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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Milley: We Want To See A Free Ukraine And A "Weakened Russia;" Mariupol Mayor Says 3 Mass Graves Discovered Around City; Top U.S. General: Russian Talk Of Nuclear War Is "Completely Irresponsible;" Dr. Deborah Birx Recounts Trump WH COVID Response In New Book; Supreme Court Examines Biden's Power To Set U.S. Immigration Policy. Aired 4- 5p ET

Aired April 26, 2022 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The secretary of defense says the U.S. will move heaven and earth to meet Ukraine's security needs, but he cautions no boots on the ground.

THE LEAD starts right now.

New horrors, new mass graves discovered in Mariupol, ones Ukrainian officials say civilians there were forced to dig, in exchange for food.

Plus, Russia now raising the prospect of nuclear war, calling the chances, quote, serious and real, and now, top U.S. military leaders are responding.

Plus, she had a front row seat leading the COVID response team in Trump's White House, and now Dr. Deborah Birx is here with a new book to reveal what she was really thinking at the time, as well as offering her take on the COVID response by the current White House.


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

We start today with our world lead and a warning from the top U.S. general that the entire international security order is at stake because of Russia's war on Ukraine.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley making this declaration during an exclusive CNN interview with Jim Sciutto earlier today.


GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: If this is left to stand, if there is no answer to this aggression, if Russia gets away with this cost-free, then so goes the so-called international order. If that happens, then we're heading into an era of seriously increased instability.


TAPPER: General Milley also confirming one of the U.S. goals in this conflict is to weaken Russia. Echoing comments made by the U.S. defense secretary just yesterday. It's a goal U.S. officials had previously been hesitant to vocalize and hope some kind of negotiations with Russia might succeed, but apparently after seeing the horrors of Putin's war, including the atrocities in the town of Bucha, not to mention Mariupol, sources say the Biden administration has decided Russia needs to be beaten so decisively on the battlefield, that would be deterred from launching this kind of attack ever again.

For now, potential war crimes committed by Russian forces are still coming to light. These new satellite images show three mass graves around the city of Mariupol, the city's mayor saying Russian forces made the local population dig these graves in exchange for desperately needed food and water to survive. To the north of the country in Kharkiv, nowhere is safe from the relentless Russian bombardment, not apartments, not kindergartens, not playgrounds.

CNN's Clarissa Ward traveled to the city and met with survivors of Putin's brutal assault there.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's no rest at night for the people of Kharkiv. Flares light up the sky as artillery thunders through the air.

For nearly nine weeks, Ukraine's second largest city has been shelled relentlessly. Only by day do you see the full scale of the destruction.

The neighborhood was hit repeatedly last month, as Russian forces try to push into the city. No site was spared, not even the local nursery school.

So it looks like this was some kind of a dormitory. You can see children's beds here all around. And then in the next room over there was their classroom.

Their shoes still litter the locker room. Mercifully, the school had been evacuated, so no children were killed in the strikes.

The mayor of Kharkiv says that 67 schools and 54 kindergartens have been hit here since the war began. What's so striking when you look around is that it's so clearly not a military target. This is a residential neighborhood.

Just a few blocks away, the bare skeleton of an apartment building. Authorities say more than 2,000 houses have been hit here. Sounds of war are never far away. You can see this is what's left of the bedroom here. It's just astonishing.

Two doors down, we see a figure peeking out, 73-year-old Larissa Krenina (ph) is still living there alone. So she's saying she does have a sister who she could stay with, but

she also lives in an area that's being heavily hit, and she's living in a shelter at the moment.


It's from all sides, she says. From there and there, they can shell. With her fresh lipstick, Larissa is a picture of pride and resilience -- much like this city, still standing tall in the face of a ruthless enemy.


WARD (on camera): Now, according to the Kharkiv governor, Jake, three people were killed today as a result of shelling. Seven were injured, and this is what it's like day in and day out. There has been an intensification as Russia's new offensive in the east has taken force. Heavy fighting again in the east today, Jake.

