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The Lead with Jake Tapper

World Health Organization: 80 Confirmed Cases Of Monkeypox, 50 Cases Under Investigation Worldwide; One-On-One With Trevor Reed After His Release From Russian Prison; Oz, McCormick Preparing For Likely Recount In PA Senate Race; Prosecutors Presenting Case Against Ex- Clinton Campaign Ally; Mother Of Sextortion Victim Has Warning For Other Parents. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 20, 2022 - 17:00   ET




JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're very generous. Thank you very much.

MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden kicking off his inaugural trip to Asia as commander in chief. His first stop, South Korea, a critical economic and military ally for the United States.

BIDEN: The alliance between the Republic of Korea and the United States of America is a lynchpin of peace, stability and prosperity.

LEE (voice-over): Moments after landing hear, the President meeting in person for the first time his newly inaugurated South Korean counterpart Yoon Suk-yeol.


LEE (voice-over): The two leaders touring a Samsung plant amid a global shortage of semiconductor chips, exacerbated by the pandemic and worldwide supply chain issues.

BIDEN: That COVID-19 pandemic exposed the fragility of just in time supply chains.

LEE (voice-over): That facility serving as a backdrop for Biden's broader message that robust U.S. alliances with its Asian allies is key to a thriving global economy and security.

BIDEN: So much of the future of the world is going to be written here in the Indo Pacific over the next several decades. We're standing at an inflection point in history where the decisions we make today will have far reaching impacts on the world we leave our children tomorrow.

LEE (voice-over): The five-day trip through South Korea, then next Japan, also aimed at trying to counter China's growing influence in the region. JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We think putting that on display over four days bilaterally with the ROK and Japan through the quad, through the Indo Pacific economic framework, it will send a powerful message. We think that message will be heard everywhere. We think it will be heard in Beijing.

LEE (voice-over): But even in Asia, Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, remaining top of mind for President Biden.

BIDEN: Putin's brutal and unprovoked war in Ukraine, as further spotlight the need to secure our critical supply chains so that our economy, our economic and our national security are not dependent on countries that don't share our values.

LEE (voice-over): Also looming over his visit to Seoul, the threat of the missile or nuclear tests by North Korea. Top U.S. officials insisting that the Biden administration is prepared for all possible scenarios.

SULLIVAN: We are preparing for all contingencies, including the possibility that such a provocation would occur while we are in Korea or in Japan.


LEE: Now, a bit of an incident here involving two U.S. Secret Service employees to tell you about that ended up getting sent home. What we're told is a group of U.S. Secret Service employees went out to dinner this week and then they visited a number of bars. Then two of them returned back from their night out and one ended up getting into an altercation involving a cab driver and two Korean nationals.

Now there was a police response we are told, though there were no arrests and there were no charges that were filed but those two did end up getting sent home. And they are now on administrative leave. Though, Jake, it's important to note that these two were involved in physical security and the logistical prep heading into the President's visit here. They were not a part of the President's advanced detail team. Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. MJ Lee in Seoul, South Korea for us, thanks so much.

Central the Biden's talks with leaders over the weekend will be of course North Korea. As MJ mentioned, U.S. intelligence is keeping a close watch on North Korea amid fears that it could conduct an underground nuclear or ballistic missile test while President Biden is in Asia. CNN's Oren Liebermann is live for us now at the Pentagon.

And Oren, why does the US think North Korea might be preparing for a missile test now?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. intelligence community and the military look at the satellite imagery of the known test sites very carefully. Right now, the focus is on a potential ICBM test, an intercontinental ballistic missile test. A U.S. official familiar with the latest information says that recent satellite imagery shows vehicles there that might be used to prep the fueling of a missile. And because you don't want an ICBM sitting there for an extended period of time with fuel on it, that's considered one of the final phases before you would carry out an ICBM test. And that's why the warning has gone from possible to probable and now perhaps imminent, and that's why the U.S. is looking at the possibility that Kim Jong-un might choose to fire off this ICBM while President Joe Biden is either in Korea or in Japan, regardless in the region and there.

