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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Draft Opinion: Supreme Court To Strike Down Roe V. Wade; Biden: Supreme Court Draft Opinion On Roe Is "Radical;" U.N.: 127 Mariupol Evacuees Reach Safety In Zaporizhzhia; Biden Tours Anti-Tank Missile Factory. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired May 03, 2022 - 16:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Is this the end of Roe v. Wade?

THE LEAD starts right now.

Protests outside the U.S. Supreme Court after "Politico" publishes a draft ruling that would strike down Roe versus Wade and affect the lives of tens of millions of Americans. So what happens if and when abortion rights are actually struck down in the United States?

Then, finally free. Busloads of Ukrainians arriving on safe ground after months trapped inside the Mariupol steel plant as the Russians are closer than ever to taking over that town. And they continue to shell Lviv in the west.

Plus, American journalist Austin Tice held captive in Syria for almost ten years now. His parents will join us to tell us what they just told President Biden.


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

And we start today with our politics lead and the seismic health, political, and legal news. A document obtained by "Politico" and confirmed as authentic by the U.S. Supreme Court reveals that the highest court in the land appears poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, nearly 50 years after that case legalized abortion in the United States.

In this draft opinion, five conservative justices, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett argue in favor of overturning roe v. Wade's holding of a woman's federal constitutional right to an abortion. The U.S. Supreme Court underlined in a statement today that this document is not a final decision by the court or a final position by any justice. It was circulated amongst the court at the beginning of February. The final decision is expected in June.

Democratic leaders across the country attacked the potential decision today as undermining fundamental rights to individual health care.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): I feel really angry about this. And what I feel angry about is that an extremist Supreme Court is going to impose their views on the rest of America.


TAPPER: Republicans, for their part, seem today focused on the leak itself, since in the modern history of the court, no draft decision has ever been disclosed publicly while a case was still officially pending.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Somebody, likely somebody inside the court itself, leaked a confidential internal draft to the press, almost certainly in an effort to stir up an inappropriate pressure campaign to sway an outcome.


TAPPER: In point of fact, we do not know who leaked it or why. Chief Justice John Roberts said today that the marshal of the Supreme Court would investigate the leak.

But a far more significance is the ruling itself which would be hugely consequential and transformative, and the potential willingness to overturn precedent has Democrats todfay concerned that court may not respect other rulings as well.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If it becomes a law and if what is written is what remains, it goes far beyond the concern of whether or not there is the right to choose. It goes to other basic rights -- the right to marriage, the right to determine a whole range of things.


TAPPER: Justice Alito, who wrote the draft, says that what distinguishes Roe from other cases, however, is quote, abortion destroys potential life. We should, however, also note that many of these same justices who signed on to this draft suggested during their confirmation hearings that they had nothing but respect for this exact precedent, Roe v. Wade.


JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH, THEN-SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: It is an important precedent of the Supreme Court. By it, I mean Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood versus Casey, been reaffirmed many times. Casey is precedent on precedent, which itself is an important factor. JUDGE NEIL GORSUCH, THEN-SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: Senator, as the book

explains, the Supreme Court of the United States has held in Roe v. Wade that a fetus is not a person, for purposes of the 14th amendment. And the book explains that.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Do you accept that?

GORSUCH: That's the law of the land. I accept the law of the land, Senator, yes.


TAPPER: Reassurances such as those were made presumably at least in part to win the votes of Republican senators who support abortion rights. Specifically Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine.


TAPPER: Don't you think just as an academic matter, Neil Gorsuch for whom you voted, don't you think he's probably going to vote to overturn Roe versus Wade if given the chance?


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): I actually don't. I had a very long discussion with Justice Gorsuch in my office. And he pointed out to me that he is a co-author of a whole book on precedent.


TAPPER: That was Senator Collins on Justice Gorsuch. Here she is on Justice Kavanaugh.


COLLINS: He noted that Roe had been reaffirmed 19 years later by Planned Parenthood v. Casey. And that it was precedent on precedent.

He said it should be extremely rare that it be overturned. And it should be an example --

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: So, you have obviously full confidence.



