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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Germany Won't Allow Transfer Of Its Tanks Unless U.S. Sends Its Own; Sources: U.S. Finalizing $2.5B Military Aid Package For Ukraine; NYT: U.S. Warms To Helping Ukraine Target Crimea; Veteran Shares Emotional Details Of Claim That Santos Took $3,000 Meant For Dying Dog's Care; VA GOP Gov. Youngkin Backs Legislation That Would Require High Schools To Inform Student Of Awards; Texas Gov. Abbott: "Schools Are For Education, Not Indoctrination"; Far-Right Republicans Given Influential Committee Assignments; Study: Some Adults Can Wait Longer Than The Recommended 10 Years To Repeat A Colonoscopy. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired January 19, 2023 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: CNN's Alex Marquardt now breaks down this brewing diplomatic showdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in Germany today step up the pressure on them to allow critical German tanks to be sent to Ukraine.
LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Your contributions of security assistance and training for Ukraine's defenders have been invaluable.
MARQUARDT (voice-over): But Germany so far resisting pleas to approve its widely praised Leopard 2 tanks. Germany's chancellor saying they don't want to make such a bold move alone and calling on others, including the U.S. to do the same.
OLAF SCHOLZ, GERMAN CHANCELLOR: This is the strategy we have that we are strategically interlocked together with our friends and partners, that we are never doing something just by ourselves, but together with others, especially the United States.
MARQUARDT (voice-over): That German resistance straining the NATO alliance when they have acted largely in unison for the past year of this war and frustrating Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, UKRAINE (through translator): Do not hesitate. There is no need to compare. If you say, I will give tanks if someone else also gives tanks, or I am powerful in Europe, but I will help if someone else outside of Europe also helps. It seems to me that this is not a very correct strategy.
MARQUARDT (voice-over): Ukraine's defense ministry putting out a light hearted video appeal. The American M1 Abrams tank U.S. officials say, is too heavy, too complicated, too hard to maintain to send to Ukraine. Instead, in a new aid package expected soon worth around $2.5 billion, the U.S. expected to step up its support with Striker combat vehicles, a fast nimble armored vehicle that, alongside the American Bradley Fighting Vehicles, which were already committed, will give Ukraine a significant mechanized capability. This, as Ukraine tries to claw back territory as it warns of a Russian spring offensive in the coming weeks.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
MARQUARDT: And tomorrow, the United States is convening a meeting of the Ukraine contact group at the U.S. air base or base in Ramstein, Germany. Around 50 countries and organizations coming together to discuss what more Ukraine needs in terms of military aid. A senior Pentagon official says that the U.S. is optimistic they can unlock Germany's decision on those Leopard 2 tanks by the end of the week.
But, Jake, the U.S. is in a tough spot over Germany. One senior administration official telling CNN they have us over a barrel.
TAPPER: All right, Alex, thanks so much. Appreciate it. CNN's Alex Marquardt.
Let's bring in the National Security Council's Coordinator for Strategic Communications, Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby.
Admiral Kirby, let me just start with what Alex said. Why do the Germans have the U.S. over a barrel?
JOHN KIRBY, NATL. SECURITY COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: Well, I think there's this notion out there that, you know, that they won't provide anything unless others provide something. You heard Chancellor Scholz talk about this earlier today. What he's looking for is some unity and solidarity, and that unity and solidarity is there amongst NATO allies.
I won't get ahead of decisions that we haven't made yet. But we're certainly grateful that the Germans are thinking about tanks, they have also provided in recent weeks other advanced capabilities to the Ukrainians. And so, this is an ongoing conversation.
TAPPER: Well, U.S. officials have repeatedly said that Abrams tanks are off the table due to logistical and maintenance complications, and of course, they require jet fuel to operate. But the U.S. did successfully use Abrams tanks in both Afghanistan and Iraq for years. So, is the fuel really the issue here or is it a resistance to Russian potential retaliation?
KIRBY: Again, we're not going to get ahead of decisions we haven't made, Jake. The Abrams tank is a very sophisticated, very capable armored vehicle, armored weapon system, and it does have special requirements. It would require some unique supply chain requirements and maintenance and operation requirements that other tanks probably wouldn't and would be easier for the Ukrainians to learn how to use and to use effectively on the battlefield.
