Return to Transcripts main page

The Lead with Jake Tapper

Oklahoma Lawmakers Pass 6-Week Abortion Ban; Top L.A. Cop Running for Re-Election Amid Multiple Scandals; CNN: Biden Frustrated, Shifting Midterm Strategy to Attacking GOP; Dr. Oz Says Guns Protect Against "An Overly Intrusive Government"; Postal Service Facing Lawsuit Over Gas-Powered Trucks. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired April 29, 2022 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And Sam, we are seeing video today not far from where you are, an important Ukrainian rail hub and supply line being shelled by the Russians. What are the Russians seemingly trying to do here?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think they're trying to do two things there. They're attacking an area called -- in a village called Lyman where the Ukrainian say they are still holding on in spite of a very deliberate bombardment.

And almost all civilians have left that area and indeed the villages nearby, just handfuls left behind. But there is a large power plant there at the end of a railway system that is still functioning as a coal fired power plant and it needs coal deliveries to continue to function.

The extent to which this region relies on that power plant is unclear because there are others in the region. But clearly, it's a major strategic prize for the Russians.

On top of that, they want to be able to prevent the movement of equipment that is being promised and indeed delivered from NATO and from the United States and other NATO countries. Coming to this arguably the most important battlefront in terms of the Ukrainian defense against the Russian invaders. So they're going after those very important railway lines with these bombardments.

I have to say on top of that, though, the railway bridge that links Lyman to Slavyansk, which is on the other side of the Donetsk River was also blown today. It's not clear, though, Jake, whether it was the Ukrainians or the Russians that blew it because we do know that the Ukrainians do have a tactic of blowing bridges in order to slow Russian advances. And they are going to use in all probability the Donetsk River as a line of defense if it comes to that. But there have been very substantial troop movements among the Ukrainians on the Ukrainian side throughout this region over the last 24 hours, and clearly an effort at least at reinforcement is underway. There's a lot of movement of troops, a lot of concentration of Ukrainian troops, arguably, exactly, of course, what the Russians want to do, because they're probably going to try and drive south from the area that you referred to there, close to Slavyansk and a little bit further west of the town of Izium and try and cut off this region.

TAPPER: Sam, the Russians have been heavily bombing along the, quote, "entire line of contact" in the Donbass region of southeastern Ukraine. Is it clear who has the upper hand on that battlefront?

KILEY: No, I think that's an absolutely key question. Who is going to get the upper hand here, Jake? The troop numbers, clearly the Russians have more in terms of sophistication of equipment, the Ukrainians will increasingly have the edge.

And it is also clear from the use of caliber missiles that we've seen recently fired into what believed to be caliber cruise missiles into Kyiv that they're not that accurate. Some of their bombing is precision. Some of it is using dumb bombs, particularly around Mariupol. And so, as a consequence of this, there is a very finely balanced maneuver war going on with a lot of artillery drills going on as I think both sides are trying to probe weaknesses. But ultimately, the expectation is there is going to be of substantial attack coming in from Russia over the next week or so.

TAPPER: Sam, we've heard reports of Russian soldiers stealing wheat from villagers. Do we know why?

KILEY: Well, this is from reportedly from Melitopol in the south. It is a, frankly, a typical act. It will be very familiar indeed to Ukrainians echoing the what's called the red famine of 1932, 1933 when the forcible expropriation of grain from Ukraine by Russia resulted in the deaths of some 5 million Ukrainians over the space of about a year and a half.

It is something that the Russians are anticipated to have done. They've looted with gusto elsewhere in areas that they've captured. And they've been shipping this to Ukraine into Crimea, which is parched doesn't have easy supply lines into Russia. And it doesn't come as any great surprise to Ukrainians.

But the images of those trucks moving from a territory that the Russians have captured with the Zed symbol painted on them, has resonated right across the country, and in fact, will probably increase the steeliness of Ukraine's defense. They do not want to see another famine here.

TAPPER: Sam Kiley reporting for us live from Kramatorsk, Ukraine, thank you so much.

The Azovstal steel complex in Mariupol is under relentless shelling and ground attacks from the Russians. The mayor of Mariupol says hundreds of people are wounded after Russian bombs hit a makeshift hospital facility within the complex.

