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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Biden To Visit Saudi Arabia Despite Vowing To Make Kingdom A "Pariah"; Economists Expect Aggressive Interest Rate Hike From The Fed; Russian Media: Brittney Griner's Detention Extended; McConnell Says He's A "Yes" On Gun Reform If Bill Reflects Framework; January 6 Committee Split On Whether To Make Criminal Referrals To DOJ; Texas Police Kill Gunman Who Fired At Children's Summer Camp; mRNA Vaccine Trial Gives Hope To Pancreatic Cancer Patient. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired June 14, 2022 - 16:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: The band that broke a Beatles record with three number one albums in a single year, announced today it's going on hiatus so members can pursue solo projects. Just when I was going to buy tickets to the concert.

The group has international stardom with fans who call themselves the BTS Army.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Americans are about to pay even more for our homes, for our cars, and for our credit card bills.

THE LEAD starts right now.

The Federal Reserve is set to put in place the largest interest rate hike in decades, now (VIDEO GAP) a good thing, but American families struggling to get by may not agree.

And even more bad news for American basketball star Brittney Griner as she sits in a Russian jail. Is it time for the Biden administration to push forward another prisoner swap?

Then, the same kind of technology used for the best COVID vaccines, mRNA, is showing promise in treating other conditions, including some cancers.


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

We start today with our money lead. Prices are up and the stock market is down. President Biden is trying to put a positive spin on the economy, today insisting that tackling the worst inflation the U.S. has seen in decades remains a top priority.

During a speech in front of the AFL-CIO in Philadelphia, the president touted his administration's coronavirus relief efforts, record new job creation, and low unemployment levels.

Sure, but that's likely little consolation to the millions of Americans paying record prices for everything from food to gasoline. Especially as many economists predict the Federal Reserve will drastically hike interest rates tomorrow to try to get control of the inflation.

President Biden will try to address one of those crises, gas prices, now averaging more than $5 a gallon, with a visit to Saudi Arabia in a few weeks. The U.S. has been trying to pressure the Saudi-led OPEC plus group to increase oil production in hopes of lowering overall costs.

But a trip to kiss the ring of an autocrat with blood on his hands does not come without trade-offs and today, members of the president's own party began raising major concerns about President Biden embracing a kingdom and a ruler, Mohammed Bin Salman, who Biden once pledged to make a pariah over grotesque human rights abuses.

CNN's M.J. Lee starts off our coverage from the White House with more on what President Biden says is his plan to lower costs for American families.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Jobs are back. Prices are still too high. COVID is down, but gas prices are up. Our work isn't done.

MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Soaring inflation showing few signs of easing up, a stubborn economic and political problem for President Biden.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's never been this high.

LEE: Gas prices averaging a whopping $5 a gallon for the first time. The U.S. stock market tumbling into bear market territory, and the cost of consumer goods rising at the fastest pace in four decades.

BIDEN: I have a plan to bring down the cost of gas and food. It's going to take time.

LEE: The president traveling to Philadelphia today to once again address those economic issues. Biden in part blaming the war in Ukraine for record high gas prices.

BIDEN: I am doing everything in my power to blunt Putin's gas price hike. Just since he invaded Ukraine, it's gone up $1.74 a gallon.

LEE: As well as Republicans in Congress who are opposing his legislative agenda.

BIDEN: The problem is, Republicans in Congress are doing everything they can to stop my plans to bring down costs on ordinary families. The fact is Republicans in Congress are still in the grip of the ultra MAGA agenda. LEE: Biden also trying to highlight some of the bright spots in the


BIDEN: Since I have become president, we have created 8.7 million new jobs in 16 months, an all-time record. Our unemployment rate is near historic lows, 3.7 percent.

LEE: Still, a year and a half into the Biden presidency, the reality growing increasingly clear. Inflation is still far from abating.

Last year, Biden and other top officials had incorrectly predicted that high prices would be a passing phenomenon.

BIDEN: By the way, talk of inflation, the overwhelming consensus is it's going to pop up a little bit and then go back down.

