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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Biden: Inflation Is "Our Top Economic Right Now"; Gas Prices Jump To New Record, Now Averaging $4.37 A Gallon; Russia Fires Hypersonic Missiles At Port City Of Odesa; Trump Pick In West Virginia Pits Him Against State's Political Establishment; Biden Blasts "Ultra- MAGA" Republicans' Inflation Plans; Second Set Of Human Remains Found At Lake Mead As Water Levels Drop. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired May 10, 2022 - 16:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: I'm a lot like your mom, okay, on many levels, obviously. If you could just come over to my house and do that, that would solve my problem.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: I will contribute my services.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. Thank you.


CAMEROTA: Problem solved.


DANA BASH, CNN HOST: President Biden says the U.S. economy went from on the mend to on the move, but in what direction?

THE LEAD starts right now.

Sticker shock. Gas prices hit a record high and are on track to go even higher.

Plus, Putin's new target. Ukraine's port city of Odesa. What the hypersonic missiles used in the attack may say about Russia's capabilities.

And grim discoveries. As the water drops at America's largest reservoir, human remains keep popping up. How the findings could have mafia connections.


BASH: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Dana Bash, in for Jake Tapper.

And we start with our money lead and a rough day for the American economy and your wallets. Gas prices hit a new record today, with the national average for one gallon reaching $4.37, according to AAA. That's up 17 cents in one week and 25 cents in a month. To make things worse, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was on

Capitol Hill today where she warned this economic turbulence will continue. At the White House, President Biden acknowledged Americans are facing high -- sky-high inflation, although he tried to reassure the public, his administration is doing everything it can to bring prices down.

But the president also did not lay out any new steps he plans to take, instead, spending a large part of his speech attacking Republicans for what he calls their ultra MAGA agenda to raise taxes.

CNN's MJ Lee starts off our coverage today from the White House.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Number one challenge facing families today.

MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden trying to reassure Americans inflation is his single most urgent concern.

BIDEN: I want every American to know I'm taking inflation very seriously, and it's my top domestic priority.

LEE: Biden laying out actions his administration has taken to try to alleviate the pressure.

BIDEN: My plan is already in motion. I led the world and other countries to join with us to coordinate the largest release of oil from our stockpiles of all the countries in history. 240 million barrels to boost global supply.

LEE: While also hinting there are some measures his administration is still mulling over, like ending tariffs on China enacted under former President Trump.

BIDEN: We're discussing that right now. We're looking at what would have the most positive impact.

LEE: With gas prices again breaking records and everyday household goods continuing to cost more, inflation is emerging as a central political liability for Democrats. Biden defending his administration's approach to combating the problem.

BIDEN: I think our policy is to help, not hurt.

LEE: Months out from the midterms, Biden increasingly eager to contrast his economic plan from that of Republicans, repeatedly calling out a proposal from Florida GOP Senator Rick Scott, which calls for all Americans to pay an income tax.

BIDEN: It's the ultra MAGA agenda. Their plan is to raise taxes on 75 million American families, over 95 percent of whom make less than $100,000 a year. LEE: On Capitol Hill, Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen echoing

Biden's warning. The pandemic coupled with the war in Ukraine will continue to create significant uncertainty.

JANET YELLEN, TREASURY SECRETARY: There's the potential for continued volatility and unevenness of global growth as countries continue to grapple with the pandemic. Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has further increased economic uncertainty.

LEE: But Biden, who last year said inflation would be a temporary problem --

BIDEN: And, by the way, talk of inflation, the overwhelming consensus is it's going to pop up a little bit and then go back down.

LEE: Now reticent to make any new forecasts.

REPORTER: How long do you think it will be until we see prices coming down?

BIDEN: I'm not going to predict that. It ranges, depending on which economist you're talking to.


LEE: Now, as much as the president tried to lay out a plan to try to tackle inflation, he also acknowledged that he knows why this is such a challenging thing to do. For one thing, many of the actions he is talking about requires Congress to act. He said the Senate is, of course, 50/50 divided and it is very difficult to get the Senate to get 60 votes on anything.

He also said that inflation is just a complicated issue and that the war in Ukraine has only confused people even more. He said he thinks it's important for him to use simple and straightforward language to talk about this issue.


And, Dana, this is one of the reasons that we are going to see the president head to Chicago tomorrow. There's going to be an event where he's going to be talking about supply chain issues and also efforts to bring down food prices -- Dana.

