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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Intel Community Assessing Potential Damage Of Mar-a-Lago Docs; Trump Team Still Wants Special Master Despite DOJ's "Filter" Team Review Of Mar-a-Lago Docs; Dozens Shot From Friday To Sunday In A Rash Of Gun Violence; Some GOP Lawmakers Question Proximity Of FBI Search To Midterms; Ukraine Launches Major Counteroffensive In Russian-Held South; Engine Issues Force NASA To Postpone Artemis I Moon Mission; Transportation Department: 35 Percent Surge In Air Travel Complaints From May To June Of This Year. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired August 29, 2022 - 16:00   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN HOST: Artemis failed to launch, pumpkin spice lattes are going to cost more, and it's only Monday.

THE LEAD starts right now.

The Justice Department takes the lead on reviewing documents seized from Mar-a-Lago as team Trump keeps up its fight to get in on the process. Might this set up yet another legal fight?

Plus, wild scenes of violence. A grocery store shot up in Oregon, an apartment set on fire to lure shooting victims out in Houston, and on the streets of D.C., an NFL rookie shot in an attempted robbery.

And with a busy summer travel weekend just days away, customer complaints hit new highs. It's not just airlines taking the calls.


HUNT: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Kasie Hunt in today for Jake Tapper.

We begin this hour with the national security legal and political shockwaves still reverberating from the FBI's search of Mar-a-Lago three weeks ago. The director of national intelligence says the U.S. intelligence community is conducting a damage assessment of the documents that were taken from the former president's home. Remember, we learned last week that Trump still had 148 unique classified documents in his possession after he left office, 25 of those were marked top secret.

This review is separate from the DOJ's criminal investigation and will help intelligence officials determine if any harm has been done to our national security.

Meanwhile, sources close to the former president's legal team say that they want a special master appointed to essentially do what the DOJ says is already done. They still want this. The Justice Department said today it's identified a, quote, limited set of materials potentially covered by attorney/client privilege from the Mar-a-Lago search.

As CNN's Sara Murray reports, Republicans are demanding more transparency. Many claiming the Justice Department overreached, which makes the attorney general's job all the more fraught with political peril.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The justice department's adjusting its already well under way in digging through boxes of documents seized from Mar-a-Lago.

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Their point is well taken, which is this is too late. We are already looking at this material and we have a process in place to protect it.

MURRAY: In a new court filing, DOJ has identified a limited set of materials that could contain attorney/client information. The progress report coming after former President Donald Trump's team asked the judge for a special master to oversee the review of evidence recovered in the search. This as the fallout continues over how Trump handled classified documents after leaving office.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): This guy we know, 184 classified documents, 25 of them top secret. By the way, countries that want to do us harm want to see these documents.

MURRAY: Director of National Intelligence Avril Haynes telling Congress officials are conducting a damage assessment of the documents seized from Mar-a-Lago, including an assessment of the potential risk to national security that would result from the disclosure of relevant documents. DOJ saying its in court filing it's working alongside intelligence officials to facilitate a review of classified materials.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): This is disgusting in my mind. And no president should act this way, obviously.

MURRAY: Some of Trump's closest allies, meantime, are leaping to his defense, like South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I'll say this. If there's a prosecution of Donald Trump for mishandling classified information after the Clinton debacle --

MURRAY: Who suggested a Trump indictment t would set tensions aflame.

GRAHAM: There'll be riots in the streets.

MURRAY: One New Hampshire Republican Governor Chris Sununu questions the timing of the Mar-a-Lago search.

GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Former President Trump has been out of office for going on two years now. Where -- why -- you think this is a coincidence just happening a few months before the midterm elections and that sort of thing? So, you know, this is unprecedented. MURRAY: Republican Senator Roy Blunt also raising concerns about the

timing but admitting Trump should have returned the documents immediately.

SEN. ROY BLUNT (R-MO): I understand he turned over a lot of documents. He should have turned over all of them. I imagine he knows that very well now as well.


