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The Lead with Jake Tapper

New CNN Poll In Wake Of Leak Supreme Court Draft Opinion On Abortion; Fighting Rages As Steel Plant As Evacuation Efforts Continue; U.S. Economy Adds 428K Jobs In April, Unemployment Stable At 3.6 Percent; North Korea Ramping Up Provocations Ahead Of Biden Trip To Asia; Huge Explosion Destroys Havana Hotel, At Least 9 Dead. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired May 06, 2022 - 16:00   ET



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And THE LEAD with Jake Tapper starts now.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: How might the end of Roe v. Wade impact the midterm elections? Well, we've got a brand-new CNN poll.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Internet search history, social media posts, location data, how women and girls digital information could be used to target them for prosecution if Roe v. Wade is overturned and abortion becomes a crime.

Then, the Kremlin leaving its mark literally on the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, putting up Russian road signs, erecting statues of Soviet leaders.

Plus, some good news on the American jobs front. More than 90 percent of the 22 million jobs lost in the height of the pandemic are back, but is that good news enough to offset the spiking inflation rate?

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

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

And we start with breaking news in our politics lead. We have a brand- new CNN poll in the wake of that draft opinion leaking, that opinion that revealed the Supreme Court appears on the verge of striking down the landmark abortion decision Roe v. Wade. The 1973 decision has guaranteed constitutional protections for girls and women in the U.S. seeking an abortion for almost half a century.

Keep in mind, the abortion opinion leaked to "Politico" is not final. It was only in draft form, yet of course, the news ignited rallies for and against abortion rights nationwide, and now tall fencing surrounds the entire perimeter of the U.S. Supreme Court in anticipation of protests to come.

One thing we know is to come are the midterm elections this November. Will this drastic change in medical, legal, and political realities, if it happens, will it have any impact on who runs this country? Let's get right to CNN political director David Chalian.

So, David, to start with, where do most Americans stand on what the Supreme Court seems to be poised to do here, overturn Roe v. Wade?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yeah, Jake, this poll conducted by SSRS was taken entirely after that draft opinion was made public by "Politico", and we found opinion hasn't moved that much. It's still a 2 to 1 electorate in favor of keeping Roe as law of the land, 66 percent say no, they don't support the Supreme Court overturning Roe, 34 percent say they do.

Look at that broken down by party, of course, 88 percent of Democrats say no, they don't want to be roe overturned, 71 percent of independents are in that place, and even nearly four in ten, 37 percent of Republicans don't want to see Roe overturned which the Supreme Court appears poised to do here.

Not a huge gender split either. Sixty-nine percent of women in this poll do not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned, 62 percent of men are in the same boat. They don't want to see it overturned, Jake.

TAPPER: So the Senate Democrats are talking about trying to pass a national law to counter any Supreme Court decision. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pushing for a vote as early as next week. Whether or not he can get it passed is another matter. But would that theoretically have popular support?

CHALIAN: Yeah, this is where the Senate math and the nation's approach to this do not match up. Fifty-nine percent of Americans in this poll, they support a law that would basically codify Roe, that would establish a nationwide right to abortion. 41 percent of Americans oppose that.

We also asked, well, if it is overturned, what would you want to see happen in your state? Twenty percent say they want to see a complete and total abortion ban in their state if Roe is overturned. Only 20 percent. Compared that to down here, Jake, 51 percent, a slim majority of

Americans in this poll would like to see their state be a safe haven for abortion in a post-Roe world.

TAPPER: Republicans hold the minority position on this. And yet they appear poised to do well in the midterms. Would this impact their victories at all?

CHALIAN: You know, this is so interesting, and obviously, this is a first reaction in the immediate aftermath that we're going to see the actual opinion come down, mobilize campaigns around this. But the first reaction, we asked people to get their feelings about what would happen if indeed the court overturns Roe, 17 percent, just 17 percent said they would be happy.

OK, compare that to the 36 percent who say they would be angry. Obviously, the group angry is the larger group, Jake. But look at this, I think this is one of the most interesting findings in the whole poll. Among those folks who say they're happy, 38 percent of them are extremely enthusiastic about voting in the midterms, extremely enthusiastic.

