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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Biden Admits Inflation Crisis Facing Americans Is "Worrisome"; Federal Appeals Court Gives Trump Temporary Win, Pauses Release Of Documents To January 6 Committee; Former Biden Adviser Blasts Those Who Say The Pandemic Is Over; Eco-Friendly Colorado Neighborhood Was Supposed To Be Global Example, Until New Developer Moved In; Biden Reveals Actions On Health Exposures To Military. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired November 11, 2021 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Michael B. Jordan, Brad Pitt, Paul Rudd. Nice guy, though.
THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: So you're likely going to lose weight this Thanksgiving but it will be from your wallet.
THE LEAD starts right now.
An about-face on the bloated price of almost everything, what the White House is now saying about how long we're going to have to pay more.
After the shooter sobbed and the judge stole the spotlight new drama is the defense wraps up in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial in Kenosha.
Plus, the green American neighborhood where electric bills are six bucks a month and herds of goats mow your lawn but will neighbors be able to keep developers off their greener pastures?
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
We're going to start with our money lead and a change of tone from the White House as it acknowledges the rising prices most of us are experiencing that they have downplayed will likely last much longer than originally expected.
For weeks, President Biden has promised Americans the inflation is only temporary but now is admitting the higher prices are slowing down the economic recovery from emergence out of the coronavirus pandemic, and top Biden officials are conceding it could be middle to end of next year, 2022, before we begin to see any improvement on prices at the store.
Just this week the bureau of labor statistics released data showing since last October 2020, gas prices have risen 50 percent. Bacon and beef are up 20 percent. Eggs, furniture, televisions all up double digits. The White House is scrambling to find new solutions convening frequent meetings of top economic experts.
But as CNN's Phil Mattingly reports, President Biden is learning a tough lesson about how presidents get blamed for all events under their watch.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden visiting Arlington National Cemetery to honor America's veterans.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our veterans represent the best of America. You are the very spine of America.
MATTINGLY: As his White House scrambles behind the scenes to push back on an acute threat to economic recovery and his domestic agenda.
BIDEN: Everything from a gallon of gas and loaf of bread costs more and it is worrisome.
MATTINGLY: Biden now convening regular internal meetings as inflation hits a three decade high, a window into the political and policy threat emanating from across the board price increases now driving a clear public messaging shift.
BIDEN: I'm here to talk about one of the most pressing economic concerns of the American people, and it's real, and that is getting prices down.
MATTINGLY: All part of a frantic effort to address a combination of supply chain bottle necks and post pandemic demand surge, driving a reality largely outside of Biden's control.
BIDEN: Today's announcement has the potential to be a game changer.
MATTINGLY: A push to push southern California ports to 24/7 operations easing some pressures, but a record with 111 container ships still sitting in wait outside the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, according to data from the Marine Exchange. The latest inflation acceleration stunning Biden's economic team sources tell CNN with higher costs across the board including gas up 49.6 percent, rental cars up 39.1 percent, furniture up 12 percent, and meat, eggs, poultry, and fish up 11.9 percent. Even after Biden said this in June.
BIDEN: The overwhelming consensus is going to pop up a little bit and then go back down.
MATTINGLY: And this in July.
BIDEN: These disruptions are temporary.
MATTINGLY: Beyond the economic and political pain the numbers posing a very real threat to Biden's agenda with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin a key centrist holdout, long worried about inflation, tweeting, quote, Americans know the inflation tax is real. D.C. can no longer ignore the economic pain Americans feel every day.
It is a warning shot as the White House enters the final negotiations over Biden's $2 trillion economic and climate bill where a single Democratic no vote in the Senate would kill the backbone of Biden's domestic agenda known as Build Back Better
RON KLAIN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I think Senator Manchin's concerns make the strongest possible case for Build Back Better.
MATTINGLY: And, Jake, one thing I picked up from congressional Democrats over the last 24 hours is concern that the inflation numbers will end up over shadowing the president's big infrastructure win just a week after its passage. The White House officials made clear they are going to do everything they can to make sure that doesn't happen. The president will hit the road next week on Tuesday heading to New Hampshire, Wednesday to Michigan, two critical swing states all following a major signing ceremony on Monday, Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Phil Mattingly at the White House, thanks so much.
Biden's headache is a downright migraine for millions of Americans especially in the heartland where heating bills could double this year.
CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich is in Des Moines, Iowa.
