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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Biden Team Blitzes The Country After State Of The Union; Ex- Twitter Execs Admit Mistakes Made In Handling Of Hunter Biden Story; More Than 12,000 Dead As Search For Survivors Intensifies; Sources: FBI Expected To Search Pence's Home As Soon As This Week; External Battery From Electronic Device Catches Fire During Flight. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired February 08, 2023 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The 2024 road show has begun.

THE LEAD starts right now.

President Biden leaving the beltway, taking the State of the Union message to voters in some key battleground states. Will he get cheers or jeers from the American people?

Then, more than 12,000 people now have been killed. The death toll from the earthquake in Turkey and Syria continuing to rise to staggering heights as hope fades of finding any survivors left in the rubble.

And, a passenger's battery catching on fire mid-flight, forcing a plane to make an emergency landing and sending four people to the hospital. What you need to know about flying with potentially dangerous electronic devices.


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

And we start today with our politics lead. The scene after the State of the Union Address looks like the campaign trail. Right now, President Biden is in the crucial swing state of Wisconsin, where he is talking jobs and the economy, echoing a lot of the same messages and themes from last night.

Vice President Kamala Harris is in Georgia, another key battleground state, which you might recall the Biden/Harris ticket won by 179,000 votes.

Tomorrow, Biden will head to Florida while Harris visits Minnesota. And their cabinet secretaries are also fanning out across the country. Now, yes, this is part of the blitz we've all come to expect after a president's State of the Union Address. But you can also not ignore the White House choices of where they are sending the president and vice president. Meanwhile, Donald Trump is releasing his own response to Biden's

speech. Mike Pence is reiterating his calls for new Republican leadership. And Nikki Haley is teasing her expected 2024 campaign announcement.

CNN's Phil Mattingly starts off our coverage today with a closer look at how Biden is testing out his message ahead of an expected reelection campaign announcement.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Folks, I hate to disappoint you, but the Biden economic plan is working.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden on the road in Wisconsin. The first stop, to sell the message he delivered to the nation last night at the State of the Union.

BIDEN: We've been sent here to finish the job, in my view.

MATTINGLY: A primetime message of progress and more work to do.

BIDEN: I'm glad to see it. I tell you, I enjoy conversion.

MATTINGLY: Mix with a lively and off script back and forth with Republican lawmakers.

BIDEN: The soul of this nation is strong because the backbone of this nation is strong because the people of this nation is strong. The state of the union is strong.

MATTINGLY: And culminating with a optimistic message about the path ahead, despite an array of challenges, foreign and domestic, providing a primetime moment to sharpen a steadfast message to working class voters.

BIDEN: Folks, my economic plan is about investing in places and people that have been forgotten amid the economic upheaval of the past four decades. Too many people have been left behind and treated like they are invisible.

MATTINGLY: And highlight kitchen table issues that appear small on their face.

BIDEN: We're going to ban surprise resort fees that hotels charge on your bill. Those fees can cost up to $90 a night at hotels that aren't even resorts.

MATTINGLY: But that advisers view as critical to meeting Americans where they are -- at the same, time moving to draw a clear contrast with a new House Republican majority.

BIDEN: Some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset.

MATTINGLY: Drawing a visceral response from Republicans and the chamber --

BIDEN: Look --

MATTINGLY: -- who steadfastly claimed entitlement reform is off the table.

BIDEN: Folks, as we all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare is off the books now, right?


All right. We have unanimity.

MATTINGLY: But Republican outrage only growing in the wake of Biden's remarks.

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): People are pissed off and for the president of the United States to come into the people's house and a lot like he did about the economy --

MATTINGLY: Speaker Kevin McCarthy seated behind Biden for the first time, holding nothing back.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I thought it was probably one of the most partisan State of the Union speeches I've ever heard.

MATTINGLY: Even as in the moment, he attempted to calm members of his own conference.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): This is what the choices are, chaos or stability.

MATTINGLY: A split screen that one Biden advisor called a, quote, dream moment for the White House, coming at a critical moment for an 80-year-old president on the verge of one final campaign.

PELOSI: I think tonight he showed the energy, the empathy, the hopefulness that a presidential candidate would have.



