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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Biden Signs Sweeping Climate, Health Care & Tax Bill; FBI Interviewed TOP White House Lawyers About Records Taken To Mar-a-Lago; Gas Prices Fall For 63rd Day In A Row; GOP, Dems Debate Blame A Year After Afghanistan Withdrawal; Zelenskyy Warns Ukrainians To Stay Clear Of Russian Military Sites; CDC Study: Wastewater Testing, Contact Tracing Points To Community Transmission Of Polio In NY. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired August 16, 2022 - 16:00   ET


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're still going to have an assault weapons ban, but that's another story.


And to get significant veterans' healthcare law in decades, for the first time; to a groundbreaking CHIPS and Science Law that's going to ensure that technologies and jobs of the future are made here in America -- in America.


And all this progress is part of our vision and plan and determined effort to get the job done for the American people, so they can look their child in the eye and say, "Honey, it's going to be okay. Everything is going to be okay."

Everything is going to make sure that democracy delivers for your generation. Because I think that's at stake.

And, now, I know there are those here today who hold a dark and despairing view of this country. I'm not one of them.

I believe in the promise of America. I believe in the future of this country. I believe in the very soul of this nation. And most of all, I believe in you, the American people.

I believe to my core there isn't a single thing this country cannot do when we put our mind to it. We just have to remember who we are. We are the United States of America.

There is nothing beyond our -- nothing beyond our capacity. That's why so many foreign companies decided to invest their -- make chips in America. Billions of dollars. We're the best. We have to believe in ourselves again.

And now I'm going to take action that I've been looking forward to doing for 18 months.

(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE) I'm going to sign the Inflation Reduction Law.


BIDEN: Okay. Here you go.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): It's now law.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, we have been watching President Biden at the White House signing what Democrats are calling the Inflation Reduction Act into law. That is sweeping investment in green energies, tax reform, and other measures related to health care.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

The $750 billion health care, tax, and climate bill is without question a major win for Democrats ahead of the midterm elections.

Let's bring in CNN's MJ Lee at the White House.

And, MJ, this was as much of a bill signing as it was really a victory lap for President Biden and top Democrats today.

MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jake. That is exactly what I was going to say. This was a major victory lap for President Biden. He said the signing of this bill shows democracy still works in America, and he said the country is now in a season of substance.

Now, he said that the law accomplishes what lawmakers had been trying to get done for so many years, but these things that remain so elusive in Washington, he of course, pointed to this major investment in fighting climate change, letting Medicare finally negotiate directly with drug companies, and the taxing of major corporations to reduce the deficit.

And this entire event really just did have the vibe of a political event, Congressman Jim Clyburn, Senator Chuck Schumer thanking President Biden for knowing when to step in and knowing when to let legislators legislate.

I will note this was very notable, after the president signed this bill into law, he took the pen, turned around, and gave that pen to Senator Joe Manchin, obviously, the White House has Joe Manchin and senator Schumer to thank for getting this bill into a bill form in the Senate at a moment when a lot of people in Washington thought that the bill was dead altogether -- Jake.


TAPPER: Many times, many times they thought it was dead.

MJ Lee, thank you so much.

We're going to have much more on this coming up on THE LEAD. But let's turn now to our other major story. New developments in the multiple investigations into former President Trump's attempts to overturn the 2020 election. Today, we learned the federal judge who approved the Mar-a-Lago search warrant, U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, will hold a hearing on Thursday about whether to unseal the affidavit, the document laying out why prosecutors felt the necessity to take the unprecedented step of searching a home of a former U.S. president. The Justice Department is against revealing that information. They claim it would provide a road map for their criminal investigation that they do not want potential defendants or witnesses to learn as of now.

Moments ago, CNN confirmed "The New York Times" report that the FBI has interviewed both former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputy, Patrick Philbin about those documents taken to Mar-a-Lago when Trump left office.

