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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Biden Warns Of "Armageddon" Risk As Putin's Nuke Threats Grow; Ukraine Says Its Forces Have Reclaimed 900+ Square Miles In South; U.S. Added 263,000 Jobs In September; Oath Keepers Sedition Trial Wraps First Week With Focus On Founder; Mega Shelters Set Up To House Florida Residents Who Lost Everything In The Storm; NC City Staffs 9- 1-1 Call Center With Mental Health Workers. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired October 07, 2022 - 16:00   ET



MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: We don't see the real impact for several months. And so the concern is that the Fed overdoes it and that they don't realize they've over done it until it's too late.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Matt Egan, thank you very much for latest.

One quick programming note for everybody. I hope you'll join me and Laura Coates this coming Monday from 10:00 p.m. until midnight. We'll be doing "CNN TONIGHT" through the midterms.

And THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Armageddon, not a word I enjoy hearing from a U.S. president.

THE LEAD starts right now.

President Biden warns of a potential nuclear, quote, Armageddon, in the wake of threats from Vladimir Putin and the defeat of his forces in Ukraine. The first time since 1962 Cuban missile crisis, the president said, that there is a direct threat of a use of a nuclear weapon. What is this terrifying warning based upon?

Plus, a new stunner in Uvalde, Texas. First, an officer fired after a bombshell CNN report. Now the school system is suspending its entire police department.

And a new strong jobs report showing more Americans employed and earning more money. So might this set up another hike in your interest rates as the Fed tries to tame rising inflation?


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

A bone chilling warning of a nuclear, quote, Armageddon tops our world lead. President Biden made that frank assessment at a private fundraiser last night, invoking the nuclear brinksmanship of the Cuban missile crisis 60 years ago this month. As violate Russian dictator Vladimir Putin loses his grip on his

bloody unprovoked war against Ukraine and threatens to deploy catastrophic weapons. Senior U.S. officials were caught off guard they say. But by what some might characterize as inartful and perhaps in some view as escalatory comments. They insist there is nothing that raises the threat level above where it is been.

But still, President Biden says he does not see a clear off-ramp for Putin and U.S. officials thinks even if Putin uses the smallest tactical nuke available, it could trigger and chain reaction and create consequences that could lead to a global nuclear disaster.

And as CNN's Phil Mattingly reports for us, the president's daunting comments offer a rare window into a White House trying to predict a mad man's next move.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The warning was as stark as it was startling. President Biden at a private New York fundraising warning of the potential for nuclear Armageddon, as Russian President Vladimir Putin faces battlefield defeats and launches you new rhetorical threats.

Biden is sharply divergent from his top advisers and his willingness to details the risks they've acknowledged are real.

JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: The administration has been clear that there is a risk given all of the loose talk and the nuclear saber-rattling by Putin that he would consider this.

MATTINGLY: But also not imminent.

SULLIVAN: We do not presently see indications about the imminent use of nuclear weapons.

MATTINGLY: Officials tell CNN that hasn't changed. Despite the vivid nature of Biden's warnings.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have not seen any reason to adjust our own nuclear posture.

MATTINGLY: And to this point, no comments from Biden on the issue since the remarks were released. There is no new intelligence showing Putin has decided to use nuclear weapons or is preparing to do so, sources say. Yet Biden's warning comparing this moment to the last time the world was on the nuclear brink underscores the growing concern inside of the White House about what Putin may do if backed in a corner.

The risks and the administration's contingency plan have been present since the opening days of the invasion, officials say. But White House officials watching Putin's speech announcing the sham annexation of Ukrainian territory were struck not just by the implicit nuclear threats but by a leader completely untethered from reality. Something Biden's national security adviser hinted at last week. SULLIVAN: It is raving.

MATTINGLY: And it has been a central point of deliberations in the days since officials say.

JEAN-PIERRE: The kind of irresponsible rhetoric we have seen is no way for the leader of a nuclear arm state to speak and that is what the president was making very clear about.


MATTINGLY (on camera): It is tough to miss the venue in which the remarks were made. Not in a major speech or address, not in press conferences, but in a private donor's meeting at a private New York City residence and that is a feature not a bug. The president has regularly spoken more candidly in those meetings.

