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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Catherine, Princess Of Wales, Reveals Cancer Diagnoses; Sources: U.S. Warned Russia ISIS-K Was Determined To Attack; New NYT Reporting On Why Trump Indictment Took So Long; Rep. Greene Files Surprise Motion To Oust Speaker Johnson; ISIS Claims Responsibility For Concert Hall Attack In Russia. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 22, 2024 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Following this afternoon, Catherine, the Princess of Wales, announcing that she has cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy. Princess Kate says the cancer was found after major abdominal surgery in January the palace says King Charles, who is also undergoing chemotherapy right now is, quote, "So proud of Catherine for her courage in sharing her cancer diagnosis." Though neither the king who has cancer as well or Princess Kate have revealed what kinds of cancer they have.

Prince Harry and Meghan released a statement this afternoon saying, quote, "We wish health and healing for Kate and the family and hope they are able to do so privately and in peace," unquote. Catherine's brother, James, posted this photo of him and Kate as children on Instagram with the caption, quote, "Over the years we have climbed many mountains together. As a family, we will climb this one with you too," unquote. U.S. First Lady Jill Biden, shared Catherine's video message with a note, "You are brave and we love you."

CNN's Richard Quest starts off our coverage on the princess's cancer diagnosis.


CATHERINE, PRINCESS OF WALES: It has been an incredibly tough couple of months for our entire family.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice-over): After weeks of speculation, the Princess of Wales dispelled the rumors and gave us the facts.

CATHERINE: In January, I underwent major abdominal surgery in London. And at the time, it was thought that my condition was non-cancerous. The surgery was successful. However, tests after the operation on cancer had been present. My medical team therefore advised that I should undergo a course of preventative chemotherapy, and I'm now in the early stages of that treatment.

QUEST (voice-over): Suddenly so clear why Kate's recovery after leaving the London Clinic has taken so long and why she'd avoided the public eye. CATHERINE: This of course came as a huge shock. And William and I have been doing everything we can to process and manage this privately for the sake of our young family.

QUEST (voice-over): The diagnosis is still visibly raw, but CNN understands the princess is and has been in good spirits. Kate and Prince William are focusing on how to explain the diagnosis to their young children. The three last scene with their mother in the now infamous and doctored Mother's Day photo. The many edits fueling the rumors about the princess's health, that all seems irrelevant now.

With King Charles also recovering from cancer, the princess's PR nightmare came at a delicate time for the Royal Family. It left William and Queen Camilla to hold the fort. Now as she heals, Princess Catherine is asking for privacy and time.

CATHERINE: My work has always bought me a deep sense of joy. And I look forward to being back when I'm able. But for now I must focus on making a full recovery.

QUEST (voice-over): Britain has seemingly rallied behind its princess. Prince Charles saying he was proud, praising Kate's courage. And the British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, wishing her a speedy recovery, promising the love and support of the entire country.

CATHERINE: I am well, I'm getting stronger every day by focusing on the things that will help me heal in my mind, body and spirits.

QUEST (voice-over): And now the Princess of Wales hopes to be left alone to focus on her family and her recovery.


QUEST (on camera): And that's going to be the tough part in a sense for the media, how to ensure that she does get that space check. How to make sure that there's the opportunity for peace, quiet, and just to recover. But at the same time, the demand will be so huge for pictures, for comments from any tidbit of information. Here in the U.K., it won't be shown, I'm pretty certain about that. But international paparazzi, who will go to extreme lengths to get that photograph or that information, that's a different matter. The real test is about to begin.

TAPPER: So, Richard, there's been so much interest in what's going on with Princess Kate and now in how she's doing. How is Fleet Street and the rest of the British media covering the story?

QUEST: Wall to wall, upside down, inside out, squeeze it any way you like. But what I think is going to happen now is that at least on the surface, there will be a complete break. You're not going to get this intensity, she will be given the space. What worries is the -- those photographers who will follow and try and get information. Those journalists such as they, if you want to call them that, or those other media that don't follow the rules.

