Return to Transcripts main page

The Lead with Jake Tapper

Jury Shown Paper Trail Of Hush Money Case; Judge Threatens Trump With Jail Time; Hamas Agrees To Ceasefire From Different Proposal; Families Of The Hostage Demand Israel To Accept Ceasefire Deal; Trump VP Hopefuls Spread Doubt About Election Results; Gov. Noem Claims In Book She Met Kim Jong-Un; Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Is Interviewed About Speaker Johnson, Rep. Greene Meet For Nearly Two Hours As She Threatens To Oust Him. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 06, 2024 - 17:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And the breaking news this hour, this is the scene in Tel Aviv, Israel, this evening. A large crowd of Israelis with hostage families outside Israel's security headquarters. The protesters are demanding that the government of Israel accept the ceasefire deal that's been proposed by the governments of Egypt and Qatar that has already been accepted by Hamas.

Just in on that front, we're learning that the deal on the table is not the same one that the Israeli mediators helped craft in recent weeks. CIA Director William Burns is in the region. A source tells CNN that Burns has been deeply involved in negotiations. We're going to get the latest on details coming in by the minute.

Plus, Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida will be here. I'm going to ask him about the tactic he pushed for, the motion to vacate, now being used by Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene as she threatens to push Speaker Mike Johnson out of his leadership role.

Leading this hour, Donald Trump's day, starting with a judge holding him contempt of court in the New York hush money cover-up case. Then, two Trump Organization current employees on the stand, or I'm sorry, one is a former, the other is still an employee there.

As prosecutors quite literally laid out the receipts detailing how hush money payments that they're alleging worked. We're going to start this hour with CNN's Paula Reid, who spent the afternoon inside the courtroom. Paula, what was the scene inside the courtroom today?

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: What really struck me, Jake, I covered the Trump White House, so I've been in the same room as the former president and his advisors before. So, my eyes immediately went to the jury. This is the first time I've had the chance to see these folks, the 12 jurors, the 6 alternates who have the chance to decide this historic case.

And what struck me immediately is that I think you could stop any subway car in the borough of Manhattan, take the first 18 people who get off, and they'd look like this jury. I mean, they really do appear to represent a cross section of folks here in Manhattan. And I was also really struck by how closely they were paying attention to the


Now, mind you, the testimony from the accounting department this afternoon, it was at times, Jake, it was deadly boring. They're just having this Trump Organization official help them enter in checks repeatedly again and again, describing what's in certain boxes. But I kept looking at the jury and each of them, even if they were struggling a little bit, they were still focused on the task at hand, looking at the documents that were being introduced. So, they're clearly taking this seriously.

The other observation I have is that Trump's lead attorney, Todd Blanche, clearly under scrutiny from the boss. The one-time Trump seemed really engaged this afternoon is when Todd Blanche did a cross- examination. Trump completely turned his body and his eyes were locked on his lead attorney. Todd Blanche has not done many cross- examinations so far in this case. And we know Trump likes a show. He likes a spectacle. He likes his lawyers to make a scene.

Todd Blanche, a very experienced, very good defense attorney, that doesn't tend to be his M.O. so far. And you could tell Trump was watching him very, very closely. Now, in talking to my sources, I'm told that they're fine. Of course, it's a stressful situation. Jake, we know there's always tension on the Trump legal team, but it was clear Trump was watching him very closely today.

TAPPER: So, prosecutors said today that they need about two more weeks, starting tomorrow, to present all their case. Mr. Trump expressed surprise at that. Did that surprise you?

REID: Yes, he expressed surprise by going like this. He was clearly not happy about that. And it doesn't surprise me because we know, in talking to sources, we know this case well. We know they still need to call Michael Cohen. We know that is one single witness that could take up to an entire week. There are also short weeks. They're only three days, most of them. Today's our first and possibly our only four-day week.

They also have to call Stormy Daniels. They're going to recall at least another official from the district attorney's office to get some evidence in. So, no, that estimate was not terribly surprising to me. Unclear why it was surprising to the defendant.

TAPPER: All right, Paula Reid, stick around. I want to bring in the former prosecutor from the Manhattan district attorney's office, Jeremy Saland. Jeremy, today we heard testimony from Jeffrey McConney, who walked the jury through documents outlining payments that Trump made to Cohen in 2017.

McConney failed to provide the crucial link between the crime and Trump's knowledge of it or he was unable to say that Trump specifically ordered any falsification of documents. How big a problem is that to the prosecution, do you think?

