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The Lead with Jake Tapper

FBI Joins Investigation After NC Power Grid "Targeted"; Walker, Warnock Make Closing Arguments In Pivotal Contest; Russia Inflicts Misery On Ukrainians By Bombing Energy Facilities; Chinese Protesters Win Partial Victory As Cities Loosen COVID Rules; U.S. Supreme Court Hears Case Of Web Designer Opposed To Same-Sex Marriage; Lava Flow From Mauna Loa About 2 Miles From Main Highway. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired December 05, 2022 - 16:00   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: The liquor part is fine.

BLACKWELL: Mayo can't do it.

CAMEROTA: Just stop.

BLACKWELL: Why do we have to mix things in these classic drinks? Pepsi was fine as Pepsi.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. Yeah.

BLACKWELL: Eggnog is great as eggnog.

CAMEROTA: All right. I think we're finally in agreement about all of this.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: So who might intentionally have targeted U.S. electricity infrastructure? And why?

THE LEAD starts right now.

Moments ago, the North Carolina governor addressing a criminal act, a targeted attack on power substations leaving thousands of customers, including those in hospitals, without power in the December cold. Are there any suspects and does online chatter point to any possible motive?

Plus, protesters in two very different countries taking on two very oppressive regimes. Could their demonstrations spark change in Iran and China?

Plus, the wonder of that erupting volcano in Hawaii that's more like an emotional trigger for those who live near the mountain's base.

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

And we start today with our national lead. Moments ago, we got an update from officials in North Carolina after the FBI joined an investigation there into, quote, intentional and targeted attacks that left tens of thousands of North Carolinians without power. Utility crews responding to the outages found at least two power substations damaged by gunfire in Moore County. That's about an hour southwest of Raleigh.

Local officials have not announced a suspect or a motive and the local sheriff has not ruled it out as an act of domestic terrorism. Attacks on the United States power grid have been subject of extremist chatter in recent years.

And CNN's Whitney Wild starts off our coverage from Moore County, North Carolina, where it could be days before power is restored.


WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Moore County, North Carolina, will again plunge into darkness tonight, two days after the sheriff says someone opened fire on two power stations a few miles apart in Carthage and West End, North Carolina.

MIKE CAMERON, ASSISTANT TOWN MANAGER & FIRE CHIEF, SOUTHERN PINES, NC: Our medical calls have increased due to people being on oxygen or having other medical devices that require power. We've had an increase in fire alarms. We've had an increase in traffic accidents.

WILD: Police are working to find the person or people responsible for what they say was an intentional criminal act. So far, they are releasing little information saying only the attack happened Saturday night and a gate at one of the stations was removed from its hinges. Power went down around 7:00 p.m., the same time a drag show was set to take place in the area.

Social media buzzed with rumors over the weekend that the attacks were some kind of effort to stop the drag show, but police say, so far, they have found no evidence connecting the two.

SHERIFF RONNIE FIELDS, MOORE COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA: No motivation. No group has stepped up to acknowledge or accept that they're the ones that done it.

WILD: The attack is the type of incident law enforcement and homeland security officials have warned about as recently as last week. The Department of Homeland Security updated its national threat assessment bulletin November 30th, sounding the alarm about the potential for attacks on critical infrastructure. The outages have left the community here scrambling and power likely won't be restored fully until Thursday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need the heat because we don't have a fireplace, and then we don't have no gas, grill or anything like that, so we're stranded. WILD: At McNeill Oil and Propane in Aberdeen, Davis Clark says they

are the only fuel provider for about 20 miles. First responders and public works employees lined up throughout the morning.

DAVIS CLARK, OWNER, MCNEILL OIL & PROPANE COMPANY: Soon as the power went out, we started getting calls, we figured out a way to break up truck so we could fuel emergency services and police, fire, EMS. And that's when we started that and it was a long night, Saturday night. And we've been going ever since.

Clark is a third generation owner of the family business and this is the first time they opened it up for drive-thru service.

