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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Confusion In Texas As Border Law Zigzags Through Courts; Gaza Israeli Settler Movement Gains Traction As War Rages; House Holds Hearing As Probe Into Biden Family Stalls; UK Watchdog Investigating Alleged Breach Of Princess Catherine's Medical Records. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired March 20, 2024 - 16:00   ET



RYAN YOUNG, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The government says he is the one who actually established the checks chain on WhatsApp to put this whole thing in motion. Even saying where cameras could be and initiated the cover up after this will all done so all this happening in the last few seconds.

Forty years guys, a serious sentence.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Ryan Young, thank you so much for that update.

Still plenty of unanswered questions about how more senior officials in that department didn't know about what was going on.

We will leave you now to THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER.

Thanks for joining us.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: That controversial Texas immigration law that was on hold, then not on hold, then on hold -- it could soon be not on hold again.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Border whiplash over the Texas law known as S.B.4. The appeals court today weighing whether state authority should have the power to arrest and deport anyone in the United States illegally, given that immigration is typically a federal enforcement issue.

Even Republican-appointed appeals court judge in Texas today said she did not totally understand how this law will work in effect. CNN is in Texas with what happens now.

Plus, a push by empowered Israeli extremist to take over Gaza and kicked Palestinians out.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No Arab, I'm speaking about more than 2 million Arabs, they will not stay there. We Jews will be in Gaza.


TAPPER: The issue with like-minded zealots in the Netanyahu government. How out of the mainstream in Israel is this proposed ethnic cleansing of Gaza?

And tense moments on Capitol Hill as Democrats tried to discredit the Biden impeachment inquiry kept up by Republicans.


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

And we start today with our national lead. Chaos, confusion, so many questions at the southern border today with the fate of Texas' controversial immigration bill once again up in the air.

Any moments, a federal appeals court could rule on state Senate Bill 4, known as S.B.4, which would allow state officials to arrest and detain anyone they suspect of entering the country illegally.

And you might be thinking wait a second, Jake, didn't you just tell me yesterday that the U.S. Supreme Court said that this law could go into an effect? If you said that, you would be correct. But hours after that, an appeals court stepped in and block the law once again. That's the same appeals court that we are waiting to hear a decision from now, at any moment after judges question lawyers from both sides today when exactly how the law would be implemented.

Another major issue some border officials say, even if law goes into an effect -- goes into effect, their officers, law enforcement might not know how to enforce it


CHIEF MIGUEL A. RODRIGUEZ JR., LAREDO, TEXAS, POLICE: Very important that we train and train and train because we want to avoid racial profiling part of this law that it lends itself for that.


TAPPER: Confusion abounds, and this concerned about possible racial profiling was echoed by other local officials today, including the sheriff of Bexar County, Texas, just a few minutes ago on CNN.


SHERIFF JAVIER SALAZAR, BEXAR COUNTY, TEXAS: Overwhelmingly minority county, and I don't need our deputies being accused of just approaching people that look undocumented and asking for papers and then putting us in harms way that way.


TAPPER: CNN's Ed Lavandera is outside of migrant shelter in the border city of El Paso.

Ed, did the appeals court judges give us any signs as to how they might rule on letting this law go into effect.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Fifth Circuit is considered one of them most conservative appellate courts there in the country. But there were some tea leaves that you could kind of read into today to kind of get a sense -- car drives by, one of the judges was talking about whether or not there could be parts of the Texas law that could be allowed to go into effect while more scrutiny is applied to other sections of the law. So that that kind of opens the door to the possibility that maybe, perhaps this becomes a piecemeal implementation of this law.

But that is as good as we were able to kind of decipher from the questions that were asked today. But what is interesting is that there was some confusion when one of the judges, what said she wasn't exactly clear exactly how this lot would work and asked about a specific moment in that -- in that -- during that testimony, the solicitor general of Texas also said that he wasn't sure how a particular scenario might play out based on how this law is written. So, clearly, confusion at all levels here.

TAPPER: What are you hearing on the ground there in El Paso about this law.