JEREMY SALAND, FORMER PROSECUTOR, MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE: I think it's a problem, but it's a problem that can be surmounted because we heard out of the gate from David Pecker how there was no communication that was done by e-mail and that was corroborated by his assistant at the time, Rhona Graff.


But more important than that, you have other pieces of foundational evidence that are going to be very helpful. You have an e-mail that Don and Eric approve of this. You have a conversation or communication that legal did not approve of these retainers or, pardon me, these invoices. It was just sent over and ultimately paid. So, who is benefiting from this? Is it to believe that Michael Cohen had the authority to approve of these payments? Someone had to approve of the payments within Trump or, alternatively, Trump personally because they came from his bank accounts.

So, there's a common-sense component here and foundational from each of these evidences -- pardon me -- each of these witnesses that build this sort of steam and locomotive going forward. Now, is that proof beyond a reasonable doubt? That's yet to be seen, but the foundation is certainly there.

TAPPER: And Paula, we're still waiting for really several big witnesses to take the stand. We had Hope Hicks Friday, but the big ones really are Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels. What should prosecutors' strategy be here when deciding when to put either of these witnesses on the stand, do you think?

REID: We expect that Michael Cohen would probably go about three- quarters of the way through this case. He is problematic for many reasons, not only his previous convictions for lying, but also the fact that he has made a career for several years of attacking the defendant. And this is going to be a challenging witness for the prosecutors. It is going to be a lengthy and perhaps devastating cross-examination. So, you don't want to end your case on that. You got to have someone after him.

And it's unclear where Stormy Daniels will fit in all of this. But remember, Stormy Daniels cannot speak directly to the alleged criminal behavior here, which is falsifying business records. And, you know, at this point, it's day 13. While Jeremy argues that, you know, there will be additional evidence, it's day 13. Where is it? At this point, it does not appear that prosecutors have presented any direct link between the defendant and the falsified business records.

TAPPER: Jeremy, a judge found Trump in a --

SALAND: -- comment.

TAPPER: Go ahead, say it.

SALAND: Well, I just want to comment on that. Let's look at this a little bit differently, sort of more of a criminal enterprise. And I'm not saying this is, in fact, a criminal enterprise or a drug dealing scheme or something more fraudulent like that. There's very often not fingers to point directly at the key figure, the central figure. You'd have to look at other pieces of evidence that build up to that person.

And sometimes it's circumstantial. Sometimes it's direct. And that often, again, I use the term common sense. Is that proof beyond a reasonable doubt? Not necessarily. But the fact that there's no direct fingers actually putting his hands on these checks and putting his hands on the conversation, well, it makes sense he wants to have clean hands.

So, I'm not overly concerned because you can have it circumstantially. And I think that evidence is building up. Now, whether, again, it's a felony, that's a different animal. Because if you're stuck with just a misdemeanor, that's an absolute loss.

TAPPER: So, a judge found Trump in contempt for -- Judge Merchan for the tenth time he violated the gag order. The judge is threatening Trump with actual jail time if he continues to violate it. Listen to Mr. Trump outside the courthouse a few minutes ago, Paula.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: And then you have the other thing that maybe is even more disgraceful is the gag order. Where I can't basically -- I have to watch every word, I tell you people. You ask me a question, a simple question, I'd like to give it, but I can't talk about it. Because this judge has given me a gag order and said you'll go to jail if you violate it. And frankly, you know what? Our Constitution is much more important than jail. It's not even close. I'll do that sacrifice any day.


TAPPER: So, I wonder, Paula, what you think about Donald Trump sounding as though he is willing to go to jail, in his view, so he could continue to exercise his First Amendment rights of free speech. Is that an actual possibility?

REID: Yeah, the judge made it clear earlier this morning that he would contemplate jail if Trump again violates this gag order. But I think we need to take a closer look at what the judge decided. He was weighing four different alleged violations of the gag order and only found Trump in criminal contempt for one of them because in that violation he talked about the jury and the selection of the jury.

I want to note that there were two other alleged violations that attacked Michael Cohen. And the judge specifically said that he could not find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that those responses were not political speech. There was also an ambiguous comment that Trump made about David Pecker. And the judge said, look, I get that you can interpret the sort of mafioso way of what he's trying to say if he says he's been saying nice things. But he did not find him in violation for those three.

