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The Lead with Jake Tapper

President Biden Gets Speech Interrupted; Japan Mourns Shinzo Abe's Death; Bannon's Contempt Trial To Push Through; Jan. 6 Committee Expected To Play Testimony From Former W.H. Counsel Pat Cipollone During Tomorrow's Hearing; Growing Wildfire Threatens Yosemite's Iconic Giant Sequoias; Spirit Airlines Plane Catches Fire Landing At Atlanta Airport; Protesters Raid Sri Lankan President's House, Burn Prime Minister's; NASA About To Release Humanity's Deepest View Into Space. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 11, 2022 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: It is the norm right now. Most Americans feel that the United States is on the wrong track and President Biden has historically low approval numbers.

Moreover, two-thirds of Democratic primary voters in a brand-new poll out today say they do not want Biden to be their nominee in 2024. As CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports, this comes as crushing new poll numbers paint a very grim picture for President Biden and the Democrats in 2022 and beyond.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the aftermath of another mass shooting, President Biden spotlighting the new safety law meant to reduce gun violence.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Lives will be saved today and tomorrow because of this.

COLLINS (voice-over): But for some of the victims' families at the White House today, there wasn't much to celebrate as they called on the president to do more.

BIDEN: Make no mistake -- sit down and you'll hear what I have to say.

UNKNOWN: I've been trying to tell you this for years. (Inaudible)

BIDEN: We have one. Let me finish my comments. Let him talk. Let him talk.

COLLINS (voice-over): Biden acknowledging the limits of the most significant gun legislation in three decades, just a week after a gunman killed seven people in Highland Park.

BIDEN: This legislation is real progress, but more has to be done. That's what we owe those families in Highland Park, where, on July 4th a parade became a killing field.

COLLINS (voice-over): The White House being urged to do more on guns as Democrats are also calling for more federal action on abortion rights.

J.B. PRITZKER, GOVERNOR OF ILLINOIS: Yes, there's more that needs to be done. And I know the president knows that.

COLLINS (voice-over): President Biden is facing challenging political headwinds as he's hemorrhaging support in his own party ahead of the midterm elections.


COLLINS (voice-over): A new poll says 64 percent of Democrats want a different candidate in the 2024 presidential race and only 26 percent believe that Biden should be renominated. Biden is already the oldest president in American history and 33 percent of Democrats who were surveyed voiced concerns about his age.

HARRIS: He intends to run. And if he does, I intend to run with him. So, there you go.

COLLINS (voice-over): Among all voters, Biden's job approval rating stands at just 33 percent as his aides push back on doubt emanating from his own party.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There's going to be many polls. They're going to go up and they're going to go down. This is not the thing that we are solely focused on.


COLLINS (on camera): Now, Jake, Karine talked about polls going up and down. They certainly do, but one concern of course, is that he is losing a lot of support in his own party. She said that they believe 92 percent of Democrats still stood with President Biden. Jake, that's only when in comparison of a choice between former President Trump and now President Biden.

In reality, when Democrats were asked about how they view the job that he is doing, only 70 percent of Democrats said they approved of the job that he's doing, Jake. Obviously, that's a concern for many reasons for this White House, but certainly because President Biden is expected to play a key role in trying to rally Democrats around their party come the November when the midterm elections happen.

That's of course been a big concern for them as they are facing very challenging headwinds then. And it also goes back to how voters are viewing the economy, Jake, because there is so much pessimism in it and of course, that is a number one concern for them, even as the White House has tried to project strength in that area, Jake.

TAPPER: Alright, Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much. Let's discuss with our panel. And Allison. Let me start with you. I want to dive more into these poll numbers from "The New York Times" and Siena College, as Kaitlan reported, nearly two-thirds of Democratic primary voters want a different nominee. Two-thirds. If you break it down by age, 94 percent of Democratic primary voters under the age of 30, 94 percent say they don't want Biden. That is a stunning number.


TAPPER: I mean, he swept his grandchildren, but other than that, I mean, like, who -- I mean, 94 percent don't want him who are -- again --

UNKNOWN: Ninety-four percent.

TAPPER: Democrats under the age of 30.