LAVANDERA: Well, you know, we've been speaking with law enforcement agencies, sheriffs, and police officers, police departments across the state who have been trying to figure out how they're going when to implement it, what kind of policies that they're going to direct their officers on the ground to carry this law out. So what we hear here in El Paso is that there's a concern about manpower, jail space. We hear this echoed from other communities as well.


And so, you know, one of the common themes we've heard over and over, Jake, is this idea that there doesn't really seem to be a big appetite for sending officers and sheriffs deputies out just to arrest people for being undocumented or not having the proper paperwork. You can listen to a little bit of what one of the El Paso sheriffs official said earlier today.


CMDR. RYAN URRUTIA, EL PASO COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: Really, we would want them to do their job. We want them to step forward and handle that portion of which there was possible for and drawing local law enforcement into this is problematic. You know, we're seeing federal agencies stretch to its limits and they have far greater resources and greater manpower than we do.


LAVANDERA: And, Jake, as they -- you know, a lot of the attention about this law is what local law enforcement officers can do. But, you know, the other part of this law is that it gives state judges the ability deporting migrants Mexico, who entered Texas illegally, and the other layer of all of this is that Mexican officials are saying they will not accept these migrants, that Texas tries to send back over across the river.

So that's another third layer of confusion and chaos to this entire situation.

TAPPER: All right. Ed Lavandera in El Paso, Texas, thank you so much.

Joining us now to discuss is Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar of Texas. His district includes a number of border towns, including Laredo.

Congressman, what are you hearing from local officials and your congressional district. Are they prepared to enforce this law if the appeals court ultimately decides that is going back into effect?

REP. HENRY CUELLAR (D-TX): Absolutely not. They're not ready.

Look, whether its a police or a sheriffs office, there are there to enforce criminal law. There are out there to take criminals off the streets and keep them the community safe. They're not given the power to enforce immigration laws. So, if they have to decide, they're going to fight crime instead of an immigration law.

Border Patrol is stretched out and they got a lot of resources. So imagine a sheriff and a small community or a police chief and a small community, they don't have the training, they don't have the resources. And what happens, are they pick up somebody, put it in in a county jail? And what happens if it's overloaded?

And plus, and if they're going to take them over to the bridge and let's say some of those people are from another parts of the world, Mexico is not going to take him. So why are we doing this? This law was not thought out well.

There's frustration I understand that, but this law goes against 100 years of precedent by the U.S. courts.

TAPPER: Take a listen to what the president of the National Border Patrol Council, the border official union there, Brandon Judd, told CNN about what he thinks would happen if S.B.4 is allowed to take effect.


BRANDON JUDD, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL BORDER PATROL COUNCIL: It's going to cause a drop in illegal immigration through the state of Texas. And that's going to be a huge benefit to border patrol agents. It's going to be a huge benefit to those individuals that want border security.


TAPPER: Do you disagree with Mr. Judd? CUELLAR: Look, I support Border Patrol, but I know border patrol is

trained. They go and get special training to enforce the immigration law. He also knows that a sheriff of police officer, when they get trained, let's say in the state of Texas, they're not trained on immigration law. They're trained on enforcing the stage statutes.

So therefore, therefore, it's unfair to put local law enforcement in this situation that border patrol should be -- is trained to do.

TAPPER: I mean, I would imagine that Governor Abbott would say if he were here right now, we had to pass this law because the border is a mess and President Biden isn't doing his job.

How would you respond to that?

CUELLAR: You know, look, we all want to secure the border and we're about to pass hopefully by this weekend or this Friday homeland security dollars, put in moneys there. So I want to put money for CBP and Border Patrol to secure the border.

But I want to say this without getting political -- if you look at the last two appropriation bills on homeland, every single Republican, except for two people that are still in Congress, voted no to add additional $2.4 billion. So we can to talk about the problem we have to address it under the federal law where immigration authority belongs.

TAPPER: You're the co-chair of the new Democrat crafts for border security group. You told NBC one of your goals is, quote, don't see the narrative to Republicans when it comes to border security, how exactly are you going to try to do that? What do you say to people who might say this just sounds like another partisan approach to solving the border crisis?

