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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Survey: July Consumer Sentiment Ticks Up From All-Time Low; Chef Jose Andres Talks About Providing Meals To Ukrainians; Manchin Derails Dems' Economic Package Over Climate, Tax Provisions; Manchin Cites Inflation Concerns As He Clocks Economic, Climate Bill; Khashoggi's Fiance Calls Biden's Meeting With MBS "Heartbreaking". Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 15, 2022 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: -- excruciatingly painful for most consumers, the cost of everything from cookies to clothing, gas to groceries, skyrocketed. Joining us now live to discuss is CNN's Rahel Solomon.

Rahel, help us understand this new data out from the University of Michigan's closely watched survey of consumers.

RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, to your point, it was another day of mixed data. Wall Street appeared to like it though, all the major averages closing up around 2 percent. Feeling better apparently investors than most Americans, because our latest read into consumer sentiment showed a slight bounce in consumer sentiment in terms of how Americans are feeling about the economy and the state of their own personal finances, but still remaining pretty close to all time lows.

The director of the survey saying that, "The share of consumers blaming inflation for eroding their living standards continued its rise to 49 percent, matching the all time high reached during the Great Recession. These negative views endured in the face of the recent moderation and gas prices at the pump."

Jake, essentially, the declines we have seen in gas prices, still really not lifting sentiment much. Because even if you are seeing some relief at the pump, which most Americans are, you're not seeing it anywhere else, you're not seeing it at the grocery store, you're not seeing it practically anywhere else in your day and that reflected in this latest consumer sentiment reading.

TAPPER: So, Americans remain quite sad about the state of things, but we also keep buying things. So is this retail therapy? Is it something more nuanced? What is it?

SOLOMON: I think it depends on who you're talking about. So we got retail sales data today, which showed a better than expected jump in consumer spending of 1 percent. Jake, to put that in perspective, the expectation heading into this report was an increase of eight tenths of a percent. But what you have here is a tale of two consumers, for Americans who can't afford it who are still sitting OK financially, they're still spending, they're shifting where they're spending to services and experiences.

For folks, however, who are struggling with inflation right now. They are shifting their spending, they're spending it more on essentials and less on necessities, and that's what that report reflects today. So, the consumer has remained resilient. The question is, for how long?

TAPPER: Rahel Solomon, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

There is one thing pushing up the price of almost everything you buy right now, diesel fuel has had a major domino effect on the economy because the vast majority of goods in the U.S. are transported by trucks, which of course run on diesel. As CNN's Ryan Young reports, that means truck drivers are in the unique position of spotting economic headwinds before almost anyone else.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just off I-80 in Iowa, it's hard to miss park festival, park convention, park job fair, it's the largest gathering of American Truck drivers in the country. Drivers here are telling us they are facing challenge after challenge from loss of friends to COVID to supply chain shortages to higher and higher fuel prices, yet they continue to deliver for the American consumer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been tough, especially now with the fuel prices the way they are.

YOUNG (voice-over): Diesel prices have risen more than 50 percent so far this year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, you can't expect the people and keep paying and paying and paying. They're going to run out of money eventually. Then what you are going to do?

YOUNG (voice-over): Prices are going up across the board, and many truckers here said orders are getting canceled and demand is slowing. For some, the outlook for the next few months is grim.

RALPH BANKS, OWNER, ROADWORKS CUSTOM: I think there's a fear out there that that is being placed. We got to figure out a way to get these fuel prices back and get back to business.

YOUNG (on caerma): And the economic impact of these big rigs is tremendous. You think about almost 72 percent of all goods in this country are moved by truck. And that has a real ripple effect. It's about $12.7 trillion dollars of goods move throughout this country by truck alone.

BILL ABBOTT, IOWA TRUCK JAMBORREE ATTENDEE: I can't say I can blame one person for it all.

YOUNG (voice-over): Bill Abbott owns a farm and travels across the country with his vintage truck to shows like this one. He believes change is needed.

ABBOTT: It takes a leader that can grab the bull by the horns. But the economy is such now, we need a leader that's going to grab the bull by the balls. I've never seen anything like it. Before I've used to my savings, I made money. We went on trips and I didn't spend much. Now, I'm spending a lot and I'm losing back all my savings.

