Return to Transcripts main page

The Lead with Jake Tapper

Biden, White House Officials Downplay Recession Fears; DOJ's Criminal Probe Looking At Trump's Actions Around Jan. 6; Biden Administration Offers Russians A Deal To Gain Release Of Brittney Griner & Paul Whelan; Biden Administration Offers Russians A Deal To Gain Release Of Brittney Griner & Paul Whelan; Ukraine Targets Key Bridge Used By Russian Forces For Supplies; Hunter Biden Emails Authenticated For CNN Show He Owed The IRS Hundreds Of Thousands In Back Taxes. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired July 27, 2022 - 16:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: The next drawing will be held on Friday. Back to the Quickmart I go.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: So we're not counting the spouses here right? This is the stat that blows my mind. A million seconds is 12 days. A billion seconds is almost 32 years.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: So the solution to prices being so high is to raise your credit card bills.

THE LEAD starts right now.

This just in, interest rates hiked, raising the price to borrow on everything from bank loans to credit cards. The difficult spot this puts so many Americans as the Federal Reserve aims for the larger goal of bringing down skyrocketing prices.

Plus, first on CNN, a former Trump White House insider revealing new details about the Justice Department's criminal investigation into the Capitol riots.


ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I am aware of other White House officials who have been reached out to by DOJ and are planning to Cooperate.




TAPPER: How worried should Donald Trump be? But, first, a CNN exclusive. The Biden administration's new offer to

Russia. They will, the U.S. will, give Putin back a convicted Russian and let WNBA star Brittney Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan come home. That's the offer.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We start today with our money lead. More crushing economic news for the American people this afternoon. The Federal Reserve announced another massive interest rate hike, three-quarters of a percentage point. A move that seemed unfathomable to many has happened twice in a row. The increase translates to Americans paying more money for things such as mortgage loans, car loans, student loans.

Today's hike, of course, was not unexpected. In fact, the Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell hinted at it last month and said it's the best way to cool down inflation, but that takes time and it will provide no immediate help for the millions of Americans who are struggling with higher prices on rent and groceries and energy bills.

Let's bring in CNN's Matt Egan. He's at the Federal Reserve for us right now.

Matt, why does the Fed think making Americans pay higher interest rates will help the economy?

MATT EGAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, no doubt, this is some tough medicine from the Federal Reserve, because not only are Americans dealing with the worst inflation in four years, but now they're getting squeezed by soaring borrowing cost. Credit cards, student debt, car loans, appliances, and, of course, mortgages. In fact, the spike in mortgage rates is already slowing down the housing market.

But what's important here is this is a feature, not a bug of the Fed policy. They're trying to cool off red hot demand, in the hopes that it's going to give time for supply to catch up. But the problem is that if they do too much, they're going to freeze this economy and cause a recession. And this is not an exact science, Jake. They won't know they have gone too far until it's too late.

TAPPER: What does this mean for the chances of a recession?

EGAN: Well, the fact that the Federal Reserve is moving so aggressively to raise interest rates does make this a dangerous moment for the economy. This was not the plan. They preferred to just tap the brakes on the economy. Just gradually raise the interest rates, but they don't have that option because inflation keeps getting worse and they were late to this inflation crisis.

And so they have to slam the brakes. Powell addressed this question head on today during the press conference. First, he said he does not believe the U.S. economy is currently in recession. He said the jobs market is way too strong for this to be a recession.

Secondly, he says he thinks there is still a path to get inflation under control without causing a recession, though Jake, he conceded that path has gotten narrower.

TAPPER: Is there a chance that the Federal Reserve will raise rates again next month in September?

EGAN: Yeah, absolutely, there is a very good chance they raise rates in September. Markets are anticipating it, the Fed statement hinted at it, the chairman signaled that could happen. The big question is how much do they raise interest rates by?

Powell said that they wouldn't hesitate to do an even bigger rate hike if that's what they thought was necessarily, but he also left open the possibility that they slow down hikes. Listen, the next meeting isn't for eight weeks. That is an eternity in today's economy. So, a lot is going to depend on what happens to the economy.

