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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Ukraine Needs More Weapons From Allies; Marjorie Taylor Greene's Provocative Rhetoric About January 6th; American Student Missing In France; "Citgo 6" Prisoner Who Spent 5 Years In Venezuelan Jail Speaks To CNN; Video Captures LA Councilman In Physical Altercation With Activist At Holiday Event; Scientists Create Nuclear Fusion Reaction That Generates More Energy Than It Consumes; Documentary Looks At The History Of Autism, Its Effect On People And Importance Of Community. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired December 12, 2022 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Today, a U.S. military official told CNN that Russian forces are being forced to use 40-year-old ammunition because their supply of new ammo is dwindling. CNN's Will Ripley is in Kyiv, Ukraine for us where he spoke exclusively with the Ukrainian defense minister about why continued aid is not just important for Ukraine but important for the rest of the world.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just days before the official start of winter, Ukraine's military prepares for the deep freeze. Plunging temperatures won't stop front- line fighting says Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov.

OLEKSII REZNIKOV, UKRAINE DEFENSE MINISTER: And it's important not only for Ukraine, it's important for Europe, it's important for civilized world.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Ukraine's goal, reclaim all Russian-held territory, including Crimea, illegally annexed by Russia nearly nine years ago in 2014. The defense minister tells CNN Ukraine urgently needs more weapons from the U.S. and NATO.

(On camera): Are you getting the weapons that you need right now in time?

REZNIKOV: You know that when you have a war, you will not have enough. We need certainly more, especially air defense systems is priority number one for us.

RIPLEY: Have you been given an explanation why the Patriot missile defense systems have not arrived yet?

REZNIKOV: It's a long discussion with our partners because it's a very sophisticated and expensive systems. So, I think that (inaudible) also will be in our battlefield but in the next stage. RIPLEY (voice-over): That next stage includes protecting the power

grid from Russia's ongoing assault on Ukraine's energy infrastructure. Russia fired hundreds of missiles just in the last two months, regular Russian air strikes with explosive drones made in Iran. Drone attacks plunged 1.5 million people into darkness over the weekend.

(On camera): What's your best strategy to defend against these kamikaze drone attacks from Russia?

REZNIKOV: Everyday we're trying to find the best solutions.

RIPLEY: Are drones are priority for you for developing drones?


RIPLEY: And do you think it could be a useful tool?

REZNIKOV: Certainly. We need drones for reconnaissance. We need drones for striking. We need anti-drone systems. So, electronic warfare, it's a very important issue for us.

RIPLEY (voice-over): The defense minister won't confirm or deny Ukraine carried out drone strikes close to the Russian capital last week.

(On camera): These attacks inside Russia, including 500 miles from Moscow, Ukrainian drones is what Russia is claiming. Is that what happened?

REZNIKOV: It's very important, don't smoke in dangerous places.

RIPLEY (voice-over): In other words, be careful what you start. Ukrainian officials gave the same coded answer after the bombing of the Crimean bridge in October. Ukraine never officially claimed responsibility.

REZNIKOV: They're targeting our infrastructure because they cannot have success against armed forces of Ukraine.

RIPLEY (voice-over): He says Russia started this war and Ukraine won't stop until they finish it.


(On camera): On Friday, President Biden announced another $275 million in military assistance for Ukraine. This includes badly needed ambulances, generators, medical equipment, as well as weapons and ammunition. But what is not on that list are those Patriot missile defense systems, which Ukrainians say are key to defending their power grid.

All of Ukraine's thermal and hydroelectric power stations have been damaged in wave after wave of Russian attacks, that according to the prime minister speaking here in Kyiv on Sunday, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Will Ripley in Ukraine. Thank you so much. Ukraine's massive power outages are the reason why communication is so

touch and go for my next guest, Ryan Hendrickson. He's a former Green Beret who is on the ground in Ukraine. He's working to clear explosives left behind by Russians. He actually does not have power where he is right now in Mykolaiv. Ryan, thanks so much for joining us and for what you're doing. Tell us what life is like for Ukrainians when they lose power like this in the freezing winter.

