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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Biden: U.S. Would Respond "Militarily" If China Attacked Taiwan; Former U.S., Russian Diplomat Resigns In Protest Of Putin's "Aggressive War;" Pence Campaigns In Georgia Tonight Against Trump- Backed Candidate; Pence Campaigns In Georgia Tonight Against Trump- Backed Candidate; CDC: U.S. In Process Of Releasing Vaccine From National Stockpile; Southern Baptist Leaders Accused Of Covering Up Sex Abuse For 20 Years. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired May 23, 2022 - 16:00   ET



KELSEY GOLDEN, MOTHER OF 2-YEAR-OLD WHO ORDERED 31 CHEESEBURGERS: I was kind of shocked when I realized, no, I did come from my phone. So I thought maybe it was a mistake.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Nope. The total bill came to more than $90. Thanks in part to Barrett's generous 25 percent tip for the driver.

And THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Not the first time the White House has been forced to clean up something President Biden said.

THE LEAD starts right now.

A White House walk back after President Biden says the U.S. would get involved militarily if China were to ever attack U.S. ally Taiwan. And now, China is responding.

Plus, more suspected cases of monkeypox in the U.S., as investigators try to pinpoint how this virus is spreading.

And an explosive report of sex abuse cases inside the Southern Baptist Convention. Survivors repeatedly ignored and disbelieved by the largest Protestant denomination in the United States as leaders themselves tried to protect their own reputations instead of protecting the victims.


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

We start with our world lead and top White House advisers caught off guard by this response from President Biden when he was asked in a news conference in Tokyo if the U.S. would be willing to go further than it has with Ukraine to help Taiwan in the event of an invasion. (BEGN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: You didn't want to get involved in the Ukraine conflict militarily for obvious reasons. Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?


REPORTER: You are?

BIDEN: That's the commitment we made.


TAPPER: Now, President Biden didn't specify what he meant by militarily, but the question defined the term as the U.S. military getting directly involved as it has not done in Ukraine, to which Biden said yes.

The White House rushed to clarify, saying that the Biden administration would send weapons, not troops, to help Taiwan. But it's a far cry from the delicacy and ambiguity we usually see from U.S. officials when they talk about China and Taiwan.

This is, we should note, the third time in recent months President Biden has said the U.S. would protect Taiwan from a Chinese attack only for the White House to walk back those remarks.

CNN's MJ Lee starts off our coverage from Tokyo with more on the White House's attempted cleanup and China's forceful response to Biden's comments.


MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A consequential one-word response from President Biden, making major headlines during his inaugural trip to Asia as commander in chief.

REPORTER: Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?


LEE: At a press conference in Tokyo, the president taking on the thorny and delicate issue of China/Taiwan relations.

BIDEN: The idea it can be taken by force, just taken by force, is just not appropriate. It will dislocate the entire region and be another action similar to what happened in Ukraine.

LEE: That explicit commitment that the U.S. would get involved militarily and come to Taiwan's aid if China were to attack it, inviting more questions.

REPORTER: Mr. President, China is now saying that the U.S. should be careful not to send the wrong message on Taiwan. Did you send the wrong signal?

LEE: And sending U.S. officials quickly scrambling.

REPORTER: Would you put U.S. troops on the ground to defend Taiwan, Mr. President?

LEE: In a statement afterwards, a White House official insisting that Biden was not suggesting any change in existing U.S. policy. And that the president was referring to a commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with the military means to defend itself.

China hitting back at Biden's remarks in a statement, warning the president to be cautious in words and deeds on the Taiwan issue.

This not the first time that Biden has strongly suggested U.S. military involvement to defend Taiwan.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: So, are you saying that the United States would come to Taiwan's defense if China attacks?

BIDEN: Yes, we have a commitment to do that.

LEE: And Biden, hardly the first U.S. president to take such a position.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You have said publicly the U.S. would commit military forces if China attacked Taiwan?