TAPPER: All right. Matt Egan, thanks so much.

Today's announcement is another body blow to struggling Americans. One nonprofit says he's received nearly double the amount of calls of people asking for help.

CNN's Gabe Cohen talked to some citizens about the serious impacts these rate hikes are having on their lives.



GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thanks to interest rates, Zipporah Miles is house hunting in D.C. with deflated expectations.

ZIPPORAH MILES, LOOKING FOR A NEW HOME: I started looking at houses in the $500, $550 range, and ended up coming down to about $380, $450 as a hard stop.

COHEN: Because of mortgage rates.

MILES: Just because of mortgage rates, yeah.

COHEN: Mortgage payments on a typical U.S. home are up 62 percent in a year, costing Americans hundreds of dollars more each month. And they'll likely keep rising as the Federal Reserve raises interest rates.

RYAN BUTLER, REALTOR, COALITION PROPERTIES GROUP: Some people say they want to wait until the wreckage is done. I don't want to have this large interest rate looming over me.

COHEN: The Fed's latest rate hike could drive up the cost of car loans and credit card debt too. Americans owed $840 billion in outstanding credit at the start of 2022.


COHEN: Gary Herman runs consolidated credit solutions, a nonprofit that helps people solve debt problems. HERMAN: We have seen a dramatic increase, almost double the number of

new people calling our office looking for help with credit card debt, and that's just been in the past two months.

COHEN: The Fed's rate hike aims to cool this 40-year high inflation.

JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: We're trying to do just the right amount. We're not trying to have a recession.

COHEN: But in the short term, it's one more strain on Americans.

KEISHA HUNTER, GEORGIA RESIDENT: We're in a really crazy time right now.

COHEN: Consumer confidence is down for the third straight month. And according to one poll, 65 percent of American voters think we're already in a recession.

NICHOLAS GODFREY, GEORGIA RESIDENT: I have noticed gas has gone down, but groceries still have not gone down. Fruits, vegetables keep going up. I'm pretty concerned.

COHEN: Nicholas Godfrey keeps tightening his budget in Atlanta.

GODFREY: We're having to cut back a lot just to get by.

COHEN: In a survey by Morgan Stanley, two-thirds of U.S. consumers say they're planning to reduce spending in the next six months, especially on big ticket items like home appliances and cars.

Rob Shane's clunker has no air conditioning and a violent shake, needing $7,000 of repairs.

ROB SHANE, VIRGINIA RESIDENT: The mechanic told us we shouldn't drive it any further than we're comfortable walking home.

COHEN: Why haven't you bought a new car?

SHANE: Can't afford it. Plain and simple. I mean, we can't afford it. Prices are too high, interest rates are too high.

COHEN: But now, his wife is pregnant. Would you put your baby in this car?

SHANE: Absolutely not. I wouldn't put my baby in his car.

COHEN: So outrunning the market may prove impossible.

SHANE: We just want a safe family car that can get us around town. When is this going to come back to earth?


COHEN (on camera): And, Jake, that's the question so many Americans are asking. And as prices keep climbing and the cost of paying off that debt keeps going up as well, it's going to become that much more important for families to have a financial plan month to month just to make ends meet.

TAPPER: All right. Gabe Cohen bringing us the human cost of this. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Joining us now to discuss, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. He's on the Senate appropriations committee.

Senator, you just heard one man talking about how he can't afford a safe car for his family. A woman talking about not being able to afford a house because of these skyrocketing mortgage rates.

What's your message to not just your constituents but all Americans who are already struggling who are now going to have to deal with the consequences of another rate hike?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): I think your point there is really important. Americans were struggling before this rate hike. They're going to be struggling after it. And we have to recognize for most Americans out there who are earning $30,000, $50,000 a year, they have been living in crisis paycheck to paycheck, unable to keep up with bills for years.

And so, we need to address these structural unfairness in the American economy that allows it to do so well for the CEOs and for the billionaires and millionaires and undermines security for American families.