Vanessa, what are Iowans telling you about how the rising prices have impacted their daily lives?
VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Well, the number one issue we are hearing from Iowans is this rising energy crisis they are facing to heat their homes.
One gentleman told us instead of turning the furnace on these last couple nights as it has been chillier here he's actually decided to just light the fireplace, put more blankets on and more clothes during the day.
And rising food costs. We ran into a gentleman at the supermarket who said he was there to just simply peruse the aisles but when he realized the cost of bacon was up 20 percent in the last year, he grabbed it in bulk and is putting it in the freezer to save it couple and save a couple cents on the dollar.
Here is how he described the rising costs across the board.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN HOSKINS, LIVES IN ANKENY, IOWA: We're all hard working, middle class folks, so we can't go too far out of our means to make ends meet. But you still got to eat, still got to live.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YURKEVICH: Now, if you can see just behind me, Jake, gas over $3 a gallon here in Des Moines, Iowa. That's up more than a dollar since last year. We spoke to a gentleman who was gas station price hopping. He went to one gas station and said he saw it was $3.40 a gallon, decided that was too much. Moved on to another gas station where he says it was about $3 a gallon so he felt much more comfortable paying that.
But it just shows how these rising prices are really affecting Americans in their every day lives and how they have to be much more thoughtful about how and where they spend their money. Jake?
TAPPER: All right. Vanessa Yurkevich, thank you so much.
Let's discuss this with CNN global economic analyst and associate editor for "The Financial Times," Rana Foroohar, and Seung Min Kim, White House reporter for "The Washington Post", and a pride of Iowa, I might add.
Rana, let me start with you. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has pointed to the middle to end of 2022 when inflation rates may improve.
Do you really think it might take that long mid to late next year before Americans start to see relief in these prices?
RANA FOROOHAR, CNN GLOBAL ECONOMIC ANALYST: I think it's possible, but you have to remember we have come out of a really unusual period. This is not a normal bout of inflation. We had a global pandemic. Everything stopped. Then it had to ramp back up.
So, it's going to take time to work out those dislocations. But I think what's interesting is there are a lot of factors in play. On one hand, you know, you got labor shortages, you got supply chain things. Those will ease out. On the other hand, you have low interest rates still pushing up housing prices. But you also have technology allowing people to work in many other places. That's disinflationary.
So, there's a lot in play. I don't think anybody has a sense yet of when the exact cut-off date is going to be for inflation. I don't think we're headed back to a decade though like the '70s.
TAPPER: Right, and it was, you know, much higher in the '70s. But still, people are hurting.
Why do you think, Sunlen? Why do you think it took this long for President Biden to pivot away from the idea he kept on trying to reassure people it is temporary, temporary. Now they're understanding, it could last longer than they thought. Why did they not realize how bad it was?
SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it really hit them in a way they didn't expect. Like sources told Phil and us at "The Washington Post" that the White House was kind of caught up by the report yesterday showing the highest rate of inflation in three decades. TAPPER: Six-point-two percent in a year.
KIM: Right, right, right. So, that is why you saw the really distinctively different language from President Biden yesterday where he told consumers, hey, bread is more expensive. Gas is more expensive. I hear you. It sucks. We're going to try to do something about it.
And that was a very deliberate, very much addressing it head on. This is something consumers are feeling right now and that Biden and the White House has to show the public that they are doing something about it or trying to.
TAPPER: And, Rana, we know the White House is convening these meetings with economic advisers. Some of these issues, of course, stem from global supply chain problems. We've seen these massive backups at California ports, if we can show that video, even after Biden directed the ports to operate 24/7, he was saying it was only going to take 90 days, but the guy in charge of the port told us until 2022.
What can -- what else can the White House do to make a difference not just at the ports but on inflation?
FOROOHAR: Well, I do think longer term that the infrastructure bill is going to help. You know, in the short term it can cause inflationary pressures to have more building but longer term think about it. More port capacity. Better roads. Better transportation. Better training for workers to help bridge some of the labor shortages. So that is one thing.
But, you know, businesses are taking action, too. The biggest companies -- Amazon, Walmart, Target, are buying their own containers, using artificial intelligence to have automated boats, shipping things.
So, again, technology could prove to be a little bit of an inflation dampener.
TAPPER: And, Sunlen, some Democrats point to these economic strains as one of the reasons why Terry McAuliffe lost the governor's race, the Democrat last week in Virginia not to mention Phil Murphy, incumbent Democratic governor in New Jersey almost losing. He came a lot closer to losing than anyone thought.