They've also been looking at a different test site where the North Koreans may have been prepping an underground nuclear test. That doesn't seem as imminent. Of course, Jake, it is no less urgent.

TAPPER: Oren, does the Biden administration have a plan in place in case and missile tests does happen?

LIEBERMANN: The administration insists that it's prepared for all contingencies, but it hasn't, in this case, tipped its hand and said yes, absolutely this is what we're going to do. But there's -- it's no doubt that they take this very seriously. North Korea has fired off quite a number of not only ballistic missiles but claimed hypersonic missiles and cruise missiles since the start of the year. And in each one of these, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby says they advance their weapons program.



JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: What we need to make sure is that we are properly postured, that we have the right capabilities in the region to defend ourselves, to defend our interests and defend our allies and partners. Five of our seven treaty alliances are in the Pacific region.


LIEBERMANN: Back in March, the U.S., after North Korea carried out some of these ICBM system tests, increased its surveillance over the Yellow Sea near North Korea. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan saying earlier this week, a change in posture to defend U.S. interests and allies may also be on the table if the North Koreans carry out another ICBM test.

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

From North Korea to Ukraine, our other world lead, the Ukrainian village torch to the ground outside Kharkiv. CNN's Nick Payton Walsh was in this village just minutes after what may have been a serious Russian attack.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): Putin would choke the light and life out of here. We are driving into the smoke of an incendiary munitions attack we're told here against this civilian village. Homes, fields, even the air itself torched.

Vera says she saw it falling from the sky and her neighbor hit.

VERA, TSYRKUNY RESIDENT (through translator): Phosphorus or bright sparks of some kind were flying. That's a fire. Before that, a bomb landed there. It blew up three houses, I think.

WALSH (voice-over): The incendiary munition, which burns hot through everything in its path came after heavy normal shelling, which makes you question like so much here exactly why Russia needed to heat fire on top of heavy explosive.

It hit just 10 minutes ago, this man says, pointing the way. Some left bewildered, others in the first moments of shock.

Valentina is very matter of fact, as she describes what happened to Viktor in her neighbor's house.

VALENTINA, TSYRKUNY RESIDENT (through translator): There was an explosion, smoke all around. He climbed into the attic to see if it was on fire. Immediately, there was another explosion in the yard. I shouted, Viktor. He's not there. I go to the attic, he's not there.

WALSH (voice-over): she shows us the courtyard where a dead man lies, a large hole in his chest and air torn off. She points to the body just behind the tree and then says who he is.

VALENTINA (through translator): He's my husband.

WALSH (voice-over): Viktor had Russia check on their neighbor's home. Russia occupied here for weeks, and as it retreats, these tiny corners of green aware it visits its anger. Up the road towards Russia's last positions before the border, the shells land even closer.

Natalia's husband died in shelling weeks ago and their house is like almost everything here ruined.

NATALIA, CHERKASKI TYSHKY RESIDENT: I have no strength or patience left after my husband was torn to pieces. You must understand how hard it is.

WALSH (voice-over): For the weeks we're in here was occupied, she lived across the street from an enormous Russian base. Our guides from Ukrainian Rapid Response Unit are cautious fighting is intensifying up the road and they know the Russians got comfortable here.

Their base even needed this aircraft warning device up high to tell Russian jets it was friendly.

(on camera): This is their problem each time they move forward. Here they are in what was once a Russian position and look, look all around you, impossible to know who's really in control of this area with a fight happening just on the other side of the hill.

(voice-over): The smell of corpses among the pines, under every footstep the threat of mines.

(on camera): Everywhere you look, foxholes, ammunition boxes, clearly a significant Russian base here. They're calling it a little of town using this forest as cover, but clearly hit really hard.

(voice-over): The tomb of the unknown Russian soldiers this says ghoulish relics here where it wants buzzed with the brutish clumsy task of besieging a city, smoldering in the trees here but swallowed in that tall silence.


WALSH: At this stage, it does at times feel like the narrative around this war is of some sort of stalemate or where gains by each side are incremental. But none of that, Jake, is stopping the level of destruction that we are still seeing.