But we're going to keep this conversation going. It's going to happen tomorrow at Ramstein with Secretary Austin and dozens of other nations. And we'll see where this goes.
TAPPER: A former Ukrainian ambassador to Germany tweeted today, quote, "Must be jogging in the wrong place since everyone I bumped into was wondering why in hell Germany does not deliver Leopard tanks. Even Kyivian ducks and doves don't really understand what's going on in Berlin." And that's just one of many Ukrainians --
TAPPER: -- on social media --
TAPPER: -- trolling Germany over this. Why do you think Germany is refusing to take this step? I mean, it's not as if the United States hasn't already like fully engaged in giving so many weapons systems to the Ukrainians.
KIRBY: Well, difficult to know exactly what the Germans are thinking and I certainly want to speak for them. I would just make a couple of points. Germany is one of the leading financial contributors to Ukraine. They have been right at the forefront since -- even before the war started. They have evolved their capabilities over time, Jake. They have provided more advanced, including air defense systems to Ukraine.
And so, they're working through this in a sovereign way, in a way that's unique to German -- and to Germany and to their domestic concerns. And we have to respect that. We're grateful for what they provided, and we're grateful that they're thinking about providing tanks. And we're just going to have to see where this goes.
TAPPER: Speaking of things that are unique to Germany, don't you think they have a special obligation to try to help the slaughter of innocents, given their ugly history?
KIRBY: They have, but they have, Jake. We all do. You know, Alex mentioned something in THE LEAD into you coming to me about, you know, fractures in the NATO alliance, you know, because of this, and I just have to disagree with that. There's no fractures over this or any other system that's going to go into Ukraine. And the Germans understand very much what's at stake in Ukraine.
And they have stepped up. They have improved and advanced and contributed more than they were in the early months of the war.
You know what, Jake, I mean, so have we. I mean, you know, when you and I were first talking about this a year or so ago we were talking about Javelin antitank missiles and Stingers. Now we're talking about Patriots and HIMARS and potentially tanks. I mean, every nation has kind of evolved their contributions with the way the war has evolved, and Germany is no exception to that.
TAPPER: I'm not the one criticizing the Germans. The Ukrainian government is.
TAPPER: But let me ask you about this new $2.5 billion aid package. It would be one of the biggest since the start of the war. Notably, sources tell CNN it will include Striker combat vehicles for the first time. The U.S. has been criticized, not by me, for sending just enough aid so Ukraine doesn't lose, but not enough so that they can win. Do you think this new aid package will change that dynamic?
KIRBY: I think what you're going to see in this new package that should be coming very shortly is a lot of relevant capabilities, weapons systems and armored capabilities that they need for the fight they're in right now. In places like, you know, Bakhmut and Soledar and the Donbas, because the fighting hasn't died down there. As well as the kinds of capabilities that will help them in what we believe will be the fighting they'll experience and need to have at their ready hand for the coming weeks and months throughout the winter and into the spring. So I think you're going to see it's very relevant to the fight that they're in and that they will be in. And we're confident of that.
TAPPER: "The New York Times" is reporting that the Biden administration is warming to the idea of helping Ukraine take back Crimea, which was, of course, illegally annexed by Russia back in the Obama years, 2014. That would be a hugely significant shift. Can you confirm that these discussions are at least taking place?
KIRBY: We have always maintained that the Ukrainians get to decide where they're going to strike, where they're going to operate, what weapon systems they're going to use to do that. We're not dictating those terms to them. And we've also always said Crimea is Ukraine. It is part of Ukraine, as is the Donbass, Bakhmut, Soledar, all these towns we're talking about, Kherson, it's Ukraine. And the Ukrainians have a right to regain their sovereignty. They have a right to preserve and to protect and to also hold on to their territorial integrity. And we're not dictating those terms to them.
TAPPER: Admiral John Kirby, always good to have you on. Thank you, sir.
KIRBY: Thanks, Jake.
TAPPER: On the ground in Ukraine, it's been nearly a year since Putin's bloody unprovoked war began and the human toll is immense. A U.N. report out this month estimates that more than 7,000 civilians have died. In December, an aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said they've lost up to 13,000 Ukrainian soldiers, though, that is far below the U.S. estimate, which is closer to 100,000 Ukrainian troops dead.
