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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Biden: "Nothing Suggests" Last 3 Objects Were Related To China; Georgia Grand Jury Thinks At Least One Witness Committed Perjury; Critical Rescues Underway As Death Toll Rises To 42,000+; 1 Dead, 3 Hurt In Shooting Near Site Of 2019 El Paso Massacre; Former Nicaraguan Political Prisoner: They Were Not Able To Break Our Souls; Sen. Fetterman Checks Himself Into Hospital For Clinical Depression. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired February 16, 2023 - 16:00   ET





JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Donald Trump describing his conversations with Georgia elections officials as perfect calls.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Parts of a grand jury report were just released. What did they reveal? What did they not reveal about the actions of Trump and others when Trump pressured Georgia election officials to overturn the 2020 results?

And face-to-face with a killer. A professor describing his encounter with Michigan State University gunman and the quick thinking that may have saved lives.

Plus, a major recall of Tesla cars. The problem discovered with a high tech self-driving feature. What you need to do if you happen to own one of these vehicles.


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

And we start today with our world lead. President Biden finally publicly speaking this afternoon about the unidentified object shot out of the sky by the U.S. military over the weekend. President Biden says nothing suggests these objects are related to China's spy balloon program or that they were surveillance objects from any other country.

But we should note, the U.S. has not yet been able to recover any of the debris from the three objects shot down over the weekend because of remote locations and severe weather.

President Biden also said he hopes to speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping soon, although we should also note attempts by top U.S. officials to speak to their Chinese counterparts have been rebuffed in recent days.

Let's get straight to CNN's Phil Mattingly, our chief White House correspondent.

Phil, President Biden just announced his team is working on developing new protocols to help them decide which objects to shoot down.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT : Yeah, Jake, the president's remarks underscore just how much of a scramble it's been to some degree behind the scenes for U.S. officials over the course of the last several days after the unprecedented three days straight of shooting down three unidentified objects over U.S. airspace for the first time in history. It's really kind of highlighted the fact a lot more needs to be dong behind the scenes and the president detailing on several levels what that will be with the road ahead.

Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Make no mistake. If any object presents a threat to the safety, security of the American people, I will take it down. I'll be sharing with Congress these classified policy parameters when they're completed and they'll remain classified so we don't give our road map to our enemies to try to evade our defenses.


MATTINGLY: Well, Jake, those parameters being drafted by an interagency team led by national security adviser Jake Sullivan. Sullivan also leading a group that's helping detail another four processes the president is putting into place, including updating inventories, working across Secretary of State Antony Blinken across the world for global norms, really underscoring that this was a very new problem, one that's obviously been out there but hadn't been grappled with to a significant degree across the government and now very much so is.

TAPPER: And what do we know, Phil, about President Biden's plans to speak with Xi Jinping.

MATTINGLY: Look, Jake, to be honest, we know what the president said and not much more than that. But it does kind of get to the fact that over the course of the last several days, really the course of the last two weeks since that spy balloon was shot down, the president has tried to strike a very careful balance made clear that in any incursion over U.S. territory, there will be action. That's what happened once the balloon reached water, but that he did not think it was going to damage relations with China, there being no long-term effects and that seemed to be the message the president was sending today.

One thing to keep an eye on, Secretary of State Antony Blinken on his way to Munich, the security conference. The Chinese counterpart will be there saying there may be a possibility of meeting there, Jake.

TAPPER: If the Chinese agree to it. Phil Mattingly, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Turning to our politics lead. A Georgia grand jury has unanimously concluded there was no widespread voter fraud in the state during the 2020 election. The group rejected Donald Trump's conspiracy theories after hearing testimony from election officials, from poll workers and from state officials during seven months of investigation.

This information was included in the grand jury's final report. Portions of which were released today and as Sara Murray reports for us now, the grand jury also recommended that the Fulton County district attorney in Atlanta consider indicting some of the witnesses for perjury.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some witnesses may have lied to a special grand jury in Georgia, the panel says, recommending the district attorney consider indictments.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is basically the grand jury saying go get him, Madam District Attorney.

