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The Lead with Jake Tapper

White House Offering Hardly Any Answers On Objects From The Sky; Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) Is Interviewed Regarding The Unidentified Objects Shot Down By U.S. Military; NATO Warns Russia New Offensive; Death Toll Now At 36,000 And Syria Having Problems Saving Survivors; Speaker McCarthy Leans On GOP's So-Called Five Families On Debt Ceiling; College Board: "Political Agenda" Behind Florida's Decision To Ban AP African American Studies Course; Kansas City Chiefs Win Their Second Super Bowl In Four Years; Hurricane Ian Survivors Still Living In Tents, Cars & Wrecked Homes. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 13, 2023 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The Pentagon now says the object shot down over Canada on Saturday was a small metallic balloon with a payload tethered to it. These are some of the first details emerging about the three objects shot down by the U.S. military over the weekend. The White House says the objects were flying at an altitude that posed a risk to commercial planes. CNN's Phil Mattingly is at the White House for us where there are more questions than answers today.


JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: We are laser-focused on confirming their nature and purpose.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three day, three unidentified objects shot down by U.S. fighters. No precedent.

KIRBY: Efforts are actively under way right now at all sites to find what's left of those objects so we can better understand and communicate with the American people what they are.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): And no shortage of unanswered questions, driving a robust all-of-government response from President Biden.

KIRBY: Every element of the government will redouble their efforts to understand and mitigate these events.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Recovery efforts under way for downed objects and critical.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): They are focused like a laser on figuring out what happened and coming up with sort of a comprehensive analysis of how we deal with this present and future.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): As even White House allies are raising concerns.

REP. JIM JIMES (D-CT): In an absence of information people will fill that gap.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): But a new cabinet-level task force underscoring a rapid evolution in the U.S. approach.

REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): We're actually looking for these with extra vigilance. We're starting to see them in different ways. And President Biden has now made the decision that we are going to not allow those over U.S. territory.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): With U.S. fighters on three separate occasions using a single missile to take down objects over Alaskan airspace, over Canada's Yukon on Saturday and over Lake Huron on Sunday, all in the wake of a shootdown of a Chinese spy balloon earlier this month. Officials making it clear these three objects are demonstrably different in appearance and capabilities.

CROW: First of all, these are not posing a threat to the United States or the Americans. You know, these are benign objects from what we can tell.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): With current and former officials signaling they don't believe they originated in China.

UNKNOWN: Does that mean you think it's China?

UNKNOWN: No, I do not --

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Or any other state actor, but acknowledging there has been a shift in radar parameters even as the White House dismissed the idea of political pressure has contributed to the rapid escalation in the use of U.S. force?

(On camera): And just to put a sharper point on it, this isn't reactive to the Chinese spy balloon in the sense of there was political pressure, and so we are going to quickly to take down any objects over our airspace because the pressure that came from, say, Republican from Capitol Hill.

KIRBY: This was -- this was -- these were decisions based purely and simply on what was in the best interest of the American people.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): All as they tamp down any theories tied to extraterrestrial or alien origin.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There is no, again, no indication of aliens or extraterrestrial activity with these recent takedowns.


MATTINGLY (on camera): And Jake, officials say the recovery process for the Chinese spy balloon is still under way. And as part of that process, they will also be briefing at least one former Trump administration official. Officials offered that saying that some balloons traversed the United States during the Trump administration while Trump officials were unaware. John Bolton, the former National Security Adviser unde President Trump will be briefed according to our colleague Kaitlan Collins on Wednesday over at the Office of Director of National Intelligence, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Phil Mattingly at the White House for house. Thanks so much.

We're getting brand new details now about the object that the U.S. military shot down on Saturday including that it flew near U.S. sensitive sites before being shot down according to a Pentagon memo. CNN's Kylie Atwood joins us now live. Kylie, what else does the memo say?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, this was a memo sent to lawmakers today. And what it is saying according to the Pentagon is that the object that was downed over Canada was a small metallic balloon that had a payload beneath it. And that was the object that is said to have traveled over sensitive U.S. sites before being downed.

Of course, that's concerning because we don't know if it had collection surveillance capabilities on board. Now, this memo also said that the object that was down over Lake Huron on Saturday descended slowly into the water after it was shot. This memo that was gathered by my colleagues Jeremy Herb and Zach Cohen is giving us some of the slightest details about these objects.

We also are told by U.S. officials that the object that was down over Alaska, that was the one on Friday, is described as a metallic object. So, we now have this metallic descriptor for two out of the three of these objects. But there's still a lot of questions and the White House is being very clear in just calling these objects because they're saying that they won't have a definitive descriptor until they're able to recover the debris.

