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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Biden Urges Oil Companies To Boost Supplies Amid Soaring Gas Prices; Federal Reserve Hikes Interest Rates In Attempt To Lower Inflation; Two American Volunteer Fighters Missing In Ukraine, Feared Captured; Security Footage Shows GOP Rep. Loudermilk Giving Tour To A Group Of People The Day Before Capitol Attack; Federal Authorities: Suspect Planned Attack For Years, Wanted To Kill "As Many Blacks As Possible"; Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) Is Interviewed On Senate Gun Reform Negotiations; Yellowstone National Park's Northern Section Could Be Closed For The Season; Two American Volunteer Fighters Missing In Ukraine, Feared Captured. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired June 15, 2022 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Now on Saturday, CDC advisers are scheduled to vote on whether to recommend these vaccines in that age group. And if CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed off on the recommendation, the children can be vaccinated.
THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts now.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The president writes a sternly worded letter to oil companies. That will do the trick.
THE LEAD starts right now.
President Biden telling gas and oil companies to cut the soaring profits or else. This as the Fed announces a historic rate hike which will cause Americans to pay more for houses and cars and credit card bills.
And the committee investigating the January 6th insurrection releases new footage from the day before the attack of a Capitol Hill tour led by a Republican congressman all in on the big lie and one of his guests in the video is seen taking photographs of stairwells and hallways and tunnels and security screening posts. Hmm.
And then the invasion in Ukraine hits home for some U.S. families as two Americans going missing while fighting alongside Ukrainian soldiers. The growing fear these two Americans might now be in the hands of the Russians.
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
We start today with our money lead and a major economic news that will in the short term at least make life more expensive for many Americans. The Federal Reserve this afternoon doing something it has not done in nearly three decades. They raised the interest rate by three-quarters of a percentage point. This will mean higher costs for mortgage loans and credit card bills and auto loans and student loans.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell says the hike is necessary to cool economic growth so as to get inflation under control, but that could take weeks if not months, and so many American families are struggling right now with skyrocketing inflation costs, including record high gas prices. On that subject, President Biden today sent a new letter to major oil companies urging them to ramp up supply in hopes of lowering prices for drivers. And as CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports, he warned he's looking at using his emergency powers if those companies do not act.
JENNIFER GRANHOLM, ENERGY SECRETARY: They need to increase supply.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: With no relief in sight for higher gas prices, the Biden administration is ramping up the pressure on big oil.
GRANHOLM: We're asking them to be in this era where we're on a war footing to consider increasing supply.
COLLINS: In a new letter, President Biden is demanding to know why refineries aren't putting more oil on the market and warning he's prepared to use his emergency authorities to increase output. Biden accusing companies of taking advantage of the crisis, writing that in a time of war, refinery profit margins well above normal being passed directly on to American families are not acceptable.
One top U.S. oil producer group, the American Petroleum Institute, is firing back, saying that Biden's, quote, misguided policy agenda shifting away from domestic oil and natural gas has compounded inflationary pressures and made things worse. The president is upping his criticism of oil companies after watching his approval rating sink as gas prices have continued to rise.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Exxon made more money than god this year.
COLLINS: White House aides say bringing down prices is their top priority, but concede there's little the president can do in the near term.
GRANHOLM: The biggest tool he has, of course, was the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. He is releasing 1 million barrels a day but it's not enough to account for the amount of oil that has been pulled offline due to the invasion of Ukraine.
COLLINS: Biden is also coming under fire from fellow Democrats, after announcing he's going to oil-rich Saudi Arabia despite vowing to make the country a pariah after the crown prince authorized the grisly murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I wouldn't go, I wouldn't shake his hand. I want nothing to do with him. This goes to show you how the need for fossil fuel so distorts our foreign policy and causes us to act in ways not consistent with our values.
COLLINS: Other Democrats saying they have no concerns about Biden's Saudi sit-down.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): This president, unlike the previous president, is not afraid to talk tough with foreign leaders. So I have every evidence that President Biden will handle this very well.
COLLINS (on camera): Now, Jake, when the White House was asked why not have President Biden go to Saudi Arabia but not meet with the crown prince, given he won't even speak to him thon phone right now, they cited the fact he's on the king's leadership team and needs to be in the room for those meetings. I should note the energy secretary said earlier on CNN that the U.S. has gotten no commitments so far from the Saudis to ramp up oil production ahead of that meeting with President Biden next month.
