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The Lead with Jake Tapper

White House Summons Chinese Ambassador To Condemn Provocations; Russia Ready To Discuss Prisoner Swap After Griner Sentencing; U.S. Job Numbers, Unemployment Back At Pre-Pandemic Levels; Now: Jury Considering Punitive Damages In Alex Jones Case; Monkeypox Outbreak: Urgent Please For Vaccines; Rep. Meijer Blasts Democrats Hypocrisy Of Backing His GOP Primary Opponent. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired August 05, 2022 - 16:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Hippos are typically born at 100 pounds or -- give or take. The new baby hippo doesn't have a name yet, but the zoo is taking name suggestions on their website.

And be sure to tune in Sunday for "STATE OF THE UNION". I'll be joined by Senators Lindsey Graham and Richard Blumenthal, as well as Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams. That's Sunday 9:00 a.m. and noon.

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: A 50-year low that surprised everyone.

THE LEAD starts right now.

The U.S. economy has regained all of the jobs lost during the pandemic. What the July jobs report stunner means for the high cost of basics like gas, food and housing.

And, then missiles, military drills and now a communication cut-off. Tensions between the U.S. and China get worse as the White House summons China's ambassador and Beijing sanctions Nancy Pelosi.

Plus, water wars pitting neighbors against neighbors, as states fight over who gets to use the river that fuels life. We visit two states that are facing off.


BROWN: Hello and welcome to THE LEAD on this Friday. I'm Pamela Brown, in for Jake Tapper.

I will begin this hour with our world lead, and a pair of escalating international crises. Russia and the United States are now indicating they're ready to hold talks about a prisoner swap, just a day after a Russian court convicted American basketball star Brittney Griner of drug smuggling, and sentenced her to nine years in prison.

Potential prisoner swap talks could include fellow American Paul Whelan who has been detained in Russia since 2018. We'll have more on that in just a moment, but first, another crisis unfolding. China is taking dramatic new steps of retaliation for house Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan including sanctioning Pelosi and her family.

Plus, military escalation. Taiwan's defense ministry reports dozens of Chinese war planes crossing into its air defense territory today. In return, the White House summoned the Chinese ambassador. The administration says it is expecting further provocative actions.

As CNN Barbara Starr reports, all of this come as China says it is suspending cooperation with the U.S. on a range of issues critical to both countries and the world.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A torrent of Chinese aircraft, missiles and ships moved towards Taiwan as soon as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi left the island. China marking off areas encircling Taiwan where its military is doing more than just drills.

Taiwan says 68 Chinese war planes flew around the Taiwan Strait Friday. Chinese drones flew close to Japan, prompting Tokyo to scramble fighter jets. Even as it called for calm, the White House stepping up its rhetoric, summoning China's ambassador to the U.S. to condemn the provocations.

An official with the Chinese embassy in Washington told the reporters that the issue of Taiwan is sensitive, saying Taiwan is one of the very few issues that might take China and the United States to conflict or even a war. So extra caution and responsibility are indispensable when it comes to Taiwan.

But the U.S. is worried they are unveiling a year-long campaign, constant pressure on Taiwan, aimed at eventual takeover.

JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESPERSON: Beijing's provocative actions are significant escalation and its longstanding attempt to change the status quo.

STARR: In Beijing, total rejection of the U.S. position.

HUA CHUNYING, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON (through translator): If they really worry about the regional peace and stability, why didn't they act earlier to prevent Pelosi from paying a provocative visit to Taiwan?

STARR: China reacting with meetings between Chinese and U.S. defense officials, pausing climate talks with the United States and sanctioning Pelosi and her immediate family.

Still, a muted U.S. military response in the region. An intercontinental ballistic missile test postponed out of concern China could misinterpret it. The Aircraft Carrier Ronald Reagan expected to return to port in Japan next week, after staying at sea for just a handful of extra days to maintain a U.S. presence near Taiwan.