And what people in Kharkiv tell you that is so heartbreaking is that their real fear is that Kharkiv could become the next Mariupol, could be encircled, could be bombarded even more than it already is.

Now, although I will add that Ukrainian forces have been fighting every day, launching counter-offenses, a lot of that bombardment is not just incoming, it's outgoing too, Jake.

TAPPER: Clarissa Ward live for us in Kyiv, thank you so much.

Joining us to discuss, former Ukrainian prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

Mr. Prime Minister, thanks for joining us. I wonder what you make of the change in tone we're hearing from top U.S. officials. What do you think when you hear them say it's now the goal of the United States to insure Russia is weakened so it can never launch an attack like this again?

ARSENIY YATSENYUK, FORMER UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER: Well, here is the thing. I am fully sure of the take of Secretary Austin, but the first goal is to save Ukraine as an independent country and European country. And the other goal is to protect NATO allies, and the third goal is to defend American people.

Because, look, Putin pulls the threat to the entire world, the free world, and I believe the world has realized that we need to actually to craft a new global order completely new one, where those who committed crimes, where those who committed atrocities, where those who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity will be brought to justice. And ever since the United States started to do, and you know, the U.S. is a real flagship and real leader of this righteous fight for freedom in the world.

That's really awesome, and this is the historic decisions that Putin didn't expect. TAPPER: The secretary of defense here, Lloyd Austin, also announced

some of the heavy weaponry being sent currently to Ukraine, including anti-aircraft systems from Germany and the United Kingdom, more armored vehicles from Canada, the U.S. obviously doing more than any other country when it comes to supporting Ukraine with military aid.

Who else do you think needs to step up to the plate and what do they need to do?

YATSENYUK: You know what, Jake, today we actually have a historic day because as of now, the United States and Germany orchestrated and facilitated a new anti-Nazi coalition, which resembles the coalition that was established during World War II. So for today, we have a coalition of the free world against Nazi style ruler who is Putin.

So more than 40 countries, no doubt that the U.S. contribution and the U.S. role is just of crucial importance. And you folks are the biggest contributors to the global peace and stability. And you are the most staunch supporters of Ukraine. But actually, for today, we have more than 40 countries who are ready to co-sponsor this kind of large scale support in Ukrainians' fight for freedom.

TAPPER: So Putin invaded Crimea just as you were taking office in Ukraine. I wonder if you could have ever envisioned even though you were there when they took Crimea, the Russians would do anything like we're seeing in terms of atrocities as horrific at this scale?

YATSENYUK: I never trusted the Russians. We have a very long and dramatic history of relations with Russia. Putin failed to take over Ukraine in 2004 when we had the Orange Revolution, in 2015, when we had the Revolution of Dignity, and he's failed in 2022.

But here is the thing. Today, you had hearings in the senate, and your Senator Rand Paul asked, if I'm not mistaken, Secretary Blinken whether NATO issue is related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

I will reply to Rand Paul, telling him this.


In 2013, you just mentioned when Russia illegally annexed Crimea, Ukraine was a completely neutral country. Under that legislation, Ukraine was neutral and there was no NATO membership in the Ukrainian legislation. But despite this, Russia illegally annexed Crimea and started large-scale invasion of Ukraine.

So Russia and personally Putin, they hate Ukraine. They don't believe that Ukraine is to exist. And this is the reason why Putin decided to invade Ukraine, but we will prevail together with you.

TAPPER: Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, thank you so much for your time today.

Today, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia said there's a good chance the U.S. could get dragged into a direct conflict with Russia. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): We're going to have more troops involved. We're going to be involved, there could be engagement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think we could be involved?

MANCHIN: I think we could be pulled in, I absolutely do. I hope we don't. I'm praying to God we don't.


TAPPER: I'm going to ask a Republican senator next if that's a growing consensus, concern.