TAPPER: Kaitlan Collins at the White House for us, thank you so much.
Let's bring in CNN's Matt Egan. He's at the Federal Reserve in Washington, D.C. right now.
And, Matt, how quickly does the Fed think this massive hike can work to lower inflation?
MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Well, Jake, the Fed delivered a powerful statement today, declaring that they're not going to stand for inflation getting hotter and hotter. Chairman Jerome Powell, he flat out said, we have to restore price stability. It is the bedrock of the economy.
Now, prices are anything but stable right now, of course, consumer prices rising at the fastest pace in 40 years. The good news is that after being late to inflation, the Fed is on the case now, moving pretty aggressively to try to get it under control. I think the bad news is that the Fed actually revised higher its inflation projections, projecting 5 percent inflation by the end of this year. They don't see inflation getting back towards the 2 percent goal until the end of 2024.
And this is not going to be easy, because the Fed has a lot of power. They have the ability to really cool off demand by raising borrowing costs on mortgages and credit cards and student debt, car loans, and we're seeing that play out in the housing market where mortgage demand has fallen sharply. But the Fed does not have tools to really control supply. The supply chain bottlenecks that are jacking up food prices and gasoline prices and used cars, and Chairman Jerome Powell, he conceded today that the war in Ukraine plus COVID lockdowns in China do have the ability to potentially keep inflation hotter for longer, Jake. TAPPER: If they're in revising their inflation projections upward,
what about possible further interest rate hikes? Did Chairman Powell talk about that at all?
EGAN: Yeah, absolutely. He strongly signaled that there's going to be further rate increases. He said that the move today, this three- quarters of a percentage point, he called that unusually large and said that's probably not going to be the common step from the fed. But he did say in the next meeting in July, that they are probably going to be debating between either a move this size or one just smaller, a half a percentage point.
And Fed officials, they projected sharply higher interest rates by the end of the year. They say that they think that interest rates are going to be about twice as high at the end of the year as they are today. Now, this is a tricky situation for the Fed because if they don't do enough, which arguably has been the case to this point, that inflation can get hotter and hotter and go out of goal. If they do too much, they could end up slowing the economy right into a recession.
TAPPER: Yep, that's the risk. Matt Egan at the Fed, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
Turning to our world lead now. Two American fighters are now feared to be prisoners of war, possibly in the hands of the Russians. The two volunteer fighters from Alabama went missing during a battle just north of Kharkiv last week. They have not been heard from since.
They are 27-year-old Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, and 29-year-old Alexander John-Robert Drueke. A fellow fighter said the battle they were lost in was absolute chaos.
Let's bring in CNN's Ben Wedeman. He's on the ground in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk.
Ben, what are the families of these two fighters saying about their missing loved ones?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alex Drueke's mother and Andy Huynh's fiancee both say they last heard from them on the 8th of June when they told them that they would be unavailable or offline for a few days, presumably that they were going to be going on a mission.
And shortly after the combat that their comrade described, as you mentioned, they went out to try to find either bodies or find them if they were wounded. They found nothing.
The following day, a Russian propaganda channel on the telegram messaging application claimed that two Americans had been captured outside Kharkiv. Now, the U.S. embassy in Ukraine says they have no information if these two men have been captured. A State Department spokesman says that they're monitoring the situation, that they're in contact with Ukrainian authorities, but had no further comment.
Now, this incident is worrying because last week, on the 9th of June, a court in the pro-Russian breakaway republic, the Donetsk People's Republic, found two British nationals and one Moroccan national who had been fighting with the Ukrainian army guilty of serving as mercenaries and sentenced them to death -- Jake.
TAPPER: Yeah, it's a sobering thought. Ben Wedeman, thank you so much.
A tourist taking pictures of hallways and stairwells and tunnels on Capitol Hill, the January 6th committee released video of a Hill tour on January 5th led by a Republican congressman who embraces the big lie. Hmm.
Then, horrifying admissions we learned from the alleged Buffalo grocery store shooter as he now faces federal charges that could carry the death penalty.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even you, AOC. We're coming to take you out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Coming to take you out.
Stunning new video from the January 6th committee tops our politics lead. You can hear one man just outside the Capitol on January 6th yelling direct threats about lawmakers. What is especially startling about this particular video is that the man you just heard had been given a tour of congressional office buildings by a Republican Congressman Barry Loudermilk of Georgia, the day before the Capitol attack. The committee also releasing this security footage of the same man on that tour, taking photos of hallways and tunnels that lead to the Capitol.
