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The Lead with Jake Tapper

U.S. Energy Department Reports COVID Likely Leaked From China Lab; GOP And Democrats Differ On Paths Toward Investigating Ohio Train Crash; DeSantis' New Book Serves As Roadmap For Potential Primary; Distributor Drops "Dilbert" Comic Strip Over Author's Racist Rant; Netanyahu's Crises Mount As Israeli-Palestinian Tensions Ratchet Up; Tornadoes Devastate Norman, Oklahoma. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired February 27, 2023 - 16:00   ET


BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN HOST: It's only 4:00, Victor.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: That's a second generation device that gets you really get into it good.

GOLODRYGA: Evening device.


BLACKWELL: Hey, they're starting to play the music early. Does that mean I should stop talking about this?

We've got 15 seconds.

GOLODRYGA: Jake is going to be so mad.

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: A new report on one of the biggest health catastrophes of our time.

THE LEAD starts right now.

The origins of COVID revealed in an updated U.S. intelligence report. The virus leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China. But how confident is the department in on its own findings.

And in East Palestine, Ohio, a new technique to track potentially contaminated water from that toxic train wreak, and the growing concern to other cities taking in truckloads of contaminated soil.

Plus, brand new images today after a strength of tornadoes uprooted lives in Oklahoma, CNN is on the scene.


Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We start in our health lead and the new groundbreaking assertion from the U.S. Energy Department that the COVID-19 pandemic likely began from a lab leak in Wuhan, China. This all comes after the Energy Department updated its 2021 report with this claim, saying it made the new conclusion, based on new evidence coming to light. Two sources telling CNN the department is issuing the report with, quote, low confidence.

That's a term that doesn't mean that they don't believe their own conclusion. It means that the evidence as of now is only circumstantial. This new assertion reveals that the U.S. intelligence community is more divided than ever on how the pandemic began. Four other agencies in the U.S. government said the outbreak began after the virus naturally jumped from animals to humans.

On the other hand, the FBI agrees with the Energy Department conclusion that it was a lab leak. And the FBI confidence level in their conclusions is moderate.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan weighed in with CNN's Dana Bash.


JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Some elements of the intelligence community have reached conclusions on one side, some on the other. A number of them have said they just don't have enough information to be sure. Right now, there is not a definitive answer that has emerged from the intelligence community on this question.


TAPPER: This update comes more than three years after the start of the pandemic, at this point, almost three years ago next week, we were all watching the Grand Princess cruise ship slowly making its way to Oakland, California, with more than 100 confirmed cases of individuals with COVID on board. And now more than three years later, and more than 1 million American lives lost to the virus, the U.S. still seemed stumped by how the pandemic even began.

Our coverage today starts with CNN's David Culver who spent much of the pandemic in China for us. And CNN's Pamela Brown.

And, David, you dug into the report. What does it say?

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I wish, Jake, I could tell you that it gives that definitive answer, because we were positioned ourselves as you know, three years ago in Wuhan, just before the lockdown, and very curious how all of this began. And yet, what it does, it seems to create more really confusion, it seems, for some looking on to this, especially when you consider there is no unanimous decision amongst all of the intel community to determine exactly how it began.

If anything, it may actually even feed into the Chinese narrative. And that's been one to muddy the waters, to deflect blame, to sow doubt into the origins of COVID-19. All in all, though, it is interesting because the Energy Department and those sourcing that to us tell us it's new intel in particular that suggests the origins are from a lab. We don't get the details, though, as to what that new intel it is and how that might set the narrative apart, Jake.

TAPPER: And, Pamela, you're getting new intel on how Congress is handling this. How is this playing out on Capitol Hill?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, no surprise here, Jake that Republicans on Capitol Hill are seizing on this new reporting. In fact, we're just getting these letters here, three letters sent out, just today from Chairman Comer and Wenstrup -- Comer, of course, of the subcommittee, Wenstrup of the Select Subcommittee on Coronavirus Pandemic. They are sending letters to three agencies in particular, the State Department, as well as the Department of Energy and the FBI.