MURRAY: The special grand jury would spent months digging into efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election in the Peach State, concluding perjury may have been committed by one or more witnesses testifying before it. The grand jury recommends that the district attorney seek appropriate indictments for such crimes where the evidence is compelling.


This after the special grand jury heard from 75 witnesses including high-profile names like Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani.


MURRAY: And South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham who is standing by his testimony.

REPORTER: Are you confident in your testimony?


MURRAY: The grand jury also heard from technical expert, poll workers and investigators concluding we find by a unanimous vote that no widespread fraud took place in the Georgia 2020 presidential election that could result in overturning that election, adding that they heard from witnesses still claiming that such fraud took place.

Because Georgia special grand juries don't issue indictments their final report is a vehicle to recommend whether anyone should face criminal charges and the judge overseeing the grand jury ordered sections released Thursday, but held back the panel's conclusions on criminal charges after Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis argued against the report's release.

FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: We think for future defendants to be treated fairly, it's not appropriate at this time to have this report released.

MURRAY: Saying last month she would make decisions on whether to seek indictments from a regular grand jury.

WILLIS: Decisions are imminent.

MURRAY: The Georgia probe got under way soon after Trump phoned Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in January of 2021 pressing him to find the votes for Trump to win Georgia.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state.

MURRAY: Since the call, the investigation expanded to include the fake elector scheme, false election fraud claims before state lawmakers and efforts by unauthorized individuals to access voting machines in one Georgia county.


MURRAY: Now, in a statement today, a Trump spokesperson said the sections released today don't even mention Donald Trump's name, that's because he did nothing wrong. In reality, the sections released today don't mention anyone's names because the judge said it's premature to name anyone because they haven't faced charges yet.

Ultimately, it's going to be up to Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to decide if she is going to bring charges against former President Donald Trump or any of his allies -- Jake.

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

You'll remember Donald Trump is facing more than just that investigation in Georgia. Today, Trump's former national security adviser Robert O'Brien appeared at a federal court house here in Washington, D.C. There, multiple grand juries are investigating Trump for January 6th and also for improperly holding classified documents.

CNN's Paula Reid joins us now.

Paula, what do we know about O'Brien's testimony today?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we know he was subpoenaed in both investigations. Look, the January 6th investigation as well as the classified document probe, and he could really be incredibly valuable because, of course, he was in the administration on January 6th. He considered resigning but didn't, so he could provide a lot of details on what was going on during that time. As the national security adviser, he should have been involved in the handling of classified materials and could have some insight into how those documents ended up at Mar-a-Lago.

But there is expected to be a privilege fight here. Former president's attorneys told me they intend to invoke privilege. He raised it previously, so it's unlikely the prosecutors got all the answers they wanted today and should potentially expect some litigation here.

TAPPER: And he participated with the January 6th investigation, I believe, Robert O'Brien.

REID: To an extent, yes.

TAPPER: Yeah, to an extent. You also have some new reporting about a different investigation, the one into Joe Biden's handling of classified documents.

REID: That's right, the other special counsel we learned that the FBI has conducted two previously undisclosed searches at the University of Delaware. Now, that is significant because, of course, Biden donated a lot of papers from his time in the Senate to the university, he has an archive there, and we learned that these were two different searches, two different locations at the university. One search did occur at that Senate archive, another one at a different location in the university where he has shipped some papers to be stored in recent years. We've learned from our sources that these were conducted with the full cooperation and consent of his legal team. The FBI did retrieve some documents but, Jake, they did not appear to have classified markings and the FBI is currently reviewing those.

But there are a lot of questions about why the White House, why the president's legal team has been so selectively transparent and why they just didn't come out and reveal this search when they have provided details about others. This search in addition to, of course, the whole investigation, right, have only come out through media reports.

TAPPER: Interesting.