And this is the first time that Trump's lawyers have been successful in this defense of political speech, right? What he says should be protected. So, yeah, it's not good when you're found in criminal contempt or threatened with jail. But if you really look at a nuanced view of what the judge decided today, one of the Trump defense arguments they've been making for a long time and losing finally prevailed against Michael Cohen.


TAPPER: Interesting. Thanks to both of you. Really appreciate it. Breaking news on another front abroad. Images from Tel Aviv where it is after midnight. You see the crowds there. Those protesters are demanding that the Israeli government, the Netanyahu government, accept the proposed ceasefire and hostage deal.

But in just the last hour, new questions about the proposal Hamas actually agreed to earlier, one offered by Egypt and Qatar. Sources say that this is not what Israel has been working on crafting in recent weeks. We're going to bring you that story next.


TAPPER: And we're back with breaking news in our "World Lead." You're looking right now at video from just moments ago of protesters in Israel. They're demanding that the Netanyahu government agree to a ceasefire and hostage deal. While just in to CNN, Hamas said it is not going to back down from its demands in the ceasefire proposal it agreed to. Sources are telling CNN that Hamas agreed to a different proposal today than the one that Israel has been helping to craft with mediators from other countries, which includes a permanent end to hostilities. That's the one that Hamas agreed to.


Permanent end to hostilities is apparently a red line for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who does not want to agree to a permanent end to hostilities. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is following all of this from Jerusalem. CNN's MJ Lee is at the White House. Jeremy, Israel says that they're going to send a delegation to the peace talks, despite the differences that remain with this deal. Does that signal, Jeremy, at least some willingness to negotiate on Israel's part?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's right, Jake. The Israeli prime minister's office is saying tonight that this latest proposal by Hamas is far from reaching Israel's necessary requirements, but they are committing at the same time to sending a delegation to either Doha, Qatar, or to Cairo, Egypt to pursue negotiations with the mediators involved.

But what is also clear is that the statement from Hamas earlier this evening that suggested that it had agreed to this proposal, that proposal is not the same one that Israel had weighed in on just a little bit over a week ago, the Egyptian framework that Israel had helped craft.

Instead, a senior Israeli and a senior American official are telling me and my colleague Alex Marquardt that Hamas actually agreed to a different proposal, one that diverges from that original Egyptian framework in a few ways, but one key way in particular, and that is that this latest framework that Hamas appears to have agreed to includes a permanent end to the hostilities.

That, of course, has been a red line for the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. It is something that, if he agreed to that, might even perhaps lead to the collapse of his government just because of the politics involved and the right-wing elements of his coalition that do not want to see this war end.

But nonetheless, this means that there is at least a pathway to pursue these negotiations with this working-level delegation set to meet with the mediators in the coming days. How they will be able to close the gap is another question entirely, Jake.

TAPPER: MJ, you pressed White House national security spokesman Admiral John Kirby on this looming Rafah invasion, which the Biden administration has been very firm on not wanting the Israelis to do until they are satisfied, the Biden administration is satisfied there is a way to protect civilians. Tell us about that.

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I mean, this issue is all the more important now that Israel has come out and said that this framework that Hamas has agreed to is far from what they are willing to accept, and they pledged that they are going to go ahead with this Rafah operation.

You know, the U.S. simply does not want Israel to go into Rafah. They have made that repeatedly clear in recent weeks. They have said, look, there are some 1.5 million people that are in Rafah right now, and it is just not possible to move all of those people out of harm's way and make sure that they are housed, that they are fed.

And the question that I put to John Kirby in the White House press briefing is the question of a Rafah operation that is limited in scope. Take a listen to this exchange.


LEE: John, what is the president's position on a limited operation into Rafah?

JOHN KIRBY, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER: We've been very clear that we don't support a major ground operation in Rafah. Operations in general that put at greater risk the more than a million people that are sheltering there. And the question right now is a hypothetical question.

LEE: Right, but you know that they are asking people in the area to evacuate, and the possibility of a limited Rafah operation is on the table. So, I'm asking, does the president believe that Israel can execute a limited operation into Rafah while adequately protecting the lives of civilians there?

KIRBY: The president doesn't want to see operations in Rafah that put at greater risk. LEE: So, you wouldn't support a limited operation into Rafah?

KIRBY: I think I've answered the question.


