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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Two Americans Believed to be Captured by Moscow-backed Separatists; Russian Priest Helping Ukrainian Refugees; Israeli Leaders to Dissolve Knesset; Gas Tax Holiday to be Decided; Gun Rights Group Want Guns Everywhere; Oklahoma Gun Rights Group Vows To Fight For More Guns Everywhere; Trump Backs Katie Britt In Alabama Senate Race After Revoking Endorsement Of Mo Brooks; Yellowstone National Park To Open Partially Wednesday; V.P. Marks Juneteenth: "A Day To Celebrate The Principle Of Freedom". Aired 5-6p ET

Aired June 20, 2022 - 17:00   ET



BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They were also interviewed by a Serbian pro-Russian YouTube channel as well. And in that interview, Alexander Drueke is asked how have you been treated? And he says, I have been beaten several times.

Now, they went missing on June 9th after a battle outside Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine. So, that's basically all we know at the moment. Now, the Russians initially denied any knowledge of their whereabouts. Obviously, they have appeared on Russia today as well as other forums that, yes, the Russians are sort of de facto acknowledging that they -- their allies, so to speak, have them.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: What are U.S. officials saying about bringing these two U.S. citizens home?

WEDEMAN: Well, in fact, the State Department put out a statement saying that, they "have seen photos and videos of these two U.S. citizens reportedly captured by Russian military forces in Ukraine. We are closely monitoring the situation and our hearts go out to their families during this difficult time. We are in contact with Ukrainian authorities, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and with the families themselves. Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment on these cases."

This is typical of State Department statements about, for instance, I have seen it before with Americans being held in Syria as well. There clearly is a lot of back-channel communications going on, But State Department officials on these very sensitive issues tend to be quite tight lipped. Jake?

TAPPER: Yes, Ben Wedeman in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, thank you so much. Joining us is Bunny Drueke. She's the mother of Alex Drueke, one of the Americans being held captive in Ukraine. You just saw his picture there. Bunny, thanks for joining us. So, short video clips of your son have appeared on Russian media. We had seen and are choosing not to broadcast the video because they show him speaking under duress. He does look to be in relatively good shape in the footage, but Alex

does reveal that his captors had beaten him a few times. He also addressed you personally in one of the videos. Tell us your response to seeing these videos to hearing from him?

BUNNY DRUEKE, MOTHER OF ALEXANDER JOHN-ROBERT DRUEKE: Well, you can see that the one where he addressed me directly really made me happy. I play it over and over and over again especially right before I go to bed. It's just -- I'm sorry. It's just wonderful to hear his voice and see him. I have chosen not to look at those other videos because they are propaganda.

Before Alex left, he told me that he needed to speak very directly and frankly with me, that if he were captured, they would be forcing him to make statements. I was not to believe anything except I love you, mom. And that videos like that might show him being mistreated, is the best way I guess to say it.

And for me, he'd rather that I not watch it. And so, I'm honoring his request for that. I'm trusting the State Department to, I know that they're watching them and they are analyzing them, and I'm trusting that process.

TAPPER: What are you hearing from U.S. officials about Alex's and Andy's captivity?

DRUEKE: That they are working behind the scenes. They are diligently working. They assured us that we would not hear from them today, it being a federal holiday, but that didn't mean they were taking the day off. They would still be working to arrange for Alex and Andy to come home eventually. They're still working at verifying where they are and who has them.

TAPPER: Analysts say that being held by these Russian-backed separatists is a potentially concerning development because the head of the self-proclaimed government there has previously said that prisoner exchanges of foreign fighters would be out of the question. Is that what the State Department is telling you as well? Is that a concern?

DRUEKE: I don't know whether they're concerned about that, but they told me just to trust what they're doing, that they are doing everything that they can to get the boys back home.

TAPPER: So, I have no idea what they have access to, but CNN is an international network. What would you like to say to Alex if he were watching right now?


DRUEKE: I would like to tell Alex that I'm taking good care of his dog and that I am being brave and doing exactly what he asked me to do. And that I love him with all of my heart.

