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The Lead with Jake Tapper

"Diddy" Shown In 2016 Video Assaulting Former Girlfriend; IDF: Bodies Of Three Hostages Recovered From Gaza Tunnel; Michael Cohen Returns To Witness Stand Monday; FBI Agent Testifies About Finding Cash & Gold Bars In Sen. Menendez's Home; Eastman Is First Trump Ally Arraigned In Arizona Election Case; NYT: Upside-Down Flag Seen At Justice Alito's Home In 2021. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired May 17, 2024 - 16:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Taking the grounds crew there, you can see armed with a trash can, a few attempts.


Eventually, they got him.

The MLS tweeting, quote, unofficially raquinho, the raccoon, spent 161 seconds on the field tonight, which was the most by a raccoon in MLS history. And the trading card company Tops is now selling raquinho's trading card for the bargain price of 8.99.

I think his sister raquinha may live in my trash can, to be honest. It's a constant battle. She's also fast like that.

JEAN DEAN, CNN HOST: Is she worth 8.99 a card? I don't know.

KEILAR: I think so.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Shocking new video backing up the assault allegations against Sean "Diddy" Combs.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Damning new video obtained exclusively by CNN, showing a clear violence, assault by one of the biggest names in entertainment, Sean "Diddy" Combs. Video showing him throwing his ex-girlfriend the ground, bragging her, kicking her. This was 2016. Why are we only seeing this tape now? And is Diddy going to remain untouchable?

Plus, Israel confirms bodies found of three hostages held by Hamas. Their remains found in a tunnel. How the IDF made the discovery and what we know about how they were kidnapped.

And the world's top golfer arrested just hours before he was supposed to tee off. What Scottie Scheffler now saying about the incident then ended up with him in handcuffs and a police detective in the hospital?

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

The man who wants famously sang about being a bad boy for life is caught on tape, living up to that description in a horrifying way. A 2016 surveillance video exclusively obtained by CNN's Los Angeles bureau shows multi-millionaire rapper and producer Sean "Diddy" Combs appearing to violently assault his then-girlfriend, Cassie Ventura. We're going to show that video to you in a moment. It's tough to watch.

It's a beginning that matches Ventura's allegations in a federal lawsuit she filed in November, a lawsuit that's now been settled. That lawsuit, of course, opened the floodgates for even more lawsuits which ultimately led to a federal sex trafficking investigation into the 54 year-old artist.

You might remember when Department of Homeland Security agents raided Diddy's Miami home and his Los Angeles home back in March. What you do not remember is Diddy being charged with a crime, because that never happened?

Diddy, a multimillionaire, has denied a multitude of allegations against him related to Ventura and to others who claimed they were subjected to parties that he threw that turned into nightmares, where they were drugged. Some raped. They threw up. They passed out.

The new surveillance video matches Ventura's story and it raises more questions about what exactly goes on inside Diddy's world. What is he getting away with? And whether he will face with any consequences?

CNN's Elizabeth Wagmeister is all over the story.

Elizabeth, you're going to show us the video, but first, give us some context on what we're about to see.

ELIZABETH WAGMEISTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake, this is incredibly disturbing footage, and so, I do want to warn our viewers as you did, but as you said, Cassie's lawsuit, which was filed in November of 2023 and then was quickly settled overnight. It did open the flood gates.

But in that complaint, Jake, she details an incident that she alleged happened in March of 2016 at a hotel in Los Angeles. She claimed in her lawsuit that she was physically assaulted by Diddy.

Now, our team and the L.A. bureau, we have got our hands on that surveillance footage and it appears to corroborate Cassie's claims identically, really, Jake, the lawsuit lines up with exactly what we are seeing. So lets take a look.


WAGMEISTER (voice-over): New surveillance footage obtained exclusively by CNN appears to corroborate some of the allegations of abuse against music mogul Sean "Diddy" Combs. The video captured on multiple cameras shows Combs wearing only a towel assaulting his then-girlfriend, Cassie Ventura, in a hallway at a Los Angeles hotel in March 2016.

A lawsuit filed by Ventura in November last year and settled the next day referenced actions that seem to match those seen in this video. There is no audio.

