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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Ukrainian Commander: Mariupol Steel Plant Under "Constant Fire" Today; Pelosi In Poland: Russia's War Requires "Strongest" Response; Moldova Residents Worry About Getting Pulled Into War In Ukraine; Ohio GOP Primary Is First Big Test Of Trump's Endorsement Power; Dems Pressure Biden To Delay Ending Pandemic Border Restrictions As Midterms Elections Approach; Sheriff: Corrections Officer Participated In Inmate Escape. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired May 02, 2022 - 16:00   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Released in a prisoner swap, and as soon as he was released, he went to Kharkiv to propose to his girlfriend of two years.


And they were married over the weekend.

Valery's military unit said the couple's feelings, quote, were strengthened by distance and time, and the separation and uncertainty gave them a real understanding that life is fragile.

And THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Finally, seeing sunlight after two months underground.

THE LEAD starts right now.

After weeks surviving constant Russian attacks and shelling, holed up in underground bunkers, some Mariupol residents are now above ground, and out of the besieged Ukrainian city. But many are ending up in Russian controlled territory. Are they being forced there?

Then, the U.S. border crisis that has even some Democrats running ads distancing themselves from President Biden for lifting a Trump era policy.

Plus, a warrant issued today for the Alabama corrections officer last seen leaving jail with an inmate, charged with murder. CNN has an exclusive look inside his now empty cell.


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

We start today with our world lead and the besieged city of Mariupol, Ukraine, where some civilians are finally finding a way out after weeks, months of a relentless Russian bombardment. Ukrainian officials say there were two planned evacuation corridors, one for people around the city who want to leave and another for those who had been trapped inside the Azovstal steel plant. But it remains unclear if either of those corridors held.

This is new video of a large smoke plume over the city of Mariupol today, and a commander at the steel plant tells CNN the complex has been under constants fire since early this morning. Ukrainian officials say around 100 civilians were successfully evacuated from the plant yesterday. You can see this evacuation bus filled with families and small children.

One steel plant worker describing her two months in the shelter like this.


NATALIA USMANOVA, AZOVSTAL STEEL PLANT EMPLOYEE WHO SPENT WEEKS IN BOMB SHELTER (through translator): I can't believe it. Two months of darkness. We did not see any sunlight. We were scared.


TAPPER: The question now, where will these evacuees end up?

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says some are headed to Zaporizhzhia. That's a town still under Ukraine's control, but there are videos and photographs that show some civilians taken to areas under Russian control, in the Donbas, and there's no way to know, at least for now, whether they went there by choice or by force.

Let's get straight to CNN's Nick Paton Walsh who is live for us in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine.

And, Nick, some evacuees were supposed to arrive there today. Have you seen any yet?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: No, none of the contingent we believe was supposed to be part of today's well heralded United Nations and Red Cross plan. That's important, Jake, because those we did see coming into a welcome center here in Zaporizhzhia had been conducting their own journey under their own auspices over the past days or weeks at times, trying to get away from Russian controlled areas. This particular different day, though, was about essentially the U.N. and Red Cross coming in and trying to establish some sort of more routine method for getting civilians out. There are 100,000 potentially in Mariupol who want to get out, and then of course, the hundreds inside Azovstal steel plant.

They did not arrive today. That's absolutely clear, and they're not really expected overnight. Hopes are high that maybe in the latter part of tomorrow morning we might start seeing the Azovstal evacuees coming out here.

But there are significant questions still about this. Certainly, there has been some video posted by the Russian ministry of defense that does appear to show something that looks a lot like a Red Cross escorted convoy somewhere near the east of Mariupol. That potentially suggests they might be taking certainly a circuitous route toward Ukrainian held territory. Some might suggest it might suggest part of this is heading in the direction of Russia.

