Return to Transcripts main page

The Lead with Jake Tapper

Many Syrian Refugees In Turkey Have Lost Homes For A Third Time; Pentagon: 100 Percent Certain China's Balloon Not For Civilian Purposes; Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, (D-IL), Is Interviewed About Spy Balloon, China; Senator Romney Slams George Santos: "You Don't Belong Here"; Senator Romney Slams George Santos: "You Don't Belong Here"; Rep. Greene: "Not Sorry One Bit" For Yelling "Liar" During Address; Affidavit: Fired Memphis Officer Says He Called For Medical Help, Tried To Help Tyre Nichols After Beating; NFL Players Doctor: Damar Hamlin Will Play Again; Lakers' LeBron James Becomes NBA's All-Time Leading Scorer. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 08, 2023 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And leading this hour, three days after that deadly earthquake in Turkey and Syria, the death toll stands now at more than 12,000, and that number is only expected to rise. Amid all the horror and devastation, Turkey's government has restricted access to Twitter after 18 people were detained for making so called provocative posts about the quake. Some Turkish journalists are denouncing the restrictions, claiming rescue teams have been using Twitter to communicate. CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is in Adana, Turkey, as the golden period for finding survivors, typically one to three days, rapidly comes to a close.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A five-year-old emerges from underneath the rubble in Turkey's hard hit Hatay, one of the youngest of thousands of life saved. But for too many, it was too late. In the town of Kalkan, they mourned one of the many who've not made it out alive. With the death toll rising by the hour, this is a race against time.

How many are buried under the wreckage of this massive quake zone? No one really knows. Estimates in the tens of thousands. Here in Adana, search and rescue crews worked tirelessly around the clock, digging through what used to be a 14 storey residential building where families lay asleep when the monstrous earthquake hit.

Survivors have gathered at the site of the rescue mission, their shelter and hot meals. In the bitter cold, they huddle around these fires, everyone with a story of the horror they've survived, the shock, the trauma, the pain visible on every face. Parents doing what they can to try and make their little ones forget. Many here are anxiously awaiting news of their loved ones and friends buried under what's left of their homes. (on camera): Get down. They're asking us to get down. And we believe this is because they're scanning the building, the wreckage. This is a very, very careful and delicate operation that's going on to try and see if they can locate any survivors, because so far they haven't been able to.

(voice-over): No survivors yet, only lifeless body is pulled. It's been three days. Why can't they get my son out, this father wails. As night falls, the rest of the family wait desperately for any news of 25-year-old Cert (ph). They've been out here for three long nights.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's so, so, so bad, because all these night, we are thinking my family, my relatives, my cousin's dad he is crying so much. He is crying so much. He is wondering where is his son.

KARADSHEH (on camera): Your cousin's dad.


KARADSHEH (on camera): We saw him earlier. He was crying. He was crying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes, we all cry. That's why I don't know what to say. All is -- we should pray to God.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): And that is all they and countless others can do right now.


KARADSHEH: And, Jake, as search and rescue operations like this one are continuing across the country tonight. The Turkish government is coming under fire for restricting Twitter. This is not unusual. The government has done this in the past, following attacks and explosions. They claim it is to fight misinformation.

But critics of the government and a lot of people who have been involved in the search and rescue effort in the country, volunteers and campaigners are saying this is not about the ongoing battle for freedom of speech in the country. This is about the fact that Twitter has been an important tool that has been used by volunteers to mobilize, to organize aid deliveries and to direct search and rescue crews to where they are needed the most, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. CNN's Jomana Karadsheh in Adana, Turkey, thank you so much.

Let's bring in the spokesperson for UNICEF, Joe English.

Joe, thanks for joining us. Some Syrian refugees who fled to Turkey during the war are once again experiencing hardship and homelessness. This has to be especially hard on the children. What's UNICEF's top priority for the kids right now?

JOE ENGLISH, UNICEF SPOKESMAN: I mean, Jake, can you even begin to imagine? You know, some of these kids, imagine a 12-year-old, all they've ever known is war. You know, many families that we speak to in northwest Syria have been displaced multiple times. And we're not just talking once or twice, but five, six, seven times, you know, and they've been through what's been, you know, remarkably one of the worst years yet of the war. You know, humanitarian needs in Syria are higher than they've ever been.