Officials say they acknowledge at least that it is in those meetings that the president could give you brief windows of what is being discussed and debated behind the scenes. Sometimes even if it is a little bit different than the public message, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Phil Mattingly at the White House for us, thanks so much.

And former CIA chief of Russia operations Steve Hall joins us now.

Steve, good to see you.

The White House is trying to identify an off-ramp for Putin.


Do you see the only two options, humiliation for Putin or escalating using a nuclear weapon? In his mind, I mean?

STEVE HALL, FORMER CIA CHIEF OF RUSSIA OPERATIONS: No, Jake, it is probably more complex than that even in Vladimir Putin's mind and we have to keep in mind, of course, that, you know, what goes on in the Kremlin is a black box. It is difficult to get that information.

But, you know, when we talk about off-ramps, let me start with Putin being backed into a corner. I think it is a false premise. All he has to do is get behind his war into Russia. And I don't mean to be simplistic. That is a price to pay for that. But the question is which is easier, which is more devastating for Vladimir Putin, to have to retreat from Ukraine where it didn't go well for him at all or will he lose his entire regime and perhaps even his life in the process. In my mind, Putin is going with his regime and his own personal interested as opposed to being embarrassed about having to retreat from Ukraine.

TAPPER: So President Biden called this the highest alert since the Cuban missile crisis 60 when the Soviets were putting missiles in Cuba aimed at Florida. What do you make of that comparison? Is it accurate?

HALL: I think it is reflective of what we're trying to do, which is walk this fine line between recognizing and, of course, a thermal nuclear war could be catastrophic. Tactical nuclear weapons used in Ukraine wouldn't be much better, so you have to take it seriously. But I think it's really important what came after the president's comments which was the entire administration is saying, look, we are not changing our view in the United States, our nuclear posture because we haven't seen any changes in Russia's nuclear posture. So in terms of what the facts are on the ground, we have yet to see evidence that Putin is mobilizing his nuclear forces.

TAPPER: Let's talk about potential tactical nukes because I think it is something that we're not very familiar with. Tactical nukes are much, much smaller than, for instance, the mushroom cloud style bomb used by the U.S. in Hiroshima or Nagasaki. How much damage do they inflict?

HALL: That's an excellent question and it is such a good question because we don't know much about them. We got rid of ours. The Russians kept theirs.

But I think most analysts assess that of course there is a big psychological impact when you use a nuclear weapon, and depending on the size, there can be an impact on the battlefield. I don't think Ukraine is going to stop fighting if attack on nuclear weapon is exploded, but what is going to happen to Vladimir Putin and his regime is he's going to come under incredible international pressure and not just from the west where it usually comes from but also from his so- called friends, the Chinese, the Indians and others like that who are going to be very upset and concerned I think if he chooses that route.

TAPPER: You heard in Phil Mattingly's report that the White House studied Putin's latest speech incredibly closely, looking for clues, trying to figure out what he might do. As a former intelligence officer tell us, what would those clues look like from Putin?

HALL: I'd say, as a former intelligence officer, that is the Holy Grail. Thirty years, you know, everybody is trying to find out what going on inside in Putin's mind and I can tell you, it's truly again a black box. It's incredibly difficult. But I think what you have to do is look and say, OK, what's the most likely thing that is going on and, you know, I don't think the most likely thing that's going on is him planning for a nuclear strike. What is going on is how he could best leverage that threat and when you get the American president to make those kinds of comments, that shows you how strong that weapon could be psychologically.

TAPPER: So most people watching did not live through the Cuban missile crisis or don't remember it at least. I don't imagine you know it from firsthand experience. But tell us what it means when President Biden says this is the worst its been in terms of the potential use of a nuclear weapon since 1962. What does that conjure up for you?

HALL: You know what it conjures up for me is again this reminder for all of us who are sort of used to the post World War II status quo of security arrangements that were made between great powers after the Second World War, and then you have the Cuban missile crisis which kind of brought everybody, you know, it was a shock to the system. I think we're seeing a similar shock to the system. But, again, I

think when the president says we're closer to nuclear war, the question is, are we 90 percent closer or are we 2 percent closer? Again, you have to take it seriously. You can't be flip about it.