TAPPER: Today, Senator Collins reacted to the news with a brief statement, saying in part, quote: If this leaked draft opinion is the final decision and this reporting is accurate, it would be completely inconsistent with what Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh said in their hearings and their meetings in my office, unquote.

Senator Murkowski today, too, also suggested that Gorsuch and Kavanaugh perhaps hadn't been completely honest about their position, saying in a statement, quote: The comment was if in fact this draft is where the court ends up being, the words that I used is, it has rocked my confidence in the court. And that is because I think there were some representations made with regards to precedent, unquote.

For years, it seemed obvious this day would come and in fact was being planned by Republicans for decades. Many anti-abortion activists and politicians have been quite clear about this plan.

But even President Trump, who more than any other single American with the possible exception of Senator Mitch McConnell is responsible for this moment, Trump when it came to talking to voters downplayed what seemed to be in the cards in the 2020 presidential debate.


JOE BIDEN, THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The point is that the president also is opposed to Roe v. Wade. That's on the ballot as well and the court, in the court. And so that's also at stake right now. And so the election is all --

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: You don't know it's on the ballot. Why is it on the ballot? It's not on the ballot.

BIDEN: It's on the ballot in the court. In the court.

TRUMP: I don't think so. There's nothing happening here. You don't know her view on Roe v. Wade. You don't know her view.


TAPPER: Anyone paying attention had a pretty good idea of her view.

So, why the lack of full transparency with the American people? Perhaps when it comes to elections at least, because a CNN poll conducted earlier this year finds that just 30 percent of the American people want to see the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade, 69 percent say they do not.

CNN's Paula Reid starts off our coverage today from outside the U.S. Supreme Court with a closer look at what could come next.


PAUL REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The leaked draft sparking protests across the country.


REID: And prompting questions.

Chief Justice John Roberts --

REPORTER: Do you plan to investigate the leak?

REID: Seen here leaving his home Tuesday, issued a statement calling the leak an egregious breach. He has directed the marshal of the court to investigate.

The court confirms the draft is authentic, but cautioned it does not represent a decision or position of any member on the issues in the case.

The nearly 100-page opinion says a majority of justices are prepared to uphold a Mississippi law that would ban abortion after 15 weeks and overturn Roe v. Wade which established a right to abortion 50 years ago, leaving it to individual states to determine abortion's legality.

Justice Samuel Alito authored the draft, stating there is no inherent right to an abortion. Writing: The Constitution makes no reference to abortion and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision. Alito says Roe was egregiously wrong from the start and its reasoning was exceptionally weak and the decision has had damaging consequences.

The opinion is not expected to be published until late next month and could still change as draft opinions circulate and justices can change their mind.

But in the wake of this draft opinion, Democrats are vowing to fight to protect abortion rights.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): We'll go down as an abomination, one of the worst, most damaging decisions in modern history.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): We could pass a law to protect every woman's right to an abortion, and we should do that.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): If this turns out to be the opinion of the court and it's issued, it could have a major impact on the outcome of this election.

REID: Republicans are condemning the leak itself.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Whoever committed this lawless act knew exactly what it could bring about.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Whoever did this leak should be prosecuted and should go to jail for a very long time.


This has shaken the independence and the ability of the judiciary to function.

REID: President Biden has called the draft decision radical and says he hopes the final vote changes in favor of preserving Roe.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If the rationale of the decision as released were to be sustained, a whole range of rights are in question.

(END VIDEOTAPE) REID (on camera): The president there referring to concerns that this decision could serve as a template for curtailing other individual rights like same-sex marriage or access to contraception. But in his draft opinion, Justice Alito tried to address these concerns suggesting these other rights which have been recognized by the court do not pose the same critical moral question as abortion -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Paula Reid, thank you so much.

Let's get to the Biden administration's reaction to this potentially monumental decision. CNN's Kaitlan Collins is traveling with President Biden in Troy, Alabama.

And, Kaitlan, President Biden spoke with reporters about this draft decision as he was boarding Air Force One earlier today. Tell us what he said.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Jake, he reminded people that this is not final, but he said if this is the rationale when this ruling is final, he believes the implications are going to be much broader than just abortion rights.