Remember, there's a sort of binary problem here, Jake. When you leave Mariupol, you can't go towards Ukrainian held territory through Russian checkpoints and that's where I understood earlier on today this initial wave of Azovstal evacuees were headed, although some in the past, thousands, many say, have been heading in fact towards Russia to filtration camps there and resettlement. Some might suggest forcibly inside of Russia.

That's the key issue today. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has made this a calling card, whether they can get this evacuation to happen on the scale they need to show frankly the negotiation has a place in a war where there's very little trust and very little decency on the side of Russia, frankly, just to let innocent civilians out and so far today, that expectation, that hope has been substantially delayed.


It hasn't come to anything as yet. Jake.

TAPPER: Nick Paton Walsh in Ukraine for us, thank you so much.

Now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a group of Democratic lawmakers are in Poland today after having made a surprise visit to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy over the weekend.

Back home, early issues are slowing down the process of getting billions more in military aid sent to Ukraine.

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

And, MJ, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was just asked if President Biden plans to also visit Kyiv to meet with President Zelenskyy. What does she have to say?

MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. You know, she was asked this question again because Congressman Adam Schiff who was a part of the House delegation, came back and said he thinks it's only a matter of time before President Biden himself makes that trip. The White House press secretary making clear that there are still no plans for the president to go on such a trip, though they are constantly assessing the situation and saying that the president certainly would like to go, but of course, in the past, the White House has been pretty clear about the very serious security concerns about such a presidential trip.

So again, at this moment in time, no such plans exist for him to go. But yeah, this was a surprise trip, an unexpected trip that wasn't announced ahead of time for security reasons, where members of the House went to Ukraine and met for several hours with the Ukrainian president. They said that they really wanted to get a sense from the ground directly from the president himself on what exactly the needs are, what the situation is on the ground, and then they also made another trip to Poland where they could get a better sense of the humanitarian crisis and also met with U.S. troops.

Now, all of this is, of course, a way for American officials to show solidarity with the Ukrainian people. We saw just recently Secretaries Blinken and Austin also making such a similar trip, Jake.

TAPPER: MJ, what do we know about the status of the $33 billion aid package that President Biden proposed?

LEE: Yeah, this is the request that he made last week, but we just know right now that it is a work in progress. My colleague Manu Raju is hearing over on Capitol Hill that it's unlikely that this package is going to come together this week, that it could take several weeks for that language to actually be put together. Keep in mind, the House is not in town this week. There's also just the important question of what is going to happen to the COVID funding bill and whether these two pieces are going to end up moving together or whether they are going to be handled separately.

But, of course, it's worth emphasizing just sort of the urgency here, particularly when it comes to the weapons and military assistance piece of this. We know that from the last package that was approved by Congress, the portion that was allocated for security assistance, the White House has been saying for days that most of that has already been allocated or has been spent, Jake.

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

Joining us to discuss, Republican Congressman Mike Turner of Ohio. He's the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee. He's also on the House Armed Services Committee.

Congressman, good to see you as always.

So, Congressional sources tell CNN today that there are a number of issues being sorted through when it comes to this $33 billion for additional aid to Ukraine. They say it will likely take at least a few weeks to get the bill's language sorted out.

As you know, Ukraine is under attack right now. Do they have that much time to wait?

REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH): Well, this spending package includes more than just aid directed to Ukraine, and the president does have some authorities with the Department of Defense to insure that there are continued flows of weapons and assistance to Ukraine. This package includes some additional resources for also our NATO allies that can we shore up that eastern front. Those are going to be very important, and as you just heard, the details that the White House are putting together are not jet complete, but certainly, I think overall, you're going to have a very receptive bipartisan, bicameral support for this bill.

TAPPER: So, you do -- you do think a number of Republicans are going to join with Democrats to pass this?

TURNER: Well, everybody knows that this aid to Ukraine is essential. And when you look at what Russia has been doing, that the inhumane killing of innocent civilians, the destruction of cities in Ukraine, the leadership of President Zelenskyy, I think people are very committed to continue giving Russia difficulty in Ukraine.

