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The Lead with Jake Tapper

U.S. Skeptical Of Russian Claims Of Scaling Back War On Ukraine; At Least 12 Dead In Russian Strike On Mykolaiv Government Building; WaPo: 7-Hour Gap In White House Call Logs Turned Over To January 6 Committee; Biden Signs New Law Making Lynching A Federal Hate Crime; Antarctica Sees Record Temperatures 70 Degrees Warmer Than Normal. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired March 29, 2022 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Once upon a time, the Russians claimed they would not invade Ukraine. So, why would anyone believe what they have to say this time?

THE LEAD starts right now.

The White House adding skepticism to Russia's so-called strategy shift, claiming forces will retreat from the capital city Kyiv. Ahead, a member of Ukraine's parliament who is helping push back Putin's army as member of the Ukrainian resistance.

Plus, as refugees flee Ukraine, medical foot soldiers move in, offering their expertise in hard hit areas of Russia's invasion.

Also, the January 6th investigation committee wraps up its investigation, zeroing in on a suspicious seven hour gap in Trump call logs as rioters storm the Capitol.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We're going to start with breaking news on our world lead. President Biden and his top administration officials making clear they will not believe Russia's newest claims of de-escalation until they see it happening on the ground in Ukraine for themselves.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll see. I don't read anything into it until I see what their actions are.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: There is what Russia says and there's what Russia does. We are focused on the latter. And what Russia is doing is brutalization of Ukraine.

JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We are not prepared to call this a retreat or even a withdrawal, we think what they probably have in mind is repositioning to prioritize elsewhere. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Earlier today, after another round of negotiations with Ukraine, Russian officials claim they plan to drastically reduce their military assault on Kyiv and the northeastern city of Chernihiv. Sources telling CNN that the U.S. is seeing some signs of a shift in Russian strategy, including withdrawal of some Russian troops around Kyiv.

But U.S. officials believe it is just repositioning of troops, not a withdrawal, and the apparent change in strategy does not mean the Russian assault on other parts of Ukraine let up in any way. Video shows the moment a strike hit a government building in a southwestern town today. Local media said at least 12 Ukrainians were killed in that attack.

Let's get straight to CNN's chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour, who's live for us in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Christiane, there are so many reasons for the world to be skeptical about what Putin's true intentions are at this point.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Jake, that's absolutely right. I think the best one can say now, whatever has come out of the Kremlin, the U.S. is right and the Ukrainians are right. Don't believe it until you actually see it. And so far, there is no evidence of any kind of major scale retreat.

And to be fair, the Russians haven't said. That they said they're going to maybe back off a little bit in terms of big cities like Kyiv because why? Because they have not been able the take it. And reposition and redirect their forces to where they are pretty well- manned up, which is in the eastern part of the country, which they already occupy or at least part of it and, they do want to consolidate that and expand that piece of territory along with in the south.

So the best you can really hope for now is a shift, or the best Kyiv can hope for is a shift. I was out today with one of the key lawmakers a parliamentarian. He's an opposition parliamentarian, but right now, everybody is with Zelenskyy and the government and with the country, and she told me that on no account will this city fall or will they let it fall.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Day 34 of war, and the sounds are all around.

LESIA VASYLENKO, UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT MEMBER: There we go. Yeah. That sort of disturbs your day all the time. But you learn to live with it.

AMANOUR: Ukrainian MP Lesia Vasylenko says after a month of this, she like her president and country folk believe the Russians will never take this city, though fighting does continue in the suburbs. She wanted to meet here at the Maidan square where Ukrainians today up for their rights in 2014 and brought down Putin's wrath and his revenge.

Given his battlefield setbacks, though, I ask whether his shifting demands make a compromise easier for Ukraine to accept.

Now there's word -- we don't know whether it's going bear fruit -- they might lay Ukraine to join the E.U. as long as you renounce NATO. Is that a compromise that Ukraine would accept?

VASYLENKO: All of this started 34 days ago because one country cannot declare itself more sovereign than another country.


And Russia tried to do just that. We cannot go for that compromise, because that compromise to Putin would also mean a compromise of the general framework of defense and security of the world. Giving into dictators means incentivizing them.

