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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Trump Team Tries To Get Classified Documents Case Thrown Out; Hunter Biden Trial On Tax Charges Delayed Until September; Nikki Haley's First Public Event Since Dropping Out Of GOP Race; Families Of Israeli Women Soldiers Release Video Of Hamas Abduction; CNN In Heart Of Town Ukraine Can't Afford To Lose; Storms Cause Widespread Damage, Multiple Deaths; Company Attempting To Foreclose On Elvis' Graceland Drops Pursuit. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired May 22, 2024 - 16:00   ET


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: A sitting president whose son is also mired in his own legal battles and potentially will be in court as early voting is going on in certain states.


JESSICA DEAN, CNN HOST: Right, in three states. I think it is that early voting will be happening.

So I interviewed somebody the other day who said the thing about this election is it's an October surprise, almost every week. And there -- we're just going to have so many unprecedented things leading up to this.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, it is a long windup and we appreciate you joining us this afternoon for a small sliver of it.

Jessica, thanks for being with us this week.

DEAN: Thanks for having me.

SANCHEZ: Stay with CNN because THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: A heated hearing today for a different criminal cases involving Donald Trump.

THE LEAD starts right now.

The hush money cover-up trial is quiet today, but another case is turning into a shouting match. Attorneys trading barbs in that federal classified documents case in Florida as Trump's co-defendant Walt Nauta accused prosecutors of selectively and vindictively charging him with a crime.

Plus, new video showing the very moment that five young Israeli women were kidnapped by the terrorists of Hamas. The footage is horrifying and graphic. Why their families wanted this video released now. And a judge's ruling today on the iconic Graceland Mansion. Did someone trying to scam their way into buying the property once owned by Elvis?


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

We're going to start today with our law and justice lead. Just as Donald Trump's hush money cover-up trial seems to be nearing its conclusion, a very new chapter started today in the federal classified documents case against the former president. U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, held two hearings in the case today on two separate attempts to throw out the charges altogether.

The first focused on Trump's valet, a guy named Walt Nauta. Walt Nauta is claiming vindictive prosecution and that devolved into a shouting match and it ended with no ruling from Judge Cannon.

The second matter involves Trump and multiple other co-defendants trying to get the case thrown out on technical issues. That is just wrapping up right now in Fort Pierce, Florida.

These were the first hearing since Judge Cannon seemed to indefinitely delay the start of the trial had been scheduled to start this week.

This also comes as newly unsealed filings reveal that a separate judge, a federal judge here in Washington, D.C., previously found there was, quote, sufficient evidence that Trump committed crimes in the classified documents case, and also as these images were made public, seeming to show Nauta allegedly moving boxes at Mar-a-Lago before a Trump attorney was supposed to go through the boxes and look for classified materials sought by the subpoena.

CNN's Evan Perez is outside the courthouse in Fort Pierce, Florida, for us right now.

Evan, start with this hearing in the afternoon, which involve Trump and the other co-defendants trying to get their case thrown out on some technical issues. Tell us what happened.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, over the course of about three hours, you heard some skepticism from Judge Aileen Cannon on the arguments that all of the defendants are making that there was not enough specifics and there's some technical reasons why the charges in this case should be dismissed. She did, however, seem sympathetic to the idea that was being raised by the defense that these charges are so -- are so complex that a jury might have trouble understanding the differences between the different charges that the defendants are being charged with.

One of the things that she did not do, however, today, Jake was set a new trial date every time we come to one of these hearings down here, we are hoping that we might hear an update from that. That did not comment as you pointed out, she did not rule from the bench, where we heard a lot of discussions here that sort of dealt into the minutiae of this case. One of the arguments that the defense was making was that if you remember, there was a discussion to delete surveillance video from Mar-a-Lago.

What the defense is arguing in court today was that just having that discussion is not illegal. That just talking about it was not itself a crime. Of course, that's not something that the prosecution concedes. And again, the judge did not rule from the bench today, Jake.

TAPPER: Evan, the hearing earlier today involving what Walt Nauta, Trump's valet, that devolved into a shouting match. Tell us more about that?

PEREZ: Yeah. There were accusations. There were definitely some raised voices. The judge, even telling prosecutors to calm down because things got really heated.

