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The Lead with Jake Tapper

U.N.: More Than 4,100,000 Refugees Have Fled Ukraine; Now: Buses Arriving Carrying Evacuees From Mariupol; U.S. Treasury Official: Russia's Deep Recession Will "Only Get Deeper"; Russia Claims Ukraine Is Behind Strike On Russian Fuel Depot; Alejandro Mayorkas, Homeland Security Secretary, Discusses Biden Admin Ending Pandemic Border Restrictions In May, Acting DHS Intelligence Chief Steps Down As Biden Appointee Awaits Confirmation; Goldberg: Cawthorn An "Embarrassing Ignoramus"; GOP Sen. Cramer: Putin "Should Reveal" Biden Dirt If He Has It; Annual Snow Survey Finds Snow Water Levels Critically Low. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired April 01, 2022 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Plus, are we seeing the best jobs recovery in U.S. history? How the latest hiring numbers offer an offset to inflation fears.

And leading this hour, who did it? Growing questions about an attack on a fuel depot in the Russian town of Belgorod. The Kremlin claims Ukrainian helicopters carried out the attack, but Ukrainian officials will not confirm nor deny whether their military was behind the strike. Let's get right to CNN Senior International Fred Pleitgen who's live in Ukraine's capital of Kyiv.

Fred, Russia is accusing Ukraine of striking this depot, which is on Russian soil, we should note. CNN is unable to verify the claim. You've reported extensively from Belgorod. What can you tell us about the area and what Ukrainian officials are saying?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, it certainly would be remarkable if the Ukrainians really had managed to carry this out with two combat helicopters, which are of course, you know, aerial vehicles that move fast but not really that fast. This area Belgorod and the area that was struct is about -- it's about 25 miles away from the border between Russia and Ukraine, but certainly a lot further than that away, for instance, from Kharkiv. You can see there's on the other side of the border. That's more like 40, maybe 45 miles away. So it's not really a very short distance.

And one of the things that we have to keep in mind is that Belgorod is one of the main places from where the Russians are feeding that offensive towards Kharkiv and certainly one of the most fortified places that I've seen in a very long time, including air defense systems and multiple rocket launching systems as well. So it's really unclear who carried this out. But certainly, if it was the Ukrainians, it would be a massive feat. Let's have a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE) PLEITGEN (voice-over): It could be a brazen and bold counter attack by the Ukrainians. This social media video seeming to show two attack helicopters penetrating Russian territory and firing at an oil depot setting the facility ablaze. The Russian military publicly acknowledging the incident.

On April 1 at around 5:00 a.m. Moscow time, two Ukrainian MI-24 helicopters entered the airspace of the Russian Federation at extremely low altitude, the spokesman says. Ukrainian helicopters launched a missile attack on a civilian oil storage facility located on the outskirts of Belgorod. As a result of the missile hit, individual tanks were damaged and caught fire.

Video from the aftermath shows the facility engulf in massive flames with firefighters struggling to put out the blaze.

Belgorod is a highly militarized city right across the border from Kharkiv in Ukraine. It was from here that Russian forces crossed the border and attacked Kharkiv, moving large amounts of tanks armored vehicles and trucks towards Ukrainian territory. But the Russians also have a massive military support facilities in this area. But Ukrainian so far have not acknowledged they've hit the depot.

DMYTRO KULEBA, UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: I can neither confirm nor reject the claim that Ukraine was involved in this simply because I do not possess all the military information.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The strike comes as Russian forces have been suffering setbacks in their invasion of Ukraine, withdrawing some forces from the area around the capital Kyiv after failing to storm the city.

The Russians now saying they want to focus their offensive on the east of the country, which includes Kharkiv where authorities report a major uptick in shelling in recent days. All this as talks between Russia and Ukraine to try and end the fighting continue. But Moscow now saying Vladimir Putin has been briefed on the chopper attack and it could have a negative impact on the talks.

