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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Three Students Dead, 5 Critically Injured In Campus Mass Shooting; Senators Briefed On Unknown Objects Shot Down By U.S.; Sources: Pence To Fight Special Counsel Subpoena; Lawmakers Blast Bight Tech Over Kids' Online Safety; Widow Of American Killed Volunteering In Ukraine Remembers His Husband; Chiefs' Offensive Coordinator Not Hired For Head Coaching Jobs Despite Super Bowl Wins. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired February 14, 2023 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: A Michigan State shooting survivor told CNN that she'll never forget the screams of her classmates.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Three killed, five injured, all of them students at Michigan State University with their whole futures ahead of them.

The evil angry the gunman's father is now describing, as we learn more about what led to yet another unnecessary mass shooting in America, and more holes in our laws that continue to allow this to happen.

And Mike Pence ready for a fight with the Justice Department. How the former VP reportedly plans to push back on a subpoena about the January 6th insurrection, even though he wrote about it in detail in his recent book.

Plus, why do NFL teams' owners keep skipping over the highly successful Kansas City Chiefs' offensive coordinator despite his impressive Super Bowl-winning resume? Could the fact that he's not white have anything to do with it? Bob Costas is here to discuss.


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

We start today with our national lead and a story I'm frankly both heartsick and angry about having to continually cover another mass shooting at another American school. This one at Michigan State University in East Lansing.

This afternoon, we learned the 43-year-old shooter who went on the rampage last night had a note in his backpack referencing previous mass shootings. Investigators say that gunman killed three students and critically injured five others before taking his own life.

President Biden addressed this horror this afternoon.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a family's worst nightmare and it's happening far too often in this country, far too often. While we gather more information, it's one thing we do know to be true -- we have to do something to stop gun violence ripping apart our communities.


TAPPER: There have been more mass shootings in the United States in 2023 than there have been days in 2023. Sixty-seven mass shootings where at least four people were injured or killed, just in January and the first 14 days of February.

Another heartbreaking reminder of this plague marks five years since the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. Students in Ft. Lauderdale formed a giant heart to remember the 14 students and 3 staff members killed.

CNN's Adrienne Broaddus starts our coverage today from East Lansing, where the first victims of yesterday's horrific attack have been identified.


POLICE: We're going to need multiple, multiple ambulances.

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The shootings at Michigan State University left three students dead and five others critically injured. Brian Fraser, a sophomore, and Alexandria Verner, a junior, were among those killed.

The gunman, 43-year-old Anthony McRae, first opened fire on the campus Monday just before 8:30 p.m.


CALLER: There's still people down there trying to get out.

BROADDUS: Shooting at two location locations, the first inside a classroom at Berkey Hall.

INTERIM DEPUTY CHIEF CHRIS ROZMAN, MSU DEPT. OF POLICE & PUBLIC SAFETY: While the officers were managing that scene at the hall, we began receiving additional reports of another shooting at the MSU Union Building.

POLICE: I'm coming down stairwell 13 with seven people.

BROADDUS: One witness to the shooting says his fight-or-flight response kicked in.

DOMINIK MOLOTKY, STUDENT, MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY: I went to the far side of the class and ducked down, and he came in and shot three to four times in our classroom.

BROADDUS: Police released a photo of the shooter taken from campus security cameras and a caller's tip sent them to Lansing, Michigan.

MODERATOR: It's going to be a suspect wearing red shoes and a backpack.

BROADDUS: The search ended just before midnight.

POLICE: Shots fired.

POLICE: Shots fired, 23:49, subject down.

BROADDUS: Police say McRae shot himself during a confrontation and died. He had no known motive to target MSU and no ties to the university. According to police, they're now investigating a two-page note found in McRae's backpack, saying he's going to, quote, finish off Lansing and that there are, quote, 20 of him who will carry out shootings according to a source familiar with the investigation.

McRae had been arrested before. He was released from probation in May of 2021 after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor for possession of a loaded firearm. MSU students are now dealing with what's next after spending hours hiding from a gunman.


