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The Lead with Jake Tapper

January 6 Committee Preparing For Prime Time Hearing; Georgia Criminal Inquiry Target Fake Electors; Biden Stops Short Of Emergency Declaration In Climate Address; Ukraine's First Lady Asks Congress for More Air Defense Systems; Finalists Picked In Fight To Be Next British Prime Minister; CEO's Average Pay In 2021 Was 324 Times More Than Employees. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired July 20, 2022 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: So get this, Donald Trump still thinks he can win the 2020 election.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Yet another stunning phone call from Donald Trump. He's reportedly still trying to overturn the last presidential election. It's this very kind of behavior that has a criminal investigation heating up in Georgia with prosecutors going after fake electors who were part of an alleged conspiracy to undermine American democracy.

Plus, lashing out, a witness interviewed by the January 6th committee goes on an extremist rant. Hear what the former White House aide said after an abrupt end to his closed door testimony.

And the United Kingdom generally known to be prim and proper, but this time it seems like it could be a drag-out fight to be the UK's next prime minister.


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

We start in the politics lead on Capitol Hill. Members of the January 6th committee are preparing for tomorrow's primetime hearing. The hearing is expected to cover the actions or lack thereof of former president Trump during the three-plus hours that rioters were storming the Capitol and the president's activities were unknown.

But as committee members try to get to the bottom of the past attempt to steal the election, our democracy remains under attack by the same forces.

Let's start in Wisconsin. CNN affiliate WISM reports that Donald Trump called the top lawmaker in the Wisconsin state assembly, Republican Robin Vos, and asked him to overturn the state's 2020 election results. When did that call happen? That call happened last week.

Last week. Donald Trump is still trying to overturn the election results from almost two years ago. Listen to how Vos describes the call.


ROBIN VOS, WISCONSIN STATE ASSEMBLY: He makes his case, which I respect. He would like us to do something different in Wisconsin. I explained it's not allowed under the Constitution.


TAPPER: Trump then went on social media, of course, and attacked Vos.

Let's go to Arizona now. In Arizona late last night, the state's Republican Party censured its Republican house speaker, Rusty Bowers, because Rusty Bowers testified factually, before the January 6th committee last month and said that he told Trump he would not participate in Trump's fake electors scheme.


RUSTY BOWERS (R), ARIZONA HOUSE SPEAKER: I said what would you have me do? He said, just do it and let the courts sort it out. You're asking me to do something that is counter to my oath, when I swore to the Constitution to uphold it. I will not break my oath.


TAPPER: The chair of the Arizona state Republican committee, Kelli Ward, tweeted about Bowers, saying, quote: He is no longer a Republican in good standing, and we call on Republicans to replace him at the ballot box, unquote. Ward, we should note, also served as a fake elector in Arizona for Donald Trump. She and her husband have both been subpoenaed in the federal probe into the fraudulent elector scheme. Though the Wards' attorney say their actions are protected by the First Amendment.

And then let's hop over to Maryland where last night, CNN projected Maryland State Lawmaker Dan Cox would be the winner of the Republican primary in the state's governor's race. Cox was, and remains, a big disseminator of Trump's election lies. He tweeted on January 6th, while rioters were actively breaching the Capitol perimeter, quote: Pence is a traitor.

Pence is a traitor. That's the Republican gubernatorial nominee in Maryland.

Extremist ideologies abound today. Audio circulated from a former Trump White House aide who ranted about his meeting with the January 6th committee yesterday, the aide, Garrett Ziegler, went on a live stream suggesting that the January 6th investigation is an attempt to go after white Christians.


GARRETT ZIEGLER, FORMER TRUMP AIDE: They're Bolsheviks, so they probably do hate the American founders and most white people in general. This is a Bolshevistic anti-White campaign. If you can't see that, your eyes are freaking closed. And so they see me as a young Christian who they can try to basically scare, right?


TAPPER: A Bolshevist anti-White campaign going against Christians. Mask off.

Now, it might be tempting to compare Donald Trump to Shoichi Yokoi, the Japanese sergeant discovered hiding in the jungles of Guam in 1972, 27 years after World War II had ended, mistakenly of the belief that World War II was still going on, that the Japanese had not lost.