MURRAY (on camera): Now when it comes to that trove of documents the FBI took from Mar-a-Lago and whether there are potentially privileged items in there, the judge who is overseeing this issue has suggested that she's open to appointing a special master. She said a hearing for this issue on Thursday, Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Sara Murray, thanks very much for that report.


CNN chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins joins us now live.

Kaitlan, how is Trump world responding to all the new developments here?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So, they were excited over the weekend, Kasie, when they saw this judge signaling her intent to grant their request for this third party attorney known as a special master. I was told they were expecting the Justice Department to make the argument this week that they had already kind of gone through this because that's what DOJ is basically saying today. That before the judge even made that ruling on Saturday, that they were already in the process of having this filter team go through where they identify what they believe are these potentially materials covered by attorney/client privilege and they were on the path to take the steps that are appropriate to take after that.

So the Trump team kind of had an idea this was coming, and I think the concern is that this could potentially undercut their push to get a special master. They are still hopeful that in the end they will actually still get one because they have been making a separate argument which is about executive privilege and arguing that some of the materials that were taken by the FBI when they conducted this search are presidential materials that are covered by executive privilege.

We haven't seen the Justice Department really address that exactly in this motion. They said they would have more to say later this week, so we'll see if that is something they note there.

But the Trump team is still hopeful they will get that third party attorney, of course, really what all this does is bring it back to highlight the timing here, which is so many people even in Trump's own orbit, his own allies, raise the questions of why they waited so long to file to try to get this special master. Why they didn't do it immediately after the search happened and instead, of course, as you know, waited two weeks.

HUNT: Right. So what does the Biden administration have to say about the damage assessment that the intelligence community is conducting?

COLLINS: Yeah, this is being done by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and also the Justice Department, basically trying to figure out what damage was potentially done by having this classified information, some of it so sensitive that you're only supposed to see it in a secure government facility and not take it out of that facility. At the former president's property where they did not know exactly who was going in this room. They have since gotten the surveillance footage from outside the room where some of the documents were kept.

So basically, they're conducting this assessment to see, did this potentially compromise sources and methods? Does it affect the way they're collecting information going forward? The White House says they were not aware of this assessment being conducted. They do say they believe it's the appropriate measure to take, though.

HUNT: All right. Kaitlan Collins, thanks very much for your reporting. I really appreciate it.

I want to bring in Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois. He serves on the Intelligence and Oversight Committees.

Sir, thanks so much for being here today.


HUNT: So you heard Kaitlan's reporting right there that Trump's legal team, they're still saying they want a special master appointed in this case despite the fact that DOJ announced that a special filter team has already finished its review. Do you think that reality preempted the need for a special master? Could having two reviews provide some reassurance that this is all above board?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Possibly, but I think that because of some sloppiness and delays and the nature of their filings, it appears that perhaps the Justice Department's review renders their request moot. All that being said, whatever the judges decide to preserve the confidentiality of any materials that Donald Trump rightfully claims ownership of that is not classified, that is not related to what the FBI and DOJ are interested in, they should conduct that review and make sure.

But it doesn't -- it doesn't take away from the underlying questions that we have about why all these classified documents were carted away. Hundreds, including ones related to clandestine sources. And why Donald Trump didn't just return them when he was asked repeatedly over the course of almost 15 months.

HUNT: Right. So the director of national intelligence sent a letter to both of these committees that you serve on, saying that the intelligence community is currently conducting this damage assessment to try to figure out exactly how much damage was done, as you say, by potentially having these sources and methods in an unsecure location at Mar-a-Lago. I mean, what's the worst case scenario of what they might find and, where mean, are we the public ever going to find out what that is?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I don't know. But I think that we on the committees will get a briefing once Avril Haines and her team do their work at the Director of National Intelligence Office.

I think the worst case scenario would be a lot of those classified documents, especially top secret documents, have the marking HCS, which stands for human control systems, which is a way of basically controlling and masking information related to spies, as well as their sources in our foreign adversaries' countries. And the worst case is that our foreign adversaries would somehow get ahold of that information.