And the rules are here. Look, she's done what needs to be done, she's a citizen who is in public domain but she's entitled to her medical privacy. And that's likely to be the way it follows. But then there's this -- you and I've talked before, Jake, about this constitutional aspect, her husband is going to be king, she is going to be queen, and so the mere giving of this information today was a necessity, not just to put the paparazzi and the speculation and the conspiracy theories to rest, but also because the public has a right to know that somebody who is going to be so sick in ways and will be significant for many more years to (inaudible).


TAPPER: Right. The likely future Queen of England. How are people in the U.K. reacting to this sad news?

QUEST: I think that the sort of texts and messages I've got even from my own family, it's just like, oh, my good -- oh, I hope she's already, oh, this is sad. You know again, this relationship that we have with people to whom we're not related, because we see them in the news every day, we know they have constitutional importance in Britain and therefore we identify with many of their trials and tribulations. There will be great concern, worry, there will be deep, deep sympathy, but it will be because of Kate, the family, the children, how she will manage this, and then we'll worry about what comes next.

As for the king, let's not forget the king, I mean, and the poor queen, she's in her 70s, and she is now pulling the work of three people because she's having -- they're all having to pick up the slack. So you've got William and Kate, who are to some extent now off the table in the sense, you've got the king and the queen, and so you're going to be looking at the other members of the royal family. Because remember that old rule, Jake, if you want to be royal and you want the role of monarchy, you want the monarchy to continue, as the queen always said, you have to be seen.

TAPPER: Yes. It's a lot though, right? I mean, Prince Philip dying --

QUEST: Yes, yes.

TAPPER: -- in 2021, Queen Elizabeth dying in --


TAPPER: -- 2022, King Charles has cancer, Kate has cancer, everything with Harry and Meghan, it's a lot.

QUEST: And the Duchess of York, Fergie, she has had breast cancer. The fascinating -- you know, look, the tidbit gossip, but of course, it's going to be what happens in California with Meghan and Harry and how they reintegrate in some shape or form with all of this. But that's just going down to go -- the rules of rumor and gossip. And we shouldn't do that.

TAPPER: Richard Quest, thank you so much.

Princess Catherine had been absent from the public view for the last few months. And now she says she'll likely be taking additional time away from the public to go through chemotherapy, to recover, to be with her family. Her father in law, King Charles, also going through chemotherapy right now conducting events in private behind the scenes while he undergoes treatment as well. Let's bring in CNN's Anna Stewart in London.

And Anna, what has the reaction been in the United Kingdom to today's announcement?

ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think there has been a huge degree of shock at this stage despite of course there being weeks and weeks of speculation about where the Princess of Wales was, what her condition was, will she be getting better, was she recovering? It's been pretty relentless. But I'm sure this wasn't the news that anyone expected and certainly didn't want.

This week has been a difficult one. There has been interest in actually intrigue going to quite an unpleasant level reports of hospital staff members from the hospital where the Princess of Wales is being treated illegally attempting to access her private medical records. So that story broke just a few days ago, unclear whether that breach was successful. Certainly we haven't heard anything about this cancer diagnosis until today with this news. But this intense speculation throughout the media has just been relentless.

And I think if hopefully with this video message and a lot more information that may put an end to some of that speculation. And there was a plea, wasn't there, from the princess asking for privacy so her family can deal with this new news, this new normal and such a difficult time.

TAPPER: Well, on that issue of the accusations that members of this London Clinic tried to illegally access the princess's medical records, what's the latest on that potential breach? And is it possible that that that played a role into why she is making this announcement now.

STEWART: Yes, you have to wonder whether that level of pressure and intrigue has pushed them to make a statement. I actually don't think so listening to that video message. I think the fact that the children broke up from school today now was the moment for them to share this news because they're sharing it with their family and now they're going to deal with this together as a family. However, the latest from the data breach, the ICO which is the data regulator here in the U.K., they are investigating the hospital, the London Clinic they are also investigating, it is hugely embarrassing and damaging for their reputation, frankly, as a private hospital that deals with VIPs frequently, including royals, Prince Philip and Princess Margaret were also treated at the London Clinic.

Currently those investigations are underway. All we know at this stage is up to three members of staff did attempt to access her records. Unclear, of course, whether they will be prosecuted for that. Investigation is ongoing.


TAPPER: All right, Anna Stewart, thank you so much.

