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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Schumer: The Netanyahu Coalition No Longer Fits The Needs Of Israel; Kamala Harris Becomes First VP To Visit Abortion Provider; Biden Appeals To Black Community In Wisconsin Radio Interview; GOP Public Schools Nominee Writes "Kill The Traitors" In Social Media Posts About Prominent Democrats; U.S.-Russian Journalist Alsu Kurmasheva Held By Russia For Months; Bodycam Video Shows Deadly Shooting Of Autistic Teen. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 14, 2024 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: New York Jet Aaron Rodgers is responding, kind of, to reporting that we broke here yesterday on The Lead. What the -- that the NFL quarterback in the past has claimed in private conversations that the Sandy Hook massacre in which 20 kids and six adults were viciously murdered was actually a government inside job and the kids and the parents were all just actors. He said it to our own Pamela Brown among others. How could he possibly defend such a thing? We'll tell you next.

And leading this hour, the top Democrat in the U.S. Senate calls for Bibi to go bye-bye. Today, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the highest ranking Jewish official in American history, we should note, said that the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu and his far right government, have lost their way and it's time for them to be removed from office.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: As a lifelong supporter of Israel, it has become clear to me that Netanyahu coalition no longer fits the needs of Israel after October 7. The world has changed radically since then. And the Israeli people are being stifled right now by a governing vision that is stuck in the past.


TAPPER: The response from Republican officials has been outraged. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the comments grotesque. While House Speaker Mike Johnson called them inappropriate and wrong. Let's get right to CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.

And Manu, the Republican response has been fast and furious.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question about it. Remember, Chuck Schumer has been aligned with Bibi Netanyahu for many years. In fact, when Barack Obama tried to get the Iran nuclear deal, get approval from Congress, Chuck Schumer aligned himself with Netanyahu opposing Obama's efforts here because Schumer has long been an Israel hawk within his own party. But there has been growing anger within the Democratic Party, within his caucus for the -- for Israel to do more to provide humanitarian relief along the Gaza Strip, to essentially pull back from some of the more aggressive efforts as part of this military campaign. And after Chuck Schumer called for Netanyahu to essentially step aside for new elections, calling him an obstacle to peace, Democrats who have aligned themselves with Schumer applauded what he said, while Republicans pushed back.


SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): I think the current prime minister has to perhaps rethink some of his approaches, especially on humanitarian aid, which I think has to be done more robustly than he has incurred so far. I think there are reasons that Israelis might want a different leader. And I think Senator Schumer has raised some of those reasons very powerfully and forcefully.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): What is Leader Schumer doing injecting himself Israel politics? Again, I think it's just beyond the pale.

SEN. JONI ERNST (R-IA): I'm very upset. I don't think that Leader Schumer should be inserting his ideas and throwing them at Israel where they are in the middle of a war.


RAJU: And of course, this all comes as aid to Israel continues to be tied up in Congress. It was wrapped up in a larger package and aid package that included aid to Ukraine that ultimately passed the Senate last month. It has not moved anywhere in the House over as a separate debate over moving on Ukraine Republican divisions over that. But today, the Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson told our colleague Melanie Zanona that he may move on a standalone bill to aid Israel.

He has tried that in the past and failed. He may try a different procedure to move that along straight -- along a majority vote in the House. But Jake, he has had a hard time getting Republicans in line. So it's uncertain whether he will do that. But all of this leading to a fresh debate and questions about whether Israel aid can ultimately be approved given Democratic opposition to the war that Netanyahu is waging.

TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju, thanks so much.

Joining us to discuss Beth Sanner, the former Deputy Director of National Intelligence and a CNN National Security Analyst.

And Beth, I mean, Republicans say hey, look, Chuck Schumer is calling for regime change in Israel, which is an ally. Have you ever seen anything like it?

BETH SANNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It's hard to say never. But it's not really very normal, I think. And, you know, honestly, I think it's kind of a geopolitical own goal. You know, our adversaries keep pushing and saying like, well, the United States is interfering in your internal politics. Well, kind of sounds that way to me.


SANNER: And in fact, you know, maybe it won't actually reverberate in the way that this administration hopes could actually help Netanyahu.

TAPPER: He'll just say I'm looking -- look at me, I'm a victim or the liberals in the United States don't understand what we're trying to do give him a foil besides Hamas.

SANNER: Especially because Gantz was just here.