STARR (on camera): And we now have the first substantive statement from the Pentagon just a few moments ago from Todd Breasseale, the acting DOD press secretary, and he says, I quote: The PRC has chosen to overreact and use the speaker's visit as a pretext to increase provocative military activity in and around the Taiwan Strait. Part of this overreaction has been strictly limiting its defense engagements when any responsible state would recognize that we need them now the most.


Although the PRC has unilaterally turned off a number of defense engagements, we remain open to communication and committing to build crisis communications and risk reduction mechanisms.

The Pentagon tonight always worried about just how far this could ratchet up -- Pamela.

BROWN: Understandably on high alert. Barbara Starr, thank you so much.

And turning to Russia now, and the renewed U.S. efforts to negotiate for the release of both Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan.

Griner's lawyers tell CNN's Fred Pleitgen They say the court fight isn't over as Russia says it is ready to talk about a swap.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): After the harsh verdict against Brittney Griner for drug charges, the WNBA star's lawyer write after visiting Griner tells me she is still in shock but in a fighting spirit.

MARIA BLAGOVOLINA, BRITTNEY GRINER'S RUSSIAN COUNSEL: She is doing better than yesterday. She is still processing what has happened, but by tried to help. We told but this huge support she's getting, and in Russia now as well. Everybody here is very much surprised with this very harsh sentence.

PLEITGEN: The court sentenced the two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist to nine years in a Russian penal colony, and while her legal team says they will immediately appeal the verdict which they say was deeply unfair, they welcome a prisoner swap to get Griner back to the U.S.

BLAGOVOLINA: It is the perfect thing to get her home, of course. We hope that she will get home soon.

PLEITGEN: Now that the sentence has been handed down, Russia for the first time is saying it is willing to engage with the U.S. on a possible exchange. And that a mechanism for such swaps was put in place after President Biden's summit with Russian Leader Vladimir Putin in Switzerland last year.

SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: As for specifically on the issue of persons convicted in Russia and the U.S., I have already said that there is the special channel that was agreed to by the presidents. Whatever might be said publicly, this channel is still relevant.

PLEITGEN: The U.S. has said it has put an offer on the table to get both Brittney Griner and former marine Paul Whelan currently serving a 16-year sentence for espionage which he denies, released.

CNN learning that the Biden administration is offering convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in return.

Secretary of State Blinken says Washington will take up Moscow's offer to negotiate.

ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We put forward as you know a substantial proposal that Russia should engage with us on. And what the Foreign Minister Lavrov said this morning, and said publicly, is that they are prepared to engage through channels we've established to do just that. And we'll be pursuing that.

PLEITGEN: The Kremlin was extremely irritated when the U.S. made its offer public last week. Vladimir Putin's spokesman saying any future talks need to be held in secret or they'll fail.

DMITRI PESKOV, KREMLIN SPOKESPERSON (through translator): if we discuss even a few details of prisoner exchanges by the press, then those exchanges will never take place. The Americans have already made that mistake, suddenly deciding to use mega phone diplomacy to resolve these issues. This is not how they are resolved so we will not give any comments.


PLEITGEN (on camera): And, Pamela, Brittney Griner is not yet in that very tough penal colony. She hasn't been moved there yet. She's in the facility she's been in the whole time. That's because all of it is pending the appeal her lawyers say they are going to file.

Now, we have learned from the lawyers today, those appeals are usually dealt with very quickly here in Russia. It can take only one trial session to get it over with. And the success rate in Russia, not very high for appeals -- Pamela.

BROWN: Fred Pleitgen in Moscow, thank you so much.

And joining us now live to discuss all this is Democratic Jean Shaheen of New Hampshire. She serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Hi, Senator. So, the Russian foreign minister is talking about negotiating through a, quote, specified channel between President Putin and President Biden. Help us understand what that means.

SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-NH): Well, I hope that means the Russians are serious about negotiating through the private channels. I assume that's why Foreign Secretary Lavrov made that announcement and clearly the U.S. announcement that we had put an offer on the table is something that has put some pressure on the Russians. So they feel a need to respond.

And I think that's very important as we look at how we can help both Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan who have been health as political prisoners by Russia. And so, hopefully, this is a good sign we'll see negotiations move forward.