OK. Paula, thank you so much, keeping us up to speed on all the investigations.

Let's discuss with former assistant U.S. attorney Elie Honing and former principal deputy assistant general under George W. Bush, Tom Dupree.

Elie, let me start with you and let's with what we learned from Georgia today. The grand jury recommending indictments against one or more witnesses whom they think lied, does that mean you think we'll definitely see charges?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Jake, I think things are absolutely trending that way both with respect to potential perjury charges and with election fraud related charges and I see a couple of important things in today's partial report, which, by the way is the reflection of the prosecutor's evidence and a one-sided process.

First of all, the report says that the grand jury finds specifically that there's no evidence of widespread voter fraud.


That is a finding that would be consistent with a criminal charge under Georgia law for election interference and inconsistent with no charges.

And second of all, the overall tenor of this document that we saw shows that the grand jury believes they witnessed serious wrongdoing. That is the tone. It's unmistakable in this report.

But, Jake, any time we talk about the possibility of an indictment here out of the Georgia Fulton County D.A. of Donald Trump, I think we have to note that it is a big difference between indictment and conviction and if we do see an indictment, I think there's going to be serious legal and practical obstacle.

TAPPER: And, Tom, we're told that the Fulton County district attorney is still considering charging Donald Trump. Do you think Trump has a constitutional basis to challenge an indictment if he does, in fact, face one? Some legal experts have argued an elected local prosecutor simply cannot bring charges against a former president of the United States.

TOM DUPREE, FORMER PRINCIPAL DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Yeah, Jake, I'm not sure I see that line of defense. I can certainly see other lines of defense that the former president could deploy here, look, one thing to keep in mind, if and when the D.A. actually brings indictments and she said that these indictments are imminent and I am convinced there will be indictments either for perjury, for other crimes, they don't all have to come at once. In other words, I could see a scenario in which she indicts a number of officials, maybe in layers, some lower level folks in the scheme then gradually works her way up.

So, although we will see indictments I think it's important to keep in mind this is potentially just round one of what may ultimately be a larger group of people who are criminally charged in connection with the election.

TAPPER: We have so many investigations to talk about. Let's turn to special counsel Jack Smith's multiple investigations into Donald Trump. Sources expect former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to challenge his subpoena on the grounds of executive privilege. Former Vice President Mike Pence has already said he will challenge the subpoena as well although I think different grounds.

Does Jack Smith have time to wait for all these legal challenges to play out?

HONIG: That's exactly the question here, Jake. Look, we have seen more action in the last month or two under Jack Smith than we did during the prior year and a half under Merrick Garland and the result of that now is Jack Smith is pursuing this high-level testimony from these well-placed witnesses. The problem is, they're all going to challenge them and these challenges have some legitimacy to them.

They will take many months, minimum four, five months to get through the federal courts and the question is, does Jack Smith have the luxury of that time? Is it worth it for him to spend that time in order to get this testimony?

TAPPER: And, Tom, does time play a role when it comes to Attorney General Merrick Garland's decision-making process? I ask because every day gets us closer to the 2024 presidential election, where obviously Donald Trump is going to be a major force if not the nominee?

DUPREE: Yeah, look, Merrick Garland has to be keeping an eye on the clock here, Jake. No question he is exquisitely sensitive to that risk. The closer we get to the election the closer we get to potential charges being brought either against former President Trump or other people who will be candidates themselves in the 2024 election. It makes it all that more difficult to charge and at some point, you kind of cross the Rubicon where they simply can't charge that close to an election.

So I think Merrick Garland is going to be kind of, you know, prodding Jack Smith to move with all speed here and, look, they have to fight the privileged battles. It's going to be legal trench warfare I think for the next few months as we figure out who can testify and who can be deposed and that sort of thing. But they got to keep an eye on that clock because at some point it will strike midnight and this whole thing turns into a pumpkin.