TAPPER: And Kylie, the Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Chinese counterpart, they're both expected to be in Munich, Germany this weekend. Is there a chance that they could meet?

ATWOOD: Well, two top diplomats in one place, there's always a chance, right, Jake?


And the State Department spokesperson said today that there is no meeting on the books for the Secretary of State and any top PRC officials at this moment. But they're always assessing opportunities for diplomacy. We also heard from the deputy secretary of state today saying that if there were to be a meeting, they would want to do it when the conditions are right.

And of course, the Secretary of State canceled his visit to China just recently in recent weeks due to this Chinese surveillance balloon. So, the question of conditions being right is still an open one. TAPPER: All right. Kylie Atwood at the U.S. State Department for us.

Thanks so much. Let's bring in Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. She's the chair of the Senate Arms Services Committee. Also, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

You just heard Kylie Atwood reporting that the unidentified object that was shot down over Canada had passed over U.S. sensitive sites. The spokesman for the National Security Council, John Kirby, today said he could not rule out that these objects were capable of surveillance. How concerned are you that they were engaged in surveillance?

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY): Well, we don't know yet, Jake, but I'm very concerned about not assessing unidentified aerial phenomenon which is why two years ago I worked with Republicans and Democrats to create a new part of the Pentagon that just focuses on all reports of unidentified aerial phenomenon and assesses them scientifically with as much publicly available data and intelligence data as well as data from aircraft of military personnel and assess what it is.

And in the last two years, they've assessed over 300 unidentified aerial phenomenon. About half of them were determined to be balloons or balloon-like devices. A couple dozen were determined to be drones. Some were just birds or bags in the air and other debris. And then there's still about 170 that are still not determined.

So, the assessment is really important. The military has said that these balloons they've shot down they did not believe to be creating any risk to the United States. But if they are intelligence-gathering devices, that's a decision for President Biden to make as to whether they are going to be tolerated. There are spy satellites everywhere.

TAPPER: Right.

GILLIBRAND: But there's a certain area that we don't have a protocol for which is above commercial airspace to space. And we have not made a determination as a government what we're going to do in that space. And that's something Congress should focus on. We should focus on what should be the protocols in that space.

And then in terms of commercial airspace, we've already made that determination. You cannot fly any devices in commercial airspace, which is why the last three devices were taken down immediately because we already have a protocol for those.

And now we just need to gather them up, whether they're in Michigan or in Canada or just off Alaska, and to see exactly what kind of devices they are. Whether they are benign, scientific, you know, climate- gathering devices or whether they are spy devices. And then which country, which adversary are using them.

TAPPER: So, I remember when you -- I believe you came on the show two years ago when you introduced this. And we also, I believe, have talked to the individual who used to work at the Defense Intelligence Agency and left because he thought -- he was focused on this unidentified aerial phenomenon.

He was focused on this and felt like the leaders in charge were not taking it seriously enough. They thought it was some fringe, you know, extraterrestrial, let's laugh at this kind of thing when --


TAPPER: -- now it's very serious. Do you feel vindicated at all?

GILLIBRAND: Well, it's not about me being vindicated.

TAPPER: Right.

GILLIBRAND: It's all the servicemembers who've reported these for years and been dismissed, derided, disregarded, their careers have been harmed. Those are the heroes at this moment because men and women have been reporting these sightings for certainly our military, for decades and they have been met with derision.

And so, what we made it clear in this law is that there could be no stigma associated with reporting and that reporting is now mandatory. And then if there is retaliation, that that will be prosecuted. So that's the nature of the law that we passed. And so, Arrow, which is the department we created, has some of the smartest minds in our country working on analyzing this data and these videos and radar detections as scientifically and as thoroughly as possible to make assessments.

And as I said, there are still many that are not assessed yet, and it takes time and resources. So, one of the things I'm going to be working on this week is to make sure this is fully funded this year and to make sure that this is a priority for the Department of Defense because regardless of how they looked at these things in the past, and I understand these are not threats from a military perspective, but we need to understand what is in our airspace. We need to understand who is spying us and how.


GILLIBRAND: And we need to know what technology they're using. Whether it's Russia, whether it's China, whether it's Iran, whether it's any other entity known or unknown. We need to know. And that's -- and no one should be derided for giving reports on it.