LEE: Biden insisting in recent days he will give the Federal Reserve ample room to do its work.

BIDEN: I'm not going to interfere with their critically important work.

LEE: The Central Bank now poised to increase interest rates by three quarters of a percentage point this week, marking the biggest single hike since 1994.


LEE (on camera): Now, it just gives you a sense of how important it is for the White House to try to lower gas prices that it's now announced that the president is going to be traveling to Saudi Arabia, of course, one of the biggest oil producers in the world.


And the president, the White House confirmed, is going to be meeting with the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, while he's there. This is so significant because of some of the past statements we have heard from this president about wanting to make Saudi Arabia a pariah state, wanting it to pay a price after the gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The president now getting a lot of criticism and a lot of heat for this decision. Some Democrats even saying he might want to reconsider and not go on this trip at all -- Jake.

TAPPER: MJ Lee at the White House for us, thank you so much.

The Federal Reserve's monthly meeting kicks off today amidst sky high inflation, and now some investors are growing increasingly worried the Fed might do something it has not done in nearly three decades.

CNN's Rahel Solomon joins us now live.

Rahel, the issue we're talking about isn't necessarily the possibility of raising interest rates. It's the Fed doing so by a three quarters of a percentage point. What would that mean for Americans?

RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, essentially, Jake, it means the cost of borrowing has gone up. Not just for us consumers but also American companies and businesses. That eats into their profits.

But for us consumers, yes, that means the cost to borrow for practically anything is going higher. Credit card example is a great example. A student loan, car loans, and mortgage loans.

Let's take a look at mortgage loans. The average 30-year now hovering around 6 percent. Last Thursday, we spoke about the average 30-year hitting about 5.3 percent, so that gives you a sense of how dramatically rates have risen in just a very short period of time, and then consider the fact that in the beginning of this year, rates were closer to 3 percent.

So, a dramatic spike in mortgage rates, but really all across the board with the Fed raising rates, and that's exactly the point. The Fed is trying to curb demand. It is trying to curb spending, and that's what raising rates do.

TAPPER: Yeah, let's talk about that because our viewers might be confused. The Fed raises interest rates, makes things more expensive. How does that help lower inflation?

SOLOMON: It does appear a bit counterintuitive. The idea essentially, right, is that we have a supply and demand imbalance. We have too much money chasing too few goods. And the Federal Reserve can't do much about supply chain issues disrupting supplies, right, but what it can do something about is the demand for goods, right?

So it's making the demand, it is hoping at least to sort of curb demand by making borrowing more expensive. Just think, if you were paying more for a mortgage right now than last year, maybe you'll rethink perhaps buying the home, or maybe you'll rethink going out to eat, rethink going shopping.

And so, the idea is to hopefully pull the economy and the hope is they can do it gently and gradually without a screeching halt.

TAPPER: And, Rahel, today, new data showed that the producer price index, the PPI, remains uncomfortably high over 10 percent. The PPI is another key inflation measure.

Explain how it affects what we pay at the store.

SOLOMON: It's a key inflation measure, Jake, but it's one that doesn't actually get a lot of attention because this is inflation essentially from the perspective of producers, right, or factory level inflation. So the idea, however, and the reason why it's very important today is what we see here tends to trickle down to consumers a few months down the line. We know what companies are experiencing, they tend to sometimes pass off to us consumers.

And so, the idea here lending some support that there may not be relief for inflation and for consumers in the near term.

This is exactly why Mohamed El-Erian, who spoke on CNN this morning, he sees inflation hitting 9 percent in the next few months. Certainly not anything anyone wants to hear.

TAPPER: No, not at all.

Rahel Solomon, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Let's discuss this all with Matthew Slaughter. He's a dean of Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business. He's a former member of the council of economic advisers under President George W. Bush.

Matthew, thanks so much for being here.

So, President Biden has been saying inflation is a top priority for him to tackle since the beginning of May. The reality is Americans continue to face record high gas prices, massive inflation, higher prices on everyday goods such as groceries. What could the president do right now that might actually lower prices?