The larger group, the angry folks, only 20 percent of them are extremely enthusiastic about voting in the election.


So, Democrats are going to lean into this, but it's clear, it's not just a clear advantage for Democrats on this issue right now in terms of enthusiasm for November.

TAPPER: And how much might abortion be a single issue motivator for Americans right now? So many Americans are focused on the economy.

CHALIAN: Yeah, basically about a quarter of voters in this poll, Jake, 26 percent, say a candidate must share their shoes on this issue in order to get their vote, 56 percent say it's just one of several factors. Only 18 percent say it's not a major issue at all, Jake.

TAPPER: Interesting. David Chalian, thanks so much.

I want to bring in Katie Watson. She's an attorney and associate professor at medical education at Northwestern University School of Medicine. Also here with us is Cynthia Conti-Cook. She's a civil rights lawyer and technology fellow on gender and racial justice at the Ford Foundation, because I want to talk about what this all means if this happens.

So, Katie, a bill advancing through Louisiana's legislature right now would classify abortions as homicides. On the other hand, you have states such as Connecticut where the governor signed a law protecting abortion seekers and providers from any out of state lawsuits.

Are all these cases going to end up right back at the U.S. Supreme Court? KATIE WATSON, ATTORNEY: They may. We were going to be in a system, a

patchwork of free states and forced motherhood states. And we're going to see women traveling, and so these cross border issues of jurisdiction are going to become incredibly important and chaotic.

So the Supreme Court deciding, we all understand that if gambling is illegal in your state, and you fly to Las Vegas and gamble for the weekend, then return, your state doesn't have jurisdiction. It's not going to bother you for that, and it's not going to see the casino.

In the abortion world, things are so vicious and so toxic that states are going to try untested legal theories to pursue and to create a chilling effect for anyone who is trying to live freely.

TAPPER: And, Cynthia, you know, if abortion is declared a homicide, obviously, then there will be prosecution of women who try or succeed in getting an abortion or providers. There are privacy advocates today raising the alarm about how evidence might be collected. Say a woman carrying her phone with her into a clinic or a text message or an email is shared, can a woman or a girl's digital footprint be used in court to prosecute her for an abortion were it to be declared a homicide?

CYNTHIA CONTI-COOK, TECHNOLOGY FELLOW ON GENDER, RACIAL AND ETHNIC JUSTICE, FORD FOUNDATION: Well, yes, Jake. We actually know already that prosecutors have presented digital evidence from people's devices, including Google search histories, text messages, emails, websites that they visited. They have introduced this, presented it into criminal courts in Mississippi and Indiana and more since 2015.

TAPPER: So theoretically, this would be done nationwide, I suppose, or depending on the state?

CONTI-COOK: It's not theoretical at all. If law enforcement has a hammer, as it is commonly said, everything is a nail. We know that the digital device extraction tools that police departments large and small have access to across the country have an incredible amount of power to get into your phone and police officers don't have to scroll through months of text messages to look for the world abortion. They can just key word search it and find it anywhere that it is embedded in your digital history that is extracted into these devices.

TAPPER: So, this is not only coming. It's already here, already being done.

Katie, as Louisiana's proposed abortion legislation also calls for this, quote, that the state fully recognize the human personhood of an unborn child at all stages of development prior to birth from the moment of fertilization.

Now, Professor, correct me if I'm wrong, but that's saying when an egg is fertilized, not implanted. So that legislation would criminalize the birth control pill or IUDs and make using birth control pills theoretically a homicide?

WATSON: So the good news is birth control pills and IUDs do not interfere with a fertilized egg. There's one IUD, the copper IUD that might, but the others don't. They use hormones to suppress ovulation.

Now, that doesn't mean there's not lots of confusion about that and abuse of the concept of it, because people don't understand when does an egg fertilize and how does each contraceptive work. It comes into play in IVF clinics where you have a fertilized egg in the first few days of development.

Louisiana has already banned discarding frozen lastesis (ph). They go by French law. Their origin is in French law, a fun fact, instead of English law, and they're designated as gervitical (ph) persons. So they're kind of frozen for eternity.

