tv The Lead With Jake Tapper CNN March 3, 2017 1:00pm-2:01pm PST
fantastic. >> reporter: you can nominate someone in just a few simple steps. go to cnn heroes.com, fill in the forms and tell us about your hero. it's that easy. you could help make your hero a cnn hero. shine some light on their amazing work. >> the lead with jake tapper starts right now. >> thanks, brianna. russian to judgment. "the lead" starts right now. new questions today about president trump's inner circle and why it turns out that despite the president's claims to the contrary, we keep learning about top advisors who met with russian officials. his son-in-law being the latest. what were all these meetings about? an rest tied to some of the tlts aimed at the jewish community, some bizarre details about the suspect. what would allegedly lead him to commit these acts of hate? plus, camp david cobb webs, the many ghosts of history are the only current guests at the presidential retreat this these days.
how much is it costing you to keep it up as president trump heads to florida weekend after weekend? good afternoon, everyone. examine happy friday. welcome to "the lead." time jake tapper. president trump is trying to take back control of his messaging. today he's promoting school vouchers in a visit to a catholic school in orlando, florida. this after yet another top advisor has become ensnared by the problem of failing to be forthcoming about conversations with russian officials. today, new questions about just what attorney general jeff sessions discussed exactly with russia's ambassador last summer -- last september. and why the white house contradicted its own a.g. on whether his failure to report those meetings was a problem. as we learned that more trump officials actually did meet with russia's ambassador. senior white house correspondent jeff zeleny joins me. jeff, president trump said very clearly not so long ago deals a with has had anything to deal with russia.
that's clearly untrue. >> reporter: jake, he's not only said it once, his advisors said it again and again in recent weeks and months that no one has had any contact with russian official. as we end this week let's take stock of the list. attorney general, his son-in-law senior advisor to the president as well as other advisors. so, now that we know about the meetings, what we don't know is why, and what did russia want. president trump heading off today for a weekend in florida, but not escaping lingering questions about russia. before leaving the white house, his closest advisors holding an an mated meeting in the oval office. chief strategist steve bannon looking particularly agitated as the weekends with more aides acknowledging meetings with the russian ambassador last year. a day after attorney general jeff sessions recused himself from any investigations involving the 2016 campaign, after failing to disclose his meetings with the ambassador, the administration is on damage control. the president's words from last month not holding up to
scrutiny. >> i have nothing to do with russia. to the best of my knowledge, no person that i deal with does. >> reporter: the white house has yet to explain the purpose of these meetings. the disclosure of which has overshadowed the president's well regarded speech to congress this week. republicans urging team trump to be more forthcoming. >> i think everybody who has had contact with the russians need to get in a practice of oversharing. >> reporter: in a statement the president defending his attorney general as an honest man. blasting democrats for what he called a total witch hunt. those words echoed in moscow where russian foreign minister described it the same way. >> translator: it all looks like a witch hunt. >> reporter: russia clearly on the president's mind today sending this tweet. we should start an immediate investigation into senator schumer and his ties to russia and putin, a total hypocrite. senator schumer firing back, happily talk about my contact with mr. putin and his associates, took place in 2003,
in full view of press and public under oath. would you and your team? in wisconsin, vice-president mike pence facing questions about using a personal e-mail account to conduct business as indiana governor. it was hacked in a fishing scam as first reported by the indianapolis star. >> i'm very confident that our e-mail practices were in full compliance with all of indiana's laws. >> reporter: on the campaign trail, he often criticized hillary clinton's private e-mail server. >> he even classified information that was allowed to be on her own private server, exposed to hacking. i have to be honest with you, i'm experiencing clinton's scandal fatigue. >> reporter: pence rejected that comparison today. >> no, there 's no comparison whatsoever between hillary clinton's practice and having a private server, mishandling classified information, destroying e-mails. >> reporter: all this as the week drew to a close with the
president still not signing a new travel ban for visitors from majority muslim countries. he once argued it was urgently needed because a delay would allow the bad dudes to rush in. a new report from the department of homeland security undercuts his goal. finding that most violent extremists are not radicalized when they come to the u.s. but only after living here for several years. jake, as this week ends we do not have a new timetable from the administration when this executive order will be signed. the urgency seems to have gone away, but the reality here is the white house has gotten resistance from inside these agencies as you reported two weeks ago, and this is still coming, we are told, but it may not even be next week. we are told when it is ready they will let us know. jake? >> all right, jeff zeleny at the white house for us, thank you so much. right now we have more questions than answers about trump officials' contact with the russians. evan mcmull in is with us, he ran for president as an independent alternative against president trump.