He believes this is something that could extend to privacy matters when it comes to marriage, when it comes to contraception and he also says he believes this is a, quote, radical decision that he believes could shift basically the view of the Supreme Court and of its jurisprudence.


BIDEN: We're going to, after 50 years decide a woman does not have a right to choose. This decision holds, it's really quite a radical decision. It's a fundamental shift in American jurisprudence.


COLLINS: One thing we should note, Jake, is the president was asked about changing the filibuster so then lawmakers on Capitol Hill would not need 60 votes in order to codify Roe versus Wade so it wouldn't matter what the Supreme Court justices ruled. He said he was not prepared to make judgments on that and in his written statement, he called on voters to elect more abortion rights supporters to office.

TAPPER: And, obviously, this leaked decision, this draft is overshadowing President Biden's trip to your home state of Alabama, which was meant to highlight the importance of American made anti-tank missiles in Ukraine's fight with Russia.

Tell us more about that.

COLLINS: Yeah, Jake, those javelins, the ones you see behind me that the president was standing next to, those have been critical to Ukraine's defense against Russia, so the president wanted to come here to this Lockheed Martin facility in Troy, Alabama, which is the final assembly plant for the Javelins going into Ukraine. The United States has sent about 5,000 of them and they have been

incredibly effective according to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in helping Ukraine fend off Russian forces. But one big question while the president was here is he has called on Congress to pass that $33 billion package so they can send more weapons like these anti-tank missiles to Ukraine.

Of course, this is a facility that can make about 2,100 of those per year right now. So far, the United States has sent over 5,000. So there are big questions about ramping up production, replenishing U.S. supplies. I spoke with the CEO of Lockheed Martin. He said they're hoping to be able to ramp up to produce about 4,000 a year, but, of course, that is something that would take time and of course also takes money.

TAPPER: All right. We'll have more on that later. Kaitlan Collins in Troy, Alabama, thank you so much.

Let's take a look at where access to abortion, legal abortion, already is restricted and what we should expect going forward in a post-Roe America.

Let's bring in CNN's Tom Foreman who's at the magic wall.

Tom, what are you learning about what abortion rights will look like on a state-by-state level if this becomes the law of the land and Roe v. Wade is undermined?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All of these red states, Jake, will be certain to ban abortion. The states in yellow likely to ban abortion. That according to the Guttmacher Institute, a progressive group that follows this sort of thing.

The degree of banning it could be outright. It could be 15 weeks, could be 6 weeks. Various degrees wherever you go, but under this plan, the institute says 58 percent of the women in this country of likely child bearing ages would live in a state that has a hostile attitude toward abortion rights, and in any event, the states protecting abortion rights, far fewer in number -- Jake.

TAPPER: So overturning roe will obviously unleash new legal and legislative fights over just how far anti-abortion lawmakers can reach to target conduct that happens outside their state lines. Some states might want to ban travel outside of their state to get an abortion. What are you learning about that?

FOREMAN: Sure, and the appearance of the abortion pill has complicated that for many of these states. What they're doing, for example, some that was proposed in Missouri, language there, would in fact go after anybody who tries to help in any way, providing transportation to someone who wants an abortion, giving instructions, providing Internet service that allowed them to connect with a website that gave them information on abortions, providing money, insurance coverage, referrals, anything like that.

[16:15:09] This is clearly aimed at just that, saying to you, even if your sister became pregnant and wanted to talk about a possible abortion, you would not have a right to do that without breaking the law.

Furthermore, undermining all of this, and again, we're looking at proposals floated in Missouri, is this idea that they're saying basically any conception is automatically the production of a resident of that state. So much so that one of these proposals in Missouri said essentially if you were passing through, you stayed a night in a hotel and conceived a child, you could then be prosecuted if you went to your home state and had an abortion later because they would say, hey, that's a resident of Missouri. You had no business doing that.

TAPPER: Yeah. We should point out a lot of these laws do not have exceptions for women who have been raped or victims of incest, not to mention the health of the mother or the life of the mother.