MATTHEW SLAUGHTER, DEAN, DARTMOUTH'S TUCK SCHOOL OF BUSINESS: Well, one thing he's already done that's important is allowing the federal reserve to do its job. So as Rahel was just rightly saying, the challenge for the U.S. economy right now is aggregate demand has been growing much more than aggregate supply can be growing. So, what the Fed is trying to do is to raise the cost of borrowing to households and to businesses, and thereby to cut into household spending, to cut into capital investment by companies and cool the housing market as well. Those things will help lower aggregate demand.

I think what's important also, what the president can do, thinking about energy prices in particular, one thing that hasn't been done quite as much as trying to stimulate domestic production as well.


The energy revolution we've had in the United States, thanks to shale technologies, allows us to produce a lot of energy in the United States, much more than 10 or 20 years ago, let alone in the oil price shocks of the '70s.

So let the Fed do its job. Think about domestic energy production. Those would be two things I would start with.

TAPPER: Another idea that the White House has previously discussed as being under consideration would be President Biden lifting the Trump era tariffs against China to help lower inflation. Biden, of course, has been long throughout his entire career, a union advocate. His speech today was at the AFL-CIO convention in Philly, a gathering of union leaders. Unions reportedly want to keep all the tariffs in place.

How much of a difference would lifting tariffs make for the average American? SLAUGHTER: They would help a little bit, and I think, Jake, that's a

great idea that you raise. I would add that to the list as a third one. A lot of the research has shown that those tariffs, however well- intentioned to try to help American workers and their families, the costs were born precisely by American workers and families.

Costs have been higher in a lot of the products that use intensively aluminum and steel and some of the other products subject to the Chinese tariffs. Globalization in general has been part of what controls the cost of living from increasing as much. That's been true for decades. The Chinese tariffs messed up with that, and that would be another important thing that the president could do quite quickly to allow some relief for American households.

TAPPER: Investors are getting worried that Federal Reserve will hike interest rates again tomorrow, possibly up to three quarters of a point. That could massively hurt Americans when it comes to mortgage rates, credit cards, auto loans.

How much do you think an interest rate hike of that size would actually work to combat inflation?

SLAUGHTER: Yeah, great question. So the Fed controls what's called the federal funds rate, and they can raise that as much as they want. And there's an expectation they'll raise at least half a percent tomorrow, as you said, about three quarters of a percent. That then feeds through capital markets to the cost of mortgage loans, the revolving credit card loans, the cost of borrowing for companies that's facing (ph) corporate debt.

So, the higher the cost, the less the household will spend on durable goods, the less they might try to buy a new home. What's hard is that has to happen to allow inflation to get under control, because the challenges of COVID around the world snarling supply chains, those things are very difficult to change on the supply side. So what we can do in the United States is try to slow the rate of growth if not reduce it a bit, aggregate demand.

The challenge is if the Fed does that too much, monetary policy works with long and variable legs, that it might actually cut demand so much and the result is that we have a decline in output or what economists would call a recession.

TAPPER: The White House has confirmed that President Biden is going to travel to Saudi Arabia where he's going to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

How much power does Saudi Arabia have to try to lower gas prices in the U.S. and how quickly could it happen?

SLAUGHTER: Yeah, great question. Their power lies in the slack capacity they have to produce more oil, to generate more oil production that would lower the price of oil which became for gas prices we all see here. So it works through a couple steps.

Again, the one large producer, no one can control the tragedy playing out in the war in Ukraine. That's why I come back to we have a lot of domestic producers in the United States thanks to the energy revolution. I think some conversations with American producers would be something that might not have the geopolitical fraughtness of going to Saudi Arabia.

TAPPER: You just talked about the risks of the Fed pushing us into a recession. Stocks plunged into a bear market yesterday. That means a 20 percent decline from previous highs. The last four bear markets have accurately predicted recessions.

Do you think that one is inevitable?

