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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Biden Admin Warns Parents To Beware Formula Scammers; Biden Departs For Critical Asia Trip Amid Multiple Domestic Crises; Ukrainians Still Sheltering Underground In Kharkiv After 2 Months; Accused Shooter Indicated By Grand Jury; Oz, McCormick Race Tightens As Mail-In Ballots Are Counted; Star Witness Testifies In Trial Over Trump-Russia Probe's Origin; CDC Investigating Outbreak Of Monkeypox After Cases Identified In At least 5 Countries. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired May 19, 2022 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Heads up. Scammers are now taking advantage of the baby formula shortage.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Fake websites for formula as the head of the FDA is pressed on Capitol Hill today if the Biden administration could've taken emergency managers sooner to help these frustrated families.

And hand accounts and remarks. The tedious process to read misprinted mail-in ballots that's keeping a key U.S. Senate race in limbo.

Plus, monkey pox mysteries. Seventeen suspected cases of the rare disease in Canada, and one confirmed case now in the United States.


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

And we start with the health lead today in the Biden administration today warning parents desperate to get their hands on baby formula, to be aware of online scammers charging exorbitant prices for formula -- formula that does not actually exist.

Meantime, outrage on Capitol Hill over who is to blame for the crisis. House lawmakers grilled the FDA commissioner at a hearing today, demanding answers and action to alleviate the shortage. This after the House passed a pair of bills to try to address the crisis. The first one would provide $28 million to the FDA to help fix the shortfall, and prevent it from happening again. The second bill, ensuring low income families can still find baby formula.

Last night, President Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to direct suppliers of formula ingredients to prioritize delivery to formula manufacturers. But the slew of actions is not stopping even Biden allies from criticizing the overall administration response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D-WA): Nobody did their job, here. No one did well. Senator Casey and I wrote to the FDA and to Abbott back in February and said, what are you doing? We need to get this produced. We're going to be having a problem. And nobody responded with adequate urgency.


TAPPER: CNN's Lauren Fox joins us now live from Capitol Hill.

And, Lauren, no one went easy on FDA commissioner, Dr. Robert Califf, today.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It wasn't just Republicans who were grilling him, but Democrats, and allies of the president who were going after the FDA commissioner arguing that they should've had answers sooner as to what went wrong with this formula shortage. Why weren't they not told sooner that this was coming?

And over and over again, Califf made it clear that this investigation at the FDA is ongoing, and he did not provide them the kind of detailed answers that they wanted and that they were looking for.

We had one point, Rosa DeLauro who is a Democrat on the committee saying, which side are you? Are you on the side of corporations? Or are you on the side of consumers and babies that need this formula?

We also had this exchange from Representative Mark Pocan, a progressive from Wisconsin.


REP. MARK POCAN (D-WI): There is frustration when you are asked and answer that you get back is we're investigating, I can't talk about it. You can talk about it, honestly, you should talk about it. One problem I've seen over and over with the FDA in my tenures here is you guys aren't good at communicating.


FOX: And Califf made it clear that when it comes before Congress again for an oversight committee hearing, he is going to have more detailed answers. Of course, the question remains, will they satisfy Democrats and Republicans who want those answers now -- Jake.

TAPPER: So, 192 Republicans voted against the bill last night in the House. To give the FDA $28 million to work on the shortage, why do they vote against it?

FOX: Well, there is a lot of concerns from Republicans that money is not the answer to solve this problem. Now, what Democrats and the FDA would argue is that they need more inspectors to make sure that not only the formula shortage is handled now, but that they can prevent it in the future. You also have the fact that Senate Republicans may not agree to bring this bill up, they may not provide the ten votes that the Democrats would need to actually vote and pass that funding, so it may have passed the House, but it faces a very uncertain future in the Senate, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Lauren Fox, reporting live on Capitol Hill, thank you.

We'll have more on the baby formula crisis coming up later in the show. But let's right now turn to world lead. President Biden temporarily leaving behind the baby formula and economic crisis at home to face critical foreign policy challenges. The president is on his way right now to Asia to attempt to reassure U.S. allies that he is still focused on high stakes issues in that region.

President Biden's first stop will be South Korea, which is currently on edge as North Korea appears to be prepping for yet another missile test, perhaps even while Biden is in the region.


CNN's MJ Lee joins us now live from Seoul, South Korea, where President Biden is due to arrive early Friday morning.

