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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Judge Merchan Clears Courtroom Over Witness Decorum; Donald Trump Speaks After Court Appearance. CNN Fact Checks Trump's Speech After Court Appearance; Biden: "Outrageous" For ICC To Seek Netanyahu Arrest Warrant; ICC Seeks Arrest Warrants For Hamas & Israeli Leaders. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 20, 2024 - 17:00   ET



ALYSE ADAMSON, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: The defending guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That's why they need a reasonable juror with the evidence that has been elicited could find the defendant guilty beyond reasonable doubt. There is overwhelming evidence in this case.


ADAMSON: And if you choose to credit Michael Cohen's account, they have met their burden.

TAPPER: Tim, what do you make of the argument from Judge Merchan, hey, you think this is so obvious that this guy is lying, why wouldn't you just want to have 12 skeptical New Yorkers have at it?

TIM PARLATORE, FORMER LAWYER FOR FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP: Because finding a witness not credible as a matter of law is not something the judges really do. I mean, I think that to a certain extent, you know, the judge was cutting through and saying, the standard here is that no reasonable juror could possibly find on these facts, and that usually is successful if the evidence produced at trial skips an element entirely.

You know, you have evidence of a shooting, evidence that somebody got shot, and then they just forget to bring in the autopsy so that nobody actually testifies the guy died. Then you ask for judgment as a matter of law that, you know, acquitting on the murder case, because there was no evidence of a death.

And so, it's unlikely to do here, and so I think the judge is kind of needling Todd a little bit there with the, you know, the whole idea of, you know, not credible as a matter of law. I will say, though, that these types of motions, even though, you know, from the defense side, you know that you're unlikely to win, it's very useful to prepare for the closing because you kind of preview your argument, and then you see what the prosecutor does in response, and so you know what their themes are going to be on their closing as well.

TAPPER: Right. And you're doing it with the jury not even there. So, you're kind of murder-boarding your arguments in front of the judge in a way.

PARLATORE: That's right.

TAPPER: Let's bring back CNN's Kara Scannell. Kara, there was another big moment in court today when, you know, it looked as though one of the witnesses and the judge were really having at it. The judge clears the courtroom because of these expressions of disdain for his rulings from defense witness Bob Costello. Tell us about that.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, in 20 years of covering trials, I have never seen a judge clear the courtroom the way that Judge Merchan did today. It was after this tension over Bob Costello, who's on the witness stand, when the judge would sustain the objections by the prosecution. Costello was making noises, rolling his eyes.

At one point, you could hear him say, geez. And so, the judge asked the jury to step out. Merchan turned to Costello and said he wanted to talk to him about the rules of decorum in the courtroom. And even then, Costello was kind of going back and forth with him. And the judge telling him, you don't say geez, you don't say stricken. I'm the one that decides the rulings in this courtroom.

And then Costello, again, kind of looking at the judge. And Merchan leaned toward Costello. He's still on the bench. He leaned toward him and said, are you staring me down? And that's when the judge said, clear the courtroom. All the media had to get up to leave. You know, we were asking why we were being forced out because this was clearly a big, important moment.

But the court officers were yelling at us to get out. We all went into the hallway. Then a few moments later, we were allowed to come back in. Nothing else was said of the matter. And then the jury was brought back in and a direct examination continued by Trump's attorneys.

But I've never seen that in all of these years of a judge becoming so frustrated. He removed the media from the courtroom so he could address, presumably, Costello. Because when the testimony resumed, Costello was answering the questions. He was no longer making any asides or any comments. But one of the most tense moments I've seen with a judge becoming very frustrated with one of these witnesses.

TAPPER: So, Costello, just going back and looking at these notes from you and the others following the case for us from inside the courtroom and in the overflow, Costello expressing his disdain for various rulings by Judge Merchan. He shook his head as if exasperated. He said, ridiculous. And then at one point he lets out a, Jesus.

And Merchan leans forward and says to Costello, sorry? Can I ask you a question? I don't want to put you in an uncomfortable situation. But like, how exactly did he say ridiculous and Jesus? Was it angry? Was it exasperated? Can you give us some sort of inkling?

SCANNELL: Yeah, Costello seemed exasperated by this. Before Costello even got on the stand, there had been a lot of back and forth between the judge, the prosecutors and the defense about the scope of Costello's testimony.

The judge wanted this narrow. And so, Costello was answering some of these questions more long-winded than what the judge wanted. Now, Costello wasn't there when this was all going down. But it was because the judge kept sustaining objections by the prosecution, Costello looked frustrated that he kept getting cut off, that he wasn't able to finish his sentences.

And so that's when he was having these moments of what appeared to be exasperation. It was surprising. Costello was a federal prosecutor. He's been in a courtroom. He knows how judges run things.


So, he knows what sustained means in his objection. But he was still speaking and trying to get in some words. That seemed to be the point of tension because Costello was appearing very frustrated that he kept being cut off because the prosecutors were objecting and the judge was sustaining those objections and striking some of his answers from the record.