And now this. You know, imagine being a parent, 4:00 in the morning and you feel those shakes and, you know, adrenaline kicks in. You're trying to find your kids, trying to get them to some kind of safety. Those who are lucky were able to escape, maybe with the clothes on their back, a blanket. But so many others, as we've seen from the powerful reporting, have not been so lucky.

And so, the needs are huge. You know, we need to get in with the basics, keeping families warm overnight when temperatures are dropping below zero, providing safe drinking water to prevent disease outbreaks, and then psychosocial support, which is going to be a huge priority in the days ahead.


TAPPER: Turning to Syria specifically, the earthquake comes during this drawn out civil war. It's been going on for years and years, compounded by winter weather, a cholera outbreak. A World Health Organization official says this is a, quote, "large, unfolding, huge scale disaster." How is UNICEF scaling up for not just the short term, but the long haul in these incredibly hard hit areas?

ENGLISH: Yes, you know, honestly, it's a disaster and a disaster. You know, when you speak to -- when I speak to my colleagues on the ground and they speak to families, you know, they have been through so much already, you know? And it's hard not to lose hope when you live within these kind of situations. But by providing this care and this support, and I've seen it in Syria, I've seen it in Ukraine, I've seen it around the world, when you can provide kids with safe spaces to play and to, you know, be a child again, to be able to be there, be safe, speak to a dedicated psychosocial specialist, begin to play with, you know, crayons and toys, unpack what they've been through, it can make a difference.

You know, getting kids back into schools, that can make a difference. And these are the things which in days, weeks, months ahead, are going to be critical. But you know, the reality is, is if you look at a city like Aleppo, they have not recovered from twelve years of war, nowhere near, and so now this. It's going to be a long road ahead to recovery.

TAPPER: Joe English with UNICEF, which if you can't afford to help, always would welcome a donation if you're watching and you have the means. Joe English, thank you so much.

For other ways --

ENGLISH: Thanks so much, Jake.

TAPPER: -- to help the victims of the earthquake, you can go to Also in our world lead Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has just arrived in France on the second leg of a consequential, previously unannounced trip today. Zelenskyy first stopped in the U.K. He met with the Prime Minister, he met with King Charles, and he met with Ukrainian troops who are training with the British military. Now, Zelenskyy is scheduled to meet with the leaders of France and Germany in Paris.

The British today also announced that government will expand training to Ukrainian fighter pilots, though pilots need jets, of course, which the U.K. and other allies have so far refused to send to Ukraine. CNN's Fred Pleitgen explains why today's visit is raising hopes for a shift in attitude as Russia's brutal onslaught is unrelenting.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Ukrainian towns getting decimated by Russian firepower every day. This is Marinka in the east of the country, almost completely reduced to rubble.

Around Bakhmut, combat at close quarters as Ukrainian troops tried to prevent Russian fighters of the Wagner private military company from encircling the city.

Wagner boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin, so confident in his own private air force, he took to the skies and challenged Ukraine's president to a dog fight. Tomorrow I'm boarding a MiG 29, he said. If you desire, we'll meet in the sky.

But Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelensky, is in Europe, visiting the U.K.'s parliament, pleading for Western combat jets.

PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE: In Britain, the king is an air force pilot. And in Ukraine today, every air force pilot is a king.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Despite being much smaller and older than Moscow's air force, the Ukrainians are still very much in the fight in the skies. But they're losing planes and having trouble maintaining their Soviet fleet.

Even a small number of Western fighters would make a big difference, says Ukraine's air force spokesman. We can start with a few squadrons, he says, each with twelve jets. If we have one to two or more squadrons, it would be the first step for our pilots to transition. They can be in formation and perform combat missions on different directions.

The U.S. has given the Ukrainians some air launched anti-radiation missiles called HARM, but Kyiv says those two would work much better if launched from Western jets.

The HARM missiles aren't as efficient as if they were used from American or other allied aircraft, the spokesman says. Their functionality is restricted. The range is shorter, making the efficiency lower. Ukrainian officials say they want U.S. made F16. So far, President Biden has ruled out giving Kyiv combat aircraft. But the U.K. says it will soon start training Ukrainian pilots. And Ukrainian officials tell CNN they're confident they'll get jets, just like eventually they got the main battle tanks they requested.


We'd like help as soon as possible, like yesterday, he says. And our partners say it will come tomorrow. And the space between yesterday and tomorrow is very important to us.

And Ukraine civilians remain in the crosshairs of Russia's cannons, missiles and jets, while Kyiv hopes for more Western support to start beating them back.