ALLISON: I'm not surprised. I think young voters often like to see what's out there. You know, they're new to the democracy. They want to understand different candidates. I personally think, you know, if Joe Biden runs again, great. If other people run in the Democratic Party, great.

I think that's the test of our democracy, is that have an open field. If you can win, win. And then go into the general. If joe Biden is on the top of the ticket in 2024, I will support him, but I think it's fine if there's a contested primary.

TAPPER: So, and Nia-Malika, the pollsters also asked about a hypothetical election between Trump and Biden. And Biden edges out Trump by just three points, which honestly, that's within the margin of error, and given Donald Trump tried to stage a coup, et cetera, I mean, he should be outpolling him by more than that.

So, notice the other voters there, 10 percent in this poll. Ten percent say they would vote third party or they would not vote at all. Now let's look at voters under 30.


That number jumps to 29 percent. Nearly a third of the young electorate will sit it out or go third party. What do you think of that?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Listen, I mean, this is a five-alarm fire particularly for Democrats, particularly going into the midterms. If we looked at 2018, we looked at 2020, record youth turnout and that spelled good news for Democrats at the ballot.

In talking to Democratic pollsters who talk to young voters, there is a lot of lack of engagement and lack of faith in the system and lack of faith in voting. They say listen, we voted and nothing changed in our lives.

And you have seen from this White House a real inability to get around some of the issues young voters care about. Voting rights, for instance, student loans. I think Biden is still deciding a year and a half or so into his term what to do about those student loans.

TAPPER: About a promise he made.


TAPPER: That he has not kept.

HENDERSON: Listen, Republicans have a different problem which is that this cohort of voters tend to vote Democratic. It's going to be among the most educated cohort we have seen in this country and they haven't really been able to dial in to young voters in the way that Democrats have, but it's a problem (inaudible).

TAPPER: So, Ryan Streeter, when pollsters ask voters why they wanted another nominee, a third of them cited President Biden's age. Here's what a 38-year-old day care worker in Michigan told "The Times," quote, "I'm just going to come out and say it, I want younger blood. I am so tired of all old people running our country. I don't want someone knocking on death's door."

Now, obviously, this is most relevant for Joe Biden who is the president, but it's not irrelevant when it comes to Donald Trump.


TAPPER: It's not irrelevant when it comes to Mitch McConnell who is 80, for that matter.

STREETER: Yes. I mean, the age thing is obviously a real factor, but the bigger problem is whether you're in touch with what people are mostly caring about right now, I think. And I think there's been a lot of commentary about how Joe Biden has tagged to the left on a number of issues.

The flipside of that is being out of touch with issues that heartlanders really care about. You see this in both the Republican Party and in the Democratic Party right now, but for the last two years if you look at intensity in the polls, the people who talk about what they care about very much compared to a little bit has to do with affordability, it has to do with safety, it has to do with good schools, it has to do with these things.

And so being a little bit out of touch early on and especially out of touch as the inflation numbers came through on some of those issues, I think is what's hurt him. There's time to get back on that. Joe Biden knows how to talk about these issues, probably more than Donald Trump does.

And so, I think when you're looking at intensity, you see the intensity on these issues where people feel like they have been overlooked. And where the intensity is highest on kind of the far right of the Republican coalition and the farther left part of the Democratic coalition, it's on these issues that the heartland, the ideological heartland as I call it of the country, doesn't care as much about. TAPPER: Yes. And let's talk about that because, Laura Barron-Lopez,

another interesting note in the poll, 76 percent of voters said the economy is extremely important to their vote this November. That's what just Ryan was talking about, just affordability. Only 10 percent rated the current economic conditions as excellent or good even though there are arguments to be made about employment being great and on and on. Do you think the Biden White House gets this?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHUOPR: I think they get it. The issue is what tools they have to fix it, which is that, again, there is only so much the president can do with executive actions, which is the vast majority of what Democrats, what his own party is pushing him on right now.

The other part is trying to pass the rest of his economic agenda which is not going -- is still not going anywhere in Congress. There were some movements among Democrats in recent weeks but a key part of that could potentially address some of those pocketbook issues that voters, even the Democratic base, are worried about, which is also inflation potentially across health care costs.

