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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Biden Signs Bill To Protect Same-Sex & Interracial Marriages; Grocery Prices Remain Sky-High Despite Cooling Inflation; U.S. Scientists Achieve Nuclear Fusion Breakthrough; Senate Report Finds Widespread Sexual Abuse Of Female Inmates; Ukraine Fears Russian Invasion Over Belarus Border. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired December 13, 2022 - 16:00   ET



COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: The other semifinal match is tomorrow. And that will be against defending champions France facing the Cinderella story Morocco in that one. We'll see who Messi and Argentina will face.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN HOST: We have a bazillion Messi jerseys in my household. So, my son will be very happy when he hears this news after school.


WIRE: You got it.



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Ten years after Biden got ahead of his skis on same-sex marriage, today, he's making his view the law of the land.

THE LEAD starts right now.

The Respect for Marriage Act, nearly official, federally mandating that all states recognize same-sex and interracial marriages. What this day means for one of the specially invited White House guests who attended today's bill-signing ceremony.

Plus, first on CNN: new help for Ukraine. The major air defense system that the U.S. may soon send that Zelenskyy has been begging for months.

And the big economic players tamping down fears of recession. What are they seeing in the data that so many other economists are not?


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

And we start this afternoon with two major stories in our politics lead, both in the White House. The first involves your wallet. Today, President Biden celebrated new economic data which shows that

inflation is thankfully cooling more than expected at least last month. Inflation now sits at 7.1 percent. Still high, but the lowest since last December. President Biden acknowledged today too many families are still struggling.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, I know it's been a rough few years for hard-working Americans and for small businesses as well. And for a lot of folks, things are still pretty rough. But they're bright spots all across America where we're beginning to see the impact of our economic strategy. And we're just getting started.


TAPPER: But we begin today with the other major story unfolding right now at the White House. In just a few minutes, President Biden will sign that legislation guaranteeing that states have to recognize same- sex and interracial marriages after the law passed Congress with bipartisan support.

Let's get straight to CNN's chief White House correspondent Phil Mattingly who's at the White House.

So, walk us through the significance of today's bill signing?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think there's the policy significance and then the symbolism which is obviously enormous in this moment.

On the policy side, things even in the wake of the 2015 Supreme Court decision that cleared the way for legal gay marriage in the country, across the country, this will serve as a back stop of sorts. It compels every state to allow gay marriage if done in another state even perhaps at a moment it comes when certain laws are shifted. And that state may try and ban gay marriage. That's one part of it.

The other is, it repeals the Defense of Marriage Act. It's not something that's been focused on much, but it's still technically on the books even in the wake of the Supreme Court decision that directs the federal government to recognize any same-sex marriage from here going forward.

The symbolism though is enormous, and you can see it on the south lawn right now. Thousands of people marking this moment, particularly in the wake of some of the Supreme Court decisions that raised questions about the future of the Obergefell decision back in 2015. This is a moment where according to some officials, they believe there's a reassurance here that simply didn't exist before today.

TAPPER: And, Phil, today's signing comes ten years after Biden's famous TV moment when he came out in support of same-sex marriage back 2012, ahead of President Obama.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, and the campaign, you'd remember better than anybody was none too pleased by the vice president's decision to do just that. But it's also something when you look back at that moment that underscores just how far the country has come in a decade. It seems almost bizarre that this wasn't the kind of general position, politically, particularly for a Democratic vice president at the time. And yet, listen to what the vice president said. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, THEN-VICE PRESIDENT: I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying, all are entitled to same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties and, quite frankly, I don't see much of a distinction beyond that.


MATTINGLY: And, Jake, that was a moment that will be memorialized in a card given to everybody in attendance, as the president gets set to speak.

TAPPER: All right. Let's listen to him right now, Phil Mattingly. Thanks so much.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATESS: -- a final step towards equality, toward liberty and justice, not just for some, but for everyone, everyone. Toward creating a nation with decency, dignity, and love recognized and honored and protected.

Today I sign the Respect for Marriage Act into law.


Deciding whether to marry, who to marry, is one of the most profound decisions a person can make. As I've said before and some of you might remember, on a certain TV show ten years ago, I got in trouble.

