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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Giuliani Informed He's A Target Of Georgia Election Meddling Probe; Top Senators On Intelligence Committee Ask For More Info On Mar-a-Lago Search; CNN's Clarissa Ward Returns To Kabul One Yar After City's Fall; Salman Rushdie In Critical Condition With "Life-Changing" Injuries; Russia Confirms Griner, Whelan Discussed In Prisoner Swap Talks; Polio Detected In NYC Wastewater. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired August 15, 2022 - 16:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Since when is that funny? Why is that humorous?


CAMEROTA: But he is cute.

BLACKWELL: He made it into the show. I'm so happy for him.

CAMEROTA: The other possible name was Ferguson, but Fritz is, you know --

BLACKWELL: I like Fritz, I like fritz.

CAMEROTA: All right. I do like the backstory.

All right. And I apologize for the segue, but THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Big news on Giuliani, Lindsey Graham, the Trump team, and voting software, all breaking in just the last few hours.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Grand jury subpoenas from Georgia and the Justice Department showing investigations of top Trump allies are intensifying. At the same time, top Democrats are joining with Republicans to press for answers about that unprecedented FBI search at Mar-a-Lago.

And starvation, poverty, and brutality, one year since the fall of Kabul, CNN is live in Afghanistan's capital city to show you what life is now like under Taliban rule, and asking Afghan leaders about a known terrorist who lived in their midst.

Plus, what may be a silent spread of polio. The virus detected in New York City waste water. Why health officials fear hundreds of cases may be out there.


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

And we start today with our politics lead and an avalanche of major developments when it comes to Trump's attempt to overthrow democracy and corruptly stay in power.

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani has been informed by Georgia prosecutors that he is a target of their investigation into whether Trump and his allies broke the law and trying to overturn the 2020 election in that state. Giuliani is scheduled to appear before the Fulton County grand jury on Wednesday.

This news comes just hours after a federal judge ruled that Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina must testify before the very same Georgia grand jury. Graham's legal team had been arguing that Graham did not act inappropriately when he phoned Georgia election officials after the 2020 election. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, has accused Graham of implying that Raffensperger should try to throw away ballots.

Also today, a new report in "The Washington Post" says that a team of computer experts working with Trump's team copied sensitive data from Georgia's election systems and that lawyers allied with Trump asked a forensic data firm to access election systems in at least three battleground states. This afternoon, we also learned a federal Justice Department grand jury has subpoenaed Trump White House lawyer Eric Herschmann. Herschmann probably best known for telling the January 6th committee about his conversation with John Eastman, that Eastman, of course, was the lawyer who came up with that crackpot unconstitutional scheme to steal the electoral votes in the house.

Here's what Herschmann says he told him.


ERIC HERSCHMANN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: I said to him, are you out of your f'ing mind? I said, I only want to hear two words coming out of your mouth from now on: orderly transition. Eventually, he said orderly transition. I said, good, John. Now I'm going to give you the best free legal advice you're ever getting in your life. Get a great f'ing criminal defense lawyer. You're going to need it.


TAPPER: All of this as the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Chairman Mark Warner of Virginia, joins with his Republican counterpart, Senator Marco Rubio, to ask for more details from the Justice Department about their activities and about exactly what was in those boxes that the FBI took from Mar-a-Lago last week.

Let's get straight to CNN's Evan Perez.

Evan, let's start with Georgia. What do these two developments tell you about where prosecutors in Fulton County are with their case? EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, what this

tells us is that Rudy Giuliani absolutely has some legal peril ahead of him. His lawyer was told by prosecutors who are running this special grand jury in Fulton County that he is now a target of their investigation, not exactly surprising. He has been asking them, after all, he says he's been asking them repeatedly whether Giuliani was a target, and he says until today, he was not. He was not being told that.

Giuliani is still scheduled to appear before this grand jury on Wednesday. Not clear, he won't say whether Giuliani is going to answer questions or whether he's going to take the Fifth Amendment. Obviously, that's his right.