MATTINGLY (on camera): And, Jake, if you want any sense of just how much White House officials are girding for that fight over Social Security and Medicare, the president last night made clear he didn't want to name names for Republican lawmakers who suggested cuts to the program. That changed today in Wisconsin. The president naming names and providing some receipts of past quotes from people like Senators Rick Scott and Mike Lee, clearly a battle they want and plan to have in the weeks and months ahead, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Phil Mattingly at the White House for us, thank you so much. Wisconsin expected to once again be the set of a vicious battle in the

next election. Biden, narrowly carried the state in 2020 by just 20,000 votes, but do voters in Americans dairy land even want to see Biden at the top of the ticket next year?

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is there to find out.


NATASHA LOOS, OWNER, CEDARBURG TOY CO.: With any presidency, it's never all good and it's never all bad.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Natasha Loos voted for President Biden and has applauded many of his achievements. But with another campaign looming, she admits she's eager for a fresh start.

LOOS: It always seems like we are trying to do a lesser of, you know, two evils and it would be, in my opinion, lovely if we could have somebody who is not in their 70s and 80s running for president.

I love that.

ZELENY: When we first met Loos at her Wisconsin toy shop, meant she said -- she was grateful Biden had turned the page.

LOOS: Just the tone down of the rhetoric, the not having to be glued to the TV or social media to find out what the latest is going on has been very refreshing.

ZELENY: At the halfway mark of his first term, respect for the president runs deeper than a desire for him to run again, even among his admirers.

Would you like to see him run again?

LUVERDA MARTIN, WISCONSIN VOTER: I'm on the fence. I'm not sure. I'm concerned about his age, not as brilliance or his competence, but his age.

ZELENY: LuVerda Martin commends Biden for his commitment to diversity, restoring the civility, and forgiving student loan debt, but waivers on the prospect of a second term.

MARTIN: You can tell the job has worn him down a little bit, which is where my concern is with him running again. But he is still there, that's far, that fire, that honest, gentleman, he is still there.

ZELENY: Inside his Milwaukee brewery, Tim Eichinger said inflation and high interest rates have taken a toll, but he does not blame Biden and hope he runs again.

TIM EICHINGR, CO-OWNER, BLACK HUSKY BREWING: If I were, him I would say heck yeah, I will do this again. I've been doing this for a long time. I finally have gotten my chance, things are moving forward. ZELENY: As the president came to Wisconsin to sell his State of the

Union message, Jonathan Clark worked a few miles away at a custom printing shop. He still remembers Biden's words from the last campaign.

BIDEN: Look, I view myself as a bridge, not as anything else. There's an entire generation of leaders you saw stand behind me.

ZELENY: Back when Clark viewed him as the right man for the job, while he praised Biden's infrastructure law and other points of success. He said 2024 should be a new moment.

BIDEN: He is likely to run for reelection. Do you think he should?

JONATHAN CLARK, WISCONSIN VOTER: No. I think when he ran for office last time, it was talked about being a one term thing and I know he did not commit to that. But I think a lot of people that support the party were hoping that would be the case.


ZELENY (on camera): Now, there is deep admiration for President Biden among his admirers. That comes through in one conversation after another, but there are also many questions. Some pointed, some private about whether he should indeed run for reelection in two years from now. He was the man for the moment, of course, three years ago, the question is, with that Republican primary field, very unsettled and uncertain, will he be the right man for that moment?

That, of course, is unknowable now. But for now, the president clearly selling his message on the road here in Wisconsin today in Florida tomorrow, not only his agenda, but making the case for why he still has it any is likely to run again -- Jake.

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

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is here to discuss.

Kaitlan, we should note, obviously, that President Biden, he barely won Wisconsin in 2020. And we just heard supporters in the states saying, maybe he shouldn't run in 2024. You know, anecdotes or one thing, but that is actually reflective of polling. A lot of Democrats do not want him to run.

He still is expected to run for reelection, though?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR & CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: He's definitely still expected to run. Someone said the word if to me last night, and I said if -- this is a person who works with Biden said when. He is going to announce, whether it's March, April, we'll see. They don't feel that there is a hurry to announce the reelection as they did three months ago.

