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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Biden Visits Buffalo, Remembers The 10 Victims Of Supermarket Shooting: "Hate Will Not Prevail;" Democratic Senate Candidate About To Have Pacemaker Implanted, Voting Underway; Ukraine: Russians Not Stopping Mass Shelling Along Front Line; Millions Of Afghans Face Dire Levels Of Hunger And Poverty; Trump-Era Special Counsel Accuses Clinton Campaign Lawyer Of Trying To "Manipulate" FBI With Trump- Russia Tip. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired May 17, 2022 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Yes, I agree with that. And I can't confirm or deny whether or not any names we're looking at are on the list. My wife has sworn me to secrecy.
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Thanks for joining us today.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: -- in chief today.
THE LEAD starts right now.
Today, President Biden visiting the site of the racist massacre in Buffalo, New York, as we're learning troubling new details about the alleged gunman's plot.
Plus, don't get high on your own supply of propaganda. A warning from a former senior Russian officer on state TV in Russia.
And it is election night in America. Voting happening right now in several key states including the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, where the Republican Senate race is a true nail biter. We're now learning one candidate in these races is about to get a pacemaker implanted.
TAPPER: Good afternoon. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
We start with our national lead and President Biden this afternoon in Buffalo trying to comfort those who suffered the most from Saturday's attack at a supermarket targeted because it's in a predominantly Black neighborhood. The work of a racist domestic terrorist, killing ten innocent people, police say. The president spending time today with grief-stricken families.
Emergency first responders and community leaders, it was an emotional day but also one that included a call to action, with the president urging Americans to reject racist ideologies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Jill and I bring you this message from deep in our nation's soul. In America, evil will not win. I promise you. Hate will not prevail. And white supremacy will not have the last word. White supremacy is a poison. It's a poison.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: This comes as we're learning new details about the investigation and just how much planning went into the racist attack. We now know it was months in the making, with the suspect visiting the store three different times at least one day back in March. At one point, he was approached by a security guard.
In one social media post, he wrote at the time, I'm going to have to kill that security guard at Tops. I hope he doesn't kill me or even hurt me instantly. We're also learning that the killer considered attacking a church or an elementary school.
Brian Todd has our national lead now from Binghamton, New York, not far from where the shooting suspect lived in Conklin.
And, Brian, you have been digging into the suspect's past and talking to people who know him. Tell us what you're learning.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Jake. We've got new details this afternoon about the suspect's behavior in high school from those who knew him then. Plus, new information on the investigation from the local D.A. in his home county here in Broome County, New York, on the day that President Biden touched down in Buffalo.
TODD (voice-over): The president and first lady getting a face-to- face look at the grief and shock in Buffalo.
BIDEN: What happened here is simple and straightforward, terrorism. Terrorism. Domestic terrorism.
TODD: Their visit comes as new details emerge about the accused gunman. Social media posts detail Payton Gendron's interaction with investigators in June of 2021 following an ominous reference to murder-suicide. He made the threat while attending Susquehanna Valley High School in Conklin, New York.
We spoke to the district attorney of his home county about that. MICHAEL KORCHAK, BROOME COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: In an online class,
he said to a teacher he was contemplating a murder-suicide. The teacher followed up on that, and the suspect indicated that he was just kidding.
TODD: In a post, Gendron writes he was sent to the hospital for a mental evaluation, but it only lasted 15 minutes, quote, because I stuck with the story I was getting out of class and I just stupidly wrote it down. That's the reason I believe I'm still able to purchase guns. It was not a joke. I wrote that down because that's what I was planning to do.
Despite this incident, Gendron was allowed to buy firearms under federal law. The D.A. says it's hard to tell if he fell through the cracks.
KORCHAK: The school went through their protocol. And called the police, got the state police involved. New York state police spoke with him, transported him to a local hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. He was cleared and released.
