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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Documents: Crew Member Who Handed Gud To Baldwin Told Detectives He Didn't Check All Of The Rounds Before; Poll: One In 13 Parents Will Get Their Young Kid Vaccinated Right Away; Early Voting In Virginia Surges Ahead Of Next Week Election; Trump Teases Trip To VA To Support Youngkin In Gov. Race; Taiwan President: Threat From China Is "Increasing Every Day". Aired 5-6p ET

Aired October 27, 2021 - 17:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But that won't -- that'll be determined by the crime lab. The other firearm is a plastic, nonfunctioning revolver.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New court documents released today also revealing that Assistant Director Dave halls, who handed actor Alec Baldwin the functioning gun before rehearsal, acknowledges failing to fully check the firearm. The warrant saying Halls could only remember seeing three rounds. He advised he should have checked all of them, but didn't.

The same document shows that armorer Hanna Gutierrez told investigators, "No live ammo is ever kept on set."

Halls was previously fired from another film after a crew member was injured in a gun incident, according to Rocket Soul Studios, and was the subject of complaints over safety and his behavior on the set of freedoms path and another production in 2019.

Two crew members also tells CNN that Gutierrez, the rest armorer mishandled weapons on a previous film with Nicolas Cage. Officials today stopped short of announcing whether anyone will face criminal charges.

MARY CARMACK-ALTWIES, SANTA FE DISTRICT ATTORNEY: All options are on the table at this point, it will take many more facts, corroborated facts before we can get to that criminal negligence standard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need help immediately.

ELAM (voice-over): The low budget western saw a number of issues during production with a camera crew walking off the job overpay in housing disputes the day of the tragic accident. Allegations of crew using prop weapons for target practice and cutbacks in crew onset.

RACHEL MORRISON, OSCAR-NOMINATED CINEMATOGRAPHER: Owners are being cut for, you know, pandemic reasons. But this is not this is not a corner you cut.

(END VIDEO TAPE) ELAM: Now, it's worth noting that Ross Productions has said that safety of their crew and their actors is of their top priority. We should also note that CNN has reached out to Halls and Gutierrez and we have not heard back from them.

And one new revelation that we got today as well, Jake, from this press conference was that the cameras at the time were not rolling. Some were thinking that might give an answer as to who put the bullet or whatever it was, the round, the dummy round, whatever it could have been inside of that gun. And now we know that they don't have that footage from inside of the area where they were shooting. Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Stephanie Elam in Santa Fe, New Mexico, thanks so much.

Let's talk about this with entertainment lawyer, David Albert Pierce, who also teaches classes on film safety.

David, thanks for joining us.

The sheriff said three people handled the gun before the shooting, the armorer, the assistant director and Alec Baldwin. Now we're learning from an affidavit that the assistant director admits he did not check all of the rounds in the gun before handing it to Baldwin. Who was ultimately responsible for making sure the gun was safe?

DAVID ALBERT PIERCE, ENTERTAINMENT LAWYER: Well, everybody. Safety is everybody's spot. And I'm getting some feedback here.

TAPPER: Yes, that's OK, just keep going.

PIERCE: But I have to tell you, safety is everybody's responsibility. The first day D on a movie set is primarily responsible. He's the guy that is responsible for the overall safety. That is one of his major job duties.

He is supposed to have a safety meeting every day. And he says, this is what's going on today, we're going to be in a desert, so everybody needs to drink a lot of water and be hydrated, and let's look for heat exhaustion. We're going to use a gun on the set. You know, everybody needs to be aware we're shooting blanks, but even blanks can be deadly, you know, whatever.

And certainly, he's number one on the -- responsible for safety. The armorer, that's there, one single job, protect those guns, watch those guns, keep them locked up. And every single person should check and double check.

And as I referenced yesterday, think of it when you go to a hospital and you get the hospital band that says your name and your date. And every single person you meet in that hospital, the nurse, the orderlies, the doctors, they just keep asking you over and over, what's your full name? What's your birthday? Why are you here? And it gets there, the redundancy is, oh my gosh, how many times you're going to ask, but that needs to be done to make sure the wrong leg doesn't get amputated. The same thing, every single person checks and double checks. And this is just outrageous. The fact that there were live ammunition on the set that they were goofing around supposedly, the plinking, I mean, this is just not done on traditional movie sets. And the buck ultimately stops with the producers as well.

