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The Lead with Jake Tapper

DOJ Hints It May Go To Supreme Court In Mar-a-Lago Doc Dispute; Trump Lawyers Push Back Against Requests From Special Master; Migrants Advocacy Group Files Class Action Lawsuit Against Florida Governor & Others Over Flight To Martha's Vineyard; Iranians Protested In Tehran Over A Woman's Death In Police Custody; Biden Again Says U.S. forces Would Defend Taiwan Against Chinese Aggression. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 20, 2022 - 17:00   ET


KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, is there really a dispute here asking Trump's attorneys about this saying, you know, if he gets prima facia evidence, something that is quite clear that a document is marked classified that barring Trump's attorney saying that this was declassified, he said that, as far as I'm concerned, that's the end of it. So, signaling that if something appears to be classified, that without any proof, any evidence, any pushback from the Trump side, he will determine that as classified. So that's definitely a strong signal to the Trump team.

Now Trump's lawyers in court saying that they can't make this determination until they see the documents, pushing for this review, this to be turned over quickly. Now, the judge also saying that the next time that they meet whether it's on the phone or in person, he said it will be called the progress conference emphasizing that he wants this to move forward to meet that November 30 deadline. Jake?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And Kara the Justice Department hinted at today's hearing that it's willing to appeal that ruling to the Supreme Court if the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejects its bid to exclude about 100 documents marked as classified from the special master's review. It seems like this is getting really complicated?

SCANNELL: Yeah, Jake, I mean, the lawyer for the government saying that if they lose that appeal, that they will likely appeal this even further. So again, up to the Supreme Court, and they said that that could then complicate the timeline around the turning over in the sharing of classified documents. So certainly, something that can become a knotty issue as they try to move ahead and expedite this review of documents and information and ultimately get to the heart of this investigation. Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Kara Scannell in New York, thank you so much. Let's discuss this with former Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Tom Dupree and John Miller, Former Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism for the New York Police Department, now working for CNN. And John, welcome to CNN. Good to have you. So, you have connections with many in the intelligence community, how are they responding to all of this? JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, this is making them quite nervous. The ruling by Judge Cannon that required the special master, said that the special master should set about determining whether those 100 documents are classified or not. As a former Deputy Assistant Director of National Intelligence, I'm pretty familiar with the classification process. And knowing that the intelligence community looks at that and says, what's classified and what's not is an executive branch function. It's done by classification officers, in agencies like the CIA and the NSA, and the Defense Intelligence Agency that know what it took to get that information and what the sources and methods are and whether it should be secret or top secret or higher than top secret. And essentially handing that responsibility off to the judiciary is a real breach.

Now, from what Kara Scannell tells us, Judge Dearie, who I know for a long time back from when he was U.S. attorney. He seems to get that because he's saying if it says classified or top secret on it, we're going on the assumption that it's classified. So, it seems like they're going to have an uphill struggle with that argument over the 100 documents in that courtroom.

TAPPER: Yeah. And Tom Dupree, Trump's lawyers are resisting the special masters request that they disclose in court, which means under oath, specifics about whether or not Trump actually declassified these documents as Trump himself as has claimed publicly. Special Master Judge Raymond Dearie, he questioned this request, and he suggested he's going to determine the documents were classified if Trump's lawyers don't offer any proof. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but it looks to me like Dearie is calling their bluff. And Trump's attorneys don't want to commit perjury.

TOM DUPREE, FORMER PRINCIPAL DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Yeah, look, I think that's a very fair assessment, Jake. And that was one of the things that surprised me about today's hearing. In other words, that particular question from the judge, where is your evidence of declassification? That can't have come as a surprise to the Trump legal team. That would be at the top of the list of questions you would anticipate the judge to ask you today. So surprising to me that they weren't better prepared to give him some evidence or if they don't have any evidence to tell him that. But I think that today's hearing really sets the tone. This is a judge who's not up for game playing. He wants the evidence. He's got hard questions, and he's going to get to a decision, one way or the other.

TAPPER: Trump's lawyers John, keep dancing around the idea that maybe Trump declassified the documents, maybe he didn't. They argued the Justice Department is making an assumption that they're actually classified and, "however, the government has not yet proven this critical fact the President has broad authority governing classification of and access to classified documents."