Marriage, I mean this with all my heart, marriage is a simple proposition. Who do you love? And will you be loyal to that person you love? It's not more complicated than that.

And the law recognized that everyone should have the right to answer those questions for themselves without the government interference.

It also secures the federal rights, protections that come with marriage. Like when your loved one gets sick and you legally recognized as the next of kin, for most of our nation's history, we deny interracial couples and same-sex couples from these protections.

We failed. We failed to treat them with an equal dignity and respect. And now, the law requires interracial marriage and same-sex marriage must be recognized as legal in every state in the nation.

I want to thank all of you for being here today, for being part of this important movement. Jill, Kamala, Doug, my cabinet members including Pete Buttigieg. A special thanks to our performers, Joey, Sam and Cindy, look, you

know, in the Gay Men's Choir in Washington, D.C., Gay Men's Marriage Choir. And members of Congress today, the Senate, this bipartisan vote simply would not have happened without the leadership and persistence of a real hero, Tammy Baldwin, Senator Tammy Baldwin.

And thank you, Susan Collins, who does not rest until this bill got done. And leaders Schumer, Senators Portland, Sinema, Tillis, Feinstein, Booker. And the House, as much wouldn't have happened without Nancy Pelosi, the speaker.

Following the dignity of the LGBTQ community has always been her North Star, from her first speech on House floor pledging to end AIDS and signaling the bill, and signing the bill today, all of that time span.

Madam Speaker, on behalf of all Americans, thank you for this and so much more for your decades of service.

We also, a special thanks to representatives like Jerry Nadler who first introduced the Respect for Marriage Act a decade ago. David Cicilline, and Sharice Davids, as leaders of the Equality Caucus, and so many more who did what was right.

Standing behind me are dozens of plaintiffs. Up there, don't jump. Dozens of plaintiffs who fought for marriage equality through the years, as well as families whose existence would not be possible without the bonds of love that this wall honors and protects.

Look, we're here today to celebrate their courage and everyone who made the day possible. Courage that led to progress we've seen over the decades. Progress that gives us hope that every, every generation will continue our journey for a more perfect union.

On this day, I think of Mildred and Richard Loving, a young woman of color and young white man who met this family and friends and eventually fell until love. In 1958, they drove to Washington, D.C. to get married because the relationship was illegal in Virginia. They went back home five weeks later, police burst into their house and arrested them for the crime of being married, the crime of being married.

They were sentenced to one year in prison unless they agreed to leave Virginia and not return for 25 years. They appealed the sentence and it wasn't until nine years later, in 1967, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled unanimously and declared that laws against interracial marriage were unconstitutional.

Today, today, we're joined by one of the lawyers who represented the Lovings and the widow of the other lawyer who took the fight to the highest court because they believed their love should not be criminalized but should be honored and respected.


As Mildred Loving said, previous generations were, quote, readily divided over something that should have been so clear and right. So clear and right. No one could put it better.

And later, Mildred fought something that's so clear and right. Marriage equality for LGBTQ Americans.

And today, we celebrate our progress. From Hawaii, the first state to declare that denying marriage of same sex couples are unconstitutional, to Massachusetts, first state to legalize marriage equality for couples like Gina and Heidi, who you just heard from.

To all the advocates, excuse me, who worked to block or overturn state bans, as you heard earlier, Vice President Harris took a stand as attorney general in California, fought literally.

And others also spoke out. One of them was my son Beau Biden who was attorney general of the state of Delaware, who filed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in favor of marriage equality, and pushed that gender identity protections into the law as well.

Today, remember, Edie Windsor and her partner. And her partner. In 1965, they met in their 30s. They fell in love, secretly got engaged. Edie wore an engagement pin rather than a ring to avoid questions. They had 40 wonderful years together.

And Thea was diagnosed with M.S. and Edie became her full-time caregiver. They went to Canada and got married as Edie would say, don't postpone joy. And then Thea died soon after. Grieving Edie learned since their marriage was legally -- wasn't legally recognized, she would have to pay $360,000 in estate taxes, viewed as strangers rather than partners for four decades, simply unconscionable and unacceptable.