TAPPER: Yes, what is Alec Baldwin's legal liability here, not just as the actor who fired the gun, but also as a producer on the film?

PIERCE: I think he has more liability as the potential producer -- as the producer than the actor that fired the gun. I -- But -- we after understand the hierarchy of producers. The producers or the top executives for which the buck stops here.

The equivalent -- if we looked at this as a manufacturing company, the producer are essentially the company president. So you have four copresidents on this film. Executive producers are more like the board of directors, and the unit production manager or line producer is like the plant manager. And the first A.D. is that, a, number one foreman, that is really on the front lines with the people.


The four producers that they have on this movie all really are creative producers. Generally, there's a creative producer and a more business-oriented producer. You have your Alec Baldwin who obviously is creative. You know, no one's really expecting him to be involved in the in the hiring and making sure there's compliance with all the different things.

Matt Della Pino (ph) is a manager of the director, you know, he got that credit, you know, because of that tie, a creative guy. Nathan Klinger (ph), he only became a producer in 2021. All of his credits are tied to working with a distribution company more in, in terms of I would say, possibly finance issues.

TAPPER: Right.

PIERCE: He seems to be more of a financing-oriented guy, not a physical operation. And then the last producer is also creative. He's was just the writer, is mostly his background.


PIERCE: I'm not sure if he wrote this.

TAPPER: So let me ask you, special effects departments, CGI, incredibly advanced these days. We've heard that the T.V. show, The Rookie, has announced they're no longer using any actual real guns on, you know, adjusted for such a workplace or not, they're only going to use airsoft guns and actual props, no real guns. Is there a need for real weapons on set at all given what special effects can do?

PIERCE: I'll tell you, Steven Spielberg did not have geneticists create baby dinosaurs for "Jurassic Park." And if "Star Wars" can convince people that lightsabers are real, special effects in 2021 can make it look like a realistic gun in post-production. And whatever little minor costs might be affiliated with that, I don't even think the costs are more given that to have it proper you have to have your stunt coordinator, you have to have an armor and all of that stuff.

Guns should not be on a set. Live guns should not be on a set. Airsoft guns, you know, can -- that they just shoot out a little projectile can be dangerous.

And I tell my people that even if they're using airsoft or rubber guns, treat it as a real gun.

TAPPER: Right.

PIERCE: Just treat. Do not spin it around. Your people like to play -- they're not toys, treat it as a real gun.

TAPPER: Absolutely. David Pierce, thank you so much for your expertise today. We really appreciate it.

And we have some breaking news for you now. Sources are telling CNN the Democrats are now expected to drop paid family leave from their social safety net plan after objections from moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin.

CNN's Manu Raju is live for us on Capitol Hill.

Manu, progressives had originally wanted 12 weeks of paid family leave, that's been scaled back to four weeks to get Manchin on board. Now you're hearing it's out entirely?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And it's because Manchin just was not even able to be get behind a four-week proposal. The White House made clear, President Biden made clear to progressives that he thought he could get four weeks.

That's what he said a few weeks ago. Just to try to get them on board, we had a four-week plan. But Joe Manchin has just not moved on this issue. Says he does not believe there should be a requirement for companies to give leave, either for sick leave or for with some of -- someone has a child for parental leave, for maternal leave, does not think that should be required.

As a result, this is going to fall out of the proposal. Joe Manchin, well today, I asked him specifically about pay leave. He says that quote, "It doesn't make sense to me." He said, "I just can't do it." As other social programs like Medicare and also social security at face, issues with their own solvency, he said I can't agree to expand social programs.

Now this is just one of a number of concessions that they've had to make to concede to Joe Manchin, to get him behind this, whether it's getting rid of tuition free community college, scaling back the price tag. But Jake, it's still a question about some of the other key social programs. Expanding Medicare, does that make it in there? Joe Manchin has been against that, Bernie Sanders has been pushing forward, but that may also have to go to get Joe Manchin's support. TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju on Capitol Hill for us, thank you so much.

