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The Lead with Jake Tapper

C.J. Rice Is Freed After More Than A Dozen Years In Prison; Haiti In Chaos As Machete-Wielding Militias Battle Gangs; Western Leaders: Russian Elections Were Not "Free And Fair"; Jeff Bezos Awards Eva Longoria & Retired Admiral McRaven $100 Million. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired March 18, 2024 - 16:00   ET



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: He looks really sweet. I mean, it looks like he has a comfortable place, you know?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: That -- I mean, can you imagine having a pet that large?

SANCHEZ: I have to shout out my friend, Gwendolyn, a very large alligator that lives in a guys front yard in Miami, Florida.

KEILAR: Of course, you have an alligator friend.

SANCHEZ: Miami, Florida, yeah, Gwendolyn is adorable, very much like Albert. They're very sweet creatures. They love Oreos and pizza.

KEILAR: Really?

SANCHEZ: I fed Gwendolyn pizza, she loved it.

KEILAR: They don't like fingers?

SANCHEZ: He loved it, I should say.

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER stars right now.

KEILAR: Gwendolyn is a girl.

SANCHEZ: He's a boy. He's a boy.

KEILAR: A boy.



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Sometimes justice is served.

THE LEAD starts right now.

But first where disinformation prevails and democracy fails, Putin celebrates a resounding win, cementing another six years power. The lies that got him here, and the threat it could pose to the world order.

Plus, chaos on America's doorstep. Haiti collapses into a gang state and CNN is in their capital to capture how violence is now the law of the land.

And we start with a moment to give us hope. I finally got to meet C.J. Rice in person as he finally tastes freedom after more than 12 years behind bars for a shooting he insists he could not have committed.


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

And I'm going to start with some good news for once. I'm in Philly because there are major developments here and a legal case that we've been following for years here on THE LEAD involving C.J. Rice who is now a free man.

As of this morning, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania officially considers C.J. Rice to be legally innocent of the crimes he was convicted of in 2013. District Attorney Larry Krasner dropped all charges and exonerated him today.

Now, you might remember me talking about this case on CNN and in an "Atlantic Magazine" cover story in October 2022, C.J. Rice was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison, 30 to 60 years for 2011 shooting in which no one was seriously injured.

I know about the case because my dad, Dr. Theodore Tapper, was C.J. Rice's pediatrician at the time and testified at court that it was medically impossible for C.J. Rice to have carried out this crime, shooting the victims and running away because C.J. Rice at that time was recovering from surgery since he had been shot three weeks before. And his pelvis had been shattered. He could barely walk at the time, much less run.

Now it became clear from investigating this case for "The Atlantic" and CNN that C.J. Rice had an incompetent defense attorney. That court appointed counsel, Sandjai Weaver, who failed to bring up his medical records or pull his cell phone data that would have confirmed his alibi, who didn't challenge the complete concoction of conjecture that was the supposed motive for the shooting and on and on and on, bad decision after bad decision.

Now after following C.J. Rice's case and fighting for C.J. Rice's conviction to be overturned for years with my father leading the way and an incredible legal team challenging the conviction, I am happy to report that cha was finally released from prison in December.


TAPPER: Hey, man.

C.J. RICE, FREED FROM PRISON: What's up, Jake?

TAPPER: How about it? RICE: What's going on?

TAPPER: How about it?

It's good to see you.

RICE: It's good to see you, man.


TAPPER: Today's ruling brings even more good news for C.J., because not only is he out of prison, Judge James Eisenhower granted him a habeas petition which overturns his conviction, drops all charges against C.J. Rice, forever clearing his name. His attorneys will now file to have that criminal record expunged.

If you want to help C.J. Rice as he begins to rebuild his life, you can check out the GoFundMe set up by All of the money goes right to C.J. Rice, so he can go to school and buy groceries and start or to rebuild his life.

Here is a look now at C.J. Rice's story and how we got here.


TAPPER (voice-over): Finally, C.J. Rice is free and exonerated. And in the eyes of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, innocence of the crime for which he served more than 12 years in prison.

It has been a journey. For years, my dad, pediatrician, Dr. Theodore Tapper, has been telling me about C.J. Rice, his former patient, doing 30 to 60 years in prison for a crime my father insists Rice could physically not have committed.