RYAN HENDRICKSON, RETIRED GREEN BERET REMOVING MUNITIONS IN UKRAINE: Well, first of all, I really appreciate you guys having me on. This is great. But, second, yeah, it's -- you just --

TAPPER: Looks like he froze up there for a second. All right, he's back. Let's try it again. I mean, this is the problem we're illustrating. We're illustrating the fact that power is so touch and go and your signal went out just a second ago, Ryan. Tell us what life is like for Ukrainians where you are.

HENDRICKSON: It's cold. I mean, the electricity is touch and go. Kherson, that's where I work at, de-mining. They just got pounded today with indirect fire. And so, it's more power outages and the temperature here is just dropping and it's dropping fast. And when the temperature drops, well, the civilian population suffers.


TAPPER: You were a Special Forces engineer with the Army. You did eight tours in Afghanistan. Now you're in Ukraine on your third trip there. You are there, obviously, voluntarily. Tell us about why you felt called to go.

HENDRICKSON: Yeah. So, after Afghanistan closed down, I left Afghanistan in July of '21, and I kind of -- I had this purpose that I used to have and I didn't anymore. And once Russia went into Ukraine, February 24th, I just -- I had this nagging feeling that I needed to do something more. So, I quit my job and headed to Ukraine to see -- basically at first it was to see what kind of trouble I could get into. I didn't want to fight. You know, I've had my share of that. I wanted to help in different ways.

And as, you know, as my time in Ukraine kept going on, civilians just kept getting injured and killed from this left behind either booby traps, land mines, clusters, or anything else you can imagine that's an explosive hazard. And I knew from my time as a Special Forces engineer that I could help in that way. And so that's what I dedicated my life to, was returning to Ukraine and helping de-mine here.

TAPPER: Your work in Ukraine involves searching for land mines and cluster munitions in fields. How do you find the explosives, and explain the importance of your work?

HENDRICKSON: So, how we find the explosives, with the clusters, right now it's kind of a race against time, because they're on top of the ground. As mother nature takes over and those clusters start to get hidden, then the dangers go way up. But as far as land mines, whether it's anti-tank, which is anti-vehicle, or anti-personnel, we use our CEIA mine detectors and that's basically just very, very slow, slow movements.

And you're just checking everything because each land mine or cluster or booby trap found is one life or limb that we save. And the reason why it's so important is because I've stepped on an IED in Afghanistan myself. And so, I know the pain that goes with that, and it changes your life forever. And if I can save one child from having to go through what I went through then, yeah, mission success right there.

TAPPER: And Ukraine's defense minister told our reporter, Will Ripley, that Ukraine desperately needs more weapons from the United States, from NATO countries. CNN is reporting that Russia is now using 40-year-old ammunition as their supplies run low. How thin are you seeing supplies run on either side?

HENDRICKSON: I'm not really in tune to the supply or the logistics of the Ukrainian armed forces. I do know for sure that we recover a lot of unexploded ordnance because of the age of these ordnance that are being used in this war on the Russian side. But as far as the Ukrainian side goes, I'm not really tuned up on their logistics.

TAPPER: Well, what you're doing is just remarkably brave and selfless. Ryan Hendrickson, we thank you so much for your service and your time. We hope to have you back again.

HENDRICKSON: Yeah, I appreciate it. Yeah, if anybody wants to check it out, just We post all the videos there and you can see the work we're doing.

TAPPER: Awesome -- Thanks so much, Ryan.

Coming up, what we know about an American college student who has disappeared while studying in France.

Then, the special guest that Dave Chappelle brought out on stage that got booed and then tweeted about it. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our "Politics Lead," some shocking comments from Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene explaining how the January 6th insurrection would have succeeded had she been its ringleader.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): Then January 6th happens and next thing you know I organized the whole thing along with Steve Bannon here. And I'm going to tell you something, if Steve Bannon and I had organized that, we would have won. Not to mention, they would have been armed.


TAPPER: Okay. So, our panel is here. So, Kasie, she says we should note that since she found out that was recorded, she has said she was being sarcastic. But what does winning look like and what would have happened had she been in charge and she and Steve Bannon had been there and they have been armed? Who exactly would they have been shooting?

KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I mean, look, Jake, I'm going to be honest with you. I am not necessarily removed from this story.