We're also learning today former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani is hinting he will not have much to say when he testifies in front of a Atlanta grand jury tomorrow. He claimed the statements he made about throwing out Georgia's election results to corruptly deliver that state to Donald Trump. Those statements he claims are covered by attorney/client privilege.

Plus, two top House Democrats are accusing the Department of Homeland Security inspector general in obstructing their investigation into the text messages surrounding the Capitol attack.

Let's bring in CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider.

Let's start with the news that both Cipollone and Philbin have spoken to the FBI about those documents taken to Mar-a-Lago. How big a deal is that?

Tell us more.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: They could have had a lot of details to divulge. Cipollone and Philbin, they were Trump's designated representatives to deal with the National Archives. And, of course, it was the archives that first raised the issue of missing documents and referred it to the DOJ for criminal investigation. So Cipollone and Philbin, they were Trump's of interest because of their interaction with the archives and they might have had insight on what was taken to Mar-a-Lago.

This latest revelation comes as the court fight for even more information about the search is looming.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The legal fight to release more information on last week's Mar-a-Lago search is coming to a crossroads. The Justice Department is seeking to keep secret certain details prosecutors say would otherwise reveal highly sensitive information about witnesses, specific investigative techniques, and it would serve as a road map to the government's ongoing investigation. The judge announcing today he will hear arguments Thursday and decide

whether to release those details. All part of an affidavit that lays out why investigators believed they had probable cause to obtain this search warrant to search Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate and take away classified documents.

CNN and other media outlets have asked the judge to unseal the affidavit and Trump himself must weight in on whether he wants it released by tomorrow.

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER TRUMP NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I think it says there are very significant problems here for President Trump, and many of his advisers post presidency.

SCHNEIDER: Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton also weighing in on Trump's former lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, becoming a target in another criminal investigation. This one being led by an Atlanta area prosecutor into efforts by Trump and his allies to flip election results in Georgia, claiming it was rigged.

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: The recount being done in Georgia will tell us nothing, because these fraudulent ballots will just be counted again.

Whether you're a Republican or a Democrat, this is not a machine you want counting your votes.

They look like they're passing out dope, not just ballots. It is quite clear they're stealing votes.

SCHNEIDER: Giuliani is scheduled to appear before the grand jury in Georgia tomorrow. It's still unclear if he'll answer questions or plead the Fifth.

GIULIANI: The statements that I made are either attorney/client privileged because they were between me and him, or they would be made on his behalf in order to defend him.

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER TRUMP NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: President Trump may be right behind him in terms of liability. If Rudy is in trouble as the target of an investigation, then I think Trump almost certainly is as well.


SCHNEIDER (on camera): And the Justice Department making clear in that court filing from yesterday that this classified information investigation is still ongoing. In the meantime, the battle is escalating between two top House Democrats and the DHS inspector general.

Members of Congress Bennie Thompson and Carolyn Maloney are accusing the IG Joseph Cuffari of obstructing their investigation into the missing Secret Service text messages. That's in a letter they released this afternoon. Jake, no response just yet from the inspector general's office. TAPPER: All right. Jessica Schneider, thanks so much.

Joining us to discuss, former Trump White House lawyer Jim Schultz and former assistant U.S. attorney, Kim Wehle.

Kim, let me start with you. What kind of questions could Pat Cipollone and Patrick Philbin former White House counsel and White House deputy counsel for Donald Trump, what questions could they help the FBI answer about the documents taken to Mar-a-Lago, these classified secrets, allegedly.

KIM WEHLE, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, two big things. One is chain of custody, what happened, what was the procedure in place, how did they get out of the White House, who else might have been involved in that transition?

And then, secondly, what if anything did Donald Trump know and say about keeping or releasing those classified documents.

TAPPER: And, Jim, according to Maggie Haberman of "The New York Times" who broke the story, Trump told advisers about the documents, quote, it's not theirs. It's mine, unquote.

