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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Biden Cancels $10,000 In Student Loan Debt For Borrowers Making Less Than $125,000 A Year; Newly Released Memo Shows Barr Broke With Mueller When Deciding Not To Charge Trump In Russia Probe; Victory In New York Special Election Fuels Hope For Dems; Ukraine Marks Independence Day As Invasion Reaches Half Year Mark; Texas Judge Blocks Federal Emergency Abortion Guidance. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired August 24, 2022 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: I'm a pescatarian. I don't eat hotdogs.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: You don't make exceptions for hotdogs.
BLACKWELL: Especially not for hotdogs.
CAMEROTA: Really? You've never tried hotdogs.
BLACKWELL: I had hotdogs. I've been a pescatarian for three years. We didn't know this was where the segment was going, but no, I'm not going to make an exception. I had them as a kid. Yes.
CAMEROTA: All right. I'm sure you all have a lot of comments.
BLACKWELL: We were friends before that, apparently.
CAMEROTA: Not anymore.
BLACKWELL: THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: President Biden finally makes his move on student loan debt.
THE LEAD starts right now. The president coming true on a campaign promise, forgiving $10,000 in student loans for millions of borrowers. This hour, a response from the White House as critics, some of them even Democrats, say the move could make inflation worse and call it an insult to those who have already paid their loans.
Plus, bellwether races, the Democrat pulling out a win in a battleground district. Could this set the tone for November? I'll also speak with a Florida primary winner trying to become the first member of Congress from generation Z.
And a proposal to tackle homelessness, forcing hotels to offer up empty rooms. But how do hotel guests and owners feel? A contentious debate playing out right now in a major American city.
(MUSIC) TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
And we start today with our money lead. A monumental announcement out of the White House today affecting tens of millions of Americans. President Biden laying out his decision to cancel $10,000 in student loan debt for borrowers who make less than $125,000 a year and married couples who earned less than $250,000.
Some Americans could see $20,000 in relief. And this move could completely wipe out student debt for one-third of borrowers. President Biden is also extending the loan repayment freeze through the rest of the year.
Leading Democratic lawmakers are hailing the president's move today, calling it, quote, a giant step forward in addressing the student debt crisis, but some key parts of the president's coalition say the move does not go far enough. And some Democrats and many Republicans say this is nothing but a handout on the backs of taxpayers at a time the country cannot afford it.
CNN's M.J. Lee joins us now live from the White House.
But, M.J., under what authority is the president taking this unilateral action?
M.J. LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Jake, that is a really good question, with a little bit of a complicated answer. The education department is essentially pointing to the so-called Heroes Act, which was enacted after the September 11th attacks. And they're saying that essentially gives the education secretary the authority during certain periods to offer people relief from student loans.
Now, this memo from the Department of Education says that the certain periods could include periods like a war, during a military operation or a national emergency. And this is the key part in the memo. It says national emergency such as the present COVID-19 pandemic.
So that is sort of the rationale there. You can imagine that many, many people and families are going to want to try to take advantage of this announcement, and according to the administration, that process should be pretty simple. They're saying the application should be simple, and that there will be more information coming in the coming weeks.
TAPPER: M.J., do we know how many Americans will be eligible for this debt forgiveness?
LEE: It will be tens of millions of Americans. To be more specific, the administration estimates that some 43 million borrowers will be eligible for some amount of student loan debt relief, and keep in mind, another key notable number is more than 60 percent of borrowers are Pell Grant recipients, which again means they're going to be eligible for up to $20,000 in student loan debt relief.
Now, around 20 million borrowers will end up having the full balance of their debt canceled. So, that is going to be a big deal. When we heard President Biden talking at the White House earlier today, he did make clear, he knows that not everybody is going to be perfectly happy with this plan.
TAPPER: M.J. Lee at the White House for us, thank you so much.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, is calling the Biden student loan forgiveness, a, quote, slap in the face. He says it's an insult to families who worked and sacrificed to save for college.
CNN's Melanie Zanona is here in the studio with me.
Melanie, how are other Republicans reacting to Biden's announcement?
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, Republicans have really sprung into action, criticizing this move. In fact, the Senate Republican conference is already circulating talking points on the issue, and the way they're really framing this is this is a misguided decision that's going to add to debt and drive up inflation. Now, that's up for debate. Some experts say it will only have a moderate impact on inflation.
