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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Voting Underway In 5 States, Trump's Standing In GOP Tested; 2 Dead, 14 Injured After Shooting At Texas Elementary School; EU Chief Accuses Russia Of "Weaponizing Food Supplies;" Biden Heads Back To U.S. After First President Trip To Asia; Texas Governor: 14 Children And A Teacher Dead In Elementary School Shooting. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired May 24, 2022 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The power of Trump's endorsement put to the test.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Polls open in five states and the stakes could not be higher for the former president. His kingmaker status and the GOP facing its biggest challenge of the election season, as his candidate goes head to head with the current governor of Georgia who was supported by Mike Pence.

Plus, breaking news. A deadly elementary school shooting in Texas. At least two dead, more than a dozen children now being treated for injuries. We'll bring you all the latest as we get it.

And breaking news. The FBI now investigating an alleged plot to assassinate former President George W. Bush. According to court documents, the suspect was even planning on driving to Bush's home in Dallas.


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

We start with our politics lead. And it is election day in America. Voters now headed to the polls in five states. Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Arkansas, and Minnesota. A number of the contests today will test Donald Trump's grip on the Republican Party, and there is no race that matters more to the former president than Georgia's gubernatorial primary. It's a race that pits his choice, former Senator David Perdue, against the incumbent governor, Brian Kemp.

And make no mistake: Trump went all in on Perdue. He begged him to run. His organization poured $1.5 million into Perdue's super PAC. He called in to Perdue's tele-rally just last night. He wants to take Brian Kemp, the incumbent governor, down, because Kemp refused to overturn the 2020 election.

But as we have seen oftentimes, it is hard to beat an incumbent, especially one who is independently popular with his base, especially one that has former vice president Mike Pence and much of the Republican Party establishment lining up behind him.

We have a lot to get to today. Jeff Zeleny and Amara Walker both are standing by in Atlanta for us.

And, Let's start with Jeff Zeleny at Kemp headquarters.

Jeff, what is the latest there tonight in this closely watched race for governor?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the campaign has been spending the day trying to urge supporters across the state of Georgia to come to the polls on election day. That sounds obvious, but this is why they're making a final push even at this hour, in the final three hours of voting because there has been so much talk about how Governor Kemp has a wide lead in this race.

But it's not simply winning. That is not enough. They're trying to win big. That is more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a June runoff election.

So I'm told the governor spent some time on the phone today talking to supporters and certainly his volunteers did as well, urging them not to take anything for granted.

One name that really has not been mentioned from the Kemp campaign, at least, is Donald Trump. They have ignored him for weeks and weeks, just trying to focus on the Kemp record as governor, trying to talk about what he has done as an incumbent. And you're right, we have seen so many endorsements week by week here in the month of May of the former president, but this is different entirely because it's an incumbent Republican governor.

So, we have seen a wave of establishment Republicans. Governors from across the country, former governors, and, of course, last night, the former vice president of the United States, Mike Pence, making the case for Brian Kemp here.

And, Kemp, for hiss part, has been talking about how he's the strongest candidate to take on Stacey Abrams. She's a Democrat, of course, running unopposed tonight. That's their focus.

Sort of left behind in all of this is David Perdue, the former senator who lost in 2020. He's been trying to win this Republican governor's race, but, Jake, he's been struggling here at the finish. He's not been advertising on television for the last couple weeks or so.

One thing hanging over all this, a cloud has been the election controversy of 2020. That, of course, is why the former president did not like Brian Kemp in the first place, simply because he certified the election returns, so tonight, at the college football hall of fame right here in downtown Atlanta, Governor Kemp hopes for a victory and a big one over David Perdue -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny in Atlanta, thanks so much.

Amara Walker is also in Atlanta. She's at the location state officials use as their war room.

And, Amara, you have been covering the race for Georgia's secretary of state. Of course, the current secretary of state is Brad Raffensperger. He's a Republican. He drew the wrath of then President Trump when that infamous phone call when he refused Trump's quest that he, quote, find enough votes to illegally undo Biden's legal and legitimate victory in Georgia.

Raffensperger is facing off tonight against a Trump ally who pushes Trump's election lies.

Where do things stand right now in that race?

AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, on the election front, Jake, we just heard from the secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger. He's saying things are moving very smoothly and they are expecting a record-breaking voter turnout in a Georgia primary.


