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The Lead with Jake Tapper

CNN Poll: Majority Of Americans Favor Stricter Gun Laws; Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, (D-IL), Is Interviewed About Gun Laws; Sources: Federal Probe Into Hunter Biden Reaches Critical Juncture; Sen. Rubio: Same-Sex Marriage Bill Is A "Stupid Waste Of Time"; Some GOP Reps Thanks Pence For Jan. 6 Courage, Urge Him To Run In 2024; U.S. Army Likely To Fall Short Of Getting 40,000 New Recruits Over The Next Two Years; Judge Denies Bond For Disgraced Attorney Alex Murdaugh; New Mural In D.C. Draws Attention To Wrongfully Detained Americans. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 20, 2022 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Here in the United States an oppressive heat wave is spreading toward the east coast. As CNN's Athena Jones reports, local leaders are begging residents to exercise extreme caution.


MARIAMA DIALLO, FROM WEST AFRICA VISITING NEW YORK: You know, it's hot where I'm from, but I just can't pick it up right now.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More than 100 million Americans under heat alerts in more than two dozen states.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Try to find a pool if you can, if not try to stay in air conditioning.

JONES (voice-over): Dallas and Oklahoma City both forecast to hit highs above 105 today.

MAYOR STEVE ADLER, AUSTIN, TEXAS: You know summers can be hot in Texas but this is unlike anything that I've seen.

JONES (voice-over): The extreme heat is not helping firefighters in Texas who are battling brush fires. The Chalk Mountain fire burned 1000s of acres yesterday and a fast moving brush fire in Palo Pinto County destroyed homes. Firefighters are asking people to be cautious.

ADAM TURNER, TEXAS A&M FOREST SERVICE: Be careful with sparks. Be careful with any kind of fire if you're outside. Follow burn bans.

JONES (voice-over): In Paris, Arkansas, some people still do not have power following strong storms on Sunday. The area under an excessive heat warning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was miserably hot

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has up and down all night because it was too hot. I was sweating. I sweat so bad.

JONES (voice-over): The heat also building in the northeast. New York, Philadelphia and Boston are expected to see a heat index around 100 degrees today.

MAYOR ERIC ADAMS, NEW YORK: This is serious heat and we're really concerned about those particularly with preexisting respiratory conditions.

JONES (voice-over): Heat is the number one cause of weather related deaths in the U.S. One heat expert says, if you have air conditioning stay inside. But if you don't,

JANE GILBERT, MIAMI CHIEF HEAT OFFICER: If they don't to have windows open with a fan to cool off their extremities, their feet, their hands and cool ice bats, put cold towels on the back of their necks. And to check on their friends, family and neighbors.

JONES (voice-over): And there is no relief in sight. Around 275 million Americans expecting to see a high above 90 degrees and more than 60 million people are expected to see a high at or above 100 degrees over the next week.

(on camera): How long you can stand this?

RACHAEL MACGREGOR, FROM SCOTLAND: Right here, about two more minutes.


JONES: In New York, in addition to playgrounds with sprinklers, there are cooling centers set up all across the city. For folks who don't have access to air conditioning, public pools are extending their hours. Meanwhile, Governor Kathy Hochul says the state is in constant communication with utilities to make sure they can handle, that they're prepared to handle the increased demand for electricity. Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Athena Jones in New York, thanks so much.

A stifling heatwave is also wreaking havoc in Chin,a affecting nearly two thirds of that country's population. The sweltering temperatures have also coincided with a rise in COVID cases there. As CNN's Selina Wang reports, this has made government mandated mass testing all the more excruciating for Chinese and life threatening for health workers working long hours outside in head to toe protective gear.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Scorching temperatures sweep over China turning mass COVID testing into a dangerous task. State media shows COVID workers collapsing on the job due to what the video say or heatstroke.

In eastern China, a COVID worker vomits on the ground as colleagues rush to tear off her hazmat suit. Unable to stand, she's carried away. It's a scene playing out across China, fainting, falling, crumbling on the ground, lying motionless, struggling to breathe. The COVID workers long hours in the suffocating heat made worse by their head to toe full body protective gear.

That is not water, according to state media. It's sweat gushing out of this workers hazmat suit. The sweat pools inside the protective gear lining the inside of their rubber gloves. The surging temperatures coinciding with surging COVID cases.

