Return to Transcripts main page

The Lead with Jake Tapper

Difficulty In Evacuations In Mariupol; The Children Victims Of Putin's War; DHS Disinformation Board Has GOP On Alarm; Head Of Disinformation Board Criticized For Partisan Comments; NYT: President Biden Received Early Warnings That Immigration & Inflation Could Erode His Support; Dem Senator's New Campaign Ad Takes On Biden; Special Grand Jury Selected In Investigation Of Trump Interference; Georgia Official Texted Mark Meadows As Trump Pressured Secretary Of State To "Find" Votes. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 02, 2022 - 17:00   ET




MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This was probably somebody's kitchen. You can see there's oven there, some pots and pans, a microwave. I mean, this isn't a big city, but the scale of destruction in this village is on par with anything else we have seen across Ukraine. I mean, this house gets hit with artillery. There is subsequent fire and just look. I mean, it's eviscerated. If there is a building in this village that hasn't been damaged in this fighting, we haven't seen it yet.

VALENTINA FURSA, RESIDENT OF MOSCHUIN, UKRAINE (through translation): Boom, boom, boom. Fire, fire. It was everywhere. It's nightmare.

RIVERS (voice-over): Valentina Fursa has lived in Moschun for years and has never known war until it landed on her doorstep and forced her down into a neighbor's basement.

(On camera): How scared were you?

FURSA (through translation): We were very scared. My heart was beating very fast. I thought we would die there. The Russians fired indiscriminately.

RIVERS (voice-over): The fighting only eased when Russia withdrew from the entire Kyiv region. Valentina emerging from the basement to find shell casings in her garden and whatever else the Russians left behind.

(On camera): So all of these things, she says, the Russians left behind. So this for washing your hands, another cup of some kind here. This, some sort of life jacket that the Russians used. And then even here, you've got old meal boxes even with some things left inside there that you can see.

RIVERS (voice-over): For nearly two months after the fighting, residents stayed away. A trickle have now started to return. For them, Russia's lasting effects here more than just bullet holes and bomb craters. Not only do people who are trying to rebuild so often have to start from scratch, but there remains so many mines and pieces of unexploded ordinance that authorities are actually considering closing down this town for a few days until they can clear it.

(Voice-over): It's open for now, though, which meant Valentina Marhonos could come back home for the first time in weeks. The weather was nice, so her niece and nephew played on the swing. Different than the last time they were here when they hid in a basement as bombs destroyed everything above.

(On camera): Is it difficult to think about that?

VALENTINA MARHONOS, RESIDENT OF MOSCHUN, UKRAINE (through translation): I don't even know what to say.

RIVERS (voice-over): What we can say is that this tiny town has turned into a symbol of sorts, a village mercilessly attacked that in the end stood its ground. A microcosm, perhaps, of the country in which it lies.


RIVERS (on camera): And Jake, the village of Moschun lies only three miles or so from the city limits of Kyiv, just 15 miles from where I'm standing in the center of town. And the Ukrainian soldiers that we've spoken to have said that if they weren't able to put up the resistance that they did in that town, there would have been fighting in the streets of Kyiv. We're going to explore that topic a little more on the show tomorrow. Jake?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Matt Rivers, reporting from Kyiv. Thank you so much for that report.

A spokesman for UNICEF says the conditions in the embattled city of Mariupol are apocalyptic and ghastly. Before and after satellite photos show extensive damage at the Azovstal steel plant complex after weeks of Russian bombing.

The Mariupol mayor says civilian evacuations from the city and from the plant have been, quote, "very difficult" and entirely dependent on cooperation from the Russians, who have, of course, not been particularly cooperative. CNN's Scott McLean joins us now live from Lviv, Ukraine. Scott, what do we know about the progress of these critical evacuations?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, you know, we're getting bits and pieces of information today and they all adds up to a picture that is not looking good. There is an evacuation for people leaving the city of Mariupol, independent of the steel plant that is supposed to be meeting up on the northwestern edge of the city at a mall there.

