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The Lead with Jake Tapper

January 6 Committee: Tuesday's Hearing Will Connect The Dots Between Extremist Groups At Capitol And Members Of Trump's Orbit; Bannon Changes Tune, Now Says He'll Testify To Jan. 6 Committee; Japan Reeling From Abe Killing As Mourners Turn Out In Droves; Pharmacists Race To Get Meds To Front Line As Bombs Hit Their City; President Biden Celebrates Passage Of Gun Reform Law; CDC: New BA.5 Variant Now Dominant Strain The U.S. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired July 11, 2022 - 16:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: This is a Higgins landing craft which is now only half submerged. It was 185 feet below the surface. It's not clear how exactly it ended up in Lake Mead. It was likely used to survey the Colorado River and then sank. Higgins boats like this one were used during World War II when allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy.

And THE LEAD with Jake Tapper starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Trump says that the man he wants nicknamed Sloppy Steve can testify.

THE LEAD starts right now.

The January 6th committee is back in action and planning to lay out the role violent extremist groups such as the Oath Keepers had in the January 6th, 2021 insurrection, including a death list and potential connections to top Trump allies. But how incriminating are those connections?

Then, new testimony from the Uvalde, Texas, sheriff about the bungled law enforcement response to the school shooting that killed 19 children and 2 teachers at the end of May. And new details about what the 77 minutes of school hallway surveillance video shows.

Plus, a new COVID variant spreading at an alarming rate throughout the United States, and this one is not deterred even by recent infections. So how do the vaccines hold up against it?


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. We start today with our politics lead and members of the January 6th Select House Committee now publicly suggesting they will use tomorrow's hearing to draw direct links between the extremist groups who stormed the U.S. Capitol and have been charged with seditious conspiracy and people inside Donald Trump's orbit.


REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): We are going to be connecting the dots during these hearings between these groups and those who were trying in government circles to overturn the election.

TAPPER: What we heard Cassidy Hutchinson testify along the lines of Trump telling mark meadows, the chief of staff, to talk to Roger Stone and others, Mike Flynn. And Stone and Flynn had relationships with some of these far-right militia groups. Are those the dots you're talking about connecting?

LOFGREN: Some of them.


TAPPER: Some of them.

The committee was also thrown another curveball yesterday as Trump ally Steve Bannon reversed course. He now claims he is willing to testify before the panel.

Bannon had previously defied a subpoena from the committee and is set to go on trial for criminal contempt of Congress, but Bannon's lawyer now claims that his client wants to testify live and in a public hearing. It's a suggestion that members of the committee have already dismissed.

CNN's Ryan Nobles Starts off our coverage from Capitol Hill with all of these new developments including the surprising revelation that Donald Trump's attorney was interviewed by the FBI.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Justice Department says they were among the rioters causing the most trouble on January 6th.

Right-wing extremist groups, many of whom allegedly came to Washington intent on disrupting Congress' certification of the 2020 election will now be the focus of tomorrow's House Select Committee hearing.

JASON VAN TATENHOVE, FORMER OATH KEEPERS SPOKESPERSON: Just to give a historical precedence to this group.

NOBLES: The committee is prepared to outline the role groups like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys played on January 6th. They'll grill a former Oath Keepers spokesperson Jason Van Tatenhove.

VAN TATENHOVE: All I'm doing is giving a historical precedence. That's all I'm able to talk on because that's the extent of my knowledge base.

NOBLES: This after prosecutors revealed new details of how the oath keepers allegedly prepared for violence. At least one member bringing explosives including military ordinance grenades to the D.C. area. But the committee believes these groups weren't operating in a vacuum

and has been looking into whether their connections go all the way to the Trump White House.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We obviously want to probe any connection between these dangerous groups and the White House. I think we have gotten some answers but there's still a great deal we don't know that we're endeavoring to find out.

NOBLES: Tuesday's hearing comes as Steve Bannon has a change of heart about cooperating with the committee.

STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP ADVISER: All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. Just understand this. All hell is going to break loose tomorrow.