We obviously, you know Giuliani's role in all of this. He met with Georgia legislators in December of 2020 a number of times, pressuring them, trying to have them find these votes that did not exist for Donald Trump, and to obviously throw the election from Joe Biden in that state.

Now, this is obviously an investigation that is accelerating. You can tell that they're getting closer and closer to bringing charges against someone, and obviously, now, Giuliani is being told he could be one of those people.


TAPPER: And, Evan, what kind of questions do federal prosecutors think that Eric Herschmann can help them answer in the Justice Department investigation into January 6th?

PEREZ: Herschmann is a big witness because he had those key interactions, the one you described there with John Eastman about this theory that they had, which was essentially setting aside the electors. First of all, stopping the count, and then trying to find a way to get these fake electors, including the ones they were trying to get from Georgia, to throw the election, to keep Donald Trump in power.

Now, Herschmann was a White House lawyer, so that means he very much likely had interactions and conversations with the former president, and we know, Jake, that the Justice Department is looking to find a way to get to those conversations. We know one of the things they're trying to do is prepare a legal fight to try to make sure they can get to some of those conversations with him and with other lawyers.

TAPPER: All right, at least two investigations seemingly heating up.

Thank you so much. Evan Perez, appreciate it.

Turning now to the new push for details about what exactly the FBI removed from Mar-a-Lago.

As CNN's Kristen Holmes reports for us, top Republicans and Democrats are joining together now to ask the Justice Department for more insight into the classified documents taken from Donald Trump's home. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today, bipartisan calls for transparency into last week's FBI search of former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago home. In a letter to the director of national intelligence, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee asking for information on the reasoning behind the search, and the documents seized beyond what was revealed in the unsealed warrant.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I'm confident the intelligence community will do a damage assessment. That is I think fairly routine when there has been the potential risk of disclosure of national security information or classified information.

HOMES: This as former President Trump, his allies and aides, work to question the search.

REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH): We have this list from the FBI, but we don't have conclusive as to whether or not this is classified material, and whether or not it rises to the level of the highest classified material.

HOLMES: And explain away the 11 sets of classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago, starting with claims of cooperation.

ERIC TRUMP, SON OF FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP: My father has worked so collaboratively with them for months. In fact, the lawyer working on this was totally shocked. He said I have such an amazing relationship with these people and all of a sudden, at no notice, they sent, you know, 20 cars and 30 agents.

HOLMES: Then unfounded accusations.

LINDSEY HALLIGAN, TRUMP'S LAWYER: Quite honestly, I'm concerned that they may have planted something. You know, at this point, who knows. I don't trust the government.

HOLMES: And baseless blame.

KASH PATEL, HANDLING TRUMP'S PRESIDENTIAL RECORDS: The GSA, Government Services Administration, has come out and said they mistakenly packed some boxes and moved them to Mar-a-Lago. That's not on the president.

HOLMES: Finally, a defense of declassification.

PATEL: President Trump made it his mission to declassify and be transparent, declassifying whole sets of documents, and this is a key fact that most Americans are missing. President Trump as a sitting president is a unilateral authority for declassification.

HOLMES: While presidents do have the power to declassify information, there are federal regulations that lay out a process.

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER TRUMP NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Nobody briefed me or informed me that this policy or order was in effect. I know of no logistical train, no paper train at all that says what's declassified and what's not.

HOLMES: Over the weekend, new details on the June meeting between investigators and Trump's attorneys at the Palm Beach resort. Sources telling CNN one of Trump's lawyers signed a letter asserting there was no more classified information being stored on the Florida property after justice officials left with classified materials.

Yet the unsealed property receipt from Monday's search listed classified documents as being seized by the FBI, including some with the high level, quote, top secret SCI designation.


HOLMES (on camera): And, Jake, while the former president continues to attack the FBI and the Department of Justice on his social media page, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are warning of increased threats against federal law enforcement as well as government personnel, and buildings in the wake of that Mar-a-Lago search.

