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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Video: Pro-Trump Operatives Accessed Election Office On Day Of Breach; DOJ Hasn't Ruled Out Appeal In Trump Special Master Case; Foreign Fighters Join Ukraine's Southern Counteroffensive Against Russian Forces; "Fat Leonard" Escapes House Arrest Just Before Sentencing; More Companies Push To Get Workers Back In The Office Full Time. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired September 06, 2022 - 16:00   ET


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Then after six shows, quote, the exhaustion overtook me, and I realized I need to make my health the priority now.


He says I'm going to be okay, but I need time to rest and get better.

And this Brazilian man survived 11 days at sea floating alone in a freezer. Look at this. He's a fisherman who can't swim. He says he went on a three day trip in the Atlantic when his boat sank. He was somehow able to survive in this cooler without food, without water, without sleep.

Glad he's back on dry land.

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The door was held wide open for one potential threat to democracy. I mean that literally.

THE LEAD starts right now.

CNN obtains new video showing a fraudulent Trump elector escorting operatives into a very real elections office on the same day a voting machine at that very office was breached. Authorities now investigating whether this is yet another coordinated effort to subvert the democratic process.

Plus, living at the extreme. Major flooding on the East Coast, explosive wildfires Out West, and fears of blackouts due to record heat and stress on the power grids.

And companies call on employees to return to the office after Labor Day, but that's not what many workers want. Might their push to work from home motivate your own conversation with your boss?


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. And we begin this hour on democracy watch in our politics lead,

monitoring the latest evidence of the pernicious and growing threat against the American experiment itself. Former President Trump continuing to endorse and help election liars win Republican primaries for offices that are relevant to your vote's integrity.

Trump's pick for the Republican primary in Massachusetts today is someone who falsely said that the 2020 election was, quote, rigged, and who will, Trump says, quote, rule with an iron fist. Trump is also talking about pardoning those who violently attacked the Capitol on January 6th, 2021, in an effort to stop the counting of electoral votes.

Trump in addition gave a speaking slot over the weekend at a rally in Pennsylvania to a woman who was pleading for justice for her nephew, her nephew a convicted January 6th rioter. This is him. He's an admirer of Adolf Hitler and a judge was so worried that his neo-Nazi rhetoric would become violence, the judge has kept that defendant, that nephew, in jail.

This is the same rally where Mr. Trump said this about those trying to preserve law and order when it comes to securing elections as well as highly classified intelligence.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: The FBI and the Justice Department have become vicious monsters controlled by radical left scoundrels, lawyers, and the media who tell them what to do.


TAPPER: In response, Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming tweeted, quote: Trump is attacking law enforcement, and yet again using language he knows will provoke violence. Only one group of Americans has a chance to diminish this danger, Republicans. If my fellow Republicans fail to step up to stop this, they will share the blame for all that follows, unquote.

That's a warning about the future. But what is past can be prologue, and we're learning more today about previous attempts by Trump and his supporters to overturn the last election. Newly obtained surveillance video from January 7th, 2021, shows a local Republican official escorting a team of pro-Trump operatives into an election office on the same day that a voting system in that very same office was illegally breached. The official seen on camera is currently under criminal investigation for posing as a fraudulent elector in 2020.

CNN senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin joins us now live.

Drew, tell us more about what this video precisely shows.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Jake, the surveillance video you're about to see is from Georgia elections office, just one of the states now where breaches of voting machines are under investigation. Cathy Latham is her name, she's there in blue. She used to be the chairman of the Coffee County GOP. She's already under investigation for posing as one of those fake electors in 2020.

She can be seen here escorting a team of pro-Trump operatives in that elections office, and like you said, the day that the machine there was breached, it includes a man, his name is Paul Maggio, an IT specialist whose company was hired by Trump attorney Sidney Powell. Maggio and another man who entered the building acknowledged they gained access to a voting machine at Powell's request.

Latham has been connected to the plan to give this group access to this elections office by text messages, emails, witness testimony, all part of a civil suit focused on Georgia's election security.