TAPPER: And Bunny, how are you hanging in there? I know this has got to be really awful. DRUEKE: Well, you know, Jake, this isn't the first time that he's

been in a war zone because when he was with the U.S. military, he was sent to Iraq this last tour especially, and you know, he's been in harm's way before and even hiking the Appalachian trail, there's bears on that trail and you can also fall down mountains. So, you know, I'm aware that he could be hurt, but I also know that Alex is in tip-top condition.

TAPPER: Yes. Bunny Drueke, it's always great to have you on. Thank you so much.

The sound of resistance, a Ukrainian official shared this video of two soldiers singing the Ukrainian version "Bella Ciao" which Italians famously sang to protest fascism during World War II.


Now, some Russians are taking a stand in their own way. CNN's Fred Pleitgen meets with a priest in Russia, one who is offering Ukrainians stuck there, shelter and safe passage to the European Union.


FREDRIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The church, a single bare room in a former factory in St. Petersburg, but Reverend Grigory Mikhnov-Vaytenko's tiny parish is a humanitarian powerhouse. He's helped scores of Ukrainians displaced by what Moscow called its special military operation, get to the European Union.

GRIGORY MIKHNOV-VAYTENKO, RUSSIAN PRIEST: There are thousands, thousands of people because every day, every day a few hundred people go.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Most of the Ukrainians sheltering in this hostel in St. Petersburg are from Mariupol, a city almost completely destroyed by artillery, air strikes, and urban combat. On March 9th, the city's maternity clinic was hit, a now infamous incident that killed four people and wounded scores including Viktoria Shishkina who lost her unborn baby.

VIKTORIA SHISHKINA, UKRAINIAN REFUGEE (through translation): They did a cesarean operation. There was panic everywhere, but they said they have to save me, she says. They saw that the child had no more vital signs. They tried to pull him out and reanimate him, but the explosion hit me right in the belly and they couldn't save him.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): A double tragedy as her husband Vladimir was also hit by shelling as he was trying to visit Viktoria, killing a friend walking with him.

UNKNOWN (through translation): I heard a loud ring in my ears and I thought to myself, I'm dead, too, he says. But I looked down at my leg and my kneecap had been torn off. I crawled to a fence and screamed help, help.

Vladimir's leg later had to be amputated. Thanks to the Reverend Grigory and his network of volunteers, they made it to St. Petersburg, where like so many, they stay free of charge at this hostel waiting to leave Russia.

Ukraine has accused Russia of targeting civilians in Mariupol. Russia denies those claims and instead blamed Ukraine. Bogdan Stancinkof (ph) and his family also escaped Mariupol. They live near the Mariupol drama theater which was bombed in mid-March, reportedly killing hundreds, though the exact number remains unknown.

As his neighborhood was being flattened, Bogdan took his wife, his son, and his 8-month-old baby girl Kira (ph) and fled ending up in southwestern Russia. Like everyone here, they want to get to the European Union.

Reverend Grigory says Russia does not prevent Ukrainians from leaving the country. But due to a lack of information, some end up in remote regions of this massive country.

MIKHNOV-VAYTENKO: I have no information. This is the main problem. They have no information what they can do, what is possible to do, where they can go.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The costs of moving so many Ukrainians, some severely wounded, to the E.U. are massive. Reverend Grigory relies on donations mostly by Russian hospitals, companies, business people, and ordinary citizens, some opposed to what Russia calls the special military operation, but afraid to speak out.

Reverend Grigory left the Russian orthodox church in 2014. Its head, Patriarch Kirill is a staunch ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and supporter of the special military operation.


MIKHNOV-VAYTENKO: For me, it was not possible to stay there when they have a military church.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Reverend Grigory says he doesn't fear speaking openly about his opposition to Russia's actions in Ukraine. He only fears god. As he sees Viktoria and Vladimir off, they have gotten the go to head to Germany where Vladimir is set to receive a prosthetic limb. A bit nervous but also grateful for the chance to start a new life thanks to the help of Reverend Grigory and his band of supporters.