NOBLES: Bannon staring down a criminal contempt trial now tells the committee he's willing to talk, but only if he can do it in public on his own terms.

Prosecutors have called this move a stunt to try to wiggle out of his criminal contempt charges. The Department of Justice also revealing they have interviewed former Trump lawyer Justin Clark. Clark told DOJ Trump never told Bannon he would not waive executive privilege in order for him to speak to the committee, this despite a letter from Trump to Bannon this weekend saying he now waived privilege claims.

The committee is willing to hear from Bannon but on their ground rules.

LOFGREN: We do depositions. This goes on for hour after hour after hour. We want to get all our questions answered and you can't do that in a live format.


NOBLES (on camera): And the committee is not releasing their witness list ahead of tomorrow's hearing. They said today it's because of security concerns. So we won't know the full list of participants until the hearing itself starts. And Jake, you were pressing Zoe Lofgren about those potential ties to the White House. You specifically mentioned roger stone and Michael Flynn as two people the committee will be looking for.

Committee aides telling us they will indeed show roger stone and Michael Flynn having direct ties to these extremist groups during their hearing tomorrow -- Jake.

TAPPER: Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

Joining us now to discuss, documentary filmmaker Alex Holder. He had behind the scenes access to the Trump White House and the Trump family for his docu-series "Unprecedented", which is now streaming on Discovery Plus, which is, of course, CNN's sister company.

Alex, thanks for being here. Now that we have seen all three parts of the documentary, is there

footage that did not air that could be relevant to criminal investigations, do you think?


TAPPER: Can you give us an idea of what that might be?

HOLDER: I came to that conclusion mainly because of the fact the grand jury investigation has subpoenaed the material, so I imagine, they have an idea there could be something in there and there are various bits of information that didn't make it into the film for various reasons and that could be of interest to the Georgia grand jury.

TAPPER: All right. Interesting.

Committee members say tomorrow's hearing is going to focus on how the violent mob came together, including these far right militia groups the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys and what they say are connections between those groups and members of Trump's orbit.

Did you see any of these possible connections or conversations during your work between these far right militia groups and any member of Trump's orbit?

HOLDER: No, I didn't.

TAPPER: You didn't at all, okay.

Since your testimony, has the committee reached out to you again or any of your crew members?

HOLDER: They have been in touch for various matters over the course of the time since I testified, yes.

TAPPER: Can you tell us what about?

HOLDER: They want a bit more information about various pieces of material that we had given to them as part of the original subpoena.

TAPPER: Can you tell us more about that?

HOLDER: I think it's -- it was sort of trying to work out the chronology of event taking place and to also understand various technical things as well. Pretty standard stuff.

TAPPER: CNN has obtained two clips that were not featured in the documentary but have been shared with the January 6th committee. I want to play part of that.

This is Donald Trump talking about trying to overturn the results in Georgia in an interview that you conducted with him on December 7th, 2020. Let's roll that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They should open it up, verify the signatures. When you do, you'll see that all of those people that signed didn't have the right to vote. They were forgeries and other things.

And all we want is that. And it's simple, or a special session. Let their legislature make the decision because they're already largely on our side because they see what happened in Georgia.


TAPPER: Now, to be clear, Georgia's Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, confirmed that Joe Biden was the winner after three counts of the ballots. Your lawyer previously confirmed you were cooperating with the Fulton County district attorney's investigation which you just mentioned. Is this part of what they want to know about?


TAPPER: What specifically, just about Trump trying to reach out and look at the signatures? Or is there even more -- I mean, we know he was telling Raffensperger and others to find votes.

HOLDER: Yes, and that actually took place a month after, almost to a day, a month after that interview. That interview took place sort of four days or so after his attorney general had said that there was no evidence whatsoever to support Trump's claims.

So here is the sitting president of the United States already about a month after the election in the White House in the diplomatic reception room saying what he thinks needs to happen in order to achieve the result that he is trying to get to.

TAPPER: Do you have evidence that he knew it was a lie?