TAPPER: Benny Gantz, his rival.

SANNER: His rival who would win an election right now if --


SANNER: -- it was called. And, you know, he was just given the red carpet treatment here. And Netanyahu was already using this kind of as a talking point. Look, you know, Gantz is with the Americans and the Americans are trying to impose deep taught on us and I'm the person that's going to stand against the two state solution against the United States and Gantz with those guys.


TAPPER: Yes. And Netanyahu's party, the Likud party has already responded saying Schumer is undermining their leader through a democratic process.

SANNER: And Gantz, too, just came in.

TAPPER: Yes. Oh, he said that, too?

SANNER: Yes. Yes. Yes, since you were on. He came out and said inappropriate.

TAPPER: Inappropriate, interesting. Listen to national security adviser Jake Sullivan earlier this week, because he said something pretty stark about the ceasefire negotiations.


JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Those who would like to see a ceasefire in Gaza, a ceasefire is on the table today for six weeks to be built on into something more enduring if Hamas would simply release women, wounded, and elderly. And the fact that they will not do so says a lot to me about Hamas' regard for innocent Palestinian civilians.


TAPPER: I mean, that's accurate.

SANNER: True. TAPPER: Right. But it's almost as though the fact that Hamas is a vicious terrorist group and doesn't actually care about the Palestinian people. Like they're happy to have millions of them die. They've said so on the record, it's almost like that's just baked in and people understand it and kind of like, let them off the hook in a way. Not a American leaders --

SANNER: Yes, yes, yes.

TAPPER: -- but like in the public discourse.

SANNER: Sure, sure. I mean, this is all understood where Hamas is coming from, right?


SANNER: And you know, absolutely correct, ceasefire, not happening because Hamas -- it's not in Hamas' interest. Sinwar actually thinks he's winning.

TAPPER: How does he think he's winning?

SANNER: Because it is dividing us. It is dividing Israel and the United States. It is creating more international -- exactly what Schumer said, Schumer said, Israel, you're becoming an international pariah.

TAPPER: Right.

SANNER: And so, this all reverberates into Sinwar's benefit.

TAPPER: So, I guess the only thing I would say is, from a military point of view, and a loss of life point of view, Hamas is losing, obviously.


TAPPER: And a lot -- and 1000s of innocent Palestinians are being killed. Just militarily, one could say, Hamas, you lost, surrender, turn over the hostages. But they're just not going to do it. They're getting more out of their own people getting killed in some ways.

SANNER: Yes. I mean, you know, they still have, you know, 20 percent of their fighting force, third of their fighting force left, and their top officials have not been killed. And if you look at what might happen next, the next day after, it's going to be some way some shape or form. I suspect Hamas 2.0 will be a part of that solution.

TAPPER: Beth Sanner, come back soon. We have a lot more to talk about.

Let's start into our 2024 lead as both President Biden and Kamala Harris today are on the campaign trail. And President is in the battleground states of Wisconsin and Michigan for obvious reasons. The vice president is making a stop at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Minnesota. This is the first time is sitting U.S. president or vice president has ever visited an abortion provider. CNN's MJ Lee is at the White House.

MJ, what do we know about this decision and unprecedented one for the vice president to go to an abortion clinic?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Jake, unprecedented and clearly meant to make a statement this visit to a Planned Parenthood clinic making a pretty visual, striking visual, I should say as the Biden White House in the campaign are pretty set on trying to make the issue of reproductive rights really central to the 2024 campaign.

And, Jake, when the Vice President was speaking at this clinic, she used the language how dare these elected leaders think that they can tell women what to do with their bodies. That language clearly just signals the fact that Democrats believe that this is a politically mobilizing and galvanizing issue for so many voters and one that they're going to continue hammering home on.

Meanwhile, as you noted, President Biden was also in the Midwest. He went to Michigan for the first time since clinching the party's nomination. We saw him specifically visiting Saginaw County. And this is an interesting Bellwether area in the state, voted for Trump in 2016, voted for Joe Biden in 2020.

There wasn't a big political rally that the President attended. Instead, he went to a supporters home, this was an organizing event. And really the campaign is at a moment where they are also trying to really draw attention to the beefing up of their campaign operations. And with this visit, we've now seen the President over the last week visit all three of the trio of states known as a blue wall, of course, so important for his reelection chances in November. Jake.

TAPPER: All right, MJ Lee, thanks so much.