And we have all read about the spies and our operatives and our sources having been executed or worse, to their families in the past, so we don't want any of that to possibly have happened. God forbid it happened. But we need to know what the damage is, how to mitigate it, and how to prevent it from happening again.

HUNT: Literally lives on the line there.

Let me get -- this is a political question, really, but I want your reaction to something Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said about this, the matter over the weekend. Watch.


GRAHAM: If they try to prosecute President Trump for mishandling classified information after Hillary Clinton set up a server in her basement, they literally will be riots in the street. I worry about our country.


HUNT: Riots in the streets. He made that point twice in the course of the interview. Was that an off the cuff concern from the senator? Was it a pointed warning? What did you make of that?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I don't know what to make of it, Kasie. I think that type of rhetoric is irresponsible. That kind of vitriolic rhetoric does plant the seed in certain people of doing exactly what the substance of his message says.

We all know that, you know, I'll just tell you, the University of Chicago did a recent study on the number of times the words civil war appeared on Twitter in the hours before Donald Trump took to Truth Social to attack the FBI. They said it appeared something like 400 or 500 times an hour. After he went onto Twitter and went after the FBI in search harsh terms and used rhetoric similar to what Lindsey Graham said, the word civil war appeared 16,000 times per hour, Kasie.

HUNT: Wow. KRISHNAMOORTHI: So what these, you know, really important elected

officials and others say is very important. And I would just say, we should all cool our rhetoric and let the process unfold.

HUNT: Yeah.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Yes, exactly. Let's not inflame passions.

HUNT: Right. If there ever was a lesson from January 6th, it's this kind of rhetoric really does drive real world action.

Let me ask you this, let me put it to you this way, Republican Senator Roy Blunt, he's retiring at the end of this year, he did raise some concerns about the timing of what's been going on from DOJ. Watch.


BLUNT: What I wonder about is why this could go on for almost two years and less than 100 days before the election, suddenly we're talking about this rather than the economy or inflation or even the student loan program.


HUNT: So the governor of New Hampshire has also raised similar questions. He's a Republican.

Do you think they have a point? I mean, the timing -- we are awfully close to an election, which is pretty unusual, and, of course, Democrats control the White House and the executive branch, the Department of Justice.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think that, you know, for the longest time, the Justice Department basically said, you know, please return the documents, pretty please return the documents. Pretty please with sugar on top return the documents. It never happened.

Then they talk to the civilians, various witnesses at Mar-a-Lago and elsewhere, about what was going on with these documents. And as you can tell from the numerous redactions of those names, there are a lot of people concerned about what was going on with all these classified documents. And they acted as quickly as they could, following what they learned from these witnesses.

I think the bigger question to me is, again, why weren't these documents returned? Every time they ask for those documents and then they went and received some, there turned out to be more and more, which leaves the question, what other documents are there at Mar-a- Lago? Were any documents removed and were any documents destroyed? And also, is there any obstruction of justice? That's another big question that's in the affidavit.

HUNT: All right, Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, thank you so much for being here, sir. We really appreciate your time.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you, Kasie. HUNT: Then, there's Trump's legal defense in all of this. What to read into his strategies so far and why some say his attorneys are disconnected from reality.

Plus, launch scrubbed. What NASA is saying about postponing today's moon mission and the chances of another liftoff attempt on Friday.



HUNT: The national lead, a weekend of especially disturbing violence across America. An NFL rookie shot in our nation's capital and three killed in Houston after a man set fire to an apartment and shot people as they ran away. And two killed at an Oregon grocery store where a gunman armed with an AR-15 style rifle shot at people in the parking lot and continued the carnage inside.

CNN's Brynn Gingras has more on the violence from coast to coast.


HEATHER THOMPSON, WITNESS: There were 10 to 20 shots, and then another 10 to 20 shots.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The sound of rapid gunfire coming from a Safeway supermarket in Bend, Oregon, just one of many shootings happening across the country over the weekend. Bend authorities say a man walked into the grocery store while firing an AR-15 style rifle making his way through the aisles, menacing customers and workers.

