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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Pelosi Now In Taiwan, Defying China's Threat Of Retaliation; U.S. Drone Strike Kills Al Qaeda Leader & 9/11 Plotter Al-Zawahiri; Griner Due Back In Court On Thursday, Closing Debates Expected; Sen. Sinema Ignores Reporters' Question On Manchin-Schumer Deal; Biden Names Team To Coordinate National Response. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired August 02, 2022 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Nancy Pelosi in Taiwan, irking both Presidents Xi and Biden.
THE LEAD starts right now.
Walking on diplomatic eggshells, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arriving in Taiwan just hours ago. And almost immediately, the Chinese government firing up there fighter jets and launching a military response.
Then, the U.S. kills one of the 9/11 mastermind and Osama bin Laden's former number two, as he's standing on a balcony in downtown Kabul. Details are merging out about the strike that took six months to plan and involve the high tech missile called a hellfire.
Plus, Brittney Griner returns to a Russian courtroom today, as she faces what could be a major week for learning her faith in the Russian penal system.
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
And we begin today with our world lead, the trip that is creating tension around the globe. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi currently in Taiwan, ignoring weeks of warnings from President Biden and threats of retaliation from the Chinese government.
Pelosi says her controversial trip honors, quote, America's unwavering commitment to the self-governing island's vibrant democracy, which China views as an inseparable part of its territory.
President Biden previously had said the U.S. military did not think it was a good idea for Pelosi to visit, warning that it could and would increase tensions between Washington and Beijing. But President Biden stopped short of directly instructing her not to go.
Upon Pelosi's arrival today, the tallest building in Taipei flash a sign that read, Speaker Pelosi, welcome to Taiwan. Pelosi is the highest ranking U.S. official to visit Taiwan in 25 years. Chinese officials reacted with fury today, calling the move a major
political provocation. China's foreign minister renewed President Xi Jinping is warning that the U.S. should not, quote, play with fire regarding Taiwan, and added that those who play with fire will surely perish by it.
As CNN's Selina Wang reports for us now, U.S. officials are closely watching China's response as Beijing announces a series of targeted military actions around the island of Taiwan.
SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just before 11:00 p.m. local time, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi touched down in Taipei, ignoring relentless warnings from Beijing that there would be great consequences. A second in line to the presidency, Pelosi became the most senior U.S. official to visit Taiwan in 25 years.
She is spending the night expected to meet the Taiwanese president and parliament on Wednesday. In an op-ed, she wrote, we cannot stand by as the CCP proceeds to threaten Taiwan and democracy itself. By traveling to Taiwan, we honor our commitment to democracy.
Taiwan's presidential office said, experienced a cyber attack on its website just hours before Pelosi was expected to land, temporarily knocking it off line. State media reported Chinese fighter jets were crossing the Taiwan Strait as Pelosi was arriving. China's military said it's on high alert. And after Pelosi touched down in Taipei, announced a series of exercises and targeted military operations for what they say is to counteract the situation.
JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: There is no violation of any sovereignty issues here. Her visit is very much in keeping with previous visits by congressional leaders.
WANG: Beijing disagrees. China's ministry of foreign affairs said Pelosi's visit is a serious violation of the one China principle and these moves, like playing with fire, are extremely dangerous. Those who play with fire will perish by it.
The idea that Taiwan is part of the motherland is core to the communist party's legitimacy, and Chinese President Xi Jinping can't afford to look weak right now. We are just months away from a key political meeting, where he is expected to step into an unprecedented third term.
But ultimately, it's the 24 million people of Taiwan caught between the world's superpowers who would bear the consequences of any escalation.
WANG (on camera): And, Jake, according to state media, late on Tuesday night, China's vice foreign minister urgently summoned the U.S. ambassador to China, Nicholas Burns, to protest against Pelosi's visit in Taiwan. He told the ambassador that the U.S. should have stopped Pelosi from acting, quote, recklessly, accusing Pelosi of doing all of this to further her own political legacy.
All of this, adding even more friction and mistrust to a relationship that's already at its lowest point in decades, Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Selina Wang in Beijing, thanks so much.