But last we heard, there was no indication that the buses who were supposed to take them out of the city had even arrived yet. So it's unlikely that they have made very much progress there. The people who left the steel plant yesterday with the help of the U.N. and the Red Cross, there's no indication at this stage that they have made it to their destination of Zaporizhzhia in Ukrainian held territory.

The mayor of Mariupol says that the reason why it's taking so long is because of this Russian filtration process where people have to get questioned and have to get searched on their way out of Russian held territory into Ukrainian held territory. And then as for those who are left behind at that steel plant, soldiers say that today was a day where there were no successful evacuations, but there were a lot of successful bombings.

There was also an unsuccessful attempt by Russian troops to actually storm the plant. The Ukrainians said they killed five Russian soldiers.


Today, there's new video showing a large column of black smoke rising in the sky from that plant. We also heard today from a deputy commander of the Azov battalion which is leading the fighting from that plant, and he says that there are still 120 civilians trapped underground. Twenty of them children. And he says that some are trapped beneath the rubble. Listen.


SVIATOSLAV PALAMAR, UKRAINIAN COMMANDER OF THE AZOV REGIMENT: We (inaudible) needed to carry out some kind of special operation because people are under the rubble. We hear them talking, but we can't lift those slabs. In addition, we were planning to tear up the bunkers, the entrance to which is blocked. But all night, into Monday, naval artillery and barrel artillery were firing. Aviation has been working all day today dropping bombs.


MCLEAN: And Jake, soldiers inside that plant also say that some who have been wounded have started to die of their wounds. Others have begun to faint because of the lack of food.

TAPPER: All right, Scott McLean reporting for us from Lviv, Ukraine. Thank you so much.

Joining us live to discuss, retired four-star general and former CIA director David Petraeus. He's also the chairman of the KKR Global Institute. KKR owns some defense contracting firms, but we should note you don't work directly with those firms.

General, I'd like to start with the report we just heard about the Mariupol evacuations and the fate of Ukrainians sent to these Russian filtration centers. What do you think Putin is trying to do here?

DAVID PETRAEUS, FORMER COMMANDER OF U.S. AND NATO FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN: Well, they're trying to make sure that there aren't any soldiers who are making their way out of Mariupol, trying to pretend that they are civilians. It's a pretty barbaric process and practice, frankly, but just consistent with what they have been doing all along. As you know, the culture of the Russian forces has really been to

commit war crimes rather than to avoid them and rather than to avoid the kinds of actions that you're seeing. And also just the sheer bombing and so forth of locations when they can't get them to subdue any other way. This is pretty barbaric stuff, but again, consistent with what we have seen so far.

What we're also seeing I think right now, Jake, is that this is a pivotal moment. This is a moment where the Russians are desperately trying to achieve victories prior to the 9 May World War II Victory Day celebration in Moscow. They're working that hard on the east and also in the southeast.

And the Ukrainians are being very, very resolute in fighting against giving way ground there, and they have really only given a bit of ground. The Russians really haven't had any successful penetrations. They certainly haven't been able to encircle the Ukrainian forces whatsoever.

And as the weight of this additional support that we are providing, other NATO nations and other western countries are providing comes to bear, as it makes its way to the front lines, this 90 155-millimeter howitzers and so forth. That is going to make itself felt. And I think that we're going to see the Ukrainians start to counterattack and perhaps take back some of the ground that they have very grudgingly given up.

TAPPER: So, we're told that the chief of staff for the Russian military recently visited Ukraine including the Donbas region. The U.S. says it isn't sure why he traveled to the Russian front lines. What do you make of that?

PETRAEUS: Well, he's probably trying to figure out what is going on, why can't we make progress? He's down there trying to work with the commander. You know, they now have one commander in charge, General Dvornikov, the butcher of Syria, known for the bombing of Aleppo in 2016. They really haven't made the progress that they hoped to achieve.

And so he's probably down there trying to figure out why is it that we can't achieve combined arms effects. Why is it that we can't integrate air and ground operations? Why aren't we doing better? And of course, he did narrowly avoid, apparently, the demolition of the command post at which he was located during his visit with a loss of another Russian general reportedly.