Of course, this is not something that can be perceived as creating comfortable conditions for continuing negotiations, the Kremlin spokesman said.

The strike on the oil facility will probably do little to hold up Russia's invasion of Ukraine. But if the Ukrainians are behind it, it would show they are not afraid to strike back at the country that is attacking them.


PLEITGEN: And certainly, Jake, the Ukrainians would have ever reasons to try and target any sort of facilities on the Russian side of that border in an attempt to try and slow down the Russian offensive. Of course, Kharkiv was one of those towns. And the area around Kharkiv, by the way as well, that's really been pummeled by the Russians, but it's continuing to hold up. Nevertheless, there is a Russian offensive just south of Kharkiv also going on where the Russians have managed to gain some territory. But you know, once again, it's impossible to tell whether the Ukrainians really are behind all of this. The Russians claiming that they are but it would be a really a big, big feat if they had managed to do this, Jake.

TAPPER: Yes. Russians also claimed that they weren't going to attack Ukraine.

Fred Pleitgen in Kyiv, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Turning now to the southern south of Ukraine where three missiles struck the Odessa region today according to a local Ukrainian military leader. CNN's Ed Lavandera has been talking to residents there who are trying to maintain a normal life amid so much uncertainty.



ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Kanishka market is where you come to trade gossip and rumors, dollars for Ukrainian cash or hunt down underground rare books. It's also where a group of college friends come for coffee and a sense of peace.

(on camera): I want to ask you with everything going on in Ukraine, everything here seems so normal.

TAIMUR KRAVCHENKO, LAW STUDENT: Now it's home and we can, like, live a normal life. But that's for now, we don't know what's going to be tomorrow or in a week.

LAVANDERA (on camera): It looks normal. But is it really normal?

KRAVCHENKO: Inside everyone is afraid. If something's going to happen Odessa, of course, we'll protect our city. But right now, we can just sit and live normal life.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Do navigate the streets of Odessa, you see the remaining residents trying to go about their daily lives. But a large part of the city's historic center is transformed into a fortified zone with anti-tank barricades, bracing for an amphibious attack by Russian troops from the Black Sea. It's a ghost town.

(on camera): The residents of Odessa would normally be preparing to hold what is known as the April Fool's parade on this street in the heart of the city. It's a parade that started years ago in response to Soviet censorship. But now, this area of Odessa is completely fortified. And this year, there will be no parade.

Instead, civilian volunteers and activists are mobilizing to support the war effort.

(on camera): So we're in a bomb shelter in Odessa. And this is where they're making bulletproof vests. (voice-over): We meet this man sealing the steel plates of homemade armored vests for frontline soldiers. He asked that we call him Martine (ph).

(on camera): We've heard that Russian forces are leaving Kyiv. Are you concerned? And do you think that they're going to start coming back toward Odessa?

We've already beat their ass. We will do it again, he tells me.

Russian naval ships remained stationed off the coast of Odessa in the Black Sea. The concern here is the war will intensify in the South.

Before the war, Martine worked as a professional scuba diver, He defiantly says he looks forward to exploring the underwater wreckage of those sunken Russian ships as a diver when the war is over.

On a street corner, we find dozens of displaced families who have escaped to Odessa. They're from the worst war zones hoping to find food and clothing.

Olga Petkovich is waiting with five of her six children.

(on camera): So, you come from a village that was surrounded by Russian soldiers. You're in the crossfire. How frightening was that?

(voice-over): I was scared for the children most of all, she tells me.

Olga says her family had to walk through a forest to escape shelling. Tears well up in her eyes as her husband tells us Russian soldiers broke into their homes taking everything they could from the families in their village.

OLGA PETKOVICH, DISPLACED WAR VICTIM (through translator): When we came here, the volunteers told us to say what we need, but I'm ashamed. I've worked all my life and never asked anyone for anything. And now I have to ask.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Her little girl wipes away her mother's tears.