AMANPOUR: Ukraine's dramatic resistance surprised the whole world, including Vladimir Putin.

VASYLENKO: Three days they gave us, right? Putin thought he would be here in a matter of hours. We are doing this for our very survival, and when the survival instinct kicks in, people can do amazing things. People become superheroes. This is what you're witnessing in Ukraine.

AMANPOUR: Lesia is armed with her guns. The AK-47 is at home, but she shows me her pistol, close to her heart.

Lesia, when we spoke in the first week of the war, before I got here, you said, I've got my machine gun and I've also got my man cures. Your resistance takes many, many forms.

And you're carrying your pistol right now.

VASYLENKO: I am, I am. I have my PM with me. I carry it with me all the time.

AMANPOUR: Did you ever imagine in your life as an MP in 2022 Ukraine, you would be forced to carry a gun around?

VASYLENKO: No, never. Never. I'm actually very much anti-gun. This gun caused a lot of problem me because in order to recharge it you have to do this thing, and with the nails -- I had very nice, beautiful long nails -- it was impossible to do so. They had to all come off.

AMANPOUR: Just so people are clear, the idea of beauty, self- maintenance, is also resistance.

VASYLENKO: Yes, all jokes aside, it's an important element for all women who are fighting alongside the man folk here. The women still want to be beautiful. They still want to have dignity as women.

AMANPOUR: And to be human.

VASYLENKO: And to be human.

AMANPOUR: He basically said, Putin, that Ukraine doesn't exist as a nation, you don't exist as a people.

VASYLENKO: And we say to him, life goes on. We carry on living. Your war, your fighting against us is in the background now and we'll go on fighting it for as long as we have to, but we'll go on living at the same time.

AMANPOUR: She is still an mp. Parliament is still passing laws.

And since an army marches on its stomach, this too is their fight, their war effort. So the ordinary becomes extraordinary, filling carrots as if they were stacking up bullets. This trendy brunch and bar has turned into a wartime canteen, chopping onions in a frenzy of efficiency and purpose.

Do you feel you're going to win?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course. We must destroy the Russian army.

AMANPOUR: You said you must destroy the Russian army? Yeah. So they help turn out 600 meal as day and counting for the army and territorial defense, hospitals and shelters.

Outside, Lesia shows me the pictures of her three young children who she had the send away for their safety.

VASYLENKO: This is my baby from this morning.

AMANPOUR: She's how old?

VASYLENKO: She's going to be 10 months in just a couple of days.

AMANPOUR: It must be painful to be without her.

VASYLENKO: It is, and she's sort of looking at you like, really, mommy? Really, you're going to be away from me?

AMANPOUR: Staying on the front lines with this struggle comes at a huge personal cost, but Lesia has no doubts.

VASYLENKO: I am where I have to be. Things happen for a reason. I'm a firm believer in that. There was a reason I was elected in the 2019. We have a task, we have a duty, and we will complete it and then we will see where life takes us.


AMANPOUR: So, Jake, just as we have been speaking, the air raid sirens here in Kyiv have been going off again. So it is clear that, you know, activity is still, you know, heavy around this area.

She, Lesia Vasylenko, the MP, is going to France in order to try to keep mobilizing international support. They still need as much support as possible. They need weapons because clearly they're using them all day and every day to stave off the Russians and they need them replenished and need it done fast.

TAPPER: All right. CNN's Christiane Amanpour in Kyiv, Ukraine, thank you so much.

Today, President Biden spoke with key European allies before hosting the prime minister of Singapore at the White House, where they discussed their support for Ukraine in ways try to deter further Russian aggression. President Biden also addressed whether or not he believes the Kremlin is serious about this idea they will de-escalate around Kyiv and another northeastern Ukrainian city.

CNN's MJ Lee is live for us at the White House.

And, MJ, President Biden and his top officials they're really pushing back on the idea that Russia is scaling back in any way. It's overall offensive on Ukraine.

MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake, even as Russia says it's going to reduce military attacks in some cities in Ukraine, including the capital city in Kyiv, and Ukrainians say they are beginning to see a withdrawal of Russian troops, the U.S. is making it clear there's reason to be cautious and even very skeptical.