But clearly, the GOP is trying to play on the top concerns of voters, and then the other major point they're trying to drive home is this is only going to impact a certain segment of the population, including some Americans who are well off, while everyone else has to foot the bill.
And here is what Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell said. He said: President Biden's student loan socialism is a slap in the face to every family who sacrificed to save for college, every graduate who paid their debt, and every American who chose a certain career path or volunteered to serve in our armed forces in order to avoid taking on debt.
And so, that is really the main message from Republicans. And it's a message they are united in -- Jake.
TAPPER: What about Democrats on the Hill? Do they think this is a good proposal, a good plan? Do they think it's going to give them a boost in the midterms?
ZANONA: They're actually much more divided. So, you have some Senate Democrats and Senate House Democrats who are saying that this is going to send the wrong message, they are criticizing the move, trying to put some distance between themselves and the decision.
That includes Tim Ryan, he's a congressman running in Ohio for Senate. He said he's worried about the impact it's going to have on Americans who chose not to go to college and saying it's unfair.
But then you have some progressives who say this move doesn't go far enough and that they're worried it's going to depress voter turnout in the midterms. But, you got to stay, for the most part, Democrats realize this is
another campaign promise that Biden delivered on. They say this is a victory in a string of recent legislative wins and even Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren put out a joint statement saying this is going to be a giant step forward in addressing the student loan crisis.
OK. Melanie Zanona, thank you so much.
Let's bring in White House senior adviser for public engagement, Keisha Lance Bottoms, the former mayor.
Let me start with the fact that Wharton estimates that this plan is going to cost somewhere between $300 billion and $980 billion over ten years. What is the actual number, do you think, and how does this get paid for?
KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER FOR PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT: Well, what we know is that the president has done a very in depth analysis in looking at whether or not the country can afford to give this relief to borrowers across this country. And what we know is that nearly 45 million people, if they take advantage of this program, will be eligible for loan forgiveness that will be $10,000 for borrowers who are not Pell Grant eligible and up to $20,000 or $20,000 for those who are Pell grant eligible.
So this is a huge boost to many across the country who have been looking for some relief in the midst of this pandemic and the president has kept his commitment. So in terms of the numbers, I will defer to the president's economic advisers in terms of those concrete numbers. But what we know for many families across the country, this is much needed relief and very much appreciated.
TAPPER: But am I correct in assuming there isn't a pay-for mechanism? Because President Biden, this is a campaign promise, but President Biden also made the campaign promise that everything he proposed would be paid for. That was an item that Jason Furman, who chaired the National Economic Council under President Obama cited in a twitter thread slamming this move.
He said: This is all, quote, pouring roughly half a trillion dollars of gasoline on the inflationary fire that is already burning. He called it reckless.
What do you say to Jason Furman?
BOTTOMS: Well, there's a reason that President Biden has taken his time in making this decision, Jake. As you know, there are many people who wanted him to make a decision immediately. But the president has been very deliberate in consulting with his economic advisers and making sure that the country could afford to give this relief to borrowers.
And what we know is that there are many people who have borrowed money, many people who have worked really hard to pay for college and student loan debt is something that has just saddled millions of people across America. And this is a game changer for many families across America. What we know is that even with the $10,000 in relief that there are many people who will have their student loans completely wiped out. That is huge. That is significant for families across this country, and I know that the president has been very deliberate in making this decision and making sure that this is not something that will be a burden to taxpayers across America, but this is something that will benefit students and families across this country.
TAPPER: But because there isn't a mechanism to pay for it, Wharton, I think, estimates this is going to cost every taxpayer $2,000, and I think one of the criticisms from Congressman Tim Ryan, the Democrat who is running for Senate there, is that ultimately, this is going to mean that some people who make under $100,000 a year are going to be paying off the loans of people who make six figures because the ceiling for this is $125,000 for an individual, $250,000 for a couple.
I mean, isn't that just true? Isn't Tim Ryan's objection to this accurate, that you're going to have working class people who didn't go to college paying for loans for people who make six figures?
BOTTOMS: Well, the irony of that, Jake, is that you have Republicans across this country who are criticizing this, but these are the same people who have given billions of dollars in tax cuts to corporations, who run up the deficit in this country, and they weren't concerned about everyday working people then.
And so the president has taken a huge step. I would venture to say probably one of the biggest steps in the history of our country, to make sure that students are able to have a fair chance of starting their careers, of starting families, of being able to buy houses without being saddled with student loan debt. What we know is that the cost of education in this country has gone up significantly over the past several decades and that we also know that just finishing high school is often not enough.