PLEITGEN (on camera): And Jake, a little bit of good news. Viktoria and her husband Vladimir, they did actually make it across the border. They took the land route to the Estonian border and have since taken a flight to Germany where Vladimir is obviously hoping to get that prosthetic limb and obviously both of them looking to start a new life in the European Union.

They say possibly at some point also return to Ukraine as well. Also, that other family that we showed in case, Bogdan Stancinkof (ph), they also made it across the border. They are also now in Germany. But if you look at Reverend Grigory, he does so much important work.

He says he's already working on the next bunch of Ukrainians who want to get to the European Union. Among them, a person that basically needs an ambulance to take them all the way from the south of Russia to the European Union. It's a huge logistical undertaking. It requires a lot of money, but as you can see also, there are a lot of Russians out there who are helping, who are trying to help these Ukrainians get to where they want to go, Jake.

TAPPER: Fred Pleitgen in Moscow for us, thank you so much.

Coming up next, political turmoil in Israel. Why the country must now hold its fifth election in fewer than four years?

And here in the United States, the power of an endorsement. How much will it matter as Donald Trump asks Alabama Republicans to follow his impulsiveness. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Topping our "World Lead," a huge shakeup in Israeli politics. The prime minister and foreign minister agreeing to dissolve the Israeli parliament or Knesset. This means Israeli voters could be headed to their fifth election in fewer than four years. CNN's Hadas Gold joins us now live from Jerusalem. Hadas, the prime minister here essentially decided to fall on his on sword. Explain what happened.

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this government has been in power just one year and one week, but essentially understood they had no political future. The government has been fragile, teetering for weeks, especially after two members of Naftali Bennett's own right- wing party defected in recent weeks and months, leaving this with a minority government not able to really pass anything.

But I think few expected this to happen the way it did, where the prime minister and foreign minister dissolving their own government. Essentially, Jake, taking that pleasure away from former prime minister now opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu. The way this plan works now is that they will bring this vote to the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, next week.

And when it passes, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will become a caretaker prime minister and this will likely trigger elections. The fifth round of elections Israelis will see in less than four weeks. Those elections will likely take place in the fall. This, of course, provides an opening though still for Netanyahu to come back into power, despite facing an ongoing corruption trial.

But yet, still, the polls do not show that Netanyahu's bloc, although the strongest right now, would still have that majority needed to have a stable government. Jake?

TAPPER: Hadas, President Biden was planning to travel to Israel next month on a trip to the region. Will this affect his visit? GOLD: Well, as I noted, now under this plan, Yair Lapid will become

prime minister potentially in the next week, meaning it will be Lapid who will be welcoming President Biden on the red carpet next month and not Naftali Bennett as planned.

But from what we understand from our colleagues in the White House, President Biden still plans to make this trip to Israel. He will also be visiting the West Bank and Saudi Arabia. And this from a White House official saying that we have a strategic relationship with Israel that goes beyond any one government.

The president looks forward to the visit next month. So, it seems as though it's still going to go on as planned, although a much different political situation than likely they were expecting.

TAPPER: All right, Hadas Gold live from Jerusalem, thanks so much.

Speaking of our colleagues in the White House, let's turn to another "Politics Lead." The White House is considering a gas tax holiday targeting a possible July 4th announcement. CNN's Phil Mattingly is with us live. Phil, what do we know about that?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDEN: Well, we know White House officials, Jake, for months have been looking at every possible option they can take to try and bring gas prices down. Gas prices that have hit more than $5 a gallon in many places in the country, and the president in Rehoboth Beach earlier today told reporters he would make a decision about backing a federal gas tax holiday by the end of this week.

Now, that is an 18.3 cent tax on each gallon of gas. Here's the rub. He can't do it unilaterally. It would take congressional action. They don't believe they would have 60 votes in the U.S. Senate to move that forward. Some Democrats are also concerned as well. Concerned it wouldn't trickle down to consumers. Concerned it would create problems in the funding of roads.

However, the administration very clearly looking for any option they can find at this point in time, whether or not the president decides to back that, an idea they have been considering now for several months, he says he'll decide by the end of this week.