It clearly, John, Dearie is not buying this. He basically said no, you have to prove it, team Trump. Do you think that this is just a delay tactic?

MILLER: Well, I think that this entire process whether that's the intended consequence of the legal maneuvers or the unintended consequence is factored towards delay which I think works in the Trump team's favor.


But in the words of former CIA officer and CNN Analyst Phil Mudd, he and I could do this entire job over a 12 pack in 20 minutes. It's, well -- a well-trod path. You look back to the Hillary Clinton case, they took the emails, they sent them back to the intelligence agencies, and they said, is this information classified or is it not? And then those answers were returned. I suspect what we're going to see here is that there are going to be sent back to the originating agencies who are going to say, this is classified. It's still classified. And to get to the point of that argument, the President couldn't wave a wand and declassified documents as president, he had to send that word to those agencies. He can't declassify his copy, and then have every copy in the files of the U.S. government still be top secret. There's a process there and no one including his own lawyers are alleging that that process was followed.

TAPPER: And Tom, let's say hypothetically, the Team Trump admits to the special master. OK, you caught us, Trump didn't declassify anything. What might that mean hypothetically?

DUPREE: You know, legally, it may not have a huge amount of significance one way or the other. The three criminal offenses that the Justice Department was pursuing when they executed the warrant at Mar-a-Lago, none of them turn on whether the documents that were seized are classified or not. So legally, it may not have direct significance, where I think it could potentially have some bite though, is if it turns out that these documents were in fact declassified, that would give the Trump team more ammunition to argue that look, this is not a debate over national security documents because they've been declassified. It's merely a record storage dispute or the like. So, I think that ultimately, maybe the biggest significance over whether these were classified or not, is that it could bear on Merrick Garland ultimate decision, whether he wants to prosecute someone here.

TAPPER: Tom and John, thanks to both you, really appreciate it. Why the Department of Homeland Security is rejecting a plan to protect election workers, the CNN exclusive next then. There's a new development with the migrants flown from Texas to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. We're going to tell you who's being sued. That's next.



TAPPER: Just entered THE LEAD, a migrant advocacy group has filed a class action lawsuit against among others, Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis. On behalf of the migrants flown to Martha's Vineyard last week. DeSantis had claimed credit for flying two planes full of migrants from Texas to Florida and into Massachusetts. Let's get straight to CNN's Miguel Marquez. Miguel, tell us about this lawsuit. MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, this was filed in federal court in Massachusetts, Ron DeSantis, and his secretary of transportation for the state of Florida are named and as well as other officials in Florida. It doesn't tell us a lot more than we already knew what happened with those flights going from Texas to Martha's Vineyard, but it's much more granular. One part of it says that the accomplices of Governor DeSantis designed and executed a premeditated fraudulent and illegal scheme centered on exploiting the vulnerability for the sole purpose of their own personal financial and political interest.

We have a better sense from this lawsuit as well as what they were promised and how they were sort of induced to get on those planes. Everything from $10 McDonald's food cards to, you know, for food, for people who were actually hungry and needed food very badly. They were offering them $10 McDonald food cards. And then they were also offering them if they got on the plane, employment, housing, educational opportunities, things that we have heard from before, from some of these individuals.

One line and this really sticks out though these immigrants who are pursuing proper channels for lawful immigration status in the United States experienced cruelty akin to the what they were fleeing in their own country. They are asking for at least $75,000 for each individual of this suit. Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Miguel Marquez. Thanks so much.

Turning now to our Politics Lead, a CNN exclusive, a proposal to combat false information about elections and to protect election workers from harassment was recently rejected by the Department of Homeland Security, sources tell CNN. This is leaving some officials frustrated and concerned that the harassment will worsen as the election approaches in just 49 days, and wondering if the Biden administration even has a plan.

CNN's Sean Lyngaas joins us now live. Sean, you obtained a letter from election officials in Florida and Colorado urging the Department of Homeland Security to approve part of this proposal. Why won't they?

SEAN LYNGAAS, CNN CYBERSECURITY REPORTER: Well, Jake, there's a lot of reasons. I mean, there were some legal concerns at the Department of Homeland Security about what role they could have in combating myths and disinformation. And there was also concerns about whether it would be ready by election day. But the bottom line is that as flawed as a proposal may have been the -- there's a really sharp demand for protection from election workers, and there's a little bit of ambiguity in the government about federal government about who is responsible for this. The FBI investigates threats, DHS can help prepare election officials for those threats, both physical and cyber, but who's there in the moment.