Coming up next. It's not just COVID you have to worry about, a look at some of the side effects caused by life during a pandemic.

Plus, Democrats hoping to tie Republican candidate in Virginia to former President Trump. And Trump, while he seems eager to go along with it, what he just teased ahead. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our health lead now, shots in arms for little ones could happen as soon as next week as cases dip to their lowest points since July and hospitalizations continue to trend down. But take it with a grain of salt because 22 percent of the eligible U.S. population remains unvaccinated.

Joining us now Dr. Chris Pernell, she's a public health physician and fellow at the American College of Preventive Medicine.

Doc, thanks so much for joining us.

Today, the CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said since the start of the pandemic there have been more than 8,000 COVID hospitalizations among kids five to 11. But a Kaiser Family Foundation poll from September shows only 1/3 of parents in the U.S. plan to get their kids vaccinated as soon as possible. What's your message to parents who are not going to run out and get their kids vaccinated?


Very important question. So, what that poll also showed that there is another 1/3 that's in a category known as wait and see.


And what we know from adults and adolescents, those in the wait and see category are persuadable and movable. You just have to speak to them in plain spoken terms, we have to ensure that parents understand that the cumulative benefits of vaccination outweigh any potential risks. And we have to make sure access to vaccines for children are readily available at schools, pharmacies, as well as their pediatricians office.

TAPPER: Some parents might not fully understand, and I confess I'm one of them, why the Pfizer dose for an 11-year-old is 1/3 the size of the recommended dose for a 12-year-old, and we -- I wonder, shouldn't this be based on weight and not chronological age?

PERNELL: Right. So, vaccines are not administered based on weight like other therapeutics are. Vaccines really are based on the developmental stage or age of the immune system in a younger person. That's why you see the differences in the cut offs at the ages.

So, a parent who has an 11-year-old, regardless of size, your 11-year- old should receive the authorized dose for that stated age. And when someone progresses and achieves that next milestone, then they are eligible for the higher dose because their body is designed and is fit to be able to endure that particular level.

TAPPER: All right, interesting.

This is an interesting new study from the University of Michigan, researchers finding that the need for liver transplants soared because of heavy drinking during the pandemic. We're also learning obviously, that cigarette sales rose during the pandemic for the first time in 20 years last year. You're a doctor of Preventive Medicine. How concerning is this from a long-term public health perspective?

PERNELL: You know, it is concerning, but it's not surprising unfortunately. If you think about what we are going through and think about the worst of what we've been through, the isolation, we've seen a rash of mental and behavioral health diagnoses, whether that's in our hospitals and their emergency rooms or an ambulatory practices. People have struggled coping what most folks, our physicians and health care providers or those people or people who are stay at home, this has been difficult. There has been social, cultural, political, you name it, all types of upheaval.

Hence, you see a resorting to behaviors that are not as healthy as drinking and smoking. So we've got work to do. We've got work to do to ensure that people understand what are the bedrock actions that you can take, and how can environments support those healthy behaviors.

TAPPER: And we've seen spikes in mental health related emergency department visits as well, especially among teens during the pandemic. What can be done to prevent these pandemic side effects, given this is something for us to talk about now, because there will be another pandemics people predict, experts?

PERNELL: Yes, there will be another pandemic. It is something we know from epidemiological data. And we've got to be more prepared. When we talk about preparedness, we need to think about preparedness and mental health and behavioral health. You need to think about things like mental health first aid or emotional first aid.

We hear a lot about how do you recognize the warning signs of a stroke or the warning signs of a heart attack. But the lay public has to understand how do you recognize when a person is going through toxic stress? So they're in crisis.

And how do you refer people to resources that can help them mitigate these dangerous and very concerning times? And what do we do? What support and connectivity do we build into our normal and daily practice to be -- to help people head off, I would say, exacerbations and mood disorders?