HOLDER: I mean, this is a question that's come up a lot. I think that Donald Trump had been talking about the sanctity of the election in the United States of America back in 2016. And I have no doubt back then that he absolutely knew what he was doing and he knew he was lying.

My interaction with him was a man that was detached from reality. This is somebody who actually believed in his own lie and the idea of that, that surprised me because the idea that the president of the United States of America could actually believe in something so irrational and still be the president is terrifying.

TAPPER: Yeah, I mean, he's believed a lot of irrational things before this one, but this is the first time it's led to violence.

HOLDER: Absolutely and also the first time I experienced it as well.


HOLDER: And I think also in the context, I mean, the portrait of George Washington was on the wall looking down at him whilst we're conducting this interview. That was extraordinary.

TAPPER: Are you participating in any other investigations into any other members of the Trump family, we have the obviously the hearing and the committee and then we have the district attorney in Fulton County. There might be other investigations I don't even know about at the justice department or elsewhere.

HOLDER: So far, just two subpoenas.

TAPPER: Just two, OK.

Another one of the unaired clips we obtained features eric Trump, the president's second son, on the phone talking about his father's chances in Florida. Let's listen.


ERIC TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP'S SON: You're in a good state with a good governor and great lieutenant governor and we love her. And you have a great attorney general and there's going to be no games in your state which is nice. Very different than some of them out there. So you're very fortunate.


TAPPER: What was the context around that phone call?

HOLDER: So we had access to a private event. It was a fund-raising event in the Trump hotel that took place about a month or so before the election. And so we were filming inside there, Eric had actually allowed us in, so we were filming what was going on, Trump family were trying to raise money, it seemed they were running out of cash, so they were sort of making phone calls to potential donors and trying to raise money. A bit of a tense situation that day.

TAPPER: You said one of your takeaways from time spent with the former president is he doesn't really understand what democracy means. What has he said to you that led you to draw that conclusion other than what we've witnessed for the last year and a half?

HOLDER: When people hopefully watch the series, they'll see the types of things that the president at the time was trying to achieve. And he was saying things like, we need to find brave judges. And undermining sort of the judicial system, undermining the sanctity of the vote is obviously incredibly serious, and I don't think that leads to someone who fully understands and appreciates what democracy is, which ultimately is to accept the result of the election.

TAPPER: Okay, and then finally, I want to ask you because the docuseries leans into the idea that one of Trump's three oldest kids, Don Jr., Ivanka, or Eric, is going to take the reins for their father after spending so much time with the family, do you think any of them are up for it?

HOLDER: I mean, I don't want to ruin the series for everybody, and I hope people come to their own conclusions. The film has its own suggestion as to who could potentially take over from Donald Trump, but -- I mean, they all have their own sort of eccentricities and they share personalities with each other and their father as well. I'll leave it to the audience to decide who is the potential successor of Donald Trump.

TAPPER: All right. Interesting stuff.

Alex holder, thank you so much.

And you can watch "Unprecedented" which is streaming now on Discovery Plus. Again, that's our sister channel.

Coming up next, how the January 6th hearings are playing out among voters in battleground state of Wisconsin. The answers may surprise you.

Plus, President Biden calling for a ban on semiautomatic rifles during an event in the White House Rose Garden today. We're going to talk to one city's mayor who was at the event, asking him about what he thinks President Biden needs to do to curb gun violence in his city.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: We are less than 24 hours away from the seventh hearing of the year for the January 6th Select House Committee but with so many other issues affecting Americans, from record high prices to gun violence to abortion rights, how much attention are voters paying to what's happening on Capitol Hill?

CNN's Miguel Marquez traveled to Green Bay, Wisconsin, to try to find out.



REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): Committee will be in order.

MARQUEZ: Washington, D.C. in the congressional hearings investigating the January 6th insurrection feel a million miles away.

JONATHON FERNANDEZ, WISCONSIN VOTER: They stormed the Capitol. That's what happened. They went in, they climbed in through windows and they rummaged through offices and they did what they did. I mean, what more do I need to know about the fact that what occurred occurred?