Surely, someone around him, whether Cipollone or Philbin, would know that's not how classified material works at all, I would think.

JAMES SCHULTZ, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: Or presidential records act subject material generally speaking. So, no, they're the government's records. I would assume that if asked or given the opportunity to weigh in, that Cipollone and Philbin would have done so and done so appropriately, and they know the law on this.

TAPPER: And you worked with them. You have high regard for them?

SCHULTZ: I do. I do. I never worked with Cipollone. I worked under McGahn, but I have high regard for him. I know him and know he's a solid lawyer and a very good adviser.

TAPPER: And, Kim, we also learned today that a federal judge will hold a hearing on Thursday about unsealing the affidavit that allowed this unprecedented measure at Mar-a-Lago, the search of the former president's home.

How much does the Justice Department's opposition to releasing this affidavit matter? They say it would provide a road map for the defendants, potential defendants and any witnesses they don't want to reveal. How much does that matter when the judge makes his decision?

WEHLE: Substantially because there's really a weighing going on here. On the one hand, sort of a First Amendment right to know to the public and on the other hand are the interest of the investigation, and not just the investigation, but individuals, both Donald Trump, people that could be ensnared in it, as well as potential witnesses, evidence, all of that. I think it's very unlikely at this early stage in this investigation that the judge would allow this kind of information to become public. TAPPER: And, Jim, the FBI says that it has returned three passports,

I think one of them was still operable, the other two were expired -- three passports to Donald Trump's lawyers after they claim that those passports were inadvertently seized in last week's search.

For those of us who don't understand how the searches work, how could passports get included in the box of material the FBI takes? It seems clear that passports are not classified documents?

SCHULTZ: Yeah. I mean, look, everybody makes errors throughout this process. But the problem is there's no real room for error in this case. And look, procedure for the FBI is that they return the documents or they make them available to be picked up if they're not something that is part of the investigation, and that's what they did.

Nonetheless, this is a very tense situation, high-profile situation, the general public is -- a lot of people from the general public that are scratching their heads and questioning the DOJ and FBI and members of Congress are doing the same. There's not a whole lot of room for error here, and it just gives the detractors on this an opportunity to use their bully pulpit to continue to thump on the DOJ.

That being said, on the issue of the subpoena, I really believe that the material piece there is the witness piece of it. And the fact that they're trying to protect witnesses because these witnesses are still useful in ongoing investigations and maybe not the particular investigation that was the subject of the subpoena. That's something to watch.

TAPPER: And, Kim, the FBI said in a statement, quote, in executing search warrants, the FBI follows search and seizure procedures and returns items that do not need to be retained for law enforcement purposes. I mean, this has been used by Trump supporters as Jim was alluding to, and people who are skeptical of this raid, as evidence of overreach, that they were trying to make sure Donald Trump isn't a flight risk, et cetera, the FBI is claiming that's not -- that's not true. This was just a standard procedure and things got swept up that shouldn't have.

WEHLE: Listen, I understand that people want to make sure the FBI and DOJ are doing their jobs, but really, the question, the story here is what happened to the material that was in Mar-a-Lago that really should have been in secure facilities in Washington, top secret information that could compromise not just national security but individuals who could be, you know, sort of secretly working for the government, et cetera.

So I think it's important to have some light on what's happening at DOJ and the FBI, but remember, a federal judge signed off on this, and also as was indicated, there's a procedure in place if these kinds of things get inadvertently gathered. So we really should keep our eye on what are the -- what interests are at stake for the United States moving forward.

TAPPER: All right. Kim Wehle and Jim Schultz, thanks to both of you. Really appreciate it. A major turn since the days of record gas prices.


How quickly experts say you could be paying less than $3 a gallon.

Plus, a couple caught in an espionage plot in court. How prosecutors say they used tried to share U.S. secrets in a peanut butter sandwich.