And then letter you mentioned that we obtained, you know, urged DHS to adopt this proposal and said, "As election workers we are ourselves a crucial part of the nation's critical infrastructure in need of and deserving of protection from the efforts to intimidate us and disrupt the election process."

So, there was an appeal to do something to combat the harassment. And it's unclear if there is a concerted effort within the government to address that at this moment. Jake.

TAPPER: There is harassment, obviously, election officials reporting more than 1000 hospital are threatening interruptions, just since 2020, is anything being done to protect election officials?

LYNGAAS: Yes, but election officials say not enough. The Justice Department has investigated that in some cases brought prosecution against people who threatened violence against election workers. And DHS has provided them with security guidance and related threats to them. But there's a lot more that they say can be done because this, you know, tide of violent threats, which is spurred by myths and disinformation is only grown more acute since 2020. Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Sean Lyngaas, thanks so much.


Let's discuss. And Gloria, this seems like kind of a big failure that election officials still feel vulnerable and that the Biden administration is not doing enough?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, remember the January 6 committee famously che (ph) and Rubio got up there and talked about how they were doxed. And how they needed protection, and how the president of United States at the time, you know, was attacking them. So yes, and I think you could see this coming. It's a bureaucratic mess. You could see it coming back last May, when the so- called disinformation governance board, was a bad name, wasn't it? Disinformation Government Board was disbanded after it was attacked. Because it was thought to be too partisan. Some Republicans didn't like the person who was running it, et cetera. So, they disbanded it, as Sean was saying, instead of fixing it. And so now election workers are complaining who's going to protect us? And then the question is, as you hear from state officials all over the country, who's going to want to be an election worker?


BORGER: Because they feel unprotected.

TAPPER: So, Nia, I want to get your reaction to some fascinating comments Congresswoman Liz Cheney made last night about the hold that Donald Trump has on so many of her colleagues. She was talking about the events on January 6, when there was obviously so much violence and even after the violence, two-thirds of the House Republican caucus voted to disenfranchise voters of Pennsylvania, take a listen to the congresswoman.


REP. LIZ CHENEY, (R) VICE CHAIR, JANUARY 6 SELECT COMMITTEE: It's only actually required that one House member object but there were so many who wanted to show they were objecting that they'd set up the signup sheets in the cloakroom. And as I was sitting there, a member came in and he signed his name on each one of the state's sheets. And then he said under his breath, the things we do for the Orange Jesus.


TAPPER: The things we do for Orange Jesus, obviously a reference to President Trump.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And listen, I mean, we have reported on the Republicans who privately have all sorts of disparaging things to say about Donald Trump, but publicly stand behind him, cheerlead him in that instance, signing on to a part of the big lie, and they do it for Orange Jesus, but they also do it for themselves, right? They do it so they can remain in good standing with their constituents remain in good standing with the members of their party. And that doesn't look like it's going to change with a certain amount of them. And we've obviously seen what happened with Liz Cheney, going against Donald Trump, she won't be in Congress, once the new term convenes in January. So, listen, this is all self-interested. It's all about a sort of transactional relationship with Donald Trump. And this is why he has remained so powerful over these last years.

TAPPER: And there's an effort in the house, a bipartisan measure, to clear up any ambiguity about the Electoral Count Act. The idea that the I mean, there really is not any ambiguity and views of lot of a lot of people but this notion that the Vice President can just unilaterally say I'm not counting the votes from Arizona or whatever. And House Minority Leader, Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy is whipping against it, meaning he is telling Republican House members to vote against it. Even though Liz Cheney worked on it. It is not a partisan bill?

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: And a similar bill has a fair amount of Republican support in Senate. So, I hope that Democrats can overcome this. I can't imagine anything more partisan than saying you don't want fair elections. It's not just -- it's not just this question of whether the vice president can decide which votes to count. That's clear under the 12th amendment.

TAPPER: Right.

BEGALA: So, the electoral connect which goes back to reconstruction of the 1800s. But it's very rickety, for example, it allows only one member of the House, one member the Senate to challenge an entire state. Liz Cheney, Congresswoman Lofgren, they want to raise that. It's a lot of very good government stuff, it's not going advantage, my party or Urban's party, it's just I think we ought to have. So, we have a sensible, clear election.