ROBERT, SAFEWAY EMPLOYEE: It was loud enough to make me and three other employees ran into a walk-in refrigerator and close the door and stay there and stayed hidden until the authorities arrived.

GINGRAS: Two people were killed and police found the gunman dead inside the store. Weapons were found near his body. A motive still not known.

In D.C. --

RON RIVERA, HEAD COACH, WASHINGTON COMMANDERS: We really got to start getting to the point where we start talking about gun safety.

GINGRAS: Washington Commanders head coach expressed his frustration with the gun violence after his rookie running back became a victim. Brian Robinson Jr., drafted by the Commanders this year, was shot twice in the lower body during an attempted robbery, according to police.


RIVERA: He's very fortunate in a very unfortunate situation, but he's doing well and it will be a matter of time before he's back out here. GINGRAS: Two Phoenix, Arizona, officers were injured while exchanging

gunfire with a suspect armed with a semiautomatic rifle and wearing tactical gear who went on a shooting spree.

POLICE OFFICER: This is a massive crime scene.

GINGRAS: That suspect killed two people before turning the gun on himself, according to police. In New York City, 16 people were shot, 5 killed in more than a dozen shootings. One breaking out on the packed Coney Island boardwalk.

CHIEF KENNETH COREY, HEAD OF SECURITY OPERATIONS, NYPD: We had five people hanging out on the boardwalk, enjoying a nice summer night, and shots are fired from a nearby housing development.

GINGRAS: Houston police pointing to an eviction notice possibly leading to this horrific scene where three people were gunned down.

CHIEF TROY FINNER, HOUSTON POLICE: This suspect unfortunately, very sadly and very eagerly, set fire to residence, laid wait for residents to come out and fired upon them.

GINGRAS: That gunman was killed in a shootout with authorities, says the police chief.

And in Detroit, the same weapon may be linked to the killings of three people in what authorities are calling random incidents.

CHIEF JAMES WHITE, DETROIT POLICE: One was waiting on a bus, one was walking his dog, and one was just on the street.

GINGRAS: And in the Windy City, it was a 5-year-old boy shot in the head in what the community is now calling a crisis on Chicago's children.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All these kids want to do is go to school and play and they can't even do that. That's messed up. It keeps happening.


GINGRAS (on camera): And we just got an update from police there in Bend, Oregon, who say the suspect that grocery store shooting is 20- year-old Ethan Miller. We learned more at the news conference also about the victims. The first was a customer, 84 years old, and the second one, an employee of that grocery store, 66-year-old, who authorities say engaged the shooter inside the store and likely saved some lives in doing so.

Now, authorities also say they have served a search warrant at Miller's home and his car. They found Molotov cocktails and, Kasie, they don't say exactly what the motive is here, yet, but CNN has uncovered some blog posts, dozens of them actually from Miller, and they're pretty graphic. He says he blames COVID, the quarantine for worsening his mental health, kind of saying he was going to do a school shooting next month, couldn't wait for it, and said he's a ticking time bomb and that might have led to what happened. Of course, authorities still trying to figure out.

HUNT: Just devastating there and all the incidents you ticked through across the country. What a terrible weekend.

All right. CNN's Brynn Gingras, thank you so much for being here.

Coming up next, recalculating with 71 days now until the midterms, a Republican reality check about just how many seats they may or may not gain.



HUNT: The politics lead. Republicans are seizing on the heavily redacted affidavit to accuse the Justice Department of a midterm political hit on Donald Trump. Even as the affidavit and other legal documents show evidence of a long-term effort that started well before the August 8th search to get back documents that Trump had taken from the White House.

Let's bring in "New York Times" senior political correspondent Maggie Haberman, and Spectrum News political anchor Errol Louis.

Thank you both so much for being here.

Maggie, I read with interest the piece you put out yesterday about the shall we say perplexing legal strategy that the Trump team is employing here. You write, quote, the legal arguments put forth by his team sometimes strike lawyers not involved in the case as more about setting a political narrative than about dealing with the possibility of a federal prosecution.

