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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Ukraine: Russia Blocking Evacuation Efforts in Mariupol; U.S. Marine Veteran Killed Fighting Alongside Ukrainian Forces; Reed Family Speaks After Trevor's Release from Prison; Mark Meadows & Sean Hannity Exchanged Over 80 Texts Between Election Day 2020 and Biden's Inauguration. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired April 29, 2022 - 16:00   ET



MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Remember, low rates were great for stocks. Higher rates, that's going to be a challenge.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Okay. Matt, thank you. Thanks for setting us off for the weekend on this. Great to see you.

EGAN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: And THE LEAD with Jake Tapper starts right now. Have a great weekend.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: A U.S. marine veteran fighting for Ukraine has been killed.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Signs of Russian forces advancing in Ukraine, as the U.S. detects improved Russian air and ground operations. The strategic targets hit that may be more evidence of the Russians' unfortunate progress, including a Ukrainian journalist killed in attacks on Kyiv.

Also, ahead, American Trevor Reed finally back in the U.S. after being detained for more than two years in Russia. His parents will join us to share one of their son's most outstanding requests.

And CNN exclusive, Fox in the White House. Text messages revealing Sean Hannity telling Trump's chief of staff he was, quote, fed up with MAGA, quote, lunatics in the days before the insurrection.


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

We start today with our world lead and a desperate renewed attempt to evacuate Ukrainian civilians from the besieged steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, now blocked by the Russians. That's according to Ukrainian officials who had announced plans for a rescue operation early this morning. The need to evacuate made even more urgent after Russian forces

dropped bombs on a makeshift hospital inside that steel plant complex. Injured more than 400 people according to the mayor of Mariupol. While fighting intensifies in the east and south, a reminder from Russia it can strike anywhere in Ukraine. This is the damage after Russian missiles hit residential buildings in the capital of Kyiv.

CNN has also learned an American citizen was killed fighting alongside Ukrainian forces this week. Family members say 22-year-old Willy Joseph Cancel, a former U.S. marine, was working with the private military contracting firm when he was killed on Monday. Cancel leaving behind a wife and a 7-month-old baby.

U.S. intelligence shows Russian forces who were plagued by problems in the early weeks of the invasion are now regrettably beginning to fix some of those issues.

CNN's Jim Sciutto starts off our coverage from Lviv with a closer look at the Russian advance.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hundreds of civilians including children still trapped in a Mariupol steel plant today after Russia blocked Ukraine's latest attempt to rescue them. The plant is the last Ukrainian holdout in the embattled city and an official says that Russians have closed off an area near the complex for now.

DEPUTY MAYOR SERGEI ORLOV, MARIUPOL, UKRAINE: There is lack of everything, lack of water, food, lack of medicine, lack of any social help. So they need to be humanitarianly evacuated as soon as possible.

SCIUTTO: Mariupol's mayor claims more than 400 people were injured in a bombing Wednesday night, that hit a makeshift military hospital inside the complex. A military commander inside the plant spoke with CNN.

MAJ. SERHIY VOLYNA, COMMANDER, UKRAINE'S 36TH SEPARATE MARINE BRIGADE (through translator): The situation is critical. It is beyond a humanitarian catastrophe. We cannot tell you for sure how long we can hold on for. That all depends on the enemy movements and also on luck.

SCIUTTO: Humanitarian corridors from Mariupol were one of the items UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres lobbied for in his visits with Presidents Putin and Zelenskyy this week. But while he was meeting with Zelenskyy Thursday in Kyiv, several Russian missiles struck.

The attack shattered the relative calm in the capital. One blast killed a Ukrainian journalist in her apartment. Ukraine's foreign minister called it, quote, a heinous act of barbarism.

Russians are now making incremental progress in eastern Ukraine. This video shows extensive shelling of an important railway hub and supply line for Ukrainian troops, a key railroad bridge destroyed as well. U.S. intelligence sees Russia making improvements to fix some of the problems that plagued the military in the early weeks of the invasion.

JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: They are trying very hard to overcome the challenges they had in the north by making sure logistics and sustainment can keep up with the movement of troops, but the Ukrainians are fighting back hard and making it hard for them to make any progress.

SCIUTTO: A fuel depot was attacked overnight in the Donetsk region controlled by Russian backed forces. And the Ukrainian officials say a town in the northeast near Kharkiv has been recaptured.