So how will the vice president's trip go over with voters in key swing states? My panel is going to weigh in next.

Plus, Aaron Rodgers response kind of, kind of, responds to our reporting that in the past he has shared fake Sandy Hook conspiracy theories, including with our own Pamela Brown. What he had to say, that's coming up.



TAPPER: We are back with our politics lead and the presidential split screen giving us a preview of exactly what this campaign season is going to look like today, Donald Trump inside a federal courthouse in Florida. On the other side of the screen, President Biden on the campaign trail in battleground states Wisconsin and Michigan. Vice President Kamala Harris also making a stop at a Planned Parenthood, a plan stop at a Planned Parenthood becoming the first sitting vice president to visit and abortion provider. Biden's campaign is trying to repair the Democrats frayed coalition that has been split wide open by disagreements over the war in Gaza among other issues. Let's discuss now with our panel. We have Ana back with us. Good to see you. You're usually up in fancy New York, so we'd like when you slam it down here with the people of D.C. So an opinion piece in USA Today is calling vice president Harris's visit the Planned Parenthood cringe saying quote, "It's one thing to talk about reproductive rights and another to physically go to a place that routinely offers abortions which involves the ending of a human life's beginning. There's a good reason why no vice president or president has publicly visited an abortion provider before.

It's a bad look." What do you think?


ANA NAVARRO, CO-HOST "THE VIEW": I think the reason that no president or vice president has ever visited is because we've had Roe v. Wade for 50 years, and we're in an entirely different scene right now. Look, there is no --

TAPPER: Also we've never had a woman president or vice president.

NAVARRO: There is no doubt that -- there is no doubt that the Biden campaign is going to embrace this issue with both hands.


NAVARRO: They just have to, because it galvanizes women and their allies. And Kamala Harris is uniquely positioned to talk about it, to talk about it with knowledge because she has a uterus, because she is the first woman, because she was also a prosecutor of sex crimes.


NAVARRO: So she comes at it with a really just her background and who she is, comes at it from a very unique perspective that she's bringing. And I think she's giving voice to what a lot of women feel, which is how dare these men take agency over our body.

TAPPER: Yes. So Alice, let me just ask you because there's a recent Gallup poll, it's an interesting issue, abortion rights, because it doesn't poll as a voters top priority, right? Abortion doesn't even make the list in Gallup of what Americans think are the most important problems facing Americans, immigration is number one in the plurality there. But every special election, I think, pretty much every special election, the Democrats have -- Democrats have over performed since Roe v. Wade was overturned. And I know that a lot of Republicans are very worried that this is ultimately going to help sweep Biden back into the White House.

ALICE STEWART, FORMER TED CRUZ COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: You are correct. Every time abortion has been a single issue on a ballot, it has come out in favor of the pro-abortion movement. There's no disputing that. That's why Republicans need to take this from a different vantage point and not talk about abortion bans but let's talk about abortion limits. I happen to think Nikki Haley found the right way to talk about this not demonizing people on either side of this. But let's talk about where can we come to an agreement on a reasonable limit for abortions, whether it's 16 weeks, 15 weeks, whatever, and have an agreement and let's move forward on that.

I think the reason the vice president's visit has been characterized as cringe worthy were just because of her tone and the way she talked about this. And look, she didn't do such a great job with the root causes of immigration, so I'm not sure why they think she's going to do such a great job with communicating on abortion. And the key thing is, as you said, Jake, right now, abortion ranks 15th in the issues that are most important to voters.


STEWART: And that -- and they don't want to talk about immigration, they don't want to talk about the economy, let them talk about abortion, they're not touching on what people want.

KAREN FINNEY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That's Gallup, I can talk to you about a poll that just came out of black women nationally, top voter issue concern, access to reproductive freedom. Why? It's a human rights issue. It's a democracy issue. And it is, frankly, an economic issue.

I just want to put this in another context. The GOP has been trying to literally disband Planned Parenthood for decades, part of why it's so important that she went. Millions of people go to Planned Parenthood for their health care to get accurate, reproductive --

TAPPER: Yes, not to get abortion, just to get --

FINNEY: It's not just for --

TAPPER: -- pap smears, whatever.

FINNEY: Exactly. And it's also a very pop -- you know, it's very important for young people, it's where a lot of young people get their health care, as well as low income women and a lot of places where there aren't even access to any places that do women's health care. So I think on that level, that was the other part of her message. But again, remember, in the context of this election, it's not just access to abortion we're talking about, it's contraception, a lot of people go to Planned Parenthood to get contraception, it's IVF now.


