Return to Transcripts main page

The Lead with Jake Tapper

How Biden & Trump Are Prepping For Next Week's CNN Debate; Historic Rematch: Familiar Rivals Debate New Issues; At Least Two People Dead As Wildfires Tear Through New Mexico; Sweltering Heat Wave Hits The Midwest & Northeast; Louisiana Requires Ten Commandments Poster In Classrooms; Columbia University Protesters Appear In Court; Trump Attorneys Ask Civil Fraud Case Judge To Recuse Himself; Astronauts' Return Delayed Again Over Spacecraft Issues. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired June 20, 2024 - 16:00   ET


MARY MORRISSEY (R), VERMONT STATE HOUSE: Our legislative colleagues, all of our state house staff, and those who work in this building and the citizens of Vermont can forgive me.



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: That's such a random, weird thing to do. So --

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: What was Mary doing?

SANCHEZ: If you're ever going to do that to me, Brianna, and I know you thought about it, put some margarita mix in there, and tequila --

KEILAR: That's what I would. I put a mojito in your bag.

SANCHEZ: Some pretty pebble protein shakes.

KEILAR: That's what I would do. Yeah. No. I pour water in my own bag accidentally sometimes.


KEILAR: He doesn't do that.

SANCHEZ: He doesn't pour water and do this stuff.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Just one week right here on CNN. Biden and Trump facing off.

THE LEAD starts right now.

We are literally just days away from what will kick off a critical stretch of the 2024 campaign, a debate and then right after it, two conventions. And in the midst of it all, the U.S. Supreme Court ready to rule on presidential immunity and more. And the campus arrest video scene around the world, police using tactical vehicles to get protesters out of Hamilton Hall at Columbia University. And now those protesters are having their day in court.

Plus, what exactly is going on in the South China Sea right now? Now, a Philippine ship sandwich by the Chinese coast guard. It got violent quickly with multiple service members injured. It is a clear escalation and it could have serious implications for us here in the West. We'll explain why, coming up.


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

We're going to start today with our 2024 lead, because in just one week, right here on CNN, you will see the most important event yet of the 2024 race. Next Thursday night, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump will take the stage in the first presidential debate before the general election. I will moderate along with my friend and colleague Dana Bash.

Now, not only is this showdown consequential, it also will be historic. This will be the first debate ever in American history between a sitting president and a former president, both of them vying for the White House. And yes, presidential nerds, in 1892, Cleveland and Harrison did not debate.

But back to today, CNN's amazing reporters are getting brand new details about how both candidates are preparing behind the scenes.

Let's go straight to CNN's Kayla Tausche, live at the White House, and here with me in studio, CNN's Alayna Treene, who's covering the Trump campaign.

Kayla, to you first, how is President Biden preparing for the big night?

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Jake, the president will arrive at Camp David tonight. His top aides will be there with him for several days of what was described as intensive preparations that could last right up until the day of the debate, with the White House preserving the possibility of traveling right to Atlanta from Camp David, depending on how much practice still remains.

Now, the format will evolve over the next few days. Sources involved in the preparations say that they'll start with more informal discussions going through binders of potential topics, questions, responses, and prior Trump rhetoric. And it will culminate in formal mock 90-minute debates in the next few days with President Biden on his feet of preparing for what that event will actually be like in Atlanta, a week from today.

Now, the Biden campaigns long-held theory of the case is going to be tested with the debate. They have always said that voters are disengaged. They're tuned out. And that once they start paying intention to the election, they'll realize the stark choice at hand and the danger that they believe Donald Trump poses to democracy.

And now, with the lion's share of likely voters planning to tune into the debate, they're trying to retread old Donald Trump material that they think didn't register with voters previously. And one of those comments that they plan to highlight is Trump's comments in December 2023 that he would not be a dictator, just on day one.

Now, President Biden is a creature of habit. This is the first time he will be debating in four years since the last election. And he's going to be surrounded by pretty much exactly it is same aides. His former chief of staff, Ron Klain, who's been a Democratic debate coach for the last 30-plus years, will be leading the preparations from Camp David. He'll also have his deputy chief of staff, Bruce Reed, who's been charged with going through all of the hours and reams of material to help prepare him, as well as Anita Dunn and Mike Donilon, two of his longtime communications advisers, will be on hand as well.