BROWN: Well, today, Trevor Reed who was released after four years in a Russian prison, shared a little about what Griner is facing.


TREVOR REED, FORMER U.S. MARINE DETAINED IN RUSSIAN PRISON FOR 985 DAYS: Anyone in a forced labor camp in Russia is obviously, you know, facing serious threats to their health because of malnutrition.


You know, there is little to no medical attention there whatsoever. Tuberculosis runs rampant in Russian prisons. There's diseases that they have there in Russia which largely extinct in the United States now.


BROWN: We should note, detained American Paul Whelan's health has suffered immensely while he's been in prison in Russia. And there is no guarantee that Russia would accept an offer for a prisoner swap.

Do you think there's any scenario, Senator, where the U.S. would let Brittney Griner actually serve her nine-year sentence in Russia?

SHAHEEN: I think it's very important. I have seen this in cases where Americans were being held in foreign countries. It's very important that we continue to engage with the Russians on a regular basis. That we continue to remind them how important it is to release these Americans. How unlawful it is to be held as political prisoners for us to continue to keep the pressure on.

And I think that is the reason that Secretary Blinken released this details of what the United States has put on the table so we can get Russia to the negotiating table so we can hopefully work out some sort of an agreement that will release those Americans.

BROWN: I want to turn to China. China is ramping up retaliation for Nancy Pelosi's trip to Taiwan. And that could have big consequences for the United States.

Did you think China would go this far this soon after that trip?

SHAHEEN: You know, it sort of reminds me of politics 101. When things aren't going well at home, you find an enemy and you try to ramp up opposition to that enemy as a way the make people forget they're not happy with President Xi's COVID policies in China. That the economy is not growing as fast as people were expecting. And he's got his big political conference coming up where he's hoping to get a third term this fall. And so, he's trying to do everything he can to bring the Chinese people behind him and his policies.

And unfortunately, what we're seeing is an effort, I think he used Speaker Pelosi's trip as an excuse. They had had those drills and exercises. They've been working on those for a long period of time. Those didn't just come together this week.

BROWN: Right. But critics would say, look. Nancy Pelosi gave him that excuse. I want to get your reaction to something Speaker Pelosi said before departing Asia today.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: They may try to keep Taiwan from visiting or participating in other places. But they will not isolate Taiwan by preventing us to travel there. They are not doing our travel schedule.


BROWN: This isn't just about a travel schedule, though, Senator. I mean, this is about impacting U.S. foreign policy with another super power. Now you have the Chinese embassy in D.C. saying Taiwan is one of the few issues that could lead to war.

Do you think Speaker Pelosi overstepped her bounds here?

SHAHEEN: Look, America's policy toward Taiwan and China has not changed. It didn't change because of speaker Pelosi's trip. That was very clear to the Chinese. I think it is irresponsible for China to try to pretend their problem with Taiwan is Speaker Pelosi's visit.

The problem the Chinese have with Taiwan, they've been very clear about it. They want to take Taiwan back. They don't want a democracy just miles off their shore because the Chinese people can see how, what it is like to be free in Taiwan.

What it is like to be able to determine their own leadership. What it is like to have an economy that's growing. So that's who should be blamed for this trip. It's President Xi and the People's Republic of China.

BROWN: OK. Very quickly, before you go. I have to ask you. Do you think President Biden should run again?

SHAHEEN: I think President Biden is doing a good job and he's going to make that determination based on his personal future and --

BROWN: But do you think he should?

SHAHEEN: I think he should run again, yes. If he decides he wants to run again, absolutely he should run again.

BROWN: All right. Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, thank you so much. SHAHEEN: Thank you.

BROWN: Well, the July jobs report much better than expected. What that means for the possibility of a recession, up next.

And then it is so difficult to get the monkeypox vaccine. People are standing in line for hours several days in a row. That's ahead.



BROWN: In our money lead, today's way better than expected job number have President Biden and the Democrats crowing, economists scratching their heads and Wall Street investors in a funk. Employers added 528,000 jobs in July. Twice as many as expected. The unemployment rate fell to 3.5 percent.