TAPPER: Right, you were there.

HUNT: Who I'm glad I was not, you know, shot at, at the capitol in addition to, of course, our lawmakers who were the real targets who were just trying to execute the foundation of our Constitution. And I would just say, and I know you have capitol police officers on frequently to talk about this.

I don't think that they would appreciate even if she is joking about this based on what they actually did go through, saying, oh, you know what, if I had been in charge, it would have been worse. I mean, who wants to hear that when you've put your life on the line and are dealing with the trauma of what actually did happen, which we honestly shouldn't be making light of.

TAPPER: Well, she said, we would have won. We would have won. So, what -- I know you don't support these comments, but what does that mean, we would have won?

RYAN STREETER, DIRECTOR, DOMESTIC POLICY AEI: Who knows exactly what she meant. It's hard to understand her sometimes. But I mean, I think what she -- even if she was joking, she's implicitly validating the efforts of these people on January 6th.


And someone like that really just has no place in our politics. She's reflective of this type of person who sees our political institutions as performative playgrounds basically where fact and fiction, where truth and un-truth sort of blend together because it's all about the performance. And people like this shouldn't be in our politics and they shouldn't have committee assignments, either. So, I think the real problem is what to do about this kind of thing now that it's happened. And I -- I don't envy (inaudible).

HUNT: It seems like a win would have been Donald Trump remaining in office, right?

TAPPER: Right.

HUNT: Like this is not the (inaudible).

TAPPER: It would have been a successful coup.

HUNT: Right. So, I mean, she's essentially saying well, yeah, I would have done the coup.

TAPPER: Right.

AYESHA RASCOE, ANCHOR, NPR MORNING EDITION SUNDAY: And it would have been violent, she would have been armed. I mean --

TAPPER: More violent.

RASCOE: More violent, exactly, that is a very good point. The issue is that this is not something that can be ignored because Marjorie Taylor Greene is going to be influential in this House. I mean, they have a very slim majority and Kevin McCarthy is not going to want to get on her bad side or anyone who would be aligned with her.

And so, this is not something that you can ignore because this is someone who gets a lot of attention and who is using language at a point in time where we have violent things going on, you know, whether it's drag shows with armed people showing up outside of it, weird things happening in North Carolina with, you know, substations getting shot.

And we don't know what's going on with that. People are saying we are willing to act violently if we don't get what we want electorally. And so, you have to take it very seriously.

TAPPER: Your take on that.

ALENCIA JOHNSON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know, it's really upsetting that she said that we would have won because, yes, Donald Trump would have been president. But, also, there were four people who died and over 100 law enforcement members who were injured. Would that number have gone up if they would have won and they would have been armed?

HUNT: Yes. Yes, it would have.

JOHNSON: Exactly. And to the point of her actually being in leadership in the next Congress, the number one responsibility for any person in Congress is to defend the Constitution and defend this country. She is saying she would have done the opposite and so it's very concerning what's going to happen in the new Congress when she's sitting in leadership position.

HUNT: I mean, this is the whole -- the thing that gets me with this, too, is that this is the entire -- the entire point of a democracy is to figure out how to come to agreements around our differences without resorting to violence. So, this entire thing is a condemnation of democracy at its very root.

Part of me sort of wonders like, why does she want a seat in Congress. She doesn't believe that, you know, what voters are doing and the decisions they're making and the things that they're doing everyday are what supposed to matter and the thing that we should be proud of in terms of how our country does business.

TAPPER: Yeah. I mean, I think what's the most stunning about this, in addition to the fact that so few Republicans, if any, have condemned what she said, is that she is essentially saying we would have staged the coup successfully and we would have been more violent as you know it, Ayesha, and more people would have died. And again, the people that were holding the line that day were police officers.

JOHNSON: Exactly.

HUNT: Yes, they were.

JOHNSON: Exactly. And this is the party, to be honest, this is the party that rebutted against, you know, police accountability from the Democratic Party and saying they want to support law enforcement, right? And yet she is talking about literally arming an attack against law enforcement and that being okay.