All of this as we learn of an American casualty here. Former U.S. Marine Willy Joseph Cancel from Tennessee was fighting alongside Ukrainian forces. He was working for a private military contracting company. His family says he wanted to go help the people of Ukraine.


The 22-year-old leaves behind a 7-month-old baby and his wife.

Jim Sciutto, CNN, Lviv, Ukraine.


TAPPER: And our thanks to Jim Sciutto for that reporting.

White House officials are now bracing for a potential showdown at the G20 summit. Now that Russia's Vladimir Putin has accepted host country Indonesia's invitation to attend. President Biden has previously said he thinks Russia should be kicked out of the G20. And administration officials have recently walked out of G20 events where Russian delegates were present.

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

MJ, is it possible that President Biden boycotts the G20 summit all together?

MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Jake, we just don't know yet, but certainly, this is a big diplomatic complication because as you said, the president himself has previously said that he believes Russia should be kicked out of the G20 summit and that he also believes that it just wouldn't be constructive for them to be a part of this group.

Now, just moments ago, I asked White House press secretary Jen Psaki about the news that Russia has confirmed that it is going to be attending the summit, and I also asked her whether there is anything that could happen between now and six months from now when the summit is set to happen that would make the U.S. feel like it might be productive for Russia to be a part of those meetings. This is what she said.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have conveyed our view that we don't think they should be a part of it publicly and privately as well. There's a lot that could happen between now and then, but we certainly haven't seen an indication to date of Russia's plan to participate in diplomatic talks constructively.


LEE: And for now t is just unlikely that Russia is going to be kicked out of the G20 because not every member country agrees with the U.S. that this should happen. China, of course, being an important one that has spoken out to say they do not believe that Russia should be kicked out. There's also the question of Indonesia, which is the host country for the upcoming G20 summit.

You know, Jen Psaki interestingly said in her answer to me that they believe that Indonesia, you know, extended the invitation to Russia before the invasion began, but if you listen to what the Indonesian president said, he said Indonesia wants to unite the g-20, don't let there be a split. So it doesn't sound like a host country that is eager to see Russia kicked out of the summit, Jake.

TAPPER: And, MJ, President Biden just addressed the U.S. citizen, the former marine killed fighting in Ukraine. What did he say?

LEE: Yeah, he was answering some shouted questions from reporters about this American that was killed. And he said it's very sad. He left a little baby behind.

Of course, he is talking about Willy Joseph Cancel, a 22-year-old American citizen and a former marine veteran who was killed fighting alongside the Ukrainians. He was killed this week, according to his family. He had been working with a private military contracting company.

And we had also asked Jen Psaki about this, the White House spokeswoman, and she said he was offering her condolences to his family, but she also had a very stern message for any American that is thinking about heading over to Ukraine. She said nothing has changed in terms of the warning to every American that might want to travel over there, that they really should not do that because it is a war zone and it is very, very dangerous --- Jake.

TAPPER: MJ Lee at the White House for us, thanks so much.

Joining us now to discuss is Vadym Prystaiko. He's Ukraine's ambassador to the United Kingdom.

Mr. Ambassador, thanks for joining us.

What's your reaction to hearing that Putin has accepted this invitation from Indonesia to the upcoming G20 summit?

VADYM PRYSTAIKO, UKRAINIAN AMBASSADOR TO UNITED KINGDOM: Well, thank you for having me, first. I believe that Putin should be actually kicked out of all the organizations. All of the organizations which are bringing people around the table to talk about something which has to unite us. It can't have the dictator who is killing his neighbor for, I don't know, sometimes even economical things like he's stealing water now from the Crimea.

So, I believe Indonesians have to reconsider, and instead, he can invite President Zelenskyy to address all the G20 members.

TAPPER: Your president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said he was grateful for an invitation to the same summit, but he didn't specify whether he plans to go. Is he going to go?

PRYSTAIKO: I don't believe that he can come and even be in vigil when President Putin is around. I don't think that we'll be able to do it, but again, I will leave it with President Zelenskyy. This is still a very good chance to reach out to those nations who still do not understand the tragedy which is unfolding in our part and still try to understand and find some excuses for what Putin is doing.

Some of these nations are very wealthy nations and around the 20 most wealthiest nations. We have to be able to reach out to them.