So this rate hike is necessary, according to the Fed, in order to cool what your own reporter says is white hot, red hot demand in a 3.6 percent unemployment economy. But there's not doubt that it has impacts and to me, this is just another reminder of why we need to take a big step back and figure out why for so long, ordinary Americans who are working for a living and getting screwed and the folks at the very top of the economy, no matter whether we're in an era of economic expansion or contraction, seem to do just fine.

TAPPER: I know I'm a broken record on this, but there's something President Biden could do to bring the cost of living down for Americans. And that's to get rid of the Trump China tariffs. That would bring prices down significantly, saving families hundreds of dollars a year.

I know that President Biden is worried about the impact this could have on union members. Do you want President Biden to lift these tariffs?

MURPHY: Well, I think you have to judge the short term impact of that versus the long term impact of rebuilding American manufacturing that will deliver good paying jobs to American citizens, right? I mean, ultimately, we got into this position because we did outsource millions of jobs to countries like China.


We lost that blue collar era aristocracy that was making it possible to put kids through college. So, to me, resourcing American manufacturing and having a trade policy that effectuates that ends, is actually the solution in the medium term and long run to the cost crisis and the wage crisis that confronts a lot of Americans.

TAPPER: All right. But you're talking about an institutional re- examination of the economy. I'm talking about a short term relief for individual families. Get rid of the Trump China tariffs. I don't think you supported them to begin with.

You get rid of them, and I have seen Fred Hochberg formerly of the Export and Import Bank under Obama saying it could bring down prices $500 to $1,000 per family. There's a solution that would help Americans right now.

MURPHY: But you're also seeing the beginning of this reshoring of jobs that had previously been moved over to places like China. So you are right that I didn't support every aspect of the Trump tariff plan, but I do support the idea that we should use trade policy including tariffs to try to have long term growth of manufacturing jobs in the United States.

TAPPER: What about the short term solution? Democrats control the White House, the Senate, the House. Is there something that your party can do? You control government now. Is there something you can do right now to help struggling Americans who are now being asked to solve the inflation problem by having to pay more in credit card debt?

MURPHY: Well, we're going to do that next week. We're going to pass a bill that's going to dramatically reduce health care costs for American consumers and in particular fixed income seniors who are often the hardest hit, like in moments like this. Not a single Republican will join us, as we try to trim the cost of prescription drugs. But next week, we will pass through the Senate a bill that will dramatically lower prices, health care prices for millions of Americans.

TAPPER: Today, to shift topics for a second, a number of gun manufacturers testified before the House Oversight Committee. Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney reveals some of the findings from investigations into the gun industry. Take a listen.


REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D-NY): Our investigation also found that gun manufacturers use dangerous marketing tactics to sell assault weapons to the public. That includes marketing to children, preying on young men's insecurities, and even appealing to violent white supremacists.


TAPPER: How can lawmakers hold these companies accountable if you believe that they are responsible for that kind of nefarious marketing?

MURPHY: Well, as you know, there's one company that is marketing an assault weapon called a JR-15. A junior AR-15, deliberately targeted towards 8-year-olds and 9-year-olds. How we can hold them accountable is to remove their legal immunity right now.

The gun industry has less legal liability for the products they sell than the toy industry has for the sale of toy guns. Why? Because back in the 2000s, the NRA got passed through Congress a law that specifically exempts the firearms industry from product liability law.

So that would be a step we could take. Do we have 60 votes in the Senate to do that right now? No. But we should litigate this issue in front of the American public this fall because that's one way we can force the gun companies to be more responsible about their marketing.

TAPPER: Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

MURPHY: Thank you.

Coming up next, a star witness in the January 6th committee investigation is now cooperating with the Justice Department's criminal probe.

And what sources tell CNN about the offer now on the table to Putin to bring Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan home.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, getting closer to Trump. A former Trump White House official tells CNN that the Justice Department's investigation into the efforts to overturn the 2020 election results is now focusing on others who were close to Donald Trump.

