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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Police Capture Escaped Inmate And Accomplice; Sidelined Aides Angling To Rejoin Trump's Inner Circle; Sources: Trump Considering Marco Rubio As Possible VP; Top Generals Who Oversaw U.S. Withdrawal Slam State Department For Delaying Emergency Evacuation; Shohei Ohtani's Attorney's Accuse Ex-Interpreter Of Stealing Money; Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ), Is Interviewed About Embattled Sen. Bob Menendez Won't Run In Democratic Primary But Leaves Open Running As An Independent. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 21, 2024 - 17:00   ET



NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As a reminder, this all started Wednesday morning at around 02:00 a.m. That's when the person on the left on your screen that's the alleged accomplice helped the escaped inmate. That's the person on the right there by apparently shooting at the emergency room entrance of the hospital where this inmate was being treated. And they escaped in a gray Honda.

The Idaho State Police during this press conference say that they are investigating two homicides at separate locations in neighboring counties, possibly related to this investigation, adult males. To reiterate, this was not an accident. This was a deliberate act, they say, this escape from the hospital. So the new information, besides the fact that they've caught these two people now is that they are investigating these two homicides that are possibly related. We do know that they were captured in the Twin Falls area in Idaho that is southeast of Boise, about 120 miles south east. So they have been on the run since about 02:00 a.m. Wednesday morning.

And just to go over how this even happened to begin with, the Boise police say or the Department of Corrections rather say that Skylar Meade, that's the person you're seeing on the right side of the screen, he was serving time since 2016. He was in a very secure part of the prison system. And we need to confirm exactly which location, but he had apparently injured himself they say which required medical attention and that's why they transferred him to the hospital at around -- between 09:00 and 10:00 pm Tuesday night. And he was treated and then discharged at 02:00 am approximately. That's when this other person, they say, shot two corrections officers.

They will recover from their injuries we're told. And when Boise police responded to that they accidentally shot a third corrections officer who thankfully will also recover from his injuries, Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: So, Natasha, officials are speaking still right now about this capture --

CHEN: Yes.

TAPPER: -- in Boise, Idaho. Let's take a listen. Let's listen in.

LT. COL. SHELDON KELLEY, IDAHO STATE POLICE: It's too soon to speculate on that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're one of those homicides in Orofino?

KELLEY: I didn't -- they were both in, one, we don't know where it occurred. But they were both located in rural Idaho. So, not inside city limits.


KELLEY: Again, I'm not going to get into the details of the homicide. One, I'm not there. Our guys are still on scene doing that job and so I don't want to get it wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where do you believe the men been hiding?

KELLEY: To Twin Falls County. I'm not -- I'm not trying to be smart. All we know is that's where they ended up and that's where we caught them. Again, the investigation is ongoing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It doesn't seem thought that they wanted to get to these two people that they killed specifically?

KELLEY: The motive and why they did what they did, I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Confirm whether Umphenour was member Aryan Knights?

KELLEY: I believe the director confirm that, yes. Is that accurate?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What role did the FBI play in all this?

KELLEY: They assisted us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And also in terms of the Aryan Knights, anything being done in the prison to address that game? Given that, you know --

KELLEY: I will happily turn this over to the director.

TEWALT: Yes, the Aryan Knights are one of multiple security threat groups that we monitor and try to interrupt their activities. You know, I think that that's a daily occurrence within the Department of Correction is trying to -- trying to help -- trying to mitigate the damage that gangs can do, primarily when that criminal activity can extend beyond our secure perimeters and wind up back out in our communities. But in terms of -- in terms of the actions of Skylar Meade and Nicolas Umphenour, you know, their gang involvement doesn't necessarily indicate that this was a some sort of gang sanctioned event. In fact, we have -- I think that's -- you know, I'll leave it at that right now. But independent of their actions, the Department of Corrections and our team of investigators and staff work hard every day to try to disrupt any sort of organized criminal activity that happens within our facilities.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To clarify, where are they being held and what's next for (inaudible)?

KELLEY: They were arrested in Twin Falls County so they will start there. And I'm sure that we take into the Twin Falls County jail to begin with from there as the investigation proceeds and we develop more information, they will probably -- there's a good chance that we prosecution in several different locations.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whose car was the Honda Civic or Honda Accord that you all mentioned? Is it Umphenour's or was it stolen?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was reported stolen?

KELLEY: And I think we're going to cut it off at that point.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One more last question, how do you -- how did you come to the conclusion that you associated two extra homicides with this case?