LEE: So, look, he wouldn't explicitly say the words the U.S. would not support even a limited Rafah operation, but I think it's pretty clear that he was saying that is the U.S.'s position. And just a reminder for everyone, of course, the president himself had previously said that a major incursion into Rafah would be a crossing of his red line. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Jeremy Diamond in Israel, Jerusalem, and MJ Lee at the White House, Washington, D.C., thanks to both of you.

Will the protests in Israel push Prime Minister Netanyahu to accept some form of this latest ceasefire and hostage proposal? Could a ceasefire calm the protests on college campuses from coast to coast here in the United States? We'll explore next.



TAPPER: And we're back with our "World Lead." Israeli War Cabinet member Benny Gantz, who also happens to be Prime Minister Netanyahu's biggest political rival. Benny Gantz says there are, quote, "significant gaps," unquote, between Israel and Hamas on this latest deal, agreed to by the terrorist group, adding Hamas' proposal for a ceasefire and hostage release, quote, "does not correspond to the dialogue that has taken place so far with the mediators," unquote.

Let's get right to CNN's national security analyst, Beth Sanner. She's also a former deputy director of National Intelligence. Beth, tell us what is going on here because we have Hamas agreeing to something, maybe something proposed by Egypt and Qatar, although I'm not sure about that, and then Israel saying, wait a second, this is not the document that we've all been working with and the mediators in Cairo. So, what exactly is going on?

BETH SANNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: We don't know. So, we can speculate, right? And we're going to find out more in the next coming days. I mean, I think it's really good as part of that Gantz statement is that they're going to send some mediators to go to Egypt and engage with the negotiators to see kind of what is going on here.


But what I suspect is going on is a little bit of several things. I mean, I think that Hamas is definitely seeing an opportunity here to turn themselves from being the bad guys for rejecting the proposal into the good guys for accepting the proposal and, oh, it's Israel that's not, and putting Israel in a position where they really do need to move forward with this Rafah operation, in part because they see the military force as being the only leverage that they have against Hamas that has tunnels and hostages and time on their side.

TAPPER: Yeah. We're seeing this massive outpouring in Israel of protests against the Netanyahu government. They seem mainly focused on the fact that in the view of hostage families and thousands of other Israelis, Netanyahu has not prioritized getting the hostage's home. This is almost like its own political party in Israel. And for people who aren't familiar with domestic politics in Israel, parties do arise quickly.

SANNER: Right.

TAPPER: Right.

TAPPER: And fall in terms of labor. Right.

SANNER: Right.

TAPPER: I mean, but do you think this is going to have any sway at all?

SANNER: I think it is having sway. I mean, I think Netanyahu is the prime person here that's under pressure from all sides, right. I think that he's the one -- he's got his right wing saying that they're going to bring down the government if he agrees to a ceasefire deal. And then he's got the hostages and the United States breathing down his neck and saying, look, this is the linchpin. This is the thing that needs to happen to get the hostages out.

And for the United States, all our other interests that are involved in this, getting the flooding the zone to get the humanitarian aid in, to diminish all of the campus protests here at home, and all the pressure on him domestically, and ultimately to solve the bigger Middle East question. This is the linchpin. And so, you know, Netanyahu is under a lot of pressure.

TAPPER: So, you talk about humanitarian aid getting in. One of the big concessions that the Biden administration got from Netanyahu is open the Karim Shalom crossing into Israel -- from Israel to Gaza. And Netanyahu told President Biden today the Karim Shalom crossing would be reopened. But Hamas attacked it over the weekend.

SANNER: Right.

TAPPER: And they and they killed four Israeli soldiers. That seems to have had an effect on Netanyahu and Benny Gantz and others in terms of any sort of ceasefire agreement, because, I mean, the Hamas is killing Israelis at the crossing that they're trying to use to get humanitarian aid.

SANNER: Yeah. I mean, one press report says that the United States didn't know about the air -- the leaflets being dropped and the order to move the civilians out that came really on the heels of -- so the strike came on Sunday with the IDF folks getting killed. And then on Monday, you know, here we are. So, I think that there's a lot of things going on in terms of Hamas. Look, they've got thousands of fighters left. This strike on Karim Shalom proves that they are still a threat. And this is the little sector right around there those civilians have been requested to evacuate and where the operations are going to take place. So, I don't see how that that crossing is going to be functioning once this offensive truly gets underway.

TAPPER: Oh, boy. All right. Do you do you think, by the way, that any sort of ceasefire might help quell college protests and all the unrest? I mean, it's really, I mean, I've never seen unrest like this in my lifetime in the sense that Columbia University just canceled graduation, canceled like the big graduation ceremony they had planned. And that's going on all over the country because of protesters. It's a minority.

