Return to Transcripts main page

The Lead with Jake Tapper

Russia Widens Attack On Ukraine's Cities, Striking Western Airfields And Dnipro; Ukraine Conflict Refugees Cross 2.5 Million Mark; President Biden Bans Classic Russian Imports; Russian Businesses In The U.S. Facing Underserved Backlash; Bill Barr Defends Election Comments; U.S. Sanctions Russians Over Support For North Korea Weapons Program; Brutal Cold Follows Massive East Coast Winter Storm. Aired 5- 6p ET

Aired March 11, 2022 - 17:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD with Jake Tapper. This hour from New Mexico all the way to Maine, 65 million Americans are under winter weather alerts today in some parts of the country are bracing for a bomb cyclone.

Plus, they were popular restaurants and stores, one day, the next day they were empty because of the bigoted and idiotic anti-Russian backlash being felt by some small business owners here in the United States.

And leading this hour, breaking news, Russia now shelling a town in western Ukraine only 70 miles from the border of Poland, a NATO country, Poland, where thousands of U.S. troops are currently deployed. This as Pentagon officials now say some Russian forces are advancing deeper into Ukraine and getting closer to taking key cities. CNN's Matthew Chance is in Ukraine's capital city of Kyiv as more Russian forces close in.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPODNENT (voice-over): This is a new front in Russia's Ukrainian war, emergency workers battling flames caused by airstrikes on the central city of Dnipro. Ukrainian officials say an apartment building, a kindergarten and a two-story shoe factory were targeted and destroyed, causing casualties.

To the West, in the Ukrainian city of Lutsk, just 70 miles from NATO ally Poland, a strategic airfield also came under attack. With the invasion now in its third week, Russia appears to be widening its assault.

There are concerns of escalation too. Russian state television has been broadcasting these images, the fighters from Syria, said to be volunteering to join the fight on Russia side. The Kremlin backs the Syrian regime of Bashar Al Assad. And the scenes appeared shortly after Putin told the Security Council that foreign fighters should be invited to join in.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): So if you see people who want voluntarily without payment to come and help people living in Donbas, well, we need to meet their efforts and help them to reach the combat zone.

CHANCE: These are thugs from Syria, said President Zelenskyy of Ukraine of the country destroyed in the same way the occupiers are destroying us, he said. Later, that a Kremlin meeting with his Belarusian ally, President Putin struck a different upbeat tone, saying he'd been informed of certain positive shifts in recent negotiations with Ukraine. Though it remains unclear what those positive shifts could be.

But they don't seem to be diverting Russia from its invasion course. New satellite images suggest a massive Russian military column north of the capital cave has now dispersed with some elements reposition in the forests and countryside around the Capitol.


And these are the latest images from the besieged Ukrainian town of Volnovakha in the country's southeast, Russian troops moving through the streets, which are now reported to be under their full control. Bit by bit, Ukraine, it seems, is being overrun.


CHANCE: Well, Jake tonight we're seeing an upsurge in Russian strikes around the country, particularly in the south in Mykolaiv, a town there, which is coming under heavy Russian bombardment right now. And also throughout the evening here in the capital Kyiv, we've been hearing explosions on the outskirts, outgoing rocket and small arms fire as well as this city, the capital city braces for what could soon turn into a concerted Russian attack. Jake.

TAPPER: Matthew, explain why the Ukrainian government is now warning that Russia may try to drag Belarus further into this war.

CHANCE: Well, the Ukrainian government is saying that the Russians are staging provocations or planning to, to sort of attack Belarusian villages and towns across the border to the north of Ukraine as to provide a sort of, you know, fig leaf to get the Belarusians to join the fray. So far, they haven't done that, even though Belarus has been used as a staging post for Russian forces since this invasion began.

And it's all about, you know, trying to bring more forces to bear on the Ukrainian front lines. They were hoping the Russians, this was going to be a series of lightning strikes that Ukraine would fall quickly that hasn't happened. Now, they're asking for foreign fighters, as we saw in that report, and they're also attempting to get other countries their allies, Belarus in particular to join in.

TAPPER: Matthew Chance in Ukraine's capital city of Kyiv. Thank you so much, Matthew, please stay safe. New video just in shows a barrage of explosions during what is believed to be a Russian strike in southern Ukraine. Take a look.