And as for who will be the stand-in for President Trump, I'm told that it's likely that Bob Bauer, the president's personal lawyer who stood in for Trump back in 2020 will be reprising that role, Jake.

TAPPER: Well, fascinating stuff.

Alayna Treene, what can you tell us about how former President Trump is getting ready?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, one thing he's not doing is mock debates. We just heard Kayla layout that President Joe Biden plans to do that and we know Donald Trump has done the role-playing thing in the past. He's had Rudy Giuliani, Chris Christie, stand-in for his opponents.

This time his campaign is trying to argue that Donald Trump does not need as much preparation. However, of course, he needs to prepare and according to my conversations with Trump's advisers and those who have participated in some of these meetings.


He's participated in more than a dozen what they're dumping policy discussions with people including vice presidential contenders, senators, his former administration officials. One of those meetings happened earlier this month at Mar-a-Lago where he huddled with JD Vance, a top consideration for running mate and they talked about the economy, how to best shape -- sharpen his messaging on inflation.

Last week, he met with Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Eric Schmitt. They talked about his handling of the January 6 Capitol attack, how to talk about whether or not he's a threat to democracy.

These are all topics that Donald Trump's campaign knows that he could be vulnerable on, and that Joe Biden will very much try to go after him on. And so, they've been workshopping some of that behind the scenes.

I'm also told Kellyanne Conway, Ric Grenell, Stephen Miller, all people who serve in his first administration, have been part of these discussions as well.

Now, it's not just policy, however, Jake, that they're talking about, they're also discussing his rhetoric. We know in past debates, Donald Trump has been very aggressive. In 2020, he barely led Biden get a word in at one of those debates and saw his numbers fall because of that. He's also been very aggressive towards moderators.

And so that has been coming up in a lot of these conversations as well.

TAPPER: All right. Alayna Treene, Kayla Tausche. Thanks to both of you.

Yes. This debate is a rematch, yet so much has changed since the two men first faced off in Cleveland, Ohio, four years ago, and in their final debate in Nashville, Tennessee, nearly four years ago.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny brings us now this look at how much the United States, the world, and these two candidates have changed since they first took the stage.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The historic rematch between Joe Biden and Donald Trump is anything but a rerun, a vastly different set of issues are driving this race, as the president and former president come face-to-face for the first debate of the 2024 campaign.

Four years since they shared a stage --


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You're the worst president America has ever had, come on.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In 47 months, I've done more than you've done in 47 years, Joe.

ZELENY: It feels like an upside down lifetime ago, back when the coronavirus pandemic was raging.

TRUMP: You have to understand, if you look -- I mean, I have a mask right here. I put a mask on -- you know, when I think I need it.

BIDEN: This is his economy has been shut down.

ZELENY: In the Biden-Trump sequel, an entirely new fight has been brewing on the campaign trail.

TRUMP: You could end up in World War Three with this person. He's the worst president ever.

ZELENY: And in TV ads.

AD ANNOUNCER: This election is between a convicted criminal only out for himself and a president who's fighting for your family.

ZELENY: That offers a window into the new issues and fresh lines of attack. A reminder of just how much the country, the world and yes, they have changed. From an insurrection and all its fallout, to a new fight on abortion rights, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe versus Wade, to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and a war in the Middle East, to the very stark question of America's role in the world.

Yet, the economy, inflation, and immigration are still at the center of it all.

Trump's record was at the heart of their last debates, even as he sought to deflect.

TRUMP: If he gets in, you will have a depression the likes of which you've never seen. You're 401Ks will go to hell and it'll be a very, very sad day for this country.

ZELENY: While those warnings didn't come to pass, Biden's record is now under the microscope, complicating his effort to make it a referendum on Trump.

BIDEN: The fact is that everything he's saying so far is simply a lie. I'm not here to call out his lies. Everybody knows he's a liar.

ZELENY: And America's oldest presidential candidates are even older, Trump's 78, Biden 81, with age and fitness for office now a central issue in the race.


ZELENY: Public opinion for presidents can be punishing. Biden's favorability has fallen 11 point since 2020, with nearly six in 10 Americans holding an unfavorable view, perceptions of Trump have changed less, with more than half still seeing him in an unfavorable light.

Televised debates have long been a storied part of his presidential campaigns, with history making moments for candidates.


