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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Stocks Close Higher After Fed Raises Interest Rates; New CNN Poll On Biden Job Performance And Economy; Ukraine: Russia Makes Few Advances Despite Heavy Bombardments; Kremlin: No Chance Of Putin Declaring War On May 9; Protests Across U.S. After Draft Opinion On Roe v. Wade Leaked; New Audio: McCarty Calls Trump's Behavior On January 6 "Atrocious And Totally Wrong." Aired 4-5p ET

Aired May 04, 2022 - 16:00   ET



ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And there are lots of opinions on this, but today, Powell said he thinks the Fed can slow the economy without starting a recession -- Victor.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: The question is, can they accomplish that soft landing that we hear so much about?

Alison Kosik, thanks so much.



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Is the Fed action today too little too late?

THE LEAD starts right now.

The biggest interest rate hike in more than two decades. Why economists say the move should help us all in the United States and bring prices on everyday items down, as a brand-new CNN poll tells us how you think President Biden is handling the economy and more.

Plus, Russians blocked. Ukrainian forces managed to push back Kremlin fighters trying to storm the Mariupol steel plant while civilians packed caravans of cars, some ten people deep, in an effort to escape.

And the new audio this hour of House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, how he actually discussed using the 25th Amendment to try to remove Donald Trump as president just days after the January 6th Capitol attack.


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

We begin with breaking news in our money lead. Moments ago, the Dow Industrials closed up, up, up by more than 900 points. The Nasdaq and S&P 500 also closed sharply higher. This comes on the heels of the Federal Reserve this afternoon announcing the biggest increase in interest rates in 22 years.

Amidst real fears of a recession, the Fed added a half-point to its benchmark rate. You'll see the difference in higher interest payments on credit cards, car loans, mortgages, and more. This is an attempt to put the brakes on inflation by lowering consumer demand.

Our brand-new CNN poll shows the American people think the economy is by far the most important facing the United States and they overwhelmingly think President Biden is doing a bad job with it. We'll have those numbers in a minute.

But, first, the president tried to get ahead of the rate hike announcement by touting his own administration's efforts to help the economy.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're on track to cut the federal deficit by another $1.5 trillion by the end of this fiscal year, the biggest decline in a single year ever in American history. Looking ahead, I have a plan to reduce the deficit even more, which will help reduce inflationary pressures and lower everyone's cost for families.


TAPPER: Let's start with CNN White House correspondent Arlette Saenz.

Arlette, despite al the worries about higher prices and product shortages, President Biden is today pointing to successes he sees in his economic agenda.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jake. President Biden really has been leaning into the idea of deficit reduction. One thing that the president is very cognizant of is that Americans are looking for action when it comes to things like the economy and inflation. So he is trying to point to progress that his administration has made since taking office, pointing to had fact that they have reduced the national deficit by $350 billion last year, and that they are set to pay down the federal debt for the first time in six years.

Of course, they are also playing to Senator Joe Manchin when they talk about deficit reduction has Manchin has said any future economic agenda would need to include reduction in the deficit. So, the president trying to ease some of the concerns of Americans when it comes to the economy and inflation, but it's unclear whether he'll be rewarded for deficit reduction as so much of the emphasis Americans are placing are on the prices at the gas pump and the grocery store heading into the midterms.

TAPPER: Arlette, when the president was discussing the Republicans' economic agenda, to some critics, he may have sounded like he was on the campaign trail. Tell us about that.

SAENZ: Yeah. President Biden really was on the attack today, painting Republicans as extreme, not just on abortion but also on their economic agenda. The president repeatedly referring to the Republican agenda as a MAGA agenda, something that is a comment -- a veiled comment towards former President Trump, and he took particular aim at a proposal presented by Senator Rick Scott, the head of the National Senatorial Republican Committee. Take a listen to what he had to say.


BIDEN: Let me tell you about this ultra MAGA agenda. It's extreme, as most MAGA things are. It will actually raise taxes on 75 million American families, over 95 percent of whom make less than $100,000 a year.


SAENZ: So, clearly, President Biden previewing some of the lines of attack he's planning to launch heading into those midterms as he's making, attacking Republicans and their agenda a main focus of his campaign themes.

TAPPER: Arlette Saenz at the White House for us, thanks so much.

That brings us to breaking news in the politics lead. A brand-new CNN poll gauging President Biden on the economy, his overall job performance, and much more.