That particular settlement, Tsyrkuny and the villages after it further north, a matter of 20 minutes drive from where I'm standing, and still, as we approached it, this devastating cloud of smoke from the use of incendiary munitions, just as I'm speaking now, a rumble of artillery behind us here. This is Ukraine second largest city. And despite the fact that it breathes easier now, because the Russians are being pushed further back, the Russians pushed back again and that persistent use of heavy weaponry frankly means that people in those settlements which should just be peaceful country, idles (ph) frankly, are still not safe. Jake.

TAPPER: Nick Payton Walsh in Ukraine, thank you so much for that important report.

Coming up more cases of monkey pox showing up around the world. What do you need to know about the virus, we'll tell you?

Then my exclusive interview with Trevor Reed and his family. What caused his mother and sister to fear they would never see him again? That's ahead.



TAPPER: In our health lead now, the World Health Organization just announced there are now 80 confirmed cases of monkeypox and another 50 cases under investigation around the globe. The viral illness causes among other things, horrible looking lesions on the skin. Let's bring in Dr. Saju Mathew, he's a public health specialist.

First of all, Dr. Matthew, tell us about monkeypox besides looking awful. What does it do to a person?

DR. SAJU MATHEW, PUBLIC HEALTH SPECIALIST: Right, you know, just we don't need another virus to ruin our lives but here we are again. Monkeypox virus is endemic to -- at parts of Africa. We think that it got over to Europe from a human-to-human transfer or maybe an animal to a human and then a human to human.

Now, what we need to worry about really what this is the fact that we have these cluster of cases, which is pretty strange. Smallpox is in the same family of monkey pox. So the good news is, the vaccine against smallpox will also work against monkey pox. But the WHO had deemed this disease eradicated smallpox in 1980. So chances are, if you're born after 1980, you will not have protection against monkeypox.

TAPPER: But what does it do other than the lesions?

MATHEW: Well, the biggest deal that you have to worry about with monkey pox is that it can be contagious, it can actually spread to the body, the whole systemic circulation, patients can die from this. The fatality rate is between zero and 10 percent. But unlike COVID, it's not as infectious. And the good news about monkeypox is you're mostly infectious only when you have those lesions that you talked about on the bottom.

TAPPER: Monkeypox, as you've noted historically, has been mostly confined to Africa, but it is showing up in more and more European countries, plus Canada and the United States. How worried should our viewers be about this spread?

MATHEW: Well, I don't think we need to panic. But we absolutely need to be cautious. Again, the fact that we have these cluster of cases in Europe and in North America, that's still a bit strange.

And also, I think what we need to just watch out for are the symptoms, you get a fever, headache, lymph nodes. And then about a few days later, Jake, you get these typical lesions that almost looks like a chickenpox or shingles. So it's going to be really important for us to share information globally. And I think we're in a much better position, given what we've gone through with the COVID pandemic, to be prepared for this possible larger cluster of breaks with monkeypox.

TAPPER: Dr. Saju Mathew, thank you so much.

Breaking news now, a federal judge has just ruled that Title 42 must stay in place at least for now. The Trump era border policy allowed authorities to quickly expel migrants at the southern border using the coronavirus pandemic as justification. The Biden administration was trying to lift it starting Monday, leading Democrats and Republicans to sound the alarm about a surge of migrants that would follow. CNN's Priscilla Alvarez is live for us in Hidalgo, Texas, right near the border.

Priscilla what's in the ruling? What happens next?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN REPORTER: Jake, just moments ago that federal judge in Louisiana saying that the administration is blocked for now for ending Title 42. This is a ruling that stems from a case for more than 20 states had filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration's decision to end Title 42. What this means is that for now, the Biden administration will have to continue to implement Title 42 and expel migrants at the U.S. Mexico border because of the public health crisis.

Now, the administration may appeal this. The case will proceed from here. But for now, Jake, the Biden administration will not be able to end Title 42 as it planned to do on Monday.

TAPPER: All right. Priscilla Alvarez, thank you so much. Appreciate the update.