ZELENY: Yet this showdown is without parallel. The nation's 45th and 46th presidents still seeking to define one another in the earliest general election debate in memory.

And all duel being fought on new ground.


ZELENY (on camera): Of course, never before have two sitting presidents been face-to-face on a debate stage, a televised one at that.

Jake, last time, as we remember, it was all about Trump's record, his handling of the coronavirus and the economy. This time, it is about Biden's record, no doubt.

Of course, they will try and make it about one anothers, but the two men are the same. But boy, so much else has changed.

TAPPER: So much else.

Jeff Zeleny, stick right here.

Let's broaden this out to our panel.

Let's start with what's on the minds of American voters. We have a brand new poll from Fox, which shows President Biden up by two points.


You can see him at 50 percent, Trump at 48 percent, still neck and neck. And let's point out, as always, that's within the margin of error. That's basically statistics, statistically a tie.

And what's really remarkable if you look back to previous polls by Fox, just how little this racist changed. Although I guess you could say that Biden has ticked up since March.

Kristen Soltis Anderson, as the pollster, at the table, how do you interpret this?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, when you look at those numbers, Trump's numbers have fallen a little as Biden's numbers have grown much more, he is gaining from the undecided voters, the checked out voters who have not been paying much attention. They weren't following things like Trump's trial in New York, but are beginning to tune in and they're breaking away from third-party candidates, or that undecided status and are becoming in the Biden camp.

Now the problem that Biden will have is these are lower engagement folks. They're not political junkies and they're not necessarily regular voters. So he's got both a persuasion problem and a turnout problem he's got to face.

TAPPER: Interesting. Mark, you worked on the Trump campaign in the past. What's your take on these numbers?

MARC LOTTER, CHIEF COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER, AMERICA FIRST POLICY INSTITUTE: I mean, first, the national poll numbers, it's like the meaningless sports power rankings. It's all about the swing states. So -- but the things I took away, were really the number one, Joe Biden's strong disapproval on the major issues, the economy, inflation, immigration, all double-digit and in some cases 30 points underwater.

And then the Fox poll had President Trump -- former President Trump, 27 percent of the Black vote, 43 percent of the Hispanic vote. Joe Biden cannot win if those numbers hold.

TAPPER: Interesting. And, Jeff, the race is statistically tied on a national basis,

although Marc points out, really, this is about seven or eight states and how they do in those states. The campaign spending on ads, campaign ads is not statistically tied.

Let's show this full screen right now and walk us through it, if you will. There's the numbers.

ZELENY: Look, it's really remarkable. The Biden campaign spending some $53.8 million just this year, the Trump campaign, this cycle spending $17.5 million. There's some other Trump money has been spent from super PACs and the like. But the Biden campaign has been really using this financial advantage to try and shake voters attention and draw this contrast again.

It's an open question though, how much this is actually worked because for all the changes in this campaign that convictions and other things, the race has been remarkably the same. But if you look inside these numbers, I think we have this as well, state-by-state. Look at the spending here, the Biden campaign, Pennsylvania, some $13.9 million, Michigan, $9.7 million numbers, slightly hard to read here.

You can see the millions on the Biden campaign side, Pennsylvania, Michigan.

TAPPER: Oh, my God. Thousands --

ZELENY: -- Georgia, Arizona.

On the Trump campaign side, only thousands.


TAPPER: Let me ask you a question.

ZELENY: They have not spent the money. They've -- we'll see if they do going forward or is this a campaign year where television advertising doesn't matter as much?

TAPPER: Well, that's -- that's what I was going to ask because in 2016, remember, they put all that money into Facebook and social media, the Trump people did, and maybe got more bang for their buck, at least in states where it mattered.

Are they doing that this time, and it's not reflected in those numbers?

ZELENY: Some of it has been the fact that they have simply not had the money or they're holding it for other things.

But we are about to see via financial reporting from the campaigns tonight. Actually tonight, I believe. So, we'll see how much the Trump campaign has raised. It's been astronomical in the wake of his convictions. We'll see how much they put on television.

But is this the campaign that's the tipping point where TV ads don't matter quite as much anymore. I'm a little skeptical because older voters are key to this election. They watch "Wheel of Fortune", they watch the news, and that's where those ads are. We'll see if it's lifted Biden. So far, it hasn't much.