TAPPER: All right. Dr. Pernell, good to see you again. Thank you so much. PERNELL: Oh, thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up next, a race to watch for the U.S. House of Representatives, the challenger to Congressman Matt Gaetz, who is raising eyebrows. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, a race to watch in next year's midterm elections, Florida's first congressional district. It's right there. Among the Alabama border. It has been solidly red since 1992. Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz holds a seat. He is, of course, now facing potential legal troubles and a challenger who made her name defying the law herself, Rebekah Jones, the data scientist fired in the scandal over COVID case numbers from Florida's Health Department.

Jones became something of a darling to critics of Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis. You might recall her dramatic arrest last December or her stint in jail in January. But since then, Jones has been suspended from Twitter. And to CNN's Tom Foreman reports, she's running for Congress in a contest full of drama.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cruel, corrupt and criminal, just some of the names being flung at Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz by Rebekah Jones, who is running to take Gaetz seat.

REBEKAH JONES, (D) FLORIDA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: All I've ever wanted to do was help people.

FOREMAN (voice-over): But her campaign as a Democrat is complicated.

JONES: And if being a public servant right now means unseating Matt Gaetz and helping represent the people of Florida more fairly, then that's where it goes.

FOREMAN (voice-over): You may remember Jones in the early months of the pandemic when Governor DeSantis was pushing hard for business to get back to normal fast, Jones emerge from her job in the State Health Department as a fire breathing critic claiming officials were asking her to manipulate data to show less COVID impact. They hit back.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): She is not involved in collating any data. She does not have the expertise to do that.


FOREMAN (voice-over): By May of 2020, Jones was fired for being insubordinate and she says she was.

JONES: What I asked -- was asked to do was illegal and immoral, and I wouldn't do it. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They have a gun out.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Then her story grew wild. In December, State Police guns drawn raided her family's home on suspicion Jones had improperly access to stage messaging system after her firing, urging other workers to expose alleged COVID denialism. She denied that, and once again went after DeSantis.

JONES: This is just a very thinly veiled attempt of the governor to intimidate scientists and get back at me while trying to get to my sources.

FOREMAN (voice-over): In January, she was charged with computer related offenses anyway and turned herself in, telling reporters.

JONES: I've been tested COVID positive you guys, so.

FOREMAN (voice-over): A Democrat appointed by DeSantis to handle much of the COVID response has said Jones was running a disinformation campaign for her hundreds of 1000s of Twitter followers, a notion echoed by other political watchers who paid her as more disgruntled employee than whistleblower. Twitter has suspended her account. She has filed and withdrawn a lawsuit against the state over the whole affair.

And now she has insisted, even in Matt Gaetz's deeply read congressional district where he's facing allegations of sex trafficking, which he denies, she can and must win.

JONES: I've got two kids, I had a career, like I can't get hired anywhere. No one wants to hire a whistleblower.


FOREMAN: Look back at the last year and a half of her life, and that's what a lot of this is, explosive claims and impassioned denials. And what any of this means to her campaign hopes, well, who knows, Jake. But we do know this, subsequent reporting has shown that Florida has tried to at very least contain numbers that might make the state's pandemic response look bad.

TAPPER: Do we have any idea why she was suspended from Twitter?

FOREMAN: There's a huge debate over that. She says she posted an article in favor of her position too many times, not broke some kind of rule. Other people say no, no, it was just information you were trying to steal Twitter followers. That's another whole mess.

But this story is simply filled with things like that in all directions. And finding the truth of it all very hard.

TAPPER: All right, Tom Foreman, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

President Trump teasing your trip to Virginia. But does the Republican candidate there even want him to come? Stay with us.




JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Extremism can come in many forms, can come in the rage of a mob driven assault -- driven to assault the Capitol. It can come in a smile and a fleece vest.


BIDEN: Either way, the big lies still a big lie.


TAPPER: In our politics lead, that was President Biden going after Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin of Virginia who is often seen wearing the fleece vest and smiling while campaigning. Biden repeatedly attacking Youngkin by comparing him with former President Donald Trump questioning Youngkin's integrity, saying Youngkin embraced Trump to win the primary but now does not want to be seen with him.

