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The Lead with Jake Tapper

China Denies Test Of Nuclear-Capable Hypersonic Missile; The Biden Agenda Faces Deadline; Sanders And Manchin Fight Over Spending Bill; Colin Powell Dead At 84; State Department Watchdog Launching Reviews Into U.S. Withdrawal From Afghanistan; Ex-U.K. Spy Defends Claims Used In FBI's Probe Into Trump & Russia; Police Unions Pushing Back Against City Mandates Across U.S.; Trump Testifies For Over 4 Hours In 2015 Trump Tower Assault Case; Pablo Escobar's Hippos Thriving In Colombia Will Now Be Sterilized To Control Population. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired October 18, 2021 - 17:00   ET




OREN LIEBERMAN, CNN ENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: China often boasts about its space program. This past weekend it sent three astronauts to its new space station. Showing off its rapidly advancing civilian space program. But it never said a word about a launch in August, until now, calling it a routine test of a spacecraft.

ZHAO LIJIAN, CHINESE FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON (through translation): What is separated from the spacecraft before it returns is its supporting device which will be burned up and dissolved as it falls through the atmospheric layer before dropping into the high seas.

LIEBERMAN (voice-over): Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said last month that China was developing new weapons with longer range and may have hinted at this as well.

FRANK KENDALL, AIR FORCE SECRETARY: They've now gone from a few hundred miles to thousand to literally around the globe. They have gone from a few high value assets near China's shores to the second and Third Island Chains and most recently to intercontinental ranges and even to the potential for global strikes. Strikes from space even.

LIEBERMAN (voice-over): It's not only the apparent technology the Chinese are developing, it's the intent behind it. U.S. missile defense systems are designed to face east, west and north, officials say. Detecting launches from Russia and others.

TAYLOR FRAVEL, MIT SECURITY STUDIES PROGRAM DIRECTOR: Rather than flying over the North Pole which would be the case with a warhead launched atop a ballistic missile, this particular kind of orbital bombardment system could go over the South Pole and thus evade U.S. Missile defense systems. LIEBERMAN (voice-over): International treaties govern the use of

space for peaceful purposes but this race is a more daunting possibility. Turning the final frontier into a potential future battleground.


LIEBERMAN (on camera): Even if there is no official confirmation from DoD or from state of this test, this is clearly something the U.S. has been tracking that's because if you go back to last year's 2020 China military power report, the U.S. wrote that China was looking to develop a range of nuclear forces and delivery options including hypersonic glide vehicles, Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. CNN's Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon for us with that report. Thank you.

Here to discuss is David Sanger. He is the White House and national security analyst for "The New York Times." David, thanks for joining us. So, the Chinese government claims they actually launched a spacecraft, not a hypersonic missile. How credible is that?

DAVID SANGER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY & POLITICAL ANALYST: It could well be that they, in fact, did launch a spacecraft and that it, in turn, could launch a hypersonic. You know, we've seen the North Koreans and the Iranians at various moments conduct tests that would be useful for military purposes, but are under the cover of the space program.

So, it's entirely possible that what they are saying is literally true but also adds to their understanding of hypersonics. And let's not forget, Jake, who else is doing hypersonics? The United States and Russia. So this is sort of the form of the new arms race. I'd be surprised if the Chinese weren't.

TAPPER: The Financial Times reports says, "The tests showed that China had made astounding progress on hypersonic weapons and was far more advanced than U.S. officials realized." How could the U.S. government be so unaware of how far the Chinese government was when it comes to developing this weapon?

SANGER: Well first, we haven't confirmed with the "Times" and I don't think that anyone else has yet, that the details of the "Financial Times" report are correct. But let's assume for a moment that it is correct. We have a long history of missing these developments.

Remember what started our space program in a big way and helped our missile program was the surprise of Sputnik. But we've been surprised by nuclear tests by Pakistan and India and moment Israel. We've been surprised by North Korean ICBMS. The Chinese are pretty good at hiding this stuff. It wouldn't surprise me at all if we missed it.

TAPPER: In response to the "Financial Times" report, Republican Congressman Michael Gallagher who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, he said the alleged test should, "serve as a call to action for the United States." What kind of action do you think the Biden administration might actually take when it comes to China over this, if any?

