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The Lead with Jake Tapper

U.S. Inflation Slowed Last Month; Prices Still Sky-High; Cost Of Airfare Has Jumped 33 Percent Since Last April; Democrats' National Abortion Rights Bill Fails In Senate; Trump-Backed Candidates Wins In W.V.; Loses In Nebraska; Surveillance Video Shows Russian Forces Shooting Civilians; Ukraine To Stop Transporting Some Russian Gas To Europe; CDC: 40% Of COVID Deaths In January And February Were Among Vaccinated People; Lufthansa Apologizes For Turning Away Jewish Passengers, After Only Some Broke Rules. Aired 5-6pm ET

Aired May 11, 2022 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And leading this hour, the cost of living. For the first time in months high prices start to ease with a new report today showing annual inflation is up 8.3 percent compared to last month's 8.5 percent rise. But change likely will not be noticeable for millions of Americans who are still just trying to get by.

And as CNN's Jeremy Diamond reports, President Biden admits inflation is still unacceptably high even as the White House tries to find a positive spin on the new data.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From a family farm in Illinois --

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Perhaps (ph) you're still driving.

DIAMOND (voice-over): -- President Biden taking aim at the top challenges confronting his presidency, rising prices and the war in Ukraine.

BIDEN: Right now, America is fighting on two fronts. At home, its inflation and rising prices, abroad, it's helping Ukrainians defend their democracy and feeding those who are left hungry around the world.

DIAMOND (voice-over): As Russia's invasion strains the global food supply, contributing to already rising food prices at home, President Biden announcing steps to boost domestic food production, doubling federal investment in domestic fertilizer production, expanding access to insurance for farmers who plant a second crop and giving farmers' access to new technologies to reduce their dependence on costly fertilizers.

BIDEN: I stand here today to thank American farmers who are the breadbasket of democracy.

DIAMOND (voice-over): Biden speaking amid an early sign inflation may be slowing, news Biden greeted cautiously.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you make of the new inflation numbers out today?

BIDEN: They're going down. Got a lot more to go down.

DIAMOND (voice-over): Prices rose by 8.3 percent compared to last year, according to the latest consumer price index, down from the 8.5 percent annual increase in March. And from March to April, prices increase at their slowest rate since last summer, rising just 0.3 percent. But inflation remains near a 40-year high with the prices of gas used cars and food still well above last years, cranking up political pressure on the President.

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

DIAMOND (voice-over): Republicans continuing to hammer Biden over inflation.

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA), MINORITY WHIP: So the gas prices are higher today than they were a few weeks ago. Families are paying over $150 in many cases to fill their vehicle and they're angry about it. This is an embarrassment beyond what any developed country in the world has seen. And it's all because Joe Biden and the incompetent people running in his administration have gotten us to crisis after crisis.


DIAMOND: And, Jake, while the White House is obviously happy to see the pace of inflation slowing in this latest report, you saw President Biden there pretty cautious as he greeted this news telling me that look, it's got to keep coming down even though these numbers are starting to come down. That's because the President doesn't want to be seen as celebrating this even as those prices across the country remains so high. He knows this is a big issue coming at the forefront for these November midterms. Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jeremy Diamond reporting live for us from outside Chicago, Illinois. Thank you so much.

Joining us to help break down and understand these economic numbers, former Reagan Economic Adviser and Trump 2016 Campaign Advisor, Arthur Laffer. And Betsey Stevenson, the former Chief Economist at the Department of Labor and member of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Obama.

Arthur Laffer, let me start with you. So the new data is both good and bad. Our chief business correspondent said this morning, the fire is still burning, but the flames aren't quite as big as they were. Should we feel optimistic or pessimistic today, do you think?

ARTHUR LAFFER, FORMER REAGAN ECONOMIC ADVISER: Well, this month's increase was very low. In fact, I think it was the lowest since January of 2021. So, it's a very nice monthly number. But if you look at last month's number, it was the highest month ever, it's going back as far as the eye can see.