So, again, he is probably getting desperate. I'm sure that President Putin is putting an enormous pressure on him and on Defense Minister Shoigu to achieve something, again, that he can announce -- Putin can announce on 9 May in Moscow.

TAPPER: Yes. Over the weekend, we saw photos of a statue of Lenin being re-erected in a town under Russian occupation in the Kherson region. Statues of Lenin of course were once common place across the Soviet Union. Many of course have been removed from those former Soviet states since the fall of the USSR. Reflect on that for a moment if you could. Did you ever think the day -- that you'd see the day where Lenin statues, Vladimir Lenin statues would go back up?

PETREAUS: Well, there's a little bit of nostalgia that Putin is playing on back for the USSR.


And you know, the great days of the Soviet Union and so forth. And what they're doing is imposing this on these areas that they have taken over. And I think though the day is going to come where that statue is going to come back down because that's an area that a focus of very substantial Ukrainian counterattacks. They're trying to take back that town, that city of Kherson, and when they do, I'm sure that there will be a photo of that statue on its side.

TAPPER: General David Petraeus, always good to have you on. Thank you so much for your time today.

PETRAEUS: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Two sisters, just 11 and 7, both shot by Russians in Ukraine. They're not the only young victims of Russia's invasion.

Plus, the issue that has a senate Democrat running campaign ads showcasing just how she's going against President Biden. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our "World Lead," at least 31 children have been killed and 19 wounded in Ukraine's Bucha district. That's according to a local prosecutor in that region. But as more atrocities committed by Russian forces come to light, there is growing fears similar numbers will be found elsewhere in Ukraine.

CNN's Sara Sidner reports from Kyiv on the youngest victims of Russia's invasion. We want to warn you the videos we're about to show you are quite disturbing, but the families want the world to see these faces.


SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR CORRESPNONDENT (voice-over): Sixty-eight- year-old Galina stands over her 7-year-old granddaughter's fresh grave. This is only the second time she's been able to visit the remains of her sweet, funny girl since the Russians rolled into town, snuffing out life as casually as putting out cigarettes.

These are the faces of the children of Russia's war on Ukraine, two sisters the family says were shot in a Russian attack in Bucha, 11- year-old Leta (ph) flinches in pain, hospitalized. Her 7-year-old sister, Anastasia (ph) lies motionless beside her. She never regains consciousness.

SIDNER (on camera): Tell me about your granddaughter. GALINA, GRANDMOTHRE of BUCHA VICTIM (through translation): Nastia

(ph), she says, calling her granddaughter by her nickname, she was so nice. Everyone loved her where we lived. She loved me and always asked me to sing a song for her.

SIDNER (on camera): Will you sing the song that your granddaughter loved for us?

GALNA (through translation): She refuses because the song that used to bring them both joy only brings her pain now.

SIDNER (voice-over): She was there to witness the murder of 7-year- old Anastasia (ph) and the wounding of a second grandchild who remains hospitalized. She says a Russian sniper shot through their vehicle from these woods, as the entire family, seven children and three adults, tried to escape the Russian siege of Bucha.

GALNA (through translation): These children were scared, they were all screaming, she says. And I asked the soldier to help us. I was begging them saying, don't you have kids of your own?

SIDNER (voice-over): Funeral director Anna Kalinichenko says theirs is a story that has played out again and again around here.

(On camera): What are these families enduring?

ANNA KALINICHENKO, CEMETERY DIRECTORE (through translation): Russians would not let them bury loved ones at the cemetery. People had to bury them in their own backyards first then later at the cemetery.

SIDNER (on camera): The family, she says, have to endure two burials. They have to go through that pain twice.

(Voice-over): At the cemetery these days, Ukraine's old war heroes are being joined by young war victims. In Bucha alone, the local prosecutor says at least 31 children were killed by Russian forces, 19 injured.

(On camera): Are these war crimes being committed?

KALINICHENKO (through translation): War crimes, yes. That will never be forgiven, neither in heaven nor on earth. They must burn in hell.

SIDNER (voice-over): Seething anger pours from her lips. She has seen too much death, too many fresh graves all at once, including the burial of 15-year-old Anya (ph) alongside her mother. Both shot and burned to death in their car after encountering Russian tanks as they tried to flee Bucha.