TAPPER: I spoke to the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.K., Vadym Prystaiko, on Friday. This is partly what he told me Ukraine still needs. Take a listen.


VADYM PRYSTAIKO, UKRAINIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED KINGDOM: We need anti-air, anti-sea, something which will allow us to hit more ships and there are a couple missions in the world which actually have these technologies, especially those ones who have bigger fleets.


TAPPER: So he was talking about anti-air -- anti-aircraft and anti- sea weapons. Does the U.S. have that kind of weaponry to give to the Ukrainians?


TURNER: Well, the White House has put in their basic construct of this bill, again, we haven't seen language yet, that heavy artillery, anti-sea, anti-air would be included. We don't know the specifics of those. Certainly, the UK has said before that they also would be providing Ukraine with assistance with anti-sea. The goal here obviously is to give Ukraine some relief by having a stand-off, both in just the air and in the sea, so they can lessen the shelling that has occurred of innocent civilians.

TAPPER: Today, Germany's foreign minister told CNN that his country is ready to agree to an embargo on Russian oil. That doesn't include Russian gas, which Germany still depends on.

How big of a step could this be in reducing the massive amounts of cash that Europe is still handing over to Putin and Russia every single day?

TURNER: Well, it is certainly a step in the right direction. What it's showing is there's going to be consequences for Russia for this. It's not just going to be a ground war between Ukraine and Russia with, you know, aid coming from other Ukrainian allies to give them the weaponry they needed. It's going to have broader ramifications beyond just the sanctions the United States has put in place and the EU has put in place. That's very important.

When you become a pariah, when you become that nation state that people see as an international adversary and that is breaking the norms of just general humane standards, then those actions are the kind that make a difference and that certainly signal to Russia that the world does see them differently and that they're going to be received differently.

TAPPER: So Russia is finally allowing some civilians to leave the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. Do you think that and the release of Trevor Reed, does that signify, I don't want to be overly naive about this, but does that signify that maybe Putin is getting more serious about diplomacy?

TURNER: I don't believe so. I believe that if you look at what's been happening on the steel plant, they're almost to a stalemate. If you look at other areas where Russia has any advantage whatsoever, they're just killing and slaughtering innocent civilians. You're seeing all of the types of things that people say rise to the level of actual war crimes by Russia.

So I don't take any of these small things as signals. When you know what they're doing on a regular basis and they have done in this country.

TAPPER: I have heard it hypothesized this conflict will likely end with a basically an occupied Ukraine, maybe west of the river -- I'm sorry, east of the river and then the free Ukraine west of the river, a negotiated settlement. Is that your best guess how this ends?

TURNER: As we know, Russia already occupies Ukraine in Crimea and then have continued to undertake the attack against the Ukraine, having attempted to take the entire country. I think anything that we see is going to be hard to rely on any representation that Russia makes. They have already made, entered into a memorandum with Ukraine guaranteeing their territorial integrity before they invaded and took Crimea.

I think this is going to be very difficult in any type of diplomatic solution that might come about imminently because Russia just can't be trusted.

TAPPER: Republican Congressman Mike Turner of Ohio, the ranking Republican on the Intel -- Thank you so much for your time, sir. Good to see you as always.

CNN returns to Russia just as the foreign minister comes under fire for controversial comments. Our live report from Moscow, that's next.

Then, the latest on the search for a corrections officer who disappeared with an inmate, the same day she filed for retirement.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our world lead, global condemnation today after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attempted to justify Kremlin rhetoric that Russians are denazifying Ukraine, which has a Jewish president, by claiming that Adolf Hitler had, quote, Jewish blood, and saying the most ardent anti-Semites are usually Jews. The chair of the U.S. Holocaust Museum said this afternoon, quote: To

claim that Hitler was Jewish and imply that Jews were responsible for Nazism and the Holocaust is an anti-Semitic lie of extraordinary proportions. In addition to promoting baseless conspiracy theories and hatred, this obscene claim is a grave offense to the victims of the true Nazism, the 6 millions and millions of other civilians and cannot obscure Russia's perpetration of mass atrocities in Ukraine, unquote.