MARQUEZ: Some Democrats watching closely.

JOE REFSGUARD, WISCONSIN VOTER: Some of the testimony that's come out has been a little more in depth than I had been aware of. MARQUEZ: But with so many hot button issues, gun violence, inflation,

abortion rights among others, the January 6th hearings even for those concerned --

Where does January 6th in those hearings fit on the priority list for you?

FERNANDEZ: On the bottom rung for me.

REFSGUARD: It's given a little bit lost in the shuffle?

MARQUEZ: Dawn Koors is a Republican who voted for Donald Trump twice and would vote for him again.

DAWN KOORS, WISCONSIN VOTER: I think it's more of a distraction. What the real reason is is why these January 6th hearings are going on, I think is beyond what we're seeing. Superficially.

MARQUEZ: Mark Becker was chair of Green Bay's Brown County Republicans. He left the party in 2015 as Trump rose to power.

How important are the January 6th hearings and the investigation that's happening?

MARK BECKER, FORMER BROWN COUNTY, WISCONSIN REPUBLICAN OFFICIAL: I think right now, the way the world is right now, it's not as important as it should be. I think in ten years, we'll look back at this and say, yeah, that was a big deal. That was a really big deal.

MARQUEZ: Why? What do you mean?

BECKER: It was a coup attempt.

MARQUEZ: And even some progressive Democrats --

Adrianna Pokela says she can do something here and now about abortion rights. But January 6th --

ADRIANNA POKELA, ABORTION RIGHTS ACTIVIST: We can't do anything about that, but what we can do is something in our community immediately to save lives.

MARQUEZ: Rick Beverstein seems a rarity here, conservative and paying close attention to the January 6th hearings.

RICK BEVERSTEIN, WISCONSIN VOTER: Democracy is what is at stake.

MARQUEZ: His take, all our current problems won't be solved if trust in democracy isn't restored.

BEVERSTEIN: We have huge issues in our country. But we don't have a country if we can't come together.


We don't have a country to solve these issues if we can't reconcile who's in charge and how they got there.

MARQUEZ: Miguel Marquez, CNN, Green Bay, Wisconsin.


TAPPER: Our thanks to Miguel Marquez for that reporting.

A quick programming note. Join CNN's Drew Griffin for a new investigation into Steve Bannon and his master plan to reshape the U.S. government and the Republican Party and indeed the United States. The CNN special report, "Steve Bannon: Divided We Fall", begins at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on Sunday evening.

Growing questions about the motive in the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. That's next.



TAPPER: Topping our world lead, just days after his shocking assassination, former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's party sailed to victory in a national election. Though the win was expected, the vote took on greater significance after party leaders denounced the assassination of Abe as an attack on democracy.

CNN's Kyung Lah reports for us from Japan, a nation still very much in shock, where days of mourning are planned for the popular former leader.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At a Buddhist temple in the heart of Tokyo, the body of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived for a two-day funeral ceremony. A line of mourners with flowers pause and pray.

A Japanese public to whom gun violence is almost unheard of struggles to comprehend.

I'm still so shocked, says Hideki Kakinuma, why did this happen to Japan?

Answering the why begins with alleged assassin Tetsuya Yamagami. Police say the 41 year old Yamagami planned for weeks ahead of the shooting. Police recovered multiple handmade pistols from Yamagami's home, crude weapons made from iron pipe and adhesive tape. NHK reports Yamagami told police he built them by watching YouTube videos.

Days ahead of the murder, NHK citing police sources say Yamagami practiced shooting in the mountains. Officers also recovered wooden boards with bullet holes in the suspect's car. The day before, police say he practiced shooting against a building in Nara.

As Abe began his speech on the street, a news camera caught Yamagami standing with the crowd listening. The next time we see Yamagami, two shots were fired. Officers tackled Yamagami to the ground, armed with his homemade gun. Police say Yamagami held a grudge against a group he believed the former prime minister had ties to.