And, Tom, we have already heard Democrats talking about trying to codify Roe v. Wade, make it the law of the land, on a national basis. Some Republicans are talking about trying to ban abortion on a national level. Tell us about those federal efforts.

FOREMAN: They absolutely are. Democrats know they won't really have the muscle to do that right now, but Republicans are focusing very hard, the focus right now is on that six-week limit. And there are people over there with the momentum of knowing that the court is not in their way anymore, think if they have big wins this fall, maybe they can do that -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Tom Foreman, thanks so much.

FOREMAN: Coming up next, the governor from one state where the nation's patchwork of abortion laws is already having an impact.

Plus, taking stock. President Biden today applauding the work of a U.S. weapons maker helping to arm Ukraine against Russia's invasion, but could that deplete the U.S. inventory?

Stay with us.



TAPPER: We're back with our politics lead.

If Roe v. Wade is overturned in June, some states could become new havens for legal abortion. One of those is New Mexico, which last year repealed a ban on abortion that had stood for more than 50 years.

Joining us now is New Mexico's Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Governor, thanks for joining us.

If the Supreme Court rules that Roe v. Wade is unconstitutional, states can go ahead with either enacting new bans or tightening restrictions that are already on the books or go in the opposite direction. But the ones that will tighten laws almost certainly include four states that border yours -- Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Utah. Is your state, is New Mexico prepared for an influx of girls and women coming to New Mexico seeking safe and legal abortions?

GOV. MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM (D), NEW MEXICO: Well, we certainly had that situation already because even if you didn't have an outright overturning of Roe v. Wade, you have states that don't provide the right access, privacy, support to women and their families on all of their health care decisions, primarily abortion care and reproductive rights. So women and their families have been coming to New Mexico for a long time because they restrict access and that's how they deal with their political opinions about women and women's right to reproductive health care.

So, tough to know whether or not you're prepared. We are going to stand as a place that protects and supports women. Wherever you are, this is a state that is not going to turn women or their families into second class citizens or work to restrict their constitutional rights.

TAPPER: So, what would your message be to somebody who hears about Roe v. Wade essentially being overturned which could happen soon, and says, well then it goes back to the states and sure, Oklahoma bans it, New Mexico is fine, so people who want to get an abortion can just go to New Mexico, no big deal? What would your response to that be?

GRISHAM: It is a big deal. They need to fight because just as many guests on CNN and many other folks who have been commenting all around the globe, not just limited, that 50 years of legal precedent stands to be overturned, stripping away not just this constitutional right to an abortion, but any number of additional rights if you look at the entirety of this decision or the potential for this decision when it's no longer draft, as we expect in June.

But the issue is, if states can criminalize your travel, if there's a bounty like in Texas, if there's nothing that you can do, if you're the victim of incest or rape. I think about any number of horrific legal scenarios. The best place for me if I have got an infertility issue is in another state to have eggs extracted and available. Do they belong to that state? Do they belong to me? What happens?

You have states that are going to work to continue to restrict the decision making of a woman about her own body, her own health care, and you got more than half the country that has the potential with this leaked draft decision to lose their constitutional rights. And I think it could be just the beginning. And no amount of preparation prepares you for actually being able to see what this opinion could look like, and what it could actually be. Women everywhere and their families and men need to fight in every single state around this country to impact its democracy by stripping rights away from 51 percent of its population, women.


TAPPER: Democratic New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, thank you so much for your time today. We appreciate it.

Coming up next, hell on earth. Ukrainians who spent two whole months in the dark finally free, sharing their unbelievable stories about the Russian bombardment that kept them underground. Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our world lead, more than 100 evacuees from Mariupol, Ukraine, arrived in Zaporizhzhia today, but Ukraine's deputy prime minister says hundreds of others remain trapped in the city. Local officials say the steel plant is still under, quote, constant fire.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is in Zaporizhzhia and spoke first-hand with some of the Ukrainians who managed to escape the nonstop bombardment.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): Five buses only, but within them, the world's hopes of a way to deliver innocent Ukrainians to safety from Russia's onslaught. Just over 100 civilians, the first to leave the basement of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, bringing with them stories of the circle of hell they lived in underground for weeks.