And so for the 45 million borrowers across this country, this is significant relief, and when you have that much relief for millions of people across this country, then it benefits everyone in this country, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican. And I would venture to say that many of these borrowers, this 45 million people who will be eligible, are probably independents, Republicans, and Democrats. So, it's going to benefit the entire country.
TAPPER: Yeah, I wasn't talking about Republican criticism, though. I was talking about Congressman Tim Ryan, who is a union Democrat from Ohio.
But let me move on because NAACP President Derrick Johnson, he's been critical of this plan from a different direction, ahead of the formal announcement. He wrote: The president's decision on student debt cannot become the latest example of a policy that has left black people, especially black women, behind. This is not how you treat black voters who turned out in record numbers and provided 90 percent of their vote to once again save democracy in 2020, unquote. How do you respond to Mr. Johnson?
BOTTOMS: Well, what I would say and my apologies when I misspoke regarding Tim Ryan there. There are a number of unions who are also supportive of this action.
But also, as it relates to Derrick Johnson, I have a great deal of respect for Derrick Johnson and his leadership of the NAACP, but I can tell you as someone who was Pell grant eligible, who received Pell grants in college, who had a significant amount of student loans, this relief would have been a game changer for me. And I know that it is for families across this country, for African Americans across this country.
So I know there's so many people who were hoping that there may have been even more relief, but you have to start somewhere. Where the president has started is with this $10,000 in relief for borrowers up to $20,000 if you're Pell grant eligible, and we know that many Black and Brown students across America are Pell grant eligible.
TAPPER: All right. Keisha Lance Bottoms, thank you so much. Good to see you again. Really appreciate your time today.
BOTTOMS: Thank you.
TAPPER: Coming up next, I'm going to speak with a 25-year-old Afro- Cuban from Florida who won his primary last night and could be well on his way to becoming the first Gen-Zer in Congress. Plus, a show of support from the West as Ukraine hits the six-month mark of Russia's unprovoked brutal invasion.
And just in, an internal memo from the Justice Department that may explain why Bill Barr decided not to charge former President Donald Trump in the Russia investigation.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: This just in to CNN, the Justice Department has just released an internal memo commissioned by former Attorney General Bill Barr which lays out the reasoning or says he used when deciding not to charge his boss, then President Trump, in the Robert Mueller Russia investigation.
Let's bring in CNN senior justice correspondent Evan Perez.
Now, Evan, we had previously seen a redacted version of this memo, and it shows Barr broke with Mueller when making this decision.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's right, Jake. I'll show you just a portion.
TAPPER: That's the redacted version?
PEREZ: This is redacted, what it looked like before. They have now released the tire memo that we can now see what was going on. The courts have been really critical of the Justice Department and specifically of Bill Barr, saying that this memo was really an academic exercise, that it was a thought experiment, because he had already decided that he was not going to charge the former president, then the sitting president, with obstruction of justice.
Now, Mueller cataloged a number of instances where he believed that the president could be charged with obstruction of justice, but he left it up to the attorney general to make that final decision. In the end, what you see in this memo is a discussion of various instances, including this one, if you remember the story of Don McGahn being asked by the president to deny that he ever asked or ordered the firing of Robert Mueller, the special counsel.
TAPPER: Which was a lie.
PEREZ: Which was, right, not true. You go through this analysis in this memo, which basically kind of comes up with different excuses for why Trump didn't really mean what he said. In the end, what you see in this memo is that Bill Barr and his aides have decided that because there was no evidence enough to bring charges related to collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, there could be no obstruction of justice. That's the bottom line. That is basically what they based the entire memo on. And then they go through a number of pages describing various reasons as to why this could not be a decision they could stand behind.
TAPPER: All right. Evan Perez, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
Coming up next, candidates trying to capitalize today on their big primary wins in key states, including a 25-year-old trying to become the first Gen-Zer in Congress.
I'm going to talk to him next.
TAPPER: We're back with our politics lead.
Some of the final pieces of the midterm puzzle have fallen into place, and Democrats contend they see clear signs of momentum heading into November. The party is pointing to a special election in New York's 19th congressional district where Democratic candidate Pat Ryan prevailed after casting his campaign as a referendum on Roe, as in Roe v. Wade.
The election came just three weeks after voters in Kansas shut down a ballot measure that would have allowed the state to ban abortion.