When President Biden was asked about all of these developments earlier this afternoon, he said it was simply too early to tell. Listen.


BIDEN: I don't read anything into it until I see what their actions are. We'll see if they follow threw on what they're suggesting. In the meantime, we're going to continue to keep strong the sanctions. We're going to continue to provide the Ukrainian military with their capacity to defend themselves, and we're going to continue to keep a close eye on what's going on.


LEE: And, since Biden made those comments, Pentagon and White House officials further elaborated to say any Russian military movement is currently being seen by the U.S. as a redeployment, not a withdrawal, and the threat to Kyiv remains very real and there could even be the possibility of a new major offensive coming from Russia in the coming days.

The White House just said, quote, we're not going to take their word for it. We're going to wait to see what their actions look like. All of this coming as Biden had a jam-packed day, meeting with the prime minister of Singapore, where Ukraine was, of course, a major topic, and earlier today, he had a call with European leaders, including the leaders of Germany, France, Italy, and the U.K.

I should note quickly, on that call, the White House comms director Kate Bedingfield said the comments President Biden made over the weekend that Vladimir Putin cannot remain in power, that those comments did not come up in that call with European officials -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. MJ Lee at the White House, thank you so much. Russia may claim to be reducing its footprint near Kyiv, but that's

not the case in other parts of Ukraine, of course. The new video evidence of Russia's activity beyond the capital.

Plus, breaking news out of Israel. A deadly shooting near Tel Aviv as fears grow about a possibly resurgence in Israel of ISIS of the terrorist group ISIS.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Continuing with our world lead, we turn our focus now to southern Ukraine, where Russian forces continue their brutal and relentless attacks on the Ukrainian people.

The regional governor in Mykolaiv reports his office was hit in a deadly strike this morning, where half the building was destroyed. Surveillance video shows the incoming missile, highlighted here. The building shakes and a plume of dust and smoke begin to rise. The nine- story building is still standing some of it.

But as you can see there's a huge hole in it. At least 12 people were killed with 33 others wounded in these initial accounts.

Mykolaiv has been the focus of Russian attacks for days, yet, Ukrainians remain there, including the official with those Ukrainians, CNN's Ben Wedeman.

Ben, where were you during this morning's attack? What have you seen in the aftermath?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, actually right now, we're hearing an air raid siren. We were in this hotel at 8:45 a.m. local time when we heard a large blast. It was at the headquarters of the regional governor, which is really right in the middle of the city.

And it -- by all -- it would appear that this was very intentional. This is a regional governor who has been very outspoken, very active during this last month of bloodshed here in Mykolaiv. This is a city that's very close to Russian front lines. They have been pushed back, but as we see with this air raid siren wailing outside right now, as we saw from this strike on the regional governor's office, they still have the ability to lob missiles and bombs into this city.

Now, in the area around the governor's office, there are lots of people, lots of residential buildings, many of which all of the windows were shattered. But it was just a few hours later we were there for quite a while, people were sweeping up the glass, trying to get back to normal life. Many people have fled Mykolaiv, but for the most part, the population is sticking it out. Now, this afternoon we were outside of the city, and we saw that there was more outgoing Ukrainian fire than incoming Russian fire, and the Ukrainian forces have made significant progress to push the Russians away from this city but not quite far enough. Jake?

TAPPER: All right. Ben Wedeman, thank you so much.

Joining us now from Lviv, in Western Ukraine, to talk about this attack on Ukraine is Avril Benoit. She's on leave from her executive position with the international aid organization, Doctors Without Borders, and currently serving as the group's emergency communications coordinator in Ukraine.

First of all, you're not a doctor, but what are your people, who are doctors and nurses and the like, what are they seeing on ground? What range of wounds are they treating?

AVRIL BENOIT, DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS: It's incredibly impressive, I would say, what we're seeing the Ukrainian health system, Ukrainian surgical teams, surgeons, nurses, they are there in the hospitals that we are able to access. Now, you have to bear in mind there are a number of places where we cannot access, where they're encircled or where it's just far too volatile for us to be able to send teams. You're following Mariupol, Chernihiv, Kherson, and Sumy.