Now, strictly in terms of number, this means the U.S. economy has recovered all the jobs it lost during the pandemic. And July's unemployment rate matches the 50-year low we were at when the pandemic started. And yet, the Dow Industrials, S&P 500, and Nasdaq spent much of the day in red.

Let's bring in CNN's Matt Egan to help make sense of this all.

So, first of all, Matt, take us through job numbers. Why were economists predicting worse than we saw?

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Pamela, this really was a shocker.

Basically, everyone expected that it would cool off in July. Instead it heated up. This 528,000 jobs added didn't just beat expectations. It crushed it.

It was 200,000 jobs more than the most optimistic forecaster predicted. Everyone underestimated how desperate companies are for workers and it was across the board -- leisure and hospitality, professional services, health care, all of them adding jobs.


Companies are still making money. Many of them are in expansion mode. That means they're hiring workers. They're not firing them.

They're raising wages. They're not cutting them. And if you look at all this together, it really paints the picture, Pamela, of a jobs market that remains hot.

BROWN: But you have these numbers competing with inflation and consumer sour mode. But listen to what the Democrats are saying today.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Almost 10 million jobs -- almost 10 million jobs since I took office. That's the fastest job growth in history.

MARTY WALSH, LABOR SECRETARY: If we were in a recession, company would be laying people off rather than hiring them.


BROWN: So we're back to that same question, Matt. Are we in a recession? Or heading to a recession or not?

EGAN: Well, I think there's a little timing issue hear. Some have argued the U.S. economy is already in recession. I think today's jobs report severely undermines that argument. In a recession you would be losing not just hundreds of thousands of jobs but millions of jobs. You would have business failures and wage cuts.

And we're just not seeing that yet. But I do think that this keeps alive the median term of a recession because the problem is the jobs market remains way too hot. Goldman Sachs put out a reporting saying that said it is currently overheating. And so, that that means the fed will have to do more to cool things off. This does keep alive the risk of a boom-bust scenario, though perhaps the bust is not a 2022 story, it is 2023 or 2024.

BROWN: But then you have Wall Street's utterly blase reaction today to the numbers. Why are investors so gloomy?

EGAN: Well, Pamela, sometimes good news on Main Street is treated as bad news on Wall Street. The second these numbers came out, we saw markets take a hit although they did rebound somewhat. I think the big concern was that they will have to keep up the war on inflation. Remember, they've been aggressively raising interest rates, trying to slow this jobs market down. And today's report suggests they have a lot more work to do.

BROWN: Matt Egan, thank you.

Quote, when he breathes, he lies. That's how the lawyer for two Sandy Hook parents summed up Alex Jones. This as we wait for a second verdict from the jury. We'll be right back.



BROWN: Topping our national lead, a jury is deciding how much more if any in punitive damages far right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has to pay. A day after it awarded Sandy Hook parents more than $4 million in compensatory phase of the trial for his vile lies about that massacre.

CNN's Drew Griffin is following this for us.

So, Drew, Jones's net worth and the value of his companies, that was a big part of the hearing today. What did we learn?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Well, first we learned that Jones' camp did not provide all the information that the plaintiffs in this case, the parents of one kid who was killed at Sandy Hook were trying to get. But an economist and a special expert witness got on the stand and said Jones' wealth is somewhere between $135 million and $270 million. Despite whatever Jones says about bankruptcy, and something else that was interesting.

That Jones, after losing these lawsuits which he did last year, began to start moving his money all around. He pulled $62 million out in 2021. And then started moving another $11,000 a day into this group of companies, and there are nine different companies. They were described as shell companies but they were different companies all connected to Alex Jones.

And the summation of the argument of these parents' attorneys was, look, this guy is loaded. Send a message and silence him. Listen to this.


WESLEY TODD BALL, PLAINTIFFS' ATTORNEY: So I ask of you to take the bull horn away from Alex Jones, and take the first steps toward taking that bull horn away from all the others who have it, or all the others who might want it. All the others who believe they can profit off fear and misinformation.