TAPPER: And, Elie, could Jack Smith move forward with one of his investigations while waiting for the other to play out? I mean, he's doing a couple investigations, for example, could he recommend charges in the January 6th investigation while waiting for the legal challenges to play out in the classified documents investigation.

HONIG: Yes, so this is a fascinating intersection of the law and politics. I think by the prosecutorial textbook, you handle each case, Mar-a-Lago and January 6th separately. When you believe you're done and ready to recommend indictment or no indictment, you bring it forward but politics matter here. Reality matters here and it may be more advantageous either for Jack Smith or for Merrick Garland to say let's wait until we have decisions on both and unveil both at the same time.

TAPPER: Interesting. Elie and Tom, thanks to both of you, appreciate it.

Coming up, what the agonizing wait is like for earthquake survivors in Turkey as they see some survivors pulled out of the rubble alive.

And Pennsylvania Democratic Senator John Fetterman is back in the hospital. This time we're told he's getting treatment for severe depression.

And Hollywood superstar Bruce Willis finally gets a clear diagnosis. The alarming health conditions for the huge star. That's ahead.



TAPPER: In our world, the death toll has surpassed 42,000 across Turkey and Syria following last week's devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake. But ten days on from the disaster, people are still miraculously being pulled alive from the rubble, defying expectations that too much time has passed.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is in Antakya, Turkey, with a look at some of these remarkable stories of survival.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Antakya, no more, they say, this once bustling city in ruins. It is here where hope meets despair and every corner is so hard to comprehend. Nothing could have prepared the people of Antakya for these grimmest of days, miserable so palpable in the air.

AYLIN AKYURT, SEARCHING FOR FAMILY MEMBER: You lose track of time. So I don't know what day it is, but at this point, I don't think there is anybody left alive.

KARADSHEH: Aylin and her family have been searching for chair aunt. Bodies have come out of the building. First --

AKYURT: You go through all stages of, you know, of grief. You're angry. You're desperate. You're sad. You accept then you get mad again.

At this point, we've come to accept that she's passed away but we just want to put her in her final resting place because with how it's been going, leaving her here is unimaginable.


KARADSHEH: Around the corner the rare good news these days after more than 220 hours under the rubble, a woman and two children were rescued alive. Several bodies have also been recovered from the building. There are others still trapped inside. They don't know if they're alive or dead.

They pray they find them alive. Mohamed Bayron just buried his daughter and her husband, his 12 and 14-year-old grandchildren are still inside.

God, I beg you, he says. Just like they got that woman and two children out alive, we're hoping for the same.

It's been the most agonizing of waits for his and other families here. May the Lord not put anyone through this, this woman says. Mohamed hasn't eaten in 11 days. He says all he can do is pray and wait. We weren't able to get these big machines for a few days, he says.

They had to go through other buildings here first. Maybe if they had, they would have come out alive.

Another call for quiet during our interview. One of many in the past few days. Rescuers hear something, cheers break out. They believe they've located two people alive.

A tense wait now into the evening, the crushing sound of silence. It's hardest for those who wonder if they mourn or wait. It is here where hope fades as fast as it grows.


KARADSHEH (on camera): And, Jake, this building that you're looking at right now, this is a very symbolic building for the people of Hatay province where we are right now. For a brief time in its history, Hatay province was a republic in the 1930s and this was the parliament building. This is the city center, the central square here in the city, and you just see it completely destroyed.

This is very much what you see all across this city right now. It's very hard to find a single building that hasn't been impacted by the earthquake. We just with members of the Iraqi search and rescue team here and I asked them about how, you know, this compares to the work that they used to do in Iraq and the guys were saying that this reminded them of Mosul and the aftermath of major bombings in Iraq but this is a catastrophe. Imagine what you were seeing in Iraq, what they were dealing with across a massive earthquake zone.

And, Jake, just in the past hour, we felt a 5.2 magnitude earthquake here and you could imagine how terrifying this is for people who are still trying to recover from that massive earthquake just ten days ago and all the hundreds of aftershocks that have followed.