Let's bring in former congresswoman and top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Jane Harman, along with former FBI and CIA official and CNN counterterrorism analyst, Phil Mudd.
Congressman Harman, let me start with you.
China is threatening to retaliate against the U.S. for this visit. This is what China's ambassador to the U.S. told CNN earlier today. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QIN GANG, CHINESE AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: We will take whatever we can to respond and to protect, to safeguard our sovereignty territorial integrity. And our response will be very full, strong, and forceful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: What do you see the real impact being of this visit and that threat?
JANE HARMAN, FORMER RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, China doesn't understand our system of government. Pelosi is the leader of the Congress, which is a separate branch of government. She is doing exactly what Newt Gingrich did 25 years ago. She has a right to make the trip and that's why President Biden didn't tell her, no, she couldn't make the trip.
While I was in Congress, I went to North Korea, Syria, Libya, and I visited Taiwan, and this leader, when she was opposition leader, while I was -- after I left Congress. So, what do we make of China's responses? As your previous segment said, the third party Congress electing Xi to an unprecedented third term is in November and he wants to look strong.
But Pelosi is not invading the sovereignty of China, and she is also carefully saying she supports Taiwan's democracy, not Taiwan's independence, and nothing she said implies that she's against what we still adhere to, which is the One China policy.
TAPPER: Yeah, and Phil, let me ask you because it seems so odd to me, you know, they think the Chinese government thinks that they are acting forcefully and, you know, with muscle. Honestly, if they just ignored it, they would seem stronger than their hissy fit seems to be.
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Sure, sure, but there are couple issues here. This is an issue of face and vulnerable. If you're President Xi, one of the strongest leaders in modern China, this is rubbing your nose in by the speaker, that is. This is the speaker showing, I'm the highest level official in 25 years. China is not only an emerging, but an emergent economic player globally, military player, and we are telling the Chinese stuff it, we're going to do whatever the heck we want to do.
So I think if you are President Xi stepping back, you've got to respond. You can't sit back and say, no, because this is a declaration that the U.S. hasn't changed its policy on China, regardless of the emergence of a new China under Xi.
TAPPER: And, Congresswoman, what does Taiwan gain from this trip? Because obviously, they welcomed him.
HARMAN: Yes, well of course, they had to welcome her. That's what you do.
But obviously, she's bringing attention to the fact that they're a democracy. Taiwan is very important in the world right now because the major chip manufacturers house there. Pelosi, by the way, is doing this and stepping on another story, which is finally the passage of the CHIPS Act and the almost passage of the energy climate bill that the Democrats are getting through the Senate.
But at any rate, I don't see that Taiwan loses here and Taiwan is being careful. This leader of Taiwan is being careful. No one is advocating the independence of Taiwan.
This is a long-standing policy we have had to support Taiwan in this way and Pelosi is part of it.
I would just say one thing to my buddy, Bill -- Phil. And that is, I don't think this is an intentional provocation of the world. I don't see it that way. She's within her rights. If you know Pelosi, she never backs down. She will be 150 and four inch heels, and she will never back down.
So that's who she is and I think this trip was long-planned. Unfortunately, it hits at a weekend when so much other news is breaking and kudos to the intelligence community for the very carefully planned takedown of Zawahiri in downtown Afghanistan, where he should not have been, the Taliban had to know he was there.
TAPPER: Yeah, Phil?
MUDD: Is she coming after me? I've got to respond here. She's a friend. It's okay.
HARMAN: I love you, Phil.
MUDD: Well, for the next 15 seconds, I don't love you. Then we will go back. But I agree that she has the right to go. The question is whether it
makes good sense. If you are the White House and you are looking at Ukraine, you're looking at president Biden coming out of the second round of COVID, you are looking at economic issues, as you say, the success of some legislation.
We already have the U.S. military not only talking about the growth of Chinese power and exercises of power the past five years, but the U.S. military is regularly out there showing the Chinese that it's appropriate for the military to exercise.
My question is, she can go, but why? What's the point? What is the upside? I don't get with the upside is except to give the president another headache.
HARMAN: Well, I wasn't saying the president authorized the trip. He said, he did not stop her. The Pentagon, as I understand, it counseled against her making the trip.