And explosions rocking an ammunition depot in the Russian-controlled Crimea region. Ukraine's guarded response as the Kremlin calls the blasts sabotage.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our money lead, there is some hope at the pump. Gas prices dropping for the 63rd day in a row today. The average price for a gallon of gas is now $3.95. That's 8 cents cheaper than week ago, but are these prices on track to continue to plunge lower?

CNN's Matt Egan joins us now.

Matt, we're at $3.95 a gallon. How low could we see prices fall? Could they fall as low as it was a year ago, $3.18 a gallon?

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Well, Jake, the message from the market is this plunge in gas prices is not nearly done. Just this afternoon, U.S. oil prices fell another 3 percent, closing at around $86.50 a barrel. That is the lowest level in nearly seven months.

For some context, during the scary days of early March, when Russia's invasion of Ukraine was setting off all this chaos in energy markets, we saw oil prices go above $130 a barrel.


So, this signals more relief for consumers at the pump. 63 days in a row of falling gas prices. You actually have 12 states, including Iowa and Texas that are dealing with $3.60 or lower average gas prices. And if you look at what some of the analysts are saying, they're saying it's very possible that by September or October, the national average could go below the pre-war level of $3.53 a gallon. Gasoline futures are signaling that some states could actually see sub-$3 gas by the end of the year.

Jake, I would caution that this hinges on nothing going wrong. If Russia's oil exports get knocked off line, if there's a hurricane in the gulf that shuts down refineries and production, all bets are off. But, for now, Jake, we will take the good news where we can get it.

TAPPER: Let's turn to another economic story. Walmart released its quarterly results today. What did the results have to say about the overall shopping habits of Americans right now? EGAN: Well, it shows that Americans are clearly cost sensitive, price

sensitive right now. Walmart has been forced to cut prices on apparel and other items because their consumers are dealing with high food and fuel prices.

That strategy seems to be working. They have been able to lure people back to the stores. They reported steady sales growth, but what's telling is that Walmart says that middle and higher income Americans, more of them are shopping at their stores as they look for discounts, and taking that a step further, people are shifting what they're buying. They're not buying as much high priced deli meat but they're spending on canned tuna, hotdogs, chicken, and other more affordable items. Another sign of how people are dealing with the high cost of living.

I do think one of the big takeaways here is that people are still spending. We know there's a lot of recession fears out there right now. But Walmart's numbers along with other big box retailers, they show that consumers are still spending right now, and that is very good news.

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

Coming up next on THE LEAD, placing blame one year after the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. Why Republican lawmakers say the Biden administration is hamstrung in its ability to help the country as it struggles with poverty and starvation, oppression and much more.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our world lead, Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois is criticizing his colleagues today and calling out their near universal bashing of President Biden on the one-year anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Earlier, Kinzinger tweeted, quote: Do not let my colleagues pretend today that President Trump and former Secretary of State Pompeo didn't set in motion the Afghanistan withdrawal. They did. Trump, Pompeo, and Biden all to blame, he partially wrote.

As CNN's Alex Marquardt reports, the indelible images from the withdrawal and the plight of the Afghan people left behind make this a debate with no end in sight.


ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One year ago, this was the deadly and chaotic culmination of efforts by the past two U.S. presidents to withdraw from Afghanistan. The Taliban had overrun the country. The Afghan military and government had collapsed, sapped of American support.

The biggest U.S. base in Afghanistan, Bagram, abandoned by U.S. forces virtually overnight.

The Trump administration had struck a deal with the Taliban to have U.S. troops leave in mid-2021, an agreement President Joe Biden argued forced his timing.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So we were left with a simple decision -- either follow-through on the commitment made by the last administration and leave Afghanistan or say we weren't leaving and commit another tens of thousands more troops going back to war.

MARQUARDT: Like Trump, Biden wanted out. Staying, he said, would lead to a forever war, which had already cost almost 2,500 American lives. And he argued ending it would also end the extraordinary cost that had risen to $2 trillion.