That is notable because, of course, two of those agencies are the ones who do believe -- who have concluded, DOE with low confidence, that the leak came from a lab. But they're sending letters today asking for more information. There's 12 specifics request for information, including any communications between employees of these agencies and employees of the CDC in Wuhan and the Institute of Virology.

So, again, nothing conclusive here but this is just fuelling the fire on Capitol Hill and getting more answers. And I just learned from a Republican aide, Jake, that the first live hear on the Select Committee on COVID will be on March 8th.

TAPPER: And, David, you've been to Wuhan specifically three times since January 2020. In 2021, you did an in-depth analysis on the lab. What did you learn?

BROWN: Well, it's interesting what Pamela pointed out there, the two labs in focus, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, that's a BSL-4 lab. That's biosafety 4. It's about 30 minutes from the Huanan seafood market, Jake, which was the first amplification point if you will. That's where the early cases were linked to and that's where a lot of those getting sick said they had been gathering. So the thought was if that was natural origin, from animals to humans, that that's where it happen.

But given the circumstantial evidence here pointing towards the lab leak theory, about a 30 minute drive is the Wuhan Institute of Virology. That's one consideration. But, Jake, go two blocks to the seafood market and that's where the Wuhan CDC is located. So that in itself is very suspect.

And at the Wuhan CDC, we know as a BSL-2, a little lower level in how they did their research, they still looked into bats and coronaviruses.

I do want to read you what the Chinese have to say about this, by the way. The foreign ministry coming out quite strong and they from the podium today said that China has always actively supported and participated in global science-based origin tracing. Relevant parties should stop stir-frying the argument of a laboratory leak, stop vilifying China and politicizing the issue.

They also went on to say, Jake, that the WHO concluded in their field team visit that it was highly unlikely that a lab leak happened. But we should also point out that the WHO asked for a second visit and China said no.

TAPPER: Yeah, stir-frying the argument, interesting language from the Chinese government.

David Culver and Pamela Brown, thanks so much.

With me to discuss is Dr. Tom Frieden. He's the former director of the CDC.

Tom, the U.S. department of energy with the report with low confidence based on circumstantial evidence. It goes against the findings of four other U.S. intelligence agencies, although it does also go along with the FBI conclusion.

What do you say right now to Americans who don't know what to believe?

DR. TOM FRIEDEN, FORMER CDC DIRECTOR: Jake, there's a bottom line here, which is that neither lab leak nor spillover, i.e., an animal origin, can be ruled out. We don't have definitive information, and that is a n absolute truth here, we don't know.

But what we do know is that both lab leak and animal spillover are continued risks from countries around the world, and I wish that some of the energy going into investigating, which should be done, but I wish even more energy would be spent on reducing the risk that there will be future lab leaks or future animal spillover events because, Jake, we know that both things have happened. There have been spillovers in SARS 1, in Ebola and other deadly diseases. There have been lab leaks in the United Kingdom with smallpox, and probably in Eastern Europe with the influenza virus in 1970s; in China with SARS 1.

So there have been lab leaks. And we need to strengthen the oversight of the laboratories to reduce that risk all over the world. And there have been spillover events. And we need to reduce the risk of that happening.

TAPPER: The U.S. Energy Department updated its report based on new intelligence. Is it possible that the four other agencies that who reported that the pandemic likely began from animal to human transmission might also change their assessment, if they get their hands on that new intelligence?

FRIEDEN: Very hard to know. We don't know what that intelligence is. We know they've had this assessment as low level. You can make a pretty strong argument for either scenario. But without more evidence, we don't have proof of what happened.

We do have proof that labs all over the world need to be safer. And the animal human interface where people encroach on nature may get infected with new and virulent organisms, we need to do better at increasing that barrier to keep us all safer.