He is still going to run and you hear from Democrats on Capitol Hill who say, that speech last night is why he is going to be running. You saw how energized he, was pushing back on Republicans, kind of relishing that back and forth with them. They say that is what it's going to look like on the campaign trail. But they are aware that voters feel the way that we just heard from Jonathan there.


And so, what they say they're focused on is why Biden is going to Wisconsin today, why he's in Florida tomorrow -- he's making all the stops to talk about what he is accomplished because they're seeing that voters are not feeling it like they hoped they would be.

TAPPER: So, no question, last night, he was able to project strength and vigor that was perhaps unexpected. That was a contribution from the likes of -- Marjorie Taylor Greene heckled him like she was a pro- wrestling game.

But I guess one question I have is his campaigning, he ran in 2020, it was still during COVID. He was able to do a lot of non events, or just standing in a yard with three people behind him. The first talk we saw from him today is exactly what we have come to expect. Speech in front of the union crowd about creating jobs, but is he ready for the vigors of a presidential election campaign, where he is expected to do three or four of those a day?

COLLINS: It's brutal. The campaign is awful.

TAPPER: It's tough for people in their twenties, much less a man who is 80.

COLLINS: Who are giving speeches every stop and shaking all these hands. It's really tough. Obviously, Biden knows it well, he's no stranger to politics, but you are right. His campaign for president in 2020 is not with this one is going to look like. You're going to have to be on the road, especially with this aggressive Republican field that we are going to see.

That's likely why Wisconsin was his first stop because he did struggle there, he did win, but it was not a big victory. Look at the polls of people who do not have college degrees. They are not as hot on Biden as those which college degrees. That is why that message was so economic focused. It was not only cultural issues that Republicans have used to bring in those working class voters.

It was focused on your pocketbook. We will see how effective that is. That is a message he needs to sell to win over those working class, a lot of them white voters without college degrees, to help him win that faction of the Democratic Party. Also the campaign itself, it will be brutal and I think you will see a lot of surrogates out there for him as well.

TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins, good to see you. Thanks so much.

Coming up, did they give lawmakers something to tweet about? Next, the congressional hearing on Twitter and political bias that had some surprises. And Buffalo Bills star Damar Hamlin is at the Super Bowl talking about

his future plans after his miraculous recovery. Plus, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has a reason why concussions have risen just this season.



TAPPER: In our tech lead now, former Twitter executives testified on Capitol Hill today, acknowledging mistakes were made in the company's handling of that October 2020 "New York Post" story about Hunter Biden's laptop. They admitted that they erred and that Twitter executive should not of the press that story, but the former executives deny that the story had been suppressed because they were taking orders from the FBI.

This was the first high-profile hearing for the newly named House Oversight and Accountability Committee, investigating possible censorship by Twitter, pushed by the government, in the weeks before the 2020 presidential election.

CNN's Sara Murray has the big moments.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For House Republicans, a high-profile kickoff into the investigation into the president's son and Twitter.

REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): The Hunter Biden laptop story was published on Wednesday. Twitter did not acknowledge the mistake for at least 24 hours.

MURRAY: Republicans on the House Oversight Committee are making the still unproven case that Twitter temporarily suppressed a story about Hunter Biden's laptop, ahead of the 2020 election at the behest of the federal government.

COMER: America witnessed a coordinated campaign by social media companies, mainstream news and the intelligence committees to suppress and delegitimized the existence of hunter Biden's laptop and its contents.

MURRAY: But a trio of former Twitter officials testifying, including deputy counsel James Baker, pushed back on that narrative.

JAMES BAKER, FORMER TWITTER DEPUTY COUNSEL: I'm aware of no unlawful collusion with or direction from any government agency or political campaign on how Twitter should have handled the Hunter Biden laptop situation.

MURRAY: The former executives also expressed regret over temporarily suppressing the Hunter Biden story.

YOEL ROTH, FORMER TWITTER "HEAD OF TRUST AND SAFETY": I believe Twitter erred in this case because we wanted to avoid repeating the mistakes of 2016.