CLARK: I've never seen anything like it. We're counting on your thoughts and prayers. I hope they found who did this because it's senseless.


WILD (on camera): Earlier -- earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security issued a memo saying that since 2020, domestic violence extremists have been saying on social media and other online platforms that the energy grid is a particularly attractive target, Jake. So certainly what happened is that due to the Department of Homeland Security it warned about something that came to fruition which is very startling for law enforcement across the country.

Meanwhile here in Moore County, as they await the power to come back online, schools still closed for tomorrow and a curfew will be in place tonight, Jake.


TAPPER: All right. Whitney Wild in Moore County, North Carolina, thanks.

Let's discuss with Juliette Kayyem, the former assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and CNN chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst John Miller.

John, walk us through what is likely happening on the ground in more county right now how do these investigations work? How can they figure out who did this?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, it's great to know a motive because that gives you a way to start towards people who have that motive. But they don't have that right now. So right now, they are going to be doing video canvases, which is very hard in a remote area. Not a lot of video there, trying to find where was the shooter, did they leave footprints, did they leave shell casings, is there a fingerprints or DNA?

Some of that work can be done by getting an entrance of a bullet and an exit if it went through something and reversing that with the laser beam that -- likely place where that bullet originated, maybe a shooting position that was secreted. But, there is a similar case to this in 2013 at another power station

in California that remains unsolved, because of the areas they occur on. It's a tough one.

TAPPER: And, Juliette, the sheriff would not say whether this was an act of domestic terrorism.

How will investigators figure out what the moment is?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, if you find suspects or just exactly what John was talking about in terms of if you have evidence that will lead you to someone, that is going to be the most helpful, to look at online chatter. There is a lot of rumor of the law online chatter but there's really only two options. So -- or three.

There could be a foreign threat, unlikely just because it is such a small area, it is remote. It doesn't have that sort of impact that you would think of foreign attack would. It would be a hate -- a domestic terrorism which would be focused on something going on and the lights would be turned out in the LGBTQ event.

The third is, of course, an insider threat. And I just want to raise this because what we heard the press conference is the shooting of the areas was targeted enough to bring down two different facilities, and impact that many people. You don't just drive by these places and nowhere to shoot. So there will be looking at the potential that there was either a casing or some one who knew the area, knew the facilities and knew exactly where to shoot.

These aren't drive-by incidents. These are ones in which you are targeting directly. Those are the three options available.

TAPPER: They would have to know quite a bit about infrastructure.

KAYYEM: Yeah. These are big structures.

TAPPER: And, John, as we talked about we don't know the motive. But you flagged the document that was passed around by some white supremacist groups in 2020 talking about targeting power stations in order to commit racially motivated attacks.

It says, quote: Peppered all over the country are power distribution substations that keep electricity flowing all over the country. Sitting ducks, worthy prey. With the power off, when the lights come back on, all hell will break loose, making conditions desirable for our race to once again take back what is ours.

Obviously, heinous concept there. How might posting such as this factor into the investigation?

MILLER: Well, we have been seeing that since 2020. So over the last couple of years, it has been a real uptick. I think the under secretary of homeland security actually re-mentioned this today, since it came out in a report in 2020. A real uptick in a focus on the power grid. I'm thinking back in 2020, I was seeing reports of the three

individuals arrested in Las Vegas, from the Boogaloo Boys group, who were conspiring to attack the power grid. The neo-Nazi group, the National Socialist Order, suggested attacking the power grid and in their online presence and in their documents.

In July 16th, we had a Philadelphia incident where a drone flew into a power station and I won't go into the details but it was equipped to attempt to short out the system there. And then, there is that 14 page document you are talking about which kind of gives the how to of sniper rifles and the power grid.

So, this has been a real focus on the idea that you can cause chaos in the white supremacist or accelerationist movement that's bent on toppling the government. And the chaos will help you get there.

TAPPER: And, Juliette, the sheriff addressed rumors yesterday that circulating on social media that the attack was perhaps an attack to stop the local drag show. He said that investigators have not been able to directly tie that back.