YOUNG (voice-over): There's also a can do attitude that reverberates all around here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just keep right on going.

YOUNG (voice-over): Jerry and Adam Wurzer own a small company that makes products for semi trucks, and they say there's no choice but to push through the tough times.

ADAM WURZER, CO-OWNER, IOWA CUSTOMS: People especially around here they, you know, just just because times get tough, they still work hard and they still fight their way out of the hole and they keep going.

YOUNG (voice-over): The Biden administration says it sees and hears the plight of truckers and is aware of the driver shortage and plans to help make it easier for those wanting to get their commercial driver's license while also hoping to address concerns ranging from poor road conditions to wait times at delivery points. For some, they say that can't happen soon enough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The other administration wasn't like this. Was that a false economy? No, I think maybe this is. Hopefully things will cycle out. Don't know.



YOUNG: No matter where we went, people were talking about the economy and how much money they were spending on a day to day basis. I mean, look at all the trucks behind us. And one of the reasons why we shot so much of this from above is, you really get an idea of just how many trucks are here. You're talking about hundreds of trucks that have lined up to be here and talk the economy.

One of the things they're pushing forward is hoping that the Biden administration really gets the roads fix, because they said that's having an economic impact of just keeping these cars on the road. But that other part, that everyone can understand, it doesn't matter what party you're in, is what fuel prices have ended up being for people who work in this industry. The diesel prices are crashing, folks, because they say, yes, they're getting a surcharge from some of the shippers, but at the same time, when you go to a pump and you're clicking out at about $1,000, that's really taking away from their bottom line. And one driver told me, he's even having some of his suppliers cut back on parts of the shipment in terms of the fee that he's getting because they're trying to make it a profit on the other end. So you understand the cascading effect. They would hope that someone from Washington would be here, walk among these truck drivers, some of them who worked for 40 years traveling in this country, just to hear what they want to say in terms of how this country is deteriorating in parts of the infrastructure, the roads and how they're being handled. Jake, it's a complex subject, but a lot of people had a lot of voices that they wanted to share with us, and I'm glad we got to do it. Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Ryan Young, great report. Thanks so much. Reporting live from the world's largest truck stop in Walcott, Iowa, thank you so much.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine taking a brutal toll not only on prices but on world hunger. Chef and founder of World Central Kitchen, Jose Andres, will join us live next with more on his efforts to feed the innocent victims of Putin's invasion.

Plus, President Biden says he raised the subject of the murder of "Washington Post" journalist Jamal Khashoggi with Saudis Crown Prince, the man the U.S. says directly ordered the killing. Stick with us.



TAPPER: In Sri Lanka, the country's embattled president who fled that nation earlier this week has formally resigned, capping off a chaotic days long political crisis that saw protesters storming the presidential residence and the prime minister's office. But as CNN's Will Ripley reports for us now, larger problems remain for the country.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For a nation in crisis, a badly needed victory dance. As news broke Sri Lanka's most hated president finally resigned, 1000s to find a nationwide curfew, turning the capital, Colombo, into a carnival. A few hours of fun following months of fury.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What they did to this country, we were absolutely pissed off because they ruined this country, they robbed this country, they robbed the innocent people, they robbed the dollars.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Those so called robbers he's referring to, the Rajapaksa brothers.

(on camera): They managed to hold on to power for decades running Sri Lanka like a family business, running its economy into the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The wall was between one family and one nation. So we have conquered finally.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Protesters battled tear gas and water cannons, storming the prime minister's office, occupying the presidential palace, soaking up the luxurious lifestyle of an exiled leader living large, as everyday folks faced hours long lines for food, fuel and medicine. Sri Lanka's worst financial crisis in 70 years blamed on bad policies and corruption, leaving an entire nation bankrupt.

Muhammad Unev (ph) pushes his son's wheelchair to dialysis five days a week, a nearly eight mile round trip, six kilometers each way. Skyrocketing inflation means public transit costs six times more than it did just months ago.

Even though the president is gone, he says, we cannot celebrate. We're in the same place. Same as before. Our sorrows still remain. This single dad can barely afford a loaf of bread, as his exiled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa flew in luxury to Singapore where he tendered his resignation, appointing his prime minister, a family friend as acting president. Ranil Wickremesinghe is the ruling party's nominee to serve out the next two years. He's the same guy whose house was set on fire last week by protesters demanding his resignation.