TAPPER: And, Karen, for women voters, really, really important group also, a new Kaiser Family Foundation survey found nationally for women voters, inflation is a top concern, followed by threats to democracy, immigration, last is abortion and you can see similar results about around states such as Michigan and Arizona. What's your take?

FINNEY: A couple of other issues actually below abortion. Sure, couple of things. Number one, in both of these polls, I think if you take them together, women are going be critical for both candidates and we're seeing former President Trump continued to struggle to solidify support from women. And I don't think he's going to be able to do it.

So the good news for Joe Biden is, obviously, women are critically important. Obviously, talking about the economy is critically important in the things that he's doing to try to lower costs, which I would love to see him do more of quite frankly. But what -- abortion is on the ballot as we know in a number of key states. Also, contraception, I wrote a piece for about this, this week.

And you've got ten states where access to contraception and access to abortion, I think will help drive the women's vote. It is an economic issue for women, but no question, we've got to be talking the more about the things -- you know, the fact that there's price gouging and the things that the president is doing to try to lower those costs for people.


TAPPER: Let's turn to veep stakes because President Trump has yet to pick a running mate. We know that it won't be Mike Pence this time around.

LOTTER: Highly unlikely.

TAPPER: Mike Pence hasn't (ph) even said that he's going to vote for Donald Trump. So, that's a problem.

The Trump campaign is sending North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum all over the country, to battleground states, of course, and ones that they want to become battleground states, such as Virginia. And he's also making the rounds on TV for Trump.

Take a listen to what Governor Burgum said last night on Fox.


GOV. DOUG BURGUM (R), NORTH DAKOTA: Under Joe Biden, we're actually living under a dictatorship today, where he's, you know, bypassing Congress on immigration policies, bypassing Congress on protecting our border. He's bypassing Congress on student loan forgiveness and he's defying the Supreme Court.

I mean, those are the things that authoritarians and dictators do, is they don't follow our democratic processes.


TAPPER: I mean, the borders, anyway --


TAPPER: Your response?

FINNEY: You know what? Nice try. He is performing for an audience of one, they all are at this point and they know at one of the things that matters to Trump is how good you look on television. So that's a big part of that.

But just factually, let's be clear. President Biden is taking these actions because Democrats, Republicans have refused to join Democrats and taking action on some key issues. I think he would have loved to do it in a bipartisan fashion. Unfortunately, that avenue was not available because Donald Trump said to the Republicans, don't work with those guys, no matter what, because it's not good for me in this election.

TAPPER: Let me ask the two Republicans at the table and make a quick, just give me a name. Just give me a name.

Who do you think makes the most sense for Trump to pick his VP? Marc and then Kristen.

LOTTER: I would say either Tim Scott or Elise Stefanik.

TAPPER: What about you?

SOLTIS: Those are two good picks. I'll say Tim Sott.

TAPPER: Tim Scott.

All right. Thanks to one and all. Appreciate it.

As if the wildfires in New Mexico were not enough, now, mudslides are making even more difficult for first responders. The latest we're hearing from officials.

And Louisiana becomes the very first state to require public schools to display the Ten Commandments in the classroom. Critics of this measure are already gearing up for a big legal fight.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead, as if the deadly wildfires in New Mexico weren't destructive enough, now thunderstorms are causing dangerous mudslides and flooding, making a hazardous situation even worse for first responders, and, of course, residents. At least two people are dead due to a pair of wildfires burning near Ruidoso, New Mexico.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is live near Ruidoso right now, had the South Fork Fire and the Salt Fire are both 0 percent contained?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Still more than 23,000 acres, officially, zero percent contained, but over the last 15 hours or so, there's been a decent amount of rainfall in this area as you can look back into the mountains behind, you can see those rain clouds there. And fire officials say that that rain has helped control the spread of the fire. So it hasn't gotten any larger but they are still fighting to get it completely under control.

And right now, fire officials, Jake, say they're focused on the northern and eastern side of the South Fork Fire because those are the areas closest to homes and infrastructure. So that's what they're focusing on. Mainly there's more rain expected and they hope that that will help them get it fully under control in the days ahead.

But it's also brought -- it's a double-edged sword, Jake. It's also brought other problems. There have been mudslides, flash flooding, really making maneuvering and getting moving through these canyon areas very difficult.