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: I will do what it takes to help Taiwan defend itself and the Chinese must understand that.

LEE: The spotlight on Taiwan coming as Biden pushes for strengthening U.S. alliances in the Indo-Pacific region, in the face of China's growing influence.

In Tokyo, the U.S. alongside a dozen other countries, unveiling a new economic framework.

BIDEN: The future of the 21st century economy is going to be largely written in Indo-Pacific and our region.


We're writing the new rules for the 21st century economy.


LEE (on camera): Now, the sun has just started to rise here, as the president kicks off his final day here in Asia.

Later today, he's going to be participating in the Quad Summit. This is a summit of the leaders of the U.S., Japan, Australia, and India. He's going to have a couple bilateral meetings as well.

And then he heads back to Washington, Jake, where there are a couple of key issues that are going to be waiting for him, including inflation, the baby formula shortage, and of course, the war in Ukraine is going to continue being top of mind for the president as well -- Jake.

TAPPER: MJ Lee in Tokyo, thanks so much.

Also in the world lead today, a Russian diplomat handing in his notice saying he's never been so ashamed of his country's actions.

Boris Bondarev, the 20-year veteran of Russia's diplomatic service, quit his post at the United Nations this morning, sending his former colleagues a scathing takedown of Vladimir Putin, writing, quote: The aggressive war unleashed by Putin against Ukraine and, in fact, against the entire Western world, is not only a crime against the Ukrainian people but also perhaps the most serious crime against the people of Russia.

CNN's Nic Robertson joins us now live.

Nic, how rare of a public statement is this?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: From such a senior diplomat, and a good assignment in Geneva, apparently until now, very good standing within the Russian foreign ministry, this is quite significant. Let's not forget, the mission that he serves at in Geneva is one that's already seen the rebound effect of Putin's war in Ukraine because that was the mission where the Russian representative for the United Nations High Commission Human Rights Council, their representative was thrown off there, so this is a mission that has seen first-hand the world's reaction.

This diplomat is clearly utterly incensed, as you're describing it there. He says that this is a war not just against Ukraine but against the world, a crime not just against Ukrainians but Russians. Why? Because essentially that snuffs out the possibility of a free and prosperous society in the future.

But there's also very strong rebuke from his boss, Sergey Lavrov, saying the foreign ministry is no longer interested in diplomacy and sober intelligence estimates. This is now about hatred and warmongering.

But perhaps his most stinging criticism is of President Putin and the other leaders and I'll read it to you because this will resonate with Russian people. He says, those who conceived this war want only one thing, to remain in power forever, to live in pompous, tasteless palaces -- and I'll come back to that.

Sail on yachts that compare in tonnage and cost to the entire Russian navy, and enjoy unlimited power and complete impunity. To achieve that, they're willing to sacrifice as many lives as it takes.

Why is that going to resonate? Well, I know from my own experiences in Russia earlier this year that a lot of people believe that Putin is willing to sacrifice as many lives as it takes. And remember, his biggest opposition critic, Alexei Navalny, jailed late last year. His biggest expose on Putin is the alleged palace that he lived in.

This is designed to resonate and hit home and hit home hard.

TAPPER: All right. Nic Robertson, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Now to the latest in Ukraine. Today, a panel of judges in Kyiv sentenced a 21-year-old Russian soldier to life in prison for killing an unarmed Ukrainian civilian. This is the first soldier in Putin's army to be found guilty of committing a war crime since the invasion began in February.

The Biden administration is also considering a plan to bolster security around the U.S. embassy in Kyiv with special operations forces. U.S. officials want to make it clear the move should not be seen as escalatory as some former U.S. special ops forces have decided to join Ukraine's fight on their own.

CNN's Sam Kiley has this exclusive report about that.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn't. We just knew the enemy was this way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go, go, go, go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just hop through these backyards and clear through here.

KILEY (voice-over): It's not as straightforward as it sounds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's going to go to that building.

