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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Trump Falsely Claims He's Not Allowed To Testify; Witness With Salacious Connections Questioned In Court; Judge Holds Hearing On Trump's Latest Alleged Gag Order Violations; 2,000 Plus Arrests On Campuses Since April 18; Biden: "Violent Protest Is Not Protected, Peaceful Protest Is"; Trump Suggests He Won't Accept Election Results. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 02, 2024 - 17:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

This hour, President Biden finally today with his most direct public comments yet on protests that have erupted from coast to coast on college campuses.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Vandalism, trespassing, breaking windows, shutting down campuses, forcing the cancellation of classes and graduations, none of this is a peaceful protest. Threatening people, intimidating people, instilling fear in people is not peaceful protest. It's against the law.


TAPPER: Meanwhile, Independent Senator Bernie Sanders is expressing concern about the war that the protesters are talking about between Israel and Hamas. Sanders says the war might ultimately prove to be Biden's Vietnam.

Plus, brand new standoffs between police and protesters at encampments on college campuses coast to coast. At George Washington University here in Washington, DC, dueling protests with faculty from GW and other area schools risking their jobs to try to protect the pro- Palestinian, anti-war crowd. At Portland State University, police and riot gear showed up trying to clear an encampment site at the school's library.

And leading this hour, Donald Trump's latest false claim concerning his hush money cover up trial. Moments ago, after the court day ended, the former president was asked whether he was going to testify in his own defense.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I'm not allowed to testify. I'm under a gag order. I guess, I can't even testify. I'm not -- no, we're going to be appealing the gag order. I'd love to answer that question.

It's a very easy question, the easiest question so far. But I'm not allowed to testify because this judge who's totally conflicted has me under an unconstitutional gag order. Nobody's ever had that before and we don't like it and it's not fair.


TAPPER: So, that's not true. Donald Trump is absolutely allowed to testify. The gag order has nothing to do with whether or not he's allowed to testify. Bizarre claim, quite frankly.

Let's now get more insight about what went on behind the scenes in the Trump trial today. Let's bring in "The Washington Post" Shayna Jacobs, who was inside the courtroom covering it for "The Post."

Shayna, some of these exchanges between Trump attorney Emil Bove, and Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal, attorney Keith Davidson, who's a witness on the stand right now, they read the transcript of them, read incredibly testy. What was the actual environment like during that question?

SHAYNA JACOBS, FEDERAL COURT & LAW ENFORCEMENT REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think that was right. I think the witness was particularly put off by the lines of questioning by Bove, suggesting that he's a shakedown artist and that he's built his career, his legal career, on essentially blackmailing celebrities, trying to get significant payouts for clients who have salacious stories, whether they're true or false, but clients who have salacious stories that might be of value to celebrities such as Donald Trump.

TAPPER: What was the jury doing while Trump, attorney Bove and prosecution witness Davidson were going back and forth? Did the jury seem engaged? Were they following everything?

JACOBS: The jury has been, in my view, engaged the entire time, especially today. There were plenty of exhibits for them to get a firsthand view of what, you know, what this part of the defense case is about. There were text messages, there were e-mails, there was real, concrete information for them to see for themselves. So I think that's particularly interesting to them, getting a window into this world where these types of negotiations are happening. It's sort of, you know, the underbelly of the legal system.

TAPPER: The photographs we see of Donald Trump in court, we just showed one where he looked kind of scowling. I'm sure it's not fun to be a defendant, and the things he says after court and before court tend to be rather defiant and angry. What is his demeanor in the courtroom in general?

JACOBS: He sits there and is seething. Pretty -- it's frequently what his facial expression is. He's just very, very disgruntled, does not like a minute of the fact that he has to be there. There are times when he's paying particularly close attention. I think he was sort of locked on Bove and his cross examination of the witness today.

There was a point where we heard a recording that Michael Cohen made between him and Donald Trump in 2016. It looked like he was leaning in, trying to get, you know, the best audio on that recording that he could get. Trump, while he does close his eyes throughout the day, did not appear to be sleeping today, but he sort of did appear to be shifting in his seat and closing his eyes to kind of take it easy as he paid attention to the testimony.