CNN's Ryan Nobles is tracking the developments into this federal investigation as Congress's January 6th investigation continues to follow new leads of their own.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Department of Justice investigation into the events that led to January 6th is expanding at a rapid clip.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I am aware of other White House officials who have been reached out to by DOJ and are planning to cooperate.

NOBLES: Former White House staffer Alyssa Farah telling CNN that DOJ has reached out to more former officials in the Trump White House, beyond just Marc Short and Greg Jacob, two top aides to former Vice President Mike Pence.

GRIFFIN: I think you could piece it together based on who has testified before the January 6th committee. Again, these are related but separate track investigations. And I think DOJ is keeping an eye on who is coming before January 6th and who may have helpful information.

NOBLES: The news come at the same time sources tell "The Washington Post" and "New York Times" that federal investigators have asked questions specifically about Donald Trump's actions, suggesting their probe is getting closer to the former president himself. All while a separate state level investigation is looking at Trump and election interference in Georgia.

NORM EISEN, FORMER HOUSE JUDICIARY SPECIAL COUNSEL: You see a pincers movement on Donald Trump. And perhaps this will be the occasion in which he cannot dodge criminal liability.

NOBLES: The public posture of the DOJ is welcome news to members of the January 6th Select Committee who have been publicly pleading with federal prosecutors to take action.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): That encourages me or solidifies the understanding I have always operated with which is the Department of Justice has a vast arsenal of resources at their disposal. These are extremely competent, effective lawyers. They know what they're doing.

NOBLES: However, there is no question the political calendar and a pending presidential announcement by Trump could complicate their plans. And Trump continues to show no sign he is backing down.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Now we have the January 6th unselect committee of political hacks and thugs.

NOBLES: But Attorney General Merrick Garland pledged that nothing, including political pressure, will impede their investigation.

MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We will hold accountable anyone who is criminally responsible for attempting to interfere with the transfer, legitimate lawful transfer of power from one administration to the next.


NOBLES: And we now know of at least one additional White House staffer that the Department of Justice has engaged in, and it is an important one.

Cassidy Hutchinson, who was one of the star witnesses of the January 6th Select Committee. We are now told through our Evan Perez is cooperating with the Department of Justice. It's unclear what that cooperation looks like at this point, but of course, Jake, we know about so much of the information she's already provided the committee. It would stand to reason that the Department of Justice is interested in much of the same material -- Jake.

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

Joining us to discuss, Preet Bharara, former U.S. attorney and a CNN legal analyst.

Preet, so we're learning the Justice Department seems to be getting closer to Trump's inner circle, in addition to Cassidy Hutchinson, we also heard of these top officials who worked for Vice President Pence, Marc Short, Greg Jacob. What does this tell you about the DOJ investigation?

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: So, I'm not one to say every time there's a bit of breaking news or a development that it's hugely significant, but this is. This is very, very significant. A lot of people across the spectrum of legal analysts outside the Justice Department who served in the Justice Department have been having this debate for some months about why it's the case that we haven't heard about the Justice Department either interviewing voluntarily or putting to the grand jury these same people who have given astonishing dramatic revelatory testimony before the committee.

Now we know that they are. What we have been saying all along is when that starts to happen, it doesn't always happen in secrecy because people talk. There are multiple sources who talk about these things and reveal the fact they have been asked to testify. That's happening now.

What I expect you'll hear now for the coming days and weeks is a revelation of more and more significant witnesses who are being brought in to testify, either on their own volition or by compulsory process if necessary. It's going to accelerate before it decelerates.

TAPPER: Attorney General Garland told NBC yesterday if Trump announces a run for president, that's not going to change whether the Justice Department moves forward in any way. Do you think the country can handle that?

BHARARA: The country has been through a lot. And I fear that the country is going to have to go through some more. There's no great result here.

If you have a president who when he was in office broke the law, the country is presented with a very stark choice. Do something that will be divisive if you legitimately charge that person, or in my view, illegitimately letting that person off the hook. That's not great either.

I do think they have another timing issue which is the proximity of elections. The 2022 midterm election and depending on how long it takes and I think it's going to take them some time because they have a lot of ground to catch up, compared to the 1/6 committee as they get closer to future elections including primaries in 2024, I think that presents a little bit of sensitivity as well.