DAVID URBAN, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Amazing, Paul and I agree on that. You know, cats and dogs sleeping together. So as Paul points out, right? In this last election, you had one member could go down to the floor and object and for any reason, right? And so, the proposals both in the House and Senate that they're going to vote on, kind of limit that to certain exceptions, you can only go down under certain exceptions and object and raises, I think the House is 1/5, maybe it's 1/3 of the senate.

BEGALA: Right.

URBAN: So, it's reverse. So, you know, it raises the amount of people that, you know, required. And I think it's just good government, right? It'll clear up anything that's going to possibly happen this next election. And it's very important.

BORGER: And they can't work this out, they can't work anything out. Honestly, there's not that huge of a difference.

URBAN: But it has to be a clean bill. I don't know what the vote in House is, right, should be if people are serious about getting this done, they need to bring that specific provision to the floor, not gunked it up with a bunch of other stuff.

HENDERSON: Yeah. And it's incredibly important now given some of the folks who are running in these different states who could interfere in this process.

BORGER: Right.

TAPPER: On that subject the Republican nominee to be the top election official in Arizona, Mark Finchem, he's a big sharer of Donald Trump's election lies. This is what he told the Time Magazine correspondent when asked whether he believes Biden won Arizona, which Biden did.


"It strains credibility," Fincham responded, "Isn't it interesting that I can't find anyone who will admit that they voted for Joe Biden?" Finchem was then asked whether it was possible people he didn't know personally had voted for Biden. His response in a fantasy world, "anything is possible." I mean, who's living in the fantasy world here?

BEGALA: I don't want to think about Mr. Finchem's fantasies, certainly. This needs to be electoral infrastructure week, right? Coming back to the earlier story you all talked about, we need force protection for the women and men who are working --

TAPPER: This guy is on the record saying he would not have certified the vote. Same with the woman running for governor as a Republican nominee, Kari Lake, she wouldn't have certified it.

BEGALA: It's just astonishing.

URBAN: That's to be a big problem. That's going to be a big problem come forward in '24. And not just the people who want certify. But let's take a look at Pennsylvania, for example. We had this Republican primary, very tough counting votes, looking at things, right? There's a distinct possibility that because of challenges and delays that, you know, come December 14, when you have to certify they're not going to be ready in Montgomery County, they're not going to be ready in Bucks County because of court challenges. And they get dragged out what happens then, right, represented Pennsylvania if you can't certify. BORGER: There may be a plan for that already amongst some people, right?

BEGALA: Well, Liz Cheney, and Zoe Lofgren's bill would move the safe, a little bit over time.

URBAN: But that's my point about why this thing happened, right? That's why needs to happen.

TAPPER: But then also in Pennsylvania, we should point out and Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor who is an election liar, he in Pennsylvania, you don't elect the Secretary of State, the governor appoints the Secretary of State so he could and likely would appoint another election liar. And there you have another state or Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's case where the person in charge of the elections is a, you know, is opposed to democracy.

HENDERSON: Yeah, I mean, in state after state after state. I mean, Donald Trump has picked people, handpick people who could just throw out the results of an election if he doesn't win that state or Commonwealth. So, it is a critical time 2020 we averted disaster because there were people in these individual states who follow the law and follow the will of the people. But it could be that in 2024, it's very different.

TAPPER: What do you make of people like Governor Youngkin of Virginia, who knows better? And his is not an election liar, right, endorsing and campaigning people like Kari Lake in Arizona?

BORGER: Well, I think he wants to be president of the United States at some point. I don't think he's hidden that at all. He's term limited. And I think you see a lot of Republicans who are members of the so- called establishment or what was once the Republican establishment laughing. I'm not sure it exists, trying to figure out where --

TAPPER: It's David. He's the only one laughing.

BORGER: Right. Where the party -- where -- what's the future of the party and its Machiavellian, you know, is the control of the state house or control of the governorships, I mean, the Senate more important than any one particular candidate. I think Mitch McConnell in his own head is going through that same process.

TAPPER: Blake Masters, Mitch McConnell's --

BORGER: He's not funding Blake Masters, right? But --

TAPPER: No, he is -- he's helping Blake Masters.

BORGER: Oh, he's helping Blake?