Republicans like Congressman Mike McCaul of Texas blasted how the withdrawal was handled, calling it a stain on Biden's presidency.

REP. MIKE MCCAUL (R-TX): The evacuation was so poorly handled that we just left so many behind, whether it be American citizens or Afghan partners.

MARQUARDT: Thousands of those Afghans remain, often hunted, McCaul says, by the Taliban. More than 74,000 Afghan special immigrant visa applicants are in the pipeline. The Biden administration so far has issued over 15,000 visas.

SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-NH): It's a broken program. It's continued to be broken. The Biden administration made a recent announcement to help with that, to help speed up the process.

MARQUARDT: Many are Afghan women trying to get out as their rights are torn away by the Taliban, an issue that Senator Jeanne Shaheen has fought for for years.

SHAHEEN: We've seen the rights of women be dramatically restricted, their ability to work, to go to school.

MARQUARDT: Without the American military there, Shaheen says, the U.S. is hamstrung in its ability to do more.

And the agreement the U.S. struck with the Taliban to not harbor terrorists, she says, is effectively dead after the leader of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was found to be living in downtown Kabul. The U.S. drone strike that killed him, the Biden administration says, is proof that so-called over the horizon missions from outside Afghanistan can work.

But the U.S. intelligence community is severely hampered by not having American eyes and ears on the ground, according to the CIA's top former analyst on Afghanistan, Beth Sanner.


BETH SANNER, FORMER DEPUTY DNI: We have a growing terrorist threat in Afghanistan. I will say I think we need to keep this in perspective. It's nothing like what it was before 2001. Al Qaeda is still a shadow of itself. We still have that ability to take them out.

MARQUARDT: A threat that raises concerns of an attack in the United States. The head of the FBI, Chris Wray, said earlier this month.

Today, Afghanistan is spiraling, facing medical, humanitarian, and economic crises that only further fuel the fierce debate over the Afghanistan war and its calamitous ending, a debate that will continue long past this first anniversary.


MARQUARDT: While the people in Afghanistan are in such dire need, the Biden administration said this week it will not be releasing the $7 billion of Afghan assets that have been frozen by the U.S. half of that, so about $3.5 billion, has been designated for helping the Afghan people. But the State Department says it is still trying to figure out how to do that without it ending up in the hands of terrorist groups -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Alex Marquardt, thank you.

Joining us now to discuss, Republican Mike McCaul of Texas., He's the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

I want to start by asking you about your Republican colleague, Adam Kinzinger's tweet, where he said do not let them pretend that Trump and Trump's then-secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, they didn't set in motion the Afghanistan withdrawal. They did. Trump, Pompeo, and Biden are all to blame. He is suggesting Republicans aren't being honest, that this is blame that should belong to not just Biden. He's not letting Biden off the hook, but Trump and Pompeo as well.

What's your reaction?

REP. MIKE MCCAUL (R-TX): Look, we had 20 years of failures, under both presidents, both parties. And I think what happened in this case was the evacuation itself. Whether you agree to pull out or not, it's the way it was done. That's my biggest complaint.

I think the Doha agreement, I didn't agree with it. I didn't think we should be sitting down with the Taliban, trying to negotiate with terrorists. They did try to do that.

The fact is, the Doha agreement was not being complied with. The Taliban was still harboring al Qaeda. And so, at the end of the day, the president was quoted in an interview with George Stephanopoulos where he said irrespective of Doha, I was going to get out of Afghanistan. So, Doha almost in a way is irrelevant here. We have a president of the United States that is hell bent on getting out of Afghanistan as fast as possible, without the considerations of what's happening on the ground.

TAPPER: So this is obviously a report from the Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, not the Democrats. I noted this yesterday, that the chairman of the committee, Gregory Meeks, Democrat of New York, you two generally speaking work well together and work in a very bipartisan way -- yesterday, you told CNN the Democrats on the committee were initially interested in participating but were told to stand down by the Biden administration.