KALINICHENKO (through translation): It was a nice happy family. The mom gave all her love to her children.

SIDNER (voice-over): Anya's (ph) 14-year-old schoolmate says the Russians killed a girl with a warm smile and big talent. The art Anya (ph) made a reminder of the beauty she brought to the world at such a young age. DASHA MARKINA, FRIEND OF SLAIN CLASSMATE (through translation): They

just wanted to save themselves and they were shot, just because Russians wanted to do so. Those bastards don't know why they came here, but they had fun doing it.

SIDNER (voice-over): In Anastasia's (ph) case, her grandmother says her son-in-law has already talked to authorities, but for now, her once bright, lively granddaughter is alone, her final resting place awaits her remains. Anastasia (ph) will finally be beside her own mother who died of cancer not long after Anastasia (ph) was born.


SIDNER (on camera): And prosecutors are hoping that they are able to identify more children as they investigate whether or not these will be brought up as hate crimes. Jake?

TAPPER: Sara Sidner in Kyiv, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, a look at the woman picked to run the Biden administration's disinformation board. Republicans are calling her the Mary Poppins of disinformation. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our "Politics Lead," the Department of Homeland Security's new disinformation governance board has set off a wave of criticism from conservatives. Critics are worried the new board created in part to stem the flow of disinformation about the border will police American speech.

And the board's executive director, Nina Jankowicz has proved to be a prime target of the critics' wrath, both because of her partisanship and because of her social media presence. CNN's Tom Foreman shows us now why Republicans are calling her the Mary Poppins of disinformation.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lies about a lost election, quack COVID cures, immigration. Homeland Security wants to identify dangerous misinformation.


But Republicans are calling the person leading that effort, Nina Jankowicz, a partisan political hack.

KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: The credibility of this board is shot already by the fact they appointed this woman, and they knew it.

FOREMAN (voice-over): What's feeding their fury? Just watch.

NINA JANKOWICZ, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY DISINFORAMTION GOVERNANCE BOARD: -- Rudy Giuliani shared that intel from Ukraine. When TikTok influencers say COVID can't cause pain. They laundering disinfo and we really should take note and not support their lies with our wallet, voice or vote.

FOREMAN (voice-over): That TikTok parody and past tweets from Jankowicz have alarmed some on the right who fear she might use her new office to limit their free speech, despite Homeland Security saying it will serve no such role.

STEPHEN MILLER, FORMER TRUMP POLICY ADVISOR: Clearly, where this is headed is they are going to label conservative thought as extremist thought or as disinformation.

JANKOWICZ: What they're doing is exacerbating those pre-existing misgivings in society.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Jankowicz dismisses those claims and she does have extensive experience in the field, studying it for years, writing a book about it.

JANKOWICZ: First of all, I like to say we all need to be practicing informational distancing right now in addition to social distancing.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Furthermore, in the wake of attempts by Russians to meddle in past U.S. elections and fear they'll do the same this time around in addition to spreading general disinformation, Jankowicz's new boss insists political posturing is not on the agenda.

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: The disinformation board addresses disinformation that imperils the safety and security of our homeland.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Still critics say the board and Jankowicz's appointment are overreaches, the kind even she was skeptical of when Donald Trump was in office and attacking what he called fake news.

JANKOWICZ: I would never want to see our executive branch have that sort of power.

FOREMAN (on camera): The secretary is still standing by her saying look, she's going to have no enforcement capabilities. And by the way, the agency points out this effort really started under the Trump administration. None the less, Jake, you look at that video, you look at her tweets, and on the right where they're just all aflame over censorship and cancel culture, the alarm bells are ringing.

TAPPER: All right, Tom Foreman. Thanks so much. Let's discuss with our panel. Madam Mayor, let me start with you. Conservative radio host Erick Erickson tweeted about this controversy. He said, quote, "So the new head of the disinformation board thought the Hunter Biden story was disinformation and believed the Steele dossier. Precedent matters, y'all. When the next president puts Marjorie Taylor Greene in charge of that office, y'all can't complain." What do you think?

KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's misinformation about the disinformation board. What the secretary has said is that the rollout could have been better. I believe he announced it during a budget hearing. And there is an opportunity for a reset here.

One, I think, we have to know exactly what this board will do. What we do know is it won't have authority. It's more of an advisory board, my understanding, within DHS, and it's to address some very real issues. Address issues related to migration, information -- misinformation like we saw when we had the Haitian migrants trying to cross the Mexican border.

Also misinformation coming out of Russia during this campaign season. So, the work is going to be important. I think now it's incumbent for us to all understand exactly how the board will work. But I don't think that there's anything to fear.

TAPPER: And Ryan, my colleague, Dana Bash, asked the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, about this yesterday. Take a listen.


MAYORKAS: Those criticisms are precisely the opposite of what this small working group within the Department of Homeland Security will do. And I think we probably could have done a better job of communicating what it does and does not do.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Will American citizens be monitored?

MAYORKAS: No. The board does not have any operational authority or capability.


TAPPER: So we should note DHS initially said the board would focus on countering disinformation coming from Russia ahead of the midterms and from human smugglers targeting migrants on the U.S.-Mexico border. What do you think of all this?

RYAN STREETER, DIRECTOR, DOMESTIC POLICY STUDIES, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: Well, I think he's right they could have done a better job explaining it, and I think all of the theater around the leader of it is, I think, to your point, Mayor, it's better to focus on what this board is actually supposed to do.

And in that very same interview, and I watched it, when he went on to explain what it would do, the best he could really come up with was best practices which is a bit of a vacuous term. And he mentioned that the department, both under this administration and the previous administration has been engaged in this work anyway, which raised the question why the board in the first place.

And so I'm not suggesting the board doesn't have an important role to play, but I do think when you roll it out that way and when you sort of side step the question or answer it very quickly, whether you'll be monitoring citizens, when that's obviously people's biggest concern that's also a problem.

Especially when the national -- the department issued a national terrorism advisory bulletin just a couple of months ago saying it's not just foreign misinformation, it's domestic that we're concerned about.


And so that's an obvious question to answer, which I think he probably should have spent some time on. So when you're digging yourself out of a hole, it's always harder. But it doesn't suggest that the board can't serve a useful purpose.

TAPPER: And Kasie, Republicans are specifically criticizing the woman who's going to head this office, Nina Janka Woods --


TAPPER: -- who, if you look at her tweets, have to say like her reaction to Christopher Steele has been credulous, believing him and have reaction to the Hunter Biden story. I mean, there does seem to be a partisan interpretation of various forms of information or disinformation.

HUNT: I think when you're in this space, the challenge is that you really have to play error free ball. And this is an incredibly loaded, difficult place to operate for the government. It's a critical function, right? We as Americans need to know when there is information that is wrong, that is intentionally misleading, that's coming from foreign adversaries or if it is coming from domestic groups who have, you know, violent agendas, that's a much touchier area, as you say, but that doesn't mean it's not valuable.

If you're going to do it, you have to be perfect, right? It should be civil servants, who are essentially very careful about their public personas. I mean, it really just, as you say, the messaging is bungled. I don't think that their choice of a leader of it has necessarily helped.

TAPPER: Republican Senator Rob Portman, Leigh Ann, said of the board, "I do not believe the United States government should turn the tools that we have used to assist our allies counter foreign adversaries on to the American people. Our focus should be on bad actors like Russia and China, not our own citizens." Is that your understanding of what the board is going to do?

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: It's not what Mayorkas says the board is going to do. He said, it's not going to spy on Americans. But this is an opportunity for Republicans and conservatives, they are going to make a political issue out of this. My conservative sources say that this feeds into more -- or distrust of institutions, of people and power, people they say are already afraid to say what they think. And so it plays into cancel culture as well. And so this is going to continue to be a political issue no matter how well they clean it up. TAPPER: Madam Mayor, I wanted to get your view. We keep seeing Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, putting some distance between herself. She's up for re-election this year in New Hampshire, and President Biden, there was a YouTube video that Kasie brought us in the last hour. Take a look at this new TV ad.