Look, I sat down with him yesterday and he told me he's feeling quite confident even though this is a very competitive race and polls have shown that he and U.S. Representative Jody Hice are neck and neck.

But, look, he's obviously wearing two hats right now, making sure that things are moving smoothly as a secretary of state, in touch with the polling places and also making sure that things are in compliance with this new voting law. But also, he's a candidate in the GOP primary. He's facing fierce competition from Trump-backed U.S. Representative Jody Hice.

And what's really been interesting and notable is that his race has not really been mirroring that of Kemp's who as Jeff noted has had a comfortable and sizable lead from his top competitor, David Perdue, and I asked Secretary Raffensperger about that. He said there's really one main reason for that, and that's because he is Georgia's election chief, meaning his name and his reputation are linked for many conservatives to the 2020 presidential election, and his refusal to overturn it or to find more votes, as was demanded by former President Trump during that infamous January 2021 phone call.

He differentiated himself from Governor Kemp saying Governor Kemp has broader responsibilities as the governor, and he is not solely defined by elections. Listen.


BRAD RAFFENSPERGER (R), GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: So he has just a broader expanse of authorities, and you know, our office has a lot of other things other than just elections but people have focused in on the election integrity act and also the elections of 2020. The reason they have is that there's so much misinformation, disinformation. But at the end of the day, what really happened in 2020 is 28,000 Georgians skipped the presidential race and yet voted down ballot.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WALKER: And throughout his campaign, Raffensperger has not shied away from criticizing Trump, blaming him for his loss here in Georgia in 2020. That really highlights this delicate balance Raffensperger, courting Trump voters while touting his record as a man of integrity. Of course, we'll wait and see if that prevails, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Amara Walker in Atlanta for us as well. Thank you so much.

Our CNN Political Director David Chalian joins us now.

David, let's start with Georgia. What happens there will be crucial and very telling for the Republican Party. Trump has inserted himself into the secretary of state race, big time, as he also did in the Georgia governor's race. He invested $2.5 million for Senator Perdue to defeat the incumbent governor.

What are you watching for specifically in Georgia on the Republican side?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yeah, you are right to note, there is no bigger political target that Donald Trump has identified in his post-presidency than Brian Kemp. And so if indeed Donald Trump comes up short in that race, if David Perdue loses and Donald Trump went all in for Perdue, as you noted, brought him into the race, if he comes up short, my big question is what does Donald Trump, if anything, to try to unite the Republican Party after this primary?

Because last night, when he called in to a tele-rally for Perdue, he indicates he doesn't think Kemp can win in the fall. He suggested perhaps Stacey Abrams might be a better option. So, it will be very interesting to see if indeed Trump's candidate comes up short and Trump has some egg on his face here, how he deals with that.

TAPPER: The gubernatorial race in Georgia, which Jeff Zeleny just updated us on, is also something we're watching closely, as you just talked about. It's not just about the internals of the Republican party. This race has always moved to the general election to some extent. Governor Kemp is just acting as if Perdue has been defeated, and he's just talking about Stacey Abrams who will be the Democratic nominee. She's running unopposed.

How important is Georgia in this race between we anticipate Kemp and Abrams to both parties?

CHALIAN: Yeah, this race, the governor's race, and there's going to be a very critical Senate race in Georgia. It's primary night, so we tend to focus inside each party, but Georgia is a major battleground state in American politics now and it's going to be the center of the political universe come this fall. Control of the United States Senate may hinge on who wins the incumbent Raphael Warnock or Herschel Walker, the football star in that race.

As you noted, if indeed this is a Kemp/Abrams rematch from 2018, remember, that was a very close race. This year, it's a very different political environment. One that should be advantageous for Republicans. But it's going to be hard fought, and this is the place, not just for 2022, Jake, but for 2024 and the next presidential contest. All of these outcomes are going to matter a great deal.

TAPPER: Georgia isn't the only big primary state tonight. I know you're also watching Alabama and Arkansas. Tell us why.

CHALIAN: Well, I'm fascinated to see inside these deep red states, like Alabama and Arkansas, if indeed the incumbent, the income governor in Alabama, Kay Ivey, and the senator in Arkansas, John Boozman, are they able to avoid a runoff?