So, Edie took her case to the Supreme Court and she won. Before Edie passed away, she fell in love again at age 87. Finally, experienced the joy and dignity of legally recognized marriage to Judith.

Judith is here with us. Judith, are you up there?

Also, the other day here today, many of the 16 plaintiffs in the case that helped bring us here. They were subjected to intense public scrutiny and harassment, physical threats and violence. For years, their case made their way through the courts.

Jim couldn't be here that day, but he and I spoke on that day in June 19 -- 2015 when he was on the steps of the United States Supreme Court. I called him, right after that historic victory. A victory not just for the plaintiffs, but for the whole country and I would argue for the world.

My fellow Americans, the world at this moment has been long, but those who believe in equality and justice, you never give up, many of you standing on the South Lawn here. So many of you put your relationships on the line, your jobs on the line, your lives on the line, to fight for the law I'm about to sign.

For me and the entire nation, thank you, thank you, thank you. It's one thing -- it's one thing for the Supreme Court to rule on a

case, but it's another thing entirely if elected representatives of the people to take a vote on the floor of the United States Congress and say loudly and clearly, love is love. Right is right. Justice is justice.

These things are fundamental things that America thinks mattered. So sadly, I must also acknowledge another reason we're here. Congress is acting because of extreme Supreme Court that has stripped away the right important to millions of Americans that existed for half a century, the Dobbs decision. The court's extreme conservative majority overturned Roe v. Wade and the right to choose.

And is concurring opinion, Justice Thomas went even further and he wrote the following, quote: We should reconsider all of the court's substantive due precedence including Griswold, Lawrence, Obergefell.


That means he thinks we should reconsider whether you got the right to access to contraception. And yes, we should reconsider whether you have the right to marry who you love. And that's not the only challenge ahead.

When a person can be married in the morning and thrown out of a restaurant for being gay in the afternoon, this is still wrong. Wrong.

And that's why the people you heard speak today continue to fight to pass the Equality Act.

When hospitals, libraries and community centers are threatened and intimidated, excuse me, because they support LGBTQ children and families, we have to speak out. We must stop the hate and violence, like we just saw in Colorado Springs, where a place of acceptance and celebration was targeted for violence and terror.

We need to challenge the hundreds of callous, cynical laws introduced in the states, targeting transgender children, terrifying families and criminalizing doctors who give children the care they need. We have to protect these children so they know they are loved and we stand up for them and say I can seek for ourselves.

Folks, racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, transphobia, they're all connected, but the anecdote to hate is love. This law and the love that defends, strikes a blow against hate and all its forms.

And that's why this law matters to every single American, no matter who you are or who you love. This shouldn't be about conservative or liberal, red or blue. No, this is about realizing the promise of the Declaration of Independence. A promise rooted in the sacred and secular beliefs.

A promise that we're all created equal. We're all entitled to what Abraham Lincoln called an open field and a fair chance.

You know, there's nothing more decent, more dignified, more American, than what we're about -- what we're doing here today. It's about who we are as a nation. It's about the substance of our laws.

It's about being true to the best of the soul of America. Decency. Dignity. Love.

Let me close with something else. That happened on the same day that Congress sent me this bill. Brittney Griner was finally on her way home.

I got to know her incredible wife as we worked to bring Brittney home from her unjust imprisonment in Russia. We were together in the Oval Office, her wife and I, we heard Brittney's voice on the phone when she was freed. And we addressed the nation together.

When we did that, Brittney's wife said, quote: Today, my family is whole.

My family Americans, all-consuming, life-altering, love and commitment, that's marriage.

Thank you to everyone on the hard-fought victory generations in the making. It's been a long road. We got it done. We're going to continue to work ahead, I promise you.

God bless you all, and may God protect our troops.

And now let me sign the Respect for Marriage Act into law.

TAPPER: We are watching history being made at the White House right now. President Biden is about to sign a bill, guaranteeing that states have to recognize same-sex and interracial marriages from other states. This is the closest that Congress could get to codifying the same-sex and interracial marriage protection that the Supreme Court has affirmed and still get the 60 votes necessary in the Senate.