Given the fog of war, exact numbers are difficult to come by, of course. But as CNN's Ben Wedeman reports for us, to Ukrainian medics, the unrelenting flow of injured and dead is abundantly clear and horrifying.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They've been through the valley of the shadow of death. Most, but not all made it out of the valley alive but not unscathed.
On this stretch of road overlooking the battles for Bakhmut and Soledar, it's just safe enough to deliver the wounded to medics. Strewn along the road, a blood stained stretcher, a discarded bloodied flat jacket.
(on camera): These troops are just back from the front at Soledar, they took wounded. They were facing Wagner fighters. They say those fighters were attacking in waves. Now, they're going back to safer ground.
(voice-over): The combat they saw was intense.
There were regular troops, says this soldier, and in front of them just meat convicts in packs (ph), on drugs, without armor, without helmets. For them, life has no value.
Down in the killing fields, the shelling goes on without let up. For the medics, there is no rest.
Sometimes the mortars don't give us any breathing space, Anatoly, a medic, tells me we have many casualties from trap (ph). And when the snipers come, then there are many dead and wounded.
Troops transfer a fallen comrade from their armored car to a van. Here, the shadow of death is heavy.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
WEDEMAN: What is abundantly clear at the front is that Ukrainian forces are struggling to hold the line. Now, Ukrainian officials are loath to admit that Soledar has fallen. Most soldiers we spoke to say and already has. And pressure on Bakmut is mounting.
What we've heard time and time again from troops in the front lines is that they need new ammunition, new and better weapons, and they need them now. Jake.
TAPPER: Ben Wedeman in Kramatorsk, Ukraine. Thank you for that report.
Actor Alec Baldwin will be charged with involuntary manslaughter for the deadly shooting of a cinematographer in a movie set. Coming up next, who else is facing charges?
Then, a state investigation into a National Merit Scholarship scandal is expanding after it's revealed more schools failed to tell students that they had received this award. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Actor Alec Baldwin is looking at a possible five-year prison sentence after prosecutors announced their plan to file involuntary manslaughter charges against him. This is over his role in the fatal 2021 "Rust" movie set shooting in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The armorer responsible for handling prop weapons on set is also facing charges. Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed by a live round of ammunition fired from a prop gun held by Baldwin. As CNN's Chloe Melas reports, Baldwin's lawyers are promising to fight the charges.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR/PRODUCER: I was holding the gun, yes.
CHLOE MELAS. CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER (voice-over): Actor and producer Alec Baldwin now facing criminal charges in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the New Mexico set of the film "Rust" in 2021.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One female shot in the chest.
MELAS (voice-over): Baldwin, as well as the film's armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, will be charged with two counts each of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're getting these guys treated.
MELAS (voice-over): District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies saying lack of safety protocols led to the tragedy and the charges announced today.
MARY CARMACK-ALTWIES, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: It was the totality of the circumstances that this was a really fast and loose set and that nobody was doing their job.
MELAS (voice-over): The cinematographer was fatally shot by ammunition fired from a prop gun Baldwin was holding.
CARMACK-ALTWIES: He didn't check it. He didn't do any of the things that he was supposed to do to make sure that he was safe or that anyone around him was safe. And then he pointed the gun at Halyna Hutchins and he pulled the trigger.
MELAS (voice-over): But Baldwin blamed the armorer and the assistant director, Dave Halls, who handed him the gun, saying he had no reason to believe the gun was loaded. Baldwin telling CNN last year.
BALDWIN: Why didn't she check that bullet? Why? Why did he give me the gun? Why didn't he check?
MELAS (voice-over): A flurry of lawsuits ensued. Attorneys for both have accused Baldwin of deflecting blame, maintaining they were not at fault in the shooting. In a statement, Baldwin's attorney called the decision to file charges against him, quote, "A terrible miscarriage of justice," saying he was assured the gun did not have live rounds and that he will fight the charges. Baldwin maintains he never pulled the trigger.
BALDWIN: I never once said, never, that the gun went off in my hand automatically. I always said I pulled the hammer back and I pulled it back as far as I could. I never took a gun and pointed at somebody and clicked the thing.
MELAS (voice-over): Gutierrez Reed's attorney said in a statement, "She has been emotional about the tragedy but has committed no crime." The assistant director signed a plea agreement for negligent use of a deadly weapon and received six months probation and a suspended sentence in the shooting.
