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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Putin Appoints New General To Lead War In Ukraine; CNN And The Devastation Inside Ukraine; Russian Media Propaganda On War In Ukraine; Georgians Fear They Could Be Next Target Of Russian Invasion; U.S. Hospitalizations & Deaths Drop But New Cases Rising; Philadelphia Reimposing Indoor Masking As Of April 18; France's Macron, Le Pen Set For Rematch In Presidential Runoff; New York City Tourists Scramble After Manhole Explodes. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired April 11, 2022 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Meantime, U.S. and Europe officials are warning Russia, has now appointed a new general to direct the war after troops failed to take Kyiv. He is known as "The Butcher of Syria."

Here with me now in Lviv is CNN's Phil Black to discuss it all. And Phil, let's start with the new Russian general. His name, Aleksandr Dvonikov. He's been dubbed the "Butcher of Syria." A U.S. senior defense official says that that doesn't necessarily mean that Russia is "poised for a greater success." But from where I sit, it definitely means that the Ukrainian people might be feeling even more pain.

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Perhaps. He has a reputation for brutal effectiveness. You could say there's been plenty of brutality in Russia's campaign so far. No shortage of that, but effectiveness has been lacking. Either way, I think regardless of who is in command here, the Ukrainians know that this is going to be a very different fight in the east. It's going to be a more consolidated Russian force, one where they have more fire power, more raw strength focused into a specific geographic area.

But they'll be going up against Ukrainians, the most experienced Ukrainian troops. And Ukraine is confident they can hold out if they get the support they need from western allies.

TAPPER: Yes, the military weapons and such. Today, Putin met with the Austrian chancellor, Karl Nehammer, for 75 minutes in Moscow. Nehammer says it was not a friendly visit. He is not particularly optimistic from the talks. What do you make of this face to face meeting?

BLACK: Well, it's the first European leader to meet with Putin since the start of the war. Austria is not a member of NATO, militarily neutral. But as the chancellor says, not morally neutral. This is a chancellor who only yesterday was talking the streets of Bucha, seeing for himself the aftermath of Russia's occupation.

And so his messages to Putin were blunt. Effectively, this is on you. There must be accountability for war crimes. The E.U. is united that sanctions will continue for as long as Russia's war of aggression will continue. So, not a friendly visit by any means.

TAPPER: And today, Ukraine's foreign minister said it would be extremely difficult to even think about negotiations with Russia after all the horrific events. Bucha, the train station attack at Kramatorsk. Is there any room for diplomacy given the tactics the Russians are using?

BLACK: I think there is no mood for diplomacy at the moment. Neither side is willing to make concessions. Really, both sides are still trying to create realities on the ground that would allow them to force concessions at the negotiating table. It's something that Ukraine and its allies have been open about really.

They think their only way of having leverage through negotiations is to inflict pain on the battlefield. To prove to Russia that its goals are unachievable or that they will come at unbearable cost. Russia is doing the same, really. It's trying to conquer territory that it will not give up easily. And so for all of these reasons, it's why the battle in the east is potentially so crucial to a potential outcome.

TAPPER: The difference of course being the Ukrainians are trying to kill Russian troops and the Russian troops are trying to kill Ukrainian citizens, women, children, seniors.

BLACK: Yes. Indeed, a key difference.

TAPPER: All right. Phil Black, thank you so much. Let's go to go Kyiv now to CNN's Fred Pleitgen. Fred, Russian troops may not have been able to capture the capital of Kyiv and its surrounding neighborhoods. But what they left behind was absolutely horrific and you've been bearing witness yourself. You've seen streets littered with bodies.

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you're absolutely right, Jake. And it really is something that continues until now. This isn't going to be some sort of fast clean-up that the authorities are trying to undertake here.

And, you know, quite frankly, I think right now the authorities here around Kyiv, the people here around Kyiv and to the north of Kyiv also, they are finding out that the scale of the destruction is a lot bigger than anybody would have thought. And also, that populations that lived through all of this, they're extremely traumatized.