But the question is, are the Russians do we have information that they are prepared a strike or moving in that direction. And as of right now we still don't.

TAPPER: William Cohen who is a Republican senator from Maine and then the secretary of defense for the Clinton administration, he told CNN that once you start talking regularly about using nuclear weapons, it becomes normalized. Is that what's going on here, do you think, by the president?

HALL: You know, that may be some of what is going on. I could tell you that Vladimir Putin hopes it doesn't become normalized because, again, he sort of blessed and cursed. He has these huge weapons that he could do damage with but he can't use them yet without really, really serious backlash.


So Putin wants to keep talking about it. He doesn't want us to become inured to it. He wants to become nervous about it, which we are correctly so. But I keep saying, I think we're still quite aways away from him actually contemplating that and I don't think it would go over well inside of Russia if he chose that route.

TAPPER: All right. Steve Hall, thanks so much for joining us as always. Appreciate it.

Now in Ukraine, the death toll is rising as rescue workers pull bodies out of the rubble of an apartment building in Zaporizhzhia hit by Russian missiles on Thursday. So far, officials count at least 14 dead.

Just south of the Zaporizhzhia, Nick Paton Walsh reports from the town of Dudchany, part of the more than 900 square miles of liberated land, according to Ukraine.

I want to warn viewers, some of these images depicting Putin's bloody war, you might find disturbing.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Just ahead is Russia in retreat. The road cut by a bridge blown four days ago as they fled, a lightning Ukrainian events of along the riverbank here.

Russian jets firing back, yet forces moving around an enemy stuck in park and reverse.

Left in Russia's wake, this older antiaircraft system, still working, we are told. And the tatty signs of how they lived in the open.

They didn't find bodies here. They just ran and left it.

In Dudchany, a rush to gather the harvest. Since March, the Russians moved in next door until Monday, when they seemed to have ditched even their clothes.

The air is only slightly freer now. But still, here, they spent last night underground.

At night, it's hardest, he says. We don't know who is shooting where. We brought food down here so it doesn't get torched. Most of his wife's family leave in Russia. But here, the Russians came to live next door to them. One night, drunk.

One came out and said, who are you, waving his gun at us, she says. He was drunk, it was pretty dangerous, says Vladimir.

They are literally in the crossfire here. The less you know, the longer you live, says Kolya, under the trees, worried about drones.

We lived a good life, never touched anyone.

All along the road, the detractors of a failing empire on the run. Ukrainians struggling to keep up with what was left behind.

Here in Havrilivka on Sunday, they took 50 prisoners, including newly mobilized conscript. This soldier's home is literally inside of occupied land. He doesn't show his face.

We still have houses just over there.

There is no greater motivation, he says. We didn't ask them to come here. Home, everyone home, it is our land.

The smell of your home is just --


WALSH: For others, it is almost a trap.

LUBOV: Mama!

WALSH: Lubov is stuck here as her 92-year-old mother can't walk.

She is hidden under the bedding. They have only milk and biscuits to eat. When they're shelling, there is no basement. So, Luba just lies on top of mama.

Imagine not being able to move when the ground is shaking.

LUBOV: Mother I got the pills for your head. Do you hear me?

LUBOV'S MOM: I hear you.

LUBOV: Born 5 April 1930. She survived the last war. We'll try to survive this one.

WALSH: She covers her again so she doesn't fall out of bed when she goes out.

Outside, the highway is busy. However fast Ukraine moves through here, nothing can be undone to bring the old silence back.


WALSH (on camera): It's important to accentuate, Jake in, just as we are hearing this nuclear bombast from Moscow continuing, the concerns that's raising internationally, their conventional army is doing utterly appallingly on the ground, losing hundreds of square miles, it appears, just in the south alone. And that's a reflection, frankly, of its military strength across the board.