Do they get to 50 percent plus one, or does their contest get extended? And does that give us a sense inside the Republican electorate of a restive nature, throw the bums out? Is this an electorate that just wants to throw their hands up at politics in general?

I'm very curious to see how those incumbents perform tonight.

TAPPER: All right. David Chalian, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up next on THE LEAD, breaking news. A deadly elementary school shooting in Texas. We're told two people are dead, 13 children now being treated for injuries. We'll have a live report, next.

Plus, the deadly back and forth in Ukraine as Russian forces retake territory they had lost just days earlier.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: We have some breaking news out of Texas for you now. Police on the scene of a deadly shooting at an elementary school in Texas. In a town about 80 miles west of San Antonio.

According to authorities, at least two people are dead, at least 16 others injured, 14 of them children.

Ed Lavandera is live for us in Dallas.

What more are you learning?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this scene is still unfolding there at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, as you mentioned, just west of San Antonio. This is a small town, rural area on the way to the border there. You can see some of the chaotic moments there as law enforcement was responding to the scene.

What we understand Jake at this point is that the victims have mainly been taken to two different hospitals. One in Uvalde that has taken the majority of the victims and we're told there at that hospital there are 13 children and an adult being treated and that there were two people who have arrived that were dead.

We do not know the ages of those who have been killed and that there are two others that were taken to a hospital in San Antonio, and that includes a child, we don't know the condition of that child, and a 66- year-old woman that we're told is in critical condition.

All of this starting around noon today at Robb Elementary there in Uvalde, Texas. We're told that the gunman entered the school, that that gunman is now in custody. We're hoping to hear from school district officials here at some point within the hour for the latest updates on what has unfolded in this harrowing scene here at this school.

But right now, we're trying to process and gather as much information as we can, Jake, on the number of people killed and their conditions. As law enforcement and first responders continue to work that scene and try to save as many lives as possible right now -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Ed Lavandera, thank you so much. Juliette Kayyem joins us now.

Juliette, at least two dead, 16 injured. And it was an active shooter situation. Not sure if that is going on.

Obviously, it's early in the process of this. What is going on right now by law enforcement?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Family unification, first of all. It's been a couple hours since the shooting began. So they have to get parents with very young children, this is an elementary school, and get them together.

They have to get an understanding of who is in the hospital and notify the families that way. So, that the delay in law enforcement is directly linked to family unification and family notification. Since we have been reporting that the suspect is in custody.

The other thing is, of course, now figuring out who he is and what the motivation is, why this particular school. I will say, even after sandy hook, if you just look at school security generally, the highest level of security is always at high schools because you sometimes do have an internal threat. You have kids bringing weapons and things.

And so, elementary schools tend to be pretty weak in terms of security. It's hard to fortify them. Sometimes they'll have locks after the school day begins so it's hard to get into them, and a lot of them do not have a security presence. School districts basically with limited resources have to prioritize what schools and they tend to prioritize high schools over elementary schools even after we have seen elementary school attacks.

That's what they're looking at in terms of the vulnerabilities, why this school, why at this time did this killer have contact or know people or know any of the kids in the school? So those are the two things going on right now. And I expect once they're done with the horrifying family notification, we don't know who is dead, but we know there's over a dozen in the hospital. They will come out and begin to give us numbers.

TAPPER: All right. Juliette Kayyem, thank you very much.

We'll continue to follow the story and bring you updates as we get them. The latest information at this elementary school, Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas. Two have been killed in a mass shooting. The shooter is in custody. The suspected shooter is in custody. More than a dozen have been transported to the hospital. We'll bring you more information as soon as we get it.

Now turning to our world lead. It's been 90 days since Russia first invaded Ukraine, 90, and the cost of the war is now being felt beyond the two countries. Today, the European Commission criticized Russia for, quote, weaponizing food supplies as the Russian army has been confiscating grain and blocking exports from ports in the Black Sea.

Inside Ukraine, heavy shelling continues.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh traveled around villages to Kharkiv's north where he said Ukrainians are not just defending their city but looking to regain ground close to the Russian border.



NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: The forests around Kharkiv know no peace. We're just 15 minutes northeast from the city's center and the Russians are on the other side of the hill.

Here, it is a fight on foot waged with vast cumbersome guns.

You can see here, where Kharkiv is being shelled every night, the sheer volume of shells that entails here.