This is shelling at a large apartment complex in Mykolaiv, the U.S. defense official said today. Russia has now launched more than 800 missiles at Ukraine since the beginning of its invasion, but a U.S. source tells CNN that Russia has mostly relied upon less sophisticated so called dumb bombs opposed to precision guided munitions and that choice of weapon has puzzled. U.S. officials monitoring Putin strategy.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh, he's in Ukraine, southern city of Odessa. Nick, might this intelligence help explain the types of strikes that you've seen in that region?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes, I mean, it's not enormously surprising for people who've been observing how Russia wages war normally. I mean, I think we look at how the U.S. refers to its airstrikes, they use phrases like precision, et cetera. Russia does do that. But we've seen a distinct absence of anything precise since frankly, the first opening days of this particular war.

What you've seen there in the blast against an apartment complex in Mykolaiv looks possibly like grand multi-rocket launcher systems hitting on area there. We've seen the impact of that ourselves a lot, often in the wreckage, finding what looks like the kind of cassette rocket ability to drop cluster munitions in an area like that, device often designed to maximize civilian casualties.

The issue here, Jake, is that we've clearly seen Russia not achieving its goals through some sort of first days shock and awe campaign and reverting to type reverting to, frankly, how it's always waged war, often in Syria more recently, but also in the past as well. And that's through large scale, widespread, often indiscriminate bombing, often of civilian areas, residential areas that we've seen rockets landing in a car in a vegetable patch, you name it, it essentially happens. It shows there's no actual precision nature to this.

The rockets are fired in a bid to cause panic terror, get people to leave, get people to perhaps rethink their affiliations. That's fairly common, certainly in Mykolaiv, certainly around the rest of the country. And it appears to have long been a tactic, Jake.

TAPPER: And Nick, even with heavy Russian presidents, there's growing evidence of Ukrainians really fighting back in cities such as Mariupol and Kherson, how long are they going to be able to hold back Russian forces?

WALSH: Yes, I mean, look, Kherson we heard today that from a resident that even though they'd been disputed, the contact again have had a song that's key town on the east of where I'm standing on the Black Sea coast initially fell to the Russians and fell quite quickly.

We'd seen protests there in the initial days, quite substantial protests. Now, I understand from a resident there that actually those protests do appear to have subsided to some degree. And what they now have instead is elite Russian Interior Ministry troops trying to run that particular city. Also, they're seeing local cars simply being taken by those Russian soldiers.

And so a kind of sense of not permanence to that Russian presence but sort of more civilian natured police on the streets definitely no change in the local opinion.


But an interest here I think as to exactly when does this Russian presence become permanent in an administer fashion, whether they bring in the things they need to kind of run the place and when do they stop being a military presence as essentially offensive against the local population. That's the question we haven't got the answer to yet. Jake.

TAPPER: Nick Paton Walsh in the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa. Thank you, please stay safe. United Nation says more than two and a half million people have now escaped Ukraine and made it to neighboring countries. You've seen the images of the train stations, the refugee shelters, some of these desperate journeys are unimaginable more than 44 million people lived in Ukraine before Russia invaded.

Let me show you what it looked like in the early days of the war cars lined up for miles near the border. Listen to this. It took my next guests 10 days -- 10 days to get from the capital city of Kyiv to the Polish border. And they made that journey with a newborn baby. James, who's from the U.S. and Anna, his Ukrainian wife join me now. We're not going to share their last names for their safety.

And James, it's not a good news story to flee your homes. But you're safe. We understand you tried leaving Ukraine February 20, a few days before Russia's invasion? What made it so tough? Was it the sheer number of other people trying to leave that made your journey so difficult?

JAMES, FLED UKRAINE TO POLAND: No, actually, we left Kiev on the 20th. But we basically realized that it was probably there was no room for error in terms of the warnings, the security warning. So we drove three or four hours southwest to a city called Vinnytsia, which is probably a city most people didn't know about until two weeks ago.

But we stayed there fully hoping that we would come back to Kyiv when things sort of calmed down we were optimistic about. And when the war started on the 24th, and we realized that people were going to be flooding west along with us. We try to come up with a game plan so that we could get West with our baby without, you know, being putting too much strain on her basically.

TAPPER: Yes, no, that's tough.

JAMES: So we tried to -- we were originally going to go to a city called Khmelnitsky, but the people we were going to stay with, they were sick. And we couldn't stay with them. So we decided to go a little bit further to another city called Ternopil. And it was supposed to take four hours, but we were in a, you know, obviously in a giant flow of human beings. And it took us 14 hours to get there.