It is the first time he's talked since being freed from a Russian prison. What upset the retired Marine when he was released after 985 days in captivity? Part of my exclusive interview with Trevor Reed will air next. Stay with us.



TAPPER: He spent almost three years in Russian custody, in jail, prison, a psych ward a work camp, convicted for a crime with no evidence and a trial the U.S. government called laughable and a gross miscarriage of justice. Now, for the first time since being released, Trevor Reed is talking. I had the honor of sitting down with a former Marine and his family for a CNN exclusive.

In August 2019, Trevor went to a party with his Russian girlfriend, he drank too much and several hours later, he woke up in the lobby of a Russian police station. All seemed OK until a police officer heard him speaking English. And that police officer called Russian intelligence. And that's when Trevor Reed's nightmare really began.

At the trial, which Trevor says was a total sham, he was sentenced to nine years behind bars. I asked Trevor about the statement he delivered to the court.


TREVOR REED, AMERICAN DETAINED IN RUSSIA FOR 985 DAYS: This isn't my last word whenever I was being, you know, sentenced. I said, I understand in this country that pleading guilty may lead to you having a shorter sentence, but I think it would be unethical and immoral to plead guilty to a crime that I truly did not commit. And if I'm going to be given a prison sentence, I would rather stay in prison and honest men then walk away tomorrow a liar and a coward.


TAPPER: Some remarkable thing to tell a Russian court.

REED: Yes. And that's truly what I believe. If I would have had to sit there for 10 years, for 20 years, it doesn't matter how long or what the punishment would be. I was not going to compromise, you know, my morals and plead guilty to a crime that I didn't commit. I think that's unethical. And to me the consequences of doing that didn't matter.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: During his 985 days in Russian captivity, a jail, prison, psych hospital, war camp, Trevor became fluent in Russian, eventually thinking and dreaming in Russian. He even has a slight Russian accent now.

And while he was in prison, his family back in the U.S. was advocating for his release. When Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, Trevor's sister and mother panicked, they worried any chance of a diplomatic solution was dead.


TAYLOR REED, TREVOR REED'S SISTER: I knew he was going to raise hell for them. I knew it wasn't going to be easy. But around the time that the war started in Ukraine, I got very used to the idea that I wasn't going to see him again.

TAPPER: Really? You thought that things were just going to -- it was just going to break down and there was just -- because the only way he was going to get freed was with the Russian government agreeing to something.

TAYLOR REED: Yes. And I thought that those communications would be over. And that, like my mom and I both started having horrible nightmares, night terrors, sleep paralysis, like, I sincerely didn't think I was going to see him again.

TAPPER: Oh, my God, that must have been horrible.

PAULA REED, TREVOR REED'S MOTHER: And I didn't really want to bother her, tell her but she called one day and said, Mom, I'm not sleeping. And I said, oh, well, Taylor, these are our minds, OK. You know, it's -- I think it's to be expected. This is a really hard time. And then she said, no, but I'm really having horrible dreams. And I said, well, I am too, so.


TAPPER: Fortunately, their worst fears did not come true. But for the families of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, the nightmare is ongoing. Trevor talked about Paul and even knew about Paul's detainment before he headed to Moscow in 1999 -- I'm sorry, in 2019 to visit his girlfriend.


TREVOR REED: Because of Paul Whelan's case, I almost did not travel to Russia. So, this is going to sound stupid because of what happened. But the only thing that -- you know, I was like, oh, well, like, I will go was that I had already bought a ticket by the time that I found out about Paul Whelan's case. And I was like, I don't want to pay that 200 bucks to change my ticket.

But at that same time, I thought, OK, they've like, clearly taken this marine hostage. There's absolutely no way that they're going to do that a second time. Like, even just from that first time, you know, that's completely embarrassing, that's completely just demonizes the Russian government.

And I thought, like, there's no way that they will do that again. Because before Paul, you know, Russia was not like going and taking Americans hostage, that wasn't like something that the Russians did. That's something that North Korea does.

TAPPER: So, a lot of people have been following your case for your -- almost three years of detention. They want to know what your message is. What is your message?