As CNN's Scott McLean reports for us now, there are so many civilians still trapped inside the plant, that one local official says only a miracle can help them.



SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are Russian troops making a break for cover in the streets near the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. One of them is shot along the way. It's filled with soldier attempts to pull him to safety amidst heavy fire.

When Ukrainian deputy commander says that Russia is not only bombarding the plant from the sky, but now also attacking from the ground.

SVIATOSLAV PALAMAR, DEPUTY COMMANDER, AZOV REGIMENT (through translator): As of today, there have been attempts to storm the territory of Azovstal. This is infantry, this is enemy military equipment, but those attempts have been beaten off as of this hour.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Sviatoslav Palamar, Deputy Commander of the Azov Regiment, which is leading the fight from the plant says that recent bombing left some sellers and bunkers cut off by rubble. He's not sure if there are survivors trapped inside. He says bombing also hit a field hospital with the number of wounded soldiers to more than 500. The city mayor puts the number of injured at more than 600.

(on camera): How many do you think will survive the next day or two?

PALAMAR (through translator): I'm not going to say how long we could be here, but I'm going to say that we're doing everything we can to stabilize them.

MCLEAN (voice-over): With the soldiers in the plant are hundreds of civilians, mostly elderly, women and children they say as young as four months old. Ukrainian officials say are also running low on food and water.

Thursday, the U.N. Secretary General arrived in Kyiv determined to broker a deal to safely evacuate civilians from the plants after securing an agreement in principle from Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

Friday morning, Zelenskyy's office announced an operation to evacuate civilians was planned for Friday but no other details. Palamar said a convoy was in route but had yet to arrive. He is also hoping for a deal to allow soldiers to get out, but perhaps it's a long shot.

(on camera): Would you rather die fighting then surrender yourself to the Russians?

PALAMAR (through translator): We are not considering the terms of surrender. We are waiting only for guarantees of exit from the territory of the plant. That is if there is no choice but captivity, we will not surrender.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Petro Andriushchenko, an advisor to the mayor of Mariupol, says getting soldiers evacuated safely would take an international intervention or a divine one. PETRO ANDRIUSHCHENKO, ADVISER TO MAYOR OF MARIUPOL: I really want something like miracle. Look like a Pope has to sit to the main bus from Zaporizhzhia and drive to Azovstal to take to the bus our soldiers and get back.

MCLEAN (on camera): You don't think that it makes sense for the soldiers at the steel plant just to surrender themselves to the Russians?


MCLEAN (on camera): That might be the best thing to do?



MCLEAN: And Mariupol officials say that they have discovered three mass graves outside the city where the Russian soldiers have been enlisting local civilians to help them dig in exchange for food. Now the mayor's adviser who you saw there says that they've been in touch with some of those diggers, who say that they usually dig in about groups of 40. The reward is per person two carrots and six strands of pasta while the entire group of 40 has to share just one loaf of bread and about a gallon and a half of water. Jake

TAPPER: Scott McLean reporting from Lviv for us, thank you so much.

The emotional moments at the Pentagon today when Spokesman John Kirby talked about the nerve of Vladimir Putin and his actions in this war.

Plus, the provocative political ad from the candidate best known as Dr. Oz, how he's taking aim at anyone questioning his position on guns. Stay with us.



TAPPER: We're back with our world lead, a possible Biden-Putin showdown brewing now that Russia's Vladimir Putin has accepted host country Indonesia's invitation to attend the upcoming G20 Summit. President Biden has previously said he thinks Russia should be kicked out of the group. CNN's MJ Lee is live at the White House.

And MJ, you asked Press Secretary Jen Psaki this afternoon about Putin's plans to attend the summit. What did she have to say?

MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, there was no question that the confirmation that Putin is now going to be attending this G20 Summit in November has created a diplomatic headache for the White House. Of course, the context here is that President Biden has made clear that he believes Russia should be kicked out of the G20.

And when I asked White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki about this just moments ago, I asked her for reaction. And I also asked her, is there anything that could happen between now and six months from now when that summit is set to take place that could make the U.S. reassess this idea of kicking Russia out? And she basically said that she has made clear, the U.S. has made clear, both in private and in public, that they don't support Russia attending the summit and being a part of the G20 altogether. She also said that there are no indications right now that Russia and Vladimir Putin is serious about diplomatic talks.