Stand Woodward, who represents Walt Nauta, he is making the allegation, and this was brought up in court today, that prosecutors essentially, were essentially trying to extort him, trying to get him to pressure his client to cooperate with the investigation.


He said that they raise the fact that he had been recommended for a judgeship and he said the implication was that this was an effort to try to get his clients to cooperate. Of course, prosecutor David Harbach stood up there and said this was pure fantasy on the part of defense and pointed out that Stan Woodward didn't raise this claim until way after these charges had been raised.

So in the end, again, the judge did not rule on the motion there that Walt Nauta is making that he was selectively and vindictively prosecuted -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Evan Perez in Fort Pierce, Florida, thanks so much.

Let's talk about all this with former federal prosecutor, Ankush Khardori, and criminal defense attorney, Brandi Harden.

Ankush, thanks so much for being here.

What do you make how these hearings played out today? Is it pretty much what you expected?

ANKUSH KHARDORI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I definitely don't expect people to be shouting in federal court, particularly in case of this sort of consequence. So that was a little unfortunate, depending on how that came about.

I think the allegation that precipitated it, which Even described, the sort of suggestion that there was some effort to dissuade Nauta from cooperating or to entice him by some favoritism on the judgeship, it's been around for a couple of years. It's been in the air for a couple of years. It's never made a whole lot of sense to me as particularly credible or potent attack on the charges.

So I think it was a bit of a distraction and for better or worse, it seems of angered the prosecutors.

TAPPER: So, Brandi, explain this to me. So Trump's valet and co- defendants, Walt Nauta, he says he's being vindictively and selectively prosecuted. What does that mean? And how do you prove it?

BRANDI HARDEN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER: So, the first thing is that it means that you think that there's a particular bias as it relates to the prosecutors bringing these charges, that its not just based on the evidence, but there's some ulterior motive that's going on. It's not something that's very easy to prove. And I think, you know, what's behind charging decision if the government thinks that they have probable cause, they're going to be able to bring the charges.

Although I do think the defense attorney had to have a good faith basis to bring them, I'm not so concerned about how long it took the allegations to come about. If you review a case and you see that there's evidence that you believe shows that there's some kind of bias, then you bring the motion. It is something that's again quite difficult to prove, so I'm not sure how that will pay it out, but I think its proper to bring it if you have a good faith basis to bring it.

TAPPER: Ankush, this is the first hearing since Judge Cannon seemed to basically indefinitely delay the start of the trial, was supposed to start this week. Some legal experts have criticized her slow pace in the case. They say she's playing into Trump's hands and delay tactics. Others say she's just new and she hasn't handled the case of this magnitude before. What do you think?

KHARDORI: You know, this is not the first time you and I have encountered this very specific question actually.


KHARDORI: You know, with each and every ruling I understand, it gets a little harder for people to hold the line on this. I still love the view. I don't think it's sort of a malice or an intention -- intentional effort to run interference for Trump.

This is a complicated case. She's inexperienced. I think temperamentally, I think, maybe she needs to adjust a little bit. It's not a good idea for her to take swipes at the prosecutors the way she has been doing in writing, and from the bench from time to time, it diminishes her.

So she seems to be undertaking a very steep learning curve. And I'm not sure she will get to where she needs to.

TAPPER: So standby both of you because I want to introduce some another topic here. One of the documents unsealed yesterday outlined how the FBI had been authorized to search Trump's Mar-a-Lago property when they did that search. A number of Republicans unceasing one particular part of that authorization, the policy statement on the use of deadly force. It states in part that, quote, law enforcement officers of the Department of Justice may use deadly force only when necessary. That is when the officer has a reasonable belief that the subject of such force poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer or to another person, unquote.

Now, some Trump supporters went to social media and quickly started spreading claims that this shows that when this was authorized, Trump's life was at risk during this FBI search. Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene from Georgia went even further, writing, quote, "Trump and team was cooperating the entire time with the FBI was deadly force authorized against Biden for his docs. Were they going to shoot Secret Service, then President Trump, Melania and Barron too?" unquote.