TAPPER: The World Health Organization from last year left all possible explanations for the outbreak of the pandemic on the table. And the WHO is also calling on China to cooperate with its investigation.

Do you think we're ever going to get to the bottom of this if the Chinese government continues to refuse to cooperate?

FRIEDEN: I think it's very challenging even with full cooperation to get a definitive answer. What we do know definitively is that lab leaks need to be safer and reduce the risk that animal pathogen will pass to people and spread all over the world.

So, yes, I hope we will get a definitive answer, whether or not we do, actual implications are the same with either answer. We need better laboratory safety. And we need better ways to protect the world from animal spillover events.


TAPPER: And I'm sure you're concerned about the science behind this, continually ramped up in a political fight, whether it is to push the lab leak theory, or to squelch discussion of the lab leak theory. There's been so much politics in this.

FRIEDEN: Yeah. And the bottom line is that we can't rule out either, based on all of the information that's in the public domain now. You can make a circumstantial argument that sounds like the lab leak may be plausible. And you can make a strong argument, based on the virology that the animal origin is much more likely.

There are also, Jake, actually some intermediate associated explanations where perhaps something emerged in animals. And there was some laboratory involvement in some way, whether it was collecting specimens or infections of laboratory workers. But there's no evidence that I've seen in the public domain that was any type of a smoking gun for a lab leak. On the other hand, we have seen animal spillover events with SARS 1 and many other organisms.

Nature is a pretty good bioterrorist. And so, nature has a good way of creating dangerous organisms and whether those are spread through laboratory error or accident, or through people encroaching on animal environments that have not been encroached on before and getting infected, we need to be safer. Twenty million lives, more than $10 trillion in economic losses from this pandemic. The next one could be as bad or even worse. So, we need to do much better keeping countries safe.

TAPPER: Dr. Tom Frieden, thank you so much.

Coming up, the vastly different plans coming from Republicans and Democrats to investigate the Ohio train derailment.

Plus, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis get his way, the new law that gives him the keys to the magic kingdom.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead in, new warning in the wake of the Ohio train disaster. In a letter today, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says not one of the seven major rail companies in the U.S. participates in the confidential close call reporting system. That program would allow workers to voluntarily report hazards that could lead to a derailment. If no rail CEOs respond with plans to participate by the end of the week, Buttigieg says that he will publicly call them out.

This warning comes as crews in East Palestine, Ohio, restarted hauling away contaminated soil and liquid. But as CNN's Miguel Marquez reports for us now, leaders in other parts of the country are concerned about where that toxic material is going.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Federal teams going door to door in East Palestine conducting health surveys over a dozen wells being drilled around the site of the spill to track where the chemical underground water may be moving.

Only 11 train cars now remain at the crash site, those part of a federal investigation. Hundreds of tests in homes and air monitors in town show no signs of contamination.

City and private wells being continually tested. Also, so far, no sign of contamination.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH): We should have water, soil, in-home testing before you go back in again. Always be mindful and keep your receipts. So it's up to each individual renter or homeowner, what to do there. But abundance of caution is they make the decisions.

MARQUEZ: But the waste and getting rid of it providing one of more difficult hurdles so far. Soil and water leftover from the toxic derailment, now being shipped to two EPA-approved facilities in Ohio.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Moving forward, waste disposal plans including disposal location and transportation routes for contaminated waste would be subject to EPA review and approval.

MARQUEZ: The solid waste from the train derailment will be incinerated in an approved company in East Liverpool, Ohio, about 20 miles south of East Palestine.

MAYOR GREG BRICKER, EAST LIVERPOOL, OHIO: We have a 2-year-old daughter. Of course, that's a concern. But, again, you know, I think this is a state of the art facility that can handle this type of waste.