thank you so much for joining us, evan. always good to see you. >> thank you, jake. >> you were a cia officer. cnn's evan perez has reported the intelligence community, u.s. intelligence community russia's ambassador kislyak is not just an ambassador, he is a spy and also a spy recruiter. was that your understanding when you were at the agency? >> yes, that is my understanding. but why it's significant is that you have somebody with enormous access here in washington as an ambassador engaging with some of our senior-most officials in congress and elsewhere who all has the skills that a spy would have to extract important information and to help run covert operations. and, so, that's the kind of person we're dealing what here. it doesn't mean that all ambassador kislyak apartments activities are related to espionage, but it means he is a skilled practitioner of that -- of such operation. >> of spy craft. >> that's right. >> can you give me just kind of an understanding of what that means exactly?
he has skills in persuasion, extracting information when people don't want to give that information, what exactly do you mean? >> he would have skills in compromising people first and foremost so that -- >> potentially blackmailing them? >> blackmailing, but it's not just blackmail. it is not as dramatic as that. it's about slowly easing people into a situation in which they are revealing information that they shouldn't reveal, that compromises them, which makes it easier to get additional information and additionally compromise them into the future until you have something that amounts to a covert operation in which they are working on behalf of you. that's what his job would be. >> but as you point out, he also is the ambassador and assuredly does things along those lines as well. >> that's right. >> when senator sessions says that he met with the ambassador in his senate office in september, but he did it as a senator, not as a trump surrogate and he did it as a
member of the senate armed services committee and for no other reason, z not possible that that's true? >> absolutely that's possible. in fact, if senator sessions while under oath had simply said, yes, i met with ambassador kislyak on this date, this time, or in this general time frame and we discussed a, b and c, this was part of my normal senatorial responsibilities, left it at that, there may have been some follow-up questions. some people may have been concerned given sessions' role in the trump campaign. it would have been in the norms of regular senatorial activities. the problem is sessions on more than one occasion refused to reveal the truth. i think part of the problem here is that now we find ourselves in a situation -- the situation where we're parsing his words, parsing the words of others. but this was not some objescure issue. trump campaign relations with russian government is perhaps the issue of the year so far in a way, and it's unimaginable that senator sessions would
enter that interview with the panel and the senate and not know that that question would come up, and then forget, for example, that he met with the ambassador. >> he keeps parsing, he keeps saying things, i never met with any russian to discuss the campaign. well, maybe he did to discuss the lifting of sanctions, but that wouldn't qualify. >> it's hard to imagine that in the context in that time frame when he met ambassador kislyak in his office that the campaign didn't come up. how could it not? everyone was discussing it. absolutely, that would have been of supreme importance to the russian ambassador as well as to senator sessions. so, it's hard to believe that the campaign would not have come up. it's a bit of a problem if it did come up because senator sessions was engaged in campaign activities and, so, if he's going to discuss campaign activities, that should happen off-campus. that should not happen in the capital building in his official capacity. so, that's a problem, too, that is separate from espionage. and that may be also what he's trying to protect.