MURRAY: The hearing highlighting the catch-22 for social media platforms. After facing criticism for failing to crack down on foreign governments spreading disinformation in 2016, tech companies are back on the hot seat as Republicans accuse them of censorship, despite the bombastic allegations from Republicans --

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I think you guys got played by the FBI.

REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): Twitter was basically a subsidiary of the FBI.

MURRAY: The Twitter officials undercut the GOP's claims.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't recall speaking to the FBI at all about the Hunter Biden matter.

MURRAY: While Democrats slammed the premise of Wednesday's hearing --

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): It's just an abuse of public resources an abuse of public time -- House Oversight Chair James Comer making clear this is just the beginning.

COMER: I can assure you this committee will succeed in holding the Bidens accountable. So much of the evidence of wrongdoing from this family is located in that hard drive that you all led the American people to believe was Russian disinformation.


MURRAY (on camera): Now, despite what we have heard about James Comer's private conversations with Elon Musk and the run-up to this hearing, we didn't hear a lot of bombshells with new information from Twitter. We did get an indication from the Democratic witness, a former Twitter employee, that the Trump White House actually reached out to Twitter at one point asking them to pull down a tweet from a celebrity Chrissy Teigen, when Teigen unleashed an expletive-laden rant against the former president.

TAPPER: Hmm. All right. Sara Murray, thanks so much.

Let's bring in Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace of South Carolina, who's on the Oversight and Accountability Committee that held today's hearing. Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us. Today, you said that Twitter acted as if it were a subsidiary of the FBI.

Now, I agree that Twitter should not have suppressed that "New York Post" story about the laptop, but where is the evidence that they did it because the FBI told them to do so? Obviously, of the time, the FBI was under the leadership of Trump's appointed Director Christopher Wray and Trump was the president.

REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): Right. I mean, that's why this is so important.

[16:20:01] This kind of issue, censorship by the federal government, it wasn't just the FBI, there are other federal agencies. But when Elon Musk released the Twitter files, that allowed folks all around the world to see what was going on and to see different agencies reaching out and urging Twitter and other social media companies, I would gather based on the comments of the CEO of Facebook last year, to censor certain pieces of information, and one of the things that I talked about today, I had less focus on the laptop and more about COVID-19 because there are certain doctor is an epidemiologist that were educated at Harvard and Stanford that had a different take on immunity and vaccination and those voices were silenced, they were censured, blacklisted and shadow banned.

And regardless if you're Republican or Democrat, this is a very slippery slope and it's the federal government coming after you vis-a- vis a private company. And even, I brought up Ro Khanna today, someone that I work with across the aisle, he even announced concerns during all of this when the censorship was happening a couple of years ago. His concerns about the First Amendment and protecting it, and I wanted to also praise him for his courage to stand up and say those things.

TAPPER: So I guess - -I hear what you're saying. But if the federal government feels, as though somebody with a big platform is sharing health information that's wrong and can hurt people, do they, should they never reach out to a social media company and say, we don't think -- let's take an extreme example, okay? Not what you are just talking about.

MACE: Yeah.

TAPPER: But Dr. Smith is saying that the cure for COVID is to drink bleach. Should they not voice a concern? I mean, I guess the question is, where do you draw the line, right?

MACE: One of the tweets that was censured by Twitter and I showed it today in the hearing, was an actual chart from the CDC with real information from the government and that user only had 18,000 followers and that was shadow banned.

And so, these are real researchers, medical researchers, epidemiologist and doctors. It's not just in theory. If Dr. Smith told you to inject bleach, I'm sure that the state that Dr. Smith was licensed in -- he would lose his medical license because that's sort of outrageous and radical.

But this is not what we're talking about. We're talking about doctors and researchers who were silenced or even using own government data, which according to Twitter standards, is accurate. That is where I think we need to take a closer look and why it's really important to have this conversation and it should not be a partisan conversation, as you know, COVID-19 doesn't care if you're Republican or Democrat. Yeah?