Now, it is unlikely I should note at this moment in time that Russia would be kicked out of the G20 namely because China has been so vocal in saying that they don't support this. And then there's also the question of the host country, Indonesia, you know, Psaki said in her briefing that they believe that Indonesia extended this invitation to Russia before the invasion began.

But this is what the Indonesian President said, they said, Indonesia wants to unite the G20, don't let there be a split. So this certainly doesn't sound like a host country that would be eager to kick Russia out of the G20, Jake.


TAPPER: MJ, there was an emotional moment today at the Pentagon when the spokesman, Rear Admiral John Kirby, was talking about the war, specifically about Putin's depravity. Tell us about that.

LEE: Yes, this was a striking moment from the briefing today. John Kirby was talking about the atrocities that we're seeing coming out of Ukraine, the images that we are seeing of civilian deaths. Let me just play that sound for you and we can talk coming out of it.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: It's difficult to look at the -- sorry. It's difficult to look at some of the images and imagine that any well thinking, serious mature leader would do that. So, I can't talk to his psychology. But I think we can all speak to his depravity.


LEE: Look, obviously, John Kirby is a professional spokesperson, he does this day in and day out. So just kind of striking to see somebody who talks about these issues all the time to reporters getting so choked up just talking about these horrific images that have come out of Ukraine.

And I should note, just speaking to you from here, the White House, this is something that we've seen reflected from the President himself, too. There have been moments when he has spoken about some of these issues and has really spoken with emotions behind his words. And the White House officials close to him have talked about this as well that, you know, sometimes when he is making these comments that are clearly sort of off the cuff and may not necessarily reflect sort of the formal U.S. diplomatic talking points that that often is because he too, is sort of emotionally moved by just these horrific, the nature of the images that were coming out of Ukraine. So, just another reminder, not that we needed one, that these images are just so haunting, so horrific, and there really is no rationale for Vladimir Putin and his continued unprovoked attacks across Ukraine, Jake.

TAPPER: Yes, the slaughter of civilians is tough. The images that we bring you on CNN and other media organizations bring you people at home, I'm talking to, are rough and upsetting. And then there are the ones that we see but we don't bring you and those are probably the ones that Admiral Kirby and President Biden and others respond to when they get emotional.

MJ Lee at the White House for us, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

A U.S. citizen was killed fighting alongside Ukrainian forces this week. Family members say the 22-year-old Willie Joseph Cancel, a former U.S. Marine from Tennessee, was working with a private military contracting company when he was killed on Monday.

Cancel's mother says the men fighting alongside her son have not been able to retrieve his body. She tells CNN this about why he went to Ukraine to fight, quote, "He wanted to go over because he believed in what Ukraine was fighting for, and he wanted to be a part of it to contain it there so it didn't come here. And then maybe our American soldiers wouldn't have to be involved in it," unquote.

Cancel leaves behind a wife and a seven month old baby. May his memory be a blessing.

Coming up, how an anticipated Supreme Court ruling might impact the flood of new abortion bans throughout the United States. Stay with us.



In our politics lead, Republican led state legislatures across the country are advancing new bills that would make abortion nearly illegal entirely. Oklahoma is the latest state passing a Texas style bill that would ban abortions after six weeks before many women even know that they're pregnant. And like Texas, the law would also incentivize citizens to sue anyone who performs or help someone get an abortion.

Let's discuss this with Katie Watson. She's an attorney and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University.

Professor Watson, so this Oklahoma bill will go into effect as soon as the governor signs it, which he is expected to do. Practically speaking, what will this mean for Oklahoma?

KATIE WATSON, ASSOC. PROFESSOR OF MEDICAL EDUCATION, NORTHWESTERN UNIV. MEDICINE: So the Oklahoma bill is a copycat of the Texas six- week ban. And the immediate effect is that approximately 12,000 women a year will be displaced. And I think of these folks as medical refugees.

In Texas, 45 percent of the patients who traveled to escape that unconstitutional ban went to Oklahoma. So the minute this takes effect, Oklahoma women, approximately 90 percent of them, would have to travel if they wanted an abortion. But in addition, we have the roughly 1000 or so Texas patients who are moving as well.