And in fact, we arrived after the curfew. So the housing we were supposed to stay at was -- we couldn't even get to the housing because the person who was going to let us in, had to get back to their own home before the curfew ended. And family was nice enough to put us up there.

And after a couple of days of air raids in -- air raid sirens anyway, in Ternopil, we went to Lviv city, everybody knows now. And we went to the train station because we had tickets to see what the situation was and on. Yes, Anna checked it out and realize that basically, we wouldn't be able to cross the border as a family.

So we decided to make other plans and we drove to the border, ourselves, or we got dropped off and we ended up crossing the border on foot.

TAPPER: Unbelievable.

JAMES: Luckily, Polish volunteers had already been arranged to come pick us up, a really nice father and son drove all the way from Warsaw to pick us up.


JAMES: Just for us and brought us here, where our wonderful friend John is letting us stay at his apartment.

TAPPER: Anna, I mean, I'm so glad you guys are OK, especially Sophia. You made this journey on your with your seven-week old baby girl. That had to add not just a challenge getting to safer ground but a real, a real fear and terror. I mean about protecting your baby during this horrific situation.

ANNA: Yes, it was definitely. She never traveled in the car before so long time and she needed to be feed, change was a big, big challenge for us. But safety it was more important. She could not stay in a car seat so long. It's also not so healthy. But in general, it was priority to be safe and not to be under the bomb.

So we withdraw like five sometimes hours without taking her out from carseats. He was very worried. But we are likely among other people who are staying in Ukraine and who was in Kyiv and Mariupol as a city was like really --

JAMES: Kharkiv.

ANNA: Kharkiv bomb (INAUDIBLE) and so we was really lucky we had the luck.

JAMES: Absolutely, we feel very lucky.

TAPPER: Yes, James quickly we're running out of time but I want to give you an opportunity you're an American, your newborn daughter Sophia is thus an American.


You say you've reached out to the State Department, you say you've reached out to your senators Menendez and Booker, to get a visa. You haven't been able to. Tell Antony Blinken, the Secretary of State tell senators Booker in Menendez, what's going on, so we can get this video to them. And they help you?

JAMES: Sure. I do have to say someone in Booker's office has been in touch with us, thankfully. But we've been in touch with the State Department with the Kyiv and Warsaw embassy, and they're -- the method is simply just to log on to a website and get in line. And it's made for people trying to get a visa to come visit America. It's not made for American families that want to get home with somebody who needs a visa to complete that journey with us.

So either they need to figure out a way to get visa free travel to family members of Americans, or they at least need to have somebody on the ground here in Poland, who can kind of, you know, shepherd the process, because no one is even answering questions about which visas we should get or how long the process will take. It's basically just, you know, get in line. And some people say we're sorry, but most of the time, it's a very impersonal bureaucratic process at the moment. And we don't really have a lot of clarity about how long we'll be here.

TAPPER: Well, I'm sure now that Secretary Blinken and senators Menendez and Booker have heard from you they will work to fix that and we will be welcoming you to the studio in person sometime soon. James and Anna, and your little baby your little nugget there, Sophia, thank you so much for joining us. I'm so glad that you're safe.

JAMES: Thank you.

ANNA: Thank you so much.

TAPPER: No more Russian vodka. No more Russian caviar. President Biden's latest push to punish Putin for invading Ukraine. Plus, they have absolutely no connection to Putin. Many of them fled oppressive Russian or Soviet leaders themselves. But now some small business owners in the U.S. are facing horrific and ridiculous anti-Russian backlash including vandalism and worse. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our world lead, no new Russian caviar, vodka or diamonds will enter the U.S. after President Biden announced a further squeeze on Russia's economy downgrading its trading status and blocking more imports. CNN's M.J. Lee reports Russia's possible use of chemical weapons is rapidly becoming a top concern inside the White House.



M.J. LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden issuing a stern new warning today to Vladimir Putin.

BIDEN: I'm not going to speak about the intelligence. But Russia would pay a severe price use of chemical.

LEE: On the heels of disturbing new assessment from the U.S. that Russia could use biological and chemical weapons in Ukraine. Biden also announcing several new measures to hit Russia's economy. The U.S. banding together with G7 countries and the European Union to revoke Russia's so called permanent normal trade relations status.

BIDEN: Doing it in unison with other nations that make up half of the global economy will be another crushing blow to the Russian economy. It's already suffering very badly from our sanctions.

