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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Soon: House Select Committee On China Holds First Hearing; Rep. Mike Gallagher, (R-WI), Is Interviewed About China; Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, (D-IL), Is Interviewed About China; White House: Agencies Have 30 Days To Ban TikTok On Federal Devices; DeSantis Launches Conservative Takeover Of Liberal Arts College; DeSantis Signs Bill Giving Him More Control Of Disney's Special District; EPA Chief Makes Third Trip To East Palestine Since Derailment; EPA Chief Vows Transparency Amid Toxic Derailment Cleanup; New Court Documents Detail Items Seized At Home Of Suspect's Parents; Several Homeless Veterans Get Apartment On Land Meant To House Veterans Since The 1800s. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 28, 2023 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And leading this hour, a new message to the Chinese government from the Biden administration. In a direct and specific warning to Beijing, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said if the Chinese government sends weapons or military equipment to Russia, it would cause serious problems for China around the world.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: China can't have it both ways when it comes to the Russian aggression in Ukraine. It can't be putting forward peace proposals on the one hand while actually feeding the flames of the fire that Russia has started with the other hand.


TAPPER: This warning comes just hours before a Republican led committee holds a hearing on the Chinese Communist Party's threat to America. Let's start with CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.

And Manu, tonight will be the first primetime hearing that any Republican led committee has held since Republicans took over the House majority in January. What are Republicans telling you about why this is such a top priority?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is one of the rare bipartisan initiatives in a very polarized institution, the U.S. House. But Kevin McCarthy has indicated to me and others that this is a big priority of his to make sure that both sides are on the same page when it comes to the threat of China. That is the same approach that the leaders of the committee Chairman Mike Gallagher on the Republican side, the Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi, both are trying to pursue this on a bipartisan basis going forward. Now, Gallagher indicated to me that this will be an overall scene setting hearing to try to make clear about the threat from China poses not just abroad but also here in the United States. And we expect to hear from some key witnesses, some people who worked in the Trump administration, Matt Pottinger, who was a Trump expert under a China expert under Donald Trump was expected to discuss about the ideological aspect, the political nature of the Chinese Communist Party. That will be part of his testimony tonight. H.R. McMaster, the former National Security Adviser under Donald Trump, going into detail about the military aspect, the military component of the Chinese government. And also we expect to hear from Tong Yi (ph), who was in Tiananmen Square, someone who was essentially jailed in a labor camp for two and a half years, detailing the brutal and some oppressive conditions that have happened during time over there.

This all coming, Jake, as this committee plans to push ahead on a series of other hearings going forward. We don't expect today's hearing to really focus on the questions about whether the COVID-19 was originated in the lab in Wuhan. Gallagher indicating to me that's probably going to be a focus of a separate hearing or a separate issue, but they plan to dig deeper on specific subjects after this overall scene setting hearing and then issue a series of reports in the months and weeks ahead about what actions the U.S. could take, what Congress can take to try to confront this threat here at home, Jake.

TAPPER: And Manu, there was also a hearing today on oversight of American dollars going to Ukraine. We heard top ranking Democrat on the committee, Adam Smith, say sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine is not a wise use of resources, even though Ukraine really wants that.

Republican Matt Gaetz tried to enter Chinese propaganda into the Congressional record. Tell us more about that.

RAJU: Yes. Gaetz seemed to be surprised that this was Chinese propaganda. It seemed to be an accident on his part citing the Global Times from China, which is known as a Chinese propaganda outlet. He was asking Colin Kahl, who's a policy official at the Defense Department, about a report from this organization. And the report cited us giving weapons to the far right Azov Battalion in Ukraine.

Gaetz asked Kahl whether or not he was aware that this actually occurred in the U.S. supplied these weapons. Kahl didn't seem to recognize this or was aware of it, asked him for some information. Gaetz cited this Global Times report from China. Kahl said, I don't agree with Chinese propaganda. Gaetz then said, well, I agree with that assessment.

But Jake, this all coming as -- you're right, Adam Smith, the top Democrat on the committee, making clear he does not believe supplying F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine is a wise use of resources. But not all Democrats and Republicans agree with that, pushing back on that assessment.

TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks so much. Now to China, where top Communist Party officials rolled out the red carpet for Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a fellow autocrat and key ally to Russian President Vladimir Putin, after Beijing solidified its no limits partnership with Moscow last week and floated a twelve point peace plan for the war in Ukraine. Let's get right to CNN's Ivan Watson, who's in Hong Kong for us.