CULLER: You know, first of all, some of us have been strong on border security for so many years, but we have to look at how we address the border security. Think about this. The numbers in December were 10,000 or 12,000 people, they been cut in half. Then we add new border wall, know that we add new border patrol, know that we add new technology, now what happens? We got Mexico to do its job and therefore, the numbers have gone.

So we have to look at this on a comprehensive level, get politics out of it, get and do the right job.


And it's got to be done in a bipartisan way.

TAPPER: Speaking -- you talked earlier about the border compromise that didn't pass. Give us a reality check of what's happening on Capitol Hill behind the scenes. Are there any discussions right now between Democrats and Republicans on any sort of border compromise, even if it's not the bipartisan border deal from the Senate?

CUELLAR: What we -- and I can't go into much details later on, but I can tell you on homeland security, we put money. There is money there for deportation, for detention, for people that don't qualify for asylum. There's moneys there for border patrol agents. We put in monies in the right places and we did this in a bipartisan way.

So, again, if we work in a bipartisan way, take the politics out of it, we can put the moneys in the right place so we can stop this. But if you want to change the law we can't really do that in appropriations. The Senate bipartisan border deal was a good way to get the job done, but they walked away

TAPPER: Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar of Texas, thanks so much for your time, sir. Good to see you.

CUELLAR: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up next, an Israeli woman known as the godmother of the Zionist Settler Movement, wants to push Palestinians out of Gaza so Israelis can move in. How right-wing politicians are empowering her campaign, getting help from wealthy donors here in the United States.

And this just in, a record finish on Wall Street as the Dow, S&P 500 and the Nasdaq all hit new highs. Investors apparently pleased with word from the Federal Reserve today, holding interest rates steady and indicating three cuts to interest rates likely are on the way later this year. We'll be watching for it. We're back in a moment.



TAPPER: Back with our world lead, as the Israel Defense Forces continue their assault on the Gaza Strip in response to the October 7th Hamas terrorist attacks, an extreme Israeli settler movement is gaining traction among the general Israeli population. Hundreds of Israeli families say that they want to recreate settlements in Gaza after the war ends and permanently remove the Palestinians who live there.

Remember, Israel's military evacuated the last Israeli settlements from Gaza in 2005. Now these new settlements were they to happen, would be illegal under international law and contrary to what the Israeli government says is the plan for the day after.

Despite that, this settler movement claims it has the backing of some very wealthy Americans, although movement leaders remain tight-lipped about revealing their specific backers.

Former President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, weighed in just last month.


JARED KUSHNER, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: Both sides are spending a fortune on military. I think neither side really wants to have a terrorist organization enclave right between them. And Gaza's waterfront property, it could be very valuable to if people

would focus on kind of building up livelihoods. Do you think about all the money that's gotten into this tunnel network and do all the munitions, if that would have gone into education or innovation, what could have been done? And so, I think that it's a little bit of an unfortunate situation there, but I think from Israel's perspective, I would do my best to move the people out and then clean it up.


TAPPER: CNN's Clarissa Ward speaks with the leader of this settler movement, a grandmother who tells Clarissa the Palestinian lost the right to their land on October 7th.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): High in the hills of the occupied West Bank, a flag flies in the face of a Palestinian village. God is king, it says. Two young settlers guard this illegal outpost, construction hasn't even begun, but we are not welcome.

So they're asking us to leave. They don't want to talk to us. They said they'd been here for about nine months.

Dotted across the landscape, more signs of the fight to assert Israeli control over Palestinian land. The Arabic names on signpost crudely erased. Under international law, the Beit Hogla settlement is illegal, but last February, the Israeli government officially recognized it along with eight others, a move the U.S. strongly opposed.

We're here because God promised us this land, Israel Picar (ph) tells us.

Now, these settlers have set their sights on a new prize, one that seemed utterly impossible before October 7.

Returning to Gaza, they cheer.

That is the goal of Zionist settler organization Nachala, one of more than a dozen groups now advocating for the reestablishment of Israeli settlements in Gaza.

The recent promotional video even boasts that Gaza will become the next Riviera.