I mean, there are so many people that we come across who stayed behind and who just break out into tears the moment that they tell us some of the awful things that they've witnessed. And then of course, some of the things that the authorities are finding here. Some of the dead bodies are truly a devastating and awful sight. And so we do have to warn our viewers in the report that you're about to see, there are some very graphic and disturbing videos. Let's have a look.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): The tour is a sad routine for the body collectors in the outskirts of Kyiv. Finding corpses has become eerily normal here. A house destroyed by an artillery strike, a body burned beyond recognition.

A mangled car wreck, two bodies burned beyond recognition. A house that was occupied by Russian troops. An elderly lady dead in the bedroom. These bodies evidence of a brutal Russian occupation and then a fierce fight by the underdog Ukrainians to drive them out.

A fight 81-year-old Kataryna Bareshvolets witnessed up close in her village. There were explosions, explosions from all sides. It was scary, she tells me.


I am in my house. I cross myself and lie down. And then I hear how it thundered and all the windows in the house were broken.

The Ukrainians tell us the Russian troops didn't even bother collecting most of their own dead. More than a week after Vladimir Putin's army was pushed out of here, they showed us the body of what they say was Russian soldier still lying in the woods.

And that's not all they've left behind. This de-mining unit says they found hundreds of tons of unexploded ordinance in just a matter of days, including cluster munitions like this bomblet even though the Russians deny using them.

These weapons are extremely dangerous for civilians who might accidentally touch them, the commander says. There are about 50 such elements in one bomb, he says. This is a high explosive fragmentation bomb to kill people. Designed just to kill people.

They blow up the cluster bomblet on the spot and then move the heavier bombs to a different location for a massive controlled explosion.

The body collecting, the mine sweeping, and the clearing up of wreckage are just starting in this area. And yet this pile of demolished vehicles, both military and civilian, already towers in the Kyiv suburb of Irpin.

(On camera): If you had to picture Russia's attempt to try and take the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, it would probably look a lot like this. Destruction on a massive scale and absolutely nothing to show for it. Russia's military was humiliated by the Ukrainians and caused a lot of harm in the process.

(Voice-over): And they've devastated scores of families. At Irpin's cemetery, the newly widowed weep at funerals for the fallen. (Inaudible), her husband Ihor (ph) fought alongside their 21-year-old son in Irpin and died in his arms on the battlefield.

(Inaudible), wife of Dmytro (ph) (inaudible), killed by a Russian mortar shell. And Tetyana Lytkina, her husband Alexander (ph) promised he'd come back in a few hours, but he was killed defending this neighborhood.

I'm very proud of him, Tetyana says. He's a hero. We have many people in Ukraine who have not fled and are defending their home. Sasha (ph) died just 200 meters from our house where we lived.

Laying the dead to rest, another sad task they've become all too efficient at performing in this area. Close by, the next funeral is already underway.


PLEITGEN (on camera): And there will certainly be many more there in Irpin and of course, in so many other places around Ukraine and around this area north of Kyiv as well, Jake. And, you know, one of the things we have talked, but there obviously a lot of sadness, a lot of anger there among the people, but there is also a lot if resilience as well.

One of the other things that we're actually seeing here in the Kyiv area is more and more people returning to here who had fled the area, trying to breathe some life into some of the places that have been abandoned since the Russians invaded this country, Jake?

TAPPER: And Fred, that's the all clear from the alarm we got before. The air raid siren. Fred, did the people there believe that ultimately there will be justice?

PLEITGEN: Well, look. I think that they are following very closely some of the investigations that are going on. Of course, you had the prosecutor general on in the previous hour and that was, you know, something that's really important for the people here to also hear and to see that these investigations are going on that some of them might happen internationally as well.

But I think very few people believe that any people in the Russian leadership are going to be held to account and are going to have to stand up for some of the things that they've done. What we hear from people like the lady in our report there, is they want vengeance on the battlefield.