(on camera): Cities across China, including here in Beijing require a recent COVID test in order to enter any public area. That means everyone, young, old and sick all have to wait in long lines like these in the brutal heat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really hot, frustrated, you know exhausting and you feel like -- and a lot of times you feel anxious because you have things to do.

WANG (voice-over): To survive, COVID workers are getting creative, hugging giant blocks of ice, placing them on their backs, laps and feet. Colleagues rub ice on each other and tape ice cold water bottles to themselves. Some authorities have now said COVID workers can wear PPE that does not cover their entire bodies.

Dozens of cities have been experiencing record high temperatures. Last week, more than 80 cities issued red flirts with some logging temperatures of more than 110 degrees Fahrenheit. In central China, a museum closed after the roof melted. In Nanjing, the city opened underground air raid shelters for people to escape the heat.


Meanwhile, crops are withering and dying under the high temperatures. The soil parched and cracked. The damage to China's crop production threatens to push up inflation, putting more pressure on an economy already devastated by the pandemic.

But in zero COVID China, even health care workers hospitalized from heat exhaustion get a positive spin from authorities. This propaganda video shows government officials visiting COVID workers in the intensive care unit while showing the motionless patients in bed. The video rallies people to work together for victory against COVID.


WANG: And, Jake, this recent flooding in China -- this recent heatwave follows flooding in China recently that has displaced more than a million people. And things could still get worse. Officials say that they expect more extreme weather in the coming months.

All of this is hitting a population that is already reeling from harsh COVID-19 locked down. This heatwave makes it all the more suffocating for people that are sealed and stuck inside their homes, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Selina Wang in Beijing, thank you so much.

Punishing heat waves are impacting the farthest corners of the Northern Hemisphere. Above normal temperatures have alarm scientists in northern Greenland, where ice is melting at an unusually high rate. As CNN's Rene Marsh reports for us now what's happening in these remote parts of the -- remote parts of the world will soon be felt in communities half a world away.


RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Off the coast of Northwest Greenland, the water is perfectly still, but puddling on icebergs indicate a transformation is underway. That's the sound of rapid melting, triggered by a few days of unusually warm temperatures.

During CNN's first three days in northern Greenland, the temperature topped out nearly 10 degrees higher than normal.

(on camera): It's days like today warm enough to wear short sleeves near 60 degrees in Greenland. It's a high melt day when it's this unusually warm. And it's also deeply concerning for scientists.

KUTALMIS SAYLAM, RESEARCH SCIENTIST UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AUSTIN: It definitely worries me, we are at 67 latitude here on top of the world in North Pole. And we could just -- yesterday, especially not today, but yesterday we could wander around in our T-shirts. That was not really expected.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's basically at the melting point today. As you can see now to make snowballs.

MARSH (voice-over): At a research site in northeast Greenland near melt conditions at an elevation of nearly 9,000 feet made what's usually a frozen landing strip inoperable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have a problem when it's this soft as the surface is now

MARSH (voice-over): Climate scientists, Aslak Grinsted, tweeting, "mini heatwave negative 1.6 degrees Celsius in the middle of the Greenland ice sheet. Our planned planes are postponed because our skiway is not that good when it is this warm."

Unable to fly out, the scientists past the time playing volleyball in shorts atop the ice sheet. Pre-global warming, Grinsted says, temperatures near 32 degrees Fahrenheit at this altitude were unheard of.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center tells CNN from July 15 through 17th alone, a melt surge in northern Greenland caused ice sheet run off of about 6 billion tonnes of water per day. That's about the volume of 2.4 million Olympic sized pools. But another way, enough water to flood the entire state of West Virginia with one foot of water in three days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The amount of melt from the ice was, to us, was very surprising because it was very warm day. And you could even hear the ice was just melting in front of our eyes.

MARSH (voice-over): Research scientists tells CNN this extent of melt in North Greenland this past week is quite unusual and will contribute to global sea level rise, which impacts coastal communities half a world away.


MARSH: The National Snow and Ice Data Center tells us that they expect another major melt event at the end of this week that will extend over much more of the Greenland ice sheet. And just as we're seeing in Europe and many parts of the U.S., Jake, heat waves as far as here in North Greenland will become more frequent as the global climate continues to warm, Jake.