MARQUEZ: The waste from the derailment now going to two facilities in Ohio, East Liverpool and Hickory, after Norfolk Southern's plan to ship to Michigan was rejected by the EPA, state politicians and residents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't want this type of disposal in our community. We think there's a better way to dispose of this.

MARQUEZ: Ohio's governor says the Texas facility will dispose of a half billion gallons of liquid waste that's already there. And Michigan will dispose of 15 truckloads of contaminated soil. Five truckloads will returns to East Palestine.

Miguel Marquez, CNN, New York.


TAPPER: And our thanks to Miguel Marquez for that report.

The Ohio train derailment has both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill demanding answers but they've got different approaches when it comes to getting those answers. A source says that Senate Democrats want to question the train operator, Norfolk Southern.

House Republicans on the other hand, want to focus on the Biden administration.

Let's go to CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.

Manu, the entire situation will likely set up contentious debates in the weeks to come.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, no question about it. In fact, I just spoke with the chairwoman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. That's one of the three committees in the House investigating this issue. She told me that the Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to let a witness testify before the subcommittee on her panel on March 28th, about this issue. About the Ohio train derailment. She said it's still not certain whether the administrator Michael Regan will be the one testifying or if there will be somebody else.

Two other committees pushing ahead, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and House Oversight Committee. And that chairman of the Oversight Committee, James Comer, told me he, too, is pressing for answers from Pete Buttigieg. He has sent a letter asking for responses within the next two weeks of whether he gets those responses remains to be seen. Whether Buttigieg is called to testify in public also remains a question.

Now, this does come as Democrats in the Senate offering a different approach. Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, is calling on the CEO of Norfolk Southern, Alan Shaw, to testify before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.


That committee does have subpoena power. It's uncertain if they'll get to that point but it does point to a hearing in March on this issue. So, Jake, just a lot of questions members of Congress have about all these issues as they weigh for any legislative response, whether they need federal funds to provide to this community devastated by the disaster. But at the moment, asking for answers from the train administrator, and the Biden administration, as to what happened, and to make sure it doesn't happen again.

TAPPER: All right. Manu Raju on Capitol Hill for us, thanks so much.

Coming up next, this splashy new video from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis that gives the clearest hint yet of his likely plans for 2024.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, this week, Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis takes a giant step towards a 2024 presidential run. His new book, "The Courage to be Free", hits shelves tomorrow, as several of the GOP's biggest donors are handing his organization seven-figure checks in preparation for a potential White House bid.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny cracked own the book which provides new insights how DeSantis may brand himself as an alternative to Donald Trump.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Florida Governor Ron DeSantis inching ever closer to a highly anticipated presidential launch with a new campaign-style video.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: Freedom is worth fighting for.

ZELENY: And a new book that serves as a road map for a potential 2024 Republican primary. In the "Courage to be Free" obtained today by CNN, DeSantis plants his flag as a leading alternative to Donald Trump and pushes back against the former president's often-made assertion that he alone is responsible for the governor's success. I do not think Republican primary voters are sheep. Who simply follow an endorsement from a politician they like without any individual analysis. But I do believe that a major endorsement can put a candidate on the radar of GOP voters in a way that boosts a good candidate's prospects, DeSantis writes.

And -- his debate performance in his 2018 race for governor led to a come-from-behind victory in the GOP primary.

As the Republican presidential field takes shape, DeSantis is making an early splash -- holding up his Florida record as a blueprint for a national platform. Like the Parental Rights and Education Act which critics have dubbed the "don't say gay" bill that led to his feud with the Disney Corporation.

DESANTIS: Today, the corporate kingdom finally comes to an end. There's a new sheriff in town. And accountability will be the order of the day.

ZELENY: The governor went to Walt Disneyworld's backyard to sign a law today, effectively punishing the entertainment giant for speaking out against the DeSantis agenda. He uses that fight to bolster his view that big business, a longtime ally of the GOP, has become too woke in his characterization, and should be called out by a new glass of Republican leaders.