TODD: Gendron put out a 180-page statement detailing a trove of fire arms he had, including an illegally modified military style rifle he allegedly used in Saturday's attack and a rifle he says his father bought for him. The document says he planned to use the rifle and a shotgun to continue targeting Black people elsewhere in Buffalo if he wasn't stopped at the supermarket.
LAKESHA DIVINE CHAPMAN, AUNT KILLED IN TOPS SUPERMARKET ATTACK: Blaming everyone for this happening and continuing to happen to our communities.
TODD: Police say the gunman shot four people in the parking lot, exchanged gunfire with a security guard, and shot more people in the store before surrendering. Tonight, we're also hearing more from Gendron's former classmates, many calling him a loner.
LUCY RAMIREZ-PATTERSON, BUFFALO SHOOTING SUSPECT'S FORMER CLASSMATE: He gave me a weird feeling in my stomach for some reason. I don't know why. I mean, he was nice, but he was really shy.
TODD: Did you sense that he might have been racist or did you sense that he was just maybe odd, strange, or creepy?
RAMIREZ-PATTERSON: Odd, mostly weird sometimes. I mean, I don't like to judge people, but that's the impression I got of him.
TODD: Was it his manner of speaking or the things that he said that gave you that impression?
RAMIREZ-PATTERSON: He didn't make eye contact with me when I talked. He looks around.
(END VIDEOTAPE) TODD: That district attorney for Broome County where we're standing would not comment when I asked him if the suspect's parents could be charged in this case. But he did say they are investigating the suspect's relationship with his family, with his teachers, and with other students. And he also said, Jake, that the family is being cooperative in this investigation -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Brian Todd in New York for us, thanks so much.
I want to go now to Reverend Denise Walden-Glenn. She knows all of the victims' families and had the awful task along with the police department of informing the families on Saturday night about the loss of their loved ones.
Thank you so much for joining us.
Let's start with President Biden's visit today. I know a lot of the families met privately with the president. You spent the day with the families too. What did the president's visit mean to the families and to the larger community?
REV. DENISE WALDEN-GLENN, HELPED POLICE INFORM VICTIMS' FAMILIES OF SHOOTING: Right now, I think that our community is just really in a place of hurting. I think that it was good of the president to show up, but I think that the question in people's mind was, where are we in understanding the crisis and the state of emergency that we're currently in in our city? And why does it seem like on some ends that we're in a state of emergency, but yet people are still expected to return the work, students are expected to return to school, and it's kind of almost feeling like no one is really acknowledging the horrific act that has happened and what it's done to this community on the ground?
So I think that people -- appreciate that he's here, but it's kind of like the now what, and what does that mean for us, and what does that mean for how the community is going to be cared for now that he's been here and seen things first-hand.
TAPPER: What do you think the city should do? You think that school should be delayed a week? You think work, there should be no work this week? What do people need in your view?
WALDEN-GLENN: I think that we need to treat this the way we would treat any other true crisis in our country, and declare we're in a state of emergency in Buffalo and give our families, give our community members, give the people who care for us time to truly wrap our minds around what just happened to us. People have not been able to process, people are sharing including myself, that we're numb and in auto pilot and just moving, trying to salvage what we feel is left of our lives right now in our community that we call home, when truly we feel ripped apart.
And right now, there just seems to be a lot of things moving and happening in our cities, but we're not getting the opportunity that we need to really process and take hold of what happened and figure out where we need to go from here and how do we start our own healing process.
TAPPER: I know you live right around the corner from Tops supermarket, which is an important place for the community. It's the only full-service grocery store in the neighborhood. Residents had to fight for years to get it built. Many residents have also told us how it was a social hub for the community.
Now, of course, it's closed. That has also got to be tough.
WALDEN-GLENN: I mean, that's more than tough, and again, like, even to hear that, to hear that it's the only supermarket in our area, it goes to speaking about the level -- how this is historic trauma. Historically, Buffalo is one of the most segregated cities in our nation. We have been fighting anti-blackness in our city and across our nation for a very long time. And these things have not been addressed.