TAPPER: Those are some stunning images there. Rene Marsh reporting from Greenland, thanks so much.

Parkland, Buffalo, Uvalde, Highland Park, how high profile mass killings in these places may have helped change minds on guns in America?

Plus, he's from one of the most powerful families in South Carolina politics and accused of killing his own wife and son. But will jurors see bias in the courtroom every time they look up?



TAPPER: In our politics lead, Americans confidence that society and the government can do something about mass shootings is at a new high. Nearly seven in 10 American adults say action can be taken that will be effective in preventing shootings such as the Uvalde school massacre from happening again.

Now that same poll, which was taken after the Uvalde and Buffalo mass shootings showing an increase in support for stricter gun control laws. A strong majority of Americans, 66 percent say they favor stronger restrictions on gun ownership. That's up from 60 percent in 2019. And just below the high of 70 percent, which came after the 2018 Parkland School shooting.

Let's bring in Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, a Democrat who's on the Oversight and Intelligence Committees.

Congressman, what's your reaction to these new numbers? Does this encourage you to try to push for even more legislation to address this issue beyond what was passed and was signed into law a few weeks ago?

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Short answer is yes. And in fact in our area, you know, the Highland Park mass shooting on July 4th, you know, made my constituents and others even more resolved to demand legislation that would kind of go one step further beyond what we did in the Safer Communities Act, which was a good step, but now address the issue of access to weapons of war.


In that particular situation, a teenager essentially was able to purchase a Smith and Wesson M&P 15 assault weapon. M&P stands for Military and Police. And that AR-15 style weapon was able to kill and maim dozens in a very short period of time. And so they want to say -- they want to see these types of weapons out of the hands of people. And that means either raising the age or banning the sale of these weapons altogether.

TAPPER: A majority of Americans, 60 percent say they disapprove of how President Biden is handling gun policy. Why do you think that is? And are there any steps you would like to see the President take unilaterally?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I think that the President has taken some steps and the Safer Communities Act is an excellent example of bipartisanship and in the service of investing in mental health resources, making schools safer, incentivizing states to adopt red flag laws, and more. But more needs to be done now. So, for instance, I think that the FTC should absolutely go after these gun makers in the way that they market their weapons of war to teenagers and young adults.

You know, oftentimes just take a Daniel Defense, for instance, Daniel Defense makes something called a DDM4 assault weapon. And I pointed out at the last Oversight hearing, that they actually had a picture of a toddler carrying this AR-15 style weapon in his lap. And so, my question is, why would a defense -- I'm sorry, gun maker ever market a weapon of war in that way? And now I think it's time for the FTC to go after these gun makers for the way in which they placed these weapons in video games like Call of Duty. They use social media influencers to get teenagers to want to be like those celebrities, and I think that the FTC should go after them.

TAPPER: Both -- in both the buffalo mass shooting and the Highland Park mass shooting, the individual was 18 years old, bought his gun legally and there was reason to -- for him to have been red flagged before, but the community just didn't do it, whether law enforcement or teachers or whomever. I don't think that you can get a federal red flag law passed anytime soon.


TAPPER: But you can work with people, lawmakers in Illinois to fix whatever went so wrong here, because police knew about this young man and still they didn't flag it.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: And actually, the General Assembly's meeting to kind of reform this Red Flag Law. But Jake, it all boils down to access. Why should a teenager have access or be able to purchase an AR-15 style weapon? We should at least raise the minimum age for purchase.

But I've also co sponsored a bill to ban the sale of these AR-15 weapons. And I think that it's time that we seriously look at that because in mass shooting after mass shooting, we see the same types of weapons of war doing the same types of destruction that we saw in -- on the Fourth of July. This is a uniquely American problem that unfortunately happened on a uniquely American Day, the Fourth of July.

TAPPER: Right. But of course, most gun deaths in the United States are due to handguns, not what you call assault weapons or --


TAPPER: -- semi automatic weapons.