KILEY: Veterans of years of counterinsurgency warfare, this small team of American and British fighters is under Ukrainian command and they look at war down the other end of the barrel, and have asked us to conceal their identities for their own security. This is a war that has a moral clarity for these volunteers in Ukraine's International Legion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, people keep saying you're doing it for democracy. It's really not, you know. [16:10:00]

It really comes down to good versus evil.

I never figured out why they were killing women and children. And it wasn't by accident. It was murder. I mean, we found many people just at the end of this street that were bound together and shot, thrown on the side of the road.

KILEY: Many in Kevin's team, ex-special force operators, have had millions spent on their training in the West, in countries that won't send troops to war with Russia. Among the first into Irpin, they took over this house behind enemy lines. He says the team killed dozens of Russians in the park below. He says the fighting and the shelling and the Russian killing of civilians was relentless.

As Kevin's team advanced, he says they got trapped in this health spa for several days. It was steadily torn apart by Russian artillery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The house of hell. This was four really miserable days of really little sleep, really heavy artillery, really heavy infantry presence from the Russians.

KILEY: Kevin's small team is funded largely by donations, to the Ukrainian Legion. It operates mostly behind Russian lines. And they were stunned at first at being on the receiving end of air strikes and heavy artillery. But they're applying the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan to Russia and believe that they're having an effect on the enemy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's definitely a psychological aspect to it. We do know the Russians were talking about, hey, we can't figure out where they're at. We don't know what's happening. We're being artilleried so heavy we put this chair here so we could jump out the window in a hurry.

KILEY: Deeper into the spa, he comes across evidence that Russia played dirty, even in local defeat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, a lot of the Russians came back through some of these places and re-mined them, put booby-traps. This cable goes back into the ground where it's been intentionally buried and it's tied off here.

KILEY: So far, this group has not lost a soldier.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Definitely a nightmare.

KILEY: But that time may come. It's a risk he says he's prepared to take because for the West's former warriors in the war on terror, Ukraine has given them something back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One way or the other, they have either been lost or they have lost everything. So this is giving them another chance. To come back here and it's like they have put their life back together.


KILEY (on camera): Now, Jake, the level of casualties is unknown, and no accurate figures on the war, but as you can see there, it's intense and it's bloody. The latest figures they could be relied on coming from President Zelenskyy saying 50 to 100 Ukrainians are dying in the eastern battlefront itself alone every day, Jake.

TAPPER: Sam Kiley in Kyiv, thank you so much.

Coming up next, from gas prices to a rising cost of living, are your leaders in Congress doing anything to help you get by? We'll talk to a top Senate Democrat.

Plus, the deadly end to an apparent love triangle. An elite cyclist shot and killed. The search for the other woman who is accused of murder.



TAPPER: And we're back in our politics lead. Is it a gaffe if he keeps saying it?

President Biden saying today the U.S. would intervene militarily if China attempted to take Taiwan by force, and as MJ Lee noted, the president has said this before and now, his comments are putting U.S. officials in a tough spot.

In a Pentagon briefing today, Joint Chiefs chairman, General Mark Milley, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin declined to say if U.S. troops could be sent to Taiwan.


REPORTER: Would you support sending U.S. troops to Taiwan?

GEN. MARK MILLEY, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: I will render my advice at the moment in time to the president and the secretary of defense.

REPORTER: Is the U.S. making a commitment by saying that they're willing to defend them militarily for U.S. troops to be involved in that military response?

LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Again, Courtney, I think the president was clear on the fact that the policy has not changed.


TAPPER: Let's bring in Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. He's on the Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator Murphy, you heard General Milley and Secretary Austin in that clip reluctant to answer the question, speaking to how sensitive the issue is.

Are you surprised president Biden went as far as he did today?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Well, I think I'll be interested to hear from the administration this week as to whether our policy has changed. Our policy has been the same since 1979, which has been that we're going to help Taiwan defend itself, and we're going to leave open the question of whether the United States would come to the defense of Taiwan.