FINNEY: So it's the full range of reproductive health care services that are now under threat. And again, young people in this, again, I go back to the bad facts that Republicans are dealing with, the majority of Americans, eight and 10 agree with Roe v. Wade agree that reproductive freedom, it is about are we a democracy where women get to have control over these most basic fundamental decisions. Last thing I'll say, it's also an issue that motivates young people, particularly African American and Latino young men who said after the overturn of Dobbs, if they're going to come for those rights, what else are they going to come for?

TAPPER: So, we only have two minutes left.

FINNEY: Sorry.

TAPPER: You bring this view energy where everybody thinks we have an hour. We do not. Sadly, we do not.


TAPPER: Everyone feels like -- OK.

NAVARRO: What do you mean? You have two hours. What are you complaining about?

TAPPER: But not enough for panel though. We only have about a minute and change. So quickly, I want to show Joe Biden, President Biden today making his class -- making his case, rather, to black Americans in Wisconsin in a radio interview this morning in the process, obviously, going after Trump.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATE: The guy I'm running against hurts black people every chance he gets. The way he talks about the Black community, the way he drove up the uninsured rate. The reason I got involved in the first place in public life was because of the African American community, and that's not hyperbole, that's a fact.



TAPPER: So, be that as it may, a new CBS poll shows Trump's support among black voters up into Trump 2020. It was 17 percent who said they would pick Trump over Biden. A January Fox News poll had that number of 23 percent. So, Black Americans, especially black men are shifting. They're still minority Republican but shifting to Trump.

NAVARRO: Yes, listen, Joe Biden has to do -- and Kamala Harris, they have to do everything they can to shore up the support of their Democratic coalition, Latinos, African Americans, African American women, they need them to show up big time, young people, and they have they have trouble with a lot of those groups, right?


NAVARRO: Young people over Gaza, we've seen some shift with Latinos and African Americans. And I think what Joe Biden needs to do is show up, show up early, not show up the last four weeks and remind people who Donald Trump is because that quote from last week, does America have amnesia, I think the answer in some groups is yes.

TAPPER: Thanks one and all Alice Stewart, Ana Navarro, Karen Finney, appreciate it. Good to see you.

NAVARRO: Two hours you have.

TAPPER: Don't be a stranger.

NAVARRO: Two hours.

TAPPER: It's not a panel show.

NAVARRO: Two hours.

TAPPER: It's a new show with a panel. It's not a panel show.

NAVARRO: It was like your name on it.

TAPPER: All right. Up -- yes.

FINNEY: Hello.

TAPPER: What the -- all right, up next, breaking news, a big ruling from the judge and former President Trump's classified documents case. We're going to explain that ruling in just moments. And then CNN has some brand new reporting about the Republican nominee to run public schools for the entire Tar Heel State, North Carolina. Wait until you hear that conspiracy theories of this woman has promoted on social media.



TAPPER: We're back with some breaking news in former President Donald Trump's federal classified documents case in Florida. Let's get straight to CNN's Katelyn Polantz.

Katelyn, the judge has just rejected one of the motions Trump's lawyers argued in court today. Tell us more.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Jake, they spent about two hours this morning arguing that this case should be dismissed because the law was too vague on round national security secrets and national defense documents. Judge Aileen cannon just about two and a half hours after the hearing ended today and everyone dispersed from the court, she rejected that argument in a two page order. She wrote that there is too much contested here that should be about what we tell the jury. That this isn't a legal question that she was going to be agreeing with Trump on at this time and she wasn't going to be giving him this ability to dismiss the case here, that this is something instead to talk about with the jury, how the law should be applied and interpreted here, what the jury should be told in this case.

So, very quickly, resolving one of the, by my count nine, different ways Donald Trump is trying to get this case dismissed. We're still waiting to see what she does with the other piece that he argued today that these papers that were taken out of Mar-a-Lago or taken from the White House to Mar-a-Lago at the end of the presidency that they were his personal papers. We'll see if Judge Cannon does the same thing or something a little bit different or as quickly here. And then there are many other attempts that have yet to be argued from Donald Trump's legal team where they are asking her to toss the charges against him. Jake.

TAPPER: Katelyn Polantz, thanks so much.