But Yokoi was just one man. Donald Trump has an army of similarly deluded and ill informed zealots, and they continue to fight for that corrupt cause. Lawmakers, party chairs, former White House aides, still spreading Trump's lies. And they aren't even just saying it. Many of them are campaigning on it and winning Republican primaries on it, even as they fight to undo the country's election laws today right now, the clear and present threat to American democracy continues.

We start our coverage with Ryan Nobles. He's on Capitol Hill.

He's tracking the two big developments in the threat to democracy today. First, the January 6th committee preparing for its big primetime hearing tomorrow. And second, developments in the Georgia fake electors probe, with the judge today ordering former Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani to testify before a grand jury.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One text exchange. That is the sum total of what the Secret Service handed over to the January 6th select committee, leaving the committee with even more questions about what the agency is up to.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): You're asking the question that we're asking. We're trying to determine where those texts are and whether they can be recovered and retrieved.

NOBLES: The Secret Service says their agents don't typically text as part of their job, but they have yet to give a definitive answer about where texts from January 5th and January 6th may have gone. Messages the DHS inspector general believes were deleted during a device upgrade program.

REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): There's a lot more questions to answer. But we have a responsibility to tell the truth and to chase the facts, and that's exactly what we plan to do in this regard, as well as our general oversight over the executive department.

NOBLES: Meanwhile, Secret Service has started complying with the committee's subpoena, handing over thousands of documents including radio traffic and emails.

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): We also need to find out what technologically is possible to recover all of the communications between the Secret Service and others on the 5th and on the 6th in particular, but not just those days.

NOBLES: As the agency faces a credibility crisis, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas who oversees their work, promised they would comply with the investigation.

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: The Secret Service remains committed to cooperating fully with the committee. The migration was planned well before January 2021. I think the facts will be disclosed and we will address the facts as they are learned.

NOBLES: The Secret Service and what they witnessed on January 6th could be a key part of what the committee hopes to uncover in their primetime hearing. Showing what Donald Trump was and more importantly was not doing while a mob was raging at the capitol by hearing from --

REP. ELAINE LURIA (D-VA): People who were in the White House, people who were close to the president, and also people who had insight into the actions that were going on in the variety of ways that they were trying to control the violence.

NOBLES: All this as the investigation by the Fulton County district attorney ramps up. A judge ordering Trump's former lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to appear before the grand jury on August 9th. At the same time, they send target letters to the 16 Georgia Republicans who were involved in the plot to submit a fake set of electors to Congress. A sign that her probe into the attempts to stand in the way of the certification of the election is expanding.


NOBLES (on camera): And there will be a bit of a wrinkle to Thursday night's hearing. The committee chairman, Bennie Thompson, did test positive for COVID earlier this week, meaning he won't be able to be in the room with his fellow members. But the committee saying today that chairman Thompson will still be a part of the proceedings. Jake, he plans to chair the hearing virtually -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Ryan Nobles, thanks so much.

The January 6th committee is sharing the names of two witnesses who are expected to testify tomorrow.

CNN's Kristen Holmes is tracking who they are and what they might reveal.


KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Matthew Pottinger and Sarah Matthews, two former Trump White House officials who resigned after the deadly Capitol attack on January 6th. Tomorrow, testifying publicly.

SARAH MATTHEWS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE: The president started talking about the rally. HOLMES: After talking to the committee behind closed doors.

MATTHEW POTTINGER, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: One of my staff brought me a print-out of a tweet by the president. And the tweet said something to the effect that Mike Pence, the vice president, didn't have the courage to do what should have been done.

I read that tweet and made a decision at that moment to resign.


That's where I knew that I was leaving that day, once I read that tweet.

HOLMES: Pottinger, former deputy national security adviser, served under Trump for three years. The former journalist and marine was brought into the White House as a top Asia adviser by Michael Flynn, who he worked for in the military.

According to "The New York times," Pottinger told the committee he alerted Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows the National Guard had still not arrived at the Capitol on January 6th.

Former Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Matthews was one of several White House aides calling for Trump to condemn the violence on January 6th. A source tells CNN his inaction led to her resignation that night.

SARAH MATTHEWS, FORMER DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He said that we could make the RINOs do the right thing, is the way he phrased it. And no one spoke up initially, because I think everyone was trying to process what he meant by that.

HOLMES: Now she will testify about what she experienced in the White House that day.

MATTHEWS: It was clear that it was escalating and escalating quickly. So then when that tweet, the Mike Pence tweet was sent out, I remember us saying that that was the last thing that needed to be tweeted at that moment. The situation was already bad, so it felt like he was pouring gasoline on the fire by tweeting that.