And so yearly, I estimate it's about 12,000 Texans and Oklahomans who will now have to travel for abortion care. So it has a huge effect. It will be immediate.

And if I may add on Monday, the Oklahoma legislature is expected to pass a total abortion ban with this vigilante enforcement scheme that will be more quickly enjoined, I would imagine. But they just can't stop in Oklahoma.


TAPPER: So, the U.S. Supreme Court in the next few weeks were expecting the court will rule on the constitutionality of Mississippi's 15 week abortion ban. What impact will that have on states do you think? And can you read the tea leaves as to how you think the court might rule?

WATSON: Well, there are two factors that are. One is exactly as you said, what the court rule is there. It's possible that Justice Roberts could wrangle five conservatives into saying we're upholding the core holding of Roe. Women have a constitutional right to abortion, but we're going to jettison the viability standards and states can decide when abortion is banned, as long as they give women some opportunity. They could also just uphold the Mississippi 15-week ban. But those are like the, quote, "good scenarios" for prochoice advocates.

It's also very likely that even if it's with a five member majority, the Conservatives absolutely just reverse Roe and it's a complete free for all in the states.

Now the second element is this vigilante enforcement mechanism, which is still extraordinary. And I just think we have to not forget that, that if Texas had said, oh, we're going to segregate the schools, but you can't sue us that it's a violation of Brown versus Board, because parents are the ones who get to enforce it. That part is so threatening to our democracy and our separation of powers and our judicial system. The implications are much larger than with just abortion.

TAPPER: So the people who are passing these laws, they obviously argue that they think abortion is immoral and more. Are they succeeding in eliminating abortion? Or are they just driving the women who want to get abortions to other states or to illegal secret abortions?

WATSON: They're increasing the hardship. So I think we're about after the Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs vs. Jackson's Women's Health Organization, moving to a system of free states and forced motherhood states where women's personhood is not recognized, and therefore women have to flee to get abortions or they try to order abortion pills off the internet or they try to self-induced and other more dangerous ways. So, what we're seeing in Texas, is that many who are seeking abortion are traveling or ordering pills from the internet and having a miscarriage what looks like a miscarriage at home. And that will get harder, because as Texas and states latchet (ph) become more landlocked. So, we know 59 percent of abortion patients are already mothers and we know a half live under the poverty line, which is about $13,000 for a single person.

So, imagine people in that category, say you live in Texas, and you could make it to Oklahoma, that doesn't mean you can make it to Kansas or elsewhere. And so, as more states fall as these dominoes fall, it gets harder and harder to travel. So it is true that these laws are simply forcing women to endure more shame, more expense, and it's pushing them to later gestational ages. So for those who say they find second trimester abortion more ethically problematic than first, they ought to be against these laws. It's pushing women to later gestation.

TAPPER: Katie Watson, thank you so much. Really appreciate your time as always.

Turning to our national lead now, growing alarm from press freedom advocates after Los Angeles County's powerful sheriff's suggested a reporter was under criminal investigation for doing her job. L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva attacked L.A. Times reporter Alene Tchekmedyian on Tuesday, after she published a series of stories including, one, looking at a possible cover up within his department. The L.A. Times accuses the Sheriff of abusing his position in an attempt to intimidate their reporter.

As CNN's Nick Watt reports now, Villanueva has a history of attracting controversy.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An inmate gets punchy at a sheriff's department lockup. In this footage recently obtained by the Los Angeles Times, you see a deputy's knee on the now handcuffed inmate's neck or head. This week, L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced another investigation.

SHERIFF ALEX VILLANUEVA, LOS ANGELES COUNTY: Here are the three individuals that we want to know a lot about.

WATT (voice-over): An investigation into who leaked that video. He pointed at a picture of the L.A. Times reporter who broke the story.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this Los Angeles Times reporter under investigation by the department?

VILLANUEVA: Well, the act is under investigation. And all parties to the act are subjects of the investigation.

ALENE TCHEKMEDYIAN, LOS ANGELES TIMES REPORTER: It was, you know, uncomfortable and bizarre and a little bit surreal to see my photo up there. It's obviously alarming, of course, when a powerful government official would do something like that. [17:30:00]

WATT (voice-over): Raises the question, why? Well, this potentially excessive use of force by one of his deputies was kept from the public. The video only surfaced last month, but it happened more than a year ago, just as jury selection began in Minneapolis for the trial of Derek Chauvin, who murdered George Floyd with a knee on the neck.