According to the complaint, Combs became extremely intoxicated and punched Ms. Ventura in the face, giving her a black eye, which according to the lawsuit prompted Ventura to try and leave the hotel room.

The surveillance video obtained by CNN begins as she enters the hallway.

The complaint says, as she exited Mr. Combs awoke in, began screaming at Ms. Ventura. He followed her into the hallway of the hotel while yelling at her. The complaint goes on to say he grabbed her and then took glass vases in the hallway and threw them at her.


In the surveillance video, Combs can be seen grabbing Ventura and throwing her to the ground. As Ventura lies on the ground, Combs then kicks her twice and attempts to drag her on the floor back to the hotel room.

Ventura is seen picking up a hotel phone. Comb seems to walk back to the hotel room, then returns and appears to shove her in a corner. Moments later, he can be seen throwing an object in her direction.

According to Ventura's now settled lawsuit, the pair began dating several years after they met in 2005. They parted ways in 2019.

Comb's attorney said the decision to settle was in no way an admission of wrongdoing.

Ventura declined to comment on the video, but her attorney told CNN the gut-wrenching video has only further confirmed the disturbing and predatory behavior of Mr. Combs. Words cannot express the courage and fortitude that Ms. Ventura has shown in coming forward to bring this to light.

The video hasn't been seen publicly before and comes on the heels of a series of civil lawsuits alleging Combs involvement in sex trafficking and sexual abuse, allegations Combs has repeatedly denied.

Authorities searched Combs' homes in Los Angeles and Miami in April, as part of an ongoing federal investigation carried out by a team that specializes in human trafficking crimes.

In a December 2023 statement, Combs responded to the claims and some of the lawsuit saying: Sickening allegations have been made against me by individuals looking for a quick payday. Let me be absolutely clear, I did not do any of the awful things being alleged.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WAGMEISTER (on camera): Now, that Instagram post from Diddy was back in December. That was not in relation directly to Cassie. It was referencing many of these allegations and lawsuits that he faces.

Now, I have reached out to Diddy's team. We have not heard back from them today.

But, Jake, I do want to point out there was a settlement deal between Diddy and Cassie, so neither of them can speak. But again, we're still waiting to hear back from his team.

Now, a really great point that you brought up top Jake was what is going on in Diddy's world, right? We've all heard stories of Hollywood enablers and enablers in circles around powerful people. But something that I want to point out, Diddy is one of the most powerful people in music history. He is a mogul. We have not seen any support in Hollywood.

All of his famous friends since these allegations came forward, we have not seen anyone come to his defense and not silence is very loud, Jake.

TAPPER: Yeah. Elizabeth Wagmeister, thank you so much. Incredible work by the L.A. bureau.

Lets discuss this with CNN's John Miller and Julie K. Brown, a "Miami Herald" investigative journalist who has been following this story, also best known perhaps for her work pursuing the Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking story.

So, John, Cassie filed her lawsuit in November. The feds raided Diddy's home in March now, we see this awful video which is more than 8 years old. And yet Diddy has still not been charged with anything? I would think there would be grounds for his arrest in that video.

Why hasn't he been charged with anything?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, the video is out of the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations in California for simple assault is a year, for domestic violence assault, it was three years. They've moved that up to five years, but this is out of range for a state charge in California.

However, let's get back to that federal investigation. What HIS, Homeland Security Investigations, is doing as Elizabeth framed it, is they are building a racketeering case, a RICO case based on human trafficking and allegations startlingly similar that track those that have been made in Cassie Ventura's lawsuit. And in the lawsuit by another individual who worked for Combs that tell these stories of people being brought in and the presence of weapons and drugs and so on. It's very much like what they did in the R. Kelly case, which got him 30 years in prison.

So this charge, even though state crime is out of the statute of limitations, would be fair game in that federal case. TAPPER: Julie, Cassie's lawsuit claims that hotel security staff saw

what was happening on surveillance and they urged her to go home. The lawsuit, then claims that did he paid $50,000 to get that footage from hallways security. CNN has reached out to the hotel for comment, not a hotel. I'll ever want to stay out. How serious would it be if they witnessed and assault did not report it, and then accepted money to basically disappear the security footage?