Let me ask you, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on gun violence today. Officials from Highland Park, Illinois came including the mayor who tells CNN that the Republicans on the committee, quote, "mostly left the room while she was speaking." What do you know of that? What do you make of that?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, unfortunately, there's kind of a see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil type of approach by some of my colleagues on the other side. But these these tales of horror that are unfolding because of these mass shootings, you know, have real consequences in the Fourth of July shooting in Highland Park. We have a two-year-old toddler, Aiden McCarthy, whose parents were both murdered by the shooter now orphaned and is going to be -- he's going to be raised by other relatives or we have the eight-year-old Cooper Roberts who's paralyzed from the waist down because a bullet from this eater severed his spinal cord.



KRISHNAMOORTHI: And the list goes on and on. And so, this has -- these mass shootings have profoundly real consequences for real families and real people, whether it's because of the AR-15 weapons or because of the handguns that you talked about. There, for instance, I have legislation called the COOL OFF Act, which would actually have a three day waiting period for the purchase of handguns. It's been shown to reduce homicides and suicides. And I'm hopeful to move that but obviously, I need some support from people on the other side of the aisle and they're not willing to offer that support now.

TAPPER: All right, Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, thank you so much.

Coming up, a federal investigation that hits very close to home for President Biden, his son Hunter facing potential charges. The update on his case that you'll hear first on CNN, that's next.



TAPPER: First on CNN, federal investigators are reaching a critical decision point on whether or not to charge the President's son, Hunter Biden. Sources tell CNN no final decision has yet been made but charges could include alleged tax violations and lying about buying a gun when he technically was not allowed to because of his acknowledged struggle with drug addiction. The case is being investigated by the U.S. Attorney in Delaware who was appointed by President Trump and President Biden did not replace that U.S. attorney because of this investigation. CNN's Kara Scannell and Evan Perez have details for us right now.

Kara, let me start with you. Why do investigators need to decide soon on whether or not to charge Hunter Biden?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, one factor that prosecutors are confronting is the midterm elections. And there are Justice Department guidelines about bringing any politically sensitive cases around an election. And those guidelines include things such as taking any sort of overt steps like indictment or executing of a search warrant, anything that could be perceived as putting a thumb on the scale, they try to avoid that. So now current and former Justice Department officials say that that deadline is effectively 60 days before the election. So, that implies that there could be a decision soon about what steps they want to take or they could decide to wait until after the elections in November. Jake.

TAPPER: And even President Biden, not to mention Hunter Biden or not on the midterm ballot, is there any indication that Attorney General Merrick Garland might buck this Justice Department norm or that this wouldn't be included?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Jake, we know one thing about Merrick Garland is that he is going by the book, right? Everything he does is by the book. And in this case, you know, as you pointed out, he's not -- Hunter Biden and certainly Joe Biden's not on the ballot. But you know, we can look at previous years, previous years with congressional elections, for example, in 2018, we know that the Justice Department brought cases in August of that year against Michael Cohen who was the former president's personal attorney, as well as Chris Collins who was a prominent supporter of the former president, he was on the ballot that year.

So, there's a lot of factors that these prosecutors are going to have to consider, including, of course, that looming is -- next year, the Republicans already say that if they take over the House, they're going to do investigations, they're going to do hearings about Hunter Biden. So those are all things that are worth considering for prosecutors in the next few weeks.

TAPPER: And Kara, the investigation started off pretty broadly including possible money laundering, campaign finance and foreign lobbying violations. It seems like investigators have narrowed it down?

SCANNELL: Yes, Jake. So sources tell Evan and I that the investigators now are focusing their focus on -- looking at two possible tax charges, and also possible false statements related to the purchase of a firearm by Hunter Biden. Now, this is still a fluid situation and no final charging decision has been made. But it's fairly common for investigators to look broadly at something and then focus on what their best evidence is and what they can prove before a jury.

So, you know, this is still something that is being discussed among the Justice Department officials. But we -- but our sources tell us they are nearing a decision. Now Hunter Biden, we should note, has, you know, not been accused of any wrongdoing and he has denied any wrongdoing, saying that he thinks once the investigation is over, he will not be charged with anything.

TAPPER: All right. Evan Perez and Kara Scannell, thanks to both you.

Let's discuss with my panel. Paul, let -- who knows what's going to happen, right? But assuming that Hunter Biden were charged in August, which is a possibility, with something, could that depress Democratic turnout, you think?

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No. No, I mean, I wish the guy well, he struggled with addiction and, you know, it'd be easy. Nobody has charged him with anything. But this has been a Republican fixation to no avail. They've gotten no political gain out of this.