They want Ukraine to not give an inch of territory. They want to keep fighting for their independence. And they certainly see the ones who have fallen so far as heroes to this country. So if anything, there is more resolve.

And one of the things that one person told us, I asked him, you know, what's your message to Vladimir Putin, I asked them? And she quite out front me, she said to me, I want Vladimir Putin dead. Jake?

TAPPER: Fred Pleitgen live in Kyiv. Thanks so much for that report. Joining us not to discuss is Maksym Skubenko. He's the CEO of VoxCheck. That's an independent fact-checking organization. He's also currently serving in the Ukrainian Territorial Defense.

Maksym, thanks for joining us. So your company was already providing this important service, fact-checking Russian disinformation about the war in Ukraine. So why was it important for to you also join the Ukrainian armed forces?

MAKSYM SKUBENKO, CEO, VOXCHECK: Yes. First of all, thank you. And a little fact-checking of the war, I must say, all not VoxCheck, but of VoxUkraine. VoxCheck is a part of VoxUkraine, actually, a fact- checking unit of (inaudible) organization.


And yes, before the war, starting from 2015, I was working with disinformation, disinformation narratives, some (inaudible) coming not only from Russia, but also from other countries, primarily Russia and China. Actually, but yes, in the last two years, I was working with Facebook and continuing to work with Facebook, countering disinformation. There are a lot of it right now. I think U.S.A also got in that part of this disinformation.

TAPPER: So you fought against the Russians as they were advancing on Kyiv. What was that like?

SKUBENKO: I think it was -- it felt really scary because the first fight was on my first night in Territorial Defense Forces. I was -- I don't know what I'm doing, what we're going to do, and a lot of guys with me was actually first time they took a gun in their hands, which was really scary. But now we are trained enough to fight against Russian troops. So I hope that they will understand this and they will go back.

TAPPER: What is your unit doing now that the Russians have withdrawn from around Kyiv? What does your day to day look like?

SKUBENKO: Great question. We are now part of our -- I'm actually, I want to introduce my brother in arms. I am in 209 Battalion of Territory Defense of Kyiv. So, a platoon and it's not secret information. And for now, we are in Kyiv. We are -- at this moment of time, we are transferring from the territory defense in the army of Ukraine, in the newly created division of army.

And all of our platoon is transferring to the army because we are -- already got an experience in fights. We got actually, a few weeks ago, we were in Irpin, Bucha, and Moshchun. Moshchun, actually it's a city near Irpin and Bucha, which was critical for Kyiv defense because in case Russian troops getting through Moshchun, if they go through it, then they can just open a route to Kyiv, open route to Kyiv.

So, yes, that was our duties at that moment of time. Now, we are actually training everyday and waiting for transferring and waiting to go to the east or south of Ukraine where the hot spot is right now.

TAPPER: So we know the Russians are constantly spreading disinformation about their actions in Ukraine starting with their assertion that they were never going to invade. How does your company go about fact checking all the lies that the Kremlin tells? How do you go about revealing the truth?

SKUBENKO: Yes. We work with VoxUkraine. We closely work with some -- I can't tell with exactly the name of organization, but with the government organization from the U.S. and the project we start before the war was actually how Russia spread disinformation not only in Ukraine but also in such countries in Europe as Germany, as Italy, as France. And now we are continuing to do this project.

And we are actually finishing this project. And now -- I can say main part of our work in disinformation field is we work with Facebook to search (inaudible) program in which we are participating from the side of Ukraine from 2015 to 2020, I think. Yes, it was started in 2020, where we check information in Facebook in Ukraine (inaudible). Now we found in about 150 fakes per month.


And mostly 90 percent of them is Russian disinformation and we are trying to mark them as manipulation false and so on. So it's a big part of our work, of our daily work as an organization.


SKUBENKO: My colleagues now working and to do a lot of work because I only help them with my advice (inaudible), some tactics, operational work and so on, but yes, they are doing some work.