Now, just moments ago, the Department of Justice unsealed charges against a Pennsylvania man who was threatening to kill FBI agents on his social media page, including posts that had I sincerely believe if you work for the FBI, then you deserve to die, among others. You can see some of that heightened rhetoric -- Jake.

TAPPER: Kristen Holmes, thank you so much.

Leon Panetta joins us now. He served as secretary of defense and CIA director for President Obama and White House chief of staff under President Clinton.

Mr. Secretary, good to see you.

So, former FBI Director Andrew McCabe said on CNN earlier today that he's never seen this level of threats against the bureau in more than two decades he served there. We literally saw a Trump supporter posting on Trump's own social media company that he was headed to the FBI office in Cincinnati, armed, and after a standoff, he ended up dead. You heard the new report from Kristen just now.


And yet, we haven't heard from Trump or people around him any attempt to calm matters. All we hear is more potential incitement and allocations from his lawyers that maybe the FBI planted information. What's your reaction to all this?

LEON PANETTA, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Well, Jake, it's a very serious and dangerous moment, because what's happened is that social media and those who basically want to incite others now have a free reign to basically go after the FBI and law enforcement officials involved with the situation. And that is a threat on their lives. And that's dangerous. That's dangerous to our law enforcement. It's

dangerous to our rule of law. And it really incumbent on the former president and those around him to basically say, please stand back and allow this investigation to proceed as it should.

He took a long time in eventually saying something about what happened on January 6th. He should not delay with regards to saying something that will calm people today.

TAPPER: I know you worked for then President Bill Clinton who did not like any of the investigations going on to him, whether led by Kenneth Starr or Congress, and yet I don't recall him ever inciting his supporters the way that we're seeing Donald Trump do, so although I'm sure he may have been tempted some days.

PANETTA: You know, I think we have seen former presidents who have been under investigation who have basically sat back and allowed the Justice Department or those investigations to proceed without inciting people. I think former presidents had a deep respect for the rule of law. Unfortunately, that's not the case with Donald Trump.

TAPPER: The violent threats online include, quote, a threat to place a so-called dirty bomb in front of FBI headquarters. Quote, a poster writing Attorney General Merrick Garland needs to be assassinated, and quote, kill all feds.

How does one in law enforcement or you were head of the CIA, how do you go about deciding which threats could be acted upon and which ones might just be keyboard warriors letting off steam?

PANETTA: Well, it's a tough challenge, obviously. Look, the bottom line here is that this is a serious matter. I know that politics has been involved in trying to somehow label this on one side or the other.

But let me tell you something. As somebody involved with intelligence matters, this is a serious issue that involves classified information. The reason we classify information is to protect our national security. And make sure that that information doesn't fall into the wrong hands.

And so it is really important that this investigation proceed to determine just exactly what level of classified information was involved here and whether anybody else had access to it. With regards to the threats that are out there, I think it is very important to have law enforcement determine which ones are credible and which ones are just inciting for the sake of inciting. That's not easy, but it's what needs to be done right now in a situation where these threats are coming at you a mile a minute.

TAPPER: So you're obviously very well versed in dealing with classified material. Former Trump aides are trying to claim there was a standing order by the president, Donald Trump, to declassify any document that left the west wing for Trump's residence. Is that how declassification works? Even with some of the nation's most guarded secrets? PANETTA: You know, that's nonsense, and he knows it. The reality is

that there is a process for declassifying information. And if presidents want to declassify, they have to follow that process, which basically requires that it be referred to the agencies that are responsible for classifying that material. They have something to say as to whether or not that material should be declassified.

So there is nothing that I'm aware of that indicates that a formal step was taken by this president to in fact declassify anything. Right now, this is pretty much BS.

TAPPER: Leon Panetta, thank you for your time today. Appreciate it.

PANETTA: Thank you.