Obviously, you can't put U.S. troops in defense of Taiwan without an authorization of military force from congress. So we shouldn't pretend like the president actually has the final say on this matter. He would have to get authorization from us.

But whether or not it is the president's belief that we should defend Taiwan, that's up to him, and he seems to have said on repeated occasions that he believes it would be in the United States' interest to defend Taiwan. He would still need Congress to authorize that war if it ever came to it. Let's all hope that it doesn't.

TAPPER: A Russian diplomat at the U.N., Boris Bondarev, resigned today. He said in a letter that he was ashamed of his country, when Russia invaded Ukraine. It was pretty striking to hear a top level diplomat rebuking Putin, a top level Russian diplomat. Do you think more Russian diplomats could follow suit?

MURPHY: I think Russia's economy is in a freefall. And there are going to be perhaps millions of Russians who are going to try to get out of that country when they have a chance and come to the West because these sanctions are going to be significant and crippling, and Russia is going to run out of oil revenues at some point.

I don't think this will be the end of diplomats sort of using this political moment as a mechanism to come to the United States. There was a long tradition of this during the Cold War, but the dynamics here are probably as much about economics in Russia as they are about politics.


This is good news, but frankly, I don't think it changes Putin's disposition. He's backed into a corner, but I think he's likely in this fight for the long haul, which is why Congress has to be in this fight for the long haul, continuing to approve aid to Ukraine.

TAPPER: Speaking of Congress, Democrats are facing a tough re- election cycle. Gas prices at a record high. Families struggling to find infant formula. The cost of living is high.

What do you tell voters when they say what are Democrats doing to help American families?

MURPHY: Listen, these are all, you know, real struggles. I was just in Connecticut all weekend. I heard it directly from folks in Connecticut.

As you know, there's a flipside, which is we have almost no unemployment in this country, structurally low unemployment, almost nobody filing for unemployment benefits. We have an economy that is growing and that has meant pressure on prices, but more importantly, the global supply chain crisis in particular what's going on in China as they shut down their economy has a huge impact here.

But that can't be our answer, the Democrats' answer can't simply be it's beyond our control, which is why we should continue to press for the president's Build Back Better agenda which is about short-term relief to families right now, tax cuts, help for child care cost, lower prescription costs try to deal with what will be a temporary surge in prices while COVID still wreaked havoc on the global supply chain.

TAPPER: I don't mean to be rude, but your pitch is legislation that Democrats couldn't get passed?

MURPHY: Well, ultimately, these elections are about choices, right? So voters can choose the Democratic Party, which has over and over again tried to pass legislation that lowers people's cost, or they can choose the Republican Party who stood in the way of lowering those costs and has actually no plan to combat rising prices. Democrats have a plan, it's just we haven't been able to convince enough Republicans to go along with us. That's the choice in front of voters this November.

TAPPER: You have some Democrats you need to work on, too.

Senator Chris Murphy, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

MURPHY: Thanks.

TAPPER: Two of the biggest names in the GOP loom large over tomorrow's primary in Georgia. The must watch race pitting former President Donald Trump against his own former vice president, Mike Pence. That's next.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, voters in Georgia are just one day away from their midterm primary. A lot of attention on the Republican side between Trump's favorite, a fellow 2020 election denier and former senator, David Perdue, and the incumbent Republican Governor Brian Kemp, whom Trump is mad at for upholding the law and certifying the legal votes of the people of Georgia.

As CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports for us now, former Vice President Mike Pence's break with Trump and full-throated support for Kemp has the governor feeling peachy.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One day before Georgia's primary election, a new chapter on an old grievance.

Governor Brian Kemp is not only running for re-election, but he's trying to move beyond relentless criticism from Donald Trump who has been nursing a grudge at Kemp and other Republicans for refusing to overturn the last election.

GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R), GEORGIA: Our vice president, Mike Pence.

ZELENY: To make his point, Kemp invited former Vice President Mike Pence for the final rally of the campaign tonight, putting a fresh spotlight on the long simmering conflict between the former president and his once loyal partner. MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: President Trump is wrong. I had no

right to overturn the election.

ZELENY: The governor is hoping for a big win over his chief rival, former Senator David Perdue, who Trump convinced to challenge Kemp, in one of his riskiest gambits of the midterm campaign season.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Brian Kemp is a turncoat, he's a coward, and he's a complete and total disaster.

ZELENY: Kemp has repeatedly declined to engage, as he did again today on a call with reporters.

KEMP: I have never said anything bad about him. I don't plan on doing that. I'm not mad at him. I think he's just mad at me, and that's something that I can't control.

ZELENY: His campaign has not been about Trump, but rather focused on a potential rematch with Stacey Abrams who is running unopposed in the Democratic primary. Heading into Election Day, more than 807,000 people have already cast their votes, a record early vote for an off- year race in a battleground where voting rights is at the center of the debate.

While many Republicans have made it clear they're eager to look forward.

DARRELL HUCKABY, GEORGIA VOTER: He can't get over the fact that he couldn't tell Brian Kemp what to do in Georgia.

ZELENY: Trump's obsession with narrowly losing Georgia has loomed large, up and down the Georgia primary ballot. He endorsed Congressman Jody Hice to challenge the state's top election official, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

TRUMP: Jody is running against one of the worst secretary of states in America, RINO Brad Raffensperger, who is trying to turn the tables on me because I'm fighting for election integrity.

ZELENY: Raffensperger famously refused to help Trump overturn the election in a call that remains part of an ongoing criminal investigation into election interference. GOP voters will determine his fate Tuesday.

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER (R), GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: As long as I am secretary of state, Georgia will lead the nation in election security and election integrity, and accessibility.


ZELENY (on camera): Now, it is the governor's race here that has top billing tomorrow. And Kemp is not only trying to win, he's trying to win big. If he gets more than 50 percent of the vote, he avoided a June runoff election.

But, Jake, all eyes here are on the former vice president. He'll be having a rally here tonight. And the former president, president Trump, not wasting any time. His spokesman taking a pretty hard shot at Mike Pence. He's saying he's desperate to chase lost relevance, trying to parachute into this campaign. What this is, certainly a debut for Mike Pence as he's eyeing political future of his own, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Let's break down these numbers with CNN senior data reporter Harry Enten.

Harry, what does the data telling you about Trump's pick for Georgia governor, the former Senator Perdue?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: It's not looking good for Trump's pick.

You know, Jeff pointing out an important number, and that's 50 percent, right? That is what you need to avoid a runoff. This is a Fox News poll from last week. What do we see?

Well, we see that Brian Kemp is well above that 50 percent mark. He's at 60 percent. David Perdue with just 28 percent.

If you want to talk about momentum going forward, look, back in March, Kemp was only at 50 percent. He's up ten pounds. Perdue is down 11 points, but was an 11-point margin is up to 32 points with Kemp well above that 50 percent threshold.

Although I must admit, looking through history, I'm not that surprised because gubernatorial primaries this past month have really not necessarily gone Trump's way.

You look at Idaho last week, what did you see? You saw Trump endorsed candidate lose. You look at Nebraska a week before that, another Trump endorsed candidate losing. And in Ohio at the beginning of the month, although Trump didn't endorse anybody, there were three pro-Trump challengers to Mike DeWine, the incumbent governor, and they lost to DeWine in a pretty clear matchup.

So, if Kemp, in fact, wins tomorrow, that would line up with what we have generally been seeing in the month of May so far.

TAPPER: Why do you think Perdue is struggling?

ENTEN: I think that there are a few reasons why Perdue is struggling, not the least of which Brian Kemp is popular in the state.