Mother, why are you crying, the girl asks. Because they were shelling us a lot, Olga tells her.

Not far from where we met Olga's family, we notice a father teaching his daughter how to ride a bike, a poignant moment in the midst of a surreal world.


LAVANDERA: And Jake, for about a minute tonight, we heard of a barrage of air defense blasts into the sky. We have been told by military officials in Ukraine that three missiles were fired from the Crimean Peninsula toward Odessa. One military official says that the missiles missed their targets. But another military official here in Ukraine says parts of it did strike a settlement and that there are several people wounded. We are still trying to work out the details and clear up the details on what exactly has happened here tonight. That could take some time. But clearly the peace and quiet that the city has enjoyed for the last several days shattered tonight, Jake.

TAPPER: Ed Lavandera reporting from Odessa, Ukraine, thank you so much.

As of today, Germany says that that country has taken in 300,000 Ukrainian refugees. Two hundred fifty thousand refugees have applied for long term visas in the Czech Republic according to that government. France's Education Ministry says 7000 Ukrainian children are now enrolled in French schools.

Over all, Russia's brutal assault on Ukraine has forced more than 4.1 million Ukrainian refugees to leave nearly everything behind and flee their country. Many more are staying in Ukraine, of course. And nonprofit groups are delivering much needed aid, medical supplies and other such supplies.


One of those groups is Direct Relief. Thomas Tighe joins us now. He's the group's president and CEO.

Thomas, thanks for joining us. Today, some 2000 people finally were able to get out of the besieged city of Mariupol, but about 100,000 other Ukrainians remain stuck there and International Red Cross team was unable to reach the city today. Communication has been spotty. How dire is the aid situation in Mariupol? And is your organization, Direct Relief, trying to get supplies there?


You know, we're working through the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, I think they have much more current better information, as well as the Ukrainian group, some of which we've worked for for the past seven or eight years. So, I think we're relying on the information that they have.

We have been able to provide an ongoing stream of requested items that the ministry approves, kind of specialized medications from cancer therapies to wound tourniquets in bandages and high volume about 165 tons already with another 500 in the queue waiting to kind of see what channels are open. It's such a dynamic situation. It's hard for us to kind of know all the current information, and your reporters are doing such a good job. But we're really trying to feed the central ministry that has good contacts and so far distribution mechanism within the country that's working well and getting material out and flexing as it needs to flex as people are moving.

TAPPER: Your team just shipped hundreds of 1000s of pounds of medical aid to Ukraine at the request of the Ministry of Health that you just mentioned. Once the antibiotics and wound care and other medications are delivered, how is that distributed? How do you ensure that people who are getting it know how to use the medical supplies effectively even?

TIGHE: Yes, ultimately, it's getting down to the hospital level or the treating physician level. I mean, today, we had the most recent four deliveries of events in which is, you know, critically needed for people who are dependent on it and go without can find themselves in a crisis. So, I mean, as an example, we were shipping directly to four sites in Kharkiv, Kyiv, Oman, and Lviv and we had data logging trackers inside the boxes, so we need both the temperature and location.

So we have good information about the routing and delivery. As to the use and dispensing, I mean that -- once it leaves our control, we really don't have that visibility nor does any supplier here in the States. I mean, but I think -- surprisingly, I think the ministry has flexed well, they've been very good, their training inventory.

And we -- I just met with the deputy health minister earlier this week of Ukraine, as well as Poland. And so the confidence level on both sides is high that the supply chain, at least in Western Ukraine, is functioning.

And getting down to Kyiv is it's happening, we're getting good reports and WhatsApp pictures for, you know, the proof of delivery in the facility. So, but it's very dynamic, as you said with, you know, such a high percentage of the people on the move. And the concern is that, you know, the disruption that comes from just people who may be diabetic or asthmatic --

TAPPER: Right.