TAPPER: Ahead, Brittney Griner's legal team appeals her nine-year sentence, but could her attempts to leave a Russian president complicate a potential prisoner swap which the Kremlin now confirms is being discussed?


But, first, one year after the fall of Kabul, what Afghans have to go through to get just a morsel of food or the struggle for women to go to school. What the streets are like now under Taliban control. We'll take you there.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: We're back with our world lead.

Celebrations of sorts in the streets of Kabul today. The Taliban declaring today a national holiday. They say it's commemorating one year since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. The people celebrating seem limited to the ruling Taliban and its extremist supporters because in just one year, the standard of living for the people of Afghanistan has plummeted. Nearly half of Afghanistan's population is hungry, according to the United Nations, almost everyone is living in poverty.

And as CNN's Clarissa Ward reports for us now, women and girls in Afghanistan have lost nearly everything they once had.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a three-hour journey from Shakila's (ph) home to the center of Kabul. But each morning, she and other women make this walk, driven by hunger and the need to feed their children.


Their destination is this bakery, one of many across the capital where crowds of women now sit patiently every day, quietly hoping for handouts.

So all the women have been pressing pieces of paper with their phone numbers into our hands. They're desperately hoping that maybe we can help them.

Shakila tells us on a good day, they might get two or three pieces of bread. And every morsel counts.

Were you doing this a year ago or has the situation become worse in the last year?

There's no work this year, she says. My husband has a cart, but now he only earns 30 to 40 cents a day.

One year after the Taliban took power, Afghanistan is isolated and increasingly impoverished. Largely cut off from the global banking system, and the foreign aid that once funded almost 80 percent of this country's budget.

It is also unmistakably safer. One thing the Taliban has been able to improve is security. Outside Kabul's airport, shops are open, and the streets are calm.

Cover my face? Okay.

A far cry from the chaotic scenes we witnessed last summer.

He told me to cover my face. But he doesn't want to comment on that truncheon he's carrying.

Tens of thousands risked life and limb to try to flee the country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay behind him. Stay behind him.

WARD: Many feared for their lives. Others that the Taliban would take the country back to the middle ages.

For these girls, that fear has come true. They were just a year out from graduating. And the Taliban announced a de facto ban on girls' secondary education after sixth grade. Now, they have improvised ways to defy the ban, setting up unofficial schools where they continue their studies.

Naheed Sadat's (ph) dreams of a diploma may have vanished but her drive has not.

NAHEED SADAT (ph), AFGHAN STUDENT: I say to myself I'm so powerful, I'm strong, and they can't bring my dreams and what I want to do.

WARD: Do you ever feel scared?

SADAT: Yes. It's a risk for us that we don't cover our face and we study our lessons.

WARD: You're very brave.

SADAT: Yeah, I know.

WARD: Girls' education is one of the main reasons no country in the world has yet recognized the Taliban government. A point we put to foreign ministry spokesman, Abdul Qahar Balkhi.

When will the Taliban allow teenage girls to go back to school?

ABDUL QAHAR BALKHI, MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS SPOKESMAN: From the perspective of the government, there's a range of mix of issues that has led to the temporary suspension of secondary schools. The most important and significant part of this is that the policy of the government of Afghanistan is education for all citizens of Afghanistan.

WARD: And yet all citizens of Afghanistan are not currently able to get an education. What is the hold-up?

BALKHI: It seems that international actors are unfortunately weaponizing the issue of education instead of coming forward and interacting positively, they are trying to find moral justifications for some of the inhumane policies of sanctions, which is leading to the collective punishment of the entire people of Afghanistan.

WARD: Do you want to see girls going to school again?

BALKHI: The policy of the government of Afghanistan is very clear. And that is education for all citizens of Afghanistan.

WARD: The Taliban says it wants to see peaceful and positive relations with all countries, including the U.S. but those prospects were dramatically diminished when the head of al Qaeda, Ayman Zawahiri, was killed by a U.S. drone strike in a villa in downtown Kabul just over two weeks ago.