PLEITGEN: And of course, Jake, the Ukrainians understand that if Western nations like the U.S. are going to give them jets, it's going to take quite a while for something like that to be put in place and for them to be able to actually use those jets here in the battlefronts. But, of course, there's also more imminent needs that the Ukrainians have as well. And something President Volodymyr Zelenskyy talked about when he was in the United Kingdom. He said, armored vehicles, definitely a high priority, and also longer distance missiles and rockets to hit Russian supply lines because the Ukrainians understand there's probably a Russian offensive coming, they believe the next couple of months are going to be extremely brutal in the east of this country, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Fred Pleitgen in Ukraine for us. Thank you so much.

Coming up next, balloons of different sizes and capabilities depending on releasing even more details about the Chinese government's floating spy program. Plus, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says Philadelphia Eagles fans are very good at one thing. I'm interested to hear what that is. That's next.



TAPPER: And we're back with our world lead. A Chinese surveillance program is ballooning into a bigger deal. The Pentagon confirming earlier today it has, quote, "100 percent," 100 percent certainty that China's surveillance balloon was not being used for civilian purposes. U.S. intelligence officials say the spy balloon that floated across America last week is just one in a fleet. CNN's Kylie Atwood is at the State Department for us.

Kylie, how extensive is this alleged surveillance program?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It's quite extensive, Jake. So, U.S. officials believe that it is run by the Chinese military, and they don't know the full extent of this program yet. But what they do know at this point is that in recent years, there were more than two dozen of these missions that crossed over five continents. And we heard that reiterated from the Secretary of State today, saying that there are five continents that these balloons have passed over in recent years.

He said that there would be more information to come from the United States on this. We also heard from the Pentagon that it's not one size fits all with these surveillance balloons, that they can have different sizes, some of them can have different capabilities.

What the United States government is trying to do is figure out everything that they can about the balloon that was over the United States just, you know, last week and was taken down off the coast of South Carolina. That -- those operations are still underway. They're gathering those pieces. They're taking them to a government lab. There are FBI experts that are going through and trying to figure out what it was able to collect.

But then they're also trying to cast a broader net and figure out what the extent of this Chinese surveillance program looks like. We heard from the NATO Secretary General today saying that Chinese surveillance, even in Europe, has picked up and there is a need to increase defenses. Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Kylie Atwood at the State Department, thanks so much.

With us now, Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois. He's the top Democrat on the brand new Bipartisan Select Committee on China.

Congressman, thanks for joining us. So we're not dealing with a lone surveillance balloon here, according to U.S. officials. They say it's part of an extensive surveillance program. Can you confirm that? Is there evidence to prove that? And how might that change your committee's approach to this incident?

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL), RANKING MEMBER, COMMITTEE ON CHINESE COMMUNIST PARTY: Well, we're actually receiving a classified briefing tomorrow morning about this program, so I'm not really in a position to confirm. But what we do know is that this is not a weather balloon. And, you know, this was clearly a surveillance balloon. It was not small payload. It was maybe 2000 pounds of payload.

So far, the Pentagon has reported and published reports. So, this is quite a bit of equipment.

TAPPER: So, obviously, the United States conducts surveillance all over the world on our adversaries, probably even on our allies. Is this different than what the United States government does?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, let me just put it this way, I think a brazen violation of someone's airspace is not a common occurrence. And certainly not days before they invite your Secretary of State to come and visit Beijing or your nation's capital. I think that this is one of those situations, Jake, where either one of two things are happening, and we're trying to figure out what's actually happening based on our latest intelligence. But you know, either Chairman Xi and the higher echelon folks in the Foreign Ministry knew about what was going on with regard to this balloon, and still they decided to invite Secretary Blinken, which really questions the sincerity of their overtures and whether there's a substantive change in their policy or within the People's Republic of China and the Chinese Communist Party, the left hand and the right hand didn't know what each other was doing. We just don't know the answers to that.

TAPPER: Speaking of not knowing, the fact that other balloons had previously crossed into U.S. airspace and were undetected at the time is concerning. Take a listen to the commander of U.S. Northern Command.


GEN. GLEN VANHERCK. COMMANDER OF NORAD AND USNORTHCOM: I will tell you that we did not detect those threats. And that's a domain awareness gap that we have to figure out. But I don't want to go into further detail.