And Donald Trump responded to what Marjorie Taylor Greene had told him apparently, saying on Truth Social, his social media site, quote: Wow, I just came out of the Biden witch hunt trial in Manhattan, the ice box, and was shown reports that crooked Joe Biden's DOJ and their illegal and unconstitutional raid of Mar-a-Lago authorized the FBI to use deadly lethal force. Now, we know for sure that Joe Biden is a serious threat to democracy, unquote.

Now, the CNN fact checkers got to work and they looked and found that the instructions use during this Mar-a-Lago search are in fact standard language taken straight from the Justice Department's manual, basically, a copy and paste.


The FBI responded to these allegations saying, quote, the FBI followed standard protocol in this search, as we do for all search warrants, which includes a standard policy statement limiting the use of deadly force. No one ordered additional steps to be taken. And there was no departure from the norm in this matter, unquote.

Ankush, let me ask you and then, Brandi, do you think -- I understand this is -- it was standard language, but this isn't a standard search. This is a former president. Was this a mistake on the part of Attorney General Garland or the FBI Director Wray to say, you know what, let's not put that in this? Obviously, if there are extenuating circumstances, people can respond, but like this is so fraught and so sensitive, maybe we should go above and beyond and not even include that.

What do you make that argument?

KHARDORI: Yeah. I mean, look, this Justice Department has been very one -- tried to hue very closely to sort of treating Trump like any other defendant. I think that's an important proposition and I think it's one that it makes sense for them to try to hold onto, but just to take a step back, right? As you know, he did get a lot of process before this search.

TAPPER: Oh, sure.

KHARDORI: He was not cooperating with the FBI, which is the basis of the indictment, half of the indictment.

TAPPER: This entire case would have not existed if he had just handed the boxes back. KHARDORI: Right. So what Marjorie Taylor Greene said is false, and also the secret service did coordinate with the FBI in advance of the search to ensure that it would proceed in a more orderly fashion.

So he did get processed that other people do not get.

TAPPER: Brandi, what do you think?

HARDEN: I think it's very important that he be treated like every other client. That's being prosecuted. And I think all of the time I see search warrants right. Where you're charged, not necessarily in a fraud case, where if the police think that there is a danger to themselves that they're going to be authorized to use deadly force. Now, that does not take the next step and say they can use it.

Again, I think this is a policy statement. I think it's an opportunity for people to seize on words. This is standard language that any officer, if they believe that there's a threat to their own safety, that deadly force can be used.

I would hope that they would not use deadly force. That's certainly how I feel about it, but it seems like its standard and search warrants if the officers run into a situation where they think deadly force is necessary, that they be authorized to do so.

TAPPER: Also, I think Marjorie Taylor Greene is -- correct me if I'm wrong, Marjorie Taylor Greene's question about whether they had the same language when they did the search of President Biden's property, it's apples and oranges because President Biden was cooperating, right?

HARDEN: That's correct. And I think under the circumstances, you just don't know what you're going to run into. Again, I -- from my perspective, there should have been no reason to be using deadly force here.

TAPPER: Right.

HARDEN: But at the same time, if somebody were to run into a situation where someone at that property was armed, they needed to have the opportunity to respond in like fashion.

TAPPER: All right. Ankush Khardori and Brandi Harden, thanks to both you for being here. I appreciate it.

We've got some breaking news in our law and justice lead. Hunter Biden's trial on tax charges has been delayed until September.

Let's get straight to CNN's Marshall Cohen.

Marshall, why is it being delayed until September?

MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: Jake, it was basically a calendar crunch. Hunter Biden is facing two separate trials that were supposed to be back-to-back in June, starting in Delaware, just two weeks from now and then followed in Los Angeles with a tax case, though there was a hearing that just wrapped up in L.A. where the judge said that he is going to delay that trial so that one, the tax case, it won't be in June. It's going to be in December, but the gun case is still full speed ahead.

So just to zoom out and remind everybody how we got here, special counsel, David Weiss, who started in the Justice Department is the Trump appointed U.S. attorney in Delaware, he's accused Hunter Biden of illegal purchase and possession of a gun because he was allegedly addicted to drugs while he bought the gun. That's in violation of federal law.

Then in the tax case, he's accused of failing to pay his taxes, failing to file his taxes, and evading taxes. He's pleaded not guilty to both of these cases. But this is a huge relief for Hunter and his team. They were saying it was almost impossible to do back-to-back. So now, they'll have one in June, one in September.