What kind of impact might this have on the mid-term elections in 2022 which traditionally the party out of power usually has a good year. They could be bolstered even more.
KIM: Right. You are seeing Republicans really go on the attack over these rising prices, over rising gas prices, to make their case that the party in power is not doing the job.
So what Democrats can do now is for example push their agenda that they say will help ease prices, will help voters that -- will help show voters that Democrats are delivering for the American people.
But Democrats are facing a tough mid-term election already. Obviously, historically, the party -- the president's party suffers usually in his first midterms. You've got a lot of redistricting Republicans alone may use to gain power in the House of Representatives. If voters are still feeling this way about the economy it is going to be a very tough midterm elections for the Democratic Party.
So, what they are trying to do now, pass the Build Back Better agenda and a host of other things. They hope it will do the trick next year.
TAPPER: All right. Sunlen, Kim, Rana Foroohar, thanks to both of you for being here.
Breaking news, just moments ago, a major ruling in Donald Trump's fight to keep his secret documents secret. Also ahead, no sobs but plenty of courtroom drama in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial today.
Then fire pits filled with everything from military vehicles and human waste now at the center of a White House effort on this Veterans Day. Why some say it is not nearly enough. That's coming up.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
TAPPER: We have some breaking news for you now. A federal court of appeals has just handed a temporary victory to former President Trump in his effort to keep documents from his presidency shielded from the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th Capitol insurrection.
Let's get straight to CNN's Paula Reid.
Paula, break down exactly what this means.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: So, Jake, this panel of three judges has granted former President Trump's request to delay the hand- off of some records from his time in the White House related to January 6th to the house select committee investigating the insurrection. Now, the National Archives inherited Trump's records once he left office and they were scheduled to hand off some of the documents to the house select committee by tomorrow at 6:00 p.m.
But former President Trump and his lawyers asked the court of appeals to delay that hand-off while they appeal a lower court decision that ordered that as a former president, he does not have the power to keep secret records that the current president wants released.
So, this is a really interesting case and raises novel questions about presidential privilege. And then in this order, we've learned that oral arguments on this subpoena are scheduled for November 30th.
TAPPER: All right. Paula Reid, thank you so much with that breaking news.
Turning now to the national lead, one day after tearful testimony in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial and the judge scolding the prosecution, the defense followed up with a use of force expert who analyzed video of shootings in August, 2020. A police officer who collected evidence the next day also testified along with a freelance commentator who captured one shooting on video.
Rittenhouse was 17 years old when he took guns and ammo to protests in the immediate aftermath of the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Rittenhouse testified he was trying to protect a nearby car dealership. He now faces homicide charges in the killings of two men and attempted homicide for shooting a third man who survived.
CNN's Omar Jimenez is in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where this trial is happening.
And, Omar, questions of one of the witnesses' alleged perceived bias was one of the focal points of the day.
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake. From the outside of this trial, politics have been nearly unavoidable. But on the inside of the trial, the judge has done his best to keep all of that out of this. Today, though, it sort of crept out of the back drop of things in the form of defenses, a self-described freelance commentator on the streets of Kenosha that night.
Take a listen to this exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever posted anything on social media?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In support of Kyle Rittenhouse?
WITNESS: One could argue yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your videos that you have captured of these incidents that you call riots, they are very slanted against the people who are rioting. You characterized them as Antifa, Black Lives Matter rioters, correct?
WITNESS: Because they are rioting in the footage, yes, absolutely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JIMENEZ: Now, the prosecution tried to keep pushing further but the judge emphasized this was not going to be a political trial. The witness was brought forward in the first place by the defense to contrast between Joseph Rosenbaum the first of the two people killed back in August, 2020, by Rittenhouse. He testified that he was acting very aggressively and charged Rittenhouse that night compared with Kyle Rittenhouse who he testified was acting very peacefully and even deescalating situations over the course of that night. Now, moving forward or I should say if yesterday was the most dramatic day of testimony, today began as the most technical day of testimony as the first witness that was brought up meticulously went through the timeline of what happened that night. We learned that it happened very quickly from the first of the four shots that went into Joseph Rosenbaum to the last that went into the arm of Gaige Grosskreutz. It took a minute and 20 seconds for all this.