Let's get right to CNN political director David Chalian.


David, two things sure stand out in this new poll. One, the economy, a top priority. And two, Americans disapprove of President Biden's handling of this more than ever before.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yeah, and those two things together spell a tough political environment for Democrats, the president, and his party.

Take a look here. Most important issue, it's by far, Jake, 50 percent of people in this poll say the economy is the most important issue facing the country. Russia/Ukraine at 14 percent. Immigration at 10 percent.

Everything else in single digits. We should note this poll was completed just before the bombshell news from the Supreme Court on abortion.

Biden's handling of that number one issue, only at a 34 percent approval rating on the economy, 66 percent disapprove. And that number there, Jake, that's been going down since our poll earlier this year. He was at 37 percent approval on the economy. Now he's down to 34 percent.

And in terms of Biden's policies, look at this. A majority of Americans in this poll, 55 percent, say Biden's policies have actually worsened economic conditions, 26 percent no effect. Only 19 percent of Americans in this poll say Biden's policies have improved conditions, Jake.

TAPPER: And, David, because of the economy, more Americans say they are buying less, according to the poll.

CHALIAN: Yeah, we talk about this all the time. The economy is how people feel in their everyday lives. Look at this, 63 percent of respondents say they're buying fewer groceries. Same say they have cut nonessentials out of their lives.

Fifty-five percent, a majority, delaying purchases. Fifty-four percent cutting back on driving. You can see how Americans, majority of Americans, have changed the way they operate day to day because of inflation.

TAPPER: What about the president's overall job performance? Where does he stand there?

CHALIAN: Yeah. I mean, these economic numbers are keeping his approval rating where it's been, which is low. Low 40s here -- 41 percent approval in our poll, 59 percent disapproval.

And, Jake, look at how that 41 percent stacks up among his modern era predecessors at this point in their presidency. Joe Biden is down here at the bottom of the heap with Donald Trump and Jimmy Carter, two one- term presidents where his approval rating is right now at this point in the presidency.

TAPPER: Not a place you want to be.


TAPPER: CNN political director David Chalian, thanks so much.

Let's dig into the Federal Reserve's interest rate hike today. We're joined by Betsey Stevenson. She was a member of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers. We also have with us, former Reagan and Trump campaign adviser Arthur Laffer.

Betsey, let me start with you. As we said the half-point increase in the interest rates, the biggest in 22 years. What kind of loans will be affected by the Fed's announcement today?

BETSEY STEVENSON, FORMER MEMBER, OBAMA COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: Well, when the Fed raises rates by half a point, right, that's affecting directly the inner bank rate. That's not what Americans care about. What they care about are car loans, mortgage loans. And we do see the fed raising rates, percolating through all those kinds of loans.

But I think it is worth noting that the market was already expecting this. We already saw some of that priced in. So I don't think we're going to see any big changes overnight. What we see is the Fed delivered what they promised, and we're already seeing things like mortgage rates have started to tick up to reflect where the market expects the Fed to be. TAPPER: And, Arthur, there's a lot of concern the Fed's interest rate

hike will push the economy into a recession. Do you share those concerns? What might that look like?

ARTHUR LAFFER, FORMER REAGAN ECONOMIC ADVISER: I don't really share the concern. I don't think the real problem is pushing the economy into a recession. I think these rate hikes are way too small. I mean, if you take me back, if you will, to 1981, when we were running at inflation of 15 percent, 16 percent, 14 percent, Paul Volcker had raised rates to where the prime interest rate in the U.S. was at 21.5 percent, about five points above the inflation rate.

We are nowhere near that. That's what it took back then, Jake, to bring the inflation back down to where under Reagan, we had the tax cut, supply increases, tight money, and we got inflation conquered. But that is not what this Fed is doing yet. I mean, they have got to go a lot further to bring inflation down.

And then they would really risk a bad economy, but that's the only way I know of bringing inflation down.

TAPPER: Betsey, the Fed also signaled more interest rate increases will be coming soon, as Arthur just suggested.


TAPPER: As stocks closed sharply higher, but there has been a lot of turbulence in the markets lately. Some economists say turbulence on Wall Street right now is a good thing. Do you agree with that?


TAPPER: Arthur, hold on one second. Let's have Betsey and then you can weigh in. Go ahead, Betsey.