TAPPER: So before the testimony, before the jury was brought in today, there was another hearing on whether Trump violated the judge's gag order. Once again, Judge Merchan did not issue an immediate ruling this time, just like he didn't issue an immediate ruling last time. What was your takeaway from the arguments this time?

JACOBS: Pretty similar to the time before the gag order hearing previously. Judge Merchan is not really buying the argument that some of these posts, some of these offensive posts that Trump has made since the trial began and some of these public comments he's made that are in violation of the gag order are not protected political speech and not covered by, you know, an absolute First Amendment right to say these things. Judge Merchan cut short Todd Blanche today when he started getting into another explanation of why some of what Trump had discussed, some of these four remaining allegations, is a response, a campaign response, a political response, he's responding to other people's attacks on him, sometimes attacks on him from people involved in the case. And Judge Merchan does not seem to find that credible at all. He's already ruled it's not credible and he does not seem to be weighing or leaning in Trump's favor on this.

TAPPER: All right, "The Washington Post" Shayna Jacobs, thank you so much for talking to us today.

Back with me, the former chief assistant district attorney at the Manhattan DA, Karen Friedman Agnifilo. Also, Bill Brennan, a former Trump payroll corporation attorney.

Karen, moments ago, Mr. Trump falsely claimed he's not allowed to testify because he's under a gag order. That's not right. Correct?

KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, FORMER CHIEF ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY, MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE: Testify is a term of art. It means take the stand in court, raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth and you testify in front of a court, in front of the jury. The gag order has nothing to do with that. Of course he can testify. He has an absolute right to testify.

And he is not restricted in terms of what he can talk about as long as it's relevant, admissible evidence. So the gag order has nothing to do with his testimony at trial. Perhaps he's confused about that, but it only talks about statements outside of court. TAPPER: And Bill, who do you think the prosecutors might call next? Do you think Keith Davidson was a good setup for Michael Cohen? Or might someone else come before?

WILLIAM J. BRENNAN, FORMER TRUMP PAYROLL CORP. ATTORNEY: I think they'll probably sandwich a few more innocuous witnesses in between these two and have Cohen, you know, he's really the show at this trial. But I wanted to say one thing, Jake, Karen made a great point in the last segment. You know, when Mr. Bove cross examined Davidson and it was brought out that, well, what he did wasn't illegal. He was investigated for extortion but never charged. You know, that jury doesn't check its common sense at the door.

They see everything, they hear everything. You know, there's a story in the news now about a politician shooting a dog and it's been said, well, it's not illegal in that particular state. Who shoots a puppy? Who does that? And the jury is going to get back there.

And whether he was charged or not charged or it's legal or not legal, as lawyers, we get too focused on the statutes, the laws, the rules, the codes. They're going to get back there and think, who lives like this? Who preys on people's misfortunes? And they're going to have to tie the defendant to this seedy activity. And then even if they do that, they're going to have to show that it was done to commit another crime, namely political campaign violation or some type of election law.

It's a far reach. This thing's far from over.

TAPPER: Karen, I want to get your take on Trump attorney Emil Bove, his questioning of stormy Daniels former attorney Keith Davidson. Bove brought up these controversy involving various celebrities and alleged hush money, shakedown, extortion, whatever you want to call it, Charlie Sheen paying $2 million to one of Davidson's clients, presumably for her silence. Hulk Hogan, there was a sex tape involving him, Tila Katila (ph) -- Tila Tequila, no idea what that was about, but she's certainly an interesting character, Davidson's connection to them. He said, quote, "Your memory seems a little fuzzy around some of these issues," because Bove was asking him about it and Bove didn't seem -- I mean, and Davidson didn't seem to have like a lot of direct information, at least direct responses. How do you think this is all going to land with the jury?

AGNIFILO: Look, for him to say he doesn't recall these various celebrities, I think is not credible. Of course you're going to remember. You might not remember every client, but certainly certain celebrities you are going to recall. I got the impression that he was thinking that he couldn't answer the question because maybe he was under attorney client privilege or confidentiality agreements, but then he should have said that. But to say I don't recall because you don't want to answer the question, that's not good for the jury.