You know, the fact that ACA subsidies are about to expire and then tackling prescription drug costs which was a huge thing that the White House, you know, championed and talked about a lot last summer. Promised that they would tackle it. That is a big element that even Senator Joe Manchin appears to support.

If they could potentially pass that before November, that could be another way, you know, an opening for them with voters to show that they are tackling inflation and issues that address, you know, what they're spending on a daily basis.

TAPPER: Do you think, I think you're the youngest person at this table, maybe you -- but one of you two. Well, I'll ask both of you then. Do you think the age of all of these leaders, especially Biden and Trump, but also Pelosi, also McConnell, et cetera, et cetera, do you think this is one of the reasons as Nia-Malika was suggesting, that young people are washing their hands of all of this?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes. I was talking to Gen Zers last fall in Georgia who were saying that, you know, the first words out of their mouth were student loan debt and wanting something on that. They still were in Biden's corner, but they said he hasn't delivered on that at all. They said that they don't see him anywhere, that, you know, younger generations get their news from different sources. They say that they get it from YouTube, you know.


And so, if it isn't -- if they don't see those videos of the president or the vice president out there regularly, then they're not -- they don't know that the president has either spoken on student loan debt, has forcefully, you know, condemned the Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade. They aren't seeing that.

And so, I think part of that is also a White House that is trying to push out, you know, media that they think is accustomed to the president, that what President Biden is used to.

TAPPER: What do you think?

ALLISON: I mean, I'm an older millennial, and the first words out of my mouth are student loan debt. I would love to see that promise delivered. I also think people my age and younger, we have gone through 9/11, we have gone through a recession. We feel like we haven't gotten a break, and it's not asking for sympathy. It's just asking for elected officials to fight for us.

And I think young people are saying who is going to really throw down for me? And when I say even though it was a decade ago, we said $15 for minimum wage, who is actually going to fight to get that done? Who is going to make sure I have affordable child care, you know?

And so, it feels the frustration is because of the gridlock and they're saying I don't care if you're a Democrat or Republican, if you aren't going to get the things done that are going to make my life better, you have to go.

TAPPER: And I just want to put this up just in fairness and also just to be a devil's advocate. In late 1994, after Democrats lost control of Congress in the midterm elections, here's a headline grabbing poll found that 66 percent of Democrats said they would like to see other challenges -- other candidates challenge President Bill Clinton for the nomination. It's obviously a little different, but there is something about discontent and also Democrats are kind of fickle.

HENDERSON: No. I think that's right. I mean, you even heard around, you know, Obama's re-election, talk about primary. Just, I think, Biden's problem is his main reason for energizing voters and having this massive voter turnout was that he wasn't Donald Trump, right? That was essentially his mandate.

He is still not Donald Trump, but people are saying okay, what is he going to deliver on? There's no sort of real cohort of people like Obama had, right? African-Americans, young voters, Latino voters to a certain extent. Biden doesn't really have that and so this is why he's struggling. It's also, you know, the idea that polls go up and down, I'm not really sure they do. I mean, they certainly go down. We'll see if he's able to bend the curve.

TAPPER: Ryan, very quickly, I've heard Republicans say that they are concerned that Donald Trump is the only Republican that Joe Biden can beat. Do you agree?

STREETER: Well, I think that Joe Biden could if he gets some of these problems fixed, could beat other candidates as well. I think really, it has to do with which side can address these concerns they were talking about that both sides seem to neglect. I mean, the noisiest parts of both parties, the ones that have the most influence on the people we're talking about, are the ones that are concerned about these views that are more extreme than were about two-thirds, 62 to 66 percent of most Americans are.

TAPPER: Great. Great panel. Thanks so much for being here. New questions about a church with indirect ties to the suspect in the

assassination of the former Japanese prime minister.

Then, terrifying moments as part of a plane catches on fire during landing. What happened? Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our "World Lead," following former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's shocking assassination, we are now founding out new details about the possible motive. Japanese news media is reporting that the suspect targeted Abe because of a complicated connection. The assassin thought the former prime minister's grandfather had expanded a religious group that the shooter held a grudge against.