TAPPER: Jomana Karadsheh in Antakya, Turkey, thank you so much.

Coming up, the gripping accounts from a professor at Michigan State University after the gunman in Monday's attack walked right into his classroom. What that professor did to try to stop the shooter's rampage.



TAPPER: Internationally, you're looking at footage of people in El Paso, Texas, running for their lives again. Last night, one person was killed and three injured in yet another mass shooting in the United States of America. This one at a mall just steps away from the Walmart where 23 people were murdered just three years ago. Texas police say two men were taken into custody after Wednesday night's shooting. An El Paso resident who lost two family members in the Walmart shooting tells CNN affiliate KFLX, he feels like political leaders are not accepting the full scope of the situation and, quote, numb to what's going on, unquote. Wednesday is the 72nd mass shooting in the United States in 2023. That

one we showed you according to the gun violence archive. Now back to Monday's mass shooting at the Michigan state university campus in East Lansing where a 43-year-old man gunned down students leaving three dead and five others seriously injured.

Let's bring in CNN's Miguel Marquez who's near the MSU campus.

And, Miguel, CNN is hearing from a professor who was there in the classroom where the shootings took place.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, this is a guy who was teaching a Cuban literature course to 45 students in that classroom on Monday night. You know, police also saying that the shooter, they believe they have a built of an idea of why he did this, saying that they -- in his note he was upset about being asked to leave or thrown out of several businesses in the area, but it's still unclear why he went to MSU, why he went to this specific class.

But this professor gives us a pretty unique look at one of those many, many mass shootings in this country.

Here's what happened when that shooter walked into classroom 114 in MSU's Berkey Hall.


MARCO DIAZ-MUNOZ, PROFESSOR WHO SURVIVED MSU SHOOTINGS: And it was so horrible because when you see someone who is totally masked, you don't see their face, you don't see their hands, you don't see -- it was like seeing a robot. It was like seeing something not human standing there. I mean, he shot at least 15 shots, one after the other, one after. the other.

And at that moment because I don't recall what I did between him starting to shoot and what I'm going to tell you just now. I just -- my intuition told me he's walking down the hall and he's going to enter through the door I'm closest to. So I threw myself at that door and I squatted and I held the door like this so that my weight would keep it from -- and I was putting my foot on the wall and holding like this so that he couldn't open it.

All the time aware that he could just shoot the door handle and open it, but the only thing I thought I could do was that. At least I'll attempt to stop it, and that lasted for about ten minutes, it was an eternity.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What would you do in that situation? I think every American now has to come up with an answer to that.

Fear, chaos, confusion, this professor held the door, told other students to escape and two of the students who died that night were in his classroom. The five who were still struggling for their lives in the hospital were in his classroom. We're going to have a lot more for you on this at 9:00 p.m. tonight -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Miguel Marquez, thank you.

And for more of Miguel's interview with that professor, and more about this horror, be sure to tune in to CNN at 9:00 p.m. Eastern this evening for a special report about the mass shooting at Michigan State University.

We are also today learning that the gunman in the Michigan state tragedy once had a weapons charge against him in 2019. He had been charged with carrying a concealed weapon without a permit. That is a felony, would have prevented him from ever owning legally another gun.

But that case never went to trial, instead, the suspected gunman pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor possession of a loaded firearm and that lesser charge allowed him to legally own a gun.

Let's bring in Stephen Gutowski. He's the founder of "The Reload", a news publication on firearms policy and politics, also a CNN contributor.

Thanks for being here, Steven. I really appreciate it as always.

So, how common is this where reduced charges could have stopped a future gunman from possessing a weapon, that act of reducing the charges?

STEPHEN GUTOWSKI, FOUNDER, THE RELOAD: I don't think it's very common that the act of reducing charges is what leads to a situation like this. Usually you hear about these warning signs and nothing is actually done about it that could have prevented the assailant from purchasing guns legally and this situation, he was arrested and charged with something that was a felony that would result in a lifetime ban, although I would note it's a non nonviolent crime he was charged with and it's something that isn't legal in 25 states and that progressive prosecutors have also sort of de-prioritized clear from this case --

TAPPER: Because it's not a violent offense.