In our politics lead, an update to the exclusive reporting we brought to you yesterday about one of RFK Jr.'s vice presidential prospects, Aaron Rodgers. You might remember we reported on the unhinged conspiracy theories that New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers has shared in private that the 2012, very real, Sandy Hook school shooting was not real, that it was a fake, despite the fact that 20 children and six adults were murdered that day. Now these comments of course, are troubling. But they're especially important because he's on Robert Kennedy Jr's shortlist for vice president. Normally, who cares what a quarterback says in private conversation.

Yesterday on his ESPN show, Pat McAfee said that Rodgers was apparently at a retreat in Costa Rica taking the psychedelic drug ayahuasca when the news broke about the -- about that his being on the shortlist for vice president for RFK Jr. Yesterday here on The Lead, we reported that Aaron Rodgers had shared these frankly disturbing views about the Sandy Hook shooting not being real. He shared them 11 years ago with CNN's Pamela Brown, she was covering the Kentucky Derby for CNN in 2013 and met him there. CNN, I, have also spoken to another person, one who would like to remain anonymous in order to avoid harassment, who also had a similar encounter with Aaron Rodgers saying that Rodgers claimed the, quote, "Sandy Hook never happened. All those children never existed.

They're all actors," unquote. When asked about the grieving parents, whom I met and their grief is real, the source says that Rodgers said, quote, "They're all making it up. They're all actors," unquote.

Now, today, Aaron Rodgers is responding to our story, kind of, he does not deny saying what we reported he said, but he or a representative for him tweeted the following statement, quote, "As I'm on the record saying in the past what happened in Sandy Hook was an absolute tragedy. I am not and have never been of the opinion that the events did not take place. Again, I hope that we learned from this and other tragedies to identify the signs that would allow us to prevent unnecessary loss of life. My thoughts and prayers continue to remain with the families affected, along with the entire Sandy Hook community," unquote.

Again, you know, if you read that statement, Rodgers does not deny those comments that he made to Pamela Brown and to the other source. Last night on Fox, RFK, Jr. was asked about Aaron Rodgers.


ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR., (I) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I really like Aaron because, you know, our appeal is to young people. Aaron Rodgers is battle tested. He stood up. He's been hammered by the press. Stood up for things he believed. And I like that part of his character. He's a critical thinker.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: Critical thinker is now obviously what we're calling conspiracy theorists. Kennedy was not in that interview, perhaps not surprisingly, asked about the comments that we reported Aaron Rodgers made to Pamela Brown and someone else about Sandy Hook, not having actually happened.

Today, a spokesperson for RFK Jr.'s campaign did address his comments responding to CNN in a statement saying, quote, Mr. Kennedy believes the Sandy Hook shooting was a horrific tragedy. The 20 children and six adults had died December 14th, 2012 brought the entire country together in grief. Let us honor their memory.

This is where we are as a nation. We have actually as a subject for debate whether or not a vice presidential prospect thinks a massive shooting actually happened. Should RFK Jr. select Aaron Rodgers as his running mate again someone he describes as a battle tested critical thinker, it might cost him. Media, it is reporting the donors have voiced their discontent directly with the campaign, pledging to withdraw their support from Kennedy if he chooses Rodgers in particular. RFK Jr. is expected to announce his pick on March 26th.

Also in our Politics Lead today, the North Carolina Republican nominee for governor, Mark Robinson, as we've reported, has a long history of anti-Semitic, anti-LGBTQ, sexist comments. Now just this past Saturday, Robinson told the crowd at a Republican fundraiser in Naples, Florida, that it's time to stand up and fight law enforcement. Take a listen.


LT. GOV. MARK ROBINSON (R), NORTH CAROLINA GOV. CANDIDATE: We once again to be the leaders of freedom in this nation. And it starts with us having a conversation in the mirror. Can I do it? Am I willing? When the chips are down, when the FBI is knocking on my door, will I count? Will I comply? Or will I stand up and fight? Folks, this time stand up and fight.


TAPPER: FBI knocking on your door? We reached out to Robinson's campaign for him to explain the context of that remark. His communications director says, quote, he was clearly encouraging folks to mobilize at the ballot box to vote against Biden, the Democrats and their continued weaponization of the justice system against their political opponents, unquote.