TIGHE: -- not having access to things that keep them healthy can put them in crisis, as well as active shelling of hospitals and civilian areas. So, a large number of acute cases that are pushing even, you know, COVID patients in ICUs out of those beds to take care of the war injured.

TAPPER: Yes. Thomas Tighe, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

If you want to support Direct Relief's efforts in Ukraine, go to to donate.

Thanks so much again, Thomas, for your time and for what you do.

TIGHE: Thank you.

TAPPER: Russia's invasion is partly to blame for the soaring prices we've all seen at the gas station, but there is some good news about the U.S. economy, that's next.

Also, dire warnings about a change, some say will cause a disaster on the U.S. Mexico border. The head of the Department of Homeland Security will respond. That's ahead.


[17:18:30] TAPPER: In our money lead, President Biden celebrating a strong jobs report here in the United States even as the war in Ukraine and rising inflation continue to weigh on the U.S. economy. Let's get straight to CNN's Kaitlan Collins live for us at the White House.

Kaitlan, the U.S. economy added 431,000 jobs for the month of March and the unemployment rate has hit a new pandemic era low. So what does President Biden have to say?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a lot in this report, Jake, that the President wants to tout. And he said one thing he thought was long overdue is the bargaining power that American workers have right now. Of course, given they are going back to this they are seeing where American demand for workers is the highest that it's been in decades. And so, that's one part of what he touted today.

In addition to those wage gains that you've seen in the certain boost to the sectors that were hit the hardest by the pandemic, you know, leisure, hospitality, manufacturing, all that talking about that today as he summed up the jobs report, Jake. But of course, the really good numbers in this jobs report have not done a lot to alleviate the concerns that Americans have about inflation and the higher prices that they are seeing from the grocery store to the gas pump. And so, this is something President Biden talked about today, something he addressed and also something he blamed several factors on.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Putin's invasion of Ukraine has driven up gas prices and food prices all over the world. It was the previous administration who's reckless policies and mismanagement led to the record budget deficits.

Our policies are working, and we're getting results for the American people which is what it's all about to state the obvious.


COLLINS: Now, Jake, of course these higher numbers are doing directly affecting the way that Americans view President Biden's handling of the economy. That is something that White House knows very well. You've seen this week they are talking about the steps they're taking to try to lower gas prices to make these changes, including those releases from the oil reserves that the President ordered this week for the next six months.


And so, they talked about those factors. But you're continuing to see Republicans on Capitol Hill, of course, attack that, say that it is President Biden's fault. And that is obviously something that the White House does expect them to continue to use up until the midterm elections this fall.

TAPPER: And Kaitlan, you know, about this back and forth, the Russians claiming that Ukraine attacked a fuel depot in Russia, the Ukrainians not saying one way or the other. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked about this today. What did she have to say?

COLLINS: Yes, they're also not confirming it here at the White House. Obviously, they're deferring to Ukraine on this and since they're not commenting on it.

But they talked about this notion that Russia was pushing today and that Putin spokesperson was pushing, which is that this is going to hinder those peace talks that they've been attempting to have. Of course, some of them virtually, some of them in person that everyone has been watching to see if they are going to come to a resolution to end Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

And the White House is pushing back very hard on that notion, that this is going to affect that saying this is Putin's war, Putin is the aggressor here and it's not something they believe is going to cause any real damage in these talks unless Russia wants it to, of course, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins at the White House for us, thank you so much.

Meantime, a U.S. Treasury official says that the sanctions leveled on Russia have pushed that country into a deep recession that will, quote, "only get deeper." Let's discuss with Russia expert and CNN Contributor Jill Dougherty.

Jill, thanks for joining us. It's been 37 days since Russia first invaded Ukraine. The U.S. and NATO allies started imposing sanctions targeting the Russian economy almost immediately. Have those sanctions been effective?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think they definitely have. And don't forget, you know, that isn't a long period, they immediately began to have some effect. But if you talk to economists, they believe that this is going to be increasing over the next month for the next couple of months, at least. They are the most serious sanctions really ever leveled against any country.