So you've got the highest month last month, the lowest month this month. So you've got all this contradictory if you look at the core inflation, which some people like to look at more than just the CPI, the core inflation was up a little bit from last month. So, all of these numbers really don't give us a clearer picture of what's happening. But the administration should be pleased by the monthly number.

TAPPER: And Betsy, one thing Americans know is that pretty much everything they're trying to do or buy keeps getting more expensive. Gas for your car is up more than 43 percent from this time last year, buying a used car up nearly 23 percent, food up more than 9 percent, shelter, rent a huge part of any individual or family budget 5.1 percent, more expensive than last April. The rising cost of rent in particular caught my eye. That's a really big deal, right?

BETSY STEVENSON, FORMER MEMBER, PRES. OBAMA'S COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: Yes. I mean, look, families are definitely feeling inflation. I think that's really important thing to acknowledge.

You know, there's an interesting though, juxtaposition between what families care about and what, you know, the Fed is looking at, what macroeconomists are looking at. Families care a lot about the price of gas and the price of food. And then, you know, macroeconomists like to strip those out. That's what we call core inflation, because those things tend to be really volatile.


But that's what families look at every day. Every day, you know, they're going and get gas or they buying food and they're seeing these prices tick up and it's frustrating. I totally understand that. But what we did see this month was we didn't see the same kind of increase. In April, as Arthur Laffer said, as we saw in March, if we keep getting numbers like April, it's getting better. And I think that's the real hopeful side.

You know, what economists are worried about is not what we saw on today's report, because I think today's report we start to see things getting a little bit better. But is there a risk of future inflation on the horizon that comes as consumers start to want to get out more, get over COVID and they want to purchase more services, they want to get on those airplanes, they want to go on vacation, they want to go out to dinner. And the fear is that we can't hire workers to meet that demand. We're going to see inflation in places we haven't seen it.

So far, we've been seeing it in food, shelter, but we haven't been seeing it in a lot of other services, like medical care, like education, like leisure and hospitality. But this month, we saw a big increase in airfare prices. And you know, that doesn't bode well for the summer.

TAPPER: Yes. Let's talk about that, Arthur, because the cost of airfare, that number just really --


TAPPER: -- jumped out at me right now. Right now, plane tickets cost about 33 percent more than they did a year ago, 33 percent.

LAFFER: I know.

TAPPER: That's a huge bump. What's driving that?

LAFFER: Well, that's all driving and all the combination of all these things is because they raised their fares by one time, and then that's a larger month., it's not continuous. But when you look at these numbers, Jake, if I may, you know, we know that the next two months will see a diminution of the pressure on increasing inflation, because the months we're dropping off the index are very high months.

But then in the next three months, right, leading up to the election, the numbers that are dropping off the index are very low numbers, which means that you can really expect inflation numbers to rise sharply coming into the election. That is the thing that would worry me most if I were the president and the Democrats today, you know. Your food and gasoline and energy and airfares, and all of that can bop around a lot. But things like rents don't, they rise continuously. And rent increases I think are 30 percent of this index, and they just been rising straight up, going straight up.

Now, these volatile items can move about, but things like rent and other things just don't change very much. So I think the administration does have a problem long term as to the consequences.

TAPPER: All right, Arthur Laffer and Betsey Stevenson, thanks to both you. Really appreciate it.

Coming up, what some states are bracing for now after the leak of that draft Supreme Court decision which would overturn Roe v Wade. Plus, a new CNN analysis shows just how many people have died from COVID even after being vaccinated, and the difference that booster shots made. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, moments ago the democratic led bill aimed at preserving access to abortion nationwide failed in the Senate. As expected all Republicans and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin oppose the bill. Now states are taking matters into their own hands.

As the fate of Roe v Wade continues to hang in the balance, some states are preparing to implement total bans on abortion, others are passing laws to protect abortion rights and preparing for an influx of out of state patients. But as CNN's Ed Lavandera reports for us, the tensions and the legal battles are expected from coast to coast.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE) ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If the Supreme Court strikes down Roe v Wade, it will cement America's political fault lines in a way not seen in more than 50 years. Colorado State Representative Dafna Michaelson Jenet says she's bracing for a post Roe v Wade world. Her own experience makes her fear what will happen.