TAPPER: Is your committee going to push for more details on this so called awareness gap?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Yes, I think we're going to be asking a lot of searching questions. I think at this point, we're trying to, you know, basically ask, you know, how did this happen? When did we know this happened? Has this happened in the past? And how do we know it happened in the past?

These are all the types of questions that we'll be asking at these classified briefings.

TAPPER: An elite team from the FBI is right now analyzing pieces of the wreckage. What intelligence are you hoping to learn from their analysis?


KRISHNAMOORTHI: Gosh, this could be a gold mine of information in terms of assessing their intelligence capabilities. You know, what types of cameras do they have? What types of listening devices do they have? You know, how quickly can they transmit that information, and at what rate can they transmit it to their home ship or mother their ship or back to Beijing? These are important questions for us to know so that we can then invest appropriately and in our own countermeasures as well as our own surveillance abilities.

TAPPER: So, there are a lot of Republicans that we've talked to since last week who say very strongly that the Biden administration should not have allowed the balloon to travel all the way across the country from Montana and Idaho, down through Kansas City, Missouri, and on to the Carolinas. That they should have shot it down way sooner over the Pacific, over Alaska. What's your response? KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think they should ask the Biden administration and the military leaders why they recommended this course of action. I think they're jumping to conclusions. You know, you have to defer to the military leaders who have the best information about what's going on with that balloon.

Just as an example, you know, over the Aleutian Islands, the balloon could have been shot down. It would have been shot down over waters that are almost 2 miles deep, Jake. And these are rough waters. So, recovering that payload would have been very, very difficult, whereas, obviously, now it's in waters that are 47 feet deep off South Carolina, which is much easier to recover. So, that's the type of information where I would just respectfully submit to my Republican colleagues, wait, get the facts, and then make your conclusions after you hear from the military leaders.

TAPPER: Not to mention the more than 8,000 people that live on the Aleutian Islands. Does this incident hurt your efforts to work in a bipartisan way with the chairman of the committee, Mike Gallagher, and other Republicans?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I don't think so. I think that we have to refocus and just make sure that we uncover the facts. We lay them out for all of our committee members and the American people, and then we take steps to deal with those facts, with those challenges and threats. If we do that, I think that we will be true to our mission, but we can't engage in speculation or rhetoric that would be counterproductive.

TAPPER: All right. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi from Illinois, thank you so much. Good to see you.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up next, Republican Senator Mitt Romney dishes on what he said in that frosty exchange last night with con man Congressman George Santos. Stay with us.




SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): I didn't expect that he'd be standing there trying to shake hands with every senator in the President of United States. Given the fact that he's under ethics investigation, he should be sitting in the back row and staying quiet. He shouldn't be in Congress, and they're going to go through the process and hopefully get him out. And -- but he shouldn't be there. And if he had any shame at all, he wouldn't be there.


TAPPER: That's the key phrase, if he had any shame at all, he wouldn't be there. Because Congressman George Santos, utterly without shame by all facts and appearances, Senator Mitt Romney there joining a growing list of Republicans set up with the distraction and the lies and the daily scandals from Santos. Romney saying he told Santos, quote, "You don't belong here," during a brief exchange at last night's State of the Union. Santos responded to Romney earlier today.


REP. GEORGE SANTOR (R-NY): I mean, I think it's reprehensible that the senator would say such a thing to me in the demeaning way. He said it wasn't very Mormon of him. That's what I can tell you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He told you that you didn't belong, is that what he said to you?

SANTOS: And he called me along other stuff and he used other derogatory language.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did he actually curse at you?

SANTOS: Yes, he did.


TAPPER: And now House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is adding to the war of words after Romney said he was disappointed that McCarthy had not asked Santos to resign. McCarthy told CNN a short while ago that Romney should instead call on Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell to resign.

Let's discuss. Kasie, let me start with you. So, Santos --


TAPPER: -- claims Romney used derogatory language toward him. I believe the word he's referring to is ass. He called him an ass.

HUNT: That's what Santos claims.

TAPPER: Yes, that's what Santos --

HUNT: Or had claimed to reporters on the Hill after the State of the Union.

TAPPER: That's not really a curse, though, right? Maybe he meant it as a donkey. I mean, you covered Romney when he ran for president. What do you make of this all?

HUNT: Yes. Well, first of all, I'm not LDS, so I don't feel I can speak the way Santos did in terms of what is and isn't Mormon.