TAPPER: Maksym Skubenko, thank you so much for your time today. Really appreciate it and best of luck.

All the bodies in Bucha, the train station attack, the Kremlin not only denies committing these war crimes. Wait until you hear the lies about these attacks that are told to the Russian people.

Plus, the big decision coming up in less than two weeks that could change the western approach to Ukraine from America's longest ally. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Staying in our "World Lead," another prominent Putin critic has been detained as the Kremlin's unrelenting crackdown on dissent within Russia continues. Vladimir Kara-Muza who's already managed to survive two suspected poisonings was detained outside of his Moscow apartment today, a Russian opposition politician tell CNN.

This clamp down comes as Russia engages in a fierce propaganda war to justify its unprovoked, brutal invasion and to try to cover-up the growing number of atrocities and massacres being committed against Ukrainian civilians. CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter now reports on the lies and misinformation coming out of Russian media.


BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here is what Russia's upside down media world is like. They claim the train station missile strike in eastern Ukraine was committed by Ukraine despite all evidence to the contrary. This post from the foreign affairs ministry prorated by pro-Russian accounts on social media claims the Kyiv regime wants more of its own civilians to die. MADELINE ROACHE, SENIRO MISINFORMATION REPORTER, NEWSGUARD: Russians

who get their truth from the state media are living in an alternate reality.

STELTER (voice-over): Every day, Madeline Roache watches the morning news on Channel 1, a top state run TV channel in Russia.

ROACHE: The Russian army is portrayed as triumphant, as not sustaining any losses, any casualties, and certainly not committing any atrocities. Meanwhile, according to the state media, it's the Ukrainian army committing atrocities, killing civilians, sustaining heavy losses, and losing territory to the Russian forces.

STELTER (voice-over): They deny, they deflect, and according to Julia Davis, creator of the Russian Media Monitor, they portray the Russian armed forces as liberators.

JULIA DAVIS, RUSSIAN MEDIA ANALYST: They are presenting it like the Ukrainians want them there. They want to be liberated. They have been oppressed by this so-called Nazi government and they welcome Russia's intervention.

STELTER (voice-over): Independent news coverage disproves this but there is almost none of that left in Russia.

ANNE APPLEBAUM, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Essentially, journalism has been banned now in Russia.

STELTER (voice-over): "The Atlantics" Anne Applebaum notes that so many journalists have fled the country.

APPLEBAUM: So, the true story of what goes on in Russia is now getting harder and harder to tell.

STELTER (voice-over): Russians are thus even more dependent on state- owned TV. CNN's Nic Robertson says --

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: There's no surprise that so many people are just following along with the Kremlin's lies. It's the easiest thing for them to do. They don't see an alternative. They feel powerless and its information they've been fed year upon year upon year by Putin and by the Soviet leadership back in those days.

ROACHE: The government is creating a sort of hermetically sealed bubble that doesn't allow for information that contradicts the government to enter.

STELTER (voice-over): Roache is now writing a daily report for NewsGuard, making a record of the false claims. She says others need to know what it's like.

ROACHE: Russians would have every reason to feel proud based on what they're seeing on state TV.

(END VIDEOTAPE) STELTER (on camera): Call it motivated reasoning, the human brain's ability to rationalize almost anything. Maybe in this case, the better term is propaganda poisoning. Despite all the reporting coming out of Ukraine, experts say state-run TV out of Moscow has a very firm grip on Russian public opinion. Jake?

TAPPER: CNN's Brian Stelter. Thank you so much for that report. Our CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale joins us now live to break down some specific examples of Russian misinformation that he's tracking. And Daniel, the Russian government and its allies, they've been trying to deceive people. They've been lying about the killing of civilians in Bucha outside Kyiv. What can you tell us about the misinformation?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: Jake, the Russian government has claimed that not a single local resident was killed while Russian troops were in Bucha. And that evidence to the contrary was staged or faked or a hoax. And Jake, these claims are frankly ridiculous. They're totally false. It has been conclusively demonstrated that civilians were indeed killed while Russian troops were in Bucha and witnesses say, by Russia.