Hutchins family, who reached an undisclosed settlement with Baldwin and the other producers of "Rust" in a separate wrongful death lawsuit, saying in a statement, they support the charges and will cooperate with the prosecution. Adding, quote, "It is a comfort to the family that in New Mexico, no one is above the law."
CARMACK-ALTWIES: This is really about justice for Elena Hutchins. Every person that handles a gun has a duty to make sure that if they are going to handle that gun, point it at someone and pull the trigger, that it is not going to fire a projectile and kill someone.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
MELAS: Jake, so, Alec Baldwin's attorney telling me that they felt blindsided by these charges, that they found out through the media today, but that they do plan to fight this, take it to court and to trial.
TAPPER: All right. Chloe Melas, thank you so much for that report.
Freshman Congressman George Santos is now responding to the allegation that he pocketed $3,000 that was raised to save a homeless veteran's dog. And that veteran has a message for Santos.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD OSTHOFF, SAYS SANTOS TOOK MONEY INTENDED FOR HIS DYING DOG: Do you have a heart? Do you have a soul? He probably would lie about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Benjamin Franklin once said that nothing in life is certain except death and taxes. Perhaps now we can add a third, a daily claim against Republican Congressman George Santos, accusing him of being a deceitful hustler, cheat and con man. Today, Santos is denying an accusation that he swindled a homeless, disabled navy veteran out of $3,000 that had been raised to save the life of the vet's beloved dying service dog, Sapphire. CNN's Eva McKend is here.
And, Eva, that veteran spoke with CNN earlier today, and he has evidence to back up his claims, right?
EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: He sure does, Jake. He has text messages that he exchanged with, he was known at the time as Anthony Devolder to that veteran, but of course, we all know -- now know him as George Santos. And this veteran says that essentially he was desperate at the time. He was living in a tent with his dog, Sapphire. He took him to the vet.
The vet said that the dog would need this expensive surgery in order to live. Mr. Santos was recommended to him at the time. Santos used Facebook through -- and his pet charity to raise about $3,000 through a GoFundMe account. But this veteran never saw that money. He just got the runaround from Santos when he tried to retrieve it.
Ultimately, the dog had to be euthanized. A very, very sad situation. We are now hearing from this vet. Now, take a listen to what he told our colleague Don Lemon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OSTHOFF: Do you have a heart? Do you have a soul? He probably would lie about that.
I mean, I don't want you to ever hurt anybody like you hurt me again, George. And nobody else should ever have to go through that. I almost killed myself when that dog died. That's why I'm here. I don't want him to be able to do this again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCKEND: So, Jake, Santos is denying these claims, saying his work with animals are a labor of love and that he does not know this man. There are constituents today, though, in his district, they identify themselves as the concerned citizens of New York 03, and they have sent a letter to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy saying that McCarthy needs to do more to put pressure on Santos to resign.
For his part, though, Santos moving right along. No indications that he's going to resign. It appears as though he's started constituent visits, it looks like he has visited or is visiting a Hindu temple in his district this week.
TAPPER: Of course, this accusation comes amidst so many lies that have been proven that he's made. He's recently -- repeatedly claimed that his mother was at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, and that the horrific terrorist attack played a role in her death, ultimately from cancer. But newly uncovered records suggest that also is not true.
MCKEND: Yes, CNN has gotten a hold of immigration records that indicate that this is not the case. He has told variations of this story time and time again, indicating that his mother was in the South Tower, but she wasn't. Not only in New York, Jake, she wasn't even living in the country at the time. That is what these records reveal.
TAPPER: Just absolutely crazy, this story. All right, I'll see you tomorrow for the next revelation about George Santos. Eva McKend, thanks so much.
Let's turn to a bizarre intraparty battle also in the Empire State. New York Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul is considering taking legal action against her state's Democratic controlled state Senate after the Judiciary Committee there voted against her nominee to become the state's chief judge. Hochul is demanding that the nomination go to the floor for a full state Senate vote, a move one Democrat is warning could create a constitutional crisis in New York. CNN's Gloria Pazmino joins us now live with more on this.
Gloria, Governor Hochul held a news conference a short while ago. What does she have to say?