TAPPER: Neither is George Santos, unless he's one of the latter days (ph).

HUNT: No, well, who knows.

TAPPER: Who knows if perhaps he is one of the latter days. HUNT: Yes. I'm unclear on that part. But the reality is, if anything, you know, it is actually, in fact, very much in keeping with Mitt Romney's faith and belief in character that he would go up to George Santos and say something like this to him on the floor. Now, Santos is using the word derogatory for the language that Romney used. He didn't say profane. He hasn't repeated the word that you just said on air that I'm, sorry, I'm not going to stay on the air because I don't --


HUNT: -- want it on YouTube forever in my mouth. But thank you.

TAPPER: I'm saying, like, I think he means it as a donkey. Like I think you can call somebody an ass --

HUNT: I mean, maybe, and who knows. But --

TAPPER: It's donkyle (ph).

HUNT: Look, I think any of us who know Romney for a long time --



HUNT: -- profanity is not like, you know, his thing so much. So, if he was saying that in front of all of his colleagues on the floor, I'd be surprised. Honestly, I believe Mitt Romney over George Santos just because the record seems to show that he's a more reliable narrator.


TAPPER: So, and Zolan, McCarthy's response to Romney's mild criticism that he's disappointed that McCarthy hasn't called on Santos to resign is to go after Romney for not criticizing Eric Swalwell and calling on him to resign.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: Can you -- if you were to go back 24 hours before the State of the union, just imagine what McCarthy was envisioning for day after messaging. This is probably the last thing all of this tip it for tat, his own members of his party fighting with each other, making these accusations against each other.

You know, Kevin McCarthy, he's been trying to focus, at least he says, the messaging of his party on the Biden administration, on trying to have this debate between big spending and whether or not these packages are fueling rising prices. None of the attention goes there when your own party is in disarray like this.

This can't be what he wanted. It's probably the last thing that he wants today. And, you know, the attempt to flip it on Romney or talk about Eric Sowell or just try to point it to the Democratic Party seems like just an attempt to try and refocus the criticism elsewhere. But I don't know if that's working. TAPPER: And Kristen, that's -- I mean, that's the point of people, I think, who are calling for Santos to resign is that he's a distraction because he's constantly there, constantly a spectacle, utterly shameless. Take a listen to what Congressman Nick LaLota told CNN today about his fellow New York Republican.


REP. NICK LALOTA (R), NEW YORK: He's a sociopath, George Santos. He looks for that attention. Even the negative attention drives him. It's become an embarrassment and a distraction to the Republicans in the House. Every time I have to come to something like this and talk about George Santos, I can't talk about what Republicans ought to be doing instead.


TAPPER: I mean, he's not wrong.


KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think the point that you just made about, being a distraction from the messaging is 100 percent right. I mean, it is interesting to wonder, what would we be talking about him today in an alternate universe where the cameras hadn't captured that one exact moment, where people were able to lip read and figure out what the exchange was between Santos and spicy Mitt.

But, you know, we --

TAPPER: One of my favorite dishes.

ANDERSON: -- he's a distraction but also, let's not forget, the bigger issue is the ethics violations, the campaign finance stuff, the money side. That's what's going to keep this going. Not weird insults and schoolyard fights and high school drama. It's going to be law enforcement that is going to keep this going until he steps down.

TAPPER: Absolutely. And the other thing, though, is I would say even if it weren't for Santos v. Mitt, Santos v. Romney, there -- you know, Kevin McCarthy had hoped for an on message Republican Party and yet some of the --


TAPPER: -- members of his party who had made McCarthy's life so tough a month ago during his leadership election were literally heckling Joe Biden, President Biden, including Marjorie Taylor Greene.


TAPPER: She is defiant today about her booing, saying that Biden was a liar about something that he actually -- what he said was accurate.

FINNEY: Actually true, the facts. TAPPER: Was actually accurate.


TAPPER: So here's Marjorie Taylor Greene.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R), GEORGIA: And I got so many messages from people in my district and people across the country. It was like I won my election again. He got exactly what he deserved, and I am not sorry one bit. And I don't think Speaker McCarthy is upset with any of us for expressing our views and being unwilling to allow the president to lie.


TAPPER: Again, the fact is that Romney -- I mean, sorry, President Biden said very specifically it's a minority of Republicans, not a majority like emphasized --


TAPPER: But he said has talked about sunsetting, Medicare and Social Security and Senator Rick Scott has talked about sunsetting every federal program which ergo includes Medicare and Social Security, not to mention other members who have talked about those.