Corporate America has become a major protagonist in battle over American politics and culture. The battle lines almost invariably find large, publicly traded corporations lining up behind leftist causes he writes, adding old guard corporate Republicanism is not up to the task at hand.

As Florida governor, he's become a combative figure in the culture wars for which he offer no apologies.

DESANTIS: It's always be on offense because if you're not on offense, then you're basically a sitting duck and you let these people come and just take pop shots at you all the time.


ZELENY (on camera): Now, the governor is not planning a formal announcement until May at the earliest, I am told. That is at the end of the Florida legislative session when he hopes to have even more new laws that he can sell out there on the campaign trail.

But, Jake, one thing is clear, he's launching his book tour tomorrow, of this book here, "Courage to be Free", and he's trying to use it as his calling card to tell Republican donors, party officials and others that he can be a fighter who is more electable. Of course, this is just a very beginning round of a long brewing battle between him and the former president sure to play out over the course of this year.

TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much.

And with us now, Ayesha Rascoe, host of NPR's "Weekend Edition Sunday". Also with us, CNN political analyst Seung Min Kim, the White House reporter for "The Associated Press".

Ayesha, Governor DeSantis in his book, complains that corporate America is lining up behind leftist causes and that old guard corporate Republicanism is not up to the task at hand. We saw how he handled Disney in Florida, though, of course, it's a good question as to why Disney had that special, you know, corporate town to begin with.

But, regardless, do you think this will translate to a national audience?

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST, NPR'S WEEKEND EDITION SUNDAY: I think, listen, to an extent. It's a way to get headlines. It's a way to get attention. And certainly, if you're trying to appeal to conservatives who feel like they are in some ways losing the cultural wars because they feel like the culture is leaving them behind. These big companies are coming out for things they don't believe in, yeah, it's a way to get yourself to show that I'm fighting for you.

Now, I think the issue for Ron DeSantis is that he -- he clearly is, you know, gunning to be the president.


He's clearly gunning to do this, but we don't know how he's going to be on that national stage. And that's what I want to see.

It's like everyone has a plan until they get hit. It's not a boxing thing, like I just want to see like how is he going to be when he's really out there and taking hits from Donald Trump and others. And how is he going to stand up to it?

TAPPER: Yeah, the immortal words of Mike Tyson I believe you quoted there.

Seung Min, some conservatives, including former Vice President Pence, say that interfering in businesses the way DeSantis goes too far. I mean, that is a different version of Republicanism that government should be completely hands off. But what DeSantis is doing is not that. It's a different brand.

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, it's a fascinating emerging line in the GOP party running for president or have talked about potentially running for Republican nomination. We know that the Republican Party is this classic pro-business limited government party. That's been a fundamental principle of the party for decades and Ron DeSantis is really going against that grain, considering his actions on Disney. Considering his attacks on so-called woke businesses.

You know, you talked about former Vice President Pence saying is goes so far, the New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu has also criticized those actions. So it will be fascinating to see in this Republican Party which view of business, which view of government's role in business, and, you know, regulated speech, even punishing speech according to DeSantis' critics, which view of that wins out among primary Republican voters.

TAPPER: And, Ayesha, I am sure that Governor DeSantis did not think that he was going to get a positive book review in "The New York Times." But be that as it may, there is a review. It says, quote, for the most part, "The Courage to be Free", DeSantis' book, is courageously free of anything that resembles charisma or discernible sense of humor. While his first book was weird and esoteric and obviously written by a human, this one reads like a politician's memoir churned out by ChatGPT.

Now, on one hand, that actually reminds me of the difference between Barack Obama's first book, "Dreams of My Father", and his second book which he wrote as a senator when he was getting ready to run for president, which was honestly full of pabulum. But by the same token, it's also a description of somebody who is very un-Trump like.