The suspect told investigators, quote, "I thought that former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, that's Abe's grandfather, contributed to the expansion of the group and I thought about killing his grandson, former Prime Minister Abe."

So, what is the group? Well, the Unification Church has confirmed that the shooter's mom was a member. That's a church that has been embroiled in various scandals over the years. CNN has not confirmed that yet with the mother and we have not been able to independently confirm reports that it was the group that led him, the shooter, to kill Abe.

CNN's Matthew Chance reports now from Nara, Japan, on the latest in the investigation into the assassination that stunned the world.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In stunned silence, they came to lay flowers and pay their last respects. The people of Japan are reeling at the killing of Shinzo Abe, their most prominent politician gunned down in a country where gun crime is virtually unheard of.

UNKNOWN: I think he's a great prime minister.

CHANCE (on camera): The greatest prime minister.

UNKNOWN: In Japanese political history. I'm so shocked.

CHANCE: Shocked. A lot of people, a lot of people shocked.

UNKNOWN: Yes, of course, I'm scared and angry, but the biggest -- my English -- and it's like unbelievable thing happened in Japan.

CHANCE: Just disbelief.

UNKNOWN: Yes. I can't believe this is happening in Japan.

CHANCE (voice-over): This is the moment Shinzo Abe was attacked. Addressing a campaign rally here in the Japanese city of Nara. The first shot seems to miss. It's the second that proves fatal and causes panic.





CHANCE: So, this is where Shinzo Abe was standing?


CHANCE (voice-over): Eyewitnesses like this local newspaper reporter told me he watched the former prime minister motionless and bleeding amid desperate attempts to revive him. Now, this has happened once, he says, we all know it could happen again.

(On camera): Well, everyone here is talking about how utterly shocked they are that anyone, let alone a prominent figure like Shinzo Abe, could be gunned down so easily in the streets.


Unlike in the United States, guns and gun crime here in Japan are incredibly rare. What police say motivated the alleged assassin in this killing over here, remember, that's where the killing took place, is a deep hatred of what they say was a certain group to which the killer believed Shinzo Abe was linked.

Can we just have a look at the damage?


CHANCE: Just very quickly, please.

CHANCE (voice-over): Japanese police are still refusing to name that group, but we were turned back from a building where officers told us the suspect may have test fired his makeshift gun. A blue tarp covers the damage. And a sign reveals a South Korean group, Unification Church, has premises there.

The church denies Abe had any formal links but says the mother of his suspected killer is an active member, although CNN has been unable to confirm that. Police tell CNN the arrested suspect is being cooperative but has expressed no regret for his actions.

While stunned neighbors in his apartment block told us he always seemed a bit quiet and a bit weird. He looked miserable, Tamako (ph) says. When I said hello to him, he never even responded or bowed. He seemed to be in his own little world, she says. A world that for Japan is now forever changed.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CHANCE (on camera): Well, Jake, the evidence pointing to the motive of hatred for this unification church seems to be growing. It's not just the grandfather of Shinzo Abe that was linked to it. It's also Shinzo Abe himself. Just last year, he appeared in a video supportive of the group's aims.

Of course, as well as Donald Trump, who did something similar. And local media here is reporting that the suspected assassin of Shinzo Abe watched those videos very carefully indeed before he acted. Jake?

TAPPER: Matthew Chance in Japan. Thank you for that reporting.

He tried to talk his way out, but just because Trump adviser Steve Bannon is now willing to talk to the January 6th committee, does not mean he's off the hook for his criminal trial. That's next.



TAPPER: In our "Politics Lead," a blow to Steve Bannon's defense. A judge ruling this afternoon what former Trump adviser Steve Bannon can and cannot argue in his trial slated for next week. Bannon is facing criminal contempt of Congress charges for defying a subpoena to testify before the January 6th committee. CNN's Jessica Schneider is outside the D.C. District courthouse. And Jessica, tell us about the judge. He issued several rulings on Bannon today.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, Jake, this federal judge, a Trump appointee nonetheless, he really issued a cascade of rulings against Steve Bannon. First off, he denied Bannon's request to delay this -- to delay the criminal trial. It will go forward as planned on Monday, July 18th, and the judge here really limiting what Bannon can present at trial.