TAPPER: As you know, the Russians are demanding those purchasing fuel from their country have to pay in rubles. Today, the prime minister of the Czech Republic said that his country is not going to agree to what he called, quote, Russian blackmail. They're not going to pay for Russian gas in rubles.

But on the other hand, Hungary's foreign minister said they're going to agree to the Russian terms because they depend so much on Russian gas. Isn't it true this war likely will not end until Europeans stop giving Putin money for Russian fuel? No matter what currency.

PRYSTAIKO: There are two major sources of Russians' incomes as a state. One is oil and gas. Something we have to do because we are fueling his military machine. Second, actually, the third of everything the military are spending is coming from the taxes of Western and Eastern companies working right now in Russian federation.

So we also have to get them out of the nation because each and every dollar they're earning and paying in tax is going to be turned to the bullets shooting at Ukrainians.

TAPPER: Earlier this week, you warned Russia is one step away from deploying nuclear weapons to Crimea. That's, of course, the area in the south that it annexed illegally from Ukraine in 2014.

Why do you believe this? Do you have evidence of it? What will Ukraine do if it happens?

PRYSTAIKO: Over the last eight years, we were observing the activities around the old Soviet installations which used to hold nuclear weapons aimed at the West at that time. This new activity is very suspicious. We still do not have evidence they already brought the nuclear devices, but the renovations are going right now and they can be observed from the satellites.

So, this is not big news what I told the intelligence all over the world already know that Russians are preparing something in these old Soviet nuclear installations.

TAPPER: The U.S. Congress is considering whether to approve $33 billion in additional aid to Ukraine that President Biden has requested. This would include military and security assistance, economic aid, humanitarian aid. Will this be enough to help Ukraine defeat Russia?

PRYSTAIKO: Finally, we see that United States is getting there, and it's meaning business. This is quite a considerable, a huge sum of money will not only help us to acquire the necessary equipment, but it will also help somebody who doesn't have a strong spine, some of the nations around the globe to finally come up with their share of the burden. And you know, open up their sometimes even wallets to help Ukraine, sometimes to allow it to be opened and start sending us needed equipment now.

I believe this last move on top of what has already been done by UK and some of the NATO allies, this is a key moment which we were waiting for two months and finally is here.

TAPPER: Tell me three countries you think need to be doing more.

PRYSTAIKO: I can tell you those countries who are doing well, but I also know that, for example, we started with Germany. They promised to send a couple helmets. This is ridiculous.

Now, they are considering to send an artillery, something we need right away, right now. We also need on top of it, we need anti-air, anti-sea, something which will allow us to hit more ships.

And there are a couple nations in the world which actually have this technology, especially those ones who have bigger fleets. And again, the anti-air, something which will allow us to wipe out the planes from our skies. These are three priorities we have and there are nations who have this equipment.

TAPPER: All right. Ambassador Vadym Prystaiko, thank you so much. Really appreciates your time today.

Coming up next, CNN on the ground where missile strikes hit in Kyiv. The one thing a mother says saved her life when shelling hit her apartment.

Plus, paying a price. The American workers now taking a hit as the pandemic shifts and generosity fades.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: And we're back with our world lead. Ukrainians want to go back home. Ukrainian refugees, but authorities in Kyiv say it's not yet safe. They have issued a warning today to stay away. Those who are there have been told to stop driving their cars to preserve gas for a military use.

As CNN's Matt Rivers reports, despite the warnings, some Kyiv residents did start returning home only to become victims of Russia's latest callous and bloody attack.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONENT (voice-over): It had been weeks of relative quiet in Kyiv, but a couple bangs and a plume of black smoke quickly changed that. Ukraine and Russia both confirming cruise missiles were fired into the central district of Kyiv on Thursday evening, mere miles away from where the U.N. secretary-general had just wrapped up a meeting with President Zelenskyy. Rescuers worked through the night and in the morning a clearer picture emerged about what happened, with this apartment complex shredded by shrapnel, leaving those in the neighborhood shaken.

This wall saved my life, she says. Otherwise, it would have been the end. There was a lot of fire. I could see everything was burning. I was so scared. It was horror. She says she only survived because she wasn't sitting next to the window.

Her son, Alexi's hands bloodied. He says a clap and a blast, then panic. That's it. I didn't see it until later. I saw my hand was covered in blood. Mother and son survived while others affected by the strike did not.