But look -- look at Trump's endorsement of Perdue. How does that -- what does that make you do essentially? Does it make you more supportive of Perdue? We see 37 percent of voters, Republican voters in Georgia say, yeah, it does.

But then add up this 24 percent, which is less supportive of Perdue, a very large number in the Republican primary, and the no effect at 36 percent. You get a majority of voters, Republican primary voters in the state of Georgia saying that endorsement that Trump made either makes them less supportive of Trump's candidate or no effect.

And here's the thing I will also note, which is bring this out nationally. Bring this out nationally, Jake, and what do we see? Look, Trump is still a popular guy nationally among Republicans. This is his very favorable rating, not just the like, this is the love. We really love Trump.

Back in election eve of 2020, it was 72 percent. Now, it's still a majority at 53 percent, but that is down significantly. So we're dealing with a Republican base that still really likes Trump, but does it really love him as much? Perhaps not.

TAPPER: There a few Senate races tomorrow. I want to talk about the one in Alabama, because Trump endorsed Congressman Mo brooks for this open Senate seat, but then he took the endorsement back. What's the status of that primary?

ENTEN: Yeah. It's like Lazarus coming back from the dead, I think essentially. Mo brooks who was left for dead essentially when Trump withdrew that endorsement. He was double digits behind a run-off spot. Now, without Trump's endorsement, he's in a dead heat in a runoff spot.

So, Mo Brooks may be able to reach that without Trump's support. I'll just note finally, though, in the state of Georgia, that Senate race, Herschel Walker, that's a Trump endorsed candidate, he will, in fact, win that.

So, a bright spot, but overall tomorrow, Jake, it could be Trump's worst day of May so far.

TAPPER: All right. Harry Enten, fascinating. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

ENTEN: Thank you.

TAPPER: What may be a common link between many of the new monkeypox cases that are now popping up.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our health lead now: new lights on the global outbreak of monkeypox. The viral illness begins with flu-like symptoms and eventually causes these awful looking skin lesions. Although it's rarely fatal, monkeypox historically has been mostly seen in Africa but it's turning up in countries around the globe now, especially in Europe, but also here in the United States.

A report issued today by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control says, quote, the currently diagnosed monkeypox cases are primarily among men who have sex with men, which suggests the transmission may take place during intimate relations, unquote. The statement goes on to warn, quoting again, quote, the likelihood of further spread of the virus through close contact, for example, during sexual activities among persons with multiple sexual partners, is considered to be high, unquote.

Let's bring in Dr. Peter Hotez. He specializes in tropical medicine and vaccine development.

Dr. Hotez, based on all of this, is it mostly men involved in these intimate relations who are more likely to get monkeypox?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN, SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: That seems to be the major profile, although there's nothing intrinsic about monkeypox to make you think it's only going to be men. For instance, this virus is probably not transmitted through sexual intercourse or sexual relations but rather just close intimate contact.

So what we're seeing so far about 200 cases globally, confirmed and suspected cases, about half in Portugal, in Spain that may have arisen out of an event in the Canary Islands or earlier. But that's still speculative. This came out from Dr. David Hayman, former assistant director general of the World Health Organization and an adviser.


Possibly a second event out of Belgium, but they're still doing the outbreak investigation. What we're seeing so far that is unusual is the fact that we have multiple faucet of infection beyond Portugal and Spain. As you just pointed out, the UK, Belgium, and now Canada and several cases in the U.S. so it's a bit of a medical puzzle so far, but we're slowly getting the pieces together.

TAPPER: It does not seem that one would have to have visible lesions in order to be infectious, I would guess, right?

HOTEZ: Typically, the infectious, the time you are infectious is around the time when you do have that rash. You may possibly be infectious a day before. But generally speaking, yes. And so that actually in its own interesting way is good news because it means you can identify people who are potentially transmitting the infection, just like we did when we were eradicating smallpox, which is a related virus.