Latham also testified before Georgia state lawmakers along with Rudy Giuliani, Jake, about alleged voter machine irregularities in that same county, Coffee County. Latham's attorney told CNN in a statement: Ms. Latham has not acted improperly or illegally and Ms. Latham did not authorize or participate in any ballot scanning efforts, computer imaging, or any similar activity.

As for that IT specialist, his company says it had no reason to believe the lawyers that hired the firm would ask its employees to do anything wrong -- Jake.

TAPPER: So, Drew, we know there are investigations into the improper access of voting machines in multiple states. Are they connected?

GRIFFIN: They certainly seem to be overlapping, some of the same characters involved. Very similar breach in Michigan we know is connected to what happened in Georgia.

I want you to look at this video. This is the same building, different day. CEO of Cyber Ninjas, that's him, going into the Coffee County elections office two weeks after those other guys went in.

That -- his name is Doug Logan. He was there for two different days. His company is the same company that ran the partisan audit in Arizona. He's named as a co-conspirator in the vote machine scheme in Michigan, and here he is in Coffee County, Georgia, where election machines were breached. It all points to this coordinated plan to try to overturn the results of that 2020 election -- Jake.

TAPPER: Drew Griffin, thanks so much.

In a related story, the threat to democracy in the United States, in New Mexico today, a judge removed a January 6th rioter and Cowboys for Trump founder, Couy Griffin, as a county commissioner because of his role in the attack on the Capitol. Griffin had been convicted of trespassing earlier this year. Today's ruling states he violated a clause in the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution by participating in an insurrection against the U.S. government.

Griffin is also barred from serving in any future state or federal elected position. This constitutes the first time that an elected official in the United States has been removed from office for participating in the January 6th riot or insurrection. It's also the first time a judge in the United States has ruled the events on that day were in fact an insurrection.

Joining us now to discuss, Peter Wehner, former official who served in both Bush administrations as well as under President Reagan. He's also the author of the book "The Death of Politics: How to Heal Our Frayed Republic After Trump."

Peter, thanks so much for being here.

Let me start by getting your reaction to all this news about apparent malfeasance in Georgia. We're still waiting for the investigation to come through, the removal of this New Mexico county official who was a rioter.

I remember when the Republican Party used to talk lot about how they hated voter fraud. This was a very important issue to the Republican Party. I don't hear any Republican officials talking about this today except for potentially Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger.

PETER WEHNER, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER, GEORGE W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION: Yeah, I remember those days too, and they're a long time ago. What's happening is both shocking but completely predictable. The Republican Party, this current variation of it, iteration of it, is a nihilistic party. There are no boundaries, no guardrails and there's no place they won't go.

And so, we see manifestations of this here, there, and everywhere, and they come up on a daily basis. But the fundamentally what's going on is this is an attack on truth. It's an attack on democracy. So, we're going to see a lot more of this.

TAPPER: Just to underline, this is not partisan. You're a conservative Republican. This guest speaker who was featured at Trump's rally this weekend in my home commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Cynthia Hughes, He invited or Trump invited her to speak to the crowd. He's a leader of a support group for January 6th defendants, including her nephew who was a convicted Capitol rioter.

Take a listen.


CYNTHIA HUGHES, PRESIDENT, PATRIOT FREEDOM PROJECT: He went to the nation's capitol to hear his president speak. He dressed in a suit and tie and his favorite hat. Tim wanted to take part in what he thought was going to be a historical event. Instead, he witnessed the horror show.


TAPPER: Well, speaking of horror shows, he is her nephew, this is him. He's a Nazi sympathizer. His case went viral after the Justice Department released photos of him sporting this distinctive Hitler mustache. One of the aunt's complaints is he's been held in jail since mid-January, 2021.

She didn't mention, of course, that the judge who is a Trump appointee is afraid that he will turn his violent, anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi rhetoric into action. He has said things like, quote, Hitler should have finished the job.

Why give this woman and her horrifying nephew any sort of platform?