HOLMES: The Kent State graduate has spend her adult life working in Republican politics, spending her college summers interning for Ohio Senator Rob Portman, then Speaker of the House John Boehner, and helping with the 2016 Republican convention.

Joining Trump's re-election campaign before being brought over to the White House by Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany.


HOLMES (on camera): And Jake, those two witnesses along with former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, whose video testimony we anticipate seeing large portions of tomorrow, are going to help shape the focus of that hearing. What was going on behind the scenes at the White House during that 167 minutes when Trump was not acting as the violence was unfolding -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Thanks so much.

Joining us now is Dana Nessel. She's the attorney general of the state of Michigan.

Attorney General Nessel, thanks for joining us.

The election probe in Georgia is heating up. Rudy Giuliani is being ordered to testify before the grand jury. Prosecutors have also told all 16 of the fake electors in Georgia that they're targets in the criminal probe.

I know that's not your case, but as somebody who knows about this kind of prosecution and you had your own fake electors in Michigan, where do you see this probe likely going?

I'm not hearing your audio is not working. We'll see if we can get that back up and running.

All right. You know what? We're going to take a quick break. We're going to fix her glitch there, and then we'll continue the interview.

By the way, we'll carry tomorrow evening's January 6th committee hearing live right here. Join me for special coverage starting at 7:00 Eastern, 7:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN.

We'll be right back.



TAPPER: We're back with Dana Nessel. She is the attorney general of Michigan, and she's fixed her computer.

Attorney General Nessel, I was just asking about the election probe in Georgia. Just to remind our viewers. Prosecutors have told all 16 of Trump's fake electors they're targets in a criminal probe.

This is not your case, as I know. It's a different state, but as an expert in these matters, as somebody who has your own slate of fake electors in Michigan, where do you see this probe going?

DANA NESSEL (D), MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, Jake, this isn't exactly an Agatha Christie novel where you have to skip to the end to find out who did it. I mean, we know who did it. These people committed their crimes in broad daylight. And they did so at the encouragement of Donald Trump and his campaign.

I mean, this was an illegal attempt to overthrow the election at all costs. And what we have seen is in obvious cases like this, we know who the false slate of electors are, right? I mean, they're plainly listed. Most of them did it in public. Or they admitted to it.

But the Trump made me do it defense is not viable. We have seen that with the federal defendants that are now in prison. And those people have lost everything. They have lost their families, their jobs, their freedom, all based on these false claims made by the president of the United States that he knew were false.

So, yeah, I see those cases moving forward. And I do see people getting charged.

TAPPER: So, let's talk about the same thing going on in your state because we have video of a group of fake electors in Michigan trying to deliver their own electoral votes in December 2020. Are we going to see an investigation similar to Georgia's election probe in Michigan?

NESSEL: Well, the federal authorities have made it clear that they're investigating. In fact, some of the false electors themselves have indicated publicly that federal authorities have reached out to them, have interviewed them.

And we have seen different things. You know, starting to emerge are these defenses of I didn't know what I was signing or I only saw the second page. I only signed my name and didn't know what they were going to use it for.

But as we saw during the January 6th committee hearings, the former chair of the Republican Party in Michigan said that she herself was, you know, floored by what these individuals were preparing to do, and how they were talking about hiding out over the course of the night in the state capitol so that they could barge into the Senate, which is where you have to actually vote in order to count as an elector. You know, so there's an overwhelming amount of evidence.

I think it's going to be very instructive to us what we see presented during the hearing tomorrow. But these cases aren't exactly hard to prove. It's just a matter of whether or not jurors are willing to buy the defense that all of this was okay because they were encouraged to commit these crimes at the behest of the president.


TAPPER: So -- but you're not going to launch an investigation or prosecute these fake electors. You're going to let the federal government do it. Is that what I'm to understand?

NESSEL: Well, I did refer our case to the federal authorities quite some time ago. And I did that because clearly there was this ongoing conspiracy that involved not just a couple put seven different states with a false set of electors. And I thought it best that time for one investigation to be coordinated by the federal authorities to look into all of this, because obviously, there was a conspiracy.

Obviously, there was this massive coordinated attempt, and we have seen that play out during the course of the committee hearings. Now, I haven't ruled out charging myself, but do I expect that the DOJ is going to move forward on these cases? I do.