CNN's Phil Mattingly is live for us at the White House right now.

And, Phil, this is obviously a massive celebration on the South lawn of the White House. And I assume President Biden is going to take out many pens to -- so that he can share them with the dignitaries there. We see Vice President Harris on the right, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Senator Tammy Baldwin, the first out lesbian in the Senate.


Nancy Pelosi who's been advocating for same-sex couples' rights since she arrived in Congress. There's Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, and -- and obviously, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg who is married and has two kids.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, I would also note the Republicans that were in that picture which underscores, I think, the significance of this moment that goes beyond what the actual legislative text says, what the president actually signed into law, and more just the evolution of this issue, politically, of the drive toward getting this bill across the finish line. And to your point, Jake, this is not everything that LGBTQ advocates

wanted. What they were pushing for. It's not everything that Tammy Baldwin who really spearheaded this entire effort. When you talk to White House officials, they made clear just how tireless she was.

But they did get it across the finish line. It did get 60 votes in the U.S. Senate. It did get Republican support. Now, it's law, Jake.

TAPPER: Interesting, you see Congresswoman Sharice Davids from the Kansas City, Kansas area, the Overland Park area there on the right side of the screen, talking with First Lady Jill Biden.

Let's bring a special guest at this White House event, our own Don Lemon who is going to appear with his fiance Tim Malone.

Don, you normally cover these things as a journalist. Here you are attending as somebody who this law could potentially affect. Why was it important for you to attend the signing?

DON LEMON, ANCHOR, CNN THIS MORNING: Well -- hi, Jake, how are you? Thank you for having us on.

Tim is now getting -- understand what I do. He said it's hard to hear. We're right by the speaker and trying to listen to you and Phil.

Well, it's not likely to, it will affect us, and we are happy to be here to witness this moment. It was important. We got the invitation from the White House, I said immediately, absolutely, we want to come and we want to experience this.

As you know, Jake, we got engaged just before COVID happened. We're in the process of planning our wedding then it got sidetracked. After that, we were able to go back to the courthouse and start preparing our -- to get married again. We went to the courthouse and got our marriage license. It expires December 18th. We have to get married before December 18th or we got to go stand in line at the courthouse in New York and do it all over again.

TAPPER: Tim -- first of all, Tim, let me tell you, the key for this event is to have two IFBs, one in each one of your ears to block out the sound. I know, I don't think that we had four IFBs for you guys.

But as a civilian, what was it like to watch President Biden sign this legislation as part of this celebration?

TIM MALONE, FIANCE OF DON LEMON: It's pretty amazing. I don't know what I expected to be here today. The crowd was pretty lively. I think everyone is in a really good mood and it's pretty exciting to be here. I'm glad we came.

LEMON: And it is packed. I've been speaking to people, Jake, you're here a lot. You've been here a lot. You were a White House correspondent.

I haven't seen this many people on the White House lawn in a long time. I think they said when the infrastructure bill was signed, maybe. But, I mean, there's tons of people, and it's great, because it's -- members of the LGBTQI+ community and allies, our very own Margaret Hoover is here who has fought for marriage equality for so long. She's here as well.

I mean, it's just -- it's fantastic. Everybody's happy. I was speaking to some members of the press and they said there's no vitriol. There's nobody fighting about politics. Everybody is just happy to be here. It's a really good spirit and good mood right now.

TAPPER: There's still a lot of work to be done, but it is nice to have this achievement in the books.

Don Lemon and Tim Malone, thank you both. And I will look for my invitation in the mail whenever -- whenever the date is finally set. Congratulations. A great day for all Americans, for all Americans.

LEMON: Thank you, Jake. I appreciate it. Thank you so much.

TAPPER: Coming up next, new details behind that fusion discovery, and why researchers are calling it one of the biggest scientific breakthroughs of our time.

And the disturbing acts inmates say rare happening behind bars. How a major investigation is trying to bring the dark details to the light.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: And we're back with our money lead.

New economic data today bringing some good news for the American people. Inflation cooled more than expected last month.

Here to explain, CNN's Matt Egan and economist Mohamed El-Arian, who's the president of Queens College at the University of Cambridge.