The group has not been named to police by CNN. But Japanese local media report the suspect told police his mother was involved with the group.

But the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification widely known as the Unification Church, held a news conference telling reporters that the church did have a tie to the suspect's mother. She was a member of their church.

We struggle to understand why the suspect killed former Prime Minister Abe due to any resentment towards our organization, says the church president.

He acknowledged that he was aware that the suspect's mother had financial difficulties around 2002. But he didn't know why or the impact on the family. The church pledged to cooperate with police.

Among the mourners gathering in Japan's capital, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We saw in him something rare, a man of vision who had the ability to realize that vision.

LAH: A towering political figure globally and at home, a country begins to bid farewell.


LAH (on camera): It is Tuesday morning here in Tokyo. This country just begins to wake up. The funeral for the former prime minister is going to be held at this temple behind me in the heart of Tokyo. And it's here that right around lunch time that the family and close friends and dignitaries are going to be gathering at the temple. It will be closed to the public. The central part of the funeral, but there will be an area, Jake, just as we saw for the wake, where the public can come to pay their final respects -- Jake.

TAPPER: Thanks so much. We'll have more on the assassin himself later in the program.

Kyung Lah in Japan, thank you so much.

Turning to Putin's brutal war on Ukraine. At least six people were killed, dozens injured, after Russia bombed the second biggest city in Ukraine, Kharkiv. According to Ukraine's government, two of the dead were a father and his 17-year-old son. Their car taking a direct hit as they were on their way to pick up a university entrance certificate.

CNN's Alex Marquardt joins up with a team of pharmacists there preparing to get life-saving medicine to the front liner as they dodge rocket attacks in their own city.


ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a boarded-up pharmacy in Kharkiv, we follow Yulia Klimeniuk down into the basement. They never used this space before the war. Now, it holds shelf after shelf of vital donated medicine while also serving another purpose.

As we've been down here. We can hear some heavy shelling from up above. That is not very common at this part of the day, in mid- morning. Thankfully, we are already down in the basement, where we need to be.

That shelling killed at least six city residents. Yulia and her team are unfazed. Preparing to head out on a monthly visit to multiple frontline villages which desperately need hard to get medicine, medical supplies, and basics like baby formula.


The pharmacy comes to the village, she says. Pharmacies are either destroyed or there are no pharmacists. And people need medicine.

The lead vehicle in the convoy is an ambulance. When it arrives in the first village, its sirens ring out to tell everyone they're here. Soon, a line has formed in the rain. All retirees, young parents with their kids, anyone who's left here seems to come out, including a village doctor.

We really need medication. We don't have a local pharmacy. We have nowhere to buy anything, she says. Insulin, heart, and blood pressure drugs are at the top of her last along with sedatives and antidepressants.

Animals are a priority, too. Another car is full of dog food for beloved pets, like Bikal (ph), whose owner Igor says Bikal is shell- shocked from all the explosions.

This village had been occupied by Russian forces. And caught between the warring sides. Scars of the fighting very visible, as is the Russian retreat.

When the Russians occupied this village, a man who lives here says that they would tack their tanks and armored vehicles between houses and cover them up to try to hide them, but the Ukrainians retook the village. As you can see, they blew up and destroyed this armored vehicle.

After about an hour, the team packs up and moves on to a poorer, rural village just 25 kilometers or 16 miles from the closest Russian position.

Here, the residents gather around even faster. The profound need for aid is clear. While we are there, a team from World Central Kitchen arrives to hand out meals. Another eager line forms.

Many of the Ukrainians we met were forced to live in the basements of their own homes while Russians occupied them, Yulia tells us. They are helpless, held hostage by this situation, she says. We help because they cannot provide for themselves.


MARQUARDT (on camera): The team we're with visited three villages today, Jake, and managed to get medicine to some 400 people. They regularly visit more than 100 villages just to give you a sense of how many people there are helping out, and you could see how grateful those people are.

Now, it's not just about pharmacies being destroyed or closed. People have often lost their livelihoods. They can't afford this medicine. They have lost their methods of transportation. Their cars have blown up, or they're simply too scared, Jake, to go anywhere.