TAPPER: Was he saying it? Obviously, he was saying for it exasperatedly ridiculous and Jesus. Was he saying it loudly? Was he saying it as if there to say he was saying it disdainfully? The witness?

SCANNELL: I think it's fair to say that he was being frustrated and showing that frustration. Sometimes witnesses, there's a microphone right in front of them and they can say things that are sometimes picked up in the overflow room but not necessarily heard in the courtroom. I could hear it very clearly in the courtroom, Costello saying, geez. So, he was making it known.

I mean, remember the jury is sitting just feet from him so they can hear what he's saying too. He is making it known pretty loudly. He could have said it more under his breath, but he was saying it in a way that was audible even toward the back of the courtroom today.

TAPPER: All right. Well, thank you so much, Kara Scannell. We're back with the panel. Tom Dupree joins us now. Tom was principal deputy assistant attorney general during the George W. Bush administration, and we are also obviously waiting for the defendant and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to come out and address the cameras. Tom Dupree, your reaction to this wild day in court today?

TOM DUPREE, PARTNER, GIBSON, DUNN & CRUTCHER: Well, I got to say, Jake, it did surprise me on a number of fronts. I guess for one thing is that Costello is a prosecutor. He knows better. He knows that you cannot show the judge up in front of the jury in front of a courtroom.

Number two, there have been a lot of events in this trial that have tried Judge Merchan's patience, but this was the event that apparently kind of pushed him over the edge and prompted him to take what I agree was an extraordinary step of clearing the courtroom so he could apparently just dress down the witness and tell him to knock it off. So, it was remarkable. I'm also frankly a little surprised that the Trump defense team called him as a witness. I know there have been a lot of debate within the Trump camp about the wisdom of calling him or not. My sense was that they did a very good job, in my judgment, of cross-examining Cohen. I felt that they were in a strong position with the record as it currently existed. They didn't need to bring on another witness to further question Cohen's credibility, but they did and it may well have backfired on them.

TAPPER: But, Katelyn, isn't our reporting that they called this witness because the client, Mr. Trump, the defendant, wanted him called and not because the defense legal team wanted him called?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Some of that. I mean, clearly Donald Trump was in favor of having him called. But also, it appears that the defense does seem to want to use him as one of the pieces to undermine Michael Cohen.


POLANTZ: But, you know, what has just happened over the last several minutes as the court is wrapping here is that we are in a place where the Michael Cohen of it is getting -- the judge is saying, that's going to go to the jury. Whether he's credible or not, the jury will decide. But there was the other part of this that sort of got skirted over pretty quickly in the motion for dismissal arguments. And that's what the core of this case is going to be when we get to closing arguments, whether that's tomorrow or whether that's next Tuesday.

And it's the things that Todd Blanche said at the very top of his argument right after Costello was done. One, how is keeping a false story from the voters' criminal?

TAPPER: Meaning the Stormy Daniels story is false.

POLANTZ: Meaning -- right. Meaning there's no criminality that they've proved for "National Enquirer" catch-and-kill schemes. There's no evidence of an intent to mislead or hide falsified business records. This is a defense argument. And then three, there's no evidence of the additional crime, the campaign finance violation, when Stormy Daniels were paid off.

So that is all going to be what's going to come together for those closing arguments. And it looks like there will not be closings tomorrow. Our team in the courtroom is now just saying.

TAPPER: Yeah. But that's interesting, Shan. Well, I'm interested in what you guys think, all the lawyers on this panel, because if Todd Blanche's argument, as Katelyn just spelled out, is this never happened, right? I mean, he said that in the open also, Todd Blanche, that the rendezvous, the sexual encounter between Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump never happened.

And if that is the case, that that never happened, then Todd Blanche is arguing, then paying somebody off to keep a falsehood out of the public sphere is not election interference -- here comes Mr. Trump. I'm going to come back to this because I think it's interesting. But here is the defendant, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump, after quite an eventful day in court.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Thank you very much. You saw what we saw. That was an incredible display. I've never seen anything like it in my life, entirely. And everyone is talking about it. This is what we have. We have an acting judge, appointed judge by Democrats, by the club.


And they're keeping an eye on us. This is our fourth week, soon to be our fifth week, not campaigning. But you saw what happened, what just took place in that court. And hopefully the motion to dismiss this trial will go through, because this trial is a disaster for our country. It's a disaster for New York State.

And hopefully the motion to dismiss this trial will go through because this trial is a disaster for our country. It's a disaster for New York State, New York City. Greg Jarrett just says, where exactly is the crime? To quote a memorable line from Shakespeare's Love, I don't know, it's a mystery. There is just no crime.

Andy McCarthy, if it's unconstitutional for Texas to enforce federal immigration law, how is it constitutional for New York to enforce federal election law? They're going by federal law. It's never happened before. Nobody's ever seen anything like this. This is a witch hunt. This is a witch hunt.

This is to damage crooked Joe Biden, the worst president in the history of our country by far, by far, to damage his political opponent. That's all this is. The highly political judge, a totally conflicted judge, who just did something that nobody's ever seen. And the press is not happy, I don't imagine. They just got thrown out of a courthouse. Nobody's ever seen anything quite like it.