JULIE K. BROWN, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST, MIAMI HERALD: Well, there's certainly a question of negligence on the hotels part. And by the way, he didn't -- this just didn't happen in a hotel in L.A. It's also -- these kinds of incidents have been happening in hotels in Manhattan, in Miami Beach as well. So there presumably could be other video because all these hotels have cameras, there presumably could be other video out there.


And in addition, a couple of the other lawsuits that have been filed against him alleged that there is video evidence and that is exactly what authorities were trying to get their hands on when they conducted their searches of his homes in Miami Beach and in California and L.A.

TAPPER: John, assuming that Sean Combs, Diddy is eventually charged, how important might this video be?

MILLER: Well, it's going to be very important to the assault charge. It's going to be very important according to the credibility of Cassie Ventura as a witness. Remember, when she brought that lawsuit, Ben Brafman, Combs' lawyer called it baseless, outrageous lies from somebody looking for a pay day, claimed that she had tried to blackmail them, that she demanded $30 million.

That video is stunningly supportive of her credibility, of her allegations. It unfolds exactly as she charged it did in her lawsuit. So it will help her if she becomes a witness in that case. And it will probably be a chargeable offense in the federal case if and when it comes.

TAPPER: Julie, the allegations against Diddy go far beyond Cassie's story, of course.

Multiple lawsuits filed in the past year claiming that did he hosted what he called freak offs, sex parties so brutal that the young men and women would sometimes vomit and pass out from being drugged. They would be beaten, they would be raped. They alleged that Diddy filmed it and directed his staff to change lighting or bedding to better display the people who are performing for him sexually. These are allegations.

Does this remind you at all of the Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking case and how do they get away with it?

BROWN: Well, remember, the Jeffrey Epstein case happened decades ago, so they didn't have cell phones for example, or this kind of recording technology. So we're far ahead of that in this. And even though they have some of that material, I'm sure what they're also going to look for is bank accounts, evidence that he paid people including people that provided him with underage victims. And that's really the key here is whether they're going to be able to show that he all also was engaged with sex trafficking minors, which is a very far more serious crime because of, you know, their age, and also the fact that he has all this other video evidence that he was allegedly committing these kinds of offenses.

TAPPER: Julie, while we have you, let's turn to another story that this one you're covering as well. Today was a funeral for U.S. Airman Roger Fortson. He was shot and killed while alone in his Miami apartment, shot by a sheriff's deputy, who said he was responding to a disturbance call in that apartment complex.

You've been following this case closely. You have some new reporting about the law enforcement response to the apartment complex where he was killed. Tell us about it.

BROWN: Well, when I first saw the video, the bodycam footage, I looked at it over and over again, and it's clear that from the very get-go, the deputy arrived at that complex was told a confusing message about exactly what kind of a domestic disturbance he was responding to. The person the woman who complains that she at least twice she wasn't sure where it was coming from.

And so, that made me think if there were all these domestic disturbances at this complex if it wasn't in his apartment, which is what his family and his lawyers are saying, they're saying that deputy went to the wrong apartment where was it coming from.

So we got records of the police calls to that apartment complex, and indeed, there were no reports of any disturbances over the past 17 months to Airman Fortson's unit. However, there were about ten calls since August to a neighboring apartment on the same floor. So it sort of raises even more questions about whether the deputies went to the correct department even though, you know what happened may have happened no matter which apartment he want to, it's still important for law enforcement authorities to get all the facts before they start firing their weapons.

TAPPER: Yeah, indeed. Julie K. Brown and John Miller, thanks to both you.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence and need help, you can call the domestic violence hotline. The number is 800- 799-SAFE. That's 800-799-7233.

Another major story developing today as Israel confirmed the bodies of three hostages killed by Hamas were found in Gaza. The discovery coming as Israel itself is trying to fend off rocket attacks from the north.


But first, we have some breaking news for you in our money lead. The Dow just closed above the 40,000 mark for the very first time in history. This breakthrough comes after yesterday's encouraging report on inflation slowing.

We'll be right back.


TAPPER: Topping our world lead, Israel's military has recovered the bodies of three Israeli hostages and a tunnel in the Gaza Strip. Their names: Itshak Gelernter, Amit Bouskila, and Shani Louk. They were all killed by Hamas terrorists as they tried to escape the Nova Music Festival on October 7.