TAPPER: And turning back to that gun case that you talked about, Marshall, there's new information you have about the evidence that they're going to use against Hunter.

COHEN: Yeah. You know, when the past few days, special counsel, his team have revealed in court filings who they're going to call us witnesses and what evidence they're going to use. They said that they are planning to call Hunter Biden's ex-wife and his former for romantic partner, who was also the widow of his brother, Hallie Biden, and the mother of one of his children.

So people that were very close and intimate with Hunter Biden so they can tell the jury directly about his struggles with addiction, which according to the prosecutors, lined up exactly with when he bought that gun. There's also, of course, the infamous Hunter Biden laptop that people who have followed this saga are very familiar with.


The prosecutor said that they have verified some of the texts and emails on that laptop and they're going to use it in the upcoming gun case -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Marshall Cohen, thanks so much.

Right now in D.C., Nikki Haley is making her first public comments since she ended her 2024 presidential campaign in March.

I'm going to talk about the state of the race with the governor who was one of her biggest supporters.

Plus, the powerful tornado tore through parts of Iowa. We showed it to you right here on the lead yesterday. CNN is back on ground with the deadly aftermath 24 hours later.

Stick with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TAPPER: Time for our 2024 lead. So please put on the election jam.

Thank you. Appreciate it.

Former Governor Nikki Haley doing something we have not seen her do since dropping out of the race for president in March, speaking live before the public.

Right now, she's delivering remarks focused on U.S. foreign policy. She's a former U.N. ambassador, of course, and talking about the wars in the Middle East at the conservative Hudson Institute here in Washington, D.C.

Haley's been out of the race for nearly three months, yet she's continuing to pick up support from voters in the primaries. Haley won 21 percent of the primary vote in Indiana earlier this month. She won more than 16 percent of the vote in the great commonwealth of Pennsylvania last month.


Even last night, she won 6 percent -- more than 6 percent of the primary vote in the commonwealth of Kentucky.

Again, not a lot, but she's not a candidate. She dropped out of the race three months ago.

With us now, is New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu previously Nikki Haley's campaign, but he has since endorsed Donald Trump for president.

So, Governor, what is your reaction to the support she continues to get and are -- does that concern you as somebody who wants Trump to win in November that that -- those are people saying I'm not going to vote for Trump, period?

GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): Yeah. No. I think that's a vote of conscience. It's definitely a protest vote. It's saying we didn't -- we didn't want Trump to be our nominee. We're going to go out. We're going to make sure that that voice is heard.

Come November, I believe the vast majority are going to vote for the former President Trump, maybe not all of them, but the vast majority will. And, you know, whether Nikki endorses it, get behind, everyone wants to know what Nikki is doing. I'm a big believer. God bless her. I think she is incredible. She has earned the right to do anything, nothing, whatever she wants, right, and say whatever she wants.

But folks are going to vote or not vote for Biden or Trump based on Biden and Trump.

TAPPER: Right. But she does have fans. You know, that's thousands of people voting for her do you think she will endorse Trump? And if so, before the summer, at the convention?

SUNUNU: You know, I really don't know, to be honest. I've talked to her a little bit and again, she's spending time with their family. This is her first appearance after three months. She's having kind of --

TAPPER: Her husband got back from deployment.

SUNUNU: Her husband got back which is great.

So, my guess is we'll see a little more from her. Whether she decides to do or not, I'm not 100 percent sure. But again, I stick by she's earned the right to do whatever she wants to do.

TAPPER: So perhaps the second most prominent endorser of current office holders, you're number one, perhaps the second most was South Carolina Congressman Ralph Norman. And he said he thinks that Nikki Haley will be interested in serving as Trump's vice president.

Now, President Trump has said Haley is not under consideration. He didn't say it in a nasty way, just said she's not under consideration. Obviously, this is politics. Things can change.

Would you want him to pick her? Would you --

SUNUNU: Absolutely.

TAPPER: And do you think that she would accept?

SUNUNU: I -- well, I don't know if she would accept or anything like that, but I would love if someone like Nikki Haley or Nikki Haley herself were sitting as vice president because that's literally the next closest chair to managing the free world. And if it helps get not just America back on track as a team put some sanity back into the Republican Party and all that sort of thing, you know, being that close to it and maybe line her up for something in the future. But again, completely, completely between those two.