TAPPER: So, one of the things that's interesting is in, look, I understand these last three objects were in the area where commercial airlines fly, and that's the explanation as to why they were shot down, but the Chinese, suspected Chinese spy balloon was not. But we also heard quite a bit during that week that shooting down the Chinese spy balloon would really pose a serious risk to people, to the American people as well as buildings. Is there not also a risk in shooting down these objects that are in the space where commercial aircraft are? GILLIBRAND: There is and that's why they chose locations that would

minimize that risk, over Lake Huron, for example, in the Yukon, off the coast of Alaska. That's the three places where they shot them down. Interestingly for the first spy balloon, they had an option to shoot it down immediately just off the coast of Alaska. And one of their reasoning was, it's very hard to recover anything from that location which is now proving to be true for this shot-down device over the coast of Alaska.

The cold temperatures, the roughness of the sea. It makes it very hard to retrieve. And so, I think the Biden administration made the right judgments and waited until it was in a safe place and they could also watch it and see, really get their own information about how does it move, what's it doing, and they can then take that information, as knowledge it's very important for defense.

TAPPER: All right, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, thank you so much. Good to see you again.

GILLIBRAND: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up, a look at what is becoming a Ukrainian graveyard for Russia tanks. Then, a terrifying glimpse of how people are digging through the rubble with their bare hands to try to locate victims of the earthquake as aid never arrives due to, in some cases, politics.



TAPPER: Just 11 days short of the one-year mark of Vladimir Putin's brutal war on Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. NATO secretary-general is warning that we are seeing the start of a new Russian offensive while Ukraine is draining its ammunitions stockpiles. CNN's David McKenzie is in Ukraine for us where Russia's multiple tactical blunders could signal future problems for Putin's army.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Russian units pushing forward again and again only to be obliterated by Ukrainian artillery, mines, and drones. CNN analysis of multiple videos taken over the past fortnight show the Russians last at least 50 tanks and armored personnel carriers in this area alone, and it seems several hundred soldiers.

These units seem without leadership or tactics as Russian soldiers scramble to take cover, they are mercilessly cut down. Russian tanks and fighting vehicles careened straight into well-placed minefields. At one point, the lifeless body of a Russian soldier gets entangled in tank tracks.

These satellite images provided to CNN show the intense bombardment of the tree lines the Russian army tried and failed to take cover and a landscape littered with destroyed machines. President Putin's only comment on the fighting here, the marine infantry is maintaining the operation just fine he says. This very moment they are fighting heroically.

The U.K. says that Russians are losing soldiers at their highest rate since the start of the war. Even Russian military bloggers are venting their anger at the tactics and commanders. "Only morons attack head on the same heavily fortified place," writes one. Another demanding the general in charge be put on trial.

(On camera): If you see the tactics the Russians are using, does it look like they know what they're doing in that particular part of the front?

KATERYNA STEPANENKO, RUSSIA ANALYST, INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF WAR: It really doesn't. It's absolutely absurd that they've committed and tried to vent in a mechanized column. That makes it a very vulnerable target.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Still, it's part of an offensive the NATO secretary-general thinks is now getting under way in earnest.

JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL: Because we see what Russia does now -- President Putin do now, is to send in thousands and thousands of more troops, accepting a very high rate of casualty, taking big losses, but putting pressure on the Ukrainians.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): In Vuhledar, Ukraine's defenses are standing firm, even as Russia resorts to be using what appear to be thermobaric weapons. But there are growing concerns that Ukrainian units are running critically short of artillery ammunition.

STOLTENBERG: The current rate of Ukraine's ammunition expenditure is many times higher than our current rate of production. This puts our defense industries under strain.


MCKENZIE (on camera): Now, north of that zone, the Russian elite forces and Wagner mercenaries, Jake, seem to be having better luck trying to get inch by inch that territory away from the Ukrainians. But at what cost? And certainly, this is not the kind of gains that Putin would have expected almost a year into this conflict. Jake?

TAPPER: David McKenzie in Kyiv, Ukraine for us. Thank you so much.

Now, on to Turkey and to Syria where more than 36,000 people have now been declared dead after last week's earthquake. In Syria, a top United Nations official today said that the rescue phase of the response is, quote, "coming to a close." CNN's Jomana Karadsheh went to one of the hardest hit areas in Syria and found war-scarred hospitals simply do not have enough resources to save everyone.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Baby Mohammed (ph) takes every little labored breath on his own. No mom, no dad to hold his tiny hand. His parents didn't survive the earthquake. The 3-month- old was rescued by neighbors who brought him to this ICU. In the room next door, we find Halya (ph), the 26-year-old who will

never walk again. The earthquake brought down her family's home and crushed her back. Her stepmom tells us Halya (ph) and her three children were under the rubble for 18 hours. The children survived, but they don't know where they are.


In every room of this Syrian hospital, a bittersweet tale of survival. Many more should have been alive today to tell their stories. Doctors say they tried to save them but didn't have enough supplies to save everyone. The few medical facilities in rebel-held Syria are barely still standing after years of Russian and Syrian regime bombardment that left them ill-equipped to deal with a disaster of this magnitude.