DAFNA MICHAELSON JENET, (D) COLORADO STATE HOUSE: Safe and legal abortion should be available to the individual who needs it and understand that taking away abortion rights and abortion services and abortion care puts women's lives at risk, period.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The Democratic lawmaker says she was 20 weeks pregnant when her baby's heartbeat stopped. She says she was sent to an abortion clinic.

JENET: I was already bleeding and my doctor was afraid that I could hemorrhage and die. What I think is important about my story and that people don't understand is that abortion care is a part of pregnancy care.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The leak Supreme Court draft opinions suggest abortion rights will be left to individual states. If that happens, the landscape of abortion access will become a sporadic patchwork of different laws.

This is what the country would look like according to analysis by the Guttmacher Institute, a group supporting abortion rights. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have laws protecting abortion rights, but at least 26 states are ready or will likely move to outlaw abortion access. Thirteen of those states have so called trigger laws designed to immediately ban abortions if Roe v Wade is overturned.

(on camera): We're going to have this patchwork of different states, different laws, different standards. Are you comfortable with that?

THREESA SADLER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, RAFFA CLINIC: I would love for there to be all states where abortion didn't exist in our country. I realized that's not where we're headed.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Threesa Sadler is the director of UN East Texas clinic offering counseling and medical services to pregnant women, offering alternatives to abortion. She says she was inspired to do this work because when she was 19 she had an abortion, a choice she regrets. Last year, Texas lawmakers passed a law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.


SADLER: The women that we're seeing, they seem more panicked and angry because there is a shorter timeframe.

LAVANDERA (on camera): How much more panicked and scared are these women going to be when it's illegal?

SADLER: We've never lived in that world. What we see is a lot of our women, once that is decided to be illegal, it goes off the table for them. Their rule followers, for lack of a better word. So if abortion is not an option, it isn't an option in her head. And so, I think my hope is that some of that panic goes away.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): In the States with trigger laws, abortion access will also look very different. Five states have different versions of laws that would allow abortions in cases of rape, incest or if the life of the mother is in danger. Eight states will only allow abortions in cases where the life of the mother is in danger. But all of this will likely have one clear effect for states where abortion will remain legal.

JENET: We're going to have a lot of people traveling to Colorado to be able to get that safe legal abortion from all the states that surround us that do not have safe and legal abortion.


LAVANDERA: And Jake, advocates on both sides say that they also anticipate that this Supreme Court decision could very well open up a Pandora's Box for new laws that might be needed in the future. And so questions about exactly how would the determination of a woman's life been in danger because of pregnancy, would there be efforts to curtail that or control how those decisions are made? And Threesa Sadler talks about -- we talked about with her, would there be questions about these clinics that offer abortion alternative counseling, would they be required to report women who come in asking for counseling? So these are all the types of questions that so many of these advocates are bracing for.

TAPPER: All right, Ed Lavandera, thank you so much.

Let's discuss this all with CNN Political Commentator, David Urban and CNN Political Analyst Kirsten Powers.

Kirsten let me start with you. What's your reaction to Ed Lavandera's piece right there where you talked about -- you heard people talking about preparing for a post-world in Texas?

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, USA TODAY: Well, I mean, I think it's important that, you know, he was quoting somebody talking about abortion being part of pregnancy care. I think it's something that a lot of people don't realize that it's actually an abortion if somebody has a miscarriage, for example, and needs to have the fetus removed from their body. And in some cases, if it isn't done right away, it actually can endanger their health or even their life.

So, this is a very complex issue, and it really does. If it is made illegal, it will put women's lives at risk. And so, I think that that's why you see even a lot of people who personally identify as being prolife can recognize that there is a reason to have abortion legal and for that decision to be made by doctors and the woman not by, you know, legislature or the Supreme Court.

TAPPER: David, today, House Republican leaders Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise refused to answer questions about whether or not they would support a nationwide abortion ban if Republicans win back control of the House, and Roe v. Wade, is overturned.

They said it was a hypothetical. It's not a hypothetical. I mean, both of those things appear likely to happen. Shouldn't there at least be some transparency about what Republicans intend to do here?