WEHNER: Well, because I think Donald Trump is deranged. I think he's a sociopath, and this is how sociopaths act. I think he's getting worse since the election.


But that's not surprising. That has always been who Donald Trump is. I think the key story, I would argue this is probably the key political story of the century, is the Republican Party fell in line behind Donald Trump. That's what's different about it. And why that's happened is a long and complicated and dark story.

But there is part, a large participate, a majority of the Republican Party, the MAGA days, which is, you know, they're authoritarian in their tendencies, they're activated, they're agitated, and they feed on this stuff. Trump understands that. He's out of tune with the country, there's an exhausted majority, most Americans are in favor of democracy, in favor of defending truth.

In terms of the base of the Republican Party, it's hard to overstate how radicalized it is, and you see it time and again, because they are consuming the stuff. Once upon a time, the Republican Party at worse would have been silent before this stuff, but now, a lot of people are celebrating these kinds of people.

TAPPER: Yeah, and I also want to know, last week, you talk about the president's behavior, the former president's behavior. He went on a wild spree on his social media site, Truth Social. Take a look at this post that Trump retruthed, instead of retweeted, which is the Truth Social version of retweeting. The words, your enemy is not in Russia over the faces of the vice president, the president, and the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

There are a couple posts like this. It's alarming and of course, in some ways just a regular day of the week for Trump. And then there is what he said over the weekend at the rally in Pennsylvania. I want to play that again just because it is really shocking to hear any president of the United States describe the Justice Department and the FBI in this vein.


TRUMP: The FBI and the Justice Department have become vicious monsters controlled by radical left scoundrels, lawyers, and the media who tell them what to do.


TAPPER: So there was a lot of criticism by House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and others when President Biden used the term semi- fascist to describe this Trump MAGA movement. But what do you call it?


TAPPER: I mean, law enforcement and your opponents, your political opponents are enemies. They talk about locking people up because they disagree with them. They're trying to overturn the election. I'm not using the term for it, but if semi-fascist isn't the right term for it, what is the right term for it?

WEHNER: Well, I think semi-fascist works, I think authoritarian works. I mean, there are a lot of political scientists, political theorists can argue the political term that is best, but underneath it all is this movement, this mindset, this disposition, which is to attack democracy and to attack truth. That's what's happening and it's not a semantic.

You get to the semantic game. Kevin McCarthy, to object to this, I mean, he went through, he was a lap dog for Trump using the most extreme rhetoric, including what we saw over the weekend.

TAPPER: Trump has called plenty of people fascists, by the way.

WEHNER: Exactly. And I should say that President Biden actually should qualify the semi-fascist comments. He said it had to do with people who either condone violence, acted with violence, or didn't recognize an election. So, he was actually careful in what he said.

Look, the Republican Party, people like McCarthy are eager to be offended. They're always going on the offensive. They're lashing out. That's the temper and the mood of the base.

And they're cowards. They're hollow men, to use a phrase from T.S. Elliott, and they're doing whatever the base wants. That combination of Trump and a radicalized base and a timid and cowardly political leadership in the Republican Party has created a real danger to democracy. This is a tinder box and these guys are using blow torches.

TAPPER: Either we want -- we want to thank you for coming and also recognize that it's not easy to say these things about your own political party, so thank you so much for your clear-eyed view.

WEHNER: You bet. Thanks for having me.

TAPPER: Appreciate it.

Coming up next, the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago. What's at stake for the Justice Department as it weighs its next move?

Plus, the manhunt for the man known in Navy circles as Fat Leonard after U.S. Marshals find his ankle monitor has been cut and removed from his ankle and his house has been cleared out. What neighbors spotted that may offer some clues in the search. Stay with us.



TAPPER: And we're back with our politics lead and the fallout from a judge's decision to appoint a special master in the Mar-a-Lago documents case. Lawyers for Donald Trump and the Justice Department have until Friday to reach an agreement about who exactly this third party attorney should be, what their exact duties will include, and a schedule for that work to be completed; but that process could be derailed if the Justice Department decides to file an appeal.