These things are consistent. Greg has no authority to enforce election law. And we did nothing wrong. Ted Cruz has said it's over 200 years. Never once has a president of the United States been indicted over no crime. No crime. Molly Hemingway, very smart woman. This is a show trial. There is no actual crime or evidence.

Molly Hemingway, respected by everybody, by the way. Here's a very liberal gentleman, but a very talented, critically acclaimed director, Oliver Stone. Haven't heard his name mentioned in a while. It's a new form of warfare. It's called lawfare. And that's what they're using it against Trump. That's Oliver Stone, who I think is a super liberal. But even he's talking that.

And most of you have never had such liberal, or as they say nowadays, progressive support. Mark Levin, you're living through what is not only the worst presidency in American history that's heightened when it comes to domestic and foreign affairs, but when it comes to our Constitution, the rule of law, law and order, which is the core to this republic, Biden is dismantling it and he's destroying it. I don't even know who it's him. I think it's the people around his desk, that beautiful, beautiful, resolute desk in the Oval Office. It's a horrible thing.

The country has never been in this position. We're doing badly in so many different ways, and we're falling apart, and we're not respected in the world anymore. They're looking at us and saying, hey, they're no different than we are. Bad countries are saying that. They're saying that the United States is no different than we are.

Gavin Wax, the globalist elite, severely miscalculated by declaring war on Trump. I guess he's referring to the fact that the polls are through the roof, but I'm not even talking about that. And the polls are the highest they've ever been. Andrew and Katie Chepkoski (ph), who are terrific lawyers, as everyone knows. It's passed on to Judge Misha to dismiss this case. Trump's business records, there are no -- there's no false entry. By the way, they paid a legal expense, and they marked it legal expense. And I say it every day.

They could have said construction. They could have said this is for construction purposes. This is for some other purposes. You're building a building. They say building expense. They called legal fees, which is legal expense. They called it legal expense. They paid a lawyer. Money, legal expense. And in the lawyer's bill, he calls it a retainer. It's a retainer. He calls it a retainer.

Former Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, the prosecution has presented absolutely no evidence of a crime. David Katchen (ph), the American Spectator, the people over there, Judge Merchan's animosity toward Trump and his inability to ensure a fair trial is not lost on the voters. Never seen anything like it. And this goes on and on.

Ross Huot (ph), New York Times, I would defy anyone to summarize the underlying situation in which a presidential candidate could be sent to prison for a misdemeanor offense.


It's small, but there's not even a misdemeanor. For a misdemeanor offense elevated by a second crime for which he isn't even being charged. I'm not even being charged for it. They didn't know what to judge him. They haven't even charged me with a crime. You know what the crime is? I beat Hillary Clinton. That's what the crime is. And they don't want me to meet, on behalf of, I think, 200 million people. They don't want me to meet Biden, okay.

But it's a shame. This is what they've done. And just to finish out, without the description coming across as somewhat Kafkaesque, the CNN panel just came out. This is significant. There is no direct link to Trump in this alleged conspiracy, that's from CNN. Laura Coates of CNN, not a fan of mine, as I understand it, possibly, fatally undermines the prosecution's case. It's a disaster.

But she said here, undermines the prosecution's case. This case should be dropped by the judge. I think the judge, if he did that, would be beginning to respect the fact that we have to -- either the appellate court has to start with something that's to happen. Think of it, the Republican Party, one of the two great parties, nominate somebody to be their candidate and their candidate has been sitting here for almost five weeks in a freezing cold icebox listening to this stuff, no crime.

Elie Honig of CNN, the crux of the case is Trump knew this and that. Let's see, he says some statement down here. Trump didn't know. He never would have agreed to be robbed by Trump. He absolutely didn't know. This is a bomb being dropped on the prosecution's case. This is cruising for prosecution credibility.

I'll tell you what, New York State is being hurt so badly about it. And they're watching all over the world. And businesses are going to be leaving the state. They already are, unfortunately, but they're going to be leaving because they can't be subject to this. And Engoron and Kathleen, other judges that have just created a horrible scar on Constitution. Hopefully the appellate courts will take care of it.

But this is a not as (inaudible) about that or on direct. And this is Elie Honig, have not made him plead guilty to the larceny because you know what's taking place. I mean, you saw that, I won't even mention it. Because remember, I'm a game holder (ph). I'm not supposed to be talking about certain things. And so be very careful, but you saw what happened.

And this is CNN mentioning it, which it is, larceny, which it is. And you know what they're talking about because there was an admittance. The money -- I won't say that. It's the money he -- so I won't say that. In fact, you're going to have to get this one, because I can't read it. I've been gagged for reading this, but it's a vicious statement by a respected person at CNN, Elie Honig. So, you'll have to read that with yourself because I've been gagged.