DAVID URBAN, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER, TRUMP 2016 CAMPAIGN: There was, they're not going to answer the question, Jake, right? They're going to let -- Republicans believe that these issues should be decided at the state level.

And I think both, you know, Representative Scalise and McCarthy should have just clearly answered that and said, look, this is our belief, we believe it's -- these issues are best decided by the states and that's what we feel. I think that's their viewpoint. I don't know why they didn't answer straightforward.

TAPPER: Kirsten, switching gears to the --

POWERS: Well, probably because it's not what they believe. I'm sorry, can I address that?

TAPPER: Well, go ahead. Continue.

URBAN: Sure.

POWERS: I mean, I think that --

TAPPER: Please.

POWERS: Yes, I think the reason they didn't answer it is because I don't think that that's what they believe. Mitch McConnell said just a couple of days ago that if the votes were there, meaning, if the votes were in the Senate, that having a nationwide abortion ban was possible. I mean, that's Mitch McConnell. So --

URBAN: Well, Kirsten, if you read his whole statement, listen to it.

POWERS: I did read it. I did read his whole statement.

URBAN: Yes, it was a hypothetical saying, hey, anything's possible, it's about votes. I mean, McConnell is a vote banner.

POWERS: No, that's not what he said. Don't gasp (ph) like me. Don't gasp at me.

URBAN: I'm not -- oh, come on.

POWERS: That is not what he says. Yes, you are.


POWERS: He said quite clearly, if the votes are there and he was -- when he says if the votes are there, he's talking about the Senate, and he said he wouldn't nuke the filibuster for it, so if the votes are there, a nationwide ban is possible. That's not a hypothetical. I mean, it's hypothetical in the sense that the bill needs to be there. [17:20:14]

URBAN: Kirsten, I don't -- I think there's -- I think if you say the House and Senate Republican control.

POWERS: But if the votes are there --

TAPPER: Kirsten, one at a time. Guys, let's just do one at a time.

Kirsten, finish your thought. And then David, go ahead.

POWERS: No, I mean, I'm just saying that's what he said. So -- and so, I don't know -- I don't even -- it's hypothetical only in the sense that he's saying he would need to have the votes.

URBAN: I's pretty sure I can predict that a Republican House and Senate will not enact a nationwide ban on abortion.

TAPPER: Let's switch to last night's primary.


TAPPER: Do you want -- can I just -- let me just talk about the primaries.

POWERS: No. No, no, Jake. No. Yes. OK.

TAPPER: Do you want to continue about this? It's fine with me, whichever you want, Kirsten.

POWERS: No, no, no, it's your show.


POWERS: No, let's talk about the other stuff, it's fine.

TAPPER: No, I know it's an important issue. This is going to continue.


TAPPER: They haven't yet overturn Roe v. Wade. We anticipate they will and we're going to continue talking about this. But I do want to talk about the primaries if that's OK, because it seemed to be a mixed bag last night --


TAPPER: -- for Trump's candidates. His pick for the House of Representatives in West Virginia, there was a Republican against Republican primary. Congressman Alex Mooney, he won.

In Nebraska, however, Trump's candidate Charles Herbster, lost the nomination. He was running for governor. He was under a cloud because a lot of allegations against him for allegedly groping, once that he denied.

What's your takeaway Kirsten from Trump's endorsement power right now?

POWERS: Well, I mean, if you look at it, I think you also have to throw J.D. Vance into the mix. And so, he had Trump's endorsement and he won. So, you know, I would say so far, Trump's doing pretty well.

We don't -- but we can't say until we see a few more primaries coming up. Like in Pennsylvania, for example, he's endorsed, you know, Dr. Oz. let's see how he does and then a few more primaries, and I think we can draw more of a conclusion. But right now, it does seem that he's made a difference for some candidates, including candidates that had some pretty heavy hitters on their side. In West Virginia had Senator Manchin and had the governor, so it's not like it was just some random person.