TAPPER: I agree, it's interesting, I wonder what you thought of when your colleague, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democrat from New York, she argued that Twitter's bias do seem to go both ways, and she used an example of a 2019 Trump tweet when he told four congresswomen of color to go back where they came from. He tweeted, why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime- infested places where they came from?

And AOC asked Twitter how they handle that tweet in 2019 and I want to play a little bit from that part of the hearing.


OCASIO-CORTEZ: At the time, Twitter's policy included a specific example when it came to ban abuse against immigrants as -- they specifically included the phrase, go back to your country or back from where you came from. Correct?

ANIKA COLLIER NAVAROLI, FORMER TWITTER OFFICIAL/WHISTLEBLOWER: Yes. That was specifically included in the content moderation guidance as an example.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: And you brought this up to the vice president of trust and safety, Del Harvey, correct?

NAVAROLI: I did. Yes.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: And she overrode your assessment, didn't she?

NAVAROLI: Yes, she did.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: And something interesting happened after she overrode your assessment. A day or two later, Twitter seem to have changed their policies, didn't they?

NAVAROLI: Yes. That trope "go back to where you came from" was removed from the content moderation guidance as an example.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: So, Twitter changed their own policy after the president violated it in order to potentially accommodate his tweet?



TAPPER: So, what do you say to a constituent who watched the hearing and says, it's important we're having this conversation, it's a good thing that we are, but it does seem like these are a bunch of folks over at Twitter and social media companies who may be over their heads, making up the rules as they go along, sometimes it benefits Democrats, sometimes conservatives? What do you say?

MACE: Well, I think -- I think that's fair. I think it's important that there is a standard and we're talking about the First Amendment, number one, as a federal government, my point was today, we shouldn't be censoring people even if we don't like that speech, we should be fighting to protect that speech, even if we dislike it. That's part of the First Amendment and how our company was founded.

But if a private company or a public company decides this is the standard. They should treat both sides, Republicans and Democrats, treat them all to the same and equal standard. It should not be on one side or the other. That is something I was saying for a long time and I hope that's what comes out of the hearing today, too.

TAPPER: I want to ask you about last night because Sarah Huckabee Sanders delivered the Republican response. She tried to draw a sharp contrast to the message that President Biden delivered. Here is a little clip.


GOV. SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS (R), ARKANSAS: The dividing line in America is no longer between right or left. The choice is between normal or crazy.



TAPPER: So, help me out with this if you would, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Paul Gosar, George Santos, are they normal side or the crazy according to your party?

MACE: Well, I have called for George Santos to be resigned a couple of times after all the lies that he told to get elected and possible campaign finance issues and hopefully, those are being investigated by both ethics and the FEC right now.

But it is -- it is an issue. The far-right and the far left -- as someone who gets a lot of threats, I think for both sides. Jake, I've had three threats on my life in the first four weeks of this yea, and I get them from both sides of the aisle.

So, I don't see it in the same lens. I see this as being an issue about the American people and I think that there are a lot of people who left both parties because they feel like their voices aren't being represented, and both sides of the aisle are largely missing the fact that independents are outnumbering both sides. I see it in my district. Independents outnumber Republicans in the first congressional district in South Carolina.

And those people feel like their voices are missing because of some of the fringe elements that we see on both sides of the aisle. Those that live in swing districts and purple districts like mine who really understand what's happening on the ground.

TAPPER: Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace of South Carolina, thank you so much. Good to have you.

MACE: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: (AUDIO GAP) out of time for miracles as the death toll from the earthquake in Turkey and Syria soars above 12,000. Rescuers are still combing through the rubble hoping to find survivors. We're at the epicenter, next.



TAPPER: Topping our world lead today. Monday's 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Turkey and Syria is quickly becoming one of the world's worst natural disasters in a decade with more than 12,000 dead. By amid the devastation, there are small glimmers of hope, including this miracle escape from the rubble, six people, including one child, pulled out alive, 60 hours after the quake.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is right next to the epicenter, where some families have not been so lucky.

And we want to warn viewers, you may find some of these images disturbing.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): It is hard to imagine how this trouble gave anyone hope. Yet, for 50 or so hours after the quake, it almost did. When it stopped, when the chances of surviving ebbed, the bodies so near the epicenter here, kept coming. The paralysis of grief, when these two parents see the 8- year-old daughter's red hair blood-stained. Another 4-year-old girl with no parents here to bury her, and another father, simply walking behind.