Daniella Weiss is the godmother of the movement. She's already started recruiting from the 700,000-strong settler community of Israel.

We're just arrived having now at a settlement in the occupied West Bank and we're heading to a talk that Daniella Weiss is giving to a group of people who are potentially interested in resettling Gaza.

We are for the land of Israel and Ben-Gvir, she says.

About 20 people gather in the living room. Weiss knows that for many in this community, there is deep nostalgia for Gush Katif, a bloc of 21 Israeli settlements that there were forcibly evacuated by the IDF in 2005 when Israel left the Gaza Strip.

This is the vision of Gaza, she says. You see all the nucleus groups.

A map has already been drawn up. Six groups laying claim to different parts of the enclave.

So they've just been handing out these little booklets that say people of Israel return home, and then underneath, a call to return to the settlements of Gaza.

One of the organizers tells the group they have a representative flying to Florida to raise money.


Nachala gets support from a number of groups in the U.S., including AFSI, Americans For a Safe Israel, which co-sponsored a recent webinar on the return to Gush Katif, even as the Biden administration has cracked down on settlements in the West Bank.

DANIELLA WEISS, DIRECTOR OF NACHALA: There is very strong support from very prominent, from very I would say wealthy people, wealthy Jews who support --

WARD: In the U.S.?

WEISS: In the U.S.

WARD: Can you name any names?

WEISS: No, I cannot, no.

WARD: Back at her home in Kdumim settlement, Weiss tells us she's already enrolled 500 families.

WEISS: I even have on my on my cell phone names of people who say enlist me, enroll me. I want to join. I want to join the groups that are going to settle Gaza.

WARD: I have to ask you, though, because we're sitting here talking and we're listening to the call to prayer.

WEISS: Yeah, I'm listening. I hope you are listening to it.

WARD: Which is a reminder I think of the people who live here, but also the people who live in Gaza. What happens to them --

WEISS: Okay.

WARD: -- in this vision of this new settlement with Jewish settlers even in Gaza City?

WEISS: What I think about Gaza, the Arabs of Gaza lost the right to be in Gaza on the 7th of October? Yes. I do hear the mosque. I do hear the prayer, things were different until the 7th of October.

No Arab, I'm speaking about more than 2 million Arabs --

WARD: Uh-uh.

WEISS: -- they will not stay there. We, Jews, will be in Gaza.

WARD: That sounds like ethnic cleansing.

WEISS: The Arabs want to annihilate the state of Israel. So you can call them monsters. You can -- you can call their -- call them cleansing of Jews. We are not doing to them. They are doing to us.

I couldn't make it clearer when I said that myself, as a person who is preoccupied with settling the land until the 7th of October. I didn't have plans of returning to Gaza. It's clear. I'm not interested in cleansing.

WARD: What is clear is that Weiss's views traditionally seen as extreme in Israel have become more popular since October 7th. In late January, jubilant crowds packed an auditorium in Jerusalem for the victory of Israel conference, calling for the resettlement of Gaza. A poll that month from the Jewish People Policy Institute found that 26 percent of Israelis advocate the reconstruction of the Gush Katif settlements after the war is over.

Among supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing coalition government, that number jumps to 51 percent. Several ministers were present at the conference, including far-right Heritage Minister Amihai Eliyahu.

In a rare interview with Western media, he tells us his political decisions are guided by the Torah.

Is there anything about Gush Katif in here?


WARD: And that settlements in Gaza are needed to prevent another October 7th.

ELIYAHU (through translator): The language of the land says that wherever there is a Jewish settlement, there will be more security. It doesn't mean there will be absolute security, but there will be more security.

WARD: Why would you advocate for something that many would say is illegal, is immoral, is not supported by the majority of Israelis? And is also very harmful to Israel in terms of its international standing?

ELIYAHU (through translator): Why do you think it's immoral to take land from someone who wants to kill me? Why is it immoral to take my land, which my ancestors lived there, which I have even given up to someone who slaughters, rapes, and murders me? What is more immoral than that WARD: Netanyahu has called resettling Gaza, quote, an unrealistic

goal. Most Israelis agreed, but that hasn't stopped scores of IDF soldiers fighting there from posting videos calling for a return to Gush Katif.