RASCOE: Yeah, that is Ron DeSantis' main selling point, it's that I am not Trump. You know, I can do the things that Trump talks about but I can be more polished. I just won't run off and get into fights with superstars, you know, just random things. I will be more focused. That is his -- that is what he is selling.

The question is whether he can sell that to the base in the way they feel fired up about it. And they feel like he has the charisma. You know, the old thing, do you want to have a beer with Ron DeSantis. I mean, he's going to have to pass that test as well.

TAPPER: Seung Min, a CNN KFILE review of DeSantis' past comments found that as a congressman, he was very hawkish when it came to arming Ukraine to fight Russia, but this week, obviously, he questioned U.S. involvement in the conflict.

Do you think he's just reading where the voters are?

KIM: I think you're certainly seeing a shift in many -- or in some of those policy positions from when he was Congressman Ron DeSantis and now governor and presidential candidate Ron DeSantis. Going back to that "New York Times" review, it mentioned in DeSantis' 2011 book, he preached about the virtues of so-called limited government, which isn't necessarily what we're seeing with the battle against Disney, obviously with KFILE's reporting, you saw that he was really hawkish, calls for arming Ukraine, around the time of Russia's annexation of Crimea, certainly a shift where the voters have been for the last several years.

TAPPER: Ayesha Rascoe and Seung Min Kim, thanks to both of you.

Comedian Bill Maher's predictions have been spot-on, I went to Los Angeles to get his take on the race for 2024. He's no stranger to politics or controversy as the host of HBO's "Real-Time with Bill Maher".

You can hear what influenced his own career and his view on state of comedy in the land of wokeness in his view. You can see it prime time tomorrow night at 9:00 a.m. Easter, only here on CNN.

Next, new fallout for "Dilbert" comic strip creator Scott Adams. Not only are hundreds of newspapers dropping his strip and syndicated dropping relationship with him, now another hit after that rant deemed racist on YouTube.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our pop culture lead, Dilbert has been fired. The newspaper comic has been around for more than three decades. It spawned multiple best-selling books and appeared in thousands of newspapers at its height, with its frustrations of cubicle work life. But today, the syndicate that distributed Dilbert cut all ties with its author, Scott Adams, for blatant racist marks. Adams on his YouTube show referenced the poll by Rasmussen, that's a

pro-Trump media company whose polls do not meet CNN's standards. The poll suggested that 53 percent of Black Americans indicated they agree with the statement it's okay to be white, leaving the others 47 percent to say they disagree or they aren't sure.

We should note here the significance of that statement, it's okay to be white, the Anti-Defamation League says that phrase has a long history in the white supremacist movement. So, why Rasmussen was polling on it is anyone's guess.

But here's some of what Adams said.


SCOTT ADAMS, CREATOR, "DILBERT": So if nearly half of all Blacks are not okay with white people, according to this poll, not according to me, according to this poll, that's a hate group. The best advice I would give to white people is to get the hell away from Black people.


TAPPER: A fairly racist statement, as blatant as it gets.

CNN's Oliver Darcy watching all of this.

And, Oliver, Adams, who we should note, came on THE LEAD in the early Trump era a few times. He's been trending more and more hard right for years into some really bigoted terrain. But I guess this apparently crossed the line into self-immolation.

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: That's certainly correct, Jake. I mean, if you watch this live stream, and you just played some of the comments, they're frankly shocking comments, it seems to be that he's promoting, effectively promoting segregation, saying that White people should not be helping Black people. They should be staying away from them, and really defending these comments in later broadcasts that I've watched.

Now, he's saying he's being hyperbolic in wanting to start a conversation about race. But obviously, making comments like that is no way to start this conversation. He's also, Jake, positioning himself as really a free speech martyr here.

But, you know, consequences do follow free speech. He has the right, of course, to say whatever he wants. These newspapers and other businesses have a right to server ties with him.

TAPPER: Yeah, he wants to make this cancel culture but this is consequence culture really. Newspapers across the country were pulling Dilbert even before the syndicate, the distribution company cut ties with Adams today. This is going to be potentially a huge financial blow.