SANNER: Right.

TAPPER: And certainly, everybody hates to see civilians killed in Gaza. But it is it is disrupting the lives of people in America who just are trying to live their lives, go to school, et cetera.

SANNER: Yeah. These are the kids that didn't have a graduation in high school because of COVID.

TAPPER: Right.

SANNER: So, it's sad on so many levels, all of it. But I do think that with graduation, campuses emptying out over the summer break and a ceasefire, that we would see a lot less uproar in the United States and the ability of the United States to move forward with some strategic issues. Look, this isn't over yet. We've got to put on our seatbelts and ride this roller coaster for a little while. It could be that pressure; military pressure does make Hamas pull back a little bit on their demands. We'll have to see.

TAPPER: All right, Beth Sanner, thank you so much, as always.

When not in the courtroom, Donald Trump unloads in front of Republican supporters as those striving to be his running mate take to the airwaves. We're going to unpack some of the things said next.



TAPPER: Let's cue the music for the 2024. Thank you. Thank you. The election jam. With less than six months to go until November election, the race to become Donald Trump's running mate is clearly heating up on the short list. House Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik of New York, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, all of them giving T.V. interviews, a day after joining Trump at an RNC fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago, Saturday. There's also South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem now talked about for many different reasons. We'll talk about them as well. Let's bring in the panel. So, Eva, these Trump VP candidates, in many ways, I think it's fair to interpret them as auditioning to a degree for the position by talking about issues that matter to Donald Trump in the way that Donald Trump wants to hear them. For example, Senator Tim Scott, who I believe voted to certify the election. This is him refusing to say whether he would accept the outcome of the 2024 election.



SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-FL): At the end of the day, the 47th president of the United States will be President Donald Trump. And I'm excited to give back to low inflation, low unemployment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wait, wait, senator, yes or no? Yes or no? Will you accept the election results of 2024, no matter who wins?

SCOTT: That is my statement.


TAPPER: So I'm not sure that that would be, like it's not bad as far as Donald Trump would be concerned, but it's not. Well, he's only going to -- he's definitely going to win. And the only way he doesn't win is if they cheat, which is what Trump would say.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So he never was full blown into the election denialism, but he has always given this idea that something in 2020 was askew and airing. So when I was on the campaign trail with him and voters would raise this, he would suggest, well, oh, it's OK now because Republican states with Republican governors have passed election laws to address this issue.

But listen, you know, Senator Scott is playing for an audience of one. It doesn't matter what we say on this panel, what anyone else thinks. He cares what the former president thinks. And the former president wants this narrative to continue. And I suspect as this becomes more and more like the apprentice and all these folks are vying against one another, these interviews with these candidates, I guess you could call them, are going to become even more combative, right? As they try to go back and forth and not answer basic questions.

TAPPER: So you were on the show yesterday after Doug Burgum's interview, North Dakota governor. And if I'm reading your comments correctly, you're basically saying that a running mate is supposed to provide something. And maybe you didn't necessarily see what Doug Burgum added to a ticket. Who adds the most, do you think, potentially, other than Vice President Pence, who obviously, you know, he would add a lot, given gravitas and all that, but he's not even saying he's going to vote for Trump, so of the potential VP's?

MARC LOTTER, CHIEF COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER, AMERICA FIRST POLICY INSTITUTE: Well, I think the big thing is that nobody ever votes for the VP. No one walks into the ballot box and goes, I'm voting for Vice President Blah. So they literally are going, well, I heard from the VP nominee that this president represents my values, is going to support my policies. So the question then --

TAPPER: That's what Pence offered in 2016?

LOTTER: Correct. You basically offer like that certification that, oh, I've talked to him. He's one of us and he'll take care of ourselves.

TAPPER: Biden did that for Obama, too, in a way.

LOTTER: Right. Especially on foreign policy.


LOTTER: Because of that time. So the question's going to be is, would a Tim Scott be able to help move the needle in, say, the black community? Would Elise Stefanik be able to go in suburban Philadelphia or in Milwaukee and help, like, suburban college educated moms? Would Marco Rubio be able to help move over more Latino and Hispanic voters? I'm not saying they can and they would. But I mean, those are the kinds of calculus you would have to take. And you'd have -- they would have obviously, a lot of polling that shows that's why we think that's the most valuable.