Now, Mr. Robinson is not the only controversial statewide candidate in North Carolina currently, which brings us to the Republican nominee to run North Carolina schools who has tweeted about putting Democrats to death. Her name is Michele Morrow. Here's one of her tweets. Take a look. It's a doctored photo of former President Barack Obama in an electric chair. Morrow wrote, death to all traitors, hashtag Obamagate. Again, this is the Republican nominee to oversee public schools in North Carolina, you know home of the Research Triangle.

Joining us now is CNN KFILE senior reporter Andrew Kaczynski. Andrew, that's not even all of it. There's a lot more.

ANDREW KACZYNSKI, CNN KFILE SENIOR EDITOR: Well, that's right, Jake. Last week Morrow, a conservative activist, won the nomination upsetting the incumbent North Carolina's school superintendent, that's the state's top school job while she was calling schools, indoctrination centers and socialism centers. She's also been linked to the QAnon conspiracy theories, sharing a slogan associated with QAnon, where we go one, we go all at least seven times on Twitter.

She's also promoted the baseless Adrenochrome conspiracy, which claims that celebrities harvest the blood of children. And she has also made extreme anti-Muslim comments. All of this while repeatedly talking about executing prominent Democrats. Take a look at this tweet right here from May of 2020, where she's responding to someone who says they want to see Obama tossed in Gitmo. Morrow wrote, quote, I prefer a pay per view of him in front of the firing squad. I do not want to waste another dime on supporting his life. We could make some money back from televising his death.

In another tweet from December 2020, Morrow suggested executing Joe Biden who was then president-elect, because he had asked Americans to wear a mask for 100 days at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic saying, quote, we never -- we need to follow the Constitution's advice, and then in all caps, kill all traitors.

We also found numerous other tweets about executing Democrats in posts on social media. She tweeted the hashtag DeathToTraitors at least 12 times. But Jake, those comments, her controversial comments really extended beyond that. She repeatedly shared that unfounded claim that Obama was a Muslim. She called Islam evil. And even expressed belief in a very bizarre conspiracy theory that Chinese troops were going to invade the United States to help Joe Biden be sworn in as president.


There's a tweet, I want people to look at right here from her, where she wrote, quote, tens of thousands of Chinese soldiers are already in Canada and probably Mexico, waiting for orders to invade. Now, if Morrow wins and becomes the superintendent of North Carolina schools, she's going to have oversight of an $11 billion budget. And of course, education for the state's 1.3 million K through 12 students.

TAPPER: My mom was -- my mom went to a public school in North Carolina. This is I mean, this is highly disturbing stuff. What does Morrow say about these deranged tweets, what does she have to say about it now?

KACZYNSKI: So we reached out to her campaign. We reach out to her personally too, and we didn't hear back from either of them. We also reached out to the North Carolina Republican Party, and we didn't hear back. So it's going to be really interesting to see how all of this is going to play out in North Carolina in 2024. It's obviously such an important swing state. Mark Robinson, who's at the top of the ticket, as you mentioned, has that history of extremely controversial comments. And this was a state that Trump beat Biden by in 2020, with his smallest margin. So all of this at the top of the ticket down ballot, it's going to be a big factor in 2024.

TAPPER: KFILES Andrew Kaczynski, thank you so much. Good to have you back.

A U.S. journalist went to Russia to visit her sick mom only to be detained for months. Her family is going to join me live in studio, next.



TAPPER: Back to Russia in our World Lead, that's where a so called elections are underway. They're not really elections at least not the way those who enjoy actual democracy understand elections. The outcome is sure to extend Russian autocratic Vladimir Putin's rule through this decade and into 2030 as he continues his brutal assault on Ukraine makes brazen nuclear threats on land and in space and imprisons. Journalists who carry U.S. citizenship under the foreign agents law, one of those journalists is Alsu Kurmasheva with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

She was taken into Russian custody in October last year, as we've covered before, after a trip to visit her ailing mother in Russia. Kurmasheva also holds Russian citizenship and her lawyer and her employer insists she's innocent. Her husband, Pavel Butorin is a senior journalist at Radio Free Europe. Pavel and his eldest daughter, Bibi, who's 15, join us now. Thank you so much for being here. Appreciate it. And Pavel, when is the last time you heard from your wife? How's she doing?

PAVEL BUTORIN, HUSBAND OF ALSU KURMASHEVA, JOURNALIST IMPRISONED IN RUSSIA: The last time I heard Alsu's voice was on October 18th. I received a voice message from her. She said in a very troubled voice. I'm being taken away. That was the last time we heard her voice.