MJ, how has the White House been preparing for this first stop on this trip?

MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jake. President Biden is set to land here in Seoul, later today, marking his first trip to Asia as the president. And it comes at a real moment of volatility and turmoil around the world. There is no question that North Korea is going to loom large as a big issue during this visit. This is a country that has launched a number of missile tests already. So far, this year, the U.S. is now warning that we could see a long range missile tests or even a nuclear test during President Biden's visit to Seoul.

Now, the White House has been very clear that it is ready for all kinds of contingencies, that even those kinds of provocations. So, just reassuring people that even those kinds of scenarios, the White House is fully prepared for. Of course, a number of themes that the president is going to be discussing with world leaders is going to include the U.S. alliance with Korea and Japan. Japan is going to be President Biden's second stop during this trip to Asia.

And then, of course, the war in Ukraine. The president has said over and over again that he actually believes that the war in Ukraine has brought the U.S. and some of its allies in the Indo-Pacific region closer together, Jake.

TAPPER: And just before President Biden left Washington, he hosted the leaders of Finland and Sweden. He could not have been more clear about his support for their bids to join the NATO alliance.

LEE: That's right. You know, this is one more remarkable development in the context of the war in Ukraine. These two countries submitting their applications to join NATO. And the president hosting the leaders of both countries at the White House before he left for this trip. What he said is that the U.S. has strong support for their pending applications, and that he believes that the admission of both of those countries would actually make NATO stronger.

Now, another key part of President Biden's statement today was that when he said that while those applications are pending, he wants the world to know that the U.S. is going to have their backs, essentially. He said that the U.S. will work to deter and confront aggression or the threat of aggression. So, clearly a warning message of sorts perhaps to Vladimir Putin.

Now, there is the question of the opposition that we have seen from a country like turkey. The White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that before the reporters left for this trip, they are very convinced that all of the concerns that Turkey has voiced, that they can be addressed. Jake?

TAPPER: All right. MJ Lee reporting live from Seoul, South Korea -- thank you so much.

Today, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved an additional $40 billion aid package for Ukraine, this after Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell scolded some members of his own party for questioning the price tag. Still, 11 Republicans voted against the package.

Meanwhile, on the ground in Ukraine, the 21-year-old Russian soldier accused of killing an unarmed Ukrainian man in the early days of the war is currently pleading for forgiveness, telling the man's widow today in court that he was, quote, sorry, for killing her husband. The trial will resume tomorrow morning.

In Mariupol, a dispute today over any suggestion the court had fallen to the Russians, while the Russia says that since Monday, more than 1,700 Ukrainian soldiers surrendered at the Azovstal steel plant. Today, a Ukrainian commander insisted that several hundred more fighters remain inside and he vowed, quote, the fight continues. And Russia is ramping up its attacks in eastern Ukraine.

As CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports for us now, many Ukrainians in Kharkiv are still sheltering underground after first taking refuge of more than two months ago.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: The noises maybe further away from Kharkiv and its distant field of villages. But part of the city still stays hidden underground in a subway near apocalyptic dark rooms. They came down to shelter just for the night, perhaps two months ago. Homes now destroyed but the fear of the bombs remaining, most have nowhere to go.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (translated): I'm cold. Cold for two days.

WALSH: Officials have asked people to leave soon, and stopped people sleeping, at least in the trains that need to get moving again.

Ludmila (ph) keeps her place tidy and welcoming, but is alone here. Her flat, bombed twice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (translated): I am alone, but I like it like that. They are throwing us out. Against our will. The war isn't over, but they ask us to leave.

How? Tell me how? I have a room already. Am I supposed to be here in the bombing? No one is listening to us.

WALSH: In the damp, cold, with food in one bucket, urine in another.

[16: 10:05]

This is a desperation Russia's war on Ukraine wanted to inflict.

Luba is stuffed between her family and people whose names she does not even know.

LUBA, KHARKIV RESIDENT (translated): Everyday was scary. Everyday. I don't know that guy. He's a stranger to me.

WALSH: Even if Ukraine wins, this is still where it hurts. In the loss of presumptions, that the most ordinary parts of life.

Viktor Tsai (ph), his mother says, sheltering in a game of two pirate ships attacking each other.