And as CNN's Sara Murray reports for us, any appeals process could ultimately end up at the U.S. Supreme Court.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A judge putting on hold the Justice Department's review of documents and other items seized at Donald Trump's Florida resort.

TRUMP: Travesty of justice.

MURRAY: Leaving the Justice Department weighing an appeal.

JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY: I think they might appeal because the judge didn't just say put the documents aside. She says you can't use them. We don't even know what that means.

MURRAY: Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, agreeing a third party attorney should sift through seized materials from Mar-a-Lago, to weed out personal items, documents covered by attorney-client coverage, and to the confusion of many legal experts, documents covered by executive privilege.

RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER DEFENSE DEPARTMENT SPECIAL COUNSEL: The idea you have a special master screening for executive privilege materials has never been done before in this country and doesn't make sense because if it is material that's subject to executive privilege, it has to be in the archives.

MURRAY: In granting Trump's request for a special master to review thousands of documents from Mar-a-Lago, the judge cited swirling allegations of bias and media leaks. She was also deferential to Trump's position as a former president. Writing that Trump faces an unquantifiable potential harm by way of improper disclosure of sensitive information to the public, adding, the stigma associated with the subject seizure is in a league of its own, and noting that during the search, the FBI took items including medical documents and accounting information.

ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER DEPUTY FBI DIRECTOR: There's not another litigant in the United States of America who could have gotten this same ruling. It's really a very pro-plaintiff, pro-Trump ruling in all respects.


MURRAY: The judge's decision coming after Trump spent the weekend unleashing a torrent of attacks on law enforcement at a Pennsylvania rally.

TRUMP: This egregious abuse of the law is going to produce a backlash the likes of which nobody has ever seen before.

MURRAY: Now Trump's team and prosecutors tasked by the judge to come together by Friday and submit a roster of special master candidates, the scope of the special master's duties and limitations and a schedule for the review.


MURRAY (on camera): Now, of course, we're waiting to see what kind of names these folks put forward as potential special master. And Jake, we're also waiting to see if they can come to an agreement on any of these issues. They have been tasked with this joint filing but the judge left them room to lay out substantive disagreements in that document.

TAPPER: All right. Sara Murray, thanks so much.

Let's discuss with former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman and former federal prosecutor Shan Wu.

Shan, let me start with you. I assume you think that the Justice Department should appeal this decision?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Oh, absolutely. I think not only is the decision legally flawed but I think it's a very dangerous decision. It gives this judge the power to meddle in a criminal investigation and logistically for the DOJ, it could really have the potential to not only slow down but derail their ability to prosecutor.

TAPPER: Nick, what do you think about that? Would an appeal be successful, do you think?

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: I think it's going to be hard because there is this kind of innate reaction to all of this by the judges, the same reaction that the magistrate judge had with respect to trying to release more information. That is, that this is a very unusual situation. It involves a former president, never happened before. And they are kind of looking for a transparency or an ability to make it look like the process is fair.

Now, the magistrate judge applied the law properly. This judge did not. But I think it's going to be very difficult to appeal this to the 11th Circuit on a purely legal basis because it seems like the judges that look at this look at the unusual situation we have got and the idea that -- well, is there any harm to the government in having a special master that will re-review what has already been done? TAPPER: Yeah, I just want to point out if I can, that attorney

general, former Attorney General Bill Barr also talked about the unprecedented nature of this, and as Nick pointed out and I have said before, this is obviously unprecedented, but Attorney General Barr, Trump's attorney general, noted who was first in the unprecedented competition here, let's play that sound.


BILL BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: People say this was unprecedented. It's also unprecedented for a president to take all this classified information and put it in a country club. Okay? And how long is the government going to try to get that back? The facts are starting to show that they were being jerked around. And so how long do they wait?


TAPPER: What do you think, Shan?

WU: I find myself in the unusual position of agreeing with Bill Barr. But I think that the justice department was jerked around. I think they need to nip this in the bud by trying to appeal it. Even if it's a losing proposition on principle, it's really important not to allow people to enjoin the department from doing their job.

