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The Lead with Jake Tapper

New CNN Reporting: Senior Biden Officials Consider COVID Lab Leak theory As Credible As Natural Origins Explanation; L.A. County Reinstates Indoor Mask Mandate Amid Surge; Gen. Milley Reportedly Warned Trump On Launching Iran Strikes: "You're Going To Start A Effing War"; Growing Concerns Of Cubans Leaving By Boat Amid Recent Protests; Cuomo Expected To Face Questions From N.Y. Investigators Tomorrow. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 16, 2021 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: But first, we have brand new reporting on the origins of the coronavirus. Sources are telling CNN, senior Biden administration officials now believe the theory that the virus escaped accidentally from a lab in Wuhan is, quote, "deeply credible," unquote. This comes after months of the scientific community suggesting that the most likely scenario was that the virus jumped naturally from animals to humans.

CNN's Pamela brown broke the story. She joins us now.

Pamela, one year ago, Democrats were calling the lab leak theories xenophobic, unscientific. What's going on?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know that there's the 90-day review of COVID origins that President Biden ordered, and we've learned that several senior Biden administration officials. Including Biden's National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, believed the theory that the Coronavirus accidentally escaped from a lab in Wuhan is at least as credible as the possibility it emerges naturally from an animal directly to a human. This is according to multiple officials involved with the COVID origins review that we have spoken with, this has been a team effort.

To be clear, Jake, this does not mean they believe the virus was engineered in a lab or was intentionally released, but rather it could have been studied in the lab and then escaped accidentally. This though, is a dramatic shift from a year ago when, as you noted there, Jake, Democrats publicly downplayed the so-called lab leak theory. But it is important to note to the view that the lab leak theory is deeply credible, is what some senior national security officials view from an intelligence standpoint, most scientists who study coronaviruses and who have investigated the origins of the pandemic still say the evidence strongly supports a natural origin for the virus and that it's unlikely scientists were studying the virus in the lab, and it leaked out.

Scientists who have found strong genetic evidence of virus came from the animal say they want more access to what China knows about the pandemics beginnings and have access to early samples. That's part of the problem here in investigating this.

And from an intelligence perspective, sources tell CNN China has not been forthcoming during this 90-day review to share any more raw information or data about the pandemic. But as the review has progressed, however, the White House has begun making more public threats as well with Jake Sullivan using stronger language toward China to be more cooperative. As you know, Jake, China has strongly denied the lab leak theory and has said that the WHO should look into whether it originated in other countries.

TAPPER: Yes. And what has the World Health Organization, the WHO, said about all this?

BROWN: Well, there was quite an interesting development. Just recently, Jake, the director of the WHO actually said that the possibility that the virus leaked out of a lab should not be dismissed. As you know, there was a preliminary report put out by the WHO earlier this year, and it said it was extremely unlikely that the virus leaked out of the lab and that it was most likely out of nature.

But now you're hearing from the director now saying, look, that can't be dismissed. But again, China continues with the same posture saying it's throwing all of its resources looking at this, and it denies that that is what occurred here, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Great reporting, Pamela. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

It's the sequel that no one in Los Angeles wanted to see residents being, once again, asked to mask up indoors, even if they're fully vaccinated.

CNN's Stephanie Elam is in Los Angeles, where new COVID cases jumped 165 percent over the past week.

Stephanie, only a month ago, California was celebrating their long- awaited reopening. What happened?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What happened is, one thing, people are not getting vaccinated and people who maybe aren't vaccinated are taking their masks off when they shouldn't be. That seems to be what's happening here in L.A. County.

And just to look at the data, it really does paint the picture, Jake, and make it very clear, there has been a 700 percent increase in the number of cases since June 15. And that's the day that California reopened. And so, you see that number.

And then, on top of it, take a look at the test positivity, June 15, we are at half a percent in the county just about. And then yesterday, they reported test positivity, just one day test positivity, of 3.7 percent.