SANGER: Well, you know, one of the interesting moves at the end of the Trump administration was that President Trump wanted to bring China into the negotiations on arms control. The New START Negotiations with Russia. When New START was first negotiated a decade ago, China wasn't a piece of it. In fact, they've never been a part of our arms control negotiations. That idea didn't go anywhere and New START got renewed in the early days of the Biden administration.


But certainly there were people within the Biden administration who tell me that they think that at some point it may be right to get China into these negotiations.

And certainly the new missile fields that we've seen being developed in China became clear on satellite photographs over the summer, suggest that they may be moving away from their minimal deterrent approach and trying to build up perhaps in anticipation of the fact they might have joined these negotiations and they have a nuclear force that is less than one-fifth of what the U.S. and the Russians have.

TAPPER: You're out with a new analysis in which it's titled "Washington Hears Echoes of the 1950s and Worries: Is This a Cold War with China?" You write that even if there isn't a formal cold war, "Governments that plunge into a cold war mind set can exaggerate every conflict, convinced that they are part of a larger struggle." How close do you think the U.S. is to this becoming a reality, a Cold War with China?

SANGER: I think pretty close. The story I quote people like Kevin Rudd, the former prime minister of Australia and the China expert, saying it's more probable than not at this point. I think people get -- in Washington they are getting into a big definitional argument that -- about whether this looks exactly like the Cold War with the Soviet Union of 35 or 40 years ago. And, of course it doesn't. Why would it?

The internet didn't exist at that time. We didn't have the kind of economic interdependencies between Russia and the United States that we clearly have between China and the U.S. With U.S. and China, it's a technological race. It's an economic race and a military race. With Russia it was only military.

Now, I would argue that while the economic interdependencies might help us stay away from Cold War behavior, certainly in the recent weeks, we've seen a lot of pretty bad cold war behavior. We've just been discussing one, but there was also the prisoner swap with the release of the Huawei executive. We've seen the threats against Taiwan you referred to at the beginning. There's a lot of cold war reminiscent behavior under way between both powers.

TAPPER: Donald Trump talked about and focused on China quite a bit. Do you think the Chinese government has changed its approach towards the United States since President Biden took office? Do you think that they were going to pursue this weapon no matter what, if Trump was still in power or not?

SANGER: Oh, sure. Weapons like this take years to develop. The U.S. has been working on hypersonics for years. The Chinese have been working on hypersonics for years. I don't think that that was terribly related to President Trump.

You know, the argument about President Biden during the campaign, a year ago, was President Trump saying he'd be soft on China. Well, it was President Trump who, until COVID happened, was much softer along the way with the Chinese.

What I think we've seen with the Biden administration, though, is they've been tough. They have not relaxed any of the Trump-era tariffs at this point. And they have pushed back relatively hard. I think they are worried about the fact that they've pushed back so hard and the Chinese have pushed back so hard that there hasn't been the interchange between the two countries that would steer us away from the Cold War.

But I think we're headed into some really rough patches. Remember the Chinese aren't 10-feet tall, Jake. I mean, they've got big economic problems of their own as we've seen particularly in recent days. We shouldn't exaggerate their threat.

TAPPER: Yes. David Sanger, thank you so much for your expertise, as always.

Coming up, can the president break up a fight between two key Democratic senators and get his massive spending plans moving? That's next.

Also, former president and hall of fame caliber liar Donald Trump under oath. Why was he facing questions? That's ahead.



TAPPER: Topping our "Politics Lead," if there is one thing the Democrats can agree on, it's this. Failing to pass President Biden's infrastructure bill and social programs package would be devastating for the Democratic Party in 2022. But that might be the only thing they can all agree on.

Negotiations over President Biden's infrastructure bill and social programs package still have not produced a compromise that both moderates and progressives can live with. This as CNN's Manu Raju reports, key moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin is now embroiled in a public feud with the king of the progressives himself, Senator Bernie Sanders.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With their party's agenda at risk of collapsing, Senator Joe Manchin has a message for Bernie Sanders. Don't blame him. (On camera): He says he's holding -- you're holding up the Biden


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): No, no. There's 52 senators who don't agree. Okay? And there's two that want to work something out if possible in a most rational, reasonable way. That's all.

RAJU (voice-over): Sanders, a self-proclaimed Democratic socialist from Vermont, pushing one of the most ambitious proposals in U.S. history. A reduction in greenhouse gases by 50 percent. Tuition-free community college. Paid family and medical leave. And expansion of Medicare which he considers a red line. And all to the tune of $3.5 trillion.