So I didn't love those answers. And if he really doesn't recall because his answer was, yes, I did 15 or 1600 of those back then, so I don't remember who it was. If that's the truth, I mean, fine, but he -- I don't think the jury's going to like him very much. It is really a seedy kind of underbelly of lawyering that make a living out of what many people feel like -- it feels like extortion, whether it's legal extortion or not.

So they're not going to love it. It's not great. But I still think at the end of the day, it doesn't matter because this is the circle Donald Trump traveled in. These are the people he had affairs with. I mean, that's what the prosecution's going to say.

So, they're going to say, we didn't pick the -- we didn't pick these people, the people that Donald Trump frequented with, that's who picks these people. The prosecution's got to link this to Donald Trump. And I think that recording that they played today with Michael Cohen and Donald Trump was one of the critical pieces of evidence in this case.

TAPPER: Karen Friedman Agnifilo, Bill Brennan, thanks to both of you, always good to have you on.

From the trial to the trail, the jaw dropping comment from Donald Trump that sets up an if scenario and potential results of the November election. Plus, another day of chaos and confrontations as encampment protests ignite more college campuses. Stay with us.



TAPPER: As we've been covering these anti-Israel protests, anti-war protests, whatever you want to call them, for weeks now, there has been a lot of criticism thrown at President Biden for not addressing the nation on these divisive protests that at some points on college campuses have become violent and antisemitic and unlawful, maybe not in most cases, but enough. Today, President Biden finally did address the nation directly on this issue. He tried to strike a balance between competing American imperatives, free speech and rule of law. Take a listen.


BIDEN: We are not an authoritarian nation where we silence people or squash dissent. Neither are we a lawless country. We are a civil society. An order must prevail. There is the right to protest, but not the right to cause chaos.

There is no place for hate speech or violence of any kind, whether it's antisemitism, Islamophobia, or discrimination against Arab - Americans or Palestinian-Americans.


TAPPER: CNN's Kayla Tausche is at the White House for us.

Kayla, there already have been times when these protests turned violent and unlawful. I mean, I think the Columbia University orthodox rabbi told his students two Sundays ago that he didn't think it was safer for orthodox Jewish kids on campus. Why did President Biden wait until now to directly address what so many people have been able to see with their own eyes?

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: What was described to me, Jake, is the need for a steady drumbeat of law enforcement involved in these protests, not just one off issues here and there on different campuses, but the repeat and sustained involvement of law enforcement that essentially piqued the president's desire to deliver these remarks, which he has put out written statements in the prior weeks. He's had deputized spokespeople on his behalf to say what he does and does not support. But really when this reached a fever pitch overnight is when the president felt the need to come out himself and speak to camera and say exactly what type of activity is supported by the Constitution. Here's the president in his own words.


BIDEN: Violent protest is not protected. Peaceful protest is. It's against the law when violence occurs.


TAUSCHE: So there was a couple things at play here, Jake. The senior staffers in the West Wing have been monitoring these situations for several weeks through official channels with local government and law enforcement. But then there is also what was described to me as sort of a groundswell of younger staffers who were in touch with their contemporaries either at the undergraduate or postgraduate level who are on these campuses and providing firsthand accounts that grew intensity over the coming days, and so all of that really taken together. Yesterday when the president returned from a fundraiser here in D.C., he instructed his top aides to put together draft remarks. They went back and forth overnight to edit those remarks and he made a final decision this morning, I'm told after seeing the images overnight specifically from UCLA, Jake.

TAPPER: And Republican critics of the president have certainly weighed in.

TAUSCHE: They have weighed in. And certainly that is putting the president in a very difficult position because he has wanted to sort of let these protests play out on their own. There was a belief within the White House that sort of the temperature would go down on its own. Clearly that hasn't happened. But the president has also sought to speak out forcefully in -- on the topic of January 6.