STEVENSON: I don't think we have the economy of the 1970s or 1980s. I think what the Fed said very clearly today, the most important thing they said, not that they are open to raising rates further. They are. But what they said is they're not going to let inflation expectations become unanchored. That's the bright line.

We are getting inflation back to 2 percent.


And they will do what it takes to make sure that our long run inflation gets back to 2 percent. And I think right now, what we see is the market believes that. Every once in a while, we see a little bit of nervousness, but as long as they continue to believe that the Fed has this under control, that inflation expectations are going back to 2 percent, then I think things are fine.

In order -- how much do they need to raise rates? I think that's going to depend on what we see happening in the next new months in the economy. I don't think that it's clear right now exactly how much they need to raise rates. What is clear is they will need to raise rates somewhat. And that they're going to be doing that based on data and the information that they get.

TAPPER: Arthur?

LAFFER: Yeah, sorry for blurting in. You know, I do think they're going to have to raise rates a lot more. There's no sign yet, Jake, that I can see that inflation has stopped or even leveled off. Now, the next three months you're going to see the inflation rate leveling off because they're dropping off low numbers 12 months ago, but once that's over and the three months leading up to the election, those rates that are being dropped off are going to be very low and you're going to see an initial surge.

Plus, Jake, the producer price index is about over 11 percent, which is the preceding stage of the consumer price indication, which means it's being pulled higher and higher and higher. Spot commodity prices are rising dramatically.

So, I don't see any reason to expect inflation to stop or go down like Betsey says. I just don't see it. And it might even go a lot higher. If it does, this will -- this will be a really pivotal point for the Fed in trying to bring it under control.

TAPPER: All right. To be -- to be continued. Arthur Laffer, Betsey Stevenson, thanks so much for joining us today. Appreciate it.

Coming up, intense battles rock the Mariupol steel plant with civilians still stuck inside. Now officials say they have lost contact with the Ukrainian fighters inside.

Plus, the galvanizing issue of abortion in America. I'm going to talk to a mayor refusing to stand by and wait for the draft Supreme Court decision to become law of the land.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our world lead, new battles erupting at the besieged steel plant in Mariupol today. Ukraine's foreign minister says Ukrainian forces are still in control of the Azovstal steel plant despite relentless Russian attacks today. The city's mayor says hundreds of civilians remain trapped inside, including 30 children, along with the last Ukrainian defenders in the city.

Elsewhere in Mariupol, a new investigation by the "Associated Press" finds evidence that 600 civilians, 600, were killed in the Russian attack on the theater there where civilians were sheltering. That is much higher than earlier estimates. Painted on the ground outside the building, as you might recall, in giant Russian letters was the word "children" twice. Despite intensified attacks in the east, the Ukrainian military says

Russian forces are largely stalled in that region and have made few advances toward their goal of securing all of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

Today, the head of the European Union unveiled further measures aimed at punishing Putin, including a ban on Russian oil and removing Russia's largest bank from the system that connects financial institutions around the world.

In southern Ukraine, civilians are finally able to escape Kherson, the first city occupied by the Russians when the invasion began.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh caught up with some of the evacuees on their road to safety.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: That road here is a dusty track, where few know the route and just follow the car in front. Above the trees, the dust likely from fires caused by distant shelling. These are over 100 cars that have run the gauntlet out of Kherson, the first city Russia occupied.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No school, no almost hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the moment, it is terrible. So many Russians, military there. It's terrible.

WALSH: What do they do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They -- at the moment, they do nothing.

WALSH: Eyes here tell of exhaustion, hours held at Russian checkpoints. The only emotion left after two months under the Russian gun, a slight smile of freedom.

The idea dawning that life under occupation is behind them, even if a life displaced by war is ahead.

You can see just in the length of this queue here, the scale of the desperation we're talking about here. People fleeing Russian occupation, leaving this morning at the first light from the city of Kherson, the first to be occupied by Russia at the start of the war. Some of them on their fifth attempt to get out.

Something this time was different. It was easy. We left early, and they were all asleep, she says. Goods have dried up. Everything is from Crimea, she adds. In front, squeezed ten in here.


WALSH: Tried for a week to get out.