For many supporters of the settler movement, what was once a distant fantasy is now a fervent dream.


WARD (on camera): Now, Jake, we also spent time in Tel-Aviv. We went to a very large anti-government protests, the largest in fact, since October 7th. And nobody there is talking about resettling Gaza just to give some perspective.

But we spoke to one woman, a professor who said to us, and I thought this was interesting, listen, they're a minority but politically, they are very powerful minority because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is so dependent on this right-wing coalition.


And that gives them power and a voice and she said, and this is also important I think, after October 7, some of these more extreme ideas are getting more traction because it -- you see often after major attacks, a hardening and a shift to the right, certainly, you saw it in the U.S. after 9/11.

And so, there is more support for views that traditionally were seen as being fringe, Jake.

TAPPER: Clarissa, last week, President Biden placed a new round of sanctions against violent Israeli settlers and outposts in the West Bank. How do the Israeli settlers you spoke to feel about President Biden as he's starting to more vocally condemn Netanyahu and the far movement in Israel?

WARD: I think there is a lot of frustration. There is a lot that you will hear from them about Biden being naive especially. Daniella Weiss, at one point during our interview, was almost making fun of him and his naivete, talking about a two-state solution all the time, imitating her there. But there's also I think a strong sense beneath that, that the relationship with America is hugely important, that America is the best friend in their eyes and they are, as I mentioned in this report, getting a lot of support from different groups in the U.S.

So they understand the importance of the relationship, even if they are very frustrated with the politics of the moment.

TAPPER: All right. Clarissa Ward, thanks so much.

Just when you think you've seen it all on Capitol Hill, probably not this lawmaker wearing a mask of Vladimir. Just why. Well, well try to explain, next.



TAPPER: Our politics lead now, a spectacular failure is how one Democrat describes today's hearing by the Republican-controlled House Oversight Committee in the impeachment inquiry into President Biden. House Republicans held their second public impeachment inquiry hearing in six months, and even some House Republicans continued to acknowledge the committee has yet to present any concrete, reliable evidence that President Biden himself financially benefited in any way from his son's business activities.

Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez repeatedly pressed former Biden business partner, Tony Bobulinski, what crime he witnessed President Biden commits. Take a listen.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): What crime do you -- have you witnessed?

TONY BOBULINSKI, FORMER HUNTER Biden BUSINESS PARTNER: How much time do I have to go through it?

OCASIO-CORTEZ: It is simple, you name the crime. Did you watch him steal something?

BOBULINSKI: Corruption statutes, RICO and conspiracy, FARA.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: What is it? What is -- what is the crime, sir? Specific.

BOBULINSKI: You keep -- you asked me to answer the question. I answered the question.


BOBULINSKI: RICO, you're obviously not familiar with. Corruption statutes, FARA.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Excuse me, sir. Excuse me, sir. Excuse me, sir? RICO is not a crime. It is a category.


TAPPER: Hunter Biden had been invited to testify today. He declined the invitation, so Republicans left an empty chair for Hunter Biden, which the Republican witness, Tony Bobulinski, noted at the top of his opening remarks.


BOBULINSKI: Allow Hunter to give his opening statement first.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it doesn't appear, Mr. Biden showed up for his public hearing. So well recognize you, Mr. Bobulinski. BOBULINSKI: OK.


TAPPER: The Democrats' main witness was Lev Parnas, the former associate of Rudy Giuliani who served time for campaign finance and wire fraud. Parnas testified that he knows firsthand, although he did not present any proof that the Ukrainian corruption allegations against the Bidens are false.

CNN's Manu Raju was live for us on Capitol Hill where today's hearing lacked evidence. It was rife with spectacle, Manu.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, no question about it. A lot of antics, not much new ground broken here. In fact, theatrics started right at the top of this hearing when Jared Moscowitz, a Democrat, walked in with wearing of Vladimir Putin mask, that was, of course, a reference to that FBI informant who made those unverified accusations of a Biden bribery scandal. That ultimately turned according to the Department of Justice, was all made up.