KELLEY: By information that we developed on the scenes of the homicide, and it can't go much further than that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the homicide supposed today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the last 24 hours.

KELLEY: In the last 24 hours, and that's truly all. Thank you, folks.

TAPPER: All right. Law enforcement authorities in Boise, Idaho, giving an update on the manhunt that has successfully resulted in the apprehension of these two individuals. Natasha Chen, your response to what you just heard.

CHEN: Yes, this is very concerning, obviously, how this could have been orchestrated and conducted and here we are with three corrections officers injured. Thankfully, they are going to recover from those injuries. But a very serious look at how this could have happened. I think the authorities there did say before you took that live, that the two people that you're seeing on the screen there both spent time at the prison and overlapped for a brief period of time. So, that's potentially how they're connected.

They also in previous press conferences yesterday had noted the tattoos, Skylar Meade had a one and an 11. One stands for the first letter of the alphabet, A, 11 for K, that's the 11th letter, Aryan Knights, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Natasha Chen, thank you so much.

Joining us now to discuss Rob D'Amico, the former deputy operations chief of the FBI's hostage rescue team. So, thank you so much for joining us.

Meade is a documented gang member with ties to the Aryan Knights. We just heard gangs like that pose a daily threat to law enforcement around the country. What can you tell us about this group in general? And what role do you think members may have played in this escape plot?

ROB D'AMICO, RETIRED FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT: Well, it's an act of prison gang. And as soon as you get into the prisons, you have all different kinds of gangs in there based on, you know, Hispanic gangs, you have black gangs, you have white gangs, and some people join it just for protection. They're not really hardcore gang members, they join it in order to protect themselves from the other gangs. But then you have like these guys, hardcore, they met in there, and I'm sure they plan -- started planning it in there. And when one got out, he continued probably with his group.

I'm surprised they actually got caught so quick, but it was a violent encounter. I thought they would have had a better means to go to ground and get -- go dark for a while. But that didn't happen.

TAPPER: Why do you think that? Why did you suspect that they would have had a more means just because the -- that gang, that white supremacist gang in Idaho has a lot of connections and ties to authorities even?

D'AMICO: They do. And I believe, you know, they train, there's lots of military camps up there where they train and they plan things. You know, they pick this time for their choosing. You would have thought they had things laid out a bit different that they could, again, go dark get out from, you know, society to a point. But I did suspect that if they came across someone and turned violent, then that's when they would probably be captured, because that's where police would go to. I think if they just got out and just got away from everyone, then police would have a hard time understanding where they're at. But that violent encounter point in one direction, and then all the resources went to that area.

TAPPER: The director of the Idaho Department of Corrections called this incident unprecedented and unthinkable. How can authorities prevent something like this from ever happening again? Because obviously, this could have resulted -- I mean, it's a horrible story, no matter what, but it could have been even worse.

D'AMICO: Yes, it is one of the more daring, bold, it reminds me of when they tried to land a helicopter down in Miami to bring a cartel guy out. It's so bold and doing a shootout at a hospital. I think doing it in the middle of the night with a guard force, you know, that probably wasn't understanding that one guy had gotten -- he escaped from a juvenile detention center before and some of the things going on. It's one of those complacency kills to a point where you just think something's happening. You go through the motions, and you don't understand that people have planned that in the -- during the time.

So I think they're going to go back and start looking at how did they communicate? Did they sneak cell phones in? And you can use with some technology that my company uses to locate past performance of phones and be able to associate where they were. You see them in prisons where they're not supposed to be. And then they may have some covert means of communications in books in the library and such that this was planned out.


But now that they know what happened, they'll go back and start looking at that stuff really hard to understand how it was planned. And I think anytime something like this happens, and you go back, and people are more suspect of it, then when they're doing things that they'll understand it. There is no complacency when you're dealing with these folks.

TAPPER: Yes. Rob D'Amico, thank you so much for your time and expertise.

Coming up, the breaking news as we just mentioned, an escaped inmate in Idaho captured along with his accomplice who is suspected of shooting two law enforcement officers. Also ahead on THE LEAD, the long roster of people once booted out of team Trump now making their way back in. A lot of names you're going to remember. We're back with that story next.



TAPPER: In our 2024 lead, the old Trump band seems to be getting back together when sidelined or fired former campaign aides of Donald Trump are rejoining the inner circle now that Trump is officially the Republican nominee. Well, I guess it's not official, but he's going to be the nominee. Paul Manafort, Trump's former 2016 campaign chairman, who, as you may remember, spent two years in prison for bank and tax fraud before Trump pardoned him, Manafort is now up for a job working with Republican national convention this summer. Not to be outdone, Corey Lewandowski also being considered for a top job at the convention. Lewandowski was fired as Trump's first campaign manager in 2016.