FINNEY: Right. I mean, CNN did a fact check actually on this. Look, bottom line, Marjorie Taylor Greene and the rest of the GOP caucus got schooled by Joe Biden last night. I mean, that was literally a master class, the way he ended up getting everybody to agree. OK, So Social Security and Medicare off the table.

He also -- I have to tell you, I mean, who expected that the State of the Union would be so entertaining? I guess we should expect that from now on, given what we know about, you know, this Congress. But he also -- he was having fun with it, and he was in more better control of that room than Kevin McCarthy has been --

HUNT: Yes.

FINNEY: -- of his own members. I mean, McCarthy is sitting there shushing and Biden's like, let's bring it on.

HUNT: Yes, no, I was just going to say, in part of -- we're talking about George Santos, that means we haven't been talking about Kevin McCarthy trying to get his -- the members of his conference to shut up --

FINNEY: Right.

HUNT: -- basically.

FINNEY: Right. HUNT: -- which is not something I remember seeing. But, I mean, big picture, Jake, I will say, you know, I was in the room in 2009 when Joe Wilson yelled, you lie. I was covering Congress. And you would have thought that the world had broken, right, when that --

TAPPER: Well, he was censured, though, right?

HUNT: Right, he was censured.


HUNT: But, I mean, like going down to the Speaker's lobby after the speech, everyone was appalled. I mean, obviously there were a lot of layers to it. He was the country's first black president. This was a Southern, you know, summer breaking, decorum, Southern white man.


But to go from that and the -- I remember how visceral the reaction was to that and how horrible it seemed at the time and the way people treated it, and everyone was appalled to the times that we are now, however many, 15 years later and to have Marjorie Taylor Greene stand up there yell liar, and to basically, you know, get on TV with our defense of that and say, you know, look, she basically did what she came to do, and everyone's basically shrugging their shoulders.

I mean, that is the difference. That is how our politics have changed in the last 50 years.

ANDERSON: But think -- we learned about the incentives. When that "you lie" moment happened, I remembered this was the beginning of the Internet fundraising days, and that was a big fundraising moment for Joe Wilson that -- then that's not to say that it was a good thing.

But it's just suddenly that awakens a lot of people to a new incentive structure in a politics that takes you from that moment to optics of Nancy Pelosi tears up the speech, republicans yelling back at Biden. That it becomes more of a circus because there's now an incentive to do things that are more outrageously in terms of the optics.

FINNEY: Look, we saw a 15-round circus, right? And, like, go, you know, Mitt Romney. He's exactly right. I mean, this is the clown car. And again, we're talking about George Santos. We're talking about, you know, Marjorie Taylor Greene yelling and others heckling. That is not the decorum. That is not the speakership that McCarthy thought he was getting into.

KANNO-YOUNGS: To be clear, the engagement, though, by Biden, and the result of this is also somewhat intentional. White House officials today and aides that have been really working on the strategy moving forward as we get to maybe a likely potential reelection announcement, have been saying a main part of the strategy is drawing a contrast between the economic policies of the White House.

And for a while they were looking for a foe there. And they found it with some of the proposals coming from Republicans. HUNT: Well --

KANNO-YOUNGS: And him engaging yesterday and also the heckling put a spotlight on some of those proposals. The White House was (INAUDIBLE).

FINNEY: An effort to show, bring it on. He is ready for the fight. It was not just about the substance. It was very clear that stylistically --

HUNT: Yes.

FINNEY: -- he wanted to send a message.

HUNT: I'm ready, I'm ready to fight with these people. And, you know, the thing, too is Kevin McCarthy was not trying to shush people out of, you know, some sort of civic -- sense of civic duty, right? I mean, he had a political.

TAPPER: He knows I looks bad, yes.

HUNT: -- sense, right that like, this is not how we should behave. And this kind of behavior has actually lost us, general elections, meant that we didn't do as well in the midterms --

TAPPER: Just flying monkeys. They're wild. Yes.

HUNT: Right. And so he knows that. And for the White House to be able to get, you know, put that on display is absolutely a political win.

ANDERSON: I think Joe Biden loving this exchange that wound up unfolding, as far removed from normal decorum as it is because think about, in my view, the number one audience for him last night was nervous Democrats.