Sheriff Villanueva blocked and stalled an investigation, states one of the sheriff's underlings in a freshly filed claim to obstruct justice and avoid bad publicity for his re-election campaign.

VILLANUEVA: Well the foundation this entire lawsuit is false. Everything in this lawsuit is false.

WATT (voice-over): The scandal prone Villanueva faces voters in June. Right now, questions over a helipad built by his home apparently without permission, reports the L.A. Times based on a department audit. Also, an investigation into alleged gang activity among his deputies.

VILLANUEVA: There was absolutely no actionable information on here for anybody, but it made for a good clickbait for the L.A. Times.

WATT (voice-over): On this incident, Villanueva claims he wasn't shown the video until eight months after it happened, acted swiftly, launched an investigation. He blamed subordinates for any earlier lack of action.

TCHEKMEDYIAN: Yesterday, we heard for the first time an eyewitness who says that they were personally in the room and saw him watch the video five days after the incident happened.

WATT (voice-over): A high ranking official, she says she didn't cover it up, Villanueva did, and later tried to demote her. Villanueva is the most powerful sheriff in the land claims, this is all a deep conspiracies against him.

VILLANUEVA: There's a lot of people working in concert in coordination that includes the L.A. Times, that includes people that, obviously, want to defeat me electorally, that includes the board appointed inspector general and the civilian oversight commission. A lot of people work in overtime.


WATT: Now back in 2018, Villanueva called himself a Democrat and one but he's moved to the right since then, refused to enforce a vaccine mandate and his department publicly blamed Democrats for the homelessness crisis here. Can he win again, appealing to a different constituency talking, you know, conspiracies involving the press?

Now he declined our request for an interview but he has since clarified on Twitter that the L.A. Times reporter is in fact not a suspect. And he's not pursuing criminal charges against her in his video leak investigation. Jake? TAPPER: Disgraceful. Nick Watt, thanks. Appreciate it.

Also in Los Angeles tonight, an inside look at the real story behind the L.A. riots. Why? What happened is still relevant now. It's, "The Fire That Still Burns", that's tonight at 11:00 Eastern only here on CNN. President Biden pointing blame for his low approval ratings. Stay with us.



TAPPER: And we're back with our politics lead, President Biden is gearing up for a fight ahead of the midterm elections. According to new CNN reporting, Biden is frustrated by his low approval numbers. And he's railing against the people he thinks aren't helping, including fellow Democrats. But a dozen sources familiar with the President and his inner circle tell CNN that Biden is eager to hit the campaign trail and go after Republicans.

Let's discuss. I'm going to start with you, Paul, just as the Democrats at the table give you an opportunity to defend what's going on here. So here's some of the CNN reporting from Edward-Isaac Dovere, "Biden keeps telling his team that if he can just get out of the White House more, he'll be able to convince more people, Americans and lawmakers, to support his agenda. COVID-19 and then Russia's invasion of Ukraine have both been used as explanations for why he hasn't followed through. Among some age, the persistent vows to get around have become something of a punchline."

It's always a comms problem, isn't it? It's always because they're not hearing from the President enough.


TAPPER: It's always what it is no matter who the president is.

BEGALA: In this case, it's a strategy problem.


BEGALA: They tried the strategy bipartisanship. Mostly fail important, infrastructure bill, which the Republicans who voted for should get credit for it, and the president, and Democrats, but mostly it felt. Then --

TAPPER: But you never hear them talk about it. You've talked about it more on the show today --

BEGALA: Right.

TAPPER: -- than to hear from them.

BEGALA: Well, then though they entered this phase where we're going to brag on our accomplishments. Well, when 71 percent think you're moving in the wrong direction, that's not going to work. You go to the doctor, you say my shoulder is killing me. She goes, no, it's not. It feels fine. It doesn't make you happy, right?

So finally, finally, after exhausting every other option, including attacking fellow Democrats, they seem to have hit on the strategy. Democrats attacking Republicans. He needs to -- I've been saying this so much --


BEGALA: I'm saying it privately as well as the publicly to the White House.