He was also forced out of a Trump Super PAC after the wife of a donor accused him of making unwanted sexual advances, he denies that. And then there are the former Trump whispers, shall we call them, who are back as some of Trumps biggest defenders. That would include Republican operative Roger Stone who was indicted by Special Counsel Robert Muller, convicted of obstructing a congressional investigation into Trump's Russia ties. He was pardoned by Trump. Steve Bannon, who had pleaded not guilty to charges he defrauded donors in a We Build the Wall online fundraising campaign, he also pardoned by Trump -- by -- pardoned by Trump.

And Michael Flynn, Trump's short lived former national security adviser was charged with lying to the FBI who was, everybody, pardoned by Trump. Without Trump's intervention, it is possible of course, that Manafort, Stone, Bannon and Flynn could have spent this election cycle serving time. My panel is back this hour to discuss. And, Alex, you also have some similar reporting about former Trump aides who have been cast out and now coming back into Trump's inner circle.

ALEX THOMPSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, AXIOS: Yes, and I can tell you, me and my colleagues, Sophia Cai, reported that some Trump aides refer to many of these people as, quote unquote, the "crazies." And essentially, you know, this is the most professional operation, campaign operation that Donald Trump has ever had. Going back 2016 was basically just him doing the rallies with Corey Lewandowski. 2020 was this big bloated operation. This has been a small, insular, largely at least drama free.

Well, at least it hasn't leaked out, drama free operation. But the "crazies," quote, unquote, had been circling the entire time. We've been told basically the Thanksgiving weekend of 2022 that was when Kanye and white nationalist Nick Fuentes dine with Donald Trump, the campaign afterward was like, how did this happen? And essentially, they decided someone always had to be there just in case one of the crazies made their way in. And they managed to keep the crazies largely out this entire time.

But now that he is the presumptive nominee, that everyone is descending, Roger Stone was at Mar-a-Lago, you're seeing all these stories about the -- you know, Paul Manafort and Corey Lewandowski who, by the way, don't like each other, maybe going on the RNC together. And it's just this very dynamic fluid situation now that he is the nominee. And can this, you know, the Chris LaCivita, Susie Wiles, who've been leading the campaign, can they keep them out? We don't know.

TAPPER: And just to be clear, you're not the one calling them the crazies. It's the campaign professionals calling them --


TAPPER: -- the crazies. I just want to make sure.

Alice, your response.

ALICE STEWART, FORMER TED CRUZ COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I don't know if I would use that term crazy. Colorful might be one term. But the one thing they all have in common --

TAPPER: But somewhere between the two, right?

STEWART: Yes, exactly. The common thread with all of these people, they are loyal to Donald Trump --


STEWART: -- to a fault. And despite all of the issues surrounding them personally, they would not only go to bat for him, they would go to the mat for him and they would certainly go to jail for him and that is why they are coming back into the fold. And that is what Donald Trump is looking at. And look, you have to give them credit they did when they were on the winning team in 2016. So they have that going for him.

But here's the thing, Donald Trump has also surrounded himself, to Alex's point, right now with a great team. Susie Wiiles is tremendous, Chris LaCivita is tremendous. And the fact, they were able to put Donald Trump under such message discipline to get through this primary. That says a lot for them. I have a lot of faith in the fact that Susie and Chris are the grownups in the room and all of the collateral damage will get under their fold.

But look, the reality people across America don't care about the palace intrigue. They don't care about who's surrounded with Donald Trump, they care about the policies that he is putting forth. They're concerned about the economy, immigration and foreign policy. And this palace intrigue doesn't move the needle.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRAT STRATEGIST: Susie and Chris are the adults in the room. They took a guy who was disgraced, who Mitch McConnell was attacking on the floor of the Senate, Kevin McCarthy was attacking in the floor of the House, who was 20 or 30 points behind Ron DeSantis. I mean, Trump was through, and these two, LaCivita and Wiles, took him into the dominant position where he is now the certain Republican nominee. And how does Trump repay that loyalty, right, by crashing a clown car into the broom where the adults are and letting all these bozos fall out. I mean if the voters don't care, but as a professional, I have to say I'm -- I guess as a Democrat, I'm happy that he's bringing all these eccentrics back in.

But just as a professional like these people got him where he is, that LaCivita and Susie Wiles, and you bring all these other people in it can only undermine the people who have gotten Trump to the point of the nomination.