BALKHI: We have made it very clear that the government of Afghanistan was unaware of the arrival or presence of Mr. Zawahiri in Kabul. So far, we have been unable to establish as a fact, as a matter of fact, that Mr. Zawahiri was indeed present in Kabul.

WARD: Isn't that almost more frightening, though? The idea that you're claiming potentially the leader of al Qaeda was here in the center of the city and you didn't even know about it?


BALKHI: Again, we contend that notion that he was even present here. But even if he was, these types of incidents happen everywhere in the world.

WARD: But they really don't. I mean, how can the U.S. possibly trust the Taliban leadership, though, to stay true to its promise that it will not allow sanctuary to be granted to terrorist groups?

BALKHI: If we look at the Doha agreement, the articles that define the commitments of the government of Afghanistan, all of them have been fulfilled. And if we look at the commitments the United States of America has made, sadly, they have not fulfilled a single article. But we're hopeful and we continue to urge the United States to adhere to that agreement.

WARD: It's a brazen position that complicates efforts to unfreeze funding to help the Afghan people, millions of whom remain hungry and reliant on the kindness of strangers.


WARD (on camera): Jake, CNN has spoken to the U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, Tom West, who basically said that there are now no prospects in the short term for the U.S. to try to recapitalize Afghanistan's central bank, and he said that is in large part because of the issue of the sheltering of Ayman al Zawahiri, the prospects now are very grim for any type of normalization in relations between the U.S. and Taliban, Jake.

TAPPER: Fascinating.

Clarissa, House Republicans on the Foreign Affairs Committee are releasing a report suggesting that only a quarter of those evacuated from Afghanistan were women and children, and the State Department just told reporters the number was closer to 40 percent. You have reported that there are up to 160,000 Afghans and their families eligible to apply for special immigrant visas.

What do we know about the Afghans left behind?

WARD: Well, there are tens of thousands of them, according to the State Department, potentially 160,000. The State Department saying that they don't know that they would even be able to process those while President Biden is still in office. Not a week goes by that we don't get calls and messages from people who are still here, desperately saying listen, we work for the U.S. military, we work for the U.S. embassy. How can we get out?

And there are a lot of complex bureaucracies which have made it difficult to try to process the visas, the main one, of course, is that in order to get the visa, you need to have an in-person interview. That would have taken place in the U.S. embassy here in Kabul. That embassy is no longer open.

And so, there is no way now for people to go and have those interviews and no mechanism in place for that to change. One man came up to me on the street during those Taliban festivities you talked about earlier, Jake, and taking that risk, he said I'm scared to talk to you but I have to give you my phone number and tell you my name. I work for the U.S. military and I'm desperate to get out, Jake.

TAPPER: Clarissa Ward, reporting for us live from Kabul, Afghanistan, thank so much for the excellent reporting as always.

Coming up next, author Salman Rushdie is in recovery after being attacked on stage. His family calling his injuries life-changing. How years of being a hunted man haunt this case.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead, the family of author Salman Rushdie says he is recovering from, quote, life-changing injuries after Friday's stabbing attack.

Investigators are looking into what motivated the incident. The obvious backdrop, in 1989, Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini was offended by a book Rushdie wrote and declared a death sentence fatwa against him. And since then, Rushdie has spent much of his life in hiding with translators and editors associated with the book stabbed and shot at by Islamist extremists.

Now, Iran has denied any responsibility for Friday's attack, and blamed the stabbing on Rushdie and his supporters, though we should note, Iran state media renewed the fatwa against the author a week earlier.

CNN's Brynn Gingras is following the latest developments.

Brynn, tell us more about Salman Rushdie's condition?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, Jake, he's getting better but still in critical condition, but signs of improvement. He was taken off a ventilator. He was able to say a few words, but he's still not really out of the woods just yet. His son actually released a statement and said this, though his life-changing injuries are severe, his usual feisty and defiant sense of humor remains intact. So, that's good to hear there.