This is Olga, after two months in the dark, she struggles in sunlight still. I ask if she can see okay. Bad, she says. I can't see anything in the sun.

Age 78, and she keeps saying, completely alone. Her entire life is in these two bags.

Forty-eight hours earlier, she was pictured in Ukrainian military video just walking out of Mariupol, cheerfully across a bridge. Now, via the U.N. and Red Cross, talks in Moscow and Kyiv and countless Russian checkpoints, she's here, worried she cannot fend for herself as a wound to her leg isn't healing because of her diabetes. The head torch that was her only source of light still around her neck. Her toilet roll in her pocket.

OLGA, AZOVSTAL EVACUEE (translated): Toilet paper. Everything I own, I have with me. I went to the basement with just a bag and left with it. I thank the boys who carried me out. Thanks to them. Lord bless them. I can't say anything bad about our soldiers there. Azov or not Azov.

They held me in their hands, brought me out. One of them wanted to lift me up but I said you can't. They took each others hands to lift me. It's hard to carry an old lady like me.

WALSH: I tell her she is healthy and has many years left under the sun.

OLGA: I'm half paralyzed.

WALSH: I ask her if she needs anything.

OLGA: Chocolate. And coffee.

WALSH: Also coming off the bus is another familiar face, Anna, with 6- month-old Siataslav (ph), embraced by a friend, one of many intense reunions here.

She was also seen in the same video as Olga leaving Mariupol. The day after, Siataslav turned 6 months old. She was a French teacher in happier times.

How do you feel now?

ANNA, AZOVSTAL EVACUEE: Now, I feel happy and exhausted. Because two months --

WALSH: How do you live for two months in a basement with a 4-month- old boy? How did you eat?

ANNA: Now, I smile because I can smile finally, because all these months I was crying every day. Emotionally, it was really very, very difficult. When we didn't have any hot water for him, we just took a candle and we heat water on the candle.

WALSH: The busy world she's emerged into now different for her.

ANNA: For me now, how to say --


ANNA: Yeah, yeah, the most difficult and the most scary because now when I -- sorry. Emotional.

WALSH: Of course.

ANNA: Now, when there are a lot of noise, I have like a reflex to hide myself, you know?

WALSH: What are you going to tell him when he's older?

ANNA: I just tell him that he was really very, very brave boy. Very brave. He's very calm. He is the best child in the world. I can say.

WALSH: He's sleeping well. So that's good. That's all you can ask for.

ANNA: All the time, yeah. And also I can say that I don't want for him to repeat this story or to repeat this story with his child.

WALSH: Yet the terror they have bore witness to will fuel a loathing, but won't pass quickly.


WALSH (on camera): Great relief there, but tinged with a real problem here. It was an enormous complex just to get those hundreds of people out, hundred people out. So the possibility of thousands following in their footsteps under this U.N./Red Cross mechanism looking harder tonight.


Maybe still possible, but urgently needed, Jake.

TAPPER: Nick Paton Walsh bringing us these incredibly important stories. Thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

Coming up next, sizing up the weapon supply. Just how long with the U.S. keep pumping Ukraine with military equipment without draining the entire U.S. stockpile?

Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our world lead, President Biden today putting the spotlight on U.S. efforts to help Ukraine specifically on the weapons and supplies being sent overseas to assist the Ukrainians in beating off the Russian invasion. But what is that doing to America's own defenses?


CNN senior national security correspondent Alex Marquardt has a closer look at the impact on the U.S. stockpile.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The stunning success the much smaller Ukrainian military has had against the Russian invaders would not be possible without the billions of dollars worth of U.S. and NATO weapons flooding into Ukraine, notably, the thousands of easy to use highly portable American Javelins and Stingers that for more than two months have taken out countless Russian tanks and aircraft.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sometimes, we'll speak softly and carry a large Javelin because we're sending a lot of those in as well.

MARQUARDT: So many, in fact, that now the U.S. inventory of Stingers and Javelins is running dangerously low.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): The closet is bare. Just to give you one example. The United States military has probably dispensed about one-third of its Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine.

MARQUARDT: While the U.S. wants to give Ukraine what it needs, pentagon war planners must balance that with not letting supplies dip below what the U.S. needs.