The judge here saying that Bannon cannot point to claims of executive privilege or the advice of his attorney for reasons that he defied that subpoena from the January 6th committee. Instead, Bannon will really be limited in what he can present really limited to the fact that he can only say that maybe he just believed the deadline of this subpoena was somehow negotiable.

So, this is all a very big win for the government, all of the points that the judge ruled on. And the defense now, the options for Steve Bannon really whittled down. In fact, so much so that Bannon's attorney, David Schoen, exclaimed after the judge made all these rulings, he said, what's the point of going to trial here if there are no defenses?

So, a lot of work for this defense team for Steve Bannon just one week until this trial. Jake, Steve Bannon actually wasn't in court today. There's another pre-trial hearing that will be on Thursday, but presumably, Steve Bannon will be in court Monday when his criminal trial begins.

TAPPER: Jessica, Steve Bannon, he told the January 6th committee over the weekend that he now would be willing to testify, although he wants to do it publicly and live. How is that playing out there?

SCHNEIDER: Yes. This is really playing out on two fronts. So, here, first of all, at the courthouse and in the courtroom, the judge here, Carl Nichols, has said he's going to wait to rule on any admissibility of Bannon's new offer to testify. So that remains to be seen if the jury is going to get a glimpse of this.

But the prosecution is saying don't admit it because it's irrelevant. They say that Steve Bannon broke the law back in October when he didn't comply with that subpoena, and anything he's doing now to try to fix it just doesn't matter.

Then on the other front, as for the committee, they really haven't issued anything publicly as it pertains to Bannon's offer to testify, but we did hear from committee member Zoe Lofgren over the weekend. She said that any offer of testimony, it wouldn't be immediate, even though Bannon has offered to testify in public, presumably, if they were to take him up on that, it would first be behind closed doors with some sort of deposition. Jake?

TAPPER: Alright. Jessica Schneider outside the D.C. District court. Thank you so much.

Tomorrow, the January 6th Select House Committee will hold its next public hearing. It is expected to focus on the connections between the Trump team and domestic extremist groups such as The Oath Keepers and The Proud Boys. This comes just days after former Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone met with the committee behind closed doors.

CNN's Evan Perez has been tracking the developments ahead of the hearing. Evan, what are we expecting to learn tomorrow?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we're looking to see for this committee to illustrate what they've been talking about these connections between these extremist groups, the groups that we know, were at the forefront of the invasion of the attack on the U.S. Capitol, those are the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys. Now groups of those -- members of those -- both of those groups are facing federal criminal charges.

And according to the committee, we got a little bit of a preview of what they're about to -- what did we expect them to say. They are going to present what they say is evidence of those connections. Now, we know that some members of those groups were providing security for some members that they call the VIP group. We know that Roger Stone and Mike Flynn was in -- they were in contact with members of those groups.

And we also know that one of the people we're going to hear from tomorrow, Jake, is a former spokesman for the Oath Keepers. We can expect that this committee is going to show you how the violence is connected to all the things that the former president was trying to pull off before January 6, Jake.

TAPPER: So Zoe Lofgren, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren is on the committee told me that we're going to likely hear excerpts from the testimony of former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone tomorrow. How much weight do you think his testimony holds?

PEREZ: A lot of weight. Look, even people who were loyal to the former president, people around the former president believed that Cipollone played a huge role in trying to put some guardrails around the former president. That if it wasn't for Pat Cipollone, and Pat Philbin, his deputy, that things could have gone even worse.

We know there's been testimony, Jake, from some other witnesses that Cipollone warned some of them -- some of the people around the former president that what they were trying to do, proposed -- proposing to do to try to over -- you know, their efforts to overturn the election, were not legal. We know that he was in the room, while the former president was trying to essentially stage a coup at the Justice Department to get them to support his lies about the election in Georgia and in other states.

So Cipollone, we know, testified behind closed doors, but we expect that at least some clips of that are going to be made. We're going to be part of hearings, perhaps, as soon as tomorrow when this committee meets next.

TAPPER: All right, Evan Perez, thanks so much.