TAPPER: Nick, what do you make of that, about Attorney General Barr's argument, yes, this is unprecedented, but Donald Trump was the one who was unprecedented first?

AKERMAN: Oh, no question about it. I mean, Donald Trump was the one who even announced that the search warrant took place. I mean, he's the one that leaked everything. Normally, the Department of Justice never announces a search warrant being executed until the time of trial when these things come out.

I mean, keep in mind that even with this, the investigation is still going to go forward in the District of Columbia. It's a grand jury investigation over which this judge in the southern district of Florida has no jurisdiction.

TAPPER: And, Nick, let me stick with you because you have said that while this decision by this judge may look like a legal victory for Trump, you actually see it as a, quote, colossal political loss. Why?

AKERMAN: No question about it. What this is going to do, if there's a special master, there's going to be reports by the special master. This is going to stay in the news straight through the midterms.

Everyone is going to be talking about Donald Trump's theft of classified information and what the special master is doing. This is the last thing that the Republicans want out there as the focus of the public before the midterms.

I mean, Donald Trump, right from day one, by even announcing the search warrant, has made this an issue. This is worse than if he had announced for president. This is really brought this whole Trumpism right to the forefront where people are talking about it.


And it's not going to appeal to people in the suburbs or the independents that the Republicans need to take back the House and the Senate.

TAPPER: Shan, do you think any of this is related to whether or not they're going to bring charges ultimately? Is there not a presumption they wouldn't be doing this if there wasn't actually some sort of case they might bring?

WU: I think that's right, Jake. I don't think it will affect Garland and DOJ from a political pressure standpoint, but on the substantive basis, if this special master says there's a whole bunch of documents that can't be used because of executive privilege, for example, that could affect their decision to charge, because that's the crux of their case, a lot of these documents. And they would have to consider in light of that, what do we do with it if this judge is cutting the legs out from underneath the case.

TAPPER: Interesting.

All right. Nick and Shan, thanks so much for being here. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, we go to the front lines of Ukraine. What brought a former U.S. marine to the fight. Plus, with Russia's weapons running low, CNN is learning that the Kremlin is turning to another rogue nation for help.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our world lead today, U.S. officials say that Russia is buying millions of artillery shells and rockets from North Korea. It's a sign that sanctions and export controls are contributing to Russia's depleting weapons supply.

This as nuclear inspectors are calling for a safety zone around the Zaporizhzhia power plant in Ukraine which Russia controls. Their report warns that the plant is under constant threat from a potential nuclear disaster amid ongoing shelling both on site and around the area.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's counteroffensive against Russian forces continues in the southern part of that country.

CNN's Sam Kiley reports now on the foreign fighters joining Ukrainians on the front lines and a warning, some viewers may find parts of this report disturbing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go, go, go, go. No panic, no panic. This normal, this normal.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Among the most forward troops in Ukraine's latest counteroffensive, this really is normal. When the crunch of incoming artillery is this intense, casualties in this reconnaissance unit, which includes three foreigners, are inevitable.

Mark Ayres, a Briton, was lightly wounded on day one of the offensive. On day two, he was more seriously wounded in the leg by artillery, alongside Michael Zafar, a former U.S. marine from Kansas. He was hit in the hand, stomach and head. They joined Ukraine's Army together but met fighting ISIS in Syria.

Zafar is the former U.S. Marine's Kurdish codename.


KILEY: As recon troops, they've been the tip of Ukraine's attacks on its southern front in the fight to recapture Kherson.

MICHAEL ZAFAR, AMERICAN FIGHTING IN UKRAINE: I remember looking to my left and pop. I couldn't see anything for a bit. Everything looked the same. Everything came to. Looked at my left, looked fine. Looked at my right, okay. I'm (EXPLETIVE DELETED) there, (EXPLETIVE DELETED) there. Okay. To the hole, to the hole.

KILEY: It's going to be a slow grinding fight, they say, whatever the claims of Ukraine's government.