TAPPER: Yeah, he's helping Blake Masters who's another election liar in Arizona. Mitch McConnell is now doing that.

HENDERSON: Yeah. BORGER: So, his pack. So, he has to make these decisions about his pack. And I think there are some people deciding not to fund and some people who will fund. But what is Mitch McConnell want?

TAPPER: He wants control the Senate.

BORGER: Exactly.

TAPPER: But you know what, David's a Republican he wants Republicans to control the Senate. But David's clear eyed about this. I've never --

URBAN: Listen, I mean --

TAPPER: I've never heard you say anything positive about an election liar?

URBAN: Listen, I mean, as much as I wish Donald Trump would have won, he didn't, right? And so that's just how it goes. I like my -- I like the Steelers to win every weekend and my army football team whenever we could to, just doesn't happen. It's life, you lose some. You brush yourself off, you fight the next fight, right?

HENDERSON: Would you go for election liar over a Democrat?

URBAN: Listen, I don't know. Again, it's, you know, taking everything into consideration. You have to look at the whole candidate because there are a lot of things I don't agree with, right?

HENDERSON: So, it sounds like you would.

URBAN: You know, listen, there a lot of things I don't agree with what candidates I vote for, right? So, it's unfortunate.

BORGER: But if you're Mitch McConnell, what do you do? What do you do?

BEGALA: Well, you allow the lie to spread a thought.

URBAN: I don't know if Mitch McConnell --

BEGALA: Donald Trump's been lying. But when other responsible Republicans who are not crazy like Trump don't tell the truth then the lie grows.

TAPPER: All right, thanks to one and all. I don't think we're going to resolve this right now.

Hundreds of protesters are risking their lives to stand up for an Iranian woman who died in the government's custody. They say that the government killed her. Her crime, she showed her hair in public. Stay with us.


[17:29:11] TAPPER: Hundreds of Iranians risking their lives to protest the country's ultra conservative dress code for women and much more. A human rights group says five people are dead as the Iranian government cracks down on these demonstrations. They were sparked by the death of 22-year-olds Masa Amini while she was in the custody of Iran's notorious morality police. She was detained for the crime of showing her hair in public as CNN's Jomana Karadsheh reports in a brave show of defiance women in Iran's capitol of Tehran are now removing their state mandated jobs.



JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There is so much anger on the streets of Tehran and other Iranian cities. The crackdown by authorities has not stopped these defiant Iranians according to one human rights group several protesters have been killed and injured in these country wide demonstrations sparked by the death of a young woman while in the custody of the country's morality police. Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish-Iranian was detained last Tuesday by the force tasked with enforcing the country's strict Islamic dress code, including the headscarf. She was taken away to so called Reeducation Center. It was the last time her family says they saw her awake. Later that day the authorities say she fell into a coma. Amini died on Friday.

Her family and rights activists blame her death on the brutality of the notorious police force. Authorities have called her Duff an unfortunate incident. On Friday, they released this edited CCTV video they claim shows Amini at the so called Reeducation Center. State TV says she appeared unwell while speaking to a center expert before she collapsed and was rushed to hospital.

Police say she had a heart attack. Her family says she was a healthy 22-year-old with no preexisting heart conditions.

The Iranian president ordered an investigation into her death on Friday. An official say they've carried out an autopsy and are reviewing it. The streets have responded with more protests, many don't believe the government would deliver a credible investigation. And despite the history of ruthlessness and dealing with demonstrations, protests appear to spread this week.

Amini's death has reignited the debate over the role and the very existence of the Morality Police, which has been repeatedly accused of using violence in the past.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): If they saying hard enough sit down if they are supposed to be present, there is no need for so much violence and creating fear among the people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I am strongly against this because we are talking about a cultural issue. It's not possible to apply a cultural issue by force.

KARADSHEH: As the Iranian President appears at the UN General Assembly in New York this week, Iranian are back out on the streets saying enough is enough. Some brave enough to remove their headscarves as they chant death to the dictator.


KARADSHEH: And Jake, tonight the United Nations Acting Commissioner for Human Rights says she is very concerned about the reported excessive and unnecessary use of force against the protesters. She says that the tragic death of Mahsa Amini the allegations of torture and ill treatment must be investigated, but by an independent and competent authority that especially ensures that Mahsa's family has access to justice and accountability.

