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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Ukraine: Russia To Mark Invasion Anniversary With Renewed Offensive; Blinken Postponed Beijing Trip As Spy Balloon Flies Over U.S.; Book: Most Significant Threat To U.S. Stability Comes From Within; Wind Chills Around Minus100 Degree Fahrenheit On Summit Of New Hampshire Mountain; Democrats To Vote New Primary Calendar Tomorrow; Kelly Craft Faces Backlash For "Empty Seat" Opioid Ad In Campaign For Kentucky Governor; Rep. Victoria Spartz Announces She Won't Run For Office In 2024; Sources: Biden Appears To Back Off Vow To Punish Saudi Arabia; Conservative-Learning Federal Appeals Court Rules People Under Domestic Violence Restraining Order Can Own Guns; Authorities Arrest Man After Theft Of Rare Monkeys From Dallas Zoo; LeBron James Only 63 points Away From NBA's All-Time Scoring Record. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 03, 2023 - 17:00   ET



OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a rare Friday night statement, China apologized, saying it was an off course weather balloon. According to the Chinese foreign ministry, "It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological purposes. Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course." It's an explanation that former director of National Intelligence James Clapper finds compelling.

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I don't think the Chinese would expend the political capital here for an intelligence purpose in the face of and in contrast to their very capable overhead reconnaissance satellite program, which gives them all the intelligence that they need.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): But we've heard the science excuse before from Beijing when China tested a hypersonic missile that went around the world in 2021, they claimed it was a routine spacecraft experiment.

JAMES ANDREW LEWIS, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: They have a massive espionage campaign. This is like TikTok. Does anybody trust China? Of course not. And for good reason, no one trusts China.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): China has spy satellites, but one thing they can't do is loiter over one area like a balloon. Key difference here. Pentagon says it will continuously track the balloon as it makes its way across America. The U.S. response so far on the diplomatic front, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken delaying his high stakes visit to Beijing. ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: We concluded that conditions were not conducive for a constructive visit at this time. PRC's decision to take this action on the eve of my planned visit is detrimental to the substantive discussions that we are prepared to have.


LIEBERMANN: As for where this goes from here, the Pentagon says for now they're continuously tracking this balloon. They determine that it's slow risk in terms of what it can gather. And because of that, they're not going to shoot it down partially because of the risk to property and people below. Instead, they'll keep an eye on it. And, Jake, if that risk goes up, the military option remains on the table.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon for us, thanks so much.

To the other big story in our world lead today, the liberated southern Ukrainian city of Kherson has come under an onslaught of Russian attacks in the last day. The city's been shelled 18 times just today, killing at least one civilian, according to Ukrainian authorities. Fires raging throughout the city as civilians say they're in desperate need of help. CNN's Sam Kiley is live for us in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine.

Sam, you just left Kherson, what is life like there for Ukrainians right now?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's an extraordinary unpleasant place to have been liberated. You recall the jubilation back in November that my colleague Nic Robertson so dramatically recorded? He was there on the day of liberation, dancing in the streets in Freedom Square, aptly named. Now that square that I was in is almost completely deserted.

That the latest figures from the government say that at least 77 people have been killed by Russian bombardment since the city was liberated. Sometimes they are seeing 60, 70, as often more than 50 strikes with direct fire from tanks, from mortars, from grads. And this is all coming from the Russian positions just on the other side of the Dnipro River. Now, that is a natural defensive barrier for both sides. So, it's unlikely to escalate into a ground war there, Jake.

But what we have been seeing and what the Ukrainians are speaking very bitterly about, those that can remain in the city, mostly trapped by poverty, unable to leave, is that they are being bombarded at random in a systematic attempt by the Russians. We've seen it in so many other cities around the country to take on and try to break the will of Ukrainian civilians if they can't break the lines of the military, Jake.

TAPPER: And you're learning more about this expected Russian offensive that would coincide with the one year anniversary of the start of the invasion later this month.

KILEY: Yes, it's interesting. The Ukrainians have been talking about anticipated offensive. They were talking about the spring. They've now more recently talked about it becoming later this month and into March. They are talking up, I think, the whole anniversary date.

It would be, frankly, a very stupid military that would build any kind of strategic or even tactical operation around anniversary or a birthday or something. But what I think they're doing is ramping up the rhetoric around what is a very real threat. That is a large number of possibly 300,000 troops massing or at least in training and mobilization on the Russian side. The Russians have been moving more troops and probing more on the southern front.