Let's turn now to that other big breaking news story this afternoon. This one in Russia, a deadly attack on a concert hall near Moscow. Live images showing a smoldering fire there at the scene in Russia where gunman killed at least 40 innocent people. We're getting some brand new information about U.S. warnings to Russia about U.S. intelligence or some intelligence showing risks of a terror attack. That story is next.


TAPPER: And we're back with breaking news in our world lead in a shocking attack near Moscow. At least 40 people have been killed and a building is still on fire after several gunmen entered a concert hall in Russia and sprayed bullets into a crowd. CNN is now learning that the United States had warned Russia about a stream of intelligence suggesting that a branch of ISIS was determined to attack in Russia. And CNN's Oren Liebermann joins me again now.


Oren, what are you learning about this intelligence?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, according to two sources familiar with the intelligence, back since November, the U.S. had been watching this space and there was a steady stream of information that ISIS-K known as ISIS Khorasan, which we normally associate with Afghanistan was determined to carry out an attack in Russia, creating a mass casualty event, it was fairly specific intelligence that rose to the level of a duty to warn. And according to one of those sources, the U.S. intelligence community did in fact warn Russia that an attack was possible.

Now, a few caveats here. We don't know if this is directly related to the March 7 warning from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. So, these could be coming from two separate threats that the U.S. was monitoring in this space. And of course, this is an ISIS-K threat. This is the ISIS- K area, the U.S. intelligence community was watching.

And we simply don't know at this point who carried out the attack at the Moscow concert hall. But there is a pattern here emerging. It is clear the U.S. was very much watching this space and the potential for an attack in Moscow or in Russia.

TAPPER: What kind of alerts is the U.S. government providing right now, the State Department, for Americans in Russia?

LIEBERMANN: Well, other than the general alert that it's dangerous for U.S. citizen to be there, there was that alert on March 7 from the State Department, warning from the embassy that there might be an imminent attack in Moscow or in Russia within the next 48 hours, and it's specifically listed concert halls. And that's why after the attack we're watching now, it's certainly caught our eye. Now it's unclear if these are linked that March 7 warning was effectively for two days and we're two weeks after that. But it's very easy to see the similarities between what the U.S. was warning about and what we're seeing play out here right now.

Still, though, it's early. The U.S. is still looking at what happened here, of course, the Russians are as well, opening up a criminal investigation into what happened and it is still very much happening based on the pictures we're seeing.

TAPPER: All right, Oren, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Let's go now to CNN' Fred Pleitgen, he's following this all from Europe, specifically from Berlin.

Bystanders say that people were shot point blank, Molotov cocktails were used. We just learned that Russian state media's reporting children are among the victims here. What do we know about the attackers, Fred?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake. And I think one of the other troubling things that the authorities are not doing right now is that they would have come to terms with this attack, in fact, this could very well still be an ongoing security situation. It certainly appears from the videos that we're seeing, and we're seeing them some of them on our screen right now. These attackers were very well armed. Also, the way they moved seemed to show that they were also very well versed in dealing with those firearms.

And you're absolutely right that one of the eyewitnesses who was questioned by Russian state media came out and said that the attackers came in and immediately started firing at people point blank using long weapons, obviously, meaning something like rifles. We've also been checking some of the videos from the scene of them coming in as well. It certainly does seem as though the attackers already, as they were still outside of the Crocus City Hall before coming into that concert hall, were already pulling out their weapons and getting ready to fire as they made their way into that area. Of course, some of the video that we're seeing now from the evening still shows a massive presence of security forces and medical personnel on the ground there as well. The building of course, the Crocus City Hall on fire, and it appears as though part of the roof has collapsed as well.

And that does mesh somewhat also with some of the things that we've been hearing from eyewitnesses and from the authorities saying that the attackers not only fired at people, but also apparently use those Molotov cocktails, of course, things that could very easily set off a very large fire in a place like that, Jake.

TAPPER: Fred, what is security usually like, at places like this concert halls in Moscow and Europe in general?

PLEITGEN: Yes, you know, that's one of the things -- I lived in Moscow for three years, and I think that's one of the things that anybody who goes there would notice almost immediately is that you do have security checks almost every year. When you go into the subway, you have people checking you for any sort of metal objects, and they do have detectors on them. But especially if you go into places, like shopping malls, if you go into places like concert venues, or movie theaters, then you would also have those security checks and security guards as well.