This counteroffensive is being billed as kind of a quick process. Do you think that's --

MARK AYRES, BRITON FIGHTING IN UKRAINE: No, definitely not. It won't be quick. I mean it's hard, slow-fought, meter by meter, position by position because we haven't got resources to do a massive blitzkrieg.

KILEY: U.S. weapons and other NATO equipment have proved useful, but not decisive as Ukraine has captured a handful of villages since the counteroffensive began.

Here, Russian troops waved a white flag of surrender after precision artillery strikes by U.S.-supplied howitzers are monitored by Zafar's unit with a drone. Russia has motivated its troops with false claims that they're liberating Ukraine from Nazis.

For Ukraine, it's a battle of national survival, attracting help from around the world.

Do you feel sorry for the Russians?

AYRES: No. No. Not at all. It's not like Ukraine has invaded Russia. They've invaded Ukraine. They're here killing civilians, killing our soldiers. I've got no sympathy for them whatsoever. KILEY: Ukraine's imposed a news blackout on the southern offensive

and keeps his casualty figures secret. But for these men being wounded isn't the end of combat. It's an interruption.

And are you going to go back?

ZAFAR: Yeah, once everything heals on my body probably within three to four weeks. I should be right back out there.


KILEY (on camera): Now, Jake, one of the immediate results of this counteroffensive is that the Russian appointed authorities in Kherson, which is the only regional capital the Russians have captured in more than six months of fighting have at least shelves or temporarily abandoned plans to carry out an illegal referendum, part of their efforts they have also been trying to get off the ground elsewhere in the country in areas they have seized to suggest the local population is in favor of being invaded and might even want to join the wider Russian body politic. That has been shelved as a result of this latest conflict and indeed a partisan activity inside Kherson itself, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Sam Kiley for us in Odesa, Ukraine -- thank you so much.

Sticking with our world lead, let's go to Canada where a man accused of going on a stabbing spree with his brother is still missing. Myles Sanderson has been charged with first degree murder in connection with dozens of stabbings over the weekend that left ten dead and 18 injured across Saskatchewan.


Most of the stabbings took place on an indigenous Jane Smith Cree Nation Reserve. One of the suspects, Damien Sanderson, was found dead in a field on Monday. Police are desperately searching for the other suspect, his brother Myles.

Let's get straight to CNN's Nick Watt.

Nick, police think the suspect is injured. Where is this manhunt currently concentrated?

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, for the past couple days, the manhunt has been concentrated in Regina, about 200 miles south of the Cree Nation.

But just within the past two or three hours, we got an update. Canadian police say there was a potential sighting of the suspect back up there at the James Smith Cree Nation. So, that is now where the manhunt is focused. Of course, people on that reserve traumatized by the events of Sunday and now terrorized and fearful of what this man might do.

He is 30-year-old Myles Sanderson. He is injured, authorities believe. He is armed, he is dangerous, and you have to imagine getting increasingly desperate. As Justin Trudeau, the prime minister said, we will resolve this as quickly as possible because this suspect is potentially dangerous.

We're also learning more about his past. He has a rap sheet that goes back nearly two decades and bear in mind, he is only 30 years old, 59 convictions, among them, kicking a police officer in the head, stabbing two men with a fork. He had a troubled childhood, a lot of drugs, alcohol, but he was released from federal prison and the parole board said that they did not believe that he would pose any danger to society if released, Jake.

TAPPER: So, Nick, ten people have been killed in these stabbing attacks, 18 were wounded or injured. How are the wounded or injured doing?

WATT: Well, the latest we have, Jake, is 17 were taken to the hospital, four of them were released. Nine in stable condition, four in critical. We are expecting an update on that in the next hour or two -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Nick Watt, thanks so much.

The U.S. Marshals have launched a search of their own, their hunt to find the man nicknamed Fat Leonard who was convicted in a bribery scheme involving cash, prostitutes, and the U.S. Navy.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Time for our Earth Matter series. The climate crisis is fueling more events such as this one, major flooding swamping much of the northeastern United States.