You use the fact that somebody had a rash in order to identify all of the contacts. So, the fact that's possible makes it a lot easier to do the contact tracing than something like COVID-19, where you have many, many asymptomatic individuals, and the fact that we have a good array of vaccines. We have at least three different vaccines for smallpox that will likely cross protect against monkeypox, and two antiviral drugs for smallpox will do the same.

So, we're in a much better position because it's easier to do the contact tracing, transmissibility is less, and we have a great artillery system of drugs and vaccines available, Jake.

TAPPER: The CDC just confirmed that the U.S. is in the process of releasing monkeypox vaccine from the national stockpile for people at high risk. Who does that include? Could smallpox vaccines also be effective?

HOTEZ: They could be. There's both the replicating smallpox vaccine which is the old school smallpox vaccine, similar to the one used to eradicate smallpox and a non-replicating virus made by Bavarian Nordic. We'll have to see which one they ultimately decide to release.

Then you have to decide who are going to be eligible for those vaccines -- likely high-risk groups that have had contact with individuals doing that so-called ring vaccination. I doubt the FDA and CDC will recommend a widespread vaccination campaign, especially with only three cases in the United States known so far. We'll see how this evolves and whether additional cases pop up.

Remember, there's about a two-week incubation period, so it's not like the COVID B2.12 variant where it shows up after a couple days. It takes a couple weeks. We'll have to see how this evolves and be a bit patient about that.

TAPPER: All right. Dr. Peter Hotez, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, the bombshell report from inside the Southern Baptist Convention. How the organization's leaders tried to protect themselves while allegedly ignoring sex abuse survivors who were trying to come forward.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our faith lead, the explosive fallout of an investigation into 20 years of sexual abuse and cover-up involving one of the largest religious denominations in the United States. Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention were found to have mishandled sex abuse claims along with a pattern of intimidation of victims or advocates who reported abuse.

The report also says the SBC resisted reform initiatives. The Southern Baptist Convention has about 14 million members involved in more than 47,000 churches across the United States.

CNN's Tom Foreman now takes a closer look at this disturbing report.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRRESPONDENT (voice-over): For America's largest Protestant denomination, the report is a blistering takedown of top church leaders, saying they routinely met accusation of sexual abuse by clergy and staff with resistance, stonewalling and even outright hostility.

Among the survivors named, Christa Brown, who says she was sexually assaulted by a minister more than 30 times. She has tweeted at the parsonage after one of worst of pastor's rapes, he put me, 16 years old, in shower and stood yelling at me to clean better down there. I only knew to cry. He knew to destroy evidence.

RUSSELL MOORE, COLUMNIST, CHRISTIANITY TODAY: This is an apocalypse, an unveiling, a meltdown, and people are reeling all over the country right now. Not just Baptists but also the entire evangelical world.

FOREMAN: The SBC response: To the members of the survivor community, we are grieved by the findings. We are committed to doing all we can to prevent future instances of sexual abuse in churches. To improve our response and our care, to remove reporting road blocks.

Still, the report says an executive committee staff member kept a list of hundreds of names of accused people with ties to the church since 2007. Yet some leaders were so focused on avoiding lawsuits they did nothing. Accusers were ignored, disbelieved, their claimed called a satanic scheme, even if it meant that convicted molesters continued in ministry with no noting or warning to their current church or congregation.


Victims groups have long called for accountability.

TIFFANY THIGPEN, SEXUAL ABUSE SURVIVOR: The church needs a day of reckoning. A stripping down to the basics of everything that you say you stand for, everything that you claim to represent.

FOREMAN: One senior leader named in the report, Johnny Hunt, was himself accused of sexually assaulting another pastor's wife in 2010. Hunt's reply: To put it bluntly, I vigorously deny the circumstances and characterizations. I have never abused anybody.

In less than a month, the SBC will meet for its annual convention and decide if there will be consequences.

MOORE: That will require not just bad people to be held accountable, although that's true, but for good people to not look away.