Let's walk through some of the Russian deception here. I want to show people just how hard Russia and its allies have been working to trick people. In early April, videos emerged of dead people on a street outside in Bucha. And so Russian officials quickly settled on a way to cast out on these videos.

They claim that one of the videos showed that a person lying on the road was actually alive. That their hand was moving. But journalists quickly proved that the so-called moving hand was actually just a drop of water moving across the wind shield of the car from which this video was filmed.


And journalists also found still photos of that same person on the road, clearly deceased. So end of story? Well, not for the Russian government. It also suggested that the bodies only appeared on this Bucha road days after Russian troops withdrew from the area. So they were hinting the bodies had been place there'd by Ukrainian forces.

But that is of course, false, too. Satellite photos proved there have been bodies on that road for more than two weeks of the period when Russian troops were present. So now, end of story surely with satellite photo proof? No, again.

Pro-Russia social media accounts and a pro-Russia supposed fact-check site, not a very good site, then started casting doubt on the satellite photos claiming that the satellite company in question wasn't even taking pictures over Bucha on March 19th, the date on some of these photos. But the company was taking pictures on that day, either out of malice or out of ignorance.

The people doing the so-called fact check just weren't properly doing their online archive search. So, Jake, this is exhausting for me to keep track of and this is my full-time job. So I'm sure regular people around the world find it exhausting themselves to keep track of.

And I think that's the point. I think what Russia is doing is throwing so much nonsense at the wall that either some of it sticks and gets believed or just that it all tires people out. That people get so confused and overwhelmed by everything being contested. Even the most obvious seeming effects that they throw up their hands and say I don't know what's true. I can't keep track of all this and that's tough. And I think we as journalists have to fight hard against that.

TAPPER: Absolutely. And this deception obviously goes far beyond Bucha. A Russian state TV channel also claimed last week it had video showing Ukrainians were getting ready to use a dummy as a fake corpse. Tell us about that.

DALE: Yes. This was also ridiculous. More of the same kind of nonsense. So this video aired on the state-run channel Russia 24 claiming to catch Ukrainians in the act of preparing to stage a Russian killing, pretending that Russia killed a civilian.

In fact, this video was taken in Russia, not Ukraine. And it was from the filming of a television show. We know this because someone who worked on that TV production crew spoke out on Facebook and Instagram about the misuse of the footage by Russia 24.

They made clear they were filming in Russia. They joked about how their dummy had become Russia's most famous dummy. So, Jake, it's a pretty endless stream of false claims from Russia and its online supporters and a lot of it is quite brazen.

TAPPER: CNN's Daniel Dale with the vital fact-check. Thank you so much. Coming up next, the family that left Russia right as Putin ordered his invasion and now fear their hiding spot could be a future target of Russian forces. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our world lead, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine rages on citizens in neighboring Georgia, the Republic of Georgia are anxiously watching what's unfolding. The former Soviet state was attacked by Russia 14 years ago. And Putin's forces still occupy much of that country. As CNN's Matt Rivers reports for us now from Tbilisi, Georgia's capital, many there worry they could be Putin's next target if he succeeds here in Ukraine.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Gia was born in Georgia, he just didn't think he'd be back here quite yet. His family moved to Russia 30 years ago, fleeing the Georgian Civil War. It was in Moscow they built a life, where he met his wife Anya and where his kids were born. He's told them the truth about the horrors of the current war in Ukraine, and says he worried what would happen if one of their teachers in Russia echoed Putin's propaganda that this war is just.

GIA: RECENTLY LEFT RUSSIA WITH HIS FAMILY: He knows what's really going.

RIVERS (on-camera): Yes.

GIA: He will say no, you are not right. And it could be problem for him.

RIVERS (on-camera): You were worried that your son would have problems?

GIA: Yes. Yes.

RIVERS (on-camera): Wow.