TAPPER: Hmm. Cynthia, back to the privacy concerns in a post-Roe environment. Are there calls to regulate how far prosecutors or police can go to prove a woman had an abortion or to find the provider or find a family member who might have helped? Are there any protections at all or no?

CONTI-COOK: No. There aren't. The only type of protection against the use of digital extraction devices that I know of is in Michigan where a warrant is required. People are not able to voluntarily consent because the amount of information is not what you might think if you hand your phone over.

If we hand our phone over to our friends and ask them to look for something in our phone, it's obviously going to be difficult to easily find. But if we're handing our phones over to police or to social workers or case workers or any of the many state agencies that have digital extraction devices, it's possible for them to do very thorough searches. And so, the type of information that is available is much broader than people might think of if they're asked to voluntarily hand it over.

Other than the law in Michigan which requires a warrant, there's not any limitation on what police can do with the information taken from your phone, and there was even a case in Wisconsin recently where a man's information from one investigation was allowed to be used in a case months later for a crime being investigated by a different sheriff's department in a different county.

TAPPER: And, Katie Watson, I know I can already sense there are going to be people saying this is a fearmongering segment. This is just what the natural extension of these laws would do.

WATSON: Absolutely. Some states are, of course, Texas and now, Oklahoma, using the citizen enforcement, and it's important to note that citizens aren't limited by the Fourth Amendment's limitations on search and seizure. So getting aggregate data of folks who visit clinics is something that private companies can sell.

It's also the case that we saw last month a Texas woman who was prosecuted for self-induced abortion and then the charges were later dropped, but it was a health care worker who called the police when she came seeking help for complications. And so, we will see lots of self-induced abortion. This generation is going to learn to love talking on the phone instead

of texting to reduce their chances of being tracked. They're going to go to the library to Google medication abortion. They're going to find plan C website, they're going to find aid access where doctors in Europe will talk to them and guide them through and send them the medication.

They're going to order the pills in advance, which they can do from aid access just in case they need them. They're going to learn to call if, when, how for legal advice, but they're going to be afraid if they do have a complication, which is rare, but it happens, and they're losing too much blood, they go to the emergency room and they will be reported, will be the fear. Physicians breaching their ethical obligation of confidentiality, we have already seen that, too.

TAPPER: Katie Watson and Cynthia Conti-Cook, thank you both. Really appreciate your time today.

New satellite images show Russian forces are doing some kind of excavation at the site of that Mariupol theater they bombed. The question is why? What are they doing?

Then, a massive explosion rocks a popular hotel in Cuba. We're live on the scene.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our world lead, what appears to be yet another breach of a cease-fire by Russia during efforts to evacuate civilians from the Mariupol steel plant. Ukrainian forces on the ground claim Russians forced fired an anti-tank weapon at a car that was trying to help with the evacuations, killing at least one Ukrainian soldier, injuring six more.

Despite this, Ukrainian officials announced at least 50 civilians were successfully evacuated today, including some children. President Zelenskyy says Russia has blocked all international aid organizations from providing food, water, and other needed supplies to the civilians trapped in Mariupol. Zelenskyy accused Russia of using this blockade as a form of torture by starvation.

Also, in Mariupol, new satellite images obtained by CNN show Russian forces are excavating that theater that they bombed in mid-March. You might remember it was struck by the Russians even though it was being used as a shelter for women, children, and the elderly, the word "children" was even written outside the theater on the ground in Russian in large letters twice.

"The Associated Press" estimates that 600 Ukrainian civilians were killed in that strike. What are the Russians doing there in this excavation? Are they accommodating the burials of Ukrainian civilians they killed? Are they covering up evidence of their possible war crimes? We do not know.

We do know Russian forces are now trying to put their stamp on what is left of Mariupol from erecting a statue of a woman holding a Soviet flag to changing the road signs from being in Ukrainian to being in Russian.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports now from eastern Ukraine on the major changes happening in some of these areas now under Russian control.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): Escorted by armor, curtains closed, inside is said to be some of the latest civilians to evacuate, the unbridled hell of Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.


Yet these are Russian troops escorting them out. Not the United Nations who helped evacuate earlier in the week. Ukrainian soldiers here Friday said one of theirs died and six were injured in an evacuation bid.