Of course, the fighting in the east in Donbass around Bakhmut has been extremely bloody and bitter and continues that way. And there have been exercises in Belarus. All of this adds up in the view not just of the Ukrainians but their allies in the west, to an imminent threat. When that threat would be delivered is the debate, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Sam Kiley and Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine for us. Thank you so much.

Let's discuss this with Richard Haass, President of the Council of Foreign Relations and the author of the brand new book "The Bill of Obligations, The Ten Habits of Good Citizens." Congratulations on the book.


We're just three weeks away from the one year anniversary of the beginning of Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine. As you heard from Fred just a second ago, officials -- and Sam, officials in Kiev say the Kremlin is planning a major offensive to coincide with this date. What would need to happen for Russia to withdraw from Ukraine?

RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: I don't see that in the cards, Jake. A withdrawal from Ukraine would pose potentially or even actually a direct threat to Vladimir Putin's rule at home. So I simply don't see that as a possibility unless Ukraine were to overwhelmingly route Russian forces. And at the moment, that's not in the card. So, the most likely scenario is not Russian withdrawal, but rather continued war?

TAPPER: No, of course, that that's what's expected. But I'm just wondering long term what you think. You think the only way this ends with Russia out of the country is if the west gives Ukraine enough weapons, major weapons, that they're able to defeat Russia militarily?

HAASS: Even if we gave them more weapons than we're giving, it's not clear to me that task could be accomplished, given how many Russian forces there are or how dug in there are. It's quite possible we won't get it the kind of resolution you're discussing until there's a new leadership in Russia. That it might take some future Russian leader who wants to reintegrate Russia in Europe, reduce some of the sanctions and the like who would be willing to make some compromises. But I simply don't see it happening under Mr. Putin.

TAPPER: On the other major story this day, this week, Secretary Blinken canceled a high stakes trip to Beijing, to China in the wake of this Chinese surveillance balloon, relations between the U.S. and China are already very strained. How much does this further complicate the relationship do you think?

HAASS: It adds to it, I mean, both the incident with the balloon and then the response. It's not the response I would have recommended if I were advising. I would have said shoot down the balloon to show we're not going to live with that sort of thing, but go ahead with the trip. And the purpose of diplomacy is not to do a favor to China, it's to put a floor under this critical relationship.

I kind of like the idea, Jake, of showing that we're willing to defend our interests, but we're not against diplomacy. So, I don't see the logic, quite honestly, of canceling a trip. I'm much more worried, ultimately, about the United States and China coming into blows or something over Taiwan. And putting guardrails on this relationship, I would think, is a priority.

TAPPER: You're known as a foreign policy expert and a diplomat. Your new book, of course, "The Bill of Obligations, The Ten Habits of Good Citizens," is largely about citizenship and domestic politics. As to why this focus for your book, you write, quote, "The most urgent and significant threat to American security and stability stems not from abroad but from within, from political divisions that for only the second time in U.S. history have raised questions about the future of American democracy and even the United States itself." Explain why you view this as such a major threat.

HAASS: Well, don't get me wrong, there's obviously a lot of external threats from China to Russia, as we've just been discussing. But history suggests we can contend with external threats if we're unified, if we have the resources, if we have the bandwidth. And I'm worried that right now we're not going to be able to come together to deal with our many domestic challenges. That will be, you know, distracting to say the least. We won't then have the resources we want.

And I'm worried that what we saw in January 6 may prove not to be a one off. I can imagine politically inspired violence, rather than being the exception happening with increasing frequency. And if any of that comes to pass, again, we're not going to have the unity, the bandwidth, the will to focus on the world.

TAPPER: The subtitle of your book, as I said, "The Ten Habits of Good Citizens," one of the habits you identify is to stay open to compromise. This is what you write about the current state of being open to compromise in Washington, quote, "I am not sure when compromise became a four letter word. For some, it is little more than a synonym for selling out, for abandoning one's principles in pursuit of an outcome," unquote. You have some prescriptive solutions in the book. How do we go about changing that where compromise is not a dirty word?

HAASS: Compromise began as a very healthy word. The Constitution never would have been agreed to without all sorts of compromise. It's interesting that John F. Kennedy and profiles encouraged, Jake, some of the senators he most lauded were senators who were willing to compromise even when doing so was unpopular. I think at the end of the day, it'll only happen when voters give politicians protection. People have to understand that they've got to get involved in the fact that more than half of Americans who could have voted in the midterms did not. That's sort of thing has to change. I would argue for civics in our schools to be taught. I would argue for national service to be instituted on a larger scale.