TAPPER: So, as mentioned, you have endorsed Donald Trump for president. If that jury in Manhattan votes to convict him in this hush money cover-up case, would that change your support?

SUNUNU: No, no., Not mine, and, you know, what's interesting when I look at -- what's happening with the trials. I mean, there's three outcomes, right? Innocent, hung jury, or guilty.

A hung jury or innocent helps Trump. There's no question about it. And not only does it help Trump in this trial, it puts a cloud political doubt on all the other ones, and it will have a reverberation.

Even on the guilty side, you know, I think people are seeing it more as reality TV. I think some people would be swayed by that, maybe they're not going to be with him, but not a lot. Not a lot. I think people are going to vote on issues that they're worried about, which is inflation. We talk about that a lot. What they're seeing at the border, this wokism culture stuff that they want changed.

So they're going to vote selfishly as they should, what impacts their family the most. The issue of the day, it continues to be inflation. The fact that folks have a hard time paying their rent. That's what they -- that's what they stay up at night worrying about, not the trials.

They stay up wearing about how am I going to pay my rent? How am I going to feed my family? Ultimately, that's what's going to turn into a vote in November.

TAPPER: Let's talk about a policy that Donald Trump was asked about the other day on a KDKA. That's a TV station in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was asked about possible restrictions on contraceptives. Take a listen.


TV ANCHOR: Do you support any restrictions on a person's right to contraception?

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, we're looking at that and I'm going to have a policy on that very shortly. And I think it's something that you'll find interesting.

TV ANCHOR: Well, that suggests that that you may want to support some restrictions?

TRUMP: We are also -- you know, things really do have a lot to do with the states.


TAPPER: So he didn't play on a policy there, but it sounded as though he was open to restrictions in the states if the states wanted to do them. Although he didn't say that outright, that's kind of what it sounded like.

Then he kind of seemed to walk it back. On Truth Social, he wrote, I have never and will never advocate imposing restrictions on birth control or other contraceptives. This is as a Democrat fabricated lie.

What's your take on this issue in general?


SUNUNU: I have to say, I think I think former President Trump has handled this abortion issue very, very well, and that he's been very clear, he supportive of IVF, he was very clear, clearing the air, if you will, that he's not looking for any additional restrictions. He's doing everything he can to make it a non-issue.

And if you look at the polls, it isn't. It's not a non-issue, but it's not nearly the significant issue that it was in 2022 for a lot of folks.


States are managing it. Some folks will like what their states are doing. Some folks won't. Arizona's overturning some of their laws. Other states are making some -- some changes.

But by enlarge, the states are handling it. What based on what their voters want. And he's essentially saying, look, that's -- that's the way it is. We're not looking to make any significant changes here at the federal level and avoiding the bait, if you will to jump into a very scary issue for folks.

I think he's done very well with it.

TAPPER: Your name has never been bandied about as a possible vice president for Donald Trump. But I wonder, would you serve in his administration in whatever capacity?

SUNUNU: No, no interests. I've done my four terms as governor. If anything, my goal is to get back to the private sector, help businesses avoid political pitfalls and things of that nature and make a little money and, you know, try to get my kids through college, which I don't know how anybody affords college nowadays. And that's really my primary focus.

TAPPER: Yeah, you need to save up. Absolutely.

SUNUNU: Oh, yeah.

TAPPER: Governor Sununu, it's good to see you.

SUNUNU: You bet. Thanks.

TAPPER: Thank you so much for being here.

And a mother's plea and families' difficult decision to let the world see how their daughters suffered at the hands of the terrorists of Hamas. Their courage is inspiring. We're going to tell their story next.



TAPPER: Topping our world lead now, Israeli female soldiers bruised and bloodied, lined up against a wall, their hands tied behind their backs. That's the graphic footage taken by Hamas terrorists. And the hostages' families now want the world to see that video.

We want to warn you that we're going to show you these images and -- these images and they're graphic.

Five of the seven families behind this push believed that their daughters are still alive in Gaza. They are trying to pressure Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to do more to prioritize securing their release.

And CNN's Bianna Golodryga joins us now.

Bianna, thanks so much for joining us.