AHMAD ALAABD, SYRIAN AMERICAN MEDICAL SOCIETY: We lost a lot of patients because of shortages in medical supplies. If we had them, we could have had many more lives.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): This was the scene here last Monday and in other facilities run by the Syrian-American medical society.

ALAABD: This is the biggest disaster we ever had. We dealt with war injuries but never had to deal with these many casualties at once.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): The people of this devastated land cried for help, but no help came. Aid to rebel-held northwest Syria is tied in politics and at the mercy of a regime so cruel even at a time like this. They dig and dig with their bare hands and whatever they can find, desperately trying to reach their loved ones. It's too late for rescues now. They just want to bury their dead.

Mohammed (ph) is searching for relatives. Expressionless and numb, he tells us 21 of them, including children. Life here feels like one endless cycle of loss and grief. Most have been displaced time and time again by more than a decade of war. They're now homeless once again. We were sleeping under the trees, but it was so cold we came here, (inaudible) tells us.

She begs the international communities to send them shelters. We just want a tent, she says. I wish we had died with everyone else so we don't go through this, she tells us. We survived only to live this misery and agony. They have nowhere left to run. Millions are trapped in Idlib. It's the last rebel-held territory in Syria. Mohammed (ph) says that she and her family fled a life of province and came here. She says they escaped the fighter jets and the air strikes. And she says we came here and the earthquake followed us. She says death follows Syrians everywhere.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): Seven-hundred people lived in this now flattened residential complex, only a handful survived. Young men from nearby villages came running to help get people out, she tells us, but what can they do? They tried digging. We heard people screaming, get us out! Get us out! Then they went quiet. They all died. Two days later they pulled a little boy and girl, their dead bodies were still warm. Others made it. After hours of this painstaking rescue, little Ahmed

(ph) was pulled out alive. The White Helmets heroes of Syria's war did all they can to save as many as they can. They urgently appeal for international support.

UNKNOWN: They didn't send anything. They didn't respond. They let the people here down and now the people here in Syria really know that now they are forgotten.


KARADSHEH (on camera): And Jake, a short time ago, the United Nations announcing that the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, has authorized the opening of two additional border crossings for the delivery of U.N. aid. But this is a regime that has been accused of weaponizing aid. This is a regime that has been accused of lying repeatedly to the international community.

So, the people of northwest Syria will believe this when they see it, Jake. And also, the United Nations has delivered more than 50 truckloads of aid into northwestern Syria since Thursday, but people in that region say that it's too little, too late.

TAPPER: Jomana Karadsheh back in Adana, Turkey for us with this absolutely brutal, brutal story. Thank you so much.

Coming up, what do the godfather of movie and the debt ceiling have in common? I'll tell you next.



TAPPER: CNN is learning that what House Republicans call leaders of the so-called five families have met for the first time to see if an agreement can be made among these five families to avoid a catastrophic default on U.S. debt this summer. What are the five families, I hear you ask.


MARLON BRANDO, ACTOR: I want you to arrange a meeting with the heads of the five families. This war stops now.


TAPPER: Except in this case, I'm not talking about the Corleone's and the Barzini's. These five families are the House Freedom Caucus and the Main Street Caucus and the Problem Solvers Caucus and the Republican governance group and the Republican Study Committee, but we should note the godfather in these negotiations, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, is not directly involved. Let's discuss, but first of all, can I just say, I've never heard this term before, the five families. Is everybody doing --


TAPPER: They're trying -- they trying to make fetch (ph) happen.

HENDERSON: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, and listen. We shouldn't help them make fetch happen in this regard. Listen, Kevin McCarthy, I think, someone who's learned from Boehner. He had a sort of top-down leadership style. The folks in the five families didn't like that. And so now he's going to each one of them to sort of try to cobble together some sort of agreement.


Because at this point, who knows what each of these groups want? They want to try to get to 218 without all the bickering, all of the bickering we obviously saw when he was trying to cobble together their 218 to become speaker.

TAPPER: You worked with House Republicans for some time. Do you think this is a smart approach, trying to get the five families on board? And was this a thing? Did you ever hear this before?

SARAH MATTHEWS, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: I'm unfamiliar with the term, yes. Definitely trying to make fetch happen. But I think this is a smart approach by Speaker McCarthy. I also think it's really smart who he tapped to lead the negotiations, which is a lesser-known Congressman Garrett Graves from Louisiana. Actually, he's my former boss, so I'm a little biased. But he --

TAPPER: But you think he's smart and good?