But she is the head of an independent branch of government and she has her prerogative, and she's exercising it, even the lots of our allies, friends and partners, are going a little nuts about the timing of the trip. I agree with you, Phil, about that.
MUDD: She came around on me. Here you go, it's all right.
HARMAN: For those who don't know also, I mean, Speaker Pelosi has long been a hawk when it comes to China, has long been speaking out against its human rights abuses and the like.
Congresswoman Jane Harman, Phil Mudd, thanks to both of you. Really appreciate it.
Coming up, the story that the congresswoman was just talking about, how the U.S. planned and carried out that mission to kill one of the 9/11 masterminds, just using a drone and a high tech missile. That's next.
Then we could be just moments away from that much needed relief for veterans who were exposed to burn pits. Will the Senate vote on the PACT Act, to actually get through this time?
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Sticking with our world lead and the aftermath of that successful U.S. drone strike that killed the leader of al Qaeda, a man who was one of the masterminds of the September 11 attacks, CNN has identified this as the house in Kabul, Afghanistan, where a hellfire missile drone strike took out Ayman al-Zawahiri. The 71-year-old rose to the very top of that terrorist organization after the U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden in 2011, the United States has said they do not have DNA confirmation of Zawahiri's deaths but it has visual confirmation and reassurance through other sources that he was, in fact, killed and that no civilian was harmed in the attack.
As CNN's Alex Marquardt reports for us now, top U.S. national security officials are now saying that the Taliban harbored Zawahiri, which would be a clear violation of a 2020 deal with the U.S.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Smoke billowing over Kabul following the pinpoint strike on Ayman al-Zawahiri's house. The windows of that house blown, but the structure instance, evidence of the care that was taken to avoid collateral damage.
Aside from Zawahiri, U.S. officials say, no one was hurt or killed.
Today, the BBC visited the house, now draped in a green covering. The world's most wanted terrorist, the White House said, was killed on the third floor balcony.
KIRBY: In this case, we used an unmanned aerial vehicle with missiles obviously and two of those missiles were fired at Mr. Zawahiri while he was outside on that third floor balcony. The president made it clear when he made the decision that he wanted to make sure we avoided civilian casualties. And we know we did.
MARQUARDT: Visual and other kinds of intelligence confirmed that, the White House's John Kirby said. But there is no DNA evidence of Zawahiri's death.
The intelligence gathering and planning took place for most of the year. The Situation Room meeting with top national security officials was an early July, when president was shown a model of Zawahiri's building.
Confidence has grown that the al Qaeda leader, who had a $25 million bounty on his head, had moved into downtown Kabul with his family. He never left the house, officials say, but his family's movement were tracked and he was spotted on the balcony where was eventually killed early Sunday morning Kabul time, with two hellfire missions launched by a drone overhead.
Zawahiri's last recorded message was just three weeks ago. He had become more of a spiritual figurehead than an operational leader of al Qaeda. But his presence in the Afghan capital as evidence the U.S. says the Taliban reneging on the deal known as the Doha agreement, that they would not harbor terrorist in Afghanistan.
JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: There were senior members of the Haqqani Network who are affiliated with the Taliban, who did know that Zawahiri was in Kabul. There may have been other members of the Taliban who did not know. We have already been engaged with the Taliban, and I'm not going to
preview any further actions that we will take to ensure that the Taliban lives up to its commitments.
MARQUARDT: The Taliban has condemned the strike, but the Biden administration immediately held it up as proof that terrorist can effectively be targeted inside Afghanistan with no U.S. boots on the ground.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you are a threat to our people, the United States will find you and take you out.
MARQUARDT (on camera): Now, there is no doubt that this is a sophisticated, well executed strike, but it does remain to be seen whether this over the horizon capability as it's known can be scaled up and abdicated for other terrorists who are as prominent as Zawahiri and who are often in for more remote areas.
Jake, as for who may take over from Zawahiri? Experts believe the next person in line is a man name Saif Al-Ade. He's a fellow Egyptian who was believed to have been living in Iran. He's been on the FBI's most wanted terrorist list. But there is a reward out for him for $10 million for information on him.