But Manchin, who hails from West Virginia, a state Donald Trump won by nearly 40 points last year opposes many of those ideas and wants to keep the price tag at $1.5 trillion. Manchin in particular has angered Sanders for saying this.


MANCHIN: I don't believe that we should turn our society into an entitlement society. I think we should still be a compassionate rewarding society.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Does Senator Manchin not believe that our children and grandchildren are entitled to live in a country and a world that is healthy and habitable?

RAJU (voice-over): On a call with Democrats earlier this month, sources told CNN that President Biden quipped that putting Manchin and Sanders in the same room could lead to "homicide."

And last week, the feud taking a new turn when Sanders singled out both Manchin and Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema in a West Virginia newspaper writing that, "The political problem we face is that in a 50-50 Senate we need every Democratic senator to vote yes. We now have only 48. Two Democratic senators remain in opposition, including Senator Joe Manchin."

Firing back, Manchin said he will not vote for a reckless expansion of government programs. No op-ed from a self-declared independent socialist is going to change that.

MANCHIN: I would like to view it as (inaudible) stage. I don't have problems with any of that, you know, at all but he thinks he knows or anyone thinks they know West Virginia and what we've done and we'll continue to do for this country. That's all. I want to make sure they respect (ph) (inaudible).

RAJU (voice-over): Across the airwaves in West Virginia, Manchin hearing it from both sides.

UNKNOWN: Tell Joe Manchin don't give in to this liberal madness.

UNKNOWN: If you see Joe, tell him to keep up the fight, just like he's always done.

RAJU (voice-over): But he feels no pressure in meeting his party's October 31st deadline.

(On camera): Do you think it's possible to get this done by October 31st?

MANCHIN: I really don't know what the timing is. There's no time. There's no rush on timing. Let's just do it and do it right.


RAJU (on camera): So Sanders and Manchin have also been sparring over the strategy to pass that $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan. Manchin wants the House to pass that immediately. Sanders has supported a delay in that vote in order to get Manchin and Sinema to sign on to that larger social safety net package all of which, Jake, has caused unease among top Democrats. The number two Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin told me earlier there is "high anxiety among Democrats" and he wants Manchin and Sinema to close the deal.

TAPPER: High anxiety. Manu Raju, thank you so much.

Well, let's discuss, Sabrina Siddiqui, let me start with you. So, you have Bernie Sanders and Joe Manchin locking horns. This started after Sanders went after Manchin in an op-ed in the newspaper in Manchin's home state West Virginia. And Manchin really doesn't like it when people from outside West Virginia come into West Virginia.


TAPPER: Yes, I mean, remember his reaction when Vice President Harris did a T.V. interview. Do you think this is the end of it? I mean, is this -- will this completely stop the bill?

SIDDIQUI: No, look, I think that the public sparring is certainly notable and reinforces some of the divisions that still exist among Democrats over what provisions should be in this bill. But ultimately what really -- what this comes down to is whether or not Democrats can come to some sort of agreement and can they do it by this self-imposed deadline of October 31st.

TAPPER: The latest self-imposed deadline.

SIDDIQUI: The latest self-imposed deadline.

TAPPER: This is the fifth or sixth (inaudible).

SIDIQUI: They missed a couple of the other ones. You know, the White House today signaling that President Biden is open to some of the proposals that Senator Manchin has put forward like means testing or a cap on income for child tax credit. Possibly also for universal Pre-K.

You know, there's also questions of whether they will cut some of these programs entirely like clean energy or, you know, something to allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices. Progressives are a little bit more open to not cutting programs

entirely but just scaling back how long they'll be funded for. So that's really what the challenge is now for Biden, is can he bring the Democratic Party along with Senators Manchin and Sinema who of course hold the keys in the Senate.

TAPPER: Yes. And Jackie, I mean, Democrats have been pleading with President Biden to get more involved. A lot of -- one House Democrat telling reporters, you know, he needs to get more involved. Now, Biden is holding meetings with key players. He is traveling to swing districts for a speech, you know, giving speeches, talking about what's actually in the plan. But that's not enough for a lot of Democrats.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, no. But, I mean, the briefing today, there was a whole section at the top of it about all -- Jen Psaki listing all the various meetings that Biden is having and the phone calls that he will have when he goes abroad. But for some Democrats it's never going to be enough, but they keep zeroing in.