TAPPER: All right. Alex Marquardt in Kharkiv, Ukraine, thank you so much.

Quote, wrenching. That's how the 77 minutes of surveillance video from the Uvalde school hallway is being described by one of the few journalists who has seen it.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead, demanding answers and some semblance of transparency. The Texas state house committee chairman investigating the Uvalde school shooting is calling for the city's district attorney to release the 77-minute video that shows the hallway outside the classroom during the massacre.

One reporter for an Austin newspaper who has seen the video telling CNN it is, quote, wrenching. And will, quote, deepen the tragedy.

CNN's Rosa Flores is in Austin at the Texas State Capitol for us where the House committee her testimony from three witnesses including the director of Texas DPS and the Uvalde County sheriff.

Rosa, what do we know about the testimony today and when can we expect a report from the house committee that is investigating the shooting?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, according to a source close to this committee, that report could be released within ten days.

Now, about the testimony and about this report, the Texas house investigative committee has heard testimony from about 40 witnesses so far in the past few weeks. They reviewed evidence. And the goal, according to a source close to this investigation, is to be a fact- finding mission, and they're hoping this report clarifies some of the conflicting reports that we have heard from the beginning of this. There's been many. Now, a key part of achieving that is the release of the hallway video.

I want to be very clear here. The parents of the victims, the families of the victims, Texas DPS, Texas lawmakers, the Uvalde City mayor, they have been calling for the release of this video, but the portion of the video that shows the failed law enforcement response -- in essence, the hallway video of police waiting.

They are not asking for the release of the video that shows any of the violence, any of the massacre or the final moments of these children. Not at all. What they're hoping for is for accountability.

Now, Jake, this video has not been released. This has created a lot of outrage in the city of Uvalde by a lot of the family members of the victims because they want accountability. You have to put yourselves in their shoes. They're seeing some of these police officers in the grocery store, at the gas station, and what they're calling for now is all of those officers that were in the hallway, Jake, who did nothing, they're asking for those officers to turn in their badges. They're hoping for accountability here. Jake.

TAPPER: Now, it's incredible. I mean, who do they think the police officers work for? Who do they think that videotape belongs to? It belongs to the people of that town.

The Uvalde district attorney has said she does not want the 77-minute hallway video released. Why?

FLORES: You know, I have asked that question to her multiple times. And she has not answered. But this is where a lot of journalists and the people from this community are scratching their heads, because we all know that the shooter is dead. So what criminality is she investigating here?


I have asked that specific question and have not gotten an answer.

But here's the backstory, Jake. The Texas House investigative committee who is pushing for the release of this video issued statements saying that they have -- they're asking for a waiver to their NDA, asking the Texas DPS to release the video, and Texas DPS says the person who is objecting here is the D.A. -- Jake.

TAPPER: Let us remember the very first thing the police and politicians of Uvalde did was praise their response and how great their behavior was.

That's the story they wanted out there. Rosa Flores, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Today, President Biden celebrating the passage of the Safer Communities Act. This legislation was the very first bipartisan gun safety law to pass in decades in the United States. It provides funding for states to implement red flag laws and closes the so-called boyfriend loophole, which bars people convicted of domestic violence from purchasing a gun. Joining us now to discuss is Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton

Lucas. He was at President Biden's celebration today. He's also the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Criminal and Social Justice Committee.

Thanks so much for being here, Mr. Mayor. Good to have you.

So, according to the CDC, these are statistics that I'm sure you're familiar with, Missouri ranks fourth in the country for having the most gun deaths. Most of those gun deaths are in St. Louis and in your city, Kansas City, Missouri. Do you think this legislation will help bring that number down?

MAYOR QUINTON LUCAS (D), KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI: I think it's an important start. It is in no way everything that we need to see happen. But when you have statistics like the fact that the number one cause of death for children is firearms, you recognize we need to do something. This legislation speaks both to red flag laws, closing the boyfriend loopholes and more than anything, I think it shows us we can build on more and better legislation as time goes on.