SLAUGHTER: Well, what I do know is in the first quarter of this calendar year so far, total output in the United States shrank. It shrank at an annualized rate of 1.6 percent. So, judging recession is hard, sometimes you need the data to come through, but we already had a slight decline in output in the United States so far. And as you point out, falling asset prices for stocks and other financial assets, that tends to slow demand growth and hiring for companies. That's part of what if it happens too much can lead to a recession.

So I think the U.S. economy is in a pretty delicate point right now. It's a very difficult job that the Fed has. And we'll need to wait and see how the economy and markets play out in the coming months to know exactly where we are.

TAPPER: All right. Matthew Slaughter, dean of the Tuck School, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, an update from a Moscow court on U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner who is being detained in Russia.

Plus, a rare and public back and forth between the top two members of the January 6th select committee.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: New worries for detained American WNBA star Brittney Griner tops our world lead today. She's been held in Russia for more than 100 days, accused of smuggling drugs, and officially classified as, wrongfully detained by the U.S. State Department. Now, a Moscow court says Griner will have to stay longer.

CNNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen is in St. Petersburg, Russia, for us.

And, Fred, this is not the first time Russia has extended Griner's detention. How much longer do they say she'll be there?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're right, Jake, not the first time. There's no end in sight right now. She's going to remain in pretrial detention until at least July 6th. At least another 18 days, of course, still unclear what is going to happen after that. It's quite interesting because the Russians today said that all this was at the request of the investigation.

So, obviously, the Russian investigators still doing some sort of work there, preparing for that trial, which of course, could also take an extended period of time. You're absolutely right to say the United States has said, the State Department has said that they list her as being wrongfully detained.


And that was something that was actually reiterated today by the State Department once again in a press briefing just a couple hours ago when they said Brittney Griner should not remain in detention even a single day longer. Now, the Russians, for their part, are saying that she was caught with drugs as they put it, as she tried to enter Russia through an airport in Moscow. This was apparently cannabis oil, and that can carry a sentence here in this country, very tough laws, of about ten years.

So, still a lot of uncertainty and certainly right now, no end in sight for Brittney Griner.

TAPPER: And, Fred, jailed outspoken Putin critic Alexei Navalny was transferred to a maximum security prison. Was this a surprise?

PLEITGEN: It wasn't really a surprise in that it was clear he was going to be transferred to a maximum security prison. It wasn't clear which one it was going to be and certainly all this did cause a lot of uncertainty for an extended period of time. Essentially what happened is that Alexei Navalny's lawyers said they went to the prison where he had been kept and were simply told there is no convict here by this name at this facility.

Now, they were not told where exactly he was. And that's what they said, look, he's missing. No one really knows where he is at this point in time. It wasn't until much later in the day that someone from a local oversight committee came out and said yes, he had been transferred to a maximum security prison about 100 miles east of where he was kept before, a very, very tough place. It's known as here in Russia. So, certainly, a lot of uncertainty there.

One of the things that we have do have to say, Jake, is that this local person from that oversight committee says he's been transferred there. However, Navalny's people, his spokesman said, they have not gotten any confirmation that is actually the case. And they do warn, and they say, look, as long as his lawyers don't have access to him, he is one-on-one, as they put it, with the system that tried to kill him -- Jake.

TAPPER: Yeah, Fred Pleitgen in St. Petersburg, Russia, thank you so much.

Turning to the raging battle for Eastern Ukraine, the mayor of a captured Ukrainian town just west of Severodonetsk has switched sides, according to the Ukrainian prosecutor's office, which is now investigating him for treason. Putin's army today told defenders of the Azov chemical plant in Severodonetsk to, quote, lay down their arms. Ukraine believes about 500 civilians remain stuck inside, their status is unknown.