TAPPER: You're a former prosecutor. When you listen to the case laid out by the January 6th select committee, and all of these witnesses who once worked for the Trump administration, do you think that they have amassed enough evidence that could prove Trump is criminally responsible for the insurrection and efforts to overturn the election?

BHARARA: So, I never answer that question, not knowing all the facts and not having interviewed the witnesses but what I have said repeatedly and consistently for a while is there's plenty of evidence to support an aggressive, rigorous, comprehensive investigation that includes the interviews of these people we're now hearing about who are being talked to by the Justice Department.

A federal judge has already said there's probable cause to believe at least two criminal statutes were violated. Probable cause is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt and that's what they need to convict, but I think they're well along the way and we'll see what other revelations come to light.

TAPPER: I want to ask you a separate issue, about a separate issue here, the Biden administration announced this afternoon that they're offering to trade with Russia convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout who is currently serving a 25-year sentence here in the U.S., in exchange for the release of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, who are detained in Russia. You prosecuted Bout.

What do you think of this offer?

BHARARA: So, I think this is a very difficult circumstance. I'm not part of the negotiation or the deliberations and I haven't been asked to be part of the deliberations.

I can say, from my perspective as a person who oversaw a dangerous person. He was one of the most prolific arms dealers in the world. He was convicted in the U.S. federal court in New York of conspiracy to kill Americans. I don't know the degree to which he remains operational or can become operational at a time when Russia needs armaments and is involved in a war with its neighbor, peaceful neighbor, Ukraine.

On the other side of the coin, it's a very, very difficult plight for these two families, whose family members have been held, I think, illegitimately on trumped up charges in Russia. So I think there's a very difficult balance here between not wanting to set a precedent for asymmetrical trades of people who haven't done much criminally in Russia for someone who has done something very significantly criminally in the United States.


But it's a difficult decision and I'm not aware of all the considerations they were looking at.

But you might imagine from my vantage point as the prosecutor, you know, it's of some concern, but I get why they feel they need to do something to bring those two Americans home.

TAPPER: Preet Bharara, thank you so much. Appreciate your time today.

BHARARA: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Before a word of the offer from Putin, we heard from Brittney Griner herself. What did she tell the Russian court about the drug charges against her? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TAPPER: In our world lead, a CNN exclusive. The Biden administration has now made an offer to Vladimir Putin. The U.S. would send a convicted Russian arms dealer back to Moscow in exchange for the freedom of WNBA star Brittney Griner and former U.S. marine Paul Whelan.

Let's bring in CNN's Kaitlan Collins at the White House, and Kylie Atwood at the State Department.

Kylie was first to break the story.

Kylie, first, can you tell us more about this offer?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, our understanding, the Biden administration has put forth this offer for Viktor Bout. He is a convicted arms trader. He has been smuggling arms around the world for years, and he is serving a 25-year prison sentence here in the U.S.

The Biden administration putting him forth as part of this potential deal to try and get Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner home to the United States. Our reporting is that the Department of Justice was opposed to putting Viktor Boot on the table just because of how significant his crimes really are. He is quite infamous, Jake, but it was President Biden who supported doing it, and that is essentially what overrode the objections of the Department of Justice.

Now administration officials are saying today this offer was put on the table weeks ago. Our reporting is it was put on the table back in June. The secretary of state said today there was a substantial offer to try to get Griner and Whelan home to the United States, but he didn't get into those details. But he does plan to discuss this with Foreign Minister Lavrov in the coming days.

TAPPER: So, Kaitlan, usually, these kinds of negotiations happen entirely behind closed doors, but as you heard from, Kylie, the Secretary of State Blinken did allude to it in public. What do we know about the way the administration is doing this with a degree of transparency, this offer?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the White House says it wasn't a decision they made lightly to make this proposal public. Kylie obviously said there, they did not confirm the details of her reporting, but they did allude to it earlier in that statement from Secretary Blinken. But they said basically a lot of reasons are driving the factor behind why they're now making this public now. A lot of it has to do with the timing here. They made this offer back in June. It's now almost August. They have not gotten a real substantive response from the Russians yet. They acknowledged yes, they are aware this is an offer the United States has made.