Check out what parts of I-95, Interstate 95 looked like yesterday in Providence, Rhode Island. This was a state under a severe drought just a week ago. Now it's getting too much rain too fast and the dry ground cannot absorb the water fast enough. Floodwaters stretch across 11 states in the U.S. today, covering some 50 million people.

To another extreme on the West Coast with record heat for a seventh straight day, California authorities are urging residents to conserve energy and warning of possible power outages. Sacramento hit 114 degrees yesterday. Its hottest day ever for September.

And in California's Death Valley where hot weather is the norm, the temperature could hit 125 degrees today. Scorching its September record. On top of the heat, California firefighters are also battling new wildfires, including the Fairview Fire about 90 miles east of Los Angeles. This one is to blame for two deaths, started yesterday afternoon and quickly burned through more than 2,000 acres.

Turning now to our national lead. Fat Leonard is on the run. The U.S. Marshal Service says the Malaysian former defense contractor derisively nicknamed Fat Leonard in Navy circles, cut off his ankle monitor and escaped house arrest three weeks before his sentencing.

In 2015, Leonard Francis pleaded guilty to the biggest corruption scandal in the history of the United States Navy. He bribed Navy officials with cash and with prostitutes and with luxury items such as Kobe beef or Cuban cigars to steer Navy ships to ports where his company operated. Four officers have been convicted and more than 30 navy officials, sailors, and defense contractors have pleaded guilty, according to "The Washington Post."

Let's bring in CNN's Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon for us.

Oren, neighbors might have seen this coming.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. When police went to the house over the weekend, they got no response at the house, despite the fact that Leonard Francis was supposed to be under house arrest. They called in U.S. Marshals who moved into the house. They found the ankle bracelet that monitoring device, but not much else. That had been cut off and placed apparently in a portable cooler, but Francis himself was gone from the house.

Neighbors told U.S. officials, according to a U.S. Marshal, that they had seen moving trucks at the house over the course of the past few days. So it seemed he had been planning this for quite some time, just weeks ahead of what was supposed to be his sentencing.

This has gone on for years. Prosecutors began investigating this company back in 2013. The work spread across the Navy's Seven Fleets. Some of the major ports there, and as you pointed out, Jake, Leonard Francis would use, according to prosecutors, bribes such as expensive fancy trips, meals, the services of prostitutes, and in return, Navy officials directed Navy work through his contracting company, Glen Marine Defense Asia.

And that company provided fuel, tugboat services, and the like in exchange or rather prosecutors say, it was Francis that bilked the Navy out of millions of dollars. He had been cooperating with authorities until he vanished.

TAPPER: Cutting off one's ankle monitor, I would think, I'm no expert, but probably does not bode well for sentencing. If they ever catch him, how much time in jail is he facing?

LIEBERMANN: He was already facing years if not a couple decades in jail for the charges on which he pled guilty back in 2015. I, too, am no justice expert, Jake, but cutting off the ankle monitor can't help that.


Of course, the catch is U.S. marshals have to find him first. They say they have several leads they're following now, but as of right now, that is the latest and the manhunt continues.

TAPPER: All right. Oren Liebermann, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, the pushback from employees who say returning to the office does not fit their lifestyle needs any longer.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: Our money lead now. After letting their employees work remotely for more than two years, some companies in the United States are now pushing them to return to the office for good. But not all workers are eager to resume their commutes.


The pandemic has changed the way that many Americans live and work and balance health issues and family issues.

CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich on companies and employees are trying to make it all work.


VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): A five-day work week is nothing new. But post-pandemic, five days in the office can feel overwhelming. Post-Labor Day, some companies are now requiring employees to hang up their house slippers and get back into the office for good.

What would your immediate reaction be to that?


YURKEVICH: It's a feeling many Americans may be having. About 56 percent of full-time U.S. employees, more than 70 million workers, say they can do their job from home. But companies like Goldman Sachs, Tesla, Bank of America, and Morgan Stanley are requiring employees to return to the office full time.