TAPPER: All right, Jomana Karadsheh, thank you so much. Appreciate that. Now over in Ukraine and attempted land grab of massive proportions. Pro-Russian authorities in eastern and southern Ukraine are trying to annex large sections of Ukraine's internationally recognized territory by holding hurried so called referenda on joining Russia. Here's Pentagon Press Secretary, Brigadier General Pat Ryder this afternoon.


BRIG. GEN. PAT RYDER, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: This is simply an information operation that's meant to distract from the difficult state that the Russian military currently finds itself in right now.


TAPPER: Former Secretary of Defense under President Trump Mark Esper joins us right now. Thanks so much for joining us, Mr. Secretary. So, the NATO Secretary General called these referenda proposals, a sham. Do you agree?

MARK ESPER, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Completely. Completely sham elections, but it looks like they will do it as a move to annex the territory and claim that it's theirs in the face of a bold counter- offensive by the Ukrainians.

TAPPER: So they do it and the Western world knows it's not real. The Ukrainians know it's not real. So who are they fooling?

ESPER: Well, they're fooling nobody, but they may use it internally for their own propaganda. They may use to set it up as a means to now be defending Russia. But the interesting thing will be to see who lines up alongside them North Korea, Iran. But what about China and India that will tell us a lot about where Beijing and New Delhi stand on this issue.

TAPPER: I want to ask, speaking of China, I want to ask you about in an interview that aired Sunday, President Biden reiterated this pledge that he'd made in public before that the U.S. would defend Taiwan, if it were invaded by China. The White House is now as they do try to downplay his comment saying he was just answering hypothetical. He was not announcing any sort of policy change. But as you know, he said this before, what's your reaction to it? I mean, do you fundamentally agree with him anyway?

ESPER: Well, he said it four times. Now, I think he's spot on and they're not trying to downplay it. They're trying to completely undermine him to say there's no policy change. Look, I've been saying for months now, since I went to Taipei just before Speaker Pelosi, that the One China policy has outlived its usefulness, and we need to move away from strategic ambiguity if we are going to deter a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

TAPPER: So you think President Biden is saying what he actually believes?


TAPPER: And you and you think he's right,


ESPER: I do. Absolutely, and a lot of people who know and understand China would agree that if we want to avoid a conflict in the Taiwan Strait we need to send a clear signal, unambiguous signal to Beijing that we will stand behind this young democracy.

TAPPER: In the same way that the U.S. is standing behind Ukraine with giving all sorts of lethal aid.

ESPER: Well, I think it's where we would begin with lethal aid. And of course, the administration this summer approved a multibillion dollar package of arms to Taiwan. Now there's more we could do and should do. And we need to continue to build allies and partners around Taiwan, the Japanese, the Australians, the Koreans, and the Western Europe as well.

TAPPER: Interesting. I want to get your reaction to Iran, because we're -- today French president Emmanuel Macron, who we're going to be interviewing tomorrow on THE LEAD, he met with the president of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi at the United Nations and told them that the balls in Iran's court regarding this stalled nuclear deal.

Do you think that Western nations should be actively engaging with a regime that as you see is oppressing its people?

ESPER: Well, of course, the oppression is horrible. It's a fragile theocracy, that who knows what will happen if the Ayatollah passes sometime in the near future.

TAPPER: He's on his deathbed apparently.

ESPER: That's right. So this all kind of plays in. But look, I think we have to continue diplomatic negotiations with the Iranians. President Biden has promised to lengthen and strengthen a new nuclear deal. We'll see if that happens. I'm very skeptical, but we cannot allow the Iranians to acquire a nuclear weapon that would completely change the calculus in the Middle East. And for the world's greatest exporter of terrorism, it's just simply a situation we can't live with. TAPPER: What do we do about Iran oppressing its people as we saw? I mean, this is -- it's insane. This woman was arrested by the morality peace police because she was showing some of her hair, and now she's dead, and that people are protesting in the streets, and they're being killed by the Iranian.

ESPER: It's the freedom loving people with Iran wants to be underneath this oppressive rule of the theocracy. And look, she was killed. We learned in the protest today, the police may have killed a 10-year-old and others, it just cannot go on.

At some point, this brutal regime is going to collapse. For 40 years now we've been dealing with it as have other countries in the region. And hopefully at some point in time, the people of Tehran will get the government they deserve and not what they have.