Let's see, it turns out now that Trump was -- yeah, that's right. You can read that. I can't read it because I'm not allowed to say it. A CNN legal commentator, the prosecutor misled this jury. So, there is a case to be made because five people who stated it very professionally, that the prosecutor should be prosecuted. And district attorney (inaudible) should be prosecuted because he knew when he submitted his case all about the lies and therefore, he's committed a crime.

Many people have said that, that they should turn this around. He knew that this was a fake case. He knew that the lies were -- the lies are all over the place. We're not just talking about a small amount. Also, you have to go get the Southern Districts, about a 28-page book on lies, which the judge wouldn't allow.

And, by the way, the judge wouldn't allow that. The Southern District had to respect it. A book of 28 pages, I believe, or more of lies, we're not allowed to put it in. The expert witness that we have, the best there is in election law, Brad Smith. He's considered as the Rolls Royce or -- we'll bring it back to an American car, Cadillac.


But the best there is, he can't testify, not being allowed to testify. And you saw what happened to a highly respected lawyer today, Bob Costello. Wow, I've never seen anything like that. Highly respected. But remember this, we can't put it in an expert witness. We're not allowed to put it in an expert witness. Nobody's ever heard of it before. You know, election law is very complicated, actually. And we're not allowed to have an expert, which is because the judge wants to rule on it. He said, "We don't need an expert with this, I guess." He said, "He'll rule on it." "No, he needs help."

And we have the number one person either side will admit it, Brad Smith, on a very complex law where we did nothing wrong. I will tell you that right now. And he doesn't want him to testify. That's because he's gonna say we did nothing wrong. Clay Travis. Oops, I can't even say that one because he's going to have a gag order. Rip Tobin goes through a whole big thing on the witness today, so I can't talk about it.

Buck Sexton, the exact same thing. Tim Parlatore, who's a very good lawyer, CNN commentator. It's not only going through the credibility; this also goes to Alvin Bragg's office's credibility. How did they not get this out of (inaudible)? And that's what everyone is asking now. How did they put something like this up? And then he goes on to things I'm not allowed to talk about. Can you believe? Here I am -- Vice President Joe, we have 15 people that I'm supposed to be meeting about being -- who's going to be our Vice President, but I'm stuck in the refrigerator all day.

The presidential nominee, I'm down here by an acting judge, he's acting. And you know who appointed him? Democrats in the courthouse. But hopefully I tell you for the good that I hope the governor steps forward and the mayor steps forward, because you can't go -- and it's like we have an armed camp outside. I mean, if you're a civilian, you can't get within three blocks of this courthouse. We're at this place (ph) and (inaudible) and they are good to me, but (inaudible) you don't see any civilians outside.

I've never saw so many iron gates as I've seen in the last five weeks. Andy MacArthur, to show he stole from the Trump Organization, even as they're structuring a deal (inaudible), and now I can't talk about it because again, I have a gag order. So, I think the case is going very well. We've asked for a termination of the case. This case should be terminated. This shouldn't go anywhere. It should be terminated right now.

And New York State has to build up its system again. New York State can't let this happen. Can't let this happen. There were no crimes. We did nothing wrong, and I want to get back to campaigning. I'm representing millions and millions, hundreds of millions of people. In the meantime, Russia and China are now good friends. They want to take over the world. Iran is developing a nuclear weapon, and that's not going to be an easy situation when they have it. North Korea is getting frisky, and I get along with Kim very well, but the current administration didn't even know his name.

We have a lot of things to solve. Inflations is getting new highs. You see that. They're hitting new highs. I should be out campaigning so we can turn the country around. Thank you very much. I'll see you tomorrow.


TAPPER: All right inside the courthouse on Center Street there in Lower Manhattan. The defendant and presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump, after he obviously felt a great day in court. He tends to speak longer when it's a better day for him. Let's bring in CNN's Tom Foreman who's on the fact check duty for us right now. Mr. Foreman. What do you say?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I spent a busy few minutes I'll tell you. That's what it's been like. Last thing he was bringing up there, he talked about Brad Smith, their election expert, who's going to testify. He said he can't testify. He can't testify. Not true. What the judge said is he can testify to some details of election law, he can discuss what the Federal Election Commission does, things like that.

What he did not want was for him to effectively be in a position of instructing the jury on how the law should be applied, because then he said the other side would bring forward their own experts and the jurors would just be confused by it all. Not true that Brad Smith could not testify.

He made the point of saying that at one point he winked at saying representing something like 200 million people, I don't know where that comes from. He got just over 70 million in the last election. We have to find out more about that.


Once again, he said that Judge Merchan is highly conflicted, totally political, appointed by a Democrat. Michael Bloomberg initially brought him into family court in New York, Democrat, yeah.

But by and large, everyone has said that this is a man with an almost impeccable record of running the court fairly, and he certainly seems to have bent over backward according to many legal experts to accommodate Trump in all of this, not being unfair at all.