GUTOWSKI: Yeah, we've heard about the permit-less carry movement or the constitutional carry movement. That's about eliminating these crimes where there's no sort of criminal intent or violent indication involved. So there is something of a caveat to this one. You know, there's other things in his past that I think were perhaps more concerning.

TAPPER: We'll get to that in a second. Before that because you're our firearms expert, I want to go through the litany of firearms he had to give us an idea what damage they could have done. According to Michigan State Police, he had on him two 9 millimeter handguns, legally purchased, not registered, loaded magazine full to capacity in his shirt pocket, eight loaded magazines, nine millimeter ammunition in his backpack, roughly 50 rounds of loose nine millimeter ammunition in a pouch in his backpack.

To me, an untrained ear, that sounds like he wanted to wreak havoc but you tell me.

GUTOWSKI: I think that's accurate because of the situation, right? He's carrying this on him while shooting innocent people who have no means of defending themselves. Certainly, he clearly wanted to inflict a lot of violence on people at MSU. It's not clear why, but, you know, if he just had that at home --

TAPPER: Oh, sure.

GUTOWSKI: -- it's not a big deal, but when you're carrying around eight loaded magazines and you're shooting people at random, clearly, he wanted to continue killing people, it seems, and it's not -- we don't know yet why he didn't do that. But obviously inflicted damage with what he had.

TAPPER: So, let's talk about the item you were talking about earlier, the gunman's father said that his son was -- had really let himself go. His teeth were falling out. He stopped cutting his hair. There are other signs that he was experiencing some real crisis.

What steps exist that makes it possible to keep firearms out of the hands of people who are obviously experiencing some sort of mental or emotional health crisis, even if it has not been adjudicated? The adjudication makes it easier to take a gun away from somebody for fear they may harm themselves or others but what if it hasn't been adjudicated.

GUTOWSKI: Yeah, it's much harder. There are red flag laws in some states but mass shootings have occurred in those as well.

TAPPER: Because nobody raised the red flag.

GUTOWSKI: People don't -- it doesn't seem the father did anything significant to try to prevent and his son from going down that downward spiral, at least not to the point that he clearly needed it. It is hard, right?

You want a community around somebody who is going through a struggle so they can intervene and can encourage them to give up their firearms while going through that sort of mental health situation. But it didn't seem like he really had that and nothing was really done, unfortunately, even though the father said he was evil, mad, right?

TAPPER: Evil angry, yeah. Yeah, that seems to be a real area where work could be done and I don't know the answers but when people are going through a crisis, people see it, people know it and they get guns legally and do these horrible acts.

Stephen always good to see you. Thank you so much for being here.

He lost a political campaign and ended up a political prisoner. Coming up, I'm going to speak with an activist from Nicaragua about his brutal arrest and what comes next.



TAPPER: It's been one week since that jet carrying 222 newly freed political prisoners from Nicaragua arrived at Dulles Airport outside D.C. Among those on board, journalists, business leaders, a prominent student activist and several former presidential hopefuls, all of whom had been jailed and called traitors by Nicaragua's police state regime of dictator Daniel Ortega.

And we're lucky one of those freed captives joins us right now.

Felix Maradiaga is an academic and activist, as well as a former secretary-general of Nicaragua's defense ministry.

Thank you so much for being here. We're glad to see you. You were arrested in 2021 while trying to campaign to replace Ortega as president. You were sentenced to 13 years in prison for, quote, conspiracy to undermine national integrity.

What was that day like? What was the arrest like?

FELIX MARADIAGA, FREED NICARAGUAN POLITICAL PRISONER: It was very violent. We knew that something bad was going to happen but we never imagined that not only the candidate but journalists, youth leaders, student leaders and even members of the Catholic community were going to be arrested. It was extreme.