BEGALA: He needs to give the not a single Republican speech. Not a single Republican voted to put $1,400 in your bank, not a single Republican voted to make your childcare costs cheaper, or your Obamacare cost cheaper or your prescription drugs, not a single. But every single Republican voted to give $2 trillion to Wall Street and big corporations. What's wrong with that? Where's the law that says Democrats only have to attack Democrats?


There's nothing wrong with that?

BEGALA: Right.

But I just think it's not the economy stupid right now. I love kitchen table issues. I don't think Democrats have a great answer for them. Frankly, they don't have feasible --

TAPPER: Well inflation gas prices.

CUPP: Yes. And I don't think people want an economics lesson and inflation and how gas prices aren't actually the president's fault, blah, blah, blah. I think Democrats need to ask one question. Do you want more Marjorie Taylor Greenes? If you do, we're not for you. Keep moving.


CUPP: We're not going to get your vote. If you don't want more Marjories, more Lauren Boeberts, more Madison Cawthorns, more laws that attack women, more laws that attack LGBTQ, more book banding. If you don't want that, get out and vote for Democrats.


CUPP: That's the message. That's it.

MCKEND: But the problem is the instinct to go tribal. It makes a lot of especially when everything else is not working.


[17:40:02] MCKEND: But this is just not Joe Biden, right? People like -- we're attracted to this president because he wasn't the former president, because he was Uncle Joe, because he worked with Republicans, because he had a relationship with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. That was sort of the allure of President Biden.

CUPP: Yes.

BEGALA: Right.

MCKEND: So he has to sort of, I think, tread lightly if he is going to try to attack Republicans as a new strategy.

ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I still think that question of Biden saying do you want more Marjorie Taylor Greens.

CUPP: Yes.

HERNDON: We have to acknowledge that's a big shift for Democrats. When they came in, the midterm strategy was supposed to be that the White House was going to deliver on this agenda. And it will be about, see, we told you with a unified Congress and White House, that you can get climate change legislation, that you could get voting rights, that you could get all of those things.

We're now arriving to this midterm's moment. And they can't say that.

CUPP: Exactly right. Exactly.

TAPPER: All they think they don't have.

CUPP: They cannot say that.

HERNDON: (INAUDIBLE) think they cannot say.

MCKEND: That's right.

TAPPER: And so not only is -- I'm going to want to stick with you, I said not only is Biden frustrated with fellow Democrats for failing to pass these items that you just talked about. Sources tell CNN he's frustrated with Democrats who are eyeing his job.

CUPP: Yes.

TAPPER: And the White House is annoyed to, "Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts inspired the latest eye-rolls in the West Wing." This is according to Edward-Isaac Dovere's reporting. "White House aides were annoyed last week to click on her New York Times op-ed lamenting a stalled Biden agenda and our failure to get big things done. Several of them thought she could have used her platform to tout Biden successes. Instead, they watched as she got booked on the Sunday news shows to talk about her own wish-list agenda, and to be asked if she is going to run for president in 2024."

HERNDON: You know, I can't speak to Warren specifically, but I do know from reporting that there's an increasing feeling among Democrats that may be breaking with this White House and with this President, is there some midterm strategy that they need to say that this was a failure coming from there. And that --

CUPP: God.

HERNDON: -- others will go above and beyond, right? And so, you know, this is what your point, that's if we go back to Democrats versus Democrats, but that's where they are, because --

TAPPER: Progressives are moderates.

HERNDON: I think that that is a cross -- they're looking at the same --

TAPPER: Everybody.

HERNDON: -- total (ph) numbers that the rest of us are too. They're looking at the same stalled agenda. That is not an opinion by Elizabeth Warren. That's a fact.


HERNDON: And I think that that is -- people reacting to that whether that annoys the White House or not.

MCKEND: Also Progressives are often the first ones to bear the brunt of criticism from Democrats when they suffer big losses and when they fail. So I see her as trying to get ahead of their fate. Don't blame us. Don't come for me --

CUPP: She wants to say, I told you so.

MCKEND: Exactly.

CUPP: Yes.

MCKEND: Don't come for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. We told you what to do.

CUPP: Yes.