So, Matt, walk us through exactly what we're learning from today's new data.

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Well, Jake, inflation is still high.

Tapper: Yeah.

EGAN: It is getting better. This new report shows that consumer prices in November jumped 7.1 percent year over year. That is not healthy. That is not a good number.

In fact, at any point in the last 40 years as you can see on the chart, that would be a terrible number. But everything is relative and this is another step in the right direction. This is actually the fifth month in a row where annual inflation has cooled off. It's the lowest level for this reading all year. You have to go back to last December. If you dig into the numbers, there are some good signs. Core inflation which strips out food and energy increased by the smallest amount in 15 months. We saw price declines for airfare, used cars, medical care. Energy prices -- they also cooled up. All of that good news.

I do think we have to be careful not to declare victory too early here, right? There have been head fakes along the way. Inflation has been very stubborn. Seven percent inflation is still 7 percent inflation.

But hopefully, this trend continues because that would bring real relief to families. It would also lower the risk that the fed causes recession by doing too much to put this inflation fire out.

TAPPER: Yeah. So, you said good news about core inflation which doesn't include food and energy. Hold that thought because I'm going to ask you about that.

But, Mohamed, I want to ask you, President Biden was asked when he said prices back to normal. He said, quote, I hope by the end of next year. So, the end of 2023 will be much closer.

Do you think that's realistic?

MOHAMED EL-ERIAN, PRESIDENT OF QUEEN'S COLLEGE, UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE: I think by the end of 2023, inflation will be even lower than what it is today which is good news because 7 percent is still too high.

Normal is a different concept to different people. I suspect we're going to do to the 4s and then inflation risk getting pretty sticky around 4 percent.

TAPPER: All right. And, Matt, you noted overall inflation, core inflation going down. Food inflation, though, that remains stubbornly high. That's what's causing people pain at the grocery store.


What is affected and why?

EGAN: I mean, sticker shock at the grocery store is real. Food prices overall up 10 percent from the year. That is significant.

And look at these significant categories -- butter 27 percent more expensive. Flour, 25 percent, bread, milk, chicken, eggs 49 percent more than a year ago. The last time we saw an annual gain like that, I wasn't even alive. You have to go back to February of 1984.

As far as why this is happening, there's a lot of different factors. There's extreme weather, the war in Ukraine, eggs have been hurt by the avian flu, butter has been hurt by supply issues around milk.

No matter the cause these are staples. This is real pain for people. And it shows that even though overall inflation is cooling off, some areas remain pretty high. TAPPER: And, Mohamed, I want to play something that the CEO of United

Airlines, Scott Kirby, said on CNN this morning about his view of the chances of a recession in the United States. Take a listen.


SCOTT KIRBY, CEO, UNITED AIRLINES: If I didn't watch business shows or read "The Wall Street Journal", the word recession wouldn't be in my vocabulary, because we just don't see it in our data. In fact, every month, we set new records. You know, a lot of what's happening I think is a return to normalcy.


TAPPER: What do you make of that?

MOHAMED EL-ERIAN, PRESIDENT OF QUEEN'S COLLEGE, UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE: I make that there are two U.S. economies right now. And that's true whether you talk about economic activity or whether you talk about inflation. That's the manufacturing and services.

Manufacturing is contracting. Parts of manufacturing are already in recession. Services are doing just fine. And United is doing just fine because people are wanting to travel. So, the consumption of services is still healthy but the consumption on certain goods is under pressure.

And you see that in inflation. The high inflation happening in the service sector and a low inflation is happening in the goods sector. So, what he is talking about is these two U.S. economies and the importance for policy to address the whole economy and not just focus on one or the other.

TAPPER: Mohamed El-Erian and Matt Egan, thanks to both of you. Appreciate it.

Turning to our national league now, a historic breakthrough that could change life on this planet as we know it. Now, the scientists have figured out how to replicate the energy of the sun using a nuclear fusion reaction.

How long could it be until there is an unlimited supply of this precise clean energy?

CNN's Rene Marsh takes a look now at how scientists are moving forward with the so-called holy grail of carbon free power.