Shani Louk's family already knew she died after forensic examiners found a piece of her skull in late October, and we brought you that news. Amit and Itshak's families just found out their fates.

Now, Israel believes of the 240 people taken hostage on October 7, 125 are still in Gaza, around 40 of whom they believed to be dead.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond shares the stories of the three whose bodies were just recovered.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They managed to escape Hamas's terrifying rampage of the Nova Music Festival on October 7, but they did not survive the day.


Hamas terrorists killed Shani Louk, Amit Bouskila and Itshak Gelernter ten miles down the road from the festival, according to the Israeli military. Their bodies taken into Gaza and held hostage.

DANIEL HAGARI, IDF SPOKESMAN: Last night, the Israeli Defense Forces and ISA forces rescued the bodies of all hostages.

DIAMOND: The Israeli military now says their bodies are back on Israeli soil. Return to families who have endured more than seven months of uncertainty and anguish.

HAGARI: Our hearts go out to them, to the families at this difficult time. We will live no stone unturned. We will do everything in our power to find our hostages and bring them home.

DIAMOND: Twenty-three-year-old Shani Louk seen here at the Nova Festival hours before her death.

This image of her body being hauled into Gaza, embodying the brutality of Hamas's attack.

Her family learned in late October she had been killed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We cannot do really real funeral.

DIAMOND: Her father now, telling Israeli media, they can find peace. NISSIM LOUK, FATHER OF SHANI LOUK (through translator): This was like a present for Shabbat for us. And now shell be able to find a place in the cemetery. We can put a bouquet.

DIAMOND: For the two other families, a different type of closure. For months, the family of Amit Bouskila, a 28 fashion stylists, had no information on civilian.

NATALIE AMOUYAL, AUNT OF AMIT BUSKILA: We know nothing about her. Not one person has seen her and is capable of telling us anything about her, or any of the others, really nothing.

DIAMOND: The Israeli military operation also confirming for the first time the death of Itshak Gelernter, a 58-year-old father of four and grandfather of two.

In Israel, reaction pouring in from across the political spectrum, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling the news heartbreaking, vowing we will return all of our hostages, the living, and the deceased alike.

But there is no clear path to securing their return with ceasefire negotiations at a standstill. The families of the remaining 125 hostages, cleaning in only two hope and fear.


TAPPER: So sad.

Jeremy Diamond joins us now from Jerusalem.

Jeremy, elsewhere in Gaza, were getting some new images of aid trucks crossing this brand new pier that the United States constructed to enable the United Nations to get humanitarian aid into Gaza. How much aid has gotten in through that pier so far?

DIAMOND: We don't know exactly how much aid, Jake, but in these images, you can see multiple trucks being offloaded crossing that causeway from that floating pier that the U.S. military anchor to the Gaza shoreline only just yesterday.

So the first trucks at least coming think through in a successful test of this operation. But once it is fully up and running, the U.S. military says that you could see some 500 tons of aid pass every single day through that causeway. That's about 90 trucks, but eventually they actually want to work up to 150 trucks.

And obviously right now, that is much needed aid, not only because of the ramp-up in Israeli military operations and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. But also because that Rafah border crossing remains closed amid that military operation, Egyptian and Israeli negotiations to try and reopen, so far, falling short.

TAPPER: So, Jeremy, meanwhile, Israel still under attack and I don't -- I don't mean from Gaza necessarily, just exclusively because of north, tens of thousands of Israelis had to evacuate months ago. And up north, the Iran-backed Lebanese terrorist group, Hezbollah,

yeah, is bombarding northern Israel with rockets. Tell us more about that.

DIAMOND: Yeah, really significant barrage of rockets coming from Lebanon into northern Israel and the Golan Heights, 75 rockets according to the Israeli military, which Hezbollah claimed responsibility for. Dozens of those were intercepted then as you noted, tens of thousands of Israelis have been displaced from their homes in northern Israel, evacuating from those areas.

But, of course, this doesn't come in a vacuum. There has been a consistent back and forth between the Israeli military and Hezbollah. Earlier in the day, the Israeli military launched strikes in southern Lebanon that local media there says killed two children. Hezbollah also claimed the death of one of its members in that strike -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. CNN's Jeremy Diamond in Jerusalem for us, thank you so much.