TAPPER: In 2020, I took a look into the case and wrote this 2020 to cover story for "The Atlantic Magazine", arguing that C.J. Rice had had inadequate counsel. An attorney who acted so in competently, C.J. did not get the fair trial guaranteed him under the U.S. Constitution.


The piece was called, "This is not justice: A Philadelphia teenager and the empty promise of the Sixth Amendment".

And today, the court granted the motion offered by Philadelphia district attorney Larry Krasner, agreeing with C.J. Rice's attorneys Karl Schwartz and Amelia Maxfield, that Rice was denied his Sixth Amendment rights to effective counsel.

LARRY KRASNER, PHILADELPHIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY: It would be a violation of my oath to retry a case. When we know that if you put all of the reliable evidence forward, it doesn't establish proof beyond a reasonable doubt. TAPPER: Krasner's office has acknowledged that the case handled by prior prosecutors was weak from the start, that there wasn't much evidence at all. No DNA, no weapon, no footage, no solid unimpeachable witness tying Rice to the September 2011 nighttime shooting and wounding of four people.

This is the position where one of the shooters was the one that was ID as C.J. Rice the night of September 25, 2011. The eyewitness testified that he was 20 feet away 20 feet away, however, for what actually put them like here this is 20 feet away

Where I was before although over there, that's more like 50 feet away. Witnesses said they saw the gunman running, but my dad had examined these 17-year-old C.J. Rice just five days earlier and he insisted C.J. was in no condition to run.

DR. TAPPER: He had staples and his abdomen over approximately at eight or nine inch surgical incision from his breastbone straight down, as far as you could go.

TAPPER: That's because three weeks earlier, C.J. Rice had been shot three times in a case C.J. says was mistaken identity.

DR. TAPPER: There was no way this young man five days after I saw him was running anywhere, let alone walking fast.

TAPPER: The one eyewitness who fingered C.J. had known him for years she initially and repeatedly told police she could not identify the gunman as one of Rice's attorneys Jason Kadish told me.

JASON KADISH, C.J. RICE'S ATTORNEY: So, I think it was approximately 20 hours where she had spoken to at least -- I think it was three different officers, and he never said this is somebody that's in my neighborhood.

But overnight, police claimed a confidential informant told them that Rice may have been involved. So, a detective then showed this photo array to the eyewitness and she then fingered rice.

When Rice was named as a suspect, his mother, Crystal Cooper, met him at the police station so that he could turn himself in.

CRYSTAL COOPER, C.J. RICE'S MOTHER: And then detective took his arm to help them walk up the stairs.

TAPPER: C.J. Rice's family could not afford legal counsel. So a court appointed private attorney Sandjai Weaver, took his case and Weaver, who died in 2019, did not provide C.J. with an adequate defense.

A source in the D.A.'s office tells me that the witnesses testimony would not stand up to any competent defense attorney.

BILL FRITZE, PHILADELPHIA ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY: She stated that Mr. Rice had braids hanging down around his face with a hoodie tied up around it. When we looked at the arrest photo for Mr. Rice, he actually had cornrows. So there was no way that he would have been able to have braids hanging down the side of his face.

TAPPER: Though perhaps tellingly, it had been in long braids in the photo from the police lineup that the witness was shown, from a previous drug charge.

Another part of the D.A.'s review that help them arrived at this decision, C.J. had told Weaver over and over to get the location data for his cell phone. It would prove that he was at the time in West Philadelphia, not the South Philadelphia site of the shooting. But Sandjai Weaver never got that data, nor did the police.

COOPER: After the trial, C.J. started telling me, oh, she should have did this. I told it to do this. She didn't listen to me.

TAPPER: The D.A.'s office reviewed old recorded courthouse phone conversations and heard C.J. Rice begging his mom to push Sandjai Weaver, his attorney, to get those phone records, to prove his alibi.

KRASNER: If this case had occurred yesterday, it is very likely that it wouldn't be so murky, that we would have phone records that would geo-locate to exactly where Mr. Rice was or pretty close to exactly where he was. There were any number of hideous omissions in Sandjai Weaver's incompetent defense of C.J. Rice.

Attorney Karl Schwartz zeroed in on Weaver allowing into evidence the concocted motive that this was a retaliatory shooting for when C.J. Rice was shot, though neither the D.A. nor the Philly police had any evidence connecting the two shootings.

The case has consumed my father's life for the better part of the last decade, and though both he and C.J. Rice are celebrating today, they believe that the prisons are packed with others just like him.