Plus, another attempt by the Biden administration to end a Trump era border policy. Today, the Supreme Court is hearing the case.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our world lead, a united front. Today in Germany, U.S. military officials met with their counterparts for more than 40 nations promising to weaken Russia's military to help Ukraine win the war. Among those officials, General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

CNN's Jim Sciutto spoke with General Milley this morning. He joins us now live from Lviv.

And, Jim, there's been an overall change of tone among U.S. officials now that no meaningful peace deal is apparently anywhere in sight. So what did General Milley have to tell you?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, one thing that struck me was for some time, and you know this, Jake, from speaking to him, President Zelenskyy has tried to internationalize this conflict, to say that this is not just about defending Ukraine but that Ukraine is in effect on the front lines of Russia's challenge to the world, to Democratic systems, to the world order.

So, it's interesting to hear General Milley put it in similar terms, saying if the U.S., if the west is not able to defend this ground here in Ukraine, then this becomes really a global threat to the current international security order. Listen to the way he described it.


GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: If this is left to stand, if there is no answer to this aggression, if Russia gets away with this cost-free, then so goes the so-called international order. If that happens, we're heading into an era of seriously increased instability. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: This phrasing that Secretary Austin used yesterday, the goal of weakening Russia, has the U.S. aim in this conflict expanded beyond just helping Ukraine defend itself to an aim of degrading Russia's military so it cannot attack other countries?


MILLEY: At the end of the day, what we want to see, what I think the policy of all of our governments together is a free and independent Ukraine, with a territory intact and their government standing. And the Russian aggression has been halted and stopped. At the end of the day, I think that's going to involve a weakened Russia, a strengthened NATO.


SCIUTTO: That last answer, interesting, because you and I and others have heard the White House and other administration officials seemingly try to walk back Defense Secretary Austin's comments yesterday talking about weakening Russia, but you heard General Milley there, I heard John Kirby say this morning, we do want to reduce Russia's military capability to not just attack Ukraine but other countries. They're saying it explicitly now and I think we can see it in some of the actions and the weapons they're providing.

TAPPER: Jim, a lot of Biden administration officials are reacting to Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov who said the danger of a nuclear war is serious and real. What did General Milley have to say about that?

SCIUTTO: General Milley said, listen, we're monitoring this closely. I have been speaking to U.S. officials for some time asking them, are you seeing any new moves of Russian weapons or nuclear forces, nuclear weapons or forces that would indicate this is more than rhetoric? Now, they're not saying they're seeing those movements. But they are saying, and General Milley reiterated that today, that any commentary like this is dangerous.

Have a listen.


MILLEY: Any time a senior leader of a nation state starts rattling a nuclear saber, then everyone takes its seriously. It's completely irresponsible for any senior leader to be talking like that in today's world. We are monitoring as a military, we're monitoring very closely with all of our friends and allies and take those things very seriously.


SCIUTTO: And they will keep monitoring. We know, Jake, that they look at this as a problem if Putin feels backed up against a wall, right? Does he resort to that as a last resort? There's no indication that's going to happen today and no movement, but it is a factor. It's a possibility that they at least take seriously.

TAPPER: All right. Jim Sciutto in Lviv, thank you so much.

Let's discuss now with Republican Senator Todd Young of Indiana. He's on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who also served as a U.S. marine.

Senator, thanks for joining us.

American officials are now plainly stating that the goal of the U.S. is to see Russia's military so weakened that invasion like this could never happen again by them.

At the start of the war, however, President Biden insisted he didn't want to turn this into a contest between the U.S. and Russia or NATO and Russia.

So what do you make of this change in tone and goal?

SEN. TODD YOUNG (R-IN): Well, listen, to the extent change in tone has been that we are actually going to help the Ukrainians win this war as opposed to lose slowly, I think that's been very positive. I think the weakened state of the Russian economy, the Russian military, and the Russian state's diplomatic respect in the world will take care of itself.


It will be a byproduct of our unified efforts in the West to insure that we properly resource Ukrainians and help see them through to a victory.

TAPPER: Do you think that this kind of language and explicitly stated goal will take off the table any possible future peace deal or is it really irrelevant?