Fifty-four-year-old Vira Hyrych, a Ukrainian journalist, lived here, having just returned to her home about a week ago. No one had heard from her all night, so friends kept trying to call her.


Her ringing cell phone led rescuers to her body this morning.

I have no words, says this friend. No tears left. I have no energy to cry.

Only a few days ago, she was asking how she could help me because my house burned down, and now no one can help her.

Russia's ministry of defense says they were aiming are a factory right nearby here the that is one of Ukraine's top producers of air to air guided missiles, as well as aircraft parts. We can't show you that factory due to Ukrainian law. The factory was damaged in the strike, but so was that apartment complex just behind it. Yet another example of Russia targeting places with supposed military relevance but killing ordinary civilians in the process.

Vera's body was taken out of the building midday on Friday, the victim of an attack President Zelenskyy said proves, quote, that one cannot relax yet. One cannot think the war is over. We still need to fight.


RIVERS (on camera): And, Jake, according to the Zelenskyy administration, Vera is the 23rd member of the media to die covering this war. Meanwhile, as people continue to come home here to Kyiv, and we have seen that in our reporting over the last week or so, you have to wonder if the latest missile strikes will give people pause as they begin to do that more and more -- Jake.

TAPPER: Matt Rivers reporting live for us from Kyiv, thank you so much.

We turn now to Ukraine's neighbor to the southwest, Moldova. This week, the breakaway territory in Moldova known as Transnistria, was hit with a series of unexplained explosions. Russia blames Ukraine, and the Ukrainian government claims this is a Moscow driven false flag operation.

For decades, this region has been home to thousands of Russian forces leaving the 500,000 people who live in the breakaway territory in limbo, locked in a Soviet era land dispute.

Let's bring in CNN's Randi Kaye who went to the contested area today.

What did you see? And explain why this territory is so significant.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we wanted to see how close we could get to Transnistria. It's about a 45-minute drive from the capital of Moldova, Chisinau, where we are. So, we wanted to see just how to get there, and this is that breakaway republic, as you mentioned, it sits on the border between Moldova and Ukraine, and that shared border is about 250 miles long. Transnistria is about the size of Rhode Island.

So, we did get close. We were able to reach one of the bridges and this is this bridge that leads to Dubasari in Transnistria. But as soon as we got there, we saw there were armed Russian troops. There was an armed Russian vehicle.

So we quickly turned around and just went a little down the road, but they kept their eyes on us. They continued to watch us through binoculars. We have video of that. They were passing the binoculars back and forth, talking among themselves as they were looking at us.

And they also changed position on the bridge while we were there. When we first arrived, actually there was one member of the troops on Moldova side, and while we were there, they all moved on to the bridge, unclear why they did that, but there are five bridges that connect Moldova to Transnistria, this breakaway region, and that is so unnerving, Jake, for so many people certainly here in the capital because it's so close. They're concerned that Transnistria and Moldova will be next on Putin's list.

TAPPER: Randi, what do we know about explosions and the Moldovan government's response?

KAYE: There were the series of explosions that you mentioned earlier this week, one was near the building for ministry of state security. Another one damaged two radio towers. Of course, Russia blames Ukraine. Ukraine is blaming Russia. The Ukrainian defense minster is saying this was a planned provocation by Russia's secret services.

But what's concerning here and why this matters is there is fear this region could be used for Putin to expand his war. If he gets through into Transnistria, that would give him access to Moldova and a way to push further east.

And as you know, this Russian commander came out saying they would like to have full control, Russia would like to have full control of southern Ukraine, and of course, if that happens, they could have this land corridor which would stretch to Transnistria.

So, certainly, a lot of concern. There are 1,500 Russian troops there, but that hasn't stopped the president of Moldova just this week voicing her concern, saying she thinks the attacks recently are just a way for Russia to escalate the tensions, and here's more of what she said.


PRESIDENT MAIA SANDU, MOLDOVA (through translator): We condemn any provocations or attempts to involve Moldova in actions that could threaten the country's peace.


KAYE: And it is worth noting, Jake, that Moldova is not parts of NATO. It is not part of the European Union. It does consider itself neutral -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Randi Kaye reporting for us from Moldova -- thank you so much.


Coming up next, the parents of Trevor Reed join me after the veteran U.S. marine finally, finally returned home after nearly three years detained in Russia.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our world lead, Trevor Reed, the former U.S. marine detained in Russia since 2019 is back on American soil. New photos show Trevor's reunion with his family at a Texas air force base yesterday morning.