LEE: Russia also slapped with additional imports and exports bans on the list caviar, vodka, diamonds and luxury goods like tobacco, jewelery and high end cars. Speaking to a gathering of Democratic lawmakers in Philadelphia, Biden making this pledge of support to Ukraine,

BIDEN: We're going to make sure Ukraine has the weapons to defend themselves and from invading Russian force. We will send money and food aid to save your Ukrainian lives. We're going to welcome Ukrainian refugees with open arms.

LEE: While the pleas from Ukrainian leaders only grow increasingly dire.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): If this continues, that means the sanctions are not enough. Russia must pay for this horrible war, must pay daily.

LEE: But Biden continuing to draw this hard line.

BIDEN: The idea that we're going to send in offensive equipment and have planes and tanks and trains going in with American pilots and American crews, that's called World War III.

LEE: Meanwhile, U.S. officials working through diplomatic channels to boost global oil production, as gas prices at home continue to rise. Officials eyeing oil rich countries like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, some Republican lawmakers already rejecting those efforts.

SEN. DEB FISCHER (R-NE): I cannot imagine the outrage that every single elected official here is going to hear if we then switch to buy it from Venezuela and Iran. This is a ridiculous policy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We shouldn't be looking to go to Venezuela.


LEE: Now, President Biden addressed Democratic lawmakers in Philadelphia earlier today. And he said when it comes to high gas prices, that's not the Democrats fault that it is largely the fault of Vladimir Putin's. That, of course, is not really the full story, gas prices, inflation.

All of those were issues that this White House was confronting well before Russia started invading Ukraine. But increasingly, Jake, we are clearly seeing that this is an issue and a problem for Democrats that is increasingly on their minds, particularly as we get closer to the midterm elections.

TAPPER: M.J., on those chemical weapons, President Biden said Russians would pay a severe price if they follow through with that?

LEE: That's right. You know, this is the U.S. assessment that we have been hearing more about in recent days that Russia could launch a biological or chemical weapons attack in Ukraine, or at least use them to create a false flag operation.


President said that he's not going to get into the details of the intelligence behind that assessment, but that Russia would pay a severe price. The big question, though, Jake, is what actually is that price because we heard President Biden again saying today that what he is not going to do is send any U.S. military personnel into Ukraine in this war. So we actually don't know what that price actually is that Russia would pay that the President is talking about.

This is a very complicated issue, because this is something that according to the U.S., where Russia sort of pretends that there are chemical and biological programs that are being created by other countries, when it is that country shat is actually engaging in this kind of horrible behavior. So again, we don't know exactly what the US would do to make Russia pay a price. If Russians were to go down this path, Jake.

TAPPER: M.J. Lee at the White House for us, thank you so much. Turning to our money lead, Russian eateries, restaurants from coast to coast, the ones proudly displayed that country's heritage are feeling the wrath of American bigotry, prompted by Putin's rampage 1000s of miles away the business owners many of whom fled oppressive, Russian and Soviet regimes for a safer life in America are seeing their storefronts vandalized.

Now as CNN's Jason Carroll reports, owners and employers are left wondering whether it's time to rebrand in the face of all this ignorance.


VLADA VON SHATS, CO-OWNER, RUSSIAN SAMOVAR RESTAURANT: I'm going to show you the table that is called the Brodsky table. This is a special table. There are people that actually calling for reserve just this table.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): But not these days. Russia's invasion of Ukraine increasing worries about empty tables and fewer bookings at this restaurant in New York City's theatre district. SHATS: 60 percent of businesses down. Overnight just wake up one day and the business is gone. Nobody's here.

CARROLL: Vlada Von Shats is co-owner of Russian Samovar with her son. It has been in the family for three generations. Her family defected from what was then the Soviet Union to New York when she was a child. Her stepfather co-founded the restaurant with ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov and Russian poet Joseph Brodsky.

VON SHATS: Everybody escaped the same evil and they all found a little piece of haven here.

CARROLL: But now this little piece of heaven is facing the wrath of hell on earth, half a world away.

VON SHATS: Calling us Nazis, fascists.

CARROLL: People leaving messages.

VON SHATS: Leaving messages on our machine. It's never nice signs been kicked in.

CARROLL: Nevermind (ph) Von Shats is married to a Ukrainian and many who work here are Ukrainian. All she says people see is the word Russian and lash out. And it's not just here. In Washington DC the famous Russia House vandalized, threatening messages left at the Pushkin Russian restaurant in San Diego.