TAPPER: And David, let's look to Tuesday to Pennsylvania. You're in my home commonwealth. Trump's endorsed Dr. Oz as Kirsten is. You are personal friends with Dave McCormick, who is also one of the competitors there. What do you think is going to happen? Trump's endorsement, do you think it will ultimately win out?

URBAN: So interestingly, Jake, you know, I think in Pennsylvania, you're seeing -- what you're seeing play out right now is Trump's endorsement didn't really help Dr. Oz. He got a little bit of a bounce initially after Dr. Oz's endorsement. And then the president came to Pennsylvania, and really went after David McCormick personally and, you know, didn't really move the numbers that much.

And interestingly, you know, the person that's surging the polls isn't Dr. Oz, but Kathy Barnette is a, you know, another conservative Republican candidate on the ballot. So, I think, you know, Trump's endorsement does matter in certain cases, but I think it also -- you know, people are smart, they look at the candidates, right, candidates matter, not just Donald Trump's endorsement, right?

Herbster is a bad candidate. He was a bad -- he wasn't going to win whether Trump endorsed him or anybody endorsed him. He was, you know, he was riddled with problems. And so, no better candidate won there. We're going to see that in Idaho, I think, you know, Trump's endorsed candidate for governor is going to lose. Obviously, you know, David Perdue, I think it's going to lose in Georgia.

People -- you know, people are smart when they go to the polls. So, while Donald Trump is persuasive, and I think his endorsements dispositive. It makes a big difference in some of these House races that can be swayed by, you know, a couple 1000 votes here and there. But when you run into statewide race, you know, it's a completely different ball of wax.

J.D. Vance was definitely helped by Trump. It was a, you know, crowded primary.


URBAN: You know, just remember, you know, J.D. Vance, 68 percent of Republicans in Ohio didn't vote for J.D. Vance. So it's not like he, you know --

TAPPER: Right.

URBAN: -- Trump's endorsement resulted in some overwhelming, you know, crushing blow by J.D. He's a great guy, did a great job. But you know, Trump's endorsement is very important, but it's not dispositive.

TAPPER: Right. All right, David Urban and Kirsten Powers, thanks to both you. Appreciate it.

Coming up, we've seen the aftermath of Russian attacks in Ukraine. But new video obtained by CNN shows one of the attacks as it happens. That's next. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Topping our world lead now, Ukraine reports that its forces that fried some villages around Kharkiv amid signs of a Russian retreat in that area. Recapturing the battered area would be a significant accomplishment for Ukrainian forces. However, there remains signs that the Russians are gathering nearby for a counter offensive.

We're also getting new details of the Russians horrifying behavior in areas near key that they want to occupied, but since left, we need to warn you that this report by CNN's Sara Sidner contains pictures that you will likely find disturbing.


SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is a stark example of a potential war crime perpetrated by Russian forces, an example the world has not yet seen, Russian soldiers shooting two civilians in the back. CNN obtained the surveillance video taken from this vehicle dealership that sits along the main highway to Kyiv. The video is from the beginning of the war as Russians tried and failed to shell their way to the capital. The fight along this road was clearly fierce. But what happened outside this business was not a battle between soldiers or even soldiers and armed civilians. It was a cowardly, cold blooded killing of unarmed men by Russian forces. The soldiers show up and begin breaking in inside of a guard shack two Ukrainian men prepare to meet them. We track down the men's identities. One is the owner of the business whose family did not want him named, the other was hired to guard it.

YULI PLYATS, FATHER KILLED BY RUSSIANS (through translation): My father's name is Leonid Oleksiyovych Plyats.

SIDNER: His daughter Yuli wanted the world to know his name and what the Russians did to him. Both civilians both unarmed, we know this because the video shows them greeting and getting frisked by the Russian soldiers, and then casually walking away, neither seemed to suspect what was about to happen. That is when a member of the civilian fighting force who talked to the man a couple of days before the attack, told CNN, he did not want to be identified for security reasons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): We came there earlier, warn people to leave that place. We also hope for the humanity of Russian soldiers. But unfortunately, they have no humanity.