YOUNG: You know, I don't want to overstate the extent to which it will make less possible a peace deal. I do thing that we should be a lot more focused in our public statements about doing whatever it takes to insure the Ukrainians win militarily. And we also need to be focused on insuring that the United States is perceived as in this to stay, in this for the long haul, and one way we can do that through concrete measures as opposed to things behind podiums would be to insure that we are able to get in place the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine as soon as possible, open that embassy back up.

We heard from Secretary of State Blinken before the foreign relations committee today that there are now diplomats on the ground in Lviv investigating how to make that happen. But we ought to bring that nominee to a vote so we have an ambassador in place ASAP.

And then when it comes to resourcing the Ukrainians, currently, Jake, it takes 72 hours between a request for certain materiel to be sent and for that to be delivered. We ought to be identifying ways to expedite that. There's a piece of legislation over in the House of Representatives that would reconstitute a form of lend lease program that could compress that timeline somewhat.

And lastly, we really need to be pressing our European allies who have been on balance pretty good so far, but we need to press them to provide whatever Russian material, Russian armaments they have that the Ukrainians already know how to use and we can get into their hands. You know, as I colloquially say from time to time, if it shoots, we ought to be sending it.

TAPPER: Yeah. Your colleague Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia expressed concern today that the U.S. will, quote, get further pulled in to the war against Russia. Are you worried as well? What would the fallout look like?

YOUNG: Listen, we have to properly modulate our response, but if anything, I think we have been a little slow to be responsive to the needs of the Ukrainian military and their military effort. Right now, the greater weakness to the United States is not getting pulled in too much. It's instead doing too little and if you look at the current map, allowing the Russian military to get their sea legs back, secure the Donbas, Eastern Ukraine region. Get a stronghold developed across the Baltic Sea and into Moldova, and then it becomes much more difficult to push back the Russian military.

Instead, we need to resource the Ukrainians when they're asking for it right now.

TAPPER: Congresswoman Victoria Spartz, who is a Republican from Indiana and also Ukrainian born, she and Congresswoman Walberg sent a letter to the secretary of defense and the secretary of state today requesting a U.S. military attache presence as a part of the returning presence of the U.S. in Ukraine and also to keep oversight over all of this military aid that the U.S. is sending.

Do you agree with that? And is it important for the U.S. to really make sure that all the spending that is going on is being done correctly and without any corruption going on in the United States?

YOUNG: One would think this would be done in conjunction with reopening the embassy. So, the proper sequencing is immediately. Let's vote on the ambassador, let's open the embassy, and then let's locate a defense attache at that facility or in the country operating out of that embassy.

But I do agree with Congresswoman Spartz who incidentally has shown incredible leadership on behalf of her own constituents and the broader Ukrainian-American Diaspora.

TAPPER: And happens to be a fellow Hoosier.

YOUNG: That's right.

TAPPER: Senator Todd Young of Indiana, thank you so much. Appreciate your time today, sir.

YOUNG: Thank you, Jake. TAPPER: Coming up, the very first White House COVID response coordinator under former President Trump, Dr. Deborah Birx, is here with her version of events of the early days of the pandemic and how the current administration is handling the situation, as COVID in this country enters a new phase.



TAPPER: In our health lead, Vice President Kamala Harris today tested positive for COVID. The White House says Harris, who has both been double vaxxed and double boosted, says she is not exhibiting symptoms and is continuing to work from the vice president's residence. Having just traveled to California, Vice President Harris has not been in close contact with either President Biden or the first lady.

Joining us now is Dr. Deborah Birx. She is the former White House coronavirus task force coordinator during the Trump administration and the author of a brand-new book just out today. It's called "Silent Invasion: The Untold Story of the Trump Administration, COVID-19, and Preventing the Next Pandemic Before It's Too Late."

Dr. Birx, good to see you.

I have a lot of questions I want to ask about your book. But before we get to that, let's start with the current state of the pandemic which is, of course, on the front of minds everywhere for viewers.

The vice president has tested positive for COVID, but she also has received four shots of the vaccine, two shots and two boosters.