(voice-over): So the family left for Georgia just a few days after the war began. Though Anya isn't completely convinced that they will be safe here either.

If no one stops Putin, she says, he can easily go both to Georgia and to the west. And she is not alone in her fears.

Georgians have a long, brutal history with Russia. Russian troops invaded in 2008 and thousands of troops remain in two breakaway provinces of Georgia. And in 1989, in the capital of Tbilisi, nearly two dozen protesters were killed and hundreds were injured by Soviet troops as they advocated for independence.

People gathered over the weekend outside the parliament building in Tbilisi to mark the anniversary of that massacre. Georgian flags this year joined by those from Ukraine for what's now called National Unity Day.

(on-camera): It's a big day each year in Georgia. But this year, it's made even more important given what we're seeing Russian troops do in Ukraine.

RIVERS (voice-over): Decades of Russian aggression here have left deep scars, and many now see parallels between Putin's invasion of Ukraine and what they fear could happen in Georgia.

IRAKLI PAVLENISHVILI, GEORGIAN POLITICAL ANALYST: Russia pose. They'd illustrate for Georgia independence, for our sovereignty, for our territorial integrity.

RIVERS (on-camera): Do you think that there's a chance that Russia could invade Georgia again?

PAVLENISHVILI: Yes, this threat is always even the country across the Europe. Not only Georgia is under threat.

RIVERS (voice-over): Back in their apartment, Gia and his family wholeheartedly agree. They told us they don't want their children and grandchildren to grow up in what they call North Korea 2.0. And for that, grandmother Galina says people must understand a crucial point.

She says, the whole world must understand that Ukraine is now really not fighting just for itself, it's fighting for everyone. And the whole world must unite and stop Putin because He won't stop with Ukraine.



RIVERS: And the family told us that before they left Moscow in the beginning days of the war, they were talking to some of their friends in Moscow and they said that they were shocked to hear from people they considered themselves close to that they were repeating the lines of Russian propaganda, that the Ukrainian government was fascist, that they were drug addicts, as we so often hear from Russian state media, and that the family tells us played a role in their decision to leave. Jake?

TAPPER: Matt Rivers, thanks so much.

Coming up, the spike in COVID cases in the U.S. and the key factor that might explain why many cities have resisted bringing back mask mandates. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Turning now to our health lead, even though hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S. are down compared with last week, a new COVID cases now are rising more than half in -- more than half of states although still at relatively low levels overall. The new White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha says the uptick is not yet cause for alarm.



DR. ASHISH JHA, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: We are seeing case numbers rise in New England, here in the mid-Atlantic. We're going to see this, right, in the pandemic, we're going to see moments where cases go up, cases go down. If we were to see a huge spike in cases, we'd also see that eventually trickle into hospitalizations. We're not seeing that. Hospitalizations right now at the lowest level since March of 2020.


TAPPER: Let's bring in CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. Elizabeth, even though hospitalizations are at the lowest point since March 2020, which is rather significant, the U.S. is still averaging more than 500 COVID deaths a day. Do we know anything about these people who are dying? Are they overwhelmingly unvaccinated? Do they have comorbidities?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Jake, we do know that these 500 people who are dying per day, they do tend to be elderly, and even more so, they tend to be unvaccinated. Let's take a look at those numbers. If you look at CDC data from January and February, what you'll see is that folks who are 75 and older have a 10 times higher death rate compared to folks who are younger, who are 50 to 64.

The unvaccinated have about nine times higher risk of dying from COVID than the fully vaccinated and the same unvaccinated folks have a 21 times higher risk of dying than those who are fully vaccinated and boosted. So, you know, you can't do anything about your age. There's not a whole lot you can do about your underlying conditions. And those people are also more vulnerable. But of course, as we've been saying for, you know, over a year now, get vaccinated. That does make a difference.

TAPPER: Get vaccinated, get boosted. Many testing sites are shutting down --

COHEN: Right.

TAPPER: -- because of a lack of demand. Is that going to be a problem?