TAPPER: Speaking of President Biden in Rehoboth, my understanding is somebody asked him about the likelihood of a recession and it was not a sunny response from the president. Tell us more.

MATTINGLY: We saw administration officials all weekend push back on the idea that a recession is imminent, and the president seemed to take a similar tack today. Take a listen.


UNKNOWN: Is a recession even more likely than ever?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Not the majority are saying that. Come on, don't make things up, okay. Now, you sound like a Republican politician. I'm joking. That was a joke. But all kidding aside, no, I don't think it is.


MATTINGLY: And Jake, the president said he was joking, but White House officials are frustrated that economists and people covering economists seem to believe a recession is now almost imminent. At this point in time, obviously they make the point that U.S. jobs, the way the U.S. has come back with the exception of inflation from the pandemic, is unrivaled pretty much anywhere in the world.

It's put the U.S. in a very strong position. However, the president said he did speak with former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers this morning. He said that before he said he didn't believe a recession was imminent, Summers has said it's very likely there will be a recession in the next year or two, Jake.

TAPPER: Alright, Phil Mattingly at the White House for us. Thanks so much.

Coming up next, what transgender bathrooms and abortion rights have to do with AR-15 style rifles. Unconventional thinking pushed by a gun rights advocate in Oklahoma may be influencing debate in Washington. How? We'll tell you.



TAPPER: The "Politics Lead," in the wake of the Uvalde elementary school massacre and other recent mass shootings many Americans have called for tighter gun regulations and of course there are many activists calling for the opposite. As CNN's Elle Reeve reports for us now, members of a pro-gun rights group in Oklahoma say they're willing to go to extreme lengths to protect their right to carry a gun.


DON SPENCER, PRESIDENT OKLAHOMA, 2ND AMENDMENT ASSOICATION: This right here, that's -- Elle, I'll let you hold it. You want to hold that? That's a knife right there. Okay, push your thumb up and push that button up, right there. Just push it up, come on, toughen up. Come on. Come on.


SPENCER: Oh, yes? Here you go.

REEVE: Whoa! Okay.

SPENCER: Alright. And then you pull it down and it retracts. Those were illegal until 2016 and I made sure that they were legal to carry and then carry in the state capitol?


SPENCER: Because that's for an act of self's defense. In my vehicle, I have an AR-15. I carry a firearm on me virtually everywhere I go. That is a 9-millimeter compact Smith and Wesson.

REEVE: And then you got a body cam.

SPENCER: I got a body cam.

REEVE (voice-over): Don Spencer took over the Oklahoma 2nd Amendment Association in 2016. The group claims it's helped pass almost 40 different pieces of pro-gun legislation.

SPENCER: We are not merely a second amendment group, a gun group. We are a liberty group that realizes it may take guns to maintain that liberty.

REEVE (voice-over): Many Americans saw the second elementary school massacre in a decade and thought there should be more restrictions on guns. We wanted to know why these guys saw the same thing and thought there should be more guns more openly and everywhere.

(On camera): Can you explain like what are you afraid of? Because to an outsider, it's like you have all Republicans state government, like why?


REEVE: Okay.

THOMPSON: Concern. It's not so much about guns. It's about our God- given rights. The good guy or gal with a gun is the only answer to a bad guy with a gun.

REEVE: I've heard that said a lot, but I don't know that it's true.

THOMPSON: Can you give me a logical reason that it wouldn't be true?

REEVE: It didn't work in Uvalde.

THOMPSON: And it was a gun free zone, it was in a school.

REEVE: There were police officers.

THOMPSON: Yes. There were 19 police officers who had orders from their bosses to stand down.

REEVE (voice-over): We wanted to talk more with Thompson so we went to his hometown the next day.

THOMPSON: I think I'm the only person in OK2A with a Prius. I get kidded about it all the time. Every time there's a shooting, the left immediately starts beating the drum, more gun control, more gun control, more gun control.

REEVE (on camera): Is it possible it's because they don't want there to be as many shootings?