We were just on the way to get out, and they let us pass as human shields when things were flying over us, she says. It was terrifying. Five attempts, Edik said, they didn't let us through. Just turned us


They fled a city where things were not going according to the Kremlin's plan. The sham referendum Russia planned to consolidate control never happened.

And this weekend, almost at the moment when they introduced the Russian currency, the ruble, the Internet and cell service suddenly went off.

For even the youngest, the hope ahead is palpable.


It was sad to leave, he says, but where we're going will be better. This is happening as villages and roads change hands daily here.

These Ukrainian soldiers in the next village anxious to not have their location or faces shown. We evacuated 1,500 people over the last week, one said -- kids, elderly. Russians let them through if they say they're going to Kherson, further on, they drop off their cars, bikes, and go on foot to our side.

Across the fields, the agony of Russia's blundering and senseless invasion pours out.


WALSH (on camera): Now, of course, seeing Kherson, these intermittent at times enormous convoys is part of a huge flow of civilians around Ukraine. Remember also, too, those emerging out of Mariupol Azovstal. The Russian government for what it's worth, the ministry defense said tomorrow, the day after that, there will be another window for civilians to get out of that besieged steel plant where Ukraine is now saying the Russians are not having success, but it does appear a heavy onslaught has begun by the Russian military.

Whether that will indeed cease over the days ahead to allow civilians out, Russia says it acts by humane principles, almost absurd, frankly, given the damage it's done to almost every civilian area of Mariupol, but hopes, I think, diminishing slowly given the ferocity of Russia's onslaught today and the loss of communications experienced at one point during today with those inside -- Jake.

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

Joining us now to discuss, Oksana Markarova. She's the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States.

Madam Ambassador, thanks for joining us.

What can you tell me about the conversations you're having right now with top U.S. officials about what Ukraine needs? OKSANA MARKAROVA, UKRAINIAN AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: Well, thank you very

much, Jake, and to your colleagues for being in Ukraine and showing us what really happens on the ground.

All I can say is that we're really grateful for the support we have received to date. This $3 billion and all the military support and financial support, as well as sanctions.

And we look forward to Congress adopting the new proposal for $33 billion, which includes also the military support, which is something that we really need in order not only to sustain the effort but to prevent Russians from occupying or advancing because we know what happens in those occupied territories and the terrifying situation in Kherson, which you just showed and in Mariupol and other places as well as the situation in the areas which we have liberated, Bucha, Borodianka, and others, clearly, show us that the faster we advance, the faster we defend our territory, the faster Russians actually are out, the more lives we can save.

So I can only say what President Biden said. Every dollar spent on this is a direct investment into defense of democracy and freedom, and we're really grateful to American people for this.

TAPPER: Well, let me ask you about that because I'm starting to see skepticism on social media and skepticism expressed by members of the public, the American public, saying $33 billion for Ukraine, why should we be spending $33 billion for Ukraine?

What's your -- I understand the gratitude you feel, and I certainly understand why you need the money, but what is your message to Americans who might wonder about why their taxpayer dollars are going to Ukraine?

MARKAROVA: Well, it's not only about Ukraine. It's about all of us. Can we still be a democracy, all of us, and not be threatened by Russia?

Which essentially on the Russian TV, if you look at it now, it's of course about Ukraine and destroying Ukraine, but they are also showing how they will be destroying everyone and how they want to change the world order and how they have been an autocracy, bragging about essentially destroying the way of living we defend now in Ukraine.

So, it's, of course, our homes and our lives we're defending, but essentially, we're also defending Europe and defending everyone who believes in freedom, who believes in democracy.

And I just want to remind, 1994, when Ukraine as one of actually the only country that decided to get rid of the third nuclear arsenal, become a peaceful country in exchange for the guarantees of other countries, including the United States, I think it's a very important message to send, that you can still do it and feel protected and feel helped, you know, being helped like the U.S. is helping us.


TAPPER: Right.

MARKAROVA: So we feel enormous support from American people.

TAPPER: The European Union proposed a ban on Russian oil today. To be clear, this is not the same as a ban on Russian gas, which many European countries still say they can't do without.

I wonder how much of a difference this would make when we know Europe is paying Putin hundreds of millions of dollars per day for energy.

MARKAROVA: Sanctions are as important as the military support to Ukraine. And again, we can praise the United States for being a leader here in sanctions on energy resources and we believe that every cent, every energy resource should be banned, as well as all Russian banks should be added to the full block in sanctions list.