So, the bottom line is not a lot of new things here, but he keeps trying to say, even when he cites our own experts, Ellie Honig, Laura Coates, and so on, a lot of cherry picking there to pick the parts he likes to say. They're basically saying there's no case against him. We haven't had anybody say there's no case against him. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Tom Foreman, thanks so much. To our panel now, and it is certainly true that here at CNN, where we pride ourselves on having a variety of viewpoints, diversity of viewpoints, ideological diversity that there have been panelists that we've had who think that Mr. Trump, that this case is not a good case. There are also people who feel the other way and that is what we aspire to do here at CNN, bring a diversity of viewpoints. Tim Parlatore, you got name checked there by your former client, Mr. Trump. Did he quote you correctly or maybe you didn't even hear it but? PARLATORE: You know the control room was actually asking me a question so I didn't hear everything he had to say about me, but, you know, but it sounds like they got about right. And I think that you bring up a great point. It's one of the reasons why I enjoy doing panels here is because you do have both sides that have an intelligent, respectful conversation about this and, you know, certainly there are pieces of it that the president liked. There are probably pieces of what I said this morning that he didn't want to quote, but.

TAPPER: But he was in court, so probably they only brought him the ones that they thought he would like to make his point. Shan will you've been bullish rather on this case. You think it's a pretty good case. You have a different view from Tim Parlatore. Why do you think today was not as good for the defense as a lot of our panelists have thought?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I thought it's particularly interesting hearing from people in the courtroom what the sort of vibe was on the sort of --

TAPPER: Which is definitely very different than the vibe on our set.

WU: Of course, yeah. The whole notion of another gotcha moment with this question about the theft issue, you and I were discussing earlier that the prosecution did try to anticipate that. They brought it out on direct. And I think when you do that, we can argue whether they did a good enough job with it. But the critical thing is you don't want it to truly emerge for the first time on cross. That's a real gotcha moment.

That didn't happen. And it made just not be that big of a deal to the jury because again it's the aggregate of everything and I still think the defense, you know, time will tell, but I think it's a mistake for them to pin so much on attacking Cohen just as a bad dishonest person that you can believe nothing that comes out of his mouth. It's just too many of the eggs in that one basket. There are other things they could do with him to whittle away at that, but again I just don't feel they've had a very good theme with it.

TAPPER: Tom, do you think it's possible that there's a juror in there who thinks, you know what, I think Michael Cohen's a liar, but I also think this happened.

DUPREE: I do. I do think that's possible. Look, I mean, we've all been speculating on how we would react if we were jurors to a lot of the testimony, and the fact is we don't know what the men and women in that jury box are actually thinking, but I will say this. One area I do think the prosecutors may have fallen a bit short is in trying to present a simple case to the jury. If you are a prosecutor, your goal is to present things as simple as possible so the jury can understand it, they can apply a lot of the facts and they can convict.

If you are a defense lawyer, your task typically is to complexify because complexity breeds reasonable doubt and that's what you need to instill in at least one juror. And I think by and large the defense has succeeded in that. A lot of the cross of Cohen really made things seem very complicated about these deals and this bookkeeping. And did you know this? And jumping around.

I mean Blanche was very disorganized but there may have been a method to his madness in just making the jury hard to follow, making it hard to follow all these dates and all these deals. And to the extent that you do start seeding reasonable doubt in that jury box, that could lead to a hung jury or even an acquittal.

TAPPER: Very interesting stuff. Thanks to all of you for being here and welcome. It's good to have you here. Please come back.

There is other big news this hour. We're standing by for President Biden to speak at the White House. Earlier today, the President took the unusual steps of slamming the International Criminal Court for recommending arrest warrants, not only for three leaders of the terrorist group Hamas, but for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Defense Minister as well.

Biden called the move outrageous. Several Democrats and Republicans have also criticized the ICC decision. What will Biden say when he speaks in just a couple minutes? Stay with us.




TAPPER: Topping our World Lead, bipartisan anger on Capitol Hill today in the United States after the International Criminal Court at The Hague proposed on CNN for the first time an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Gallant over what the ICC is alleging are war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza. President Biden says it is quote "outrageous". Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson called the decision baseless and illegitimate. Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas took it further, saying that the chief prosecutor and anyone associated with him should quote "never set foot again in the United States".

This would be the very first time that the ICC has applied for an arrest warrant for the leader of a close U.S. ally. The ICC also announced that they would target the leaders of Hamas, including Yahya Sinwar and two other top officials of that terrorist group. Israel's Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as I've said, is also named. The significant ICC decision came in an exclusive interview first this morning with CNN's Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour. Christiane joins us now from The Hague. And Christiane, did the ICC prosecutor explain why he seemed to put the leaders of a nation, Israel, on the same level as the leaders of the terrorist group Hamas?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: He certainly did. And I went back after the backlash, so to speak, that you've just outlined and asked them again, and they were very, very clear. They said to me that the ICC's mandate is solely focused on the victims. In other words, as they said, equivalent of victims, not alleged perpetrators. So, that is their answer to that.


And furthermore, during the interview, I asked about allegations and actually comments by Prime Minister Netanyahu even before these arrest warrants were requested, that this would be antisemitic. It would be outrageous. It would be a travesty of international justice. This is what Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan said.