DARCY: I can imagine that his finances aren't going to look so great after this, at least his income stream because like you said, all of the newspapers have really effectively cancelled the Dilbert Comic strip. And beyond it at this point, the publisher of a book he was set to release in September. They've now said they're no longer going to publish that book. He tweeted earlier that his book agents had cancelled on him so he's going to have professional repercussions for sure as a result of these shocking and racist comments.

Now, whether he's able to leverage the attention he's receiving to start something separate, you know, that remains to be seen but in terms of his previous business model, that's all but been obliterated, Jake.

TAPPER: Yeah. I mean, he's also, in addition to segregation, he's also clearly preaching white supremacy. But now, Elon Musk is weighing in on Scott Adams' side of this?

DARCY: That's -- you know, the story couldn't get any crazier, it just did. I guess it's not too crazy that Elon Musk would say something, you know, that would draw controversy but he effectively defending, rushed to his defense, after the shocking comments. He said that the media is racist in one tweet. Then he went on to elaborate on the tweet, not really doing himself any favors.

Now he's saying he doesn't always agree with what Adams does. But that he finds the Dilbert cartoon funny, Jake.

TAPPER: Yeah, nobody is talking about the Dilbert cartoon. We're talking about what Scott said on YouTube.

Oliver Darcy, thanks so much.

In our world lead, an Israeli-American citizen was killed today in the West Bank. This follows an eruption of violation over the weekend. When rare peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials in Jordan were overshadowed by attacks and riots back home, sparked by the shooting of two Israeli brothers near a Palestinian town.

Israeli officials quickly dubbed that a terrorist attack. And hours later, riots broke out, almost a pogrom really. Israeli settlers throwing rocks and setting houses in Palestinian neighborhoods ablaze. It was shocking and horrifying. At least one Palestinian was shot and killed.

CNN's Hadas Gold is in Jerusalem with more on what Israeli officials call revenge attacks.


HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Benjamin Netanyahu is the most experienced prime minister in his Israeli history but he's facing unprecedented multifaceted battles on nearly every front. Tensions in violence between Israelis and Palestinians at a 20-year high.

On Sunday, the occupied West Bank burned. Two Israeli brothers shot point blank, killed while sitting in traffic in what officials say was a terrorist attack. Then in what's been deemed revenge attacks by Israeli settlers, a

Palestinian man shot and killed. Houses and cars burned. Just hours after Israeli and Palestinian officials met in a summit in Jordan meant to calm tensions. A joint communique looking to take step to suggest calm and lasting peace.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu's far-right wing coalition partners seemingly dismissing the summit in Jordan.

Netanyahu biographer Anshel Pfeffer says much of the controversy around Netanyahu is thanks to the governing partners.

ANSHEL PFEFFER, AUTHOR: I think this is the least that Netanyahu has been ever in control as a prime minister.


He's not -- basically, he's not running his government. His government is being run by the coalition partners who have him over a barrel.

GOLD: Meanwhile, for eight weeks in a row, tens of thousands of Israelis have been taking to the streets to protest against Netanyahu's planned massive judicial reforms. The most sweeping of these changes would give the Israeli government power to overturn Supreme Court decisions. Many critics arguing it's part of a ploy to help Netanyahu out of his ongoing corruption trial, something he denies.

And Netanyahu faces increasing international pressure from allies, notably the United States which has criticized not only settlement expansion and some of Israel's actions in the occupied West Bank, but also a rare presidential incursion into internal Israeli politics. President Biden urging a consensus be reached on reforms.

PFEFFER: We've never had these kind of differences between Jerusalem and Washington. It's always been over Palestinian issues, the Iran issue. It's never been about the way Israeli government is legislating on a democratic agenda.