So, sanctions are important to punish Russia for what they have already done, but they are equally important for actually not allowing them to continue to finance this attack, this war. Again, I want to remind, not only on Ukraine, because we have to remember about Syria, we have to remember about Georgia. We have to remember about poison in the streets of London and also remember about the MH-17, which was shut down from the skies.

TAPPER: Yeah, absolutely. Ambassador Oksana Markarova, thank you so much for your time today. Appreciate it.

Up until now, Putin has called his deadly invasion of Ukraine a, quote, special military operation. Coming up next, the Kremlin's response today when asked if Putin will formally declare war on an upcoming symbolic day for Russia.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Back in our world lead, the Kremlin is rejecting claims of Vladimir Putin may officially declare war on Ukraine on May 9th. May 9th, of course, the anniversary of the Soviet Union's defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, and a day western officials believe Putin might use to announce a military achievement or a major escalation or both.

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

Matthew, what is the Kremlin spokesperson saying about the May 9th reports?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Kremlin are rejecting it. They're saying look, this idea that Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, is going to use May 9th and the Victory Day parade as an opportunity to formally declare a war on Ukraine, they're saying that's nonsense, the idea that Russia is going to announce some sort of mobilization, a former declaration of war would do, of forces so they can bring more troops to bear on the conflict in neighboring Ukraine, they have ruled that out, too.

But Jake, I think we have all learned over the past couple months more than ever that we have to sort of judge Russia on its actions rather than what it actually says it's going to do. Remember, it said it wasn't going to send troops into Ukraine and look where we are now. So, we'll be watching that Victory Day parade on May 9th in Moscow very closely indeed.

It will be an opportunity for the Russians to show off their military swagger, their latest military hardware will be wheeled out once again. Their intercontinental ballistic missiles as well, particularly potent given the nuclear threats the Kremlin has been making over the past couple months with regard to the west and with regard to Ukraine.

Also, it's an opportunity for Vladimir Putin to make a speech. He'll be doing that. He usually limits it to sort of commemorating the victory day, the defeat of Nazi Germany by the Soviet troops. He could speak about what Russians call the special military operation on this occasion.

TAPPER: All right. Matthew Chance in Moscow, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, a U.S. mayor's call to action after the Supreme Court's stunning draft decision that indicates they may be poised to strike down Roe v. Wade.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, the stunning leak of a Supreme Court draft opinion that would theoretically undermine the current constitutional right to an abortion is having a seismic impact across the country. Thousands of demonstrators gathered across the United States last night, making their voices heard after the revelation that the nation's highest Supreme Court appears poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case, which granted abortion access nationwide.

And joining us to discuss is the mayor of Phoenix, Arizona, Kate Gallego.

Thank you so much for joining us, Madam Mayor.

You signed on to an open letter released today from other women mayors condemning this, what we think will be a decision or at least a suggestion of what the decision will be from the Supreme Court.

The letter reads in part, quote, as experts on our communities, we state unequivocally that access to abortion care is essential health care and a fundamental right and necessary to insure freedom, autonomy, and equity for everyone who can get pregnant.

As we saw in a lot of cities, hundreds of protesters demonstrated outside the Phoenix capital last night. What impact do you think overturning Roe v. Wade would have on Phoenix?

MAYOR KATE GALLEGO (D), PHOENIX, ARIZONA: I am very worried about what it means for my community, particularly for women who don't have access to the health care they need already. This will be hardest for our lowest income women.

But I think most women my age have had a conversation with a friend that starts, there's something I have to tell you. And you learn about an unintended pregnancy. Those are hard, hard conversations. And to have fewer and fewer options, particularly locally, could be devastating for women. Arizona is one of the states that will likely have an outright abortion ban.

TAPPER: Well, let's talk about that because the governor, Republican Doug Ducey, signed a bill in law in March that would act as a near total ban on abortions after 15 weeks. He previously has indicated he might revisit the issue if Roe is overturned which it looks like it will be by the Supreme Court.

Can you do anything on the local level or Ducey does this and the legislature goes along or vice versa, and that's where Phoenix is?

GALLEGO: So, Arizona also has a pre-Roe abortion ban on the books.


So, this is a --

TAPPER: A total ban.

GALLEGO: A total ban.

TAPPER: Uh-huh.