And you know, if we look at the exchange rate, the ruble, it's interesting because in the past week or so it actually has been coming back somewhat after the beginning of the war. But that is really due to the intervention of the government these currency controls.

I'll give you an example, Jake, when I went to Moscow, when I arrived just before the war, the ruble was about 80 something to the dollar, then the war began, and it's streaked up. So, you know, 120, 150. And now it's back to 84, which is roughly what it was before the war. But again, it's a government intervention. And on the black market, it is, you know, 110, 120, so it's, it's very, very weak.

Then you have the other problems, you know, inflation, as you were mentioning, it is believed that that could go up to, you know, somewhere around 20 percent. And then the GDP falling, expectations are, they could fall by that 15 percent. So you see the pattern. And then you have brain drain and job cuts because of companies pulling out. So it's very serious. And unfortunately, you know, it is hurting average Russians.

TAPPER: Yes, Russian governor has accused Ukrainian helicopters of attacking this oil depot in Belgorod, apparently there are no injuries, no deaths. But if it's true, that would be a Ukrainian attack on Russian territory, which would definitely be of note. But on the other hand, could this be instead of part of a Kremlin disinformation campaign? U.S. officials have been warning that Russia could plant a false flag to justify even more bellicose behavior.

DOUGHERTY: I don't see it as false flag. I don't see what Russia gets out of that. I mean, this is really embarrassing. They say, we control the skies over Ukraine, and then all of a sudden a couple of helicopters sneak into Russia and, you know, and hit an oil depot, that to me is really not good for Russia to have happen.

So, the other thing is, they're already in the war. I mean, why do they need another false flag to get back into the war? If you see my point.

The only thing I think could be, if they want to get out of negotiations, you might say, as you just said, well, you know, this is bad for negotiations and maybe we won't talk to the Ukrainians. But I think maybe the simplest thing is the Ukrainians did, but we do not know that yet.

TAPPER: All right, Jill Dougherty, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Big changes ahead at the U.S. Mexico border, leading to warnings of a potential disaster. We'll talk to the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas. He'll join us live ahead.



TAPPER: In our national lead, a decisions sparking alarms and warnings about a potential medical, humanitarian and political disaster at the U.S. Mexico border. The CDC today announced that as of May 23 the Biden administration will end the Trump era pandemic restrictions that effectively blocked migrants from entering the United States.

Here to discuss the implications of this decision is the U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Secretary Mayorkas, thanks for joining us. So, just to get our viewers up to speed, President Trump, at the time he was president, he invoked the Public Health Authority known as Title 42. He did this at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, supposedly to prevent migrants from bringing COVID-19 into the U.S.


Although people criticize the president for just using this as a way to keep undocumented immigrants out of the country. The pandemic's not over. Why -- what do you think about the CDC making this decision?

And won't this decision -- isn't it basically taking a problem and throwing it into DHS's lap? You'll have a whole new surge of tens if not hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants?

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Jake, there's something very important that the listeners should understand. And that is that Title 42, as it is known, is a public health authority. It is not an immigration policy.

And as a public health authority, it is exercised by the CDC depending on the arc of the pandemic.

And the CDC, in its expertise -- we are not public health experts -- in its public health expertise, decided that the use of Title 42 should come to an end when we, in the Department of Homeland Security, have ramped up our public health protocols sufficient to address migration at the southern border.

We have to be mindful of the fact that these are individuals who will enter congregate settings, closed settings at the Border Patrol stations.

And that is why, I believe, the Centers for Disease Control identified May 23rd as the date on which the Title 42 authority will no longer be exercised.

TAPPER: And how many --


MAYORKAS: Because the arc of the pandemic --

TAPPER: Go ahead. I'm sorry.

MAYORKAS: I'm sorry.

The arc of the pandemic no longer requires it when we have ramped up our public health protocols. And we've been working on those for quite some time.