JENNIFER GRANHOLM, SECRETARY OF ENERGY: This is one of the most impressive scientific feats of the 21st century. Or as the president might say, this is a BFD.

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The breakthrough happened inside this department of energy lab in California. U.S. scientists have effectively figured out how to bottle the sun, using 192 high powered lasers to simultaneously fire upon two hydrogen atoms. The pressure and heat fuse them together, unleashing energy that replicates the conditions that has allowed the sun to burn bright for billions of years.

GRANHOLM: This milestone moves us one significant step closer to the possibility of zero carbon, abundant fusion energy powering our society. We could use it to produce clean electricity, transportation fuels, power heavy industry.

MARSH: On December 5th, for the first time ever, the fusion produced more energy than the lasers used to drive it. For an energy source to be viable, the output must be larger than the energy used to produce it, proving nuclear fusion is a feasible energy source with no carbon footprint and no radioactive waste.

DR. ARATI PRABHAKAR, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY POLICY: It took not just one generation but generations of people pursuing this goal. It's a scientific milestone.

MARSH: The discovery is critical in the quest to pivot away from dirty energy sources like fossil fuels and power our everyday lives using clean energy, but it could be decades before it's available for a wide scale use. And by that time, the climate crisis could have reached a tipping point.


MARSH (on camera): Well, Jake, the Biden administration has said and aspirational goal of getting a commercial fusion reactor up and running in the next decade. But when you talk to a lot of these scientists, they say it's more like 2 to 3 decades from now.

TAPPER: Well, it's good to have a goal, though. Remember when JFK did that with the moon. People --

MARSH: That's right.

TAPPER: There were naysayers at the time. We'll see, we'll see.

MARSH: Yeah.

TAPPER: Rene Marsh, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, major investigation uncovering disturbing acts inside America's federal prison system and the brave women coming forward to shed light on the problems.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our buried lead, that's what we tell stories we think are not getting enough attention, a damning and disturbing new Senate report finding widespread sexual abuse in federal women's prisons. The bipartisan report revealing that female inmates were abused in at least 19 of the 29 federal facilities that have held women prisoners over the past decade, and finding that many allegations of abuse were not even investigated.

Joining us now to discuss is Senator Jon Ossoff. He's a Democrat of Georgia, and the chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee that launched this investigation.

Senator, good to see you as always.

So, your committee interviewed dozens of whistleblowers for this report. Today, you held a hearing with three brave women who told their stories about how authorities failed to protect them.


I want to play some of the sound of what they told you today.


CAROLYN RICHARDSON, FORMER FEDERAL INMATE: They told me that my cell wasn't perfect area because security cameras could not see him coming or going.

BRIANE MOORE, FORMER FEDERAL INMATE: They told me if I didn't follow his orders, he would not interfere with my transfer. He then raped me.

LINDA DE LA ROSA, FORMER FEDERAL INMATE: FMC Lexington Management granted my attacker unrestricted and unsupervised contact with me on working details which gave him one-on-one access to abuse or threatened to abuse me.


TAPPER: Horrifying stories. How widespread do you think this kind of abuse is?

SEN. JON OSSOFF (D-GA): Jake, thank you for helping to shed light on this crisis in federal prisons. We heard from those three survivors of sexual assault in federal prisons and there are so many more who they represent. We found that in two-thirds of federal prisons that have housed women in the last decade, there has been sexual assault of female inmates by employees of the federal bureau of prisons. Some of the details particularly shocking.

At FCI Dublin in California, the warden and the chaplain were both sexually assaulting inmates. At FCC Coleman in Florida, multiple BOP employees using multiple women over a sustained period. No one was prosecuted. And, in fact, some of those who admitted in statements to raping inmates were permitted to retire with benefits.

This is a long term and systemic crisis at the federal bureau of prisons, which is why I launched this eight month bipartisan investigation and brought these findings to the public's attention today.

TAPPER: Each of the survivors spoke of the fear of retaliation if they reported their attackers.

Here's what Linda De La Rosa told your committee earlier.