And we also aren't talking about Vice President Pence's role and where he was. Was she okay with the fact that his life was in danger and is this going to happen again if in 2024 Republicans don't get their way and yet they are in leadership in Congress.

STREETER: And none of these people have ever articulated what they would do if they won. None of the bozos on January 6th have been able to articulate that. None of that has really come out. What would winning actually look like? These are un-serious people engaging in incredibly serious language that we need to take seriously. And right now, we have, you know, a Republican Party that really is only now just starting to show signs of taking some of the steps seriously that's way behind curtain.

TAPPER: Well, this kind of nonsense is one of the reasons why Democrats actually picked up a seat in the midterms and Republicans did not have the overwhelming red wave that they thought. Moving on to the next topic, Kyrsten Sinema, the senator from Arizona, she told me in an interview that ran Friday that she's leaving the Democratic Party. Congressman Ruben Gallego, more progressive Democrat in Arizona, is already teasing that he'll challenge her in 2024. What do you make of this?

JOHNSON: Well, if there weren't a lot of political implications of her potentially splitting a ticket in 2024, I would literally say, girl, bye, because you have not been great for our Democratic Party. Now, I will say, look, she has voted for a lot of President Biden's agenda but she has also stalled a lot of pieces of legislation that would be critical for, you know, the people that elected her as a Democratic senator to represent them.

And so, it will be interesting to see what she does with this. But as many of her colleagues were saying, she likes attention, right. She's smart. She likes attention. This is about her. But I am concerned about what's going to happen in 2024 if she runs as an independent and there's a Democrat on the ticket as well. Will that split the base in Arizona?


TAPPER: Yeah. Would you think so? I mean, could this -- could -- if Ruben Gallego runs as a Democrat, Kyrsten Sinema runs as an independent and Republicans put up a candidate -- STREETER: They should, yes.

TAPPER: Could that deliver this purple state to the Republican Party?

STREETER: Possibly. Yeah, it could. I mean, I think there are clearly political considerations in what she's doing and the primary is, you know, obviously front and center. And I think the reasons she gave and the reasons she gave you are actually worth paying attention to. And even if it is, because of the primary, her reasons are still valid, that we have about two-thirds of the country, depending on which survey you want to pick, who actually care the most about the issues that she says she wants to focus on.


STREETER: And are less concerned about the extreme. So, there are obviously political considerations driving it, but I think we should also listen to what she has said.

JOHNSON: Look, can I also add to that though? Like, she is changing her party affiliation when Democratic voters voted for her, right? She kept saying this is what Arizonans wanted. Well, the people of Arizona that voted for you asked for you to come to Congress, come to the Senate and do these specific things according to a Democratic agenda. So, it's a little selfish. And I will say, she is smarter than most people want to think about. To your point, does this have political implications? She's thinking the long game for herself essentially not for the Democratic Party.

TAPPER: She did run as a Democrat. I think she was referring to the fact that her tagalongs for all her ads were like independent for Arizona. She ran, I mean, she ran as both, but, anyway.

HUNT: Yeah. I mean, you know, I do think she's not making any changes to how the Senate is going to run, right? So, if that's not the case, if she's not going to try to help Republicans in the Senate, then this is obviously about politics and about her winning her re-election, but also defining herself in a certain way.

It says to me she didn't want to run in a Democratic -- tough Democratic primary where she's going to have to, you know, be tacking to the left to figure out how to beat Ruben Gallego there and then try and run back to the center most likely to maybe win a general election. But -- and the other thing is, she puts herself in the position to be able to say, well, Democrats decided they were going to challenge me, not the other way around.

TAPPER: Final thoughts?

RASCOE: Well -- and she's simply not popular in Arizona. Like that's a big part of the problem. Like, she is not popular with the Democratic base. Her favorability is under the water. She's not popular with Republicans. So, this is not happening from a place of political strength for her. This is, you know, this is something that she had to do. If she was going to make a move, she got to make a move now. TAPPER: Thanks, one and all for being here. It sounds cool when you

say it. Thanks to all.