GLORIA PAZMINO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, it's clear the governor wants to at least try and keep her options open for now, the governor adding to what is already a pretty bad political embarrassment. Here's the Democratic governor having her nominee for the chief justice of the state rejected by the state Senate committee.
Now, here's where things stand. Justice Hector LaSalle was nominated, as I said, by Kathy Hochul. This is like having a Democratic president or a Republican president have his chief justice nominee rejected by the same party that is in control in Congress. It's a big deal that Democrats are fighting amongst each other over this.
There was significant opposition to Hector LaSalle going into yesterday's hearing where he was voted against. And labor groups, progressive Democrats, even some moderate Democrats made it clear to the governor they were not going to support her nomination. And that is where this failure of sort of politics 101 comes in.
If you don't have the votes, don't send it up for a vote. But that is exactly what she did. She pulled ahead and asked about what she plans to do. Now, here's what she has to say. Just a short while ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): We had a chance to see also what shapes his decisions based on his many years of experience running the largest appellate court in the country. So, I thought he did an extraordinary job, and we're certainly looking at all of our options.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAZMINO: Now, all of her options could potentially include a lawsuit, a law suit against her own party, which currently holds the majority in the state Senate. What jurisdiction that will fall under is unclear to us. But it seems like she is keeping that option open because she believes that ultimately her nomination should go up to a full vote in the state Senate. That is, however, depending on who you ask and who is reading the Constitution, how they're interpreting it it's really up for debate. Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Chaos in New York. Gloria Pazmino, thank you so much.
Why did a handful of public schools not tell dozens of their own students that they were National Merit Scholarship finalists? That story is next.
TAPPER: In our national lead, more than a dozen Virginia schools failed to notify students and parents, students who had been given National Merit Commendations, meaning they could not include that honor in their college applications and might have missed an opportunity to qualify for special scholarships.
Now, the state's Republican Governor, Glenn Youngkin, is saying that these schools did that because administrators did not want to make students who didn't earn those achievements feel bad. And Governor Youngkin wants to take action. He's backing state legislation that would require schools to notify students and parents of awardees once they -- and awards once they learn about them.
CNN's Athena Jones joins us now. Athena, what are the schools saying about why they failed to notify the students and their parents about these awards?
ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fairfax County Public Schools is saying that they believe this was a human error, a one-time thing. They are -- they don't -- do not believe this is something that was done intentionally. It was more like an oversight.
I've also heard from several of the parents and officials I've been talking to that, the now National Merit Scholarship Corporation sends these notifications about commendations. Those are basically honorable mentions. Students who made the top 50,000 in this competition top 50,000 students. They send those certificates by snail mail, sometimes just with the name of the school on the envelope or just principal without the principal's name.
So, there are a lot of stories we're hearing about things getting lost in the mail. But bottom line, Fairfax County Public School said that they're going to investigate this. A third party, an independent third party is carrying out an investigation into just what happened here. But they said that they're not at all trying to diminish any student's excellence. But listen to the governor, Governor Glenn Youngkin, who you mentioned, said he believes these schools have done this on purpose. Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GLENN YOUNGKIN (R), VIRGINIA: They have a maniacal focus on equal outcomes for all students at all cost. This overarching effort for equal outcomes is hurting Virginia's children, and it's hurting even worse the children that they aspire to help.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: And so, as you mentioned, he has now put forward a bill for the General Assembly in Virginia calling on schools to be required to notify students immediately as soon as they're told about these certificates. But one thing that's important to note here, Jake, is that these commendations are not scholarships. They are not the same thing as scholarships.
The ones who receive, the students who receive commendations are out of the running, actually, for the National Merit Scholarships. They're still able to access a few limited scholarships sponsored by corporations or a business. Jake?
TAPPER: I know that you've been on the phone with the very active and engaged parents of Northern Virginia all week. What are they telling you?
JONES: This is really interesting. A lot of them are talking about this being part of a much larger issue. You know, we know that Governor Glenn Youngkin ran on education issues around equity and diversity, gender and race issues in schools, also opening schools. And so these parents that I've been talking to, many of them parents of students at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, that is the number one ranked school in the entire country.
So a high performing school with a lot of commended students. Every single one of them I've talked to, which is at least half a dozen, these parents say that their kids who were commended, they don't actually think this is that big of a deal. They think this has been blown out of proportion.