KARIM KHAN, CHIEF PROSECUTOR, INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT: I also wanted to underline the fact that you mentioned in an earlier question the allegations of antisemitism, the hate, the idea that by applying the law blindly we are favoring one side or persecuting or be hostile to another side and nothing can be further from the truth.

I've also appointed an independent panel, and this independent panel, giants, it includes Adrian Fulford, who is the Vice President of the Court of Appeal, the first British judge elected to the ICC, Baroness Helena Kennedy, who is one of the giants of human rights, President of the International Bar Association. It includes a Danny Friedman, King's Council, a very well respected lawyer, also a practicing Jew.

We have Ted Meron. He is a giant. He was the Legal Advisor of Israel, in 1967 as Israel's Legal advisor. He actually said and it is public that the building of settlements was -- illegal settlements was contrary to the Fourth Geneva Conventions, and maybe if he had been listened to, things wouldn't have come to the state we are in today. But, he was a Holocaust survivor. He was also legal counsel -- counselor to the United States State Department. President of the Yugoslav Tribunal, Amal Clooney. We have so many people of distinction that are respected, and they independently came in. I brought them in. They sat in the evidence review. This is not a witch hunt. This is not some kind of emotional reaction to noise.


AMANPOUR: And he said that he would not have brought these arrest warrant demands and requests had he not had, based on the evidence that he was just talking about just then, a clear belief and the panel as well, that it would reach the level of the burden of proof of a conviction in court, not just bringing it to court, but a conviction in court.

And remember, he has requested arrest warrants for Hamas leaders based on the crime of extermination, mass killings, for sexual assault, for hostage taking, and for a number of other crimes that amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes. And in terms of Israel, also extension, i.e., mass killing, and most importantly, they cite what they believe to be starvation used as a weapon of war. Jake.

TAPPER: Remind our viewers, if you would, Christiane, why Israel and the United States governments are not members of the ICC, and what that might mean for the ICC's jurisdiction in this case? AMANPOUR: So, the United States is not a member, in part or maybe in

whole, because it does not want its soldiers, its armed forces ever to be a target of any kind of non-U.S. judicial process. That is the main reason, and it has mightily battled against any attempt to bring any of its soldiers to account other than within the U.S. court system. We believe that to be the case of Israel as well. But, remember, even Russia and many other countries are not part of this. However, there is a technical and legal word called complementarity, and that enables third parties and the like to be at least investigated and arrest warrants demanded.

Now, in the case of Israel, Israel could deal with this legal situation itself. It is obviously a democracy with an independent judiciary. But, the prosecutor's office and the prosecutor has told me that no matter how much he has asked Israel in relation to these and previous alleged crimes that they were investigating on the occupied West Bank, there has been no cooperation of significance and meaningful weighed by the Israeli system. So, that's one thing.

And remember, the United States itself throughout this war has tried to tell Israel to respect the rules and laws of war and protect the civilians. And of course, that's the reason that the United States does not want and is trying to dissuade Israel from any full-scale invasion of Rafah. Why -- the National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said just a few days ago, maybe a couple of weeks that they had not yet seen a credible plan by the Israeli government or the armed forces to protect civilians in case of a full-scale invasion on Rafah. So, the U.S. already is concerned and has been about potential mass violations of civilian protection.


TAPPER: All right. CNN's Christiane Amanpour at The Hague for us, thank you so much.

President Biden is speaking now at the White House at an event marketing Jewish American Heritage Month. Let's listen him.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: -- fabric of America, and it's permanent. It's permanent. But, look, I know today's reception falls on hard time. The trauma of October 7 and its aftermath, the deadliest day the Jewish people have undergone since the Holocaust is still fresh and ongoing. And we've many of you. We have parents of someone being held hostage right now, and we're going to get them home. We're going to get them home.

1,200 innocent people slaughtered in their kibbutz, massacred at a music festival, brutally raped, mutilated, sexually assaulted, hundreds taken hostage and thousands more wounded, carrying the scars and the memory of what they endured. Y'all know someone, directly or indirectly, family, friends, who were stolen from you are in harm's way now. And my commitment to safety of the Jewish people, security of Israel, and its right to exist as an independent Jewish state is ironclad. It really is.

My administration is working around the clock to free their main hostages, just as we have freed hostages already. And hero of the day is Hersh Goldberg-Polin, and still he is not here with us, but he is still being held by Hamas, and Rachel and Jon are here with us. Stand up, guys. Their love, strength and compassion inspire the entire world, and I pledge to both of you and I mean it. And I know you know, mom, what I mean, that I will not rest until we bring your loved one home. We got to bring them home.

And folks, let me be clear, I will always ensure that Israel has everything it needs to defend itself against Hamas and all of their enemies, just as I did with Iran's unprecedented attack last month. We stand with Israel to take out Sinwar and the rest of the butchers of Hamas. We want Hamas defeated. We will work with Israel to make that happen. And consistent with Jewish values and compassion, kindness and dignity and human life, my team also is providing critical humanitarian assistance to help innocent Palestinian civilians who are suffering greatly because of the war with Hamas, Hamas is (inaudible). It's heartbreaking.