We do not have to live with gun violence just being a part of everyday live where you're at a bar, a grocery store, or sadly an elementary school.

TAPPER: So, today, President Biden at the event called for a ban on what are called assault weapons or semiautomatic rifles. You along with 27 other mayors from around the country wrote a letter to President Biden last year calling for that ban. Statistics do show most gun deaths are from handguns, not from these long guns.

So, why a ban on assault weapons and not on handguns?

LUCAS: You know, I think when we look at how we can be practical with it, there are so many handguns in our communities. We do believe that responsible legislation can help. Concealed carry permits being required which was something Missouri had when I was a kid but we have gotten rid of because we want to make sure that everybody can walk around with a gun without any investigation. Those are things you can do with handgun issues.

But on assault weapons there is absolutely no reason. There's not a hunting reason, no reason you need a weapon of war to go about your day, and in states like mine, ones where you don't need a permit where you're not going through checks in all purchasing situations and where we're seeing them used in more and more criminal incidents. These are the things that aren't just harming our school children, folks at parades, but also our police officers on the streets. They say regularly they're outgunned by these assault weapons, and that's why big city mayors want to see them taken off of our streets.

TAPPER: As you also know, two-thirds of gun deaths in the United States are suicides, which is one of the reasons why these red flag laws and this investment in money for emotional health care might help. Do you think that would help? LUCAS: It will. This is one of those areas that's not discussed nearly

enough. The fact that gun related suicides not only are significant in states like mine, but they're rising. You're seeing more and more people harm themselves and unfortunately harm others.

So it's not a story just of violent crime on our streets, but it's one hitting every community, rural and urban, in terms of having too many guns, not having red flag laws, and really not having help for people. It's easier in my city and in my state to get a gun than it is to get a therapist. That's something that we're trying to see changed. This investment will make a difference.

TAPPER: For those who wonder why go after guns when it comes to the issue of suicide. It's because people who attempt suicide with guns tend to not survive, whereas people who attempt suicide through other means often survive.

LUCAS: That's absolutely right. My nephew is in the army and his drill sergeant just took his own life yesterday. This is the sort of things that impacts our soldiers, our first responders, so many folks. This is an important first step, making sure we have money and investment for mental health, making sure we have guns, this means of violence and suicide, out of people's hands.

TAPPER: I know you don't need to be told this, but I'm sure you see this all the time in Kansas city, which is there is a horrible crime committed with a gun, a handgun, whatever, and often the person has a record, has a criminal record, and 2019 report from the U.S. Sentencing Commission says 68 percent of gun offenders will be rearrested for a new crime within eight years.

Some people say that the real -- a real solution should be locking people up if they commit a crime with a gun, which might in many ways go against the idea of criminal justice reform. What do you say?

LUCAS: You know, I think that anyone who supports criminal justice reform does believe in locking people up who commit violent crimes with firearms. I don't know a single mayor in the country who is saying I don't think somebody who is shooting up a place needs to walk the streets days later.

And I think in some ways that's been a distortion of the political argument. You're trying to make sure people who are committed small level offenses aren't running into prison for a long time. But people who are shooting people, who are killing people, who are harming them are a very real problem and I think you can have reform but also responsible approaches to how you do it. That means the people who commit violent acts should be in prison, should serve real sentences.

TAPPER: All right. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, thank you so much. Hope you'll come back sometime.

LUCAS: Thank you.

TAPPER: Good to have you.

The new COVID variant that is highly infectious even if you have already recently had COVID.

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TAPPER: In our health lead, health officials are sounding the alarm that undercounted COVID cases could leave the United States with a huge blind spot as a new variant is becoming dominant. New cases are estimated to be seven times higher than reported cases as people increasingly rely on rapid at-home tests. Some experts say the concern that hospitalizations will rise in the U.S. as the BA.5 variant, the most transmissible yet, takes hold.

Here to discuss is Dr. Peter Hotez. He's co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's hospital and the dean of the school of tropical medicine at Baylor.