The other thing that was interesting during this briefing, there definitely is some impatience. Whether they have leverage or not, that is something else entirely. But the patience with the Sinema/Manchin faction and the hemming and hawing seems to be wearing thin not only among Democratic ranks but I think in -- starting in the West Wing and ending in the West Wing as well.

TAPPER: Jamal, do you think that the pressure on Sinema and Manchin is working? It seems from where I sit, it looks like it backfires in many ways. I mean, no disrespect meant to Bernie Sanders, but an op-ed in a West Virginia newspaper for Bernie Sanders, I don't know how many Joe Manchin voters that --

KUCINICH: Look, that's in kind ad.


MONA CHAREN, POLICY EDITOR, THE BULWARK: The three voters for Bernie Sanders in all of West Virginia.

TAPPER: No. He actually didn't do that bad in the 2016 primaries, but -- in West Virginia, but I mean, does that really change the field though?

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, let's always remember, everybody has got their own politics. So, you know, Bernie Sanders isn't just doing this to affect West Virginia. He's also doing this to show that he's fighting for this package so that his voters know that it's going to occur.

The neighborhood where I grew up, people used to say don't start none there won't be none, right? But once you start firing shots at Joe Manchin, he fires back. And I thought his return fire on Bernie Sanders was pretty effective. That he's an Independent or Democratic socialist and nobody in West Virginia is listening to that person. The question here is for people like Joe Manchin who think of

themselves as majority makers for the Democrats, he has to be careful. He has to be careful. He's not a majority taker, right, because if they don't get a deal done here, people like Raphael Warnock who is up next year. He's not up in four years like Joe Manchin. He's up next year. He needs these deals to be done and Joe Manchin and Sinema might be the one standing in the way.

TAPPER: Well, forget that. What about Terry McAuliffe running for governor in Virginia. He is very frustrated with this.

CHAREN: You can imagine what he is saying in private because in public, he's going out and saying, quit your chitty chat there on Capitol Hill.


CHAREN: You know, I need you to do something to save me and he is in a very, very tight race made tighter by the fact that we've seen in previous races in recent American history that pollsters aren't great at tapping into the Trump vote. So, it could be that Youngkin is actually even ahead.

So, yeah, there needs to be some action. But, you know, I just cannot understand the Democrats thinking or some radical, you know, progressives, thinking that a good strategy is to follow Kyrsten Sinema into the rest room or to put op-eds in West Virginia newspapers to put pressure on Manchin.

They -- Manchin in particular, you know, won his race in a state that went like by 5,000 points for Donald Trump. There's not going to be another Manchin, okay. They need him desperately. They should be sending him bouquets, not putting op-eds in paper in his state to try to criticize him.

SIMMONS: But they're going to need Raphael Warnock and the people who are up next year sooner than they need Joe Manchin, right? Like if Warnock loses, the majority is over.

SIDDIQUI: Well, I think some of the frustration that you often see from progressives is that this debate is framed as if they are putting forth some radical solutions when, you know, if you were to put this bill on the floor, the majority of Democrats in both the House and Senate would actually vote for $3.5 trillion.

And so you actually heard President Biden himself a couple of weeks ago although I think he's moderate his tone a little bit say this is actually two senators versus the rest of the party. So he actually did try and up the ante as well on Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin. And progressives often like to make the case and was effective to do an op-ed in West Virginia, that's debatable.

TAPPER: Right.

SIDDIQUI: But that these provisions are popular. They poll well. And so, you know, I think they feel that Sinema and Manchin are catering to people who wouldn't necessarily vote for them anyway.

CHAREN: But you say they're popular, but people don't know what's in the bill.

TAPPER: Right.

CHAREN: When you --

SIDDIQUI: The bill hasn't been written yet.

CHAREN: -- go out and say do you like -- exactly. So that's one problem. It hasn't been written.

TAPPER: People aren't really paying attention. I mean, we have -- CNN --

CHAREN: Well, They haven't been selling it all.

TAPPER: I don't disagree with that, but CNN, we, I mean, I'm sure you two have been doing this. I know I have and I'm sure you guys have, too. But we've been describing what's in the bill. People aren't that engaged. They're not really paying attention, I don't think.