TAPPER: Yeah, Zawahiri was on the FBI most wanted list --
MARQUARDT: A long time.
TAPPER: -- since 1998 for the U.S. embassy bombings in Africa.
Alex Marquardt, thank you so much.
Joining us now to discuss, White House homeland security advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall.
Liz, congratulations to those who carried out this successful attack and congratulations to the White House. Always good to have a leader of al Qaeda gone.
Can you give us any more insight into how this operation developed? How did the U.S. locate Zawahiri? And how did the U.S. decided that the drone strike was the best plan of action?
LIZ SHERWOOD-RANDALL, WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISOR: Thanks Jake. It's great to be with you.
Look, the president set very high bars for us. First of all, we had to gather the intelligence that enabled us to know where Zawahiri was and that it was actually Zawahiri who was located in the house in Kabul. We had to be able to confirm that with high confidence.
Second, the president wanted to understand the details of the proposed operation, which had to be developed with multiple iterations and with red teaming to ensure that all efforts have been made at the president's direction to minimize civilian casualties. And to ensure that the weapons that were used for the strike, that we could prevent the building from collapsing but rather to a precise and targeted strike against the individual, Ayman al-Zawahiri, sitting on his third floor balcony.
TAPPER: So, that's -- go ahead.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Third, we had to do this -- we had to do this from over the horizon, as you're recording has indicated with no boots on the ground. So, that creates an additional challenge which we were capable of meeting. And that fulfils the president's commitment to the American people when he made the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, that we would be capable of engaging when we needed to, to signal that it was not acceptable to allow terrorist to have a safe harbor in Afghanistan.
And with Zawahiri dead now, it's evident that al Qaeda has no safe home, no safe house, no safe harbor in Afghanistan.
TAPPER: So, can -- you mention, in point two there, about not exploding the house, so is not a step civilian casualties, can you confirm exactly what weapon that was used here? Because I've seen reports that it was a CIA drone with so-called sword bombs? Is that accurate?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Jake, we're not going to go into those details. You have heard reporting that the strike was taken from a drone with two hellfire missiles. They were fired with great precision and accuracy, and that led to the death of Ayman al-Zawahiri, and that it prevented the collapsing of the building due to its precision.
TAPPER: If you do not have DNA evidence, how can you be confident that Zawahiri is the man who was killed in the drone strike?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Well, we know who was on the balcony. We have multiple sources and methods that we have used to confirm with high confidence that it was Zawahiri who was killed. We also have seen a cover-up that was undertaken by the Haqqani Taliban in an endeavor to quickly remove his family from the compound and the cleanup after the strike.
TAPPER: Last August, President Biden said this when he was defending the withdrawal of U.S. troops from of Afghanistan. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Look, let's put this thing in perspective here. What interest do we have in Afghanistan at this point with al Qaeda gone? We went to Afghanistan for the express purpose of getting rid of al Qaeda in Afghanistan, as well as -- as well as getting Osama bin Laden. And we did.
(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: One could argue the strike is proof that al Qaeda is not only still in Afghanistan, but that it was emboldened by the withdrawal of U.S. troops, in the sense that here we have the head of al Qaeda, in downtown Kabul.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: I think the opposite it's true actually. We have signaled vividly to those who are leaving Afghanistan today that we won't tolerate this. We have explicit intelligence, we were able to find Zawahiri where he was located and we were able to target him and kill them.
And for the Taliban, it is evidence that we will uphold the Doha agreement. They need to uphold the Doha agreement, or there will be consequences because the president is committed to ensuring that there will not be operational planning in the United States against Afghanistan again.
TAPPER: What possible consequences?
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: There are numerous things that the Taliban wants right now. They need international recognition. Indeed, they want to invite countries to come back and locate embassies in Kabul, in the very area where five this strike took place. They're looking for financing that will allow their economy to get back on its feet. They are looking for any kinds of sanctions relief.
And with evidence that is broadcast through the world, to the strike we had to take, it's clear the Taliban does not living up to its commitment. So, that would put at risk some of the things that they most desperately need.