GRIFFIN: What do they want? They want the rest of that $150 million they asked for yesterday. They only got like $4.1. They want $155 plus million.

For the defense, they say a fair money target today would be $270,000 -- Pamela.

BROWN: And awards as we know, draw a much higher usually in the punitive phase. Should we expect to see that in this case?

GRIFFIN: You might. You might see a whopper.

What you need to remember, Pamela, is not everything is as big as they say it is in Texas. And that includes punitive damages because there's a legal cap. There's legislation that caps the damage award.

So, even if the jury does come back with a whopper, $100 million. Odds are that's going to be whittled down after the jury leaves.

BROWN: All right. Drew Griffin. Thank you so much. And be sure to tune in tonight to Drew's deep dive into Alex Jones. The CNN special report, "Megaphone for Conspiracy: Alex Jones", airs at 11:00 p.m. tonight.

Well, changing the rules on monkeypox. The FDA now considering a way to stretch the limited vaccine supply, as CNN gets an emotional first hand look at those desperate to get a shot.


BROWN: In today's health lead, the U.S. monkeypox case count has now passed 7,000 and continues to grow. New CDC data shows it disproportionately affecting Blacks and Hispanics. And since there isn't enough vaccine to meet the demand, the FDA is considering a rule change to allow health care providers to use a one-dose vial of the vaccine to administer up to five separate doses.

As CNN's David Culver reports, people are lining up in the middle of the night, desperately hoping to get vaccinated before current supplies run out.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We started early, just before 6:00 a.m. Our destination, familiar to our Uber driver. We were her third passenger that morning. Also headed to San Francisco's Zuckerberg general hospital. As we arrived, so, too, revealing a line with mostly men camped out, waiting, some nearly all night.

The security guard telling me that this line started building around 2:00 in the morning.

All of them wanted to be vaccinated against the monkeypox virus.

Cody Aarons (ph) tells me he's been trying for weeks, from New York to now here in the Bay Area.


CODY AARONS: It definitely shows that people are concerned about it.

CULVER: And willing to stand in hours long lines to spill on to the sidewalk. Inside, exhausted hospital staff face another day's surge in vaccine demand. COVID-19 still raging. And now? Monkeypox.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think one of our biggest challenges is really just the inconsistency of the supply. If we could serve more, we would love to not have to turn people away.

CULVER: Here in California, nearly all of them who were reported probable or confirmed cases, more than 98 percent are men. With 97 percent of patients identifying as LGBTQ, while deaths are rare, the symptoms are visible and painful.

KEVIN KWONG, RECOVERED FROM MONKEYPOX: I had between 600 and 800 lesions. It was like someone taking a whole puncher all over my body right under my skin. So there are points where I couldn't walk. I couldn't touch things. Really difficult.

CULVER: Diagnosed on July 4th, after attending New York City Pride, Kevin Kwong says his symptoms lasted some two weeks. He chronicled it on social media.

KWONG: I think I really just didn't want to be loop. I wanted to connect with people and see if others were experiencing what I was.

CULVER: A familiar sentiment for long time LGBTQ advocates living and working in the San Francisco's famed Castro district.

You get a sense that there's just growing uneasiness around monkeypox. For a lot of people, that's eerily reminiscent of what they experienced in the early '80s with the AIDS crisis. There's fear, there's anger, there's anxiety and there's stigma.

TYLER TERMEER, CEO, SAN FRANCISCO AIDS FOUNDATION: It is a tragic, complicated stain on American history that deserves its own memoir. What is the same, however, is the lack of urgency and the federal government has left us on our own to respond.

CULVER: It's personal for Tyler TerMeer. He runs the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and lives with HIV.

TERMEER: We have a responsibility to not further stigmatize or politicize this issue for a community that has long faced many issues dating all the way back to the earliest days of the HIV epidemic.

CULVER: They see mounting criticisms for its handling of the outbreak. On Thursday, the Biden administration declared monkeypox a public health emergency, calling this a critical inflection point.

RAFAEL MANDELMAN, SAN FRANCISCO BOARD SUPERVISOR: The feeling that this is not getting the attention that it would if it were impacting straight people, you know, is real.