MARK CANCIAN, CSIS SENIOR ADVISOR, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY PROGRAM: I think we're at that moment now with Javelins and Stingers. The recent aid packages have not included more of these missiles. Where to me, that indicates that war planners have raised that civilian leadership doesn't want to exhaust these inventories further.

MARQUARDT: The Biden administration has just requested almost $5.5 billion from Congress to replenish its stocks, but the Pentagon insists the aid packages for Ukraine have not hurt overall U.S. readiness.

LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We will never go below our minimum requirement for our stockpiles, so we'll always maintain the capability to defend this country and support our interests.

MARQUARDT: Fourteen hundred Stingers, about a quarter of the inventory, experts and lawmakers say, has been committed to Ukraine. The Stingers' manufacturer, Raytheon, which also makes the Javelin, says it no longer has some of the electronics parts, so the Stinger needs to be redesigned.

GREG HAYES, RAYTHEON CEO: We have a limited stock of material for Stinger production. We have been working with the DOD for the last couple weeks. We're actively trying to resource some of the material.

MARQUARDT: The new phase of fighting in the flat and open eastern Donbas is changing the fight. U.S. has just committed almost 100 howitzer systems and tens of thousands of artillery shells, but it's the Stingers and Javelins that had the greatest impact, and now, according to manufacturers, getting back to pre-Ukraine inventory levels is going to take years.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I'm concerned because the production lines on these weapons have been marginalized. We weren't consuming them. Now we have suddenly given them away. And we need to get that production started.


MARQUARDT (on camera): There is no weapon more synonymous with this war in Ukraine than the Javelin. There's even been a Ukrainian song written about it, but they take around three years to be produced and with so many going out the door to Ukraine, around 5,500 so far with no end to the war in sight, and Ukraine asking for more, these production lines are really being tested.

TAPPER: All right. Fascinating. Alex Marquardt, thank you so much.

Coming up next, the parents of Austin Tice, the American journalist kidnapped in Syria almost a full decade ago. The message they delivered to President Biden during a meeting at the White House.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our world lead, today is World Press Freedom Day. Family members of Americans detained abroad putting pressure on President Biden. They're planning to demonstrate outside the White House this week, hoping to secure a meeting with President Biden that could lead to their loved ones returning home, they hope. President Biden met yesterday with the parents of Austin Tice.

Speaking of World Press Freedom Day, Austin is an American journalist, and he's a marine veteran. He was kidnapped in Syria in August 2012. The White House in a statement says the president, quote, reiterated his commitment to work through all available avenues to secure Austin Tice's release.

He's now 40 years old. He's been held captive for a quarter of his life.

Joining us to discuss their meeting with the president are Marc and Debra Tice.

Thanks so much for being here. It's an honor to have you here.

Debra, let's start with you. How did the meeting go? Do you think any progress was made in making the release of Austin a higher priority?

DEBRA TICE, MOTHER OF AMERICAN JOURNALIST ABDUCTED IN SYRIA IN 2012: Well, first of all, I think progress was made just in getting to meet with the president. And you know, we were astonished at how up to date he was on Austin's case and how committed he is to getting him home.

TAPPER: Well, that's good news.

Marc, have your expectations changed at all after speaking directly with President Biden on this?

MARC TICE, FATHER OF AMERICAN JOURNALIST ABDUCTED IN SYRIA IN 2012: Our expectations, my expectations are always that everyone will do everything they can to get Austin home. But the important thing is that we receive that, you know, that commitment and that support directly from the president. And to me, that makes the potential for a real sea change because when the president is behind something, the rest of the system falls in step and makes things happen.

TAPPER: Let's so hope. What is the last concrete update you have gotten about Austin's whereabouts and his condition?


D. TICE: Whereabouts and condition, that's not an update that we really get.

TAPPER: It's not an update you really get.

D. TICE: No.

TAPPER: I had heard you had heard about his -- him years ago, but you haven't heard anything since. Is there a way you can -- are there any avenues at all, do you know of anything?