BASH: A lot of Democrats on the ballot are very happy to see the president bringing up these issues on a constant basis. I know you're hearing that, too, MJ. Thank you so much for that report.

And despite President Biden's assurances he's focused on lowering gas prices, relief for drivers cannot come soon enough. According to AAA, one year ago today, Americans were paying on average $2.97. Today, that average is up almost $1.50 at a record $4.37.

CNN's Pete Muntean is live in Cincinnati, where drivers are traveling between Ohio and Kentucky looking for the best prices.

So, Pete, what are you hearing from those drivers?


Drivers want relief from these rapidly rising prices, and the span of a day here at this marathon station in Cincinnati, we have seen the price go up 24 cents. It was $4.15 earlier. Now $4.39. That is above the national average according to AAA, which is $4.37 now. A new all- time record.

It was $4.20 a week ago, $4.12 a month ago. Just an idea how of fast these prices are rising. You know, some folks hunting around for the best prices. Here in the Cincinnati metro, they're going over the river into Kentucky where you might get some little better prices there.

You know, we talked to Chris West, a driver here. She says that she just wants to go to Florida with her husband. They have been planning on doing this for a while. They haven't been able to do it. They were thinking of driving there, but because gas prices are so high, they're now thinking of flying. Listen.


CHRIS WEST, DRIVING LESS DUE TO HIGH GAS PRICES: I'm stretching it out. I'm not going as many places. We tend to take my husband's car, which gets better gas mileage. Just really a shame that this is where we're at.


MUNTEAN: There's not really much the Biden administration can do about this. There is talk of a federal gas tax holiday, something that states have been doing. The federal gas tax set at about 18.4 cents a gallon, but it's enacted before the gas hits the pump, so there's big questions about whether or not that relief will be passed along to consumers -- Dana.

BASH: And, Pete, we heard predictions of gas rising to $4.50 a gallon. Is that looking more realistic now?

MUNTEAN: Well, think about this. Gas experts who have been talking to say we might see relief over the next month, but demand is going to start surging for driving pretty soon here. We're only a couple weeks away from the Memorial Day weekend when driving starts to go up for the summer travel season. So, they say, while we might see a bit of relief sometime soon, July and August, there's no telling how high this will go.

BASH: Pete Muntean, thank you so much, reporting from Cincinnati.

And joining me now to discuss more is Mark Zandi, the chief economist for Moody's Analytics.

Thank you for joining me, Mark.

So, did you hear anything from president Biden today that makes you think that he has a plan that actually will work in the short term to tackle inflation?

ZANDI: Well, I think he's got limited tools, Dana. You know, he talked about the strategic petroleum reserve and the release, and that's been helpful. I don't think it's brought down oil or gas prices but limiting increases in oil and gas prices. Talked about lowering tariffs on China, and that might have some benefit, at least on the margin.

But he's very limited in what he can do. At the end of the day, this high inflation we're suffering from is the result of the pandemic and the impact on global supply chains. You can see that now going on in China and the shutdowns there, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which is scrambling oil and natural gas on the commodity market.

So I don't think we get to the other side of this high inflation until the pandemic fades and the worst of the fallout from the Russia/Ukraine is behind us.

BASH: In fact, new government data coming out tomorrow is expected to show inflation at 8.1 percent. That's down from 8.5 percent the previous months. So what does that tell you about prices for things or do you think that that is even though it's down, it's not significant enough to make a difference for people when they're buying the basics that they need?

ZANDI: Well, I'll take it. It's moving in the right direction, but 8 percent is off the high. I mean, just to give you statistic to strike this point home, the typical American family is spending $433 more a month today to buy the same goods and services they were buying a year ago, simply because of inflation. That's over $5,000 a year. For context, the typical American family spends about $65K a year. That gives you sense of the pain and suffering.

I do think -- I'll do a forecast here for you, I do think the inflation we're suffering through right now is probably a peak, the worst of it. That supply chains, the pandemic is fading.


Supply chains will start to iron themselves out. And that the worst of the fallout from the Russian invasion is at hand.

Oil prices probably won't go much higher than today. I do think inflation will be lower by the end of the year, going into next year. But of course, I say that with a great deal of humility, pretty difficult to forecast what's going on with regard to the pandemic and what's going on in Russia/Ukraine.