OKSANA, VIKTOR'S MOTHER (translated): We stayed in the apartment until the end. We slept in the corridor, hid in the toilet. It was destroyed when we were here.

WALSH: We see some deciding to leave already, yet still the framework of permanence sets in. And the outside sunnier days turn noisy at night.


WALSH (on camera): Now, Ukrainian officials, while they seem to want to have people out of the metro are suggesting there's a plan to house them in dormitories. But Kharkiv, while it's significantly less under pressure than it was a matter of weeks ago, still at 4:00 a.m. yesterday, a rocket hit close to the structure standing still tonight. We hear what sounds like outgoing shelling, and, of course, the fighting still relatively close to the city center.

Intensification though in the more central part of eastern Ukraine as Russia appears to be making minimal gains there, and you mentioned, extra U.S. aid. With another $100 million announced that could be rushed into here. And that say, may tip the balance into Ukraine's favor. They keep getting more assistance from outside. Russia, increasingly straining to get more out of its overstretched forces here -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Nick Paton Walsh in Ukraine for us, thank you so much as always.

Coming up next, the accused Buffalo gunman in court. The chances of this becoming a death penalty case even though it is not currently on the table.

And new warning of a global food crisis, largely brought on by Russia's war and the invasion of Ukraine.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: We are back with our national lead now. Today, a grand jury indicted the accused Buffalo massacre murderer, the 18-year-old accused domestic terrorist briefly appearing in court this morning. The grand jury is expected to bring more charges against him after he pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges.

CNN's Brian Todd dives into the police investigation into the accused killer, and looks at where he got one of the guns.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They accused Buffalo gunman, appearing in court today under heavy security, handcuffed in an orange jumpsuit. He's now been indicted by a grand jury for Saturday's grocery store shooting that left ten victims dead.

He was already charged Saturday with first degree murder to which he has pleaded not guilty. Other charges are expected to be filed, including potential hate crime charges, which would alleged killings were racially motivated.

As he is taken out of the courtroom, and onlooker calls him a coward.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, you are a coward!

TODD: He's being held without bail, and faces up to life in prison if convicted. Security at the court was tight, with police dogs and heavily armed officers. And the suspect was brought in by tunnel.

The suspect claimed in a diatribe posted online that he got one of the guns, a Savage rifle, from his father for Christmas in 2020. A Savage box can be seen in this family photo posted on Facebook. A Savage rifle was not used in the Tops shooting, but one was found in the suspect's car. The hateful rant said, the gunman plan to use the Savage rifle, along with the shotgun, to kill more black people in the neighborhood as he drove away from the Tops Supermarket.

The investigation of the crime scene is finished, but the FBI says the probe continues.

STEPHEN BELONGIA, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, BUFFALO: There are interviews to be done. There are -- there are information and data to be gathered from social media, and other Internet companies. There are analyses they need to be done on the evidence that was collected.

TODD: Jeffrey Peace is an administrator at the State Tabernacle Church. He was a former deacon there with deceased shooting victim Hayward Patterson for several years.

I asked Peace about the man who is so loved, interested in the church community would've responded to this killer.

The gunman was clearly full of hatred. Do you think that Deacon Patterson might forgive this man if you are able to?

JEFFREY PEACE, STATE TABERNACLE CHURCH: The Bible tells us to forgive. You know? It tells us to forgive. I cannot speak, he is gone. He is gone.

But if surviving, yes. I would say yes. I would have to say yes. And we are going to have to forgive the gunman, because we are here.

TODD: The son of another victim, grocery store security guard Aaron Salter Jr., saying he surely save the lives of others.

AARON SALTER III, SON OF SECURITY GUARD AARON SALTER JR.: He went out because he was trying to protect everyone. He made Tops his priority. Even though he was retired, he cared about Tops, he cared about the people who came in there every day. He cared about the employees. It was his duty to keep everyone safe, and he went out doing that.


TODD (on camera): John Persons, the president and COO of Tops Markets, told us that they did plan to reopen the store, but he could not offer a timeline on exactly when -- Jake.

TAPPER: Brian Todd in Buffalo, New York for us, thank you so much.

Joining us now is Carrie Cordero. She's former counsel to the assistant attorney general.

Carrie, thanks so much for being here. So, New York has a red flag law which bars individuals who we believe to be a risk and adjudicated at such by a judge, or at least assessed as such by a judge, from owning a gun.