CNN's Matthew Chance is live for us in Moscow where the Kremlin has imposed strict laws regarding how Russia's presence in Ukraine is described.

So, Matthew, what is Lavrov trying to argue?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's just as you say, Jake. Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, was attempting to justify his country's decision to send thousands of troops across the border into neighboring Ukraine from the outset, and they said the same thing, we're hearing it increasingly now as the country builds up to the victory day celebrations to commemorate the end of the Second World War. That just as Nazi Germany posed an existential threat to Russia in the 1940s, Ukraine poses with its neo- Nazis, you know, a threat to Russia and to Russians, ethnic Russians in Ukraine.

Now, the problem with the argument, of course, is that Ukraine isn't run by Nazis. It's run by a Jewish president. When Sergey Lavrov was confronted with that fact, he reached for that anti-Semitic trope that it's Jews that are responsible for the most anti-Semitic sort of actions, and a conspiracy theory that's very popular on the Internet that Hitler himself may have had Jewish blood.


So, it just exposes I think to some extent how threadbare the Russians' justification for sending troops into Ukraine really is.

TAPPER: Has the government of Israel responded to the comments?

CHANCE: It has. The Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennett, has called them out, basically, as lies, and he's condemned this idea that Jews should be blamed for the worst crimes committed against Jews, which is this anti-Semitic trope that's often put out there.

So, yes, it's interesting because Israel has up until now set on the fence when it comes to Russia. It hasn't enacted the sanctions imposed against Moscow for its actions inside Ukraine. And so this is a very severe diplomatic reaction, which was immediate and quick by the Israeli government to what the Russian foreign minister had to say.

TAPPER: Matthew, this is your first time back in Moscow since the Kremlin put in place those rather strict laws on how journalists can cover Ukraine. Tell us what you found.

CHANCE: Yeah, it is a slightly strange experience because it is the first time since I have been back, back to Russia since January. And superficially, there are changes. I have only the 24 hours to be back in the city. It's hard to get back in because most of the airlines aren't flying to Russia. But a lot of shops are boarded up. Those that are open selling Western products still, have them at discounted fire sale type of prices.

But remember, it's not a war zone. We're geographically distance from what's taking place in Ukraine. So, there isn't that sense of trauma and that sense of hardship and that sense of violence in the country. It does feel somewhat disconnected from what's taking place across the border in Ukraine.

So that's something very significant. I think the biggest challenge is going to be reporting on this country with those strict laws that have been put in place, which are very careful to restrict how we describe what Russia calls its special military operation in Ukraine. And, of course, very strict on making sure that we don't report information that the Russian authorities regard as false information. So we have to be careful about that.

The fact they have enacted those laws has already forced out the vast majority of independent journalists in the country as well as media organizations here that attempted to be critical of the government have closed down. And so, I think that's the challenge for all of the independent media that remain in place in Russia.

TAPPER: Matthew Chance in Moscow, thank you so much for your time today.

Several mysterious explosions were reported in Moldova, specifically in the Russian occupied Transnistria region. Russia is blaming Ukraine, while Ukraine is blaming Russia, saying that these are examples of a Russian false flag operation to justify a pending invasion.

And now, as CNN's Randi Kaye reports, Moldovans living nearby are worried they're going to get pulled into the war as a result of this decades-old Soviet era conflict.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the village of Cosnita. It is actually the last village before the border with Transnistria. Almost everyone here told us they did not want to be interviewed. One woman told us, quote, the less you talk, the more you live.

That's where we met Tanya. She fled Odesa, Ukraine, with her two children only to end up here, just a few miles from Transnistria, and feels under threat again.

The Russian troops are very close to here. Does that concern you?