But in other places, what we're finding on the ground is a huge appetite to prepare for mass casualty influx of wounded people all at once. Surgeons are interested, really keen to learn from an organization like us that has a lot of experience of war surgery, of triage in situations like this. So we have been doing a lot of training with them and also helping them with supplies, because while the staff are there, they're overworked but they are on the job.


They have indicated to us repeatedly from various other parts of the country that they lack medical supplies. So that's one of the things we're offering.

TAPPER: Let's talk about medical supplies because I know that's something that the Ukrainian people, Ukrainian medical professionals are in dire need of, things like oxygen, medicine, bandages.

How are you getting those -- that equipment in?

BENOIT: It's still possible to bring supplies in through various routes, through Poland, Slovakia. There are ways to, with trucks, to navigate the security environment. Amazingly enough, also the train system seems to be working quite well, and so that's another way that we're able to move shipments to and from.

And so, it's sometimes far too difficult -- I will tell you there was a convoy of supplies we were working with other organizations to reach Mariupol, and it was far too dangerous on the road leading to it, littered with land mines that perhaps a car could slalom through, but certainly not a transport truck with significant amounts of cargo.

And so, it's also of course a dangerous and volatile environment, so sometimes you reach a place and just have to hunker down for a while, while you're assessing if it's possible to go farther. What's also happening, I should say, is that if we can bring it to a warehouse, to a central warehouse that's accessible by those hospitals that have requested the supplies, sometimes they are sending cars with their own drivers, sometimes with doctors to come and pick it up from us. So, we're just making do the best we can.

TAPPER: What about medical care for noncombatants? How are civilians with serious health problems, how they're getting treated?

BENOIT: Incredibly difficult, because in a context like this in a situation of war, often the authorities want to --


TAPPER: Avril, we're having trouble --


TAPPER: Could you give that answer again?


BENOIT: Sorry, the air alarm.

TAPPER: Avril, why don't you seek safety? We appreciate your time.

BENOIT: --finish the answer --

TAPPER: No, go ahead, you seek shelter. Thank you so much. We'll talk to you soon.

Once refugees make at out of Ukraine, another struggle begins figuring out life so far away from home. How that process is proceeding. That's next.



TAPPER: In our world lead today, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warn in the an address that Vladimir Putin wants to ensure that after Russia's brutal assault on Ukraine, nothing but, quote, ruins and refugees will remain. The European Union says children make up half the 3.9 million people who fled Russia's bloody attack on Ukraine.

CNN's Kyung Lah talked to mothers in Poland stuck in something of a refugee purgatory. They're homesick and heartbroken, while their husbands, and brothers and sons remain in Ukraine to defend the country.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They fled from Russian missiles, now wait for Polish papers, but all they want is to be in Ukraine. We have been waiting for four hours yells this woman out of frustration. I have a special needs child. But every refugee here, almost all of them women and mothers, has needs.

The more than 2 million Ukrainian refugees in Poland will have to show documents if they want a Polish national identification number for official services.


LAH: You want to work?


LAH: Yulia Isayeva and her two children waited since 3:00 in the morning. Six hours later, they got that national number, so she can work.

I wish I could continue my old life, says Isayeva. There, she had a job, a family. Her husband now fights in the war.

It was taken away, she says of her life. I have to live here by force.

While she's grateful to build a safe life in Poland for her children, I want to go to Ukraine, she says. You hear the story repeated again and again from the women pulled from their lives, stuck in a purgatory of passing time while a war rages at home.


LAH: This is where you live.


LAH: This cot is Irinia Yasinovska's life now.

YASINOVSKA: I work in Ukraine. I'm police.

LAH: You're a police officer?


LAH: She was. She now grabs a neon vest instead.

She's a volunteer at a Warsaw refugee war center where she herself arrived in the early march, fleeing bombing in Kyiv. Most refugees leave here in days for temporary housing or for other countries, but it's been a month and she refuses to, unless it's to go home to her life in Kyiv where her brothers are on the front lines.

Do you think you'll see them again?



LAH: Yes, she says. They talk twice a week at most.