FOREMAN: Of course, this is a validation for all the people who have been raising alarms about this for years. But when you read all of the details of this report, the denials, the deflections, the attempts to defend the clergy even when they were believed to be in the wrong, Jake, you're really struck by the notion that even in the context of building this report, there were specific warnings to church leaders to say, this looks a lot like what happened with the Catholic Church and the pedophile priest problem. Don't do it.

And they kept going that way anyway, and that's where we are today.

TAPPER: It's tragic. Tom Foreman, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Turning to our national lead and a manhunt under way for a Texas woman accused of murdering an elite cyclist who allegedly had a relationship with her boyfriend. Thirty-four-year-old Marie Armstrong, seen on the left, is wanted in the shooting death of 25-year-old Anna Moriah Wilson pictured on the right back on May 11th.

CNN's Ed Lavandera reports on the love triangle that appears to have gone terribly wrong.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is snaking through into the finish. This is Moriah Wilson.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ann Moriah Wilson was considered one of the best gravel racing cyclists in the world.

She was known as Mo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The champion is in the House. This is Moriah Wilson.

LAVANDERA: On May 11th, she was in Austin, Texas, preparing for an upcoming race. Austin police say that night, Mo Wilson was found murdered in the bathroom of a friend's home. She was shot multiple times.

According to a police affidavit on the day Wilson was murdered, she went to a public swimming pool and had dinner with fellow cyclist Colin Strickland. The two had a brief romantic relationship in the fall of 2021, while Strickland was on a break from his relationship with Kaitlin Marie Armstrong who he had dated for about three years.

The police affidavit also states that authorities have learned that Armstrong was furious and shaking in anger when she learned of Strickland's romantic relationship with Wilson in January.

Austin police say surveillance video shows Armstrong's car pulling up next to the house around the time Wilson was murdered and a gun discovered in the house where she lived with Strickland is potentially the same firearm.

The day after the murder, Kaitlin Armstrong was interviewed by investigators and presented with evidence. The police affidavit described Armstrong was very still and guarded as investigators detailed what they discovered. She then requested to leave.

A week later, U.S. Marshalls announced they were assisting in a search for Armstrong but the 34-year-old woman has disappeared since her interview with police.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Happy birthday BWR champion.

LAVANDERA: Just weeks before her murder, Mo Wilson was celebrating with friends after wining the Belgian waffle ride in California.

These are the last images of her competing in a sport she dominated. Wilson is described as a role model, yet shy and compassionate, an athlete who developed intense passion for cycling while growing up on the bike trails of Vermont.


LAVANDERA (on camera): And, Jake, in a statement to "The Austin American Statesman" newspaper, Colin Strickland says that he cannot adequately express the torture and pain that he feels for his proximity to this case. And Mo Wilson's family says they want to clarify that they do not believe she was involved in a romantic relationship with anyone at the time of her murder -- Jake.

TAPPER: Ed Lavandera reporting from Dallas for us, thank you so much.

Coming up, we had the food crisis tied to Russia's war in Ukraine. Next, the new satellite images that may very well show Russia in the act, stealing wheat and grain.

Stay with us.



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

This hour, just over a month since a gunman terrorized a subway car full of passengers and now police are all looking for answers in a new deadly shooting on the New York City subway in the middle of the day.

Plus, many Democrats claimed a controversial law would deter voters. President Biden even called it Jim Crow 2.0, but Georgia's new voting law might be having the opposite effect.

And, leading this hour, a drop of relief to the baby formula shortage has arrived in the United States, but you will not see these bottles on store shelves because it's a prescription formula meant specifically for babies who are allergic to cow's milk.

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen joins us now live.

Elizabeth, that first delivery of formula that arrived yesterday will feed only 27,000 babies and toddlers for one week. Clearly, the U.S. is going to need many more of these shipments or a completely different strategy.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think at this point, that is a major part of the strategy, is to do these imports.