THOMPSON: Yes, I'll admit that that is exactly their motivation. Our basic disagreement is how to stop the shootings. There is no way that they can get all the guns. There are more guns than people in America. So, it's a problem that's going to be there forever. No matter what kind of gun control you put on, unless you want a police state? Do you want people break -- do you want authorities --

REEVE: I feel like you're proposing a private police state.

THOMPSON: Not private police.

REEVE: Well, if everyone everywhere is carrying guns all the time. You don't feel that's a type of police state?

THOMPSON: They're not out there policing. They're out there prepared for self-defense, or to defend others.

SPENCER: If Joe Biden's world, I would not be able to defend myself.

REEVE: Is he proposing an elimination of all guns?


REEVE: Is he?


REEVE: I didn't catch that announcement.

SPENCER: That's the ultimate goal here. You know it's the goal. I know it's the goal. Let's quit kidding around.

REEVE: I don't know that.

SPENCER: Yes, you do.

Jerry Thompson right here in the front row. Yes, he's a rock star.

REEVE: So, what would you do to stop mass shootings?

SPENCER: We got to quit blaming what's used for the weapon in these types of things and go to deal with the person. People are confused how many genders there are. They're confused on what bathroom they're supposed to use. They're confused on whether a life is of value even if it's not been born.

REEVE: I mean, are you confused on what restroom to use?

SPENCER: No, but we had to pass laws in Oklahoma to make sure boys will use boys' restrooms, girls will use girls.

REEVE: And what does that have to do with an AR-15?

SPENCER: Because if you don't respect life, you're not going to respect anything.

REEVE: Okay. So, you see mass shootings as, you know, a cultural trickledown effect from abortion and transgender rights? SPENCER: Yes. Actually, it's the breakdown of the family.

REEVE (voice-over): In several states, red flag laws allow courts to temporarily confiscate the guns of someone believed to be a danger to themselves or others. Oklahoma passed an anti-red flag law in 2020.


(on-camera): How do you propose, if not this Red Flag Law, keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill?

DON SPENCER, PRESIDENT, OKLAHOMA 2ND AMENDMENT ASSOCIATION: By the mentally ill being segregated from society if they're a threat to themselves or society. We may have to go back to institutionalization, which was left back in the 80s.

REEVE (on-camera): But like, would it be before they committed a violent crime, or?

SPENCER: Well, I don't know how you would ever stop someone that's given no signal that just goes to decide to commit a violent crime. I don't know how you do that.

REEVE (voice-over): You might be wondering, do these guys have a fear that their loved ones could be victims of a mass shooting? The answer is yes. They think about it all the time.

SPENCER: By the way, my children were home educated. We had drills at our own home for someone trying to break into our house.

REEVE (on-camera): What were those like?

SPENCER: Well, I saw someone show up on our porch at about 11:00 or 12:00 one night, unannounced.

REEVE (on-camera): OK. And so did your kids, in that moment, prepare your firearms?

SPENCER: Yes. Because when I looked through the door, I said gun up, my wife goes to one room, she grabs the gun. The kids go back. My daughter had -- she was I don't know, 9, 10, 11. She had a 32 caliber in her bedroom. And we had them gunned up and prepared them.

When we trained them that if they hear my voice, obviously, it's time to lay the weapon down before I went to that part of the house. If they didn't hear my voice, someone was going to get shot. Or my wife's voice or their siblings' voice.

REEVE (on-camera): OK. So part of the drill is you walk through the house and what you're saying like I'm walking towards your bedroom?

SPENCER: Yes. I'm -- and I'm waiting for their acknowledgement because I don't get shot.

REEVE (on-camera): Wow. See, that to me seems like a scary way to live. SPENCER: Well, the scarier way to live is, what would it be like? Had the person penetrated inside the house and harm me? What would that be? What would that psychology be for my children?

REEVE (voice-over): We went to a gun range to get the views of people who shoot but are not activists.

ANGELIKA ARNOLD, GUN OWNER: I have guns at home. I'm at the gun range to go shoot guns now. But if need to go back to before when it was not as easy to get a gun.