The restaurant owner is Armenian and most of the staff Ukrainian. Similar messages sent to Chicago's Russian Tea Time Restaurant where just like the other restaurants, some of the employees are Ukrainian.

VADIM MUCHNIK, PARTNER, RUSSIAN TEA TIME: We really feel pain we have a waitress whose mother's hiding in bomb shelters in Kyiv.

CARROLL: Some Wisconsin supermarkets have discontinued sales of Russian vodka. In Las Vegas or bar owner is dumping Russian made vodka. And back in New York, there is no more McPutin's, Von Shats children change the name of their takeout restaurant and delivery business.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe they're calling it chichi chicken.

CARROLL: But the Von Shats say they will never change the name Russian Samovar.

(on camera): You think you can survive this?

VON SHATS: Yes. There's a lot of help from our friends. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Time will tell this place has lasted through a lot.


CARROLL: And, Jake, another point that Vlada's son wanted to make is he said despite everything, all of the terrible things that this business is going through right now, he said he was hoping he could make this a teachable moment telling people that when they lash out at these Russian businesses, oftentimes they're lashing out at some of the people who work there who may be Ukrainian, it might be Romanian, or Bulgarian, some of the very same people who actually support Ukraine. Jake.

TAPPER: Jason Carroll, thank you so much. What a disgusting display of bigotry. Thank you so much.

Is North Korea's Kim Jong-un taking advantage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine? That's ahead.



TAPPER: Topping our politics lead today, the former Attorney General Bill Barr speaking out in a new book about his time in the Trump administration. In the last hour I asked him if he bears any responsibility for spreading false theories and at times bad information about the potential for widespread voter fraud. Take a listen.


WILLIAM BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: I stand by all of that. And my view is that in such a closely divided country with so much at stake, we have to keep strong protections against fraud and protect the integrity of the election. And I think when they are diluted and reduced, which they were then people are not going to have confidence in the election whether or not fraud occurs.


TAPPER: Barr also told me that Trump is quote not my idea of a president. Barr said he will quote absolutely get involved in a Republican primary fight to help defeat Trump in 2024 if Trump runs. Let's discuss and let me start with former U.S. Assistant Attorney Elie Honig, who has strong feelings about Bill Barr. He said he stands by his statement, months and months of talking about a counterfeiting ballots and the like, what did you make of it?


ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Jake, this is a deeply dishonest effort by Bill Barr to whitewash history and to launder his own reputation. I thought that was a perfect example. Bill Barr is very fond of reminding everybody, that weeks after the election he came out publicly and said there's no evidence of widespread election fraud. He did that. That's good.

However, this is the first time I've seen him confronted with the fact that he lied about election fraud many times over in the key months leading up to the election. And what does Bill Barr say? Not, you know, in retrospect, those statements were false. I wish I hadn't made them. I wish they didn't hurt the country. He says I stand by all of that. He's standing by his own dangerous lies. I think that tells you something about just how dishonest and disingenuous Bill Barr is.

TAPPER: CNN's Abby Phillip, what struck you most about that moment with Barr?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR, INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY: Yes, I mean, I think Elie is absolutely right. I means, Barr is standing by what you told him was a falsehood. He -- You told him that what he said wasn't true. And then he said, I stand by it. But he also says, It doesn't matter whether fraud actually occurs. It just matters whether people believe that it occurs.

Well, they believe it occurs because he was making statements based on falsehoods, which were then echoed, by the way by President Trump, who caused Republicans to go from not believing that mail-in ballots were causing fraud, to all of a sudden believing that it was enough fraud to warrant wanting to overturn the election. As Elie said, I mean, it's particularly dishonest given that you told him that what he said was not true.

TAPPER: And Elie, the Justice Department under Bill Barr was frequently it's an altruist place he wants publicly compared employees to Montessori preschoolers. That's a quite an act for Merrick Garland to follow, huh?

HONIG: Yes, that was a moment of true arrogance by Bill Barr. Look, I've been critical of Merrick Garland for the pace and intensity of his investigations around January 6, but I will say this, he has helped to restore two of the things that Bill Barr took away, first, DOJ is credibility. Merrick Garland unlike Bill Barr has not lied to us, kind of pathetic that we have to praise the current attorney general for not being a liar. Alas, that's where Bill Barr has left us.