This must have been beautiful here three months ago. Now pillaged. Artillery in the place of bird song. He's saying you can see how they live like pigs and died like pigs. It's the kind of hatred we're seeing a lot of.

Back and forth of high explosive rattles in the pines. Like so much of the war, the battle for Kharkiv isn't over. It's just slightly out of sight, yet no less vicious or intense.

These kind of forests, it's extremely hard for them to know exactly what these noises are, whether it's them firing at the Russians 100 meters away or the Russians firing back.

Dusk brings escalation again. But all points north of Kharkiv that we saw over three days traveling, the same picture of Russian persistence. Even here, as we get closer to their border, the rumble is constant. The fight for Kharkiv now also one about protecting Russia.

DMYTRO, UKRAINIAN SOLDIER: Yesterday and the day before yesterday, we were attacked by tanks, hard artillery, and helicopters. We hit one helicopter and they are afraid of us.

WALSH: You smile when you say they're afraid.


WALSH: But there's no room for grinning further northeast where Ukraine is losing ground it won just days earlier.

Russia has moved into the next town up, Rubizhne, in the hours before we arrive. The ruins fresh, still smoldering. And here, that means the constant bewildering shelling has new ominous significance.

We don't know who is shelling, she says, maybe here and there and that. It's terrifying.

Not much has been spared here. Moscow hungry to cross the water and eager to punish. The bridge is blown but across the river there that Russian forces amassed, shelling here constantly. And now, sensing the possibility of taking part of the neighboring town of Rubizhne.

The prospect of a long exhausting battle of attrition and loathing haunting Ukraine's second city. Even out here, where calm should flow free.


WALSH (on camera): Jake, it's important to remember that area you were just seeing in that report is a place where nearby Ukrainian troops have pitched themselves near the border, planting a kind of flag, but it seems to have been retaken by the Russians, pushing the Ukrainians back away and to the north of Kharkiv in an area they hoped to make some strategic gains. Also in the east of the country, closer to where I'm standing here, we have seen Russia also make gains today. Ukraine saying it had to pull out of one town, and Russians appearing to be making some progress in that Donbas area around Severodonetsk and also towards another key town, Sloviansk.

Important to remember that as possibly western focus on this war begins to slow, it is no way reflected in the violence on the ground and the persistent back and forth where I have to say in the last few days we're seeing Moscow making some small gains, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Nick Paton Walsh live for us in Ukraine. Thank you so much.

Joining us now is Arseniy Yatsenyuk. He was the prime minister of Ukraine from 2014 to 2016. During that time, Russia invaded and annexed Crimea.

Thank you so much for joining again sir.

The former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger suggested today Ukraine should concede territory in its negotiations with Russia.

[16:25:02] Kissinger said, quote, negotiations on peace need to begin in the next two months or so before it creates upheavals and tensions that will be even harder to overcome. Ideally, the dividing line should return to the status quo ante. I believe pursuing the war beyond that point would not be about the freedom of Ukraine but a new war against Russia itself, unquote.

So going back to the quote, status quo ante, that means restore Russian control in Crimea and Russia's informal control of Luhansk and Donetsk. Is that something you think Ukraine should consider?

ARSENIY YATSENYUK, FORMER UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER: I totally disagree. This sounds similar to this kind of appeasement policy that actually paved the way for Russia to invade Ukraine, to invade Georgia, to illegally annex Crimea, and naturally, to pose a threat to the entire world, including the United States.

So the only option we have on the table is to win on the battlefield. Only afterwards we can really start real talks and negotiations. Otherwise, this will be a surrender, which Ukraine will never accept, period.

TAPPER: It's been 90 days since Russia invaded Ukraine, and some, including U.S. intelligence, thought that your country's capital Kyiv would fall to Russia within days. Months later, Kyiv is still standing. Ukrainian forces are regaining land.

Are you surprised by that at all?

YATSENYUK: Well, absolutely. I am not surprised because I know how Ukrainian people are courageous, how Ukrainian military is durable. And I really commend the efforts of the United States Biden administration and bipartisan support that actually decided to ship defensive and lethal weapons to Ukraine. This actually helped Ukrainian military to launch a counteroffensive that you just reported.

That's true that the number of western intelligence agencies believed that Putin is to take over Kyiv in 72 hours. And even Putin, he strongly believed that he could easily launch an operation and capture an entire Ukraine. He failed.