And they say that there are many, many other higher achievements than getting this sort of honorable mention certificate saying they did a good job on the PSAT. They think colleges are going to pay more attention to the SAT and other activities.
And so, we're really trying to get to the bottom of this, trying to get an interview with the superintendent of Fairfax County schools, but they basically say, we did not do this intentionally. This is not about, you know, equity over accomplishment. And the students who are commended are basically shrugging it off, the ones I've spoken with.
TAPPER: All right, Athena Jones, thanks so much. Let's discuss with my panel. And Jackie, this does come, as Athena notes, amid this larger context about administrators versus some parents and suspicions that some of these schools were more worried about the feelings of students who didn't get these awards, although I guess we still are waiting for all the evidence to come in.
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, and while that evidence is coming in, I think you can't turn away from Glenn Youngkin, who very much parlayed the issue of education and parental rage into office. I mean, this was the issue that really fueled him. And so the fact that he is latching on to this just shows you how, I mean, he knows that this is very much something that he's hearing from parents.
And those same parents, and these people might have voted for, you know, Joe Biden, but they also voted for Glenn Youngkin because of this education issue. He knows this is a sweet spot for him.
AUDIE CORNISH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's also maybe a tiny bit overplayed. I mean, when I was doing some reporting on school board members and conservative activism around school board members, some of the things that you're hearing, there's of code there. It's interesting on the week of Martin Luther King's sort of celebration, You hear a politician saying this is not about equity of outcomes.
This is a kind of political language for those on the right who say, you can't just throw out the word equality without that having some nefarious meaning, without that having some implication that means it's a zero-sum game of loss for your child. One other thing I want to mention is that Glenn Youngkin, at one point, they had a hotline for people to call in and say, are you being taught something that you don't think is politically fair?
CORNISH: The hotline closed because there weren't any callers, and the ones there were was like the same five people over and over again.
CORNISH: He's trying to hold on to a political point. He's trying to stoke it. That doesn't mean it's real. And we're playing by his terms when we frame the story this way.
TAPPER: It is an issue that a lot of Republicans are grasping at or are using or seizing. Take a listen to Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott during his most recent inaugural address earlier this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: This also strive for excellence in education. We must never forget our schools are for education, not for indoctrination.
(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: I mean, you hear that a lot from Republicans, DeSantis too, is another one.
LANHEE CHEN, FELLOW, HOOVER INSTITUTION: Yes. I mean, this brings cultural politics together with the politics of education. And the 2024 subtext here is obvious, right? Glenn Youngkin --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
CHEN: -- rode the education issue to winning in a state that Republicans did not think was winnable. And now you have him kind of coming back to this issue as he thinks about what is my lane for 2024, if he proceeds in that direction. It's never too early to start thinking about one's lane in a presidential primary.
And so I do think that in some ways this was a savvy move by Youngkin because it allows people, it reminds people of the work he did on education during that campaign. And it brings back the fact that here's someone who is not going to shrink from Ron DeSantis or others who might run in 2024. He can be just as conservative, just as active on anti-woke politics. And so, I think in that way, politically, it was a good move for him.
NAVIN NAYAK, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS ACTION FUND: Actually, you know, the context for him in the election really was COVID. I mean, I know they tried to make it about CRT, which --
TAPPER: Critical race theory.
NAYAK: Critical race theory. Good luck making that, I think, the issue two years from now. But the COVID thing really was real, especially in Northern Virginia where there were a lot of angry parents. I thought the telling thing there in his comments about pretending to be really concerned about this hurting students was you had a six-year-old in Norfolk, Virginia this week walk in and shoot a teacher with an armed weapon.
He responded to this awards debacle, which was clearly a mess, introducing legislation to do something. No response to the actual issue that's keeping, you know, I think, a lot of families up at night about the safety of their kids in school. So that contrast has stark me.
TAPPER: Let's turn to investigations on Capitol Hill because right now the House Oversight Committee has just yesterday announced some of its new members and the roster includes some of the most extreme conspiracy theory embracing Republicans that often engage in what Congresswoman Nancy Mace, a Republican on the committee, told me is, quote, political performance art.