Meeks said the issue was he didn't think it should be about the withdrawal. It should be about the entire 20 years.

Here's how he responded to that specific allegation.


REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D-NY): The White House never asked me not to do it. That never occurred. Absolutely not. Just as we say we in the legislative branch make our own decisions of what we do. The White House does not interfere and tell us what to do on this committee.


TAPPER: So, he says that's not true.

MCCAUL: Look, Greg and I get along very well. He's chairman, I'm ranking member. However, look, we only had one hearing oversight on Afghanistan, after this debacle. After that time, it shut down.

I don't know why. My speculation was that this is embarrassing for the Biden administration. What happened. No one left behind, we left 100,000 Afghan, you know, personnel who supported the United States of America behind enemy lines who are now being tortured, beaten, and executed.

We have 1,000 American citizens still left behind. They don't want to be talking about this. And I don't know -- I wouldn't say I had an email saying stand down, but politically, certainly, not something they want to be talking about.

TAPPER: You think there's a lot of appetite among House Republicans for Afghans to come into the United States? Because the language I have seen from your colleagues, Republican members of the house and senate, seems to suggest that they don't want Afghans coming to the United States. I'm not talking about you, and obviously, there are exceptions, but generally speaking.

MCCAUL: You know, the SIV program was broken. State only had 36 consular officers for hundreds of thousands of people trying to get out of HKIA. I do think the Afghan partners who worked with us, with our military, interpreters, you and I talked to these groups, deserve what we promised them, and that is we're not going to leave you behind.


We're going to protect you. We owe this to them. So I personally feel a personal responsibility and duty and obligation, as do the veterans of Afghanistan, that they were our brothers in arms as well and should be protected.

Some people get on the planes, Jake, that should not have. And they didn't pass the vetting process, and the clearance. But let's bring the good ones out of there and give them shelter, put them in a place where they're safe.

TAPPER: Well, when you become chairman, if the Republicans take the House, let me know how I can help in any way to save those young -- those brave people who helped us.

Lastly, you know the dilemma the Biden administration is in about the $7 billion. You know, you don't want to give -- the Biden administration doesn't want to give this money to the Taliban for fear of what they'll do with it, but you see the starvation, the people who are suffering in Afghanistan.

How does the Biden administration, how does the United States help these people without arming or whatever the Taliban?

MCCAUL: It's very -- I'm talking to Samantha Powers right now, she's the U.S. aid director. About how can we get this assistance that Congress appropriated in a way that's not going to go to al Qaeda or ISIS or help the Taliban in their effort. It's a very dicey, tricky issue, but the poverty is real.

The women left behind and the girls is the saddest story of this entire evacuation. I got four bus loads of them out personally. But only 25 percent got out. And they refer to Schindler's list, if you're on the list, you get out. If you're not on the list, you're probably going to die.

I think it's just a humanitarian standpoint, we've got to find a way to do it, but the Taliban is not helping themselves when they harbor a man like Zawahiri. You know, who harbored the top al Qaeda leader? Mr. Haqqani, the Haqqani Network, one of the most famous terrorists who the network took Pakistani extremists, brought them into Afghanistan to kill Americans. Now he's a minister of interior, which means minister of security in Afghanistan. And like Reagan said, trust but verify. Really hard to do with the Taliban.

TAPPER: All right, Congressman Mike McCaul, Republican of Texas, always good to see you. Really appreciate it. We'll tweet off a copy of the report so people can see it and read it for themselves. Obviously, the Biden administration takes issue.

MCCAUL: Well, you know, as my dad said, if you're not taking flack -- if you're taking flack, you're over the target, be 17 at --

TAPPER: I know. I'm well aware.

Congressman, good to see you. Thanks so much.