And then we're doing something like sitting in the middle of a pandemic where people have already suffered so much loss, and are still trying to wrap their minds around that grief, and now we have seen such a heinous act of racism and hate come against our community in a way that has violated us, and yes, we think about the disparities, we think about our lack of food access, our lack of access to transportation, our lack of access to mental health services, and the deficit we're operating at, and again, we have to say how are people seeing where we really are in this moment and allowing us to vocalize what it is we need, and giving us the time that is needed to heal.
How is our district coming up with comprehensive ways of supporting our students before telling them to come back into the building?
How are they supporting the teachers that are caring for the students as they come back in the building and the administrators that are caring for the teachers? And so, this is a multi-layered issue and it's going to take time to put those things together and figure out, but the biggest thing is focusing on the people who have been closest to this act of terrorism that happened in our community. The people who are closest to this pain and what they need in this moment, and what they need is not to be asked to return to life as normal because there's nothing normal about the lives in Masten district in Buffalo, New York, right now.
TAPPER: Reverend Walden-Glenn, thank you so much for your time today. Appreciate it.
Coming up next, it's election day in America. Five states holding primaries including the key commonwealth of Pennsylvania where we're just learning the top Democratic candidate for Senate, according to polls, is about to get a pacemaker installed.
Plus, shocking criticism from a former Russian colonel appearing on Russian state TV. He warns things are likely going to get worse for Russia. Former CIA Director David Petraeus is my guest. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
TAPPER: We have breaking news for you in our politics lead. We're learning Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman who is the Democratic front-runner for the open Senate seat in the primary, is about to undergo a procedure to implant a pacemaker. Fetterman has been in the hospital since Friday after suffering what he described as a minor stroke.
On the Republican side of the race, there's been a tight race between conservative commentator Kathy Barnette, former hedge fund manager David McCormick, and TV doctor Mehmet Oz.
Let's bring in CNN's Jeff Zeleny who is in Newton, Pennsylvania, outside Dr. Oz's campaign headquarters.
And, Jeff, first, this is some pretty major news from the Fetterman campaign. What more are you learning about the lieutenant governor's condition?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Jake, it is definitely major news. The Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, he, of course, is running for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat here, has been in the hospital, as you said, since Friday, in Lancaster. He was headed to a campaign event. His wife noticed something wrong in his speech. He has been in the hospital since Friday.
We're just learning just a short time ago his campaign said he is going to undergo a procedure. Let's look at the statement that they are releasing, very scant information.
It says: John Fetterman is about to undergo a standard procedure to implant a pacemaker with a defibrillator. It should be a short procedure, the campaign says, that will help protect his heart and address the underlying cause of a stroke, atrial defibrillation, by regulating his heart rate and rhythm.
So that is something that is going to be happening shortly. As voting is still under way here in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a little less than four hours or so of voting, and he is still widely considered to be in the lead in the Democratic side of this Senate contest here. He's running against two other candidates who have largely been campaigning as this has all been going on.
But John Fetterman has been absent from the campaign trail. His ads are running on television. His wife has been urging voters to go to the polls today.
But, Jake, it certainly raises questions about him. He's a 52-year-old lieutenant governor of the state here who has been a popular figure in Democratic circles and is still widely considered to be the front- runner and indeed likely win this evening. But, of course, that raises questions about his health going forward in the general election campaign.
TAPPER: Yeah, we're going to talk to a cardiologist in a second about Lt. Governor Fetterman.
TAPPER: But let's talk about the Republican race now because Kathy Barnette, her quick rise has some Republicans worried that she is too unknown, too risky to win a general election. They argue she has not been properly vetted and, of course, it is just a matter of regard that she's trafficked in lies about the 2020 election as well as anti- gay and anti-Muslim bigotry.
What's the energy like inside her campaign today?
ZELENY: The energy is pretty strong, Jake, and it's in part because of those -- the lies that you were talking about. Her candidacy has been propelled by the questions about the legitimacy of the 2020 election, which of course, are unfounded. That is how she came to prominence inside the party and that's what has drawn a lot of the party's base behind her.