We administer vaccines to migrants in our detention facilities. We've been doing so for months.

We've equipped nonprofit organizations that work with us in communities to administer vaccines.

And this past Monday, we have begun to administer vaccines at the Border Patrol stations. We will increase our capacity, our capability, to do that.

And by May 23rd, we will be in a position to ensure the end of Title 42.

TAPPER: How many migrants are you expecting at the border?

MAYORKAS: So we -- our responsibility is to plan, to prepare for different eventualities and different possibilities. That's precisely what we've been doing and we've been doing for several months.

TAPPER: What's the situation at the border right now? How many undocumented immigrants are crossing the border?

MAYORKAS: So we are seeing approximately 7,000 individuals. But I should say --

TAPPER: A day?

MAYORKAS: -- the disposition -- yes. And the disposition that we administer depends on the profile of the individual and how the law provides for them to be addressed.

For example, we are expelling under the Title 42 authority that we are now exercising, and we will continue to exercise until May 23rd, over 50 percent of them.

The balance of them are placed into immigration enforcement proceedings, into removal proceedings. And they are then able to make a claim for relief as the law provides.

If they prevail in their claim, then they have established a basis to remain here. If they do not, then they are removed.

TAPPER: Republican Senator Mitt Romney, of Utah, said today, quote, "Worst domestic news today, the Biden administration will admit double or more the number of undocumented immigrants at the border starting May 28th."

It's actually May 23rd. Be that as it may.

He went on to say, "Best GOP political news today, the same as above. Arizona, Nevada, and more Democratic Senators will lose their elections."

What's your reaction?

MAYORKAS: I don't look at it through a political lens, Jake.

The CDC has made a determination that we are advanced in our fight against the pandemic to permit the use of Title 42 to end on May 23rd. We're planning and preparing accordingly.

We are a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws.

When an individual makes a claim for relief in a post-Title-42 environment, when they make a claim for relief as our laws provide, if that claim succeeds, they have established a basis to stay here. If that claim does not, they will be removed.

And, you know, we very well know that the smuggling organizations manipulate the news and provide disinformation. [17:35:00]

And allow me to be explicitly clear -- and I can't say this too often. If one's claim for relief does not succeed, one will be removed from the United States.

And what I would say to Senator Romney and to all of the Senators and all of the members of the House is that we are working with a broken immigration system.

And the fundamental relief that is needed is immigration reform.

TAPPER: Yes, that's been the case since 1987.

I want to ask you, sir, CNN has learned that the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security's Intelligence Division is stepping down. President

Biden has nominated a former Bush administration appointee to the post. He has yet to be confirmed.

This seems like something that would be of major concern, this position being empty.

MAYORKAS: Oh, do not underestimate the capabilities of the career personnel in the Office of Intelligence and Analysis and the number of distinguished leaders that we have in that wonderful organization that does such tremendous work.

I have worked with both the outgoing acting head of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis for many, many years.

John Cohen, a tremendous public servant, is leaving for compelling family reasons. He was a local law enforcement leader when I was a prosecutor in southern California. We worked cases together.

Hopefully, the Senate will be swift in its confirmation of Ken Weinstein, another devoted public servant with whom I have worked in the past.

TAPPER: Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, thanks so much for your time today. We appreciate it.

MAYORKAS: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorn is now responding to being called an embarrassment by members of his own party. That's next.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, Republican frustration with North Carolina Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorn appears to be reaching something of a boiling point. Many are setting their sights on him following some controversial

comments from the freshman member about alleged cocaine use and orgies among presumably his fellow Republican Washington leaders.

Republican Senator Thom Tillis, of North Carolina, is now throwing his weight behind one of Cawthorn's primary opponents, as are the leading Republicans in the North Carolina State House and State Senate.

Let's bring in the co-founder and editor-in-chief of "The Dispatch," Jonah Goldberg, who is also a CNN contributor.

Thanks so much for being here. We appreciate it.