KUCINICH: And the -- we haven't even gotten into where there is go to be even further divisions most likely in the Democratic Party because once you have to start removing some of these programs that are popular among progressives, among the American people, what do you remove? Is it child care? Is it Medicare? Bernie Sanders says, heck no! We're not going to do that.

CHAREN: If the whole thing went down and the administration had just focused on getting the virus under control and passing a big infrastructure bill, they would be in good shape.

TAPPER: Well, they were, except the progressives said we're not going to pass the infrastructure bill unless we get all this --

CHAREN: I know. And that was -- I know. And that put the whole party in danger.

SIMMONS: But they --

TAPPER: So, Jamal, let me -- and I do want to ask you a question about, just as a Democratic strategist, about what's going on in Virginia right now which is this weekend, Stacey Abrams and Kamala Harris, the vice president, went out there to help McAuliffe campaign, engaging black church congregations and of course, to get voters to the polls. Do you -- I mean, this seems like a very tight race and a very losable one for Democrats.

SIMMONS: Oh, every operative I know that's working on any race in that state is saying it's very tight. You know, Sunday was the first souls to the polls Sunday in Virginia ever so that's why you saw all that activity happening over the weekend.

TAPPER: Oh, they've never done it before? SIMMONS: No, they hadn't done it before.


SIMMONS: And so now you've got also 370,000 people have voted -- voters have voted since early vote started in September 17th as of October 14th. That was a week or so old. That is already ahead of where they were in 2017. What people are saying is if Terry McAuliffe is going to win, he's going to win because of the early vote efforts and Democrats are focused intently on it.

TAPPER: And we only have a little bit like 30 seconds, but I know you wanted to say something about the death of General Colin Powell.


SIMMONS: I did. I just want to make sure that people -- his life obviously is the big -- is a big moment and us marking it is very important. I want (inaudible) to make sure we think about, how does Collin Powell got there? How we got a Collin Powell, right?

He became chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff because there were two interventions that mattered. One is the Carter administration made sure that they found African-American generals who could get promoted back in the 1970s and that's how he got his first star.

The second is when he had a mistake when he was at -- or he had a sort of falling down, when he was a one-star general. There were two generals who came to his aid. One was Latino, the first Latino four- star in the U.S. Army. The second one was General Becton, an African- American. Cavazos and Becton.

They intervened and made sure Colin Powell had another chance to prove what he could do which is how he got his second star in the military. He writes about it a little bit in his book. It's also written about other places. I can say all that to say this. It's been 28 years since Colin Powell was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Today according to "The New York Times," there are only two African- Americans among the 41 most senior military officials in the -- on all four branches of the military. If we are going to have another Colin Powell, we have to have more diversified leadership and that means people need not only the opportunity to succeed but the opportunity to fall down and get back up.

TAPPER: Representation matters and it's not over. It's not done. Colin Powell didn't end the need for it. Thank you so much. Appreciate it. Thanks to everybody.

Coming up next, defending the dossier. The man behind the document at the center of so much political drama speaks out for the first time. Stay with us.


[17:30:52] TAPPER: Breaking news, the U.S. State Department watchdog is launching a series of new reviews into the United States withdrawal from Afghanistan. CNN's Kylie Atwood live for us at the State Department. Kylie, what exactly is the Inspector General going to look into?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So the acting State Department Inspector General has alerted congressional committees that the State Department Inspector General is going to be essentially looking into a number of reviews. They're calling these oversight projects into the Biden administration's chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.

They're going to focus on four specific thing, the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Program, the processing of Afghans to become refugees here in the United States, the resettlement of both those SIVs and of those Afghan refugees here in the United States, and also the planning and the execution of the chaotic withdrawal from the embassy in Kabul and also the withdrawal of all of those Americans and all of those Afghans that came out in that evacuation.

Now, the Acting Inspector General said that she is letting Congress know about these projects for two reasons. First of all, because there's been extraordinary interest on this topic from these congressional oversight committees, and secondarily, because there's going to have to be a lot of coordination with other inspector generals, indicating that she will be talking to the inspector generals from the Department of Defense and potentially from the Intelligence Community. This is just the beginning of what we're seeing with regard to doubling down on looking closely at what happened with that withdrawal. What could have gone better, or what didn't go so well.