Now, he resorted to plan B, he's more concentrated in the areas in the east and in the south of Ukraine, and he has some very small incremental gains. I want to indicate once again and reiterate, due to your support and due to very courageous Ukrainian men and women in the uniform, Ukraine launched a number of counteroffensive operations.

So we already entered the forest once of this war of attrition. Ukraine still has a very high chance to win this war. If concerted actions of Ukraine and the Western world will be successful, they have to be successful.

TAPPER: So for the first time, Ukraine has released footage from your military using foreign made kamikaze drones you can see in this video here we're showing our viewers the drone launching a powerful explosive that appears to have damaged a Russian tank. How much are these drones giving Ukraine an advantage, allowing Ukraine to win this war?

YATSENYUK: Well, actually, the shipment of all these weapons that has been made by the U.S. administration made Ukrainian military stronger and more advanced one. It started with the howitzers, M-777, and these drones. Ukrainian military is really getting better than Russians.

We're outnumbered on the one hand. But on the other hand, we have very good weapons delivered by the U.S. and our allies, and we have very strong soldiers and strong army.

TAPPER: Former prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, thank you so much for your time today, sir. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, breaking news. We're learning new details about a plot to assassinate former President George W. Bush. The suspect who apparently scoped out Bush's home in Texas is now in custody. Details next.



TAPPER: In our world lead right now, President Biden is on his way back from his first trip to Asia since he took office after turning heads on China's doorstep when he made the off off-script declaration that the U.S. would respond militarily if China attacks Taiwan.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is in Tokyo where he asked the president to clarify his break with longstanding U.S. diplomatic.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: On his final day in Asia, President Biden attempting to inject some fresh ambiguity into U.S. policy toward a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

Mr. President, is the policy of strategic ambiguity toward Taiwan dead?


DIAMOND: Could you explain?


DIAMOND: But a day earlier, Biden cast aside that smokescreen and decades of U.S. policy by threatening China with a U.S. military response.

REPORTER: Mr. President, would you send troops to Taiwan if China invaded?

BIDEN: The policy has not changed at all. I stated that when I made my statement yesterday. DIAMOND: It was the third time in his presidency Biden has raised the

specter of a military response to a Chinese invasion, even as he had once criticized another president for similar words.

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

DIAMOND: Then Senator Biden arguing Bush's, quote, inattention to detail has damaged U.S. credibility with our allies and sown confusion throughout the Pacific Rim. Words matter.


Those allies seem more wary of an increasingly aggressive China and the lessons they may draw from Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

BIDEN: This is more than a European issue. This is a global issue. Russia's assault on Ukraine only heightens the importance of those goals. Fundamental principles of international order, territorial integrity and sovereignty, international law, human rights, must always be defended regardless of where they're violated in the world.

DIAMOND: Biden's message aimed at the Indian prime minister, who has maintained close ties with Moscow and refused to condemn its invasion of Ukraine. Given a chance to press the prime minister directly --

Mr. President, will you push Prime Minister Modi to take a tougher stance on Russia?

REPORTER: Mr. President, will you ask Prime Minister Modi to wean himself off of Russian oil?

DIAMOND: Biden declined.

BIDEN: Welcome to the American press.


DIAMOND (on camera): And, Jake, President Biden is now on his way home after several days spent here in Tokyo, as well as several days in Seoul, South Korea. The president, though, did not get that North Korean nuclear missile test or an ICBM test that U.S. intelligence officials had been warning was a serious possibility. They said it could happen while the president was in the region, but now it appears the president will land back in Washington without that test having occurred -- Jake.

TAPPER: Jeremy Diamond in Tokyo, thank you so much.

We're still watching that school shooting in Texas, and we have news for you on that in a minute. It's getting confirmed right now.

But right now, let's turn to CNN global affairs analyst and staff writer at "The New Yorker", Susan Glasser.

And, Susan, we just heard President Biden in that piece tell Jeremy that the U.S. diplomatic policy of strategic ambiguity is not dead. What do you think of the president's comments? Did it confuse matters?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I have to tell you, yesterday, Jake, if we had this conversation, I would tell you it's pretty hard to (AUDIO GAP) ambiguous. (AUDIO GAP) President Biden have spent the last 24 hours working their best to do so. So I guess we're back to ambiguous, if only in the sense that what does his yes actually mean?