CULVER: San Francisco Board Supervisor Rafael Mandelman experienced vaccine delays firsthand.

MANDELMAN: I got myself over to San Francisco General by 5:30, I was the 123rd person in line.

CULVER: Back on San Francisco's front lines, Cody Aarons makes his third attempt to get vaccinated against the virus. Off camera, a hospital staffer updates the crowd.

They're announcing something. I don't know if you can make it out.

Just 45 minutes into the hospital's distribution --

AARONS: No guarantee for vaccines.

CULVER: They had already reached their daily limit.


CULVER (on camera): It is increasingly frustrating for those folks, Pamela. And there has been confirmed cases of monkeypox in children here in the U.S., only a handful so far.

So, here's the bigger concern, and this is the growing fear as these cases continue to go up in number. Similar to what we saw with COVID, new variants could arise. It could make this virus more transmissible, going well beyond the gay community but also make may get more severe. For that reason, Pamela, you've got local, state, now federal leaders urgently trying to stop the spread -- Pamela.

BROWN: David Culver, really important reporting there. Thank you so much.

The governor, senate, secretary of state, one state electricity deniers have been nominated to all of these offices. So what will happen if they win?



BROWN: Our politics lead now. Michigan Congressman Peter Meijer, one of the ten House Republican who's voted to impeach Donald Trump, is speaking out after his razor thin primary loss. Meijer has this message for Democrats after the party's congressional campaign arm spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads to boost his election denying opponent.


REP. PETER MEIJER (R-MI): Any party that pretends to have a set of values and that comes in and boosts exactly the same type of candidate they claim is a threat to democracy, don't expect to have Republicans who will look at that and say, I know I'm going to get heat from my own side. I never expected the other side to as well double down in a cynical ploy to put forward the candidate they think is less electable.


BROWN: All right. Let's discuss with our panel.

I want to bring in, Karen, first off, because you are a Democrat. I want to get your reaction this finger-pointing from Congressman Meijer. Does he have a point?

KAREN FINNEY, SENIOR ADVISER AND SPOKESPERSON, HILLARY FOR AMERICA 2016: It turns out there's politics in politics. The job is to hold on to the majority we have in congress. Sit it is important to remember, he took a courageous vote in terms of impeachment of Donald Trump. He is an anti-choice Republican. He voted against the January 6th committee forming.

So he is someone who has voted with Republicans on a number of issues and blocked a number of the things that Democrats are trying to get done.

BROWN: Let me ask you this. It is not a sure bet that Gibbs will lose in the midterms. Wouldn't Democrats rather work with a Meijer than a Gibbs?

FINNEY: Well, again, they have to do -- the role of the party committee is to do what they think will help them win in November. In this district, they think we've got a shot with our Democratic candidates.

So they have to do what they think is best to give that candidate every opportunity.


And look, people keep complaining Democrats aren't being tough. Well, they're playing tough. They're playing hard ball.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the sanctimonious nonsense who say they are the party of democracy to put their good money behind Republicans who are anti-election and are supportive of the riots at the Capitol. That's awful.

And think about this. What if you were a Democrat, a good Democrat running for office and money that should be going to you is going to a Republican? And here's the thing. They are being used as pawns and Donald Trump's grievance of the past election and the Democrats need to --

FINNEY: Isn't it the failure of the Republicans that these issues have that much weight in the Republican primary? That that is what your voters are voting for? What does that say about the party?

STEWART: Meijer is not running on election fraud. He's not running on insurrection. He's not running on not certifying the election.

FINNEY: His opponent was and they won.

STEWART: He's running on what they can do to fix the economy. He's focused on jobs and issues that are important to the people in his district. And unfortunately, thanks to the Democrats, he's not the nominee.

BROWN: Let me actually -- to Karen's point, because this is a good jumping off point to talk about Arizona where you have election deniers winning the primary. In these four key positions in that state. You have the governor, secretary of state, and attorney general.

Heidi, on that note, I mean, what is the significance of the election lies, essentially winning in this case?