KAYYETE: So, it's even if someone takes credit and says, oh, I know what happened, it may just be hyperbole, big talk to say that they are in the loop. For investigator's perspective, that's always relevant, what did she or he know the social media post that we're looking at, but you don't want to be dissuaded from the real perpetrators, there is a whole pool of people who could qualify both because of their ideology but also because maybe their past employment. We just don't know yet.

TAPPER: Yeah. Early days.

KAYYETTE: Yes, it feels like electricity running.

TAPPER: John Miller and Juliette Kayyem, thanks to both of you.

One day out from Georgia's runoff race, it could have international implications. Coming up, the new money and math that might be problematic for the GOP's Herschel Walker as Republicans try to stop Democrats from getting a one seat cushion in the U.S. Senate.


Plus, the Supreme Court case brought on by a website designer that could define the line between religious freedom and the rights of LGBT individuals to not be discriminated against.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: Just in to CNN. A judge has sentenced disgraced attorney Michael Avenatti to 14 years in prison for embezzling millions of dollars from four of his clients. You might remember, Avenatti is the lawyer who represented Stormy Daniels, the adult film star and director who alleged she had an affair with then-candidate Donald Trump. The sentence, this sentence, 14 years, will begin after Avenatti finishes a five-year prison term he's serving after being convicted in two separate trials in New York.

Also in our politics lead, and the final stretch for Georgia Senate runoff election. Voters have already sent a record for single day, early voting turnout. But this runoff has had far fewer days of early voting in previous years.

As CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports from Georgia, former President Trump is now making what might be called a last-ditch effort to try to drag Republican candidate, Herschel Walker, across the finish line.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One final day of overtime in Georgia.


SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): We are on the verge of victory. But I don't want us to do the victory dance before we actually get into the end zone.

ZELENY: Senator Raphael Warnock exuded confidence, but warning Democrats against the being complacent on the eve of his runoff against Republican challenger, Herschel Walker.

HERSCHEL WALKER (R), GEORGIA SENATE CANDIDATE: You can know you got a champion in Herschel Walker.

ZELENY: With control of the Senate set to stay in Democratic hands, Walker implored Republicans to send him to Washington as a check on President Biden and his policies.

WALKER: Vote, vote, vote. If you haven't voted, tell them to get out and vote.

ZELENY: It's the final big act of the 2022 midterm election, with Georgia voters once again having the last word. More than 1.8 million have already cast ballots, but both sides know the outcome depends on election day turnout on Tuesday.

WARNOCK: Nothing can be more for our democracy in this moment than your showing up.

ZELENY: Walker faces deep challenges in money and math.

WALKER: I approve this message.

WARNOCK: Democrats have more than double GOP ad spending over the last month alone. An astonishing $55 million to $26 million in TV spots that have flooded the Georgia airwaves to the total cost of nearly $81 million since November 9th.

The former football greats act scrambling to overcome an extraordinary 200,000-vote shortfall of underperforming Republican Governor Brian Kemp in November, a deficit complicating his path.

Walker supporters are keeping hope alive.

You think more may come out to vote on Tuesday?

JOHN HAYNES, GEORGIA VOTER: I think there will be a lot of Republicans that come out and vote. And I think a lot of them have gone to vote. We voted early this time.

ZELENY: It's voters like John and Markie Haynes who keep the outcome of the runoff hanging in suspense, with their Republican votes among the record-setting early ballots that Democrats are counting on.

WARNOCK: Call your father, your mother, your sister, and brother. Call Lottie, Dottie, and everybody. Tell them that it's time to vote.

ZELENY: The White House is also watching closely. A Warnock would give Democrats a 51 to 49 majority in the Senate, not only breathing room, but protection for the president and his agenda from the Republican-controlled House.


ZELENY (on camera): Now, as for the president, Jake, President Biden has not step foot in Georgia during this campaign. He's calling in to our radio station this afternoon, urging people to get out of vote.