Do you see COVID infection for someone like her doesn't have other underlying health conditions as concerning in any way?

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Well, I'm concerned when anyone gets a COVID infection. Because we don't know all of the consequences from infection with this virus, and we shouldn't pretend that we know everything. I am confident, though, that she'll get excellent care.

I think that there's a lot of capacity around her to make sure that if she does exhibit any symptoms that she has ready access to antivirals or any other monoclonal antibodies or any treatments she might need and I hope she does really well. I think, though, it does point out the vulnerability we all have to COVID despite vaccination and boosting.

TAPPER: There's a lot of debate right now about whether masks are still necessary. What do you tell your family about masking, whether they're in an airplane or in a restaurant or in an arena? And do you tell your older relatives something different than you tell your younger relatives?

BIRX: Well, thank you, Jake. You know, we're still a multigenerational household. We have little Johnny who is just 1, and we have my mother who is 93. My father had a very bad fall and we lost him after four months of really trying to get him better. Not from COVID but from a bad pelvic break.

But because we have a multigenerational household, we have a lot of individuals in our family that have significant comorbidities, and we have people on cancer chemotherapy, so the whole family gets alerts, and I mean my whole extended family gets alerts about what I'm seeing coming, how they need to be careful over the next eight to ten weeks, I have my mask here.

I'm a masker because I cannot take an infection home to my grandchildren all under 5 or my mother that's 93. So the whole family is very careful. There's 13 of us, none of us have gotten COVID, but we have to utilize every tool that we have in our toolbox to make sure that we have prevention and that we don't get COVID.

TAPPER: What was your reaction when that Trump-appointed judge in Florida knocked down the mask mandate? Was that upsetting to you, did you agree with that? What did you think?

BIRX: So, this has been the problem that I think as a country with our mask utilization. I think we should have the evidence up right now so that every American knows how to fit a mask properly, understands the difference between each of the masks, and understands that they're in a multigenerational household like mine and they can't afford to bring the virus home to their loved ones, then they're going to have to be extra careful.

I believe in masks. But they have to now with each of the new variants, I have gone from a surgical mask, you know, that we all wore in 2020, to KN95s, to I wear a very tight fitting n-95 when I'm on airplanes, trains, and buses.

TAPPER: As the U.S. and much of the rest of the world relaxed restrictions, China is sticking with its zero-COVID policy in Shanghai, I'm sure you have seen the images, residents are being fenced in their homes to prevent them from leaving their homes. We're two years into this pandemic.

Why do you think we're still seeing governments like China's adopt these incredibly extreme measures?

BIRX: You know, we had what I would consider a pretty significant measures back in March and April of 2020, because the virus was already out of control in several major metros, and so that's why we asked for that kind of lockdown. But since then, with the tools that we have, masks, testing, better antivirals, better monoclonals, readily available to most people on the coast. We still have to do work to get them into the rural areas, and also vaccines and boosting.

We're in a different place, but I still fear that we're not communicating adequately with all Americans no matter where they live about what they really need to do to prevent getting serious COVID infections.

TAPPER: So, Dr. Birx, you share a lot in your new book, including your thoughts on that rather cringe-worthy moment when former president Trump suggested disinfectant could be used to treat COVID in individuals.

Stay with me. We have a lot more to discuss. We'll be right back.



TAPPER: We're back with Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus task force coordinator during the Trump administration, has a new book, "Silent Invasion".

Dr. Birx, your book details the Trump administration's COVID response in the early stages of the pandemic and throughout 2020. You're quite critical of President Trump and others in the administration. You write, for instance, quote, some roaming the halls of the West Wing believe that the less we did, the less we would be accountable for whatever was about to happen.

Take us inside those halls. You say early on, the president was receptive to your recommendations but that all seemed to change in early April. Why?

BIRX: So we had done that large analysis and that projection to show in that first surge between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans, even if we were very good and perfect, and we really mitigated aggressively like we were doing across the country, we would lose that many Americans in that first surge.