KOLBY WILSON, GUN OWNER: We have two guns. We have a 20-gauge shotgun for home defense. And then we have -- we just got an AR-15. There's a lot of common sense gun laws and stuff that I support that a lot of people I know support. You know, I've held the same kind of views on guns for a while. Although I have never like necessarily had the strong desire to go out and purchase and own a gun, until recently.

JAMES YORK II, GUN OWNER: There's so much division in the United States right now. And I don't know how you fix that. But you can't have people throwing gasoline on the fire too, you know.

REEVE (on-camera): And you think gun restrictions would be gas on the fire?

YORK: Yes.

TERRY THOMPSON, WESTERN REGIONAL DIRECTOR, OKLAHOMA 2ND AMENDMENT ASSOCIATION: We're not gun nuts, we're liberty nuts. That's the only reason we're concerned about guns is that's the only thing that protects the rest of the constitutional rights. And that's why the founders put it in there. And --

REEVE (on-camera): And why didn't they make it number one?

THOMPSON: Because free speech is number one. And free speech is being assaulted in America.

REEVE (on-camera): Why isn't the Second Amendment stopping it?

THOMPSON: Because if it gets that bad, then it's going to be in the streets. That's why I'm working so hard politically because we have to solve these problems.

REEVE (voice-over): Elle Reeve, CNN, Oklahoma City.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And our thanks to Elle Reeve for that report.

Coming up next, Republicans on an alarming new level of extremism. The candidate today who wanted to hunt rhinos, while Republicans in Texas adopting a very different kind of platform. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, not afraid of Donald Trump. Congressman Mo Brooks, Republican of Alabama says Trump is loyal to, quote, no one but himself. Brooks said this ahead of tomorrow's Alabama Senate run off race. Trump had endorsed Brooks in the race, but then ditched him for his opponent Katie Britt, as she started gaining in the polls. Britt is the former chief of staff for incumbent Senator Richard Shelby, who is retiring.

CNN's Kristen Holmes is in Montgomery, Alabama where the power of the Trump endorsement will once again be tested before voters as will the degree to which voters can follow Trump's current thinking given his impulsiveness and occasional fickleness.


KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He was one of former President Donald Trump's staunchest allies.


HOLMES (voice-over): A leading promoter of Trump's 2020 election lies.

REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL): Joe Biden lost and President Trump won the Electoral College.

HOLMES (voice-over): Even delivering a speech at the now infamous Stop the Steal rally that preceded the deadly January 6 riot at the Capitol.

BROOKS: Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.

HOLMES (voice-over): But as Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks heads into Tuesday's runoff to be the state's Republican candidate for Senate, he's doing so without the support of the former president. Learning the hard way that when it comes to Trump loyalty --

TRUMP: If given the opportunity, I will get even with some people that were just loyal to me.

HOLMES (voice-over): -- is not always a two-way street. After initially endorsing the conservative firebrand --

TRUMP: We're going to elect our friend Mo Brooks to the U.S. Senate.

HOLMES (voice-over): -- now Trump is backing Brooks rival Katie Britt, the former chief of staff to retiring Republican Senator Richard Shelby. The former president once claimed Britt was, quote, not in any way qualified for the job. But that was when he was behind Brooks. As Brooks campaign struggled, Trump jumped ship and accused Brooks of going, quote, woke for these comments.

BROOKS: There are some people who are despondent about the voter fraud or election theft in 2020. Folks, put that behind you. Put that behind you. Yes [17:40:01]

HOLMES (voice-over): Brook says he learned of Trump's decision from a reporter seeking comments.

BROOKS: He didn't have the courtesy or the chutzpah or whatever to let me know first, so it somewhat blindsided me this morning.

HOLMES (voice-over): Despite the embarrassing episode, Brooks has continued to run as MAGA Mo and insisting his refusal to say the 2020 results could be overturned was partly to blame.

BROOKS: I knew that when I gave him straight shooting legal advice, that it would perturb him because it's not what he wanted to hear, and I knew it would put my endorsement at risk, but I thought it was the honorable thing to do, so I did it.

HOLMES (voice-over): Even so, Brooks still tried to win back from support ahead of the runoff.


HOLMES (voice-over): But Trump ultimately sided with Britt who was widely seen as the favorite on Tuesday after receiving the most votes in the May primary.