Considering -- let's just take at face value that Congress has an important oversight responsibility when it comes to the executive branch just as a proposition. Are you worried at all -- well let me start with you, as a Republican, are you worried at all that some of the performance artists, as Mace refers to them, are going to undermine whatever important work needs to be done. CHEN: Yes, I mean, I'm worried. I don't know about, you know, people on the Hill and people who are part of the Republican Conference. I think the incentives in Congress have changed. The incentives are no longer to conduct legislative work and oversight in the traditional sense we might think.
The incentives are four, how many likes can I get for this tweet? How much interaction can I get on -- not on TikTok but on Instagram? And that's really kind of the focus. And so we shouldn't be surprised this is the kind of activity we're seeing. Yes, it interferes with legislative work. Yes, it interferes with the ability to advance a positive agenda, which I think Republicans will need to hold onto the House and potentially win back the Senate in 2024. But that's not the concern of the people that are engaged in this activity.
TAPPER: Don't you think it's -- I mean, you see a gift exactly to Democrats.
NAYAK: You know, if there's any question about whether Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert were going to be front and center as a foil for the President, that's been answered. They are going to be the story of this Congress. And no matter -- you know, James Comer pretended to say or wanted for these investigations to be credible, he said, that is out the window.
And I think every day you are going to see, not only in hearings, but in the statements they make Democrats, the administration really lifting up these voices. And I think it's actually a problem for 2024 candidates because the only thing Americans are going to hear about this Republican Congress, I mean, they've had a week already. Not a lot, but nothing on inflation.
They haven't actually addressed the issues that the American people, in theory, gave them the majority on. And so I think it's going to be a huge problem for them and a real gift for Democrats.
TAPPER: And it's something it's a dynamic we've seen before. I keep thinking about Benghazi and how there were serious issues to be looked at in terms of inadequate diplomatic security, lack of planning for post-Gaddafi in Libya, blaming the video by the -- you know, blaming the whole attack on that video. But that's not what the loons in the House at the time focused on.
They had all these nefarious theories about like Hillary Clinton watching in real time as these attacks were going on, as if she, you know, refusing to like allow people to go rescue the ambassador. None of that was true.
KUCINICH: Well, yes, it's going to be the depths of the Internet all of a sudden on C-SPAN, loud and clear people to see. But you're right, so this Oversight Committee traditionally, particularly when there's a different president of a different party in the White House, has become, you know, really they stack it with people who really come at that administration.
Now, is there -- I think that they're going to try to shift the more serious investigations that they have inside of people out there, if they're actually serious or not, but the ones that they actually want to focus on, I think you're going to see coming out of judiciary some of the other committees, and this will be much more of a performative situation.
TAPPER: Right. Like of the Afghanistan withdrawal is going to be handled by the House Foreign Affairs.
CORNISH: Right. And, I mean, if you think about this other committee they have, the one about federal weaponization, you know, they're talking about this idea of the Church committee, something that overlooked the size of the surveillance state as it grew after Eisenhower. But they might end up doing something a little more McCarthy communist like, right?
Where you're on TV ostensibly to prove a point, and you end up proving the opposite, and as we know from history making yourself a laughingstock. So I think the question is, what does overreach look like with all of these investigations? At a certain point, what are you actually showing the American people that you're looking for? And do they believe that you're finding it?
TAPPER: Speaking of overreach, the U.S. hit its debt ceiling today, and it looks as though no compromise is imminent when it comes to raising the debt ceiling. Republicans love to cast Democrats as big spenders, which they are, and themselves as good stewards of the economy, which they are not.
Take a listen to former acting White House Chief of Staff and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney talking to the dispatch about the reality of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICK MULVANEY, FMR. ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The truth of the matter is that the first two years of the Trump administration, when the Republicans had the House and the Senate, we raised spending faster than the last couple of years of the Obama administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: But now is an important time to make this issue, make this stand?
CHEN: Yes, I mean, I wrote a piece here for CNN that talked about the need to really get serious on the broader issues around mandatory entitlement spending, but that's not where the conversation has been. And, unfortunately, that hypocrisy is going to come back to hurt Republicans now, when really their goal is to effectuate a little bit more fiscal discipline. I think even the moderate Republicans would say that's an important goal. I think there's a fair amount of unity within the Republican Conference on that issue. It's just going to be hard to make the point when you've been spending so much money for the last couple of years. And I think that gets on people's nerves. It gets on my nerves.