BASH: It's still important to have hope. You mentioned Russia and Ukraine. Again today, we heard president Biden blame high gas prices on Vladimir Putin. He calls it the Putin tax hike. Give us a fact check. How much of this really is Putin's fault?

ZANDI: Yeah, it's dead on. Before Russia was threatening Ukraine back at the end of last year, oil prices were $70, $75 a barrel and they were headed lower. When it became clear Russia was going to invade Ukraine and sanctions were going to be imposed on Russia, they spiked to $125 a barrel.

We're back down to $100 a barrel, but all of it is attributable to the Russian invasion. If that hadn't happened, we would be paying maybe $3.25, $3.50 per gallon of gasoline, not $4.25, $4.50. It's about Russian's invasion of Ukraine.

BASH: Mark Zandi, thank you so much.

ZANDI: Sure thing.

BASH: And up next, they're software engineers, published authors and now tank operators and on the sniper squad. Meet the young professionals who are among the ranks of fighters in Ukraine.

And the power and influence of Donald Trump is being tested again tonight.

Stay with us.



BASH: In our world lead, devastation in the critical Ukrainian port of Odesa.

Overnight, Russian aerial strikes pounded two hotels and a shopping mall there. It's unclear why Russia targeted these civilian hubs, but Ukraine says Russia used sophisticated hypersonic missiles in the attack. The brutality of the Russians is becoming more apparent by the day. Near the town of Kharkiv, new video shows the aftermath of a Russian tank on -- Russian attack, rather, on a civilian convoy, trying to escape the fighting. Burnt out cars, a destroyed tank, and most disturbing, an infant car seat, a stroller, and toys, signs that babies and children were among the targets.

As CNN's Sam Kiley reports, some young Ukrainians are willing to do anything to stop Putin, even if it means killing Russians their own age. We want to warn our viewers, some of the images in this report are graphic and disturbing.




KILEY: Bunny is a tank.

ALEX: Yeah, bunny is a tank.

KILEY: He's got quite a carrot.

ALEX: Yeah.

KILEY: Bunny's got a very big stick. This T-80 tank was built two years ago and was in the vanguard of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

ALEX: So, down below, you see a loader, it's also slightly modernized to shoot more like advanced and like better rounds. It can shoot guided missiles.

KILEY: Alex was on a sniper team when he discovered Bunny. Stuck and abandoned in a field in March, eight days into Russia's assault. Within days, the tank was back in action, against Russians.

ALEX: This is like my personal tank. I am tank commander and tank owner.

KILEY: In March, he said the tank destroyed 24 Russian vehicles and two tanks.

ALEX: We are fighting like new resume, so here we already destroyed three or four enemy tanks. We had three confirmed and four is like not fully confirmed it was our kill.

KILEY: That was in the previous couple days when Russian forces tried to break through Ukraine's lines in the bitter battle for the east.

Alex isn't a professional soldier. He's a software engineer who lived in the now smashed IT hub of Kharkiv. His home has been destroyed.

Bunny is being serviced as the battle rages a few miles away. Burning fields encroach on the tank's hideout. The front line in Ukraine is hundreds of miles long.

For many Ukrainian soldiers on this front line, there's a sense that perhaps the Russians haven't yet brought their full destructive power to bear. But they expect to find out this week.

Russia's artillery is relentless, and Putin's tanks are massing, this army of volunteers is expecting a hard Russian push.

Anna is 22, she's been a soldier for a month and now she's a driver in a reconnaissance unit.

ANNA, DRIVER IN THE UKRAINIAN ARMY: There is a lot of opportunities to be killed.

KILEY: She just graduated from university.

ANNA: The thing that makes me angriest is the raped children and women.

KILEY: Is that something that you're afraid of happening to you?

ANNA: I can't say that I'm afraid of something like that. I'm afraid of being not useful for my country, for my people.

KILEY: This is what being useful here means, killing Russians. Russians Anna's age. But this is a war thrust upon Ukrainians. Anna works with Vlad, a poet, author, publisher, and war vet.

Reconnaissance is a highly dangerous word. Have you lost many comrades, friends?

Vlad said, since 2014, so many of my friends, people I knew, comrades, have died. So far, the people I came with since the beginning of the latest invasion have not died and I'm very happy, it's cool. These people are still fighting. They're already in charge of units.


It's awesome. The best of the best are here.

His books are dark fantasies set in this war with Russia, an all too rich source of material.