HOLMES: And this is the time in which the former President Trump is really looking to shore up his status as Kingmaker in the Republican Party, particularly after a series of high profile defeats last month. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Kristen Holmes in Montgomery, Alabama, thanks so much.

Let's discuss. Let me start with you S.E. Cupp. There's another Senate race on everyone's mind today. Missouri's disgraced ex-governor and current Senate candidate Eric Greitens released a new social media ad today. It starts with him holding what appears to be a long gun. He's standing on a neighborhood street, talks about hunting rhinos that stands for Republicans in name only.

He then barges into a house with a tactical unit, walks into mid smoke and talks more about hunting rhinos. At the end, he choses graphic with the word Rhino hunting permit, no bagging limit, no tagging limit. The ad is violent. Twitter later labeled it as violating the rules about abusive behavior but left it up because he's a Senate candidate, presumably.

Facebook removed the ad. You would think a candidate who has been accused of spousal and child abuse by his ex-wife, not to mention that entire scandal that got him in impeached when he was governor in Missouri and involving sex -- alleged sexual abuse. You think a candidate like that might consider a less violent appeal to voters? S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I guess you'd think but I don't think there was a whole lot of self-reflection or caution here. I wouldn't even call this ad irresponsible of Greitens. Irresponsible to me means you just didn't consider the consequences it could have. I think the consequences were very well considered.

And looking at his response to the backlash against the ad, he's really leaning into it, he's very smugly sort of, you know, promoting it. I think he considered the consequences which could very well be violent, turning people against Republicans in name only, I guess people like me.

The thing that's so chilling, though, about this ad is, you know, for decades, we've had ads were rhetorical, violence was implied, you know, targeting political opponents, you know, by maybe getting them out of office. This seems to target like citizens, just people who disagree with you. And I'm not sure what the metaphor actually means.

What do you mean, you're going to hunt them? You can't remove citizens from office. They're not in office. So what is hunting all of us mean and without, you know, bad limits and tag limits and expiration dates. So just in perpetuity, we're going to be hunted. It's really crazy, creepy, and chilling and I have no doubt it could lead to some violence.

TAPPER: And Bakari, we should note, I mean, this is a time when there was a lot of real fear about violence against politicians of all stripes. There was that deranged left wing would be assassin against Brett Kavanaugh, that Supreme Court Justice a few weeks ago. And obviously, there have been death threats against any number of politicians, you know, ranging from Nancy Pelosi to Liz Cheney.

I don't even -- I mean, obviously Greitens knows this. He doesn't care about this. He just wants to create buzz. And I've seen some Republicans speculate it might even work for him.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's going to work. I mean, we're talking about it here right now. People are talking about it online. Even when I was talking about it, I dare not retweet it. You know, I think though, and what people should take from this ad is the fact that individuals who have a past and a history of domestic abuse, such as Eric Greitens, should not own weapons because they have a tendency, whether or not as -- whether or not they verbalize it or not to be further abusive. And in this case, to actually want to solicit the killing of others.

You cannot take his ad lightly dealing with the past of who this man was. But the larger question though, Jake, is what Republican is going to stand up for this?


And not just S.E. who always stands up for what I believe to be right even though we may disagree politically, but is Mitch McConnell going to say something? He wants to be a member of his caucus. Is Cornyn going to say something? He wants to be a member of his caucus. Rand Paul going to say something?

You know, the question is are these individuals going to stand up and say something, and we take such quick action as we should to protect the lives of people like Justice Cavanaugh. And we should do those things to not only protect them, but their family. But we still do not have laws in place to keep people like Eric Greitens from owning a weapon. He should not be able to do so, and here we are.

TAPPER: And S.E., we should know that this is part of an overall trend and extremism that we're seeing over the weekend. Texas Republicans as a party platform, the largest -- I think it's the largest state GOP in the country. They passed this new platform which says President Biden was not legitimately elected, that they want to require students to learn, quote, about the humanity of the preborn child.