And yesterday we did see former President Trump equate the protests on campuses to the protesters at the Capitol, the rioters at the Capitol on January 6 saying that, you know, perhaps the protesters on campus are getting off easier. So that put the president in a little bit of a difficult position where he had been previously seeking the moral high ground there, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Kayla Tausche at the White House for us. Thanks so much. A CNN review shows that more than 2,000 people have been arrested on college and university campuses since just April 18. Among some of the common charges include trespassing and resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. The unrest we've been watching unfold does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon as police and other law enforcement agencies crack down on these protests and particularly the encampments. CNN's Camila Bernal shows us now some of the most chaotic, intense moments on some campuses across the United States, including at UCLA, where more than 130 arrests have been made.



CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Violent, tense and chaotic scenes at UCLA.


BERNAL (voice-over): More than 130 arrests as hundreds of law enforcement officers using flashbangs, batons and what appeared to be rubber bullets to disperse more than 200 pro-Palestinian protesters from a university encampment.

ALEJANDRO RUBIO, SUPERVISOR, CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL, SOUTHERN DIVISION: We had fire extinguishers thrown at us, smoke thrown at us, water bottles and other various items.

BERNAL (voice-over): California highway patrol officers moved in at around three in the morning local time. Police gained ground, breaking makeshift barriers, clearing tents and belongings and detaining protesters one by one.

The mostly peaceful encampment was set up a week ago, but violence erupted during counter protest on Sunday and even more tense moments overnight Tuesday, leaving at least 15 injured. Last night, protesters attempted to stand their ground, linking arms, using flashlights on officers' faces, shouting and even throwing items at officers. But despite what CHP described as a dangerous operation, an almost one-to- one ratio officers to protesters gave authorities the upper hand. The encampment was cleared and the protesters that were walked out in zip ties were put on buses and taken to a detention facility to be processed.

Across the country, similar scenes as officials cracked down on encampments. Police in Oregon cleared out the Portland State University Library.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, do we have any of those zip ties?

BERNAL (voice-over): Where students had barricaded themselves inside with furniture. At Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, a standoff with police before more than 90 people were arrested on campus, including some who were not students. That mirrored the mass arrest in New York City the night before, where an NYPD official tells CNN roughly half of the nearly 300 people arrested at Columbia and City College were not affiliated with either school.


BERNAL (on camera): And take a look behind me, it's hard to believe that these cleanup efforts are underway. Just hours ago, there was so much trash. I mean, we're talking tents, blankets, food, you name it. We were here and were able to also find a number of the flashbang casings. They were all over this area here behind me. We also found the rubber bullets that were used to disperse the crowd.

And moments ago, UCLA releasing a statement saying that they decided to clear this encampment because of the violence that they saw this week and said ultimately this, Jake, was unlawful.

TAPPER: All right, Camila Bernal at UCLA in Los Angeles, thanks so much.

Between the actual Israel-Hamas war and the campus protests, Independent Senator Bernie Sanders suggested that this might be President Biden's Vietnam. We'll get into that next.



TAPPER: And we're back with our coverage of these anti-war protests on college campuses. Let's bring in CNN's Audie Cornish and David Chalian.

Audie, your new "Assignment" podcast episode out today, by the way, for those who don't know, it's a great podcast, and it's Audie Cornish Thursday, we have her on every Thursday because of this amazing podcast that drops every day. You focus on two people with very different perspectives of how they talk and view this incredibly divisive moment. Tell us what they said.

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN HOST, "THE ASSIGNMENT" PODCAST: Well, obviously, campus presidents are sort of caught between a rock and a hard place. They've got donor, alums, lawmakers all bringing the heat, saying, is this free speech? How do you deal with civil disobedience? And do you have a growing problem with antisemitism? So I spoke with Michael Roth, he's from Wesleyan University, and he gave me a taste of kind of what his life is like these days.


MICHAEL ROTH, WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT: When someone calls me, as they did yesterday, and said, I'm upset that the students at Wesleyan are chanting things like, "From the river to the sea, Palestine must be free." I'm upset. I said, "I'm sorry you're upset. But you're going to have to deal with that." Or they'll say, "Genocide, you can't hide from genocide."