She tells me, yes, she's very afraid. She's very scared. She says her bags are packed and she's hoping to get to Poland or somewhere safer very soon.

Are you worried that Russia will invade Moldova? Yes, of course, she's afraid for Moldova, she says. Moldovans are

really good people who took Ukrainians in.

Down the road, further from the border with Transnistria, we found a village called Bado Lovota (ph) where people were much more willing to speak with us.

Are you nervous?

EFRAM, MOLDOVAN RESIDENT: No, no. I feel very good. I know that I can stay for my country. Yes.

KAYE: You don't have a bag packed to go?

EFRAM: No. No. I will stay here and I will protect my family and my house. Yes.

KAYE: So you would stay and fight?

EFRAM: Yes. Yes, of course. Why not? It's my country.

KAYE: How do you feel about living so close to Transnistria?

EFRAM: I feel okay. You know, but I understand there is a problem. There is a problem that exists a lot of time, yes. And I think now, it's the moment to resolve it.

KAYE: The trouble with Transnistria is its proximity to Ukraine and its relationship with Russia, which has kept troops there for decades.


If Putin's troops are somehow successful in taking control of southern Ukraine, they could create a land corridor stretching to Transnistria and some here fear eventually into Moldova and deeper into eastern Europe.

This man tells me he's very worried for what may happen in Moldova.

Can Moldova defend itself against Russia, do you think?

No, he says. Then asks me, have you seen the Moldovan army?

He says Moldova is a friendly, neutral state that happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

This woman tells me she, too, is very worried about Russia invading through Transnistria.

For now, it's not a threat, she says, but if that changes, she and her husband plan to run away. This woman came all the way from Canada to check on her family. Worried for your family?


KAYE: She grew up here and is familiar with the threats of a Russian invasion. She wanted to make sure her brother and sister and mother- in-law have all they need to escape.

REINA: We tried to help them with the money, but actually to prefer maybe the documents. Just in case. Just in case to have the passports.

KAYE: So many Moldovans deciding whether to stay or go, as they wait for what Putin does next.


KAYE (on camera): And the Ukrainian foreign minister just today, Jake, said Ukraine will work with Moldova to make sure that tensions do not escalate in that area of Transnistria. That's a good thing because we spoke with the former Moldovan ambassador to the U.S., Igor Montano (ph), and he said that so-called peacekeeping force of 1500 Russian troops could grow exponentially very quickly. He said they have already started recruiting and those numbers could jump to 50,000 or more very quickly.

So he is quite concerned about that and just a reminder, Moldova here is not a member of NATO or the European Union. It does consider itself a neutral country -- Jake.

TAPPER: Randi Kaye in Moldova for us, thank you so much.

Coming up, a look at the first real midterm test of Donald Trump's power as a potential Republican king maker.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, will President Trump be a GOP kingmaker or not? Polls in Ohio suggest his endorsement of Senate Republican candidate JD Vance did provide a significant boost. Vance is now leading the field with 23 percent support up from 11 percent in March.

But at last night's rally, former President Trump complicated the endorsement by getting the name of the candidate he's backing wrong.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have endorsed Dr. Oz. We have endorsed JP, right? JD Mandel, and he's doing great. They're all doing good. They're all doing good.


TAPPER: So just to be clear, President Trump has endorsed JD Vance over Josh Mandel, I personally don't know of any candidate names JD Mandel. But either way, now the question in Ohio, and other competitive primaries is do Trump's words, does his overall message still have a major impact?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TRUMP: I want to pick somebody that's going to win, and this man is going to win. Come on up, JD.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Donald Trump is testing his role as a king maker.

JD VANCE (R), OHIO U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: Ohio, do we love this guy?

ZELENY: Many Republicans do still love him. The question is whether they will follow his lead and support JD Vance in Ohio's crowded Senate primary Tuesday. On the campaign trail today, Vance made famous by his best selling book "Hillbilly Elegy" was still explaining his transition from Trump critic to acolyte.