TAPPER: And, Alex, we also have been reporting the Florida Senator Marco Rubio is being seriously considered as a potential vice presidential pick for Donald Trump. The night -- the name might come as a surprise for some of you watching. You might remember if you follow the 2016 campaign how Trump called him Little Marco on the campaign trail. Let's take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I call him little mark a Little Marco, Little Marco. Hello. He said I had small hands.

Little Marco would say, I think he's gone. I think he's gone. They hate him in Florida. I want to tell you in Florida, he doesn't show up to vote.

So when Little Marco spews his crap about the size of my hands, which are big, though I looked at him, I said, Marco.


TAPPER: Wow, that thing about the hands really bothered him. Anyway, last month, I asked Marco Rubio, Senator Rubio about some of the comments Donald Trump generally made on the 2016 campaign trail that Rubio condemned at the time. And he basically dismissed what happened in 2016 as that's just American politics. It's the campaign trail, no big deal. Take a listen.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): This sort of nastiness, you know, Trump gives us got as good as he gets, we know that. It's just part of these campaigns cycles. Unfortunately, people don't like it, they're turned off by whatever it may be. But at the end of the day, you know, I think one of the things I'm not going to do any longer is like, respond to every comment Donald Trump makes and say. Do you still support him? I do.


TAPPER: That's going to be tougher if he's the vice presidential nominee.

STEWART: Exactly. Look, the reality is for many Republicans, rational Republicans, this year and in years past, Donald Trump was not the first pick in the primary of the second, third, fourth, or fifth. But right now, we're in a general election campaign, and this binary choice between Trump and Biden, and Republicans say I would much rather have the policies of Donald Trump than with Joe Biden. And I think I asked someone in Rubio world about this VP pick, and they said, well, did you see the interview with Jake Tapper? And the things that he said with you, I think, indicate he's keeping his cards close to the vest.

He's making sure he doesn't get too far out there. But he I think, has been strategic throughout this entire process, assuming Trump would be the nominee. He did not endorse his home state governor, Ron DeSantis.

TAPPER: Ron DeSantis. Yes.

STEWART: He didn't support his best friend in the Senate, Tim Scott. And he didn't support Nikki Haley, who helped him so much in 2016.


STEWART: And I think he was playing long ball.

TAPPER: It does seem to suggest, and who knows if he actually picks a serious person like Marco Rubio, but it does seem to suggest maybe the adults are in charge of that process also. And it's, you know, him not -- Trump not picking Marjorie Taylor Greene, for example.

THOMPSON: Yes, I mean, or Kari Lake, which was out there before. And I also -- the thing is, I think we're in for a long process here along, you know, the longest --

TAPPER: He loves the audition.

THOMPSON: Yes. TAPPER: Yes, yes.

THOMPSON: The longest season of "The Golden Bachelor" ever, which is basically he is going to throw out all these names, going to see how people react. He's going to see what is done. I also do think he had interview with you, the other clip that I remember very distinctly was, you know, he said, you know, Donald Trump -- it was -- because it was about -- a question about NATO, and he's like, Donald Trump doesn't talk like a member of the Council of Foreign Relations, you know, and he helped translate some of more Trump's crass remarks to sort of that more establishment part of the Republican Party that really rally behind him in 2016.

TAPPER: Yes. Paul, what do think?

BEGALA: Never happened. You're not picking him or her. It's -- by the way, he wants someone shorter. We know that, seriously. But no, because Rubio's thinks for himself too often.

It's never going to happen. He's going to pick a handheld mirror that's going to be his running mate.

TAPPER: All right, thanks to one and all.

We're just learning of a major incident involving migrants rushing a portion of the border, and there is video of it, you're going to want to see. We'll bring that to you next.



TAPPER: We're just getting some new video of migrants rushing a portion of the U.S. border fence in El Paso, Texas. Let's go right to CNN's Ed Lavandera to tell us more. He's at the scene where this happened.

Ed, give us some context of the video as we watch it.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, yes, as you watch this video, this happened just a few hours ago here on the eastern side of El Paso. And you can see behind me the large border wall and beyond it several 100 more yards before you get to the Rio Grande. And beyond that what you really can't really see from his vantage point is another long line of channeling fence and razor wire that has been put in place by Texas National Guard soldiers over the last several months. And what happened several hours ago is that we were told by CBP officials that there were a number of several 100 migrants that essentially overwhelmed the number of Texas National Guard soldiers that were there.