And, Ivan, just checking, is China still claiming to be a neutral party in the Russia Ukraine war?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, it sure is. And it's a tough needle to thread when you consider that China did declare a friendship with no limits with Vladimir Putin just before he launched his invasion. And to date, Beijing refuses to acknowledge Russia's invasion, nor its annexation of Ukrainian territory over the course of the last year. That said, I think Ukraine would prefer this professed neutrality to China overtly supporting Russia in this destructive war.


And that's where we turn to Lukashenka, the Belarusian president, and his visit to Beijing. Let's set some context here. Belarus is very much a junior partner in an alliance with Russia. It's got a population of less than 10 million people, it's dwarfed economically by Russia. But -- and it's also very diplomatically isolated because Belarus allowed Russian troops to invade Ukraine from its own territory.

So now you've got this leader traveling to Beijing. He's hoping for expanded ties, which Xi Jinping has promised him. He's promised to upgrade to an all-weather, comprehensive strategic partnership. Trade has grown by some 30 percent over the course of the last year between China and Belarus, and the Belarussian president is promising all these documents that are going to be signed. We'll see where this goes.

Lukashenko, though, has made it clear Belarusian troops are not going to engage directly in the war with Ukraine. He seems to recognize that that is a bridge too far for him, too destructive for his own regime so far. Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Ivan Watson in Hong Kong, thanks so much.

Joining us now for a bipartisan interview, the top members of the House select committee on the strategic competition between the United States and China Wisconsin Republican Chairman Mike Gallagher and Illinois Democrat and Ranking Member Raja Krishnamoorthi. Thanks to both of you for doing this. We appreciate it. It certainly says a lot that you're appearing in a bipartisan way. We don't get that a lot.

Chairman Gallagher, let me start with you. You've said that unity is America's greatest strength against China. So how are you and your fellow committee members going to keep tonight's hearing laser focused on China and going forward also and not into partisan politics? REP. MIKE GALLAGHER (R-WI), CHAIR, COMMITTEE ON STRATEGIC COMPETITION BETWEEN U.S. & CHINA: Well, I think it starts with the tone that Raja and I set in terms of how we work together. The good news is we've worked productively together for six years on a variety of issues. I think we've grown to respect each other, and we recognize that we don't have to agree on everything but when it comes to the threat we've faced from the Chinese Communist Party, I think we see it clearly, and we want to identify that bipartisan center of gravity where we can push back against transnational repression from the CCP. And so, I'm cautiously optimistic that we can do that on the committee.

If for no other reason than if you look at the list of members that we have on both sides, Speaker McCarthy appointed very serious, sober members, not bomb throwers. And as well, Minority Leader Jeffries appointed some very talented Democrats that I've worked well with on the Armed Services and Intel Committees.

TAPPER: And Congressman Krishnamoorthi, China's fraying ties with the west have been on full display recently. Obviously, the China spy balloon incidents, U.S. warnings that China is considering arming Putin's army, the Escalating standoffs about Taiwan, the Chinese Communist Party possibly spying on Chinese dissidents here in the United States, competition over semiconductor manufacturing, concerns over data privacy and TikTok, not to mention renewed questions over COVID's origins. That's just some of the issues here. What's first on your agenda and why?

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL), RANKING MEMBER, CMTE. ON STRATEGIC COMPETITION BETWEEN U.S. & CHINA: You're absolutely right. There are so many issues, and if you talk to Mike or my constituents, a lot of them have their own concerns about each of those issues. But you know, one of the issues that we're probably going to talk about tonight is the economic issues and the trade issues that have ended up hollowing out the manufacturing sectors in the heartland, whether it's Wisconsin or Illinois or other places because of unfair trade practices, because of industrial espionage, because of forced technology transfer that many of our small and other businesses must engage in in order to sue business in the People's Republic of China. So, I think that's going to be top of mind as well.

TAPPER: And Congressman Gallagher, Chairman Gallagher, one of the big issues, and I don't know how the United States can address it, is that there are so many dollars in China that organizations like the NBA and the film industry, they don't seem to care about the cultural genocide of Uyghurs or the oppression of the people in Tibet or Hong Kong or Taiwan, they just want those dollars. How do you convince them to change their mind?

GALLAGHER: Yes. It's the same reason why John Dillinger robbed banks, because that's where the money is. So I think we have to appeal not only to people's patriotism, but start to put in place certain sensible legislative guardrails that, at a minimum, make sure that we i.e. U.S. taxpayers, U.S. citizens, aren't unwittingly funding Communist genocide or subsidizing our own destruction because we're allowing for technology transfer or American capital to invest in Chinese defense companies.