We are on the verge of the defense resting its case and we are watching to see when that would wrap up. The prosecution indicated they'll have a brief rebuttal but we are in the final stages before it lies in the hands of a jury to make the decision, Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Omar Jimenez in Kenosha Wisconsin, thank you so much.
We are also following the trial of three white men charged with killing black, unarmed jogger, Ahmaud Arbery in February, 2020. Today, jurors in Brunswick, Georgia, saw home surveillance videos showing Arbery walking around an empty construction site. The owner of the site made multiple calls to 911 reporting intruders.
CNN's Martin Savidge is outside the courthouse.
Martin, what did we learn today?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, this was a key witness. Larry English is the owner of the home under construction is the way it is described. That is the home that appears to have been the source of so much tension and concern in the community in the lead-up to the chase and eventual killing of Ahmaud Arbery.
What we know is that Larry English said he put surveillance cameras out there because he was concerned. He knew a lot of people come and go on a construction site and was worried about liability. It did capture on a number of occasions an African-American male on the property at night but Larry English time and time and time again when pressed by the prosecution said that he never saw that man take anything or do anything on that property.
Yet it was Ahmaud Arbery's presence leaving the property on February 23rd, 2020, that triggered the whole chain of events that led to the three defendants now on trial for his murder.
One of the biggest debates of the day came actually after or outside of the jury's presence. And it's when the defense attorney for -- Larry Gough (ph) jumped up and complained about Reverend Al Sharpton having been in the courtroom the day before in the public area. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN GOUGH, ATTORNEY FOR WILLIMA "RODDIE" BRYAN JR.: Obviously, there are so many pastors they can have. If their pastor is Al Sharpton right now, that's fine. That's it. We don't want any other black pastors coming in here or Jesse Jackson or whoever was in here sitting with the victim's family trying to influence the jury in this case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: The judge basically said, it's public space. Anyone can come in here as long as they fit the decorum of the court, Jake.
TAPPER: That is quite a statement in a Georgia trial in 2021.
Martin Savidge, thank you so much.
SAVIDGE: Yeah. We don't need any more black pastors.
TAPPER: Yeah, exactly.
Learning to live with it. The next phase of COVID may be here already. What it could mean for you, your kids, and for masking.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our health lead today, the future of the coronavirus and the United States is here and it looks like we're going to have to learn to live with it. Cases and hospitalizations have leveled off in recent weeks and the CDC forecast does not show it changing any time soon. But don't say the pandemic is over, because it is not.
Former coronavirus senior adviser to President Biden, Andy Slavitt, took his frustration over the issue to Twitter writing, quote: one too many smart people has told me or said on TV this week that the pandemic is over. It is still here. There are still 1,200 people dying every day. That's a rate of 440,000 deaths a year.
Joining us now to discuss, CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
Sanjay, Slavitt went on to say, quote, the signs people look at aren't really signs to be clear when cases dip it is not over. When boosters come it's not over. When kids are vaccinated it's not over. When therapies are approved, it's not over.
Okay. Point made. Point taken.
But on Sunday, the former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said, quote, we're close to the end of the pandemic phase of this virus. So how do you reconcile this?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think we've known basically since pretty close to the beginning given the contagiousness of this virus and that was even pre-delta, that this was likely a virus that was here to stay. It was that contagious.
And, you know, some of the remnants of the 1918 flu virus, some of the great descendents of that virus still circulate today. I think what Gottlieb was saying, the rest of his quote from Sunday was we are maybe leaving the pandemic phase of this but entering the endemic phase of this which is basically saying, okay. Now we're in this dance that's going to be the dance between humans and coronavirus on this planet.
I think the real question I think that they're both sort of getting at here is what are we willing to tolerate? What are we willing to tolerate as a country when it comes to this particular virus? Right now, there's still 75,000 or so people being diagnosed. There's 50,000 people in the hospital, and close to 1,200 people dying every day. That is obviously too many.
So at what point do we say okay we've now got control over this? Some people like a number. Dr. Fauci has used a number fewer than 10,000 cases per day. Might mean we have control over it. It's not gone. We feel like it is in control.
And I think the bigger thing as someone who is in the hospitals quite a bit is when hospitals don't feel like they're still overwhelmed by this I think it is probably going to be a big marker, Jake. And we're not there yet.
The difference between right now on the screen as you see this point, this year compared to last year, is that things do look better. And the numbers are going in the right direction as oppose to this time last year where everything was in the wrong direction.