It's also worth noting. There remain five American hostages, five hostages who have dual U.S. and Israeli citizenship, thought to be alive in Gaza still right now.


These are their names and the ages when they were kidnapped by terrorists on October 7th.

Nineteen-year-old, Edan Alexander, 22 year-old Omer Neutra, 23-year- old, Hersh Goldberg-Polin, 35-year-old Sagui Dekel-Chen, and 64-year- old Keith Samuel Siegel.

CNN's in the courtroom for another New York trial, that of Democratic Senator Bob Menendez. Coming up, gold bars, wads of cash and where prosecutors say they found all that stuff in this corruption case.


TAPPER: In our law and justice lead today on Monday, Michael Cohen will be back on the witness stand as defense attorneys for Donald Trump are set to finish their cross-examination of Trump's former fixer.

This comes after the former president's legal team painted Cohen as a, quote, liar, liar, pointing out to the jury that he had lied to Congress and he had lied to prosecutors and he had lied to judges over his misdeeds over the years.

With us now to discuss former federal prosecutor Gene Rossi and jury consultant Leslie Ellis.

Gene, let me start with you if I may.

GENE ROSSI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Go ahead. TAPPER: And the first question I have is one of the big moments in

court was when Todd Blanche insinuated that Michael Cohen had not only lied to all those other groups, but he'd lied to this jury because earlier in the week, he had said about an October 24 phone call that that's when he told Donald Trump that the Stormy Daniels deal was done.


And yet, Blanche thought it was actually -- the call was actually about something else. Here's some of it. Quote: Mr. Blanche, when you testified on Tuesday about that one minute 36-second phone call on October 24th was not with Keith Schiller that you called Keith Schiller and he passed the phone to President Trump. You finalize the deal with Stormy Daniels and you said we're going to move forward and he said yes, because you kept them informed all the time, that was your testimony, right? Cohen says: That's correct.

Question: That was a lie. You were actually talking to Mr. Schiller about the fact that you were getting harassing phone calls from a 14- year-old, correct?

Answer from Michael Cohen: Part of it was the 14 year-old, but I know that Keith was with Mr. Trump at the time and there was more than potentially just this. That's what I recall.

You don't think that that's going to be a big deal necessarily.

ROSSI: No, here's what I say. It is a left jab, a left hook, it does tarnish him. I do blame the prosecutors for not fronting that. But here's my point. It was a 96 second call Michael Cohen is calling the bodyguard for Donald Trump. Did was there a discussion of that 14- year-old kid? Absolutely.

But Michael Cohen is not going to call Donald Trump and just talk about the bodyguard. And I think if the prosecutors on redirect bring that out, that he's not going to solely call the bodyguard without trying to talk to Trump, I think that he can rehabilitate himself.

I completely disagree with folks that say this entire case is gone because of that October 24 call. Keith Davidson, whom I represented, October 26, 27, and 28, those are the calls where the rubber meets the road.

TAPPER: Uh-huh, okay. Leslie, how might this play with the jury? Because, you know, the defense is pointing out all these lines and then they're able to say, this sounds like a lie, too, Michael Cohen and you've never -- until this week, he had never before said that that phone call was the one where the deal was finalized and he told Mr. Trump, and then he said, oh, then this refresh his memory. Might this really hurt him?

LESLIE ELLIS, JURY CONSULTANT: I think in the bigger picture, it could. I agree that one phone call isn't going to sink the case, right?

ROSSI: Right.

ELLIS: But there are so many inconsistencies and so many factual possible alleged lies. And what we also don't know is the delivery. For jurors, it's all in the delivery.

TAPPER: Right. Well, then let me interrupt for one second because are reporting shows that Blanche grew angry and heated at times with Cohen and his arms would flail around during cross.

ELLILS: So I think I think Mr. Blanche might have lost some credibility there, but the delivery that the witness has is even more important. So how a witness explains these contradictions if he's able to recover how he can explain them, is going to be really key for the jurors.