Speaking of former president, President Donald Trump who recruited Herschel Walker to run for this race in the first place, he also has not been campaigning here at the request of the Walker campaign, but he's also calling into a tele-rally tonight, trying to urge his base of supporters to get out and vote for Walker tomorrow -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny in Georgia for us, thanks so much.

This is the final race of the entire midterm election season. CNN special coverage begins tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. And we will go until we have a winner.

Coming up, significant changes by two oppressive regimes after protesters took on those in power.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Topping our world lead now. Russia says Ukraine is responsible for two drone attacks today on Russian air bases. One explosion captured in this video. Hit an airfield of Houses, Russia's strategic bombers. While Ukraine has not claimed responsibility yet, Russian president, Vladimir Putin, seems dead-set on making winter as miserable as possible for as many in the Ukrainian public as he can.

CNN's Will Ripley is in Kyiv right now, the capital, where Ukrainians are responsible -- responding with resilience and unity.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Ukraine, winter is coming. Snow is not the only thing falling from the skies.

On Monday, a massive missile attack by Russia, more than 70 missiles launched. Ukraine's air force says more than 60 intercepted, forcing thousands in Kyiv to seek shelter underground.

DMYTRO KULEBA, UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: And the goal of this attack is to bring destruction to our energy system.

RIPLEY: Crews are racing to restore power, but they're running out of Soviet era replacement parts adding urgency to Ukraine's request for more advanced missile defense, like the U.S. made patriot. And more generators, the latest attack plunging entire cities into darkness. At this fast food place, braving below zero temperatures at the outdoor grill keeps the doors open when the lights are off.

Some customers said they only want to come when there's no power because the food tastes so much better. We're just Ukrainians, she says. That's our secret ingredient.

Another secret for surviving dark times. Candles, a good cry, and prayer.

When you come here, what do you pray for?

We pray for peace, for the war to be over, she says, describing the hardship of life without electricity. But then I come here and remember how much time we spent hiding in basements.

Hiding from Russian soldiers who occupied and terrorized their town. Bucha, the site of what Ukraine calls unspeakable war crimes.

If you didn't know what happened here, this could be any church in any quiet Kyiv suburb until you look closer and notice the bullet holes and this cross marking a mass grave for more than 100 men, women, and two children.

Like five of Vira Goychuk's neighbors.

What did it sound like?


RIPLEY: A cluster bomb.

Bullet holes in her children's bedroom windows.


After living through the hell of the Russian occupation, she can handle living without power. GOYCHUK: What is the real problem is where it's not electricity. We

don't have any connection. So I have kids and if something wrong, I cannot even call to the hospital and call emergency.

RIPLEY: She tells me when the power goes out, she loses cell phone service and internet, but then --

GOYCHUK: Oh, god, this miracle.

RIPLEY: The first place she goes. The kitchen.

Coffee. That's your number one priority.

GOYCHUK: Yes, my number one.

RIPLEY: She's grateful for the little things in life.

GOYCHUK: It's a moment of happiness.

RIPLEY: Grateful just to be alive.

GOYCHUK: That's it.


RIPLEY: It is surreal and chilling to sit in the kitchen with Vira there and she's sipping her coffee and telling me how her neighbors were executed by the Russian soldiers right outside her house and she and her kids sat for a month and looked out the window and the bodies just stayed there and people were too afraid to move them because the soldiers had taken over another house just down the street. She says she'll take the power outages as long as she's being defended by the Ukrainian military and not occupied by the Russians, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Will Ripley in Kyiv, Ukraine, thank you so much.

Turning to extraordinary protests directed at two of the world's harshest regimes, China and Iran. Each was sparked by a single event and spread rapidly revealing years of brewing discontent, but will these rare and risky demonstrations lead to actual change in Iran and China?

We're going to start with CNN's Melissa Bell on a potentially seismic shift in Iran where officials say the country's mandatory hijab law is under review.


MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was her death in the custody of Iran's morality police in September that led to the outpouring of grief and anger that has gripped an entire country. Demonstrations calling for justice for Mahsa Amini and for change that have now lasted for nearly three months.

Antigovernment protests led by women around the rallying cry -- woman, life, freedom -- and chants of death to the supreme leader. But now, signs of a possible shift in the government's hard line

policy. Iran's attorney general saying that the mandatory hijab law is now under review by the judiciary and parliament.

But Iranian state media have pushed back strongly on his comments, noting that the forces part of the interior ministry and not the judiciary. The interior ministry has not responded to CNN's request for comment.

NEGAR MORTAZAVI, IRANIAN-AMERICAN JOURNALIST: What one lawyer was saying was that the morality police has become so notorious and so -- such a bad name that no official is willing to take responsibility for it essentially. This official claiming that it has been disbanded.

But what's important is that the law of the mandatory hijab, which goes back to early 1980s, on paper, has not changed.

BELL: Speaking to CNN, women in Tehran were skeptical about the possibility of change.

TEHRAN RESIDENT: It's the regime propaganda. They just changed the name of their forces as they did before so the media would announce that they have backed down then they continue all the brutal stuff they were doing.

BELL: With Iran's hard line president, Ebrahim Raisi, hinting on Saturday that any reform may be limited in its scope.

EBRAHIM RAISI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Iran's Republican and Islamic foundations are constitutionally entrenched, but there are methods of implementing the Constitution that can be flexible.

BELL: The stance taken by several Iranian celebrities and athletes in support of the protests suggest the crucial barriers of fear of the regime may have been broken, with a widening also of the protesters demands for more rights for women to the end of the regime itself. And a sense that any reforms it undertakes now may prove too little too late.


BELL (on camera): Now today, Jake, was the first day of a three-day nationwide strike that's been called by the protesters and it appears to have been fairly widely observed across the country in several Iranian cities. This as the country and world beyond it waits to hear whether those limited concessions will or will not be made.

And perhaps more importantly, Jake, whether such concessions would be enough to convince the protesters to go home and stop seeking a revolution that so many hoped for.

TAPPER: All right. Melissa Bell, thank you so much for that report.

Now to China. Last week, police confiscated subway riders' smartphones to gather intelligence on demonstrations and even deleted apps from those phones to sensor any protest images and prevent from spreading.

At the time, police also flooded the streets to intimidate protesters who called for the end of China's zero COVID policy and in some cases calling for regime change as well.


But today, a remarkable shift in easing of some restrictions for commuters. They no longer have to show evidence of a negative COVID test to take public transportation in most major cities in China.

And CNN's Selina Wang is in Beijing for us.

Selina, does the Chinese public, do they think the easing of these restrictions is evidence the protests may have worked in at least some small way?

SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jake. I mean, it is just remarkable to see that. In authoritarian China, protests appear to have forced the communist party to change its tune on COVID. Authorities, they've been cracking down on these demonstrators, but clearly, it made the authorities realize that zero COVID is just not sustainable and even a threat to social stability, which the communist party is obsessed with.

So we are seeing easing of restrictions. More than 20 cities scrapping that requirement for COVID tests on public transport. Some are allowing residents to quarantine at home instead of a quarantine facility.

But all of these changes, they are happening in a patchwork across the country. So as some places are loosening rules, others are still clinging to harsh restrictions, and our daily lives are still dictated by a whole web of COVID rules.

So, for instance, here in Beijing, we're still standing outside in the cold every other day waiting in long lines to get that 48-hour PCR test required to still get into most public places.

We're also still tracked everywhere we go and forced to scan our health codes and there's still the threat of being sent to quarantine. This country, it has built up this whole infrastructure around zero COVID. It's been pouring all of its resources towards these mass quarantine facilities and mass testing rather than things like boosting vaccinations and healthcare capacity, which, Jake, are necessary for a real reopening.

TAPPER: All right. Selina Wang in Beijing, thank you so much.

Coming up next, hear what Supreme Court justices said about the case brought on by a website designer who refuses to do business for same- sex couples. Stay with us.