TAPPER: Do we know when the residents will be able to get back to their homes?

LAVANDERA: It's hard to say. There hasn't been any talk of opening up the Ruidoso community and Ruidoso downs that are under these mandatory evacuation orders. We did hear from Michael Scott, a resident who we featured in our story yesterday. He was able to figure out a way to get home for a little while yesterday and he was told he was using his garden hose to spray down areas that were still very close to the edge of the fire that firefighters are so concerned about.

But there is a community meeting later today, that will be held here in the area that residents who have been evacuated to areas away from here, there'll be able to these types of questions I'm sure will be front and center because so many people are desperate to get back to this area so they can begin assessing the damage that they will have to deal with for the years ahead.

TAPPER: Ed Lavandera in New Mexico for us, thanks so much.

If you're in the Washington, D.C. area this weekend, brace yourselves because the extreme heat that we're facing right now is only going to get worse. For the first time since 2016, the nation's capital could reach 100 degrees.

Meteorologist Chad Myers is tracking the sweltering heat dome that is impacting the Mideast and Northeast.

Chad, is there any chance of a reprieve from the heat in the coming days?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: For you, in D.C., Monday. But, hey, I know you're coming down here for the debate, right? Anyway, that was a question. Come down early because its going to be

cooler and Atlanta than it will be in D.C.

Here's your heat dome and were going to see that heat dome now for the rest of the week, I think, across most of the Eastern United States. Look though, look at Manchester, 98 was the high yesterday. I mean, we shouldn't be anywhere near that, should be in the 70s.

Good news though, a couple of spots, Montpellier, you saw shower down to 76 is the "feel like" temperature because of that rain? Look at Boston though, the cold air begins to come down, but it's getting slowly, but Boston, you're in the 60s for tomorrow. You will definitely take that.

Same story for Quebec and even into parts of Atlantic, Canada, you will finally get that cooldown coming tomorrow and into the end of the weekend, but it's still going to be hot in the Great Lakes and also the Ohio Valley, Jake.

TAPPER: I did -- I think they turned off my mic. I said, yes, I'm coming down there. They made it sound like I was rude, but everybody at home knows -- maybe they don't. I did respond. I said yes, I'm coming down to Atlanta.

What about the flooding along the coast in Texas? Is that going to subside anytime soon?

MYERS: Yeah. That is still going on.


I mean, the storm was 300 miles away from Surfside Beach in the pictures there are just unbelievable. We will continue to see the rainfall here. Go ahead and push the map ahead.

We will see that rain kind of spin around into parts of Texas, also into Mexico right now, only a 35-mile-per-hour tropical depression.

But here is Surfside Beach, Texas, water over the top of the top, there should be a beach here. Well, there is a beach there. You just can't see it because there's so much water on top of three-and-a-half foot surge. And so that's what's happening here. Water coming over the top of these levees and into the cities.

And for the most part, this is going to be with us for the next day or two, then things kind of slack off. We will take the rainfall. In fact, Jake, I know you're just talking to Ed Lavandera out there in parts of New Mexico.

And the good news overnight, the relative humidity was 100 percent. Some of this moisture, at least the humidity got into New Mexico and all that didn't stop the fires, at least some of the plants got some humidity. So the fires may not spread as quickly.

TAPPER: Do we expect these longer storms to hang around? MYERS: Yeah. I mean, we have another one probably right on the horizon. There's one that's going to move into the Carolinas, northern Florida. That's not going to be a storm, likely not even going to get a name. It could, but it's not going to be that significant of a storm system for that area.

But another could the fact in about seven days, could affect this exact same area, Texas and Mexico, which has been under a tremendous drought. So, we'll take the rain if we can slow it down, but we'll take the rain will be can get it.

TAPPER: All right. Chad Myers, thanks so much.

Coming up, Louisiana is now going to require classrooms and public schools to display the Ten Commandments. Why its proponents are welcoming the legal fight against any constitutional challenges.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead, Louisiana just became the first state in the United States to require public schools to display a poster-sized version of the Ten Commandments in every classroom. And in doing so, the Louisiana chose a version of the Ten Commandments that is actually in a way picking a particular faith.

Sure, all of the versions of the Ten Commandments include thou shalt not kill, and thou shall not commit adultery. Thou shall not steal.