And while Ukraine said it began a new operation to get people out from under this, the savagery of Russian bombardment at the factory, the U.N. said Friday a total of 500 people had got out since their efforts began this weekend. Many, many more desperate to flee, battered and uninhabitable as much of Mariupol is, still ahead of Monday's victory day, it appears the city's drama theater, its basement packed with children when it was bombed by Russia killing hundreds, is now being cleared up, excavated.

These satellite images first on CNN showing rubble visible in April gone in recent days. Vehicles lined up on the ground around the theater cleared to make it more presentable. It's not clear why they are tidying the scene of what many called a war crime.

The warped world of what Russia calls liberation was also on view here in these rare images filmed inside a filtration camp, where Ukrainians are held before being forced to go to Russia. Passports taken, sleeping on the floor or in chairs. Illness from the cold. All part of the experience of liberation, according to one woman whose father was there.

And this stage visit evidence of Russia's rush to assimilate what it's clumsily torn off Ukraine.

This is Kherson, the first city it captured, the man in the beard is Denis Pushilin, a separatist leader from Donetsk, in a visit suggesting Kherson, under Russian occupation, where protests are crushed, will also be declared a ten part people's republic soon. It all has the whiff of empire.

Here, he sits discussing transferring food from Kherson to Russia's separatist areas, watermelons and tomatoes. He might call it trade. Ukraine, a food heist. But Moscow is far from having its way. And the costs are heavy. These

images CNN has confirmed were filmed in a graveyard in Ryzine (ph). The flags over the Russian paratrooper division, the elite, and there are many just in this one city.

These are the dead behind the propaganda, with so much rubble in Russia's tiny victories.


WALSH (on camera): Now, back to that evacuation, the Azovstal plant -- initially seems to be 25, now it's grown to 50. They do appear to initially be in Russian custody. We'll see if the U.N. and Red Cross pick up and begin to increase the volume.

One important thing we learned from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaking to the parliament in Iceland, he said that 500,000 Ukrainians have in fact been taken to Russia, essentially forcibly resettled across the eastern border -- frankly, all parts of this devastating toll, this unprovoked invasion has taken on Ukraine, Jake.

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

Joining me now to discuss is Emine Dzhaparova. She's the first deputy foreign minister of Ukraine.

Deputy foreign minister, thank you so much for joining us. What can you tell us about the evacuations at the Azovstal plant today and the fighting happening there right now?

EMINE DZHAPAROVA, FIRST DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER, UKRAINE: Greetings from Kyiv. Indeed, we are doing our best to evacuate our people from Mariupol and Azovstal, namely. We have managed to bring some of our people by those agreed corridors, but they are sometimes failed to be performed as happened today when one of the cars evacuated had been shelled by artillery, and still the question is that whether those corridors, even those that were agreed on, could be reliable. Out of 395 corridors, we managed to agree upon 340-something and only 180- something performed to be available for people.

So what we can see is that those agreements, let's say agreements on corridors, they often fail to be performed, and unfortunately, people suffer. With regards to Azovstal, those who are sieged, I will say, or besieged in the plant, they are trying to call every single door and to knock every single door by requesting leaders and presidents to put pressure on President Putin and Putin and Russian army so that this evacuation could happen.


TAPPER: Just to be clear --

DZHAPAROVA: And of course, it's horrible. Of course, it's horrible to observe what has been happening there when, for example, I was listening to one of the Crimean doctors who is in Azovstal, when he said that he does manage to cure people because he just simply doesn't have basic things, and he is so overwhelmed by seeing how people die because of very basic things just because he cannot rescue them because of absence of any medicine.

TAPPER: Right.

DZHAPAROVA: And pills that are needed.

TAPPER: Just to be clear, what you're saying when you say the corridors are failing, you're saying the Russians are saying go ahead, you can clear through here. You can go through here, you won't be touched. And then they go back on their word and shoot or shell those civilians being evacuated, right? That's what you mean?

DZHAPAROVA: Absolutely. That's been done deliberately to cause panic and chaos, and I think that the very way how Russia acts is quite simple to understand, because first, they attack my country. The initial plan failed to be performed and they did not accomplish their initial goals to take control of the whole country in three days. Then they regrouped and focused their attention in terms of the military actions on the east and on the south.