And while nobody wants to play down or dismiss the potential nuclear threat Russia could bring, there are obviously some asking questions about how effective that path its military maybe if its air force is barely seen in the skies and it's ordinary military is struggling to get food or fuel to a matter of a hundreds of miles from its own border -- Jake.


TAPPER: All right. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh in Ukraine, thank you so much.

Also in the world lead, a strong message from the committee that awards the Nobel Peace Prize. This year's award is going to a human rights group from Ukraine, and another one from Russia, and a third, who was in jail in Belarus, the very country helping Putin with his invasion of Ukraine, all three were honored for their outstanding efforts to document war crimes, human rights abuses, and the abuse of power.

The Center for Civil Liberties is a group from Ukraine that earned the prize. In a Facebook post today, the head of the group called for an international tribunal to bring Putin to justice, along with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, another war criminal.

The Russian group honored today is called Memorial, a human rights watchdog group was founded after the fall of the Soviet Union. Its leader spoke in Moscow today, after Russian courts shut down the group last year.

The activist from Belarus has documented human rights abuses in his country since the 1890s. He was arrested in 2020 for protesting against the Lukashenko regime.

Coming up next, today's positive jobs report and why so many economists were actually dreading this specific outcome.

Plus, two men who warned America's political division should put the U.S. on the verge of its next civil war. And a North Carolina community that may help set a new national standard for responding to mental health emergencies.

Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: We're back with our money lead and the U.S. jobs market, which is, quote, slowing gracefully. That's what one economist told CNN after a report showed a number of new jobs fell for a second straight month, but still, provided more jobs than expected.

Let's bring in CNN's Matt Egan.

Matt, once again, good news, very good news, but some bad news. Help us understand the numbers here.

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Jake, we are still in this weird economic moment. The economy and the jobs market got so hot at the end of last year and earlier this year that we actually need them to cool off. Otherwise, inflation is going to keep crushing families and businesses and our retirement accounts.

Now, today's report shows the U.S. economy had 263,000 jobs last month. That is a slowdown. That's a step in the right direction. But it's really just a baby step. The unemployment rate actually went down to 3.5 percent. That is tied for the lowest since 1969.

Now, some economists say unemployment actually has to rise to 6 percent before inflation is going to be back under control. The good news, especially for main street, is today's report shows it is still a good moment if you are looking for jobs right now. I mean, hiring is strong and firing is relatively uncommon.

I think the bad news is that nothing about today's report is going to deter the Federal Reserve from slamming the brakes on the economy. The jobs market is still too hot.

TAPPER: Now, we keep hearing warnings of a recession, including, again, from former treasury secretary, Larry Summers. Listen to what he told CNN.


LARRY SUMMERS, FORMER TREASURY SECRETARY: I think it's more likely than not that sometime in the next year or 18 months, we will have a recession. Historical experience suggests that the kind of inflation we have rarely returns to normal levels, to target levels, of around 2 percent without some kind of recession.


TAPPER: Summers and others have been saying this for months now. What do you make of it?

EGAN: Well, Jake, I think there is a timing issue. Most of the economists I talked to, they don't think the U.S. economy is in recession right now. I mean, nothing about today's jobs reports screams recession. But everyone acknowledges that recession risk going forward is rising and they are elevated. I mean, even the Fed is basically acknowledging that. I think one really important thing to remember here is that Fed policy

works with a lag. It doesn't hit the economy right away. It takes 6 to 9 months before each of these interest hikes actually plays out in the economy. And so, the concern that Larry Summers and everyone else has is that the Fed won't know it's gone too far with these rate hikes until it's too late.

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

Coming up next, quoted in court. The chilling words prosecutors say we're written in a letter to Donald Trump by the leader of the far- right militia, the Oath Keepers.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, federal prosecutors presented new evidence to a jury today that Oath Keepers founder called for a, quote, bloody civil war, unquote, to keep then President Donald Trump in office even after he was defeated in 2020. Rhodes, along with four other members of the far-right militia group are on trial for sedition for their roles in the deadly Capitol attacks.

CNN's Whitney Wild reports on the explosive testimony in court today.


WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENNT REPORTER (voice-over): Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the fire right group, the Oath Keepers, was the focus of today's testimony in a seditious conspiracy trial. Prosecutors presented letters they say he wrote to then President Donald Trump in December 2020. The chilling words addressed directly to the former president read, war isn't coming, war is already here. Strike now. If you fail to act while you are still in office, we the people will have to fight.

The letter written around the same time Rhodes appeared at the so- called Jericho March in D.C. in December 2020.

STEWART RHODES, OATH KEEPERS LEADER: If he does not do it now while he is commander in chief, we're going to do it ourselves later in a much more desperate, much more bloody war. Let's get it on now while he is still the commander in chief.

WILD: The letters were signed by Rhodes and Kellye SoRelle, a self- described general counsel for the Oath Keepers, who is also now facing federal charges. Prosecutors had leaned heavily on audio secretly recorded in the lead up to January 6th, including from a virtual meeting roads hosted just days after the 2020 election.

RHODES: There's no such thing as another election in this country, of any meaningful sense of term, if you let this stand.

WILD: The meeting's purpose: preparing for battle at a pro-Trump rally on November 14th.

RHODES: He has to know that people behind him, that he will not be deserted, and he has to have positive pressure, but we got to be in D.C. We have to be willing to go to DC and street fight Antifa .

WILD: Prosecutors also presented a text that Rhodes wrote in late December that said, they won't fear us until we come with rifles in hand.

The defense continues to argue the Oath Keepers view their role as peacekeepers, trying to protect Trump supporters.

EDWARD TARPLEY, ATTORNEY FOR STEWART RHODES: We just have to see. I mean, this is a marathon, not a sprint. So, every day, you know, more information comes out. And we just see how that all plays out.


WILD (on camera): The defense has also leaned into this theory that at several pro-Trump rallies there were not acts of violence committed by the oath keepers.

TAPPER: All right. Whitney Wild, great reporting. Thank you so much.

Let's bring in Major Garrett. He's the chief Washington correspondent for CBS News. Along with David Becker, he's the executive director of the Center for Election Innovation. They are the authors of the brand- new book, "The Big Truth: Upholding Democracy in the Age of the Big Lie", which is a challenge for all of us, including you at home watching us.

Major, you write about Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes in your book and his failed violent coup on January 6. You also note, quote, democracies don't always die violently, most die because rules are bent by authoritarians acting in defense of the rule of law.

And I'm guessing what the argument that you're making here is that is kind of what we're seeing going on in the U.S. right now with these election deniers running and winning office.

MAJOR GARRETT, CBS NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There are danger signs that we write about, Jake. And we warn the American public about those danger signs and we say, elections in this country procedurally now are being conducted more transparently, more verifiably and audibly than ever before. They should have a higher degree of confidence than ever before.

That doesn't exist. It is dangerous. We warn strongly against it and we further warn that if those who deny election results baselessly get into positions of power, they will have influence to change election results, thereby thwarting the will of the people, a true danger to our democracy

TAPPER: Yeah, indeed.

And, David, you've described this book as a love letter to democracy but it is also a warning about what the future could hold as a result of people who peddle election lies, get in power. You open the book by imagining a possible future, January 2023, when the pressures arising from midterm elections could rip the country apart.

You write, quote, our next civil war is stalking us. We can stop it. We must stop it. Or we, as an ideal and as a spirit will, in Abraham Lincoln's words, surely perish from this earth.

I think there are probably a lot of people out there who say that sounds a little much, that's a little hyperbolic. But you really believe that American democracy is at risk here.

DAVID BECKER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE CNETER FOR ELECTION INNOVATION: Yeah. This is not a prediction. But it is a possible path that we're hopefully warning people about. We just had a report in "The New York Times" this week that many people, we're seeing more chatter about civil war on social media than ever before.

And whether it is civil war in the sense of a violent conflict or whether it is more of a dissolution of the Union that we enjoyed for nearly 250 years, when people stop believing that elections are secure just because they're candidate didn't win, and that is what we've got right now, there is no evident of any problem with the election. We had the most secure, transparent and verified election in American history with the highest turnout ever in the middle of a global pandemic.