SEN. MAGGIE HASSAN (D-NH): I'm taking on members of my own party to push a gas tax holiday. And I'm pushing Joe Biden to release more of our oil reserves. That's how we lower costs and get through these times. I'm Maggie Hassan and I approve this message.


TAPPER: I mean, Biden won New Hampshire by seven points, but you wouldn't know it from that ad.

KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS, FORMER ATLANTA MAYOR: Yes. Well, by the time you see this ad, she's probably done focus groups. She's done polling. She's tested messaging. So I don't think that this means that she's done with Biden, I think it means that she's tested our messaging. And she sees what's important for her to say to her constituents.

And listen, it's campaign season.

TAPPER: Right. Joe Biden understands that. He's been through a lot of campaigns. And I think that we have to look at polling as a moment in time. I know that there's been a lot of uproar about where the polls are, and where Joe Biden is in the polling. But polling is a snapshot. It's a moment in time, there's a lot of room between now and November for Democrats to get their messaging out and for Democrats to tell the American people how this administration has delivered.

TAPPER: What do you think of that ad?

STREETER: Well, she's clearly trying to create some distance. And I think it's indicative of something that's kind of been a bigger problem, which is the Biden administration being slow to focus on things that Americans have actually been telling pollsters for quite a while that they're concerned about. So the cost of living issues, even before inflation started really kicking in.

We see this in large national surveys you do where I work. Cost of living issues have been a big concern and a bipartisan way for people, even concerned about their property taxes more than their federal income bracket, because that's the thing that you feel the most. And so when inflation really spikes it's a big deal.

But there have been a lot of other issues, too. You know, crime has been on top of the list for -- it was the top of the list across the board for urban and suburban voters for almost 10 months before the Biden administration really began even talking about that issue. So I think now that we're in this election season, you're seeing that need to create some distance, especially because candidates like this poll pretty closely to the President's approval rating. And so they're really trying to get that distance by showing where they differ. So it is politics for sure.


STREETER: But I think it's trying to do something about the fact that they're a little too closely attached to administration that's been slowed away.

TAPPER: It's not so Biden doesn't have good pollsters, so, right? I mean, the New York Times has new reporting that early in the Biden presidency, his lead pollster was already sounding the alarm that immigration and inflation were going to be big problems writing, "Voters do not feel he has a plan to address the situation on the border, and it is starting to take a toll. And nearly nine in 10 registered voters are also concerned about increasing inflation." And yet there are huge issues.


HUNT: They knew. They knew. And I think you're seeing the fruits of that, which are Democrats looking around and saying, hey, I got to figure out a way to say that I'm not him, right? If a midterm election is a referendum on the party in power, the only way you win, especially in a Senate contest, you actually have a chance to do it. You don't really in a House race.

But in a Senate race, you can say, listen, hello, I am your person. I am not that guy in the Oval Office that you don't like. Please don't take it out on me. I promise, I'm trying to do it differently, right? So I think that's what you're seeing from Maggie Hassan.

I think the Biden administration, they've got a lot on their plate. I think that there have been a series of things particularly I think you saw Afghanistan kind of take all of these issues, crystallize them into question about competence, and whether they're prepared to take these on. And I think that that thread has been pulled through on all these other issues that are exploding just the wrong time for congressional Democrats.

CALDWELL: Yes, democratic operatives say that when there's an opportunity for these Democratic candidates to separate themselves from the President, that's actually a good thing at this point in the election. And you've seen it time and time again, even before Title 42 came up, you saw Senator Mark Kelly having very strong opinions about border security, wanting more border security separating himself from the Democratic Party. So I think if the President's poll numbers continue the same way, I think you're going to see that more and more.

TAPPER: And remember, they're low nationally, and that's even inflated because of New York and California. In places like Ohio and Pennsylvania, they're usually about eight to 10 points lower.

Great panel. Thank you so much, everyone for being here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks to you. TAPPER: Appreciate it.