DR. TAPPER: There are probably 10,000 or 20,000 or 40,000 people who were serving time behind bars who are not guilty of the crime for which they are serving time.


TAPPER: I sat down with C.J. one-on-one a few days ago, for the first time since he'd been released, we talked about what it felt like to finally be free and the letters he exchanged with my dad while he was behind bars.


TAPPER: It's good to see you.

RICE: Good to see you, Jake.

TAPPER: You spent almost 13 years in prison. Has it feel to be out? RICE: It is amazing

TAPPER: You said the air tastes sweeter.

RICE: Air tastes sweeter, the sunshine different -- has a different warmth. I feel at a sudden, as a free man, as -- I can't put it in the words.

TAPPER: So these ladders from my dad, did you look forward to getting them?

RICE: I did.


RICE: I did, like a lot.

TAPPER: Really?

RICE: Yeah. Because it's a constant. So you get used to constants in jail, but most of them are demeaning or not so personal, but a letter with ink on it from somebody on other side of the wall, that's personal. That makes you feel human.

The care and concern as a father had for me was genuine.

TAPPER: My dad always says that we don't have a justice system. We have a legal system, but there's no justice necessarily.

RICE: I can attest to that. I can attest to that.


TAPPER: You can see much, much more of this story this Sunday night. We're going to tell it all documentary style on Anderson Cooper's "THE WHOLE STORY". It's called "Justice Delayed: The Story of C.J. Rice". It airs at 8:00 p.m. on Sunday, 8:00 p.m. on Sunday, only on CNN.

So what comes next for C.J. and how hard will it be to get his record expunged? C.J.'s lawyers, the two main ones are going to join me live next to discuss that.

And how many other innocent people might it has been wrongly convicted?

Plus, CNN's David Culver is one of the few journalists who's been able to get inside the capital of Haiti where machete wielding militias are battling gangs for control of the streets. He's going to join us live from Port-au-Prince. That's next.



TAPPER: We're back with more on our law and justice lead, and more on the major developments in C.J. Rice's legal case, as we told you at the top of the hour.

And earlier today, C.J. Rice is now a free man. He's out of prison. His conviction has been overturned. He has been fully exonerated, but he did not do this on his own. In fact, his legal team, Karl Schwartz and Amelia Maxfield, foremost perhaps among them have been fighting for C.J.'s release for years, along with a team of other attorneys. And finally, today, justice has finally been served in the C.J. Rice case.

And with me now are both Karl Schwartz and Amanda Maxfield.

To both of you, congratulations on what you achieve today.

Amelia, let me start with you. You were with the Innocence Project. You're now with the Exoneration Project.

C.J. is out of prison. His conviction has been overturned. How does this moment feel for you as an attorney?

AMELIA MAXFIELD, COUNSEL FOR C.J. RICE: It feels great. I think the primary thing I'm feeling right now is relief, honestly, but I am really thrilled for C.J., as you know, as well as anyone, Jake. C.J. has been fighting for this for more than 12 years for almost 13 years. He has really kept this fight alive and been at the center of all of this. So I'm just really happy for him that he's gotten this outcome and that he can move on with his life now.

TAPPER: And, Karl, you're the captain of the ship here, that got his habeas petition filed and granted. C.J. can now pursue having his record for attempted murder expunged.

What is that process like? How soon are you going to start doing it? How quickly can it be expunged?

KARL SCHWARTZ, PARTNER, WISEMAN AND SCHWARTZ: But it's pretty straight. You know what, Jake -- you know, it was -- it was a big ship a credit is also due to Nilam Sanghvi of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project and Don Verrilli, former solicitor general, and Ginger Anders (ph) and we shouldn't forget them. This was very much a team effort.

TAPPER: Absolutely, absolutely.

SCHWARTZ: The expungement -- the expungement should be -- should be should be pretty straightforward, and fairly routine and certainly warranted, and we will go about the business of getting that done as quickly as possible. It's not terribly involved.

TAPPER: Amelia, today, at the district attorney's press conference, District Attorney Krasner, he would not say for certain whether C.J. was innocent or not innocent. Is that typical of this type of thing?

MAXFIELD: Yeah. I think, you know, obviously, as C.J.'s advocates, as his attorneys, we have a very different perspective on this. This is typical.