So walk us through this horrifying video that the families decided to release.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, we want to first warn our viewers. This is very graphic and disturbing video that you are about to see. We're going to show you about 30 seconds of what the family's release of a three-minute plus footage that data obtained from the IDF that shows a few of the IDF soldiers.

There are seven families total, five of the soldiers are believed to still be alive. Their families decided to release this video where you see three of the young IDF soldiers that were kidnapped from their base at Nahal Oz. Their hands are bound.

You can see they're clearly out outnumbered by the Hamas militants and terrorists. Their face bloodied as they're interrogating them and the video goes on to -- the girls telling them that one of them, Naama Levy, who I spoke with, that she has friends in Palestine. Others had been asked their names where they lived, just sheer terror and a lot of chaos in the background. You hear screaming from the militants at times, you hear them praying as well.

TAPPER: Yeah. Just to -- and reminder for our viewers that these were observers, these young women and they also have conscription in Israel, mandatory military service for most of the young people there. You spoke with the mom of Naama Levy, as you mentioned, shown in that video, what did she have to say?

GOLODRYGA: Yeah. And this was Naama Levy's first day at work there on the base as a spotter. Her mother, Ayelet Levy Shachar, said that she was nervous at first out releasing this video, some of the family members didn't even want it shown, but she says that is important that they all believe they finally come to agreement. It's important to release this now, to show the world that from their perspective, October 7th, is an ongoing terror attack and they're really concerned about how their daughters are currently doing right now being held captive in Gaza.

Here's what she said.


AYELET LEVY SHACHER, MOTHER OF HOSTAGE NAAMA LEVY: First, I was actually quite reluctant to see it and I was -- I didn't know what I was going to see. We know it was from the body cameras of Hamas and I really didn't know what to expect and then some of the parents saw it, then I saw it. And, you know, I -- I don't think I have enough words in English or in Hebrew to describe what I felt that was on October 7 and this is what she was experiencing in this terror attack, and this has been going on for her, for 229 days.

GOLODRYGA: We hear her voice and she's speaking to the Hamas terrorists in English, saying, I have friends in Palestine.

SHACHER: I said you know, you, you say -- I heard her, you know, saying whatever she thought was right at that moment to fight for her life, and I was thinking, you know, I knew that you -- if she had a chance that would -- that's what she was going to say because it's true because she was part of a youth program promoting peace.


GOLODRYGA: And there you hear her, Jake, talk about her daughter Naama, who she said was in a youth program promoting peace, wanted peace, had many friends who were Palestinian and at this point, she just felt that she and the other family members who had been debating. They've seen this video. They've had it for a number of weeks. They were debating internally about whether they should release it.

But as she told me, quote, this cannot be a sideshow and she really feels the government right now is not prioritizing the release of these hostages. I even asked her, was it true that some members of this government did not even want to see this video? And she said, yes, that they told her, quote, we want to be able to sleep at night.

Jake, that's quite a statement to here for these families who have not slept for some 229 nights waiting for their loved ones to come home.

TAPPER: CNN's Bianna Golodryga, thank you so much.

GOLODRYGA: Thank you.

TAPPER: To another war now in the town that Ukraine cannot afford to lose to the Russians, what Ukrainian forces told us about recent Russian attack. CNN's on the ground with exclusive access.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Our world lead right now takes us to Ukraine where Russia bombarded the northern city of Sumy with Iranian-made drones overnight, targeting Ukraine's infrastructure and leaving 500,000 people without power.

While just to the west of Sumy, in Kharkiv, Russia continues its slow advance on Ukraine's second-largest city.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh got exclusive access to the heart of a town on the outskirts of Kharkiv, a town that Ukraine's simply cannot afford to lose. And we must warn our viewers, this piece we're about to show you, shows the disturbing reality of the horrors of war.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some towns, they can never let Putin take. And Lyptsi is one of them. Destroyed artillery on the streets. Homes aflame from an airstrike. But they can only move at night.

Lights off.

It's a perilous grip. They keep but lose here, and Russian artillery will be in range of Ukraine's second city, Kharkiv.


You can still smell the smoke here from an airstrike that landed just in the last hour or so.

This is life under the drone. We're the first reporters into the heart of the town only soldiers left here underground. The harder tear 13th National Guard first tackled Russia's new offensive.