TAPPER: Absolutely.

ANDERSON: They're worried that he's been a plan B and plan C for their 2024 hopes. And honestly, that first 30 minutes of the speech, I thought that's a big --


ANDERSON: -- binder they've got left. If I was a Democratic voter, I do not know how I'd be feeling about this. And that was the moment that turned it all --

TAPPER: Absolutely. The big fear about him is that he seems weak, he seems old, he seems fragile, he seems not up to it. And then Marjorie Taylor Greene sent him an in-kind contribution from the back row.

Thanks one and all. Appreciate it. Coming up next, one of the police officers charged in Tyre Nichols death claims he tried to help the 29- year-old before he was brutally beaten. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead now, CNN has obtained an affidavit showing how one former Memphis police officer is trying to defend his actions on the night Tyre Nichols was brutally beaten. Justin Smith claims that he called for medical help for Nichols, followed his training and even tried to help Nichols at one point.

CNN's Nick Valencia is in Memphis, Tennessee. Nick, does former officer Smith's account line up with other evidence?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The short answer Jake, is no. It does though represent the first account that has emerged of one of the officers involved in Tyre Nichols' death, he's told investigators. And as you mentioned, Smith says that he actually tried to help Nichols, that he called for medical help prior to arriving on the scene because he had heard reports of pepper spray used and he wanted medical help to be there on the scene.

This affidavit, though, ultimately goes on to say that he was fired for unnecessary use of force and failing to provide aid to Tyre Nichols despite being a certified EMT. Look, this new batch of documents that we obtain has all sorts of revelations and shows the lengths that officers involved in Nichols' death went to cover up their actions by either hiding their body cameras or trying to obscure them, laughing about what they did to Nichols after the fact and misleading investigators with contradictory statements. Jake?

TAPPER: Tyre Nichols' mother and stepfather, who attended President Biden State of the Union address last night in Washington, D.C. spoke with CNN's Don Lemon earlier today. What did they have to say?

VALENCIA: Well, it's really interesting because they have been adamant about the passage of the legislation of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. And when we were at the city council meeting yesterday, it's one of the reforms that was passed by the city council to officially support that legislation.

Listen to what they had to say this morning about why they believe that legislation is so important.


RODNEY WELLS, TYRE NICHOLS'S STEPFATHER: If they had passed the George Floyd bill initially, my son may not have died tragically the way he did.

ROWVAUGHN WELLS, TYRE NICHOLS' MOTHER: If they don't do anything, the government, then they're showing me they have no humanity and that they're not for the people because I am part of the people. So you need to get off your butts and get this bill passed. We can't have another Tyre.


VALENCIA: The fallout over Nichol's death continues here. As we reported, seven more officers are expected to face disciplinary actions from the Memphis police department, bringing the total to at least 13 officers involved, either having faced or will face discipline for their actions. Jake?


TAPPER: All right, Nick Valencia in Memphis, Tennessee.

Just days before the Super Bowl, the NFL commissioner is sharing a strong opinion about Philadelphia Eagles fans.


TAPPER: We do have some fantastic news in our sports lead and NFL players union doctor is guaranteeing that Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin will, will be able to play professional football game. As you might remember, the Buffalo Bill's safety had been sidelined since that shocking collapse on the field last month. He went into cardiac arrest, meaning his heart abruptly stopped beating.

But today, Hamlin is accepting an award for his service to his community, showing his remarkable recovery. CNN's Coy Wire is live in Phoenix, the site of Sunday Super Bowl between the amazing, beautiful Philadelphia Eagles and some other team.


Coy, what did Hamlin have to say.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: That other team, those Kansas City Chiefs, third Super Bowl in four years lead. I remind you, Jake. Look, Damar Hamlin, incredible. He got up there and he thanked his dad, who was there on stage with him, because he said it was his dad who was always giving back uplifting their community, and he instilled those values in him.

And so Damar Hamlin says, you know, that $9 million that fans rallied to raise for his foundation, he's not going to take that for granted. He says now it's his turn to make an impact.

Here he is.


DAMAR HAMLIN, BUFFALO BILLS: One of my favorite quotes, is a blessing to be a blessing. With that being said, I plan to never take this position for granted and always have an urgent approach in making a difference in the community where I come from and also communities across the world.