But at the end of the day where politicians, they may not be responsible, they are, however, as you know, responsive. And I think it's up to the voters to reward productive and constructive behaviors, penalize the opposite, compromise ought to be something we've reward.

TAPPER: All right. Richard Haass, author of the brand new book "The Bill of Obligations, The Ten Habits of Good Citizens." Thanks and congrats on the book.

First he called them a pariah, then he said he'd punish Saudi Arabia, but now, nothing. What CNN is learning about President Biden's promises not kept. But first, the dangerous cold snap that has much of the northeastern United States frozen.


TAPPER: In Mount Washington in New Hampshire right now, the highest peak in the northeastern United States the wind chill is now 103 degrees below zero. Across the rest of the Midwest in the northeastern United States, it is a cold snap for the record books. Let's get straight to CNN Meteorologist Jennifer Gray.

Jennifer, bring us the latest forecast.

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, the coldest areas going to be here tomorrow morning. So overnight tonight into tomorrow morning, that's when we really, really have to be careful. It will be cold all weekend long, but I'm saying temperatures will bottom out by tomorrow morning.


Boston current wind chill is ten below zero. New York City feels like two degrees right now, and it's only going to get colder. We're talking about frostbite settling in a matter of minutes. So, areas where the temperature is going to drop to 50 below zero, the wind chill, and it is going to happen wind -- that frostbite can settle in about five minutes 30 below in about 10 minutes on that unexposed skin.

So, let's take a look at the temperatures. Portland, 42 below zero. This is this evening. Within the next couple of hours, frostbite could settle in 10 minutes.

Burlington, about 15 minutes. And as we go through tomorrow morning, temperatures drop even more. Boston, 36 below zero. Jake, it is going to be dangerously cold, but then moderate by the end of the weekend. TAPPER: All right. Jennifer Gray, thanks so much.

Let's go to CNN's Athena Jones, she's in Boston where temperatures are dropping fast.

And, Athena, you've been experiencing this all day. What are conditions like there right now?

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Jake. Well, they are continuing to drop. We're now in the single digits, about eight degrees Fahrenheit, but the feels like is about minus 11. And that is exactly what was forecast. You know, early this morning when we started, it was just under freezing, now it is way below freezing.

You heard Jennifer Gray talk about how dangerous this kind of weather can be with the wind -- with the low temperatures. In addition to that, the wind chills and also the wind gusts themselves late into the night in some parts of the area or the region, they could get as high as 50 miles per hour. That's the kind of wind that can knock down trees and affect power. And of course, no one wants to lose power when it's this cold.

People have been preparing, the Mayor of the city of Boston declaring a cold emergency. That means that Boston public schools were closed today so that students didn't have to commute to school, you know, bus stops and long walks. They've also opened a number of warming centers across the city and they've kept a train station. They're keeping it open all night rather than kicking out the people who don't have a place to go.

We talked to some folks who were out, who did brave the cold. Everyone's supposed to be staying inside as much as possible. But here is what these folks said about why they were out and what they learned in the past from the winters. Take a listen.


AARON TOMAT, BOSTON RESIDENT: Make sure I'm always wearing my layers so that I don't get frostbite like I did last year when I was outside too long.

FRANKIE MATTHEWS, VISITING FROM NORTH CAROLINA: I'm wearing like 60 layers right now. I've got two pairs of pants on, three shirts and a sweater and then a longer jacket. Like I'm just ready to rock and roll.


JONES: And you heard that woman talking about -- and you heard the woman talking about the many layers, the visitor from North Carolina, the many layers she's wearing. Well, I'm wearing a lot of layers, too, just to keep safe. Three hats, eight layers on top, four on bottom. And I'm still quite cold, Jake. And this is not the worst of it. It is going to get much worse over the course the rest of the night.

TAPPER: Negative eleven degrees Fahrenheit with the windshield in Boston. Athena, get inside right now.

Joining us now, Craig Clemmer, Director of Marketing at the Omni Mount Washington Resort. That's at the base of the mountain where the summit wind chills are 103 below zero.

Thanks for joining me, Craig. These live images from the summit, it looks like the planet Hoth from Star Wars. Describe the conditions where you are at the base of the mountain.

CRAIG CLEMMER, DIRECTOR OF MARKETING, OMNI MOUNT WASHINGTON RESORT: Well, at the base of the mountain, right now, we're about minus 23. The lobby is nice and warm, but outside, there's a little bit of wind going on. We were skiing at Breton Woods today, our ski area, but we are really looking for a cold snack. But people are ready for it. They're enjoying everything here at the hotel and enjoying the best show on Earth, just looking at Mount Washington and watching that thermometer drop from the lobby of this hotel.