And I just asked John Kirby who is a spokesman for the national security council about why they're making this public now and what the response from Russia has looked like so far. And this is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) COLLINS: If they haven't favorably engaged so far, do you think this is an offer President Biden needs to make directly?

JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESMAN: I think we're making it clear across the national security team that we're serious about securing their release. I don't have any conversations to speak about or announcements on the president's behalf. We believe that this is a serious proposal. And we want the Russians to take it seriously as well.


COLLINS: Now, of course, Jake, one factor in this is the fact Brittney Griner's trial in Russia is still going on, but the White House has known for several weeks that Viktor Bout is someone that the Russians have desperately wanted to secure his release. And so, they do believe this is a huge offer that they're making. Of course, they're not confirming that it is Viktor Bout, but it's still notable to hear them say this is a serious proposal and they want the Russians to take it seriously.

TAPPER: And, Kylie, on the topic of Brittney Griner's trial, we heard from her herself, her own voice for the first time since she was arrested. What did she have to say about the drug charges?

ATWOOD: Yeah. She painted a picture in the Russian courtroom today of what it was like when she was detained and then arrested in the Moscow airport earlier this year. Of course, just a week before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Listen to what she said.


BRITTNEY GRINER, WNBA PLAYER: There were documents that I had to sign. I can only assume that they were about the search and the cartridges. We had to use my phone and Google translate for him to be able to tell me a little bit.

My rights were never read to me. No one explained any of it to me. I did not plan or have the intent to bring any cannabis or banned substance to Russia.


ATWOOD: And, Jake, she also said that she had no idea how that cannabis ended up in her bag, said she was stress packing, she had just been recovering from COVID, and explained why she had used medical cannabis in the United States in the past -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Kylie Atwood and Kaitlan Collins, thanks to both of you.

Joining us now to discuss is potential prisoner swap between U.S. and Russia is former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed who was detained in Russia since 2019 until he was released in a prisoner swap in April.

So, first of all, Trevor, you're great, man. Look at you. You bulked up. I haven't seen you since April and you have really recovered. It's good to see.

Let's talk about this rather public offer from the administration compared to your own prisoner swap deal that was done in a shroud of secrecy. What do you make of that?

TREVOR REED, FORMER U.S. MARINE: You know, I don't know. They may be trying to make a point that it is something that's extremely important to this administration, and I'm happy that they are doing that publicly.

TAPPER: We heard from Preet Bharara earlier in the show. He's the former U.S. attorney who put Viktor Bout in prison for 25 years. And he obviously felt ambivalence because Viktor Bout is a dangerous guy, he said, and maybe could be used to help Russia's war on the innocent Ukrainian people. He's an arms dealer.

But I know you're in favor of these prisoner swaps. Explain to the American people why you think they're necessary.

REED: Yeah, sure. So you know, the big argument that is against prisoner swaps is that if the United States, you know, goes ahead and does those swaps, that they could be making the United States basically a target for extortion. So they're concerned that they may try to continue to take other Americans hostage in the future in order to get something from the United States.

And, you know, my case is an excellent example, and Brittney's case as well of why that is not true. So, you had Paul Whelan who the Russians took first, and they asked to make an exchange. The United States refused to do that.

After that, they took me and the United States refused to make an exchange, and after that, they took Brittney. So, them not participating in an exchange, not, you know, making deal, does not prevent countries like Russia from taking Americans hostage or Venezuela, Syria, North Korea, Iran, China. They're going to do that anyway. So, there's no -- there's no legitimacy to that argument in my opinion.

TAPPER: Do you think the offer of this deal is going to get Paul and Brittney out of Russia? Are you optimistic?

REED: I'm extremely optimistic about it. I think that that's a good possibility. And I think that, you know, if the Russians are not stupid, that they'll take that offer. And you know, I am hoping that they're not that stupid, but we'll see.