VANCE: I can't turn on the TV without seeing my fat head saying something I wish I hadn't said six years ago.

ZELENY: What he said about Trump has been played again and again on TV ads from rivals and critics.

VANCE: I'm a never Trump guy. I never liked him. As somebody who doesn't like Trump, I might have to hold my nose and vote for Hillary Clinton.

ZELENY: We asked Vance about those words today.

Do you regret them?

VANCE: Do I regret them? I certainly wish I hadn't said them. It was a mistake because I was wrong. I think it's much more important than to worry about whether you regret something is to actually admit when you make a mistake.

ZELENY: Bonnie Boyd, a loyal Trump fan, was offended by Vance's old comments but changed her tune after Trump offered his blessing.

BONNIE BOYD, OHIO VOTER: I couldn't in good faith vote for him because of things he said against Trump. But then when Trump endorsed him, I thought, okay, I can vote for him now.

ZELENY: Lora Yank, who also admires Trump, sees it differently.

LORA YANK, OHIO VOTER: Do I like president Trump? Yes. Do I follow everything that Trump says or do I think that he's, you know, the ultimate source? No. God's the ultimate source, and I rely on my own sense of judgment, research.

ZELENY: With early voting under way, the former president upended the race to replace retiring Senator Rob Portman. He endorsed Jane Timken, a former chair of Ohio's GOP, who also fought hard for the Trump endorsement.

JANE TIMKEN (R), OHIO SENATE CANDIDATE: He created a lot of confusion, as many voters know that JD Vance was a never Trumper.

[16:35:05] If he had his way, Hillary Clinton would have been president.

ZELENY: But he's apologized for that.

TIMKEN: Well, he's apologized, but the question is who is the real JD Vance?

ZELENY: Josh Mandel and Mike gibbons also have aligned themselves with Trump but didn't gain his support.

JOSH MANDEL (R), OHIO SENATE CANDIDATE: Well, obviously, I would have loved to earn it, but it doesn't change the fact I believe very strongly in a Trump America first agenda.

ZELENY: Texas Senator Ted Cruz backs Mandel and had this to say about Trump's seal of approval.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Every candidate says I love Donald Trump. No, no, I love Donald Trump more. No, no, I have Donald Trump tattooed on my rear end. Okay, we get it. What's your record?

ZELENY: Matt Dolan, the only GOP rival who did not seek the endorsement, said it's time for Republicans to move on.

MATT DOLAN (R), OHIO SENATE CANDIDATE: I hope this election when I win is about that people begin to understand that you can run on ideas.


ZELENY (on camera): And many Republicans here tell me they are keeping a close eye on Dolan on the eve of this primary. Establishment Republicans do support him, and Trump loyalists are divided among several other candidates. Now, Dolan has made clear he's not a never Trumper but he does believe that Trump policies were fine, but the personality is something the party should move beyond.

Now, as for the former president, he is making his first big bet in the 2022 midterm elections here in Ohio tomorrow, but Jake, every Tuesday in the month of May, he'll be tested anew, from Pennsylvania to Georgia to other key states for endorsements he's made in races for House, Senate, and governor.

TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny in Columbus, Ohio, for us -- thank you so much.

The Trump era border policy some Senate Democrats are actually supporting in campaign ads. That's next.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, Democrats are increasingly divided over President Biden's plans to end pandemic era border restrictions known as Title 42. The rules allow border patrol agents to return some migrants mostly to Mexico without the opportunity to seek asylum.

As CNN's Kasie Hunt reports, with the midterm elections looming, President Biden is facing building pressure from Democrats in competitive races to delay ending those COVID era restrictions later this month.


SEN. MAGGIE HASSAN (D-NH): Hi, everyone. I'm here in Nogales, Arizona, right at the Mexican border.

KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST (voice-over): Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan filming this video almost 300 miles away from her home state in New Hampshire. She went because the Biden administration is planning to lift a pandemic era rule preventing migrants seeking asylum from staying in the U.S. It's set to happen in May, just months before she'll face voters in the midterm elections.

HASSAN: I'm going to keep pushing the administration to develop a really strong strategic plan for how we will secure our borders when Title 42 is lifted.

HUNT: Right now, about 7,000 migrants are being apprehended everyday, the highest in years.

And Department of Homeland Security says that number could double or even triple if Title 42 is lifted.

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: It is our responsibility to be prepared for different scenarios and that is what we are doing.

HUNT: But so far, more than a dozen members of the president's own party have expressed concerns of the administration lifting Title 42.

Border state senator Mark Kelly of Arizona says there isn't a good plan.

SEN. MARK KELLY (D-AZ): There hasn't been enough preparation. There hasn't been a plan put in place.

HUNT: So, the administration has no plan?

KELLY: Well, they've got a little bit more of a plan as of a couple days ago. But it's still not sufficient. We have this arbitrary gate, about 30 days from now, where this policy is supposed to go away and we see that increase numbers and it hasn't even been decided where the facility would be.

HUNT: Wow, so you're saying thousands of people would come across the border and at this point --

KELLY: We have no place to put them. We don't have the basics of how are you going to handle 18,000 individuals a day, safely, and, you know, in occurrence with our ethics and principles. That plan I haven't seen yet. HUNT: Texas Democrat Henry Cuellar putting it bluntly.

REP. HENRY CUELLAR (D-TX): Right now, some of the actions by the administration is not helping Democrats.

HUNT: But President Biden is pressing ahead under intense pressure from immigration activists. They feel they were promised a sharp break from the draconian policies and inflammatory rhetoric under former President Donald Trump.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is the first president in the history of the United States of America that's somebody seeking asylum has to do it in another country. That's never happened before in America.

HUNT: In New Hampshire, Hassan is facing some of that backlash from the left over her trip to a border wall that Trump championed.

MARIA PEREZ (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE STATE REPRESENTATIVE: What happened to you? You tokenized us to talk negatively about the previous administration, but now you're utilizing immigrants to win some votes. Shame on you.

HUNT: But Hassan has another challenge, winning over independents in a general election.

CROWD: Build that wall! Build that wall!

HUNT: Republicans across the country are dialing up their criticism of Democrats on immigration.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As the real Trump conservative, I will fight to finish this wall, secure this border and crack down on the drug cartels.

HUNT: Those ads could get even tougher for Democrats if images like these taken during the last border surge blanket American airwaves again because of a massive surge this summer.


HUNT (on camera): Immigration activists are privately expecting that the nation's courts will keep Title 42 in place well past May, and possibly until after the midterm elections. A Louisiana judge has temporarily blocked the administration from lifting the policy, after more than 20 states sued to block the administration from ending this authority -- Jake.


TAPPER: All right. Kasie Hunt, great report. Thanks so much.

HUNT: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up, did she do it for love? Was she forces to do it? Growing questions about the corrections officer who disappeared with a dangerous inmate.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our national lead, a warrant is out for the arrest of an Alabama corrections officer after a man accused of capital murder escapes jail.


Officer Vicki White and inmate Casey White, are not related, but both reported missing on Friday after Vicki White, the assistant director of operations at Lauderdale County Jail, said she checked Casey White out of jail for a mental health evaluation. Now the sheriff says both are on the run, dangerous, and possibly armed.

CNN's Ryan Young got an exclusive look inside the Alabama jail to find out more about the mystery jail break.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just hours ago, investigators issuing an arrest warrant for Vicki White, who they say may have helped a dangerous inmate escape.

SHERIFF RICK SINGLETON, LAUDERDALE COUNTY, ALABAMA: If she did this willingly, and all indications are she did, I guess we're trying to hold on to that last straw of hope that maybe for some reason she was threatened and did this under coercion, but I feel betrayed.