For now, Sri Lanka's highest court has temporarily blocked some senior officials from fleeing the country, including the two remaining Rajapaksa brothers. The one who got away, the self exiled former president could be seeking asylum from potential criminal charges.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are fighting as one nation until he's getting proper punishments for whatever he has done.

RIPLEY (voice-over): If that doesn't happen, if Sri Lanka's problems don't turn around quickly, the streets could once again be filled with far more than fireworks.


TAPPER: That was Will Ripley reporting for us from Colombo, Sri Lanka.

How do you feed the world when Ukraine's breadbasket is now just scorched earth. That story is next.



TAPPER: In our world lead, a Russian war on food, Ukrainian farmers are calling it a second front in Putin's invasion of their country. Russia is purposefully setting Ukrainian wheat fields on fire, putting a further strain on the country's grain exports which much of the world relies upon. CNN's Ivan Watson reports now from a farm in southern Ukraine where farmers are racing to save their crops from Russian strikes.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A war against one of the biggest bread baskets in the world, Ukraine's fertile farmland now a battleground. Military drone footage exclusively obtained by CNN shows Russian artillery pounding wheat fields, burning the summer harvest charcoal black. Farmers race to protect their crops. Until Russia's invasion, Ukraine was the world's fifth largest exporter of wheat.

(on camera): All right, this looks like some kind of munition over here.

(voice-over): Now Ukrainian farmers are harvesting a deadly crop.

(on camera): Mikhail says these are pieces of Russian rockets that they gathered out of the fields.

(voice-over): Mikhail Lyubchenko takes me on a tour of his farm.

(on camera): He'll show us -- that's another shell strike?

(voice-over): Acres of wheat waiting to be harvested within earshot of pounding Russian artillery.


(on camera): This is absolutely surreal where amid the wreckage of previous battles, armored personnel carriers, military vehicles, and then you've got farmers out here that are harvesting wheat right now. The vehicles that have been destroyed here, this could have happened back in March, February, much earlier. But we're also seeing these impact craters from shell strikes that we're told probably took place within the last couple of weeks.

(voice-over): Despite the threats, these brave farmers still bring in their harvest, only to face another obstacle.

(on camera): This is 3000 tons of wheat from last year's harvest.

He can't sell this wheat because the Russian military has blockaded Ukraine's ports so there's no way for this to be sold except at an enormous loss.

(voice-over): Ukrainian ports where ships once carried millions of tons of grain a month to global markets now blockaded by the Russian Navy. The logjam, driving up global food prices, triggering warnings of famine in some of the world's poorest countries.

Last month, the Ukrainian military forced Russian troops to abandon Ukraine's Snake Island in the Black Sea. The Snake Island victory freed up channels to the Danube River. Ukraine reactivated Soviet era ports on this waterway as an alternative route for the export of grain. But experts warn the river can only handle a fraction of Ukraine's pre-war cargo.

This week Ukrainian Russian and UN delegations meeting in Istanbul say they reached a deal in principle to resume shipments of grain by sea. But Ukrainian farmers continue to face deadly threats on land, making it too risky for many to plant crops for next year. This front line farmer vows not to give up.

Our soldiers are fighting and dying to get rid of these occupiers, he says. We need to feed our country, the soldiers and help the whole world with our food. That's why we'll keep working. He calls his farm the second front in this deadly war.


WATSON: Jake, there is some hope that this preliminary deal reached between the Russians and the Ukrainians with Turkish mediation to perhaps break the logjam and allow the sea export of Ukrainian grain that that could be an improvement. But even if it does move forward, there will be serious logistical challenges. Ukraine's Black Sea coast is heavily mined. In fact here in Odessa, the military says a man died when he broke the rules and tried to go swimming off a beach and was beheaded by a mine that he hit.

Beyond that, there's the longer term question, farmers have to plan months, years ahead of time to plant their crops. And with no end to this war in sight, experts are predicting next year's harvest could drop by 50 percent. Jake.

TAPPER: Ivan Watson in Odessa, Ukraine, thank you so much.