DE LA ROSA: I believe the problem is the old boys club. Prison staff, managers, investigators, the correctional officers, they all work together for years, if not decades. No one wants to rock the boat, let alone listen to female inmates.


TAPPER: How does the system change if there's not one man who's part of the system who is willing to rock the boat, to use the survivors words?

OSSOFF: Well, you will recall, Jake, that I led yet another investigation earlier this year of corruption at the Bureau of Prisons facilities, where we saw many of the same issues -- a culture of secrecy and impunity, internal investigative processes that were totally dysfunctional. And right up to the very top of this federal agency, apathy, negligence and ignorance.

And change has to start at the top of the federal Bureau of Prisons. Congress has an important role to play conducting oversight and investigations such as I have. I have also got two major bipartisan bills working through Congress right now. But the real opportunity for immediate changes with the new director of the federal Bureau of Prisons, Colette Peters.

She satisfied today. She is saying the right things. She appears to be serious about reform. She has a big task ahead of her to wrap her arms around this disease to bureaucracy, this deeply dysfunctional federal agency and make change -- make change immediately.

TAPPER: So, hundreds of sexual abuse allegations have not been investigated, as you know. The report also highlights the case where the Justice Department declined to even investigate male officers accused of abusing prisoners. It is -- the DOJ, the Justice Department, failing incarcerated women?

OSSOFF: Well, it has for the last decade. I think in the last year, there have been signs of some new recognition that this is a systemic crisis within the Bureau of Prisons. We heard today at the hearing from the inspector general from the Department of Justice who acknowledged mistakes have been made that have resulted in some of these admitted abusers escaping prosecution.

The bottom line, as you mentioned, more than 5,000 allegations of sexual abuse in the last decade. What we heard from those today who had survived sexual assault, none of them had reported these assaults. There is fear of retaliation, there is widespread non-recording.

And so, the extent of abuse is likely much whiter and then what we were able to identify in this eight-month bipartisan hearing. TAPPER: So, you spent a lot of effort laudably focused on how the

United States government treats it's prisoners. And, look, when somebody gets convicted, they don't not become human anymore. There is an obligation that the government has to keep that person safe, even if they are being incarcerated.

But do you think the public cares as much as it should? Do you think your colleagues care as much as they should?

OSSOFF: I think the American public it is deeply offended by the fact that within federal prison facilities, inmates have been raped by federal officials. It is an absolute outrage and a defense of the consciousness of every American. It's an affront to the U.S. Constitution.


Our constitutional tradition is rooted in a rejection of tyranny, of cruel and unusual punishment, of the abuse of power and violations of civil rights and civil liberties. Those who are incarcerated, they deserve to do their time. They do not deserve to be raped. They do not deserve to be abused.

And those who do abuse that must be held accountable and criminally accountable.

TAPPER: Democratic Senator Jon Ossoff of Georgia, thanks again. Really appreciate your time and your focus on this issue.

OSSOFF: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up, the defense system that Ukraine has been begging for for months. And now, sources tell CNN it might finally be on the way. We're going to go to the Pentagon for this one. That's next.


TAPPER: In our world lead, a story reported first on CNN. Sources say the United States government is finalizing plans to arm Ukraine with a Patriot missile defense system, something that Ukrainian leaders have been requesting for months now, begging even.

The long range air defense equipment could be especially helpful against Russia's ramped up attacks on key Ukrainian infrastructure, which has knocked out power and water supply lines across Ukraine, essentially weaponizing winter.


CNN's Oren Liebermann is at the Pentagon for us right now.

Oren, why the hesitation to give Ukraine this Patriot missile defense system before now and why the U.S. change of mind?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, this has been a process for the Biden administration. It used to be a hard no when it came to Patriot missiles and then it was worth considering and now we expect imminent approval, according to U.S. officials, a patriot missiles to Ukraine.

Part of the challenge with Patriots is the number of soldiers required. Patriot missile batteries required dozens of soldiers, if not 100 soldiers to properly operate a battery. And the complex systems require months of training. So, that was part of the reason the administration decided against it earlier. But now, it's obvious this war will continue and because of those attacks on civilian and energy infrastructure in part of Russia that you just mentioned, that seems to have tipped the scale in favor of sending Patriot missiles to Ukraine.