We're also told that, and we witnessed this when we when we arrived here at the scene, all of these migrants were then -- could take it into Border Patrol custody. And they are right now in the process of being processed by border patrol. They were put on buses. What we saw is mostly a massive group of young men, also women and children part of this group as well. And all of this, you know, we should be very clear is we're not exactly sure what instigated this or what sparked this particular tension to arise.

At this moment, we were told by border patrol officials here in this region that there hasn't been any kind of sign of rising tensions between migrants and border patrol officials and National Guard soldiers over the last few days leading up to this. So the circumstances of what led to it and what sparked all of this is unclear at this moment. Jake.

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

Turning to our world lead, a branch of the terrorist group ISIS based in Afghanistan, known as ISIS-K is not only willing but capable of attacking the United States now. It could do so in as few as six months with no warning. That assessment today from a top U.S. general. This after Tuesday's hearing with two now retired senior generals who were in command during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Generals Milley and Mackenzie spoke at length that day about the strategic failures leading up to and during what they saw as a rushed withdrawal operation.

Joining us now to discuss Lieutenant Colonel Scott Mann, a retired Green Berets, who was deployed in Afghanistan. He wrote the book "Operation Pineapple Express," which details the true story of a group of Green Berets who saved the former comrade as well as 500 others Afghans targeted by the Taliban during the chaotic U.S. withdraw. Lieutenant Colonel, first of all, thank you so much for your service and for what you did to help people get out of Afghanistan.

General Milley and McKenzie directly blamed the State Department for delaying the noncombatant evacuation operation for all the remaining U.S. citizens in Afghanistan, making it difficult to extricate them after Kabul fell to the Taliban. Take a listen.


GEN. KENNETH MCKENZIE, JR. (RET.), FORMER COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: I was concerned by the middle of July. Having a plan is one thing, preparing the plan, vetting the plan, coordinating the plan with the people that are going to actually carry you out the Department of Defense. That's another set of tasks completely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that was too little too late.

MCKENZIE: Was my judgment that it was far too little far too late.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was that your assessment General Milley?

GEN. MARK MILLEY (RET.), FORMER JOINT CHIEF CHAIRMAN: It was and I would broaden it a little bit by saying it was a pretty consistent assessment by me and other members of the uniformed military up to and including the secretary.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: So the U.S. State Department responded on Wednesday saying that a publicly announced evacuation plan would have weakened the position of the then Afghan government potentially signaling a quote, lack of faith. What's your take?

LT. COL. SCOTT MANN (RET.), RETIRED GREEN BERET: Well, Jake, thanks for having me on. You know, you've always been someone that's been a voice for the veteran community. You and I were at the Press Club on the anniversary of the explosion this past year when you and Sean Ryan talk to the gold star families of the 13 who fell. You talk to members of Operation Allies Refuge who were at Abbey Gate. And what I will tell you man, as I'm traveling the country, and I'm talking to veterans, they are really, really upset and feel a sense of betrayal by the way this went down.

And yes, the State Department was the proponent for it. They dropped the ball, they failed the plan. But I also have to say and I think I'm speaking for a lot of veterans that when I watched that testimony, these two general officers who both said they knew this was coming, they knew this was going to happen.

The question that so many veterans have on their minds is why did a flag officer not throw his or her stars on the table and take a stand against this particularly seeing the way that ISIS-K and al-Qaeda are now reemerging in a place where 9/11 originated from? It just makes no sense to me.

TAPPER: Former secretary of defense, Mark Esper, told me yesterday that one of his main takeaways from the Tuesday hearing was the clear warning to President Biden that he should maintain a small troop presence in Afghanistan to avoid what we're talking about here with ISIS-K. Take a listen.


MILLEY: To maintain a minimum force of 2,500 troops on the ground, mostly Special Forces with allied troops and contractors in order to sustain the Afghan National Security Forces and its government until the diplomatic conditions of the Doha Agreement were met. Without the support, it was my view at the time that it was only a matter of when not if the Afghan government would collapse and the Taliban would take control.


TAPPER: So Esper found that surprising. That was Milley you heard there in that clip, obviously. Right after the withdrawal, President Biden told "ABC News" that his military advisors never recommended that. But it seems pretty well documented at this point that people like General Milley and others had told him to keep a small Special Forces operation in Bagram.

MANN: Yes, I don't think there's any doubt that senior military officers made it very clear. And I've heard this in other circles as well, in my interviews, and in writing the book that those warnings were indeed put on the table. Again, but I just don't think that any of our senior institutional leaders that were involved in this should get a pass on this. I mean, there needs to be a level of accountability, in the sense that if you know that terror organizations like al-Qaeda are going to reconstitute as a result of this and the entire nation is going to collapse. And in the aftermath of that, you're going to see a resurgence of al-Qaeda and ISIS on a level that we haven't seen since 9/11.