Then it turned out according to the Department of Justice that this may have been part of a Russian intelligence operation.

Now this hearing went back and forth all day long. Lot of that -- a lot of Democrats assailing the credibility of that key Republican witness, but ultimately, Jake, the question is going to be how to Republicans want to proceed? Do they actually want to move forward with articles of impeachment?

And speaking to a number of Republicans today, it's clear that allow them not sure yet about whether they have the votes to go there. Whether they're willing to vote to impeach Joe Biden and whether or whether this investigation should simply pull the plug. Listen.


REP. MIKE GALLAGHER (R-WI): My view is there should be a very high bar for impeachment. And like the reason I voted against to Trump impeachments is that there wasn't evidence supporting that a crime have been committed and therefore, we were lowering the bar for impeachment and opening up the Pandora's box of impeachment. That same was true for the Mayorkas impeachment.

REP. ANTHONY D'ESPOSITO (R-NY): I'm still waiting to two hear everything as they lay it out. I know that there's been some hiccups me.

REP. JOHN DUARTE (R-CA): We already said, if you look at the Foreign Agent Registration Act, we have an unregistered foreign agent as president.

RAJU: You would vote to impeach him right now?



RAJU: And that last comment coming from John Duarte, who is actually a swing dress-up Republican, making an allegation that Joe Biden profited from his son's foreign business dealings. Of course, that there has not been proven yet in this probe.

But, Jake, some Republicans willing to go and say, yes, he should be impeached, but several others, as you heard, not willing to say you'd to go that far, and Speaker Johnson can only afford to lose two Republican votes on any party-line vote, which shows you that dilemma that the Republicans are in -- keep this investigation going without approving the Joe Biden did anything wrong, or move forward on impeachment -- impeachment vote that ultimately could collapse -- Jake.


TAPPER: All right. Manu, thanks so much.

We asked the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, James Comer of Kentucky, for an interview. He did not respond to our request.

Let's bring in Congressman Dan Goldman from New York's 10th congressional district, a member of the House Oversight Committee.

Congressman, Democrats called as a witness Lev Parnas. He's a convicted former aide to ex-Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani. You called him to discredit this Republican effort to impeach Biden.

Here's what Parnas said in his prepared remarks, in part.


LEV PARNAS, FORMER RUDY GIULIANI ASSOCIATE: The impeachment proceedings that bring us here now are predicated on false information spread by the Kremlin. Everyone involved knew they were sharing lies. I was designated a point person in every matter they pursued.

That is how -- that is how I know with certainty that these Biden stories are untrue then and are untrue now.

Congressman Pete Sessions, then Congressman Devin Nunes, Senator Ron Johnson, and many others understood they were pushing a false narrative. The same goes for John Solomon, Sean Hannity, and media personnel, particularly with Fox News, who use this narrative to manipulate the public ahead of the 2020 elections.


TAPPER: So, Congressman, that's quite an allegation. A spokesperson for Senator Ron Johnson called the comments completely baseless. John Solomon is out there defending his reporting on social media.

I guess the bigger question is, why should Americans believed Parnas? He's quite unreliable as a witness, isn't he? REP. DAN GOLDMAN (D-NY): Well, what's interesting is, first of all, he's speaking against his own self-interest. So it's inconsistent with what he had said previously, which is always something that bolsters credibility rather than undermines it.

But what he is saying is very consistent with what every single other witness has said about the Burisma allegations and about the corruption that is alleged to have happened within it, which is that it is bogus. It is made up. It is factually incorrect.

In fact, the prosecutor general in Ukraine was not prosecuting Burisma, was not prosecuting corruption. And so his removal was bad for Burisma because the next prosecutor general came in and then did get investigate Burisma.

But what's also notable, Jake, is that what Lev Parnas said today is consistent with what the source the FBI confidential source has been charged with which is making a false statements that were planted by Russian intelligence to interfere in our election which is exactly the same thing that Parnas said he was doing back in 2019.