TAPPER: Yes, the best show on Earth from inside from the lobby. How many guests are --

CLEMMER: Absolutely.

TAPPER: -- yes, at your hotel right now? What measures are in place to keep them safe? To keep them warm?

CLEMMER: Yes, we've been prepared for this weather all week. We've gone through making sure that our safety plans are in place, making sure our generators are up to snuff and fuel up and ready to go. We have about 500 guests in the hotel. We actually have two weddings this weekend. One going off right down the great hall from me in the grand ballroom, and then one next Saturday.

But we are very well prepared here at the property. All of our associates understand what the signs of frostbite looks like. And we are obviously taking good care of all of our guests, making sure that the hotel is warm and safe. Our engineering team has gone through the property, making sure all the windows are closed tight and we are ready for the weekend.

TAPPER: I've spent many a cold January in Hanover, New Hampshire, but not negative 100 Fahrenheit. Craig Clemmer, thank you so much. Appreciate your time. Hope you all stay warm.

CLEMMER: Thank you.


TAPPER: This hour, President Biden laying out a future for Democrats and may need to convince critics in his own party which state should vote first in the next race for the White House. Stay with us.


TAPPER: In less than an hour, President Biden will address the Democratic National Committee at its winter meeting. The speech is expected to preview his platform for a possible 2024 run, as well as his State of the Union address this coming Tuesday. CNN's Arlette Saenz is in Philadelphia, where the DNC meeting is taking place.

Arlette, what do we expect to hear from the President tonight?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are making a rare joint appearance out on the road. And really, they have two purposes here. One, tout their accomplishments of the past two years. And secondly, to sharpen their attacks against Republicans.


On that first front, the White House has really made a concerted effort in the weeks leading up to the State of the Union to try to tout some of their wins from the past two years. That is why President Biden traveled to Baltimore, New York and today here to Philadelphia, in particular, to talk about that bipartisan infrastructure law. The White House has tried to promote their bipartisan work as he's heading into that State of the Union. And we just learned moments ago that the President will continue this travel blitz after the State of the Union traveling to Wisconsin and Florida.

But then there is also the political nature of his visit here to Philadelphia. He will be speaking at the winter meeting of the Democratic National Committee. And officials say that he is readying his attacks against Republicans, with one official saying the President is ready to go after, quote, "MAGA Republicans extreme out of touch plans." You have seen this real eagerness from President Biden in recent weeks to go after Republicans on things like the economy, Social Security and Medicare, trying to draw that contrast. And of course, all of this could serve as a preview for a possible 2024 run.

TAPPER: And Arlette, the DNC is also expected to vote tomorrow on the Democratic Party's primary calendar for 2024. What's that going to look like?

SAENZ: Well, Jake, Democrats tomorrow are expected to give the green lights to a new primary calendar that really upends the way that Democrats are nominating their presidential nominees. They're removing Iowa from that very first position and replacing it with South Carolina, a state that essentially delivered the presidential nomination to President Biden back in 2020. It would then be followed by Nevada, New Hampshire, as well as Georgia and Michigan.

But just because Democrats give this the green light and OK, there are still some logistical hurdles that need to be cleared, particularly when it comes to the states of Georgia and New Hampshire, which have their primary dates set on the state level. In New Hampshire, which has been very resistant to these changes, today, the state's chair, Ray Buckley said that they've been put in a, quote, "In an impossible no win position." But bottom line here, President Biden has been trying to make the case that voters of color need to have representation early on in the nominating process and that is what he is hoping this change in the primary calendar will do. TAPPER: Arlette Saenz, thanks so much.

Let's discuss. Leigh Ann, if people think that it's cold in New Hampshire right now, wait until Joe Biden goes there after he's gotten rid of them as the first in the nation primary. Listen to one of Biden's delegates from 2020, Steve Shurtleff, talking about this new proposal.


STEVE SHURTLEFF, (D) FORMER N.H. HOUSE SPEAKER: I'll look for another candidate before I'd support Joe Biden if you should go so far as to take away the first of the nation primary from the grand estate.


TAPPER: That's a Biden delegate.

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, CO-AUTHOR, "WASHINGTON POST'S" "EARLY 202": Well, the two New Hampshire senators didn't go to a party at the White House because they were so mad at President Biden about this. People from New Hampshire politicos are saying that it is going to jeopardize him winning the general election in 2024. Should he run again? Of course, he hasn't announced he's going to run again yet, but New Hampshire is taking this very personally.