And we expect that we'll learn more about this, but it is really extraordinary that they're letting Congress know about their active work, because traditionally, the Inspector General says when we are doing ongoing probes, we're not going to let folks know what we're looking into. Here, they're charting a different path. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Kylie Atwood at the State Department for us. Thank you so much.

Turning now to our politics lead, it is filled with salacious claims about Donald Trump. And it was part of a dramatic period of time that ended with Special Counsel Robert Muller's investigation before -- and testimony before Congress. I'm talking, of course, about the infamous Steele dossier.

And now the former British spy behind that document, which was shared with the FBI, a document that claimed Russian officials held compromising information on Donald Trump. Now that former spy speaking out and defending his work in a new interview with ABC News.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC HOST: Most of the world first heard your name about five years ago, but you stayed silent up until now. Why speak out now?

CHRISTOPHER STEELE, FORMER BRITISH INTELLIGENCE OFFICER: I think there are several reasons. I think the first and most important is that the problems we identified back in 2016 haven't gone away and arguably who actually got worse, and I felt it was important to come and set the record straight.


TAPPER: CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider joins me now live. And Jessica, did Mr. Steele provide any evidence to back up the details in his dossier?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: He didn't at all, Jake. You know, despite billing this, this first TV interview that he's done as a chance to set the record straight, Christopher Steele actually didn't provide any proof as to a lot of those claims that he made in that salacious dossier, but he did address head on two of the most contentious and as yet unproven claims. The first one that he stands by is that Michael Cohen, the President's former fixer, former attorney, who ended up going to prison, that he traveled to Prague during the election to meet with Russian officials. It's something that Michael Cohen has repeatedly denied.

And then of course, Christopher Steele address the infamous P-Tape that he says shows Donald Trump in 2013, in that hotel room at the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow with prostitutes. Now, this tape, of course, has never materialized. The former president denies it exists, but still stands by the fact that he believes it might exist, even though the Department of Justice Inspector General said in their report in 2019, that one of the sources for saying that there was this tape actually came out to really be not not truthful, perhaps.

And this is what Steele said as to that. Take a listen.


STEPHANOPOULOS: One of your main collectors who spoke to the Inspector General said that especially the compromise was word of mouth and hearsay, conversations with friends over beers, it was just talk.


STEELE: If you have a confidential source and that confidential sources blow noise uncovered, that confidential source will often take fright and try and downplay and underestimate what they've said and done. And I think that's probably what happened here.


STEELE: I think anybody that's named in this contact, particularly if they're Russian, has every reason to be afraid.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you stand by the dossier?

STEELE: I stand by the work we did, the sources that we had, and the professionalism which we applied to it.


SCHNEIDER: So, Jake, you hear there Christopher Steele refusing to back down from the allegations that were put forth in that salacious dossier. What was interesting at the end of the interview, he was asked by George Stephanopoulos if Donald Trump could potentially pose a national security threat, if he were to run in 2024, Christopher Steele answered, yes, potentially, of course, that's because he says it pertains to what he wrote in the dossier and then, of course, the threats that Russia still poses when it comes to election interference.

TAPPER: On that Michael Cohen prog thing we reported in 2017, CNN reported that a government official told us that they thought it was a different Michael Cohen --


TAPPER: -- that went to prog and Steele --

SCHNEIDER: And everyone says if Michael Cohen has been so spoken out, why wouldn't he just own up to that --

TAPPER: Right.

SCHNEIDER: -- had happened?

TAPPER: Bizarre.


TAPPER: Jessica Schneider, thanks so much.

Just as we started thinking, the Delta variant was in our rear-view mirror, a warning now about a new variant sending COVID cases soaring across the pond. Details next.



TAPPER: In our health lead, police officers and their unions are holding the line against vaccine mandates from coast to coast. We just learned that more than a third of Chicago's police force defied the city's mandate by not reporting their status by Friday's deadline. Massachusetts is 600 state police officers short because of its mandate, and the Seattle police union president tells the Associated Press that there could be a, quote, mass exodus ahead of that city's mandate midnight tonight.

Joining us now Dr. Paul Offit, the director of the Vaccine Education Center, Children's Hospital, Philadelphia. Dr. Offit, this is obviously a very serious issue for the safety of cities if officers get laid off or suspended. But it's also a serious health issue for the officers themselves. Take a listen to your friend, Dr. Fauci. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER ON COVID-19 TO THE PRESIDENT: What police officers die of COVID than they do another causes of death. So it doesn't make any sense to not try to protect yourself, as well as the colleagues that you work with.