GRAHAM DIEDRICH, STUDENT, MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY: We took heavy furniture from around the library and just barricaded ourselves into a study room to make sure we were safe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was, like, shaking in the bathroom, and it was just terrible. Just, like, preparing myself for, like, the worst thing ever.

BROADDUS: Despite the tough circumstances, there's one greeting among all Spartans that still unites them.

Go, green!


BROADDUS: You guys smiled instantly.

KELLY WEBB, STUDENT, MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY: As horrible and disgusting and tragic as that was, we are all in it together and everyone was here for each other.


BROADDUS: That's the greeting every freshman learns at orientation, and today it provided a moment of comfort for those hurting students, especially as they learn more about this 43-year-old shooter. His father spoke to CNN, telling us his son changed about two years ago when his mother died following a stroke. He said his son became isolated, bitter, and, quote, evil angry -- Jake.

TAPPER: Adrienne Broaddus in East Lansing, Michigan, for us.

Democratic Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin of Michigan joins me now from Michigan State University. She represents East Lansing and the campus.

Congresswoman, I'm angry that we're having this conversation again. I'm sure you are too. This is the second mass shooting at a school in your area in the last year and a half, the first, of course, Oxford High School outside Detroit in 2021.

First, how is your community doing today?

REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MI): Yeah, well. Look, it's the first day after a huge trauma. You know, for a while it was just a very quiet and empty place, the campus. Kids were really holed up in their dorm rooms, in apartments. We were making sure kids were together, they had someone else to be with.

Now, we're starting to see a few folks come out and want to be together. They're planning vigils. They're taking action. They're planning protests. I mean, it's -- they're starting to come out, but it is particularly because it wasn't just a shooting, it was also a manhunt on campus.

It was sort of a double trauma in a way. And everyone felt the effects. Over 50,000 students are here, so it's a -- it's a traumatic thing. It's going to take a while to get over.

TAPPER: Nothing could explain this madness, but have you learned anything about a possible motive?

SLOTKIN: No. I mean, I think to everyone's best estimate at this point is it was someone who was going through a real mental crisis.

And, you know, by his own family admission, he was just struggling, and this person who was struggling with mental illness had access to a gun, had regular access to a gun. And, you know, we'll never I'm sure know exactly why he did it, but I think, you know, the thing that's just hard to ignore is how many times we've done this over the past just even year, year and a half.

And, you know, are we willing to have an actual conversation about doing something to mitigate these kind of gun losses. It's been a frustrating day. You know, I'm not someone who usually fears -- feels- like fury about something, but having to talk to kids.

I mean, you should have heard the conversations, talking to students. They were terrified, their parents were terrified. It's terrorizing, and we either do something about something that's terrorizing our population or we don't care about it. And that's the choice I think we have in front of us.

TAPPER: So many shooters in the last few years have had run-ins with the law or family members who said, yeah, he was really going through a tough time. This shooter's father says his son had a gun several years ago.

Police took it away. Court documents show the gunman pleaded guilty to a firearms charge in 2019. And yet, sources tell CNN this same person was able to purchase both guns in 2021. Is that legal in Michigan? Do we have any idea of whether this could

have been stopped in any way, the purchasing?

SLOTKIN: Yeah. We really just don't know the full details yet. I don't want to speculate. I think, you know, the fact of the matter is we know it's a pretty high bar to get flagged when you're trying to purchase a weapon.

And I don't know the circumstances of this man, but I know someone who's closest, you know, family felt that they were mentally unstable, had access to a weapon. I think one of the things that at least has made me feel a bit better is that we've had an outpouring of Michiganders. So many people here are Spartans, so many people graduated or used to come by MSU. That there's a feeling you can be a gun owner, a sportsman, and avid hunter. You can grow up with weapons the way I did, and still believe in keeping kids safe in a place of sanctuary like a school.

So, I think what has heartened me is that, you know, Washington may have not gotten the memo, but people on the ground understand you can also even believe in gun own ownership and also believe in good, responsible gun safety.