TAPPER: And I should say, like, these victories in New Hampshire for folks who aren't nerds like the rest of us, are always pretty thin. They're pretty, pretty close, like, of the presidential ones, I mean.


TAPPER: Like nobody wins a landslide victory in New Hampshire. If the Democrat wins, and they have in the last few elections, it's by two, three percentage points. Four percentage points.

LAROSA: Yes. Well, three years ago today, were sitting in our hotel rooms in Iowa waiting for the results of that caucus and --

TAPPER: We're still waiting, by the way.

LAROSA: -- it's a good thing we didn't hold our breath. So, I think some changes will be good.

But look, in 2006, Harry Reid and Janet Napolitano lobbied against each other, fought against each other to have their states moved up. Senator Reid won that fight. He was leader.

Joe Biden, to his credit, has entered the gauntlet of presidential primaries three times. Now, he's the leader of the party. And like all families, will fight and cry, but will come together.

TAPPER: So, I understand get -- I understand Democrats getting rid of Iowa. That's now a red state, at least just, you know, for the next 10, 20 years. But what about New Hampshire? LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR: Well, the argument was one that they were having during the 2020 presidential primary, which was about the fact that New Hampshire isn't as reflective of their base. They've been wanting to move up a state that they say is more reflective of the base of their voters, black voters, Latino voters. And so that's why you're seeing South Carolina leaps to the front and then Nevada also move up to be alongside New Hampshire.

And I was talking to a number of DNC members today who said that they're positive this vote is going to go the way they want it to, the way the President wants it tomorrow, and that they're actually really annoyed with the New Hampshire members because of how vocal they're being against the President. And they're trying to call for unity to support what President Biden wants saying that, in four more years is they can reevaluate and change it again when a potential -- it's a potential wider field of candidates.

TAPPER: What do you make of it all?

LANHEE CHEN, FORMER POLICY DIRECTOR, ROMNEY PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Well, look, there are whole economies that develop around these early states, right? So I understand why people in New Hampshire upset because there's a lot of economic impact. If you pull out from there as a first in the nation, people don't go there. They lose revenue. I mean, this is all a big deal.

TAPPER: WMOR TV, I can't even imagine what they're going to do.

CHEN: I mean, not to mention a lot of diners in Manchester from which live shots are done and people visit. I mean, there's lots of different things that happen around this. But to alter the nature of the calendar, it is the president's prerogative. He is the leader of the party. You know, if a Republican president were in charge and a Republican president wanted to alter the Republican calendar, he could probably do so.

TAPPER: Let's go to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Interesting -- there's an interesting thing going on there. The -- Kelly Kraft who was Trump's ambassador to the United Nations, she's running for governor. She needs to get through the Republican primary first. She released a new campaign ad that's raising eyebrows. I'll explain why at the other end of it. Take a look.


KELLY KRAFT, FORMER TRUMP'S AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: All across Kentucky, an empty chair, a place missing at the table, families suffering because fentanyl and other dangerous drugs have stolen our loved ones away. As a mother, this is personal to me because I've experienced that empty chair at my table.


TAPPER: Now, we should note she hasn't actually lost a family member to the fentanyl or opioid crisis. She later revealed to Lex 18 that the loved one missing at her table was a living family member who had to go away for treatment.

But people are criticizing her for being misleading. Others are saying no, part of the crisis is people not being there because they're dealing with this crisis. What do you think?

BARRON-LOPEZ: I will say that when I initially watched the ad, I did think that someone had died due to --due to their -- a drug overdose or due to their drug abuse. That being said, you know, in my family, we also did have a family member that suffered from drug abuse and had to go to rehab. And thankfully, that person did not succumb and did not die.

And so I do understand that that sometimes means that those people are not then at family gatherings or not there when you're trying to get together. It, of course, is that, you know, she was very careful with her wording and was trying to grab the viewers and the voters' attention with it.

LAROSA: Yes, it was confusing at best or, you know, misleading at worst. When the Biden campaign ran our ad, empty chairs in October of 2020, we were very explicit, this was about 200,000 American deaths that didn't have to happen as a result of bad leadership.

So we were very clear what we're referring to, but Kelly is also running in a 11 person primary. She has endless amounts of money. This is actually going to help her stand out a little bit against a candidate who has the endorsement of her former boss. And she'll be on the air -- she's been on the air since December and she'll probably stay on the air through the primary. So this is probably good for her.