The party platform labels homosexuality and abnormal lifestyle. They call to repeal, the 1965 Voting Rights Act. They also called to change the Constitution to cement nine Supreme Court justices. They called to repeal the 16th Amendment which created federal income tax. They called to abolish the Federal Reserve.

And is if this list wasn't enough, the platform also says we urge the Texas legislature to pass a bill in its next session, requiring a referendum to determine whether or not the state of Texas should reassert its status as an independent nation. Now that the final vote still needs to be certified, but it's rare for changes to be made. It's 2022.

CUPP: Right.

TAPPER: The Texas GOP is really talking about ending the Voting Rights Act and seceding from the country?

CUPP: It is wild, wild stuff. And, you know, this doesn't become the law, but it certainly gets codified in the official Texas, Republican state party platform. This isn't like CPAC, where everything's sort of unofficial. It's just an event. This is actual, an actual convention, where these things were being discussed.

Now, I will say, I think this probably represents the farthest edge of the far-right in Texas. And not even the majority of Republicans in Texas. I'll remind you that the Republican passed abortion law in Texas that effectively criminalizes it, isn't even popular in Texas. So I don't think this is representative necessarily of where Texas is.

We know that Texas is sort of purpling, but I think, you know, at least where the Texas Republican Party wants to go, it is going to the extremes completely out of step with certainly where the rest of the country is. And I would even imagine even where most Texans are.

TAPPER: Bakari, your response?

SELLERS: No, I agree. I mean, I hope S.E. is right, but at the end of the day, I mean, you don't have individuals who are willing to step up and say this is wrong. You don't have individuals willing to step up and push back. So, I mean, although I hope S.E. is right, right now, this has to be --

TAPPER: We lost Bakari Sellers. I imagine he said he was going to say something that has to be condemned or something like that. Bakari and S.E., thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, how long a so-called heat dome will be over much of the U.S.? Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead, the southern loop of Yellowstone National Park is set to reopen Wednesday, though with limited capacity. And in two weeks, the northern loop is expected to reopen, this after last week's record rainfall and flooding forced all of the parks entrances to close. Some roads and bridges were swept away and neighboring cities were also inundated with the floodwaters.

A new dangerous heatwave will impact the U.S. this week. About 70 percent of the population will see temperatures over 90 degrees and nearly 20 percent will see them over 100 degrees. This is already creating dangerous conditions. At least three roads buckled in Waseca County Minnesota.

Let's bring in CNN Meteorologist Jennifer Gray. Jennifer, where is this heat wave heading and how long is it anticipated it will last?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well it's going to last year much of the week. It's starting in the northern plains, the upper Midwest and then it's going to shift to the Ohio Valley and eventually down to the southeast. Right on the heels of the last heat wave, we experienced last week already have excessive heat warnings in place heat advisories where the heat index feels close to 110 for areas of the extreme northern section of the U.S.

This is particularly dangerous in this area because a lot more people do not have air conditioning and so it is going to be really rough for a couple of days. Above normal temperatures will slowly start to head to the east. We have temperatures that feels like 106 in Sioux Falls, 97 in Fargo, North Platte near this century mark and we're looking at New Orleans with a heat index of 104 today.

In many areas, we could break 100 potential high temperature records throughout the week. Many of those in the East. So Jake, it is going to be a rough couple of days, especially across the north and the east.

TAPPER: All right, Jennifer Gray, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, marking 157 years since people in power allowed the last of the black slaves to be freed in America. Stay with us.


[17:59:14] TAPPER: In our national lead on this special Juneteenth edition of The Lead, today Vice President Kamala Harris made a stop at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture to speak with children about Juneteenth. Take a listen.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE United States: Today is a day to celebrate the principle of freedom. Emancipation Proclamation in the Civil War. It required America to really ask itself, who is free? How do we define freedom?


TAPPER: Juneteenth is the oldest known U.S. celebration of the end of slavery and the youngest federal holiday signed into law just last year by President Biden. Juneteenth marks June 19th, 1865 when a union major general announced the end of slavery in Galveston, Texas. Slaves there were unaware of their freedom, however, until two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.

Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room. I'll see you tomorrow.