COHEN: You know, right now would make sense in some ways, right? City and state health department's saying, you know, people aren't showing up for tests, we have limited resources, we need to close some of these down. So in the short term, you can see where that comes from.

But here's the concern, this has been a very unpredictable virus. There have been times probably about a year ago, where we were thinking, oh, listen, if you're vaccinated, you know, you're fine. Take off your mask, everything's OK. And it didn't turn out that way.

And so here's the problem, Jake, if another variant comes around, if hospitalizations and deaths and cases start to go up again, we will want those testing sites back. So hopefully, as they're being closed down, it's with an eye towards how do we reopen them. How can we remain nimble so that we can have these testing sites if they are needed again? Because you know what? There's a real possibility that they will be needed again.

TAPPER: So Elizabeth, the great city of Philadelphia, is bringing back indoor mask mandates as of April 18. What's going on there? Will people follow advice like that?

COHEN: You know, Jake, your favorite city, right? And you actually might be able to shed some light. What do you think? Well, the people of Philadelphia obeyed mask mandates. I don't know much about Philadelphia but just in general, I think it's going to be very, very difficult to get people to obey mask mandates again.

Maybe if it's for something super specific, like when I've been on airplanes, people, for the most part, are quite good about wearing masks, because they know that sort of in this instance, they're supposed to or when they're in airports. But it would need to be for something, I think very specific, in order for people to wear masks again and just say, hey -- to just say, hey, whenever you're in a restaurant or a store or wherever, wear a mask, I think that's going to be very difficult to do. And you certainly don't want to put a mandate out there and not enforce it, that really sends the wrong message. It sends the message that a mandate doesn't mean anything.

TAPPER: Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much.

Turning to our money lead, Americans are bracing for even higher prices. In fact, inflation fears measured in a survey released today shows U.S. consumers are more worried about the cost of living now than they have been in almost a decade. Rent, medical expenses and gas prices are top of mind.

Joining us now to discuss, CNN Data Reporter Harry Enten. Hey, Harry, good to see you. So jobs numbers looking pretty good. How do Americans feel about the economy overall?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN DATA REPORTER: Yes, this is a really just mixed economy. It's kind of very confusing, right? If you look at the unemployment rate, it's below 4 percent. We're gotten back to an unemployment rate that's lower than it was since -- before the pandemic began. But look at the annual inflation rate, 7.9 percent. That's as of February. We'll get another report tomorrow.

That is the highest since 1982, long before I was born. So it's way, way back in the past. And when Americans are trying to look at these two competing measures, right, you know, OK, it's pretty easy to get a job but it might be hard to actually buy something. How do they actually see the economy going?

And what we see in the polling is, do Americans feel the economy is good or the economy is bad? The vast majority, 63 percent in a CBS News YouGov poll yesterday said the economy was bad, only 31 percent was good. And even among Democrats in that poll, only about 50 percent said it was good. So most Americans think the economy is in bad shape.


TAPPER: So of those two and three Americans who think the economy is in bad shape, what's the driving factor for that opinion?

ENTEN: Yes, you know, I think there's this whole idea, oh, the White House is just losing the messaging war, you know, if only they knew how good the job situation was. But if you ask Americans, why do you think the economy is bad? It's inflation. The voters know exactly what's going on. They're not stupid.

86 percent say inflation, only 17 percent say unemployment if they believe the economy is in bad shape. So Americans don't think the economy is in bad shape because of unemployment. They believe the economy is in bad shape because of inflation. And that is across the board, Democrats, Republicans, independents.

And, you know, if you look back at Gallup polling over the years, you know, Gallup has been asking about the most important problem in the country for forever. Look at this. 17 percent of Americans said that inflation was the most important problem facing the U.S. in March of 2022. That was the highest it's been since 1985. So again, another long stretch where inflation and the economy quite in bad shape and at least in the voters' minds.

TAPPER: Is this high inflation uniquely an American problem? ENTEN: No, it's not. This is kind of the beauty of it, right? You know, we're always focusing on the United States, et cetera, et cetera. But this is actually a worldwide problem. And I think there's really no place you can see that better in France, right?