You wrote this about Congressman Cawthorn in your latest column in "The Dispatch." Quote, "I think he's an embarrassing ignoramus, a crank, and if various allegations are true, a very scummy dude."

In addition, you just reminded me, Cawthorn is going to be speaking at the next Trump rally.

JONAH GOLDBERG, CO-FOUNDER & EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "THE DISPATCH": Yes, of course, because he's in the news.

Look, I think the interesting thing about this isn't so much that this is getting a lot of attention -- because he craves attention, he comes from that class, Matt Gaetz and others, who think that negative attention is better than no attention, right?

I think the interesting thing is that the GOP is actually cracking down on him, which it should. But they didn't crack down on white supremacist types and all that kind of thing.

And I think what it speaks to is that Republican congressmen and Senators are hearing from the base about what Cawthorn said.

Cawthorn said, in a sort of QAnon-adjacent allegation, that Washington is just like the Netflix show, "House of Cards" and it's full of orgies and that 60- and 70-year-old congressmen are doing coke and having orgies.

We've both been in this town for a very long time. The mental image alone should cause some skepticism, right?

But the base heard this and believed it. And so they had to put it out.

But, you know, Paul Gosar or Marjorie Taylor Greene speaking to white supremacists didn't arouse anger from the base so McCarthy didn't feel the same pressure to put it out.

TAPPER: A pundit who tweets said something like, "There are only two things you can do to outrage Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, accuse his colleagues of using cocaine and orgies or demand accountability for January 6th."


GOLDBERG: That's about it. Look, it's -- and the Republicans are very, very lucky they have the wind at their back politically.

You can see in a different time, in a different context, where a lot of these things could ruin their chances for the midterms.

But right now, I think Kevin McCarthy is operating purely on the assumption that he has to do whatever he can that doesn't threaten him taking back power. I think he probably will.

TAPPER: So speaking of Donald Trump, North Dakota Senator Kevin Cramer has basically joined Donald Trump's call for Vladimir Putin to release dirt on President Biden.

Just a reminder, this is not the call he did with Zelenskyy back in 2019, whenever it was, that caused the first impeachment.


TAPPER: This is a new call, amazingly, in the middle of a war.

Here's Kevin Cramer.


SEN. KEVIN CRAMER (R-ND): Well, I don't know if he has dirt on Biden. If he does, he should reveal it.

But he is a war criminal so I don't expect that he's right now sitting around thinking about ways he can, you know, reveal other information if, in fact, he has it.

I don't know of any that he has. So I don't know if the president --



TAPPER: I mean, I said this at the time, Susan Collins said Donald Trump had learned his lesson. What he learned was that he can get away with it and now he's normalized it. I mean, look at Kevin Cramer there.

GOLDBERG: Yes. Although I think this is going to be a huge headache for Kevin Cramer in a way these things are not headaches for Donald Trump.


Because Donald Trump's behavior is priced into Donald Trump's brand, in a way. And one of the things we learned is that Donald Trump imitators tend to pay a higher price than Donald Trump does.

Look, this is one of these classic examples of, you know, don't talk unless you're willing to remove all doubt that you're a fool.

This was a dumb, indefensible thing that Donald Trump said. Peddling conspiracy stuff and innuendo, and saying that Putin somehow -- the most important thing going on right now is for Putin to release politically helpful information for Donald Trump

TAPPER: Right.

GOLDBERG: Is just more -- it's just from a weird moral universe.

And the shocking thing about this is that I think Cramer somehow thought it would be in his political self-interest to echo this stuff rather than just let Trump get away with the stuff that he says.

TAPPER: It's bizarre. I can remember Marco Rubio trying to out-Trump Trump, but it just doesn't work.

GOLDBERG: Well, and remember, for several political cycles now, Steve Bannon and other people have tried to seed the Republican Party with a lot of mini-Trump-like figures, to take on Mitch McConnell, to take on the establishment.