TREVOR REED: The first one is that Americans should be aware that this is happening to Americans all over the world, not only in Russia. But you know, especially with regard to Russia, you know, I would like Americans to know that I'm not the only American political prisoner there.

So, Paul Whelan has been there for, you know, three and a half years, he has been in there longer than I have. He was in an FSB prison there for a year, which is brutal. We need to do absolutely everything we can as Americans to advocate for those Americans who are, you know, being held illegally overseas and do every single thing we can possible to get them out. We have to do that. And I think that that's a duty of all Americans to do that. You know, when they told me that I was leaving, I thought that Paul, you know, was leaving with me. And when I found out that they left him here, that was tough.

TAPPER: You didn't want to go without him? You didn't have a choice, Trevor?

REED: Sorry.

TAPPER: You didn't have a choice. There's nothing you could do.

REED: Yes, I realized that but the fact is that the United States should have gotten him out and we have to get them out at any cost.


TAPPER: You can see more of my exclusive sit down this Sunday night in a CNN Special Report, "Finally Home, The Trevor Reed Interview." I'll also be joined by Paul Whelan's sister and brother discussing the latest in their push to free Paul. It's all Sunday night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.

Coming up, in just four days, Donald Trump's sway over Republican voters will be put to the test once again. What might this mean for November's elections? That's next.



TAPPER: And we're back with our politics lead, it is a blitz across Georgia with just four days left until the state's crucial primaries and despite a dismal new poll showing him trailing incumbent Governor Brian Kemp of more than 30 points. Former Senator David Perdue hit the campaign trail this afternoon for a rally with former Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin.

Let's discuss, Kristen Soltis Anderson, let me start with you. Despite being on the trail today, it seems Perdue might have seen the writing on the wall. His campaign to spending no money on TV ads for the entire last week of the race. You're a pollster, what went wrong with the Perdue challenge of the incumbent Republican?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Donald Trump is not to get out of jail free card. And Brian Kemp, despite the fact that Donald Trump has attacked him repeatedly, is someone that Georgia Republicans kind of like, they like how he has performed as governor. They think that he is the one who can prevent Stacey Abrams from winning in a general election. And those are really powerful things.

So in a contest where there are lots of people, people aren't very well known, that's where Donald Trump can come in, and he can, you know, really make some waves. But in a race where voters know and like the incumbent, it's a lot harder for Donald Trump to unseat someone.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: He also use the power of incumbency. I was talking to a political consultant in Georgia today who reminded me that literally this week, married couples in Georgia got $500 in their bank accounts as a tax refund.

TAPPER: What a coincidence that timing.

BORGER: How did that occur? So, you know, in addition to that, there's, you know --

TAPPER: Just Republican ones or all?

BORGER: Everybody. And, you know, he signed legislation to bands, you know, CRT, you know, he's done a lot of stuff that --


BORGER: Right.


BORGER: Right, Conservatives like.

TAPPER: So, Nia-Malika, let me ask you, because Kemp is -- he's pretty much just ignoring Perdue and talking about Stacey Abrams, who will likely be his Democratic opponent. This will be a rematch from their election four years ago. What does that rematch look like?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, listen, it was a close, close race in 2018. And a year that was really good for Democrats. And you saw Stacey Abrams performed better there than you'd really seen any Democrat in years past. She was able to bring out African-American voters, Asian voters, Latino voters as well and did fairly well with white voters, as well.

Hard to see in this year, that is a Republican friendly year, because of all of the data we see about gas prices, shortages around everything right in the country. It's hard to see her sort of matching that performance this go round, but she's certainly going to give it a go. She will probably be able to bring out a similar kind of demographic. But again, Kemp is the incumbent, it's harder this go round for her, I think, to really be able to overtake the (INAUDIBLE).

ANDERSON: Well and that's where Republicans won't get caught napping on this one.


ANDERSON: I think back in 2018 --


ANDERSON: -- there was a sense that, look, they knew there was a chance, but that turned had been red state for so long.


ANDERSON: Now it is abundantly clear. Georgia is a swing.