TAPPER: And well, the controversy is allowing her to attack the media for misrepresenting --

LAROSA: Yes, keeping the work (INAUDIBLE).

TAPPER: Because there have been some editorials about it being misleading. I mean, I guess I do understand the larger argument she's making, but like you, when I first saw the ad, I'm like, oh, that's so sad. She'd lost a loved one.

BARRON-LOPEZ: She was not specific in that.

TAPPER: Right. She could have been more specific.

CHEN: But -- and now the ad has been replayed a lot more than she would have seen it played if she just run the ad and there was no controversy, right? That's, that's the thing about all of these ads that are, quote, controversial. The earned media impact of playing an ad many more times far exceeds just even the people who would have seen the ads. So, you know, to me, it's a controversy about nothing. I think it's a fine ad.

TAPPER: You think it's OK?


TAPPER: The confusion --

CHEN: I mean, I think she's pretty clear in the ad itself that she's talking about the fentanyl crisis.


CHEN: It doesn't bother me. I don't think it draws, you know, I don't think it comes close to line. So it doesn't bother me.

TAPPER: In a way that you could even argue that it prompts discussion about the losses that aren't necessarily life losses, but they are --

CHEN: Sure.

TAPPER: -- I mean, in -- I don't know that --

CHEN: Emotional.

TAPPER: I don't know that it was intended for that higher purpose of discussion, but we are having it.

CALDWELL: Yes, I think it was misleading. I thought the same. I thought that she had lost the family members. She says, as a mother. But she is addressing this issue, which is a really hot campaign issue for Republicans in a different way than many Republicans did on the campaign trail in 2020.

She is bringing a lot of empathy to it rather than bashing, connecting it to immigration in an open border. And that might work for her.

TAPPER: Yes. And -- yes, I agree with everything everyone said.

I do want to ask Indiana Republican Congresswoman Victoria Spartz, who a lot of people thought might run for Senate, is actually announcing she's not going to run for office at all, not for reelection, clearing the way, obviously, for Republican Congressman Jim Banks to run for the Senate seat. But there's also people upset because they saw her as a bright star in the Republican Party, the first Ukrainian American to serve.

CHEN: Yes, well, it clears the path. It avoids a messy primary. You would have had three people potentially with sparks. Mitch Daniels is not going to run and obviously Congressman Banks. There's is kind of what the McConnell team has been hoping for in some ways, is that these primaries are clear, that we're not going to have these Republican fights that end up dragging candidates to the right and making them less palatable in states where there is of color, a little bit of tint to the -- it's not a full on red state.


I think there's a little bit of tint to Indiana. You know, not that long ago, a Democrat won Indiana for president. So I think for the Republicans, this is probably a good development.

TAPPER: Well, Democrats would argue that Banks is pretty out there in the extreme already.

LAROSA: Yes, exactly. I was a little surprised that she's retiring completely. She won the seat originally with four points, and I think in her last election, she won by 30, so it was redistricted very safely for her. But it probably, you know, I think it also speaks to the sort of the lack of faith in McCarthy's leadership. And if you're getting retirements this early in Congress, that's a bad sign for a party with a very small margin of victory.

TAPPER: She also talked quite a bit about being a mother. I think she has kids who are teens, and it's difficult to do this job as a mom, which once again underlines how it's even tougher for moms than it is for dads in politics because of the extra obligations as being the primary family member when it comes to raising kids quite often.

CALDWELL: Yes, absolutely. You have to take her statement at her word that her family is a consideration. But I will say she went from considering a run for Senate. Jim Banks cleared the field, and then all of a sudden, she's not running again. I will say it's, you know, it's only been one and a half terms or one term in a few months.

She's kind of struggled to find her footing in the Republican Party. She came out very strongly against Zelenskyy in Ukraine. During the speaker's vote, she came out, she voted present in the second round against McCarthy, and then just recently, she was going to vote against McCarthy and keep Omar on her committee.

So she's been a really interesting figure, and I'm kind of confused why she decided to step back. I haven't gotten a good answer yet.

TAPPER: What do you think?

BARRON-LOPEZ: I mean, I agree a lot with what Leigh Ann said, which is that she hasn't been in Congress that long and it's hard to tell where exactly she was going to go in terms of policies because --


BARRON-LOPEZ: -- of the back and forth.

TAPPER: All right, thanks, one and all. Hope you have a great weekend. And you can join me along with CNN's Anderson Cooper Tuesday night for President Biden's State of the Union address. Coverage begins at 08:00 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up, a restraining order is not enough to limit your right to a gun. The new court ruling sparking outrage among advocates for survivors of domestic abuse. That's next.