[16:36:07] TAPPER: In our politics lead, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments today over a case that pits two competing American principles against one another: free speech and freedom of religion and the right to not be discriminated against. On one side, whether a graphic designer who holds religious views opposing same sex marriage, should be forced by governor to take customers who want her to make websites promoting same-sex weddings and the other side, whether LGBTQ couples have a right to receive services from private businesses free of discrimination just like a straight couple.

Jessica Schneider has more on this fight.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Supreme Court now poised to decide whether certain businesses can refuse to work with same-sex couples on the basis of free speech.

ERIC OLSEN: Granting such a license to discriminate would empower all businesses that offer what they believe to be expressive services, from architects to photographers to consultants, to refuse service to customers because of their disability, sexual orientation, religion, or race.

SCHNEIDER: Colorado web designer, Lorie Smith, who openly declares she's selective and websites she'll design, brought the case. She's asking the Supreme Court to rule she does not have to comply with a state law that prohibits businesses from discriminating against same sex couples.

LORIE SMITH, REFUSED TO DO BUSINESS WITH SAME SEX COUPLES: The state of Colorado is forcing me to create custom unique artwork expression, communicating and celebrating a different view of marriage. A view of marriage that goes against my deeply held beliefs.

SCHNEIDER: But the liberal leaning justices expressed concern that if creators can choose their customers, discrimination could run rampant. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson asking whether a mall photographer could say only white kids can sit on Santa's lap or Justice Sonia Sotomayor asking about interracial or physically disabled couples being turned away.

JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR: So I doesn't really, there's no line on race. There is no line on disability, ethnicity, none of the protected categories, in a public accommodation law.

KRISTINE WAGGONER: The First Amendment is broad enough to cover the lesbian website designer and the Catholic calligrapher. The line is that no one on any side of any debate has to be compelled to express a message that violates their core convictions.

SCHNEIDER: Smith says she's in the business of expressive speech and while she's not opposed to working with same-sex couples in other areas, she argues she should be able to choose the messages she promotes, an argument some conservative justices seemed to side with.

JUSTICE NEIL GORSUCH: So the question isn't who, it's what?


JUSTICE BRETT KAVANAUGH: Why are you right about how you characterize website designers? Why are they different from say restaurants?

WAGGONER: Because they're creating speech. In those other examples, speech is not an issue.

SCHNEIDER: The Supreme Court sidestepped the same issue four years ago, ruling in favor of a Colorado baker, who refused to make wedding cakes for same sex couples, but on narrow grounds that only applied to that case.

Now the stakes are much higher with concern building among LGBTQ advocates that a ruling for the website designer could be a harbinger for other adverse rulings.

PHIL WEISER (D), COLORADO ATTORNEY GENERAL: If there were to be a loophole of the kind discussed, people with disabilities, African Americans, Jews, Muslims, others, could find themselves without access to the marketplace.


SCHNEIDER (on camera): Now there's currently no case before the Supreme Court that would eliminate the rate to same-sex major but there's still a concern that the justices could eventually overturn that precedent. After all, Jake, it was just a few months ago they overturned Roe v. Wade and in that opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas said that this court should take a look at overturning other precedents including the 2015 ruling that established same-sex marriage nationwide -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jessica Schneider, outside the U.S. Supreme Court for us, thanks so much.

Let's bring in Louise Meling. She's the deputy legal director for the ACLU.


And Douglas Laycock, who's a professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia Law School. They have different views of this case, and I want to have them discuss it.

Douglas, at issue here is Colorado's anti-discrimination law. Are the religious rights of this web designer Lorie Smith violated by a Colorado law that states she cannot refuse service based on someone's sexual orientation?

DOUGLAS LAYCOCK, PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA LAW SCHOOL: Well, religion is her motivation, but this is not actually a freedom of religion case. The court refused to review that issue. So this is about free speech, which is troublesome in some ways because everyone has free speech rights and would not be limited just to religious conscientious objectors.