TAPPER: How do you think Brittney and Paul would react to this news if the news were to reach them?

REED: I think they would be extremely optimistic. I hope that they would be. I hope that they would be cautiously optimistic because there is a lot that goes into those types of things.

But I think that they have a really good chance, especially considering, you know, the transparency that the administration has used in this.

TAPPER: Lastly, Trevor, how are you doing? Things good?

REED: Yeah, yeah. Everything is going great. I appreciate it.

TAPPER: All right, buddy. I'll text you later. Thanks so much for joining us. Really appreciate it.

In Ukraine right now, a bridge bombed, but this time it's not Russia responsible for the damage. Why Ukrainian forces tell CNN they had very good reasons to order the strike on their own territory. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Over in Ukraine, Russia is using the biggest nuclear power plant in Europe as a, quote, fortress from which they are firing upon Ukrainians knowing that the Ukrainians will not fire back. That's according to Ukrainian official who also says Ukrainian forces might risk damaging the facility if they return fire.

Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is in southern Ukraine, right along the Dnipro River.

CNN's Jason Carroll has the latest now on that region where the battle lines are constantly changing.


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These images, the Ukrainians say, are their strategy at work. Ukrainian long range rockets struck a bridge in Kherson in the Russian occupied southern part of the country Tuesday night, targeting Russia's supply lines.

By day, the damage done all too clear. The bridge not destroyed, still crossable, but the Ukrainian government say it's damaged enough to prevent Russians from using it to send in more heavy armor and other re-enforcements.

The Russians admit the bridge is closed off, but downplayed the bombing. Local pro-Russian officials saying the attack will ultimately have no effect on the outcome of the war.

This as Ukrainian authorities say Russians are sending additional troops to the south. Analysts say Russia is preparing for a Ukrainian counteroffensive that is slowly gathering strength in that part of the country. But in the eastern Donetsk region, it's the Russians on the front foot.

These scenes from the town of Bakhmut under relentless shelling by Russian forces. One man recorded the aftermath of strikes on a nearby town and surveyed the damage. He says, missile attack. Everything is completely destroyed. The state of emergency service in Donetsk says as a result of the

Russian shelling, at least one person was killed at a nearby hotel. Russian forces are trying to push further into the Donetsk region. They captured a power station that had become a battlefield for weeks. But amidst stiff Ukrainian resistance, they're making very slow progress.


CARROLL (on camera): And, Jake, President Zelenskyy mentioned the bridge that the Ukrainians bombed in Kherson in his address to the nation tonight, saying in part that they are doing everything to insure that the occupiers, quote, do not remain any logistical opportunities on our land. Whatever plans they have, we will break them -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jason Carroll in Kyiv, Ukraine, thank you so much.

Coming up next, CNN investigates what we uncovered in Hunter Biden's emails revealing the financial troubles that the president's son faced.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, as the U.S. attorney in Delaware weighs possible charges against the president's son, Hunter Biden, CNN's own investigation into Hunter has authenticated emails showing Hunter Biden struggled to pay bills despite bringing in a huge income. The president's son struggled with massive debt and a huge overdue tax bill. It remains unclear whether the back taxes revealed in these emails are the same tax issue that is part of the federal probe.

CNN's Drew Griffin takes a closer look.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The emails posted by a right wing operative on the Internet have long been used as a political weapon against President Joe Biden. But it's his son who is facing potential federal charges. As CNN first reported, prosecutors in Delaware are narrowing in on potential tax violations in their investigation of Hunter Biden.

These e-mails forensically authenticated for CNN reveal Hunter Biden was repeatedly warned about deep debts and years of back taxes. This, despite having a lavish income that included as much as $50,000 a month for sitting on the board of Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company.

A 2019 spreadsheet sent to Biden from his assistant, details more than half a million dollars in bills due or past due, including hundreds of thousands in taxes over several years. The emails show he knew he was delinquent.

October 2018, his accountant wrote, they are late, noting that Biden had missed an already extended tax filing deadline of October 15th.