But theologians actually point to three distinct versions of the Ten Commandments, Catholics, Protestants, and Jews, all have different enumerations. Perhaps the two best versions are best known versions are in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. All signs point to Louisiana using an abbreviated version of Exodus 20, which is essentially the Protestant version.

And as CNN's Isabel Rosales reports, this latest law will be challenged.


GOV. JEFF LANDRY (R), LOUISIANA: That is a big deal. It's just great.


ISABEL ROSALES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Louisiana public schools now required to display the Ten Commandments in all classrooms, a first in the nation.

Republican Governor Jeff Landry calling it one of his favorite bills before signing it into law.

LANDRY: This is one of the bills that got the press over here. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is?

LANDRY: I think so.

Because if you want to respect the rule of law, you got to start from the original law giver which was Moses.

ROSALES: The new law requiring a poster-size display of the commandments by the start of 2025 in every school that receives state funding, from kindergarten through university level, with the commandments as the central focus, in large, easily readable font. The law also specifies the exact abbreviated language that must be printed on classroom displays, which will be paid for through donations.

DODIE HORTON (R), LOUISIANA STATE HOUSE: And what a great day it is in Louisiana, it's like hope is in the air everywhere.

ROSALES: State Representative Dodie Horton, the Republican author of the bill, dismissing concerns from Democratic opponents insisting the commandments are rooted in legal history. And that the bill would return a moral code to classrooms.

But critics argue mandating the religious texts be displayed in schools would violate the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution, which says that Congress can make no law respecting an establishment of religion.

JACOB NEWSOM, LOUISIANA HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER: I was raised to follow the Ten Commandments and I think regardless of how you feel about the Ten commandments, nobody would dismiss the fact that they are pretty good set of rules. However, it is a clear violation of separation of church and state to enforce this.

ROSALES: Another Louisiana educator fiercely against the new law says she teaches students of all faiths.

TIA LEBRUN, LOUISIANA EDUCATOR: I'm very opposed to it. And it's not anything to do with disliking religion. It's just that there are different religions that exist in our communities. Ive taught Jehovah's witnesses. I've taught Muslim students. I have really great Muslim teacher friends who are going to now have to display Christianity as the accepted or promoted religion in our state.

ROSALES: Four civil liberties groups, including the ACLU, vow to sue, saying public schools are not Sunday schools.

In a joint statement, the groups argued the new law ball will turn students into a captive audience for school-sponsored religious messages.

ALANAH ODOMS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ACLU OF LOUISIANA: You may have heard the saying: So goes the south, so goes the nation.

I want folks to pay very close attention to what this governor is doing. I think if he is in fact successful, you will see this kind of religious to indoctrination happening across the American South. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ROSALES (on camera): And, Jake, I found it really interesting here that both sides have legal precedent, but has them optimistic that they will ultimately succeed in court for opponents. They are pointing of this new Louisiana law. They're pointing to a 1980 Supreme Court case where the court struck down a similar directive out of the state of Kentucky saying that this was against the Establishment Clause, was unconstitutional.


And on the other side, you might remember this. They're pointing to a 2022 decision where the court ultimately ruled with a high school football coach saying he did have a First Amendment right to pray on the football field. Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Isabel Rosales, thanks so much.

And we're going to have more on this later in the show.

Coming up, dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters who took over Hamilton Hall on the campus of Columbia University are having their day in court today. Will they face any consequences?

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead, more than 40 anti-Israel protesters arrested for violently taken over a Columbia University building in late April appeared in a Manhattan courtroom today.

You might remember seeing the chaos that ensued on April 30th. Protesters seen breaking windows as they forced their pro-Palestinian encampment inside Columbia University's Hamilton Hall. They barricaded themselves in for about 20 hours, vandalized rooms inside until Columbia University ultimately requested help from the NYPD to clear the building.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is outside the New York courthouse where protesters who were later arrested learned whether they're going to face any consequences.

And, Shimon, what happened in today's hearing?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME NAD JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, a large chunk of the cases against the protesters were dismissed today, 30 cases in all dismissed. There were 44 cases before the judge this morning and the district attorney decided that they were going to dismiss this case, 30 cases. The judge agreed.

Another 14 are still pending. One of them is an individual who's facing arson charges for burning an Israeli flag. And when the prosecutor was describing the allegations against him, people in the audience, supporters of this individual, actually started laughing when the district attorney was describing that this individual allegedly burned an Israeli flag. He also destroyed other evidence. Cameras is what the prosecutors alleged.