Prosecutors told a judge, get this, that Rushdie has multiple stab wounds to his neck, stomach, puncture wounds to his chest and right eye and he may lose sight in that eye. Now, details of the attack are coming out in this initial court hearing for Rushdie's alleged attacker, Hadi Matar, who is now charged with attempted murder and assault, and is being held without bond. The 24-year-old rushed the stage on Friday where the famed author was about to speak, and he was held down by those in attendance, the moderator, author Ralph Henry Reese, also was injured. He spoke a little bit about what happened to CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES".


HENRY REESE, CO-FOUNDER, CITY OF ASYLUM: It was very difficult to understand. It looked like a bad prank, and it didn't have any sense of reality. And then when there was blood behind him, it became real.


GINGRAS: And Reese is visibly hurt. Injuries there you can see. He says he's not focusing on himself. He wants to focus on Salman Rushdie's recovery, Jake.

TAPPER: Brynn, what more do we know about the suspect?

GINGRAS: Well, as you said, listen, we don't know the motivation for this attack.


Authorities believe Matar who lives in New Jersey. He planned it, arriving in Chautauqua, New York, the day before the scheduled lecture, paying for a bus ticket with cash, using a fake ID. So, there's all signs to that.

As you mentioned, though, we know Rushdie has lived under serious threat because of his writings and that's what he was scheduled to speak about on Friday to that crowd. Investigators are now trying to determine if this attack was motivated by the fatwa. Iran's foreign ministry totally denying involvement in the attack and putting the blame on Rushdie and his supporters.

But, of course, leaders all across the world, including the president, condemning what happened. New York Governor Kathy Hochul saying a man with a knife cannot silence a man with a pen -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Brynn Gingras, thank you so much.

Coming up next, Russia confirms Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan are being discussed as part of a possible prisoner swap, but could Griner's court proceedings slow negotiations?

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our world lead, Brittney Griner's attorneys today officially appealed a Russian court's verdict that convicted and sentenced the WNBA star to nine years in prison for drug smuggling.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen joins us now live from Moscow.

And, Fred, Russian diplomats are speaking more openly about a potential prisoner exchange that would theoretically include detained American and former marine, Paul Whelan.

Tell us about that.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jake. It's really been shaping up over the course of the weekends where the Russians once again said they were very willing to engage with the United States for some sort of prisoner exchange. That would bring Brittney Griner home.

However, now for the first time, the head of the North America department of the Russian foreign ministry said that he confirmed that the names currently in play are for the Russian side, arms dealer Viktor Bout, who's, of course, serving a 25-year sentence in a jail in the United States, and for the U.S. side, Brittney Griner and former marine Paul Whelan, who of course is serving that 16-year sentence here in Russia for alleged espionage, which he denies.

The Russians once again, however, saying they want all of these talks to happen in secret. They say there's a mechanism in place, and they certainly don't want to get any details out in the public. They say if any details get out, exchanges can't take place, Jake.

TAPPER: Does Griner's appeals process stand in the way in any way of any potential swap?

PLEITGEN: Yeah. You know, I was talking to her legal team about that today. They certainly don't believe that it does. They were the ones who originally said they believe a verdict needed to be in place against Brittney Griner. That's happened. She was sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony.

But they also say with the appeal they filed today, that could be withdrawn at any time if there's some sort of exchange. They also say they're not part of any prisoner exchange talks. They don't know whether or not those talks are going on, but they hope they're going on because the appeals process can still take a very long time. It can take a month or two, and there, like in general in Russian courts, the acquittal rate or the reverse rate of verdicts certainly is not very high, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Fred Pleitgen, live for us in Moscow, thank you so much.

Let's bring in Tom Firestone. He's a former Justice Department legal adviser to the U.S. embassy in Moscow.

Thanks for joining us.