LEGER: Right. But she's also been working the last four years, right? So I -- well I agree with you like the headwinds are not necessarily in her favor. She has been putting the time on the ground and building up that network. So I think it's going to be a lot closer than people think.

TAPPER: We'll see. Let's turn to Pennsylvania because election officials are still counting the votes there, as we do in Pennsylvania. And every single one of the ballots is crucial right now, because of how closest races the Republican Senate primary where Dr. Mehmet Oz is just over 0.1 percentage point over Dave McCormick, it's only about 1,000. Last time I looked, it was 1,008 votes.

Both -- I'm sorry, 1080 votes -- both campaigns are preparing for a recount. Politico puts it like this, "At this juncture, neither campaigns signaling that they'll throw in the towel instead, Pennsylvania Republicans are predicting trench warfare that could drag out for weeks -- and be fought in the media as well as potentially in the courts -- in the states closely watched primaries."

It is interesting to see Republicans believing that every vote counts --

BORGER: Every vote.

TAPPER: -- in Pennsylvania.


BORGER: Yes, and it --

TAPPER: Including mail-in votes.

BORGER: Well, and if Mehmet Oz comes out on top, Donald Trump's candidate, it'll be free and fair election. But if he were to lose, you'll hear from Donald Trump, who by the way, as you all know, asked and said Oz, why don't you just declare victory, because you're ahead and you won. And that's not the way we conduct elections in this country.

We ought to have a better way of counting votes. We ought to be able to do it quicker and the great Commonwealth and figure out the legislature to figure out a way to do that quicker because it's kind of silly, but every vote counts.

TAPPER: Yes, no, every vote does count. I have to say to Dr. Oz's credit, he has not --


TAPPER: -- taken --

LEGER: Right.

TAPPER: -- Donald Trump's advice and just declared victory.


It is weird because when, you know, we anchored right here or whenever wherever I was, and I left at about midnight and McCormick was up. But then between midnight and one more votes came in, and then Oz was slightly up. And I guess McCormick could have declared victory under the Donald Trump rules.

LEGER: Right. But I think they're both doing the right thing. It's just keeping their powder dry, see what happens. It's going to be a recount. It's going to be a fight. It's just great for the Democrats to let the Republicans go fight it out. And then they can just talk about what they are going to do for the sake of Pennsylvania. They have to change that law where they can't even start processing --


LEGER: -- mail-in votes until the night of the election.

TAPPER: Well that's the Republican legislature that's held that up.

LEGER: Yes. Well, that was writing (ph) them.

HENDERSON: Such a mess. I think if you're Republican in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, you are really regretting the fact that Donald Trump got so involved in this race. It's ended up being so messy. In either of these guys, whoever comes out on top, you know, they've wasted all this time going at each other, spending millions of dollars tearing each other down.

So it's going to be hard, I think, going forward for either of these folks. They're obviously facing Fetterman, Democrats feel very good about him as a candidate and the prospect of flipping the seat.

TAPPER: Is there any chance that Dave McCormick going through in a smaller way, what Joe Biden went through in the sense that people are Republicans. Donald Trump are now accusing him of cheating and saying that I should just declare victory and blah, blah, blah. Is there any chance that is going to demonstrate to Republicans who believe the big lie, oh, maybe this was crap, maybe this was nonsense?

ANDERSON: Possibly. I mean, again, this is not a -- you can't fit this into that framework of, oh, this is the other side politically, and they have all these ideological goals. And therefore, because they want to achieve those goals, they're willing to do X, Y, and Z voters. This is two candidates who are both trying to frame themselves as very ideologically aligned.

And so I do think that it takes some of the air out of the balloon of this idea that, well, if you're losing an election, and it's really close, that there must be funny games that are motivated by ideology and a primary, you just don't have that (INAUDIBLE).

BORGER: But one of these people was endorsed by Donald Trump. And that's sort of adds, you know, something to this fight --

TAPPER: Although, to be honest, it could have been either one, I mean, like --

LEGER: They're trying to attract each other.