The moral injury that that inflicts, first of all, on our veteran population, but also the national security risk that is posed from that is unprecedented. I mean, we have eight new al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan right now to include one in the Panjshir Valley, which is unprecedented. And the light -- the dashboard is blinking red, Jake, and it just -- it was straight. It seemed like to me kind of a sloughing off of responsibility once again, and the veteran population just shaking their heads as they watch it.

TAPPER: That moral hazard is really important and it's something that I think a lot of people don't understand necessarily if you could just elaborate on that. My understanding is that from, you know, talking to a lot of veterans is they wonder what the hell was that all for, if things are just now back in the hands of the Taliban, the Afghan allies that worked with us are not being given, you know, honored with the promises we made them. What did my buddies give their lives for? What -- please elaborate.


MANN: Yes, 100 percent. I mean, General Milley talked about how for 20 years, American fighting forces stood their ground and kept the United States safe. And that's absolutely true, that did happen. And we also spent our blood and treasure to build capacity so that the Afghans could stand on their own. But it was only 20-year fledgling army. It was going to take longer than that to do that.

And nobody knows that better than a senior flag officer, a general or admiral who has been around this. And then to just walk away from our allies, 30,000 commandos, for example, who were left to be executed and kill videos that are being sent over to our veterans right now that are still on the phone with them, Jake. I mean we've got veteran groups like Moral Compass, that haven't hung up the phone since this happened. It's like the world's longest 9/11 call.

And the moral injury, the violation of what one knows to be right, by the leaders you trust, it underpins the post-traumatic stress, the survivor's guilt, and it's killing our veterans right now at a rate much higher than 22 a day and we need our leaders to recognize this and get involved.

TAPPER: Retired Lieutenant Colonel Scott Mann, thank you so much. Please come back soon. We'll talk to you more.

Coming up, a fever pitch of questions as one of the biggest stars in pro baseball finds himself at the center of a scandal surrounding sports betting, an investigative reporter who has been talking to some of the key names in this story is going to join us next.



TAPPER: In our Sports Lead, accusations of illegal sports betting and stealing millions from Shohei Ohtani, one of professional baseball's biggest stars. ESPN reports that the number of allegedly stolen is $4.5 million. Born and raised in Japan, the pitcher and power hitter recently signed with the Dodgers for the biggest contract in baseball history, 10 years, $700 million. So who allegedly stole from him? Well, according to the Los Angeles Times, Ohtani's attorneys claim it was Ippei Mizuhara, Ohtani's longtime friend and interpreter who the Dodgers just fired yesterday.

But wait, here's a curveball before the accusation, ESPN says they interviewed the interpreter about his gambling debts and that's where they say he claimed Ohtani knew about his gambling problem and had agreed to pay his debts and did so willingly through a wire transfer. And according to ESPN Ohtani's spokesperson initially told ESPN that Ohtani was covering his longtime friend's debt.

Then a few hours later, the narrative changed. Then Ohtani's attorneys started accusing Mizuhara of stealing from Ohtani, talking about a changeup. Mizuhara then tells ESPN he lied. And then Ohtani never knew about his debts and did not make any payments. What?

I want to bring in someone deeply sourced on the story and you also talked with Ohtani's former interpreter, ESPN investigative reporter Tisha Thompson. Tisha, welcome to THE LEAD. Great to have you. This is a really wild and messy scandal. What unresolved questions stand out to you the most?

TISHA THOMPSON, INVESTIGATIVE & ENTERPRISE REPORTER, ESPN: The conversations that were had with Ohtani after the Dodgers played their season opener in South Korea after I had interviewed Mizuhara in a 90- minute interview a few hours before that game. There was a -- there was a meeting in the Dodgers locker room right after the game. There was a series of comments that were made. The owner said there was a story coming. Mizuhara got up and apologized for gambling.

And then according to two sources close to a Chinese camp who have told ESPN Ohtani knows enough English to start to wonder what was being said because an official with the Dodgers got up and said to the team that Ohtani had paid the bets based on what Mizuhara had been saying to us in the interview that we had done with him. At the same time, Ohtani's spokesperson was also checking out what Mizuhara had said because we're very close to publishing, and that's when that statement comes is that there's been massive theft and there was so much movement so quickly, even within just a couple of hours, Mizuhara was fired.