Now authorities tell us every minute of quiet between bombings in Severodonetsk is a chance to get people out, a daring journey made harder by the destruction of all three bridges out of the embattled city. Also today, Ukrainian officials say 64 Ukrainian soldiers killed last month defending the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol have been repatriated to Ukrainian controlled territory to be buried with dignity. This is part of an exchange where the bodies of 56 Russian soldiers were returned to their homeland.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell just weighed in on the bipartisan gun reform deal in the senate, but his answer includes an important caveat.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says he is a yes on a gun reform package if the final draft of the bill lines up with the framework announced on Sunday. This would be a boost for the bipartisan group negotiating the deal, hoping to get more Republicans onboard.

Let's get right to CNN's Lauren Fox who is live for us on Capitol Hill.

And, Lauren, the legislative text is key here. How significant is McConnell's support?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, McConnell never says something he doesn't intentionally mean to say, Jake. You know that from covering Washington, and it is obviously significant that McConnell came out backing this framework, assuming, he said, that the legislative text really matches the intentions of that framework.

And that is going to be a heavy lift. Over the next several days we expect that is what staff and members are going to be working overtime to finish up. The goal being to finish that legislative text, write the final bill, communicate it to members and then put it on the floor as soon as early next week.

Now, that could obviously put lawmakers in a position where they are going to have to make decisions quickly, and some Republicans are already signaling that they think that this process is moving too quickly. Senator Kevin Cramer telling me earlier today that he viewed this process as moving too fast, that it's not going through the normal committee process, regular order. Meanwhile, Democrats obviously arguing this issue is urgent, that they need to take steps immediately, and as soon as possible, Jake. TAPPER: And there was a Republican lunch today where much of the

discussion was around the red flag provision in the bill. The bill would provide incentives for states to pass red flag laws.

Is this provision going to trip up other Republicans? Preventing them from following McConnell's lead.

FOX: Yeah. I mean, look, right now, there are ten Republicans who support the framework, which included incentives for states to pass these red flag laws, but the hope and goal of Senator John Cornyn, the leading Republican, was to attract more Republican support, once this framework was out. And I'm told from multiple Republican members in this lunch that they had a lot of discussion around red flag laws.


Whether or not it would interrupt due process for gun owners across the country, Senator Cramer again told me that at the end of the day, he never thought that red flag laws were that good of an idea anyway, so what's the point of given states money to pass their own.

I'm also told that Senator Cornyn presented some internal polling showing support for things like red flag laws, showing support for other provisions in this framework. The goal, of course, to show Republicans that they can walk down this path and that it is not going to cost them in the midterms come November, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Lauren Fox on Capitol Hill for us, thank you so much.

Also on Capitol Hill, mixed messages from the leaders of the January 6th Select Committee investigating the deadly insurrection. Members seemingly at odds over whether their findings could possibly lead to criminal referrals of Trump and/or any of his associates, referrals to the Justice Department for prosecution.

Now, as Ryan Nobles reports, we're learning tomorrow's hearing has been postponed.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The January 6th Select Committee is at a crossroads. As they continue to work through marathon public hearings, revealing the mountain of evidence they have uncovered, they're now wrestling with what to do next with that information.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Attorney General Garland is my constituent and I don't browbeat my constituents. I think that he knows, his staff knows, the U.S. attorneys know what's at stake here. They know the importance of it, but I think they are rightfully paying close attention.

NOBLES: The committee making it clear they don't have the power to prosecute crimes. They are a legislative body. But over the course of their investigation, if they uncover evidence of a crime, they have said they'll refer that information to the department of justice.

Then, Monday night, Chairman Bennie Thompson surprised many when he suggested the committee did not plan to make a formal criminal referral.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): No, that's not our job. Our job is to look at the facts and circumstances around January 6th, what caused it, and make recommendations after that.

NOBLES: Thompson's comments were quickly refuted by his fellow members. Vice Chair Liz Cheney tweeting the committee has, quote, not issued a conclusion regarding potential criminal referrals and Representative Elaine Luria adding, if criminal activity occurred, it is our responsibility to report that activity to the DOJ.

For months, they have also made it clear if the Department of Justice wants to act, they do not need to wait for the committee.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Any credible evidence that the president of the United States, the former president was engaged in criminal activity or anybody else for that matter, needs to be investigated.