There was a group in the White House that took the same data I was using, used a different case fatality rate. Now, you have to know data, and our data was so delayed in the United States for reporting, that you couldn't use our data. But they used our data.

I used European data because the colleagues in Europe had been so good about sending me their data. I'm so grateful to them, and so my projections were based on an accurate case fatality. The CEA group, our Council of Economic Advisers, did a separate analysis and came up with an answer of 26,000.

So, I'm saying 100,000 and more. They're saying 26,000. That number resonated with many because it was similar to a normal flu season. And in that moment, I think the president felt that I had betrayed him and made up the numbers and that we would never get to the 100,000 that he had resolved in the 30 days to slow the spread.

TAPPER: One of the most memorable moments in your time in the White House was, of course, when President Trump suggested that ingesting chemical disinfectants to treat COVID and of course your reaction to that. Let's take a little stroll back on memory lane here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: And then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning?


TAPPER: So in the book, you say that president Trump's comments made you furious. It blew up the credibility of the task force. I have to say, when I asked you about the president's comments a few days later in a time when poison control centers were warning people not to ingest disinfectants, this was your response.


BIRX: I think it bothers me this is still in the news cycle. I worry that we don't get the information to the American people that they need when we continue to bring up something that was from Thursday night.


TAPPER: So it bothered you it was still in the news cycle. Do you regret not taking that opportunity to provide the correct information to the American people about why they should not ingest bleach instead of chastising the news media?

BIRX: So, I did immediately obviously go to the presidential advisers and others in the White House to make it clear that those were not therapies and the very next day the president said they weren't therapies, he was joking. CDC put up and FDA put up that these were not treatments under any circumstances.

I was so worried about Boston and Detroit and Chicago, I wanted to use my very few minutes talking about how to prevent this viral spread and how to save American lives. And I was just so focused, Jake, on the data and trying to get the right information out there when there was so much swirl of information. I was just focused on those elements and that's why I said those things.

And I'm not as polished. I learned a lot in the White House. I'm just not as polished as many others were. I learned quickly, and I tried to not make the same mistake twice, I mean, you point out a very important piece. And I was just so focused on what we needed to convey that day.

TAPPER: Yeah, you note that President Trump came out and said that he had been joking, but you write, the media and the public saw through this.

BIRX: Yes.

TAPPER: I mean, he wasn't joking. We all reported it. And we all noted he wasn't joking.

You say after the disinfectant debacle, things fundamentally changed for the task force and that you were increasingly sidelined as the months went on. You write, quote, though the president didn't utter the catch phrase you're fired, I very much had the sense that I had been. You say you considered quitting at one point.

Why did you decide to stay?

BIRX: Well, for one thing, there was no one else in the White House. Tony and Bob and Steve Hahn were in their respective agencies and working as hard as they possibly could, and that's also what I wanted to show, how hard people were working to really make a difference. Someone had to be there to constantly get the information out, the correct data, what needed to be done.

And that was the thing I always -- that was the kind of schizophrenic nature of the White House. At one point, the president is saying this. And I'm funding, and he's writing defense production to do this. And so as long as we were able to move the ball closer and closer to the goalpost, I felt it was valuable for me to stay.

TAPPER: You're critical of the CDC in the book. You write, quote, in many ways, anti-Trump sentiment has prevented people from seeing the full spectrum of the breakdown at the CDC in the pandemic's early months. That continues today, unquote.


What kinds of failures are you talking about from the CDC?

BIRX: I think the number one piece is access to real time data. They had years to prepare for a pandemic. They had decided that their preparation was going to be looking for symptoms rather than definitive laboratory diagnosis. I come out of a laboratory and clinical background, and it's really important to me to know what the patient has, not what I think he could have based on symptoms.

And we had spent two decades making sure that everybody in Africa that had the fever was diagnosed with either HIV, TB, or malaria. It didn't matter where you lived, how far down the road.

And here in the United States, we're deciding if people have flu or not by symptoms. So it was how the pandemic preparedness moved forward in the United States that were those original sins. And I still don't think they're getting data fast enough and reporting it out to the American people fast enough.