So why are they handling the investigation this way?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think there's a couple reasons, but one is that Donald Trump tends to act as his own strategic adviser, comms director and sometimes lawyer. And so, I mean, if -- we write in that story, if you read some of this legal actions over time, they sometimes read as if he dictated them. They read by rally addresses that he's scripting and he has, over time, had a lot of lawyers who have a hard time pushing back on him or who are eager to please him. And I think you are seeing a fair amount of that.

One of the things that's been perplexing what they've done and this I do think is him as well, they've actually very been slow in this whole -- in their responses on this.

HUNT: Yeah.

HABERMAN: They were very slow to ask for a special master in the search and what was taken. Then when they did, they didn't ask for a special master for attorney/client privilege. It was for executive privilege, which the current administration said doesn't apply to him.

So this is part of why it all looks as if it is about something other than the legal aspects of this as opposed to the political one.

HUNT: Right. It seems like the stakes are higher than they have ever been for him, though. I mean, I take your point about the parallels.

HABERMAN: Oh, yeah, I mean, there's no question. I mean, he's continuing to act as if this is the same thing as everything else that he's dealt with, investigations before he was president, investigations while he was president.

He's not president anymore. And so he's not protected by the office. He doesn't have sort of the support of the office, and the constitutional armor of the office, and I think that he is not quite realized that yet.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And the fact he doesn't have it in a lot of ways is why the Justice Department is moving in the way it has, because they can't afford to start taking these kind of actions, searching his home, for example, while he's a candidate for president.

And so, in some ways they have speed up the timeline in part to prevent exactly where we see it's going, which is it turning into a political debate rather than a legal one.

HABERMAN: But I do think it's important to note something actually that you talked about when we were starting the conversation. His folks have said yes, this is a witch hunt, an unfair search.


The Justice Department has tried very hard to document the ways in which he stalled, resisted, didn't do what they were asking him to do in terms of returning documents. You know, he has argued that he declassified everything. They have shown no evidence of that at all.

The statutes that were used in the search warrant aren't even about classified material. And so, you have seen all of this back-and-forth, and the Trump people have tried to paint this as we were so cooperative. We have been working with the justice department. These are long negotiations. You can see clearly from the Justice Department's perspective that is not at all the case.

HUNT: Right. So, this is all, of course, taking place along the backdrop of the midterm elections which many Republicans have talked about the investigation, the context of this, but it's also, I think, and the Republican sources I have talked to think that perhaps having him in the news is leading to increased pessimism, and CNN is now reporting that House Republicans are getting more and more pessimistic about their chances of winning at least a massive majority in the midterm election, which had been something of an expectation.

I mean, everyone I talked to, they're still confident they're going to retake the house. Obviously, Nancy Pelosi is a narrow majority right now and the map is favorable, historical trends are favorable, but some of Kevin McCarthy's allies are on edge about his future. It's gotten more acute in recent days. I mean, do you -- what do you make of all this?

LOUIS: You put all of the eggs in one basket and they did as a party. They said pretty much formally at their last convention, that we stand for whatever it is Donald Trump tells us we stand for. You put all your eggs in one basket, you better not drop the basket.

In this case, you have multiple investigations into Donald Trump. You have problems with his popularity, he has legal problems, he has commercial legal problems. He has political legal problems. And so it doesn't look as certain as it did before.

But you're absolutely right. They need net, what, five seats, six seats. On average, since World War II, the president's party loses 26 seats.

Even if they half perform, they're going to be fine, but they have great reason to be concerned because every amount of polling we can look at says that people like the Constitution. People like the rule of law. People don't think that ex-presidents should be able to steal or appropriate federal documents or secret documents and not turn it back.

So, they're going to have to live and die with Donald Trump. That was the decision they made, and as we can already see, it's not going to go as easy in the midterms as they might have hoped.

HUNT: One of the things that I think Mitch McConnell knows and has tried to remind everyone in his orbit is Donald Trump lost the election, and he thinks he could still be a big loser for the party.