ROSSI: That is an outstanding comment, not because you're right next to me. On redirect, I would love to be in the courtroom. If I were doing a redirect as a prosecutor, I had hundreds of Michael Cohens, I say, Mr. Cohen, look at that jury and tell them when you had those text messages, was that call solely for the 14 year-old kid? Or was it part of it? And did you talk to Donald Trump?

And if he looks at the jury and naturally is riveted on his answer, I think they've rehabilitated them.

TAPPER: So it's likely that Cohen's testimony will wrap Monday and then it will be timed for the defense to present their case if they want, they could just they could just rest.

But one to witness that were told the defense might call is a guy named Robert Costello. He at one point was Michael Cohen's legal advisor. On Wednesday, Costello testified before the Republican-led House committee on the weaponization of federal government. And he said this about Michael Cohen.


ROBERT COSTELLO, ATTORNEY: What he tries to do is he picks out, cherry picks certain emails or text messages and tries to make them look like something else. The story he told yesterday was that Rudy Giuliani and I was somehow conspiring to try and keep him quiet to try and keep him from flipping. That's the term we use in the trade for cooperating. That's ridiculous.


TAPPER: If you were the defense -- if you were representing Donald Trump or you're part of that team, would you recommend calling Bob Costello or not?

ELLIS: Possibly, yeah. I mean, he would do a lot of damage, I think -- could do a lot of damage to Cohen's credibility and it removes a source of external validity, right? The prosecution's case is based on single whole bunch of different things together. And if Mr. Costello can punch a big hole in their key witness's credibility and again, all the -- all the difference needs is it doubt in one juror. TAPPER: Yeah.

ELLIS: And I think that could be pretty effective in doing that.

ROSSI: I got a point to make here.



ROSSI: I would not call Costello because calling attorneys in any case its always bad because it would open up the door to other things on cross by the prosecutors. I would not call him.

But Mr. Blanche, after this bombshell moment, the October 24 call, nobody reported on this, a lot. About an hour later, Michael Cohen said, yes, I lied in 2017 before Congress, and I read a statement that was a total lie. But who gave me the words that went on that statement? Either Mr. Trump or his attorney gave me those words. And as a prosecutor, that's subornation of perjury.

And if don't hammer that on closing or in their rebuttal, the prosecutors are committing malpractice.

So the lie that he relate to congress was fed to him by Trump or his attorney.

TAPPER: Right.

ROSSI: And they're accusing Cohen of being a liar.

TAPPER: Interesting. Leslie Ellis, Gene Rossi, thanks to both of you being here.

Just blocks away from former President Trump's criminal hush money trial is the corruption trial and bribery trial of Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey. That's underway. Jurors have been shown the 13 gold bars at the heart of that bribery case, in addition to hearing testimony from an FBI agent who found nearly a half million dollars stashed in a Burberry bag, a Timberland boots, and the senator's jacket in the Menendez's home.

Menendez and his wife, Nadine, are accused of taking bribes in exchange for political favors. Menendez and his wife deny any wrongdoing.

CNN's Jason Carroll has been inside the courtroom and gives us this update.


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Embattled Senator Robert Menendez arrived at federal court facing cameras and not answering questions about corruption charges he is facing. Prosecutors portraying the senator as a man who put greed first and his power up for sale. Agents confiscated more than $480,000 dollars in cash and gold bars in

June 2022 from the senator's home. The first witness in the case, an FBI special agent, who detailed to jurors how they discovered cash in closets in the basement and a home office, including $100,000 in a Burberry bag, $7,500 inside a Timberland boot, $4,300 in the pocket of a congressional jacket with the senator's name on it.

So much cash and so many places, the agents said his team needed to machines to count at all.

The prosecution telling jurors the senator used his wife as a go- between to accept bribes for his influence, including gold bars, cash for his wife, and a job for his wife.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: If you're convicted, will you resign?

SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ): Really? I'm looking forward to proving my innocence.

CARROLL: Senator Menendez faces 16 federal accounts, including bribery, extortion, and acting as a foreign agent for Egypt and assistant that government of Qatar. The defense arguing the senator is not guilty of accepting bribes, saying he was working for his constituents. The gold bars and cash, they say were gifts.

His wife Nadine and two business associates are also charged and pleaded not guilty.