[16:25:03] As CNN's Athena Jones reports for us now, Democrats believe this is further proof that the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is shaping up to be a powerful motivator for their base and perhaps winning over some wavering Republicans.
ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Abortion rights taking center stage in a special election in Upstate New York. Democrat Pat Ryan won in this swing district after billing the race as a referendum on Roe v. Wade, following the Supreme Court decision ending the constitutional right to an abortion.
AD ANNOUNCER: Marc Molinaro and the Republicans are too extreme on women's rights.
JONES: Ryan's victory offering an encouraging sign for Democrats hoping to use the battle over abortion rights to motivate voters in November.
PAT RYAN (D), NEW YORK CONGRESSMAN-ELECT: We got in this race because the foundations of our democracy were and remain under direct threat.
JONES: In New York City, Democrat Jerry Nadler's primary win in the newly drawn 12th district spelled an end to the congressional career of his fellow 15-term Representative Carolyn Maloney.
The longtime allies forced to compete when a messy redistricting process combined their districts.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Carolyn Maloney and I have spent much of our adult lives working together to benefit New York and our nation. I spoke for everyone in this room tonight when I thank her for her decades of service to our city.
JONES: And in Florida, Democrats nominated a former Republican, Charlie Crist, to take on Governor Ron DeSantis, a fund-raising juggernaut who has pushed through a conservative agenda and is widely viewed as a potential GOP presidential contender in 2024.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: We will never, ever surrender to the woke agenda. Florida is the state where woke goes to die.
JONES: Crist who has criticized his rival as a bully, vowing to shatter any White House dreams.
REP. CHARLIE CRIST (D), FLORIDA GOV. CANDIDATE: If you want to help Joe Biden get a second term, we need to shut Ron DeSantis down in Florida now.
JONES: Democrat Val Demings won a chance to challenge Marco Rubio for his Senate seat in a state that's been trending red.
REP. VAL DEMINGS (D), FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE: I stand before you tonight believing I am the promise of America.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): She's been there for six years, and she's voted with Nancy Pelosi 100 percent of the time, 100 percent.
JONES (on camera): And CNN has not yet called the race for the Democratic nomination in New York's tenth congressional district, the new district made up of lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn where Dan Goldman, a former Trump impeachment lawyer, is in the lead but his closest competitor, State Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, is vowing she won't concede until every vote is counted -- Jake.
TAPPER: Athena Jones in New York, thank you so much.
And we're going to talk to Congressman-elect Ryan in the next hour, but let's talk to someone else right now.
Another winner last night, Maxwell Frost, the CNN projected -- CNN desk projected that he will be the Democratic nominee for Florida's tenth congressional district, which is a strong Democratic district in Orlando.
Maxwell, first of all, congratulations.
If elected, you could be the first member of Generation Z to serve in Congress. For people who aren't familiar with your biography, you're 25, a community activist. You worked for March for Our Lives, the pro- gun control group, but you left that job to run for Congress, and you drove an Uber to help pay the bills.
Tell me how your experience will inform your time in Congress.
MAXWELL FROST (D), FLORIDA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Well, thank you for having me on, Jake. My experience is going to form my time in Congress because I have been organizing for the past decade. I have seen how gun violence has ravaged our communities first-hand and understand the urgency surrounding the issue and truly believe that we need to work to have a Congress that looks like the country, and yes, that means in race, but it also means in age, and it also means in life experiences.
You know, we need more teachers, more nurses, more organizers running for office to represent the community they're in. And as someone who's been on the front lines of things like Amendment 4 here in Florida, on the front lines of working to end gun violence both nationally and here in the state, I am ready to take that experience to Congress, take that urgency to Congress, and fight for the world that we all deserve.
TAPPER: So, President Obama was a community organizer. He was mocked at the time for it, but he was a successful two-term president. Was he an inspiration at all?
FROST: He was. He's actually one of the people that really got me into politics, and a lot of it had to do with me turning on the TV, sitting next to my dad, who got me into politics as well, and seeing someone that looked like me on TV. I remember the way I felt when I first saw President Obama speak and
said, wow, I would love to grow up to one day communicate in a way that makes people feel the way I'm feeling right now.
TAPPER: Democrats have control of the House, Senate, and White House right now. They have not been able to deliver some of the big ticket items that you've campaigned on and will continue to campaign on, like the green new deal or Medicare for all.
So why should voters think that you going to Congress can change that?