Maggie, I do want to ask you about one other piece of this, and some of the reason why Democrats are optimistic doesn't have to do with Donald Trump at all. In fact, it's about Roe v. Wade, overturning it, how it shaped the political environment, and several Republicans in close races seem to be, if not moderating their positions, then at least adjusting them in public.

The latest example is from a Michigan Republican. This is Tom Barrett. Take a look, on the left is the values section he removed from his website. It had touted his anti-abortion stance. Instead, he replaced it with a life section attacking his opponent as being extreme, quote/unquote, on abortion and only briefing mentioning that he is pro-life.

I mean, what is your take on the way Republicans are recalibrating and what it means?

HABERMAN: I think with some exceptions, you're generally seeing Republicans in generally state-wide contests, less so in hard right districts, more conservative district, more red districts, for house races who are recognizing that having a very, very hard right position against abortion does not actually play that well in a general election and there is an aspect to which having undone Roe v. Wade for conservatives is the dog that caught the car. And it's not really clear what you do when that happens. You know, I remember hearing from strategists among Republicans a few

months ago. This probably isn't going to matter that much. Well, that's not true. It actually has mattered a great deal. They have still not figured out what their answer is, but you're right, the combination of Dobbs and it's not just a political theoretical. You can point to various laws in various states. You can point to actions being taken against mothers not just women who are in search of abortion, but in terms of prenatal care and after effects that have not been thought of when this law was undone nationally.

So I think you're seeing this combination of post-Dobbs energy animating Democrats in a big way, combined with Donald Trump reemerging as an issue right now, that looks very good for Democrats. It's August. But we have seen some early signs that that is going to play out in Democrats' favor.

HUNT: I mean, the reality is, and it's a good point, a lot of state laws are out of step with there may be a majority of Americans willing to place some limits on abortion, but these laws are much more extreme than the vast majority support.

Errol Louis, Maggie Haberman, thank you both very much for being here. We really appreciate it.


Coming up next, evidence of Russian troops caught off guard by sudden moves just made in southern Ukraine.


HUNT: The world lead. Ukrainian troops have taken back four villages that were under Russian occupation in southern Ukraine, according to Ukrainian military source. The main target of operations is in the city of Kherson, considered crucial to the control of Ukraine's southern coast. And senior U.S. officials tell CNN that Ukrainian forces are launching a significant counteroffensive in southern Ukraine.

CNN's Sam Kiley is in the region.

Sam, the White House says that the threat of this counteroffensive is already having an impact. Tell us about that.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, not just the White House. The international allies of Ukrainians and the Ukrainians themselves have been saying this for sometime, but it's given more credence coming from the Pentagon and Jim Sciutto's reporting, the Pentagon saying they're believing Russian units are 50 percent under strength, that the shaping operations, these are operations to cut logistic supply lines, blow up bridges, knock out ammunition dumps, blow up aircraft on the ground in particular, all of these have added two real major problems for the Russians. Very severe logistics problems, particularly on the Kherson front, and also problems with morale. If you add to that the Russians need to replenish their troops,

Pentagon estimates say at least 70,000, possibly more, have already been killed in six months of fighting. They're in a bit of trouble. But they still have the edge in terms of numbers and in terms of the amount of equipment.

Now, the Ukrainians have launched this counteroffensive now, using air and ground assets, but above all, the new NATO supply technology led by the United States but by no means alone, large numbers of allies of the Ukrainians are sending their most modern weapons, particularly artillery. That seems to be having an effect in the latest counteroffensive.

HUNT: On another topic, members from the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency are on their way to the Ukrainian nuclear power plant as there's shelling near the facility and fears of a nuclear accident are on the rise. What's the significance here?

KILEY: Well, it's highly significant that the IAEA, the U.N. body responsible for monitoring nuclear power stations around the world, is able to get in at all, with the agreement of both the Russians and Ukrainians because the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station is on the front line. It's being used as a fire base by the Russians.