Also keep in mind that over the last seven days, there have been 1000 plus new cases announced each day. All of these numbers going in the wrong direction, and they're pointing to vaccination rates. Overall, the numbers here in L.A. County are better than you might expect. They're saying residents 16 and older who have gotten at least one shot, that's almost 70 percent. The problem is they needed people to come back and get the second shot. And then fully vaccinated here, that same age group, it's about 61 percent in the county.

However, they are seeing this transmission to summer surge. And so, to stop it from going any further, this is what they're doing.

But Jake, if I can just really break it down why we know that this is a problem and that people need to get vaccinated, just look at the numbers. Earlier this week, L.A. County said every person who was in the hospital battling COVID, every single one of them was not vaccinated.

TAPPER: And Stephanie, how are Los Angeles residents taking this news?


ELAM: Frustrated. A lot of people are very frustrated. In fact, I just saw a man who drove by with a sign hanging out of his passenger side window saying, get vaccinated, do your own research, do your part to stop the spread.

So, I feel like a lot of people here were looking forward to getting their life back to living somewhat normally. And now seeing this as a step back that everyone, no matter whether or not you're vaccinated, has to wear a mask.

TAPPER: All right. Stephanie Elam in Los Angeles for us. Thank you so much.

Joining us now, Dr. Atul Nakhasi. He's a primary care physician in Los Angeles and the cofounder of the "This is Our Shot" campaign.

Doctor, thanks for joining us.

Do you think this surge is going to get as bad as the last peak in Los Angeles, considering the county has a higher vaccination rate than the rest of the country?


You know, I do feel hopeful, you know, we do have a mask mandate back in place, and it is that extra layer of protection. We are seeing cases rise, but I do feel hopeful, you know, we have more than half the county vaccinated. We need to make further strides in reaching harder to reach communities here and really providing accurate vaccine information so we can empower people to make that choice.

I think if we can do that, we can get through this. But right now, the numbers are increasing. So we're taking that extra precaution.

TAPPER: Let's talk about the mask mandate. Listen to former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb this morning. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: I don't think it's the right move. I don't think you can tell people who've been vaccinated that they have to wear a mask.


TAPPER: What do you think? And are you seeing pushback from people who are fully vaccinated who don't understand why they would need to wear a mask?

NAKHASI: Yes, that's a great question, Jake. You know, it certainly is challenging. You know, we were very much making strides positively getting folks vaccinated. I really see masking as another tool in our toolkit.

Let's take the extra precaution. Let's be extra safe. This virus is still deadly. This virus is still deadly, but we know the vaccine is safe, we know it's effective, we know it'll save your life. And so, I think until we reach that point where COVID is truly, truly controlled, a mask is a little to do for a life's worth of protection right now.

TAPPER: In January, you tweeted this after anti-vax protest you're shut down the Dodger Stadium vaccine site quote, "As a frontline doctor who lives near Dodger Stadium this is outrageous, treacherous and an act of harm to the public. Every eight minutes we lose an Angeleino."

How did that incident change your perspective on the, quote, "information war?"

NAKHASI: Yes, that's a great question, Jake. You know, that's something I see every single day here as a doctor in Compton, Watts in South L.A. at Martin Luther King Outpatient Center, right here behind me in this chair, where I have conversations with my patients every day, we see the impact of misinformation, whether it is the microchip, whether it's mass infertility, whether it is fear of the vaccine, although it should be fear of the virus. And so, that has affected our daily conversations with patients.

And I'll tell you what, the studies are very clear here, the British Medical Journal did a study, and when it looked at the top viewed videos on YouTube on the vaccine, that led to 63 million views of misinformation, Jake. And so, we are up against a sea of misinformation. But we are not giving up and we are doubling down on trusted messengers, like doctors, nurses, pharmacists, family and friends to reach community members and get them accurate information so they can make the best decisions for their loved ones and themselves.

TAPPER: In the last hour of the show, our data analyst, Harry Enten, talked about the link between people who think falsely that the election was stolen and people who think that the vaccines are bad for you, that there is an overlap, but it's not 100 percent. Los Angeles has had -- in California, writ large, have had anti-vaxxers not from the conservative side of the political spectrum but from the liberal side of the political spectrum, the Jenny McCarthy's of the world. Is that part of the problem of what's going on here in L.A. and California?