The men and women professionals who run elections did a remarkable job and yet tens of millions people are being lied to about that election and once we get to the point where we don't believe in the election is secure unless our candidate wins, the next natural stamp is potentially political violence.

TAPPER: And, Major, a new "Washington Post" analysis found that a majority of Republican nominees on the ballot this November in House, Senate, or statewide races have either denied the outcome of the 2020 election or questioned if in some way. You spoke with election officials about the effect of the election lies for the book.

This is what Bucks County, Pennsylvania commissioner Bob Harvey told you, quote, I think if you wanted to destroy democracy, the first thing you do is turn members of that country against each other. The second thing you do is get people to start doubting the validity of the elections. You do those two things and democracy falls apart, unquote.

How afraid are you about the future of our democracy?

GARRETT: I believe election workers, election administrators do a great service to this country, Jake. And they are the backbone and the strength and the guardians of democracy. I believe in them and I believe in millions of Americans who vote locally understand the process and believe in it.

But I do fear this denialism, if it infects our politics and becomes just another strategy on the chess board of politics, and either side or both sides inhabit a world in which they are only satisfied and only respect an election outcome if their side prevails, then we'll systematically dissolve and then destroy our democracy.

TAPPER: And, David, one of the interesting things about the analysis by "The Washington Post" is that it includes -- it is two groups of Republicans. One is people who just lie about the election or their wrong and diluted and just say it was stolen or whatever.

And then there is the questioners, and these questioners, these Republican questioners, to me a lot of them are people who know better, but are afraid that if they don't at least come out with oh, it was rigged in a different way, because Twitter wouldn't let "The New York Post" publish a Hunter Biden story, but they go along with it in a way that makes them feel comfortable but their stale playing along with the lie, I almost find them more cynical than the deniers.


What do you think?

BECKER: Yeah, I mean, I could see why you would think that. I mean, if you look at -- there is a Maricopa County member of the board of supervisors a Republican named Clint Hickman who just in the last couple of days someone was indicted for having threatened him very viciously in the aftermath of the 2020 election and he asked why haven't more Republicans stood up, more members of my fellow party stood up and told the truth.

One of the bright sides is there have been many who have. And there have been many who have done their duty. Brad Raffensperger in Georgia, Al Schmidt in Philadelphia, the Republicans and the boards of supervisors in Maricopa County, Arizona, and many others. But there haven't been enough. And that is one of things that -- to speak the truth to their own voters is needed right now in this perilous moment.

TAPPER: And, Major, Republicans are expected to do well in the upcoming midterm elections. And there are a lot of election workers you spoke with in your book who were anxious about this. Worried what that might mean.

GARRETT: Yes. We talked to Ricky Hatch who is in Utah. Utah, a safe Trump state. Richie Hatch who had been an administrator in his county for a long time, he was attacked, not personally, but he had two acts of vandalism committed against him and his own community, people he grew up his entire life still doubt the election results there. And that is how deep this is gone.

He's afraid if Republicans prevail, and win in the midterms they'll say, see, aha, we were right all along. This is only fair because we lied about the 2020 election. He's afraid it will grow deeper into the marrow of the Republican Party and I only quote him as saying that is a warning sign.

We have many warning voices in our book, Jake. It doesn't have to be this way. But it could be. TAPPER: All right. Major Garrett and David Becker, the authors of the

new book, "The Big Truth: Upholding Democracy in the Age of the Big Lie", buy it now. Thanks so much, guys. Good to see you.

Coming up, the mega site set in Florida for the victims of Hurricane Ian and the simply requests that may be a long time coming for people staying there.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead, it is been just over nine days since Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida and began leaving the path of destruction. At least 126 Floridians have died because of storm. More than 100,000 residents remain without power and now frustration is growing among those who need help the most from the government.

CNN's Leyla Santiago takes a closer look at the struggles Floridians are facing as they try to get their lives back on track.


ALEXIS HINSON, MOTHER STAYING IN SHELTER WITH YOUNG CHILDREN: It's been very stressful and overwhelming.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORREPONDENT (voice-over): Alexis Hinson has been living in a shelter now for 11 days. The kids are getting cranky. It is difficult to explain to them they're new reality. Uncertainty is growing.