Both sides accuse the other of shelling around the location. We don't have independent verification of who is doing the shelling, although locals told us the Russians, but the Russians claim it's the Ukrainians. Nonetheless, it is only an active front line. It has six reactors. It's the biggest nuclear power station in Europe. And were there a disaster there, it could match something on the scale of Chernobyl. So, that is why it matters.

HUNT: Incredible. Sam Kiley in Ukraine, thanks very much for that report.

Turns out it was an arte-miss today.

Then, airline passengers so frustrated with delays and cancellations, they're taking their complaints up a notch.



HUNT: Our out of this world lead isn't out of this world after all, and that is, of course, the problem. Today's anticipated launch of NASA's Artemis 1 mission to the moon has been postponed. The launch team was unable to fix an issue in one of the rocket's four engines. NASA officials say Friday is still in play for a possible launch.

CNN's Kristin Fisher takes a look at what went wrong.


ANNOUNCER: Ignition, and liftoff of the space shuttle Discover -- KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):

Engine number 2058 has helped propel six space shuttles into orbit, starting with this flight back in 2006.

ANNOUNCER: Scrub of the attempt of launch of Artemis 1.

FISHER: But today, the system that cools that engine was the primary culprit behind the scrub of the first test flight of the Artemis moon rocket.

MICHAEL SERAFIN, ARTEMIS MMISSION MANAGER: We need the engine to be at the cool temperature such that when it starts it's not shocked with all of the cold fuel that flows through it.

FISHER: NASA says it's too soon to determine when it will try again, but Artemis mission manager gave a classic NASA response when addressing if the next launch opportunity on Friday is still in play.

SERAFIN: There's a non-zero chance we'll have a launch opportunity on Friday.

FISHER: The Artemis rocket or SLS, has largely been cobbled together using leftover parts from the shuttle program. The four RS-25 engines and Artemis 1 combined flew more than 20 missions. NASA has hoped that by recycling these old parts, they'd be able to build this new rocket faster and more affordably.

Instead, the SLS rocket is six years behind schedule and billions over budget.

LORI GARVER, FORMER DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR, NASA: We know these shuttle parts were very finicky and expensive so it shouldn't be any surprise putting them together differently was going to also be expensive and take longer than we hoped.

FISHER: Still, this rocket is the most powerful ever built, and thousands of people converged on the Kennedy space center today in hopes of seeing it fly for the first time. Including Vice President Kamala Harris.

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today was a very important day. And while a lot of folks might be disappointed that the launch did not actually happen, a lot of good work happened today.

FISHER: NASA administrator Bill Nelson whose own shuttle flight scrubbed four times reminded these kinds of delays are routine for any space flight, but especially a first test flight.

BILL NELSON, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: This is a brand-new rocket. It's not going to fly until it's ready. Needless to say, the complexity is daunting when you bring it all in to the focus of a countdown.


FISHER (on camera): Now, despite all of these technical concerns, despite all of these financial concerns, this rocket is still the only rocket in the world capable of carrying people all the way to the moon that is this close to being ready to fly.

Now, SpaceX is working on its own rocket that would do that. It's called Starship, but it's not ready just yet. The SpaceX rocket is reusable, though, which would make it much more affordable, while the SLS rocket is fully expendable meaning it can only be used once, which is why, Kasie, NASA officials are being so careful, making sure they get everything right with this launch.


They can't afford to lose it -- Kasie.

HUNT: All right. Kristen Fisher, thanks very much for that report.

The money lead. More chaos, more complaints. Air travelers are sounding off after a summer plagued with problems, especially those tens of thousands of cancellations and delays. This as airlines scramble to prepare to meet Labor Day weekend travel demand.

Let's bring in CNN's Pete Muntean.

Pete, how significant is this jump in air travel complaints? I will cop to being a complainer.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kasie, really, this reflects the pain that passengers have been experiencing over this summer of staffing troubles for airlines, 45,000 flight cancellations in total since June 1st, according to flight aware. In the month of June, that's when we saw some of the worst days for flight cancellations.