MCCAUL: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up next, a Maryland couple in court charged in an espionage plot. How prosecutors say they tried to hide their U.S. secrets in a peanut butter sandwich as well as a pack of chewing gum.

Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


TAPPER: In the world lead, the Russian annexed peninsula of Crimea has become a hot spot. Today, Ukraine did not immediately take responsibility for a massive explosion at a Kremlin owned ammunition depot there.

According to -- adding to the murkiness, Russia called the explosion sabotage. A couple hundred miles north in Zaporizhzhia, more shelling outside Europe's biggest nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

CNN's David McKenzie reports that has escalated fears of a disaster.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Explosions peppering the horizon in Russian occupied Crimea. Just a few miles away, commuters reacting in shock. Filming the blast with their mobile phones.

Even the bus is moving, they say. Six kilometers away, the bus is shaking. The blast at an ammunition depot in northern Crimea, causing damage to power lines, a power plant, railway tracks and residential buildings. Branded sabotage by Russia's military.

Kyiv has not claimed responsibility for the incident, but a Ukrainian presidential adviser called it demilitarization in action.

It's the second major security incident in Crimea in one week. Last Tuesday, massive explosions at a Russian air base on Crimea's west coast, close to beach going tourists. A major psychological blow. The Russian defense ministry blaming it on accidental detonation of ammunition.

On the southern battlefield, inspectors from the atomic energy agency still unable to get into the massive Zaporizhzhia power plant to insure its safety. Russian officials blaming the U.N. for the delay. The U.N. denies that, saying it's ready to provide security and logistics. Russia and Ukraine blame each other for dangerous strikes near the plant which has continued to operate.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Monday calling on the world to introduce tough sanctions as a response to Russia's, quote, nuclear blackmail.

PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The provocative shelling of the territory of the plant continues, under cover of the plant, the invaders are shelling nearby towns and communities. The Russian military hides munitions and equipment at the facilities of the plant.


MCKENZIE: Now, Ukrainian leadership is still not coming directly on those explosions in Crimea, but just a short time ago, president Zelenskyy kind of hinted at it. He said the Ukrainians living in Crimea should stay away from military assets of the Russians to stay safe -- Jake.

TAPPER: David McKenzie in Ukraine, thank you so much.

Turning to a sticky situation in our national lead. A federal judge has rejected plea deals for a Maryland couple accused of passing nuclear secrets using a peanut butter sandwich among other methods.

The former U.S. Navy nuclear engineer Jonathan Toebbe and his wife Diana were originally charged with three federal felonies.

Let's bring in CNN's Oren Liebermann now.

Oren, remind us how investigators unpacked this widespread plot.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, much of this investigation played out over last year, when prosecutors say the Toebbe couple, Jonathan Toebbe, a navy nuclear engineer, and his wife, reached out to a foreign embassy, a foreign country, to try to sell nuclear secrets. The agreement they were looking for was that they would steal nuclear secrets, according to prosecutors, and exchange them for tens of thousands of dollars of cryptocurrency. That country quickly reached out to the United States, which turned this investigation over to the FBI.

And it was over the course of several months undercover FBI agents got the Toebbe couple, according to investigators and prosecutors, to carry out a number of dead drops going to great lengths to try to conceal the stolen information they were trying to pass on, including hiding, as you pointed out, scan disk memory cards within a peanut butter sandwich and a pack of gum.

But the judge today as we listen to this in federal court, took this very seriously. Both Jonathan Toebbe and his wife Diana Toebbe had pleaded guilty to these crimes and agreed to a sentence. Jonathan Toebbe was supposed to get between 12 and 18 years, his wife 3 years, but the judge rejected the plea agreement saying it was far too lenient and saying it was a grave threat to national security and posed a threat to the United States. Because of that, she rejected the plea agreement. She gave the defense attorneys and the defendants here a few minutes to think over what they would do and they withdrew their plea agreements.