That's offensive to you as someone who supports Israel or has affection for Israel. But that doesn't mean they can't say those things. If they say, "Jews must die, we must kill Jews," then I'll have them removed from campus.


CORNISH: And I should mention that right now the House has actually approved a bill kind of expanding the definition of antisemitism and the ability to go after schools through the Department of Education. So, this issue isn't going to go away.

I also spoke to a student named Krasimir Staykov, who's at Pomona University. He was one of the students who was arrested for storming the president's office, which the school says, look, that was not civil disobedience, that was not a peaceful protest. And here's how he justified it. And I think it's good to hear in the context of these protests, not just what we're seeing the most sort of violent visuals on air.


KRASIMIR STAYKOV, STUDENT, POMORA COLLEGE IN CLAREMONT, C.A.: You know, I think that's a bit of a ridiculous claim, frankly, given the history of student organizing on campuses. From the 1960 civil rights movement, anti-Vietnam organizing in the late 60s and 70s, anti-South African apartheid organizing in the 80s. These were all campaigns where students violated campus policies, occupied buildings, constructed mock apartheid walls or tent cities or shanty towns. But then when we look at the present day, we're suddenly so quick to condemn student organizers for these exact same strategies.


CORNISH: So I think it was just a moment to also talk to them about the divestment movement, because they're not just talking about the end of the war. They're also talking about their university somehow bringing pressure to bear. And I said, why don't you protest outside of Congress or protest outside of Boeing or whoever, you know, that has dealings with the government of Israel?

And he said, you know, at the end of the day, as students, this is our forum. This is our place where we have leverage. And as he mentioned, it's proven that student movements can draw attention to complex ideas and make people rethink them. And of course, as we're learning, that's not without consequence.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: So, David, President Biden finally spoke out today about the protests. It had been quite some time. What did you make of what he had to say?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, my takeaway in watching him was he clearly came out for -- to try and speak to a broader swath of the American people, to present presidential leadership and come out for law and order and that there is a way to do this and a way not to do this, not to deny the voice of peaceful protesters, but that you can't do -- you can't block people from going to class or you can't do things that are unruly, illegal, what have you.

He wanted to come out and sort of say, this needs to get under control. However, what I thought, so interesting, Jake, was at the end, he clearly waited for a question before he got out. And the question was, are these protests going to do anything to change your policy? And he answered emphatically no.

So while he came out to try and solve one problem with perhaps a broader swath of the middle of the electorate, I think in that one answer of no, he deepened his political problem with key portions of his own base of the progressive left, of young people just with that one emphatic no.

TAPPER: I will say when it comes to comparisons with the protests of the 60s and the anti-apartheid in South Africa protests of the 80s, there is a big difference in the fact that those protests were not necessarily making so many students on campus feel as though there was bigotry towards them. Certainly, I'm sure members of the ROTC in the 60s, you know, probably -- there were probably, I know there were fights and with squabbles or whatever, but there was nothing we don't like this group of people. And there is a lot of -- there are a lot of Jewish students who feel anti-Semitism.

I do want to get into something that Bernie Sanders said today to Christiane Amanpour about what this all might mean for President Biden's campaign. Let's take a listen.


SEN. BERNIE SANDER (I-VT): I am thinking back and other people are making this reference that this may be Biden's Vietnam. Lyndon Johnson, in many respects, was a very, very good president. Domestically, brought forth some major pieces of legislation. He chose not to run in '68 because of opposition to his views on Vietnam. And I worry very much that President Biden is putting himself in a position where he has alienated not just young people but a lot of the Democratic base in terms of his views on Israel and this war.


TAPPER: Obviously, a lot of differences between Vietnam and the Israel-Hamas war. But what did you make of it?

CHALIAN: I understand the political point he's making, but I do think the differences are actually important. I think that we sometimes get so into this comparison to Vietnam era. It just -- it seems to me that comparison only goes too far because that was about sending U.S. troops off to war to fight what was being sold as faulty intelligence and what have you that emerged, Jake. And I just don't think that's comparison to this moment. And I get it. Yes. Johnson, this was his political undoing, and perhaps Sanders believes this will be his political undoing. I'm not sure that we know that to be true yet.