Dr. Hotez, thanks for joining us.

So, the CDC says this BA.5 variant has become the dominant strain in the last week in the United States. The key markers when it comes to COVID, of course, are hospitalizations and deaths, not cases. Do you think we're going to see an increase in hospitalizations and deaths because of f this new variant?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, CO-DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT AT TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: Well, we already are, Jake. That's already under way. We're over 30,000 hospitalizations, and as you point out, the undercounting of cases by a factor of seven, probably even higher than that. So 100,000 n new cases a day, we're looking g at close to a million new cases day here in Texas. Now in the Houston area, case positivity, 30 percent. Waste water COVID numbers way up.

So this is a full-on BA.5 wave unfortunately that we're this summer and it's actually looking worse in the southern states. Guess what? Just l like 2020, just like 2021.

TAPPER: Are the v vaccines still effective against BA.5?

HOTEZ: Only really if you're getting boosted and if you're eligible double boosted.

So I think that's the game-changer with this BA.5 subvariant. Two doses, one dose, two doses is not enough. Being infected and recovered, especially with omicron, is not enough. You have t to get that booster, preferably two boosters if you're over the age of 50, and who knows, we may wind up pivoting to two boosters for younger age groups as well.

TAPPER: So two boosters if you're over 50 is the official recommendation now?

HOTEZ: That's right. Well, the official recommendation is anyone over the e age of 50 can get boosted, but I feel strongly that it's absolutely essential in order to reduce the likelihood of hospitalization.

If you look at the CDC numbers for may, for instance, which I the BA.2 variant, which is still pretty significant, Big difference between getting two boosters versus one booster if you're over the age of 50.

TAPPER: Re-infections with BA.5 are more likely than with any previous variants and can happen within weeks of a previous infection. But if it's not leading to severe disease disease, is that really a big concern?

HOTEZ: Well, it is. If you have omicron infection for instance back in January, and you've not been vaccinated either before or after, you could still be potential to a serious infection as well.

So, the bottom line is whether or not you have been infected, you still need to go through that full vaccination series and get boosted. If I sound like a broken record, it's deliberate, because that is the single most impactful thing you can do, is make sure you're fully boosted, and preferably two boosted if you're over the age of 50.

And not enough Americans s are getting that message, Jake. Only 30 percent of the country has a single booster. I don't even know the percentage that has gotten two boosters. But I've got to admit, my colleagues in the medical community have gotten it, but that message is still not hitting home.

Millions of Americans have recovered from previous omicron infections, being infected with COVID has generally in past provided a natural immunity boost.

Is that true (VIDEO GAP)

HOTEZ: -- alpha variant or even the delta variant. For this omicron variant, it doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot. So, it means you still have to get vaccinated and boosted on top of it.

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

It's not good when a majority of your own party does not want (VIDEO GAP)



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

This hour, they have survived everything Mother Nature has thrown at them for thousand of years. But now, wildfires in Yosemite National Park are threatening some of the largest trees on the continent.

Plus, we're now learning how the suspect in the assassination of the former Japanese prime minister learned to build the home homemade gun he used in the deadly attack.

And leading this hour, the summer of discontent -- discontent with President Joe Biden. A Rose Garden event to celebrate the president's bipartisan gun safety legislation interrupted by one of the guests.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today is many things. It's proof that despite the naysayers, we can make meaningful progress on dealing with gun violence, because make no mistake -- sit down, you'll hear what I have to say. Do you think --


BIDEN: Let me finish my comment. Let me talk. Let him talk. Okay?

Because make no mistake about it, this legislation is real progress. More has to be done.


TAPPER: That man was Manuel Oliver. Manuel's son Joaquin was killed in the parkland, Florida, high school shooting in 2018.

Oliver says the gun safety legislation does not go nearly far enough, and he criticized the White House for holding an event to, quote/unquote, celebrate anything.

Oliver's frustration with President Biden is not an anomaly. It is the norm right now. Most Americans feel the United States is on the wrong track.