We should note Youngkin has not actually himself pushed the big lie. He has said President Biden was elected fair and square though his critics say that Youngkin has played footsie with election deniers in order to win their votes calling for an audit of election machines, for example.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny joins us now live from an early voting spot in Virginia. Jeff, this is, by all accounts, an extremely tight race. But right now Biden is struggling to pass a sweeping agenda. He's seeing declining approval ratings. How is Biden's presence in Virginia being received?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, among tried and true Democrats, it's being received actually pretty well. And that is the point here. The McAuliffe campaign needs to just get out the people who voted for Biden or some share of them who voted for him last year to turn out in this governor's race. If they do that, there's a very strong chance they will win.

But among the Democrats I was speaking to certainly who took the time to turn out to that rally last evening where I was at, they are happy to see President Biden overall. Yes, there are some disagreements on policy. Yes, they want Democrats to get their act together and sort of end the gridlock and pass the agenda, but there is a sense of of enthusiasm among those core Democrats. That is why President Biden came to Northern Virginia and he won the Commonwealth by 10 percentage points.

But Jake, he won this county 80 percent of the vote. So those are the Democrats. The McAuliffe campaign is going after trying to awaken them if you came to a vote for Joe Biden last year, come to vote for Chairman McAuliffe this year. As for Glenn Youngkin, he was campaigning in Roanoke today. He accused his opponent of just bringing in all these Democrats who don't live here, saying there's no enthusiasm, but they are particularly trying to go after those Biden voters.

TAPPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much.

Let's discuss. And Alice, you just heard Biden comparing Youngkin to Trump into the big liars, the insurrectionists in some ways. But the most part, Youngkin has been trying to avoid directly being tied to former President Trump. But now it appears Trump is going to come to Virginia some way.

It's kind of unclear, but in a new statement, Trump said, quote, "Arlington, see you soon," and then Trump's Director of Communications followed up that statement with, quote, "Details will be released when appropriate". But that Trump coming to Arlington, Virginia, Northern Virginia.

That's quite the tease. We should note it doesn't say when he's coming. You know, it could be for Christmas shopping for all I know. But could this hurt Youngkin?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Potentially. Look, Glenn Youngkin has done well, very well without Trump by his side. And I think that is important to note and he is a far cry from Donald Trump. His tone and tenor and his demeanor is diametrically different than Donald Trump.


The thing they have in common is policy and I think it's humorous when we see President Biden going after Youngkin for a fleece fest, like I will take a fleece vest over an empty suit anytime. And right now McAuliffe has -- does not have the momentum. He started out with 95 percent name ID and right now he's neck and neck in the polls. And in the Youngkin campaign internals, show Youngkin ahead by two and that's because he has the message and the momentum.

And despite all these all-star surrogates out there for McAuliffe, they're not able to sell what people in Virginia aren't willing to buy. And right now, they don't have the momentum.

TAPPER: We have a Virginia voter right here, Paul Begala, a Democrat with your I Voted sticker because they have a lot of early voting --


TAPPER: -- in Virginia and I assume you voted for Terry McAuliffe.

BEGALA: I did. I -- it's a private ballot, but he's been my friend like 35 years, so.

TAPPER: But you would love Donald Trump to come to Arlington before the election, am I wrong?

BEGALA: I would and more importantly, Mr. McAuliffe, Governor McAuliffe would really like that. He's already put out a statement. The state party chair Susan Swecker, is one of the best state party chairs in America right away out with a tweet that said, Virginia is for lovers. It is not for losers. We defeated Donald Trump twice, bring him back a third time, we'll beat him again.

This is what the Democrats need because right now, the all-focus appropriately has been on the Democrats failure to pass their agenda in Washington. That depresses them.

By the way, it's an artful trick. This is hard to do. I don't think I could pull this off. It's depressing the Democratic base and alienating the swing vote that they need and inspiring the Republican base. This is hard to do all three at once. And yet somehow we've accomplished it.

TAPPER: Congratulations.

BEGALA: Yes. God bless, Donald Trump.

STEWART: Keep up the good work.

BEGALA: No, this is the thing. Now we're not going to talk about Donald Trump for the rest of this. And it is the same agenda. Mr. Youngkin did play footsie with those big lie folks talking about how -- number one priority for him was election security. He said he's going to go on offense to outlaw abortion the way they have in my beloved Texas, the way Mr. Trump wants to do so across the state.

And now he's talking about banning, Tony Morrison's books.