I looked at Ron Johnson, the senator from Wisconsin, a couple of months ago was asked about mass shootings, which just interviewed Congressman Krishnamoorthi about, he said this, quote, "Before we pass anything new on guns, let's enforce the law we already have. Let's start with Hunter Biden." Like, what the heck? So it's a challenge for Hunter Biden, I, you know, wish him well, but it's not going to be a political issue.

KASIE HUNT, CN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I mean, it seems like if anything, it probably energizes Democrats because it makes them think that it's political and that Republicans just going after him for that reason. I mean, I think you saw some of that with investigations in the Hillary Clinton.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: At least we can have confidence so the President Biden is not going to interject himself into this. He's not going to try to put his thumb on the scale of the Department of Justice.


They are going to continue to conduct this investigation independently. We could not operate with that degree of confidence under the former president

TAPPER: So, anyway, let's put a pin on it. We'll wait to see what happens and then we'll talk about that more.

Ramesh, I want to bring up an issue that's being debated on the Senate right now. Democrats want to codify same sex marriage into law. Today, Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio called the Senate bill to do so, quote, a stupid waste of time.

CNN has asked all 50 Republican senators, would they support this bill? Only four of 50 so far said they would. Do you think that there will be 10 Republicans in the Senate, just as there were 47 Republicans in the House to support this? And do you think it's a stupid waste of time?

RAMESH PONNURU, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't know what, you know, partly because the debate sort of ended when the Supreme Court made its decision in 2015. And I think a lot of these politicians haven't really been thinking about what their position on it is, because it's been sort of taken off the board by that. As for whether it's a waste of time, I think you can make the argument that Democrats are vastly exaggerating how vulnerable that Supreme Court decision actually is.

On the other hand, that's not a justification for voting. No, you can't -- it's a justification for saying, we shouldn't have brought this up. It doesn't tell you how to vote on it when it's actually up before it.

HUNT: You know, Jake, can I just say that quote from Marco Rubio, I understand why in a political context he said that --

TAPPER: And he's up for re-election.

HUNT: -- you know, walking in the halls of the Senate and he's up for re-election.


HUNT: But I couldn't help but think about how that would land in a household that is the same sex married couple. You know, where actually, this is the heart of their lives together. And it really does kind of come across a bit callous, regardless of how you're going to vote on the issue. And if you're going to vote no, then fine, say so.

But I thought it was a little bit -- especially, I mean, Florida, yes, has trended conservative, but it is still kind of -- it has swing state tendencies. And I don't think it would be terribly smart to forget that if you're Senator Rubio.

TAPPER: Same sex marriage is very popular with the American people as of now, it wasn't 10, 15 years ago, but it is now.

MCKEND: It is. And, you know, the fact that he sort of flip this off, there's nothing, you know, stupid about it. This is gravely serious.

BEGALA: Right.

MCKEND: For a long time in this country, we took abortion access for granted. So I don't think, you know, it makes sense to belittle it at all. But what I did see, though, I think it's sort of characteristic of something that I often see in Republicans is that sometimes it seems like they like to be contrarian for contrarian sake. What is the real benefit politically to aggressively, you know, going against this issue at this point in this day and age?

BEGALA: Seven -- I'm sorry.

HUNT: Go ahead, Paul.

BEGALA: 70 percent of Americans support gay marriage now.

TAPPER: Right.

BEGALA: The Gallup poll. 55 percent of Republicans. But in the House, only 22 percent of Republicans voted for it. Apparently so far in the Senate, only 8 percent of Republicans are for position that the majority of their party and the overwhelming majority of their country support. So they're way out of step.

This is the sort of thing Democrats can and should use in the midterms. Usually, the midterm is like, let's have a brake pedal on the president who's going too far. Happened at Clinton, happened at Obama, happened at Trump. Democrats are going to want to say let's put a brake pedal on the Republicans, they are going too far. They're going to take away your right to choose, they're going to take away your right to marry, they're going too far.

PONNURU: Well, but there has to -- I mean, that will work only to the extent to which voters actually believe there's a real threat to same sex marriage.

BEGALA: That's right.

PONNURU: And that's an open question whether they're going to believe that.