Now, of course, none of them would be equipped to deal with very professional attackers, who also have the kind of firepower that we appear to be seeing on some of the videos that have been coming out. But certainly security is actually normally pretty tight in Russia and specifically in Moscow, because of course, in the past decades, they have dealt with terror attacks on important buildings in Moscow and in other cities as well. But certainly, despite the fact that there are security guards on -- in almost every public building, commercial building, it would be very difficult for them to deal with something like that, to deal with something like the kind of attack that we appear to be seeing unfold in some of the videos that are coming out from the scene of the attack. And again, it seems to be a huge large scale attack that took place with -- at this point in time 40 confirmed dead and the authorities saying there are children apparently among the victims as well, Jake.


TAPPER: All right, horrible news. Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much.

The live images show the massive police response there in Russia still even hours after the attack just outside Russia's capital city. We're going to dig more into the new U.S. intelligence and what may have led to this. We're back in a moment.


TAPPER: We're back with more on this massive terrorist attack near Moscow. Sources telling CNN that the U.S. warned Russia after a steady stream of intelligence that ISIS-K, that's the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan and around that area, was determined to attack in Russia. We should note, we still don't know for sure who is behind today's attack. Let's bring in former Deputy Director of National Intelligence, who also served at the CIA as the deputy for analysis for Russia and European Affairs, Beth Sanner.


Beth, what do you make of what we're hearing now of this warning that the U.S. gave about ISIS-K striking in Russia?

BETH SANNER. CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think that, you know, he always want to be careful about jumping to conclusions, but that ISIS and ISIS-K, the unit that is out of Afghanistan, you know, has a lot of reasons to go after Russia. And tomorrow is the fifth anniversary of the official defeat of the ISIS caliphate in Syria in Iraq. And so there's been quite a bit of chatter, as well as a couple of other attacks that have been thwarted. Plus, you have in Russia, you know, they caught some ISIS-K folks who are about to attack Paris who were about to attack synagogue on the seventh. And then on March 3, they also killed six other ISIS-K gunman in the North Caucasus region of Ingushetia, which is a Muslim majority area and kind of the hotbed of anti-Putin, anti-war sentiment. So, you know, there's a lot going on here, but it does kind of point to Islamic terrorists. TAPPER: Yes. And the Islamist hatred of Russia, of course, rooted in many ways in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan years ago, and then a lot of people, a lot of terrorists inspired also to join the Chechens in fighting Russia. What do you make of this specific style of this attack? Eyewitnesses report of point blank shootings of the victims, Molotov cocktails, four gunman with automatic weapons, apparently they also set a fire that appears to still be raging.

SANNER: Yes, it really takes you back to the Chechen terrorists. And all of these folks are linked in this North Caucasus region. I mean, you know, so Chechens, Muslim majority area of English, Chadians, Dagestan, and they're all, you know, kind of related. So, in 2002, they did this attack on a theater in Moscow where very similar gunmen came in point blank range. And, of course, the way that the Russians responded to that, not exactly with precision and sophistication and hundreds of, you know, 129 people I think were killed in that including the terrorists, but innocent people. And then 2004, kind of a similar attack and Beslan where they took that school, 300 people were killed as a result of the Russian response.

So, I mean, in fact, you know, sadly, maybe it's a good thing that the Russians didn't respond to this and the attack took place.


SANNER: And it could have been worse.

TAPPER: What might this attack mean, for Putin? Russia seems, in many ways, just pretty discombobulated with the attack, you know, with its invasion of Ukraine, this attack, and yet Putin just last week, cemented his grip on power, even more so in the sham elections.

SANNER: It is so interesting. So the Ukrainians just came out with a statement part of the Ukrainian service saying that, you know, maybe Putin and the special forces were behind this, because when Putin rose to power in the late 90s he went after the Chechens, and a lot of people think he staged something like similar to this back then. I don't think that's the case now. I think that Putin has absolutely no reason to have staged something like this. And he looks like he's out of control.