And you know, it's very clear that Biden believes that there is a U.S. commitment of significance to defend Taiwan because he's used that word commitment multiple times over the course of his presidency. It has not been filled in. I think the urgency has increased as a result of Russia's war in Ukraine in a sense that China is looking very closely at that as it considers its options in Taiwan.

TAPPER: And as Jeremy noted in his piece, in 2001, then-Senator Biden wrote an opinion article in "The Washington Post" criticizing President George W. Bush for frankly a similar slip in which he defended Taiwan and talked about the United States defending Taiwan.

Biden wrote at the time, quote: As a matter of diplomacy, there's a huge difference between reserving the right to use force and obligating ourselves, a priori, to come to the defense of Taiwan.

But don't you think Biden effectively did the same thing that he scolded Bush for doing 20 years ago?

GLASSER: Well, not only does it appear he did something very similar, Jake, but the big difference is that China's capabilities, its military intent, its leadership under Xi Jinping have been transformed in a way that makes Taiwan's security picture much more uncertain and therefore the U.S. military commitment, whatever it is to Taiwan, much more of a pressing issue than it was at the time.

I mean, really, China has invested billions of dollars in upgrading and modernizing its military since that point. Xi Jinping has hade it very clear that his ambition is to reabsorb Taiwan into mainland China in a way that it's almost an urgent in the next few years over the horizon type threat at this moment.

TAPPER: While President Biden was meeting with world leaders, the defense minister of Japan blasted China and Russia for flying bombers near Japan during the summit saying, quote, while the international community is responding to Russia's aggression against Ukraine, it is unacceptable that China take such action in concert with Russia. It's a clear indication the security environment surrounding our country is becoming increasingly severe.

That statement comes after Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia's ties with China are growing. What does this strengthening partnership between China and Russia mean for the U.S.?

GLASSER: You know, I think the bottom line is it is absolutely a kind of a two-front U.S. versus autocracy situation. Remember, there was the Beijing meeting between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping on the eve of Putin's invasion of Ukraine, and they released a 5,000-word manifesto that promises essentially an unlimited partnership between the two countries -- far different than the nature of the relations that have existed in recent decades between Beijing and Moscow.


And I think this linkage that the Japanese are making is absolutely correct. It's impossible at this point in time when you look at the international situation to sort of say, well, we're just going to focus on Russia right now. We're just going to focus on China. Those challenges for the United States are interlinked and almost part of the same problem in a way that they had not been for many decades.

TAPPER: Susan Glasser, thanks so much.

Coming up next, breaking news. Horrific details just coming in. We're told 15 people are dead in that elementary school shooting in Texas. That includes 14 students killed at the elementary school in Texas.

We're going to have a live report next. Stay with us.



TAPPER: We have breaking and frankly horrible news on that mass shooting at an elementary school in Texas. We are now learning that 15 people were killed by the shooter. The shooter is also dead tonight. That's according to the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott. Fourteen dead kids, Governor Abbott said.

I want to go straight to Ed Lavandera who is in Texas for us.

Ed, tell us more. What are you learning about this horrific incident?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, all of this continues to unfold here this afternoon, Jake, as we sit here and try to process this gruesome news.

Fourteen dead children at this elementary school, Robb Elementary there in the small town of Uvalde, Texas, which is about 90 miles or so west of San Antonio. One adult also killed, so 15 total.

We had been told here in the last few hours that many of these victims were rushed to an area hospital there in Uvalde. Some others had been transported to a hospital in San Antonio as well.

But the details exactly of how all of this unfolded are still not exactly and entirely clear, but we do know it was around noontime here, Central Time, 1:00 Eastern, when the shooting started inside the school there. And all of that, you can see the chaotic scene there in the aftermath of the shooting. We were told by witnesses that they saw a caravan of law enforcement vehicles showing up there at the school, which included Border Patrol agents, Texas state troopers, as well as local officers.

Remember, Uvalde is a town that is not terribly far from the U.S./Mexico border. So it wouldn't be strange for Border Patrol vehicles to be in that area. But Jake, at this point, simply trying to process this horrifying news that there are 14 children at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, whose lives were taken today by what appears to be a lone gunman.