CNN's Harry Enten joins us now live from the magic wall with a look at how the American people feel about the January 6th hearings. Harry, so are voters paying attention to these hearings? And what are you finding there?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes, so you know, look here, following the January 6th hearings very or somewhat closely, what do we see? We see overall, the majority of Americans are, in fact, following these hearings very, or at least somewhat closely. And here's the more interesting little nugget here.

While Democrats are more likely to be following the hearings closely than Republicans, in fact, the majority of Republicans that 51 percent say that they are, in fact, following the hearings very or somewhat closely. But here's the big question, is it really changing anybody's mind? And I think we can get a good idea of it from this question from Quinnipiac, did Trump commit a crime to change the 2020 election results? And we can compare April of 2022 versus now.

Overall, in April of 2022, it was 46 percent. Now, it's that same 46 percent. Among Democrats, we see that it's actually dropped two points, although within the margin of error 87 percent back in April of 2022, and 85 percent now. Among Republicans, there's been perhaps a slight upward movement to 15 percent. But still, clearly, the vast majority of Republicans do not, in fact, believe that Trump committed a crime. And these hearings don't seem so far to, in fact, change opinions across all Americans of whether Trump committed a crime to change the 2020 election results.

TAPPER: And Harry, we've talked before about the poor polling for Democrats heading into this year's midterm elections. Have these hearings changed that outlook at all? ENTEN: Not really. No. I mean, look, before the hearings began, you know, they began on June 9th. On June 8th, my average of the polls, the generic ballot had Republicans plus three points. Now, where is it? Republicans plus two points. You could make the argument that maybe there was a slight change, but the fact is, there's so much news going on, this is not much of a change at all.

And I think there's a pretty good reason why. Because what is the top issue for Americans at this point, and who is trusted on that? The top issue for Americans at this point is not the January 6th committee hearings. It is not Donald Trump, its inflation according to 33 percent of Americans. That is the top issue.

And who is trusted more on the issue of inflation? The margin right here is absolutely huge. Republicans are trusted over Democrats by 19 points. And that is why at this particular point, Republicans still lead on that generic congressional ballot.


TAPPER: So Congresswoman Liz Cheney is the vice chair of the January 6th committee. She's facing a tough re-election battle in her Republican primary for Wyoming's congressional seat. Donald Trump and others, including Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader, supporting her opponent. What are Cheney's chances looking like of holding on to her seat in that primary?

ENTEN: Yes. So I think there's a real national versus Wyoming schism that's going on. So if you look, you know, nationally, and you say, OK, do you approve of Liz Cheney's job as chair of the January 6th select committee? You can say that slightly more approve than disapprove. But look among Democrats, it's 77 percent approve, to 7 percent disapprove. Among Republicans, the vast majority, 61 percent disapprove, Jake.

You know what Wyoming has a ton of? Has a ton of Republicans. 71 percent of the voters in Wyoming are registered Republicans. And Liz Cheney's disapproval rating, before voting to impeach Donald Trump was just 26 percent. Look where it is now, Jake, it is 72 percent. That is the highest disapproval rating of any member of Congress according to the 2021 CES. Her chances of re-election looking quite down at this particular point.

TAPPER: Well, that's interesting. So the American people care most about the economy except for these Republicans who care quite a bit about January 6th not in the way that most Americans do.

ENTEN: That's exactly right. You cannot cross Donald Trump by voting to impeach him. You know, back in -- earlier this year, Tom Rice faced a challenge in his primary. He only got 25 percent of the vote or a little less than 26 I believe it was. That was the worst performance in any primary for a House member this entire century. Cheney may face the exact same fate.

TAPPER: Harry Enten, thanks so much. And a quick programming note, join CNN's Drew Griffin for a new investigation into Steve Bannon and his master plan to reshape the United States government, the Republican Party and the United States of America. The CNN special report, Steve Bannon, Divided We Fall will begin at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on Sunday.

Coming up, wildfires are threatening some of the oldest living things in North America. How firefighters are trying to protect trees so large. You can drive a car through them. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our Earth matters series, at least 2,300 acres have been charred in California's Yosemite National Park as a wildfire that just doubled in 24 hours continue to rip through the protected land. Yosemite is of course home to 500 Giant Sequoias, the Earth's biggest trees.