Now, the accused wrote an essay high school about staging a murder suicide, he was asked about it by police who've been alerted to it.


Yet neither the police nor the teachers, nor the faculty, nor his parents, let a judge know using a red flag law. It seems obvious in retrospect that they should have, but these laws are underutilized.

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, they are underutilized, and also some of them a relatively new, Jake. So, in New York, this law has existed for a few years. In other states, it's been just a couple of years. And so, on the one hand when we look back at some of their tragic

aspects of this particular event, one of them is that there were so many warning signs that this individual exhibited. And he came to the attention of all of the authorities that you would want someone like this to come to the attention to. So, it may be that there is just a much greater need for more training, and awareness, whether that is for police, whether that's for school officials, whether that is for people in the community, parents, family members, to understand how to use these laws if they need to.

TAPPER: Now, the Buffalo suspect has been charged in New York with first degree murder. One count that covers two or more murders. The grand jury is expected, of course, I'm guessing, to bring more charges. What might those be?

CORDERO: So, at first, right, so, they're going to bring charges just to be able to make sure that this individual stays in custody so that they can bring additional charges at the state level for the additional murders that this individual has committed. There also could be, at the state level, and additional look at hate crime charges at the state level and then the whole next layer that I expect to see, Jake, is charges at the federal level, which I would imagine the justice department is currently looking at as it relates specifically to federal hate crimes.

TAPPER: So, last night, the House of Representatives passed a bill that was aimed at combating domestic terrorism. The bill would set up offices in the Department of Homeland Security to focus on domestic terror. It would call for the assessment of the threat posed by white supremacists.

Now, just to be clear, would happen in buffalo, it's horrific. But it does not appear to have been the act of a group, it appears to be the act of one deranged racist. Would this law have any impact? Would it have prevented the strategy?

CORDERO: I think it's hard to say, Jake that this particular law, if it were enacted, would actually prevent this act. If the law ends up becoming a law, the Senate passes it, it will end up increasing information sharing. It will fund and make sure that there's better resourcing and attention and congressional oversight of all of these different components of government, DHS, FBI, Justice Department, who already have people in offices that are dedicated to these issues anyway. I think the law will help canvas them better with oversight over these issues.

But, look, the key point, that I think the country is still digesting, and that the government organizations and agencies that are in charge of this need to do a better job of digesting, is that at this point they ease types of acts, although they are conducted by an individual who is inspired by this radical extremist ideology, this is part of a bigger pattern. So, if we look at the mass shootings, the mass murders that have occurred across the country, whether it was Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, whether it was the El Paso shooting, whether it was the Charleston Church shooting, or whether now it is this one in Buffalo, they are all ethnically, religiously, or racially motivated.

And this is because this is an extremist ideology that is pervading the country and also another part of the world. So, what Congress is doing is trying to bring greater attention to that bigger issue.

TAPPER: All right. Carrie Cordero, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Pennsylvania election officials say they're now finished hand-fixing thousands of misprinted ballots. So, when will we find out how those votes impacted the key Senate race? That's next.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, we're closely watching the vote tallies in Pennsylvania, where Lancaster county officials say that they just finished counting the nearly 22,000 mail-in ballots that were misprinted. Those results are crucial in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania's Republican Senate primary where Trump backed Dr. Mehmet Oz, and former hedge fund executive David McCormick are currently neck and neck.

CNN's Athena Jones is live for us from Lancaster.

Athena, do you know when we're going to get the results here?

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we expect to get results from the mail-in votes and Election Day votes in the mail-in votes later on tonight. I just spoke with the chief clerk and chief registrar here at the board of elections who says that, I'm not leaving here until tonight until I'm done. As you mentioned, they did through a monumental effort over the last few days, they were able to remark and sort of fix those misprinted ballots so that they could be scanned.

And behind me, it was filled to the brim. I mean, 50, 60 people were working in those rooms of the last several days. They are now down to the last 660 ballots. These are mail-in votes that arrived on election day by the deadline.

Unfortunately, some of those need to be remarked and scanned, so they can be scanned. So, they are doing that as I speak. But they're determined to finish today.


I should mention though that Lancaster county is not the only county that is still counting votes. And once all of this is counted, they are still going to be some 589 provisional ballots. Those can't begin to be counted until tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. And then later, military and overseas ballots.