Two weeks later: Your 2017 tax returns are still unfiled, the accountant reminded Biden.

The next day, you need to get 2017 filed so we can try to work out a payment schedule. The accountant told Biden the IRS was also demanding a payment from 2015. They want $158,000, the accountant wrote.

The 2018 federal taxes of $471,000 will be in addition. IRS has notified the State Department, and they will not renew your passport until this is resolved.

KATHLEEN BUHLE, HUNTER BIDEN'S EX-WIFE: He was struggling under massive drug addiction, and that's heartbreaking and painful.

GRIFFIN: In past interviews, both Biden and his ex-wife say Biden's financial issues became worse with the death of his brother and his drug use.

HUNTER BIDEN, PRESIDENT BIDEN'S SON: I went 13 days one time without sleeping. And smoking crack and drinking vodka exclusively throughout that entire time.

GRIFFIN: The couple divorced and Hunter would owe $37,000 a month in spousal support. His spreadsheet shows he fell behind, just part of a lifestyle that was financially out of control. More than $65,000 owed on one credit card. He owed a 1,700 payment on a Porsche. His health care was back due.

And the assistant who was trying to keep track of it all said she too wasn't being paid. I'm trying to figure out what to do about bills, Biden's then-assistant asked. Pay the health care, pay the Porsche, Biden responded, and told the assistant she should only pay herself half what she was owed.

The emails reveal multiple warnings from banks concerning insufficient funds, deep debt. His credit card repeatedly declined.

In a statement to CNN, Biden's attorney acknowledged the tax issue, saying he is current on his tax obligations and is committed to remaining so as he continues his recovery from addiction.

H. BIDEN: I'm cooperating completely and I'm absolutely certain, 100 percent certain, that, at the end of the investigation, that I will be cleared of any wrongdoing.

GRIFFIN: Even if Hunter Biden is never charged with a crime, that won't matter to Republicans, especially those who may chair powerful committees if the Republican Party wins the majority in Congress. Like Kentucky Congressman James Comer who promises a Hunter Biden investigation if he heads the House Oversight Committee.

REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): Hunter Biden is a shady business character. We fear that he has compromised this White House. That's why we're not going to continue to let up on these investigations and we're going to hold somebody accountable for this.

GRIFFIN: Joe Biden is not being investigated as part of a federal probe into Hunter Biden, according to sources.


GRIFFIN (on camera): And, Jake, CNN has been told the Justice Department is weighing the timing of any possible indictment against the president's son. Sources telling CNN, Justice Department guidelines generally avoid bringing politically sensitive cases close to an election. Those guidelines now being weighed as this case has reached a critical juncture -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Drew Griffin, thanks so much.

There are new developments this afternoon in the DOJ's January 6th probe. A star witness cooperating and a search warrant approved to go through a conservative lawyer's phone. We'll tell you more after this.



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

This hour, quote, spare me the bullshit. That today from a Republican congressman up for re-election, one of the few willing to take on his party and Trump's big election lie. Congressman Peter Meijer today calling out Democrats for propping up his MAGA primary opponent in hopes of having a weaker Republican to run against in November.

Also ahead, the major push today to get more products made in America -- jump starting the financial power behind computer chips, making it easier for you to buy more cars and trucks, smartphones, even improve our national security.

And leading this hour, pressure coming from Capitol Hill to prosecute Donald Trump. Some lawmakers calling on Attorney General Merrick Garland to charge the former president if the Justice Department's investigation finds him criminally responsible for his role in the insurrection.

Let's bring in CNN's Manu Raju who broke this reporting.

Manu, tell us more.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Senate Democrats are saying that Merrick Garland, the Justice Department should pursue any suggestion that Donald Trump may have broken the law, and some going as far as saying that he should be prosecuted. The Democrats say -- have said for some time that the Justice Department has moved too slowly.

But in news that Donald Trump's actions have been investigated, asked about in some of these proceedings and the investigation, many are heartened and say better late than never.


RAJU: Do you think that Trump should be prosecuted?

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): I personally, yes.