Legally as a legal matter, C.J. has been exonerated. He is innocent and also factually, he is innocent as well. The D.A.'s office in deciding not to retry this case, did a very thorough reinvestigation, perhaps the investigation that should have been done from the beginning of this case. And it's important to note that it turned up no inculpatory evidence against C.J. And in fact, only lead to more exculpatory evidence.

So, I think an important point to make here is that this isn't a case where we have a DNA profile proving scientifically that someone else committed this crime. But that does not mean that C.J. is not innocent, that does not affect the import of this exoneration. For him and for others like him in the criminal justice system most exonerations in this country look like this case.

TAPPER: And, Karl, a source in the D.A. office told me that ultimately they concluded not only was the case against C.J. always weak, but they think that the only reason he even went to prison is because his defense attorney, who has passed away was so incompetent, she actually helped get him convicted his habeas relief.


His habeas relief, he's out of prison because of your argument that he did -- he was denied his U.S. constitutional right to a legal defense, to a competent defense.

How rare is that? I mean, I have -- I have -- as you know, from when I covered "The Atlantic" story and you know, better than I -- I mean, people have been drunk at a trial. Defense attorneys drunk at a trial, arrested on her way to trial, falling asleep during the trial and higher courts still said no, no, that's fine. That's adequate representation.

To be granted habeas relief for this, that doesn't happen very often.

SCHWARTZ: It's too rare, Jake, and you know what? The limitations over the past decade or so that have been put on habeas proceedings and habeas representation makes it even rarer. And that's really regrettable, especially what we've learned good about exculpatory evidence being. The prosecution has a responsibility and in many jurisdictions, they don't take it very seriously.

And often evidence of innocence, exculpatory evidence is not uncovered until well after the trial, and that's just the fact of life and it's not the defendants full in many cases, there was some such evidence in this case as well. And the more you limit the ability to develop that evidence after the fact, the more innocent people spend their lives in jail or even worse and that's been the trend lately in our jurisprudence and it's -- it's very regrettable at a great cost I think.

TAPPER: Karl Schwartz and Amelia Maxfield, just an honor to know you both. Congratulations again on this amazing legal work.

SCHWARTZ: Thank you, Jake.

MAXFIELD: Thank you, Jake. TAPPER: Coming up next, to the place where even police stations are

not safe. CNN's David Culver is one of the only western journalists reporting live amid the lawlessness and gang violence in Haiti's capital city. And that's where we're going to go, next.



TAPPER: In our world lead, we are all witnessing a failed state right on the doorstep of the United States. In Haiti, there is no effective government nor any semblance of real law and order. Instead, there are machete-wielding militias battling gangs in an orgy of chaos and violence.

CNN's David Culver is there and he is one of the only Western journalists reporting from the capital of Port-au-Prince.

David, where just minutes ago, police wrapped up a clash with gangs not far from where you are. What can you tell us about this?

DAVID CULVER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: About three miles from where we are, Jake, and we got an early morning wake up from a police source saying that they were gangs attack in two affluent neighborhoods and a higher elevation area. And that's unusual because usually that's an area that is able to remain relatively safe and block off a lot of the gang activity.

Well, not this morning. They came in and we know several people were killed. We have some video actually that we just got in and some of it is graphic. But this shows you the aftermath and we had to, of course, not show some of the even more disturbing aspects of it. And that is several bodies that were lying on the ground there.

And that just shows you just one of these incidents that happened on a near daily occurrence and are increasingly happening here at -- because of the gangs feeling like they can get more and more control over this capital city. Meantime, police, they are feeling strained. Their morale is broken. And even police stations are no longer safe.


CULVER: So, police stations like this one here in Port-au-Prince are main targets for gangs. They feel like as soon as they can get old of a stage like this, they can then take siege and take control of much of the community, and they've tried coming after this when many times reinforcements have been built up, not only because of the police, but because of the community, they'd go barricades all around here.

For the police station to function properly, they need to allies on the community and to have these almost vigilantes building a lot of the barricades to keep out any of the gang members.


CULVER: And, Jake, it was really interesting. When we were in that police station, a couple of the folks who were in holding cells where reaching out to us and the commander said, of course, you can talk to them. They were saying how they feel that they are in a more dangerous place because they're behind bars in what is a major target. And that is a police station.

And yet they also say that they too are dealing with the humanitarian aspects. And that is no food. They have to rely on their family to come bring them food. And they say at the same time, they feel like they're watching police losing a battle here and police are struggling across the city right now, relying in heavily on the community, Jake, and even in the incident that happened early this morning, we know about an hour ago, the community took justice into their own hands a few blocks from where I'm standing, they executed a suspected gang member in the street.