CNN's Nick Watt is close to the blaze for us as firefighters battle to save these giant wonders.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More than 500 firefighters on the ground battling to save 500 ancient trees. Today, setting controlled backfires destroying brush and dead wood that would be fuel for the flames. Also support from the air.

A sprinkler system is now in place to protect grizzly giant, more than 200 feet tall more than 2,000 years old.

GARRET DICKMAN, BOTANIST, YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK: We're trying to give it some preventative first aid really and make sure that when the fire -- if the fire comes over here that this tree is protected.

WATT (voice-over): These ancient trees are designed to survive fires. They've survived many in their time but officials are fretting over the intensity of these blazes we're now seeing in the Sierra Nevada, extreme drought and high temperatures are creating dry, flammable fuel. This place more than doubled in size in just 24 hours over the weekend.

SCOTT GEDIMAN, CHIEF PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICER YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK: Right now, the fires within about a, you know, between a mile or two.

WATT (voice-over): The historic Wawona Hotel and the surrounding community now evacuated the south entrance to the park is closed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kind of heartbreaking. You feel afraid for the people in the town. Just heartbroken about the trees.

WATT (voice-over): There is cautious optimism in this fight. Over the last few years, fire teams cleared the brush and fuel around Mariposa Grove that helps so does the damage left behind by previous fires, so called burn scars that will hopefully slow the spread of this one and help save these trees that were here maybe a couple of 1,000 years before Columbus ever set foot in the Americas.


WATT: So these trees are basically designed to withstand fire. In fact, they need fire to pop their seed cones. But as our climate warms, the concern is they will not be able to withstand the more intense fires that we're seeing.

Good news right now, about an hour ago, we heard the fire is now 25 percent contained. But I've got to say in the past five or 10 minutes, we have watched that plume grow massively. Either way, we think we hope that for now at least, these majestic sequoias will be safe, at least from this fire. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Nick Watt in California's Yosemite National Park. Thank you so much.

Coming up, it looks like a massive pool party, but this is the presidential palace. And those are dozens of protesters fed up. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead, a frightening, terrifying landing for passengers aboard a Spirit Airlines flight when part of the plane burst into flames. Black smoke could be seen billowing from the belly of the aircraft as a fire consumed one of the tires on Sunday morning. Video from inside the plane shows panic passengers as flight attendants attempted to keep everyone calm.

CNN's Pete Muntean joins us now live with more on this. Pete, what happened here and were there any injuries?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Nobody hurt, maybe only spirits pride as it's on the threshold of this major merger. Spirit Airlines says Flight 283, the brakes caught fire not long after it landed in Atlanta yesterday morning. The brakes on a commercial airliner like this are really critical. They take a beating day-to- day. They go through really brutal tests before an air bus like this can take passengers.

Sometimes, the brace gets so hot, the friction builds up to such an intensity that the brakes can glow red hot and in really rare instances catch fire.


Now we know that airport fire crews are trained to deal with incidents like this. And Spirit is thanking those fire crews for coming in to this quick rescue. But passengers say they were pretty spooked by this. You can see as they were in their seats, as the flight crew told them to remain in their seats and to not evacuating. Now, brake fires like this are really, really uncommon. I actually look this up on the FAA database of incident reports that flight crews submit to the federal government, and they said that it's only happened about three times in the last year. Passengers say they're thinking twice about flying again, but this plane was towed back and it will be put back into service after some maintenance, Spirit says, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Pete Muntean, thanks so much.

Turning to our world lead, tens of thousands of protesters infiltrated the Sri Lankan president's house over the weekend, furious with the government's handling of that country's failing economy. Rioters laid in the President's bed. They used his workout equipment. They played his piano. They jumped into his pool. They even set up their own barbecue pits.

Later on, protesters burned down the Prime Minister's house. Both the Sri Lankan President and Prime Minister have resigned and fled their homes. CNN's Will Ripley is following the upheaval. Will, what exactly are the protesters demanding?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Rajapaksa who fled his residence and is now being held on a secure naval vessel for his safety. He is essentially, after being elected in 2019, he has gone in the deep end. No pun intended because protests are swimming in his pool, aren't doing it because they wanted to have a good time.