Now, there is still months of training ahead and this will be a process. As you look at the U.S. has provided so far, Patriot missiles will provide a longer range option, on top of the NASAMS and shorter range that the U.S. has already provided.

TAPPER: And once President Biden signs off on this officially, how quickly could the equipment start moving and arriving in Ukraine?

LIEBERMANN: Well, the U.S. is showing an ability to move equipment very quickly, whether it's HIMARS or howitzers, the U.S. can get those on a flight in two countries near Ukraine and in Ukraine quickly. That's not been a challenge. It's how much can they compress the training to make that work. This is normally months of training.

Ukraine has shown an ability for its soldiers and its service members to learn U.S. systems, complex systems very quickly, but I suspect we are about to find out how much you can shorten the timeline on a complex aerial defense system.

TAPPER: All right. Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon for us, thanks so much.

Today, the Ukrainian foreign minister warned Russian missile attacks have turned the entire country into a frontline. This comes as Ukraine fears Russia could further invade, this time from neighboring Belarus.

CNN's Will Ripley joins us now live.

And, Will, you were near the Ukraine-Belarus border earlier today. What did you see?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They're fortifying their defenses, Jake. They are digging trenches, the kind of trenches that soldiers were using 100 years ago in World War I. And they are putting more soldiers up there at a time when Ukraine needs resources as they fight intensely on the front lines to the east and down across from Kherson, the liberal liberated city to the south.

But up in the north on the Belarusian side, there are joint combat drills that were happening as recently as last week between the Belarusian army and the Russian army. Now, of course, these two are very economically and militarily close. They actually are formally part of the union state. And yet, Belarus had said before the beginning of the war that they

weren't going to get involved. They did allow Russians to invade across their border in February. And now, at least three Belarusian regions, the number of Russian troops is growing day-by-day.

Now the question is whether this is some sort of an event to stage, try to distract Ukraine and pull them away from other areas, hotspots where they need resources, or if Russia is indeed trying to drive across the border once they -- once the deep freeze hits -- the Ukrainians have a very different surprise, not much of a surprise, they brought us, waiting for the potential invaders.

They have land mines throughout the forest. They have rigged bridges with explosives. They have trenches that are staffed 24/7 keeping an eye on the horizon ready for whatever comes down the road, Jake.

TAPPER: And, Will, how -- the infrastructure issue, Russia targeting critical energy lines, power lines so asked to deprive the Ukrainian people, civilians of warmth in the freezing cold. How widespread is that problem?

RIPLEY: Pretty much everybody in Ukraine is living with a limited power right now. It might be some here in Kyiv only without power for a few hours a day. Other places, people only have power for an hour or two a day. And it really depends on the status of their power grid. You know, Russia has been relentlessly attacking the power grids across this country.

Even here in Kyiv, earlier today the air raid sirens went off. In the end, it turned out to be a false alarm. Russian bombers were spotted in the area with a kind of missiles that Ukrainians cannot shoot down. As of now, that's why it is patriot missile defense system uses so welcome in the Ukrainian capital, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Will Ripley, thanks so much.

Coming up next, CNN is on the U.S.-Mexico border as we learn of a surge in migrants by 280 percent in one area alone.

Stay with us.



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

This hour, double trouble from Mother Nature. Travel is nearly impossible for millions of Americans experiencing blizzard conditions, right now, while millions more are dealing with severe tornado threats.

Plus, the triple threat of COVID, RSV, and the flu causing hospitals across the United States to run out of beds.

And leading this hour, a looming crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border as the Trump era border policy known as Title 42 is set to expire next week. Title 42 mostly barred asylum seekers from being able to enter the United States during the pandemic, a surge of more than 7,000 migrants across into the U.S. near El Paso, Texas, over the weekend, and the city is bracing for more people to cross.

Hundred people have been camped out across the border in Ciudad Juarez, waiting to cross next week. City shelters, border agents, another local resources are currently overwhelmed, leaving some migrants sleeping on the street and in parking garages.

We're going to talk to Democratic Congresswoman Veronica Escobar who represents the El Paso area in just a moment.