TAPPER: How -- I mean, it's just unbelievable. How -- might one even attempt to begin to resolve this?

CULVER: Yeah, and I asked a lot of the folks here, what is it that will bring stability to your country and to the capital city at this moment? And you have some who will say in a vague way, it's going to take an outside force. Now, foreign intervention has a really fraught history here. And so they are sensitive to that and rightfully so.


But at the same time, they realize at this point, their own police force is relying on the community, that community is holding this up on their own and neighborhood by neighborhood is basically having to fend for themselves.

And so, they need some sort of international intervention that will go beyond aid. And well go beyond food, though those both are badly needed. It's going to take a military force of some sort.

Now, of course, the Kenyan police officers are scheduled to deploy at some point it's been delayed, but they say that international mission is crucial now, more than ever to bring any sort of stuff ability and what is a worsening crisis, Jake.

TAPPER: CNN's David Culver in Port-au-Prince, Haiti -- thank you so much, David. Please stay safe.

Vladimir Putin takes a victory lap after winning yet another term as Russian leader in that election, as it were. We're going to go live to Moscow next.



TAPPER: Topping our world lead in a surprising twist, Russian leader Vladimir Putin confirmed to CNN report and mentioned his biggest rival, Alexei Navalny, by name. Putin said prisoner exchange negotiations that could have freed Navalny were underway before the opposition leader's death in an Arctic prison last month, one of several Putin opponents who just ended up dead. Meanwhile and unsurprisingly, Putin secured another six-year term, an election that the United States and European Union say was neither free nor fair.

CNN's Matthew Chance reports now from Moscow as some brave Russians attempt to honor Navalny's last political wish, with courageous acts of protest.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Another flash of defiance in Russia's presidential vote. The opposition called this midday against Putin. Supporters gathering at polling stations across the country in a show of solidarity.

It's what Alexei Navalny, Russia's late opposition leader, had urged before he suddenly died.

Well, the Russian authorities say that anyone who attends an unauthorized protests will be dealt with severely, but you can see its just after 12:00 here in Moscow and a lot of people have turned out at this one polling station to cast their ballots. It's not a protest, but it is an indication of just how many people here are heeding Alexei Navalny's call.

Why become now to cast your vote?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because they come, too.

CHANCE: And he wanted to see all these people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah. We want to come together and see you each other in person.

CHANCE: Why decide to come now at 12:00?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know why. I think everyone stay in this queue, knows why.

CHANCE: For three days, Russians have been voting in an election which President Putin was always certain to win.

Scattered acts of disruption of exposed division. In several polling stations, dye was poured into ballot boxes to ruin paper votes already cast.

Across Russia, the number of voting centers were hit with arson attacks. But officials insist these deeply flawed presidential elections in which the opposition wasn't even allowed to stand were free and fair.

Compared to the last presidential vote in 2018, we received one half as many complaints, Russia's chief human rights commissioner tells state television.

I don't remember such active, deeply monitored elections here, she adds. But the defiance of some Russians it has also been exceptional, simmering discontent in the Kremlin's tightly controlled Russia briefly boiling up to the surface.


CHANCE (on camera): Well, Jake, tonight, the newly re-elected Russian president has been attending an extravagant concert in Red Square in Moscow to mark a decade since Crimea was annexed from Ukraine. He took to the stage to a rapturous reception from a specially selected crowd.

But independent election monitors here say the landslide election victory is just one failed to convey the real mood of Russians and to allow them to decide on Russia's future independently and freely.

Jake, back to you.

TAPPER: All right. Matthew Chance in Moscow, thanks so much.

Let's keep up the conversation on this now with "The New Yorker's" editor David Remnick, who has written about Putin extensively, in addition to authoring the Pulitzer Prize winning book, "Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire".

David, good to see you as always.

Why do you think Putin chose to invoke Navalny's name and bring up this prisoner swap discussion now?

DAVID REMNICK, EDITOR, THE NEW YORKER: Well, he wants to make it seem like it was a terrible accident and there might have been a prisoner exchange.

Now, Maria Pevchikh, who's a woman, who is very close to the Navalny circle did go on YouTube and say there had been such negotiations. But she felt and the Navalny circle feels that Navalny in the end was murdered because Putin couldn't bear the thought of releasing Navalny and seeing him cause him further political trouble in the future. So it's a very different interpretation

TAPPER: Yeah, it is, sir, sure remarkable how many of Putin's political opponents just happened to end up dead by mysterious circumstances.