So this new department of transportation data from June really reflects that. More than 50 percent, about these complaints, are about delays and cancellations and refunds. 28 percent are about delays and cancellations. 25 percent of these complaints are about refunds; 5,800 complaints in total during the month of June.

Compare that to June of 2019, where we saw 1,500 complaints. So, the increase almost threefold; 270 percent compared to pre-pandemic figures. This is a really significant number, and only adds ammo to the federal push for airlines to step up their game, especially as we're going into this big Labor Day rush.

I want you to listen now to United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, and he tells me that this is really in some ways on the federal government and its air traffic control system. Listen.


SCOTT KIRBY, CEO, UNITED AIRLINES: Frankly, the bigger challenges are not the airlines themselves. They're all the support infrastructure around aviation that hasn't caught up as quickly.

MUNTEAN: Let me push back on that a tiny bit. United has had 5,000 cancellations this summer. What do you say to someone who sees this as an airline issue rather than something else? KIRBY: First, we're doing everything we can to get the airline

running reliably. That's the most important thing for customers. We had ground stops for the entire day. When the FAA says you can't land airplanes, you're going to have delays and cancellations.


MUNTEAN: The Department of Transportation is about to roll out a new website which reminds passengers of their rights, airline to airline. But this new numbers, Kasie, really show just how desperate passengers are right now, taking their complaints straight to the federal government to try to get their money back and to try to tell them about these cancellations and delays -- Kasie.

HUNT: And, of course, we're heading into another busy travel season with the Labor Day weekend coming up. Pete Muntean, thanks very much for that report.

As she prepares to take the court for what is possibly her final tournament, Serena Williams has a message for the world.



HUNT: To our sports lead. Gatorade honoring the greatest of all time, Serena, in a new ad narrated by another GOAT, Beyonce.


BEYONCE, SINGER: When the world writes her down in history, we'll begin where she started, at love.


HUNT: The ad coming just hours before what Serena says will be the last tournament of her extraordinary career. She posted on Instagram today, a cover of herself from "Time" magazine with a caption saying, quote, thank you, everyone. It's been incredible.

Let's bring in CNN's Carolyn Manno live at the U.S. Open in New York.

Carolyn, what do we expect out of Serena tonight?

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kasie, if she can serve well and handle the magnitude of the moment, I think she's got a good chance. You never underestimate greatness. And that's exactly what she is.

She's been practicing match play simulation all week with her head coach, to try to get ready. She hasn't had a chance to play as many matches as she would have liked because she's been fighting injury. Even she is not immune to the pressure that comes with the most highly anticipated first round match in U.S. open history. Her coach says they are truly taking this one match at a time, and it starts tonight.

Take a listen.


RENNAE STUBBS, COACHING SERENA WILLIAMS FOR U.S. OPEN: The most important thing is to have her be healthy and happy and get through the first round and get the love and adulation of the fans and people on Monday night. And then once she gets through the first round, then we'll start thinking about the next round and maybe we'll have that fantastic thought of maybe winning the tournament, but the most important thing for Serena is the first round.


MANNO: You know, that pressure goes both ways, Kasie, right? I mean, there's a pressure for the moment for Serena Williams, but also for any opponent that faces her. This crowd is so hungry for her already, there's such a sense of anticipation here.

But as it comes to her legend, it's really hard to even quantify the effect she's had on the sport and beyond as a strong, independent, unforgiving black woman. And there are so many women here that are playing here and also all across the world who have just identified with her and found something in themselves because of her.

I mean, there are little girls being born that bear her name that she's never met and the Coco Gauffs of the world, Sloane Stephens of the world, Naomi Osaka, they all point to her and said she did it, and I knew I could do it.

And so, as she moves to the next step in her life, that will still be a huge step, but everyone wants it to go as far as it can tonight through the rest of this tournament, potentially her last grand slam.

HUNT: We will all be watching. Carolyn Manno, thank you very much for that report.

If you ever miss an episode of this show, you can listen to THE LEAD wherever you get your podcasts.

Don't go anywhere, though. Our coverage continues now with "THE SITUATION ROOM."