Those are not mutually exclusive.

TAPPER: Democratic Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, it's good to see you again. I'm sorry it's under these circumstances.

Let's bring in former FBI official, Katherine Schweit. She's also an associate professor at DePaul University Law School. She's also the author of the book, "Stop the Killing: How to End the Mass Shooting Crisis."

And, Katherine, you brought something with you today. What's that?


TAPPER: You went to Michigan State.

SCHWEIT: I went to Michigan State. Go, green. So, I'll never be out there saying, go, white.

TAPPER: It's just so awful.

The FBI is assisting the investigation into the suspect. What sort of things do you think they're looking for and trying to uncover as they investigate the motive or try to figure out what happened here?

SCHWEIT: You know, we have a dead shooter, obviously, but the motivation isn't so much the motivation for this guy as it is for us from an investigative standpoint. If we figure out the motivation that prompted him to do it, it's going to help us to find the next shooter before he strikes. So, what they're doing is working on -- from the moment that guy died

backwards in his life to try to figure out what he did, who he interacted with, who might have seen some of the signs beforehand, and pull together all of that details to find out where he went off on this pathway to violence.

TAPPER: So many of the shooters that we've seen since Parkland five years ago today, to today, to all sorts of individuals, Buffalo, New York, et cetera, are people who were known by their family members or people with whom they interacted to be unstable. Is there nothing that can be done to keep firearms out of the hands of individuals who are unstable?

SCHWEIT: Yeah, I think when you say unstable, I want to point out 15 years ago, to Northern Illinois University, 5 killed, 17 injured, today, 15 years ago. So, this has been going on --

TAPPER: So many of them we don't even keep track of them anymore.

SCHWELT: Exactly, isn't that sad?

But we've been this such vexing problem, that that idea of they get to this point -- I think that everybody would agree that at the point when they're pulling a trigger, they are unstable. But there are so many things beforehand that are essentially kind of ignored or overlooked or excused.

We say, oh, he's just that way, I don't want to get involved, I don't want to get anybody in trouble. I don't want the police to be on my radar. I know police are going to come and arrest him.

So we make up a bunch of excuses for conduct we see somebody right around us, and it's the people around us who are the ones who notice the behaviors.

TAPPER: So, what's the solution? You wrote a book about stopping mass killings, why mass shootings are getting worse. What is the solution realistically speaking given how the Second Amendment has been interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court?

SCHWEIT: Yeah, the whole Second Amendment setting, all of that aside --


SCHWEIT: -- you know, I was in the FBI for 20 years, setting all of that aside, it's not a Second Amendment issue with regard to this. If we don't get citizens engaged in looking for these behaviors and caring for the people around them ahead of time, 30 percent to 40 percent of these individuals are -- seek to commit suicide and many do, as we just saw, happened last night, in my old home turf.

The signs we look for, for somebody who will commit suicide, same signs. Behaviors that show us somebody is falling apart, they have financial problems, and who sees those financial problems? Who sees the relationships fail? Who sees this kid failing out of school? The people who excuse them and don't follow through.

We have to follow through. We have to report stuff. It's the "see something, say something" that has prevented us from having the terrorist events in the United States. We need to do the same thing for these kinds of situations.

TAPPER: Yeah, there isn't the awareness. I mean, even in state where is there are red of flag laws that could have been used, there are just people don't know about them. A conversation we're going to continue having.

Thank you so much. I'm sorry to the Spartan family. I'm frankly heartbroken having to report these stories day in and day out.

Katherine Schweit, thank you.

Up next, U.S. senators react after a classified briefing on all those flying subjects recently shot down.

Also, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran killed in Ukraine. He is married just days before Russia's invasion. His widow will join me to discuss his life and his mission ahead.

And when words online go too far. A new push by parents to stop cyber bullying and the harm that often cannot be undone.



TAPPER: Quote, all we're doing is speaking the truth, unquote. That from White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby earlier today, in an attempt to tamp down a deluge of confusion and frustration from American lawmakers over a lack of answers from the White House and the Biden administration about three objects that the U.S. military shot down over the weekend.