We have business to do with them, too. We need to secure the release of Mark Frerichs. -We want to ensure that we can continue to evacuate those who are partners in Afghanistan, so they'll be an ongoing dialogue with the Taliban about matters on the table between the two of us. And we know they need the kind of recognition and support that will be denied to them they continue to provide safe haven to terrorists the like of Ayman al-Zawahiri.
TAPPER: Well, congratulations to the Biden White House. Congratulations especially to those who carried out this mission.
Liz Sherwood-Randall, thank you so much for your time.
SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Thanks very much, Jake.
TAPPER: Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner back in a Russian courtroom as questions grow about a possible prisoner swap. That's ahead.
TAPPER: We're back with more on our world lead. Today, Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said American, quote,
megaphone diplomacy will not help WNBA star, Brittney Griner, after Russia did not immediately except a very public U.S. proposal for a prisoner swap.
Meanwhile, Griner, who has been detained in Russia since February, awaits her faith in court. The Olympian has pleaded guilty, but insists she only accidentally entered Russia with less than a gram of cannabis oil. She's facing up to ten years in prison.
CNN's Fred Pleitgen is following this all for Moscow.
Fred, Griner was in court today for his seventh time. How close is this verdict?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it seems like it's very close. This was the final day that witnesses were called by the defense and they had an expert witness on, sort of call into question some of the original forensics that were done on those two vaping cartridges which Brittney Griner has, of course, admitted to having brought with her when she entered that Moscow airport on February 17th.
Again, she said she did not do that on purpose. She didn't know that she had them, and basically, the question, is how much should cannabis was actually inside them? That was sort of called into question today. In total, I was able to speak to Brittney Griner's defense team today and they told me they think they've been quite successful so far, given the circumstances.
They said that Brittney Griner, of course, pleaded guilty, took responsibility, at the same time, they are trying to cast some doubt on some of the forensics that were done. But she also had some character witnesses as well that sort of testified about the fact that she's obviously someone who's done a lot for the sport of basketball, not just internationally, but specifically in Russia as well.
They are looking for a lenient verdict. Of course, you know, we've talked about this and Russian courts really aren't known for leniency. There could be a verdict, though, and I got this today from the defense team as early as Thursday of this week. Not clear whether that's actually going to happen. They said it is a possibility, Jake.
TAPPER: Fred, what do we know about the possible prisoner exchange? Is that just off the table?
PLEITGEN: Well, we know that Russians want to talk about it publicly. One of the things that you just mentioned is that Dmitry Peskov came out once again today and called all of it, megaphone diplomacy. But it certainly is something that does loom very large over Brittney Griner's trial. It's not necessarily something that happens in a procedural hearing, or plays a role there, but it's certainly something that sort of is around and is really very much publicly discussed also here in Russia, you know, on use TV as well. So it's certainly something that's out there. It's unclear whether or
not these negotiations are still going on, whether or not they've gone cold. But certainly, the Russians are still commenting on it, as we heard from Dmitry Peskov today.
One of the things that Brittney Griner's legal team told me today is they think that they believe that there needs to be a verdict in the trial, in order for a prisoner exchange to happen. Again, that could happen as early as Thursday. But then of course, we don't know where these negotiations currently are.
The defense team tells me they do hope that there could be a prisoner exchange. They simply want Brittney to come home as fast as possible, Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Fred Pleitgen in Moscow for us, thank you so much.
Let's bring in Tom Firestone, former legal adviser to the U.S. embassy in Moscow.
Tom, thanks so much for being here.
You heard Fred say that the verdict could come as soon as Thursday. What do you expect in terms of sentencing?
THOMAS FIRESTONE, FORMER DOJ LEGAL ADVISER TO U.S. EMBASSY IN MOSCOW: Well, I think we will get a conviction, first of, all because of the conviction rate in Russia's very high, about 99 percent. In terms of sentencing, is very hard to predict. Judges in Russia have tremendous discretion. It's not like in the U.S. where you have sentencing guidelines. So it could be low or it could be high.
Most recent presidents we have of Americans, we had Marc Fogel, who was convicted in June for less than 20 grams of medical cannabis, got 14 years. Naama Issachar in 2019 had less than ten grams of marijuana, got seven and a half years. So that suggests there will be a substantial sentence.