NAKHASI: Yes, definitely Jake. You know, what we're seeing anecdotally from the frontlines is that there is a very, very small group of anti- vaxxers that have taken up much of the sphere of conversation. But the reality is that if we can talk to our patients, which is what we've done through, that "This Is Our Shot," campaign, myself, Dr. Alex MacDonald, Dr. Hussain Lalani, we've come together to mobilize doctors. We're noticing that nine out of 10 of our patients, they want to do the right thing for themselves and their families.

And so, although there is a lot of attention on the anti-vax side of things, most patients want reassurance, they want data, and they want to do what's right to protect themselves. And so, we're really trying to have as many of those conversations and giving people the tools, knowledge and skills to disarm a misinformation. Because that has -- we know vaccine misinformation is lethal and we know it leads to a six decrease in your intention to get the vaccine.


So, that is what we're up against. But we're doing it one conversation at a time, one patient at a time.

TAPPER: All right, Dr. Nakhasi, thanks so much for joining us and good luck with that mission.

Coming up. I'm going to talk to the reporter who has brand new revelations about the final days of the Trump presidency, the scary warning about a potential war with Iran. That's next.

Plus, Cuba's president angrily firing back after President Biden calls Cuba a failed state. We'll go live to Havana. Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our politics lead, yet another piece of explosive reporting revealing the chaos inside Trump's White House in his final months, weeks, days in office. Notably the former president's clashes with top military officials.


Susan Glasser, reporting in the New Yorker that after losing his reelection, Trump was pushing for military strikes against Iran despite the objection of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley, quote, "Trump had a circle of Iran hawks around him and was close with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was also urging the administration to act against Iran after it was clear that Trump had lost the election. "If you do this, you're going to have an effing war," Milley would say," uncensored of course.

Glasser also reporting on an exchange with former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper back in June of 2020 when Esper told Trump he was against invoking the Insurrection Act against protesters, quote, "Trump, enraged, lit into Esper before Milley could even sit down. The President went apeshit on Esper, Milley told associates, one of the worst such readings-out he had ever seen. Trump would go on to fire Esper days after he lost the 2020 election. Milley told his aides that he too was prepared to be fired, or even court-martialed," unquote.

Susan Glasser joins me along with our august panel. I apologize for the curse, but we're quoting Mark Milley. I mean, it's, you know, if it's a quote of a curse, then I think it's OK.

So, Susan, this story is nuts. I mean, it's really crazy. Is there one element from your story that shocked you the most?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: You know, when I first learned about the level of alarm that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs had, through the election, and all the way into January, I have to say, it was probably the most terrified I've ever been as a reporter in several decades. I think --

TAPPER: And you, just for people who don't know, you worked in Russia.

GLASSER: I did work in Russia. And I might caveat that like, I did cover the Battle of Tora Bora. And that was extremely scary.


GLASSER: But no, really, it was...

TAPPER: As an American, though. Yes.

GLASSER: Absolutely. And it was extremely alarming. On the one hand, I suppose it's reassuring to understand that we have a class of generals at the very top rank who really do worship, I believe, the Constitution, and the idea of an independent military that is separate and outside of politics.

And I think that, you know, in some ways, actually, the Trump story is the story of trying to separate out and to divide the generals in the leadership of our military from the rank and file. But this is unprecedented stuff. This is stuff that we've never seen before.

TAPPER: You also report the General Milley warned the Joint Chiefs to not take any orders from Trump without calling him first, which is, of course another rather unusual thing for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to say.

GLASSER: Well, that's right. When I first learned about this, I have to say I immediately thought of Nixon and the final days and, you know, the fear that those surrounding Richard Nixon had that he would act in a volatile and dangerous way and saying, don't do anything unless Schlesinger, the defense secretary, or Kissinger had approved it. And that's the place that we were in.

And so, on the one hand, I suppose it should be reassuring, right? There is a group of people who were determined that the Constitution, that the independence of our institutions would hold. On the other hand, they perceive the president of the United States to be the greatest national security threat at that time to the United States.

TAPPER: That's chilling.