but then you have sort of the question of whether the trump campaign was complicity or knowledgeable in the russian's attack on our democracy during the election. the biggest issue here, though, is jake that senator sessions did not tell the truth while under oath. and i will not accept that he simply didn't believe that's what he was being asked or that he forgot. i think this serves to erode america's confidence in our leaders. i think we have a big problem with that. and i think it's time to call a spade a spade and say that senator sessions lied. and i think he should be held accountable. >> do you think he should resign? >> i do think he should resign. >> do you think that the republicans and senators, the republican house and senate and you used to be a republican house staffer, are taking this russia thing, this russia controversy seriously enough? do you think the house and senate intelligence committee investigations are sufficient at this point? >> i do not think they are
sufficient. i think the republican leaders in congress understand this is a very, very serious issue, but they're faced with dealing with this issue and their desire to minimize the political consequence of this terrible situation. and at the same time advance some policy goals that they've had for a long, long time that they view as very, very important. so, they're caught between a rock and many hard places. but the simple fact in my mind is that we must first protect our democracy, and it is under attack now as democracies in europe are by the russian government, and we've got to make sure that there is accountability for what happened during the election and we have got to know the truth about whether the trump campaign was knowledgeable of these attacks, whether they were complicity. we have to know the truth behind this and no, i don't think the senate investigations, the senate and the house intel committee investigations are sufficient. >> all right. evan mcmullen, good to have you. appreciate it. >> thank you. >> coming up on the hunt, senator rand paul leading the
search for a copy of the gop obamacare replacement bill that lawmakers could be just days away from finishing. it's like he's searching for the row set a stone. that story next. it's nice to remove artificial ingredients. kind never had to. we've used real ingredients, whole nuts, and natural flavors from the very beginning. give kind a try. this i gotta try ldcats 'til we die... bendy... spendy weekenders. whatever kind of weekender you are, there's a hilton for you. book your weekend break direct at hilton.com and join the weekenders.
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was just shrugging along today. the dow finishing up about three points. a big difgs from most of the past months where record after record was shattered. so, why was it different today? well, because the head of the fed, janet yellen today said that if the economy stays on track for the next few weeks, an interest rate hike would likely come when fed leaders meet in a couple weeks. the fed last raised rates in december, only its second rate hike in about a decade. rising rates affect millions of americans from home buyers to savers and financial markets. back to the politics lead now. some of the first votes on the future of obamacare are poe toengsly just days away and whether or not you use the affordable care act, odds are there will be effects that you and your family feel. house republicans are taking some heat now for the secrecy of their plan and some of their gop colleagues are taking issue. case in point, senator rand paul of kentucky and, no, they were not filming another sequel to national treasure this weekend. that was the senator channeling
his inner nick cage on a quest for the secret hidden gop obamacare replacement bill. marching to the house side of the capital yesterday on something of a scavenger hunt, knocking on a locked door and demanding to see a copy of the house's bill to repeal and replace the affordable care act. it might be in the resolute desk, senator. this comes as the vice-president hits the road to sell the plan to repeal and replace. cnn's phil mattingly is live for us on capitol hill. phil, i guess the big question for everyone after seven years of political rhetoric and opposition to obamacare, is there any actual replacement bill? does it exist? >> technically no, which goes a long way to explaining why senator paul's crusade across the capital struck out the s atr yical account. actual any bill text, but there are drafts. this is an important point. as you noted we are days away from house republicans starting to launch the legislative process on this. and they are drafting behind the scenes, the two committees
responsible for this are working behind the scenes and the bold promises made by so many republicans election cycle after election cycle those are going to come to fruition. that is exactly what mike pence had to say today. take a listen. >> let me make you a promise. the obamacare nightmare is about to end. [ applause ] you know, despite the best efforts of some activists at town hall meetings around the country, the truth of the matter is the american people know. obamacare has failed and obam must go. >> reporter: now, i should note the promises are that they will be starting action. there is no sense yet when they will be finishing action and it is important to note that there is still a lot of conflicts going on behind the scenes not between democrats and republicans, jake, but between republicans and republicans as senator paul showed over the last couple of weeks. house republican leaders, while they are very rid i to move forward on this still have a lot of hang ups they are going to have to address in the days