TAPPER: If Griner is convicted and if she sends before there is any sort of prisoner swap, we've heard a little bit from Trevor Reed, the former marine who was in the Russian prison, about how horrible the system can be. Is that what is going to be like for her, too?
FIRESTONE: Well, it's not a good place to be, obviously. You just read the State Department of human rights reports on Russian conditions paint a very ugly picture. So if she's convicted, she will stay in the pre-trial detention facility near Moscow until her appeal is heard and presumably upheld. Then she will be sent to a penal colony outside of Moscow. So, it's not a pretty place to be.
TAPPER: Are women's prisons as bad as men's prisons in Russia?
FIRESTONE: I was only, when I worked at the embassy, I was only in men's prisons. But the women's prisons are not good either. Again, we have Naama Issachar talked about what it was like when she was there and she painted a very unpleasant picture. TAPPER: What do you think was behind the U.S. strategy to make such a
public proposal for a prisoner swap, which Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman today, called megaphone diplomacy?
FIRESTONE: Well, presumably, they were getting a lot of pressure here in the United States to do something to get Griner and Paul Whelan out, and I think they wanted to show that look, the problems on our side. We made the offer. It's the Russians were not accepting.
I think they are trying to demonstrate how much they were doing to try to get Griner and Whelan out.
TAPPER: I guess I don't understand after so much about Putin and the Russians, I don't understand. But Viktor Bout, who is, like, a Bond super villain, I mean, arms dealer, drug dealer, horrible person in a U.S. prison right now. It seems like he is more valuable to the Russian government than these two civilians, who I definitely, you know, I want them home and all that, but they are not, like, key masterminds and spies and drug runners and arms runners.
Why wouldn't the Russians want that swap? It seems like, you know, Boot is perfect for them to continue to carry out their evil plans.
FIRESTONE: Well, I think that they probably, I can't get inside their minds, but presumably they are looking at the way things are going in the United States. They see there's a lot of pressure on the Biden administration to get Griner and Whelan out.
And so, maybe they're thinking, yeah, we can play this out a little bit longer. Boot has been in jail for a long time, he can sit a little bit longer. Maybe we'll try to squeeze some extra concessions on the U.S. government.
TAPPER: So Viktor Bout's attorney told CNN, the progress is being made on a prisoner swap. He's confident it will happen. He says, that's information coming from the Russian side.
What do you think?
FIRESTONE: Well, he's -- we don't know. It's very hard to evaluate. He's not privy to everything that's going on. It looks like there's a lot of discussion. Things are moving in that direction. We still got a ways to go.
If they did, in fact, insist on throwing Mr. Krasikov into some deal, the United States had said that that's not a serious offer. It looks like we've got a ways to go until there's a full deal.
TAPPER: Yeah, but Dean Krasikov, a convicted murderer who's in German custody, they want him back as well. I mean, okay.
Thanks so much, Tom. I appreciate it.
FIRESTONE: Thank you. TAPPER: The people that they want back, the convicted murder and an
arms deal, and we have a WNBA star. Anyway, thank you so much.
FIRESTONE: Thank you very much.
TAPPER: They may be the two most powerful Democrats in Washington right now. I wonder what Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema were talking about this afternoon. That's next.
TAPPER: Topping our politics lead now, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate is on track to vote this week on the Democrats climate and health care bill.
His partner on that legislation, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, suggested the deal could garner all 50 Democratic votes, because it is everything Kyrsten agreed to in December, unquote. He is, of course, referring to a key holdout, Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Sinema has yet to tell anyone where she stands on this bill.
We should note, however, she has recently previously raised concerns about taxing on a hired rate carried interest, what hedge fund managers pay for example, which is part of the deal, that carry interest loophole allows investment just to pay lower taxes, 15 percent, on their compensation.
CNN congressional correspondent Jessica Dean joins us now live.
And, Jessica, how much longer is this deal -- this Schumer-Manchin deal in a holding pattern?
JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are looking at two people right now. We are looking at the parliamentarian, because they're using the special Democrats only budget process, is having to rule on all these items they want to put in the pill, bill. We are waiting for her to say if it all fits in. That's number one.