Now, Mariupol is psychologically quite important for them so they have already turned the city to dust, but what they want is to break the spirit of people still resisting in Azovstal.


DZHAPAROVA: What they also do, they surrounded the city of Mariupol. They caused this humanitarian crisis when 400,000 population city is actually ruined, and what they say, I believe it's also important to understand, they say oh, Ukrainian army, they are committed propaganda, saying to people that Ukrainian army is shelling the city, and then they open up their territory, the Russian territory, for evacuation.

But indeed, and in fact, it's called for civil deportation when they bring thousands of Ukrainians via Russian territory. Thus depicting themselves as saviors, bringing humanitarian assistant because of this connection by land, saying look, we're helping and Ukraine does nothing. They also try to brainwash people in Mariupol and it's yet another truth.

TAPPER: Yeah. So you're the first deputy foreign minister of Ukraine, the White House announced that President Biden and leaders of the G7 countries will meet virtually with President Zelenskyy on Sunday. The G7 for our viewers is Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The U.S. is obviously doing quite a bit to help Ukraine. What other G7 countries need to step up and do more to help Ukraine?

DZHAPAROVA: We are quite vocal on what more should be done. Position number one is sanction pressure should be performed because as soon as while Russia has been hitting and bombing our cities and people, sanctions should not be stop. So we're waiting for the sixth package of sanctions that is under consideration of European Union. This is the whole bunch of those sanctions.

We also think that by having the Russian intention to blockade our seas, Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, while we cannot export our goods and stuff, wheat, grain, sunflower oil, via sea as we usually do because 70 percent of our export was exported by sea, if they block and while they block, we believe that those opportunities for Russian vessels should be closed to enter any port of any civilized countries.

We also believe that the SWIFT banking system and the cut off of SWIFT should be performed in an extended way. Only six or seven banks are there. Still this pressure should be kept and performed, and isolation of those countries, and the most important is that we understand that the block of their budget is oil and gas. So, full embargo for oil and gas minerals and oil, and several things should be performed. This will weaken Russian economy, which obviously will influence their capabilities.

We really indeed appreciate the assistance that we have already received from the United States. These are weapons, munition, humanitarian assistance, those money that has already been allocated to my country, but just recently, President Biden last week submitted a request for U.S. Congress for funding $33 billion of U.S. dollars aid package for my country while we have over 20 from weapons, $8.5 billion for ammunition and other military assistance according to humanitarian assistance.

Of course, our huge request, something that comes from people, not only politicians, but people, is about adopting this plan, because as my minister says, we need weapon, weapon, weapon, and weapon just to protect ourselves because I think if this war is not contained in Ukraine, the evil will become bigger.


It's something that happened in 2014, and our inability to give a probable response for the Crimean occupation, and the occupation in Donbas, led us to this war. So, the next question, if we're not able to do so here in Ukraine, this war and aggression of Putin will become bigger.

TAPPER: Emine Dzhaparova, the first deputy foreign minister of Ukraine, thank you so much for your time today.

DZHAPAROVA: Thank you so much.

TAPPER: Coming up, meet some of the Americans who have volunteered to go to Ukraine and fight the Russians themselves. That's next.



TAPPER: Some positive news in our money lead. April's jobs report is showing the U.S. is moving closer to a complete economic recovery from the pandemic. Last month, the country added 428,000 jobs. That's the same as in

March. While the unemployment rate held steady at 3.6 percent, just above the pre-COVID era level of 3.5 percent.

This is the 12th straight month that more than 400,000 jobs have been added. The U.S. still needs to gain just over 1 million jobs to reclaim all of the nearly 22 million jobs lost at the beginning of the pandemic, but we're closer than ever.

Moments ago, President Biden touted the jobs increase in a speech in Ohio.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today's job report shows our plans and priorities have produced the strongest job creation in the modern times of the American economy. Today's report shows we have created 428,000 jobs last month. And that means we have now created a total of 8.3 million jobs. In my first 15 months in office.


TAPPER: Let's discuss with CNN business anchor Richard Quest and Rana Foroohar, a global business columnist for "The Financial Times" and a CNN global economic analyst.