So this is like the last thing that he wants. And just a few days ago, he came out making fun of the United States threats or warnings and said that these were threats against the Russian people. And so, he is not looking like he is very well in charge of things, combined with some of the Ukrainian attacks deep inside of Russia as well. So, you know, I don't think it's going to take him out, but it certainly isn't a good look.


SANNER: The end of the celebration.

TAPPER: Yes. CNN has just confirmed that ISIS is claiming responsibility for this deadly attack. Now, not that there's any reason to doubt their claim, but I'm assuming the U.S. will do its own work to confirm this information. You don't just take the word for a terrorist group.

SANNER: Exactly. And there are ways that the intelligence community can look at that information. And, you know, and trace it back and try to validate whether these claims are correct or not. You know, as I said, in the beginning, you don't ever want to really jump to conclusions too soon. But it does kind of line up.

TAPPER: Beth Sanner, thank you so much for your expertise, as always, good to see you.

Here in the United States Attorney General Merrick Garland was frustrated by the slow pace of his Justice Department's investigation into Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the election. So frustrated, we are now learning that in the summer of 2021, earlier than had been previously reported, Garland took matters into his own hands, he created a team to investigate Trump allies, including Rudy Giuliani and Roger Stone, this team that had gathered at the Willard Hotel ahead of the January 6th Capitol riot. This is all according to a blockbuster news story in "The New York Times." CNN's Evan Perez is here. And Evan, "The New York Times" says that in trying to avoid small mistakes, Garland might have made a bigger one in the sense that he is now up in a race against the clock, that it's possible, the Justice Department is going to lose.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. I mean, I think the concern that you hear from critics of the way these cases have been brought, Jake, is that we now are obviously up against a deadline. We have, obviously the election already in full swing, the Supreme Court is now finally going to hear the appeal for the President's claim of immunity. And so that pushes back the prospect of having the first trial, the January 6th trial, perhaps happening, you know, very close to the election. And maybe at some point, someone will say maybe the judge will say it's too close to the election.

And so what, you know, certainly some of my own reporting, and that from you saw from Glenn Thrush and Adam Goldman of "The Times" is, you know, there was a lot of activity happening behind the scenes. I know that members of Congress have been on our air, certainly, in the last few months, and last year, criticizing the pace of activity at the Justice Department. And what you see from "The Times" --

TAPPER: Democrats criticizing saying he's too slow.

PEREZ: Too slow, correct.


PEREZ: And fearing exactly what's happening now. But you know, I think some of the reporting that you see in that story from "The Times" and so certainly some of the reporting I've had, I've done myself, you know, indicates that there was a lot of activity happening behind the scenes, including what you just described, right, there was an effort by the Attorney General to make sure that, you know, the other parts of this investigation, which was looking at the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers. And some of those other aspects didn't get in the way of following the money, and trying to make sure -- trying to see whether any of that led to the former president.

Some of those threads ended up being not quite as fruitful as people thought. And so some of these cases are also extremely complicated, the documents case, for instance, obviously, it's not just possession of the documents, it's about obstruction. And in some ways, you know, this is a sprawling investigation of the kind that's bigger than anything that Justice Department has done. I'll read you just a part of what "The Times" has in their piece. They say, Mr. Garland said he would place no restrictions on their work. This is the work of the investigators, even if the evidence leads to Trump.

Again, that jives with all of the reporting we've done in last a couple of years on this. He said follow the connective tissue upward, according to "The Times." Now, the big question now, Jake, is where does this leave us, right? If the Supreme Court hears this appeal in on April 25th, and if they come back quickly, or perhaps sometime before their deadline before they leave in June, right, and say that Trump doesn't have immunity and restarts these trials, how much appetite is there in the Justice Department. And Garland, you know, could at some point, tell his prosecutors, we need to ask the judge to pause this, right?

Of course, all of this is now in the hands of the judges. They're the ones that will decide whether this happens before the election.

TAPPER: All right. Evan Perez, thanks so much.


Next, to the dramatics today on Capitol Hill, a new attempt to remove Mike Johnson as House Speaker. Another House Republican is calling it quits and leaving Congress. Plus, a new announcement from George Santos. We're back in a moment.