After a classified briefing today, Republicans reached this overwhelming consensus.


SEN. MIKE LEE (R-UT): It was a really uninformative briefing. We learned very, very little.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): If you are confused, understand the situation perfectly.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): We're still trying to figure out what some of these things were, and they were not in the category of the balloon.


TAPPER: Let's bring in Gordon Chang. He's an analyst on China and North Korea. Gordon, good to see you.

You said that you think Russia could possibly also be involved with these objects. You tweeted last night, quote: We will be in the fight soon. China and Russia, which are driving events, are making sure that we're at the end of decades of general peace, unquote.

OK. That's a terrifying proposition. We still don't know what those other three objects were, and there's a chance we might never know. Do you really think that this could kick off nonstop conflict if not World War III?

GORDON CHANG, SENIOR FELLOW, GATESTONE INSTITUTE: That's a possibility, Jake. Remember, the objects that were shot down on Friday and Saturday entered North American air space from the north. And that means that they probably passed over Russia. That means perhaps Russia -- these are Russian objects, maybe China launched them from Russia, or maybe China launched them from China, but they floated over Russia, which means that Russia presumably gave approval to that.


We know that China's top diplomat is going to be in Moscow in a couple days. That follows by a couple weeks the vice foreign minister went to Moscow. Xi Jinping, the Chinese ruler, is supposed to go to the Moscow this year, and we've seen China be all in on the Russian war effort in Ukraine.

So, the conclusion is that China and Russia are forming a durable partnership.

TAPPER: And what are these objects, do you think? Do you think they're just provocative? They're just trying to needle us? Do you think they're surveillance? Do you think they're potentially weapons?

CHANG: We don't know. Apparently, they were smaller so they might be less dangerous than the balloon that entered into the U.S. air space on January 28th from the south, which was Chinese. We don't know.

And as you heard from those senators who attended a briefing, I don't think the administration knows either.

But one thing, I think President Biden needs to address the American public, even if we don't know. And the American people need to hear it from our leader.

You know, Canada's Justin Trudeau spoke to Canada about the object that was over their country. President Biden needs to do the same thing.

TAPPER: I want to get your take on how the U.S. is handling this in terms of communication with the Chinese leaders. Obviously, Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled his trip to China after that first Chinese spy balloon. We're told that the ministry of defense in China has not taken calls from Secretary of Defense Austin or other attempts at outreach, and the State Department spokesman Ned Price said yesterday the U.S. believes in keeping lines of communication open with China.

How should the Biden administration be addressing this when it comes to communication with China?

CHANG: I don't think we should be talking to China. China right now is not in a position to deal with the United States in good faith, and so I don't see why we should be communicating with them.

You know, it's an article of faith among American foreign policymakers for decades that you talk to an adversary. You talk to an enemy. But the problem is, by doing that, we've emboldened the worst elements in Chinese political system by showing that belligerent acts are able to get the United States to a position where we look like we're desperately trying to pursue China.

And, you know, we heard President Biden in that conversation with Judy Woodruff of PBS say, well, this incident, this spy balloon incident, is not going to change U.S./China relations. Well, essentially, that was telling China there's going to be no cost for what was obviously a very dangerous act.

So we need to have a new way of doing things with China. Our policies, yes, they sound good to the ear, but they've produced disastrous results over the course of decades.

TAPPER: All right. Gordon Chang, thank you so much. Appreciate it as always.

Coming up next, the legal strategy sources say Mike Pence will use to fight a subpoena related to the Capitol attacks.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Former Vice President Mike Pence is expected to fight a subpoena from special counsel Jack Smith, who's investigating Donald Trump's efforts during the 2020 election. Counsel Smith wants both documents and testimony from Pence about Trump's actions leading up to election day and, of course, up to and during the January 6 attack.

CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig is here with us.

Elie, Vice President Pence expected to fight the subpoena by raising the Constitution speech or debate clause which protects lawmakers from law enforcement actions related to legislative duties. Pence says he's shielded from the subpoena because he was president of the Senate.