Brittney Griner able to do what she loves for the first time in 10 months, play basketball. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our "World Lead," an American college student studying abroad in France has been missing for nearly two weeks, according to his family. New York native Ken DeLand studies French at the University of Grenoble Alpes in southern France. Fellow classmates reported DeLand missing on November 27th. His family says his silence is uncharacteristic. French investigators claim he left, quote, "voluntarily." CNN's Melissa Bell is in France where officials say they now have evidence Deland made a purchase a few days after he went silence.


CAROL LAWS, SON WENT MISSING IN FRANCE: He was looking forward to coming home for Christmas.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kenny DeLand, Jr., a college senior from upstate New York who is studying abroad in France, hasn't been heard from in more than two weeks, according to his family.

KENNETH DELAND, SON WENT MISSING IN FRANCE: We're waiting, we're worried. We don't know what -- you know, where he is.

BELL (voice-over): This is DeLand, caught on a store security camera December 3rd and the last known footage of him. A missing person's report was filed getting local police involved when he didn't return to his host family or show up for classes.

LAWS: I haven't heard anything from them.

BELL (voice-over): That store DeLand was seen at is about an hour's train ride south of the University of Grenoble Alps where he was studying. A Grenoble prosecutor confirmed to CNN that DeLand appeared to leave school of his own accord, adding, "The young man reportedly told several people that he had arrived in France under-prepared and was having difficulty making friends. He also mentioned that he wanted to go to Marseille before leaving for the United States."

LAWS: I feel like I'm not really receiving any information. It's been very difficult. You know, we've been -- really, someone else has been stuck in the middle to do the speaking for us.

BELL (voice-over): DeLand's school back in the U.S., St. John Fisher University, released a statement saying the college will continue to do all it can to assist in the investigation to find Kenneth DeLand. But now the 22-year-old's family is asking for the community's help. DELAND: We just shake our heads. We don't understand why he's not

reaching out to us.

BELL (voice-over): His parents say they last heard from him on November 27th and his mother is worried he could be in danger.

LAWS: When you don't know, you just don't know. We've haven't heard from him.

BELL (voice-over): They set up, asking the public if they've seen him, stating, "We fear the worst and want him to be located."

UNKNOWN: Kenny, he's a real good kid.

BELL (voice-over): The State Department told CNN it is, "Aware of reports of a U.S. citizen missing in France. We stand ready to provide appropriate assistance to U.S. citizens in need and to their families." But DeLand's parents' message for their son is --

DELAND: We love you. And we hope you can --

LAWS: We're waiting to hear from you and we're waiting for you to come home.

DELAND: Exactly.



BELL (on camera): Jake, France's Interior Ministry says that about 10,000 people go missing in this country every year and strangers' suspicious circumstances. Now you heard their Kenny's mother talk about the frustration they're having and not getting more information. There is, of course, the language barrier.

There are tighter a data protection laws here in Europe that may also be making that sharing of data more difficult. But we've been speaking to the head of an NGO that runs the main missing persons this year in France, on which Kenny now appears to explain look, it's always difficult tracking down a missing person when the family is not in the country, though. That crucial exchange of information of course, much harder to do, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Melissa bell in Paris, thank you so much.

Brittney Griner is back doing what she loves, dunking. The WNBA star detained in Russia for almost 10 months got in a light basketball workout while recuperating at a Texas Medical Facility on Sunday. But her reintegration is far from over. Take it from a member of the so- called Citgo 6 released in a prisoner swap in October after spending nearly five years in a Venezuelan prison. He tells CNN's Isa Soares coming -- Isa Suarez coming home came with a host of challenges.



ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jorge Toledo understands what it means to be held captive by a hostile foreign power.

TOLEDO: It's very close to a movie, but it seems that this is for real.

SOARES (voice-over): A member of the so-called Citgo 6, Toledo and five other Citgo executives were imprisoned in Venezuela in 2017 on baseless allegations, including money laundering, U.S. officials say.

(on-camera): We're finally we're going back home, how did that feel?

TOLEDO: There was like going from total darkness to a total illumination.

SOARES (voice-over): They were leaving behind an eerie and dark place. Five years of isolation, deprivation and torture, Toledo tells me.

TOLEDO: I spent 18 months with a very strong and intense light on top of me, 24 hours, seven days. So that means that, you know, you're not able to sleep.