Law enforcement had said that the gunman had been taken into custody at one point, just a few hours ago. But as you reported, we are now hearing that that gunman is also dead as well.

We are hoping to hear from school district officials there in Uvalde within the next hour or so. There have been some talk but clearly because of the chaotic nature and having to update so many families about the situation there and what is transpiring, that obviously takes precedent.

And then we're also told family reunification, there are many students taken to a nearby civic center in the aftermath of the shooting, that that is where families were going to be reunited. So, all of that continues to unfold here there in the small town of Uvalde, Texas, this afternoon, Jake.

TAPPER: This would be the deadliest school shooting in the United States since 2012, since the Sandy Hook incident. We know the shooter is deceased, the murderer who killed apparently a teacher and 14 elementary school children.

What do we know about the shooter? And obviously, there is no motive that could make any possible sense on this planet, but what possible motive he would have claimed at this point if we know anything, Ed?

LAVANDERA: Well, the governor of Texas said a short while ago that the shooter was -- is from or was from Uvalde. He gave a name as well. I would like to kind of hold off until we can figure out and get some more details on all of that, so we can properly report that out.

I have been kind of juggling a few different things, so bear with me on that front, Jake, but the governor did say that the shooter is there from -- was there from Uvalde, and clearly, you can imagine this is a small town of, you know, 24,000 people or so, I believe, live in this entire county of Uvalde. So it's going to be one of these situations where many people probably know the gunman, have family connections within either the shooter or the victims themselves. You can imagine how this is going to transpire and the shockwaves this is sending through this small community.

But those are the details we're continuing to work toward getting at this point.

TAPPER: Ed, I'm seeing reports that the shooter was 18. Did the governor identify the shooter's age?

LAVANDERA: I believe you're correct. I'm trying to go back through the notes that I have here, Jake.

[16:50:00] I do believe that that was the age that I had seen and that he was from Uvalde, at this point. And I'm trying -- bear with me -- yeah, 18 was the number that I had seen.

TAPPER: OK. Ed Lavandera, we'll come back to you. Thank you so much.

I want to bring in CNN's Evan Perez.

The Uvalde Memorial Hospital says it treated a total of 16 patients, 15 of the patients were children. One adult male was also treated for minor injuries.

If you're just tuning in, horrible tragic news from Uvalde, Texas, where the Robb elementary school was a site of a mass shooting earlier today, with an 18-year-old shooter who is apparently now deceased, killing 14 children and a teacher, at least.

That's according to the governor of Texas, Greg A, saying 15 have been killed in this incident, including 14 children.

Evan, tell us more of what you're learning.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, this is one of those that, you know, we were in a press conference with the attorney general on a completely different matter. He was walking into that press conference when he was briefed by the FBI on what was happening there. At this point now, the FBI, the ATF, the Justice Department is trying to rush resources over there to help with what you expect is going to be a very difficult investigation over the next couple days.

I mean, the things obviously, they're going to want to know what connection this gunman, this alleged gunman had with this school. They're going to want to know, were there -- was there anybody else who may have known about this or perhaps had any connection with what happened there, Jake. It's going to be a massive crime scene for the FBI.

One of the things that they're going to want to do is get to the home of this person, hopefully, obviously, it's somebody who lives in that county, lives in that town. And this is where the focus of this investigation will turn for the FBI.

At this point, Jake, there's very little we know about the gunman. We don't know necessarily what motivation there is, as you pointed out. There's very little you can do to explain something like this, but it is something you have to say that after Buffalo, the FBI and certainly Justice Department officials said they were expecting another one.

We see these things happen in twos and threes in this country. It keeps happening. So that's where -- as soon as this happened, it was briefed to the attorney general, and tried to get those resources there to this town, which is some distance away from San Antonio. At this point, Jake, we don't know enough to be able to report about the gunman who was taken into custody at this point.

TAPPER: All right. Evan Perez at the Justice Department for us. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

It was in 2019, August 2019, that a racist terrorist killed 23 individuals in El Paso, Texas, and wounded 23 others. Mass shootings are sadly common in this country.

I want to bring in Congressman Veronica Escobar, Democrat of Texas, who spoke a lot during that period and represents a neighboring district.

Congresswoman, thank you so much for calling in. I appreciate it. What are you learning about this horrific event?