MATTHEWS: Yes, he is well respected on both sides of the aisle, and I think that a lot --

TAPPER: What about among the five families?

MATTHEWS: And among the five families, too. I think he represents, you know, the Deep South, and so he understands conservative politics, but he definitely is known to be more moderate. And so he is a good person to be leading these negotiations.

NAYYERA HAQ, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF CABINET AFFAIRS, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: He's going to have his hands full because they're going to have to find a through line that actually connects the five families to this broader sense of government.

TAPPER: We're making it happen.

HENDERSON: I know. We should stop.

TAPPER: We are making it happen right here.


TAPPER: Anyway, keep going. I'm sorry.

HAQ: The challenge with the through line right now is trying to find some way to connect these disparate elements of the Republican Party that have made a majority coalition and prove that it can be a governing coalition, when clearly there are elements that believe you should just burn down the administrative state.

And I'm --

TAPPER: Right.

HAQ: -- using Bannon's words here, right? That's the MAGA wing of the party. There's also elements that believe you should be tying budget to debt limit, to fundamentally different financial instruments, but it works in the sense of public messaging. So what we see coming out of this conversation will help us understand how Republicans plan to govern going forward.

TAPPER: And I should say, Jackie, a lot of Democrats see this Republican strategy is destined to fail, quote, "The White House and Senate Democrats have calculated that Speaker Kevin McCarthy won't have enough votes to raise the national borrowing limit and will end up caving to their demands, Democrats demands, to avoid a first ever debt default with no strings attached or any conditions whatsoever."

And it's true that some moderate Republicans and the problem solvers and Main Street caucus are -- have talked about working with Democrats to bring a bill on the floor using a discharge petition. But right now they're all on the record saying no, that --


TAPPER: -- there have to be spending cuts, all including the moderate Republicans, there have to be spending cuts with the debt ceiling raised.

KUCINICH: I think we're seeing a little bit of wish casting coming from the Democrats on this. They're hoping to manifest that's the end result here. You can't make that gamble if you're them at this point because as you said, you have the moderate Republicans who are saying that they're not going to vote for this if there's not spending cuts.

And let's be honest, when John Boehner initially was in the 2011 debt ceiling negotiations, he was able to get some spending cuts that were thought to be large at the time. Maybe in hindsight Republicans don't think so. But -- and that is a negotiating position, right? They're not going to say, oh no, if it gets bad, we're going to go forward. We have to wait and see because I think of what we've seen from this Republican conference at this point, they are nothing if not unpredictable.

TAPPER: So let's change subjects as we can to a different struggle. The College Board engaged with a -- in a war of words with the state of Florida and its Republican Governor, Ron DeSantis over its preliminary decision, the Florida's preliminary decision to reject a course on AP African American studies unless changes were made.

In a statement, the College Board says, "Florida is attempting to claim a political victory by taking credit retroactively for changes we ourselves made but they never suggested to us. We have made the mistake of treating the Florida Department of Education with a courtesy we always accord to an education agency, but they have instead exploited this courtesy for their political agenda."

That prompted this response earlier today from Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: The college Board was the one that in a black studies course put queer theory in, not us. They did that. They were the ones that put intersectionality. They put in other types of neo-marxism into the proposed syllabus. And men, this is the proposed course. So our Department of Education looked at that and said in Florida, we do education not in documentation. So that runs afoul of our standards.


TAPPER: One of the other things he said in those remarks, Nia-Malika, was that he's sick of politicians allowing fear of being called names into them, avoiding fights like this. I think he was using -- talking about the word racist.

HENDERSON: Right, right, right. Listen, I think no matter what, DeSantis was going to try to turn this into some political victory. He's, you know, famous for saying Florida is the state where woke comes to die. I'm not really sure what that means.

Listen, I have been saying that I think the College Board in this AP studies course, I think it's a great course the way it ended up being. I think classrooms are dynamic places that queer theory will probably come up, intersectionality will probably come up in these courses.


Kimberle Crenshaw is very important to black studies. It's a very wide-ranging course from, you know, ancient Africa to Afrofuturism. And so listen, I think for DeSantis, when you think about a primary, this is probably good for him. But when you think about this more broadly, white parents want their kids to learn about black studies? Queer theory is certainly within the framework of black studies.

If you think about the fact that folks who put on the civil rights marches, a lot of those folks were actually gay.

TAPPER: Like James Baldwin.

HENDERSON: And so like James Baldwin.