MAXWELL: Well, it has to be about the fight, you know? And we're very serious and real with voters here. You know, what I tell folks is I will be one of many voices in Congress. And what I can promise is what I'm going to fight for and how hard I'm going to fight for it.
You know, I truly believe that part of the reason why there's so much voter apathy is because voters have been lied to for generations. Politicians saying, elect me and this will happen tomorrow or when I get in office.
And we don't do that. We're honest with people. We talk about the fact that I am a piece of a bigger puzzle and for us to get things like Medicare for all, for us to get to a place where everybody has health care where we're protecting the environment and climate, we can't select one member of Congress. It has to be many members of Congress and people on the state and local level, and that's why I'm looking forward to as a member of Congress outside of D.C. working to build power here in Florida, insuring that we're keeping our majority, getting good Democrats elected up and down the ballot, so we can work together to provide for the American people and folks here in our state.
TAPPER: I am sure I don't need to tell you, this afternoon, President Biden announced the federal government is going to forgive $10,000 in student loan debt for those who make less than $125,000 a year. The NAACP is out there saying that's not nearly enough.
In a CNN opinion piece, NAACP leaders wrote, quote, Black Americans have been disproportionately devastated by student loan debt. Canceling $10,000 of debt is like pouring a bucket of water on a forest fire. It hardly achieves anything, only makes a mere dent in the problem.
What do you think about what the president did today?
MAXWELL: I think it's a great step forward, but I completely understand what many advocates and NAACP are saying. More has to be done. But as an organizer, I really see this opportunity as a way to change hearts and minds to bring more people in the fold, to fight to cancel student debt.
You know, a lot of folks blame our generation and say it's because we're living beyond our means, but we know the truth. It's not because we have lived beyond our means. It's because we have been denied the means to live.
And that's why we need diversity of opinion, thought, experience, and age in Congress because I understand the urgency as it relates to student debt. This is a good step forward, and when I'm in Congress, I'm going to fight to insure we can do even more to insure that people have relief that they need so they can live their lives without the shackles of debt.
TAPPER: I don't blame Generation Z. Let me give you a secret, it's all the fault of the boomers. Let me just tell you that. The boomers ruined everything. Take it from a member of Generation X.
Congratulations on your victory. Maxwell Frost, we'll talk to you in the future.
FROST: Thank you so much, Jake.
TAPPER: Coming up next, what we're learning about an attack on a train station in Ukraine as Russia's invasion hits the six-month mark.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Striking show of Western support for Ukraine tops our world lead today, as the nation's independence day and the six-month of Russia's brutal attack coincide.
President Biden says Ukraine has inspired the world as he commits to the largest U.S. aid package for Ukraine yet. Plus, a surprise visit to Kyiv by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a freedom parade in Berlin, and giant Ukrainian flag raised at European Union headquarters in Brussels.
As Ukrainians mark this day, CNN's Sam Kiley is in Ukraine where Putin's carnage continues and President Zelenskyy says a Russian strike killed at least 22 people at a train station.
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dawn, Ukrainian independence day outside Kharkiv, marking 31 years of freedom from the Soviet Union, but not from Russia.
Flags but not people are out in Kharkiv, marking six months since Russia's invasion, amid fears of renewed attacks on cities here. And the threat became real with a brutal strike on a train station.
PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE (through translator): There are at minimum 15 dead and 50 wounded. Rescue workers are on site. The number of dead may increase. Vladimir Putin assumed that Zelenskyy's government would be swiftly toppled in a Russian onslaught. Many in the West agreed with him. BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We were filled with foreboding
because we just did not see how this innocent and beautiful country could repel an attack by more than 100 battalion tactical groups when the suffering and the casualties would be so immense. But you did.
KILEY: Russians were held up in their assault on Kyiv, then driven back. Their retreat from the capital revealing atrocities in Irpin and Bucha. Switching tactics back to the 1940s, Russia gave up on the capital to focus on breaking Ukraine's national will, with wholesale bombardments of cities, concentrating on Kharkiv, Mariupol, millions fled to safety outside the country overland, clogging roads and railways.
Led by the U.S., Ukraine's allies eventually sent better artillery. Then rocket launchers, drones, and vital intelligence. Too late to help save Mariupol, but new weapons have slowed the Russian advance in much of the east, where soldiers now refer to fighting in towns as a meat grinder.
Massive amounts of American money and equipment, fulsome support from countries like the United Kingdom have contributed to Ukraine's successes on the battlefield. But they're still not getting the strategic weapons that they need. Fast jets, long range rockets, killer drones.