As the war on food and Ukraine continues, some courageous people are stepping in and feeding those in need. Joining us now is one of them, Chef, humanitarian and Founder of the World Central Kitchen, Jose Andres.

Jose, so good to see you. So, our own Alex Marquardt, who's been on the frontlines reporting on the war, he was in the Kharkiv region recently, he saw cars from the World Food Kitchen bringing in boxes of food for people there. When I was in Ukraine in April, I saw world food kitchen everywhere. Your organization is in Ukraine saving lives.

JOSE ANDRES, JAMES BEARD AWARD-WINNING CHEF: Yes, thank you. Listen, we have more than five -- 6,000 Ukrainians working with us. World Central Kitchen, we are right there 12 hours right after the invasion of Russia into Ukraine. And up to today we're about to hit five month, we are about to reach 100 million meals. Right now we are doing around 250, 300,000 home meals and then we're doing around 50, 55,025 pound bags that we distribute to families which each one equals roughly 20 meals closely to doing over 1 million meals a day on top of the home meals.

So, I'm very proud of the work the team -- we've been doing there. We are feeding people that -- they need food because supermarkets are closed, because the infrastructure is destroyed, that's what we are there.


But I want to make sure everybody understands, Ukraine have food to feed themselves. What who doesn't have food to feed the world is the rest of the world.

TAPPER: Yes. World Central Kitchen has essentially become a lifeline for so many Ukrainians who have either fled their homes or are trapped in the frontlines. How are you going to be able to sustain serving millions of Ukrainians while Russia continues its attacks?

ANDRES: Well, people in Ukraine obviously they are going through -- everybody in Ukraine is in danger. And every day we are praying that nothing will happen. We got kitchens destroy, we got train wagons destroy, and many of the things, as you've said before at (INAUDIBLE), they are right, we need to make sure that we open right now the boards in Ukraine, especially in Odessa. Remember, at World Central Kitchen, we were the first humanitarian organization. I was in that boat where we went many times up the Danube all the way to Izmail, but is not a big river to achieve everything Ukraine wants, which is to export the more than 20 million tons of grain that they have to feed the world.

And let me tell you, last two weeks ago, I was able to cook for the gathering in Madrid where the Maduro (ph) ministers, the foreign affairs ministers and all the heads of states of so many countries were invited by the Spanish presidents and chief, I was the chef of the different events, but they gave me the opportunity to speak. And I was able to tell everyone that food is a national security issue. The war in Ukraine has been going on for eight years. And now we are worried that we don't have food to feed the many parts in the world that they depend on the grain coming out of Ukraine. What are they thinking?

We need to start taking food seriously, food is a national security issue. And presidents and governments are going to have to look at food in the same way they look at defense, in the same way they look at energy. Because if not, I'm very afraid that by the end of this year, 2023, we're going to have one of the biggest famines that humanity has ever seen because between wars, hurricanes, climate change, Europe right now is going through a devastating hit, there's fires everywhere.

If we are not worried the food that we take for granted in the month or years ahead, is going to be a big fight to feed humanity. And I'm telling you, we are not ready for it.

TAPPER: So if people want to donate to World Central Kitchen, they can go to --

Chef and humanitarian, Jose Andres, thank you so much. Good to see you again.

ANDRES: Thank you for having me.

TAPPER: Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia going against his own party again. What exactly was inside the deal that he just torpedo? That's next.



TAPPER: Topping our national lead, in our Earth matter series, late last night, moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia torpedoed the Democratic Party's economic package. Manchin informed Party Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Leader Chuck Schumer that he, quote, unequivocally will not support climate or tax provisions in the bill. This comes after months of negotiations to try to get Manchin's vote because obviously his vote is crucial and evenly divided 50-50 Senate.

CNN's Chief Climate Correspondent Bill Weir joins us now live. Bill, what specific provisions was mentioned rejecting here?

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Well, pretty much all of them, Jake. It started with the $2 trillion Build Back Better plan, which was a combination of carrots and sticks. Over the months, Manchin fought all of the sticks that would penalize the big polluters. And then they had a package that he thought that they -- colleagues thought he might agree on a bunch of carrots incentives to develop a cleaner energy or carbon capture technology. And it seems like he doesn't want anything to do with that either.