TAPPER: Dr. Deborah Birx, author of the brand-new book just out today "Silent Invasion: The Untold Story of the Trump Administration, COVID- 19, and Preventing the Next Pandemic Before It's Too Late." Congratulations on the book. Thanks for joining us.

BIRX: Tank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up, the Supreme Court today taking up a fight over another attempt by the Biden administration to end a Trump era immigration rule.


TAPPER: In our national lead, it is a big week at the border.

Today, the Biden administration is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to end a Trump era policy called "Remain in Mexico". That allows the United States to send certain non-Mexican migrants to Mexico instead of keeping them stateside while their immigration proceedings play out. The policy under review today is separate from the other Trump era COVID border restriction called Title 42 which a judge temporarily blocked President Biden from ending last night.

Priscilla Alvarez is joining us now to explain all this.

So, the arguments today are a huge test of the White House's ability to set immigration policy. What are they hoping for, the Biden people?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Biden administration is asking the Supreme Court to allow them to terminate the "Remain in Mexico" policy. They have tried to do this in two termination memos but have been stymied by the federal courts. But this week goes beyond immigration policy. This also extends into foreign policy and the president's diplomatic relationships, because this policy requires coordination with another country. In this case, Mexico, and having Mexico take in non-Mexican migrants while their immigration proceedings continue.

And again, we should remind our viewers, this was implemented in 2019 and was an unprecedented approach, because it required people to wait outside of the United States instead of in the United States as they went through the proceedings. Now, the Supreme Court is expected to have its decision this summer. But in the interim, it's just another example of the Biden administration facing the courts when trying to make immigration policy changes.

TAPPER: And let's go back to Title 42, which allowed the Trump administration and then the Biden administration to send people to Mexico, migrants, because of COVID, using a health exemption. You have new reporting about how the Biden administration is going to respond to the judge's block of that. Tell us.

ALVAREZ: Now, the administration officials told reporters just moments ago they will comply with the order when it comes down. We know the judges' intent to block the order. We're still waiting to see him issue that order and give us the scope of what that will mean.

Now, there is a hearing expected on May 13th, where we'll hear more of that. That's ten days before Title 42 is expected to end. The administration in the meantime continuing its preparation, sending 600 agents and officers to the border, expanding holding capacity and working with the region to try to stem the flow of migration.

Now, the administration is also making its round on the Hill and briefing lawmakers and hill staff this afternoon after coming under pressure for not having sufficient plans. We'll also hear more about that from Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas this week when he testifies before two or three House Committees.

TAPPER: Yeah, a lot of Democrats are upset with the Biden administration for trying to get rid of Title 42.

Thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

Coming up, CNN's access to the Chernobyl plant. Hear from investigators now trying to fix the damage done after Russians ransacked the place and put so many people and themselves in unnecessary danger.

Stay with us.



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

This hour, another CNN exclusive about the January 6th insurrection. Newly obtained text messages revealing more of the failed scheme to overturn the results of the 2020 election, and in this new batch, the name of one particular Republican congressman that keeps coming up.

Plus, the cost of life. Rising energy prices are hitting American families hard. It's not just Russia's war driving up your electricity bills. How long we might see prices keep surging.

And leading this hour, a rally from the West. U.S. military leaders say Ukraine can win the war against Russia. Germany makes a major policy shift and agrees to deliver anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine, as Russian soldiers continue to commit atrocities with new shelling of residential areas in the south reported again today.

The United Nations estimates that more than 614,000 Ukrainians now find themselves in Russia. CNN has been investigating a few of those cases and we're learning that many were sent to Russia against their will.

As CNN's Phil Black reports, they have no idea if they will ever be allowed to return home to Ukraine.


PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): War creates powerful connections between people. Vladimir Papon (ph) and Nadia Yaruva (ph) didn't know each other before the Russians came. Now, he's brought her news that inspires pain and hope.

Vladimir was recently freed from a military detention center in Russia.