TAPPER: No, he's --

BEGALA: The Nobel Prize winner?

TAPPER: He's not in favor of banning it.

BEGALA: He's running an ad --

TAPPER: But he ran that with a woman --


TAPPER: -- who did favor temporarily --

BEGALA: But is -- Glenn Youngkin said and he paid for it with the multimillions of dollars that he's earned as a private equity. A million.

STEWART: That is about parental involvement in the school system. And like, as much as you would love to make this about Donald Trump --

BEGALA: Yes, I would.

STEWART: -- Donald Trump is not on the ballot. Glenn Youngkin is on the ballot. He's not talking about Donald Trump --

BEGALA: Why? STEWART: -- the Democrats are. He is --


STEWART: -- because because he's out there talking about what people of Virginia --


STEWART: -- like myself are concerned with jobs, pocketbook issues.

BEGALA: No, he's at Toni Morrison. He's raised feeding on a Noble Prize winning novelist.

TAPPER: So -- well let's bring some other people into this discussion. Ayesha, before 2020, Virginia early voted lasted only seven days. And you needed to have an excuse.


TAPPER: You're going to -- you had a doctor's appointment, you're going to be at the state or whatever, out of the Commonwealth rather. But now early vote in Virginia is 45 days long. There's no requirement for an excuse. Anyone can vote by mail early. How does that change the calculus for Republicans who don't often turn out in early voting?

RASCOE: Well, the one thing that Glen Youngkin has done that also is not like Trump is that he has embraced the early vote. And he hasn't told them, you know, told his voters just come on Election Day. He is --

TAPPER: Or it's rigged.

RASCOE: Yes, or it's rigged.

TAPPER: Right.

RASCOE: He has told them to come out and try to do early voting. So that does go into his favor, that the problem for Democrats too could be that, you know, people who would normally vote on Election Day are now just kind of voting earlier than not getting more votes than they would necessarily have otherwise. And they have to make sure that they're getting young people to actually come out and vote.

So those are some of the complications that can come with early voting. I mean, more people voting, obviously, is good. But that's what they're trying to figure out right now.

TAPPER: And Zolan, usually, early voting typically favors Democrats and vote -- and Election Day voting favors Republicans. So far, there's been more than triple the early turnout than four years ago. If Democrats typically turnout early, does that mean it is necessarily safe to assume that McAuliffe is leading with the early vote?

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I mean, you can say that the Democrats right now were outpacing on early voting. But there's a couple key points, I think, to point to before we kind of get ahead of ourselves. Many of those folks that are engaging in early voting now also did it in the 2020 elections. So, it's not necessarily based off of some data, thus far, new voters necessarily that are coming forward.

Also, Ayesha just hit on a really crucial point, which is also the concern around young people going and engaging in early voting. I believe I saw one data tracker that said, just 6 percent of voters between the ages of 18 and 28, had engaged in early voting as well. So, when you look at that, there are some points for concern. And let's remember, this race here also matters a lot to some folks in Washington and in the administration, right?

TAPPER: Absolutely.

KANNO-YOUNGS: I mean, this is really a test for many folks in the White House as well as on Capitol Hill around, can the President's agenda -- I mean, you were just hinting on -- can the President's agenda also galvanize a voting of the electoral vote especially -- and, I mean, this is just the start but we're going to see more --


KANNO-YOUNGS: -- especially going towards --



TAPPER: And there are some shocking video I just want to show because, look, Republicans like Alice Stewart and Glenn Youngkin have not engaged in the big line. I think it's important to point that out. But the reason why so many people hate it is because not just that it's a lie that hurt Joe Biden feelings, but because it potentially can cause violence, as we saw January 6.

And I want you to take a listen to this. The founder of the conservative student group Turning Point USA, Charlie Kirk, recently held an event where a member of the audience asked him when Republicans should start using guns against people who, quote, steal elections. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're living under a corporate and medical fascism. This is tyranny. When do we get to use the guns? No, and I'm not -- that's not a joke. I'm not saying it like that, I mean, literally, where's the line? How many elections are they going to steal before we kill these people?