Trevor's release comes after months of intense negotiations by Biden administration officials and amid growing concerns about his health as he remained in Russian captivity.

And Trevor's parents Joey and Paula along with his sister Taylor Reed joining us now to tell us what it was like to greet Trevor for the first time after his release. Paula, I've never seen you smile before. It's so good to see you

smiling. It was good to hear you laughing before we started taping. So he's recovering in a medical facility.

You were able to meet with him for a few hours yesterday. And you previously had expressed concerns about his likely exposure to tuberculosis and lingering effects of COVID.

I know you've very, very happy. How is he doing?

PAULA REED, TREVOR REED'S MOTHER: He seems to be doing better every day. I think he's settling in.

And we had a great time visiting with him yesterday. Towards the end of the visit, he was more like himself, telling us stories, making us laugh. He's a bit of a cut-up, so it was great to see his old personality coming back.

TAPPER: And, Joey, I mean, it's been a long, long journey, but it's good to see a smile underneath that mustache. How does it feel to have him back home in the U.S.?

JOEY REED, TREVOR REED'S FATHER: Hard to describe, Jake. It's wonderful.

TAPPER: And, Taylor, what's it like to have your brother back and to know he's safe?

REED: It's outstanding. It still feels a little surreal at the moment, but we couldn't be happier.

TAPPER: So, Paula, the State Department obviously played a very important role in securing Trevor's release, and you had a virtual meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken. What can you tell us about the meeting?

P. REED: He just wanted to welcome -- congratulate us and tell us it was mostly because of mine and Joey's efforts to bring Trevor home, although like I said, we know that isn't true. We know the government has been working on it for a while and they worked hard. We know Governor Richardson had a play in that. There's so many people who worked on it besides just Joey and I.

So, we appreciated his call and we were thankful that he let us know that he's working on bringing others home still. So --

TAPPER: They obviously did some important work, but do not discount how hard you guys worked and Jonathan Franks too to get this story front and center so it couldn't be ignored. I know it's very important to your son and to you and the rest of your family to also talk about Americans Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner who remain imprisoned in Russia.

You said in fact one of the first things Trevor brought up in your first conversation with him was that others are still there, and they need to be freed as well. What do you want to tell their family and tell us more about what Trevor told you about them?

J. REED: Well, when we first got to sit down with him yesterday in the evening, and we were actually able to stay about two hours before they had to start running more tests. But we asked him how he was doing, and he said, well, I'm not doing too well. And we were -- we immediately became concerned. And we said, so physically? He said no. We said what? And he said, Paul Whelan. And it made --

P. REED: He said I feel horrible about being home and not having Paul here. He said I don't understand why I'm here and Paul's not. And he said, and I am not doing well, but as soon as I get better, I'm going to work on bringing Paul home.

J. REED: He asked the Russians, he asked the FSB on his plane while they were waiting for the American plane to arrive. He said where's the other Americans? They said it's only you.

And I think he was very surprised, and we had always been concerned that he might, you know, if this were to ever occur, a single transaction, that he might fight it. You know, not wanting to leave a fellow marine behind. And, of course, he doesn't have any choice. If the Russians push you out of a plane, then you don't have much choice.

But anyway, he's real concerned about it. And the doctors and the state department, they're talking about it with him and letting him know what he can do to help Paul and the other Americans. And while we're on that subject, Ms. Griner, we saw a wonderful note from her wife on Instagram, a beautiful letter. And our hearts --

P. REED: Yeah, our hearts go out to you. We appreciate the graciousness of her statement. And our hearts go out to her.

J. REED: And before I forget, Jake, there's a group called Families of American Hostages and Wrongful Detainees. It's a new group, it's just the families themselves. They're going to have a protest in front of the White House on May 4th. And you know, to just build on what we have been doing. And one of our family members will be there also, to make sure that the administration keeps up what they have done, which -- again, that's a whole other subject about how great the president is and the staff to make this happen.


But we wanted to let people know that's coming and you're going to learn about a lot more of the families that are out there, and there's multiple options that the government could use to bring them home.

TAPPER: Taylor, before we go, I know you worked hard. Your parents worked so hard, lobbying people, making media appearances, as did you.

What else do you want the American people to know about this good moment, this nice moment, this wonderful moment? We don't get a lot of them these days, it feels like.