REMNICK: Yes, it's not a recent development.

TAPPER: Right.

REMNICK: It's not a recent development. People have been ending up dead for a very long time. He has been in power as you know, almost as long as Stalin and obviously, the death count is not nearly as high as under Stalin. He's been much more strategic about the way he uses political prisoners and assassination but it's extraordinarily effective in the modern age when coupled with things like modern uses of propaganda and the internet.

TAPPER: Navalny's widow, Yulia Navalnaya, spoke a day after his death. She was at the Munich Security Conference. She said, justice for Navalny's death will, quote, come soon. Do you see any signs especially given this sham election that Putin will pay any price at all for Navalny's death?

REMNICK: I think when Yulia Navalnaya, extraordinary woman, a brave woman, was talking about justice coming soon, she was not speaking in the same terms as, you know, 24 hour news she was talking in historical terms and terms of Putin's mortality to be quite, to be quite frank. And the hope there is that justice will sooner or later come to the Russian people and democracy will develop. But I think she was speaking in historical terms and not in the terms of immediacy that the word soon might indicate.

TAPPER: Do you -- do you do you think that there will be justice relatively soon however, you define that?

REMNICK: Well, I think right now we should ask ourselves that. Right now, we have a U.S. Congress who can't bring itself to pass a supplemental bill quite yet to help the Ukrainian people who were invaded two years ago, who were on a terrible situation now, the Ukrainian military circumstances markedly different and worse than it was year ago.

We are quite possibly about to elect an authoritarian to the presidency of the United States, who, on a regular basis shows his admiration for Vladimir Putin and his willingness to, quote/unquote, let him do whatever the hell he wants to do. So it's a question maybe that we should be asking ourselves is acutely as anyone else

TAPPER: Fair enough.

When it comes to Ukraine, a reporter asked Biden yesterday to respond to a French President Emmanuel Macron's comments about potentially sending ground troops to Ukraine. Take a listen to his response.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I think that anything is possible in the modern world. But I've already said this and it is clear to everyone that this will be just one step away from a full-scale World War III.


TAPPER: Putin added, hardly anyone is interested in this. You think Putin is essentially saying, try me?

REMNICK: I think Putin has said try me and has -- and he has waived the nuclear saber more than once in the last couple of years, never so dramatically as the other day. On the other hand, I should say that I don't think Macron's rhetoric who's in line with the thinking of Joe Biden and everybody else in NATO. That was a bit of loose talk, so far as I can see, and maybe -- maybe quite reckless. NATO needs to be coordinated. It's a very, very difficult thing. These

are all different countries with different policies and views of NATO but I think that what Macron had to say there was well out of step with what you're hearing in other foreign capitals and in Washington.

TAPPER: On the matter of our own presidential election, do you anticipate Putin is going to try to disrupt the election, at least with propaganda as he has before?

REMNICK: I think so. And I think he's very clever at it, even when he's not using something very sophisticated, he was faced with the microphones not long ago and asked to who do you a favor, Biden or Trump. We all know what the real answer to that is. But he said Biden because he's more predictable somehow.

And he's jerking us around. He's a master at this game and he does it in his kind of a deadpan way. But anybody with any knowledge of the way Russian propaganda has worked for years now knows that that plays into the direction. And to the advantage of Donald Trump, who put and quite rightly sees as someone who is willing to give him a very wide berth and even admires him, admires him, and in fact, in some ways, models himself after him.

So, of course, I expect Putin to do one thing or another and use the tools of modern media and propaganda to do what he can to help the effort.


But that said, do I think its going to be decisive? I think the American people are going to be decisive in their -- in their judgment. And right now, the polls, insofar as they can be trusted and believed are pretty ominous and we need to wake up to that.

TAPPER: "New Yorker" editor David Remnick, always good to have you on, sir. Thank you so much. Good to see you.

REMNICK: Thanks for having me.

TAPPER: He was just gifted $50 million to share with charities, and do-gooding organize -- do-gooding organizations of his choice. How does retired Admiral Will McRaven want to hand out this cash $50 million? He's going to join me live, next.