CHARLIE KIRK, FOUNDER, TURNING POINT: So no, I -- no hold on. I'm -- no, stop. Hold on. Now I'm going to denounce them and tell you why. Because you're playing into all their plans and they're trying to make you do this. That's OK. Just hear me out. What I'm saying is that we have a very fragile balance right now with our current time where we must exhaust every single peaceful mean possible. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: I mean, first of all, we -- Charlie Kirk denounces this quote unquote, but only because in that clip, because you're playing into all their plans, and they're trying to make you do this, not because you shouldn't talk about killing people, or and not, no one stolen election.

STEWART: Yes. Shame on him for not stopping that man in his tracks and saying none of that, stop that kind of talk. That's nonsense and ridiculous and dangerous and stupid.

Look, my pastor always says your feelings might be real, it doesn't mean that they are true. And people need to stop thinking that because they feel the election is not safe, and fair, that it's truly not fair. They need to get past that, they need to embrace the fact we have free and fair elections. We have integrity in our election process. And we need to move forward and get past this inciting violence and danger because you don't like the outcome of an election.

TAPPER: Amen. Alice Stewart, thanks so much and thanks to everybody here.

Coming up, Taiwan's President sitting down exclusively with CNN. What she had to say about the threat from China, that's next.



TAPPER: And we are back with our world lead. In a CNN exclusive, you heard President Biden's promised during his CNN town hall. The United States, he said, will defend Taiwan if it is attacked by China. The White House later walked back those remarks.

But now Taiwan's President tells CNN she is confident the U.S. would step up if Beijing tried to make a move on the Democratic Island. Those comments coming from the President's first international TV interview in nearly two years, where she also tells our Will Ripley, the threat from China is increasing every single day.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At this temple in Taipei, prayer and politics go hand in hand for Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen.

TSAI ING-WEN, TAIWAN'S PRESIDENT: Normally when I go to the temple, there are hundreds of people there. I will shake hands with each one of them.

RIPLEY (on-camera): People are remarkably happy at ease.

ING-WEN: You have to give them a sense that there's somebody there to take care of them.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Elected in 2016, Tsai won re-election by a landslide last year, on a promise to keep people safe from what she calls a growing threat across the Taiwan Strait.

(on-camera): Is Taiwan more safe today than it was when you became president in 2016?

ING-WEN: If it's a threat from China, it's increasing every day.

RIPLEY (voice-over): The Mainland's massive military, 2 million strong more powerful than ever. China flew 150 war planes near Taiwan in just five days this month. This democracy of more than 23 million governs separately from the mainland for more than 70 years since the end of China's Civil War, still seen as a breakaway province in the eyes of Beijing's communist rulers who have never controlled the island.

China has pressured most of the world to sever formal diplomatic ties with Taipei. Chinese President Xi Jinping says reunification is only a matter of time.

(on-camera): Are you interested in speaking with President Xi? Would you like to have more communication with him?

ING-WEN: Well, more communication would be helpful so that we would reduce misunderstanding given our differences, differences in terms of our political systems. We can sit down and talk about our differences and try to make arrangement so that we'll be able to coexist peacefully.

RIPLEY (on-camera): Your predecessor as you know, did meet with President Xi. Why do you think that things -- the communication has really gone south since 2016?

ING-WEN: Well, I think the situation has changed a lot and China's plan towards the region is very different.

RIPLEY (voice-over): That plan includes war threats over Taiwan, clashes with Japan and the East China Sea and militarizing manmade islands in the South China Sea, posing a direct challenge to seven decades of U.S. military supremacy in the Indo-Pacific. In response, the U.S. ramped up arms sales to Taiwan, selling the island $5 billion in weapons last year. President Tsai confirms exclusively to CNN, U.S. support goes beyond selling weapons.


(on-camera): Does that support include sending some U.S. servicemembers to help train Taiwanese troops?

ING-WEN: Well, yes. We have a wide range of cooperation with the U.S. airing at increasing our defense capability.

RIPLEY: (on-camera): How many U.S. servicemembers are deployed in Taiwan right now?

ING-WEN: Not as many as people saw.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Defense Department records show the number of U.S. troops in Taiwan increased from 10 in 2018 to 32 earlier this year. The State Department asked for more Marines to safeguard the unofficial U.S. Embassy in Taipei.