TAPPER: Michigan's primary is less than two weeks away, August 2nd. Are you taking precautions ahead of Election Day to protect everyone's votes?

NESSEL: Absolutely, we are. And in fact, our department has been working hand in hand with the clerk's association and we have been giving presentations and making people feel assured that they're going to be safe and protected. We're giving my department is giving advice to those clerks as to what to do in a wide array of circumstances and we're going to be sending out information to all the police departments, just as we did in 2020, whether these are local, county, or state police, as to how to handle any disturbances or disruptions at the polls.

TAPPER: All right. Attorney General Dana Nessel, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

Also in our politics lead today, President Biden announcing new executive actions on climate change earlier today, taking steps to try to boost alternative energy production and increase funding for communities currently facing extreme heat. This move comes after Biden's legislative attempts to address the crisis were roasted by West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, and as a punishing heat wave is gripping much of the United States and Europe.

But as CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports, the president is not yet declaring a national climate emergency, which is a step many Democrats and environmental activists say is desperately needed.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is an emergency, an emergency. And I will -- I will look at it that way.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden taking new steps today to address the climate crisis, turning to his executive authority after Congress stymied his far more ambitious plans to try to combat global warming.

BIDEN: I'll say it again loud and clear. As president, I'll use my executive powers to combat climate crisis in the absence of congressional action.

ZELENY: Standing beneath the blistering sun, the president stopped short of declaring a national climate emergency -- for now at least -- as he visited a Massachusetts plant that helps connect offshore wind farms to the power grid.

The plant stands outside the town of Somerset, once the largest coal powered electricity plant in the northeast, but now makes power cables essential to capturing the wind energy.

BIDEN: I have been saying this three years. I think jobs. Climate change, I think jobs.

ZELENY: The president voices his frustration at Congress without specifically mentioning Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who effectively torpedoed broader legislation. Part of the build back better economic agenda, citing concerns of rising inflation. The White House says today's executive actions would create a wind

energy area in the Gulf of Mexico, covering 700,000 acres with potential to power more than 3 million homes. And target $2.3 billion in funding for communities most affected by the scorching heat, including providing cooling centers and air conditioning to low-income Americans.

These modest steps are the first of many, officials said, as Biden seeks to take the reins of the climate crisis in hopes of showing the world the U.S. is still serious about meeting its goals.

BIDEN: Let me be clear, climate change is an emergency, and in the coming weeks, I'm going to use the power I have as president to turn these words into formal official government actions through the appropriate proclamations and executive orders and regulatory power that a president possesses.


ZELENY (on camera): So the president there just walking right up to the edge of that national climate emergency. You may ask, what is the difference? Is it simply semantics or more?

It actually is more. Declaring a former emergency would open the door to more funding and essentially clear away some of the bureaucratic red tape and allow the White House to do much more addressing climate. Jake, it would also send a signal to the rest of the world that the U.S. is still focused on climate change.

There are questions, of course, after the lack of action in Congress. So clearly, the White House saying this is the first step of many. The question is, will anything in Congress ever move? We're now three and a half months before the midterm elections -- Jake.

TAPPER: Jeff Zeleny in Somerset, Massachusetts, thanks.

Let's bring in CNN senior political commentator and former Obama senior adviser, David Axelrod.


So, David, these executive actions fall short of the legislative package that Senate Democrats were hoping to get passed. Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon tweeted this. Inaction isn't an option. Climate chaos is an emergency and the president should declare a national emergency and pursue bold climate action.

Now, I feel like I have seen this movie before. The president, we're told the president is going to do something and it might even be super bold step A, and then he doesn't do super bold step A, and he ends up looking cautious. I sit here thinking, why is this -- this White House does seem kind of cautious.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it reflects him. I mean, he is an institutionalist, and he doesn't move, you know, precipitously. That is his -- that is his nature. I think they do create a problem for themselves, though, the

expectations game has been one that has tripped them up throughout, including from the beginning, this notion that with a 50/50 Senate and a barely -- and a closely divided House, you were going to be able to do things of Rooseveltian magnitude.

I think it was problematic because the fact is he's gotten a lot of things done. The Obama administration would have loved to have had that gun bill that he signed. Would have loved to have had the infrastructure bill that he signed. If he gets the prescription drug negotiation power for Medicare, that was something Democrats had been talking about for 20 years.