SOARES (voice-over): CNN has been in touch with his family for the last few years. They tell us to Toledo's health suffered, an athlete, a marathon runner, he tells me he lost more than 50 pounds in his first year of incarceration. Eventually, after months of back and forth between the U.S. government and the embattled regime of President Nicolas Maduro, Toledo and four of his Citgo colleagues were released in October as part of the prisoner swap.

TOLEDO: And we crossed with the two individuals that I didn't know who they were, but I assumed that they were the other human commodity that was being exchanged.

SOARES (voice-over): President Joe Biden signed off on the deal. In exchange, the U.S. agreed to release two of Maduro nephews, themselves convicted in 2016, for conspiring to import cocaine into the U.S., nicknamed the narco nephews.

(on-camera): How did you feel Jorge about that exchange? Do you think it ought to have happened?

TOLEDO: We need to prioritize life. And then we fix the long-term issue, which is how are we going to deal with hostage diplomacy as a society.

SOARES (voice-over): Under Maduro, Venezuela has been pushed to the brink. More than 7 million people have fled the country in recent years, with the U.N. accusing the president of crimes against humanity. But with the world's largest proven oil reserves, and as the West attempts to move away from its dependence on Russian oil, Maduro's oil supply is yielding some political power.

Last month, the U.S. granted Chevron limited authorization to resume pumping oil from Venezuela, despite U.S. trade sanctions in place since 2019.

(on-camera): Should the United States ease sanctions on Venezuela?

TOLEDO: What I would say is this has to be revisited just to make sure that the sanctions are oriented toward the right direction, and not, you know, the direction of damaging the common people causing shortages in the population, et cetera. So I think that we need to rethink the entire system.

SOARES (voice-over): In the footsteps of fellow Americans released from overseas captivity --

(on-camera): What does freedom feel like?

(voice-over): -- Toledo found a new appreciation for the meaning of freedom.

TOLEDO: The air had a different smell. I perceive, you know, a wonderful, fantastic sweetness in that smell of the air.

SOARES (voice-over): As sent only those held captive can truly savor.


SOARES: Well, Jake, as you well know, I've been in touch with the Toledo family and another Citgo family now for several years, as I reported on their case, and it was so wonderful to hear directly from Jorge. He went on to tell me in that interview that finding freedom again after five years of not knowing how long his incarceration would last was like going from surreal to real like he was part, he said, of a Salvador Darling painting. Well it's wonderful, it's now real for him, as well as the other Citgo five. Jake?


TAPPER: All right, Isa Soares, thank you so much.

Brawl in the Hall. An already embattled city councilman gets into a fistfight at a community event in front of an audience of kids. Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our national lead, longtime California politician Kevin de Leon is facing renewed scrutiny after getting into this physical altercation with an activist at a holiday event with a bunch of kids watching.


Two months ago, de Leon and two fellow council members were on that leaked recording where racist comments were made about a colleague and his black son. CNN's Nick Watt reports on this latest incident, most of which was caught on video.




NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kevin de Leon is wearing the Santa hat. A wounded lion of LA politics, green jacket, that's Jason Reedy, community activist.




WATT (voice-over): The Santa hat falls. This was a holiday party. OK. There is backstory here. In October, some year old audio leaked. City Council President Nury Martinez talking about a fellow council member and his kid.

NURY MARTINEZ, FORMER CITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT: There's nothing you can do to control him. Parece chanquito.

WATT (voice-over): Translation, little monkey. She apologized and later resigned. On that tape, she also said Councilman Mike Bonin uses his son like an accessory. De Leon appeared to agree, made a joke.

KEVIN DE LEON, LOS ANGELES CITY COUNCIL MEMBER: Like when Nury bring her Goyard bag or the Louis Vuitton bag, el trae su, accessory.

WATT (voice-over): De Leon's been laying very low clinging hard to power expressing regrets but refusing to resign. He claims Jason Reedy was the aggressor. "Reedy launched a pelvic thrust, followed by a headbutt to my forehead, " de Leon said in the statement Saturday. "My response, in defense of myself, was to push him off.

Reedy did not initiate physical contact with anyone, his lawyer told CNN, claiming de Leon has lost political legitimacy and lost touch with reality.