TAPPER: And you heard Congressman Boyle earlier in the show talk about now is, you know, with all these fears of a recession. Now is not the time for that focus right this minute.
NAYAK: Yes, I think there's two things here. One is the hypocrisy. Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise, and Elise Stefanik voted three times in the Trump administration. I think Scalise missed one vote, but they voted to raise the debt ceiling. So the idea that there's an actual principle here is out the window.
I think the other thing that I worry about is this is a MAGA plan. This is the strategy, is to do something so outrageous and everyone else sort of gets numb to it and sort of sees this as a legitimate debate. And I think there really has to be this sense of like, we're not even going to have this conversation. And I think the Biden administration is trying to do that, but, you know, it's turned into both sides thing a little bit, which I think is he's worried.
CORNISH: It's interesting hearing this talking point, because I'm like, oh, yes, that is what the White House is trying to do. You know, one thing to think about as well is Speaker Boehner, way back when, and the Obama Biden administration, they actually did hammer out a deal and it did keep down spending for a number of years until 2018, when Republicans decided to kick it to the curb for more spending.
So what is the incentive for this White House and for this person who has been in this position before, to negotiate. That on top of following the sort of 15 round speaker about Kevin McCarthy has even laid out the roadmap for how you deal with folks, and it may be to wait them out and push it to the limit if everyone's going to associate them with the problem.
TAPPER: Thanks to one and all for being here and Audie is here, of course, because it's Audie Cornish Thursday. And that's when --
CORNISH: That sort of thing.
TAPPER: Audie Cornish there on Thursdays is when her incredible podcast, "The Assignment" drops every Thursday. That's Audie Cornish on Thursday. This week's podcast takes a look at the different ways that the American and British press have covered Harry and Meghan, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. It's available wherever you get to your podcast, so please check it out and download it. And welcome to Audie Cornish Thursday.
So, coming up, why some people may be allowed to wait even longer between colonoscopy? Stay with us?
[17:53:18] TAPPER: In our health lead today, colon cancer is one of the most preventable cancers when effective screening test such as colonoscopies are used. And now a new study explores whether some adults can wait longer than the recommended 10 years to get the next colonoscopy. CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us now. Sanjay, walk us through what the study found.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is so interesting to sort of look at screening and trying to quantify just how much of an impact these screening tests make. I always find these studies interesting. As you mentioned, first of all, Jake, there is a recommendation for people to get the primary screen. The first screening test starting at age 45.
It used to be 50 a few years ago. They said it can go to 45 to 75 is the age. Older than that, you should talk to your doctor if you have a significant family history, for example. What they were looking at in this study, though, Jake, was if you've had a negative colonoscopy first time around, the recommendation is you wait 10 years before you get another one.
And they were trying to figure out at that 10-year interval, just how many, you know, problems are they seeing on that repeat colonoscopy. And they broke it down by gender. I can show you the numbers here. It's 120,000 colonoscopies that they performed. And what they saw at 10 years in women, about 3.6 percent found something.
At 14 years higher, 4.9 percent. And overall, it was higher in men. But, you know, these are the numbers. This is the likelihood that there could actually be a finding on that follow up colonoscopy 10 years later. The recommendations haven't changed at all, Jake. But this is a study that may get people to look at intervals, say, should we widen out the intervals, particularly for women, particularly for younger people who are less likely to have a positive finding on that follow up colonoscopy. So this is sort of a work in progress.
TAPPER: But they're not saying this is something that everyone should be putting off, right? I mean, it's still very important to still get screened.
GUPTA: Yes. No, just to be clear, I'm glad you say that, because this is really about that interval scan, the second colonoscopy. The first colonoscopy, I pulled these numbers because I thought you might ask about this. But how effective is the that first colonoscopy? If that's the question.
And there's good data on this. They basically say if you -- that first colonoscopy, there's a 40 percent risk reduction in terms of getting colon cancer because they may find a polyp or something that's precancerous and be able to address it. And overall, when you look at the numbers, a 68 percent risk reduction in dying from colon cancer is the impact of having that first colonoscopy. This is really about the second colonoscopy. That's what this study focused on.
TAPPER: All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
Follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at JakeTapper. You can tweet the show at TheLeadCNN. Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM" right after this short break. I'll see you tomorrow.