TAPPER: I can't imagine what you're going through Bibi, being 15 years old and having this happen. I see you're wearing the Free Alsu pin. I got one here too. Tell us what you -- just pulling up there. Tell us, what do you miss most about your mom?

BIBI BUTORIN, DAUGHTER OF ALSU KURMASHEVA, JOURNALIST IMPRISONED IN RUSSIA: Well, it's extremely heartbreaking that she's not with us. I haven't seen her for an extremely long time. Honestly, I miss hugging her. I miss her touch. I miss the jokes she would make. She is truly the most caring and empathetic person I know. And it's absolutely unfair and unbelievable that she is in this position right now.

TAPPER: It's you and your little sister.

B. BUTORIN: Yes, I have a younger sister. She's 12. And it's been so hard without our mother. It's crazy. We would never imagine this happening to us. TAPPER: Yes, that'd be awful. Pavel, Russia is holding this so called elections that are sure to even further cement Putin's grip on power. What might that also mean for Alsu and the other Americans unfairly detained like Evan Gershkovich and Paul Whelan?

P. BUTORIN: So Russia is --

TAPPER: I'm told your microphone is not working right now. So let me, wait, is it working now, guys? OK, go ahead. I'm sorry.

P. BUTORIN: Yes, I'm going to repeat that.

TAPPER: Yes, go ahead.

P. BUTORIN: So Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Russia has introduced wartime censorship. And Alsu's detention is an example of that repression. It's not just Alsu, but you also mentioned Evan, there's nothing I wish more for Evan and his family that for him and for him to return back to the United States. Alsu too, we want her back. Alsu is on -- is held in Russia on absurd charges of not registering as a foreign agent.

We know that she's not an agent.

TAPPER: She's a journalist.

P. BUTORIN: She is a journalist. Moreover, she went to Russia in a private capacity --

TAPPER: Right. Because her mom was there.

P. BUTORIN: Humanitarian trip. And she was literally captured by the Russian government in the middle of an act of kindness. We know that she's innocent. She's not a criminal. She's a mother of two young children. And we want her back.

TAPPER: Bibi if it just -- if it turns out and who knows that Putin or any Russian leader is watching right now. Where's the camera? Which camera do you want it to look at? Look at the camera. That one right there. Cam two? Look at that one right there. What -- tell the other Russian leaders what you want, that one right there that I'm pointing to right there. Yes, that one right there. Tell them what they should do.

B. BUTORIN: I really would like for my mother to come home safely. She means so much to me and my sister. And it's so unfair that she's being held under these circumstances. And we miss her very much. Everyone back home misses her very much.


TAPPER: OK. It's just really not fair for just like regular folks to be caught up in these geopolitical maneuvers. Pavel after Alexei Navalny's death in that Russian penal colony last month, more information came to light about a possible prisoner swap, which is source close in the Navalny team said could have been included Gershkovich and Paul Whelan. What was your reaction to that news and about Alsu's name not being included?

P. BUTORIN: I'm not aware of any deals that may or may not include Alsu. Of course, the most just resolution to Alsu's situation is for Russia to drop his charges. She's not a criminal. But honestly, we don't care how she gets home, we just want her back. If she's part of a swap, that's great. If she's just released as an act of mercy, we'll take that too. What we're here for it really. And we came to Washington to advocate for the designation of Alsu as a wrongfully detained American.

We are told by the State Department, by the U.S. government that regardless of the designation that Alsu is a top priority, that may be true. But at a bare minimum, well, we'd like the U.S. government to call Russia out, to call on Russia to release her. Yesterday, at the U.N. Security Council, we heard a call on Russia to release Alsu. That call came from Czech foreign minister, Jan Lipavsky for which we're very grateful. But we'd like to hear that from the State Department from the U.S. government.

TAPPER: How are these meetings -- what are these meetings like for a 15-year-old girl?

B. BUTORIN: My sister and I both sit in these meetings. And it's just in crazy that we have to go through this because of the unfair rules in Russia and the charges that my mom is being held against. I also want to just say that my mother has been working at RFE/RL for 25 years. And we see that and we're so inspired by her, and it's so unfair, that she has really dedicated her life to her work, and she's being punished for something that she didn't even did, so.