Is there any merit to that argument?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: So, there is some merit here, Jake. It's actually an interesting and novel and creative legal argument. We've not seen anything like it. As you said, Mike Pence is relying on the speech and debate clause,

which is part of Article 1 of the Constitution that says members of Congress cannot be questioned in other context about their legislative activities.

So, the first question is, does Mike Pence count? I think he has a good argument there. He was like, constitutionally as vice president, I was president in the Senate and courts have construed this broadly to apply not only to the elected senators and representatives but also to staffers and aides. So I think it will apply to Pence.

But part two is, will his testimony touch on legitimate legislative activity? He'll say I was discussing with people my goal as the president of the Senate, but I think prosecutors will say, no, these conversations are evidence of crimes and therefore they're not legitimate, therefore we get to ask about them.

TAPPER: So, if I were the special counsel, I would note that Pence in his memoir detailed some of his interactions with Trump in the weeks and days after the election and leading up to the January 6 attack. Might that complicate Pence's attempt to try to fight the subpoena?

HONIG: You absolutely would note that if you were special counsel. The argument would be he has waived this protection. He has given it away. It's a fundamental concept of the law. There are some things you're entitled to keep secret, but like with any secret, once you've yakked about it publicly, it's out of the bag and you have given it up.

Now, Pence's response may be, yes, but this is not a privilege legally. This is a constitutional right on the face of the Constitution. But the comeback to that is people give up their constitutional rights all the time.

If you testify in court, you give up your Fifth Amendment right. If you pled guilty, you give up your right to a speedy trial and here, if you write a book about your conversations, then the argument is, you've given up your speech and debate protection.

TAPPER: Senator Lindsey Graham also argued the speech and debate clause trying to challenge a subpoena in the Fulton County, Georgia, investigation, but ultimately he lost. He was ordered to testify. Will that serve as any sort of precedent?


HONIG: I think we could see a very similar result here. Now, Lindsey Graham tried to get out of the subpoena altogether, but the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals said, no, you are protected by the speech and debate clause on some issues, only your legitimate legislative activities.

However, you can't get out of the subpoena altogether. You still have to answer other questions, and the court said that would include any coordination with the Trump campaign, that would include your effort, Lindsey Graham, to pressure state officials. So, Lindsey Graham is going to get only a very minor partial pass on

the speech and debate clause.

TAPPER: All right. Elie Honig, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Turning to our tech lead now, it's no secret that children who use social media can be exposed to cyberbullying, even serious mental health risks and unfortunately, this can push children toward suicidal ideation, even suicidal attempts.

Now, Congress is putting the spotlight on big tech and the potential harms children face in the online world, as CNN's Brianna Keilar reports.


KRISTIN BRIDE, LOST SON TO SUICIDE DUE TO CYBERBULLYING: This is my son, Carson Bride, with a beautiful blue eyes and amazing smile.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kristin Bride is one of a growing number of parents who have lost a child to cyberbullying. Her 16-year-old son, Carson, died by suicide in 2020 after he was harassed on a Snapchat-integrated app that allowed users to send anonymous messages.

EMMA LEMBKE, SOCIAL MEDIA REFORM ADVOCATE: I woke to the complete shock and horror that Carson had hung himself in our garage while we slept. We discovered that Carson had received nearly 100 negative, harassing, sexually explicit and humiliating messages, including 40 in just one day.

KEILAR: She's part of a group that testified on Capitol Hill about the dangers children face online.

LEMBKE: The constant exposure to unrealistic body standards and harmful recommended content led me towards disordered eating and severely damaged my sense of self. And there I remained for over three years, mindlessly scrolling for five to six hours a day.

KEILAR: The hearing coming just one week after President Biden's call to action during his state of the union address.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We must finally hold social media companies accountable for experiment they are doing running children for profits.