ahead. >> one of the biggest issues is there are conservatives in the house and senate who are opposed to the idea of a new entitlement, this refundable tax credit which some call free money for lower income people. do republican leaders think they have the votes to get what they want done with obamacare? >> they're confident. both leaders and house republican leadership aides i've spoken to the last couple of weeks think they can get there. they recognize the reality right now of how complicated this process is. if you've changed the bill too much, you lose the moderate republicans who are very wary of the 2018 election dynamics. you don't change the bill enough, those conserve tichltz you're talking about jake particularly on the tax credit issue might not come along. the reality, when you talk to republican leadership aides is this is the plan. no matter what they say they're going to change this weekend, those refundable tax credits will still be in there. the changes to medicaid are still coming. they are going to move forward with this and their message behind the scenes is essentially this. this is the vehicle, this is the vehicle to do what we've said on the campaign trail for years. if you don't want to get aboard this, then this is going to fail
and this all dies. so, they're more or less daring their members to oppose them. they feel like they can win this game of chicken and it will go over to the senate and of course we'll see what happens over there, jake. >> phil mattingly, thank you so much. president trump just arrived in south florida where he will spend yet another weekend at his mar-a-lago club. the president has set the u.s. needs to do much more with less as he's been pushing budget cuts. but does that include his weekend retreats? (vo) when i brought jake home,
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as president at mar-a-lago after making this pledge just a few days ago. >> no more wasted money. we are going to be spending the money in a very, very careful manner. we must do a lot more with less. >> do a lot more with less. presidents are certainly entitled to take a day off, but any deficit hawk would ask, is a weekly trip to palm beach by the president doing a lot more with less? it takes marine one, air force one, and motorcades to get the president to his posh oceanside estate with intense secret service protection. there is another retreat much closer and cheaper. that of course would be camp david. it is already set up to be a working white house and has security protocols in place 24/7. some presidents used the maryland site more than others. but as cnn's suzanne reports, it is costing tax payers millions
to maintain while it sits dormant. >> reporter: president donald trump taking off for florida this weekend, first to an orlando school then to mar-a-lago resort. >> believe me, there is not rest at the southern light house. it's all work. >> reporter: his fancy florida estate, his go to for getting work done. hosting japan's prime minister. but president trump's weekends at mar-a-lago are costing u.s. taxpayers big money. from firing up air force one to fly to florida with traveling staff, to securing the beach front property with coast guard patrols. the washington post estimates the trip so far have cost up to $10 million in just five weeks. and at the same time, taxpayers are also footing the bill to operate camp david. the secluded presidential retreat less than 70 miles from the white house. set aside for presidential down time and diplomacy, even dormant, it costs an estimated $8 million a year to run.
trump has expressed little interest in using the cheaper alternative. describing the retreat to reporters as very rustic, saying, it's nice, you'd like it. you know how long you'd like it? for about 30 minutes. >> it doesn't fit everybody. he's a city guy. this is a remote location. i don't think initially president clinton was crazy about it either but then came to really love it. >> remember, jimmy carter almost thought about quittigetting rid, and thankfully he didn't. >> reporter: he brokered the peace accord between egypt and israel at camp david. anita mcbride who worked in both bush white houses says for them it was a sanctuary. >> george w. and laura bush had an exceptional i think sort of relationship with camp david. still, the only presidential family that spent 12 christmases at camp david. >> reporter: the private secure location also enables some world leaders to grow close. as bush revealed what he
discovered after hosting british prime minister tony blair. >> we both used colgate tooth paste. [ laughter ] >> you knew that. >> reporter: president franklin d. roosevelt called it shang ra la. he believed the cooler mountain air helped roosevelt's sinuses. president reagan visited a record 150 plus times often to ride his horse. president clinton famously failed to get a peace deal after sequestrationing the israeli and palestinian leaders there for two weeks. and president obama hosted african and g8 leaders at a summit early in his presidency. but rarely returned, spending most weekends at the white house. whether trump continues to use mar-a-lago as his so-called winter white house, camp david remains open because not only is it a retreat, it's a military installation. doubling as a bunker to assure continuity of government in times of crisis as was the case
on 9/11. suzanne malvo, cnn, washington. >> and our thanks to suzanne malvo. the chesapeake bay, the great lakes region, pew jet sound, what do these three areas have in common? well, in addition to their beauty, they all could be targets for environmental spending cuts. as the [ inaudible ] chopping block. that story coming up. just like the marines did. at one point, i did change to a different company with car insurance, and i was not happy with the customer service. we have switched back over and we feel like we're back home now. the process through usaa is so effortless, that you feel like you're a part of the family. i love that i can pass the membership to my children, and that they can be protected. we're the williams family, and we're usaa members for life. call usaa today to talk about your insurance needs. companies across the state are york sgrowing the economy,otion. with the help of the lowest taxes in decades,