And the remarkable thing is the Republicans are still talking about it. At this point, they know it is Russian disinformation designed to meddle and interfere in our elections. And if they continue pushing this bogus, debunked narrative, they are conspiring with Russia to interfere in our elections on behalf of Donald Trump.

TAPPER: But do you Democrats have any proof that the individuals he named were involved knowingly in this scheme as opposed to believing what -- I mean, even Democrats have acknowledged the Burisma stuff looks horrible, not that there was a crime committed, but that Hunter had no business being on the board of Burisma.

Do you have evidence that these people were part of this conspiracy?

GOLDMAN: Which people? Sorry.

TAPPER: Devin Nunes, Sean Hannity, John Solomons, Ron Johnson, Pete Sessions, everybody that Lev Parnas named.

GOLDMAN: Well, yeah. I mean, there was clearly a link and several of them through Rudy Giuliani, were connected to a Russian intelligence agent in 2020. Ron Johnson was given a defensive briefing by the FBI to tell him that he was communicating and perhaps was the victim of a Russian intelligence operation.

There's plenty of evidence to show that they knew what they were peddling was false, including the first impeachment, including the fact that Ron Johnson himself signed a letter in support of firing Shulkin. So, now, what I'm talking about is as we go forward, any allegations by any Congress members right now that the Burisma allegations are somehow corruption is complicit with Russia today, and going forward. And Russia is trying to interfere in our election in November for Donald Trump, just like it did in 2016, just like it tried to do with this confidential source in 2020 and now as it is continuing to do.

TAPPER: In his opening remarks, Tony Bobulinski accused you and other Democrats of being liars for calling him an unreliable witness. Take a listen.


BOBULINSKI: They continue to lie directly to the American people without hesitation and remorse.


Rep. Dan Goldman and Jamie Raskin, both lawyers, and Mr. Goldman, a former prosecutor with the SDNY from New York, will continue to lie today in this hearing and then go straight to the media to tell more lies.


TAPPER: What's your response, sir?

GOLDMAN: Well, first of all, this is a witness who has literally accused everyone from six FBI agents to Cassidy Hutchinson to "The Wall Street Journal," to every single one of his associates of being liars, and he's the only one telling the truth.

But what I questioned him about today, Jake, and I thought this was very narrow and pointed, he has never testified to any direct conversations with Hunter Biden or Joe Biden about any involvement of Joe Biden, nor can he? He never actually did business with Hunter Biden. And he was removed from the deal because Hunter Biden suspected that he was trying -- he, Tony Bobulinski, was trying to get Joe Biden involved and Hunter didn't want to.

This guy has an ax to grind. He's paid by Donald Trump. His lawyers are paid by Donald Trump's campaign. His lawyer is actually Cassidy Hutchinson's first lawyer who coerced her to lie to the January 6 Committee.

It is all part of the Trump operation and he is just another vessel for it.

TAPPER: All right. Representative Dan Goldman of New York, thank you so much, sir. Appreciate it.

A new day, a new royal controversy, really. This time it is not a doctored photo, it's possible security breach involving Princess Kate. We'll have details of the investigation, next.



TAPPER: In our world lead now, new palace intrigue as questions swirled, whether someone got access to Princess Kate's medical records. A British data watchdog is assessing reports that a staff member at a London hospital tried to illegally access Catherine's private medical records during her stay for a planned abdominal surgery in January. While "The Daily Mirror" tabloid goes even further, reporting that the hospital wants to probe into allegations that Kate's confidentiality actually was breached.

CNN's Max Foster takes a look at what we know.


MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Another day, another princess headline. This one alleging medical staff tried to illegally access her records while she was there to undergo surgery at this private London clinic? The country's data watchdog now says it's assessing a breach of confidentiality reported in "The Daily Mirror". The British tabloid reported that at least one hospital staffer allegedly tried to illegally access Kate's private and medical records, while she spent 13 nights at the London clinic hospital in January after planned abdominal surgery. The mirror says the hospital informed the palace, and launched a probe into the allegations and did a statement to CNN, the U.K.'s information commissioners office said we can confirm that we've received a breach report and are assessing the information provided.

On Wednesday, the U.K.'s health minister, Maria Caulfield, warn that hospital staff could face prosecution.