Without them, Ukrainians now face a crippling war along fixed front lines.
Not a victory Putin would want, but one he might accept to prevent democracy that's taking root on his doorstep in Ukraine, spreading into his own home.
KILEY (on camera): Now, Jake, of course, we recall six months ago, that Putin excuse for invading Ukraine was to try to prevent it joining NATO. That was a bit of a fig leaf at the time, and it's even more of a fig leaf now, because of course, NATO members are getting closer and closer, many of them even signing bilateral agreements for defense and other training programs for Ukraine.
So it's definitely backfired on Putin -- Jake.
TAPPER: Sam, despite recently announced western assistance, Ukraine is still very worried about international fatigue. When we were in Ukraine in April, we went to Borodyanka, a small town just northwest of Kyiv and we saw these horrifying scenes, homes leveled, possessions lost forever. Ukrainians taking stock of the damage, bodies buried underneath rubble. How are Ukrainians trying to keep these continued atrocities top of mind for the rest of the world?
KILEY: Well, I think one of the most active elements of that has been the president of Ukraine himself, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has a relentless campaign of engagement with the outside world. He's regularly lecturing at universities, speaking to parliaments, he's addressed Congress, of course, giving interviews. His ministers have given interviews. His own defense minister spoke to me yesterday, drawing our attention once again to this problem of fatigue.
And I think the other side of it is that tragically and catastrophically, obscenely even, the Russians keep putting these issues back on the agenda. For example, today, with the murder of at least 22 people in a strike against a civilian railway line, Jake.
TAPPER: That's right. As you mentioned in your report, Zelenskyy says the strike killed at least 22 people in eastern Ukraine. Are people in Kyiv on edge about what might happen there?
KYIV: It's very interesting indeed. Kyiv actually over the last -- I have been coming and going from here for five months so far this year. The city, a few weeks ago, would have felt abnormally normal, given the level of war and conflict going on in the east, but in the last few days, there's definitely an air of tension. There's definitely more reaction on the ground to people, of people to the air raid sirens. They're less used to hearing them because of the higher threat over this Independence Day celebration.
TAPPER: All right. CNN's Sam Kiley in Kyiv, Ukraine, thank you so much.
Retired Major General Spider Marks joins me now at the magic wall.
Spider, thanks so much for joining us.
So, let's start with the fact that Russia has a heavy presence in the areas in red here on the map. And the maps look like this for some time now.
SPIDER MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: They really have. If we look at the right now, clearly, what you see is they have had this presence in the vicinity of Kharkiv all the way down into the Crimea and over here to Kherson. Obviously, Odesa still remains open. That's absolutely necessary.
Let's go back to the start of all this on day three of the war. As you can see, there were four major avenues of approach into Ukraine. Right here, and then clearly, in an effort to re-enforce the Donbas and then up from Crimea. The intent being is to get up to the Dnieper River and then advance after they took Kyiv and then maybe create this rump of Ukraine over here, that this might have been the advance. But what really happened, let me show you what was really dangerous at one point.
If we can see, March 13th, Jake, so we're into this thing about a month. Kyiv is really at risk. You have these two incredible pincer movements that are coming in and that's when the Ukrainians really lit it up, became incredibly creative in the way they were fighting the Russians. That really brought us back to this, where the Russians said, we can't make this happen. We're going to have to concentrate down here in the Donbas area. TAPPER: Interesting. Very interesting. I want to talk to the
Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant if we can. Zelenskyy says, quote, Russia has put the world on the brink of radiation catastrophe. A nuclear expert tells CNN the significant damage is actually unlikely. There are 15 -- 15 reactors in Ukraine.
How is Ukraine protecting these resources?
MARKS: Yeah, what most folks don't understand is the number of nuclear facilities that are there, as you can see them there, highlighted here, and six at the Zaporizhzhia facility, which is the one that's been under focus where there's been Russian control, but it's been very haphazard in terms of that.
TAPPER: But they have also been in there firing out from there, as almost tempting the Ukrainians to bomb their own nuclear power plant.
MARKS: Which is what the Russian intent has been all along. So what has happened is clearly, Chernobyl has been inactivated for years.
These are safe because the Ukrainians still own them. This is the area that causes the greatest concern.
TAPPER: And then finally, let's zoom out to the bigger picture, Europe and NATO.