But everything seems smaller because the expectations were set perhaps unrealistically high. The same is true on some of these executive actions. But I don't know what his reasoning is behind not declaring an emergency now.

I would only say if he's going to do it, get there quickly. Don't dither. Do it.

TAPPER: But it's like, the entire world is on fire right now. It seems like -- if you actually think it is a climate emergency, and his language suggests that he does think that, why wouldn't he?

AXELROD: I'm sure there are policy discussions within the white house about what the ramifications of each step would be. But again, don't get pushed there. If you're going to go there, go there, and make that announcement quickly.

TAPPER: So President Biden's job approval rating is at 38 percent. According to CNN's recent poll with the midterm elections approaching. That's pretty low. That's pretty low.

One thing that's very interesting is that Biden has these horrible approval ratings. And yet the generic ballot, would you rather vote for a Democrat or a Republican in the midterm elections coming up, is pretty divided.


TAPPER: And in fact, Democrats were behind in May.

AXELROD: Democrats made some progress.

TAPPER: And now it's even. What do you make of that?

AXELROD: It's sort of unprecedented. There's been a close link between the president's approval rating and the performance of the party in midterm elections. What I make of it is that this decision, the Dobbs decision of the court --

TAPPER: Overturning Roe v. Wade.

AXELROD: Overturning Roe v. Wade, the mass shootings that we saw, the election denialism, the victories in primaries such as the one in Maryland yesterday of people who have rather extreme positions on the Republican side on these, have all created some doubt among independent voters in particular, about the Republican Party.

Six months ago, Jake, independent voters were saying, gee, the Democratic Party is tacking too far left. I think they're out of touch. And so on.

Now I think that discussion is touching the Republicans because of all of this. And that is the hope. The hope for Democrats with all of this atmosphere working against them, inflation, supply chain, everything working against them, the hope for Democrats is Republicans, and Trump, and the notion that the Republican Party has become too extreme.

TAPPER: So former Jeb Bush adviser Tim Miller has been recommending for about a year, he's very anti-Trump, the Democrats should be using wedge issues against Republicans the way that Republicans generally effectively do when they control the House and Senate against Democrats.

An example, yesterday, Miller said when Democrats acted in the House to codify, make the law of the land the same-sex marriage legalization. Which Ted Cruz and others have said they think that Supreme Court decision should be overturned as well, 47 Republicans in the House voted for it, which is a lot of Republicans, even though obviously more voted against it, 157 Republicans voted against it.

Now, the U.S. Senate, they're trying to see if there's enough Senate Republicans to vote for it.

Do you think that's an effective strategy?

AXELROD: I do. I mean, I think again, for Democrats, painting the portrait of a Republican Party that has gone way off to the right, and that is so consumed by those issues that they're not really focused on inflation and the day to day issues that are touching people's lives.


I think that's the best argument that Democrats have going into the fall. I think they should campaign on some of the accomplishments that have been belittled that are really quite important of Biden's, but it's really about making this a choice. And that's the choice that they have to paint.

So yes, I do agree with that. The interesting strategic question for Schumer is, if you put it on the floor, does it give some Republicans a chance to get well? Does it -- you remember Mitch McConnell joined Republicans to vote for the compromise gun bill.

My view was he did that because he understood the party was looking, tacking too far to the right. Suburban voters were beginning to drift. He wanted to signify that there was a moderate or a more moderate group in the Republican Party. And that is the case here.

But on the merits, you know, I hope they do vote on it. TAPPER: There was a "New York Times" poll, I believe it was last

week, showing most Republicans did not want Trump to run. Most Democrats don't want President Biden to run for re-election, and the number one concern was his age. I think he's 79 right now.

AXELROD: He'll be 80 in December.

TAPPER: And he is the oldest president in the history of the United States. What do you make of that?

AXELROD: Listen, I do think that that is a concern. And I think it would be foolish not to say it's not if he ran again, he would be 82 when he got elected, closer to 90 than 80 at the end of that -- at the end of that term.

I think that he has a body of accomplishment that is pretty significant, starting with the fact he defeated Donald Trump at a very fraught time in our history. But the other things that I mentioned, but this isn't like other presidents. Barack Obama was at 38 percent in the summer of 2011. But he also was 30 years younger.

And that does make a difference. And people will consider that, and that is something that he has to evaluate as he decides whether he's actually going to go forward and run again.