Now, it is a bit of an ironic twist, if you will, now former president Donald Trump is leading the charge, questioning her ability to be elected in a general election. He called into a rally for the candidate he's endorsed and supporting, Dr. Mehmet Oz, just last evening, saying she would be a risky choice, saying she has not been vetted. He used the word catastrophe if she were to win, but that is the current state of the Trump Republican Party, if you will, Jake, that this is exactly what has catapulted her to near the front of the pack.
Now there, is a question if she has peaked too soon or not. You can't go really more than a few moments without watching a negative ad against her from either the Oz campaign or David McCormick's campaign saying she's too risky of a choice. But, Jake, only the voters will know the answer to that. So, in the final less than four hours or so, Barnette supporters are energized. Other Republicans here, at least some of them, are concerned -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny in Pennsylvania for us, thanks so much.
Let's bring in CNN medical analyst, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, who was the long time cardiologist for former Vice President Dick Cheney who also had a pacemaker implanted, on Reiner's order.
So, Dr. Reiner, Fetterman's campaign just announced that he's going to be undergoing surgery to implant a pacemaker. We were told, I think it was yesterday, from his campaign that he had a minor stroke on Friday. How serious is this, do you think?
DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, hi, Jake. Let's unpack this.
First of all, wishing Lieutenant Governor Fetterman very well and a speedy recovery. So, we know that he had a stroke, likely as a result of the atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation is an irregular rhythm that affects the atrial chamber, sort of the top chambers of the heart.
And when those chambers sort of quiver and don't beat in concert with the ventricles, the lower chambers, blood can pool in the heart.
And if blood pools in the heart, it can clot. If a clot gets out of the heart, it can cause a stroke. It sounds like that's what happened to the lieutenant governor.
Atrial fibrillation can happen in people who have basically normal hearts. And it can happen to people who have damaged hearts.
The news today that Lieutenant Governor Fetterman is receiving a defibrillator, not just a simple pacemaker, but a defibrillator, raises concerns about the underlying cause of his atrial fibrillation, and it suggests his heart muscle is weak.
People who have had heart attacks in the past or who have what we call cardiomyopathies, diseases that weaken the heart muscle, can't actually have atrial fibrillation, and the association between placing this device now and his recent stroke suggests perhaps his heart disease is unfortunately a bit more extensive than has been disclosed.
TAPPER: They described it in the statement as he's about to undergo a standard procedure to implant a pacemaker with a defibrillator. Is it a standard procedure?
REINER: No, that's incorrect. Atrial defibrillation is exceedingly common. About 1 percent to 2 percent of the population probably has A- fib. That's about 3 million to 6 million people in this country.
Now, and it is sometimes treated by brief electrical shock under sedation to correct the rhythm. It is sometimes treated with drugs. It's very frequently and most commonly treated with a blood thinner.
But the placement of a defibrillator, I have one in my hand. This is what basically gets implanted under the skin, under the clavicle, connected to the heart via wires. This is reserved really for people who have a significant impairment in their heart function or it is sometimes placed in people who demonstrated to have a more ominous kind of heart rhythm.
So, my suggestion is unfortunately Mr. Fetterman's heart disease is a bit more extensive. That doesn't mean he can't recover and won't recover. The videos show him looking quite well. But this does show that he has established heart disease.
TAPPER: As you say, and we all echo it, we wish Lieutenant Governor Fetterman and his wife and family all the best in his recovery.
Dr. Jonathan Reiner, thank you so much.
Joining us is David Chalian. He's a CNN political director.
David, this is big news, Fetterman undergoing the surgery to implant a pacemaker. Does this, do you think, affect the race?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I mean, the answer is we don't really know. We'll see tonight. We know Fetterman had a big lead in the race, according to the vast majority of the polls, Jake, heading into tonight. But we'll see if this scrambled in any way, talking to Democrats in Pennsylvania, there's not been a sense that there's been dramatic movement in the race because of these last few days of him being sort of sidelined in the hospital.