TAPPER: Why would you say that there isn't given the fact that we have seen a big precedent Roe v. Wade overturned?


TAPPER: That Justice Thomas, in his concurring opinion, said that Obergefell, the decision that's legalized same sex codified -- or legalized rather, same sex marriage should be up for review, given it was based on the same argument. We have people like Senator Ted Cruz out there very publicly saying he want --

PONNURU: (INAUDIBLE) that was wrong, yes.

TAPPER: He want -- yes, he thinks it should be turned over because he thinks that should be a state by state decision. Like I'm legitimately asking why you would think --


TAPPER: -- it's not really at risk?

PONNURU: A couple of things. One, most -- so Justice Thomas is one justice. He says that the decision should be reconsidered. He also suggested a possible alternative basis for reaching the same conclusion, just abandoning substantive due process using the Privileges and Immunities Clause.

Second, the fact that 47 Republicans in the House have voted for this suggests that it's not the same sort of issue as abortion. You are highly unlikely, I think, to get a case wind its way up the courts and create a live controversy that requires the Supreme Court to revisit this precedent. And I think that's one of the big differences.

And finally, Justice Alito's opinion in Dobbs, he goes on and on. Repeatedly, he says, look, there's a potential life issue when it comes to abortion. That's an interest that is weightier than the interests that are at stake in the argument against Obergefell or against some of these other decisions and that's why this is going to be a different kind of analysis.


TAPPER: I guess so, I mean, I just -- I know a lot of people are anticipating that the U.S. Supreme Court is going to overturn the precedent that allows affirmative action in college admissions next year. That hasn't happened. I'm just saying, but the arguments will be this November, but a lot of people think that. I mean, I think this is a Supreme Court that is willing to review, you know, precedents.

PONNURU: No question, but the case has to come before it --


PONNURU: -- in order for it to make that ruling.

TAPPER: Kasie, today, the former Vice President Mike Pence was back on the Hill to meet with Republican House members --

HUNT: He was.

TAPPER: -- conservatives, the Republican Study Group. They thanked him for his courage on January 6, some of the Republicans made references to a 2024 Pence presidential run. What do you make of this?

HUNT: I thought it was kind of interesting. Melanie -- our Melanie Zanona reported that she spoke with his brother Greg Pence that, of course, he would, quote, have to support Pence if he run in 2024. You could say 100 percent as well but --

TAPPER: Yes, that's a brother. That's a brother.

HUNT: Yes, I know.

BEGALA: I wouldn't support all of my brother. If he want, he would (INAUDIBLE).

HUNT: I really would have to, but I'd have to be dragged -- anyway. I thought that was kind of interesting. But look, it's clear in the wake of these January 6th hearings that while we don't necessarily know where voters are on the Republican side yet, inside the establishment, there's a lot of interest in having someone other than Donald Trump be the nominee.

TAPPER: And in fact, Eva, take a listen to Senate Minority Whip John Thune talking to CNN about the 2024 presidential field and Donald Trump.


SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD), MINORITY WHIP: He obviously, has a very loyal base of followers, but I also think there are a number of other attractive Republican, potential Republican candidates who at some point are going to make their decisions about running or not.


TAPPER: I mean, read between the lines there.

MCKEND: Yes. Senator Thune showing a tremendous amount of restraint there but really, he's saying please anybody but Trump. Listen, a lot of Republicans have positioned themselves to wrong (ph) Glenn Youngkin in Virginia, Larry Hogan in Maryland, Nikki Haley, teasing this week at that recent Christians United for Israel event that it take -- it might take a woman like teasing her on --

HUNT: Tom Cotton has been to Iowa and he's planning to go to New Hampshire.

MCKEND: Tom Cotton.

HUNT: (INAUDIBLE) from that.

TAPPER: Ron DeSantis, Mike Pompeo, Mike Pence.

HUNT: It's a long list.

MCKEND: It's a long list. It's a long list. And I think Senator Thune, Senator McConnell, a lot of establishment Republicans would much rather have any of those folks on the ballot than the former president. And that's not to say that these candidates won't be running on many of the same policies, touching on many of the same grievances, but they won't come with the same bag of just Trump.