TAPPER: You recently wrote a piece about the decline of the U.S. military's all volunteer force, and you cited high rates of obesity, drug use mental health problems, criminal records, among young people. What do you think is the problem?

ESPER: It's a strategic national challenge driven by cultural and other factors, demographic factors that we have to arrest or that we will find ourselves at some point in time, with an unavailable pool of people, young people to serve the United States military. And at that point, what do we do? Do we risk our military, our professional military? Or do we have to look at some form of conscription? I don't think we want to do the latter, because we have the best military in the world.

So I think it's important for a number of reasons for really, at the national level between the White House and the Congress get together. I recommended a commission just like the commission 50 years ago that was formed to establish the all volunteer force meet and figured out ways to address these problems.

TAPPER: All right, former Defense Secretary Mark Esper, thanks so much for being here. Tomorrow I'm going to have an exclusive us interview with the French president Emmanuel Macron. You can look for that right here on THE LEAD tomorrow beginning at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up, when rent is astronomical, how can teachers afford to live near their jobs on teacher's salaries, the temporary solution? Some school districts are exploring. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our money lead, inflation and surging rent is pushing out teachers who cannot afford to live in the areas where they work. CNN's David Culver takes a closer look now at how this problem is affecting educators across the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE) DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Shanika Whiten, it is a struggle that starts before the sun's up. A single mom living in Los Angeles, battling debilitating MS.


CULVER: And yet still determined to get to work on time. She led us tag along on the drive telling me about her journey.

WHITEN: That's been months where I would worry about oh, not going to be able to fly to pay rent this month.

CULVER: Shanika's work more than 20 years and special education, always for the LA school system. But rising rents and a surging cost of living have nearly forced her and other school employees out.

WHITEN: It's ad to live the way we are and because of inflation, and everything is going to protect your paycheck (INAUDIBLE) is not going to survive.

CULVER: It's a common burden filled by teachers and other school employees nationwide. On average, rents have nearly doubled in the past 10 years, cost of living increasing at roughly six times the rate it was a decade ago. To retain teaching talent, school systems are now doubling is both employers and landlords.

From mountainous Eagle County, Colorado to the beach paradise of Maui and Hawaii, school districts are funding affordable housing for staff. But construction is often years off, leaving some school districts like Milpitas and San Jose to act urgently asking parents in this message to step forward if they have a room for rent. Some 66 people are already offering their homes to educators.

Also in Silicon Valley, this former convent no longer for nuns. Now used as teacher housing. The National Education Association supports these kinds of measures, affordable housing, and more pay for teachers.

Back at Norwood learning village in LA where Shamika lives, the need is now.

CULVER (on camera): The demand for these apartments is soaring. This property has 29 units altogether, nearly 600 people are on the waitlist, hoping just one of them opens up. Most of those individuals work for the school system.

SAM CHANG, MANAGER, NORWOOD LEARNING VILLAGE: Yes, the need is really great. That's basically what that means.

CULVER (voice-over): Sam Chang manages the facility and lives here with his wife, a teacher and their kids.

CULVER (on camera): When you hand over the keys, what's the reaction?

CHANG: Normally, it's a very positive, joyous, momentous type of reaction. A lot of people they almost feel in disbelief because of not only the price that they're getting the unit for, but the quality of the housing here.

CULVER (voice-over): In a county where the average rent for three bedroom is $3,000 a month, Shanika is paying less than half that and feels like one of the lucky ones.

WHITEN: Living where I am paying what I pay, it's a blessing. It's a blessing.


CULVER: So Jake, this gets even more complicated for full time teachers here in Los Angeles. They start making around $56,000 a year, but that puts them in this difficult middle ground. They earn too much to qualify for California's affordable housing, but not enough to pay for what they argued to be convenient, and comfortable housing. And so that has left school systems here in LA and across this country, trying to figure out desperately how to recruit and retain what is a dwindling workforce. Jake.

TAPPER: All right, David Culver in Los Angeles for us. Thank you so much. How one disabled veteran was inspired to help other men and women in similar situations. That's next in our Champions for Change series.



TAPPER: In CNN Champions for Change series, we're going to highlight extraordinary people who lift up others. When retired Marine Sergeant Adam Kisielewski was serving in Iraq and just 21 years old and explosion changed his life forever. Dozens of surgeries later, Adam has adjusted to life without an arm and a leg, but none of it would have been possible without the help of an organization close to my heart Homes For Our Troops, which also inspired Adam to help other disabled veterans.