New information about the text messages that were flying back and forth during the infamous phone call between then President Trump and Georgia's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, a special grand jury has been selected in Georgia to hear evidence as to whether former President Trump and others illegally attempted to influence the 2020 election in that state. That pressure campaign culminating of course in the infamous phone call between Trump and Georgia's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, during which the former president asked Raffensperger to, quote, find the exact number of votes that Trump needed to put him over the top.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more that we have because we won the state.


TAPPER: CNN's Sara Murray joins us now live from outside the Atlanta courtroom. And Sara, what is this special grand jury being established to do?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are going to be digging in to Donald Trump, his allies, their efforts to overturn the Georgia election. 26 of them were chosen today that includes three alternates, and they're going to have this wide subpoena power. They are going to be able to get witness testimony, get documents, get phone records if they need them, and they're going to have 12 months in order to do their work.

What they don't do is issue indictments. They're going to make a recommendation at the end of their work to District Attorney Fani Willis. And if they think that someone should face charges, then it's up to Willis to get that indictment from another grand jury and bring those charges. She has said she hopes this does not take another year, she hopes to be able to make a decision on whether to bring charges against anyone by the end of this year. Jake?

TAPPER: And Sara, you have these newly revealed text messages between George's Deputy Secretary of State and then Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, during that infamous phone call that we just ran a clip from. What are these text messages reveal?

MURRAY: That's right, these are text messages that Mark Meadows turned over to the House Select Committee investigating January 6. They also came up in this -- in some recent court filings, but I think they reveal some of the tensions that were going on during this call. Obviously, Trump is pressing Brad Raffensperger over and over again saying that he won the state of Georgia.

In this text messages, a Deputy to Brad Raffensperger, Jordan Fuchs says, need to end this call. That's what she's saying to Mark Meadows. I don't think this will be productive much longer. She goes on to say, let's save the relationship.

Now one thing we have to remember about this probe that's happening here in Georgia is it's not happening in a vacuum. The district attorney here is paying attention to stuff that comes out publicly, evidence like this. It's unclear whether that will be part of her investigation, but they certainly are paying attention, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Sara Murray in Atlanta, thank you so much. A new study shows people who did not have any COVID symptoms to begin with could still experience long COVID. That's next.



TAPPER: In our health lead, CDC data shows nearly 60 percent of adults in the U.S. and 75 percent of kids in the U.S. have gotten COVID at some point. While that might mean a majority of Americans have some immunity to the virus. Former President Trump's COVID Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, nonetheless, had this sober prediction. Take a listen.


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Natural immunity wanes enough in the general population after four to six months that a significant surge is going to occur again.


TAPPER: Now Birx thinks the surge will hit this summer particularly in the south in the United States. Dr. Peter Hotez, the co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's Hospital joins us now. Dr. Hotez, do you agree with Dr. Birx? Is there going to be a surge this summer?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN, SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Yes, pretty much. I think it's quite possible. Here's why, Jake. We saw terrible surge the first year of the pandemic in 2020 in Texas and the southern United States. It repeated with the Delta variant on July, August, September of last year. And so we're seeing a pattern now of summer peaks of COVID-19 in the south.

Whether or not it's going to be for an entirely new variant, I think that's possible. The last one was Delta rising out of an unvaccinated population out of India. We failed to vaccinate most of low and middle income countries. So I think there's a vulnerability. And I think Omicron which is responsible for a lot of the sero-positivity in this country is not producing durable protection. So we're set up for another big wave in the summer. I think that's quite possible. TAPPER: Emerging research shows that anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of people who had COVID experience symptoms months later. This is, obviously, often called long COVID. There's this pre-print study suggesting the long COVID can even affect people who did not have symptoms to begin with.


So given that information, what is your reaction to those Americans out there who are saying that we're now at a stage in this pandemic where we should treat this virus like the flu?

HOTEZ: Yes, it's not the flu. We are seeing serious lung COVID and debilitating symptoms, exercise intolerance, heart palpitations, serious heart disease and neurological deterioration, as well a gray matter brain degeneration. So it's quite serious. It -- issuers say, it occurs roughly in about a third of individual but that number really varies depending on how you do your case definition.