REP. VERONICA ESCOBAR (D-TX) (via telephone): Well, Jake, thank you so much for the opportunity. You know, I'm learning everything that the public is learning at about the same time, and obviously, there are still lots of facts that are outstanding, still a lot that we don't know about the gunman, about his motivation, about how he got his gun, who else might have been involved.

And I know that as that information becomes public, it will be very helpful, but right now, what the community of Uvalde needs is all of us sending our prayers and acknowledging the deep trauma and pain that that community is going through right now, and the deep trauma and pain that they are going to suffer from, not just in the weeks to come, but frankly in the years to come.

But it's a horrible situation, and it's -- you know, unfortunately, now an American problem that it seems many lawmakers refuse to solve. And the problem is that firearm homicides have increased 40 percent for people between the ages of 10 and 24 years old in America.

Those are the stats for 2020. It's unacceptable, and I can't believe lawmakers refuse to act.

TAPPER: So for people who don't know much about Uvalde, it is a town of about 15,000 in the southwestern tip -- southwestern part of the state, of Texas. According to census figures, it's more than three- quarters Latino, Uvalde.

We do not know of a motive. We do not know what happened. But obviously, these are children. Whatever color they are, it doesn't matter.

But there is obviously the possibility that this violence is not unrelated to what we saw in 2019 with the El Paso shooting, Congresswoman.

ESCOBAR: And you're right, Jake. We don't know. And so, I'm going to withhold really any comment.

I hope it was not race-related. I really do pray that it was not. Because I will tell you, that adds an additional layer of significant trauma for children who feel targeted.

I know I have spoken with many, many young people in El Paso, not just right after the shooting here, but in the years since then. And it is -- I just don't wish that on any community. I reached out to the congressman, my neighboring congressman, my colleague Tony Gonzalez.

Unfortunately, those of us who are members of Congress who have lived through mass shootings, you know, we know what's next. And we know that the best way to help and to insure that people are given the opportunity to grief and heal. And so I told him I'm here for him if he needs me.

My office is here for him, and there's unfortunately a group of members of Congress who will be there for him because we have lived through what he is living through, he and his community.

TAPPER: Absolutely the worst kind of experience. The kind of experience no parent wants to have, no member of Congress wants to have.

Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, Democrat of Texas, thank you so much. Please continue to call us back if you get more information.

I want to bring in Andrew McCabe right now. He's a former FBI deputy director. And Anthony Barksdale, the former acting Baltimore police commissioner.

Andrew, let me start with you, 14 children killed, one teacher killed in this horrific shooting in Uvalde, the Robb Elementary School.

What's your reaction to what we're learning so far?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: You know, Jake, I think every time something like this happens, which is just unbelievably frequently in this country, we do these stories again and again. I think, I can't believe we're doing this again. And yet, days later, a week later, it happens again.

This community is now going to be torn apart in the way so many others have in this country, even just their neighbors, right? So you go a few hours west of them, and you have El Paso in 2019, 23 people are killed. If you go a few hours east of them, you have Sutherland Springs where in 2017, 26 people were killed in a church shooting there.

So having been in the FBI and overseeing that work in 2017, I can tell you that the work in front of these first responders, both the local police, state police, FBI, ATF, everybody who ends up working this crime scene is going to have a gruesome, hellish set of circumstances on their hands. It's one that people never fully recover from. But yet we do this again and again and again in this country. We're caught in this loop of violence that seems to be never ending right now.

TAPPER: And Anthony Barksdale, we're still waiting to learn more details about how this happened, the motive of the shooter. We obviously have no idea what the motive of the shooter is. We know that the school district tweeted that there was a, quote, active shooter around 12:15 p.m. Texas Time.

Police say the individual was arrested just after 1:00, almost an hour later, we're now told that the suspect deceased. What do you make of the timeline?

ANTHONY BARKSDALE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: It's just how fast these incidents can unfold. You know, it takes seconds. Seconds to have multiple victims, and in this case, little kids shot and killed in seconds with these weapons that are available.

And the timeline is -- it is what it is. If police, if law enforcement was able to find the suspect, even after suicide, then they were doing the best they could. And to just piggyback on what Andy just said, this stuff, it's going to stick with everyone involved. Everyone is going to remember this horrible day and think about the little kids.

So I believe that law enforcement is going to do what they had to do over and over again in this country.