NOBLES: As for Attorney General Merrick Garland --

MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I'll be watching all of it and I can assure you that the January 6th prosecutors are watching all of the hearings as well.

NOBLES: The Wednesday hearings have been postponed, the next scheduled for Thursday. The committee eventually plans to show how Trump tried to install a puppet attorney general to investigate nonexistent claims of voter fraud and the pressure campaign that was put on Vice President Mike Pence to not certify the election results.


NOBLES (on camera): And the question is exactly what topic will we hear on Thursday night? The committee had a carefully laid out schedule that was based on the seven different points that they believe point and show that Donald Trump tried to undermine the election results. We believe that Thursday is now going to focus on that pressure campaign against a former Vice President Mike Pence. That, of course, one of the major topics the committee has been focused on -- Jake.

TAPPER: We're also learning the Capitol Police have finished reviewing security footage to determine whether or not Republican lawmaker Barry Loudermilk led a reconnaissance tour with Trump supporters before January 6th. What did Capitol police find?

NOBLES: So, Capitol police sent a letter to the House Administration Committee which detailed what they found when they reviewed the security footage. They didn't absolve Barry Loudermilk of anything. Of course, the Capitol police were not accusing him of anything. This germinated from the January 6th Committee asking him to come in and talk to them about evidence that they had discovered about these tours that Loudermilk had given.

But what Tom Manger, the chief of capitol police said in this letter, is there was no evidence that Loudermilk brought anyone over here to the Capitol building, it was instead what seemed to be an innocent tour of his constituents through the Capitol complex. The committee still says that they have evidence to the contrary. At this point, Jake, that evident has not been revealed, but committee sources have told us to stay tuned -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. We will. Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

A man fires a gun at a kids' summer camp in Texas. What did police do? That's ahead.



TAPPER: In our national lead, in the wake of the Uvalde massacre, where law enforcement waited for more than an hour before confronting an armed gunman, police responded swiftly in two recent incidents, shooting and killing suspects who are attempting to gain entry to areas with children present. In Texas, an armed gunman fired his weapon into a room filled with children at summer camp. And in Alabama, one man tries to enter an elementary school and later attempted to take an officer's firearm.

CNN's Josh Campbell takes a look at the actions from police in these clashes to keep kids safe.


JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Parents in Texas just grateful to hold their children after police rushed to a north Texas sports field house where a summer camp was being held and shot a gunman threatening the camp. Police in Duncanville, Texas, near Dallas said they exchanged gunfire with a man who opened fire at the camp on Monday where some 250 children age 4 to 14 and staff were present, some hiding.


UNIDENTIFIEID FEMALE: He had texted me and said mom, I think someone entered the field house with a gun.

CAMPBELL: When the gunman entered the building, police say camp counselors began moving the children to a safe area and locking doors.

AUTUMN HARRIS, SUMMER CAMPER: We went in the room and then we heard shooting. And then we got scared and everybody started crying.

They just told us to stay quiet and we were in the men's room, so there were showers there, so we hid in the showers.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: I was praying to God just so nothing would happen. CAMPBELL: Police shot and killed the gunman, no children, staff, or

officers were hurt, according to officials.

MATTHEW STOGNER, ASSISTANT CHIEF OF POLICE, DUNCANVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT: Upon hearing that gunshot, they did what they were trained to do, the counselors, they moved the kids to a safe area and began locking the doors. The suspect went to a classroom, was unable to get inside, and did fire one round inside the classroom, where there were children inside.

MAYOR BARRY GORDON, DUNCANVILLE, TEXAS: There was no hesitation. No hesitation whatsoever. We're thankful for their training that they do exactly what they're trained to do.

CAMPBELL: In Alabama, just last week, a man was shot and killed by a school resource officer after police say he attempted to enter an elementary school where 34 children were attending a summer literacy camp. Law enforcement said he was also trying to forcibly enter a patrol vehicle and was killed after an altercation with the officer at the school.