Abby, let me bring you in Milley, General Milley is not publicly commenting on allegations made about him in books or in Susan's reporting, but he clearly wants his voice heard. One defense official telling CNN, quote, "He's not going to sit in silence while people try to use the military against Americans." So, while general Milley, quote, "tried his hardest to actively stay out of politics," if the events that occurred brought him into that arena temporarily "so be it."


TAPPER: What do you what do you make of all those?

PHILLIP: Well, I think people have to remember that general Milley was humiliated effectively over the summer, prior to all of this when Trump basically enlisted his military brass in this walk from the White House over to Lafayette Park after clearing the park of protesters to hold a Bible in front of a church. And I think that that was an example in which I think the military felt like it was being used as a prop, and not just any kind of prop, but a prop against fellow Americans, which is a bridge too far for a lot of these individuals.

So, you're seeing him, who by the way, I think, just to be clear, he is still in the job. It's not as if this is a former official, he's still in the job. All of these reports are coming out about what he said behind the scenes. And to make an important point, which is that the military establishment of the United States is alive and well and it's there to protect the constitution against even presidents who tried to do things that are contrary to it.

And what's extraordinary about all of this is, obviously, that you see to some extent that there are limits to the checks and balances that are available against a sitting president of the United States. That is the scary part about this. Had Milley not done this, I'm not sure where we would be today.


TAPPER: And yet, Bill, with all these stories from these books and from Susan's reporting, showing how incredibly imperiled our democracy was, we already knew it from what happened in the months leading up to January 6 and January 6, and we've seen it since, but it was far worse than we even knew. Vice President Pence afraid that the Secret Service were going to take him before he could certify the election and whisked him off somewhere so that he couldn't certify it. I mean, it goes on and on, General Milley.

And yet, amidst all of this, what does the House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy do? He goes and visits Donald Trump. BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE BULWARK: Yes, just a couple of weeks after his colleagues in the Senate attacked General Milley incidentally, right, with critical race theory, how can you be doing this?

I mean, there are Republicans, I'm really, to an amazing degree, the Republican -- on this part of the Trump Republican playbook now is to divide the military, as Susan alluded to this. But I think it's really conscious effort.

These generals, they're a bunch of, you know, softies and they just care about keeping their prestige and their status and almost explicit appeal that to lower -- more junior officers and people in the ranks to have contempt for them to -- maybe to disobey them, maybe next time not to be so careful to obey all the orders that General Milley carefully gave that nothing could be done, you know, out of the ordinary. They make sure that the orders are lawful and ethical, and so forth.

So, I mean, I think it's -- the threat remains, and the behavior of the Republicans have been so appalling over the last six months. And I'd almost say, it's not quite at the peak it was January 6.

But I suppose, I think, here's the thought experiment. If Trump gets reelected or even if DeSantis (ph), one of these other guys gets elected, Holly (ph), well, they keep the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff they inherit, which has been the custom now, the norm, for what, for decades? Will they keep the chiefs of the other services? Well, they think anything of jumping someone up who's a loyalist and they've been in private communication with to start running the military?

Well, they make the mistake of appointing a senator like Jeff Sessions, who has his own standards, someone like Jim Mattis to key positions in national security and legal apparatus? So, I think the lesson of this is that we narrowly escaped a terrible outcome. But that that terrible outcome could reappear, right, in 2025.

TAPPER: Oh, absolutely.

Well, and I think it's very clear, I mean, you see what's going on around the country, Paul, with people who served in their office, according to what they were supposed to do, like the Secretary of State of Georgia, Brad Raffensperger, or other individuals being purged. The chairman, the executive director of the Michigan Republican Party was basically just chased out of his job because he said Trump lost. How do we preserve our democracy when a major political party is doing this?

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That's problem. You know, after Watergate, we were all taught, well, the institutions held. And we're resilient, the Constitution (INAUDIBLE) and maybe that was the case then.

Right now, I don't think the institutions held it was that we were blessed to have certain of you individuals of character. You mentioned Secretary Raffensperger, General Milley, it was the people. I think those got a really powerful point.

You know, Susan's reporting is going to be very different if you have a different general sitting there --

TAPPER: Right.