KILEY (on camera): Now, the pressure that has been brought to bear here on the front line in this area by the Russians being matched or more than matched in fact around Kharkiv, which was really where they were originally thrusting down from with Ukrainian counterattack, Dana. They are winning in some areas, Ukrainians capturing or recapturing Ukrainian villages and pressing up towards the Russian border, causing Russian forces to actually start re-enforcing their lines inside Russian territory. So it is an ebb and flow, this battle, and it's likely to go on for some time.

BASH: It sure seems that way, so fascinating to actually get a glimpse of the regular formerly civilians who are now fighting in this war.

Thank you so much, Sam Kiley, reporting live from Kramatorsk.

And up next, a man who once led the Justice Department now says American democracy is on the brink of collapse. His idea to save one of the most important pillars of this country, next.



BASH: In our politics lead, quote, they're coming for the right to vote. That was one of many warnings from President Biden to his fellow Democrats at a private fund-raiser last night.

Joining us live to discuss is someone with a new book about voting rights and more. The former attorney general under President Obama, Eric Holder. His book is called "Our Unfinished March: The Violent Past and Imperiled Future of the Vote, A History, A Crisis, A Plan."

Thank you so much for joining me. I appreciate it.

And I want to talk about your book in a moment because it's really fascinating, but right now, we are talking -- there's a national conversation about the former president. And I know you were opposed to indicting a former president in the past. In the case of Donald Trump, however, you say that you no longer believe it's unthinkable. Explain why. ERIC HOLDER, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: Yeah, I think given the breadth

of what we already know, the depth of the criminality that we already know, and what I undoubtedly think we're going to get from the January 6th committee, and the danger to the republic, there was an attempt to stop the peaceful transfer of power. It seems to me there has to be accountability for that.

Just as importantly, there has to be deterrence so people in the future will not try to do that which they tried to accomplish on January 6th. And that has really kind of moved me from thinking, it will be a divisive thing if it happens, but it will be equally divisive I think not to take action against those who tried to foment that coup.

BASH: So, you do believe that there is a chance that the current attorney general, Merrick Garland, will indict Donald Trump, despite how divisive you acknowledge it could be?

HOLDER: I think that possibility exists. I have great faith in Merrick Garland. I have known him for a bunch of years. I have great faith in the people of the department of justice to do the right thing. I think they'll take into account a whole variety of things including the divisive nature of the impact of an indictment.

But again, you know, cardinal principles of criminal law are accountability and deterrence. If you focus on those issues, as I think we should, I think the possibility of indictment is certainly there.

BASH: Would you do that if you were attorney general now?

HOLDER: Well, I don't have access to all of the information.

BASH: From public record.

HOLDER: Right, to the extent that I was satisfied that the statutory requirements were met and that you could show the necessary intent, given the nature of this crime, yeah, I would proceed.

BASH: Merrick garland is very quiet in public about what the DOJ is doing in this investigation. As attorney general, you took a different tack. How important is it for the public to know what's going on as this investigation is happening inside the DOJ?

HOLDER: You know, the attorney general has kind of hampered their grand jury secrecy rules. There are norms we have with regard to talking about ongoing investigations.

And so I understand why he has to be more quiet than people would like. But I think there's also an educational component to this that I think needs to go on so that people understand if there is ultimate action by the Justice Department, it is not just sprung on the American people. So they have a sense of what's going on, why it's happening.

And I think actually the January 6th committee hearings which begin I guess in the next month or so will help educate the people of the country about what exactly the Justice Department is looking at.

BASH: You write extensively in your new book about voting rights. And the landmark Supreme Court decision that bears your name, Shelby v. Holder. You talk about the danger of states passing laws that make it harder for people to vote, but as you well know, federal voting legislation is stalled.

You have some solutions in here. How realistic are they?

HOLDER: Well, there are a number of solutions that we talk about. Everything from banning partisan gerrymandering to reforms of the Electoral College, automatic voter registration, same-day registration -- yeah, I think those are things that sound like they are difficult to do, but if you look at the book, and we talk about the history of people who have fought for changes in the past against far more insurmountable odds that we're facing now. I mean, people who sacrifice, you know, their lives, faced physical threats, the things that they got accomplished seem difficult, if not impossible then, as they seem difficult if not impossible now.


If we concentrate our efforts, if we get a sufficient number of people to focus on these issues, I think all of the things we propose are indeed possible.