CNN's Ryan Nobles is on Capitol Hill with how this new video directly contradicts findings issued by the U.S. Capitol police.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no escape, Pelosi, Schumer.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New video released by the January 6th Select Committee showing a man outside the Capitol directing threats at Democratic members of Congress.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pelosi, Nadler, Schumer. Even you, AOC. We're coming to take you out. Pull you out by your hairs.
NOBLES: That same man seen the day before on a tour of the Capitol complex with Republican Congressman Barry Loudermilk. Snapping pictures the committee believes are suspicious.
Chairman Bennie Thompson writing to Loudermilk, quote, individuals on the tour photographed and recorded areas of the complex not typically of interest to tourists, including hallways, staircases and security checkpoints. The committee re-upping its concerns after Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said earlier this week, we do not consider any of the activities we observed as suspicious.
Loudermilk has refused to meet with the committee, claiming their inquiry has led to death threats against his family.
REP. BARRY LOUDERMILK (R-GA): The committee has never called me and asked me anything.
REPORTER: They said they sent you a letter.
REPORTER: Do you regret giving that tour now?
LOUDERMILK: I condemn that type of activity.
NOBLES: The committee continues to push ahead to their hearing on Thursday night.
ERIC HERSCHMANN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: I said to him, are you out of your F-ing mind?
NOBLES: Out with this deposition from Trump White House lawyer Eric Herschmann, warning John Eastman the day after January 6th to drop efforts to try to overturn the 2020 vote. Trump ally had also tried to convince then-Vice President Mike Pence to stand in the way of certifying the election results.
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): President Trump had no factual basis for what he was doing. And he had been told it was illegal. Despite this, President Trump plotted with a lawyer named John Eastman and others.
NOBLES: A plot Herschmann believed may have put Eastman in legal jeopardy.
HERSCHMANN: I said, good, John. Now I'm going to give you the best free legal advice you're ever getting in your life. Get a great F-ing criminal defense lawyer. You're going to need it. And I hung up on him.
NOBLES: And in just the last hour, the committee officially announcing who we will hear live testimony from tomorrow. It includes two people closely associated with the former vice president, including his chief counsel, Greg Jacob, and Judge Michael Luttig who encouraged the vice president to not take the advice of John Eastman, and we're also learning that tomorrow's hearing will be led by Congressman Pete Aguilar of California, who is, of course, a member of the committee -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.
Here to discuss, CNN's special correspondent Jamie Gangel and George Conway, conservative lawyer and contributing columnist for "The Washington Post."
Jamie, let me start with this clear contradiction. The January 6th committee wrote a letter to Congressman Loudermilk about this footage. Chairman Bennie Thompson says he's asking about the video because the group is taking photos and recording areas of the complex that are, quote, not typically of interest to tourists including hallways and staircases and security checkpoints.
I have been on Capitol Hill for decades and you don't see people taking pictures of staircases.
And he also noted the group stayed for, quote, several hours. But U.S. Capitol Police said in a letter on Monday that they, quote, did not consider any of the activities observed as suspicious. That seems interesting, that contradiction.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So, I think there are semantics going on here. We hear about Capitol complex and Capitol. I think we have a lot more to learn about what's going on.
I also think it's true that two things can be true at the same time. They may have been doing things that are suspicious, that they shouldn't have been doing, and maybe Congressman Loudermilk did not know, realize, absorb it.
But I cover Capitol Hill before you guys were born. There is -- you never see tourists -- it's just ridiculous for tourists to be taking pictures of these stairways, these tunnels. It doesn't happen.
TAPPER: There are paintings and sculptures, but --
GANGEL: This is not statuary hall.
TAPPER: No, it's odd.
George, take a listen to Congressman Loudermilk talking about the video. This is him earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LOUDERMILK: They're not interested in the truth. They're only interested in creating a narrative for you guys. There's nothing there. The Capitol police looked at it, said there is nothing suspicious because the capitol police know when visitors come, they take pictures.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So, Loudermilk says there's nothing to the video, but the January 6th committee disagrees. May be a pretty big deal if the January 6th committee was able to prove -- I mean, that's a lot, what we just saw, but if they were able to prove more.