GALLEGO: So, these are really devastating times. For a woman my age, Roe has been settled law. And to think that it is so at risk is a really scary time. I think we're going to see a lot of organizing around it.

I find that younger women weren't really particularly paying attention this election cycle and now we're already seeing on campuses and in the community a huge upswell, but we're also hearing from women who remember what it was like when abortion was illegal and who are galvanized and ready to do everything we can to not return to those days.

TAPPER: Well, let's talk about that. Practically speaking, what will this mean? You say you're very concerned. What do you think a post-Roe Arizona, post-Roe Phoenix would look like?

GALLEGO: We already had high stakes elections and this is going to change it dramatically. I think we'll see many more people in our community and particularly women getting engaged and organizing around the election. We have races such as the governor's race that are on the ballot and I think we'll see a lot more interest there. State legislative races will become incredibly important. So first I think we'll see action in November.

TAPPER: Okay, you're not going to give me the worst case scenario because you're focused on the election.

GALLEGO: The city of Phoenix is a pro-choice council and I think we'll look at what our options are. We want to make sure women have access to all of the health care in our community. We don't want people to have to go to California. Many of the people who need it most won't be able to do so.

TAPPER: Let's turn to another important issue in your state, the growing crisis on the southern border. A federal judge has temporarily blocked the Biden administration from ending the pandemic era Trump restrictions, border restrictions known as Title 42, which allowed for quicker removal of migrants from the United States because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Do you want to see Title 42 remain in place? Do you want to see the country still be able to remove people who are in this country illegally quickly?

GALLEGO: So, to me, what we really need is Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. And maybe there's political will that wasn't there before. Our labor market is incredibly tight right now. We need people to build homes in our community, to operate so many of the advanced jobs that are coming to our community, and perhaps, there's finally the will to do something on comprehensive immigration reform.

But if not, we really need support. We are welcoming community. We are built by people who have moved to Phoenix as America's fastest growing city.

The overwhelming majority of people in my community have roots somewhere else, and refugees have been amazing for our community. We have a beautiful police station.

TAPPER: But do you want Title 42 to stay so that the immigration can take migrants out more quickly or not?

GALLEGO: So, it's been questionable as a health care tool. It's not how I would like to see us regulate immigration, but we need more of a plan in place to be ready. And we need local government to have an understanding of what is coming so we can prepare.

TAPPER: All right. Mayor Kate Gallego, thank you so much for your time today. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, new audio revealing more of what House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy really thought about then-President Trump's actions in the day after January 6th, and his hopes at the time to work well with the incoming president, Joe Biden. Stay with us.



TAPPER: We have some breaking news for you on our politics lead now. Brand-new recordings being revealed for the first time of Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy denouncing then President Trump in some of the harshest language we have heard yet. The audio comes two days after the January 6th Capitol insurrection during a House Republican leadership call in which McCarthy called the president's actions, quote, atrocious and totally wrong, unquote, and expressed his desire to insure a smooth transition to the Biden administration. The audio was obtained by "New York Times" political correspondents Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns.

Take a listen.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Yeah, but what the president did is atrocious and totally wrong. From the stand point, we're 12 days away. I mean the one point I make with Biden -- if you have an impeachment and you're stuck in the Senate, he needs Cabinet members, he's got secretary of defense, he's got a lot of things he has to have moving. And if you think from a perspective, you put everything else away, this country is very, very divided.

I do think the impeachment divides the nation further and continues the fight even greater. That's why I want to reach out to Biden. I wanted the president to meet with Biden but that's not going to happen. I want to see about us meeting with Biden, sitting down, make a smooth transition to show that and continue to keep those statements going. So hopefully, I know he's got to talk to Pelosi, then he's going to -- hopefully he calls me today and see if we could start that process.


TAPPER: Hopefully he calls me today and we can see if we can start that process.

Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns join me now. They're the authors, as if I need to say this again, authors of the brand-new book "This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America's Future", which was just published yesterday.

Jonathan, take us through what's happening in the meeting and the context around McCarthy's comments.


JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So, in this moment, McCarthy is trying desperately to connect with the incoming president, Joe Biden. McCarthy is sort of panicked about the prospect of more political violence in the country. And he's grappling with what to do about President Trump and how to hold him accountable and minimize the political risk that he thinks President Trump now presents to him and his party.