Richard, I'll start with you. President Biden taking full credit for the numbers saying his policies are responsible for the economic recovery. Is he right?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS ANCHOR: He is partially, yes. If you put enough money into the economy, this is what you will get. If you have large stimulus packages, this is what you will get. So absolutely, there is credit to be taken, and he's right to take some of it. Along with everybody else who has done this, like Jay Powell and indeed President Trump before him, with some of the policies that were there.

But, I don't want to be a Friday night harbinger of doom, but this strong job number also solidifies the Fed's intention to keep raising rates and to do so hard and fast because it's out of control when it comes to inflation.

TAPPER: Rana, the jobs report undeniably good news for Americans workers. But the market is showing signs of returning to normal. How do you see it?

RANA FOROOHAR, CNN GLOBAL ECONOMIC ANALYST: Well, you know, it's the classic problem. What is good news on Main Street is often very times bad news on Wall Street. Why is that?

Well, you know, you look at this jobs report, you have got broad swaths of the economy doing really well. Manufacturing jobs are up, travel and tourism is up. Transport is up. Retail is up.

So why aren't stock prices up? Because all of that job creation means inflation, it means higher wages. And as Richard pointed out, it probably means that the Fed is going to move quicker and stronger on raising interest rates and markets don't like that.

So, you get the strange disconnect of good news in the real world turning into bad news in the markets.

TAPPER: And, Richard, the Dow fell again today. Thursday it fell by more than 1,000 points. We talked about it then.

Why are we seeing these falls even as unemployment remains low and jobs are added to the economy? Is it just as Rana said, because interest rates are going to keep going up?

QUEST: Yes, interest rates go up. Companies make less money. Wages have to fall slightly or at least not go up as much. There has to be a weakness in the economy.

You know, after our discussion yesterday, Jake, a viewer wrote to me, tweeted me, why can't we just keep growing? What's wrong with this? We have grown faster before than these levels.

Yes, but we haven't done so at 8 percent inflation in the last 30-odd years. And inflation hits every single person. It hits savers, the old pensioners who have saved all their lives, it hits wage earners. It hits those on benefits.

And that's the significance of what the policy the Fed is doing. The market knows prices of stocks have to fall to get to a level where eventually people start to say they're cheap enough, let's buy.

TAPPER: And, Rana, today, President Biden called inflation and higher prices, he acknowledged they were a challenge for families across the country. He's blaming supply chain problems for the rise in prices. He's blaming Putin. He says tackling inflation is a top priority for his administration.

Rana, what more needs to be done to bring prices down?

FOROOHAR: Well, you know, in some ways there's not a lot more he can do because this stuff is baked in. It's true, there have been supply chain mismatches. There is a war that's creating double digit inflation in energy costs and high single digits in food. We all feel it at the grocery store.

You know, as we have been talking about, the fed has pumped a lot of money into the economy. The administration pumped some money into the economy, too.

[16:40:01] The Fed has been doing it for longer. That money now has to work itself out of the system.

It's a balloon. The economy is a balloon. You can inflate it for a certain amount of time. Eventually it deflates.

Right now, the trick is, is it going to pop or are we going to even more gently deflate the economy. And that is the big question.

TAPPER: All right. Rana Foroohar and Richard Quest, thanks to both of you. Have a great weekend.

Vladimir Putin is not the only strongman worrying the Pentagon. Coming up next, the latest worries about what North Korea's Kim Jong-un might be up to.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: Sticking with our world lead, as global leaders focus on Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine, another rogue leader is ramping up his own military capabilities.


Kim Jong-un's North Korea launched another ballistic missile this week and may be getting ready to test a nuclear bomb.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is at the Pentagon for us where they're obviously keeping a close eye on Kim's latest provocations.

Oren, what is North Korea up to and how much does this have to do with President Biden's upcoming visit to South Korea and Japan?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, you're certainly right to tie it potentially to the upcoming visit by President Joe Biden to visit his regional partners. We have often seen North Korea and Kim Jong-un carry out tests whether it's a nuclear test in the past or a ballistic missile test tied to a presidential visit or a U.S. military exercise in the region.