TAPPER: The White House says nearly 1 million children under the age of 12 have gotten vaccinated since the smaller Pfizer dose was approved. That's huge. But there are 27 million more children eligible.
In order to have safe holiday gatherings, how soon should parents get their kids under 12 the first shot?
GUPTA: Well, what I would say there's no reason to wait. You know, I mean, you got to remember, it takes about five weeks because you have to wait three weeks for the second shot and then two weeks after that before you are really considered the most protected. And so you can do the math on that but if this is for the holidays you're talking about, you have to tack on five weeks to whenever you start this whole process.
You got to remember again, you know, as we go into the cooler and drier months, there is probably going to be more viral spread. So the longer you wait if you're worried about your kids potentially contracting COVID, the higher risk they have, the more days of risk they have. So there is no reason to wait.
But, also, you know, for a lot of families I think they're going to be visiting with elderly family members, maybe vulnerable family members, maybe for the first time in sometime, probably indoors, probably without masks on. So, you know, the vaccine provides another layer of protection. If I might say, Jake, just in our own family we've also been ordering antigen tests to have in the home so we can quickly test people even if they've been vaccinated. There are situations where people might still spread the virus.
So testing on top of vaccination as we go into holiday parties and things like that, I think, offers another layer of protection.
TAPPER: Miami Dade County schools in Florida, they're making masks optional starting Friday. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf plans on lifting the K-12 mask mandate by January. New York City's Mayor-elect Eric Adams says he hopes to lift it by the end of the year. Considering that not all kids 5 to 11 are vaccinated yet, just a minority are, is this a good idea? Do you think this is premature?
GUPTA: I think it may be. I mean, you know, this is not magic. I mean, let's show the map of what is going on right now with regard to COVID spread. I realize people want to be optimistic. I do as well. And the numbers like I said are largely heading in the right direction.
But that was a weather map, Jake. We're still getting drenched in coronavirus. There's still a lot of it out there. Masks may offer some protection in terms of actually decreasing the spread.
So we're probably not there yet. I think we've also seen, Jake, with the stutter stepping about masks, if you do this, and then you have to re-implement mask policy, each time you do that it gets harder. You have to be very clear on if you're going to lift these mask requirements what the criteria are, why you're doing it.
Like I said, Dr. Fauci put a number on it for the country, 10,000 cases per day for the country. What does that translate to for your community? It is great the vaccination status is up but I think you have to look at that map almost like you look at the weather and determine, do you need your umbrella? Do you need your mask?
TAPPER: All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks so much. Good to see you as always.
Goats for lawn mowers? Electric bills only six bucks a month. This neighborhood could be a model for the rest of the world but now the home owners are gassing up for a fight.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our "Earth Matters" series with just one day to go at the international climate summit in Scotland, China, India, and 20 other countries are pushing to cut out key parts of what is supposed to be a mutual agreement for action on climate change. More proof not that we really need it that going green and staying green is far easier said than done especially when money is at stake, which brings us to our national lead today.
CNN's Bill Weir visited a neighborhood that was an eco-friendly paradise until a new developer moved in.
BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While they fuss and fight in Glasgow over the path to a carbon neutral world, this gentleman knows how hard you have to fight just to build a net zero neighborhood.
DAR-LON CHAN, GEOS COMMUNITY RESIDENT: I paid about $6 every month for electricity.
WEIR: Dar-Lon Chang is an energy pioneer, battling to settle the greenest community in America, called Geos, conceived as a clean energy utopia in the Denver suburb of Arvada. Original plans called for nearly 300 homes all powered, heated, and cooled only by what radiates down from the sun and up from the earth.
RAINER GERBATSCH, GEOS COMMUNITY RESIDENT: On a day when it is 10 degrees outside and you have the windows open by 11:00 or so, close to 70 degrees.
WEIR: It is very toasty in here.
NORBERT KLEBL, ORIGINAL DEVELOPER, GEOS COMMUNITY: Look at this. This is south.
WEIR: It's all the brain child of an Austrian engineer named Norbert Klebl who first staggered the plots in a checkerboard so that each tightly constructed home, free of drafts and leaks, would get maximum free heat from the sun.
KLEBL: We harvest the Colorado sun in the winter time. When the sun is low down there, it floats in here and heats up the entire house.