HUNT: Yes. But you know what? Let's just say it right now because if there is a field that is that crowded against Donald Trump --


HUNT: -- that is what is going to handle --

PONNURU: There will not --


MCKEND: (INAUDIBLE) against Trump. If Trump runs, it will be a very --

HUNT: It will need to be one person or he will be the nominee.

TAPPER: Thanks to the panel. Appreciate it.

Trouble in the ranks the recruitment numbers that are not adding up for the U.S. Army and how that could pose a national security problem for the United States. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead, falling short. The U.S. Army is likely to miss its goal of securing nearly 40,000 new recruits over the next two years. And the reasons go beyond the labor market. It's also due to fewer Americans showing interest in serving in the U.S. military.

Let's bring in CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Barbara, you just heard from the army about this. What are they telling you?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, just within minutes, Jake, the Army has now issued a five-page memo from the top leadership about how serious it is. They cannot get enough young Americans to join the U.S. military in this all volunteer force. And the recent are multiple.

I mean, just let me mention that in this memo, they tell us that remote schooling during the COVID crisis, they believe, lowered by 9 percent, the scores on the Army aptitude test to join the U.S. military. What they feel they are facing is a shortage of 40,000 recruits in the next two years, they will have to shrink the size of the army. They simply will not be able to bring enough young Americans into the Armed Forces in the U.S. Army.

Just yesterday, the second in command of the U.S. Army General Joseph Martin talked about why this is happening on Capitol Hill. Have a listen.


GEN. JOSEPH MARTIN, VICE CHAIR OF STAFF, ARMY: Right now as we've got unprecedented challenges with both a post-COVID-19 environment and labor market, but also competition, private competition with private companies that have changed their incentives over time. You've seen that with the various incentives that companies have provided.


STARR: And in this memo, we're talking about that just came out a few moments ago, that top Army leadership says and I quote, we are in a war for talent. Jake?

TAPPER: Going forward, what does this grim estimate mean for the overall size of the U.S. Army?

STARR: Well, you know, it's that old saying, boots on the ground. You have to have a certain mass of force to be able to prosecute any mission that you are given. And this may get even worse because the U.S. Army National Guard and Army Reserve are facing the prospect that some 60,000 of their force may not be willing to get the COVID vaccine.

And if they don't get the COVID vaccine, they will not be able to be part of the active force. It will not be able to be activated and go on missions. So this may be a lot worse in the months ahead. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us, thank you so much.

[17:45:00] Turning to our health lead now, the commissioner of the FDA Robert Califf says things are getting better with a nationwide baby formula shortage but that's not what the most recent data shows. Califf told senators today there's a, quote, robust pipeline of baby formula coming in. And he said production now exceeds consumer demand.

We should stress there is still very much a shortage of infant formula in the United States. According to new data released today, more than 31 percent of powder formula products were out of stock last week. That's worse, not better than a month ago.

Coming up, an attorney from a powerful political family charged with murder. What he had to say in court today about the charges against him, that's next.



TAPPER: Also on our national lead, a South Carolina judge denied bond today for the disgraced attorney Alex Murdaugh. Murdaugh appeared in court with a shaved head, wearing clothes from his defense attorney's son, a white linen shirt, khaki pants and Gucci shoes. He pleaded not guilty to having murdered his wife and his youngest son who were found shot to death on the family's property in South Carolina in June of last year.

Just to show you how powerful the Murdaugh family has been in the South Carolina community, CNN's Dianne Gallagher noted a portrait of Alex Murdaugh's grandfather hanging in the back of the very same courtroom, where his grandson appeared for his hearing today.

Let's bring Dianne and to update us on the case. Dianne, what else happened in court today?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Jake, it wasn't just Alex Murdaugh's appearance that was different. Unlike the past bond hearings that Alex Murdaugh has gone through over the past months since all of this began. We did not hear any evidence from the prosecution that would describe how officials linked Alex Murdaugh to the murders of his wife, Maggie and their youngest son, Paul.

Instead, Alex Murdaugh essentially pleaded not guilty. When he was asked how he wanted to be tried, he said, by God and by country. And then for the remainder of the 18-minute hearing, both the defense and the prosecution pushed for a gag order, saying that they wanted to protect a potential jury from being tainted in any way.