Any U.S. military presence in Taiwan, big or small, is perceived by Beijing as an act of aggression, state media says. When reports surfaced earlier this month of U.S. Marines training Taiwanese troops, China released this video, a training exercise targeting Taiwan independence and interference by external forces like the U.S. A warning for President Joe Biden, who vowed to defend Taiwan at this CNN town hall last week.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: So are you saying that the United States would come to Taiwan's defense --


COOPER: -- if China attacked?

BIDEN: Yes, we have a commitment to do that.

RIPLEY (voice-over): The White House later walked back Biden's comments. They seem to contradict the long-standing U.S. policy of strategic ambiguity. Leaving U.S. military involvement in Taiwan, an open question.

ING-WEN: People have different interpretation of what President Biden has said.

RIPLEY (on-camera): Do you have faith that the United States would defend Taiwan if the Mainland were to try to move on Taiwan?

ING-WEN: I do have faith, and given the long-term relationship that we have the U.S. and also the support the people of the U.S. as well as the Congress and the administration has been very helpful.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Taiwan's defense minister says China could launch a full-scale war by 2025. He says military tensions are the worst in more than 40 years.

ING-WEN: We have to expedite our military reform so that we have the ability to defend ourselves. And given the size of Taiwan compared to the size of the PRC, developing asymmetric capability is the key for us.

RIPLEY (on-camera): How prepared is Taiwan today?

ING-WEN: We are trying to make us stronger in every aspects and increase our military capability and our international support.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Support bolstered, she says, by Taiwan's critical importance to the global supply chain. The island is a world leader in semiconductors. Taiwan was Asia's fastest growing economy last year. A fact President Tsai proudly points out over lunch.

ING-WEN: This is one of my favorite foods.

RIPLEY (on-camera): All right.

(voice-over): Despite everything, she appears calm and confident.

(on-camera): You talked about how really the situation is so complex now.

ING-WEN: Yes, it is very complex. This is probably the most challenging time for people of Taiwan.

RIPLEY (on-camera): You read the outside headlines, the most dangerous place on earth.

ING-WEN: We read these reports as a reminder to us as to what's the threats that we're under and we have to get ourselves better prepared. But we're not panic, we're not anxious because we have gone through so many difficulties in the past.

RIPLEY (voice-over): She says Taiwan's future must be decided by its people. The people who've worked hard over the last 70 years to build the world's only Chinese speaking democracy, a democracy under growing threat.


RIPLEY: This is the first time in more than 40 years that a Taiwanese President has publicly confirmed U.S. troops are here on the island training Taiwanese troops. And it comes at a time that the U.S. is calling for a more meaningful role for Taiwan at the United Nations, much to the ire of Beijing, which just yesterday said it is not ruling out the use of force to reunify with this island at any costs. Jake?

TAPPER: CNN's Will Ripley with that exclusive interview. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, a federal judge has ruled in the case brought by Kobe Bryant's wife, who will now have to testify. That's next.



TAPPER: In our sports lead, a federal judge has ordered the Los Angeles County sheriff and fire chief to answer questions under oath in a lawsuit brought by basketball legend Kobe Bryant's widow Vanessa Bryant. She is suing the county over leaked photos of the helicopter crash site where her husband and daughter died. She claims the pictures were improperly shared by sheriff and fire department officials.

The lawsuit alleges that department employees took photos of bodies believed to be of her husband and her daughter and shared them with people at a bar and did other settings irrelevant to the investigation. In a deposition earlier this month, Vanessa Bryant said she and her family suffered severe emotional distress after learning about the release of these gruesome photos.

Kobe Bryant was, of course, only 41 years old. His daughter Gianna was only 13 when they, and seven others, were killed when the helicopter crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, California in January of last year.

You can follow me on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter and even the TikTok at JakeTapper. You can tweet the show at TheLeadCNN. If you ever missed an episode of the show, you can listen to The Lead wherever you get your podcasts.

Our coverage now continues with Wolf Blitzer who is right next door in a place I like to call "THE SITUATION ROOM." See you tomorrow.