TAPPER: So, Charlie, Congressman Denton, let me ask you. So South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has been getting a lot of attention for her book, her memoir coming out. And I guess they're removing passages from the book. One of them, while she's not removing the part where she shoots her 18-month-old or 17-month-old dog cricket in the head because it was attacking chickens or something and was aggressive.

But then there's also this claim and this part is being removed from the book, that she met with Kim Jong-un in a trip to the DMZ or something like that when she was a member of Congress. Listen to her explanation about why she's removing that passage from CBS this morning.


GOV. KRISTI NOEM (R-SD): I'm saying that, I'm not talking about that meeting. I'm not talking about my meetings with world leaders.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But you do talk about meetings with world leaders.

NOEM: There's some that are in the book and then there's some that's not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a simple question. Did you or did you not --

NOEM: That's the answer that I have for you is that I'm -- it will be adjusted. And as soon as I became aware of it, that content was removed.

TAPPER: So there's two things. One of them is as soon as I became aware of it, she did the book on tape. So presumably, even if she didn't write her own memoir, she read it, she just didn't realize it. Second of all, she seems to be suggesting that she did meet with Kim Jong-un. She just wasn't supposed to include it in the book.

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I got the sense she did not meet with Kim Jong-un. She probably went to North Korea like many members of Congress, do they go to the DMZ and they step over into North Korea, which they're allowed to do. But I suspect that's what she did. But she never met with Kim Jong-un. Apparently she did read her book and still did not catch these errors. So I'm frankly stunned by this whole situation and not a good look. And I can't imagine this is going to help her in terms of her vice presidential aspirations, because this is a fiasco for her.

MCKEND: But her strategy to combat all of this self-inflicted drama is really interesting. She's saying, look, they're just treating me how they treat Trump. You know, the media is just going after me like they treat Trump. And she's continuing to double down on all of this chaos.


TAPPER: Yes, she had some tweet complaining about Margaret Brennan from CBS from Face the Nation, interrupting her, I mean, as somebody who does the Sunday show, it's not really interrupting. We're trying to get you to answer the question. She wouldn't answer the question.

LOTTER: Yes, no, I mean, you -- that's the challenge. I mean, obviously, when you're in this situation, you either own it, and Maya Culpa shouldn't have been in there. I shouldn't have gotten and get out. And then a one day news story becomes a one day news story. When you literally try to play in a gray area, then a one day news story becomes a one week news story. I mean this is, I think this is a mismanaged opportunity.

TAPPER: So in addition to all that, there's this story that she's still defending her decision to shoot and kill her dog because she claims it was aggressive. She said, this is a humane manner, shooting the dog in the head. According to the American Veterinary Society, every state in the country has a law that allows us. I'm not sure that's accurate. But according to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, they say animals with challenging behavior disorders such as aggression, should be treated with effective, compassionate, and humane methods of training rather than with a heavy hand. There are no exceptions to this standard. I still don't understand the defense of shooting her dog in the head.

DENT: Well, there is --

TAPPER: I assume it was the head.

DENT: Jake, you know, we had -- our poor little dog had kidney failure. We had to put him down the day after Christmas. And it's a very hard thing to do. There's a compassionate way to deal with animal that's either dying or in this case, if it was truly a very aggressive animal, there is a way to deal with that other than take him to a gravel pit, shooting them in the head. And what about the goat, by the way? That also happened.

But the point is, this is -- it's a fiasco. This is a completely self- destructive and self-inflicted wound by Kristi Noem and her own vice presidential aspirations.

TAPPER: And I think she was a legitimate contender for VP. And but as you know, like, this fiasco, as you call it, has just snowballed. We're on day 10 of this, or something like that.

LOTTER: Yes. I mean, this is where your political advisors, they have to read this book ahead of time and go, no, you can't say that or let, can we reword that? I mean, this is what we all do for a living. It's like that can't go in the book.

TAPPER: I believe it was Jack Shafer of POLITICO who reported that a previous memoir, she wanted to put this in the book, but her previous team and her previous publisher said don't put that in the book and they didn't. His new team, new publisher, at least, new imprint, and it's in the book. And, you know, congratulations. Thanks one and all for being here.

Plus, on Capitol Hill right now, Speaker Mike Johnson and Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, they're meeting behind closed doors, and they've been meeting for nearly two hours now. Congressman Matt Gaetz, who used to be center stage for these contentious leadership debates, he's going to be here to talk about this one and much more. That's next.