GEORGE CONWAY, CONSERVATIVE LAWYER: If there's nothing there, what's the problem? Why not talk to the January 6th Committee? Why not answer the questions? There are pretty good questions to ask, which is what did you think
when they were taking pictures of this weird stuff, and not statuary hall, but the security ingresses and egresses and the stairways.
Did it occur to you like that's odd? And what were they saying about why they were seeing what they were seeing? Did they ask to see these places? What happened?
And if it's all innocent, why not just answer those questions?
TAPPER: Also, just as somebody who has been on Capitol Hill for decades as well, you don't see members of Congress leading a lot of these tours. You see their staffers doing it, their interns do it. To see a member of Congress, usually it's for a big donor or a friend or a VIP.
We also have, Jamie, a video from one of the men on the tour with Loudermilk. Take a listen to what he's saying as he walks toward the capitol on January 6th.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no escape, Pelosi, Schumer, Nadler. We're coming for you. Even you, AOC. We're coming to take you out. We'll pull you out by your hairs.
How about that, Pelosi? Go might as well make yourself another appointment when I get done with you. You're going to need a shine up on top of that bald head.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GANGEL: It's horrific. It's violent.
TAPPER: We should note, the committee says they don't have any evidence that the man did make it into the Capitol, but those are some horrific threats.
CONWAY: And there's another part of the clip where he's showing the point to his American flag is sharpened, that it could be used as a dagger or a spear.
TAPPER: That's not a metaphor or anything.
George, tomorrow is the third hearing of the January 6th committee in this round. Congresswoman Liz Cheney released this clip from a taped interview with former White House lawyer Eric Herschmann explaining what he warned Trump allied lawyer John Eastman who was putting forth this crazy unconstitutional theory about how Pence could be the one to undo the election.
Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HERSCHMANN: I said, I don't want to hear anything other f'ing words coming out of your mouth no matter what other than orderly transition. Repeat those words to me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did he say?
HERSCHMANN: Eventually, he said orderly transition. I said, good, John. Now I'm going to give you the best free legal advice you're ever getting in your life. Get a great f'ing criminal defense lawyer. You're going to need it. Then I hung up on him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: What was interesting about the release of that clip yesterday was that Liz Cheney released it in the midst of this back and forth with the chairman of the committee about whether or not there was going to be a criminal referral.
I interpreted it and others did too as I'm not -- Liz Cheney thinking I'm not the only one here who thinks there are criminal acts committed.
CONWAY: Absolutely. Somebody who worked in the Trump White House counsel's office thought so. I have to say, I love this guy. This guy is the kind of --
GANGEL: We're all fighting to interview him.
CONWAY: -- you know, I practice law in New York for 30 years. This is the kind of blunt spoken New York lawyer I love to deal with.
And he was absolutely right. That was great free legal advice and it turned out that Eastman took it. He pled the Fifth 146 times at his deposition before the January 6th committee.
TAPPER: So as to not incriminate himself in criminal activity.
CONWAY: Right. So, yeah, it's pretty clear that everyone, I mean, Herschmann was aware this was of questionable legality, and Eastman ultimately and his counsel came to that conclusion. That's high he took the Fifth. So --
TAPPER: Yeah. We'll see if Merrick Garland is paying attention.
GANGEL: For the record, Jake and I are fighting over who gets that interview along with every other reporter in Washington.
TAPPER: And every network and newspaper. Thanks one and all for being here. Appreciate it.
He said he had been planning the racist massacre for years. We're learning more about the horrific details from the alleged Buffalo grocery store gunman's diaries as he faces new federal charges.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our national lead, new evidence shows that the Buffalo supermarket massacre in which ten people were brutally murdered was an attack years in the making. Federal authorities say a document found on a laptop in the accused gunman's home is also revealing the extent to which his sick goal was to kill, quote, as many blacks as possible, unquote.
CNN's Brynn Gingras is live for us at the Tops Market in Buffalo, New York.
Brynn, what are you -- what more are you learning about these disturbing new details outlining the suspect's racist and radical world view?
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: His world view, what he was doing to prepare for this attack, after the fact, Jake. So many details in this affidavit that the complaint filed today in the Western District of New York, essentially saying the 18-year-old shooter had thought about committing this racist act for years. And then actually decided to possibly go through with it earlier this year and did reconnaissance on the grocery store at the Tops there behind me several months prior, even up to 2 1/2 hours before carrying out this attack, according to the court documents. Says went in the grocery store, did sort of a tally of the race of the people who were inside, possible ages, where the security guard was located at the time.