KEILAR: The ubiquity of social media in kids' lives and the vehicle it provides for cyberbullying are also getting renewed attention as the CDC unveils a new report. It shows significant declines in youth mental health and increased suicide risk in 2021, especially among girls.

KATHLEEN ETHIER, CDC'S DIVISION OF ADOLESCENT AND SCHOOL HEALTH: The levels of poor mental health and suicidal thoughts and behaviors reported by teenage girls are now higher than we have ever seen. KEILAR: And, as the story of Adriana Kuch, a 14-year-old student in

New Jersey, who was attacked by four other teenagers in her school's hallway, has stunned the nation. Video of her attack was posted to TikTok. Her father said she died by suicide the following evening.

MICHAEL KUCH, FATHER OF ADRIANA KUCH: Getting hit in the face with a water bottle didn't hurt Adriana. What hurt Adriana was the embarrassment and humiliation. They just kept coming at her.

SEN. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN): The social media platforms are operating in the days of the Wild West, and anything goes.

KEILAR: Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn and Democratic Richard Blumenthal are reaching across the aisle to try to get legislation passed after it failed last year.

BLACKBURN: Protecting our children is not a partisan issue.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (R-CT): I hope that outrage will finally be channeled into overcoming, here's the really important point, the armies of lobbyists and lawyers that big tech has mustered to counter and combat this legislation. No more.

BRIDE: There is absolutely no way that any one parent can feasibly manage the fire hose of online harms that are being directed at our kids every day. We need help from the federal government, and we need it now.


KEILAR (on camera): What's clear from today's hearing and the new CDC report is that America's kids are at a crisis point as they are navigating a sometimes perilous online world. But, you know, we never had to deal with it when we were kids, Jake, but we are learning to navigate as parents now.

TAPPER: Yeah. No, a whole new world. Brave new world, some might say.

Brianna Keilar, thanks so much.

And a reminder, if you or anyone you know needs help, needs to talk, counselors are available 24/7. Please call or text the suicide and crisis lifeline at 988.

Coming up, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who put his own life in harm's way to save others in Ukraine. Coming up next, we're going to talk to his widow about her message about her husband's selflessness and his courage.



TAPPER: With just ten days to the one-year mark of Putin's brutal, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, Ukraine and Western allies are bracing for a new offensive, although it's not clear what form Putin's new wave of terror could take. The toll on human life thus far has been astounding and horrific.

One of those lives lost is Peter Reed. Peter Reed was a U.S. Marine veteran. He served in Afghanistan and he served as an American medic volunteer in Ukraine. Peter died from a Russian missile strike in Bakhmut while providing medical aid to an injured Ukrainian woman.

He was in Ukraine as part of the group he founded, Global Response Medicine, to try to provide medical care for people injured in Putin's brutal war.

Joining us now to discuss is Peter Reed's widow, Alex Potter.

Alex, first of all, my deepest condolences. As soon as I read the story, I felt so horrible, such an act of courage rewarded with this barbarity.

You and your husband were married just days before Russia invaded Ukraine, and obviously, the one-year anniversary of that coming up. How are you?


ALEX POTTER, HUSBAND DIED WHILE RENDERING AID IN UKRAINE: Not great. I have a lot of emotions. I mean, I found out the day after he died what had happened, figured it out, went over to Ukraine to get his body, dealt with all of that.

I felt like I did a lot of my grieving at that time, and now I'm just kind of in business mode, getting things done, meeting with family. But he was -- he was my soulmate, and we did everything together, so it's going to take -- it's going to be rough.

TAPPER: So, Pete was in Ukraine with Global Outreach Doctors. What kind of work was he doing in Ukraine?

POTTER: So, he was doing a combination of things, both direct medical care to injured civilians, that was the primary mission, but he was also -- he had created this amazing coalition of people to bring them together. There were a number of small nonprofits there working to do similar medical work, but because he is so charismatic and outgoing and really in his element over there and he was able to bring this group of people together to try and set up casualty collection points and field hospitals to provide care where it was really needed the most.