OLEKSANDR, KHARTILA NATIONAL GUARD BRIGADE: You saw how it's all burning. It's like that every night.

WALSH: Do you think there were good enough fortifications here?

OLEKSANDR: Nothing was prepared here. Nothing. Just nothing. All the positions are being built by the hands of the infantry. The Russians are trained professional soldiers. You can see it from their equipment, from their tactics.

WALSH: There were eight airstrikes just in the last hour. So we leave soon.

A pausing noise nearest, very close. And the only way they know who's drone this is, is if it attacks.

Is it your drone?


WALSH: All around Kharkiv that don't have enough guns and the Russians have too many drones.

The 92nd Assault Brigade showed something that isn't even theirs.

Russian artillery piece that they captioned in the first year of war and the fighting in Kharkiv region. Now, they use strangely French mortar rounds to fire from here. It's just a sign of how little appropriate ammunition they have available to them.

This wire is a protection from APV drones.

Above, he sees a drone with two battery packs, a long-range scout.

Run. Basement.

It is not friendly.

If you can tell it's an attack drone, hide. This seems to be a scout, so running is better before it calls and shelling another artillery unit wants to show us something not even Russian, but soviet made in the 1940s. It can still find new or polish shells in the autumn, it was 100 a day. Now it is 10.

Extraordinary to see something here that's three times the age of either these two guys holding backer, new Russian offensive in 2024. I said a metal so old that it limits the number of times.

That sound warns another drone is incoming and back in the bunker, they show us the online board $30 gadget that is their best warning mechanism. The team here embody Ukraine's exhaustion and resilience. Older guys, wounded infantry.

Our tour has drone shrapnel in his arms still.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Moving towards Lozova?


Orlan. Don't go out at all for now.

WALSH: We just saw an Orlan Russian drone passing overhead, so saying, but to stay inside.

On the way back into the city, we see what fuels this defense. This was a lakeside resort, football, cocktails, a beach.

Extraordinary devastation and they're here to collect the bodies.

A seven months pregnant woman was among the seven dead here. Another body found later, just fragments in the mulch.

Russia's advance looms over whatever life persists here, belching out over homes.

The dark is little salvation. This may be drone being hit, but they kill two when they crash in failure.

Flares breach the enforced blackout. Moscow is getting nearer again and they're always too many blasts before dawn.


WALSH (on camera): The Russian assaults on the city here, Jake, behind me, Kharkiv, never seem to cease.

Just today, a gas station hit four people, sent to hospital after the explosion tore through a tram bus passing near there. These assaults on the city's limits, the villages around it persisting Lyptsi, where we were there, that came under heavy attack. There appears to be another Russian push to the east to move down.

Many concerns, you mentioned Sumy there. That's a region to northwest of where I'm standing. Many concern that Russia's main push may develop into a yet another offensive across the border to their to stretch Ukraine's forces further thin. And two, you saw there, the 92nd assault brigade we met in the tree line with their artillery pieces -- well, they were taken from an area near Bakhmut to the southeast of where I'm standing.


And a village called Kokshikva (ph) there, Russia's ministry of defense has claimed that that is coming under their control, perhaps as a consequence of Kyiv having to stretch its forces and relocate people from one area to defend its second city here, Kharkiv. This is not stopping, it's clear Russia has many avenues here, and its yet to see them all play out -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh in Ukraine for us, thanks so much.

Coming up, a big shakeup. You stand on the fight over the iconic Graceland Mansion, home of Elvis Presley back in the day. The announcement that came just hours after a judge's ruling today, coming up.



TAPPER: In our national lead, they're picking up the pieces today in Iowa after an afternoon and evening of deadly tornadoes. You might recall about this time yesterday, we showed you pictures of a tornado racing through an area about 50 miles southwest of Des Moines.

Here's what's left. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds visited the community of Greenwood earlier today and says that the town was flattened. Police just allowed CNN's Whitney Wild into the hardest hit part of the town.

Whitney, what are you seeing?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, when you come here into the residential area of Greenfield, you see how many lives have been upended.

If you take a look of right shoulder here, you can see the path of destruction was just massive. It has bad about a day since this tornado struck Greenfield and the cleanup effort is still well underway.