WIRE: It was surreal, Jake. A surprise appearance at that NFL Players Association press conference when he walked out onto the stage, people stood up and cheered. It's so uplifting. Encouraging sight after suffering that cardiac arrest on the field just over a month ago. TAPPER: Just incredible. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was asked today why the number of concussions is up this season. What did he have to say?

WIRE: Yes, and up 18 percent from last season, and concussions, most notably in kickoffs. Goodell says that the number may have gone up because of evaluations. Those four potential concussions went up as well, by 17 percent. So they changed the definition of what a concussion is this season.

So now, Jake, they feel that's a large part of the reason, and they still hope to have better helmets in the future and more rule changes to prevent head-to-head contact as much as possible.

TAPPER: And I hear Mr. Goodell said something about one of the greatest groups of Americans known to this country, Eagles fans. What did he have to say?

WIRE: Yes, he had nothing but great words to say about those kind and courteous Kansas City Chiefs. But the commissioner may not feel quite the same about the Eagles, who are, you know, they -- maybe more of a villain in his eye. He was asked how he feels when he is booed by fans. Here was his answer.


ROGER GOODELL, NFL COMMISSIONER: I actually love it personally, because, you know, it's a way for fans to interact. It's a way for them to be part of it. Philadelphia fans are pretty good at booing, let me just tell you.


WIRE: And Jake, I'm from Pennsylvania. I love our home state in Philadelphia, but I'll just say this. My parents didn't miss games during my nine-year NFL career, but there were two places where they refused to wear my jersey out of fear of getting dumped with beer or worse, Jake. And one of them was your beloved Philadelphia.

TAPPER: Well, all I'll say to Mr. Goodell is, sometimes we have things to boo about, and I think he knows what I'm talking about.

Coy Wire in Phoenix, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

From one great assignment to another, the NBA has a new points king.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: LeBron James a shot at history.


LeBron stands alone.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: Los Angeles Lakers LeBron James with the fad away jumper to officially seal his name as the league's all-time leading scorer, topping Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's nearly 40-year-old record. LeBron now leads with 38,390 points, a number that's only going to keep growing the longer the 38-year-old keeps playing.

CNN's Omar Jimenez is in L.A., somehow wrangled this assignment was there to witness last night's historic moment. Omar, tough gig. The Lakers, we should point out, lost the game to the Oklahoma City Thunder. But tell us what it was like to be there.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, look, we haven't slept much at this point, so I'm really trying to convince myself I wasn't dreaming when we watched this. As the countdown got closer to the record being broken, there was a countdown clock up on the scoreboard. When it was two points away, everybody was on their feet, phones out, and with a fade from the left elbow and a flick of the wrists, it was the history that everybody was there to see.

Now, many people, including LeBron, thought this record would never be broken. So when was finally announced as the NBA's all-time leading scorer, you saw the emotion well up in him immediately.

And Kareem Abdul-Jabbar again, whose record LeBron broke, wrote after the game that, in part, "This is the magic of sports, to see something seemingly impossible, reminding us that if one person can do it, then we all somehow share in that achievement. It's what sends children onto playgrounds to duplicate a LeBron Layup or a Steph Curry three- pointer or Mia Ham inspiring a whole generation of girls to come off the bleachers and onto the field."

And when we talk about magic, LeBron scored 38 points to break this record. That got him to 38,388 points when he broke it.


It's been 38 years since the previous record. He did it last night, the 38th day of the year, and LeBron James, 38 years old. So yesterday would have been the day to bet on 38th.

TAPPER: Just to just to point this out, the last time this happened, when Kareem took it away from Chamberlain, you were nine years away from being born, Omar. LeBron is roughly halfway through his 20th season on the subject of age. How long can we expect the king to keep playing because when Kareem reached this, he was older than LeBron is right now.

JIMENEZ: Yes, that's right. I mean, LeBron at this point says he feels good. He hopes to play for another few seasons, and he's got a lot to play for. He still feels like he can bring himself some championships to run up these points total to the point where it truly might be unbreakable. And a very important factor that his oldest son is close to playing in college basketball, potentially NBA, so they could play together in the future.

TAPPER: All right, Omar Jimenez in Los Angeles. Thanks so much. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at JakeTapper. Tweet the show at TheLeadCNN. If you ever missed an episode of the show, you can listen to THE LEAD from once you get your podcast, it's all two hours just sitting there like a big pineapple.

Our coverage continues with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer in a place I like to call "THE SITUATION ROOM" after this short break. I'll see you tomorrow.