SIDNER: You see the two men walking in the shadows toward the camera behind them the soldiers they were just talking to emerge. A few more steps and their bodies dropped to the ground, does shoots up from the bullets hitting the pavement. The soldiers have opened fire. Minutes later, the guard Leonid need gets up, limping but alive. He manages to get inside the guard booth to make a call to the local guys for help. This is one of those guys, a Ukrainian truck driver turned civilian soldier.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): First of all, we felt a big responsibility. We knew we should go there because a man needed our help. He was still alive.

SIDNER: He's the commander of a ragtag team of civilians who took up arms to fight for Ukraine and tried to save the men. When the guard called them, he explained what transpired with the soldiers. He said the soldiers asked who they were and asked for cigarettes then let them go before shooting them in the back. When his man finally got to Leonid, he had lost massive amounts of blood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): One man from our group went there and the guy was still alive. He gave him bandages and tried to perform first aid but the Russian started shooting.

SIDNER: They tried to fight back but were unsuccessful. They didn't have the firepower to save their countrymen.

(On camera): Yuli, have you seen the video?

PLYATS (through translation): I can't watch it now. I will save it to the cloud and leave it for my grandchildren and children. They should know about this crime and always running but who are neighbors are.

SIDNER: Her neighbors to the north, these Russian soldiers show just how callous they are drinking, toasting one another and looting the place minutes after slaying the two men.

(On camera): What were the last words that you remember he said to you?

PLYATS (through translation): Bye-bye, kisses, say hello to your boys.

SIDNER: Her boys will be left with a terrible lasting memory, the death of their grandfather now being investigated as a war crime by prosecutors.


SIDNER: Yuli says her mother actually encouraged her to speak with us, because she wanted to see justice for the death of her father. We do now know we talked to prosecutors who say they are looking at this video and they are investigating this officially as a potential war crime. Jake.

TAPPER: Sara Sidner in Kyiv, Ukraine as the alarms go off, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

With us now is former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor. Bill, Mr. Ambassador, thanks for joining us. U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines just warned Congress that as this war drags on, and it's likely to become, "more unpredictable and escalatory," do you agree?

WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: I do, Jake. It's hard to say what's going through Putin's mind, no one really knows. He's got no good options. He demonstrated that that famous speech a couple of days ago on Victory Day where he didn't announce doubling down, he didn't announce standing down with some victories. He didn't have any victory. He was worried about doubling down and calling up the reserves because that would expose the lie that he's not really fighting. So he doesn't have good options and so no one really knows what he does.


TAPPER: DNI Haines also warned that there are increasing chances in her view that Putin could impose martial law in Russia and reorient industrial production to sustain his war effort. Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, he denies that but how stable are things in Russia or how unstable?

TAYLOR: Very unstable again, he's probably worried. President Putin is probably worried he's got somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 Russian soldiers who've been killed in Ukraine. We've seen some of those Russian soldiers killing civilians just down and horrifying. But 10,000 to 20,000 have been killed and are going back for burial in places around Russia. So there's discontent. There's real problems. There's economic problems caused by the sanctions. So Putin doesn't have good options and the martial law will probably be destabilizing rather than stabilizing.

TAPPER: Peskov also said today that Russia is ready to take over the head of southern region of Ukraine if that's what the people there, "want." Obviously, Russian forces occupied much of the area, they've installed their own puppet leaders. How can any request by those puppet leaders to join Russia possibly be seen by anyone else in the world as a freely made decision?

TAYLOR: Clearly not. There's no way that it will be seen as a as a freely made decision. It's exactly what you said, if they do that. And they tried to do that, and they've done it before. That's what they did in Donbass. They didn't Donetsk and Luhansk. What they did in Crimea, we know that they've done that before and they're likely to try that again. And just like in Crimea and Donetsk, Luhansk, no one believes them. No one accepts what they're trying to do. The Ukrainians will never give up claim to those lands. It's Ukrainian land.

TAPPER: Let's start with the economic aspects of the war. The Ukrainians today said they've been forced to suspend shipments of Russian natural gas going to Europe through pipelines that run through Ukraine complaining by -- complaining the interference by Russian forces as endanger the system stability and safety. Excuse me, how much trouble could this cause in Europe if it continues?