Were this gets very complicated is because there's a concept in China of civil military fusion. So at times, it's very difficult to identify the opaque lines between, you know, a shipping company in China and the PLA navy. And I would submit to you that the concept of a private company in China is tenuous at best and may not even exist. So I believe we can put in place a framework for sensible, selective economic decoupling. And that's something we're going to work together on the Select Committee on the CCP.

TAPPER: And that issue that you just talked about, whether or not there can't even be a private company in China, given the fact that it's an oppressive communist government that comes into play when it comes to TikTok. And Congressman Krishnamoorthi, on Sunday, you said you do not think there will be an outright ban on TikTok in the United States this year. But just yesterday, the White House directed all federal agencies to ban TikTok on all federal devices within the next month. Clearly, the U.S. government doesn't want it on its devices. Canada is taking serious steps to get rid of it. Why not issue a ban on TikTok for every device in the U.S.?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I think that what we're saying is we don't want it to be under the control of an adversarial regime. So, for instance, if there were a forced sale of TikTok USA to some other company, for instance, an American company, I think that people would be much more comfortable, because at the end of the day, you know, folks are obviously already exercised about social media. Certainly in my household, we're not super happy about this, but to have user data and then algorithms and content ultimately controlled by the Chinese Communist Party is a bridge too far. And I think that is the issue that we have to confront with regard to TikTok and ByteDance.

TAPPER: And Chairman Gallagher, you've talked about decoupling, you just did a minute ago, decoupling China's economy with the U.S. economy. How does that even work? What does it look like in practice? We get so many goods from China, and we sell so much intellectual property and product to China as well.

GALLAGHER: You know, I think it's critical to say, at least I'm not advocating for a complete decoupling, I have a problem with Wisconsin farmers selling soybeans to China. I don't think we're going to spend money on shoring textiles from China anytime soon. But when it comes to key technology or critical goods, think advanced pharmaceutical ingredients, we simply don't want to be dependent on the largesse of the Chinese Communist Party when it comes to access to life saving drugs. So that's an area, we've got to find a way to onshore, near shore, French shore, whatever the term of the day we're using.

When it comes to rare earth, when it comes to energetics, the things that are in our weapon systems, I think we can take some steps to reclaim our economic independence, but it's not going to be a total decoupling. And as I alluded to before, I want to make sure that major asset managers and university endowments as well as state and local pension funds aren't subsidizing genocide in China or PLA modernization.

TAPPER: And Congressman Krishnamoorthi, I read a piece in, I think, Politico criticizing Democrats in general, not you specifically. And certainly there have been Democrats --

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, thank you.

TAPPER: -- who have been hawkish on this. Nancy Pelosi, former Speaker Pelosi has been hawkish on China for decades, but generally your party has not really been out there in the House. Why not?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I think that the -- it's a nuanced conversation or it should be because we want to make sure that at the same time that we make our differences known with the Chinese Communist Party, that we set aside the people of China or people of Chinese origin or Asian Americans because we don't want to, in any way, encourage the stereotyping or discrimination or tropism that often infects our conversations with regard to the People's Republic of China.

And certainly in the last four years, let's say, there's been a rise of hate crime toward Asian Americans and we don't want to contribute to that. So, it's very clear that on this committee, I think Mike and I agree our quarrel is not with the people of China or Chinese origin people, we need to stand up to the threats or challenges posed by the Chinese Communist Party.

TAPPER: Yes. And nobody is more a victim of the Chinese Communist Party than the Chinese people.


TAPPER: Wisconsin Republican Chairman Mike Gallagher, Illinois Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, thanks to both of you. Hope you have success with this new committee and I hope you guys come on a lot to talk about it. Very important issue.

GALLAGHER: Thank you.


TAPPER: Coming up, new information about the toxic chemicals released at the East Palestine train derailment that has researchers concerned about long term health risks for residents. Plus, key court documents just unsealed in the murders of four Idaho college students. What police took from the suspect's home? Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, one day after taking control of Disney's special district, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is expanding his conservative kingdom by adding conservative allies to run a small liberal arts college in the Sunshine State. Students and faculty at the New College of Florida today are protesting the move. CNN's Leyla Santiago is in Sarasota, Florida. Leyla, how exactly is DeSantis taking over this college and why?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, this is what he himself has called the anti-woke agenda, and it's certainly something that was at the center of the protest that we saw here today just before the board of trustees meeting that actually just wrapped up. So let's back up. Let's talk about the timeline here. It was exactly how we got to where were.