So, Russia is now admitting publicly for the first time there are, in fact, bilateral talks happening on this potential prisoner exchange involving Brittney Griner, Paul Whelan, and, of course, Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

What does it tell you that they're now admitting this?

TOM FIRESTONE, FORMER JUSTICE DEPT. LEGAL ADVISER TO U.S. EMBASSY: Well, they're not really telling us a lot that we didn't already know. I think it was clear that was going on. They had leaked it through their press. The fact they have acknowledged these negotiations removed whatever doubt there was about the legitimacy of her prosecution. It's clear now. They have essentially admitted that they were using this as a bargaining chip.

So, it makes clear why they gave her a nine-year sentence for increased leverage in these negotiations. Everyone knew, but they are acknowledging.

TAPPER: Viktor Bout is a pretty horrible guy, he's like a Bond super villain. But nonetheless, do you think the Russians would agree to do a two for one trade, two Americans for him? Are there other Russians in U.S. custody who they might press to be included in an exchange?

FIRESTONE: Well, I think they tend to like these symmetrical exchanges when it's to their advantage. There was an exchange in 2010 of ten U.S. -- U.S. sent back ten Russian spies in return for four Western intelligence assets. So, when it's asymmetrical in their favor, they're fine with it. When it's not in their favor, they're not.

So I think they will demand a second person be included so it's two for two. The reports are that they have requested Vadim Krasikov who, of course, is in custody in Germany for life for a murder conviction. That's not really a serious counteroffer, according to the State Department. There are other Russians, hackers, fraudsters, in U.S. custody who could be included in the two for two deal.

TAPPER: What kind of timeframe do you think we're looking at to complete this kind of prisoner exchange?

FIRESTONE: I think it's not going to happen tomorrow or, you know, within the next week or immediately. These things are complicated. The Russians can be very difficult in these negotiations.

I think they think they have a lot of leverage now that Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years. They know there's a real desire to get her out. I don't think they're under the same pressure to get Viktor Bout out.

So, I think they can let this play out a little bit and they're going to and try to milk it for everything they can get. So I wouldn't hold my breath. I don't think it's going to go on forever, but I don't think it's going to be tomorrow either.

TAPPER: Griner's legal team filed an appeal after she was sentenced to the nine-year sentence for drug smuggling charges. How do you see the appeal playing out? Is there any chance she could have her conviction overturned or time reduced or do you agree with those who are allied with Trevor Reed, who was -- recently freed, who said this has nothing to do with judges in Russia. This is all determined by the FSB and political leaders?

FIRESTONE: I think it's highly unlikely that her appeal will be successful. She's of course got a lot of arguments, all of which were presented to the court at first instance, but they were unsuccessful there and I think it's unlikely they'll be successful on appeal.


So, I would not hold my breath for success on appeal. She might win a few points here or there, but I don't think she's going to get a significant reduction in her sentence on the appeal.

TAPPER: You talked about how the Russians like symmetrical trades. Viktor Bout is, like I said, he is a threat to the international order, a drug smuggler, an arms smuggler.

Paul Whelan is falsely accused of spying and Brittney Griner had less than a gram of cannabis oil. Surely there must be two Russians in Americans prisons who are closer in symmetry to Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner in the charges than Viktor Bout, no?

FIRESTONE: Of course, there are. If you're talking about substantive symmetry, we don't have that in any kind of exchange here. They will say it should be two for two. It's unfair for us to give up two for only one that you're sending back to us. So I think that's absolutely right.

But they, again, I think they feel they have a lot of leverage because we really want to get Whelan and Griner home, and rightfully so, and I think their target for them. You know, for them, the holy grail of an exchange is clearly Viktor Bout. They made no secret about that over the years.

So, there might be more appropriate subjects for an exchange, but that doesn't mean the Russians will agree there are more appropriate subjects for an exchange or agree to an exchange for anybody other than Viktor Bout.

TAPPER: All right. Tom Firestone, thanks so much for your time and expertise. Appreciate it.