TAPPER: But it does sound like you're suggesting -- I mean, I'm putting words in your mouth, but you're suggesting, hey, President Biden, having a successful one term with these accomplishments and getting Donald Trump out of the White House is a nice legacy.

AXELROD: It is a nice legacy. Look, no one should tell him what to do, and if he decides to run, he'll be the Democratic nominee. The idea there will be a successful primary challenger, even a serious one y think is fantasy.

But the question is whether it's wise. And whether that's what he feels is best for the country, for him. He may feel he's the only guy who can beat Donald Trump. I'm not sure that Donald Trump is on an upward scene here, but that is a decision that Joe Biden is going to have to make.

TAPPER: David Axelrod, great to see you. Thanks so much.

AXELROD: Good to see you, Jake.

TAPPER: Russia vowing to go after more parts of Ukraine. Why it now says Putin's war will have to expand. This as CNN gets a look at how Ukraine's major industries are struggling to stay in operation.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our world lead now, Olena Zelenska, the first lady of Ukraine, made an urgent appeal to the U.S. Congress today.

Take a listen.


OLENA ZELENSKA, FIRST LADY OF UKRAINE: I am asking for air defense systems in order for rockets not to be killed -- not to kill children in their strollers, in order for rockets not to destroy children's rooms and kill entire families.


TAPPER: Zelenska's plea came just hours after the Pentagon announced more weapons assistance to Ukraine, including four more huge rocket launchers. As Russia's former minister Sergey Lavrov warns the new weapons would push Russia to steal more of Ukraine's territory.

CNN's Ivan Watson is at a steel plant in southern Ukraine, where the country's industry is barely holding on.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the mining and steel works. The heat being generated from this blast furnace, we can feel it here. It's more than 2,100 degrees Celsius. This is an enormous industrial plant that employs more than 26,000 people, and before the war, produced more than 6 million tons of steel a year. But the Ukrainian government accuses Russia of waging a hybrid military and economic war on this country, and it's put this entire plant in jeopardy.

This cavernous facility is now largely inactive. In fact, since the Russian invasion, the company has turned off three of the factory's blast furnaces.

And turning these things off isn't like flipping a light switch. It is a long procedure. It takes about a week. As one employee here puts it, it's like trying to extinguish the heart of an active volcano.

This steel works is only operating at about 30 percent capacity right now. Some 2,000 of its employees are now serving in the Ukrainian armed forces. At least 14 of them are believed to have been killed in the fighting. The war has made a mess of the company's supply chain. And the front lines, they're only about 50 kilometers, some 30 miles away from this facility.

And despite all of these risks and threats, the management of this company vows to try to remain operational.

Ivan Watson, CNN, Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine.


TAPPER: Our thanks to Ivan Watson for that report.

And then there were two. The race to succeed Boris Johnson as British prime minister narrows and it's turning into quite a fight.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: The pop culture lead. A can't miss moment from the British parliament today as outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson quoted none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger in his good-bye speech.


BORIS JOHNSON, OUTGOING UK PRIME MINISTER: I want to thank everybody here, and hasta la vista, baby. Thank you.


TAPPER: Let's see if it matches the nuance and atmosphere of the original.




TAPPER: That brings us to our world lead, though, and the obvious question, who is next?

CNN's Bianca Nobilo looks at the two finalists in the fight to be the next British prime minister.


BIANCA NOBILO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Knives out, bitter rivalries. The battle for Britain's prime minister is now in the knockout round.

First up, the establishment candidate, Rishi Sunak.


Slick, some say too slick, former chancellor, worked in investment banking, Oxford and Stanford educated. Fiscal conservative, calling tax cut promises --


NOBILO: In the other corner, hawkish Foreign Secretary Liz Truss who says that she'll call Putin out directly, remainer turned brexiter, libertarian, pro-tax cuts, sometimes gaffe-prone.

LIZ TRUSS, CONSERVATIVE PARTY LEADER CANDIDATE: In December, I'll be in Beijing opening up new pork markets.

NOBILO: Held several high profile government positions and claims --

TRUSS: I am ready to be prime minister from day one.

NOBILO: It's been a dizzying fortnight in British politics. First, the resignation of Boris Johnson.

JOHNSON: Them's the breaks.