TAPPER: We've been seeing these so-called double-tap attacks by Russia in Ukraine, Russians hit a target, then they wait a few minutes for first responders to arrive, and then they hit the same target again. I know terrorists do that a lot, too. So I guess it's only fitting that the Russians are doing it. Do you think this is what happened to Pete?

POTTER: Well, yes and no. As far as those double taps, like, it has happened with missiles. We initially thought it feels artillery. But the fact that it was what weapons experts are saying a guided anti- missile, they would have had to have been tracking them very specifically and direct their attack on them. So, a little bit more insidious than just the regular double tap, but yes, they were definitely targeted.

TAPPER: Targeting medics, targeting people who are there to help wounded people.

POTTER: Yes. And I think that's been a tactic of a lot of people in a lot of wars, unfortunately, but, yeah, just -- yes, they were targeting medical providers who were unarmed in a civilian vehicle, a marked ambulance. I know you can't see it from that side, but it was on the other side. Yeah, so it was a very, very insidious incident.

TAPPER: Are there any actions do you think that could be taken going forward to have medics feel safer, be safer at all when working in Ukraine? Or is it just with an enemy like this, with such a nihilistic disregard for life, there's really nothing you can do?

POTTER: It's difficult to say. You try to take all of the precautions. Pete and I worked together in Iraq during the battle for Mosul, and a lot of those precautions were similar, having contacts across the area with a variety of people, marking your ambulances, being in civilian clothing, not being armed, all of which his group did. I know there were ancillary people on the side.

But, yeah, it's -- you know, you take all of these precautions and you mitigate all of the risks possible, but if you have someone that -- on the other side who is intent on demoralizing you or cutting you down in any way, there's only so many things that you can, you know, take precautions against.

TAPPER: Obviously, Pete will be remembered as brave. He will be remembered as selfless and courageous and giving. What else would you like people to know about him?

POTTER: He was just the best person, really. Everyone thought that he was their best friend because he was so attentive and so listening and so present with anybody. You know, even if he was working with, like, multiple computers and two phones and had 50 messages that were in his inbox, if someone needed to come up and talk to him, including myself, he was always very present and put his whole heart into everything.

A lot of people would say why did he go over there and put himself in harm's way, but it was because of that care that he had for people. It really weighed heavily on him if anyone was suffering. So, he was always there to help anybody who needed it.

TAPPER: Alex Potter, thank you so much. May Pete's memory be a blessing. Our deepest condolences to you.

POTTER: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up, he helped the Kansas City Chiefs get to three Super Bowls, win two of them, yet he's been passed over again and again and again for head coach gigs. There a particular reason why? Could it have to do with the fact that he's Black?


We'll we'll discuss with Bob Costas next.


TAPPER: Our sports lead today, football fans who watched the Kansas City Chiefs absolutely decimate the Philadelphia Eagles defense in the second half, including myself, a die-hard Eagles fan, might have been surprised to learn this afternoon that it was the Eagles defensive coach, Jonathan Gannon, who was just asked to be the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, passing over once again the superbly talented Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator, Eric Bieniemy, who helped his team get to three Super Bowls and win two Vince Lombardi's trophy just since 2018.


Why would you pick Gannon over Bieniemy? Why? Would any team want Gannon on the left and not on the right? Hmm.

Here to help me understand is legendary sports broadcaster and CNN contributor, Bob Costas.

Bob, just listen to how the reigning regular season and Super Bowl MVP, Mahomes, describes Bieniemy, who the players call EB.


PATRICK MAHOMES, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS' QUARTERBACK: EB means the world to me, man. The way he holds me accountable, the way he makes me great every single day, man, this man is one of a kind, man. One of the greatest.


TAPPER: So let's just ask the question on the table. Would Eric Bieniemy be a head coach if he were white?

BOB COSTAS, CNN COTNRIBUTOR: I think you'd have to conclude that is likely. But I want to stipulate by saying that not every individual situation necessarily personifies a larger truth. But Eric Bieniemy having said that, Eric Bieniemy has interviewed 15 times with 14 different teams, the Jets twice over the last few years for a head coaching spot. Now, all 32 positions have been filled. There are four black head coaches in the National Football League and two, Robert Saleh with the Jets, and Ron Rivera in Washington, who are minority coaches, four Black head coaches.