TAPPER: Bibi and Pavel, we're going to keep covering the story for your Alsu. We're going to keep covering it. Keep coming back, keep talking to us. You're good on T.V., you should do it. Next time your dad does one of these on Zoom or whatever, you should do it OK? And maybe your sister can join too. Thank you so much for being here.

B. BUTORIN: Thank you so much.

TAPPER: And best of luck, and we're going to keep covering it. We're going to get her home.

A California Family is demanding accountability after they safely shot and killed a teenager with autism, who was holding a gardening tool. We're going to take a closer look at exactly what happened in the seconds leading up to this tragic incident.



TAPPER: The family of Ryan Gainer is asking why police chose to use deadly force against their 15-year-old son who had autism. The San Bernardino sheriff says deputies have responded to previous calls it the house before and alluded to the teen's mental health history. Blurred police body cam video shows last Saturday's deadly shooting of Ryan Gainer as he approaches an officer holding a gardening tool. CNN's Camila Bernal has more on what led up to this tragic shooting in Southern California. A warning that some of the images in this report are disturbing to watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, get back. Get back or you're getting shot.

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Seven seconds, that's how long authorities say they had before shooting a teenager with autism.


BERNAL (voice-over): Deputies were called to 15-year-old Ryan Gainer's home in Apple Valley, California on March 9th.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's assault and battery.

BERNAL (voice-over): When the deputies arrived, Ryan had what authorities described as a five foot long garden tool with a sharp bladed end. And as seen on body cam video, which was blurred by the Sheriff's Department. He appears to be chasing the deputy.

SHERIFF SHANNON DICUS, SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY: We pay law enforcement officers to stop threats and to stop violence. The deputy hadn't even made it into that house to be able to investigate the claims that were made of assault with somebody injured.

BERNAL (voice-over): But the family attorney, DeWitt Lacy, says it's about the initial approach.

DEWITT M. LACY, FAMILY ATTORNEY: In California it gives direction that when you're encountering somebody with mental disabilities and or impairments in the field, that you shouldn't present as a threat that you don't come up and show that you want to arrest somebody or present with guns or sirens and flashing noises, things that can upset and frustrate somebody who's experiencing some type of mental health issue.

BERNAL (voice-over): This was not the first time deputies were called to the home. In five previous encounters with police this year, deputies had been able to help.

DICUS: What we need to really look at is even if we had the best of health care, the best psychologist in that immediate interaction and that seven seconds, there are no magic words.

BERNAL (voice-over): Lacey says the family believed calling authorities was their only available option.

LACY: They thought of police as a resource that had been helpful in the past. They believed because of their past experiences that calling them on this occasion may result in the same type of helpfulness.

BERNAL (voice-over): But in this last encounter, Ryan was shot three times. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why would you do that? Why did you shoot my baby?

BERNAL (voice-over): And despite aid from deputies, he later died at the hospital. While the family does admit to difficult times with Ryan, he's described as a gift, a blessing and a source of pride.


BERNAL (voice-over): The family is now asking for accountability.

LACY: Maybe the officers aren't the people that we should be calling. Maybe there are other folks that we should be calling. But as of right now, they are the people that are charged with this responsibility, and we got to hold them accountable for it.


BERNAL (on camera): And in California officers are trained on how to handle people with mental illnesses. And the sheriff's department, they confirm that these officers went through this training. Now, what's unclear here is whether these officers knew that this teenager had autism and whether or not these particular officers had been to the house previously. These are all questions that we've asked the sheriff's department and we've asked for clarity but they say this is all still part of that investigation. Jake?


TAPPER: Camila Bernal, horrible story, thanks so much. We'll be right back.

BERNAL: Yes. Thank you.


TAPPER: In our Pop Culture Lead, a possible collector's item by yours truly. 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 Dave Matthews Band as superheroes, the Davengers, we call them. All proceeds from the shirts go to help build specially designed mortgage free homes for the most grievously wounded veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. It's part of a program I support every year called Homes for our Troops. You've heard of Homes for our Troops. Look for more info and a link to order the shirt pinned to the top of my X or Twitter page, formerly known as Twitter. You can find me at JakeTapper or go to and look for the shirt.


Join me Sunday night with a brand new episode of United States of Scandal. I'm going to dig into the downfall of former Democratic New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey, who were just resigned two decades ago this year. That's this Sunday night at 9:00 Eastern and Pacific only here on CNN. If you ever miss an episode, you can listen to the show once you get your podcasts. The news continues on CNN. See you soon.