TAPPER: Yes, Rick Scott right now.

GOLDBERG: And they've generally all fail. Because there's something about Trump's persona that allows him to be rude and ridiculous in the way that other politicians can't pull off, although J.D. Vance is trying.

TAPPER: He's trying. Let's see if it works for him.

Jonah Goldberg, thank you so much. Always good to see.

Snow is just fun for skiers and snowmobilers. Why a lack of this vital resource spells trouble for parts of the United States.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our EARTH MATTERS series today, the most important snow survey of the season is serving up some rather disappointing results, just as nearly 60 percent of the continental U.S. is experiencing minor to exceptional drought conditions, the most since 2013.

CNN's Stephanie Elam is live for us just south of Lake Tahoe now.

Stephanie, explain what the snow survey found and what this means for states like California that rely on this to get through the summer months. STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What's really important, Jake, is

know that the snowpack they're measuring really accounts for 30 percent of the state's water.

And that's up here in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. So they measure it at different times throughout the wet season to know how much snow is there and know how much water is there.

So this measurement that we watched here today was only two and a half inches. And they're saying that that accounts for about one inch of water for each bit of snow that was there. That is just 4 percent of what it should be.

And part of the problem, Jake, is that it's a beautiful day out here. Take a look behind me. You can see there is so much water already rushing out of the mountains.

And that is also a problem, because it may be melting off too early to actually get absorbed into all of the flow.

Just to make you understand why this is important and what we should see, take a listen.


SEAN DE GUZMAN, CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF WATER RESOURCES: As of April 1st, where we should be in terms of our snowpack, we should be standing on roughly five feet of snow. So my feet should be roughly right here.

Some may say this is a wake-up call. I disagree. The alarm has already gone off. Climate change is here and climate change has been here in California and across the American west.


ELAM: I should also point out that where we were standing was amidst that Calder Fire burning last year. So behind me, there are some treetops that are burned.

That's also a problem because that's not covering up and shading some of that snow so it's melting off faster as well.

Keep in mind, too, this year, January, February, and March were the driest three months on record, for over 100 years, that they've seen. And that is also another sign that points to this climate change that we are seeing here.

To that end, Governor Newsom last July asking for Californians to cut pack on water usage by 15 percent. Not everyone played along. But overall, the state did cut back.

But now there will be some mandatory cuts for people as far as buildings are concerned and grass that is near buildings.

Nothing required of residences right now. However, that could change. They're asking for people to realize that this is not a temporary

change, that the way we use water, the way we relate to water is something that is going to have to change going forward.

Because the days of yore, maybe 50 or 100 years ago, when we would see those big snowstorms coming through regularly, that's just not the case. They're much less regular.

So we may have a big one sopping one like we did in December and then end up with January, February and March like we did this year -- Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Stephanie Elam, thank you so much.

Coming up next, a U.S. Navy salute to one of the most recognizable Supreme Court justices ever.


Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our national lead, all rise. The U.S. Navy is naming a ship after liberal icon, late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The "USNS Ginsburg" will join a fleet of refueling ships, dubbed the John Lewis class, replenishing oiler ships.

The powerful vessels all named after civil rights leaders and activists, including Thurgood Marshall, Robert F. Kennedy, and Sojourner Truth.

The ships deliver fuel at sea to carrier strike groups. That's a formation of destroyers and cruisers led by an aircraft carrier with thousands of personnel.




TAPPER: Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro says Justice Ginsburg's daughter, Jane, will be the ship's sponsor, attending all of the milestone events for the ships, including the Christing ceremony, such as the one you see here for the "USNS Harvey Milk."

Be sure to tune into the STATE OF THE UNION this Sunday. My colleague, Dana Bash, will be talking to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, secretary-general of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, and Mayland governor, Republican Larry Hogan. That's at 9:00 and noon Eastern on Sunday.

Until then, you can follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and TikTok. You can tweet the show, @thelead, on CNN.

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