One of the things here, Jake, that's made it difficult for prosecutors here to bring charges, is that the cameras inside Hamilton Hall were covered. Remember the protesters got in there smartly covered all the cameras and as a result, they just don't have the evidence, prosecutors say, to pursue charges against these individuals. And if they were to go to trial, it would be difficult for them to prove the charges against these 30 individuals that they dismissed.

These 14 other individuals still have the cases pending against them and they'll be back in court in late July, Jake.

TAPPER: Have any Columbia University students who felt threatened or unsafe by these protesters on campus, have they, any of them spoken about, the ones who appeared in court today?

PROKUPECZ: Yes. We spoke to one student. She's going to be a senior next year, so she'll be back at Columbia. She actually came to the court proceedings today, Jessica Schwalb. She raised a lot of concern in the sense because she feels that they're just getting a slap on the wrist. What is going to prevent them from doing this again, especially as she plans to return to the university next year?

Take a listen on what she told us.


JESSICA SCHWALB, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY STUDENT: I'm worried that if the protesters just received a slap on the wrist, that they'll feel very comfortable in repeating the chaos that they inflicted on Hamilton Hall and also the hostile environment they created with their -- at least their second encampment. If you were one of the ones to violate campus policy or violate a law, you should be held accountable because I believe that no one should be above the law.


PROKUPECZ: And, Jake, we reached out to Columbia University for comment. They would not comment on the charges being dismissed, but they do tell us that disciplinary proceedings are still pending against the students who are inside Hamilton Hall.

TAPPER: All right. Shimon Prokupecz, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, two astronauts stuck in space. I'm going to talk to the former commander of the International Space Station to discuss what went wrong.


[16:48:05] TAPPER: Our law and justice lead today, New York lawyers for Donald Trump are asking the judge who ordered him to pay half a billion in the New York civil fraud case to recuse himself.

CNN's Kara Scannell is live in New York for us.

Kara, what more can you tell us about this filing from the Trump legal team?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, Trump's lawyers are saying that alleged conversations that the judge had with a New York real estate lawyer should be grounds for him to recuse himself from the case, saying that these communications were improper and that they question his appearance of impartiality.

Now, this all stems from an interview that a New York real estate lawyer had given to NBC News, the local affiliate here, saying that he had run into the judge in court three weeks before the judge issued his decision, ordering Trump to pay nearly half a billion dollars. And then he said they spoke about the case. He said they did not utter the words Trump, but he said that it was clear they weren't talking about the Mets.

So, it's this capturing of this conversation that Trump's lawyers are challenging here, saying that the judge is not allowed to have any conversations about the case with anyone, not involved in it.

Now, at the time, a spokesman for the judge had told NBC that their word no ex parte, as they're known, communications between the judge and the lawyer about the case. Today, when we've reached out to them after this motion was filed, they declined any further comment on this.

I've also reached out to the real estate lawyer who said that he talked to the judge about the case. He did not get back to us, but this is the latest attempt by Trump's team to try to move the judge off the case as this goes up on appeal and as the judge continues to have a role overseeing a monitor, he put in place to watch the Trump Organization's finances, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Kara Scannell in New York for us, thank you so much for that update.

Turning to our out of this world lead, two NASA astronauts are essentially stuck on the international space station right now while NASA and Boeing try to figure out issues with the spacecraft.

Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore left Earth on June 5th. They were scheduled to return home earlier this week.


Now, after multiple delays, they're aiming for next Wednesday, although that could be pushed back yet again.

Joining us now to discuss is Colonel Chris Hadfield. He's a retired astronaut and was the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station. He's also the author of "The Defector: A Novel".

Colonel Hadfield, how common is it for a spacecraft to have these kinds of issues that we're seeing with Starliner?

COL. CHRIS HADFIELD (RET.), FORMER COMMANDER, INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION: Well, the more times you fly a spaceship, the more you know about it. This is the first time we've ever flown it with people on board. So you're learning a huge amount and it's got a few little snags, like any brand new test vehicle.

I used to be a test pilot. I flew the space shuttle a couple of times. During my second space shuttle flight, we were docked to the space station and we were delayed a long time because of problems with the space station. We had extra free days on board the space station, got a lot of extra work done.