Yes. There is clearly speech. Wherever a line maybe, a website, her job is to promote and celebrate this wedding and make these events -- the events around the wedding the most memorable, the best that they can be. And use her creative talents to promote that message.

So this is clearly compelled speech of a sort the court has said for decades the government cannot demand.

TAPPER: And, Louise, you disagree. Why?

LOUISE MELING, DEPUTY LEGAL DIRECTOR, ACLU: This is -- this case is really about our nation's civil rights laws. This case is whether or not there's a constitutional right to discriminate. That's what it means.

To argue that the right of free speech would give you the right to override the compelling interests that the government has in ending discrimination. This law doesn't say anything about what the product is. What the Colorado law regulates is the conduct. It regulates the conduct of turning people away.

If you listen to the argument, if you're listening to what Jessica was reporting earlier, there's really not many limits to the theory that was being advanced in this case in terms of what communicates a message. We know it's not limited to words because counsel argues it applies to cakes, it applies flowers.

And Justice Kennedy just a few years ago in masterpiece said when you start to have a long list of people getting refused services, services around weddings and marriages, what you have then is a community wide stigma that's inconsistent with our civil rights laws.

So, I feel as if what's happened in these cases is the focus is being put on the product and the focus is being on the owner when what the laws do is regulate the conduct of whether you're shown to the door because of who you are in violation of our nation's civil rights laws.

TAPPER: And, Douglas, the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints, the Mormon Church, did not accept blacked as full members until 1978. Using the argument you're making, could a Mormon business person in 1977, should that person have been allowed to discriminate against a Black couple because of their religious views?

LAYLOCK: Not in my view. I think the lawyer for web designer here gave the other answer, but in my view, race is constitutionally unique. No other right, no other category protected class however badly may have been treated, 250 years of slavery required civil war, 250,000 dead and three constitutional amendments to try to achieve some version of equality, and we're still trying to actually make that work.

I think the government has a compelling interest in race cases that it doesn't have in other civil rights categories.

TAPPER: And, Louise, let me ask you, many mainstream religions do not allow same-sex marriage. Where is the line here in your view? Because obviously, you're not in favor of telling the Catholic Church it has to officiate same-sex marriage ceremonies.

MELING: Right. There's a difference as a leader of faith have to officiate and perform weddings versus whether what's at issue here is this is a place of public accommodation. This is a business. This is an institution that has chosen to open itself up to the public and to serve the public.

And once you do that, with the privileges that come with that, then you're bound by our nation's civil rights laws which say that you can't discriminate. And here, you know, if you accept the theories that were being advanced in the courtroom, you could have, I think of the examples, of a photography studio that refused for example to take pictures of women executives, to do head shots because that would communicate a view that it was appropriate for women to be executives.

We can go through the list and it's quite endless in a way that is a threat to our civil rights laws.

TAPPER: All right. Louise Meling and Douglas Laycock, thank you so much. Appreciate your time today.

Coming up next, one of the most unique views of that erupting volcano. CNN is along for the ride.


Stay with us.


TAPPER: And we are back with our national lead and live images right now from Hawaii's big island. This is the U.S. Geological Survey's webcam that shows the Mauna Loa volcano continuing to erupt.

CNN's David Culver is in Hawaii for us, capturing some remarkable new images from above and stories on the ground from those who know firsthand the life-changing power of these volcanoes.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We are on the road before sunrise, quickly realizing we can already spot our destination some 30 miles out.


There you see it, that red-orange glow, Mauna Loa erupting.

To give you a better view, though, we go up in the morning dark. Paradise helicopters, Darren Hamilton, our pilot and guide, giving us rare access.

I assume we'll know when we see the volcano?

DARREN HAMILTON, HELICOPTER PILOT: Yeah, it's just off the eastern side there at about the one o'clock position, that is the plume there.

CULVER: Having flown in military hot zones, Darren even admits this is fire power like no other.

What was it like the first time you flew over lava?