MARIA CAULFIELD, U.K. MINISTER FOR MENTAL HEALTH AND WOMEN'S HEALTH STRATEGY: So any allowed to access the patient that you're caring for and their permission and there's really strict was the information commissioner would take enforcement action against trusts or primary care practices, but also as individual practitioners, your regulatory body. So for me, the NMC (ph) would take action as well. So it's pretty severe.

FOSTER: It's another blow for the princess and the palace that's been protecting her privacy fiercely during her recovery. They released minimal information which has sparked wild speculation about her true condition and whereabouts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wherever she is, I hope she's fine and well. I think that there are a lot more pressing things that people just be putting their attention towards.

FOSTER: On Tuesday, another U.K. newspaper, "The Sun", published a video taken by a member of the public showing a smiling Kate walking from a farm shop alongside her husband, Prince William. Kensington Palace has referred or questions over the hospital breach to the London Clinic.

In a statement, the CEO of the hospital, Al Russell, said: In the case of any breach, all appropriate investigatory, regulatory, and disciplinary steps will be taken. There's no place at our hospital for those who intentionally breach the trust of any of our patients or colleagues.

(END VIDEOTAPE) FOSTER: The princess of Wales has made it pretty clear that she doesn't want to share y she went into hospital in January. That underlying reason for the surgery, but she will be concerned that that information could leak because of this breach. No indication yet though that that's going to happen -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Max Foster in London, thank you so much.

From British monarchy to TV royalty, Oprah will be on CNN tonight. She'll be the guest on "KING CHARLES", fresh off her primetime special on weight-loss. Don't miss Oprah with Gayle King and Charles Barkley tonight, at 10:00 Eastern, only here on CNN.

Coming up next on the lead, the surprise resignation by the prime minister of Ireland, and the questionable reasons he is citing for stepping down.

Plus, just in, significant prison sentence for a member of the Goon Squad, a former deputy who a judge says committed the most shocking, brutal, cruel acts imaginable.



TAPPER: In our law and justice lead now, 40 years, that's the massive sentence handed down today in Jackson, Mississippi, to one of the six former law enforcement officers who are part of the so-called Goon Squad. They all pleaded guilty to torturing two Black men. Another former officer was sentenced to 17-1/2 years earlier today. The remaining two of the group of six will be sentenced tomorrow.

Prosecutors say the former law enforcement officers assaulted Eddie Parker and Michael Jenkins, including beating, teasing, and waterboarding them while they were handcuffs.

And in our world lead, an Irish goodbye, leaving some head-scratching. Earlier today, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, also known as the Taoiseach, stunned the emerald aisle, announcing he will be stepping down as prime minister. He cited, quote, personal and political, but mainly political reasons, unquote. Varadkar broke ground as the first openly gay Taoiseach and the first person from an ethnic minority background to serve that top post. He has family roots in India.

And in our health lead, the world's most expensive drug approved in the United States. It's a $4.25 million life-saving gene therapy for children who have a rare and deadly genetic disorder called metachromatic leukodystrophy or MLD. About 40 children in the U.S. are born with it each year. Most die before they turn 7. $4.25 million is the wholesale cost, most insurance companies should cover it, including state Medicaid plans.

That bit of good news seems appropriate for this International World Happiness Day. For the seventh straight year, Finland takes the top spot on the list of the world's happiest country.


Oh, yes, home to the winter northern lights and the constant summer sun.

Rankings of the happiest are based on economic growth and life expectancy, perceptions of corruption and more categories. Surveys were taken between 2021 and 2023. Denmark, Iceland, Sweden and Israel round out the top five.

The United States lead to number 23 out of the top 20 for the first time since 2012.

And those are your leads around the world.

Coming up, why CNN and other reporters were pushed away on Capitol Hill today as Senate Republicans heard from a world leader.

Plus, the win for Donald Trump today, they could derail one of the biggest cases against him one day. We're back in a moment.


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

For the first time in recent memory, American journalists and Senate staffers were not allowed in hallways outside an important meeting on Capitol Hill, not the meeting itself, but the hallways.