TAPPER: Audie Cornish, David Chalian, thanks to both of you. And, of course, it's Audie Cornish Thursday. So I remind you again that Audie's podcast is called "The Assignment with Audie Cornish." It's fantastic. Download it anywhere you get your podcast.

[17:34:38] New video just in from the courthouse to the firehouse, Donald Trump making a stop moment ago, bringing pizza to firefighters and police officers in Manhattan. Coming up, could a comment he said yesterday set up a repeat of what happened on January 6th, 2020?



DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hello Wisconsin. How are you Wisconsin?

Hello, Michigan. Hello, Michigan. It's great to be back in this beautiful state.


TAPPER: Hello, Cleveland. Former President Donald Trump briefly back on the campaign trail in the two critical battleground states of Wisconsin and Michigan yesterday, states that he won in 2016 and lost in 2020. And he continued to repeat his lies in those states that the 2020 election was stolen from him.


TRUMP: The radical left Democrats rigged the presidential election in 2020.

But we're not going to allow them to rig the presidential election, the most important day of our lives in 2024.


TAPPER: As a factual matter, not one governor, including Republicans, not one election board, including Republicans, not one state or federal judge, including those appointed by Republicans, not one post- election audit, not one found evidence of widespread voter fraud. This according to, as well, his former attorney general, Bill Barr, a Republican who is going to vote for Donald Trump in 2024. But not only is Mr. Trump still lying about 2020, now he seems to be setting the stage to refuse to accept the results of the upcoming election if he loses, even though as of now, he's favored to win.


Mr. Trump telling the "Milwaukee Journal Sentinel," quote, if everything's honest, I'll gladly accept the results. I don't change on that. If it's not, you have to fight for the right of the country. Now, we know what Donald Trump means by if it's honest. It means if he wins. And we know what it means when he says you have to fight for the right of the country because he's used that term before. Very similar words to what he told his supporters on January 6th, 2021, before they stormed the Capitol.


TRUMP: We fight. We fight like hell. And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.


TAPPER: And many of his supporters listened, and they went to the Capitol, and they fought like hell. At least 1,400 of his supporters have been charged for crimes related to breaching the Capitol. Now, in that same speech on January 6th, 2021, Mr. Trump urged then Vice President Mike Pence to reject the certification of the Electoral College vote.


TRUMP: Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us. And if he doesn't, that will be a sad day for our country.

CROWD: Hang Mike Pence. Hang Mike Pence. Hang Mike Pence.


TAPPER: Senator J.D. Vance, Republican from Ohio, believed to be on Trump's shortlist for vice president, in an interview with Kaitlan Collins, downplayed what we all saw and heard that day, what Mike Pence and Secret Service agents have testified afterwards about the danger Mike Pence was in on January 6th, 2021.


SEN. J.D. VANCE (R-OH): I'm extremely skeptical that Mike Pence's life was ever in danger. I think politics, in politics, people like to really exaggerate things from time to time. I know a lot of folks in the Democratic Party, Kaitlan, act as if January 6th was the scariest moment of their lives. I think, look, January 6th was a bad day. It was a riot. But the idea that Donald Trump endangered anyone's lives when he told them to protest peacefully, it's just absurd.


TAPPER: That's not how law enforcement officers who were there that day see it. And when it comes to Mike Pence, that's not how the U.S. Secret Service or Vice President Pence or his family see it. Pence said last year, quote, that Trump's reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day. And I know history will hold Donald Trump accountable, unquote.

Just this week, in a very revealing interview with "Time Magazine," Mr. Trump was asked about political violence after this November's election. The reporter, quote, you said, I think we're going to win and there won't be violence. What if you don't win, sir? Trump responds, quote, I think we're going to win. And if we don't win, you know, it depends. It always depends on the fairness of an election. I don't believe they'll be able to do the things that they did last time.