HINSON: It is hard to get your kids to realize what is going on when they are so young. Honestly, I don't have a plan. It is a waiting game right now.

SANTIAGO: The family is staying at Hertz Arena, a mega shelter in Lee County run by the Red Cross. Cameras not allowed inside but the Red Cross provided this video which shows children, families and hundreds of cots, organizers tell us about 500 people will be staying here tonight.

TIFFANY GONZALEZ, RED CROSS SPOKESWOMAN: The Red Cross is here for as long as need be.

SANTIAGO: A big ask for many, just a warm shower, the comforts of the home that Hurricane Ian took away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is everything to someone affected the hurricane.

DENISE GRIFFIN, FORT MYERS BEACH RESIDENT, STAYING IN SHELTER: I have my first nightmare, and it was about 2:00 this morning.

SANTIAGO: Denise Griffin is also staying here. Her home in Fort Myers Beach was wiped away.

A former paramedic and 911 dispatcher, she's frustrated about how mandatory evacuation orders played out.

GRIFFIN: I wish I would have known earlier, I could have walked off the island and we have less than 30 hours and I have a bike and I don't have a car.

SANTIAGO: While we were, Florida's lieutenant governor stopped by. We asked her about the criticism and calls for accountability.

LT. GOV. JEANETTE NUNEZ (R), FLORIDA: We're going to engage on focusing on rebuilding. We're not going to criticize our local emergency managers.

SANTIAGO: She says she wants to focus on making sure people have access to services they desperate need.

NUNEZ: FEMA has been an integrated and an active partner every step of the way. So we're really pleased with the response.

SANTIAGO: A long term response for what's been a nightmare disaster.

That nightmare you had?

GRIFFIN: Water. I love the water but not like that.


SANTIAGO (on camera): And, Jake, every single person we talked to today that's staying here asked me if I knew how long they were allowed to stay here. That speaks to the uncertainty. But a bit of good news, Florida Power and Light saying today that 98 percent of power has been restored here -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Leyla Santiago in Estero, Florida, thank you so much.

Coming up, a must-see CNN report, a life line on stand by in case of a mental health emergency. Could this be an effective way to prevent a police response from getting out of hand?



TAPPER: The health lead, who do you call in a mental health crisis? A new poll by CNN and the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that 20 percent of Americans have dialed 911 because they or someone they knew needed help. Others say they would hesitate, 27 percent believe that that call might do more harm than good. It might escalate the situation.

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta went to North Carolina where a 911 call center is trying to make sure that escalation does not happen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) OPERATOR: 911, what is your emergency?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 911, dialing those three numbers activates one of the most sophisticated response systems anywhere in the world, police, EMS or the fire department shows up to your door within minutes in those cities.

But what if the help you need is different? Less physical help, more mental.

JORDAN HYLER, CRISIS RESPONSE CLINICIAN, HEART: Good morning. My name is Jordan. I'm a counselor in the 911 call center.

GUPTA: So what happens in these situations is that the 911 call gets diverted over here to Jordan, because there's some concern that there may be a mental health component to it.

HYLER: Let me just kind of summarize what I heard to make sure I understand what's going on, okay?

GUPTA: Jordan Hyler is a crisis response clinician here in Durham, North Carolina, and she is part of something new, increasingly necessary.


It's called HEART, holistic, empathetic assistance response team.

The goal is to say, look, if someone is dealing with a mental health crisis, it should be treated differently than the standard 911 call?

HYLER: Yes, in the sense that we as clinicians have more training in mental health in just assessing people who are struggling with that.

HEART: Has he ever hurt you physically?


HEART: Okay. When was the last time?

CALLER: Last weekend he pushed me to the floor.

HEART: I'm so sorry.

CALLER: I feel kind of dangerous to myself, not anybody else. I would like to go to the hospital.

GUPTA: And too many calls like this one, a mother distraught, calling 911 about her daughter.

CALLER: I have a 27-year-old daughter who has mental issues.