TAPPER: Despite a very public pledge that he would punish the Saudis for cutting oil production in partnership with Russia, President Biden, months later, still has no plans to do so, according to multiple sources on Capitol Hill and in the Biden administration. You might remember Biden telling me quite the opposite.


TAPPER: Do you think it's time for the U.S. to rethink its relationship with Saudi Arabia?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes. And, by the way, let's get straight why I went. I didn't go to about oil. I went about making sure that we made sure that weren't going to walk away from the Middle East. There's going to be some consequences for what they've done with Russia.


TAPPER: Consequences for what they've done with Russia. CNN's MJ Lee is with me. And MJ, what are your sources telling you about Biden's apparent reversal on plans for consequences?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, this was now four months ago that he told you that Saudi Arabia would suffer consequences after this OPEC decision. And it was, at the time, really a slap in the face for the administration, especially because he had just traveled to Saudi Arabia, even though that was really controversial and because gas prices here at home were so high.

One of the hopes was that meeting with them and meeting with MBS could help drive oil prices down and boost production right. Before months later now what sources are telling us is that one, they're taken right now to punish U.S. Saudi Arabia review that the White House has said that they would (INAUDIBLE).

This is not something that the administration has reached out to us about. And so this is a very notable about faith and just indicates that they think that U.S., Saudi's security interest in keeping that amicable is more important than anything else.

TAPPER: And how are lawmakers on Capitol Hill reacting to this apparent breaking of a pledge?

LEE: They are frustrated. They are concerned. They think that it can send the message to Saudi Arabia that there's going to be no punishment for what they did back in October. There's also just the concern that this decision is being made for domestic political reasons. One of them, of course, being that gas prices have come down a lot in the last couple of months.

One senior Democratic aide told me there's only so much patience one can have when you've been asking for a conversation for four months. So this issue, I think, just has not bubbled over quite yet. But I do think that can change in the next couple of months if we continue to see the administration not taking action on this front.

TAPPER: All right, MJ Lee, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Turning to our national lead now, two Memphis first responders have had their licenses suspended for what they did and did not do when they responded to the site of Tyre Nichols brutal arrest. The Tennessee Emergency Medical Services Division says Robert Long and JaMichael Sandridge failed to render emergency care and treatment to Nichols when they arrived on the scene.

Long and Sandridge were already fired from the Memphis Fire Department after an investigation. Also in our national lead, a federal appeals court has effectively sided with domestic abusers, who've been hit with restraining orders and who want to keep their guns.

Advocates for domestic violence victims say the move by a three-judge panel from the conservative leaning Fifth Court of Appeals puts those survivors of domestic violence at greater risk. Part of the reasoning for the ruling was the U.S. Supreme Court just last year striking down a New York gun law that had previously banned concealed carry outside the home in that state.


CNN Guns and Security Correspondent Josh Campbell is following this for us. Josh, explain how the appeals court made its decision and what could be the larger ramifications here?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN GUNS AND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, this wide-reaching decision stemmed from a case involving a Texas man named Zackey Rahimi. Now, for background on him, he was accused of a number of gun crimes beginning in late 2020. He allegedly shot at someone after selling them drugs, shot at a police officer, opened fire inside a Whataburger fast food joint after his credit card was declined.

He's facing state charges for all of that, but the federal charge stemmed from guns that authorities found at his home, which were unlawful to possess because he had a restraining order against him after he allegedly beat up his ex-girlfriend.

But in this controversial new ruling, this conservative court ruled that despite that violent past in that restraining order, he can still have guns. And their rationale stems from that landmark 2022 Supreme Court decision you mentioned that essentially determined that gun laws have to be tied to historical precedent.

I'll read part of that ruling. They say that "Courts are required to assess whether modern firearms regulations are consistent with the Second Amendment's text and historical understanding. There must be a well-established and representative historical analog."

Basically, Jake, in Layman's terms, that means that since there was no domestic violence law involving firearms at the time the Constitution was written over 230 years ago, according to this court, this particular law is unconstitutional.

TAPPER: Is the Justice Department planning on doing anything about this?

CAMPBELL: Well, Attorney General Merrick Garland blasted the ruling. He said in a statement, I'll read part of it, that "Whether analyzed through the lens of Supreme Court precedent or of the text, history and tradition of the Second Amendment, this statute is constitutional. Accordingly," he says, the Department will seek further review of the Fifth Circuit's contrary decision."