TAPPER: In our national lead now, the world's second richest man, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his fiancee, Lauren Sanchez, handed out their third Courage and Civility Awards on Thursday. This year's recipients are actress, director and advocate Eva Longoria, and retired Admiral Will McRaven.

The award is given to people who make significant contributions to society and do so with decency. As head of Special Ops, you might know McRaven as having directed the 2011 raid by Navy SEALs that killed Osama bin Laden. He's also the former chancellor of the University of Texas. The award is generally -- the general is generally known, I'm sorry, the admiral is generally known for his work with veterans and families of service members since he left UT.

He and Eva Longoria are each going to receive $50 million to give to the charities of their choice. Previous recipients include CNN's Van Jones and chef Jose Andres. They were the inaugural recipients of the prize in 2021, as well as singer and philanthropist Dolly Parton in 2022. Bezos and Sanchez did not give out the award last year.

And joining us now is one of this year's recipients, retired Navy Admiral William McRaven.

Admiral, Congratulations on the award. It's good to have you on.

You said that you want to use the gift to focus on educating the children of veterans who were KIA, mental health for veterans, as well as other helping to develop future military leaders through education. Obviously, we frequently cover the military and veterans on THE LEAD.

How will this award help those who serve?

ADM. WILLIAM MCRAVEN (RET.), RECIPIENT OF 2024 BEZOS COURAGE AND CIVILITY AWARD: Yeah. Well, first, thanks for having me on Jake. I appreciate it.

And this incredible gift from Lauren Sanchez and Jeff Bezos is going to go a long way towards helping veterans and their families. And as you point out, that while this is the early days of this award, I've just received last week, so were taking a hard look at what our options are going to be. But the two main areas we hope to focus on are in fact, the Gold Star children and educating Gold Star children, in particular.

As you know, I've been working with the Special Operations Warrior Foundation for many years. My wife, Georgeann is on the board. And so I know the statistics when it comes to the nature of the fallen and the children and Special Operations community.

Since 1980, we've lost over 1,300 killed in action or in training, and they've left behind around 1,700 children. And the Special Operations Warrior Foundation has already educated well over 500, but that that means we've got 1,100 still in the pipeline.

So a portion of this money will certainly go towards helping with those children. And then well see how we can broaden that out to help the other Gold Star children as well.

And then on the mental health issues. Now, frankly, the Veterans Administration, the military health care system and does a really good job of helping the active duty members and some of the retirees on mental health. But where there might be a gap, this is where I really want to focus some of these resources from this remarkable gift. TAPPER: Where might there be a gap?

MCRAVEN: Well, so, we begin to look at things like blast injuries. So you're probably aware, you know, as we -- as we look at the population of those that are in the case of the Special Operations community, breaches that are exposed to these blasts that we get from crank enough demolition artillery men, those that are exposed to these kind of micro concussions that happened as a matter of routine. I still don't think we quite understand completely the science behind that and the impact its having on some of our veterans.

But we know of course that the veteran suicide rate is higher than the general population. And there's a lot of things that go into that. But I am concerned that some of these micro concussions and some of the blast victims from these kind of repeated blast, there might be an area there where we can focus some of that money as well as just brain performance. How do we help the veterans be smarter longer? We also work with the brain health project out of the University of Texas at Dallas and we want to put some of the money towards their efforts as well.

TAPPER: So, we're working on a piece right now about an alternative treatment for post-traumatic stress. We're working on a segment from my show and I know that there are other there are other treatments out there for post-traumatic stress. And I'm wondering if that's something that you're interested in using this $50 million for. And also, if there are any that you're interested in helping to explore or investigate to see if through experimentation, they can be worked on.

MCRAVEN: Absolutely. I mean, this is an area, and again, the V.A. is looking at PTS. You know, the military health care system is looking at those, but where we can help. And frankly, a lot of those, of course, is making sure that were getting great return on our investment in these programs, so that we're affecting as many of the veterans as we can in terms of helping them through these issues.


So, we're going to probably put out a couple of weeks. Well put out a press release that talks about the way that veterans organizations and the organizations that are working with mental health issues or the children of fallen can contact us so that we can begin so look through the various opportunities and see where we can put some of these resources.

TAPPER: All right, well, you know where to reach if you need somebody to help get the word out either on TV or social media, we're always here for you.

Retired Navy Admiral William McRaven, congratulations to you.

MCRAVEN: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up, Donald Trump having problems with his money and his mouth. What he says he meant and what his lawyers say he cannot pay. That's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)