I think everything will be fine, she says. At least I hope for it. Not just my brothers but everyone.

But life outside the war doesn't stop, even though Yulia Isayeva wishes it would.

If I have to, she says, I'll do it. We'll start.


LAH (on camera): The extraordinary thing is talking to all these women, every single person we talked to believes that this is temporary, this life in Poland. They see the same news you're delivering on the program, they're seeing the images, having to explain to their children. When you ask them, they believe this is all temporary, they'll be able to go back home to Ukraine and pick up life where it stopped -- Jake.

TAPPER: Kyung Lah in Warsaw, thank you so much.

Also breaking in the world lead, another deadly attack in what's become a disturbing series of terrorist incidents in Israel that left 11 people dead in just eight days. At least 5 people were killed in the latest attack today near Tel Aviv. Israeli media says there may have been multiple assailants, terrorists, on motorcycle.

There's no claim of responsibility yet, but for the first time since 2017, ISIS claims it was behind two other deadly attacks on Israelis. One on Sunday that left two people dead and another last Tuesday that killed four.

In the wake of today's attack on innocent Israelis, Israeli police have been placed on their highest alert level.

Coming up next, the key questions lawmakers are asking about the January 6th insurrection and reported seven hour gap in White House call logs as the Capitol riot unfolded.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Our politics lead now, the January 6th House Committee investigating the deadly insurrection is zeroing in on seven hours and 37 minutes. That's the amount of time missing from President Trump's call logs, according to "The Washington Post."

CNN first reported a gap in his phone records back in February. And now, as CNN's Paula Reid reports, House committee members are looking to see if the former president was using someone else's phone or perhaps a burner phone to get in touch with allies while the Capitol building was being violently assaulted by his supporters.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: A key mystery for the January 6th House Select Committee to now solve, who was talking to then President Trump during the insurrection and why is there a gap in the official phone records.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Could be a burner phone for all we know. There's also the possibility that somebody is deliberately suppressing release of these materials. We just don't know.

REID: CNN previously reporting that records turned over to the committee show no calls to or from Trump several hours as violence unfolded on Capitol Hill.

Today, "The Washington Post" reporting that gap stretched for seven hours and 37 minutes.

Bob Woodward was one of reporters who broke the story.

BOB WOODWARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: He is a telephone addict. The idea that nothing happened in the afternoon on the phone January 6 is unlikely as the sun not rising.

REID: All of the revelations adding to pressure on Attorney General Merrick Garland to pursue investigations or even bring charges against Trump or his allies.

REP. ELAINE LURIA (D-VA): Attorney General Garland, do your job so we can do ours.

REID: Monday night, members of the January 6 committee venting frustration with the justice department which still hasn't acted on the House's criminal contempt referral against former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. Now, the full house will vote on the committee's recommendation to refer two more top Trump advisers who are refusing to cooperate to the Justice Department for possible prosecution. They are Dan Scavino, Peter Navarro.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): The Department of Justice has a duty to act on this referral and others we have sent. Without enforcement of congressional subpoenas, there is no oversight. Without oversight, no accountability, not for the former president or any other president, past, present or future.

REID: Also on Monday, a federal judge in California writing Trump more likely than not committed a crime when he and conservative attorney John Eastman tried to block Congress counting votes on January 6. The 44-page opinion in a case over the committee's subpoena for Eastman's emails reads like a legal memo to Garland, with the judge writing the illegality of the plan was obvious.

Trump spokesperson calling that ruling absurd, but committee Chairman Benny Thompson praised it saying --

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): This ruling is a clear victory for the rule of law.

(END VIDEOTAPE) REID (on camera): When we reached out today to the Justice Department, they referred us back to Garland's speech where he said the department is committed to holding January 6 perpetrators at any level accountable.

Now, son-in-law and former adviser Jared Kushner will appear voluntarily before the house select committee. The White House said it will not assert executive privilege over his testimony, that's consistent with how they handled other former White House advisers -- Jake.


TAPPER: All right. Paula Reid, thanks so much.

Let's discuss this with senior legal analyst, former U.S. attorney for southern district of New York during the Obama administration, Preet Bharara.

Thank you so much for being here.