TAPPER: You told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that your prison conditions were designed to break your soul but they did not succeed. Tell us about that.

MARADIAGA: It's incredible that in 2023 there are places in the world that are precisely designed to isolate people that simply want to raise their voice for basic human rights, and I can say none of us that were there in a minute thought that they were going to succeed.

TAPPER: But it was pretty bleak.


TAPPER: Your release has been hailed as a victory for U.S. diplomacy. Why do you think you were all freed? Why do you think that Ortega ultimately allowed that to happen?

MARADIAGA: I think that the dictators do not release prisoners because they want to. They do it because they have to. It's their last option they had in this case. Ortega was no longer outside the radar as he was for many years. So he received massive international pressure under the U.S. diplomatic leadership that was able to raise many other support from south America, for example, and the European parliament together.

So it is, indeed, a victory of U.S. diplomacy that shows that multilateral approach is very effective.

TAPPER: And this is all contributing to obviously to the surge in Nicaraguan migrants fleeing and coming to the U.S. MARADIAGA: Yes, and that's a very good point because Nicaraguans are

struggling for democracy because they want to live in Nicaragua. People that go into exile do it because they run out of chances to pursue happiness inside their own land and as much as we're grateful with the U.S. government with the American people, we want to go back. We want to find a way to go back to Nicaragua because as you know we've been stripped of our nationality which is an extreme measure taken by the Ortega regime.

TAPPER: So you can't come back and run against him in another campaign if you want. I mean, I assume that's one of the reasons.

MARADIAGA: You've been stripped of our nationality, our property and all basic rights. But we think these are not only a violation of Nicaraguan law. It's international law.

TAPPER: Some 35 prisoners, including Catholic Bishop Rolando Alvarez refused the offer to leave Nicaragua. Bishop Alvarez now has been sentenced to more than 26 years in prison and also stripped of his Nicaraguan citizenship.

Are you afraid of what might happen to him and the others who stayed behind?

MARADIAGA: I am, I am. I have seen the monster from inside. I have seen what they can do and it's not only inspiring but as a Catholic and Nicaraguan as a human rights defender, I'm truly touched by what Monsignor Alvarez did.

And being there, I know one thing. He needs to know that the world cares and he needs to know as long as he's there, Ortega needs to be continued to be pressure unless he releases him and the other political prisoners.

TAPPER: Who are the people outside of Nicaragua helps Ortega to continue his reign of terror?

MARADIAGA: Well, Ortega is part of an ecosystem of dictatorships and that's a point I've been raising with high government officials, Congress, the White House. They have been kind in listening to our perspective. When you see what's happening in Russia, China, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, these are not isolated cases. They all work together precisely in the tough interrogations. They wanted to know our connections precisely with the United States.

So it's important to tackle the Nicaraguan challenge as a part of a more complicated global problem which is dictatorships.


TAPPER: And do you have family here? Are you okay? Do you have a plan for going forward?

MARADIAGA: Well, my plan right now is to heal, to spend time with my family. But I'm devoted, my life mission is to see a free and just Nicaragua. TAPPER: Well, Felix, come back. We need to keep shining the spotlight

on what Ortega and his cruel dictatorship are doing to the people of Nicaragua. It's good to see you.

MARADIAGA: Thank you for having me.

TAPPER: Ahead, the concern that led Senator John Fetterman to check himself into a hospital.

Plus, the heartbreaking Instagram post from the loved ones of Hollywood superstar Bruce Willis that so many Americans sadly will be able to relate to.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our health lead, Democratic Senator John Fetterman of Pennsylvania announced today that he has checked himself into Walter Reed Medical Center to be treated for clinical depression. According to his office, Fetterman has experienced depression on and off throughout his life with it becoming more severe in recent weeks.

Let's bring in Dr. Megan Ranney. She's associate dean of public health at Brown University and a professor of emergency medicine.

Dr. Ranney, thanks for joining us.