WEIR: This means you need fewer solar panels to power the house, and your cars, and eight hours of battery backup. Since gas stoves can create the same amount of indoor pollution as living with a chain smoker and since natural gas is mostly made of planet cooking methane, rule one of Geos would be no gas. All electric.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So this is the geothermal unit.
WEIR: Using liquid to bring up energy from the earth's hot core this machine heats and cools the house with virtually no pollution.
CHANG: If you go down to the core of the earth it is as hot there as on the surface of the sun.
WEIR: It is closer. It's right there. CHANG: Yes, yes.
WEIR: It's always on.
Dar-Lon believes geothermal will be the energy of the future. He should know. He spent over 15 years as an alternative fuel engineer at ExxonMobil.
CHANG: I saw no reason why we weren't using the drilling technologies to drill for hot rocks rather than drill for oil and gas.
WEIR: But the company wasn't moving away from fossil fuels fast enough for his sense of urgency. He says when hurricanes knocked power from his Houston home and his homeowners association banned solar panels, he quit, packed, and moved to the greener pastures of Geos. The 28 completed homes with goats instead of lawn mowers felt like proof of a better way.
But then Norbert was forced to sell the rest of Geos in a divorce settlement. And despite their fierce objections, the new developer is now installing gas lines for the next phase of homes.
CHANG: The story of my neighborhood being a failed experiment in building without gas pipelines is not only false but it also endangers the transition away from methane gas needed this decade to prevent one way climate change.
WEIR: Since the city council pledge to encourage more renewable energy a decade ago, Dar-Lon put on his no gas-hole shirt along with neighbors asked for their intervention.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have homes that need to be converted that already exist. But the job here with the next phase of Geos has already been done for you.
WEIR: So far, officials refuse to help Geos stay gas free. It's a lesson that while over a hundred nations led by the U.S. are pledging to drastically reduce methane emissions, all building codes are local, and small towns worry that forcing a clean transition will bring lawsuits from big oil and gas and their favorite lawmakers.
WEIR: Greg Abbott of Texas among those threatening to sue any towns that try to ban gas and new construction. Denver is going that way in a couple years, Jake. But residents tell me their best hope might be the free market. If enough like minded home buyers show up, the developer might follow that money.
TAPPER: Bill Weir, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
Medical waste, uniforms, nuclear material, human feces, all thrown in a hole and set on fire with jet fuel. That's a burn pit. Thousands of American veterans were exposed to them. Now, the Biden administration is taking action. But is it enough action?
We're going to ask a veteran who worked on the pits.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our buried lead, what we call stories we feel are not given enough attention. Today marks the first Veterans Day since President Biden ended the U.S. involvement in the war in Afghanistan and this morning, the White House announced new plans to help some veterans who have potentially been exposed to burn pits and other hazardous materials while serving in the armed forces and are suffering.
Throughout Iraq and Afghanistan burn pits were used 24/7 to incinerate all sorts of waste -- food, old uniforms, medical waste, ammunition, trucks, nuclear waste, human feces -- the kinds of pits that were not allowed to be constructed in the United States.
Now, Biden has -- President Biden has previously speculated that burn pits may have been responsible for his late son Beau's brain cancer though he has noted he can't prove it yet.
Right now, the V.A. only recognizes some illnesses associated with burn pits, making benefits that much harder for veterans to attain. Brain cancer we should note is not among them. Today's action only expanded the list to include some respiratory cancers and constrictive bronchiolitis.
Let's discuss with Isiah James. He's an army veteran. He served twice in Iraq, once in Afghanistan and is now a senior policy adviser for the Black Veterans Project and talked quite a bit about burn pits.
Thank you so much for joining us, sir.
According to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, 86 percent of post 9/11 veterans who served there say they were exposed to burn pits. You were one of those service members and worked on a burn pit. Explain to our audience what that was like and what you are experiencing now.
ISIAH JAMES, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN ARMY VETERAN: What it is like is you don't really understand what it's like. You're just doing what you're told following orders and burning everything. It's hot, it's dusty, it's disgusting.
My first deployment we had to burn human feces and my third deployment in Afghanistan we lived in the mountains and everything was dirty and we just burned everything. What I am dealing with now are the repercussions and ramifications of those actions.