So, Jake, it looks like as of right now, this is headed to trial. There is, of course, time to come to another plea agreement, but that's where this is indicating it's headed now. So, plea agreement rejected by a federal judge and it looks like this case is headed for trial.

TAPPER: Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon for us, thank you so much.

Coming up next, a brand-new study out from the CDC. What does it reveal about that alarming case of polio identified in New York? Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our health lead, a new CDC study shows the polio case identified in an unvaccinated young adult in Rockland County, New York, likely resulted from community spread. This is only the second case of this type in the United States since 1979. The study also showed just 37 percent of children under 2 years old in Rockland county are vaccinated against polio, which can cause permanent arm and leg paralysis. The possible reemergence of polio thought to be eradicated has led to urgent vaccination efforts across New York City where the virus was detected in wastewater.

Let's bring in CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, tell us more about what its the latest CDC study.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the headline is that we now know polio is out there. It seems likely to be spreading in the community. Most people are going to be pretty well- protected, but it's the unvaccinated most at risk.

This is going to sound familiar, Jake. We got more details about this individual you were describing. So, this was an unvaccinated young adult. We know that the symptoms the person had, low grade fever, neck stiffness, abdominal pain which is happen more often with polio, but it was the leg weakness, that sort of paralysis that we talk about. It's rare, less than 1 percent of the time, but it happened in this individual.

The CDC, as you pointed out, concluded this results from community spread. Why? Because they had already detected this polio virus in waste water 25 days before the onset of symptoms. So it's out there. Again, people who have been vaccinated should take great comfort in that because it's a very effective vaccine.

But the problem is, if you look at vaccination rates, for example, in Rockland County, where this particular person was diagnosed that I just mentioned, vaccination rates are around 60 percent. Just next door, Orange County, 58 percent. Nationally, 92.6 percent.

Many countries around the world, developed countries, have their vaccination rates in the close to 100 percent range. So this is the concern. Counties around the country where they have low vaccination rates have to take particular sort of screening and care to see if this virus is circulating in those communities.

TAPPER: Jonas Salk is in heaven looking down on us saying, what are you doing?

GUPTA: I handed this one to you.

TAPPER: Yeah, exactly. I cured it.

Turning to monkeypox, another disease circulating in the United States, now there's debate about whether or not to label it specifically a sexually transmitted disease. With most cases linked to sexual activity. What's the dispute here? Would calling it a sexually transmitted disease be misleading?

GUPTA: I think part of this is just the language around this. I think what is clear is that people can contract this without sexual activity. It could even live on bed sheets and things like that, and potentially be spread that way.

I think this is -- this is a language thing, predominantly. We know how monkeypox is spread. That's not in dispute. It is close skin to skin contact. It is people who have prolonged face-to-face contact.

It can be transmitted during sex, presumably because there's a lot of skin to skin contact during sex. But is it transmitted as a sexually transmitted disease? Does not appear to be, at least not only that way, Jake.

TAPPER: Right. And we should underline as always the most at-risk group right now is men who have sex with multiple partners of other men.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks so much. Always good to see you.

Coming up, combating the manmade climate crisis, the drastic action announced today aiming to save the water supply of a major U.S. river.

Stay with us.



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

This hour, Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney's political future will be determined by Republican voters tonight. Why the vice chair of the January 6th committee is pinning hopes on folks who have not always been her fans.

Plus, new and drastic water cuts ordered by the federal government for several states in the Southwest. This comes as the climate crisis has caused a key water source to drop to unprecedented low levels.

And leading this hour, Donald Trump's former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputy, Patrick Philbin, were interviewed by the FBI about those classified documents taken to Mar-a-Lago when Trump left office. "The New York Times" first broke the story, reporting that several advisers claimed Trump said about the documents, quote, it's not theirs. It's mine, unquote.

CNN's Evan Perez joins me now.

Evan, what do we know about the FBI interviewing these top former Trump White House lawyers?