We know that now Emmanuel Macron, the incumbent president is facing a runoff against Marine Le Pen, who's a far-right candidate. Why is that? Because the number one issue in the French voters' minds, it's inflation. By far the most important issue, it's something that's killing the Democrats here at home, and it's killing Macron's chances abroad, though, he's probably still the favorite. But gives Marine Le Pen, a decent shot of being able to win that election, which is something unconceivable to someone like me, given the history of the Le Pens in France.

TAPPER: And you're going to hear more about that in the next segment. Harry Enten in New York, thank you so much.

How Russia's invasion into Ukraine is playing a large role in that major presidential election in France. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Also in our world lead, Deja Vu and France. French President Emmanuel Macron and his far-right rival Marine Le Pen are headed to a run off again. Macron, as you might recall, bested Le Pen in a testy runoff contest in 2017. Sunday's results, mean voters will have to cast their ballots once more since neither candidate got 50 percent of the vote. And Macron tallied in at almost 28 percent of the votes and Le Pen trailed at 23 percent.

CNN's Melissa Bell joins us now live from Paris. Melissa, this race could have direct implications on Russia and Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, and France has positioned in the world and the future of Europe itself, Jake. There's quite a lot at stake. And what we saw in this first round was Emmanuel Macron on one hand consolidate his position. He did better than he did in 2017. No one had expected that, but also Marine Le Pen doing the same with his two starkly different views of France, the future.

And what we see now is a confirmation, Jake, what began in 2017. The traditional right and left swept aside, in fact, this time, they didn't even get the 5 percent they needed to be able to claim back the millions they've spent on their campaigns. Instead, Emmanuel Macron, facing off against a far-right leader that this time has really achieved a considerable amount of the vote in that first round. And they will now be facing off in a poll that is expected, Jake, to be the tightest since 1974, except this time, rather than their traditional left and right.

It's two very different futures of France that are being proposed. They're looking at 49 percent versus 51 percent potentially in those polls. And of course, there is all of that at stake and for Europe as well.

TAPPER: While I have you Melissa, over the weekend, Pakistan's parliament ousted their Prime Minister and voted in the opposition leader. Tell us about that.

BELL: It's been another a moment of political turmoil in Pakistan. It had been thought, Jake, that Imran Khan, you'll remember the popular cricketer that had taken power in 2018 might become the first prime minister in Pakistan to see through his entire five-year term. That did not happen. The man who'd come in on a ticket of anti-corruption appears to have invested by troubled economy, double-digit inflation but also and perhaps most importantly, Jake, apparently falling foul of the country's powerful military and intelligence services.

The opposition saw an opportunity called an opposition called the confidence vote. In the end, the Supreme Court allowed that. Imran Khan has lost. He claims there is an anti-American plot against him, something Washington's vehemently denied. And so far he's provided no proof of.

But it is now Shehbaz Sharif that takes power. He will now form a government. He's expected to rule until next year's election. The question is whether all that political uncertainty instability really now comes to an end, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Melissa Bell in Paris, thanks so much.

The startling moment that sent crowds in New York Times Square running for cover. Stay with us.



TAPPER: A loud boom sending New Yorkers scrambling in Times Square last night. The culprit was an exploding manhole cover near the busy tourist intersection. The energy company Con Edison says another manhole was also found smoldering. Con Edison blames the terrifying scene on a power cable failure.

The New York Fire Department immediately started searching for elevated levels of carbon monoxide, warning in a tweet today, "If you see a manhole that is smoking, do not hesitate call 911 right away." Thankfully, there were no reported injuries.

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

The whole two hours just sitting there waiting for you. I'll be back at 9:00 p.m. Eastern this evening for CNN Tonight with more from Lviv and from our amazing reporters on the front lines of this bloody invasion. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer, he's in "THE SITUATION ROOM." I'll see you in a few hours.