Coming up, what Republican lawmakers are saying and what they're not saying about Trump setting up a scenario to possibly not accept election results once again. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


TAPPER: We're back with our Politics Lead. Let's get right to the panel. And so, folks, you heard in the previous segment Donald Trump saying that as long as the election is fair, he won't protest it. But if it's not fair, who knows what's going to happen? And we know his definition of fair generally is positive. So there are a lot of people who are concerned that means that if the election doesn't go his way, we'll see a repeat of January 6th, 2021. I want to play a little clip of what Republican Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina said when CNN's Manu Raju asked him about Trump's refusal to say that he's going to accept the 2024 election results.


SEN. THOM TILLIS (R-NC): And at the end of the day, if it gets to that point, Congress is going to certify it. We're going to certify it based on the facts. And then the candidates are going to have to accept those results.


TAPPER: Alice, your reaction?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think many rational Republicans agree with what Tillis said. We can all agree on this set right here that three things. Joe Biden is a duly elected president. Donald Trump lost in 2020. And there was no widespread voter fraud. And most rational people accept that. And I find it interesting, Donald Trump never questioned the results of any of these primaries that he won. He didn't question any election that he won. The problem is, when he doesn't win, he questions the fairness and the integrity of the election.

This is going to be a consistent theme. He mentioned this to the Milwaukee newspaper yesterday. He mentioned that last week in the "Time Magazine" about if there he sees any evidence of fairness or unfairness, then he will question it. The problem is, this works great with his base. They love this. This is catnip for his base. The problem is now he needs to appeal to the undecided voters and the late decided voters.

And when you're undermining the very process you want them to participate, you're not going to overwhelm them in participating in the process, he need to keep that in mind.

JOE WALSH (R-IL), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Yes. But Jake, the bigger problem is this is a damn attack on our democracy. Alice is right about the whole cares about the politics of this. This is a -- he's doing it again, America. Jake, this is a direct attack on our democracy. A candidate for president is saying, I will only accept the results if I win. He did this again. Republicans shouldn't be concerned. They should be outraged and pissed off about this. TAPPER: Paul, is there a way, I mean, because Joe Biden is losing -- if the election were held today, do you agree that probably Donald Trump would win?


TAPPER: OK. So is there a way for Donald Trump to turn these concerns that the former congressman is addressing into a way for Mr. Biden to appeal to these voters in the middle and the independent voters, et cetera, or is this issue of democracy so far down on the pole when it comes to, you know, economy and chaos and whatever, that it doesn't matter?

BEGALA: Well, when went into the last midterms, President Biden gave a remarkable speech. I thought it was wonderful. A lot of Democrats even thought it was terrible on democracy at Independence Hall in your hometown of Philadelphia.


TAPPER: Yes, I remember the red --

BEGALA: It was red. It was odd lighting.


BEGALA: But it was a great speech because it sounded like Joe Walsh, passionate about our democracy. And a lot of pundits, even on my side of the aisle, said, oh, we should be talking about gas prices. It worked politically because the American people do love their democracy and they do want it. And so I think Biden is onto something.

This is a -- it is a huge political loser for Trump. I think Alice is right and Joe is right. You know, Trump is the master brander. You know, he's a great marketer. He sold Trump wine and Trump vodka and Trump steaks, Trump sneakers, now Trump Bibles. He'll never sell a Trump car because it won't have a windshield. It will only have a rearview mirror. It won't go forward. It will only go in reverse. He's completely backward looking. I think Biden should take that. Not only the threat to democracy, but the guy is always talking about the past. He's talking about yesterday. Elections are about tomorrow.

TAPPER: So let's talk about tomorrow, which is, and the election, not the election results, the campus protests that we're seeing. President Biden finally addressed the chaos that we're seeing on college campuses. Some of the protests have turned violent. Some of the protests have turned anti-Semitic. And here is part of what President Biden had to say today.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've all seen images and they put to the test two fundamental American principles. Excuse me. The first is the right to free speech and for people to peacefully assemble and make their voices heard. The second is the rule of law. Both must be upheld. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Congressman Walsh, your thoughts?