So it moves very, very rapidly. There was a big 180 on what had happened. And then I myself call Mizuhara to try to figure out what's going on because we're getting one. You know, we're getting told one thing by Ohtoni's spokesperson. But I wanted to hear from Mizuhara what happened. And he didn't tell me much. But when I said, did you lie to me in the interview? He said, yes. And then I, through a series of questions and answers, he said to me, essentially that Ohtani had never known about the gaming debts. And that Ohtani had not made the wire transfers. But here's the thing, Jake, this is what's I think really important.

TAPPER: It's so weird.

THOMPSON: Ohtani's name is on the wire transfers.

TAPPER: Right.

THOMPSON: I've seen two of them. There's a series of them that were made for at least $4.5 million is what multiple sources are telling us. And Mizuhara wouldn't give me that number but we think it's at least 4.5 And we have confirmed Ohtani's name is on those wire transfers.

TAPPER: So here's the thing, Mizuhara told you that Ohtani knew about his gambling problem. And then he came back to you and said, I was lying to you, which one of those are you inclined to believe, statement one were he says Ohtani knows about my debt?

THOMPSON: I'm not I'm not going to tell. No, I'm not going to tell anyone what I'm going to believe. It's not my job to speculate. My job is to try to collect facts and information.


THOMPSON: And get accounts from the folks. And what I do know, what I can tell you is Ohtani's name is on the bank transfers. What we do not know at this moment is, who sent the bank transfers in Ohtani's name.


TAPPER: So it's possible that Mizuhara sent the bank or someone else sent the bank transfers in Ohtani's name, that's possible.

THOMPSON: What we know is that Ohtani's attorneys have referred according to their statement are referring the matter to authorities. What we are trying to figure out right now is, which authorities? We're trying to get that information including, have you filed a police report?

TAPPER: Right.

THOMPSON: We did have a source close to Ohtani say to us, it's complicated in part because so much of the Dodgers organization, including Ohtani's agent, folks that, you know, the owner of the team, but also Ohtani and Mizuhara themselves are all in South Korea right now, which has a huge time difference. And that's currently what I -- what I'm being told.

TAPPER: So last, I guess here's the question I have. If Ohtani, if the first story ends up being the true one, not this one about the money being stolen from Ohtani, and Ohtani knew nothing, if the first story ends up being the accurate one, Ohtani is trying to help his friend who has gambling debts, and gives him or lends him the money. Is there something illegal with that like, is there something wrong with that, I mean, as long as Ohtani didn't know about the bets?

THOMPSON: I think you need to talk to legal experts about that. But I will tell you, there are lots of legal implications happening right now. There's the potential for a criminal investigation to what Ohtani's lawyers have called massive theft. We started this whole story in part because there's a federal investigation going on, according to multiple sources, into a bookmaking operation that Mizuhara admits to have been placing bets with. And so these wire transfers are connected to what we have been told by multiple sources is a federal investigation of bookmaking.

TAPPER: All right, it's going to be a great movie someday, I'll book before that. Tisha Thompson perhaps you'll write it, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, a gang notorious for brutal acts across the U.S., one of its leaders who was on the FBI's most wanted list has now been captured while the FBI may have waited to tell the world about the arrest for a few weeks, that's next.



TAPPER: In our Law and Justice Lead today, a high ranking MS-13 gang leader on the FBI's most wanted list is in U.S. custody, finally, after evading arrest for years. Freddy Ivan Jandres-Parada of El Salvador faces several terrorism charges for his alleged role with MS- 13 in the U.S. and in Mexico and in El Salvador. Let's bring in CNN chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst, John Miller. John, what more do we know about this MS-13 gang leader and how was he was arrested?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, we know that Parada, whose nickname was Lucky De Park View is a significant member of MS-13. Now remember, Jake, as you know, MS-13 is a Los Angeles-based street gang that then was exported back to El Salvador, spread to Honduras, but operates in multiple U.S. states. And he was basically on their board of directors. He was arrested by the FBI in San Diego near the Mexican border. And they're not saying a lot about how that came together, except that he's in custody, and he's going to be coming back to New York to face trial.

TAPPER: He was arrested weeks ago, but we only are now -- just now hearing about this arrest. Why? I mean, he's on the FBI's most wanted list for the last four years. You'd think they would trump at this?

MILLER: Well, that's where the sensitivities are here, Jake. And it's really very interesting, because you have the tensions between U.S. prosecutors trying to deal with some of the top people in MS-13, actually using charges that they would use with terrorist groups, charging them with material support of terrorism, Narco terrorism, because of their multinational capabilities, and the fact that they put out hits on government officials and have access to bombs, grenades, guns, rocket launchers. So it's an unusual case.