BEGALA: -- different Defense Secretary --

TAPPER: Right.

BEGALA: -- in ordered to fire on civil rights protesters, to smash their skulls according to the reporting that we've seen. It's -- it was -- this time it was the people. And you know, back when I was in government, one of the mantras was personnel is policy.

TAPPER: Right.

BEGALA: Who you put their will determine whether your policies get done, but I'm terribly worried that the next one, and Bill's right, the next one will put people at much lower character in there than a General Milley Brad Raffensperger from Georgia.

TAPPER: And lastly, Susan, I mean, let's be honest, I mean, there are some crazy generals out there. And what if Trump had put somebody like Mike Flynn in that job, somebody who is mental acuity and stability is questionable? What might have happened?

GLASSER: Well, look, I think first of all, our system is designed to weed out things like this. And actually, Mike Flynn is an interesting example because, of course, he was Trump's first national security adviser. What if there hadn't been an FBI investigation and he'd stayed in longer, you know, things could have gone much worse from the very beginning. However --

TAPPER: But that's the least of it. He's a QAnon right now.

GLASSER: Trump has admitted in his crazy statements of the last few days that he only picked General Milley to spite Jim Mattis --

TAPPER: Right.

GLASSER: -- his former defense secretary which is a remarkable mission. I mean that's been reported.

TAPPER: Mattis and Obama didn't like Milley therefor he picked him.

GLASSER: Right. So, remember that Trump thought he had picked his guy. And in my reporting, I don't think it's in the piece, but one of the things I was struck by was Milley saying to others when confronted with this exact thing, you know, somebody said, but you were supposed to be Trump's guy. He said, well, they got the wrong guy.


GLASSER: And you know, so it was almost an accident, actually, that Trump didn't get the loyalist he wanted. TAPPER: Oh God, Susan, Paul, Bill, Abby, thank you so much. I wish I were going into the weekend feeling better about things.


Be sure to catch Abby this Sunday, of course, hosting "Inside Politics with Abby Phillip." That's 8:00 a.m. Eastern only here on CNN. And check out Susan's piece in "The New Yorker."

Coming up, the crisis in Cuba could soon make its way to American shores. We'll explain next. Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our world lead now, the war of words heating up between Havana and the White House. Today, Cuba's communist leader Miguel Diaz-Canel posted a series of tweets attacking U.S. policy towards Cuba and how the U.S. has handled the pandemic. The statement in response to President Biden's rather harsh words yesterday.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Cuba is a, unfortunately, a failed state and repressing their citizens.


TAPPER: No lies detected. Words aside the actions by the Cuban people this week hitting the streets and historic protests are also a warning sign of another potential problem playing out on the high seas. CNN's Patrick Oppmann reports from Havana.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The mass protests across Cuba and the communist run government's heavy-handed crackdown. Maybe creating conditions for a new crisis on the island that consumed land on American shores. Cubans, once again, taking to the seas to escape a worsening economic and political situation.


OPPMANN (voice-over): U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas himself an immigrant from Cuba, issuing this week a stark warning to those thinking of crossing the Florida straits.

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Allow me to be clear. If you take to the sea, you will not come to the United States.

OPPMANN (voice-over): But that's not stopping many Cubans desperate to leave. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, this year is seeing the highest number of Cuban migrants since 2017. The journey often perilous is driven by despair. After 16 days at sea, these Cubans had to be rescued when their overloaded boat capsized off the coast of Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) they just had a wife, take them out the boat to stop (ph), over.

OPPMANN (voice-over): Not everyone is so lucky. The Coast Guard reporting nearly 20 Cubans died in recent weeks.

Beatriz Jimenez's daughter and two grandchildren were lost at sea in March, along with two others. Beatriz told me her daughter was trying to reunite with her husband in Florida.


OPPMANN (voice-over): My daughter is a good mother, Beatriz says. She wouldn't have done this if everything wasn't safe. If everything wasn't OK. She wouldn't have put them through this. Her children are everything to her.

With daily COVID-19 cases more than tripling in the last three weeks, and the government struggling to get it under control, Cubans find themselves with nowhere to go. Most air travel to and from the island was suspended during the pandemic. For many, that now means they have one option, the open waters.