It tend the risks are higher if you have severe illness. The risks are higher if you're a woman or older age groups. But even among those who without symptoms, there will be some percentage that will go on to develop long COVID as a really fascinating mechanism, but we're going to have to get ready in this country even after this pandemic ends. We don't know how long long COVID will last, will be for years. And I think we're really not gearing up our health system to get ready for it.

TAPPER: One doctor who specializes in internal medicine told CNN, "We are seeing the coronavirus itself interact with almost every single part of the human body which is just so atypical for most diseases, particularly most viruses. It can work in the bloodstream to cause you to be more likely to get a blood clot. For other people, that coronavirus is attacking the nerves." Is there a treatment for these long COVID symptoms?

HOTEZ: Well, this is something people are looking at, the mechanisms range from looking at auto antibodies and activating a cell in the brain called the microglial cell. There's a lot of work going on at Yale and elsewhere looking at the mechanisms. And so, hopefully, we can design a new treatments.

At this point, it does not look like it's due to active virus replication, although there are even a few investigators who disagree with that. So I think it needs -- we need to have a full court press on this and also looking at our kids because there's some studies out of London that came out last year suggesting maybe one in seven kids can also develop long haul symptoms. And therefore, you know, putting our best people in neurodevelopmental and neuropsychology on this is going to be critically important.

TAPPER: So people are still gathering for large events. I was one of the many attendees at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner, I should note, we were required to be not just vaccinated but boosted and have a negative test that day. Do you think that is still not enough for an indoor event? HOTEZ: Well, I'm hoping it goes well. It really depends on levels of community transmission. And levels of community transmission are starting to come down now a little bit in Washington, D.C. So hopefully, it won't be anything like the grid iron dinner.

But we'll know pretty soon because the incubation period, the period of when you become infected with the virus to when you start showing symptoms with these Omicron sub-variants is pretty quick. It's around two to four days. So if there's going to be an issue with the White House Correspondents Dinner, we'll know over the next few days, by the end of the week, we'll know if we're in trouble or not.

I'm hoping not. I think you're right. There were a lot of precautions being taken, but we'll know when we know.

TAPPER: Dr. Peter Hotez, good to see you as always. Thank you so much for your time.

A horrific tragedy in American history. Now more than 100 years later, is there a chance for justice? That's next.



TAPPER: In our national lead, after more than 100 years, victims of the 1921 Tulsa race riot may finally get some small semblance of justice. A hearing is underway right now in a lawsuit which seeks reparations for the riots, survivors and other victims' descendants. Photos of the appalling incident show entire blocks gutted by fire. The riot left at least 300 black people dead and Tulsa's once booming neighborhood of Greenwood destroyed.

Insurance companies denied many of the claims for what today would be tens of millions worth of dollars in property damage. Losses the three

still living survivors of the riot as well as the descendants of others hope to reclaim.

Also worries about a new outbreak of strong storms. Let's go quickly to CNN's Tom Sater. Tom, where's this happening?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Jake, we've got a level four out of five. That's pretty much just north of the Oklahoma City area. You can see that brighter color of orange there and it brightens too. So our level three from Wichita southward, we had over 300 reports severe weather in the weekend.

You probably see that terrible tornado video around Andover, thank goodness, no fatalities. Snow in Nebraska and Kansas but we're watching a couple of areas. In red is a tornado watch. Of course this is until 10:00 Central Daylight Time. Thunderstorms are firing up. And already in orange, we have severe thunderstorm warnings. Some over in areas of West Tennessee, Northern Alabama.

But in our bulls eye right here is what we're watching. You can see where the severe thunderstorm warnings but in pink are tornado warnings already some observed tornadoes, northwest of Oklahoma City. Now we're watching a few more. And this is where it gets dangerous, Jake, because once we lose the daylight, these supercell storms will continue to make their way to the East northeast in the darkness of the night.

So again, we're watching a few more and this is going to be closer to Stillwater and then in a couple of hours we'll be watching Tulsa Oklahoma. So on a grand scale, again, a level three, or four out of five tornado watch until 10:00. Again another restless night.

TAPPER: All right. Be safe out there, folks. Thanks Tom.

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

Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in a place I like to call "THE SITUATION ROOM." I'll see you tomorrow.