I will say, listening to the doctor right now, it does seem incumbent upon the campaign and the candidate to share a lot more information with the public, especially if he does win tonight and is the nominee. They were rather opaque about this over the weekend, didn't even reveal he had the stroke until Sunday just after canceling events saying he wasn't feeling well.
So, as a nominee, if he does win tonight, Jake, I think it's going to be incumbent upon him to sort of share as much information as possible with the voters of Pennsylvania.
TAPPER: David, in the Republican Senate primary in Pennsylvania, we have Dr. Mehmet Oz, David McCormick, Kathy Barnette, are in a tight race.
Yesterday, former President Trump in an interview with "The Washington Post" reiterated his endorsement of Oz.
He said this of Barnette, quote: People don't know her. She hasn't been properly vetted. She ran for Congress fairly recently and she lost by about 20 points, unquote.
I have to say, in a lot of ways, and you heard Jeff talk about, like, Trump's big election lie as one of the things fueling Barnette's campaign. But beyond that, Barnette to me seems the more authentically Trumpy candidate between the three of them, in a lot of ways, positive ways and negative ways.
What do you think?
CHALIAN: Yeah. Well, there's no doubt that the base of her support is carved out from that sort of MAGA wing of the Republican Party that Trump gave birth to, Jake. You are absolutely right. She is authentically that.
What I find so interesting about the former president's statement there, he's trying to keep voters onboard with his chosen candidate, Mehmet Oz. He wants to score a victory through that endorsement as well. I wonder if indeed Barnette wins the primary tonight in this three-way contest now, does Trump sort of ignore everything he just said in the last 24, 48 hours about her and get behind her candidacy for the fall. One would imagine he probably would like to do that.
TAPPER: Yeah, and it wouldn't be the first time he had done something like that.
David Chalian, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
Top Pentagon officials are telling lawmakers today there have been close to 400 reports from military personnel of possible encounters with unidentified flying objects. What does the former head of the CIA think of that?
Well, we'll ask him next.
TAPPER: In tonight's world lead, a sign that Russia may be extending the range of its attacks in the war with Ukraine. I must warn you the videos may be disturbing. Crews racing to care for a 9-year-old child seriously injured in a missile strike in Donetsk. At least one person was also killed.
Officials say the strike also destroyed a five-story building and damaged a school in Donetsk. The town serves as a crucial hub for Ukraine's military, and the hospital there treats wounded soldiers. This as CNN gets an exclusive close-up look at what might be one of the biggest single defeats for the Russian military, finding destroyed Russian military vehicles littered across a field in eastern Ukraine, as well as the charred remains of Russian soldiers killed in the clashes last week.
With me now, retired four-star U.S. Army general and former CIA director, David Petraeus. He's also the chairman of the KKR Global Institute, which does own contracting firms, but we know General Petraeus does not work with those firms.
General, a few weeks ago, you told me the war was entering a pivotal moment and that Ukraine would start to counterattack and take background it lost. You saw the aftermath of this major defeat for Russian and an official in Kharkiv also says Ukrainians counterattacks are making advances there.
Do you think Ukraine could end up winning this war?
GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS (RET.), FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Well, it depends on your definition of winning. Obviously, it would also include extraordinary destruction and loss of life and damage to civilian infrastructure, as we have seen repeatedly. In that said, it is by no means certain, but the prediction, if you will, there would be a counteroffensive has proven correct. They did indeed push back at Russian forces outside of the second largest city in Ukraine, Kharkiv, in the east. They have driven some of those forces all the way back across the Russian border. And they're certainly out of artillery range of Kharkiv.
So, I think you can now add the battle of Kharkiv to the battles of Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Sumy as ones Ukraine has won. The question is whether the enormous amount of additional arms, ammunition, and other military supplies can get to the front lines and help the Ukrainian forces really tip the balance against Russia. It appears that is happening in some locations. Again, Kharkiv being one of those, that other area where you note the horrific disaster of the Russian forces trying to get across the river that were ambushed and just obliterated really, a better part of an entire battalion tactical group destroyed there as well as the pontoons that were going to be the bridges and so forth.