So, in a race that is very tight, all of these votes count. This set of provisional ballots could make a difference. So, we're going to have some kind of tally today, but that tally is going be election day voting, and mail-in voting up through election day, hopefully in the next few hours, Jake.

It's looking a bit closer to knowing who is going to be the winner of the GOP Senate race -- primary race here in Pennsylvania -- Jake.

TAPPER: Yeah, that's what we do in this country, we count all of the votes despite the misgivings of certain residents of Mar-a-Lago.

Athena Jones in Pennsylvania for us, thank you so much.

Also, in our politics lead, the prosecution star witness testified today in the first trial sparked by special counsel John Durham's investigation. As you might recall, Durham was appointed during the Trump administration to look for any possible wrongdoing, and the origins of the Trump and Russia probe. Durham is charged Michael Sussmann, who's the tall man with dark hair who is an attorney for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, charged him with lying to the FBI, alleging that Sussmann tried to conceal his ulterior political motives from passing on a tip about the Trump Organization's dealing with a Russian bank. Sussmann is pleading not guilty.

CNN's Evan Perez is covering the trial for us.

Evan, who is the prosecution star witness, and what did he have to say?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the star witness is James Baker. He is the former FBI general counsel and a former contributor here at CNN.

He met in September 2016 with Michael Sussmann to discuss this tip about reporting suspicious tips, or suspicious connections, rather, between the Trump Organization and the Russian bank called Alfa Bank, a Kremlin connected bank.

Today, in testimony, he provided key, key answers for Durham's prosecutors. He said that he was one hunted percent confident that in his meeting, Sussmann never said that he was not representing a client, not representing Clinton, or any other client. And he also he said that if he had known, he would not have taken the meeting.

Now, the issue for the prosecution is that Baker has given different answers in recent years in various interviews on this very question. And you know, the prosecution has been struggling over the last couple of days, Jake, to try to show that this lie, it mattered at all. There is an FBI witness who testified yesterday who said, essentially, it made no difference, he would have investigated this tip the same way no matter who had made this allegation.

So, Baker now is being questioned by the defense. They're trying to undercut his credibility. They're saying, essentially, Baker has given various answers and it didn't matter in the end.

TAPPER: Evan, this is a case, this case specifically, about one alleged lie, looming over all of it is the 2016 campaign, the bruising political fight between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the Steele dossier, the FBI prosecution, Comey, Mueller. How is all of this manifesting itself?

PEREZ: All of that is coming up in this trial. The judge has warned everyone, say, Hillary Clinton is not on trial here. Donald Trump is not on trial here. This is about Michael Sussmann.

But, obviously, these things keep coming up. Witnesses for the government have brought up things, for instance, that Trump called out to Russia to find more of Hillary Clinton's emails in 2016, at the height of the campaign, Jake. A Trump tweet, for instance, was shown to the jury today.

So, the theme of 2016, and some of the fights that loomed over all of that in 2016, keeps coming up. And so, one of the things I think you will see the defense try to do is try to put the context of all of this, saying look, Trump was under investigation by the FBI. And this tip in the end didn't really make a difference in all of that because the FBI was investigating, essentially, both candidates before election day 2016.

TAPPER: All right. Evan Perez, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, new rare cases of monkeypox occurring around the world. And what do we know about the now confirmed case here in the U.S.?

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our health lead, cases of monkeypox are popping up around the world. Spain, Portugal, Italy, in the UK, all confirming cases of monkeypox today. Canada announcing that they have identified 17 more possible cases after a case was reported earlier this week.

And here in the U.S., one man in Massachusetts is recovering in the hospital from a confirmed case of monkeypox.

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen joins us now.

Elizabeth, for many of us as might be the first time they have ever heard of the monkeypox virus. What are the symptoms of this virus and how does it spread?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: All right. So, let's go over what the symptoms are. Initially, the symptoms look like a whole bunch of other things. Swollen lymph nodes, fever.

But then after those -- shortly after those, you get that telltale rash with lesions all over the body. This is why the context of the person in Massachusetts are being told to watch out for lymph nodes and fevers.

Transmission is prolonged, I will emphasize prolonged, prolonged face- to-face contact, and direct or indirect contact with bodily fluids or those skin lesions.


And just to give an example, this is happened before. In 2003, there are 47 cases in the U.S. -- Jake.

TAPPER: Are we hearing anything more about those possible other cases abroad?