HEART: Is she a danger to herself right now?

CALLER: No, it doesn't appear.

HEART: Do you feel unsafe? Do you feel like she's going to hurt you?


CALLER: I don't know what to do.

GUPTA: And just like EMS, should the need arise, HEART goes into the field as well. So this is a community response team and there's no weapons.


GUPTA: Nobody is carrying weapons?

BEDIAKO: No, no weapons.

GUPTA: That's a different vibe right away, right?


GUPTA: You see somebody approaching, even if they're well- intentioned, if they're carrying a weapon and a badge, it's a different feel.

BEDIAKO: It's a different feel entirely, exactly. But we come truly open and wanting to engage.

GUPTA: Abena Bediako, a mental health clinician, has teamed up with Alison Casey, an EMT, and Christopher Lawrence, to provide peer support.

BEDIAKO: We are off to see a neighbor we've encountered before. Our initial encounter was through a trespass, 911. Someone had called about him living out on their property.

GUPTA: What you are witnessing is one of the most common calls they get, trespassing.

And this is private property?


GUPTA: The team works to diffuse the situation.

ABENA: We'll let them know that we're helping you to move, they'll leave you alone.

GUPTA: This pilot program was born, in part, after a tragedy that gripped the nation.

George Floyd there was obviously police sent and we know what happened, tragically.

WITNESS: Boy, you got him down, man. Let him breathe at least, man.

GEORGE FLOYD, BLACK MAN: I can't breathe.

GUPTA: Do you think that having a team like this would have made a difference in George Floyd's case?

BEDIAKO: I think so, to have us there to advocate for him, possibly, to step into that space for the neighbor and for the officers, to just give a different perspective. If we can provide a resource that you need right now in the moment so that it wouldn't escalate. We can be that for them, even in that brief moment. It could save a life.

GUPTA: Yeah.

If Heart does deem a situation unsafe, they also have the option of dispatching a co-response team which pairs police officers with a mental health clinician.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to dispatch you to a trespass call.

GUPTA: But so far, there are no issues today.

BEDIAKO: We are heading to the location.

GUPTA: I noticed you used the term neighbor. Is that how you refer to everyone you're helping, a neighbor?

BEDIAKO: Yes, very intentional, because they're not subjects, they're not patients or clients. It could be me that you all may have to help one day, it could be you.

GUPTA: Everyone is a neighbor?

BEDIAKO: Everybody is a neighbor.

GUPTA: And so the HEART team works the streets, helping a community of neighbors, more anxious and depressed than ever, providing a dose of humanity. And, yes, heart.

BEDIAKO: Here is an extra one.

GUPTA: In the hopes they can help those who can't always help themselves.


GUPTA (on camera): I've got to tell you, Jake, it was really great going out with them and seeing the work they do, really gratifying work. I think, you know, about 75 percent of the calls they get are diverted from 911. What was interesting, about half the time they don't need to send someone else. So much of this can be handled over the phone and that frees up resources. Fundamentally, Jake, it's about trying to decriminalize mental health, that's their sole focus.

TAPPER: All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta with an important report, thank you so much.

Another number can help, you can call or text a suicide and crisis lifeline at 988 -- 988, if you or anyone you know needs to talk.

Coming up next, the unexpected move made in Uvalde, Texas, today in a wake of that horrific school massacre and the ongoing justified outrage in that community.

Stay with us.



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

This hour, a second 16-year-old girl, an Iranian girl, who stood up for women's rights is dead. Amnesty international says she was beaten to death, once again Iranian officials claiming she jumped off a roof.

Plus, Russian men fleeing their country to avoid being drafted into war against Ukraine. We're going to go live to Kazakhstan where hundreds of thousands of Russians have arrived in the past two weeks.

And leading this hour, the Uvalde school district has suspended the entire police department months after the deadly shooting where children and teachers were gunned down inside their classrooms.

Just to be clear, this is not the city's police department, this is the force designated solely to protect the schools and students. It's a handful of officers. The announcement comes after CNN exclusive reporting that uncovers the police department had actually hired a department --