As we do this, we're also committed to bring the region together to work toward a two-state solution to provide security, prosperity and enduring peace for Israel and Palestine. Let me be clear, we reject the ICC's application of arrest warrants against Israeli leaders. Whatever these warrants may imply, there is no equivalence between Israel and Hamas. And it's clear, Israel wants to all do all it can to ensure civilian protection. But, let me be clear, contrary to allegations against Israel made by the International Court of Justice, what's happening is not genocide. We reject that.

And we always stand with Israel and the threats against its security. Compounding the pain and a vicious surge of antisemitism around the world here in America as well in our streets, social media, college campuses, it's amazing. It's happening. It's absolutely despicable. It's wrong and it must stop. It must stop. In America, we respect and protect fundamental rights of free speech to protest peacefully. That's America. But, there is no place in any campus in America, any place in America for antisemitism, for hate speech that threatens violence of any kind against Jews or anyone else.

Nobody should fear going to synagogue or school or walking on a street wearing a symbol of your faith. That's wrong, simply wrong. And that's why long before October 7, I launched the nation's first national strategy to counter antisemitism. Let's mobilize the full force of the federal government to crack down on antisemitism wherever you find it. We recently secured additional $400 million, the largest increase ever in physical security for nonprofits, including synagogues, Jewish community centers, Jewish schools, Jewish nonprofits.

My Department of Education has put colleges on notice that antisemitism is discrimination prohibited under Title Six of the Civil Rights Act. Period. And the department has to investigate discriminatory and aggressively -- discrimination aggressively. That's my special envoy to monitor cabinet antisemitism, Deborah. Deborah, you are -- where is -- is Deborah here?

[17:45:00] Deborah, thank you. Lipstadt for furthering our efforts all around the world. It matters. This matters. The Jewish community want you to know. I see your fear. You're hurting your pain. Let me assure you, as your President, you are not alone. You belong. You always will belong.

Let me close with this. In moments like this, we do want to remember that this ancient story of Jewish resilience endures because of its people. That's what today is all about, feeling the joy and pride of community, honoring the beauty of your unshakable faith and celebrated heritage and legacy of Jewish Americans who continue to enrich every single part of our life. So, thank you for what you've done for America and for the whole world to make it a better place. May the Jewish people shine their light and shine the light of the -- on the world for generations to come because we need you badly. God bless you all, and God protect our troops. Thank you for being here.

TAPPER: President Biden speaking live at a Jewish American Heritage Month event at the White House.

Let's bring in CNN's is Kayla Tausche at the White House for us. And Kayla, President Biden's remarks pretty timely, given today's actions by prosecutors at the International Criminal Court, which he really criticized.

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jake. You heard the President forcefully reiterating the idea that there is no equivalence between Hamas and Israel. That was the basis of his statement in response to the news broken by Christiane Amanpour that the ICC would be seeking arrest warrants for top Hamas and Israeli leaders. President Biden calling that decision "outrageous", and also saying, which has been the U.S.'s position, that there is no jurisdiction for the ICC to be pursuing this.

I asked NSC Spokesman John Kirby about the position of the U.S. in assisting the ICC to document war crimes in Ukraine versus its position in this situation, and he said the real difference is one of intent, Jake. He said that Putin's stated strategy in Ukraine is to wake up and target civilians and infrastructure there, and that the IDF does not do the same, and that any civilian death toll, while still too high, is inadvertent. Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Kayla Tausche at the White House, thanks so much.

You heard President Biden mention Israeli American hostage 23-year-old Hersh Goldberg-Polin. He is one of five American hostages still being held by Hamas. The four others thought to be alive in Gaza, their names and ages when they are kidnapped by the Hamas terrorists on October 7 include 19-year-old Edan Alexander, 22-year-old Omer Neutra, 35-year-old Sagui Dekel-Chen, and 64-year-old Keith Samuel Siegel. The prosecutor at the ICC, in addition to all the other news he made today, said that all of the hostages need to be released as soon as possible.

Coming up, this tense political moment for President Biden as he tries to address Israel's action in Gaza, and the call for an arrest warrant from Prime Minister Netanyahu -- for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. We're back in a moment.




TAPPER: Our World Lead now. We just heard moments ago, President Biden condemning the call by the International Criminal Court prosecutors for the arrest of Israel's Prime Minister and Defense Minister along with three leaders of Hamas.

Let's digest it all with our panel. Ayesha, how is the White House balancing the full support for Israel in this case with threats to withhold U.S. weapons for Israel's campaign in Rafah? He says ironclad support for Israel.


TAPPER: But, there are supporters of Israel who say, not really.

RASCOE: Well, look, I mean, I think --

TAPPER: That's not me. I'm just saying.