SHERIFF JONATHON HORTON, ETOWAH COUNTY, ALABAMA: He went straight to the threat, he confronted it, and he dealt with it. And it ended in unfortunately the death of the suspect, but that's the safest alternative, to keep that threat out of that school.


CAMPBELL (on camera): Now, Jake, today marks three weeks since that deadly Uvalde shooting, and still so many questions that law enforcement has not answered, specifically why that was treated as a barricade type situation rather than an active shooter. You compare that to some of the examples we brought you, in Alabama, also yesterday at the summer camp in Dallas. Those are the textbook ways law enforcement is supposed to respond, to go to the sound of gunfire.

It's also important to point out particularly in that Dallas incident, it's not just law enforcement that's being applauded. Authorities are also praising the work of those camp counselors who quickly sprang into action after the sound of gunfire, getting those kiddos to safety, thankfully no one other than the shooter in that incident was harmed.

TAPPER: Josh Campbell in Houston for us, thank you so much.

Coming up, a look at how the same kind of technology being used for COVID vaccines could produce treatments for some kinds of cancer.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our health lead, mRNA vaccines have been vital to help fight COVID-19 and now there's potential for that same biotechnology to be used to treat cancer. Scientists who have studied this technology for decades are focused on clinical trials aimed at targeting this disease.

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta explores one trial where a pancreatic cancer patient has found a new sense of hope.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In December 2020, mRNA vaccines started changing the course of the pandemic. At the same time, that same technology was possibly changing Barbara Brigham's life in an entirely different way.

BARBARA BRIGHAM, PANCREATIC CANCER PATIENT: She said I just want you to know that you have pancreatic cancer.

GUPTA: Pancreatic cancer is one of the most aggressive forms of the disease. And that motivates Dr. Vinod Balachandran at Memorial Sloan Kettering to find a cure for it.

DR. VINOD BALACHANDRAN, ONCOLOGISTT, MEMORIAL SLOAN KETTERING: We really need new treatments for patients. Stay tuned.

Right now, the immunotherapies that are used to treat cancer patients, they only work in about 20 percent of patients. So about 80 percent of the time, the current immunotherapies are not very effective.

GUPTA: So, Dr. Balachandran teamed up with BioNTech. You may remember them as a developer of an mRNA covid-19 vaccine. Their goal: to begin trialing mRNA as a pancreatic cancer treatment.

BRIGHAM: I was willing to try whatever would prevent me from having a shorter life than I really wanted to have.

GUPTA: Cancer has challenged scientists for years, in part because the cells continuously mutate, making them harder for the immune system to detect. But that's exactly why BioNTech's cofounders, Dr. Ugur Sahin and DR. Ozlem Tureci, have been working with mRNA for decades to see if they could outsmart cancer.

How do you know it is specific really to that cancer and not to healthy human cells in that particular patient's body?

DR. OZLEM TURECI, CO-FOUNDER, BIONTECH: That was actually the last two decades, which we invested to identify how we get the best targets, the best mutations, the best molecules to recognize cancer cells and distinguish them from normal cells.

GUPTA: Remember how mRNA works in COVID-19 vaccines. It essentially gives our immune system detailed instructions to make a specific part of the virus, so our immune system can then learn to recognize it and create antibodies against it. Those instructions can then be tailored and tweaked quickly if the virus evolves. The idea is, this could work in a similar way but for cancer.

BALACHANDRAN: Optimal technology to be able to custom-make a vaccine rapidly in real time, which is really important for cancer patients who want care.


The best technology out there, we thought, was mRNA.

GUPTA: Let me explain how this worked for Barbara. Doctors first removed her tumor, and a sample of it was flown almost 4,000 miles to BioNTech's headquarters in Germany.

DR. UGUR SAHIN, CO-FOUNDER, BIONTECH: What we do is we sequence the DNA from the tumor and identify the mutations by comparing the DNA from the tumor with the DNA from the blood because the blood is nonmutated and then you can see at that position the mutation.