You know, I have respiratory issues, lung scarring, I am on breathing treatments every single day just to be able to breathe. I'm not an aberration. I am millions of veterans across this country. TAPPER: So, John Stewart who is very active on this has a new podcast
where he interviews you and your late friend, Staff Sergeant Wesley Black, a fellow burn pit victim and activist. He had colon cancer. He died just after the interview. I want to play a little bit about what Staff Sergeant Black said
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
STAFF SGT. WESLEY BLACK: I first started arguing about burn pit legislation, thinking that I wasn't going to make a difference. You know, I was just one single voice. How much a difference can one voice make?
JON STEWART, HOST: Right.
BLACK: And as I've continued down this path, now I'm thinking more about what legacy I'm leaving behind for my son. And what my son is going to think of me in 10, 12, 15, 25 years. I hope in some small way that my choosing to stand up for what is right will forever last in his mind, you know, my dad was a good person.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
TAPPER: We should note today's move and, look, a step in the right direction, they expanded the list of diseases, but it would not have helped Staff Sergeant Black, it does not cover colon cancer. What do you think of today's move?
JAMES: Today's move like you said was a step in the right direction but quite frankly, Jake, it's a Band-Aid over a bullet wound. It is a placation move.
There are some 40 to 50 different cancers and diseases linked to these same chemicals that our soldiers were exposed to during toxic burn pits and I don't understand why there is hemming and hawing to try to get these things as presumptive diseases. We need an actual, comprehensive bill that is going to take care of veterans. We see this after every single war with every generation.
I applaud the Biden administration for taking the step in the right direction. But we need big, transformational leadership on this issue.
TAPPER: This trash, these burn pits, it's burning for 20 years, if you are a service member experiencing symptoms such as respiratory cancer, what happens now when you go to the V.A.?
JAMES: Well, right now, the V.A., first of all, should be ashamed of themselves. Second of all, it is an adversarial relationship. The V.A. is basically victim blaming, telling the service member, prove to me you got this cancer from the burn pit instead of let me treat this cancer and go on the back end and audit it.
We need a V.A. that is going to actually take the charge that Lincoln set forth to care for him and her who have borne the brunts of battle. So, right now, it's basically you're trying to pull crocodile teeth to get the V.A. to even recognize you have these diseases from the burn pits.
TAPPER: On top of all of this on this Veterans Day, we acknowledge veterans continue to struggle with mental health concern quite understandably.
Between your last two deployments, you were hospitalized in Germany. Is the government doing enough to address mental health issues when it comes to veterans?
JAMES: Absolutely not. The government in this issue, if this was a movie the government would be the villain. We spend hundreds of billions of dollars every year on the weapons and the mechanisms of war. Yet we just forget the war fighters when they come home.
Twenty-two veterans a day are killing themselves. That is an absolute travesty in the richest nation on earth. The government needs to have skin in the game. It is very easy for politicians to sit back, the ones who do not have to go, not from poor neighborhoods like I was, and they use us as cannon fodder and political grandstanding to say they support the troops.
The troops are telling you we need help. We don't want to be treated better than everybody. We don't want to be treated worse.
We just want what you promised us. We went in your name, you told us if we fought you would take care of us. Now the bill has come due.
TAPPER: With the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, there has been a renewed mental health crisis within the veteran community now that it's been a few months. What is your takeaway from how the U.S. pulled troops out of Afghanistan?
JAMES: There's never an easy way to end a 20-year conflict. I think we ended it 19 years too late. I was in Afghanistan quite frankly when we got Osama bin Laden. I was 60 miles from the Pakistan border.
I turned to my lieutenant and I asked him, sir, why are we still here if we got him? There is never a right way to end a war but we had to end it. It was always going to be messy, always going to be bloody.
You know, quite frankly, those who have never been there and served, their opinions aren't really warranted. I let the generals who are there on the ground tell me what we need to do but we had to get out. We cannot keep falling for this same thing of trying to nation build around the world. It never ends well as we can see.
TAPPER: Isiah James, you honor us by being here on Veterans Day. Thank you so much for coming. Thank you so much for all the sacrifices you have made for the rest of us. Keep up the fight. We'll keep interviewing you and bringing this to the American people.
JAMES: Thank you so, so much for having me and for using your platform to elevate this issue.
TAPPER: All right. Tell Rosie Torres at Burn Pits 360 we say hi.
TAPPER: Moments ago, the defense officially resting in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse but not before more drama erupted. That's next.
TAPPER: Welcome to the lead. I'm Jake Tapper.
A federal appeals court just ruled in a temporary win for Donald Trump as he escalates his legal fight to stop the release of his secret White House records.
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