Back in January, Governor Ron DeSantis appointed six conservative allies to the board of trustees, really shifting the power and having more of a conservative view here. Even his allies as well as liberals here have called this a conservative takeover. They were quick to make some pretty big moves. They got rid of the president, and then they put in the former speaker of the House as well as the former education commissioner of Republican to be the interim president and to go along with even more big moves that have come about since this shift.

Even just today, the board voted to eliminate the diversity, equity, and inclusion office here. So, you have many in this community, particularly the LGBTQ community who say, look, this is a small school, 700 students to be exact, known to be pretty progressive in a place where many come to feel safe again, especially that LGBTQ community. And now they're protesting what they see as a conservative takeover. Listen.


All right. So, I think we have a little bit of an issue with getting that interview that I did earlier with some of the folks here. But let me kind of walk you through what they told me. They basically said that what is happening here, they see as not just an attack on New College of Florida, but kind of a broader attack on education and higher education. They fear that what they see here is what could happen across the country, given that Governor Ron DeSantis has really said that this is a big part of his platform, his agenda, and is pretty widely accepted as a potential GOP presidential candidate.

Now, for their part, when I've spoken to the conservatives, actually just finished talking to the interim president, they see this as actually making this more inclusive so that they feel that even conservatives can find a place here. But either way, you know, what is very clear is that there is a change to what is a very small progressive community that fears what could come next. Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Leyla Santiago in Sarasota, Florida, for us, thank you so much.

Also in our politics lead today, polls are open in Chicago, and the winds of change there could toss out the city's mayor for the first time in 40 years. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot faces eight challenges -- challengers in the race. She might not even survive the first round of voting today in her bid for a second term. CNN's Omar Jimenez is in Chicago.

And Omar, in 2019, Mayor Lightfoot was an incredibly popular figure. What happened that she's now fighting for her political life?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, to put it simply, we're on the other side of what she has described as a once in a lifetime set of challenges, from the peak of a pandemic to increases in gun violence that we saw here, but also in other places across the country. Economics impacted as well. And so, this vote or these people headed to the polls, it's really a referendum on how she presided over some of those challenges. And we've got nine candidates in total. You have to get 50 percent of the vote to win this election.

We're likely not going to see that. We're really focused on who the top two will because those top two will advance to a runoff. Take a listen to two voters we spoke to a little bit earlier today about what issues they feel are important here.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Equity as a city. This is a city that has disinvested in some neighborhoods for decades, and it's really important to keep the momentum that's been going for a little while to have better investment throughout the city, so everybody feels like they're a part of the success of the city.

SCOTT ELLIOTT, PREVIOUSLY VOTED FOR LIGHTFOOT, NOT VOTING LIGHTFOOT THIS TIME: Violence, and especially gun violence, has become, you know, just endemic. It's considerably worse than it ought to be.


JIMENEZ: And the dynamic with that last voter is important because he told me that he previously voted for Lightfoot in 2019, but this time around has changed his mind.

So we talked about the nine candidates. We've really got four top contenders. Paul Vallas is a former CEO of schools here in Chicago and in Philadelphia. He's been endorsed by the Chicago Police Union, really focusing his campaign on public safety. We've got Brandon Johnson, a Cook County Commissioner who's been endorsed by the teachers union.

Jesus Chuy Garcia, who actually made it to the runoff in 2015 against Rahm Emanuel before losing and is now a U.S. congressman. And so far today, we've heard from election officials. Turnout has been a little sluggish in person, but that's likely the balance out to a surge in early voting that we've seen, particularly by mail. But while we count the votes today, after polls close and into the next few days, potentially weeks, as those mail in ballots come in, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is fighting for her political life and is really at risk of being the first mayor in over 30 years not to be reelected. Though, I should note there's only been two mayors over the past -- over 20 years, basically between Daley and Rahm Emanuel.

TAPPER: All right. Omar Jimenez in Chicago, thank you so much.

With us now to discuss Catherine Lucey, White House Reporter for The Wall Street Journal, and Tia Mitchell, Washington Correspondent for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Catherine, turning back to Governor DeSantis, how unusual is it for a governor to change the mission of a school in this way?

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: I mean, this really is an extension of the education policies we've seen from Governor DeSantis, right? He's really leaned into this kind of oversight of education, this kind of culture war that we've seen.