If you remember, the security guard was one of the victims of the ten people killed in this attack. And we also have learned that the FBI found a note in his home when they did a -- when they executed a search warrant.
And in that note, he apologized to his family members and essentially said that he had to commit this attack for the future of the white race.
So, so many disturbing details coming out in this affidavit, now facing 26 federal charges related to hate crimes and firearm charges against the 18-year-old shooter, Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Brynn Gingras in Buffalo, New York, thanks so much. That brings us back to our politics lead. In just moments, the bipartisan group of senators negotiating a gun reform deal will meet again on Capitol Hill. As the talks drag on, senators say they're in danger of missing a self-imposed end of the week deadline, due to two big sticking points.
And joining us now is Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. He's one of the lead negotiators on the bipartisan talks. He joins us in the midst of the talks.
Senator Murphy, thanks so much for talking to us. You're in the midst of another round of bipartisan talks this hour. Senator John Cornyn, a Republican of Texas, leading the negotiations for the other side, he told CNN today he's starting to get concerned about turning the framework deal into bill text. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): I think we're on our way, but I am concerned now given the time it takes and the need to complete our work really by tomorrow. We have to settle these issues or else we're talking about jeopardizing our ability to deal with legislation next week.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Are you worried? Are you concerned the deal could fall apart?
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Well, listen, I'm not worried. We, you know, worked hard to get a framework agreement that 20 Republicans and Democrats agree to. All we have to do is put that into text. I'm not saying that's a piece of cake, but I think that everybody in this room wants to get a bill to the floor by next week.
And, you know, while drafting concepts into text is never easy, I was frankly somewhat pleased to hear that Senator Cornyn today thought we only had two outstanding issues. We probably have a lot more than two, but all of them can be settled because I think Senator Cornyn thinks what I believe, which is that the American public is not going to accept nothing as an answer.
We cannot go back home over the course of July 4th and tell people that once again we let politics get in the way of getting something done. So I think we're going to be able to wrap this up and get these final issues settled.
TAPPER: Let's talk about the issues that Senator Cornyn identified as the two that need to be ironed out. One of them is incentives for states to pass red flag laws. And I know you've heard many objections -- many Republicans are objecting to this.
And the other one is closing the so-called "boyfriend loophole" which would deny the ability to buy firearms to significant others who are accused and adjudicated of domestic abuse.
Where do you stand on ironing those two?
MURPHY: I think what I understand Senator Cornyn's worry to be is that money will flow to states with red flag laws, but then money will not flow to states that choose not to adopt red flag laws. I think we can figure that out. I think we're going to have plenty of money in this bill for states that choose to adopt red flag laws and states that don't choose to adopt red flag laws. I just want to make sure there's funding there for states that need to teach law enforcement and first responders how to use a red flag law. On the boyfriend loophole, I think we have agreement. You look at the
framework we put out, and it's pretty clear. We want to make sure that, you know, these serious long-term dating partners, when they beat up their girlfriend and get convicted of that crime, are prohibited from buying a firearm in the future, as well as those who have a restraining order against them.
That's obviously not a simple thing to work out that text, so it's to be expected that, you know, it would take a few days to be able to land that definition, but we'll get there because I think there's a common understanding of what we want do.
TAPPER: North Dakota Republican Senator Kevin Cramer was asked about red flag measures yesterday. His answer seemed to indicate that winning the election in November is more important than efforts at red flag laws. He said, quote, I think we're more interested in red waves than we are in red flags, quite honestly as Republicans and we have a good opportunity to do that.
What's your reaction?
MURPHY: From what I understand, Senator Cornyn presented some polling to his caucus, including Senator Cramer yesterday, in which he showed that red flag laws are wildly popular all across the country. I think the data he showed suggested they had 85 percent support. That means they're popular in red states and in blue states.
So if Republicans are more concerned with winning elections than keeping people safe, and I hope that's not the case, but if they are, they should be very interested in voting for a bill that is going to be very, very popular. Red flag laws, stopping abusers from getting guns, locking up gun traffickers -- these are things that are, you know, as popular as grandma and apple pie.
So, we're going to have a really popular bill on our hands if we get this to the Senate floor, when we get this to the Senate floor.