HENDERSON: And so, you know, listen, I think it works to a point for DeSantis when he's thinking about trying to work his way through a primary with fights against Kimberle Crenshaw and Mickey Mouse. But I think more broadly, I don't know that it's going to really -- HAQ: He's focus on this very elite college program, too. Only a

million students around the country even take AP courses, let alone this new pilot smaller AP black history course. And I will say I would have loved to take this class back in high school because we had American history in which slavery was barely discussed.

And that's the broader challenge we're seeing. And DeSantis has really wrapped his hands around the K to 12 public education system and using name calling to his advantage, calling it racist or woke theory to even talk about the roots of American history. He's taken an autocratic approach to it.

Education is supposed to be locally managed and he has managed to show an example of how a state can take over these local issues and now potentially show a path for how the federal government can do that as well.

TAPPER: Do you think this is a winner for him?

MATTHEWS: I think it's a winner for him in Florida, which we've seen become increasingly red, but on the national stage, I don't know if it's going to play as well if he ends up entering the 2024 race. DeSantis seems to have largely built his brand around being a culture warrior and picking these types of battles. But I don't think that's really going to move the needle with moderates and independence nationwide, which is what he would need if he gets into the presidential campaign.

TAPPER: Although the primaries come first, of course. Thanks to one and all.

He is the man behind the amazing second half comeback to defeat my beloved Philadelphia Eagles. I will ask Super Bowl MVP and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes how he did it and why. Why he did it. That's next.



TAPPER: In our sports lead, while it may not have been the outcome that fans of the Philadelphia Eagles, such as, oh, I don't know me, had wanted, the Kansas City Chiefs are the undisputed this year NFL Super Bowl champions, pulling off a remarkable and impressive comeback to take down the birds 38 to 35.

Who better to talk about this win and run by pacing in it then the now two-time Super Bowl champion and two-time MVP himself, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Patrick, congratulations. An unbelievable game. How are you feeling today?

PATRICK MAHOMES, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS' QUARTERBACK: I'm feeling good. It's been a roller coaster and I appreciate it. Sorry, I made you have a little bit of a rough night, but we had a great time. It was a great game and we're at Disneyland now. TAPPER: So going into halftime, I have to ask you, going into halftime, you're down by 10, then you come back out and you just obliterated Philly's defense. What happened in that room? Did you have conversations? Did you crack the code of Gannon zone defense? Did the enemy tell you to stack the receivers, run corn dog? We could do it this way. I mean, was it like a technical discussion?

MAHOMES: Yes, I think it was a little bit of everything. I mean, first off, we had great half time adjustments by the coaches, Coach Bieniemy and Coach Reid. I think some guys stepped up and talked in a locker room and just said, hey, let's just leave it all on the field and see what happens at the end of 30 minutes.

And the guys responded, everybody stepped up. Offensive line, everybody stepped up, and we're able to find a way to win against a great football team.

TAPPER: So the Eagles were known for sacking quarterbacks. How surprised were you to not even be sacked once last night?

MAHOMES: I mean, with all respect to the Eagles air D-line, I wasn't that surprised. I mean, our offensive line has been great all year. I was one of the least sacked quarterbacks in the entire NFL all season long. And I think with the -- all the other stuff going on, people forgot that. They forgot how great our offensive line was, and they accepted the challenge.

We knew that was a great defensive line, that we were facing an all- time, great defensive line. And our offense line accepted that challenge. And we were able to get the ball to my hands and get it to the playmakers and make place.

TAPPER: I'll never be allowed back into Philadelphia if I don't ask you what you thought about that holding call against James Bradberry, who acknowledges he did tug Smith-Schuster's jersey, but he thought that the refs would let it slide. What did you think about it?

MAHOMES: Yes, I mean, I was throwing it to the spot where I thought Juju was going to be at, and I knew there was a reason that he wasn't as close as he was when I threw it. I couldn't see exactly. I just knew when we ran that kind of double move route that he wasn't, going to -- that he wasn't usually is at.

And then when you see it on film, man, I mean, he tugged him and kind of forced him out of the direction of where he wanted to throw the ball. And so at the end of the day, you got to play football and the rest to make their calls, the best that they can do in their best of their ability. And it went our way on that call where a couple of other ones it might have went the other way.

TAPPER: You were visibly in pain at the end of the first half after tweaking your already injured ankle, and you said you didn't receive a painkilling injection for your ankle. It was heavily taped. I also wonder how much the extra 15 minutes of Super Bowl halftime helped and also how much adrenaline might have played a role, given we know that human beings are capable of incredible physical feats because of their own adrenaline.

MAHOMES: Yes, it was a little bit of everything. I mean, I'm feeling good. It's been a roller coaster and I appreciate it. Sorry I made you have of a rough night, but we had a great time. It was a great game and we're at Disneyland now.