COHEN: We are. Let's take a look at places that have had confirmed or suspected cases of monkeypox. We have heard of confirmed cases in the U.S., UK, Portugal, Spain and Italy. And Canada has suspected cases.

I want to be clear here, this is an interesting thing with a CDC doctor said earlier today, that many of these global reports, they say, are occurring within sexual networks. When people have very close contact with each other, especially if those lesions have started to form, that can be a way that monkeypox spreads.

TAPPER: After the coronavirus pandemic, I think there are probably a lot of Americans who would get nervous when hearing about a new virus outbreak. Could this spread on international levels away that COVID did?

COHEN: The experts we are talking to say that that is quite unlikely. This is much, much harder to spread. It just does not spread in the same way. And I think the UK National Health Service, they summed up quite nicely. They say on their website, it is very uncommon to get monkeypox or a person with the infection, because it does not spread easily between people.

As the CDC says, you need prolonged contact, or contact with bodily fluids. This is not a COVID situation. I know you might think, wait a minute, didn't we hear the beginning of COVID that this was unsustainable?

This is different. We know something about monkeypox. It has happened before. For example, in 2003, when we saw 47 cases. It ended at 47 cases. Obviously, COVID did not end at 47 cases -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much.

Other health concerns, bringing us back to our world in dire warnings even a flattering Putin's war on Ukraine ended tomorrow, the entire world still would face a rampant hunger crisis. As CNN's Kylie Atwood reports, the U.S. and others are sounding orchard alarms about how Russian forces are interfering with food shipments that keep hundreds of millions of people across the globe from starving.


KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Grain held hostage because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine is deepening the global food crisis.

DAVID BEASLEY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME: When a nation that is the bread basket of the world becomes a nation with a longest bread lines of the world, we know we have a problem.

ATWOOD: Before the Ukraine war began, the country was the fourth largest exporter of corn, and the fifth largest exporter of wheat. Now those agricultural products cannot get out of Ukraine's ports, because of Russia's blockade, leaving dozens of countries desperate.

David Beasley, the executive director of the World Food Programme, said they are currently at least 423 million people around the world heading towards starvation.

BEASLEY: Truly, they need to open those ports. The Odesa region will be a declaration of war on global food security. And it will result in famine and destabilization, and mass migration around the world.

ATWOOD: The Biden administration is ramping up its focus on this deadly crisis, as global food prices are spiking. Secretary of State Tony Blinken convened a United Nations Security Council meeting on the topic today, calling for a coordinated international response.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: There are an estimated 22 million tons of grain sitting in silos in Ukraine right now.

ATWOOD: And demanding that Russia openly portion allow trucks with food to leave the country.

BLINKEN: Russian Federation claims, falsely, that international committee sanctions are to blame for worsening the global food crisis. Sanctions are not blocking Black Sea ports, trapping ships filled with food, and destroying Ukrainian roads and railways. Russia is.

ATWOOD: Footage obtained by CNN from Melitopol, Zaporizhzhia, allows us to see what Zelenskyy's administration is calling food terrorism. Trucks bearing the white Z symbol of the Russian military stealing Ukrainian grain, bringing it to Russian held Crimea.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): This is not just a strike at Ukraine. Without our agrarian expert, dozens of countries in various regions of the world have found themselves on the brink of a food deficit.

ATWOOD: Russia is also carrying out strikes specifically targeting agricultural warehouses in the country.

CAITLIN WELSH, DIRECTOR, CSIS GLOBAL FOOD SECURITY PROGRAM: We are seeing attacks on everything from feels with hitters in them, there are reports of Russian soldiers putting land mines in, destroying farm equipment.

ATWOOD: As the world process for them to Russia's invasion, experts warn that even if the conflict and soon, it would take years for Ukraine's agricultural industry to recover.

ANTONIO GUTERRES, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL: The world is on the brink of mass hunger.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ATWOOD (on camera): Now, Jake, the Biden administration is working closely with European allies to develop alternate routes to get this grain out of Ukraine if those ports are not open, which, of course, Russia has given no indication that they will allow them to open.


And one of the leading options here is putting this green onto trains, and transferring the grain from Ukraine to the neighboring European countries. But, of course, there are a lot of logistical and technological challenges that have come along with that -- Jake.

TAPPER: Kylie Atwood, thank you so much for that report.