MCKEND: And you all ain't doing it. That's what I saw that --

TAPPER: Is that correct -- I mean, aren't the moderates the ones that have stalled the agenda? Is that not accurate? At the end of the day, yes, there was wrangling between progressives and moderates. But at the end of the day in the Senate, weren't the moderates the ones to say, I'm not going to vote for that?

BEGALA: No, the Republicans were. Half of the Senate are Republicans. Biden can't be expected to get all 50 every time get 100 percent of his party. He ought to be able to --

TAPPER: Whoa, why not?

BEGALA: He ought to able to get 4 percent of that. (CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Why can't he be expected to get that?

BEGALA: Because it's a large and diverse party. When the Republicans locked down like that, that's -- to the attack Elizabeth Warren, she -- if Elizabeth Warren thinks she can strengthen the movement by attacking the leader, she is wrong. She needs to turn her fire on the people who have stalled this agenda. And it's her Republican colleagues, not the press.

CUPP: Well, listen, I mean, to answer your question, yes, moderates stalled his agenda, but they also were the ones that won the midterms.

TAPPER: That's true.

CUPP: Right.

TAPPER: So S.E., I want to get your --


TAPPER: -- thoughts on this because Dr. Mehmet Oz, who is --

CUPP: I've heard of him.

TAPPER: -- a Trump endorsed candidate for senator in the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

CUPP: Yes.

TAPPER: He has a new campaign ad about the Second Amendment --


TAPPER: -- and gun rights. Take a listen.


DR. MEHMET OZ (R), PENNSYLVANIA SENATE CANDIDATE: Our Second Amendment is not just about money, it's about our constitutional right to protect ourselves from intruders or an overly intrusive government. So as your next U.S. Senator, I will fight for our constitutional rights.


TAPPER: OK, you had me on hunting, you had me on self-defense protected from an overly intrusive government?

CUPP: Yes, like the one that's book -- banning books right now. But let's -- two things. First of all, the eagle-eyed gun owner in me noticed he's not wearing eye protection when he fires his pan gun. That's a small thing, but it's an important thing.

TAPPER: Not sure if he also hit that cliff edge and either (INAUDIBLE). BEGALA: Yes.

CUPP: But listen, this is not dumb. As I'm sure you know, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania --

TAPPER: Oh yes.

CUPP: -- it is disproportionately high --

TAPPER: Lot of gun owners.

CUPP: -- in terms of gun owners and NRA members.

TAPPER: I think Paul has a quote about that.

CUPP: It's not a dumb strategy in a Republican primary in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The problem with it is that it doesn't jibe with our image of Dr. Oz from TV. But I think, you know --

BEGALA: Yes, (INAUDIBLE) much macho. I mean, the next day, he's going to go on Fox News and put his privates in a tanning bed. I mean, that's pathetic. But what's dangerous is he knows this and he knows better.

This is a violent time. His -- our Republican leader in the Minority Whip, Steve Scalise was shot --


BEGALA: -- by an animal who targeted him because he's a Republican. Get a difference was shot. There's a lot of violence out there and --


CUPP: I didn't see anything violent in that ad.

BEGALA: When you say --

TAPPER: But he said it --

BEGALA: -- protect ourselves against an overly --

TAPPER: Right to protect ourselves from an overly intrusive government.

CUPP: No --

BEGALA: -- against the intrusive government.


CUPP: I understand. I didn't see that as an inciting violence, though.

TAPPER: OK, we're actually out of time. I'm so sorry. Thanks for one and all. Have a wonderful weekend. When the water runs dry, the resources that cannot come fast enough to save the vital resource for tens of millions of people in America's west. Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our Earth matters series, a stamp of disapproval for the U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. Attorneys general from 16 states and Washington, D.C. are asking the U.S. Postal Service to hit the brakes on its planned purchase of thousands of gas powered trucks, the lawsuit say.


DeJoy aired when he decided to replace the current fleet with 90 percent gas powered trucks and 10 percent electric vehicles. Though the USPS tells The Lead the contract is open-ended and they can always buy more earth friendly trucks, the current fleet of gas guzzlers get about 8 miles to the gallon. The new fleet will get almost 15 miles to the gallon. That's without the air conditioning running.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta warning, "We'll be stuck with more than 100,000 new gas-guzzling vehicles on neighborhood streets for the next 30 years. There won't be a reset button." DeJoy blames his decision on the U.S. Postal Services, quote, dire financial condition, unquote.