Going into halftime, I have to ask you, going into halftime you're down by ten, then you come back out and you just obliterated Philly's defense. What happened in that room? Did you have conversations? Did you crack the code of Ganon's own defense? Did the enemy tell you to stack the receivers? Run corn dog, we can do it this way. Was it like a technical discussion?

Yes, I think it was of everything. First off, we had great half time adjustments by the coaches, coach Bam and coach Reid. I think some guys stepped up and talked in a locker room and just said, hey, let's just leave it all on the field and see what happens at the end of 30 minutes. And the guys responded, everybody stepped up. Offensive line, everybody stepped up. We're able to find a way to win against a great football team.

The eagles were known for sacking quarterbacks. How surprised were you to not even be sacked once last night?

I mean, with all respect to the Eagles NRD line, I wasn't that surprised. I mean, our offensive line has been great all year. I was one of the least sacked quarterbacks in the entire NFL all season long. I think with all the other stuff going on, people forgot that. They forgot how great our offensive line was, and they accepted the challenge. We knew that was a great defensive line, that were facing an all time great defensive line. Our offense line accepted that challenge, and were able to get the ball to my hands and get it to the playmakers and make place.

I'll never be allowed back into Philadelphia if I don't. Ask you what you thought about that holding call against James Bradbury, who acknowledges he did Tug Smith Schuster's jersey, but he thought that the refs would let it slide. What did you think about it?

Yes, I was throwing it to the spot where I thought Juju was going to be at, and I knew there was a reason that he wasn't as close as he was when I threw it. I couldn't see exactly how I just knew and doing we ran that kind of double move route that he wasn't where he usually is at. When you see it on film, man, he tugged him and kind of forced him out of the direction of where he wanted to throw the ball. At the end of the day, you got to play football and the rest to make their calls, the best that they can do in their best of their ability. It went our way on that call where there were a couple of other ones, it might have went the other way.

You were visibly in pain at the end of the first half after tweaking your already injured ankle, and you said you didn't receive a painkilling injection for your ankle. It was heavily taped. I also wonder how much the extra 15 minutes of Super Bowl halftime helped and also how much adrenaline might have played a role given we know that he's human beings are capable of incredible physical feats because of their own adrenaline.


MAHOMES: Yes, it was a little bit of everything. I mean, first of all, I think the rest definitely helped it. I was able to kind of do some mobility stuff back in that locker room and get the tape the way that I wanted it to get in that second half. And then whenever you get back out there, you just have to let the adrenaline and your mental, your mind, really just take over.

You got to do -- you leave it all in the football field. And we got a long offseason now where we can go out there and let it rest up and get to 100 percent by next year. But I was going to do whatever I could to be what I needed to do, what I needed to do on that football field.

TAPPER: Well, it was incredible. Super bowl LVII was memorable and historic and an incredible game for a lot of reasons. One of them is the fact that this is the first time in the history of the NFL that both teams starting quarterbacks were black. There's a lot of that that's just rooted in some really bad unfairness in the NFL history.

But beyond that, what did it mean to you? And did you and Jalen Hurts, the quarterback for the Eagles, did you talk about it at all?

MAHOMES: Yes, I mean, it was talked about for sure. I mean, it's -- it was a special moment and I was glad that the game went the way it went, even though it made me -- we're a little nervous there at the end. But Jalen played his tell off, man, all respect to him. And it showed that the black quarterback, like we've always been able to do, can go out there and have successes on the world stage in the biggest game of them all.

And we're standing on shoulders of Doug Williams, Warren Moon, Shack Harris, all these greats and the guys that didn't get the chances that gave us this platform. And hopefully we can inspire some kids to follow their dream and be a quarterback in the future. Whenever we're sitting on the couch watching the Super Bowl.

TAPPER: You talk about faith a lot, and I'm wondering what's the best way you think your faith plays a role in your game? Is it bringing you a piece? Does it bring you a perspective? How does it help you?

MAHOMES: Yes, it's definitely perspective, I think to me. We -- I do a lot about just thinking about going out there and playing to glorify him. And it's not about winning and losing, even though it is in our world, but it's to go out there and leave everything I have on the field to show that I'm glorifying him.

And it gives me a perspective of leaving everything out there and knowing I'm doing it for the right reason. And hopefully that's enough to win football games. And for me, it's been enough so far, and hopefully I can continue to do that the rest of my career.

TAPPER: All right, Kansas City Chiefs superstar Patrick Mahomes, congratulations. I'll see you in Kansas City in June when we go to the Big Slick fundraiser for Children's Mercy Hospital

MAHOMES: I appreciate it. You can come to the parade Wednesday, too, if you want to. I know Paul is trying to get out there.