These people are angry. They're angry because the country is more than $50 billion in debt. And as a result, they don't have money to pay their creditors, so they can't get things that people need, like food, fuel medicine, people can't even get money from their own banks. And so you had 100,000 plus people just outside the President's house alone in Colombo, yet another huge crowd outside the Prime Minister's house.

They set the Prime Minister's place on fire and they're still occupying the President's residence. Right now, they say they're not going to leave, they're not going to stop playing the piano, using the gym, swimming in the pool, living the highlife that the President's living what ordinary people are suffering until he's officially out. That's supposed to happen that resignation on Wednesday, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Will, who is going to be the next president of Sri Lanka?

RIPLEY: Well, whoever it is, they're going to be selected from within the existing ranks of Parliament. And that's going to be really tricky to -- for parliament to choose somebody next week on the 20th, who is credible and legitimate in the eyes of both lawmakers and also the public. And, you know, because whoever it is, frankly, has a huge mess on their hands to try to clean up, not just in the immediate situation with the protests, but these bigger issues that Sri Lanka is facing.

And so, we are certainly not out of the woods yet in terms of what could happen on the streets of Sri Lanka because the crowds are very much revved up and ready to continue to show their displeasure if this new government doesn't help turn their living standards around pretty quickly. And that's a tall order, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Will Ripley, thanks so much.

Coming up next, what the origins of the universe look like. NASA about to make a big reveal. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Tonight, it's out of this world lead is way out there farther away than anyone on earth has ever seen. Thanks to NASA's new James Webb space telescope. The images are set to be released literally at any moment now at the White House no less.

Let's go right to CNN is Rachel Crane. Rachel, what are you expecting to see?

RACHEL CRANE, CNN BUSINESS INNOVATION AND SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, any moment now, the first image from James Webb telescope will be revealed at the White House with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and, of course, President Joe Biden. Now I just want to remind our viewers, this is three decades in the making. This telescope costs $10 billion. The data that is making up these images is being from a million miles away.

So this was a really audacious space project that they took on three decades ago to create this telescope, and it's the largest telescope ever created, Jake. And it's not just a telescope, this is really more of a time machine. I mean, this thing is going to allow us to see back to just a few 100 million years after the Big Bang. Now I know, a few 100 million years sounds like a really long time. But it's really the equivalent of the universe just turning its lights on.

So we're going to be able to see, you know, the formation of galaxies, the formation of stars using this telescope. Now, we know that today, the first image is going to be revealed in just a matter of moments. Tomorrow, there'll be more images revealed. NASA saying that they're revealing five objects in the sky via these images.

Now, I want to point out that in this group, there's going to be a photo of an exoplanet, but not just a photo of an exoplanet. We're actually going to be able to see if there's an atmosphere and what that atmosphere is comprised of. We're also going to have images of nebula. Now those are stellar nurseries, so to speak.

We're also going to see distant galaxies. And we're also, Jake, going to see the deepest view into our universe we have ever seen. And this is just the beginning. James Webb is going to be up there for 20 years doing incredible science. We know what we learned from Hubble. I mean, Hubble taught us that our universe is expanding at an accelerating rate. It taught us that there are hundreds of billions of galaxies in our universe, where we thought that it was just a fraction of that before.

So scientists, you know, they are most excited about the discoveries that they can't even imagine. They are excited to be surprised, Jake. And it's not just the scientists, it's myself, space enthusiast all around the world and I know you too are a bit of a space enthusiast. So I'm sure you're just excited as the rest of us to see these images, Jake.

TAPPER: I am. I'm a little impatient, to be honest with you. Let's pick it up NASA.

Rachel Crane, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the TikTok at JakeTapper. You can tweet the show at TheLeadCNN. If you ever miss an episode of the show, you can listen to THE LEAD wherever you get your podcasts, all two hours just sitting right there. I'll be back tomorrow for CNN special coverage of the January 6th hearing. Join me and Anderson Cooper starting at 11:00 am. Eastern.

Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in a place I like to call "THE SITUATION ROOM". See you tomorrow.