RASCOE: Yes. But, no. But, I think what you saw on that speech was him trying to do the balance. Well, in that speech, he wasn't really balanced. And he was saying, look, we are standing with Israel, period. What the ICC is doing is horrible. And look, we don't agree with that at all. Obviously, in practice, it's a lot more nuanced because there are concerns about the operation in Rafah and what is happening with civilians, and they are trying to put some pressure on it. Now, he is not going to please those on the left who are going to say he is not doing enough, but those who are very -- supporting Israel are going to say that this is not that they are not doing a full support.

So, he, as I have said probably many, many times and will say many more, he is trying to balance. But, this is -- he is not Simone Biles.


RASCOE: It will be a difficult situation.

TAPPER: Karen, the balancing act, not only a problem for Biden, but for Democrats on Capitol Hill, who are ready. The Senate has -- Democrats in the Senate have a very, very rough map, and this is -- none of this conflict makes it easier.

KAREN FINNEY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST, & FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN: No. But, I think what you saw, right, from the reporting, Jake Sullivan was still, it seems in his meeting --

TAPPER: The National Security Advisor.

FINNEY: -- the National Security Advisor very firm with regard to concerns about Rafah, the ongoing concerns about what's happening with the innocent Palestinian population, while the President was able to be much tougher and take on the ICC, and you saw Secretary Blinken even undermining the credibility of the investigation by the ICC. So, I suspect you will see Democrats also trying to walk that line, particularly in this moment. Ironically, this comes at a time when Netanyahu himself was facing trouble or pressure from within, even in his own work cabinet. But, obviously, it's like, well, we're saying it is one thing, we're criticizing our guy, but you don't get to criticize --

TAPPER: Right.

FINNEY: -- our guy with such an outrageous charge.

TAPPER: And Marc, we saw Senator Lindsey Graham and many Republicans really issuing lengthy condemnations of the ICC. This afternoon, Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, going so far, and I don't even know if this is legal, that there would be a ban on ICC prosecutors and their families from ever even entering the United States.


Again, I'm not even -- I don't even know if they can do that. But --

MARC LOTTER, CHIEF COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER, AMERICA FIRST POLICY INSTITUTE, & FORMER DIRECTOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, TRUMP 2020 CAMPAIGN: Yeah. I don't think. The ICC is one of those rare nonpartisan. I think both sides have condemned it, and rightfully so. It'd be interesting to see if they know some world leaders, like when the late President of Iran tried to come to speak to the United Nations. There is always that give and take about whether the State Department will let them do that or not. But, I'm not sure how any of that works. They always do. So, it's probably a good bumper sticker slogan.

TAPPER: I want to take a minute that we have left in the show to remember Alice Stewart. We had actually planned to have Alice Stewart on the panel today, beloved conservative commentator, but she was taken from us far too early, and suddenly, this weekend, we learned on Saturday. I wanted to take a moment, Karen, because I know you guys were very close. And Marc, I know you -- I believe you'd worked with her, to just talk about your time. I mean, I -- it's just such -- it's just so unimaginable that she is not going to be coming onto the set anymore.

FINNEY: Yeah. I have that felt when I walked in actually. I'm sorry. I'm going to cry but -- that we're going to walk in here and she is not going to be here again. And that's just shocking. She was such a beautiful, kind person, who just always had a kind word and was encouraging and just with so much integrity, and I really appreciated being able to have conversations with her even though we didn't always agree.

TAPPER: I know you never agreed.

FINNEY: We never agreed.

TAPPER: But, you guys were --

FINNEY: But, we liked you.

TAPPER: Agreed on me. But, you were good friends.


TAPPER: And Marc, you're on her side. You are conservative. But, I mean, it's just --

LOTTER: She was one of the first people I met when I was doing national politics back in 2016, and she was on the Ted Cruz campaign, I think, at the time. Obviously, we worked together and not knowing that I will -- she'd call me two or three times a week asking me, preparing for your show, usually. Like, what do you think if I say this versus that? And we'd always catch up, and knowing that that call is not coming is -- it's -- I don't know what to say.

TAPPER: It's just awful and unfair. She apparently died Friday night and she -- her body was found Saturday morning. She was walking her beloved dog. And if there is any comfort in this, it does seem as of now that it was just a horrible, horrible accident, and The Lead is sending its condolences to the two brothers and the sister and all of the friends and there are so many of us of Alice Stewart. May her memory be a blessing. We will miss you, Alice. We'll be right back.


TAPPER: Our last lead now is our national lead. The cargo ship Dali which slammed into Baltimore's Key Bridge was escorted by tugboats back to the Baltimore's port. The ship lost power and crashed into the span which collapsed the bridge, killing six construction workers, as you know. Now that the Dali has been removed, officials expect to reopen Baltimore's shipping channel by the end of this month.

You can follow me on Facebook, on Instagram, on Threads, X, formerly known as Twitter, on the TikTok, @jaketapper. You can follow the show on X, @TheLeadCNN. If you ever miss an episode of The Lead, you can listen to the show once you get your podcasts. I will be back on air tomorrow morning for more coverage of that wild Trump trial. The news continues on CNN with Wolf Blitzer right next door in a place. I would like to call the situation room. I will see you tomorrow morning.