PETRAEUS: But whether Ukraine can continue to conduct counteroffensives and essentially roll flanks of the Russian forces, I think does remain to be answered. The Russians are trying to harden the front lines of the areas that they have seized and we should acknowledge that they have obviously expanded very considerably from Crimea and the area in the southeastern part of the country with their separatist supported control, they have considered those quite considerably, and they are now trying to establish defenses along those front lines.
In the weeks ahead, we'll find out whether the Ukrainian forces can make great use of these extraordinary weapons systems and amounts of ammunition over 200,000 rounds of 155 millimeter howitzer ammunition alone just from the United States.
TAPPER: So, General, this comes as we hear the stunning criticism of Russia's invasion from an unlikely source, a former Russian colonel appearing on Russian state TV last night. He warned things will get worse for Russia. He also seemed to call out his own government's propaganda. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER RUSSIAN COLONEL (through translator): I must say let's not drink information tranquilizers because sometimes information is spread about hearing more psychological breakdown of Ukraine's armed forces as if they're nearing a crisis of morale or fracture. None of this is close to reality.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: That's pretty surprising to me. Are you as surprised as I am?
PETRAEUS: Well, I am, although there have also been reports of military bloggers in Ukraine who have also been critical, especially, by the way, of that really mismanaged bridge crossing operation. And I suspect that colonel's appearances will be constrained from here on out.
But clearly, there are cracks, if you will, in the information wall that Vladimir Putin has established, given the government control of the traditional media, of television and newspapers. And gradually, this kind of information is going to make its way to the general population, presumably this is why President Putin did not decide to mobilize the country as was thought that he might declare in the victory day speech of World War II that was conducted in Moscow. He shrank from that and presumably it's because he fears the domestic loss of support that could result from it.
So again, it does demonstrate the fragility to a degree that Putin seems to realize he finds himself in at this point in time.
And it also might indicate, again, a degree of fragility of the Russian forces, although it's very difficult, having been in a few fights where the fight is quite fierce and then, all of a sudden, the enemy just collapses. And you never can tell where that point is. That's what, again, I think the weeks that lie ahead may expose, if Russia's forces are at that point of weakness or if they can steady their forces, harden the defenses along the front lines, and then defend what it is they have seized in the southeast and south.
TAPPER: Before you go, I want to ask you as a former CIA director about something extraordinary happening here in Washington, D.C. Congress is holding its first public hearing on UFOs in more than 50 years. Amid a growing number of acknowledged incidents, the deputy director of naval intelligence says there's still no evidence of things non-terrestrial in origin, but he also said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT BRAY, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF NAVY INTELLIGENCE: What you see here is aircraft that is operating in a U.S. Navy training range that is observed spherical object, in that area. And as they fly by it, they take a video. You see it looks reflective in this video, somewhat reflective, and it quickly passes by the cockpit of the aircraft.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): And is this one of the phenomenon that we can't explain?
BRAY: I do not have an explanation for what this specific object is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Do you have an explanation for some of these unexplained phenomena?
PETRAEUS: Well, Jake, we normally try to keep the aliens safe and security in Area 51, as you probably know, but every now and then, they do get out.
TAPPER: Now, come on, I'm serious.
PETRAEUS: That's a joke, please, Jake.
TAPPER: Yeah, I know.
PETRAEUS: There are, and there are unidentified objects and unexplained phenomenon, and that's what they are, as the naval intelligence officer indicated.
And you know, there has been a constant effort to try to find out what it is that they are, and to explain what those objects actually are as well. But never have we been able to really identify something that would indicate again the presence of life somewhere else in the universe or this kind of activity.
TAPPER: It could be a super weapon from some other force on this country -- on this planet that we don't know about.
PETRAEUS: It could be anything, Jake. Until we discover what it really is.
TAPPER: All right. General David Petraeus, thank you so much for your time today. I appreciate it.