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, WASHINGTON JOURNALIST: The significance is that it is not just happening in this state. It is happening surgically in a lot of the states that Donald Trump contested wrongfully, by the way. There was no evidence of fraud or widespread fraud or ballot tampering in these states. But look at where it is happening in other states, like Michigan. The candidate there for secretary of state as well as AG, it's a trifecta, where the former president is going and he's making these endorsements at the state level to try to elevate people who buy into his election conspiracy theories.

So the threat here, Pamela, is not that all of these people are going to win, because in a lot of cases, they'll probably lose, but because of the surgical nature of it. If even just one gets into office, and one of these critical battleground states, that could be a recipe for some real chaos in upcoming elections.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And it's not only these marquis races where it is happening. It is happening at the state house level and it's happening at the school board level. So this is building a bench of people who will rise through the ranks and have this ideology.

Now, could it change if Donald Trump, or former President Trump is not running the party essentially? Perhaps. But this is -- this is what is being sown right now, both at these highest levels and the base levels.


FINNEY: But I think we have to remember that this is part of what we've been learning throughout the January 6th committee hearing. It is not just about Donald Trump. It is about the fact that that spurred a movement that is a clear and present danger to the United States of America today in these races.

STEWART: Well, let's just hope the voters are smarter than this and see past this. A lot of these people got where they were in these primaries. Kari Lake, for example, by running on false claims of election fraud, by campaigning what she call the enemy of the state, the media, which she used to be a part of.

If they don't shift their focus to what independent voters are concerned with, which is jobs and the economy and immigration and crime, they're not going to win. Let's hope voters are smarter.

BROWN: I want to talk about what is winning for Democrats. Democrats have had some successes. You have Arizona Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema saying that she will vote for the check and climate change package. Getting her to say yes required taking out tax provision that will hit hedge fund and private equity managers, and adding the 1 percent excise tax on company's stock buybacks, which is intended to make up the lost revenue for removing the tax provision.

I'm going to test all of you on that in just a second. It adds billions into relief funding. This is a big deal. I mean, you know, look, President Biden did say he still believed in our form of government in the United States form of government.

Is this Washington working?

PRZYBYLA: Well, it's working for him. I mean, by all accounts, this is a huge record of success. My opinion is that it depends on whether Democrats are going to let him take the win.

And I hope you agree on this, Karen, but in the Republican Party, there tends to be a rallying effect around the leader, right? Around President Trump in this case, but Democrats tend to self-emulate a little bit.

Like the progressives will say, this was supposed to be Build Back Better, this was supposed to be paid maternity leave or college reimbursement for students loans. And we didn't get those things so we're disappointed.

So, are Democrats going to take this, though, and say this is an historic bill on climate change? This is going to help with us prescription drug costs.


Will they? That's the big question.

BROWN: And it is, because -- look, you have these legislative achievements, or soon to be achievements. I'm looking at what President Biden can tout right now, right? You have the killing of the al Qaeda leader.

You have all of these different things that are in his bucket. Lower gas prices as well. Good jobs report out today.

STEWART: I'll give him Chips.

BROWN: Give him Chips, throw that in there. Throw in the PACT bill, and all that.

And the question is, can Democrats turn these into tangible gains for Democrats? Because we've seen historically, I believe in the 1960s, where they have the legislation of Medicare and Medicaid passed and the Democrats lost seats in the following election.

FINNEY: Well, hopefully, yes, take the win and go campaign and try to take the win in November. And I do think that Kansas showed us how potent the issue of abortion is. And remember, in the fall, many states will be passing bans. Remind voters what is at stake in this election.

BROWN: All right. Thank you all so much. Really appreciate it.

What happens when people living in two different states are fighting over the same water source that is quickly disappearing? A look at the water wars, up next.



BROWN: In our Earth Matters series, a new era of water wars as the West faces an unprecedented drought due to climate change. A war is brewing between Colorado and Nebraska over access to the South Platt River.

CNN's Stephanie Elam reports on how one of those states is evoking a century old deal to get more water from the other.