BORGER: Right, all of them. And that's why, you know, Kathy Barnette sort of got in there and took away so many votes from both of them. But I think that, you know, Donald Trump is out there now. He believes he has more riding on this than anybody else. Pennsylvania, swing state. This is important to him in every single way.

TAPPER: Yes. I will say this, whoever wins between McCormick and Oz, the absentee ballots, the vote by mail ballots --

BORGER: Right.

TAPPER: -- will have made the difference and allowed them to win, which is a demonstration of why valid vote by mail is important and should be counted whoever it's for.


TAPPER: Biden or Trump or McCormick.

HENDERSON: You're exactly right, yes. And Republicans have done themself a disservice by really talking down absentee ballots and acting like there's, you know, abundant fraud with these kinds of ballots.

BORGER: Well, you remember, you wrote a book about it, "The Election Of 2000."

TAPPER: Right.

BORGER: Absentee military ballot.

TAPPER: Right.

BORGER: That was a big difference in that election.

TAPPER: Right. And they came in -- that had to do with whether they came in after the election.

BORGER: That's right, but it was absentee.

TAPPER: All right. Thank you so much. Great panel. Really appreciate it. Thanks for all being here.

Also in our politics lead, prosecutors, but Hillary Clinton's former campaign manager on the witness stand today in the trial of the first case brought by Special Counsel John Durham. Durham, as you might recall, was appointed during the Trump administration by Bill Barr to look for any wrongdoing in the way the Justice Department handled the Trump-Russia probe.

A former Clinton campaign Attorney Michael Sussmann is currently being accused of lying to the FBI when he shared with them unvetted information about the Trump organization's alleged business dealings with Russia. He is accused of lying by not revealing his political motives for passing along the tip.

CNN's Evan Perez is covering the trial. So Evan, Robbie Mook, the former Clinton campaign manager, he testified today that Clinton herself signed off on the campaign sharing this unvetted and ultimately, disproven information about Trump and the Alpha bank with the New York Times reporter. What does that matter?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it matters, Jake, for the prosecutors to show that this was part -- as they say, this was part of an effort by the Clinton campaign to dirty up Donald Trump, to essentially -- the sleazy campaign, which was intended to get it into the press, first of all, to get it into the press, that there were these sort -- these suspicious connections between Donald Trump and a Kremlin connected Russian bank.

Secondly, according to prosecutors, is that they wanted the FBI to investigate this and then be able to tell the press that Donald Trump was under investigation. That was the goal of this plan. And so it was important for prosecutors to hear today from Mook that, you know, she -- that the candidate herself Hillary Clinton, approved of this plan to leak this to a reporter.

First, it went to a slate reporter. They were also trying to talk to a New York Times reporter at the time, Jake.


What also came out in court, though, was that according to Robby Mook, they did not know that Sussmann went to the FBI. Because in the end, that became a problem. It ended up stopping some of the stories.

TAPPER: And today we also heard from CIA officials who also got this Trump-Alpha bank tip from Sussmann and it seems again, there are varying recollections --

PEREZ: Right.

TAPPER: -- of whether Sussmann was upfront about the fact that he represented the Clinton campaign.

PEREZ: Right, exactly. And this is one of the things I think that jurors are going to have to wrestle with at the end of this trial. Jake, the question of, did he tell the people he was meeting with in the government that he was representing the Clinton campaign, or did he not?

And today we heard from two separate CIA officials who said that, you know, they had varying recollections of what he said. And so I think what you're -- that's become a theme of this trial, including from their star witness who has testified previously, all kinds of different ways. The question for jurors is going to be, you know, certainly the defense is trying to make the point, none of that matters.

Because in the end, Donald Trump was actually under investigation. The world did not know it at the time, and the FBI essentially was doing what it had to do. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Evan Perez, thank you so much.

Coming up, the deadly consequences of what's been called sextortion. A look at the growing online threats. And now not just the teenage girls, but teenage boys as well. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our tech lead now, the FBI warning miners are becoming increasingly targeted in a sextortion scheme. And it's not just girls, boys, too, are being lured by cyber criminals into intimate online conversations, and then blackmailed for money. CNN's Josh Campbell reports on how this scheme turned into a deadly outcome for one family.


