answered that question with a resounding no. And we just need to turn that around. Because again, President Xi is watching right now and he's thinking about Taiwan. And our response to this will determine how things look in this country and in on this globe for the next couple of decades.

TAPPER: Chairman Turner, you're about to lose another colleague, House Republican Ken Buck has announced he's not just retiring at the end of the year, he's quitting next week. He says it's so dysfunctional. It's so ugly. Congress is getting nothing done. He is out of here. What's your response? [17:45:16]

TURNER: Well, it certainly going to make it more difficult to get things done around here. But I do think that we are progressing. We passed last week, the funding package for half of the government. We certainly have a funding package. It looks like it's going to be moving forward next week with bipartisan support. The last package voted have with over 300 bipartisan votes. I also think we can pass Ukraine and Israel funding bipartisan over 300 votes. We just got to get these things to the floor and get moving.

TAPPER: You're not concerned though, his -- none of his diagnosis you -- with what you agree?

TURNER: This has been an incredibly difficult time this entire two years, especially since Kevin McCarthy was fired, where, you know, a small group of Republicans joined with the Democrats for removing Kevin. It's been hard, certainly for this body to recover from that. And I think certainly, you know, Speaker Johnson is working very, you know, diligently to try to get things moving and we need to get -- we need to get those bills on the floor and get him passed.

TAPPER: Chairman Turner, Ranking Member Himes, thanks so much. Always good to have both of you on at the same time. It's a good message to America that Democrats and Republicans can work together.

HIMES: Thank you, Jake.

TURNER: Take care.

TAPPER: Coming up next, the hearing today that reexamines a murder trial that captivated the country 20 years after the tragic killings of Laci Peterson and her unborn child. Could her husband, Scott Peterson, get a new trial. The DNA testing now at play in this case that's next.



TAPPER: In our Law and Justice Lead, nearly 20 years after he was convicted of killing his wife, Laci, and their unborn son, Scott Peterson, is fighting for a new trial. This time the Los Angeles Innocence Project is representing him and they claim, quote, newly discovered evidence backs Peterson's innocence. Let's bring in trial attorney Misty Marris. And Misty, today's procedural hearing in Northern California is just the start of what's expected to be a lengthy process in Peterson's possible last chance to prove that he did not, in fact, kill his pregnant wife. So what comes next?

MISTY MARRIS, TRIAL ATTORNEY: Yes, Jake, absolutely. This is the very, very beginning. So right now we heard the Innocence Project that came into the courtroom. They made a motion to basically unseal all of the records relating to this case, to conduct DNA analysis of evidence at both pre and post-conviction and also to conduct further post- conviction discovery. So the next step is that prosecutors actually have the opportunity and opposition.

Ultimately, the court will make a determination about what the Innocence Project is going to have access to, the breadth of the testing that they can do, and whether or not they're going to be able to unseal all of those records relating to Scott Peterson's conviction. All of those hearings are scheduled to take place in the coming months. After all that's done, then the appeal process actually begin. So we're at the very beginning of the road.

TAPPER: So we don't know exactly what the newly discovered evidence the Los Angeles Innocence Project claims exists. But it is enough to get them to take up the case. What does that say to you? Do you have any notion what it might be?

MARRIS: Well, the Innocence Project is often focused on DNA and other scientific advances. So presumably, much of what they're looking into relates to DNA evidence and testing of evidence that were 20 years beyond the procedures and forensic testing that was available back in the early 2000s. So with this new modern testing, will something come to light, there's a strong focus on a defense theory that Laci Peterson was actually the victim of being -- seeing a burglary that the burglars were actually the ones to kill her.

And there's this orange van that is central to the Innocence Projects' analysis and their motion. They say there's a mattress in the van that was not sufficiently tested, tested positive for blood, but was not able to identify whether or not it was Laci Peterson's, came back inconclusive. And so presumably, that's the focus of their case to test all of those items.

TAPPER: So it's been nearly 20 years, 20 years since Peterson was convicted of murder, what kind of evidence do you think would convince the judge sufficiently to allow him a new trial? Or would it possibly even be enough to set him free?

MARRIS: Well, it's a tough argument, because remember Scott Peterson's trial, it's a five month long trial, 180 witnesses and a lot of issues relating to his credibility. Now, the defense argument at the time was, he might be a cheater, he might not be truthful, but it doesn't mean he's a murderer. There was not a lot of direct evidence, it was circumstantial evidence.

So in my opinion, the only way this case actually gets overturned, is if there was something very, very dispositive with respect to DNA evidence. But even still, Jake, there's a standard, the standard is, not only does the evidence have to matter, but the evidence has to actually be likely to make the jury go the other way. The court doesn't really want to overturn jury verdict. So it truly depends on what the Innocence Project actually unveils.

TAPPER: All right, Misty Marris, thanks so much. Appreciate it. We'll be right back.


[17:59:03] TAPPER: Finally from us today in the Pop Culture Lead, a collector's item by someone you know I had the honor to design and draw a new t- shirt for the Dave Matthews Band. It is vintage style. It features the members of the band as superheroes, the Davengers. All proceeds from sales of this shirt go specifically to help build specially designed mortgage free homes for wounded veterans.

It's part of the program I support every year, you know, it's called homes for our troops. You can look for more info and a link to order the shirt pinned to the top of my Twitter or X page. You can find me at JakeTapper or go to Again, all proceeds go to help veterans. Please get yourself a copy.

This programming note, CNN will have live coverage as election results come in from across the country tonight. It is Super Tuesday numero dos. Primary contests are happening right now in Georgia and Washington State, Mississippi and Hawaii. Who's going to get the nominations? Special coverage starts at 7 o'clock Eastern here on CNN and streaming on Max.


And join me on Sunday night for a brand new episode of United States of Scandal. On Sunday I'm going to dig into the downfall of former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey, a decade -- a Democrat who resigned two decades ago. It's a really fascinating story. And he sits down and he's very candid, and even a bit repentant. That's Sunday night at 9:00 Eastern and Pacific only here on CNN. The news continues now on CNN. And I will see you tomorrow.