HAMILTON: It was a blast.

CULVER: It can also be challenging, especially with heavy vog, or volcanic smog.

So, there you can see the gasses from Fissure 3.

Those acidic gases dangerous if the concentration levels are too high.

On the ground, officials closely watching the lava's potential impact on the main highway that connects the east and west of the island.

Erupting last Sunday for the first time in 38 years, Mauna Loa, the world's largest active volcano is one of five that make up Hawaii's big island. And it's not the only one currently erupting. Neighboring Kilauea is also active, though no longer shooting lava to the surface, like it did in 2018.

DOROTHY TROUGH (ph), HAWAIIAN RESIDENT: This is where my house was at. It's that way on the opposite side of the subdivision.

CULVER: Dorothy Trough (ph) invited us to where her home now sits, buried under 60 feet of lava. You can see a metal street light fused into the rock. Four years after Kilauea did this, she still walks it as if he's on her old street with her old neighbors.

When you have something like this, I assume you're all dispersed after that.

TROUGH: Yeah, we lost that sense of community is what we lost, in addition to the homes.

CULVER: Mauna Loa's eruption, an emotional trigger for Dorothy and others, forcing the trauma from Kilauea back to the surface. The 2018 lava flow knocked out 600 homes here, some untouched but left lava locked, an island within the island. Dorothy showed us this video she captured a few weeks back, helping friends gather the last of their belongings from their home. The reminders of devastation here hard to miss.

TROUGH: This was their home. They evacuated the second night and it went under the third night.

CULVER: And it just took their home.

TROUGH: Took their home.

CULVER: And four years later, it's still standing?

TROUGH: It's still standing. CULVER: How long will it stay like that?

TROUGH: Probably 30 to 40 years.

CULVER: How is it that you can still see beauty after so much loss?

TROUGH: Because lava is beautiful. It's creation. That's how the island was formed, that's how the island was built.

CULVER: An appreciation shared by native Hawaiians, leaving offerings on Mauna Loa, and thousands of tourists and locals arriving past sunset just to witness the lava glow.

Nighttime traffic backs up for miles. To avoid the congestion, let's get back to the skies.

HAMILTON: That's 2,000 to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That's molten rock flowing like water.

CULVER: Which has already crossed one volcano road, power lines and all, a searing slice right through it.

It's incredible the heat you feel, as soon as you get close to it.

HAMILTON: And look at this. The rushing flow, the river. You see the current of lava.

CULVER: Darren estimates it's moving 30 to 40 miles per hour.

HAMILTON: But this, the source of it all. I mean, there's nothing lie this, just spewing from the top.


CULVER (on camera): Jake, the experience, I struggle to find words. It was unreal to fly over that lava and have those sensory moments of the heat and also the smell of the sulfur, which is starting to smell across the island. So it is starting to spread quickly.

The concentration of it has not reached that level where it's really concerning. Overall, though, they're watching as it inches closer to the main highway we've been talking about, the road that sits now two miles from the edge of the lava. And it is crawling closer, about 25 feet per hour, and they're worried if it continues erupting, which as of now it seems to be, it could cause major issues.

TAPPER: All right. David Culver in Hawaii, remarkable report, thank you so much.

A royal feud is about to play out. The new Harry and Meghan documentary that has Buckingham Palace on edge. Stay with us.



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

This hour, the Kremlin launching new strikes into Ukraine targeting power and water. This hour, we'll introduce you to some Russians who are in Ukraine fighting against their own.

Plus, parents across the country scrambling to find children's pain medications. What is driving this latest drug shortage?

Leading this hour, however, Georgia on our mind. It's the final day of campaigning before voters decide who will represent their state in the United States Senate. Democrat incumbent Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker have been crisscrossing the state. While the winner will not control the Senate, it will determine if Democrats will have some wiggle room when it comes to their agenda. Some significant legislation supportive by almost the Democrats in the Senate has been altered or block by two key Senate moderate Democrats, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, picking up a Senate seat would help Democrats pass more of what they want.