BASH: I want to ask about the draft opinion on Roe v. Wade, written by Justice Alito. He argues that the Constitution makes no reference to abortion and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision. He goes on to say that includes the 14th Amendment. What's your reaction to that?

HOLDER: Well, the Constitution makes no specific reference to the right of privacy, and yet I think everybody would agree that there is indeed a constitutional right to privacy, and that's the foundation for the reproductive decisions the court made in Roe versus Wade. There are a lot of rights and entitlements, ways in which we conduct ourselves that are not specifically enumerated in the Constitution.

So I think that that opinion, that draft opinion that he authored, is wrong in a substantial number of ways. It's overwrought. The language I think is caustic.

And we talk about divisive things. If you were to unleash that opinion, which I don't think that opinion is going to see the light of day. We have seen that draft. I would be surprised if that draft makes it to the final calculation of the court.

The court may overrule Roe, but I don't think you'll see that opinion or the language of that opinion.

BASH: Just real quick, your prescription for the Supreme Court, 18 years maximum instead of life tenure, and every president should be able to appoint two justices. Again, is that realistic?

HOLDER: Yeah, I think it is. I mean, you know, people overwhelmingly support term limits for Supreme Court justices. I quote in the book, Chief Justice Roberts who says we ought to term limit Supreme Court justices to 15 years. I say 18, I think that's just a better number, and I think the change of having a president nominate a person in his first -- in his or her first year and also his or her third year would be a good way of bringing new blood on the court and depressurizing the confirmation and selection process that again divides the nation.

BASH: Your book is unfinished march -- excuse me -- "Our Unfinished March." Really learned a lot about all of the different sectors of America that had to push for basic rights since the Constitution was written. Thank you so much for this interview and thanks for the book. Appreciate it.

HOLDER: Thanks for having me.

BASH: And up next, the repeated reference we picked up on as President Biden tried to warn Americans about electing Republicans in November.

Stay with us.



BASH: In our politics lead, Republican voters are headed to the polls in West Virginia, and it will be another key test for former President Donald Trump and his endorsement power.

I want to get straight to CNN's Kristen Holmes live from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

So, Kristen, the race for West Virginia's second congressional district is really interesting because you have two current House members running against each other because they lost a district in that state. But what is setting them apart from one another?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, one of the big things that sets them apart from one another is one was actually endorsed by former President Donald Trump, and this is something that really matters to the voters we have spoken to in West Virginia.

Now, this has become one of the ugliest races in the country, as you said, two current sitting congressmen are now facing each other head to head because of redistricting, because West Virginia's shrinking population. They did lose a House seat.

And on one side, you have Congressman David McKinley. He has been endorsed by some of the biggest politicians in the state. We're talking about the popular Republican Governor Jim Justice, as well as the Democratic senator, Joe Manchin.

On the other side, you have Alex Mooney, another congressman who has been endorsed by President Trump, and one thing to note here is that that endorsement came almost immediately after McKinley voted for that bipartisan infrastructure bill. He also voted in favor of an independent probe into January 6th.

So if you're talking about things that set these two candidates apart, those two votes are very important and they obviously played a big factor when it came to that endorsement.

So, one thing we're watching here tonight is the fact that Donald Trump's popularity across the state, and this is what we have noticed on the ground, is completely palpable. Remember, he won every county in the state in 2016 and in 2020.

So the question is whether or not that enthusiasm for Trump translates into votes for Mooney -- Dana.

BASH: Thank you so much for that report, Kristen Holmes. We're here with our panel. Let's just pick up where Kristen left off.

West Virginia is so Trumpy, as they say. Very, very important state for Donald Trump. His second best state when it came to the 2020 presidential election. He won by 68 percent of the vote.

Now, of course, we're talking about primaries here, but, Nia, as you just heard, one of the Republican congressmen is a die-hard Trump loyalist. He's the one who got the Trump endorsement. And the other one is not.

NIA MALIKA-HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And that's the big question we're going to be asking on primary days for the next couple weeks. How much is the Trump endorsement worth?


We saw last week it was worth a lot in Ohio. We'll see how much it's worth in West Virginia.

All these states have different makeup. They're very Trumpy in terms of their voting base, as is Nebraska, which also has a primary. So we'll see what happens. Also, sort of different factors at play here.

Not just Trump. Sometimes also local issues. You see Joe Manchin, of course, switching sides and backing the Republican here. So we'll see what happens.