KATHY KACHER, PRESIDENT, CAREER/LIFE ALLIANCE SERVICES INC.: They're feeling very confident about it's back to school, it's back to the office. It's back to reality.

YURKEVICH: About 6.5 percent of employees in the U.S. were teleworking last month. Fewer than in July. A sign that some workers could be getting called back in.

For Attorney Jessica Carroll, the prospect of going into the office full time again would be a challenge.

CARROLL: You kind of have gotten used to this hybrid work from home experience. It would be hard to just go from what it is now to five days. It's kind of like ripping off a band-aid.

YURKEVICH: Like most, Carroll was in the office every day in early 2020.

CARROLL: It was pretty demanding. YURKEVICH: Then COVID hit, she had a newborn, and changed jobs. A

hybrid schedule was important, where she could be on a conference call and still pick up her older kids after school. The mother of three says so far, her new firm has been flexible.

CARROLL: Having people in the office and more available by person rather than by phone is something that they encourage, but there's no strict policy.

YURKEVICH: After over two years working from home, some companies have fully embraced it. This summer, Yelp announced it would close offices in three major cities, after just 1 percent of employees voluntarily returned in person. But some jobs can't be done remotely.

STEVE COLON, CEO, BOTTOM LINE: There are moments in our work which really are important to be in person.

YURKEVICH: Bottom Line is a not for profit organization that helps lower income high school students get into college. Eighty percent of its 140 employees have in-person jobs, and started their return to office this summer.

Did you face any resistance from staff?

COLON: I think there was trepidation across the board.

YURKEVICH: Did you lose anybody along the way?

COLON: I'm sure we lost a few who for them the decision to be back in the office wasn't the right decision.

YURKEVICH: With over 11 million unfilled jobs, that's about two open positions for every job seeker, a return to office mandate could be a deal breaker. Bottom line has 15 in-person roles to fill.

COLON: We haven't been immune to the great resignation. We have seen higher turnover in the last couple years. It absolutely is a concern.


YURKEVICH: And 60 percent of all U.S. full-time workers who are currently working from home say that if their job came to them and said you're going to have to switch to in-office, these individuals, 60 percent, said that they would switch jobs completely. It goes to show, Jake, really the power that workers still feel like they have among a work environment where there are certainly a lot of options in this job market, Jake.

TAPPER: Vanessa, the reasons vary widely why people say they don't want to return to the office.

YURKEVICH: Of course, there are many, but one expert said that we're seeing this kind of push and pull from employer and employee in big markets like New York City and in other cities where commuting time is quite long. People don't want to be spending a lot of time commuting anymore, Jake. They were going from their bedroom, stopping in the kitchen for coffee and going to their work from home setup. They don't want to pay for transportation, maybe they don't want to pay for lunch anymore in the office.

It's really just a signal that workers certainly feel like this commute and going back into the office is not working with their lifestyle anymore, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. An interesting story post-Labor Day. Vanessa Yurkevich, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, a day of mixed emotion for students and teachers returning to school in Uvalde, Texas, and the extra resources brought in to help today.

Stay with us.


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

This hour, from sleeping at the tennis center where his maintenance worker father worked to becoming the only man to beat Rafael Nadal at the grand slam this year. Frances Tiafoe's amazing story coming up.

Plus, for the first time since 19 fourth graders and two teachers were murdered inside their Texas classrooms, Uvalde students are returning to school.


UNIDENTIFIED KID: I can still hear the gunshots. It was very terrifying and traumatizing for me.


TAPPER: Eight-foot high fences, new video cameras and campus monitors, but will these children ever feel safe again?

And leading this hour, Britain has a new leader and the queen has signed off. Liz Truss is now the UK prime minister after Boris Johnson was forced out. Upon her arrival at 10 Downing Street, she delivered her first speech, vowing to rebuild Britain's economy and, quote, ride out the storm. What will the election of this Brexit hard liner mean for Europe or for the United States or for the rest of the world?