MARKS: What has happened which is really remarkable --
TAPPER: Here's Ukraine here.
MARKS: What is really remarkable is that NATO has held together so incredibly well. We've got 30 members right here. We've got two more with Sweden and Finland that are coming in. A total of 32 countries will be in NATO. Every one of these nations has 1,000 different things that motivate their national security interests. They're holding together because of Ukraine. That's most remarkable. But as we progress through time, obviously, the fractures will become increasing, as a result of the winter that needs to be addressed.
And what everybody wants, Nord Stream opened back up so everybody can get the oil in Nord Stream 2 into northern Germany should be opened up, as well as what NATO is concerned about.
TAPPER: All right. Retired General -- Major Spider Marks, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
Coming up next, a judge's ruling blocks one of the few options the Biden administration had to try to protect emergency abortion procedures.
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(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TAPPER: In our health lead today, a major setback for the Biden administration as it tries to protect abortion rights. A federal judge in Texas has blocked guidance from the department of health and human services, guidance that required emergency medical responders to provide abortion services in life-threatening situations for women.
CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Dallas, Texas, for us.
Ed, what does this mean for emergency medical responders in Texas?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, many of these responders have been chilled by the event of the summer, as the Supreme Court has struck down Roe v. Wade. This is the Biden administration trying to find a way in some small way to protect abortion rights.
But what is at the heart of all this is that after the Supreme Court's decision earlier this summer, the Biden administration put out guidance through the department of health and human services saying that through the caveat in a health care law that would require medical providers across the country to provide medical emergency care for abortion services if the mother's life is at risk.
The state of Texas sued, led by Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton, to block this guidance. And this federal judge has now agreed. What is important also to point out is that the state of Texas abortion trigger law goes into effect tomorrow on Thursday.
So, starting tomorrow, essentially, all abortions are banned, only in the case where a mother's life is in jeopardy -- Jake.
TAPPER: What does the Biden administration have to say about this judge's ruling?
LAVANDERA: Well, the Biden administration described the ruling as wrong, backwards, and says this will put the life of women across the country at risk. As I mentioned, this is one of the few things the Biden administration has been able to do to try to protect abortion rights on any kind of level across the country. So this will not have just a serious effect here in Texas but across the country as well.
TAPPER: What's the next step?
LAVANDERA: Well, this is -- the guidance has been halted, so I presume this lawsuit will continue to make its way through the system. And then there are other states that are going through these different laws, as we well know, and as we have covered the abortion issue, the question of abortion is left up to states. So this is also playing out in several states in the West. So all of this guidance is really kind of -- the effects of this aren't totally certain at this point, as it continues to make its way through different states that are at different levels of passing abortion restrictions or not passing abortion restrictions.
TAPPER: All right. Evan Lavandera, thank you.
Coming up, Ron DeSantis of Florida with a rather low blow for a member of the Biden administration.
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GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: Someone needs to grab that little elf and chuck him across the Potomac.
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TAPPER: Who was the governor referring to as a little elf? That's coming up.
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
This hour, it could be a medical breakthrough for memory loss, zapping people's brains with weak electrical currents. What this might mean for Alzheimer's and dementia patients.
Then, can one city government force hotels to give empty rooms to people forced to live on the streets.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's insane. It isn't going to solve the problem.
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TAPPER: A look at the fight playing out in the city of angels.
And leading this hour, the Justice Department has less than 24 hours to lay out which parts of the Mar-a-Lago search affidavit it wants redacted. The DOJ argued the entire affidavit should not be unsealed because it would put aspects of the investigation, the criminal investigation, at risk.
However, last week, U.S. magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart said that based on the information he had, he believes parts of the affidavit could be revealed to the public. We're going to start our coverage with CNN's Evan Perez.
Evan, that deadline fast approaching for the DOJ. Are we expecting to hear any guidance on what the justice department insists needs to stay redacted?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It's unlikely, Jake. We are expecting that the Justice Department is going to file this document under seal for the judge and we're likely to see them argue that as much of this as possible needs to be kept secret. In part because they say that there is sensitive information about witnesses in particular that they're very concerned about, and of course, details about this investigation that they do not want the persons who are the subjects of it, obviously, the former president and any others, to know about just yet.
So, the question is, you know, what possibly could be released that would at least give the public a little more information about why this extraordinary search was taken and that would satisfy the Justice Department to protect its investigation, Jake.
TAPPER: There's another court deadline in this Trump documents investigation.