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welcome back. more on our politics lead now. president trump said this week his first proposed budget will, quote, make the government lean just as trump the candidate pledged. so, what might end up on the chopping block? well, the environmental protection agency. it could seek budget cuts and that could mean layoffs and less money going to the states. joining me to talk about it cnn
legislative reporter rene marsh. what are we talking about? >> a 24% potential overall cut to the budget as many as 3,000 employees, potentially laid off. the elimination of long-standing environmental protection programs and drastic reduction of others. now, every state will be impacted in some way, but some states will be particularly hard hit. president trump's proposed budget could slash state grants aimed at enforcing environmental laws as well as regional programs that address specific pollution problems. a double whammy for some states. >> if the states and localities are robbed from having sufficient resources and technical tools to clean up the air or their water, public health will suffer. >> reporter: under the proposed epa budget, some regions could get additional cuts. on the east coast, grant money used to clean up the badly
polluted chesapeake bay, the country's largest estuary, could be slashed 93%, with funding dropping from 73 million down to 5 million. >> many of the wonderfully enjoyable seafood that most east coasters participate, take advantage of, will be poisoned or at least inedible. >> reporter: the great lakes region could see a 97% cut from 300 million down to 10 million. the funds are used to clean up pollution sites like the st. louis river that feeds into lake superior, the great lakes provide drinking water to people in eight states. officials there say it could cost more to treat drinking water, and that cost would be passed on to consumers. washington state could see a 93% cut in grants used to clean up and protect the puget sound, from 28 million down to 2
million. it's the second largest estuary in the nation, and leads the country in the production of farmed shell fish. while he did not address these specific programs, epa administrator scott pruitt said thursday, some other programs could be spared. >> there are some concerns about some of these grant programs that epa has been a part of historically. i want you to know that with the white house and also with congress, i am communicating a message that the brown fields program, the superfund program, water infrastructure, grants, state revolving funds are essential to protect. >> reporter: the rationale for the proposed cuts, limiting federal spending and over reach by allowing states to enforce environmental laws. these cuts not only have a potential impact on health, but a major impact on the state's bottom line. whether it's the fishing industry or tourism, these waterways are a source of revenue. several state officials i spoke
to today say if the government takes away the level of funding that we're talking about here, it would be impossible for them to enforce environmental laws the twha they a the way that they are doing it today. the state coffers cannot support that kind of thing. they don't have the money to do it on their own. >> rene marsh, appreciate it. it started with pay twitter tweet fire. many pundits were gushing. then military spending, and then back to denials and recusal and new questions about ties to russia. joining me now are two people with special insights into both president trump and his supporters. we have with us doug weed, his presidential historian and author of the book "game of thorns, the inside story of hillary clinton's failed campaign." she worked for the clinton campaign last year. touching base with a group of undecided voters in battle run states to trace their decision making, she is studying trump
voters. thanks both of you for being here. really looking forward to this conversation. doug, let me start with you. do you think that president trump and his team from the vantage point of the white house think that things are going well? >> well, they're never perfect when you're in the white house. there's all kinds of acrimony. i've worked in the white house so it's never perfect. but i think they're pleased that it's working. i'll give you a little insight into that in "game of thrones." i would go -- >> game of thorns. >> thorns. i'll makeup lady in another show said my husband loves your move ion netflix. i said i think you got the wrong one. anyway, i would go to sources in the tower and say you're off message, this isn't working. no, we're on message. the tweet that he just did, that's off message. they said you don't know what the message is. the message is, number one, jobs make america great again. and number two, i'm not a
politician. so, when he's off message he's on message. so, he's got a lot of rough edges. they don't worry about it. we've had two very smooth politicians, they would say, the last two presidents. poor got poorer, the rich got richer. and an accelerated rate under both presidents. a lot of people were fed up with corruption and they wanted to turn the table over. so, when there is controversy, it seems to -- it doesn't seem to discourage their base. so, are they completely satisfied? you can be sure they're not. >> right. but they are generally pleased. let's talk about his base. diane, how are the trump voters that you speak with on a regular basis, how are they feeling about how he's doing? >> well, you know, i've been speaking with -- i've got 150 clinton voters, 150 trump voters and i speak to them at least once a week. >> that's great. >> and the interesting thing is, of course, you already know this. the clinton voters for the most part kind of feel like it's armageddon. the trump voters are happy.