WATT: Kevin de Leon really is a pretty big deal here in LA particularly in Democratic circles. Big enough that he's known just by his initials, KDL. Now he clearly thought -- thinks he can weather the storm of that leaked racist audio Friday where his first tentative steps back out into the public arena, city council meeting. Then there's tree lighting. And clearly, it did not go well at all.

The LAPD is now investigating who's to blame, de Leon or the activist? Not a good look. Jake?

TAPPER: And not a good look at all for KDL, Akeo (ph) from KDL. Nick Watt, thanks so much. Appreciate it. Coming up next, the scientific discovery that could change the course of humanity. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our Earth matters series, scientists have been chasing this dream since the 1930s. And now for the first time ever, they have created a nuclear fusion reaction that generates more energy than it consumes. It's essentially the same process that powers the sun. And it could theoretically mean unlimited clean and cheap energy.

CNN's Rene Marsh joins us now to explain. Rene, why is this called the holy grail of carbon free power?

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, this is a big wow moment for the scientific community. And I brought a bottle of water here today just to kind of help us walk through what this all means. Within water, we know we learned this in school there is hydrogen and that is the core of what's happening here.

When we talk about nuclear fusion, you have two hydrogen atoms that don't like each other, they don't want to be anywhere near each other. But at this DOE, Department of Energy lab in California, they're using 192 powerful lasers to force them together. And when these two atoms fuse together, that's where the energy is generated.

And this is so exciting, because we're talking about water, which is clean. There's quite a bit of it throughout the universe. So when we talk about this idea of pivoting away from dirty energy, fossil fuels, people within the scientific community are excited about this because it could be limitless. And it could certainly -- and it certainly doesn't have a carbon footprint, like what we're seeing with fossil fuels. But obviously, you know, Jake, this is a critical step. But we're not all the way where we need to be at this point as far as the finish line.

TAPPER: Right. So obviously, the desire or the finish line is commercially using this to counter the damage done to the earth in the atmosphere through climate change, manmade climate change. When could we start to see this technology being used?

MARSH: Yes, you know, I think one scientist put it best for me. Today, we have the embryo. It's like asking, when is this embryo going to graduate from Harvard? We clearly have a long way to go, lots of growth, lots of scientific development that is still necessary, like how do we harvest this energy that we're now creating? And then how do we put that to the grid to then power our homes. That still has to be figured out. So it could be another 10, 20, 30 years before this happens?

TAPPER: All right, but it's a good development, and we're excited about it. Rene Marsh, thank you so much.

In our health lead, a spotlight on autism. The new documentary "In A Different Key" looks at the history of autism diagnosis and autism has effect on people and their families, and the importance of community. Take a look.







UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Autism is a little --your brain works a lot differently than most people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello? Hi, Karen (ph).



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you get any kind of support from anybody?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not really, it's just me. Nobody's going to do what I do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, you just can't die.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. It's got to be immortal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don's got some odd behaviors and some eccentricities, but he's our guy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was just so drawn to him in this community. I want to figure out, how did they get it right?


TAPPER: And joining me now are the executive producers of the documentary, "In A Different Key," my friends, Caren Zucker and John Donvan. Caren and John, thanks so much for being here. First of all, let me just say, how much I love the metaphor of jazz --


TAPPER: -- for autism, just the idea -- what a brilliant way --


TAPPER: -- to get into that.

DONVAN: Yes, it's unusual that there's a documentary with a jazz score. That's not about jazz. Wynton Marsalis who wrote the music for the movie has an autistic brother, and he's very, very committed to the cause.

TAPPER: But it's also such a just -- of course --


TAPPER: Of course, that's -- their brains are a little different.

DONVAN: Yes, yes.


TAPPER: So Caren, at the end of the clip we just played, you're talking about the very first person diagnosed with autism and how the community -- how that community got it right. Tell us more about who he is, and why you sought him out to tell his story.