TAPPER: I know that you support vaccine mandates, and I presume that you support them for police officers. How do you balance this if you're a mayor, and a third of the force is not going to show up? I mean, that's a public health issue too.

DR. PAUL OFFIT, DIRECTOR OF THE VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: No, it's -- if you had to pick the profession, it's actually most at risk of suffering from this this virus or being hospitalizes by this virus. It's interesting, not healthcare workers, it's police officers because healthcare workers are always very conscious of wearing masks, trying to distance the degree that they can.

Here, you have a group that's constantly interacting with the public and public that often is -- in areas that are relatively under vaccinated. They need to protect themselves. But what do you do? What do you do when you can't get someone to get a vaccine that will protect them as well as everyone they come in contact with? This is an at-risk group who's refusing to do the one thing they can do to save their own lives.

TAPPER: Former FDA Administrator Dr. Scott Gottlieb tweeted about a new quote Delta plus variant. He says, "U.K. reported its biggest one- day COVID case increase in three months just as the new Delta variant. This is not a cause for immediate concern, but a reminder that we need robust systems to identify and characterize new variants." Why is it hard to study these new variants?

OFFIT: Because, you know, you want to make sure that they're occurring in areas where you can very quickly identify the sequence and see what sequences have changed to allow them to be more transmissible. I mean, we have had basically three variants. The first, a virus that raised its head in Wuhan was not really the variant. The first virus that left China was the first variant, the so-called D614G variant, swept across Asia, swept across Europe, swept across the United States, killed hundreds of thousands of people here, replaced by the Alpha variant, which was more contagious than replaced by the Delta variant which is particularly contagious.

I mean, the Delta variants contagious index approaches chickenpox, which is a highly transmissible virus. So, frankly, I can't imagine a virus that's much more transmissible than the Delta variant. Hopefully, we won't have to find out.

TAPPER: You're on the FDA Vaccines Advisory Committee, I just want to ask you about this mixing and matching booster doses issue. Somebody gets two Pfizers and then for their booster, gets a Moderna or whatever. If you had to vote on mixing and matching booster doses today, would you vote yes?

OFFIT: Well, again, it all depends on the data. You want to have robust data so that people can feel comfortable that if you're saying get a Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and then boost with mRNA containing vaccine, that you have clearly evidence of a higher neutralizing antibody titer, et cetera. And so, those studies are currently being done. I hope that we can get them in hand soon because I think the public really needs direction on exactly how to proceed here.

TAPPER: The FDA should rule on the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson booster shots any day now. You are warning of this, quote, third-dose fever last week. With all the data showing waning immunity, why shouldn't everyone, of every age group rushed to get their booster dose?

OFFIT: Well, so the question is, what's the goal of a vaccine? If the goal of the vaccine is to prevent serious illness, meaning the kind of illness that causes you to seek medical attention to go to the hospital or to the ICU or worse, these vaccines are holding up very well, all of them. Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson are holding up very well in protection against serious illness.


What happens over time, though, as your neutralizing antibodies decrease which is true of any vaccine, then you start to see more asymptomatic infection, mildly symptomatic infection. The question is, how important is it to protect against that? Because if we're going to try and protect against that, the third dose may not be the last dose because even after the third dose, you're going to have some waning of protection.

So I can see where this is really confusing for people. For most vaccines, most vaccines don't do a very good job at preventing asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic infection. We're holding this vaccine to a higher standard because when you get a flu vaccine, for example, and you get an asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic infection, you don't get a PCR test and then a quarantine for 10 days. I think that's one of the big differences.

TAPPER: I want to switch gears to the death of retired General Colin Powell. You have a lot of thoughts about how COVID impacted his cancer battle and vice versa, how his fight with cancer impacted his fight with COVID. And how anti-vaxxers are, once again, ignorantly, ghoulishly, using his death to push their inaccurate agenda about the efficacy of the vaccine.

OFFIT: Yes. When people ask me the question, you know, what's the worst thing anti-vaccine activists can say? I think the worst thing they say is when they say, "What do you care what I do? You're vaccinated."