GUPTA: The next step involves using a computer algorithm to figure out which of those mutations should become targets for the vaccine. The ones that Barbara's immune system will recognize and then deploy T-cells fight against.

It took just about six weeks for Barbara's custom cancer treatment to be created, and once it made it back over the Atlantic, the first vaccine dose was infused into her blood. That was December 15th, 2020.

Around the same time, the mRNA vaccines for COVID became available. Along with her standard chemo and immunotherapy, Barbara has received nine mRNA vaccinations. And she says everything is so far so good.

BRIGHAM: I had one last immuno last September, of which I also had a CAT scan at that time, and it was negative for pancreatic cancer. And everybody is celebrating, but whatever time I have, it's given me more time to enjoy my grandchildren and my children and my life.

GUPTA: Such an interesting science, Jake. They were working on mRNA as a technology for cancer even before COVID. They pivoted to COVID when the pandemic started, so these are some of the earliest results we're seeing, phase one results.

If it works, Jake, we're talking essentially about an individualized immunotherapy. Immunotherapy has been around for sometime. But this would individualize to each patient's particular cancer, Jake.

TAPPER: Let's turn to COVID vaccines. An FDA panel just voted to give emergency use authorization for Moderna's shot to be given to kids 6 to 17. This age group has already been able to get the Pfizer shot for about a year. Will the Moderna authorization make any sort of difference?

GUPTA: Well, as you point out, a vaccine has been available for that age group really for some time now, and if you look overall at the numbers, about 30 percent of children in that age group, 5 to 11 or so, have gotten the vaccine. About 60 percent age 12 to 17.

So are there some people who are holding out for the Moderna vaccine? Perhaps, and it does give more confidence if you see both these vaccines now authorized, but parents who wanted this have had an option for some time now. TAPPER: The FDA will next tackle vaccines for those 5 and younger.

Once approved, shots could be available next week, we're told, but there's still a lot of hesitancy from parents of kids in this age group. Why do you think that is?

GUPTA: Well, I mean, first of all, the hesitancy is real. We have seen that play out and potentially get larger as the ages go down. I think about 18 percent roughly of parents of children this age say they would get this right away, 27 percent, definitely not. In the middle is everyone else.

I think there's two major things. One is there's this conception that, look, this is a disease that doesn't affect children as much. Which is true, it does not affect children as much. How much is enough, though, for parents to be worried about this? About 480 children under the age of 5 have died of COVID.

To give you some frame of reference, Jake, before chickenpox vaccine, about 100 people died every year of chickenpox, and there was a clamoring to get a vaccine out there. Now we have 480 over a year and a half, and there's this hesitancy.

It may change over time. You know, if people become more comfortable with the vaccine, but I think that's what's really driving it.

TAPPER: If you had a kid that age, would you get him or her vaccinated?

GUPTA: Yeah, I think so -- I mean, absolutely. The risk, you know, this is a risk-reward analysis, like many times we have seen in terms of these emergency use authorizations. I think the safety profile is very good.

There was concerned about myocarditis in people in their late teens and early 20s. Young kids aren't getting that inflammatory reaction, so they're not getting as many side effects, and there's benefit. Again, 480 deaths, I mean, that's a lot if you take it in context of things.

TAPPER: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks so much as always.

The White House says it's his fault, but realty just how much is Vladimir Putin to blame for soaring gas prices? We'll take a reality check next.



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

This hour, Hunter Biden's ex-wife is talking about her 24-year marriage to the president's son, and it's what she's not saying that is getting attention today.

Plus, blame Putin? That's whom the White House says is responsible for the soaring gas and food prices in the U.S., but just how responsible is Russia's leader? We'll take a look.

And leading this hour, President Biden promising to turn Saudi Arabia into the, quote, pariah of the Middle East. Well, that was then. This is now.

And after dodging the question for weeks, now the White House is confirming Biden will visit the nation in July and meet with the same man intelligence officials say is responsible for the brutal murder of "Washington Post" journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

CNN's MJ Lee joins us live from the White House.