(on-camera): Building a boat or paying smugglers to take you to Florida is expensive. Recently, it's become common to see Cubans posting ads online, offering homes for sale with everything inside. It's a sign people here tell me of Cubans trying to scrape together, whatever money they can to buy their way onto a boat.

(voice-over): Cubans picked up by the U.S. Coast Guard are brought back to the island under an agreement between the two countries. CNN got rare access to the port where the exchange happens. The day we film there, we found among the migrants returned to Cuba, a woman and her eight-month-old baby. Cuban official say the U.S. has not agreed to hold migration talks in nearly three years.

CARLOS FERNANDEZ DE COSSIO DOMINGUEZ, CUBAN FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTRY: So the recipe and the conditions are there where an uncontrolled migration through the ocean, something that we want to avoid. Now we believe it is possible to avoid.

OPPMANN (voice-over): But any cooperation seems increasingly unlikely. With Cuba's President blaming the U.S. for this week's island-wide protests and President Biden firing back with --

BIDEN: Cuba is a, unfortunately a failed state.

OPPMANN (voice-over): Failed or not is Cuba faces increased economic and political upheaval. The time to avoid a new humanitarian crisis may be running out.

(END VIDEOTAPE) OPPMANN: And Jake, President Biden also said yesterday that he will not restore remittances as the money that Cubans send back to the relatives here because the Cuban government keeps too much of that money. But that money is literally often the only way a lot of people are able to eat here. By cutting off that money, it's almost guaranteeing more Cubans will need to leave. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Patrick Oppmann in Havana, Cuba, thank you so much for that. For Cubans on the island and for exiles here in the United States, this week's protests are a call to action.


PITBULL, RECORDING ARTIST: This is a message to the world. We need to stand up, step up but if you don't understand what's going on, then you need to wake the (INAUDIBLE).


TAPPER: That was Cuban American rapper Pitbull visibly frustrated in an Instagram post this week trying to rally global support for protesters in Cuba.

Let's bring in CNN's Boris Sanchez. He spoke with one of those protesters who's been skirting the government's internet blackout and getting his message out via social media. Boris, what is he saying? What is this dissident saying about what's going on now?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, he says that there are still demonstrations and there's still violence in the streets of Cuba. We're not seeing it largely because of this internet blackout. The videos are leaking online.


Jose Carlos Melo tells me that he's been bouncing back and forth between hope and dread. He's hopeful because he's never seen anything like this in Cuba before. He says, there is no going back. I have to be free now. He believes this is a new chapter in Cuban history.

Simultaneously, he's fearful because he knows that talking to me is putting himself at risk of jail or worse. And he said he doesn't care. He says that Cuba is already a prison and he's willing to die for this cause. He got emotional talking to me about seeing thousands of people in the streets calling for liberty. Here's more of what he said.


JOSE CARLOS MELO, CUBAN PROTESTER: Look, I don't think anyone that is not Cuban can express what you -- what someone feels when you see that. I saw thousands of people yelling for freedom. It was insane. It was insane. It was amazing. If we go to the streets again, a lot of people are going to die. But, what do you want me to do? This is the price of freedom.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SANCHEZ: The price of freedom. And notably, Jose Carlos told me that he doesn't want U.S. intervention in Cuba. He says that this is their fight, that this is our fight for Cuba. He also is 100 percent against the embargo. But he says that the embargo is only one small portion in the bigger calculus of all the problems that are happening in Cuba. He told me of the crisis, quote, the decisions the regime has made, that is not COVID, that is not the embargo, it is what they did. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Boris Sanchez with that important message, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo about to face investigators over sexual harassment allegations and more, what that might mean about the New York Attorney General investigation. That's next.



TAPPER: The national lead, one of many investigations involving New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo now could be, could be in its final stages. The State Attorney General's Office is expected to question Governor Cuomo tomorrow or over a number of troubling accusations against the Democrats including sexual harassment allegations. Several women have publicly accused the Governor of making unwanted advances and physical contact.