TAYLOR: Well, fortunately, Jake, it's spring. Unfortunately, that means that the heating season is now over. So demand for that gas goes down is going down. And there are a good number, a good amount of reserves of gas to take them through the summer into the fall, they should be resupplying, replenishing those reserves. So that will be an issue that they'll have to take a look at. But the Ukrainians know that these pipelines go through areas that the Russians control, that the Russians occupied, and they are bleeding off some of this gas. So the Ukrainians are saying they'll move the gas, but through a different set of pipelines, if not controlled by the Russian.

TAPPER: Ambassador Bill Taylor, thanks so much.

Coming up next, the staggering loss of American lives to a single crisis that started well before COVID, stay with us.



TAPPER: And our Health Lead, losing a life to overdose every five minutes. That's how the top Biden administration official in charge of the nation's drug policy describing devastating and alarming new data from the CDC showing that U.S. drug overdose deaths set a new record high. For the second year in a row nearly 108,000 Americans suffered a fatal overdose last year, that's an almost 50% increase from 2019. The year before the pandemic started.

Now, most of the deaths about two-thirds involve the synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, overall drug overdoses killed about a quarter as many Americans last year as did COVID.

Also, in our Health Lead, more vaccinated people are dying of COVID, according to CDC data, 40% of the COVID deaths in January and February, were for people considered fully vaccinated booster shots substantially lower the risk but 15% of deaths among vaccinated people in February were also among people who were vaccinated and booster.

Dr. Paul Offit joins me now, he's a member of the FDA's Vaccine Advisory Committee. Dr. Offit, the share of COVID deaths among vaccinated people has grown over time. Right now, we're seeing transmission rates tick up again. Should we be concerned about vaccine effectiveness going forward?

DR. PAUL OFFIT, MEMBER, FDA VACCINE ADVISORY COMMITTEE: Well, I think we should redefine what it means to be fully vaccinated. I think for those people who are over 65. This is a three dose vaccine, a three dose primary series. If you're over 12, and you have the kind of health problems to put you at risk for serious COVID, this is a three dose vaccine. I think the term booster has confusing people and the CDC is current definition of fully vaccinated really is two doses still, but I think this is a three dose vaccine with that third dose being given four to six months later, in certain groups to be truly protected against serious illness.

TAPPER: Why? Why does the CDC not update its definition, given the fact that it's so obvious that you need to have three vaccines, two plus the booster, in order to be as protected as possible?

OFFIT: Now, I think it's been confusing. It's true. I think if you ask Americans, what does it mean to be fully vaccinated? You get a lot of different answers. So I do think we need to be clear about this primary series and the goal of the vaccine is prevent serious illness. And I think when the vaccine first rolled out, two doses was highly protective against serious illness certainly for healthy people less than 50. But we've learned since then, that if you have comorbidities, we need to kind of health care problems that put you at risk and you're over 12 or certainly if you're over 65, it's a three dose primary series and that is what we have to, I think, make clear to the public because the word booster, I think, is confusing.


TAPPER: Does this data suggest to you that variant specific vaccines are needed? I know you're going to be discussing this with your colleagues on the FDA vaccine Advisory Committee next month.

OFFIT: Right, we're going to be discussing this on June 28, I think we have to define what the goal of the vaccine is. The goal of the vaccine is protection against serious illness. To date, independent of the variant, whether it's the Alpha variant or the Delta Variant, or the Beta variant and now the Omicron variant of the BA.2 variant, you are protected against serious illness. What happened with Omicron, or with the subsequent variants, like BA.2 or these BA.2 subvariants is you're not as well protected against mild illness. But that really isn't the goal of the vaccine.

I think right now, what you're seeing, in many ways is what you want to see, which is that you probably have about 90% population immunity between vaccination or natural infection and -- or both. So when you see cases rises, for example, they recently did in Philadelphia, what you don't see consequent to that is an increase in hospitalizations or ICU admissions, that's good. That's a vaccine that's doing what it's supposed to do, which is basically keeping people out of the hospital. So I think in terms of a variant specific vaccine, I think until we see a variant arise, which despite being vaccinated or naturally infected, or both, you still are at risk of serious disease, then I don't think we need a very specific vaccine until that variant comes up and it hasn't come up yet.