So, back in February, CNN reported about a large gap in Trump's call records on January 6. Now, "The Washington Post" says the committee is investigating if Trump used back channels, other people's phones, burner phones. If the committee received full logs from that day, if Trump engaged in a possible cover-up, if they can prove those points, what might be the ramifications?

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, first, not a good look for the former president of the United States.

TAPPER: He's clearly hiding something.

BHARARA: Yes, there's some nuance. I think it is a fundamental matter. It shows that he and others around him didn't want people to know what they were up to. It would be part of the report the committee puts forward are.

It's also going to be part of the predicate for any criminal case that the Justice Department may bring, we don't know if they're in processor if there is a process. The Trump folks who are argue that, you know what, it's been reported and it was the president's practice -- former president's practice to use other people's phones, to not keep records, and that's a pattern and practice of his over the four years. They will say, well, so, so there's no particular effort or attempt to cover up this particular few hours of phone logs, that's just the way the guy was.

I don't know how far it gets them, because practice of not maintaining records and sometimes records are flushed down the toilet, ripped up, sometimes they find their way to Mar-a-Lago basically shows a president of the United States that wanted to conceal lots of things across a lot of issues. I don't think the argument I expect will be helpful to them.

TAPPER: You referred to the Justice Department criminal investigation in addition to the January 6th investigation. According to "New York Times," federal prosecutors are focusing one tweet from December 19th might have become a catalyst for insurrections, part of Trump's message in the tweet read, as we can see: Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild.

How much weight can one give this in a criminal case against the president, that could be interpreted any number of ways?

BHARARA: Look, as prosecutors say when they sum up cases and open cases is the sum total of evidence. Republicans who are defending Donald Trump like to cabin that inquiry to a couple hours on January 6. The Justice Department, I think, reasonable investigators look at the big picture, and they say, on this day, he sent this particular tweet, another day called an official in Georgia, another day, let's find the votes, another day conspiring with Steve Bannon and other people.

So, that particular tweet on its own in a vacuum doesn't say a whole hell of a lot, but in combination with lots and lots of other things, you see a fulltime and connecting of all the dots, it becomes part of a meaningful story I think.

TAPPER: Trump recently sat for an interview where he's asking Putin, a clear adversary of the United States, for help to get damaging information on President Biden and his son Hunter. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Why did the mayor of Moscow's wife give the Bidens, both of them, $3.5 million. That's a lot of money. She gave them $3.5 million.

So, now, I would think Putin would know the answer to that. I think he should release it. I think we should know that answer.


TAPPER: Just to be clear what he is talking about, there's a 2020 Senate report that disclosed that a Russian oligarch and then wife of Moscow's mayor gave $3.5 million a decade ago to a company that Hunter Biden said he had no affiliation with. But more broadly, what do you make of this?

Here is Trump asking an adversary of the United States, fully engaged in attack on an ally now, Ukraine, to give information to damage the president of the United States and his son. This is exactly what he was impeached but not convicted for.

BHARARA: I think of it, I think what any normal person of reason would make of it, it's a person that acts crazy sometimes, who's trying to deflect attention from himself because there's a lot of attention, as you mentioned, 7 hours 37 minutes of logs missing, the 1/6 committee doing a great job of beginning to prove and make the case he was involved at a more significant way than previously known.

You have a judge in the last couple days, who in parallel proceeding made a point there's evidence that Donald Trump and others conspired to violate criminal law, meaning certain documents have to be released on the crime fraud exception. This is what he does.

The fact he is doing it now with a country who is at war in Ukraine of an ally, indiscriminately bombing and killing innocent people and children is I think something of a new level.

TAPPER: I remember a Republican senator saying after the first impeachment where he did something similar, except as president, he learned his lesson.


He learned the lesson he can get away with it. He can do this all the time.

Preet Bharara, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, recent extraordinary weather event that appears to be a first, not a good first, and has experts taking note.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Moments ago, President Biden signed into law a bill that makes lynching a federal hate crime. The Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act is named after the 14-year-old black boy was brutally murdered by a group of white men for allegedly whistling at a white woman in Mississippi in 1955.