The senator's attorney placing in any possible wrongdoing at the feet of his wife, telling jurors the couple had separate accounts, and in some ways, lives separate lives, saying she kept Bobs sidelined. Nadine made sure Bob was kept out of conversations involving money.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's their only out, right? What they have to establishment and as his attorneys, is that he would was just not in the loop. He was unaware and the items that were recovered in that home in large measure, he knew very little if anything, about.

CARROLL: The senator's critics not buying the store.

KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: The defense seems to be saying that his wife was doing these things without his knowledge. Your reaction?

SEN. JOHN FETTERMAN (D-PA): Yeah. Yeah. No, he was wondering like, how could I be more sleazy? It's like, oh, I can blame the life.

CARROLL: Nadine Menendez will be tried separately due to a medical issue. This week, it was revealed she has breast cancer and we'll need a double mastectomy. Her trial is set for July.


CARROLL (on camera): And, Jake, one of the witnesses expected to testify is a New Jersey businessman who pleaded guilty to bribery charges. He's now cooperating with the prosecution. The entire trial is expected to last several weeks -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jason Carroll, thanks so much.

A rather notable mug shot taken in Arizona today. This is John Eastman. You might remember him. He was an attorney for former President Donald Trump. He spoke on January 6, 2021.

Prosecutors say that he is the architect of that fake electors scheme in multiple states that Biden won. What did we learn from his day in court? We'll tell you next.



TAPPER: In our law and justice lead, we go to Phoenix Arizona where today, former Trump attorney John Eastman pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, fraud, and forgery charges related to the 2020 fake electors scheme to overturn Trump's defeat in Arizona, where Joe Biden beat him. Other Trump allies, including Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis, former White House aide Boris Epshteyn, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, and former campaign official Mike Roman are all due in court in Arizona in the coming weeks.

Prosecutors are still trying to track down Rudy Giuliani to serve him with his indictment.

CNN's Kyung Lah brings us this report from Arizona.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John Eastman, a former attorney for Donald Trump, making his first appearance before an Arizona judge after being indicted for his alleged involvement in a conspiracy to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We'll enter a not guilty plea on your behalf on counts one through nine.

LAH: Eastman was booked and processed by the Maricopa County sheriff's office, along with seven other defendants including former state GOP chair Kelli Ward. Eastman is now charged in two key swing states, Arizona and Georgia.


He denies being involved in the fake elector scheme.

JOHN EASTMAN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: I, of course, pled not guilty. I had zero communications with the electors in Arizona. I'm confident that if the law is faithfully applied, I will be fully exonerated.

LAH: And Arizona grand jury handed up indictments last month charging Eastman and more than a dozen additional Trump allies for attempting to prevent the lawful transfer of the presidency of the United States, keeping President Donald J. Trump in office against the will of Arizona's voters.

KRIS MAYES (D), ARIZONA ATTORNEY GENERAL: I will not allow American democracy to be their mind. Arizona's election was free and fair. The people of Arizona elected President Biden.

LAH: Then State House Speaker Rusty Bowers testified before the January 6 Committee that he got calls from Eastman, among others, pressuring him to remove the Arizona electors for Biden.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): What did Dr. Eastman want you to do?

RUSTY BOWERS, FOREMR ARIZONA STATE HOUSE SPEAKER: We would decertify the electors and that because we had plenary authority to do so.

LAH: Weeks after Joe Biden won Arizona in the 2020 election, the Arizona GOP tweeted this video showing 11 fake electors claiming to be qualified to cast the state's electoral votes for --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Donald J. Trump the state of Florida, number of votes, 11.

LAH: Those false electors proudly posing for pictures that day have not wanted to talk much since.

Can you tell me a little bit about signing it?

ANTHONY KERN (R), ARIZONA STATE SENATE: Yeah, we can probably talk someday.

LAH: Like Arizona State Senator Anthony Kern.

So do you believe that Trumps still won in 2020 then?

KERN: Why -- why would you think alternate electors are lying?

LAH: And Lorraine Pellegrino, secretary of the fake electors.

I'm a reporter from CNN, hoping that we could talk.

Eastman is the first defendant to appear in court. The rest follow suit in the coming weeks.

Among them are former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, former Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn, and former Trump attorneys Jenna Ellis and Rudy Giuliani. Although prosecutors are still trying to serve Giuliani.