TAPPER: In our Politics Lead, moments ago, a nearly two-hour meeting wrapped up between House Speaker Mike Johnson and the Republican member who is threatening his job, Marjorie Taylor Greene, the congresswoman from Georgia who just spoke to reporters about the meeting. Take a listen.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): We just had a very long discussion with the speaker. We're going to be meeting again tomorrow based on the discussion that we've had. And so we really don't have any news to report at this time.


GREENE: So we are going to be meeting again with Speaker Johnson in the morning based on our discussion, and then we'll have more information.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you speak with former President Trump.


TAPPER: Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene could force a motion to vacate as early as today, although she seems to suggest she won't. Speaker Johnson is likely to keep his job. House Democratic leaders have said that enough Democrats would vote to kill the effort. But this is amping up divisions among the Republican Party's narrow House majority. I think he can only, Johnson can only afford to lose one vote on any party line vote.

With us now to discuss Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida. He's well versed on kicking speakers to the curb. Last year, he forced the vote that led to the unprecedented remove of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. So thank you so much for being here. I also want to talk to you about something you've been talking about on the Foreign Affairs Committee having to do with Niger.

But before we get to that, you said you disagree with Congresswoman Greene's approach to this, and there's too much at stake legislatively to remove the speaker during an election year. You did lead the charge against McCarthy, and no House speaker had ever been removed from office before that. Do you have any concerns that maybe you've opened a Pandora's box, that you've set a precedent that now can be abused?

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): First, let me say hallelujah to that reaction from Marjorie Taylor Greene. We won't be facing a motion of vacate today, it looks like. And I think Marjorie Taylor Greene has substantive concerns with how the house is being run that I would agree with, the same with Thomas Massie. I was very deliberate to ensure that I did not execute a motion to vacate during an election year. I think that puts the majority at some risk. I think that's not good for our presidential nominees. So I wanted to make sure we cleaned out the barn in 2023, that we headed into 2024 as united as we possibly could be. No denying that Mike Johnson has let us down on a number of fronts. He ran on a campaign of single subject spending bills. He used to be against this warrantless surveillance against Americans, and he was someone who had voted against funding for Ukraine. Regardless of how you view those things, for him to do a 180 on them has caught a number of us with a bit of whiplash.

Mike Johnson is a great impressionist. I wish he would do the impression of Mike Johnson from October, when we elected him, because that was a lot more productive.

TAPPER: So one of the things that's interesting is that it seems like the criticisms about Johnson, there was something very personal about those who opposed McCarthy, in the sense that people thought he was a liar and that he had misled them and he had made them promises and then not kept. Johnson, I understand that there are policy disagreements, and he would argue, I'm sure I have a one vote or two vote majority, and I can only do so much if Republicans are threatening me every bill, we have to govern. Do you see them differently at all, or are they the same?


GAETZ: Well, I think that the Kevin McCarthy concern about lying and about side deals and misrepresentations was considerably more acute than what we've dealt with Mike Johnson. With Mike Johnson, we don't understand why he went from opposing Ukraine to supporting Ukraine, why he went from being for a warrant, for surveillance to being against a warrant.

And certainly in that matter, he was the deciding vote. So those are substantive concerns. We're not worried that Mike Johnson is lying to us and working some secret side deal. We're worried that he's changing his views on things where we think he was right the first time.

TAPPER: But he might argue and he can defend himself. But he might argue. Look, all I did was allow a vote on Ukraine aid.

GAETZ: Well, no, he voted.

TAPPER: I know he voted for it, too. But either way, his argument might be, look, you oppose it, get 218 votes against it, and you can defeat it.

GAETZ: But we had a majority of the majority oppose the Ukraine aid.

TAPPER: But that's not 218 votes, though?

GAETZ: Right. But, you know, the Hastert rule has been one that many members have advocated for, to not use the Democrats to roll on a matter of policy. Now, look, I will admit on matters of procedure, we have aligned with Democrats to stop decisions from rolling to the floor that we thought were bad. And even removing McCarthy after he had lied to both Democrats and Republicans. With Mike Johnson, we want him to be the best version of himself. We just see a two hour meeting that's going to result in another meeting. Hopefully, this motion to vacate is a positive upward management tool that Marjorie Taylor Greene can use to get the most out of Mike.

TAPPER: I want to give you an opportunity because Kevin McCarthy is obviously still has a lot of animus towards you specifically.

GAETZ: So I've heard.