Senator Martin Heinrich, fellow member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee said his refusal to act is infuriating, makes me question why he is chairman of the committee. But I don't know that that should be all that surprising. As Maya Angelou once said, when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. Here's Joe Manchin 12 years ago.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I sued EPA, and I'll take dead aim at the cap and trade bill. Because it's bad for West Virginia.


WEIR: When a coal man whose entire family and identity is wrapped up in coal country puts a literal bullet in your own party's climate plan, he's trying to show you who he is. And I don't know why there would be any hope that he's going to change his mind. He says it may be when the inflation numbers come out in August, when Congress is basically in recess, he might reconsider them. But then they're up against the deadline of getting reconciliation done by September.

So anyone -- any other country around the world just has to look at this, Jake, and think this is not a serious country when it comes to dealing with climate.

TAPPER: And the longer it takes for the United States to really tackle this issue, I presume the more expensive it becomes to achieve anything.

WEIR: Absolutely. I mean, the economists predict, you know, this will cost in the trillions of dollars. There have been $9 billion events, according to NOAA, NASA already this year. We're in the 450th straight month of temperatures above the 20th century average.

If you're under the age of 37, you've never seen a cooler than average month on Earth and it's only going to get hotter. And in the meantime, just hours after this, you see President Biden fist bumping, you know, with the murderous head of a petrostate.


You know, in an alternate reality, you'd have petrostate princes coming to Washington, pledging to reform in order to be part of a new energy revolution. Instead, we're stuck in the same old patterns. It's only going to get worse.

TAPPER: All right, Bill, I'll meet you on Earth too. Appreciate it.

WEIR: Please, please.

TAPPER: Let's discuss. Abby, let me start with you. Senator Manchin is pushing back on reports that he pulled the plug. He says -- well, I want you to take a listen to what he told the West Virginia radio station earlier today about his discussions with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.


MANCHIN: I said Chuck, can we just wait until the inflation figures come out in July, until basically the Fed rate, the Reserve, are they going to raise interest? How much more and how much damaging is that going to be? And then make a decision what we can do and how much we can do.

He took that is no, I guess, and came out with this big thing last night. And I don't know why they did that. I guess to try to put pressure on me. But they've been doing that for over a year now. It doesn't make any sense at all.


TAPPER: So that's his perspective. How do Democrats in the Senate see it because I think it's a little different than that?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, I think they see it as they've seen this movie before. And Joe Manchin saying, let's wait until the next set of numbers come out. And then the next set of numbers come out really only seems like a delay tactic to a lot of Democrats.

The sense that I get is just, I mean, it's deep frustration, burning anger in some quarters with Manchin and how he's handling this. In some ways, I think Democrats would be less angry if he just said, no means no --


PHILLIP: -- and just moved on. But this idea that he's still at the table when they don't believe that he truly is, is I think what is really. I mean, the well is poisoned right now, just to say the least. The White House, though, I think they still -- they would like to get something done with Joe Manchin, even if it is just a small sliver of something because they know that something in this climate is better than nothing.

TAPPER: So let's go to progressive at the table. What's your view of --

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, he's, you know, he's always the victim. That's the thing, right? It's always like, every time this happens, it's like, what me? Who? Why? Why are people attacking me? I don't understand. I'm so confused. Oh, I was dragging this on forever and ever and pretending like I was going to go along with it. And at the last minute, pull the plug because of inflation. And we have seen this movie before.

And so this is a mostly, as Bill was saying, it turned into a bill that was crafted for him mostly carrots, right? So it's not even really that radical of a bill. And he should have just said he wasn't going to go along with it. Instead, he does it in a way that causes the maximum damage to the Democrats, right?

So it's like the maximum damage right before the midterms make Biden and, you know, and the Democrats look weak, and just drag them along, and then it hurts them politically on top of you not doing what you should do because apparently --


DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm just going to say, well, what about Chuck Schumer? Isn't he the majority leader and he's supposed to be doing these things? And he's supposed to know how to count votes, though, and kind of --

POWERS: He's the vote, that's the point. I mean, that's --


POWERS: That is so disingenuous.

URBAN: He's like, you know, he's -- who's the Lucy to Charlie Brown.

POWERS: No, he's -- no he is --

URBAN: I think for the football away every time.