CNN's Brynn Gingras has been following the story for us in his life for us in New York. Brynn, what are you hearing about this investigation?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake. Well, like you said, the Governor is going to sit down with the two investigators appointed by the Attorney General Joon Kim and Anne L. Clark. And it's unclear right now if there are any parameters or what they are or set for this line of questioning that he'll face or really how long the interview is going to last.

If you remember, some of Cuomo's accusers they've told me in the past that their interviews have gone on for hours. In some cases, women have been interviewed more than once. So that's, of course, what's possible for the man at the center of this probe. And there's also reporting that the lawyers have already met with members of Cuomo's senior staff.

So, you can imagine Cuomo is likely the last person to be interrogated in this probe. And that's why this meeting really signals this now more than five month long investigation. Yes, that's how long it's been, could be nearing its final stages. The Attorney General's Office has said it has no timeline of when that we can expect that report to be released.

And remember Tish James opened this inquiry after two former Cuomo staffers came forward, accusing the Governor of inappropriate behavior. And then since then, we know of more women that have made claims against him.

Cuomo has denied those allegations, has apologized to anyone who he says may have misinterpreted his remarks as unwanted flirtation, though these allegations, something that's really just been hanging over the two-term governor for the past few months, as he's tried to really take this business as usual approach toward governing the state. We've reported here on your show, Jake, how Cuomo has been fundraising through all of this ahead of a likely announcement that he'll ask voters for a third term.

About tomorrow's meeting though, Cuomo is a senior advisor saying in a statement, "We have said repeatedly that the Governor doesn't want to comment on this review until he has cooperated but the continued leaks are more evidence of the transparent political motivation of the Attorney General's review". Those motivations suggested there are that of the Attorney General that she may also put her name into the Governor's race next year. That's something that isn't confirmed, Jake, but, of course, there's a lot of speculation about it.

TAPPER: Right out of the Trump playbook calling it a witch hunt almost. CNN's Brynn Gingras, thank you so much.


TAPPER: Ready, set, spread. A week from today, the start of the Olympics opening ceremony just as COVID cases are spiking. That's next.



TAPPER: Homes and hopes and lives washed away by some of Europe's worst flooding in decades. This is our world lead today. And one more example of the devastating impact of climate change which is real and which is here. Climate say (ph) a warmer atmosphere holds more water, sometimes leading to unprecedented rainfalls.

This week, Belgium and Germany where rivers had been running low saw two months worth of rain in a single day, and you are looking at the result. At least 125 people are dead, hundreds more missing. Germany just deployed some 850 troops to help with disaster relief.

CNN's Melissa Bell is in Belgium.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The floodwaters removing northwards by Friday, leaving behind a trail of devastation. Vast swathes of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands only now beginning to realize the cost of historic storms.

(on-camera): The question is whether any of this should really have come as a surprise. Not only as the heavy rains that came this week had been forecast but more than that. For years, experts have been warning that in this part of the world, one of the effects of climate change was always going to be heavy rain and flash flooding in the summer months.

(voice-over): And yet by the time the waters came, no one was prepared. From Germany to Belgium, the picture is caught by terrified locals give a sense of how fast and furiously the waters rose on Thursday, sweeping away everything in their post (ph). By Friday morning, the scale of the devastation was becoming clear.

In the Belgian village of Pepinster, people returning to what was left of their homes and their livelihoods.


This family's wine shop engulfed in a thick layer of mud. Its owner says that in 70 years her father has never seen anything like it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Set up those all (INAUDIBLE), papa. Set up those all.

BELL (voice-over): In the nearby town of Eze (ph), French military personnel and equipment have been brought in as part of what is now an international rescue effort.

(on-camera): As you can see, the water here really rose quite high. What the locals that we've been speaking to have told us, many of them still trapped in their homes. But now running out for food and water is that when the flash flood came, it was a mighty torrent that came down these streets. There was nothing gradual about it. And it happened the streets filled up with water within a couple of hours.

(voice-over): The rescuers going house to house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Foreign Language)

BELL (voice-over): In Germany, the scenes are heartbreakingly similar. In one town, the residents of a disabled care home were trapped. They'd been asleep and attempts to get them out failed. Across the country, at least 105 people have been killed, with many hundreds more missing.