Number two, as you just alluded to, Senator Kristen Sinema who is still yet to publicly speak on this. She said she's waiting for the parliamentarian to rule on this to make or decision. But we did see her and Senator Joe Manchin talking for about nine minutes on the Senate floor. She presided over the Senate floor earlier today.
He took questions from the press shortly thereafter. He was asked about that. He said it was a good conversation. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): We had a nice talk. It was a good conversation based on the facts. We were exchange -- we will be exchanging tests back and forth. She's always been that.
She's extremely -- she works hard. She makes good decisions based on facts. I'm relying on that. And our staffs will be working together very closely with all of the senators.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEAN: And, Jake, he was asked specifically about closing the tax loophole on carried interests that she just explained, and he said that is something they're still talking about. So, that is still, again, some of the papers they're trading back and forth.
It appears and I asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer if he talk to Sinema and if he requested any changes, where they have talked about any changes, and he simply said that they have been in touch and he was hopeful they will all stay united, Jake.
TAPPER: Jessica, today the Senate passed a bill that would expand death and disability benefits for public safety officers suffering from post traumatic stress than those who died by suicide.
And we have some news. Schumer just said minutes ago that the Democrats and Republicans have reached a deal for a vote tonight on this bill, the PACT Act, to provide health insurance for veterans who have illnesses because they were exposed to toxic burn pits. Tell us more about that.
DEAN: Right, this is a significant development. Legislation that we thought was going to passed last week with no problem. That's when Republicans held it up. With Senator Pat Toomey, Republican from Pennsylvania, kind of being the ringleader there, holding it up because of a budget issue that he was not happy with, he wanted an amendment vote. They have been back and forth over this, stalling out this legislation for veterans.
Now it appears we are going to have this vote serious tonight, starting at 5:00 p.m., and the compromise they came to is three and then votes with the 60 vote threshold. So, Senator Toomey agreeing to that. His amendment will one of those amendment votes and they will vote on a final passage.
What's key here, Jake, is once it passes here in the Senate, and we do expect that the ultimate final passage vote will be a large bipartisan vote, it will go to Presidents Biden's desk for signature -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Jessica Dean, reporting on Capitol Hill, thank you so much.
Almost three months ago the first case of monkeypox was diagnosed in the U.S. So, why is the White House just now naming someone to coordinate the response?
Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our health lead, and in the hopefully better late than never category -- today, the Biden administration finally name leaders for the national effort to contain the monkeypox outbreak in the U.S. Robert Fenton, a regional FEMA administrator who oversees four western states including California, will serve as the national monkeypox response coordinator. His deputy is Dr. Demetrea Daskalakis, the director of the CDC's division of HIV/AIDS prevention.
As you've undoubtedly heard by now, monkeypox causes unsettling skin lesions, severe pain and injury cases, some people die. The first U.S. case was confirmed on May 17 in Massachusetts. It is still spread across the country, with at least 5,800 probable or confirmed cases in the U.S. Globally, the count is more than 23,000 in 80 countries.
Let's bring in epidemiologist Michael Osterholm. He's a director of University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Diseases, Research and Policy.
First of all, Michael, your reaction to today's announcement it seems to cover both the bureaucratic and the medical ends of the spectrum. I know a lot of people thought this took too long.
MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, FORMER MEMBER, BIDEN'S TRANSITION COVID-19 ADVISORY BOARD: Well, I think it is a good, positive step forward, but I think we have to add the important dose of reality is that the only thing that's ever going to bring this outbreak under control and contain it is going to be a vaccine. And we have a major shortage globally of vaccines.
And so, until we get, that I don't care how many people you were point or what you will point. We will have tremendous challenges with monkeypox.
TAPPER: One of the challenges, as you and I have discussed, you think that the public health messaging about those who are most at risk for monkeypox, which are men who have multiple male sexual partners, you think that messaging needs to be much clearer and much more specific?
OSTERHOLM: Well, I do and I think that we've shied away from being clear. Our job in public health is to call law balls and strikes. We're supposed to just put the facts out there and then act accordingly to try to reduce the risk of diseases in our communities.