>> yeah, they feel good. >> they feel good. so, you know, remember during the campaign their tag line was, i like him because he tells it like it is. and now what they're saying is, i'm really, real inhaply happy him because he's doing everything he said he would do. that's the general feeling. there is one chink in the armor. they like the policies, they like the signal about lower taxes and jobs. they like what happened with carrier. they like the immigration ban. they feel like our borders are too pourous. they do worry about what they call the sloppiness with which things are getting done. >> like the roll out of the travel ban, for example? >> especially the roll out of the travel ban where people are saying, well, you know, my grandmother always said haste makes waste. or he's a businessman. i wish he would just think a little bit about does the right hand know what the left hand is doing. so, they're a little worried about the haphazardness with
which they see things going on. but otherwise, pretty good. >> doug, let me ask you. obviously president trump's supporters, according to polls and according to diane's research, are happy. is that enough? i mean, obviously he didn't win the popular vote. doesn't he need to expand his base, both to govern effectively and also if he wants to be reelected? >> i think that he does. but to give you just a little perspective of one of the sources in game of thorns -- not thrones, game of thorns. i talked on the train coming down from new york. how do you feel? going great. what's your feeling about russia? he said wait a second. let me get this -- understand the narrative. trump is a russian spy and the first thing they've had him do is increase military spending. they're just cynical about what they're hearing. they are not accepting it. they know he has to expand his base. they think that eventually he will, and they liked the speech to the joint sessions of
congress and think that's a sign of what could come. >> interesting. and diane, you point out that there are a lot of clinton voters out there who think, if they want to meet a trump voter they'd probably have to drive to michigan or drive to pennsylvania or alabama or whatever. you point out, you really don't have to look that far. >> no, there is a narrative in the u.s. right now that the trump voters are these unemployed white guys with red hats, you know, somewhere in the midwest, probably, you know, former coal miners. and they are all over the place. a lot of peach many know this because they'll say to me, well, you know, in my family -- >> right. >> -- we have issues. people talk about having friendships drop, and things like that. but the trump voters are all over the place. there are white women and young people and black men and latinos and muslims. some of those people hid for a while. >> right. >> they tell me that they weren't really willing to talk to anybody about what their
inclinations were. a lot of them lied to pollsters. >> interesting. doug and diane, great discussion. thank you. the book again for -- there it is. game of thorns. thank you so much. good to see you guys. hope to have you back. you're good together. be sure to tune in to cnn state of the union. nancy pelosi and marco rubio will have a lot to talk about it. it starts at 9:00 a.m. eastern and again at noon. the fbi making some arrests against jewish institutions. could a bad break up had to do with these acts of hate? na lovee steamfresh vegetables. wait for it. in about five minutes you get delicious, premium veggies, steamed to perfection. now! ♪ ahhhhhhhhhhh... mmmm heavenly, right? birds eye steamfresh. so veggie good.
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welcome back to "the lead." we're following a major development now in the national lead. the fbi says it has made an arrest in connection to about eight of the estimated 100 bomb threats against jewish schools, centers and organizations across the country. the man in custody is juan thompson. he is a former journalist fired last year for fabricating journalism. he is accused of making the threats in an attempt to cyber
stalk an ex-girlfriend. he made eight bomb threats nationwide and in the process tried to frame the woman with whom he had broken up. i want to bring in cnn's brynn. we know from his rather disturbing twitter feed that thompson hated president trump and professed to be a progressive while bigots on the right have been getting a lot of attention, there certainly is no shortage of antisemites on the left. do they consider his motive for the threats? >> stated in the criminal complaint was to get back at the ex-lover. the antidefamation league said today thompson planned on running for mayor in st. louis to, quote, fight back against trumpian fascism. he even tweeted bullet points of what he'd run his campaign on. he tweeted a number of times and joined panels even, the video you're seeing, on race bias issues. in regards to those threats he allegedly made, federal authorities connect him as you
said to eight bomb threats against jewish institutions in four states. now, he does not appear to be the main person behind the wave of threats. jumping on the anti-semitic threats to harass his lover. using his ex's name, he told the center she is behind the bomb threats against jews and the fbi says thompson continued with this similar pattern of trying to frame his ex by making threats to jcc centers and schools. and in some cases, get this, he even tried to make it seem like his ex was framing him. he had been targeting his ex and intem dating her since july of last year. and threats he made against the jewish centers was a culmination of all of that. he is charged with cyber stalking. he was fired from the intercept last year for fabricating quotes and sources. jake, according to managing editor, he previously denied
that reasoning, though, for that firing to cnn. >> brynn, obviously as you note, the arrest only accounts for eight bomb threats. there are reports of at least 100 threats made to jccs and jewish day schools and organizations since early january. what does the fbi say about these other 92 threats? >> well, the fbi is saying that they're still looking into it. we know that it's possibly one or a group of people, possibly originating from overseas. and today the fbi director james comey met with religious leaders of the jewish faith saying, you know what, we have your back. we're going to continue investigating this and hopefully we'll have more arrests in the future, jake. >> all right, brynn gingras, thank you so much. it is not just jewish organizations being attacked since the beginning of the year. someone or someones have set fire to at least three muslim mosques. authorities are still searching for the ars nists who torched mosques in florida. police in washington state arrested the man they say set fire to a mosque near seattle.