So, Fetterman obviously suffered that stroke last May and continues to deal with lingering auditory processing issues. Is it common for people dealing with these very serious medical issues that are continuing to also experience depression at least partly as a result?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, ASSOCIATE DEAN OF PUBLIC HEALTH, BROWN UNIVERSITY: Absolutely. It's very normal for people who go through an acute medical illness or an acute trauma to have trouble with coping afterwards. Sometimes people can have symptoms that are similar to post-traumatic stress. Sometimes they can get anxiety or depressive symptoms.

People who have a prior history of depression are at highest risk of a relapse of depression after a major medical challenge like a stroke. And we know that Senator Fetterman pushed himself so hard in those weeks after the stroke when in an ideal world, he would have been recovering. It is unfortunately not surprising that he is experiencing recurring symptoms now.

I'm proud of him for recognizing them and getting treatment, which not everyone knows to do.

TAPPER: Millions of Americans experience depression. Data suggests it affects roughly 10 percent of the population. Most are not hospitalized for it. The fact that he was, does that suggest to you that it's more severe in this case? RANNEY: So it's tough to know. Certainly our politicians in general

get a higher level of care than the average American. The truth is most Americans don't get treated for depression or other mental illness in general. More than half of Americans aren't able to access treatment, sometimes because of financial reasons, but as so many of us have experienced over the pandemic, sometimes just because there's no one to provide care.

So his hospitalization might mean that he's more serious. If I were caring for someone in the emergency department, I would hospitalize them if they were suicidal or if their depression were so severe that they were unable to care for themselves.

On the other hand, again, a senator or a representative, there might be a slightly lower bar for hospitalization and it might just allow quicker treatment.

TAPPER: Another big story in medical news today, family members of Bruce Willis shared that the actor is suffering from frontotemporal dementia. I think it's also called frontal lobe dementia.

In an Instagram post, his loved ones write, quote: Unfortunately, challenges with communication are just one symptom of the disease Bruce faces. While this is painful, it is a relief to finally have a clear diagnosis.

It was just last spring when the family announced he had aphasia. I should note that this is a profoundly cruel disease that my family has experienced. My beloved father-in-law Tom Brown had it for several years before he died a few weeks ago.

Is it common for the disease to progress from aphasia to frontal lobe dementia or was it misdiagnosed earlier?

RANNEY: Tough to know for sure. First, my condolences on your family's loss.

Dementia, as you know, is tremendously common across the United States. Aphasia can be caused by a lot of different things, by strokes, by head injuries, and yes, by dementia. So it may be that the dementia had not progressed enough for it to be diagnosed at that point. They may have thought that it was due to other causes.

At the end of the day, there's not a lot of treatment. So though I'm sure it's a relief for the family to have the diagnosis, it hasn't changed his course most likely that the diagnosis, if it was delayed, it won't have changed his final outcomes.

TAPPER: It's a horrible, horrible, cruel disease, frontotemporal dementia.

Dr. Megan Ranney, thanks so much. Really appreciate it.

Coming up, the toxic threat after this month's train derailment now reaches beyond Ohio's borders. I'm going to speak to the governor of a neighboring state who's calling for independent testing of possibly contaminated water.

Stay with us.



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

This hour, how advancing technology is making it terrifyingly easy to target and harass women online, even putting their faces into porn videos.

Plus, Pennsylvania's new governor doing something politicians rarely do, saying he was wrong and changing his positions on an important life or death issue. Governor Josh Shapiro will join me live.

And leading this hour, mounting frustration and fear in the aftermath of that Ohio train derailment. Ohio's governor now wants the CDC to immediately send medical experts to East Palestine, Ohio, to evaluate residents who have suffered from headaches and rashes, since the train derailment and that controlled release of all those toxic chemicals.

And with rain in the forecast, there are additional concerns that the toxic chemicals that have not been removed yet from the immediate crash site could wash into local waterways. Governor DeWine of Ohio says an emergency response team is working on a containment plan.