NOBILO: Triggering a leadership content in which candidates pounded each other. Ten days of knockouts and dropouts as conservative members of parliament voted in five rounds. Shrinking a field of 11 potential prime ministers to two. Choosing not just a leader of their party but a prime minister, too. The public punch up within the Tory Party has been nothing but damaging.

TRUSS: Rishi, you have raised taxes to the highest level in 70 years.

SUNAK: This tax, that tax, and another tax. And it will all be okay. You know what, it won't.

UIDENTIFIED MALE: I have been on the front line in Afghanistan, in Iraq.

SUNAK: It's not just wrong, it's dangerous.

FREDDY GRAY, DEPUTY EDITOR, THE SPECTATOR: It's a fight to the death. It's a political death match, and we're now into the final two. And given how nasty it's been so far, I think we can only expect it to get nastier.

NOBILO: Who wins the last round will be up to less than 200,000 conservative party members.

Rishi Sunak is the clear favorite. He's had MPs in his corner from the start, but having serves as Boris Johnson's chancellor for two years, he's most closely associated with him.

Liz Truss is often compared to Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady. She's been emphasizing conservatism to mop up votes on the right. Sunak and Truss pull neck and neck with party membership, so this will be a close one.

The countdown is on until the 5th of September when the next prime minister will be announced, the head-to-head contest likely to become an even bloodier brawl.


NOBILO (on camera): Jake, who will be left standing. At the moment, both candidates have about equal odds, but one thing is for sure, neither have the campaigning credentials or political dominance of Boris Johnson.

TAPPER: All right. Bianca Nobilo, great piece. Thanks so much.

Coming up, inflation, what inflation? Ahead, the one group that's had no problem handling the higher cost of just about everything.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our money, you know, not everyone is having a tough time in this era of inflation. CEOs from nearly 500 of the biggest U.S. public companies gave themselves an 18.2 percent raise. That's twice the rate of inflation, this according to a new report from the AFL- CIO.

Let's bring in CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich.

Vanessa, the pay gap here is striking.

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS & POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: It's astounding, Jake. This is really what we're seeing here. We are seeing CEOs on average, as you mentioned, take home $18.3 million, that was last year. That is 324 times more than an average employee.

And when you look at that as compared to inflation in 2021, inflation last year, 7.1 percent. So compare that to what a CEO pay was, 18.2 percent. That's more than double. Wages for an average worker, far below that at 4.7 percent.

Now, Amazon had the biggest pay disparity between CEO and employee. CEO compensation for the CEO of Amazon, Andy Jassy, was nearly $300 million last year, versus the median worker pay, just about $33,000, if you round up.

Look at this ratio. This is 6,071 to 1, that's a huge gap between CEO and average employee at Amazon.

TAPPER: That's astounding. Walk us through some examples of what some of these other CEOs make.

YURKEVICH: Absolutely. So let's take a look at Peter Kern, He's actually the highest paid CEO on this list. Nearly $300 million in 2021.

But the interesting thing is that his take-home salary every year is about $1 million, but he has so much of Expedia's stock, that's where you get the majority of that compensation.

Andy Jassy, we just talked about from Amazon, total comp, $212 million. But his salary was $175,000. All of these CEOs really own a lot of stock in the company, and that's where they're going to make their money. Really just the disparity overall, $18.3 million, so much more than the average worker at these companies, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Vanessa Yurkevich, thank you so much.

Enough melting to flood an entire state with a foot of water. That's the climate disaster happening near the top of the world. And THE LEAD is there. That's just ahead.

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

This hour, first on CNN, the president's son, Hunter, under investigation. Why the Justice Department may be closer than ever to filing charges against Hunter Biden.

Plus, gruesome accounts of torture revealed by families of Americans detained overseas. One man wrongfully detained in Venezuela beaten for days, put in a freezer for hours. Even poisoned with carbon monoxide, and now families are making an urgent plea to President Biden.

And leading this hour, punishing, brutal heat. Cities around the world buckling under record-setting high temperatures. In Europe, heat alerts in at least 20 countries from France to Sweden, Portugal to Greece.

The other terrifying threat, fires. With more hot spots active in the last 48 hours. Soldiers and firefighters battling to contain fires in Greece, Italy, and Spain's northwest.

And in London, fire brigade said it had its busiest day since World War II, dealing with more than 1100 incidents in that city alone. Here in the United States, an oppressive heat wave is spreading toward the east coast.