FIRESTONE: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up next, the United Kingdom becomes the first country to approve booster shots directly targeting certain COVID variants. What might that mean for the United States?

That's next.



TAPPER: Our health lead now, tackling COVID, tackling monkeypox, and now polio?

Polio declared eradicated in the United States in 1979, can lead to permanent paralysis of the arms and legs, and it's been found in New York City's wastewater samples. Health authorities are sounding the alarm to ensure children are fully vaccinated.

This comes after an unvaccinated young adult in Rockland County, New York, was diagnosed with virus in July.

The first polio case in the United States since 2013.

Let's bring in CNN's Jacqueline Howard.

Jacqueline, what are officials doing to make sure children are vaccinated?

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH RPEORTER: Jake, health officials in New York are really trying to raise alarm about this, and Rockland County where that case was identified that you mentioned, county officials and health care providers are distributing posters to help raise awareness around the situation and to really encourage parents to make sure that their children are fully vaccinated against polio. And that's because in the state of New York, the vaccination rate is lower than the national average.

I'll tell you some numbers now. It looks like the national average is around 93 percent of children are vaccinated against polio. But in the state of New York, the average is 79 percent. In New York City, when you look at the city level, it's 86 percent.

But in New York, Jake, some counties are in the 50s and 60s. So when you look at Rockland County, where that case was identified, the vaccination rate is 60 percent. In neighboring Orange County, it's 59 percent.

And so, that's why health officials are really trying to put in that message to make sure to get vaccinated. And when you look at the waste water surveillance, former CDC director Dr. Richard Besser said that that's also an important response and should be continued.

Have a listen.


DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, CDC: Good that New York is monitoring their waste water. Polio virus is one of those viruses that is excreted in the stool. So you can monitor waste water to see if it's in the community. But when you see a signal like this, it should be an alarm. It should be an alarm for every parent, for every pediatrician to insure that every child is fully vaccinated.


HOWARD: So we heard there, Jake, Dr. Besser was speaking with our colleague, Brianna Keilar in that clip, and he said that this is raising alarm.

TAPPER: And turning now to COVID. The UK today became the first government in the world to approve COVID boosters targeting the original strain and another that goes after the omicron variant.

What might this mean for the U.S. given the fact that the FDA is still waiting to approve an additional COVID booster for those younger than 50?

HOWARD: Right, so even though we're still waiting, we could see updated boosters as early as next month, possibly in September. We do know that the Biden administration already has purchase agreements with Moderna and with Pfizer to purchase some updated boosters once they're FDA authorized.

And these boosters, Jake, will specifically target, the plan is to specifically target omicron sub-variants like BA.5 and BA.4 which are dominant right now nationwide. If you look at the numbers, about 88.8 percent of all COVID-19 cases here in the U.S. are caused by the BA.5 subvariant. So that's why having these updated boosters as we head into fall will be specifically important -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jacqueline Howard, thank you so much.

Just in to CNN, the Justice Department now explaining why it is against revealing the reasons behind that search at Mar-a-Lago. What's being laid out in court documents just coming in. That's next.



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

This hour, a pee-wee football coach killed in Texas, and a suspected gunman now in custody. The brother of a former NFL star now facing murder charges after a fight at a game turned deadly.

And one year after the fall of Kabul, Afghanistan, a damning report from Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee accusing the Biden administration of failures leading to the chaotic withdrawal of the U.S. military. Afghans chasing U.S. planes on the runways, others flooding security gates trying to leave and a lack of U.S. staff available to manage the situation in any real way.

But we start this hour with new details on our politics lead. The Justice Department is now opposing the release of details in the affidavit that lays out its argument for searching Mar-a-Lago.

Let's get straight to CNN's Katelyn Polantz.

Katelyn, I want to read part of this document. It says, quote, if disclosed, the affidavit would serve as a road map to the government's ongoing investigation providing specific details about its direction and likely course in a manner that is highly likely to compromise future investigative steps, unquote.