It's been constant intense activity, trying to save lives. But we are sadly now into the window, where so many of the ambulances that arrive will likely be taking away people who have perished.

Up high, hope is strongest, digging furiously by hand here. On the other side of the rubble, medics rushed forward, growing pure fury how nothing here came sooner.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (translated): Why did you not look for the ones at the top first? Oh father --

WALSH: The stretchers here too late, return empty. Another body pulled out of a Syrian refugee in his 40s, as the excavations gain pace. An audience of agony watches, waits.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated): Heaven's garden is where they have gone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (translated): My little lamb, her bed has flown the columns fell on it. She is only 7, how could she move it?

WALSH: A hospital volunteer told us over 300 bodies here are on claims from the north. The numbers rising fast, along with tempers.

It is chaos. And whether any government could have moved faster was the question dogging the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, when he flew into town briefly.

This stadium suddenly home to possibly thousands for who knows how long. Many refugees from Syria now, perhaps losing their homes for the third time. That's nearly as many years as some have been alive.

They have nothing but the state's generosity to rely on, which for now, means 12 people in this tent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (translated): I don't know how long they'll let us stay here. We have no house to go to. Until there's a safe space --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (translated): We are just waiting for our government. Whatever they give, we will accept.

WALSH: For now, the question is what they could have done to not arrive, for so many here, too late.


WALSH (on camera): Now, Jake, the activity we saw during the day, a faster pace, designed to get bodies out. It's only slowing down. Still some digging.

Questions continue to arise for people here, about the government response. Its speed -- yes, the weather was appalling on the first day. And that's been accepted by the president as being a contributing factor, but another part really of how Turkey functions.


There's been some reliable reports that Twitter, which has been a source of criticism of the government's response, has in fact been blocked or slowed down in parts of Turkey. So, anger here may grow. And the broader problem, Jake, of what do the thousands, the tens of thousands of people here, whose homes now look like this? What are they going to do in the freezing nights right now and in the weeks and months ahead? Tents simply won't be enough -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh, near the epicenter in Turkey. Thank you so much.

If you're looking for ways to help the victims if the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, you can go to to learn more.

Also in today's world lead, a step towards justice, for families of victims of the Lockerbie terror attacks. A Libyan man accused of making the bomb that took down Pan Am Flight 103, pleaded not guilty in a court here in Washington, D.C. today. In December 1988, that plane crashed in Lockerbie, Scotland, shortly after taking off from London, on its way to New York, when a bomb detonated in the cargo area, 270 passengers and crew members were killed, including 190 Americans, 35 of whom were Syracuse University students who were returning from a semester abroad.

Abu Agila Mohammad Mas'ud al-Marimi faces three charges, including destruction of an aircraft, resulting in death. He has another hearing in two weeks. He faces life in prison if convicted.

Coming up, Mike Pence says it's time for new leadership in the Republican Party. So, why hasn't he announced a 2024 challenge to Donald Trump yet? One of his closest former advisers is here live, next.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, the FBI's search for classified documents at former Vice President Mike Pence's home could happen as soon as this week, according to sources familiar with the matter. This comes as President Biden and former President Trump and Vice President Pence face multiple investigations for their handling of classified documents.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed special counsels to investigate Biden and Trump. He's currently conducting a review of Pence's actions.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are forging ahead with their own investigations. The House Oversight and Judiciary Committees are probing Biden's handling of classified documents.

House Oversight Chairman James Comer says the investigation will also include Pence but not Trump, he says.

Joining us is Marc Short. He's the former chief of staff for former Vice President Mike Pence.

Thanks for being here. Really appreciate it.

So, CNN is hearing that the search of Pence's home could as soon as this week. Have you heard of a date for the search? Could it include search of Pence's think tank office, as well, do you think?

MARC SHORT, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Well, Jake, I think remind your viewers, it was a couple weeks ago, in light of the things happening at Joe Biden's house, that he self-disclosed the discovery of some documents that were caught up in the boxes to the National Archives.