LAH (on camera): And I just heard from Arizona officials, they still have yet to find Rudy Giuliani, meaning he has not been served as of this moment, Jake.

As far as the rest of the defendants, a large number of them are scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Kyung Lah, thanks so much.

Appreciate it. Up next, that sharply divisive controversial flag that reportedly flew outside the home of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, upside down, a distress signal. Why is he blaming his wife? How this single photo might be able to impact cases before the nation's highest court.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Some controversy today at the nation's highest court. "The New York Times" is reporting that Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito had an upside-down flag, U.S. flag flying outside his house after the January 6 Capitol attack. And just days before Biden's 2021 inauguration, pictures from "The New York Times" article show the upside-down flag, January 17, 2021. It is generally a distress symbol that's been used a number of times throughout political history with the election of Trump, with the election of Obama and on and on.

At that point in time, "The New York Times" asserts that the upside- down flag was a symbol of the Stop the Steal movement.

With us now is CNN's Joan Biskupic.

Joan, Shannon Bream reached out to Alito himself and seem to get more of a response, I guess he gave "The New York Times" an email to answer, but spoke with Shannon Bream on the phone. And she says, Justice Alito told her that the upside-down flag was in response to a neighborhood sign that was anti-Trump and then maybe even a different sign that was anti-Alito. I don't know. And that is wipe is the one who put the flag upside down.

What do you know about this?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Yeah. In fact, what he told Shannon Bream of Fox News was also that it was an expletive with Donald Trumps name that especially incited his wife, Martha Ann, and that she was the one and put it up.

Look, this happened three years ago, but it's especially salient right now because of cases that the justices are considering. And as you know, Jake, judicial ethics rule say that if a justices impartiality should can be reasonably question, he or she should sit out the case.

So that's why it's drawn so much attention. But let me tell you what Samuel Alito said in a statement. I had no involvement whatsoever in the flying of the flag. It was briefly placed by Mrs. Alito in response to a neighbor's use of objectionable and personally insulting language on yard signs.

He said it was their only briefly and his essentially just tried to brush it away. TAPPER: So the reporting doesn't come in a bubble, we should note. But as you alluded to, there are two election-related cases in front of the Supreme Court, right now, and there is sitting U.S. senator, Democrat who says Alito shouldn't be involved in these cases. He should recuse himself.

BISKUPIC: That's right. There are two very important cases. One involves a group of January 6 rioters who are saying that one of the charges against them, obstruction of an official proceeding should not -- should not stand. And Donald Trump is not a defendant in that case, but one of the charges against him is in that realm.

And then separately, as you know, the justices are considering, probably the most momentous question of the session, whether Donald Trump should be absolutely immune from trial for the election subversion charges brought by the Department of Justice with special counsel Jack Smith.

And Senator Durbin, you're referring to, Illinois Democrat, who is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has said flying upside down American flag, a symbol of the so-called Stop the Steal movement, clearly creates the appearance of bias. Justice Alito should recuse himself immediately from cases related to the 2020 election and the January 6 insurrection, including the question of former president's immunity.


Now, other Democrats have said the same, but, you know, that this really is all in the hands of the Justices and Clarence Thomas himself has not stepped aside when he's had similar calls.

TAPPER: In fact, he just responded to some of the criticism. Tell us what he's saying.

BISKUPICK: Sure, and in fact, this because of his wife Ginni, having been involved in protesting Donald Trump's loss, he said recently that that he had felt that all of Washington had become so much more hideous. He says, my wife and I, the last two or three years, it's been -- just the nastiness and the lies -- it's just incredible. I think what you're going to find and especially in Washington, is people pride themselves in being awful. It's a hideous place, as far as I'm concerned.

Well, here we are going into June, Jake, and you see an unbelievable level of anger and defensiveness on the part of the justices, at least these two.

TAPPER: All right. Joan Biskupic, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, damning video obtained exclusively by CNN backing up assault allegations against Sean "Diddy" Combs, showing a horrific attack he conducted in a hotel hallway. The same attack his then girlfriend, now ex-girlfriend, described in a lawsuit against him that was settled last year. Why has Sean "Diddy" Combs not been arrested?

We're back with the video next.