The American West, meanwhile, is in the grips of a climate change induced mega drought, and Lake Mead and Lake Powell, a lifeline for tens of millions of Americans are in danger of drying up.

CNN's Rene Marsh visited Lake Powell to find state and federal officials taking drastic measures to keep the water flowing and the lights on.


RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Lake Powell, the country's second largest reservoir, and it's drying up. Satellite images and CNN video from 2015 versus now shows just how much water has vanished. Miles of rock also tell the story.

BOB MARTIN, DEPUTY POWER MANAGER, GLEN CANYON DAM: This ring we see on the canyon walls, they call it the bathtub ring. That's where the water is leached out the iron from the rock.

MARSH (on-camera): And that's how high the water --

MARTIN: That's how high the water was, at one point.

MARSH (on-camera): You said just in September, the water was just 4 feet above this ledge that we're looking at here. And that's just September.

MARTIN: Right.

MARSH (on-camera): So the water is dropping quite dramatically quite quickly.

MARTIN: It has.

MARSH (voice-over): As water levels declined, sodas power production at the Glen Canyon Dam, which harnesses the force and volume of the Colorado River and Lake Powell to generate power for as many as 5.8 million homes and businesses in seven states.

BRYAN HILL, GENERAL MANAGER, PAGE UTILITY: Worth knocking on the door a judgment day, I think. And judgment day being when we don't have any water to give anybody.

MARSH (voice-over): Bryan Hill runs the public power utility in Page, Arizona where the federal dam is located. 40 percent of the town's power comes from the dam. Without it, they'll be forced to rely on dirtier energy sources like fossil fuels, which are seeing skyrocketing prices and customers will pay the price.

HILL: We're probably looking at an additional 25 to 30 percent in their power costs.

MARSH (voice-over): In a worst-case scenario, the Interior Department projects the dam could stop producing power by January. The agency is now weighing an emergency action that would buy more time.

In a letter to seven western states, the agency calls for holding back the equivalent of 42.6 billion gallons of water in Lake Powell. That means deeper cuts to the amount of water people can use in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

114 billion gallons of water have already been held back this year. This as new images show Lake Mead, the country's largest reservoir that gets its fill (ph) from Lake Powell has dropped to such historically low levels that the lakes water intake valve is now exposed.

MARTIN: So this is the power plant floor.

MARSH (voice-over): Inside the dam, current water levels still produce power.

MARTIN: These are the generators, and that spinning is a result of the water that's coming from the forebay, from the reservoir side.

MARSH (voice-over): But if water levels drop just another 32 feet, the spinning stops. The climate crisis forcing federal and state governments to make tough choices and take drastic measures just to keep water and power flowing to the southwest.


MARSH: Well, Jake, the Glen Canyon Dam has lost 16 percent of its capacity to generate power. And early next month, we expect that a final decision from the Interior Department will come out. We will learn exactly how they plan to handle this situation so that both water and power keeps flowing to these millions of people in the southwest who rely on it.

But really, you finding that this climate crisis as it intensifies, Jake, the federal governments, state governments they're finding themselves in this very tough situation where they actually have to make choices, tough choices and prioritize water versus power. And it's getting more difficult as this climate crisis intensifies, Jake.

TAPPER: And still so little will by our political leaders --


TAPPER: -- here in Washington, D.C. to take any action. Rene Marsh, thank you so much.

MARSH: Sure.

TAPPER: From mega drought to a baseball sized hail, wildfires and dangerous winds, a recipe for disaster happening across a major part of the United States right now. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Extreme fire threats across the high plains in southwestern United States fueled by a dangerous combination strong winds and incredibly dry conditions at highest risk. Northern New Mexico, southeast Colorado and southwest Kansas peak fire season does not hit until June but many states are ahead of schedule. The same time severe storms threaten the Midwest and plains over the next few days.

Meteorologists warn if possible, baseball sized hail, strong thunderstorms, tornadoes, and damaging winds.

Coming up Sunday on State of the Union, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, that's Sunday morning at 9:00 Eastern and noon on CNN.

Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer in a place I like to call The Situation Room. I'll see you on Monday.