TAPPER: Better safe than story, see if anything is there.

SHORT: Absolutely. And to your lead -- I'm not aware of investigation that's been announced into Mike Pence. I'm aware of the investigations into Trump and Biden. But as far as looking at the addition documents, I think that the vice president asked for full compliance, and there's been conversations about a consensual search to be conducted. I presume that's not too far off into the future. I do think we have concerns, though, about what we perceive as a double standard and growing one there.

TAPPER: How's the double -- what's the double standard?

SHORT: Well, the process has explained, when you discover documents, is you alert the National Archives, which happened immediately. And the archives explained, we will come to the home, we collect the materials and bring them back to Washington, D.C. We as the archives review them if they are classified. If something is classified, we alert DOJ. That's what happened with President Biden.

In Vice President Pence's case, the FBI inserted themselves that very day and said, we're coming tonight, when Vice President Pence was at the March for Life here in Washington, D.C., to collect the documents, which is not the way they handled Biden. They came that day.

And with Joe Biden, it actually was 79 days after the announcement of discovery before they went to his home. And you know, we continue to see repeated leaks in the Department of Justice, about law enforcement officials confirming a search that's pending. That's not the way it happened at Joe Biden's house, either. There was no announcement of the search of his home until much later. They did --

TAPPER: After the fact, right.

SHORT: They announced the beach house. But, you know, Mike Pence doesn't have multiple homes. His family wasn't earning money from Ukraine or Russia when he was vice president. They couldn't afford multiple homes to search in.

TAPPER: Right. So, when the FBI searched Biden's home, the president's legal team said they gave the Justice Department full access. They can look at anything they want. Will Vice President Pence do the same?

SHORT: He's made that clear.

TAPPER: He's already said that that's the case.

We also know that Pence is, of course, weighing presidential run in 2024. Do you think this investigations will factor into that at all, that decision? And when might he make a decision?

SHORT: I don't think he has concerns about that when he travels across the country. I think he hears encouragement as he travels. I don't anticipate in him making an announcement, Jake. I think he's in the continuing conversation with his family and getting support for the American people about what decision he faces.

I think the trajectory of most candidates who get in early in Republican primaries don't fair too well. So, I think there's a benefit for him to wait until later in this process.

TAPPER: What did you think of the State of the Union Address last night?

SHORT: Well, Jake, I feel like -- probably for President Biden it helped shore up his support with the Democrat Party. There's been a lot of elected officials to reluctant to support for him for '24. But I think he probably solidified support.

But I'm also disappointed that there wasn't a bigger conversation about the biggest issues facing our country. I think when you look at national security and I think the Biden administration had their Sputnik moment, there wasn't a lot of conversation about what we're going to do to confront China. There wasn't really a ton of conversation about what we're going to do to fix the border crisis.

And I think when it comes to the spending crisis, I don't think either party is really addressing honestly with the American people the crisis we face.

TAPPER: How so?

SHORT: Well, the reality is we're now at $32 trillion in debt, 120 percent debt to GDP.


The last time our country reached 100 percent was in World War II, when you knew you had come out of the war with the economy growing and draw down of defense spending.

There's no event on the horizon for us. And, Jake, when we talk about entitlement spending and everyone saying we're not going to touch it, the reality is Joe Biden himself in Senate speeches talked about how we needed to have everybody in the barrel. All programs to be considered. That was his position in the Senate.

And we're saying we've been demagogued about the cost of Social Security and Medicare, but the reality is that, if we base a little over $6 trillion in federal spending, $4.5 trillion is mandatory spending, $4.5 trillion.

TAPPER: Right. The entitlement spending, Medicare.

SHORT: If you had four slices of pizza, you can say, we're going to discuss this one piece and do right now on the debt ceiling, a 2 percent cut. It's like, it's a tiny fraction, it's not really material.

TAPPER: You're saying Democrats and Republicans are not being straight.

SHORT: We all have to have an adult conversation of where we're going. The reality is that Medicare is going to reach the point in only five years, in 2028, in which there are going to be mandatory cuts to Medicare. Social Security is a couple years behind that.