TAPPER: And we're back with other major news on Capitol Hill. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the congresswoman from Georgia, today filed a motion to remove House Speaker Johnson after a bipartisan majority in the House passed a huge spending bill to try to avoid a government shutdown at midnight tonight. This is how Congresswoman Taylor Greene describe it.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): I filed a motion to vacate today. But it's more of a warning and a pink slip. I respect our conference. I paid all my dues to my conference. I'm a member in good standing. And I do not wish to inflict pain on our conference and to throw the House in chaos.


TAPPER: A panel joins me now to discuss. Marc, does that make sense? A warning and a pink slip, but she doesn't want chaos?

MARC LOTTER, CHIEF COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER, AMERICA FIRST POLICY INSTITUTE: Well, I think there's a lot of problems with that spending bill. And I get why conservatives are upset about it. But there are three bodies that it takes to pass a law and you control only one of them. So you're going to have to negotiate. If this is not a privileged motion so it can sit in Committee, it can sit there on the back burner. But if she moves forward with it, then I think we're back to seeing what we saw with following Kevin McCarthy.

TAPPER: And, Kristen, there's more bad news for Speaker Johnson today because Republican Congressman Mike Gallagher from Wisconsin, one of the party's rising stars who had already announced that he wasn't going to run for reelection. He's got a wife and young kids. He announced that he's actually resigning imminently. His last day will be on April 19th. Today is Congressman Ken Buck, Republican Congressman Ken Buck's last day. This means Speaker Johnson's already razor thin majority is now doubt going to be down to one vote, a one vote majority.


KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well that also matters if Marjorie Taylor Greene decides to bring this motion to vacate the floor and actually notice it. I think that what we're seeing, again, is the likelihood of more chaos within the Republican conference. And when I'm talking to Republicans on the Hill, even those that are closely aligned with Marjorie Taylor Greene, they don't want this. Now she says that she has people who have said that they will vote for this, they will be on board. But this looks very different than what we saw with Kevin McCarthy, where people were coming out and backing this motion to vacate long before they brought it up and even before it was noticed.

So I think it'll be interesting to see how this plays out because we're in a very different political time and climate now than we were back with Kevin McCarthy. And also remind you that it took 22 days between Kevin McCarthy being brought, the vote being brought and actually hiring Mike Johnson, who really came into the office because nobody knew who he was. And it just seemed like the easiest way to do this. People were very frustrated at that time. I think this might play out differently than she thinks it will.

LOTTER: If he had to resign next week, that would have been a special election. Since he waited until April 19th, it's now a vacancy until the November general election. It's an R plus 15 seat. That's basically just leaving the seat open on purpose.

TAPPER: Interesting, and Democrats joined with Republicans during that whole rebellion against Kevin McCarthy and the -- whatever it was three weeks without a Speaker of the House. I don't know that there is the same appetite among House Democrats to join the Marjorie Taylor Greenes of the world, not that they support Speaker Johnson, but again, it would be a vote for chaos.

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think Democrats when Kevin McCarthy lost his speakership, were saying they want the Republicans to figure it out. They were not going to give Kevin McCarthy an out if they -- he decided and agreed on the roles that, you know, one person could vacate the speaker. Right now, this is because Marjorie Taylor Greene says she doesn't want chaos. Chaos is when the government shutdown -- shuts down. Chaos is when you can't keep doing the business of the people.

And so by trying not voting to support the spending bill right now would be sending the -- it's kind of contradictory to what she's saying in terms of sending in chaos. I don't think Dems, we heard the latest person, Suozzi, out of New York saying he would help keep Mike Johnson in place. I think there are some congressional districts closer to the election now that folks would help keep Speaker Johnson in place not because they agree with him, but just because they need a functioning government and I think voters want Congress to be able to do something for them.

TAPPER: Speaking of Suozzi, he replaced Congressman George Santos who was ousted. Suozzi won in a special election. Santos today said he's leaving the Republican Party. He said he's going to be running for Congress for I think for a different congressional seat, New York 1 instead of New York 2. He said to you tweeted today quote after today's embarrassing showing in the House, I have reflected and decided that I can no longer be part of the Republican Party. The Republican Party continues to lie and swindle its voter base. I mean that's Santos saying that.


TAPPER: I, in good conscience could not affiliate myself with a party that stands for nothing and false for everything. So George Santos is embarrassed. George Santos is accusing the Republican Party of lying and swindling. He's literally on trial for corruption. Anyway, your thoughts?