And one of the things that we've reported on this really interesting (ph) is it's creating a lot of confusion and anxiety among educators across the state. A lot of teachers saying they don't know what to teach, how to teach it, they're cutting material from lessons, changing how they approach certain subjects because they're worried about running afoul of the law. So, it's created a lot of confusion and concern with a lot of people around the state.

TAPPER: And Tia, today's rally at the New College of Florida also follows the introduction of a bill in the Florida House that seems to mirror Governor DeSantis's ideas for overhauling higher education. It would essentially put board of trustee members in charge of faculty hiring. It would defund diversity, equity, and inclusion DEI programs, and it would eliminate majors or minors related to critical race theory or gender studies. How consequential is this? And how do you view it?

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION: So, it's very consequential and it shows the consequences of elections. Governor DeSantis is -- has a second term. He believes he has a mandate. There is a Republican supermajority in the Florida legislature, and it's clear that Governor DeSantis wants to put his mark on public education in Florida from what we consider K through 20, essentially, you know, not just public education, but it's public colleges and universities, including its graduate schools.

So, I think Governor DeSantis is -- knows that what he's doing is unique, but that's kind of the whole point of it. And the fact that they're starting out by overhauling what is arguably the most progressive of Florida's public universities is also by design.

So I think all of this is part of his bigger plan as he kind of dips his toe into running for president. He wants to be able to speak to Christian conservatives and the hard right to say, yes, I agree with you, education is too woke to use terminology that I think he would use. And they want to inject a type of public education, again, both at the K12 and the higher education level that reflects more conservative values and quite frankly, Christian fundamentalist values. And that's what we're seeing play out in Florida.

TAPPER: Yes, I mean, he probably thinks he has a mandate because he won reelection with almost 60 percent of the vote, winning some Democratic leaning areas of the state, winning the Latino vote, and on and on. Catherine, Governor DeSantis is out promoting his new book today. He defended his actions on taking control, the state taking control of Disney's special district. Take a listen.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Some of these Republicans acting like that if you take away their special governance status, that somehow that's not free market. That is insane to be saying that. Having the business have its own government is not a free market. That is massive, massive subsidies.


TAPPER: I mean, it kind of has a point. I don't know why Disney had that special district to begin with.

LUCEY: Yes, I mean -- yes, certainly Disney had these special rules and privileges. This is a very high public, high profile fight that the governor has waged with Disney going back to last year over, to go back to the previous topic, over education policy. And he apparently goes into a lot of detail in this in the book about his conflicts with the Disney CEO, about their private conversations. And it really highlights, you know, his efforts to wage these kind of cultural fights, cast himself as a cultural warrior. You know, as we know that, you know, he's a potential presidential candidate.

TAPPER: And Tia, do you think this all has to do with that legislation that stopped the teaching of anything having to do with sexuality or gender related issues K through third grade? And the Disney people came out against that. The corporation came out against it and that's when this happened. Do you think he would have done the same thing with the corporation, with taking away their special district, if that fight hadn't happened, Tia?

MITCHELL: Absolutely not. And the fact of the matter is, for decades, Florida lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, not only continue to protect Disney's right to essentially self-govern itself through this special taxing district set up, but they also reap the benefits of it. They help fundraisers at Disney and they, you know, Disney shells out a lot of money, you know, lobbying and campaign contributions again to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. It's only when Disney decided to stand up to Ron DeSantis and Republican lawmakers on this particular issue is when they decided to punish Disney in the kind of the most extreme way, which is kind of taking away some of these special privileges.


And I think you're right, Jake, a lot of people are going to look and say, well, should a corporation have been given so much power by Florida lawmakers. That's a valid complaint. Again, that's been raised years and years. But until recently, Florida lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were willing to protect the status quo only when this issue came up did that become a game changer.

TAPPER: All right, Tia Mitchell and Catherine Lucey, good to see both of you. Thank you so much.

Coming up, tonight, my conversation with comedian Bill Maher as the host of HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher. Hear what influenced his own career, his view on the state of comedy in the age of politics right now. Here's a little preview.


BILL MAHER, HOST, HBO'S "REAL TIME": People who actually say to me, no, I missed the days when you used to fight with the audience. Well, maybe you do, but I don't.


MAHER: You know? But I was never one of those comics who could just pretend, oh, I'm sorry. I must have made a mistake there. I'd be like, no, I didn't make a mistake. There's something wrong with that joke. Stop groaning. Get the stick out of your ass. I must have said that 20 times on my show.