T. REED: No, for sure. The thing that we have been hearing the most is I can't imagine what your family has been through. I can't imagine what your family has been through. Unfortunately, there are a great deal of family whose can imagine what we have been through because they're still going through it themselves.

So, we hope that our story can offer them hope and we want them to know we're not going to stop fighting for their loved ones to be returned as well.

TAPPER: Let us hope the story of Trevor is a story of hope, if it can happen to him, it can happen to Brittney, it can happen to Paul and others. It's such a testament to your great character.

Joey, Paula, and Taylor, that you're talking about these other people at this moment of relief and happiness for your family. Thank you so much, as always, and I hope to see you soon.

T. REED: Thank you.

J. REED: Thank you, Jake. You're wonderful. We appreciate it.

TAPPER: Coming up next, a CNN exclusive, the 80-plus text messages that reveal the advice Trump's White House shared with a Fox host after the 2020 election.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, new details about text messages between then Trump White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and Fox host Sean Hannity between election day 2020 and President Biden's inauguration, offering a real time view into the role Hannity has played as a sort of shadow White House chief of staff, as Trump aides themselves would call it.

CNN's special correspondent Jamie Gangel joins us with her exclusive reporting.

So, Jamie, how often were these two in contact? What was the nature of the contact?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So, they're in contact a lot. Sean Hannity was a frequent texter. There are more than 82 messages. Those are the ones we can see. Some things may have been deleted or redacted.

To your point, Sean Hannity is not a normal journalist. He is --

TAPPER: He says he's not a journalist.

GANGEL: He says he's not. He's a host. He's an entertainer. He's also a good friend of Donald Trump's. We all remember when Trump called him up on stage during a campaign rally.

So to your point, this is a peek behind the scenes at two men very close to Donald Trump, and it shows the evolution of their conversation from election day when Sean Hannity says to Meadows, you know, where do you need get out the vote? And Meadows says North Carolina, here, there. Hannity says, yes, sir. That's Election Day.

A month --

TAPPER: And just not to put too fine a point on that, that's not a normal conversation.

GANGEL: That is not a normal conversation.

TAPPER: Between somebody on TV and a White House chief of staff.

GANGEL: A month later, December 5th, they are talking about life after Trump.

So, even though everything is going on with Rudy and stop the steal and election. These two men are talking about possibly working together. So here you go. Quote, Sean Hannity: If this doesn't end the way we want, you me, and Jay are doing three things.

TAPPER: Jay Sekulow, the attorney?

GANGEL: We believe it's Jay Sekulow.

One, directing legal strategies versus Biden. Two, North Carolina real estate. Three, other business. I talked to Rudy. Thanks for helping.

There's another exchange where Hannity suggests to Meadows that he should come work for fox after the Trump administration. In other words, they know that this is over. They know that the election has --

TAPPER: Talking about going into business together. Business deals together. That's highly unethical and odd.

Publicly, even though they're having these conversations behind the scenes, we're going to do this real estate venture in North Carolina, this other business deal with Rudy. Blah, blah, blah, they're still publicly promoting the big lie, right?

GANGEL: They are, but let's just talk about what happens over the month of December. You see in the texts, Sean Hannity is getting worried. He says he's worried that White House counsel might resign in protest. He's worried about January 6th coming up.

And he says, quote, on December 22nd, hey, my friend, how are you doing? Meadows, fighting like crazy. Went to Cobb County to review process. Very tough days but I'll continue fighting.

Here's the thing, Sean Hannity, you fighting is fine. The f'ing lunatics is not fine. They are not helping him. I'm fed up with those people.

TAPPER: Who specifically are the f'ing lunatics, do we know? We could assume it's possibly like the Sidney Powells of the world, that people really talking about releasing the crock.

GANGEL: We don't know from here, but we do know on January 6th, he reaches out again and tries to get Meadows to tell Trump to tell the people to leave.


TAPPER: Huh. Interesting. So that's what he was saying behind the scenes.

GANGEL: Behind the scenes.

TAPPER: He never publicly called them f'ing lunatics.

Jamie Gangel, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, the people who have strong proof Americans are nowhere near as generous now as they were in the early days of the pandemic, at least when it comes to the service industry.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our money lead, Americans are making more and spending more as a key inflation measure hits a 40-year high. In March, American incomes rose by just over $107 billion, while consumer spending increased by $185 billion over the prior month. That's according to new data released by the Commerce Department.