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welcome back to "the lead." turning now to our world lead, christians around the world are observing the holy season of lent which began ash wednesday. the cnn original series, finding jesus, returns for season two. it uses groundbreaking evidence. joining me now is gregory cnn political reporter. you took a break from political coverage. you traced pontius pilot according to the gospels has
provided fodder for centuries of seminary students. >> but from another perspective as well. it's so fascinating whether you're a biblical historian or faithful as well. there is now evidence to confirm his pivotal role in the goss pe gospels. we went to the holy land to explore. on the shore of the mediterranean sea there is an ancient secret as old as the birth of chris chant. here the majestic roman port, a fatal determination changed history. the roman governor based here, pontius pie lat was called on to decide the fate of jesus of nazareth. he would be a harsh judge. >> he was a brutal -- we hear of massacres and the blood shed that was connected to the time that he had rule over judea. he was not a nice person.
>> we have come to the amphitheater. he spent 20 years conducting excavations in the holy land. here in 1961, archeologist pz discovered proof of pilate's existence. >> you wouldn't think that at this spot, under this wooden stand, this inscription was found, latin inscription mentioning pontius pilate. this was one of those pivotal moments which changes everything because suddenly pontius pilate comes out of this written inscription. it's not just this figure in the gospels. >> the israel museum here in jerusalem is a treasure house of artifacts from the first century. to visit here as a religious pilgrim or historian is to discover crucial evidence of the end of jesus' life. the left side of the pilate stone was chiselled away to fit
into the theater. pontius pilate perfect us judea, a stone thought to be dedicated to the museum. >> this is the only physical object from the time of pilate which has his name. >> the gospel of luke tells the story. pilate was called to jerusalem in the uproar over the ministry of jesus. are you the king of the jews, pilate asks in the scripture? and he answered them, you have said so. jews opposed to the ministry of jesus because they felt they were opposed because they felt, of course, he was a false messiah. there were others like him leading movements. pilate's portrayal, they think he was reluctant to condemn jesus was an attempt to shift blame to the jews. those historians were eager to
highlight how brutal roman rule was at the time. still the existence of the stone and the remains of the jewish high priest at the time provide crucial evidence of the final week of jesus' life, which is so exciting because there is some measure of confirmation of the gospel. still a lot of mystery about it, but it is so interesting i think to, again, the biblical historians and the faithful alike who go to the holy land to walk the gospels. >> it's incredible. what interests you about this series? >> i think it is particularly well done because there is masterful biblical narrative which is interesting to lots of people. it is based in biblical archeology. and that opens up the idea of confirmation of the gospels, but it also leans into the mysteries that are still unsolved. there is an example -- the pilate stone is very solid but there are still questions about exactly what happened. or it could be mary's house in nazareth. still questions, but that history, i think, gives a lot of fodder for the faithful to go
and literally walk the bible -- walk the gospels and how their faith experience deepens. >> fascinating, we'll be watching. thank you so much. tune into the season premiere finding jesus this sunday at 9:00 p.m. eastern only on cnn. be sure to follow me on facebook and twitter. i'm jake tapper. turning over to wolf blitzer in "the situation room." thanks for watching. >> happening now, in denial, cnn has learned about multiple contacts between the trump campaign and russia's ambassador. but after months of denying any campaign contacts, the president is dismissing the controversy as a witch hunt. far enough? democrats say attorney general jeff sessions did not go far enough in recusing himself from any campaign investigations. tonight they want him to come back before congress to answer for what they call a lie during his confirmation. naacp sessions in the middle of the controversy over his russia contacts, the attorney