And for a speedy trial, the defense thing that they'd like to start as early as October or November of this year, claiming that Murdaugh himself wants the trial to get underway so they can get through it. And then authorities can search for in their words, the real killer or killers. Now the prosecution saying that they would prefer perhaps a January start. They also said that they had substantial evidence, and all of it pointed to Alex Murdaugh in this case. Now, of course, he and his attorney has denied that. Jake, it will be up to Judge Clifton Newman, whether they will allow some of that evidence to be presented in secrecy before the trial, and whether or not that trial will begin. He's a tough judge, Jake, and he did speak a lot about how this was of interest to the public.

TAPPER: Do we have any idea what the motive is for Murdaugh allegedly shooting his wife and son?

GALLAGHER: So not exactly, but I will say that we did get the first glimpse of maybe how they are building the case by something that the prosecutor said. Of course, Alex Murdaugh's been in jail for months now, on some of the roughly 80 charges he has already against him. Some of those are drug-related. Others are of course related to financial fraud, white collar fraud, allegations from some of his former clients and other victims that he essentially just stole millions upon millions of dollars from them.

Well, the prosecutor today when explaining some of that, he referenced those allegations. I want to tell you what he said. He said adding a, quote, a lot of that provides the background and motive for what happened on June 7th, 2021. Of course, that is when Maggie and Paul were murdered. It is not much but it does offer the closest thing we've had to a hint as to how all the mystery and the allegations surrounding Alex Murdaugh may connect to the murders of his wife and son.

TAPPER: Dianne Gallagher, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

The surprise phone call today just as the family of a wrongfully detained American in Venezuela made an urgent plea for action. Stay with us.



TAPPER: The buried lead now, that's what we call stories that are not getting enough attention. A powerful moment for one American family with a loved one wrongfully detained abroad, according to the U.S. government. C was able to make a rare connection with his family today after more than two years behind bars in Venezuela. His situation so dire, he attempted suicide in prison last month.

As CNN's Kylie Atwood reports for us now, a new mural in Washington, D.C. is trying to raise awareness for his case and so many others.


KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wide smiles, bright eyes, the cap of a marine, carefully kept mustache. These are the faces of 18 Americans detained abroad. Their faces now larger than life on a mural unveiled in Washington, D.C.

ALEXANDRA ZAMBRANO FORSETH, FAMILY OF AMERICANS DETAINED IN VENEZUELA: I hope that this mural helps people see that my dad is a living breathing human being with feelings. And it's not just a policy issue.

ATWOOD (voice-over): Their families are pushing the U.S. government to do everything in their power to bring them home.

GABRIELA ZAMBRANO-HILL, FAMILY OF AMERICANS DETAINED IN VENEZUELA: My dad is losing his vision bit by bit because he doesn't have medical treatment. Is he going to be blind by the time I'm able to get him home?

ATWOOD (voice-over): One moment of joy.

EVERETT RUTHERFORD, UNCLE OF AMERICAN DETAINED IN VENEZUELA: If you saw us all running for the back of the alley.

ATWOOD (voice-over): One family got an unexpected phone call. Matthew called just now. We were able to tell him what we're doing for him, for the other families. How hard we're working to try to get him home.

ATWOOD (voice-over): Matthew Heath is an American detained in Venezuela who attempted suicide last month. His mother says her son will not survive if he doesn't get home soon.

CONNIE HAYES, MOTHER OF AMERICAN DETAINED IN VENEZUELA: He was subjected to suffocation. They put plastic bags over his face multiple time. He was then electrocuted multiple time.

ATWOOD (voice-over): The murals artists, Isaac Campbell, has one artistic vision for this emotional display.

ISAAC CAMPBELL, MURAL ARTIST: It's my biggest hope that some of these people can stand in front of their picture and say I'm home.


ATWOOD: Now, Jake, most of the images in this mural are the last photo that these family members took of their loved one before they were detained abroad. So they have a very emotional connection to the image that they are seeing on that wall.

The artist told us that he is thinking about putting up similar murals in cities around the country. And of course, one thing that he is hoping for is that President Biden visits this mural that is in Georgetown just blocks from the White House. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Kylie Atwood, it was an important story. Thank you so much.

If you ever missed an episode of THE LEAD, you can listen to THE LEAD wherever you get your podcasts. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer, he's right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM". We'll see you tomorrow.