Coming up, just ahead, the deteriorating crisis in Afghanistan where millions of people are at risk of starving and critical aid groups are struggling to meet demand. We're going to go live to Kabul.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our world lead, the Pentagon inspector general warning today that ISISK, that's the Afghan affiliate of the terrorist group, could have the capability to attack the U.S. homeland within the next 18 months. This comes as our Christiane Amanpour reports the humanitarian crisis in the war-torn crisis deepens under Taliban rule.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice-over): Under a scorching sun, standing patiently for hours in organized lines, hundreds of newly poor Afghans wait for their monthly handout, men on one side, women on the other.
Here, the U.N.'s World Food Programme is delivering cash assistance, the equivalent of $43 per family.
Khalid Ahmadzai is the coordinator. He says he's seen the need explode. And right from the start, the stories are dire.
KHALID AHMADZAI, WORLD FOOD PROGRAM: A few days ago, one woman came to me, and she told me that: I want to give you my son by 16,000 Afghani. Just give me the Afghani. And he was -- she was really crying. And that was the worst feeling that I had in my life.
AMANPOUR: Are you serious?
AHMADZAI: Yes, this is a serious thing that we had a distribution at the first day. So, the hunger is too much high here.
AMANPOUR: You know, we have heard those stories, but I have never heard it from somebody who's actually seen it.
AHMADZAI: Yes. Yes. Yes, I have seen it. It's too much bad. And it hurts me a lot. AMANPOUR: Everyone we met is hurting. According to the International Rescue Committee, almost half the population of Afghanistan lives on less than one meal a day. And the U.N. says nearly nine million people risk famine-like conditions.
Khatima is a widow.
They should let us work because we have to become the men of the family, so we can find bread for the children. None of my six kids have shoes. And with 3,000 Afghanis, what will I be able to do in six months' time?
You just want work.
I have to work, she says.
At this WFP distribution site in Kabul, you do see women working and women mostly with their faces uncovered. Outside, Taliban slogans plastered over the blast walls tout victory over the Americans and claim to be of the people, for the people.
But while security has improved since they took over, the country is facing economic collapse.
And that shows up all over the tiny bodies we see at the Indira Gandhi Children's Hospital. It's the biggest in Afghanistan, now heaving under the extra weight.
Dr. Mohammad Yaqob Sharafat tells us that 20 to 30 percent of the babies in this neonatal ward are malnourished. Suddenly, he rushes to the side of one who stopped breathing. For five minutes, we watched him pump his heart, until he comes back to life, but for how long? Even in the womb, the deck stacked against them.
DR. MOHAMMAD YAQOB SHARAFAT, INDIRA GANDHI CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: From one side, the mothers are not getting well nutritions.
AMANPOUR: Wow. So it's a triple whammy. The mothers aren't nourished enough.
AMANPOUR: The economy is bad.
AMANPOUR: They have too many children.
AMANPOUR: And they're overworking themselves.
SHARAFAT: So, all these factors together make the situations to they give birth premature babies.
AMANPOUR: Because they're under sanctions, the Taliban are struggling to pay salaries. So the International Committee of the Red Cross pays all the doctors and nurses at this hospital and at 32 others across the country. That's about 10,000 health workers in all.
Look at this child. He's 2.5 years old.
His name is Mohammed. He's malnourished.
How much food is she able to give her child at home? Why does he look like this?
His mother says she's had nothing but breast milk to feed him, but now can't afford enough to eat to keep producing even that.
It's the same for Shazia. Her seven-month-old baby has severe pneumonia, but at least she gets fed here at the hospital, so that she can breast-feed her daughter.
Back home, we don't have this kind of food, unfortunately, she says. If we have food for lunch, we don't have anything for dinner.
While we're here, the electricity has gone out.
It happens all the time, the director tells us.
We watch a doctor carry on by the light of a mobile phone, until the electricity comes back. We end this day in the tiniest dwellings amongst the poorest of Kabul's poor.