It is unclear, Jake, whether the DOJ will be seeking an appeal to the full Fifth Circuit Bank of Judges or whether they will decide to go directly to the Supreme Court. But as we wait to hear more on that, we're hearing from numerous domestic abuse victim advocates who say that they're horrified by this new federal ruling and the potential harm they believe could result from alleged domestic abusers now legally able to own guns, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Josh Campbell, thanks so much.

Coming up next, the person police suspect let animals out at the Dallas Zoo. He is now finding himself behind bars. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead, Dallas police today announced an arrest that may put an end to the recent monkey business at the Dallas Zoo. Authorities have been investigating a series of suspicious incidents, including an escaped leopard, a dead vulture, and of course, those aforementioned stolen monkeys.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is outside the zoo. Ed, who's this guy they arrested and how did they catch him?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the suspect is 24-year-old Davion Irvin. He was found yesterday visiting the Dallas Aquarium, not too far from the Dallas Zoo, asking rather odd questions. And that raised the interest of the people there at the aquarium. And then they matched it with a picture that had been released of a person of interest. And that brought them all back to the situation here at the Dallas Zoo.

Irvin was taken into custody yesterday afternoon, and now Dallas police say he has been charged with several criminal counts, including six counts of animal cruelty as well as burglary. And he has been connected, according to Dallas police, to theft of the two monkeys that were found earlier this week safe in an abandoned house several miles away from the Dallas Zoo, but also going back almost three weeks to various animals enclosures, including a monkey enclosure and also a leopard enclosure that had been cut.

The encasing of those enclosures had been cut and those one animal was able to escape, that leopard, that was found on the grounds safely. An then there was another monkey exhibit that was also cut. None of those animals escaped, but it has been a very mysterious situation. And what authorities here still don't have a clear answer to is what is the motivation behind all of this. Jake?

TAPPER: Ed, you were inside the zoo today, you saw the cages have been cut, as you noted. What are zoo officials saying about these incidents? LAVANDERA: Well, you know, they're really overwhelmed and rather troubled by exactly what's going on here because there's just a lack of answers as to exactly what has happened. And, you know, there was also the vulture that you mentioned off the top that was in a different part of the zoo, but it was a rare animal, and that animal died, was found with a wound after they had performed examinations on that vulture.

So all of this incredibly disturbing for the people that work at the zoo here as they try to figure out more as to why exactly this has happened, why someone would go to these lengths to do this. So they're still trying to come up with all of these unanswered answers to all these questions that they just don't really have a clear understanding of right now.

TAPPER: Is the suspect connected to that dead vulture?

LAVANDERA: So far, officially, investigators are saying that they have not connected this particular suspect to the incident, whatever happened to that vulture. Right now, he is connected to the kidnapping or the abduction of those monkeys that were found several miles away in abandoned house, as well as the cuts to the enclosure where the leopard and the other monkeys were at.

Just -- and just so we can paint a good picture, those two initial cuts on those enclosed areas were right next to each other in one part of the zoo. The monkeys that were taken earlier this week was just a few hundred yards away from where that initially happened. And the vulture is in a totally different part of the zoo. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Ed Lavandera in Dallas, Texas, thanks so much.

And the sports lead, hosts about the King will likely dominate your social media feed for the next few days. LeBron James is on the cusp of setting the NBA's all-time scoring record. He's only 63 points away from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's title, which is at 38,387 points.


LeBron currently sits at 38,325. LeBron is 38 years old. He's in his 20th NBA season. Abdul-Jabbar has held the all-time scoring record since 1984. That's when he surpassed Wilt Chamberlain's title.

Vice President Kamal Harris just took the stage at the Democratic National Committee winter meeting in the great city of Philadelphia. Coming up next, President Biden is expected to preview his platform for a possible 2024 run, as well as his State of the Union address this coming Tuesday.

Also on the agenda for this meeting, the DNC is expected to vote tomorrow on the party's primary calendar for 2024, which could mean New Hampshire, that great state, will lose its status as the first of the nation primary, at least for the Democrats.

Coming up on Sunday on State of the Union, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg with some questions about the airspace that Chinese satellite is occupying. Plus, a joint interview with Republican Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick and Democrat Josh Gottheimer, the co- chairs of the Problem Solvers Caucus at Sunday morning at 9:00 Eastern and again at noon.

Coming up next in The Situation Room, the Chinese five balloon saga. Does the U.S. need to shoot it down? The former Secretary of Defense and Director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, is going to join my friend Wolf Blitzer. That's next. See you Sunday.