For example, right now, we have many that refused to consider this a sexually transmitted infection. Somehow, that's a stigmatization. Well, in fact, it is a sexually transmitted disease infection, just like syphilis or any herpes, any of the diseases like that that also have ulcers.
Second of all is the fact that in terms of looking at who's at risk, we are stigmatizing in the sense, all gay men. If you look at the surveys that have been done looking at sexual activity among gay men, most notably the one from the University of Chicago found that 52 percent of gay men have ten or fewer partners, and they are not wildly sexually active, as some people have suggested, and wrongfully so.
On the other hand, 10 percent of gay men have had 101 or more partners in their lifetime, and 1.9 percent have had over 400. And when we look at that group, that is the group that we are really seeing the activity with this virus.
And so, it's a really important issue for us to get vaccines for that group. Not just gay men, but if we are going to have the most targeted impact, we've got to know who the audience is that we need to be promoting vaccination for.
TAPPER: Right, there's a fear of stigmatizing. I just want to clarify something, though. You say it is a sexually transmitted disease, but it's not only is sexually transmitted disease, right? People can get it from close contact without having sex, even with, like, I think some children have gotten it, not necessarily from sexual contact or not from sexual contact, I should say.
OSTERHOLM: No, that's a very important point, Jake. But every sexually transmitted disease we have had that same characteristics. Look at HIV/AIDS. In the early days of HIV/AIDS, some of the most painful moments I had we're looking at all of the young kids with hemophilia, who developed HIV because of blood exposure.
Today, one of the challenges we have is with syphilis is actually the transmission from infected mother to an unborn child. I can go through the laundry list, even Zika, the disease that was for so long considered a mosquito borne disease, today we know is sexually transmitted.
So it doesn't mean that it's exclusively sexually transmitted --
OSTERHOLM: But that's an important point because still, 98 percent of the cases we are seeing are in gay men. A study just released out of England, 44 percent of them have reported participating in group sex in the time period they were likely infected. That's the area that we need to concentrate on to try to reduce transmission.
TAPPER: And how do you do that?
OSTERHOLM: Well, I think first, we'll get as much vaccine to them as possible. But in fact, as of today, Jake, we are now over 90 countries in the world that have cases. And so, the whole world wants this vaccine, for which there is only one supplier in the whole world.
And, fortunately, the United States government invested what they did because they are the ones who got this vaccine as far as it is. But the problem is, we are going to have a big shortage of vaccines over the days and months ahead. I think it's very critical that every community in this country public health, the gay community, the medical community, come together and say, okay, if we only have 8,000 doses and we have 20,000 people that likely need it, how are we going to give that out so that we have the most impact? That's, again, the most important to note who is at highest risk.
So I think the other area that we are going to see in the near term, I'm convinced of, we are going to see more and more spillover into Black women. Why? Because when we look at HIV, the same thing happened, where a number of Black men who have sex with men did not acknowledge such that they are having a non heterosexual experience, and then we see it spill over into their female sex partners. That's going to be critical that we get ahead of that.
So right now, we need to bring communities together to say, how are we going to use this precious vaccine? Then provide the risk reduction information. You know, you can do a lot to control this in your own life. And we are talking short term. We are not talking about for the rest of your life, but until the months ahead that we have the vaccines.
TAPPER: Michael Osterholm, thank so much. Appreciate it.
OSTERHOLM: Thank you.
TAPPER: What's up with text messages from January 6 being deleted? Another agency's records have been wiped.
And the news that you will hear first here on CNN. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
At this hour, have you been accused of cheating with tampering with other team's players or even trying to bribe a coach to lose games? Don't worry, you can still own an NFL team.
The owner of the Miami Dolphins just learned the results of the league's investigation and his punishment.
Plus, the Secret Service, the Department of Homeland Security, and now, the Pentagon -- do any key officials at government agencies still have their text message records from January 6th?
And leading this hour, despite warnings from U.S. officials about adding to the instability between the U.S. and China, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in Taiwan in the days and hours leading up to her visit, China repeatedly made threats of military repercussions.
And just moments after Pelosi touched down in Taipei, China made an announcement seeming to back up those threats.