In 2018, the season began with seven. So instead of continued process, it seems like there is a lurch forward and fall back in this ongoing effort to reach some kind of fairness. It doesn't have to be exact equity. It doesn't have to match up to the number of black players within the league.

But clearly, something is wrong here systemically. Now, when it comes to Bieniemy, this is what you hear that, sure, he's a good coach, but he's the offensive coordinator under Andy Reid. Andy Reid designs the offense and, in fact, he calls the plays. Even Reid himself who has endorsed Bieniemy as an excellent head coaching candidate has said, maybe he's got to go someplace else to be the offensive coordinator with full authority to prove himself.

And, in fact, the Baltimore Ravens have offered him that possibility and I think the Washington Commanders, as well. But having said that, Doug Pederson who won a Super Bowl, as you well know with the Eagles, and now is in Jacksonville, had exactly the same position under Andy Reid.

TAPPER: Right.

COSTAS: Offensive coordinator. And Reid was running the shore and so too did Matt Nagy who wasn't as successful with the Bears, but nonetheless, it's part of the coaching tree. So you don't want to jump to necessarily any conclusions but the evidence here certainly suggests a conclusion.

TAPPER: Yeah, I'm just looking at his merit. That's what -- the reason I ask the question is not because he's Black but I look at his merit. And I say, why hasn't somebody snatched him up?

Listen to how Mike Freeman of "USA Today" put it. He said, despite coordinating one of the best offenses in recent history, Bieniemy continues to get passed over, actually passed over is too nice a phrase to use. Eric Bieniemy will likely get screwed again.

And this comes in the context we need to note, that several Black NFL coaches are suing the league. They're allegedly racial discrimination in hiring practice.


TAPPER: It's hard to argue that that's not playing a role here.

COSTAS: You have to believe it plays some role. Those who might say, look, there is another reason. He has Patrick Mahomes. He has Travis Kelsey. He's under Andy Reid.

But Josh McDaniels had Tom Brady, and he was under Bill Belichick and associated with all that success. And so, the Denver Broncos hired him. He didn't last two seasons, didn't do so well. Went back to New England, now he's getting a second chance as a head coach with the raiders.

My point there is, look, Bieniemy and Josh McDaniels pretty much line up. They were with Hall of Fame coaches and Hall of Fame quarterbacks, soon to be, Brady and Mahomes. And so, one got two jobs, the other is waiting for the first head coaching job. The circumstantial evidence here points in a certain direction.

TAPPER: Absolutely.

Bob Costas, it's always good to have you on. Thanks so much.

COSTAS: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up, what he said versus what he meant. The reaction from Donald Trump today that may reveal what the former president thinks about his first official challenger in the Republican race for the nomination in 2024.

Stay with us.



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

This hour, would you feel safe returning to your home just days after the government deliberately caused this explosion of toxic chemicals in your neighborhood? Activist Erin Brockovich joins us live to discuss whether the community in Ohio is getting all the answers they deserve.

Plus, CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta on the ground in Turkey where people are still being found buried alive in the rubble more than eight days since that deadly earthquake.

And leading this hour, a few hours ago, the entire U.S. Senate received a classified briefing on the three objects shot down by the U.S. military over the weekend. This as more details are emerging from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The military may never be able to recover the debris from all the objects.

Well, we've also learned the first missile fired at the object over Lake Huron actually missed its target.

CNN's Oren Liebermann reports for us now from the Pentagon as U.S. officials warned we may never get satisfying answers as to the mysteries in the sky.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After days of uncertainty about the flying objects in North American air space, the White House put forward the leading theory -- balloons for benign purposes. Following a classified briefing on Capitol Hill, senators from both parties feel at ease but blasted the Biden administration for not being transparent about the objects.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): The briefing was helpful today. Again, I'm not unnerved by anything.