TAPPER: And he's still out there on camera saying things about you. And I want to give you an opportunity to respond to something he said not long ago. He's backing a Republican challenging you in a primary, for example. And he says you only came for his job because you wanted him to call off the congressional ethics investigation into you. So take a listen, and then we'll have you give you a fair shake to respond.


KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: And I'll give you the truth why I'm not speaker. It's because one person, a member of Congress, wanted me to stop an ethics complaint because he slept with a 17-year-old. An ethics complaint that started before I ever became speaker. And that's illegal. And I'm not going to get in the middle. Did he do it or not? I don't know.


TAPPER: So first of all, you have long denied these allegations. The Justice Department conducted an investigation. They brought no charges against you. There is a congressional ethics probe going on. I want to give you an opportunity to respond and see if you've had any conversations or discussions with Kevin McCarthy or Mike Johnson about any of this. GAETZ: No, I haven't. It's obvious from that clip Kevin's having a totally normal one and his life is back to copacetic post being speaker. Look, I'm the most investigated man in Congress. There's not a single human being who has publicly accused me of any wrongdoing of any kind. And like, at what point after these things have been said about me for years and years and not a single person has even accused me of wrongdoing. Does this sort of become a strange urban legend? My concerns with Kevin McCarthy were around his truthfulness, which, by the way, he certainly didn't advance you any veracity in those comments.

TAPPER: So let's talk about the issue that I wanted to have you on to discuss.


TAPPER: U.S. and Russian troops have been operating under the same military base in Niger for at least several weeks. And this is all amid a coup. And the country's ruling leaders have made it clear they want the U.S. forces to leave. The U.S. still is -- needs clearance for military flights to withdraw any troops. Your staff has been talking to active duty U.S. troops there. You're also talking to constituents who have loved ones there. What are you hearing from the active duty troops first?

GAETZ: We have over 1,000 U.S. service members and then more contractors who are functionally stuck in Niger. They have not been resupplied since March. There was a coup in the country of Niger in March. Since then, no resupplies. On April 17th, I issued a report saying that in May they would be out of critical medicines for chronic diseases. I'd heard this directly from service members from my district. Now what I can tell --

TAPPER: Who are there?

GAETZ: Who are there.


GAETZ: And tasked with public health responsibilities. What I can tell you right now, I'm getting letters that say, you know, my husband specifically is on cholesterol medication for his heart. And at this point in time he has run out of medicine from another service member. We still have not received supplies at air base one-on-one. We are short on blood and medications. We keep getting told talks are good, but if they're going good, why have no planes come for our replacements? We have not had a resupply mission here since March. The morale is terrible and needs to be fixed ASAP.

My appeal, beyond politics is directly to President Biden. President Biden either resupply our troops with what they need for medicine and water and food, or get them out of there and evacuate that base. You cannot use our service members as leverage in some sort of negotiation. If I were president, we'd be flying C-130s in with the medicine and supplies those folks need, and they'd have every military escort that they needed. And I'd be sent into the Nigeri government where the target packages were that would implicate their houses and their family members. Because we cannot be held hostage by some third world group of gang coup leaders who just overthrew the democratically elected government in Niger.


TAPPER: Please keep us informed on this story.

GAETZ: Thank you.

TAPPER: Very important, and I appreciate your coming here to talk about it.

GAETZ: Thank you.

TAPPER: Thank you, Congressman Gaetz.

More breaking news, dangerous storms moving in. Images show the ominous clouds right now about 100 miles west of Oklahoma City. The severe weather threat ongoing for the night ahead.


TAPPER: Our last leads now, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt says that his state is preparing for the worst and praying for the best ahead of what is expected to be a dangerously stormy night. Weather forecasters say there's a strong possibility of multiple intense long track tornadoes, very large to giant hail and up to 80 miles an hour winds. The threat of severe storms affects 25 million people across central and southern plains in the United States, including Oklahoma.

A significant milestone in the U.S. space program tonight, the first crewed flight of Boeing's new Starliner spacecraft. Two NASA astronauts are scheduled to launch from Florida to the International Space Station shortly after 10:30 this evening East Coast time. NASA has been looking for another option in addition to using Elon Musk's SpaceX for launching astronauts into space.


Wolf Blitzer is up next in the Situation Room with much more in the Trump trial, including a former New York judge who's going to weigh in on the possibility of Donald Trump serving jail time because of gag order violations. That's next. I'll see you tomorrow morning for Trump trial coverage.