POWERS: The point is you can say, fool me once, shame on, you know, you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I mean, yes, they should stop running to Joe Manchin and think he's going to do something. I mean, he's from West Virginia, and he makes --


POWERS: -- tons of money off of coal. Let's just -- we know what's going on here.

TAPPER: To take your point, though --


TAPPER: -- you're saying if I'm reading it correctly, Chuck Schumer is not exactly Lyndon Johnson, right? He's not exactly -- like he put Manchin as chairman of the Natural Resources. URBAN: Exactly. He's -- listen, it's like in Pennsylvania, there's a county called Carbon County. What do you think they make in Carbon County? Coal, right? Like it's West Virginia, coal miner's daughter. Joe Manchin is never going to vote for anything that does anything --

POWERS: Then he shouldn't (INAUDIBLE).

CILLIZZA: But it go -- I think, I sort of -- I agree with Kirsten. I mean, I think some of this is, you said, like, why are you fooled again. And it's -- Joe Manchin has the idea of what Joe Manchin is in the U.S. Senate, right. Joe Manchin is the guy who works across party lines and get stuff done.

So he keeps putting himself in that position. Then he acts like, oh, my gosh --


CILLIZZA: What happened? Never everyone is misunderstood except for you. If you keep getting misunderstood, and everyone thinks something else, you may not be the one who's (INAUDIBLE).

URBAN: Or maybe he's just -- maybe Chuck Schumer is not interpreting what he's saying correctly.

TAPPER: So one thing that Manchin said that just -- because nobody's defending Joe Manchin, but one thing he said recently, or in the last year, because this has been playing out for a long time, people said he needs to be more progressive. He said, I'm not a progressive. If you want more progressives in the Senate, elect more progressives.

PHILLIP: Yes. This is his superpower. He's the only guy with a D next to his name that can get elected in the state of West Virginia. So basically, he can do whatever he wants, and that is what he is doing.

On the other hand, though, I mean, look, I think Chris is right. Manchin thinks of himself as incredibly deliberative, maybe like the personification of the Senate but that is not interpreted that way by the people that he is engaging with.


The other side of this negotiation, which is his fellow Democrats, they just see it as flaky. And he's done nothing really, frankly, to change that perception.

TAPPER: So you were talking about the interpretation of Biden being weak. Let's turn to another topic on that subject, which is, he's going to Saudi Arabia and fist bumping with the man that he said he would turn into a pariah. Now, President Biden did say that he brought up the murder of Washington Post Journalist Jamal Khashoggi today, to the Crown Prince. Let's roll that.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With respect to the murder of Khashoggi, I raised it at the top of the meeting, making it clear what I thought of it at the time and what I think of it now. And it was exactly -- I was straightforward and direct in discussing it.

I made my view crystal clear. I said very straightforwardly, for an American President to be silent on an issue of human rights, is this consistent with -- inconsistent with who we are and who I am.


TAPPER: Now, to be fair, American presidents genuflecting before the Saudis is a long and shameful tradition and it's bipartisan. But Biden did running for president say he was going to turn MBS into a pariah.

PHILLIP: Which was probably a mistake. I mean, the reality is, is that you know President, American President at this moment in history is going to be able to do that. I think he knew that at the time, but campaigns or campaigns, you have to say what you have to say, but the handling of this meeting, it is beyond understanding, making a big deal about whether there would or would not be a handshake and then choosing a fist bump, as if that would be better than a handshake. The White House really took a bad hand and played it really poorly.

CILLIZZA: Totally agree.




CILLIZZA: But this has been a month of, is it going to be the handshake? Is it, oh, it's the fist bump. I mean, they turned it into a thing when it didn't necessarily have to be. That meeting is always going to be a grin and bear it. We're in this to your point, Jake. American presidents have done this for a very long time. We're in this because we sort of have to be in it.

I don't love that we're in it. You know, you saw that Joe Biden statement, like it's better than what Donald Trump said to Vladimir Putin when Vladimir Putin said, well, I didn't interfere in the election. And Donald Trump said, well, he said he didn't interfere, so what I'm going to do?

TAPPER: Right.

CILLIZZA: It's a better statement than that.

TAPPER: But it is the Trump context is important because Trump did not pretend that he cared about Khashoggi --

CILLIZZA: That's correct.