I don't have a crystal ball as to who's going to win this race. But again, the power of Trump is real, and we'll see how much it matters.

BASH: And it's a dynamic that we're going to see not just in West Virginia but in Nebraska on the gubernatorial race. Three Republicans according to polls right now show they're neck and neck. Businessman Charles Herbster, former University of Nebraska regent Jim Pillen, and State Senator Brett Lindstrom.

So Trump is backing Charles Herbster, who side note, is also accused by several women of touching them inappropriately, when he denies.

KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I think that's part of the element and it crosses any place where Donald Trump is playing. There's a couple factors at play. We know he has enormous influence with the base. However, we have also seen candidates who have characteristics that are kind of like Donald Trump, perhaps this person is facing these accusations in Nebraska, who have not been able to overcome liabilities the way that Donald Trump was able to overcome every liability.

No matter what you threw at Donald Trump, it was Teflon. He powered right through. That hasn't always been true for these candidates even when they have Trump backing. There's going to be interesting tests here to see where and how candidates actually diverge from what Donald Trump wants in both the positive and in the negative.

I think in West Virginia, particularly interesting case because you do have politicians there who have shown, Joe Manchin, chief among them, that they can resist national winds, right? And so if Manchin endorsed the non-Trump candidate, he endorsed a Republican, crossed the aisle to do it. If there's a candidate who can break the mold, that's going to tell us something about the Republican Party and about our politics.

BASH: So Jonah is the Republican here, who made your --


BASH: Conservative, thank you. Made your views quite known on where you fall on this fault line.

GOLDBERG: Yeah, look, the striking thing to me is that there is not -- I mean, I suppose if you brought out an electron microscope, you could find some ideological or philosophical reason for these endorsements.

HUNT: Really? I question that.

GOLDBERG: Parts per billion. But look, McKinley is a conservative in every conceivable way. You know, and yes, he voted for an infrastructure bill, but there's a long tradition in West Virginia for voting for bringing home the bacon. That can't stand against him.

Trump's endorsements are almost entirely based on cult of personality, loyalty to the big lie stuff, and winnability. He's actually been honest about this. He says I want to pick people who are going to win so it looks good for picking winners.

That's not a rigorous ideological litmus test, right? So I think for now, in primaries, Trump's power is very strong. Especially in the states we have seen so far, because the cult of personality stuff is at its strongest. His endorsements actually matter there.

So far, these have been essentially states like the Democratic primary in New York City, where the winner of the primary is going to get elected. And we'll see --

BASH: The primary is the actual election.

GOLDBERG: Going forward, a much more difficult -- things get more difficult to predict about how much power he actually has.

BASH: Joe Kennedy -- did you want to say something about this?

JOE KENNEDY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: About West Virginia, oddly enough. Having a Democrat comment on West Virginia, always a danger, particularly as votes are cast as we speak.

But you put up the slide showing how much Trump's margin of victory was on election night. This is a Trump state. It's not necessarily a conservative state. You still have a Democratic senator there, and you have a man that is a Republican governor but ran as a Democrat when he won.

You have also got a dire need for infrastructure investment. So part of the question is actually from my perspective, it's interesting this is a close race given the fact that you have so much need there, and a candidate that has long history in the state.

BASH: It is because of the personality that you guys were all talking about.

Let's turn to the president, the current president. Joe Biden talking today about inflation and about what he said were his plans to tackle inflation. What we heard for the most part was the term ultra MAGA agenda. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fact is congressional Republicans, not all of them, but the MAGA Republicans, are counting on you to be as frustrated by the pace of progress, which they have everything -- they have done everything they can to slow down. How well are we going to sleep at night knowing that every five years, MAGA Republicans, if they're still Republican, as I said, this is not your father's Republican Party.

I never expected the ultra MAGA Republicans who seem to control the Republican Party now to have been able to control the Republican Party. I never anticipated that happening.


BASH: It's like classic political playbook. You think I'm bad. What about the other guy? Is it going to work?

KENNEDY: Look, I think drawing that contrast between what President Biden has delivered in his agenda so far, particularly when it comes to infrastructure and COVID relief, versus what, reminding Americans what it was like under the past four years of Donald Trump, cabinet secretary after cabinet secretary is running away from former President Trump. I think the American public will, too.