We're not being honest to the American people about the cuts they're going to face if we do nothing. All we're simply saying is saying neither party is going to touch them.

TAPPER: Yeah. Marc Short, thanks so much. Really appreciate it. Good to see you.

SHORT: Jake, thanks for having me.

TAPPER: Coming up, the air scare when a battery caught fire on a United Airlines flight, sending four people to the hospital.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead now, renewed safety concerns about certain batteries in electronics, after a frightening situation on a United Airlines flight yesterday. An external battery from a device caught fire shortly after takeoff. And that led to an emergency landing and four people sent to the hospital.

CNN's Gabe Cohen is on the case for us.

Gabe, what new information are you learning about this incident?

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we have obtained air traffic audio the moment the pilot on that flight radioed in that emergency, which we know was just after takeoff from San Diego before they turned that plane around and turned to the airport. Take a listen --


PILOT: We're declaring emergency, we have a laptop on fire in the aircraft we need to return.

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL: Sorry, what do you have on board you said?

PILOT: We have a laptop on fire in the back, we need to return to the airport.

PILOT: Right now, the laptop is contained. The fire is out and it's in the lav, and we jhust need to check on the thermal condition of the brake so we can maybe roll off and get over the gate so they can get on the airplane and get this thing off.


COHEN: United is now telling us it turned out not to be a laptop. It was some sort of external battery. It caught fire inside a seat back pocket in first class.

And the flight crew of United followed their training and got that battery into a thermal containment bag or a fire bag, which they carry on flights just for emergencies like this. Now, two passengers were evaluated by first responders at the scene, and four flight attendants were taken to the hospital just as a precaution to check for potential smoke inhalation and have been released.

TAPPER: Gabe, do we know if this was a lithium battery, which the FAA has raised concerns about many times before?

COHEN: Yeah, it's a question we've asked. The FAA says they're still investigating, but aviation experts say the early information points to that. Lithium batteries have been known to smoke in some cases, even catch fire. And the FAA says last year, there were 57 incidents involving those batteries on flights. That's why the FAA has put in some strict rules for them. Passengers

have to turn off devices that use those batteries, like laptops, if they're going to put them in checked luggage. Spare batteries or power banks, external batteries have to be carried on the flight. They are not allowed in checked luggage so that crews can deal with an incident like the one we saw, a sudden fire rather than have it happen in cargo.

I asked an aviation expert about that. Take a listen.


PETER GOELZ, FORMER NTSB MANAGING DIRECTOR: If the battery started to cook off in the cargo hold, the results could have been catastrophic. I think passengers don't take the threat that these batteries can pose seriously enough.


COHEN: But, Jake, it's obviously something the FAA is very concerned about.

TAPPER: And, Gabe, we're learning new details about the massive Southwest Christmas travel meltdown.

Internal messages, what do we know about it?

COHEN: Well, so, ahead of a hearing on Capitol Hill tomorrow about that Christmas meltdown, CNN has obtained a testimony from the Southwest pilot's union that gives us a really alarming look at the extent of the airline's breakdown over Christmas. They say this was an operation held together by, quote, "duct tape" and as evidence, they include a message sent to a cockpit computer from the airline's dispatchers, asking the pilots to identify themselves, because it appears the airline didn't know who was on board that flight. And the message ends, quote, "it's a mess down here."

Now, the airline canceled more than 16,000 flights during that chaos as we know. Southwest, an official with the airline is going to testify tomorrow. We have learned he's going to apologize, and they have handed out refunds. We expect some pointed questions during that hearing.

TAPPER: All right, Gabe Cohen, great reporting. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, details in a newly obtained affidavit. One of the officers charged in the Tyre Nichols death claims he actually tried to help Nichols.


Stay with us.


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

This hour, maybe Pierre Dilecto needs to make a return to Twitter. Republican Congressman George Santos now says Senator Mitt Romney did not act very Mormon at the State of the Union Address.

Plus, trying to deflate China's spy program, U.S. officials now say the Chinese government's spy balloon is just one part of a worldwide surveillance effort meant to gather intelligence on other countries' military capabilities.