Coming up next, CNN goes to Rio Grande, Texas, speaks to some of the Biden administration's most adamant critics of a plan that he has for the border, and they're trying to sound the alarm.

Stay with.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, any day now, a federal judge is expected to announce whether or not the Biden administration must keep Title 42 in place. Title 42 is a Trump era border rule is set to expire Monday. It allows border agents to send migrants at the border back to their home countries using the pandemic as justification, or preventing them from claiming asylum.

CNN's Ed Lavandera went to the Rio Grande valley of Texas where some people say they are bracing for chaos if this rule ends.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): So, where are we headed?

RUPERTO ESCOBAR, RANCHER: We are headed towards the river.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): For seven generations, Ruperto Escobar's family has farmed the land near Roma, Texas, 75 acres, that sit on the edge of the Rio Grande.

It's a short little ride?

ESCOBAR: It's a short little ride.

LAVANDERA: You're right on the river.

ESCOBAR: Oftentimes I walk it this way. My ancestors came and settled right here.

LAVANDERA: Migrants have crossed the river and through this property for decades. That's not new. But Escobar says what is new is the staggering number of migrants crossing the river now.

ESCOBAR: That's the Mexican side.

LAVANDERA: Escobar represents the vocal opposition to the Biden administration's efforts to lift the COVID-19 pandemic-era policy known as Title 42 which allows immigration officials to block many migrants from staying in the United States for public health reasons.

ESCOBAR: It's going to get wild here. We don't stop immigration right now? And then by lifting that, it will get worse.

LAVANDERA: U.S. Customs and Border Protection says, in April, there were 234,000 apprehensions of migrants along the U.S. southern border. The Department of Homeland Security says that that accounts for about 7,000 migrants being caught every day.

But DHS is also bracing for a worst-case scenario if Title 42 is lifted, of capturing 18,000 migrants per day.

For more than 40 years, Jorge Salcines has run McAllen Sports, a custom apparel and trophy business. The shop is just blocks away from a prominent shelter taking care of migrants passing through this border town.

Many people kind of feel like we're over the pandemic, but many people still want Title 42 kept in place. Does that seem kind of hypocritical in any way?

JORGE SALCINES, OWNER, MCALLEN SPORTS: It actually helped. Title 42 is helping to slow that down. And if we take it off, what is going to replace it? Because I don't see anybody coming up with a plan to replace this.

LAVANDERA: Salcines also owns sprawling ranch land in south Texas. He says, right now, the hunting cameras on his property capture more pictures of migrants than deer.

If Title 42 is lifted, what worries you most?

SALCINES: It will be chaos on the border. We have a huge influx now of immigrants, illegal immigrants. It will be chaos on the border.

MAYOR JAVIER VILLALOBOS, MCALLEN, TX: We are going to be swamped with people.

LAVANDERA: McAllen's Mayor Javier Villalobos says that the U.S. government has pumped more than $30 million in the last year to help the city handle immigration costs like transportation and housing. But the mayor says that the Biden administration should keep title 42 in place to slow the flow of migrants in south Texas.

Do you worry, though, that Title 42 is going to be used as an immigration policy, not a public health policy, which is what it is?

VILLALOBOS: We have been seeing lesser numbers and it's more beneficial to us. Do I know that it's not a policy, an immigration policy? The answer is, yes. But it has been useful to us.

LAVANDERA: For a nation of laws, if we're using a law incorrectly, are we -- are we being hypocritical?

ESCOBAR: Maybe. What else is being done to hold immigration down? Or to stop it or to at least control it to some degree? Nothing.

LAVANDERA: Ruperto Escobar will keep working his land, and keep waiting for an immigration solution that seems lost in these fields.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.


TAPPER: And our thanks to our Ed Lavandera.

A new abortion bill may go further than any other state and ban abortions at the moment of fertilization. The implications, next.



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

This hour, two popular SUVs recalled because they could spontaneously catch on fire. And the automaker is telling drivers to park outside, because they can catch on fire when they're turned off.

Plus, while parents scramble and turn to extraordinary measures to try to feed their babies who need formula, officials in Washington, D.C. are doing what they do best -- playing the blame game.

And we're leading this hour with some breaking news. Oklahoma state lawmakers have just passed legislation that goes further than any other law in the United States by banning abortions at the moment of fertilization.