GOLD: Looming ahead in the calendar, the highly sensitive period of overlapping Muslim and Jewish holidays of Ramadan and Passover, threatening to set Jerusalem aflame as well. Yet another battle front for Netanyahu, Israel's ultimate survivor for now.


GOLD: And, Jake, what's really interesting about those settler rampages is that the Israeli military is actually calling them acts of terror, sort of a rare moment agreement with Palestinian officials. We know at least eight people have been rushed in section with the attacks.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military sending in extra battalions into the West Bank to try and catch the attackers, and attacks on the Israelis, and at least try to keep the two sides separated between Israeli settlers and Palestinians, Jake. TAPPER: All right. Hadas Gold in Jerusalem for us, thank you for that


CNN is also on the ground in Norman, Oklahoma, where a string of tornadoes left a trail of destruction, what residents told our teams was the scariest part of that disaster.



TAPPER: In the national lead, dangerous winter weather is bringing destruction to the Central U.S. Oklahoma is scene to at least seven tornadoes starting on Sunday. You can see how this neighborhood in Norman was demolished. Tornadoes flipped cars, leaving a mangled mess for rescue crews to search them on the debris. In the daylight the scope of the damage comes into focus with no neighborhood almost entirely gone.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Oklahoma for us right now.

And, Ed, describe the scene around you and how the community is trying to start to attempt to recover.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's been a day of cleanup for residents in Norman, Oklahoma, where the national weather service says it was an EF-2 tornado that ripped through this area. The damage is rather immense, the areas hit in this neighborhood.

The sights are rather stunning. If you look high in the tree, about 30 feet up, you see a giant piece of plywood that was ripped off someone's rooftop.

Here on the ground, the residents are continuing the cleanup. As you walk around, you can get a sense of the magnitude of the force of this storm.

Remember, Jake, this was a line of storms that started in the Texas panhandle and started blowing intensely across the state over several hours. There were wind gusts in a little town called Memphis, Texas, that recorded wind of 114 miles per hour. That's strong hurricane-type wind. I thought there would be many more people without power. They've been very quick to restore power in many parts of the state.

No one was home here, Jake, but the windows, everything is blown out. A house across the street you saw the refrigerator and all the contents of the building blown out of the home there.

I spoke with one woman who was sweeping her driveway, a tenth grade geometry teacher at a high school in Oklahoma City. She was trying to clear out her driveway so she could get to her car. She wants to return to class tomorrow. She described being inside her home when the storm hit, and there were two things that really struck her by the storm, just how quickly it approached, how quickly it blew through her neighborhood causing this extensive kind of damage. And the other thing was how much shaking the house did. She told us, she's like, I'm fine physically, but I'm still shaking from experiencing this tornado -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Ed Lavandera in Norman, Oklahoma, thank you.

CNN is also in Ukraine. New activity there not seen in weeks. Plus the fight for land in one region coming down to a block-by-block battle.

Stay with us.



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

This hour, the fastest growing metro area in America is running out of water and fast. And the proposal to quench the area's thirst has six other states up in arms.

Plus, a new U.S. intelligence report now says the COVID-19 pandemic likely came from a lab in Wuhan, China, not from a wet market. A member of the new House committee on the Chinese communist party joins me to discuss.

And leading this hour, unusually warm temperatures are impacting the war in Ukraine. Roads near the front lines around the city of Bakhmut are almost impassable due to flooding and thick mud. Ukrainian military officials say the mud is slowing the Russian assault, and for the first time in weeks, Russian drones attacked parts of Ukraine killing at least two people.

Let's get right to CNN's Melissa Bell in Kyiv.

Melissa, Russia launched a fresh wave of drone attacks today, but Ukraine says they were able to shoot down a majority of those drones over Kyiv. But Southwest of Kyiv, it was a different story. Tell us more.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. It was the case of the notorious Russian double-tap, the series of those Iranian-made Shahed kamikaze drones that were launched overnight and into this morning. One landed in an area a few hours southwest of here.