HENDERSON: Listen, I know Democrats like this. I talk to Democratic pollsters doing focus groups. They think this is a good idea to go after MAGA. The problem is a lot of Democratic voters understand from their point

of view that Republicans aren't great, MAGA is not great, but what the question is, what are Democrats going to do and what are Democrats going to fight for? That second part is where I think this administration and other Democrats have a problem.

BASH: Is it going to work with swing voters who call themselves conservatives if not Republicans like you?

GOLDBERG: I think that depends entirely on what Republicans do. I don't think Biden can do this messaging. It depends on how much Republicans overreach or miscalculate.

HUNT: And, briefly, Dana, I mean, you saw that speech. You watched how President Biden delivered this message. It's not exactly -- I mean, the words are strong, but the delivery --

HENDERSON: It's not him, right?

HUNT: Do you really believe him? I mean, I think that's the challenge for this White House.

BASH: Okay, everybody. Thank you so much. Great discussion.

And if you would like to join CNN journalists discussing America's most pressing issues, the conversation is happening at Citizen by CNN. Tomorrow's topic is midterm primaries. Register to join now at I'll be there with some of my colleagues.

And up next, human remains discovered as the water drops at America's largest reservoir. The connections, the findings could have to Vegas mafia groups. Yep, you're going to want to stay around for that one.



BASH: In our national lead, they're not sleeping with the fishes anymore. A second set of human remains were found in Nevada's Lake Mead. It comes as water levels are plunging to historic lows due to a mega drought.

CNN's Nick Watt reports from Lake Mead where investigators are trying to determine how and when the bodies got there.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lake Mead is shrinking. An omen of an uncertain future as climate change bites and as that water level lowers, grizzly discoveries from a dark past.

Just a short drive from Sin City out here in the wilderness, this past Saturday, May 7th, human skeletal remains spotted at a popular recreation spot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You second guess bringing your kids out here anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I want to leave.

WATT: Less than a week earlier, Sunday, May 1st, another human body in a rusty barrel in the mud.

LT. RAY SPENCER, HOMICIDE UNIT, LAS VEGAS METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT: That is definitely and clearly a homicide investigation.

WATT: Because in that decomposing body, they found a gunshot wound.

SPENCER: We believe the incident occurred in the late 1970s to early '80s. And we're basing that upon footwear and clothing that the victim was found wearing. And we know that that footwear and clothing was sold at Kmart in the late -- mid to late 1970s.

WATT: Back in those days, Las Vegas was a gangster's paradise that inspired a cinematic staple, remember "Casino"?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Meeting in the middle of the desert always made me nervous. It's a scary place.

WATT: Dead bodies in trunks, shallow graves, cement boots.

DANNY MINOR, PODCASTER, THE PROBLEM SOLVER: We're assuming mafia, assuming everything because it's Vegas.

WATT: These two retired Vegas cops, now podcast hosts, are offering $5,000 to any diver who finds another body.

DAVID KOHLMEIER, PODCASTER, THE PROBLEM SOLVER: I feel, you know, just interesting to kind of close out some cases or identify some people that are missing persons.

WATT: So the body in the barrel that was found was found right here when it was dumped decades ago, it would have been under a lot of water. This would have been somewhere near the middle of Lake Mead. So a safe, submerged secret. Not anymore. This is now had shoreline.

So detectives from Vegas are now faced with a decades-old murder, a vast crime scene, and right now, very little to go on, beyond those '70s shoes.

SPENCER: In any homicide investigation, the first part of the investigation is obviously we have to identify the victim. And that's what we're trying to do at this point.


WATT (on camera): So two bodies found in just a little over a week. The body in the barrel now a homicide investigation, the skeleton found this past weekend, detectives do not suspect foul play.

Listen, there are accidents out here on the lake. It is huge, deep. It was deep. The water is cold, it's windy. Accidents do happen out here. Now, police also believe they are going to find more bodies here

because there is no end in sight to that mega drought that's causing this water level to fall.


You know, maybe 25 years ago, the water was probably nearly up at the level where I'm standing right now. Today, look at it -- Dana.

BASH: That's very telling in so many ways. Thank you so much for that really fascinating report -- Nick Watt.

And up next, could a third person have helped a couple on the run escape police?

Stay with us.


BASH: Police think a separate person may have booked the motel room Vicky and Casey White were staying in while they were on the run. The sheriff says they couldn't themselves because they didn't have IDs. Police say when the couple was found yesterday, they had several weapons in their possession along with several wigs and $29,000 in cash.

Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.