At the time, Till's mother, she requested an open casket funeral to show the world had done to her son, what racism had done to him.

President Biden remarking on the significance of today's signing just a few minutes ago.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To the Till family, we remain in awe of your courage to find purpose through your pain, to find purpose to your pain. But the law is not just about the past, it is not the present and our future as well.


TAPPER: The bill passed Congress this time with overwhelming bipartisan support. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Congress had tried and failed more than 200 times to outlaw lynching on the federal basis.

In our "Earth Matters" series, today, a record heat wave in the coldest place on the planet. Scientists were shocked this month when a research station in Antarctica reported a temperature 70 degrees above normal for this time of year, equivalent of what might be a 130 degree day in Washington in March.

CNN chief climate correspondent Bill Weir joins us now.

Take us through why this temperature reading has scientists so worried.

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Well, a lot of it has to do with where it is. South Pole has been stable, North is the point of worry, melting, disappearing ice there.

But this is completely off the charts. They're flabbergasted by these numbers. Take a look at the graphics. Vostok is a Russian weather station on east Antarctica. In 65 years of observation, it's never gotten warmer than minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit. It got up to zero there.

So, they're overshooting records by 30 degrees and in other parts. The cause is atmospheric river that sort of held moisture in, similar to what happened in British Columbia, you see the red blobs on the map that held a heat dome that turned out to be deadly in the northern hemisphere, in the south, it's just unprecedented stuff. It's rewritten what they knew about science.

And if you look at this next graphic, the saddle shape is the average temperature mean. That spike is not a typo. That's where the temperature was for a couple of days. It is really a game changer trying to understand what a warmer planet looks like.

TAPPER: And ice shelf in Antarctica nearly the size of Los Angeles that disintegrated in mid march within days of that extraordinary warmth. What's the significance of that?

WEIR: This is another one. This is something hasn't been observed since satellites went up in generations, about 460 square mile ice shelf. You think of it as a big bowl, around the lips of the bowl are shelves that hold the frozen inland ice in, it's sort of like a cork in a bottle, that came loose, that's never been observed in this part. Thankfully the ice upstream isn't enough to affect sea level rise. They're worried at the South Pole about ice melting from below as ocean currents warn. And that could have massive implications on coastal cities really everywhere.

TAPPER: We're watching all this happen, play out. It's not in five years, not in ten years. It's happening right now.

WEIR: Yeah.

TAPPER: All right. Bill Weir, thank you so much.

WEIR: You're welcome.

TAPPER: Coming up, survivors from one of the worst scenes of Russia's invasion, the Mariupol Theater, bombed, despite the word children written in big, bold letters outside twice in Russian. Coming up next, hear from one family who escaped alive.



TAPPER: Welcome to the lead. I'm Jake Tapper.

This hour, people begging literally on their knees for the government to allow them to leave their homes so they can get cancer treatments. We're going to look inside China's latest COVID lockdown which may be its most extreme.

Plus, the word children was written twice in Russian outside the Ukrainian theater, sheltering thousands of innocent men, women and children, but that did not stop Russia from bombing the building, killing hundreds. We're going to talk to a family who survived.

And leading this hour, with breaking news s heavy dose of skepticism from the White House, pentagon, and the U.S. State Department after the Kremlin claimed it is moving forces away from the Ukrainian capital. President Biden saying he will believe it when he sees it.

His Pentagon press secretary issuing this warning.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We're not prepared to call this a retreat or even a withdrawal. We think what they probably have in mind is repositioning to prioritize elsewhere.


TAPPER: CNN's senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen joins us now live from the Ukrainian capital.

And, Fred, the Pentagon has been emphatic today, quote, the threat to Kyiv is not over, unquote. What's the reality on the ground today?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's certainly what it looks like, sounds like to us tonight. There seems to be wild artillery battle going on as we speak right now, Jake, and in fact, it's been going on for the past couple of hours, almost through this entire day.

It has been interesting. Since the Russians made the announcement that we heard about allegedly pulling forces back away from Kyiv, we went to an area that was fairly close to the front line and one of the territorial defense force soldiers there I talked to said there's been a decided uptick in shelling coming from the Russian side.