TAPPER: It's OK, I'll let Paul represent me. It's OK. I appreciate it. But thank you so much. Enjoy Disney Land.

Coming up, more than four months after Hurricane Ian, thousands of Floridians are still waiting for FEMA to provide trailers. What is taking so long?



TAPPER: Now for our buried lead, these are stories that we believe deserve a lot more attention than they're getting. It has been more than four months since Hurricane Ian devastated Florida, and as CNN's Gabe Cohen shows us, some survivors are still living in tents and cars and wrecked homes, waiting for the help that President Biden and FEMA promised.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trying to get it cleaned out.

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This was Lee McCall's home, ravaged by Hurricane Ian in September. This is where her family lives now. The 86-year-old and her husband are in an old RV on their property. Her daughters are in one tent, her grandkids in another.

LEE MCCALL, HURRICANE IAN SURVIVOR: At my age, what am I going to do?

COHEN (voice-over): She's still waiting for her insurance payout, but they spent a month in their cars. So this, she says, feels like heaven.

MCCALL: Thank God for what you've got, and I do everything.

COHEN (voice-over): More than four months after Hurricane Ian pounded southwest Florida, many homeowners here are still homeless. Some living in difficult or even dangerous conditions.


COHEN (voice-over): Nicole Williams moved back into her damaged home last month after she says her rental assistance ran out.

WILLIAMS: The mold situation in there is terrible. I can barely breathe.

COHEN (on-camera): But you're still staying here?

WILLIAMS: I don't have a choice. It's here on the street.

BOBBY MANN, HURRICANE IAN SURVIVOR: You can see we got a lot of stuff in there still, but --

COHEN (voice-over): Bobby Mann and his wife have been sleeping in their car --

MANN: This is our bed.

COHEN (voice-over): -- or inside their hollowed house.

MANN: It breaks you. And physically, emotionally, you're drained. You're exhausted.

COHEN (voice-over): And 73-year-old Sonny Reeves, a retired Marine living in this RV, is frustrated by this spray paint on his driveway.

SONNY REEVES, HURRICANE IAN SURVIVOR: Not knowing what's going on.

COHEN (voice-over): It means he's been approved by FEMA for a free temporary trailer. But he says he's been waiting for it since October.

REEVES: I don't know. Maybe I'm not calling the right person.

COHEN (voice-over): In fact, all of the survivors we interviewed, few of whom had insurance, told us they've been approved by FEMA for temporary housing units but they have no idea when they're coming. It's become a heated issue in this area. While FEMA has provided nearly $1 billion in individual assistance, they're behind undistributing housing units.

Nearly 3,000 households have been approved for direct housing, but as of last week, FEMA says only 225 had received it.

BRIAN HAMMAN, CHAIRMAN, LEE COUNTY BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS: Where's the sense of urgency? Why is nobody helping these people?

COHEN (voice-over): Brian Hammond is chairman of the Lee County Board of Commissioners, an elected Republican. He blames federal red tape. For example, it took until January for FEMA to bypass a policy that says they can't put trailers in a flood zone. Most of these survivors live in one.

HAMMAN: They actually made the system too big and too cumbersome to get through to respond to in a disaster.


COHEN (voice-over): But FEMA defends their process.

(on-camera): Do you think more needs to be done to cut red tape to be able to deliver these trailers now?

KEITH DENNING, FEMA: We don't have any issues with red tape at the moment.

COHEN (voice-over): Keith Denning is one of the FEMA officials leading this recovery. What some call red tape, he calls federal regulation. DENNING: We're working faster. We're ramping up the direct housing operation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Frustrating. We're so frustrated.

COHEN (voice-over): But Roseanne and Paula two widowed sisters, have had this FEMA trailer on their property for more than a month, and they're still locked out of it because the water still isn't hooked up. Until it passes inspection, they're not allowed inside FEMA's rules. So they're still living with little power, hauling water from their neighbor's house to boil for showers.

(on-camera): At this point, what's the timeline to get the rest of these delivered?

DENNING: We're looking at on certain sites, private sites, commercial sites that would be commercial parks sometime in the middle of March. Have all of those needs filled now.


COHEN: Now FEMA stresses they have provided assistance for rent and repairs to tens of thousands of households. And since that, flood zone rule changed last month, they say far more of those housing units are going out. But, Jake, you saw still so many people there are struggling, and a lot of them want to know when their support may be arriving.

TAPPER: Yes, I want to know too. Gabe Cohen, excellent report. Thank you so much.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at JakeTapper. You can tweet the show at TheLeadCNN. Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer in a place I like to call "THE SITUATION ROOM" after this quick break. Stay with us.