TAPPER: When you talk about more money needing to go to states even if there's not states that have red flag laws or are going to have red flag laws. Are you saying what I heard Senator Cornyn say earlier, which is that the larger addressing of the mental health crisis in this country is also something to be addressed in this bill, even if it doesn't have to do with keeping guns out of the hands of individuals who are perhaps a threat to themselves or others or in the margins of society, but in an effort to help them regardless?
MURPHY: Well, listen, you know, I'm always very reluctant to combine a conversation about mental illness and violence because people with mental illness are not prone to violence. They're more likely to be the victims of violence, but it's been clear from the beginning that to get a bill, we needed to package together these commonsense changes in gun laws with a very big investment in mental health spending.
Why would we say no as Democrats to fixing our broken mental health system? And that's what I'm talking about. Senator Cornyn wants to make sure that every state gets a benefit from this bill, and we're absolutely going to make sure that that's the case.
In fact, it may be that a lot of rural states, which tended to elect Republicans more often than Democrats, are going to get a very significant boost because we will probably put specific dollars in this bill for telehealth, for the kind of mental health care that rural communities often need more than urban communities.
So I think there will be plenty of support in this bill for states that are represented by Republicans.
TAPPER: I know you need to get back to negotiating. Senator Chris Murphy, thanks so much.
MURPHY: Thank you.
TAPPER: It is so hot in some parts of the United States, roads are literally melting. That's ahead.
TAPPER: In our politics lead, on the heels of the alleged attempted murder of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh by an armed left-wing would-be assassin as well as multiple protests outside the homes of Supreme Court justices sparked by the leaked Roe v. Wade draft opinion, Senate Republicans are asking Attorney General Merrick Garland why he is not enforcing a law that would essentially ban such picketing. Let's bring in CNN's Manu Raju live for us on Capitol Hill.
Manu, what are lawmakers telling you about this?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Republicans are concerned this law from 1950s -- from 1950s era has not been enforced, which essentially bans the practice of protesting outside the homes of Supreme Court justices for the purpose of influencing the court's system.
Now, this all comes on the heels of a debate within Capitol Hill about how far to go in bolstering security for Supreme Court justices. The Senate quickly passed a bill last month that would bolster security for justices and their families. The House Democrats wanted to expand that bill to also include clerks and staff. Ultimately, Republicans balked at that expanded bill. House Democrats relented and approved the Senate version.
Now, the co-sponsor of the Senate bill, Democrat Chris Coons, I asked him earlier today about the idea of arresting individuals who are protesting outside of the justices' homes and he indicated law enforcement has to take a careful approach.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): As an elected official, I have certainly had enough protests outside my house and that's a critical part of the First Amendment and the ability of Americans to express their anger, their discontent, their unhappiness with either elected officials or the judicial branch. But I do think we need to be mindful given credible recent threats and a tragic incident that happened in New Jersey.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now, the Justice Department declined to comment on the Senate Republicans' letter but did respond last week to Mitch McConnell who had been raising these concerns for some time, saying the U.S. Marshal Service has been provided around the clock service at all homes of justices and also, Jake, this law is written broadly. It is rarely enforced, we are told, because it really could be interpreted to cover a wide range of protests.
But nevertheless, Republicans not satisfied and demanding more answers from the Justice Department.
TAPPER: All right. Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.
The national's first national park cut off by raging floods, and more water could be on the way.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our "Earth Matters" series, all entrances to Yellowstone National Park are still temporarily closed, and the northern section could be cut off for the rest of the season. This week's intense flooding severely damaged roads, making evacuations extremely dangerous. High temperatures expected later this week could cause even more snow to melt into the Yellowstone River.
CNN's Nick Watt takes a look now at the unbelievable damage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is insane.
NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This was a home for park employees, obliterated by the Yellowstone River. As was the one and only road in from the north entrance. The oldest national park on earth is now closed.
CAMERON SHOLLY, YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK SUPERINTENDENT: I have heard this is a 1,000-year event, whatever that means these days. They seem to be happening more and more frequently.
WATT: This is climate change, an unusually late heavy snowfall, then unusually high temperatures melting that snow, plus, a lot of rain, combining to cut off this gem of the American west. More than 2 million acres, 1,000 miles of trails, 500 geysers, bears, birds. As much as three months worth of water barreled down this valley in
three days. Breaking record high river levels set over 100 years ago. Overwhelming infrastructure built for what was normal last century, not for the extreme and unpredictable that is becoming normal in this.
For the benefit and enjoyment of the people, says the grand old gate. Not right now. This northern entrance likely will not open again this summer. Because that one road in will take months to fix.