As an example, back in 2016, there was a nuclear test from North Korea that was carried out right after President Barack Obama left Asia for a meeting with world leaders. So, this now is what the administration is watching very closely right now, and the U.S. assesses that North Korea may be getting ready for another nuclear test. What would be its seventh.

Last month, CNN reported that the U.S. was looking at building at the site where it carries out its nuclear tests in the northern part of the country, the digging of tunnels and the U.S. assessed then that it was preparing if it wanted to, to carry out a quick nuclear test. The U.S. has continued to watch and seen vehicle and personnel activity at the site, an indication a nuclear test may be imminent, perhaps by the end of the month. One of the key questions is, have they loaded nuclear material into the tunnel to carry out a test. That question is still unknown.

The administration, the Pentagon, of course, watching this closely. Jake, the last nuclear test from North Korea was back in September 2017. That North Korea said was the test of a hydrogen bomb. It's most powerful state to date.

TAPPER: Sticking on the North Korean issue, Oren, the U.S. is sanctioning a financial service used by North Korean-backed hackers? LIEBERMANN: This one is kind of interesting. It is the first time, according to the treasury under secretary, that they have signaled a virtual currency mixer. That's a company that takes virtual currency transactions, mixes, mashes them together, processes them and makes it harder to trace where those came from.

In this case, the company is called, and let me get this right, The administration says Lazarus Group, a North Korean used this company to process a bit of a $620 million that North Korea stole from a Blockchain organization. So, now targeting not only the hackers but how they promise, move, and try to hide that money -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon for us, thank you so much.

We're now learning more about the cause of the deadly explosion that rocked a hotel in Havana, Cuba. CNN is live on the scene next.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Also in our world lead, breaking news in Cuba. A huge explosion destroyed an historic hotel in the heart of Havana today. Cuba's government said at least nine people were killed.

Our Havana-based correspondent Patrick Oppmann is on the scene.

Patrick, do they know what caused the blast?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Apparently, as this hotel was due to reopen as tourists begin to return to Cuba, finally recovering from the pandemic, there was a delivery of gas today, the kind of gas used for cooking and heating water tanks, and there was a leak in the hotel. Essentially, the hotel filled up with gas, exploded.

While there were no tourists inside, it was full of hotel workers. This is a very busy area of the city, people walking by, waiting for buses, and they were buried under rubble.

When I arrived minutes after the explosion, they were still pulling people out from under the rubble. What we're told now is rescue workers have to be very careful. There are concerns this building, this historic hotel that celebrities and U.S. officials have visited over the years is not structural sound. There's concerns it could collapse on the rescue workers so they have to be very careful as they go into the building, continue to look under these large blocks of rubble, blocks of rubble thrown yards from the hotel, crushed cars and at least one large tourism bus.

We expect that this grim work of recovering the dead and looking for survivors will continue late into the night, Jake.

TAPPER: What a horrible thing. What will happen to this hotel now? Tourists were just beginning to return to Cuba after the pandemic disrupted travel for years.

OPPMANN: And so much of the economy has been battered here by the pandemic, is dependent on tourism. This, of course, does not help.

What officials have said is they believe the building will have to be knocked down eventually, but certainly, we expect the search and rescue operations to go on for days here. It's just an extensive, very dangerous scene, as this building is still standing but only just.

TAPPER: Patrick Oppmann in Havana, thank you so much for that. Good to see you again.

Breaking news in the search for the missing corrections officer and capital murder suspect. Police say they found a getaway car. Stay with us.



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

This hour, breaking news in the Alabama manhunt for that corrections officer and capital murder suspect. Police have found a vehicle used by the fugitives.

Plus, more than 100 cases of an unexplained and deadly hepatitis outbreak among young children in the United States. Five kids have died, 15 have needed liver transplants. More on this medical mystery, ahead.

And leading this hour, new questions being raised about what the Russians are doing at the site of that theater that they bombed in Mariupol. You might remember it was bombed back in march by the Russians with thousands of innocent Ukrainian civilians sheltering inside. Satellite images from the past month show different stages of excavation going on.

Ukrainian forces now say Russian troops in addition fired on a car that was trying to help with the evacuations of civilians. At least one Ukrainian soldier was killed, six others injured.