WALSH: Congress, it's about time and I'm glad and I want to see more of this. This is an opportunity for Biden because what's Trump offering, I'm going to be a dictator and I will stamp this nonsense and this unrest out. We don't do that in America. This is an opportunity for Biden to take the high road in, but he's got to go after it. He's got to go after his left flank, principally.

TAPPER: So you heard Bernie Sanders earlier today talking to Christiane Amanpour, suggesting that Hamas, the Israel war against Hamas in Gaza and the result of that leading to all these protests that all of this could be -- he's drawing the comparison with LBJ and Vietnam.

BEGALA: That is -- I like Bernie personally. I really do. He's not my politics, but I like him --

TAPPER: LBJ from your home state of Texas.

BEGALA: And LBJ was a great president, but it's offensive to compare this to Vietnam, 2.7 million Americans put on a uniform, went half a world away and fought a war that they didn't ask for. OK. Three hundred and four thousand of them were wounded, 58,000 were killed. It cost $168 billion, $1.5 trillion in today's money. It just -- it damaged this country for a generation. And to say that this war was not -- and the Vietnam War was started first by Kennedy, but mostly by Johnson, by our presidents. This war in Gaza was started by Hamas. Terrorists came over and raped and slaughtered innocent people. So I'm so offended to hear him compare it to Vietnam. It's just -- it's completely wrong.

STEWART: I think the real issue here is what's happening on our nation's campuses. I speak with students across the country all the time, and specifically Jewish students in the last several weeks. They're scared. They're frightened of go out on campus. They're certainly frightened to go anywhere near where these protests are. And they wanted to see something like this happen a long time ago. And to the congressman's point, what took him so long? I agree with what he said. Dissent is an important part of our democracy. But dissent that leads to a disorder and threatening people, there should be no place for that.

And this is going to be a political problem for Biden because in our recent poll, voters under 35, 81 percent of them, disapprove of the way he's handling this situation. And it's causing a great divide in the Democratic Party, and that's going to be a liability for this President.

BEGALA: I disagree on that because that same poll, it's a Harvard poll, so I think the best poll on young voters. They listed 16 issues. Israel-Gaza placed 15, 30 points behind the economy. So not only do I want him to defend those Jewish students and defend the free speech rights of the protesters, but I don't think it's going to hurt him politically if he stands up and takes a strong stance both for defending Jewish students, but also for free speech peaceful protests.

TAPPER: Thanks to one and all for being here.


Coming up, a must see heartbreaking message from a 12-year-old boy in North Carolina. We'll bring that to you next.


TAPPER: In our National Lead, President Biden is in North Carolina as we speak. His first stop was in Charlotte to pay his respects to the families of four law enforcement officers shot and killed Monday while attempting to serve a warrant for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. President Biden told reporters he offered his prayers to the families in, quote, for the recovery of the brave wounded.

One of the victims of the North Carolina shootings was a police officer named, William "Alden" Elliott. He was an officer with the North Carolina Department of Adult Correction. His 12-year-old son, Theo, wrote an obituary for his dad that ran in "The Charlotte Observer" newspaper. Let me read it to you if I can, quote, my daddy is a hero. He died getting the bad guys. That's what he was good at. He is a Marine. He is a police officer. He is kind and patient. He keeps my mom and I safe. He is my daddy, the best daddy. We love playing video games together. He really likes Mario, Zelda and Metroid: Return of Samus. We collect Pokemon cards. I have a Charizard that helped me get graded. He and I have watched every "Star Wars" movie and series. My daddy loves playing and watching baseball. His favorite team is the Dodgers. He is an expert marksman, perfect scorer every time. For my 12th birthday, he bought me a dirt bike. He bought himself one too, so that we could ride together. I will learn how to ride it and we will ride together one day, daddy. He was the best man I will ever know. And I hope to be just like him. Theo.


Theo, that obituary was beautiful. May your dad's memory be a blessing for you always.

Wolf Blitzer is up next in "THE SITUATION ROOM" with much more on today's testimony in the Trump hush money cover up trial. Among his guests, former Trump impeachment lawyer Robert Ray. That's next here on CNN.