LOTTER: See you.

ALLISON: Where is he going to go?

TAPPER: Right. Well, he's going to become an independent, I suppose.


HOLMES: -- says to get the signatures apparently to do that. So we should see if anyone wants him anywhere.

ALLISON: At least we know --

TAPPER: -- as an independent in New York.

ALLISON: At least we know he can't be embarrassed though.


ALLISON: I mean, maybe there's a silver lining.


TAPPER: It's a claim. ALLISON: Yes.

TAPPER: -- a second source. Listen to how Majority Leader, Republican Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana reacted to the news that his party was about to be down to a one seat majority.


REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA), MAJORITY LEADER: It's tough with a five seat majority. It's tough for the two seat. One is going to be the same. We all have to work together. We all have to unite if we're going to get things done.


TAPPER: We should note that the reason he's wearing a mask Congressman Scalise is battling blood cancer. But he's talking about getting things done. Is he being working together? Is he being too hopeful, you think?

HOLMES: Yes. I mean, did the last several months have shown us anything? Yes. He's being too hopeful. I mean, I do think there is something to be said about, you know, how big a margin is two is similar to one. I mean, you know, I think that when you have that similar margin, you're operating on a very, very fine line no matter what, even if it's five, for example. But I think overall, I mean, we haven't seen them really be able to get a lot done at all. I mean, even the bipartisan border bill was killed.

I mean, there's just -- there's time after time we've seen Republicans act against themselves in certain ways, and not seen anything really come out of the House.

TAPPER: So Trump struck a new fundraising agreement with Republican National Committee which remember he installed his picks to run it a few weeks ago. Under his new agreement, the Republican National Committee directs donations to his campaign and the political action committee that pays Trump's legal bills before the RNC gets a cut of it. What do you make of that?

LOTTER: I think it's standard because the campaign and the RNC are --


TAPPER: Legal bills though, I mean?

LOTTER: Well, no, the PAC.

TAPPER: Right.

LOTTER: The PAC itself and the Super PAC. But the RNC and the campaign are both hard dollar limits. And so when you have these jumbo fundraising events, these are mega events, then the bulk of it goes to the Super PAC, then the RNC in the campaign take that back.

ALLISON: But it's not -- TAPPER: But the legal bill --

ALLISON: It's not standard to have 91 indictments. And to have your people are donating to get Donald Trump reelected, you would think that you would want that to actually go to your reelection. Now, if you think that the criminal convictions actually helped get him elected. That could be the strategy.

LOTTER: I would say the charges are political, so the defense is too.

HOLMES: OK. I have to weigh in on one thing here because I think there's actually like a legitimate look at this with just numbers. OK. The first bit of money goes to the reelect primary general election, then you have $5,000, that goes to Save America PAC, then everything else goes to the RNC. So this is going to affect a very specific level of donation. If you are donating $100,000, the majority of that money still goes to the RNC. If you are donating a tiny bit of money, a majority of your money or all of your money goes to the campaign. This is when you're donating around 10 or $11,000. And that is where it becomes a real question. I think we have to wait and see the FEC report how much money is actually going to save America that's not going to the RNC, because that means at the $11,000 mark, no money is going to the RNC. But it is going to save America PAC and it is going to the campaign so we really won't know the outcome until we see what kind of donations are coming in.

TAPPER: Thanks, everyone for being here and have a great weekend. I will see you Sunday morning on --

ALLISON: Sounds good.

TAPPER: We're going to going back to the breaking news in Russia, the terrorist group ISIS claiming responsibility now, for that horrific attack in your Moscow, a gunman opening fire in a concert hall. We're back with more in a moment.



TAPPER: And we're back with that breaking news story in our World Lead, that shocking attack near Moscow. ISIS is now claiming responsibility for the attack at the concert hall. At least 40 people killed, more than 100 injured or wounded. Several gunmen reportedly entering the building ahead of tonight's show opening fire including in point blank range before throwing what a bystanders said were Molotov cocktails. Russian media now reporting the children are among the victims of this attack. CNN's Oren Liebermann is back with me. Oren, is it a surprise that ISIS has claimed responsibility? How seriously should we take it?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise. The U.S. intelligence community has been watching back since November. And we talked about this a little bit earlier the potential for ISIS-K to try and carry out an attack, a mass casualty event somewhere in Russia and certainly that mass casualty event is what we're seeing playing out right now.