And second of all, Merrick Garland has not politicized DOJ. You know, Bill Barr didn't really have a good answer when you ask him about why out of these tens of thousands of cases the two he interfered in after his prosecutors had already been approved happened to be Roger Stone, and Michael Flynn.

Well, Merrick Garland has done nothing like that. He has not politicized DOJ, if anything, he seems to be bending over too far in order to prevent DOJ from doing anything that might be politically tumultuous. So Merrick Garland inherited DOJ that was in tough shape, but he has taken key steps towards undoing some of the damage Barr did.

TAPPER: Abby, one of the headlines, I think from the interview is Barr saying that he would quote absolutely get involved and endorse another Republican in the primaries if Trump runs for reelection. What did you make of that?

PHILLIP: Well, I thought it was interesting that he seemed to say that he would support another candidate, but he didn't actually make it clear whether he would support Trump again, let's say if he weren't running oppose, which I think is a really key question. It's not clear at all, whether Trump would be opposed if he were to run again. And it seems based on everything that Barr had to say, there's very little that Trump actually did as president that he found to be disqualifying.

And I'm not sure I came away from this interview, believing that Barr actually would not support Trump if he were on the ballot as the Republican nominee. In fact, he seems to just simply prefer another candidate. He doesn't think Trump has actually disqualified himself in a lot of ways.

TAPPER: Thanks to both you. Appreciate it. While all eyes are on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, North Korea seems to be up to no good. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our world lead today, the U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions on two Russian individuals and three entities for supporting North Korea's weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs. Let's get right to CNN's Barbara Starr live from the Pentagon for us. Barbara, U.S. officials called North Korea's ballistic missile tests a serious escalation by Pyongyang. What exactly is going on?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the intelligence community is now making public there have been two tests in February and March, where they assess it was part of a new North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile they're developing, that means of course, a missile that could be fired from North Korea and potentially reach the United States.

So the Pentagon took the extraordinary step of putting out a statement saying it was going to increase collecting intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance against North Korea the most sensitive intelligence there is and increase the readiness of U.S. ballistic missiles in the Asia region. The Press Secretary John Kirby explained a little bit more about why they're doing it.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Clearly these, these continued tests are a provocation. They are a violation of UN Security Council resolutions. And they give us as well as so many other nations added concern about the kinds of capabilities that the North is trying to develop.


STARR: What they are trying to develop is very clear a missile they can fire, have it maintained stable flight with a precision warhead that could potentially strike a target in the United States. That is the progress the U.S. does not want to see North Korea make and that is why they took this extraordinary step revealing the intelligence and saying they're going to collect even more of it and hoping somehow that brings Kim Jong-un to the diplomatic negotiating table. Jake. TAPPER: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us. Thank you so much. Mother Nature playing some March Madness of her own most of these coasters under warnings for a bomb cyclone. That's next.



TAPPER: In our national lead, don't put away those winter coats yet. A winter storm passing through the heart of the U.S. is rapidly turning into a powerful bomb cyclone if that sounds scary. Well, it is parts of the East. We'll see heavy snow, strong winds and dangerous travel conditions well into Saturday. Columbia, Missouri already got pummeled. Look at that overturn semi.

CNN's Jennifer Gray joins us now live from the Weather Center. Jennifer, 60 million Americans are under winter weather alerts this afternoon. Which areas are you most closely watching tonight?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well tonight, Jake, we're watching places anywhere from the Deep South including Texas all the way up to the Mississippi River Valley. And then on to the northeast as we get into the next day or so this storm is only going to intensify as it travels to the east and this is going to have some very, very cold air behind it.

You can see that cold air is stretching far south.


We're getting snow reports in places like Texas, Texarkana, also in northern sections of Louisiana could see some flakes as well. Little Rock getting very heavy snow. This is going to push into Memphis in the next couple of hours. And then you can see across Florida, the Big Bend of Florida really getting some heavy rains so we could see the potential for severe weather as we go through tonight and even tomorrow with a threat of very gusty winds, large hail and even tornadoes with that.

So winter storm warnings, winter weather advisory stretch all the way from northern New England down to the Deep South. And so that's where we get that 60 plus million people involved in this. So the forecast radar as I mentioned, this is going to intensify so the storm is going to get bigger and more intense as it reaches the Northeast.