KARI HUESING, YELLOWSTONE GATWAY INN: There's nobody here. There's one hotel that's actually shutting down, told all its employees to go home.
WATT: You were booked.
HUESING: We were booked. We were booked solid for a year. We were booked for a year.
WATT: Gardener, gate way to the park, now a ghost town. Probably will be for months.
BIL BERG, PARK COUNTY, MONTANA COMMISSIONER: It's a Yellowstone town, and it lives and dies by tourism.
WATT: There should be more than 10,000 people in the park on a summer's day today, just a few hikers left in the back country, and all this might not be over. There's still 12 inches of snow pack up there, and high temperatures are forecast for the weekend. More snow might melt, and the Yellowstone River might rise again.
WATT (on camera): And you know, last year, the U.S. Geologist Survey released a report predicting that this would happen, that there would be more snowfall, more snow melt, more rain, and they are predicting that that will continue in the years to come as well.
Now, the north gate, as I said, is going to be closed for months. They're going to try to open the south of the park maybe next week. They're still trying to figure out logistics on that. But the road up here is going to take months.
And this, by the way, where I'm standing, this was where that huge house that housed workers in the park, it was here. It's not anymore. They have to figure out where park employees will even live -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Nick Watt reporting outside Yellowstone, thank you so much.
Nearly 100 million people from Michigan to northern Florida are under heat alerts today. Temperatures soared well past 90 degrees, including in Ohio, where the humidity makes it feel as if it's 107 degrees. It's so hot, roads are buckling in St. Louis, Missouri. To make things even worse, hundreds of thousands of people across parts of the Midwest and Ohio River Valley are without power.
CNN's Omar Jimenez is in Chicago where there is an excessive heat warning today.
Omar, what are people doing to try to escape the heat there?
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jake. Well, for starters, we're outside one of multiple cooling centers offered by the city at a community service location. But they're also pointing people towards its libraries, toward splash pads or fountains, trying to find some form of relief from this heat. And we just learned from the National Weather Service in the past hour that we have now set the record for heat in Chicago for this day that was originally set back in 1994. And with still hours of heating left to go, officials believe we could very well break those records.
Now, earlier today, we spoke with the commissioner for the department of family and support services. And she told us that last night, they placed about 67 individuals into shelter. The night before, around 54, and that they're treating this heat no differently, trying to be proactive about getting people the relief that they might need. It's hard to believe that in the past 48 hours, we were dealing with tornado warnings here in this area, and now excessive heat.
And Chicago in particular knows how deadly and dangerous heat like this can be. You look back to the '90s, one particular heat wave ended with hundreds of people dead due to heat related reasons. And it's because of that that they have made multiple changes to make sure that they never get even close to anything of that magnitude, but of course, it's something that people think about here in the city, Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Omar Jimenez in Chicago for us, thank you so much.
Coming up, not walking the talk. Why Ukraine's president is calling out a major European nation for failing to deliver a single piece of heavy weaponry despite saying they would.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
This hour, for new moms and dads, it's finally happening. The FDA advisory panel just signed off on COVID vaccines for the youngest chin. Now the question is just how many parents are going to sign up.
Plus, two police officers called to a stacking are shot and killed. While the mayor said they were essentially ambushed.
And leading this hour, two American volunteer fighters have gone missing in Ukraine. Their families fear they have been captured by the Russian army. A source tells CNN that Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh and Alexander John-Robert Drueke, both from Alabama, disappeared during a fierce battle in eastern Ukraine nearly one week ago. Within 24 hours, a post appeared on a Russian propaganda channel claiming the men had been captured near Kharkiv.
Drueke's mother tells that the men are presumed to be prisoners of war, but the U.S. embassy in Ukraine has not been able to verify that claim.
CNN's Oren Liebermann joins us now live from Brussels. Kaitlan Collins is live for us at the White House.
Kaitlan, let's start with you. What's the White House saying about these Americans?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're aware of these reports, but right now, the White House can't confirm them. They said they just found out about the reports about these two Americans that have been missing in Ukraine and feared captured by the Russian forces, and they say if they can confirm these reports that they will work to get them home as soon as possible.
But John Kirby, a National Security Council spokesman, who was at the briefing today, said this is precisely the reason they have been warning Americans not to go into Ukraine to try to help, to volunteer to fight, because they do have concerns about something like this happening.