YOUNG: Friday morning, the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Office says assistant director Vicki White told her coworkers she was taking inmate Casey White to the county courthouse for a mental health evaluation. Casey White is awaiting trial on murder charges.

Investigators say security video shows the pair never arrived at the courthouse and no evaluation or court appearance was even scheduled. Several hours later, White's patrol car was found abandoned in a shopping center parking lot less than a mile away from the detention facility.

SINGLETON: We have gotten a couple tips on a possible vehicle. We're still pursuing that.

YOUNG: Investigators say they still have no evidence of a relationship between them.

SINGLETON: We're still looking into that, reviewing phone calls, reviewing video from the jail, to see if she spent any kind of extraordinary amount of time at his particular cell.

YOUNG: We're told Casey White was inside that cell, where the second door is where you see the brass handle. He was brought out of that cell and brought down this direction, and this was all done the regular way it's done during any time someone was transferred. They then brought him to that deputy before she took off southward with him.

Vicki White's mother is in disbelief her daughter could have helped an inmate escape.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Never heard of him, never seen his picture. I didn't know anything about it.

YOUNG: Davis says her daughter who is a widow recently sold her home and had been living with her. The sheriff's office says last week after about two decades with the department, Vicki White put in her retirement papers. Friday was supposed to be her last day. Davis says her daughter didn't talk about work often and never brought up anything about retiring or inmate White.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's always been what I would say a good person, and like I say, this is all a shock.

YOUNG: Casey White was already serving 75 years for a rash of crimes. Next month, he's scheduled to go on trial on two counts of capital murder for a stabbing death of Connie Ridgeway in 2015. Tonight, investigators are hopeful he'll soon be behind bars.

MARTY KEELY, UNITED STATES MARSHAL NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA: Keep in mind that Casey White is a large individual. He is 6'9" tall. There is the possibility that he's changed his identity as far as his looks, but he will stand out.


YOUNG (on camera): You've got to think about this, Jake. Vicki White was a boss here, so when she walked down that hallway and made that call and asked them to release him into her custody and walked him down to that sally port, that's something that everyone did here without even thinking about it. They talked about this woman working here for years and the day after this happened that everyone was just so in disbelief, they could not believe their coworker could be involved.

You think about this, though, this man stands 6'9" tall, so he's not going to be an easy individual to sort of hide. So everyone is asking this question right now, what exactly happened? What transpired inside this jail that we have to look at that made her decide to take this ride that no one in this community will forget? Jake?

TAPPER: All right. Ryan Young in Alabama, Florence, Alabama. Thank you so much.

Coming up, the youngest victims of war. CNN talks to families who say their children were targeted by the Russians.

Stay with us.



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

This hour, she's being called the Mary Poppins of disinformation by some Republicans, so just who is the woman tapped to run the controversial homeland security disinformation board?

Plus, a new warning about a summer COVID surge just as new reporting comes out showing up to 50 percent of people who got COVID suffered symptoms for weeks.

And leading this hour, after weeks trapped in the bombarded city of Mariupol, some Ukrainian civilians have been able to escape the surrounded steel plant, but the people still trapped inside say they have been under nonstop Russian fire. As Russian forces focus their operations on eastern Ukraine, CNN's Matt Rivers reports on a small heavily damaged village north of Kyiv, struggling to move forward amid the trauma of war.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the entrance to the Ukrainian village of Moschun, an effigy twist in the breeze, a uniform stripped off a dead Russian soldier, stuffed and hung from a tree.

People hate Russia here, because of what it did.

The tiny town northwest of Kyiv has been leveled. Russian bombs, rockets, bullets, destroyed streets after street after street.

This was the site of some of the most intense fighting of the war so far on. On their drive toward Kyiv, the Russians attacked soldiers and civilians alike here. Ukrainian bunkers, alongside ordinary houses, shelled relentlessly, to devastating effect.

This was probably somebody's kitchen. You can see an oven there, some pots and pans and a microwave.