M. TICE: No. There aren't any. Obviously, there are whispers on the wind and, you know, we still get contacted by people in Syria that think they might know something. But as far as an actual channel to someone that we know has that information, doesn't exist.

TAPPER: So this is a request for the U.S. government to engage with the Syrian government, right? That's what you want, you want the Biden administration to engage with the Syrian government. Trevor Reed was released from a Russian prison last week, in a prisoner swap.

D. TICE: Right.

TAPPER: And Trevor Reed and his family are very dedicated to trying to help other families in similar situations. Do you have any sense why the U.S. was able to secure his release and not Austin's?

D. TICE: Well, the point that the government will make is that Trevor was acknowledged. You know, his father was able to visit him. They had access to him. And so it was truly just a matter of what it was going to take to get him out.

With Austin, we first have to have acknowledgment of him, and that's one thing the Syrians are still withholding or, you know, they have throughout the years said they would help locate Austin. And so we need that first step, so that's what makes Austin more complicated. The fact that their embassy and consulates are closed in the United States, our embassy is closed in Damascus. Those engagements are challenging because we don't have a channel for them.

TAPPER: Right.

Did President Biden suggest that he will try to re-engage with the Syrian government to try to find out more?

M. TICE: Well, you know, President Biden said that he supported the efforts that are under way and other efforts that may create positive movement. And of course, one of the efforts under way is pushing to get engagement and engagement that's sustained, because this is something that will probably take some time to make happen. But we have to take those first steps. And the president, you know, has indicated he is completely supportive and committed to doing so.

D. TICE: It goes like this.


D. TICE: Sustained diplomatic engagement for transactional negotiation. That's what we're asking for, right there.

TAPPER: The White House Correspondents Association dinner gets a lot of criticism, but I do want to take a moment to note that you were a guest at the dinner. And there was a moment, a room full of Austin's peers applauding for him, noting him, demanding that he be freed, honoring him, honoring you two, hoping to shed light on his case.

Do you think that helped at all?

D. TICE: Absolutely. That is why we had a meeting with the president yesterday.

TAPPER: Because he was honored at the dinner?

D. TICE: Yes. Yes.

M. TICE: Right. And we know that the president was aware of Austin's situation. In fact, back to the days when he was vice president, we actually had a chance to meet him at that time. But having it put right there in front of you, you know, he responded in a quick and personal way. So, absolutely. And I have to give a shout out to Steven Portnoy.

TAPPER: The president of the White House Correspondents Association.

M. TICE: Because really, his efforts that created that impetus for us to sit down in the Oval Office.

D. TICE: And that was the invitation, when the president said mom, I want you to come and talk to you and dad.

M. TICE: Bring the dad too.

D. TICE: That's what happened there.

TAPPER: Good on Steve, good on the president, and good on you two being here continuing to shine the light.

We're going to try to help as much as we can. Stay in touch with us on this World Press Freedom Day and in the Future.

Great to have you here. Thank you so much.

M. TICE: Thank you, Jake.

D. TICE: Thank you for having us.

TAPPER: Coming up, that draft Supreme Court opinion revealing a majority of justices are ready to overturn Roe versus Wade. How some states are standing by with trigger laws that are bound to restrict a resource for women that has been available for 50 years.

Stay with us.



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

This hour, the drought is so bad out West that 6 million Americans are about to face strict new restrictions on how and when they can use water.

Plus, Supreme Court stunner. The leaked draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade and transform the United States.

And legal political and medical ways, impacting tens of millions of Americans. We're live in Oklahoma where state lawmakers just passed an abortion

ban modeled after the one in neighboring Texas.

And leading this hour, new Russian strikes against Ukraine appearing to target areas related to the movement of military equipment into Ukraine in the western city of Lviv, only 90 minutes from the Polish border, military officials say power substations associated with the train stations were targeted. Ukrainian officials say two missiles over the city of Vinnytsia in the southwest part of the country were shot down, plus, a cruise missile intended for Kyiv was taken down by Ukrainian air defenses.

Today, Ukrainian volunteers and police evacuated scores of people from the small town in eastern Ukraine's Donetsk region even as the Russian military bombarded that down with artillery fire.