ZUCKER: Well, he's the first person ever diagnosed with autism. But the magic of his community is really what touched us the most. When we went down there for the first time, we had never met him --

DONVAN: Nor on his door, or we didn't want to like burst into his life. And so, we went to some folks and said, would you introduce us to Donald and that's when we got our first taste of whether he was --

ZUCKER: Right. He basically said, you know, if -- we'll introduce you to him, but if you mess with him in any way, we'll track you down and get you. And we did, we became family, friends, really, with all the triplets. And the whole town, the whole community embraced this man, like, in a way that we wish everyone would embrace people who are different.

TAPPER: So John, the documentary touches on how diverse the community of people living with autism is -- how large the spectrum is. Explain why that was important to highlight.

DONVAN: So the spectrum has changed over the years and become much broader. And there are many, many more people who get the diagnosis of autism today, as the definition has broadened. So you have people on the one hand, who are our college professors who are on the spectrum, and then you have people who like my brother in law, who lives in Israel, actually, he's in his mid-50s, he was diagnosed in the 70s, almost can't speak at all and needs 24 hour care.

And our concern, or what we noticed is that nowadays, yes, people know much more about autism than they used to, but it's a very narrow range. It's but a TV shows about kind of interesting, quirky individuals who have challenges and that's great. But there are people like my brother-in-law, and many, many others, about half of the autistic population, who can't speak who need help. And we made a point in the film of also telling their stories.


ZUCKER: Because people don't have a voice.

TAPPER: Right. ZUCKER: And so if we're not the voice, and the parents aren't the voice, they don't get heard. And they really don't these days. We think of autism. We don't realize what a broad-spectrum autism is. And then it's people of color, and it's people of low socio-economic needs. And it's not discriminate. It does not discriminate.

TAPPER: Interesting. Do you think the, for instance, there's a show called the Good Doctor. I think it's on ABC. That stars somebody who the character is a brilliant surgeon, but also has autism? Do you think that actually hurts the cause in a way?

DONVAN: It's a mixed bag. On the one hand, there are really people like that, and that character is very, very well played and it's a very interesting show.

ZUCKER: But there aren't that many savant the way that he is. It's overplayed.

TAPPER: Right. That's what I'm saying. Does it --


TAPPER: -- misled (ph) people.

ZUCKER: Yes, I think it does. Because --


TAPPER: -- and this is a point in your documentary, some of those living with autism are unfortunately bullied to the point where they consider suicide. Let's take a look.


AMY GRAVINO: I only knew that I was different and the different was bad. That was the response I received from my peers. You're weird, you're a freak, you're retired, you're a loser, you're ugly. These were the things that I heard on a daily basis. And what ended up happening was that the voices of my peers became the voice in my own head. But all of the - all of my feelings about myself at that point were things that I didn't like. I couldn't point out things that I did like then there wasn't a whole person there. And I wanted to die because I couldn't think of another way out.


TAPPER: It's so tough being a kid anyway, much less a kid being bullied like that, much less a kid being bullied like that because of autism. Is it getting better at all?

ZUCKER: I think society is getting better because there's more awareness. But I think that we still really have a long way to go. Especially today the pendulum has turned so far to the right, let's say because people like Amy who have a voice are able to speak and share with others. But society is no longer aware of autism as a disability almost because you don't see those people. [17:55:11]

And so, what we tried to do in our film was capture all of that so that people would understand that there is a broad, broad spectrum, and we need to embrace everybody who's different. And it's not just autism, it's anybody who's different.

TAPPER: What do you want people to get out of this documentary?

DONVAN: That they are connected. If you might think you're not part of the autism community? Maybe you don't know somebody with autism or don't think that you do, you're not working in the field. You're not on the spectrum yourself. But in fact, people on the spectrum, unlike 50 years ago, when they were hidden away and put away and institutions are part of society, they're part of us.

We are they, they are us, but they need each of us in the little interactions we have each day to be on their side to root for them to support them where they need a little bit of an assistance or help or inclusion or friendship.

TAPPER: All right, John and Caren, thank you for joining us.

DONVAN: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: And you can join me watching their documentary, "In A Different Key" that will air Tuesday night on PBS at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

The White House says it plans to engage with Russia this week to discuss freeing American former Marine Paul Whelan, that's coming up on The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer. Until then, you can follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at JakeTapper. You can tweet the show at TheLeadCNN. I'll see you tomorrow.