SGT. ADAM KISIELEWSKI, MARINE VETERAN: Deployed to Iraq in 2005 operated in and around Fallujah, there was a school and there's a bomb rig to the doors so we opened it exploded, killed the lieutenant that was with me, James Kathy. I stayed conscious the entire time up until my first surgery, so pretty much immediately knew that my left arm and right leg were gone.

It was a challenge, you know, from going to be completely independent, you know, suddenly, you know, bedridden, relying on other people to try to take care of you when I was newly married to so certainly put my wife through a lot really early on.

TAPPER: At some point, you and your wife realized that like the house you're living in, is not working for the new situation. KISIELEWSKI: It's a nice home, you know, nothing particularly special, but it was built on three floors. But it wasn't till we had our son, that we realized what a challenge it was not only difficult, but also dangerous.

TAPPER: I was covering President Obama's State of the Union address, and one of the guests he had was a veteran who had lost both his legs, had a home that had been given to him by this group called Homes For Our Troops. Its mission was to find severely wounded veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, and to provide them with specially designed homes, that were mortgage free.

KISIELEWSKI: Some other veterans with homes for our troops that really encouraged us to apply. And we were reluctant.

TAPPER: Why were you reluctant?

KISIELEWSKI: It's always easy to just say others are more important.

TAPPER: So you moved into this home 11 years ago?

KISIELEWSKI: Yes, 11 a half years.

TAPPER: And what does living in this home allow you to do?

KISIELEWSKI: What's every bit as significant as getting blown up in the first place. I don't think we recognized all the challenges that we're facing until we moved in and realize that we don't have to deal with them anymore. But it's not so low that it's uncomfortable for people who aren't in a wheelchair.

TAPPER: The bad news is that you can also have access to the dishwasher, so you don't get out of it.

KISIELEWSKI: Yes, is bad news. What I didn't really anticipate was the financial stability that in not having a mortgage, you know, provided. So I was able to leave my job and go back to school, and most importantly, was able to go to work for nonprofits providing other opportunities for veterans.

TAPPER: Adam was grievously wounded while serving for this nation. Nobody would begrudge him leading whatever kind of life he led after these wounds, but he's an inspiration.

I know you're in the Veterans Advisory Group for Homes For Our Troops.

KISIELEWSKI: I actually helped stand that program up. So Homes For Our Troops has a tagline of Building Homes and Rebuilding Lives but always argues that the Rebuilding Lives element is the more important, you know, part of what they do. We wanted to make sure that, you know, the guys that were doing well, we're in a position to kind of help mentor some of the guys that maybe weren't doing as well didn't have some of the same opportunities.

TAPPER: I went to the key ceremony giving a home to one of these veterans in Virginia. And that was it. It was as if this incredibly worthy charity had picked me and they asked me to be an ambassador.

KISIELEWSKI: So the key ceremony is a pretty special event because it gets the whole community involved.

I'm glad I'm going to become more of a role model for people that think they're disabled but actually not.


It's a real honor to be here. Excited to welcome you as part of our family homes for our troops.


TAPPER: He's more active than most people I know. He's more charitable than most people I know.

KISIELEWSKI: My life's goal now is just to try to provide some of these opportunities for other veterans and help them out wherever I can. Frankly, I get more out of it than I ever put into it.


TAPPER: And incredible guy, learn more about Homes For Our Troops and No Person Left Behind Outdoors on my Twitter account at Jake Tapper. And please be sure to tune in to CNN this Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern for the Champions for Change special.

There are so many of these bugs on the planet that scientists say the numbers are quote unimaginable but they're going to try to imagine them, that's next.


TAPPER: In our buried lead, if you've ever wondered just how many ants live on Earth well the answer is nearly 20 quadrillion.


Scientists from the University of Hong Kong analyzed 489 studies from around the world to not only figure out how many ants there are, but their weight as well, which I'm sure you were also wondering about. The result about 12 megatons of biomass that outweighs all of the wild birds and mammals on the planet, which of course, is the third thing you're wondering about.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the TikTok at Jake Tapper. You can tweet the show at THE LEAD CNN we actually read them. Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door and "THE SITUATION ROOM".