Well, look at Colin Powell. I mean, Colin Powell is a man in his mid- 80s. He has multiple myeloma which is a cancer of your immune system. He likely was being treated with agents which also decreased his immune response. So despite two doses, he was someone who wasn't going to develop a very good immune response. So he needed those people around him to protect him.

I mean, you know, when people say, "What do you care what I do? You're vaccinated," it makes two incorrect assumptions. One, that vaccines are 100 percent effective, which is to have no vaccine. And two, that everyone can be vaccinated, which is not true of people like Colin Powell.

TAPPER: Yes. No, it's a real shame. Dr. Paul Offit, thank you so much. Appreciate your time today.

Coming up, Donald Trump and the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, under oath today for the first time as the ex-president. We'll find out why next.



TAPPER: Breaking news in our politics lead, former President Donald Trump just filed a lawsuit to keep secret records related to the deadly January 6 insurrection. And the House Special Committee investigating the Capitol attack asked for the documents, Trump requested that the Biden White House assert executive privilege to keep those items from investigators but Biden denied Trump's blanket request leading to the lawsuit that was just filed.

This is just the newest legal issue facing Donald Trump. Today, Trump was under oath facing questions and a completely different lawsuit stemming from an incident back in 2015 when he was a candidate. The suit claims that Trump's former head of security Keith Schiller hit a protester in the head and also destroyed the signs of others demonstrating against then candidate Trump.

CNN's Kara Scannell is outside from tower where this 2015 incident occurred. And Kara, lawyers question Trump for four and a half hours today. What are they saying about his testimony?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: That's right, Jake. Four and a half hours and several years in the making. The lawyer for the plaintiffs Benjamin Dictor told reporters that the deposition began around 10:00 a.m. and ended about 2:30 p.m. He said just like anyone else, Trump raised his right hand and swore to tell the truth. Here's how Dictor described his deposition and his questions and Trump's answers.


BENJAMIN DICTOR, ATTORNEY FOR PLAINTIFF: We examine Mr. Trump concerning a variety of issues, including statements he has made at various campaign events and rallies, that council believes encouraged violence at those events or encouraged security guards to engage in violence where the confiscation of property, we secured answers to those questions. And we intend to present Mr. Trump's sworn testimony to a jury in this matter as soon as possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCANNELL: Now, the lawyer did not say he would not characterize Trump's answers whether specifically and he would not characterize whether he believed the former president's answers were truthful, saying that only everyone has seen Donald Trump on TV and he answered the questions the way you would expect them to. And his conduct was that, in those same way that he's conducted himself publicly, it's hard to read into what he means by that.

But Dictor also said that he believed that this was a victory for the rule of law, because Donald Trump did have to answer these questions after years of fighting it. And he said that in this case, it really proves that no one is above the law. Jake?

TAPPER: Kara, do you think this tape of the deposition is ever going to be made public?

SCANNELL: Well, Jake, that's what's so interesting here. This was a videotaped deposition, but it will be used at the trial. So when this goes to trial, it will be submitted as evidence. It's what the jurors will hear. Those will be jurors and Bronx, New York, just north of Manhattan.

They will hear it then and then it will become part of the public record. So we do expect to ultimately see either this videotape or a transcript of it. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Kara Scannell in New York, right outside Trump Tower. Thanks so much.

Coming up, a story of cocaine out of control hippos and birth control. I dare you not to stick around for that tease.



TAPPER: If you're one of the most feared drug lords responsible for hundreds of deaths and launching a global cocaine empire, why wouldn't you want one of the world's most dangerous animals as pets? Well, that's exactly what Pablo Escobar might have been thinking.

In the '80s, the late Colombian drug kingpin smuggled four hippos from Africa into the country to be part of his private zoo. When Escobar was gunned down and his properties were seized that hippos were left to fend for themselves around the Magdalena River. Instead of dying off, however, they've been living their best lives. The hippo population has soared to more than 100.

Now Colombian officials will start to chemically sterilize the animals. Researchers say because the hippo has an unlimited food source and no large natural predators in Colombia, those animals are now permanently damaging the environment, not to mention the threat to humans.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the TikTok at JakeTapper. You can tweet the show at TheLeadCNN. If you ever miss an episode of THE LEAD, and you're on the subway, driving home, you can always listen to THE LEAD wherever you get your podcasts.

Our coverage now continues with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer. He is right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." See you tomorrow.