MALU DREYER, STATE PREMIER, RHINELAND-PALATINATE (through translation): We are doing everything we can to save lives, repair damage, and avert further dangers under the most difficult conditions.

BELL (voice-over): But even as Europe begins to count the cost of the worst floods in more than a century, its politicians are looking to their lessons for the future.

URSULA VON DER LEYEN, EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT: It is the intensity and the length of these events where science tells us this is a clear indication of climate change and that this is something where we really, really it shows the urgency to act.

BELL (voice-over): An urgency all the clear from above a part of the world not used to the kind of humanitarian crisis it now faces. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BELL: Jake, tonight those large scale rescue efforts continue in a part of the world that continues to see dangerously high water levels, landslides, dams breaking down, and power outages. Those scenes of chaos caused by natural disaster that this part of the world is simply not used to seeing so far, Jake.

TAPPER: Melissa Bell in Belgium, thank you so much for that report.

Our sports lead today is running neck and neck with our health lead. We're just one week from the start of the COVID delayed Summer Olympics in Tokyo and there are coronavirus emergencies across Japan. We're likely to be asking who's sick as much as we'll be asking who won.

CNN's Will Ripley is in Tokyo. Let's start with the pandemic, Will, what are the conditions in Japan today?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The weather is sunny, but the mood is gray. You have the highest case numbers in six months. You have Japanese who eight out of 10 of them don't think the Olympics should be happening when the IOC President Thomas Spock went to Hiroshima yesterday, there were protesters who told him to go home. That's how a lot of people in Japan are feeling about these thousands of people coming in from all over the world in the middle of one of their worst outbreaks, and some of the highest numbers they've seen since January

TAPPER: Will, tell us about the effects. More athletes have withdrawn or announced they won't participate?

RIPLEY: Yes. You have a long list of highly paid tennis players who just aren't bothering to come here. But there was an Australian basketball player, women's basketball player who said she's pulling out because she'd been having anxiety attacks above the thought of playing in a completely empty venue without her friends and family. You had even from Team USA the health and safety protocols are so strict that you had a Washington Wizards player who had to, you know, stay home.

And so there's, you know, more and more athletes are not able to come here. Some athletes who have come here, if somebody on their plane is positive, or in the case of the Brazilian judo team, staff at their hotel were tested positive before they even arrive, but they are now also in isolation losing out on practice time.

TAPPER: Will, what's being done to keep people safe?

RIPLEY: Well, we've been taking COVID tests on an almost daily basis since we arrived after filling out this huge pile of paperwork and getting tested just to come here. The athletes, they have to keep masks on at all times in the Olympic Village. They're not allowed to high five or even like yell or cheer or support their teammates. They're completely forbidden from having any sort of social interaction. So you have kids from all over the world who are excited to come here and compete and then they have to leave two days after the event and just -- and not interact with anybody. It's a very spartan existence in many ways, teleporting us back to the height of the worst lockdowns during COVID. And then you have the medal ceremony where they're not even going to have somebody put the metal over their neck. They're going to get a tray and they have to put it on themselves.

TAPPER: Oh, man. Will Ripley in Tokyo, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

A man with 50 firearms and five pipe bombs arrested in a plot to spark a government overthrow. That story next.



TAPPER: Back now with the national lead and a terrifying plot. Today, we're learning federal authorities arrested two men in California who are discussing plans to bomb the democratic headquarters in Sacramento. The Justice Department says the men wanted to spark an overthrow of the government all because of the 2020 election. In text messages, the pair discussed, quote, war after President Biden's inauguration. They wanted to ensure outcoming -- outgoing President Trump remained in office.

One of the men who had 50 firearms and five pipe bombs in his home, according to law enforcement, was arrested before the inauguration. The other was arrested this week.

Tune into State of the Union Sunday. My co-anchor Dana Bash will talk to the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio and Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, that's at 9:00 a.m. at noon, Eastern. Until then, follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, the TikTok at JakeTapper. Tweet the show at TheLeadCNN.

Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in The Situation Room. I'll see you Monday.