SUE CARTER, RESIDENT, JULESBURG, COLORADO: Just make it known that water is life here. STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sue Carter is among

those in Julesburg, Colorado, who fear their life line is caught in a tug-of-war.

TOM CECH, FORMER CO-DIRECTOR, ONE WORLD WATER CENTER AT MSU DENVER: We go through droughts every 28 years or so but nothing of this magnitude.

ELAM: Not only has Tom Cech had a front row seat to a punishing drought but also to a drug battle between states.

CECH: We are in for a wave of battle rights throughout the West. It's going to be between urban and ag areas. It's going to be between states.

ELAM: Case in point, Colorado and Nebraska and the South Platte River which flows from the Rocky Mountains into Nebraska. In January, Nebraska dusted off a 99-year-old compact between the two states announcing plans to build canals on Colorado land to siphon water off the South Platte into a Nebraska reservoir system during the non- irrigation months in the fall and winter.

GOV. PETE RICKETTS (R), NEBRASKA: Without this compact and our ability to enforce our rights, we would see dramatic impact upon our state.

ELAM: Why now? Nebraska points to Colorado's ever growing population and its estimate of nearly $10 billion for 282 new projects along go the South Platte.

RICKETTS: Should all the long material goals be affected, they would reduce the water flows coming to the state of Nebraska by 90 percent.

KEVIN REIN, DIRECTOR, CO DIVISION OF WATER RESOURCES: The fact is many of those projects are not necessarily going to come to fruition.

ELAM: Colorado state leaders have raised an eyebrow at Nebraska's plans. In a statement to CNN, Colorado Governor Jared Polis calls it a political stunt saying outgoing Governor Rickets is wasting taxpayer dollars.

Is Nebraska getting its fair share of water?

REIN: In the 19-year history of the compact, we have provided for those provisions of the compact.

ELAM: I'm walking in the original canal Nebraska started to build in the 1890s but never finished. Now more than a century later, if they were to come back, they would have to navigate things like instate 76, as well as take over private lands.

How do you feel about them potentially coming to grab this land?

JAY GODDARD, ANCHER AND BANKER: Well, obviously, nobody wants to lose any of their property. ELAM: This land belongs to Jay Goddard, a fifth generation rancher in

this corner of Colorado who could see part of his land in Julesburg taken by Nebraska under eminent domain. More important is what it might do to the overall health of the river.

GODDARD: We have a lot of wildlife. Geese, turkey, deer. I'm worried that it will dry up the river at the wrong time.

ELAM: Not only could that hurt the hunting economy but its neighbors.

In Nebraska --

DARREL ARMSTRONG, NEBRASKA FARMER : Here the difference between a good farmer and a bad farmer is a timely rain.

ELAM: Farmer Darrel Armstrong wants assurance that's the river won't be allowed to run dry.

ARMSTRONG: The South Platte basically is the life blood to our surface aquifer.

ELAM: Yet, he's seeing less and less water coming down the river. For him, it is less about Colorado versus Nebraska and more about urban growth versus agriculture.

ARMSTRONG: A lot of the agreements have been made that were coming up short.

ELAM: It's just the beginning of a new era of water wars in an age of unprecedented climate change, as rivers dry up and desperation flows.

CECH: Human nature is our biggest barrier I believe in trying to manage water in the west.

ELAM: Stephanie Elam, CNN at the Colorado-Nebraska border.


BURNETT: And our thanks to Stephanie Elam for that report.

Be sure to tune in to CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" this Sunday morning. Dana Bash will be talking to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic Richard Blumenthal in a special joint interview.

Plus, Georgia gubernatorial candidate, Democrat Stacey Abrams is at 9:00 a.m. and noon Eastern on Sunday.

I'm Pamela Brown in for Jake Tapper. You can follow me on Twitter @PamelaBrownCNN or tweet the show @TheLeadCNN.

And if you ever miss an episode of the show, you can listen to THE LEAD wherever you get your podcast. Also make sure you to join me this Saturday 6:00 to 9:00 p.m., and Sunday, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. on "CNN NEWSROOM".

Our coverage continues now with wolf Blitzer and "THE SITUATION ROOM".