We're talking about very, very heavy snow along with very gusty winds and so that's going to create blizzard like conditions for some places in northern New England and then this is going to move out by Saturday. Very cold air behind it and so cold air in combination with very gusty winds is going to lead to some very cold wind chills by the time we get into Saturday morning across the south and then Sunday morning for the Northeast and New England.

So here's your rain and snow accumulation. You can see all through the Appalachian Mountains up into portions of the Northeast New England. We are going to see anywhere from say four to six inches of snow possible higher elevations could see up to eight and then as far as rain goes. We could see an inch or two of rain across South.

Jake, we're looking at that severe storm threat for the southeast for today as well as tomorrow. The Carolinas included in that so we're going to be watching out for tornadoes. Jake.

TAPPER: And Jennifer, you mentioned the threat of tornadoes in the south tonight. What areas there should be on alert?

GRAY: Yes, so we need to be on alert anywhere from say the Florida Panhandle all the way up through the Carolinas. Now some of these storms can be rolling through at night. We know that nocturnal tornadoes can be especially deadly so definitely make sure you have a way to get alerts as you're going to bed tonight, Jake.

TAPPER: And this could impact all weekend travel especially big cities.

GRAY: Yes, we're talking about big cities in the Northeast DC, New York, Boston. A lot of that as we get into the weekend not only the snow is going to be because of wind. We're going to have very strong winds with this system. Look at places like Atlanta, we could see winds up to 40, 50-mile per hour gusts that's really going to delay flights through Atlanta by the time we get into Saturday.

And then Sunday we could see wind delays in places like New York City, Boston as those winds are reach that area. But New York City of Boston because also see, as well as DC, could also see some travel delays due to the wintry precipitation as well, Jake.

TAPPER: Jennifer Gray.

GRAY: Not a good weekend for travel.

TAPPER: No. No not at all. Thank you so much Jennifer Gray. Coming up, the time the Dolly Parton sang to me, that's next.



TAPPER: Finally, from us in our money lead today, CNN announced today that our new streaming service CNN plus is going to launch on March 29. That's in two and a half weeks. The streaming platform will feature exclusive news shows, documentaries plus lots of familiar and new faces. CNN plus will also feature an interactive interview club and also my new book club. I'm going to talk to up and coming authors, bestsellers some unexpected writers such as in our very first episode, country music legend businesswoman, philanthropist, Dolly Parton.

Parton teamed up with international bestseller James Patterson to co- author Run Rose Run, a thriller about a young woman trying to make it in country music in Nashville while also trying to flee her dark path. No Dolly Parton project, of course would be complete without music. She wrote and performed an entire new album of songs that the characters sing in the book.


TAPPER: It's incredible. On page one, chapter one, there's a song that is like an anthem. I have it here. I have a little recording of it. I was just going to play it.


TAPPER: Unless you would be willing to grace us with some actual --

PARTON: Well, what you got first. Is it easy? I'm but sure I'm going to take it, sitting down. Yes, you got a woman taken like a man is like you got to do all the things you got to do. You got to be as good as you're better than, it's like you got to be strong enough to do it if you're going to try to outdo somebody, or at least do your best. You just got to do that. Well, that's one of my favorite songs in the album.

That's one he loved. That's the first time --


PARTON: -- I sang him. You know, he hadn't heard the music at all.

PATTERSON: Is it easy, now it ain't.

PARTON: Again, Can I fix it? No I can't.

PATTERSON: No I can't.

PARTON: But I ain't going to take it sitting down.


PARTON: And that's kind of how I've lived my life.

PATTERSON: And the character she's strong. Even if you send in a sad song, she's strong and she's wise.


TAPPER: To learn more about CNN plus, go to Please join my book club. You can sign up for our newsletter, Go to, And yes, this new show means that I work more than nine to five.

Before we go the images out of Ukraine are heartbreaking. Millions of Ukrainians are on desperate journeys to try to find safety. We know so many of you watching the devastation, or asking how can you help? CNN has compiled a range of resources online to try to provide humanitarian aid and you can find that at


Be sure to tune in to this Sunday's "STATE OF THE UNION." My colleague Dana Bash is going to talk to the National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio plus the Mayor of Kyiv. That's at 9:00 a.m. and noon Eastern. Until then you can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the TikTok at Jake Tapper.

Tweet the show #TheLeadCNN. If you've ever missed an episode of the show, you can listen to The Lead wherever you get your podcasts. Our coverage continues now, with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in this situation. I'll see you Monday.