CNN's Tom Foreman looks at one part of the service economy which underwent massive upheaval during the pandemic, that's tripping up consumers as things return to normal.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At this Stellina Pizzeria in D.C., the food has been hot and the tip steady throughout the pandemic.

Have the tips been good during the pandemic?


FOREMAN: But now, the staff, suppliers, customers, everyone is facing a tipping point, and service workers in some places are paying the price.

Just ask Isabella Sarmiento, the operations manager.

Tipping has grown a lot more complicated.


FOREMAN: The pandemic by many accounts pushed tips to new prominence in home deliveries, at takeout stands, food trucks, and in ride sharing services far beyond the spots where many consumers were used to seeing them.

At "The New York Times," food writer Christina Morales says that's left a lot of folks wondering, where to tip, when, and how much.

CHRISTINA MORALES, FOOD REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: What's driving a lot of this anxiety and confusion is the fact that these changes in tipping have happened so fast.

FOREMAN: She says even the social norms for tipping have become unsettled. Noting one company which tracks credit card transactions found tips rose as the pandemic began, then leveled off, and now are falling amid the confusion and inflation. So should you tip at a coffee stand, a supermarket, a convenience store?

ANKUR BHALLA, CUSTOMER: I'm a good tipper.

FOREMAN: Some customers say it's simple. If someone helps you, tip. If you help yourself --

BHALLA: I was at the airport and I grabbed a bottle of water from a convenience store, and they asked me for a tip. I was like -- that's not happening.

FOREMAN: To make it clearer, Stellina's now puts a 20 percent service charge on your bill. That is the tip, unless you want to add a little more.

MORALES: For me, I personally evaluate the service I'm receiving. And I also take into account the person behind the counter. And I say, you know, how much could they possibly be making?

SARMIENTO: Just understand they think we're all trying to do what's best for the people around us.

FOREMAN: That's a good tip.



FOREMAN (on camera): Inflation is just complicating this so much more, Jake. The bottom line is you have people on one side of the equation watching every dollar because gas costs more, food costs more. Everything costs more.

On the other side, people are relying on those dollars. And it really has created a whole lot of little conflicts throughout the day with people saying, how much is the right amount? How much is too little, how much is too much when every dollar counts?

TAPPER: What do you do?

FOREMAN: What do I do? I tip overly. I'm a generous tipper, and almost every circumstance, simply because I figure the people who need the money need the money. But I'm doing well. I'm not somebody who is right up against the wall

where I might feel like I can't afford that kind of thing. What I don't do is something some delivery people see, which is called tip baiting where you promise somebody a good tip if they hustle your order out and then stiff them.

TAPPER: And then delete it on the app. That's hideous.

All right, Tom Foreman. I follow your lead, as always.


TAPPER: Stanley Tucci is exploring the service industry and the floating city of Venice. The adventure is for season two of his new series, "STANLEY STUCCI: SEARCHING FOR ITALY". Here's a little preview.


STANLEY TUCCI, "SEARCHING FOR ITALY" HOST: And these are cicchetti, a traditional Venetian snack.

It's only 8:30, but a venetian breakfast is eating standing up, washed down with a glass of wine known as an ombra or shadow.


TAPPER: You can catch this series premiere of season two of Stanley Tucci searching for Italy, that's this Sunday night at 9:00 Eastern, only here on CNN.

Coming up, a reporter cut off while trying to get answers from the Los Angeles County sheriff.


ALEX VILLANUEVA, LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFF: Maybe you need to start clarifying exactly what you did with this and who did you get it from and when did you get it. So that's a question for you to answer. So with that, we're not going to take a question from you. Anybody else have a question?


TAPPER: Yeah, that's not how it works, Sheriff. The controversial video uncovered by that reporter cut off straight ahead.



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

This hour, President Biden's midterm attack plan. How his new rhetoric may go against the campaign message of unity and bipartisanship that got him elected in 2020. Plus, aggressive moves to ban abortion in Republican controlled states

seemingly looking to Supreme Court signals of a post Roe v. Wade America.

And leading this hour, supply lines hit and a rail hub struck as U.S. officials say Russia is intensifying its attacks on parts of Ukraine and having some success.

CNN's Sam Kiley joins us now live from Kramatorsk, Ukraine.