But there's also a tension with El Salvador, where some of these people have been in prison there and then been let go, despite the fact that the U.S. has said, as soon as their sentence there is over, please hand them over. And in a couple of those cases, arrangements have been made. And we're not exactly sure how at this stage of our reporting, to get them captured in other countries, Mexico would be one of them. So we don't know if that's what happened here today.

We just know that they were probably not going to announce this until he showed up back in New York for his arraignment. And they're keeping it secret, because they're probably trying to preserve those arrangements to make sure that they can get more of them.

TAPPER: So MS-13 has been around for decades committing some really horrible crimes. How does this group work? How do they manage to operate in so many different countries, including the U.S. and they really seem to be thriving, honestly?

MILLER: Well, they are and they work very much the way a drug cartel or a mafia family would work in that they have leadership. This suspect, Parada, was on the, what they call the Ranfla Nacional, which is their board of directors. Now their board of directors sends messages down to regional leaders who were the head of Clicks in cities across America, and they set the rules and they have procedures like what they call opening the valve when they tell the leaders of Clicks, if you think there's witnesses or cases coming up, or people who may testify, or members who were disloyal, you know, now you can go kill them.

And then they have closing the valve when they say the heat is getting too tight. We're going to reduce that level of violence. But it's highly organized, highly profitable and highly violent as a group.


TAPPER: All right, John Miller, thank you so much. We'll be right back.


TAPPER: We have some breaking news for you now. Embattled Senator Bob Menendez Democrat of New Jersey who faces charges and an alleged bribery scheme says he is not going to run for reelection in the New Jersey Democratic primary in June. Instead, Senator Menendez says he will run as an Independent Democrat in the general election should he be exonerated, I believe. Let's bring in Democratic Congressman Andy Kim, who is running to replace Menendez. Congressman, what is your reaction to this news from Senator Menendez?

REP. ANDY KIM (D-NJ), SENATE CANDIDATE: Well, I think it's a very irresponsible move. I mean, the Senate majority right now is razor thin. There's so much on the line. Republicans, we know what they're going to try to do in pushing, you know, national abortion bans and other policies, if they get control of the Senate. And to run as an independent, that will be something that will make it even harder for Democrats to be able to secure this seat here in New Jersey. So it's very alarming and something that I find very irresponsible and dangerous.

TAPPER: So you're worried that if he runs as an independent, ultimately that that could assuming you become the nominee, that that could hurt your support, that maybe some Democrats will support him, vote independent, and the Republican could squeak by whoever that is?

KIM: Well, look, right now I've learned to not take anything for granted in our politics these days. But first of all, you know, I think it's, you know, a very dangerous trail of what the Democratic Party stands for. But beyond that, yes, I mean, I think it can make things vulnerable. Now, that being said, you know, I'm a Democrat that won a district Trump won twice. I'm a Democrat, that's been able to win races. And I'm actually the only candidate running for Senate right now for the Democrats that hasn't won an election before.

So you know, I feel like the Democrats have to put forward their very strongest candidate for the general election. And I hope that I can be that nominee that can win regardless of whether or not Menendez is on the ballot or not.

TAPPER: He -- the exact sentence he's got quote he made was, I will not file for the Democratic primary this June. I'm hopeful my exoneration will take place this summer and allow me to pursue my candidacy as an Independent Democrat in the general election. So he's leaving the door open, if he's exonerated, which, who knows if that's going to happen. Do you think he's doing this because if he runs before the trial, or whatever happens, he's clearly going to lose to either you or another candidate?

KIM: Look, I think that, you know, that this could very well be just a legal tactic, where, you know, he wants to go -- he's going to be going into the trial in May. So this could be a situation where he wants to not necessarily go into the trial, being a lame duck senator who's not running for reelection, that could be a legal tactic, but if it is, you know, this is again, just that same situation of putting personal benefit ahead of what's right for the country. And I just find that to be just so -- that is the case I think that would be, you know, so out of touch with what people want right now, you're tired of this situation where people are putting their own personal benefit ahead of what's right for the nation.


TAPPER: Democratic Congressman Andy Kim of New Jersey, congratulations on all the endorsements you've gotten from the County Democratic parties. And the like, will check in with you again. Thank you so much.

KIM: Thank you.

TAPPER: You can follow me on Twitter and social media, everywhere. If you ever miss an episode of THE LEAD, you can listen to the show once you get your podcasts. The news continues now.