We spoke with officials earlier who gave us a couple of data points to highlight how much effort this is taking. They say hundreds of first responders came from the Missouri line, to the Illinois line, throughout Iowa, descending on Greenfield because it took that much effort to try to find people, rescue people, and to begin this enormous cleanup.

There are still outstanding questions. We still don't yet we have a dollar number on how much destruction there is here. We're waiting to find out how many fatalities, how many injuries. So, still very many open questions at this point.

I spoke with a woman who was in a home just about a block from where I am, and she described the moments that she saw the tornado bearing down on her. She said in a word, Jake, she was in total panic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stressful. Stressful. This makes me sick watching all these houses. I was panicking. I mean, panicking. I thought I was going to be long gone.

And when I went out to see the damage, my roof is gone and everything, vast when I thought (INAUDIBLE).

WILD: And, Jake, this is just the one town in one county in Iowa. We know 15 counties were under that emergency declaration. This storm system was just massive, stretching from Iowa to Illinois, to Wisconsin.

Again, communities like this, like Greenfield, trying to rebuild at this moment, but here in Greenfield, this is going to be a very long road -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Whitney Wild, thank you so much.

Turning to our pop culture lead, a mysterious company trying to foreclose on Elvis Presley's famous mansion Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee, is now dropping its pursuit, which means Graceland is back in the hands of the Presley family. This comes just hours after a judge halted a planned foreclosure sale, citing evidence that this company had likely forged documents, claiming that it had the rights to sell Graceland.

CNN's Isabel Rosales has more for us now on the bizarre fight for the estate of the king of rock and roll.


ISABEL ROSALES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For decades, they've come to honor the king, to get a glimpse of where Elvis Presley lived and to be close to rock and roll royalty.

The Memphis home, hallowed ground for music lovers around the world and the resting place for Presley, his daughter, Lisa Marie, and other family members.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, it should be in the Elvis's family always.

MAYOR PAUL YOUNG (D), MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE: We hope that it stays with the family. Graceland means so much to our community. It does so much for our economy. We attract over 600,000 visitors each year.

ROSALES: But with the threat of foreclosure, the fate of Elvis Presley's fabled Graceland was all shook up.

The historic landmark front and center in court Wednesday morning.

CHANCELLOR JOEDAE L. JENKINS, SHELBY COUNTY CHANCERY: The real estate is considered unique under Tennessee law.

ROSALES: To determine who is its rightful owner, after the iconic 14- acre property was put up for a foreclosure auction to be held Thursday, until the singer's granddaughter and heir Riley Keough filed suit. And a judge granted a temporary restraining order against any sale.

JENKINS: The court will enjoin the sale.

ROSALES: Ruling the iconic Memphis home can stay in the hands of the Presley family for now. The creditor behind the sail Naussany Investments and Private Lending LLC presented documents claiming Lisa Marie Presley defaulted on a nearly $4 million loan, with Graceland as collateral.

Keough claims not only are the documents fake, but that her mother never borrowed money or use Graceland as collateral.

Keough also claims Naussany isn't even a real company.

JENKINS: It appears that you must (INAUDIBLE)

ROSALES: The chancery court deciding to delay the foreclosure until a hearing can determine the facts.

The notary swearing she never met Lisa Marie Presley, or notarized her signature on the loan paperwork.


JENKINS: Which brings into question as to the authenticity of signature and indeed, this trust as being fraud.

ROSALES: Today, the company says it will not move forward with the foreclosure and will be withdrawing all claims with prejudice.

According to a statement released by a person identified as a representative.

So for now, for fans and for the family, Graceland remains a good luck charm.


ROSALES (on camera): Yeah, withdrawing all claims with prejudice. That means that the decision is final. So it sounds like Naussany, this company will not seek a future efforts to foreclose on Graceland. Now, we've reached out to Riley Keough's attorney to see what the status of that lawsuit is against the company in light of this news, also to Tennessee banking regulators, D.A.'s, attorney's office and the U.S. attorney's office to see whether they will play any role considering the accusations here of fraud -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Isabel Rosales, thank you so much.

There's a breaking news in the 2024 presidential race. Nikki Haley just said who she's going to vote for in November. She said much more than that. We're going to bring that to you next.