TAPPER: -- and Biden did.


TAPPER: And just to remind people, this is what Biden said on the campaign trail.


BIDEN: We were going to, in fact, make them pay the price and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are. There's very little social redeeming value of the -- in the president government in Saudi Arabia.


TAPPER: I guess the question is, if we have to -- if no matter what we're going to have an American president shamelessly kissing the ass of the Saudis. Is it better that they're honest about it?

URBAN: Yes, of course.

TAPPER: Or that they pretend that they're going to be something else?

URBAN: Listen, I mean, look, that Joe Biden there who is like, pounding the table, right, I'm going to make them pay. And then the cheapest Joe Biden you just saw in the previous clip saying, I told him it was the top of our list I made sure you do is in the dog house.

TAPPER: Bill Clinton did that --


TAPPER: Remember, Bill Clinton did that with the Chinese remember?


TAPPER: He did the same thing. He criticized George H.W. Bush for (INAUDIBLE) to the Chinese --

URBAN: You know, but in Abby's point it's on the campaign trail or he's on the campaign trail doing things. This is why I think Biden's popularity is in the tank, right? When you campaign, you're going to be this kind of character and then you get in the office and you're completely 180 degrees out on most issues, right, people in America scratching the head saying, this isn't the guy we elected. We don't want this guy. I think that problem for Biden.

TAPPER: And Kirsten, Khashoggi's fiance reacted on Twitter to the meeting, writing a tweet that her would have been husband would have written, "What Jamal Khashoggi would tweet today." Hey, POTUS. Is this the accountability you promised for my murder? The blood of MBS' next victim is on your hands." What do you think?

POWERS: I mean, look, I think there's two different issues here. One is should he have gone to Saudi Arabia and the other is should he have done a fist bump, right? So I think most of us understand that she's never going to be happy with what he's going to do in terms of the policy and in terms of the fact that United States deals with them and now needs to do even more because of gas prices and those kinds of calculations.

What he didn't need to do was the fist bump that made it look kind of like a fun little meeting --


POWERS: -- and like we're just a couple of bros, like this bumping each other and it's like that is completely the wrong message. It is not I'm here to hold you accountable, I'm here to, you know, put your feet to the fire. It's kind of making light of it and then when he's asked about, he laughed. And I just don't think that that's the right message --

URBAN: I mean, handshake would have been far but like Chris say --


URBAN: -- shake the hand, get it over with --

CILLIZZA: Just do it. Just, I mean, it's not great either way.

PHILLIP: Absolutely no good way --

CILLIZZA: No, exactly right.

URBAN: But a fist bump makes it seem --


TAPPER: He didn't have to go.


TAPPER: Anyway, thanks to all of you for being here.

And if like me you did not just get enough Abby Phillip, I will remind you, tune in to CNN for Inside Politics Sunday with Abby Phillip --

PHILLIP: He means it, certainly.

TAPPER: -- that is Sunday morning 8:00 a.m.


Coming up, how worried should Democrats be about the so-called precinct strategy that Steve Bannon is pushing? Pretty worried I think. That's next.


TAPPER: In our politics lead now, Steve Bannon's trial is set to begin Monday. Bannon, a former adviser to President Trump is facing contempt of Congress charges for failing to comply with the subpoena from the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection.

On Sunday a CNN special report, "Steve Bannon: Divided We Fall," we'll take a deep dive into Bannon's plan to reshape the U.S. government. the Republican Party and indeed the United States. Take a listen to this clip. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These three women and millions like them are what Bannon hopes is the future of the Republican Party and the United States. Bannon calls it the precinct strategy.

STEVE BANNON, CNN WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: -- we're going to take over everything from school boards all the way up to the House in the Senate.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He is really talking about from the ground up remaking a party that is a Trump loyal, MAGA loyal kind of party.