And we chronicle in this book from this moment really forward how Kevin McCarthy got from that hard line that you just heard, atrocious and totally wrong, he calls Donald Trump, to by the end of the month, Jake, being back at Mar-a-Lago with the former president.

TAPPER: Yeah, and, Alex, you have another recording where an aide on the call details how the 25th Amendment to the Constitution works, for those who somehow have made it to this moment without learning this, that's the amendment for two-thirds of the cabinet to remove a president perceived as being incapacitated. It's been brought up throughout the Trump presidency.

We hear McCarthy discuss this and dismiss it as a possibility. But it's interesting as to why he dismisses it. Let's take a listen.


MCCARTHY: I think the options that have been cited by the Democrats so far are the 25th Amendment, which is not exactly an elegant solution here. That takes too long, too. It could go back to the House, right?


TAPPER: That takes too long. The audio shows the 25th Amendment was under serious consideration, Alex.

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. This is something we have reported from a couple top Republicans in the book. The 25th amendment was sincerely and seriously in play at this point. And a whole lot of Republicans like to sort of hand wave, people like to speculate about the 25th.

Jake, this was a whole lot more than speculation, as your viewers just heard. You don't hear Kevin McCarthy saying in that moment, you know, I don't think it would be appropriate to invoke the 25th Amendment. Or I'm not sure it was designed for a situation like this.

His concern is it would take too long. The reason he's worried it could take too long is the cabinet can vote to remove the president, but then the president can challenge that, and then it goes to a vote of the Congress. And then you're in a situation that's really not all that different from impeachment.

And again, to bring folks back to this extremely urgent moment, two days after January 6th, 12 days left on the clock of president Trump's administration. You have the top Republicans in the country truly worried about whether it's responsible to let Donald Trump remain as the president and commander in chief for just 12 more days.

TAPPER: Yeah, no. And, Jonathan, I mean, it's incredible when you think about Kevin

McCarthy's issue with the 25th Amendment is it wouldn't get rid of Trump quickly enough. So you also write about Trump's response to McCarthy's condemnations of him in the immediate aftermath of the insurrection, quote, Trump waved aside McCarthy's claims of challenging the former president in private. According to Trump, the Republican leader's tough talk after January 6th was just that, talk.

So Trump is completely unconcerned about what McCarthy was saying during this time.

MARTIN: And not just that. When we pressed President Trump in our interview with him for this book, about what Kevin McCarthy had said to him, Trump said, McCarthy never pressed me to think about resigning or to even issue any kind of contrition. So we asked Trump, we said, so why is McCarthy claiming that he was a tough guy with you? And Trump said to us two words, inferiority complex.


MARTIN: Speaking about McCarthy.

TAPPER: Alex, we should note President Trump certainly had a good night last night with the Republican Senate primary results in Ohio. His hand-picked candidate, JD Vance, who was trailing in the polls before Trump picked him, won in the book you describe how a lot of Republicans have been dismayed at Trump's continued strength within the party, including Mitch McConnell.

BURNS: That's right. Mitch McConnell in so many ways exhibit A of Republicans who wish Trump would fade away and finds now that's not the case at all. If Republicans take back the Senate majority this year, Jake, there's a strong chance the margin of control for Mitch McConnell will be candidates hand-picked by Donald Trump, and as Kevin McCarthy has found in recent weeks after the reporting from the book became public, the long arm of Donald Trump is very long indeed.

And, you know, those endorsements, that support, that indulgence from the former president does not come for free.

TAPPER: All right, the book, of course, from Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns, "This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America's Future." It's a great read. Check it out. Thanks to both of you. Really appreciate it.

MARTIN: Thank you, Jake.

BURNS: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up, showstopper. What reps for Dave Chappelle are saying after an armed man rushed the comedian on stage.

Stay with us.



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

This hour, stage fright. In Hollywood, comedian Dave Chappelle is physically attacked while performing. What we know about the suspect is coming up.

Plus, JD Vance wins the Republican Senate primary in Ohio. Does this mean Donald Trump's crown as king maker of the GOP is restored?

And leading this hour, internal pushback on the European Union's proposed ban of Russian oil imports. The ban would be part of the expanding effort to punish Russia for its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, this while the fighting intensifies.

In Mariupol, the city's mayor claims hundreds of innocent civilians including 30 children remain trapped inside that steel plant while Russian forces bombard the area.