PAULINE STUART, RYAN'S MOTHER: So Ryan was 17 years old. He was a Boy Scout. A straight A student.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pauline Stuart's son Ryan received the message one evening in February. Hours later, a panicked Ryan took his own life.

STUART: Somebody reached out to him pretending to be a girl and they started a conversation.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): Their social media conversation quickly grew intimate. The cybercriminal posing as a girl sent Ryan a nude photo, then asked for one of him in return. STUART: As he sent it to them, they demanded $5,000 from him. When he told them they couldn't, so they lowered the money.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): Ryan, a high school senior agreed to pay the criminals from his college savings. But their demands only increased.

STUART: They threatened to post those to family members. Put them on the internet.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): Pauline said goodnight to her son at 10:00 p.m. Soon after, things took a devastating turn.

STUART: He was still a happy, normal kid. But by 2:00 in the morning, that's when he took his life.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): Pauline says a note left behind stressed how embarrassed Ryan was for himself and the family.

STUART: He really truly thought in that time that there wasn't a way to get by if those pictures were actually posted online. He has no showed he was absolutely terrified. And no child should have to be that scared.

CAMPBELL (on-camera): Had you ever heard of this kind of scheme before?


CAMPBELL (voice-over): It's called sextortion. And an increase in victims now has the FBI warning parents from coast to coast. The bureau says there were 18,000 sextortion related complaints in 2021 with losses in excess of $13 million. The FBI says the use of child pornography by criminals to lure victims also constitutes a serious crime.

DAN COSTIN, FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT: To be a criminal that specifically targets children. I mean, it's one of the more deeper violations of trust, I think and society.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): Dan Costin leads an FBI squad working to protect America's children from this truly global threat.

COSTIN: We're seeing primarily a lot of these are coming from overseas as we've seen other financial scams.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): Costin says young males are the primary target and that cases are almost certainly underreported. One reason many victims don't come forward.

COSTIN: I would say the embarrassment piece of this is probably one of the bigger hurdles that the victims have to overcome.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): Experts say the developing teen brain makes them especially vulnerable.

DR. SCOTT HADLAND, CHIEF OF ADOLESCENT MEDICINE, MASS GENERAL HOSPITAL: It's hard for them to look past that moment and understand that in the big scheme of things, they'll be able to get through this.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): The message to kids, you're not alone. Experts urge parents to warn teens of the scam without shaming them.

HADLAND: You want to make it clear to them that they can talk to you if they have done something or if they feel like they've made a mistake.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): Ryan's mom agrees.

STUART: You need to talk to your kids.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): Still grieving, Pauline channels her family's pain into action, honoring her son by speaking out and hopefully saving lives.

STUART: How could these people look at themselves in the mirror knowing that $150 is more important than a child's life? There's no other word but evil for me. I don't want anybody else to go through what we did.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): Josh Campbell, CNN, San Jose, California.


TAPPER: Our thanks to Josh Campbell for that report.

Coming up next, Boeing is hoping for success in space after several disasters here on earth.



TAPPER: In our out of this world lead, Boeing is playing catch up in more ways than one. Right now, it's Starliner space capsule is catching up to the International Space Station getting ready to dock with it in about an hour. There are no people aboard the capsule, just cargo. Boeing also is trying to play catch up to SpaceX which already has flying crews to and from the space station in its own space capsules. The Starliner has been slowed by technical and development problems.

Tune in this Sunday morning for State of the Union. My colleague Dana Bash will talk to the Director of National Economic Council Brian Deese, Pennsylvania Democratic Gubernatorial Nominee Josh Shapiro, plus Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson. This is at 9:00 a.m. and noon on Sunday.

And don't forget to join me Sunday night for a CNN Special Report, "Finally Home: The Trevor Reed Interview." I sit down with Trevor and his family for his first interview since being freed from captivity in Russia. I'm also going to be joined by the loved ones of other Americans detained around the world. 8:00 p.m. Eastern Sunday night only on CNN.

Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." I will see you Sunday night.