Now ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. They haven't provided any sort of evidence to back that up yet. Nor have we seen the U.S. or crucially Russia weigh in and corroborate that say, look, we came to the same conclusion that it was ISIS that was behind this attack. So there is still a question mark there and we'll wait to see what the U.S. says when they've had more time to look at this and with what Russia says.

It is worth pointing out the commander of U.S. Central Command, General Erik Kurilla, just testified before lawmakers yesterday about ISIS-K, which is the group the U.S. was watching threatening Russia and said this is a group that's trying to build its capabilities. And that could within six months try to attack U.S. or Western interests here or abroad. So this is clearly a group the U.S. has been watching and one that is trying to build its capabilities to carry out horrific attacks like what we're seeing in Moscow.

TAPPER: All right, Oren Liebermann, our Pentagon correspondent, thank you so much. Also check out for instant updates on this breaking news. We'll be right back.



TAPPER: And we're back with breaking news and the live images of the response near that concert hall near Moscow Russia. Russian media reporting at least 40 people killed including children after this brazen and horrific attack inside that hall. More than 100 people reportedly have been wounded. ISIS-K the terrorist group out of Afghanistan now claiming responsibility for the attack. Several gunmen entering the building ahead of tonight's show opening fire sometimes at point blank range before throwing what a bystander said were Molotov cocktails at the crowd. Stay with CNN and for new details as they come in about this horrible attack.

There are several big interviews coming up this weekend. First Sunday morning on State of the Union, I'm going to interview Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez plus Republican Congressman Chip Roy. That's Sunday morning at 9:00 Eastern and again at noon here on CNN.

Sunday night, we bring you the story of C.J. Rice, the Philadelphia man jailed as a teenager just freed and exonerated after more than 12 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. I got a chance to finally meet C.J. in person after covering his story closely for years including the 2022 Atlantic magazine cover story. My dad Dr. Theodore Tapper was his pediatrician and testified in 2013 in court that C.J. physically could not have committed the crime he was accused of because he'd been shot up a few weeks before.

But C.J. had an awful defense attorney and he went to prison. Although just this week, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania officially dropped their charges, exonerated him, said he is legally innocent. And he's now a free man. Here is a preview of our documentary Sunday night. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

C.J. RICE: I know that the phone would approve that I wasn't anyone there were crimes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It could have bolstered his alibi defense or even provided him a real alibi.

BILL FRITZ, ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY OF PHILADELPHIA: His private attorney should have done more with that phone.

We actually were asked to take over this investigation and look at this case, as though it was a new case coming to us.

TAPPER (voice-over): Assistant district attorney Bill Fritz said would later reinvestigate C.J.'s case.

FRITZ: Had she been able to come forward with that phone, the detectives could have done more. Had she spoken to the district attorney and said hey, there's a phone that was recovered will you search it?

TAPPER: Tell me about when you heard the jailhouse conversation between C.J. and his mom. And he is trying to get her to get his attorney to get the cell phone records to prove he was in West Philadelphia, not in South Philly where the shooting happened.

FRITZ: That was very compelling. Usually having listened to lots of prison phone calls from a lot of different defendants, what you hear is I'm trying to come up with a story or make up a story. In particular what C.J. wanted was a particular phone.

TAPPER: When did you realize that she was not prepared?

RICE: The morning of trial. You could tell somebody that's prepared, a poised. She wasn't poised. The paper was disorganized. No real notes. Like she didn't study the case at all.


TAPPER: Justice Delayed: The Story of C.J. Rice will air on Anderson Cooper's The Whole Story that CNN Sunday night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Then the next hour after that Sunday night at 9:00, a brand new episode and the last episode of the season for my series United States of Scandal. This one features the identity leak by the Bush administration of CIA Operative Valerie Plame. The United States of Scandal airs Sunday night at 9:00 Eastern on CNN.


If you ever miss an episode of THE LEAD, you can listen to the show whence you get your podcasts. The news continues on CNN.