Waliullah and Basmina have six children. He tells us their 10-month- old baby is malnourished.
I always worry and stress about this, says Basmina. But she tells her kids: God will be kind to us one day.
AMANPOUR (on camera): One day, that has been the story of Afghanistan for 40 years, as they wait for something better. Things have rarely been so dire in the last 30-odd years, and with that Pentagon report, you can just imagine if a woman was ready to sell her child for $200, the dire, dire poverty here is fertile ground for recruitment -- Jake.
TAPPER: Just so heartbreaking.
Christiane Amanpour live in Kabul, thank you so much for that important report.
Coming up, a former Clinton campaign lawyer on trial, accused of trying to manipulate the FBI. We're going to have the latest from the court.
Stay with us.
[16:52:18] TAPPER: In our politics lead, the first trial of the case brought by special counsel John Durham in his more than three-year long probe has begun. Durham, as you may recall, was appointed by then-Attorney General William Barr during the Trump administration in order to investigate the origins and the Justice Department's handling of the Trump Russia investigation.
The defendant in this case, Michael Sussmann, is a former lawyer for Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign. He's charged with lying to the FBI.
CNN's Paula Reid is covering the trial.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Today, prosecutors laid out their case against Michael Sussmann, a former lawyer for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign on trial for a single charge of lying to the FBI.
REPORTER: Mr. Sussmann, did you lie to the FBI?
REID: In her opening argument, prosecutor Brittain Shaw painted Sussmann as a high powered D.C. lawyer who lied to direct the power and resources of the FBI to his own ends and to serve the agenda of his clients. The trial is the first resulting from special counsel John Durham's three-year investigation into the origins of the FBI's Trump Russia probe, the case shining a spotlight on opposition research in politics.
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: It's part of what happens in a campaign where you get information that may or may not be useful, and you try to make sure anything you put out in the public arena is accurate.
REID: Durham's team has portrayed Sussmann's actions as part of a dirty smear campaign to use oppo research to prompt an FBI investigation and use the press coverage against Trump. Special counsel Robert Mueller spent two years investigating the Trump campaign's ties to Russia and while multiple Trump associates were convicted of lying and other crimes, no one was ever charged with conspiracy.
Former Attorney General Bill Barr appointed Durham in 2019 to examine what he said was an unfair investigation.
BILL BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: I'm confident he's going to get to the bottom of things.
REID: Trump has long railed against the FBI's Russia probe.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: It's a total witch hunt. I have been saying it for a long time.
REID: And praised Durham.
TRUMP: One of the most important investigations in the history of our country.
REID: Durham has not alleged that Clinton or her campaign broke any laws. He has alleged that Sussmann, a well known lawyer for Democrats and the Clinton campaign, lied to FBI General Counsel James Baker in September 2016, when he shared information about a possible computer server connection between the Trump Organization and Russia-based Alfa Bank.
Durham says that Sussmann told Baker he wasn't working on behalf of any client when in fact he was representing the Clinton campaign as well as a tech client.
In opening statements, Sussmann's lawyer today argued the case against him is an injustice and vehemently denied he was part of any scheme to deceive the FBI. Defense attorney Michael Bosworth told jurors that Sussmann did not want to get information to the press but wanted to alert the FBI about potential news coverage.
He also said it's nonsensical that Sussmann was trying to conceal his ties to the Clinton campaign. His partisan affiliations, they were out and about, loud and clear, for everyone to see.
The FBI eventually looked into the tip and couldn't find any illegal cyber links.
REID (on camera): The judge has tried to tamp down the political overtones of this case, telling the jury, we're not here to relitigate the 2016 election, but lawyers will be delving into some of the most highly charged issues of that election cycle, especially the role of the FBI as it carried out two very different investigations into each of the candidates. The trial expected to last about two weeks -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Paula Reid, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
Coming up, a warning from Donald Trump about a candidate who's arguably quite a bit like Donald Trump.
Plus, a top candidate for the U.S. Senate will undergo surgery just as voters are casting their ballots.
Stay with us.