You know, it's -- you said where were the two astronauts are stuck on the space station. There's no place two astronauts would rather be than in space, onboard a spaceship.

So I think it's really smart. They are working on the two problems that the vehicle has, a helium leak and thruster leak or thruster malfunction, making sure we understand everything we can about those before they get in it, trust their lives. And I guess next Wednesday, come down and land with a parachute and airbags into the New Mexico desert.

TAPPER: Given the issues that happened during launch and orbit, do you have any concerns at all that perhaps this craft was not safe to be launched into space with people on it?

HADFIELD: Every single vehicle that I've ever flown to space, you're taking a big risk. It's a dangerous profession. If you want risk-free job, and then I don\t know what job you take, but it's not astronaut.

TAPPER: Yeah, that makes sense, I guess.

HADFIELD: I think -- I think the vehicle is performing really well. It's successfully launched, got them into the exact orbit. It maneuvered well. They've worked through a couple little snags. That got back to the space station.

They've got a couple of things they want to work on, but what you actually have is four extra hands up there, Butch and Suni, that are doing useful work on the space station for the two or three weeks that they're there to help out, and that's one of the big limitations of the space station, is do you have enough people on board to help run the 200 experiments?

So it's actually quite a boon to the space station commander right now to have a couple of extra to workers. And as soon as they get these problems, so that were completely confidence time to come home and you've got to schedule it because they need to do a couple of spacewalks, go outside and do some work outside, and you cant be doing spacewalks and undocking at the same time. So it's kind of a scheduling issue as well. I think they're doing

exactly the right thing. And that is helped probe this vehicle, learn this stuff we don't know about it, and safely bring Butch and Suni home next Wednesday.

TAPPER: What kind of contingency plans would you guess are in place if NASA and Boeing decided ultimately that it's not safe for Starliner to bring these two astronauts home?

HADFIELD: Well, it will be safe. The things that we've seen are kind of knits. Helium is leaking but -- I mean, helium always leaks. It's a little tiny atom, you know? But normally the leak rate is so small you don't even detect it or its small enough, you can deal with it. And then this case, it's small enough. You can deal with it, but they don't want it to get worse.

The other thing is they had not all the little thrusters that help you maneuver some of them kicked off. But we think it was a software problem, not an endemic problem with the thrusters themselves. There's one that's not working out of a whole bunch. So, that's a little problem. The shuttle used to have thruster and helium and hydrogen leaks all the time. And we had to work around it on a regular basis.

So I don't think that's a real concern, but, of course, they're docked to a safe place. Their docked to the space station, if there was a serious problem with it the vehicle, they could stay and come back on another vehicle. But I really don't think that's going to happen. I think were going to be all right. Everybody's taken the right steps, just takes a little longer than we originally planned.

TAPPER: What do you -- what do you guess its like mentally for Butch and Suni to be kind of in this limbo in space right now, I know you said astronauts love to be in space and obviously, you have a lot of confidence in the program. I'm sure they do too. But do you think they have any anxiety?

HADFIELD: Well, the only reason you have known have an anxiety is you don't know what you're doing. And Suni and Butch had been training for this for decades, you know? We don't take spaceflight lightly. They were both military combat pilots, military test pilots, and they've served as astronauts for over 20 years.

And so, they have been training to be ready to deal with stuff like this for their entire adult lives. So, you know, it's the opposite of anxiety. It is identifying the problems that might occur and then doing all of the work to be completely ready to deal with those things.


That's what astronaut -- you know, we don't cross our fingers and hope and feel anxious. We get ready for stuff and have good viable backup plans. And we've got layers and layers of backup plans for Starliner to come home and every other vehicle that we fly. There's no guarantee of safety. If you want to explore the universe, you've got to take risks. I think the measure and layers of safety they put in are credible. And

we got two super competent people on board. But we've never tested these parachutes with people on board, and we've never tested these cushioning airbags with people on board.

So there's still a lot of new who stuff to do. But we're doing all the right things to get us with a highest probability of success as we possibly can.

TAPPER: Let's hope so.

Colonel Chris Hadfield, thank you so much for -- thanks for joining us today.

A Los Angeles ballerina who was detained in Russia for donating $50 to a charity appeared in court today in Russia. Why is she being accused of committing treason?