BANNON: OK, I want to start with Dan Schultz precinct strategy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The precinct strategy's author is a Bannon regular, Dan Schultz, a local Arizona attorney.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we conservatives don't take over the Republican Party, we're going to lose our republic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump comes out in endorses, the precinct strategy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is step by step tutorial for taking over Republican politics is now considered almost gospel, inspiring thousands of believers in the election lie to get involved. GOP leaders in more than 20 counties in mostly battleground states told CNN they've seen a spike in participation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The precinct committee strategy, that's the first thing Dan Schultz, I'm like, oh my gosh.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just, I'm calling everybody I know. Did you even know that we had a precinct in my neighborhood? I'm the committee person now. You know, just feeling like a ham. I'm I'm actually doing something and now --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are all doing something because of Bannon.

Jodi D. Dottie (ph) is a longshot running for Stacey Abrams' old seat in the Georgia House of Representatives. Wendy Ahrenkiel is running for George's House District 52 and may actually win. Stacy Altiery is now a Republican precinct chair, registering voters and recruiting pole watchers.

STACY ALTIERY, DEKALB GOP PRECINCT CHAIR: I'm a precinct committee person. We need folks. We'll have someone get in touch with you because my friends and I decided we didn't want to sit around beach anymore. It was time to take it back. And that's what we're doing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without exception, they believe Joe Biden lost in November 2020. And the election was stolen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did Biden get more than Obama? No way.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They said he got the most votes of any president ever. And I just remember that energy around Obama. And there was not --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's still energy around Obama than Biden.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yes. I just didn't see that lining up, for me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My thing with that is I just would like to know what happened. And I do think that the evidence is there, and it's not being seen.


TAPPER: Just to be clear, there is no evidence of massive voter fraud.


TAPPER: Joe Biden won legally and legitimately. And every president becomes the first one to get that many votes because of population growth that happens every four years.

Drew Griffin joins us now. Drew, these three women who obviously have their issues with facts and truth, they were inspired to get involved in local politics because of Steve Bannon. How much is Steve Bannon reshaped the GOP at this grassroots level?

GRIFFIN: It is amazing. From precinct committee people, school boards on up to secretary of states and attorney general candidates and the candidate for governor in Pennsylvania, Jake. It is an entire political movement based on a manufactured lie, mostly by Steve Bannon, who continues to pull on this grievance because of this lie. And he's trying to take over the entire government of the United States. That is his goal.

All of it, all of it built on the lie, that somehow this election was stolen from people, and that they have to claw it back, basically, that their United States has been stolen from them. And you can continue to go all the way down the road. But I think the bottom line is the white western Christian world of Steve Bannon thinks somebody is trying to take away the white western Christian world of Steve Bannon.


GRIFFIN: It's quite remarkable.

TAPPER: -- are saying Republicans, establishment Republican figures or Democrats even remotely motivating voters this way? GRIFFIN: You know, they're not. I mean, until the abortion ruling by the Supreme Court, there was really no motivating factor that would get the Democrats angry enough to get out there. And I don't even think that compares with this level of the unhinged from reality kind of drive that this kind of ultra-mega Republican Party has. I've never seen anything quite like it.

We've been in convention halls where everybody is clapping because somebody's talking about this stolen election business, even after everybody with any kind of factual basis knows, it just didn't happen. They don't believe it.

TAPPER: All right. Drew Griffin, thank you so much.

GRIFFIN: It's not a pretty picture.


TAPPER: No, it's not. It's distressing. And you can watch CNN special report on Steve Bannon, a very important report, "Steve Bannon: Divided We Fall", this Sunday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up, there is a new three-digit phone number to deal with the growing mental health crisis in the United States and that's ahead.


TAPPER: Finally, today, an important new phone number to remember, and it's easy 988, 988. Starting tomorrow, those three digits can connect you to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Veterans Crisis Line, 988. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people aged 10 to 14 as well as young adults 25 to 34. So remember 988. There is help for you. There is love for you.

Be sure to tune in this Sunday for CNN State of the Union. My colleague Danna Bash will be joined by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican and Virginia Congresswoman Elaine Luria, Democrat, who's on the committee investigating the insurrection, that's at 9:00 a.m. E.T. and at noon again Eastern, Sunday morning.

Until then, you can follow me on Facebook, on Instagram, Twitter and the TikTok at JakeTapper. You can tweet the show at TheLeadCNN. If you miss an episode of the show, you can download an episode of THE LEAD wherever you get your podcasts. It's true, all two hours right there.

Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer. He's brought "THE SITUATION ROOM" to Saudi Arabia.