TAPPER: And finally, I have to ask this on behalf of all the frustrated parents of kids under five out there, they're still waiting for a vaccine for their little ones progress seems to be really, really at a slow pace. When can parents of kids under five expect this to be ready?

OFFIT: Right, so Moderna has already submitted for Emergency Use Authorization of to the FDA, and then -- that's a two dose vaccine. Pfizer is in the midst of a three dose trial. My understanding is it's likely that both vaccines will be considered sometime around mid-June.

TAPPER: All right, Dr. Paul Offit thanks so much, appreciate it.

A German airline is now apologizing after a group of Jewish passengers were not allowed to board their flight. Why not? That's next.



TAPPER: Now, to our other World Lead, more than 100 Jewish passengers were turned away at the gate from a Lufthansa flight in Germany. The German Airline says the decision came after some of the Jewish passengers had refused to comply with masking rules on a connecting flight. CNN's Alexandra Field looks at how this all played out in the airport.


ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A German airline, Lufthansa is apologizing a week after Orthodox Jewish passengers on a flight from New York's JFK Airport to Frankfurt, Germany were told they couldn't take their connecting flight to Budapest. The announcement that their tickets had suddenly been canceled made at the gate.

GATE AGENT: Due to an operational reason coming from flight from New York, all passengers here, we have to cancel you on this flights.


GATE AGENT: You know why it was?

PASSENGERS: We don't know. We don't know.

FIELD: The airline says, some people didn't follow mask rules on the previous flight, masks are still required by Lufthansa but they are not mandatory at Frankfurt Airport. But several Jewish passengers tell CNN that 100 to 150 Orthodox Jews were kept off the next flight, even those who did follow crew instructions, while other passengers were still allowed to board. In a statement about the May 4th flight, the airline now says Lufthansa regrets the circumstances surrounding the decision to exclude the affected passengers from the flight for which Lufthansa sincerely apologizes.

The Airline goes on to say, what transpired is not consistent with Lufthansa's policies or values. We have zero tolerance for racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination of any type.

Lufthansa now says, it's reviewing the facts and circumstances of that day. We regret that the large group was denied boarding rather than limiting it to be noncompliant guests.

Several Orthodox Jewish passengers tell CNN they didn't observe any problems during the flight from JFK. Yet the Airlines singled them out as a group. A widely shared video shows tensions escalating between one passenger and an airline employee at the Frankfurt Airport. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jewish people were the mess, who made the problems.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So Jewish people on the plane made of problems, so all Jews are bad for the flight (ph) for the day?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just for this flight.

FIELD: In a tweet, a German lawmaker Marlene Schonberger is calling for further investigation. If the reports are true, there must be consequences, excluding Jews from a flight because they were recognizable as Jewish is a scandal. I expect German companies in particular to be aware of anti-Semitism.

Lufthansa's CEO is now telling all employees there is no place for anti-Semitism, and internal review is underway into how decisions were made. But a spokesperson for the airline says no disciplinary action has been taken at this point. Jake.

TAPPER: Of course not, Alexandra Field, thanks so much. I appreciate it.

Coming up next, new plans announced today to fend off what's being called a floating time bomb. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our Earth Matters Series, how does one fix a floating time bomb? This is the FSO surfer, anchored off the coast of Yemen and it is at imminent risk of spilling a massive amount of the more than 1 million barrels of oil that it holds. U.N. officials say the solution is to transfer the oil off the ship over a period of four months today. They're launching a fundraising effort for the $80 million that will cost Yemen's Houthi rebels have controlled the ship since 2015 ceasing maintenance and allowing it to fall into disrepair.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the TikTok @JakeTapper. You can tweet the show @theleadcnn. If you ever miss an episode of the show, you know what you can do, you can listen to THE LEAD wherever you get your podcasts. Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer. He's in this SITUATION ROOM. I'll see you tomorrow.