MAHER: When the pandemic came around, first, we didn't have any audience and we shot here. And when we came back, were allowed to have like half the audience because of social distancing. And again, they just weeded out the people who were groaning. And I would say in the last three or four years, I've never had that problem again and it is such a pleasure.

My audience who comes to my show now understands me. They think like me. They have open minds. They're not woke. They're generally liberal, but they can be conservative, too. And we have a great time and there's no groaning. And I love it.

But, look, any comic in this era, anybody in this era, can absolutely fall off the ledge at any moment. It just makes me laugh when people say to me, you know, you're uncancelable. Are you kidding? I could -- I would -- in 2 seconds, I could get canceled. Anybody could.


TAPPER: My one-on-one conversation with Bill Maher airs tonight on CNN primetime at 09:00 Eastern, only here on CNN.

Coming up, the new fight that is unfolding about what to do with the contaminated soil and water that has already been removed from the train derailment site in Ohio. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency visited East Palestine, Ohio today. His third visit there since the disastrous Norfolk Southern train derailment. 38 cars derailed the night of February 3rd, including eleven tank cars carrying hazardous materials.

The National Transportation Safety Board says more than 115,000 gallons of toxic vinyl chloride was at risk of exploding once the train derailed. Officials say that's why they ended up doing the controlled burn on February 6, three weeks ago yesterday. That burn, which formed a giant black cloud over the city.

Now getting rid of the soil and water polluted by the disaster is proving to be one of the more difficult issues so far. CNN's Miguel Marquez is in East Palestine, Ohio for us. The governor is complaining of Indiana, Miguel, that he didn't know some of the hazardous waste was being moved to a facility in his state. What's the EPA doing there?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So this is -- so Indiana, Michigan and Texas, they've all sort of complained about the soil or water being shipped from East Palestine to those states. And look at the local level here, the state and the federal level, there's a bit of puzzlement because these are all facilities that manage this waste every day, 365 days a year. Some of it much worse waste.

So it can show you not only is it the waste that they are moving from the site itself, but it's also the streams that run through East Palestine as well. This one they have been treating and you will see these sites everywhere throughout the area. The EPA director is saying that in the future they will have a system in place to warn and let states know that waste from here is coming.


MICHAEL REGAN, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: What I do want to do is be on the same page with all of our elected officials and those who feel responsible for answering some of these questions.

MARQUEZ: So you'll be talking to the governor of Indiana? He says he's heard third hand that this waste is coming to his state and just has questions. Not saying he's going to reject it but to ask questions.

REGAN: Any governor, any mayor that wants to have a conversation with me, I welcome those conversations. We want this to be fully transparent and for folks to understand that we are experienced in this, these facilities are experienced and receiving this waste. And that transparency is key.


MARQUEZ: One thing that is very clear here in East Palestine, there is an enormous effort to clean this mess up. The tracks near where the spill happened, you can already see them pulling up the tracks. You can see them pulling the soil out from underneath those tracks. The waterways here throughout the area are being treated as well.

But what people -- there's tons of resources, federal, state and local, throughout the town. But what people want to know now is how much longer? How much longer for the initial cleanup and then the monitoring ahead? It's probably going to take months, if not years, to -- months to clean it up and probably years to monitor it. Jake?

TAPPER: And then, Miguel, beyond the cleanup, of course, there are all the health problems people in East Palestine are reporting they have. Researchers say the high levels of chemicals being measured could theoretically pose long term risks.

MARQUEZ: If one is subject to them over a long period of time, yes, and that's why they are making such a big effort to clean this stuff up. The nausea, the rashes, the headaches, all those things that people are reporting are consistent with some of the chemicals that are in the air.


If they experiencing that for a long period of time, then yes, they could have health effects, but that too, is going to take a long time of study and trying to figure it all out. Jake?

TAPPER: CNN's Miguel Marquez in East Palestine, Ohio for us. Thank you so much.

Coming up, what police found inside the home where they arrested the suspect in the murders of four Idaho college students. Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our national lead, new details in the developing murder case connected to last November's killings of four University of Idaho college students. CNN's Jean Casarez has seen some newly unsealed court documents that reveal what police specifically seized at the home of the parents of the suspect, Bryan Kohberger. Jean?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, these were just unsealed this afternoon, and we do know that the search of the family home of Bryan Kohberger, where he was, where he was arrested, it occurred on December 30th.


Now, this document says it was 1:25 in the morning, and they asked for a nighttime warrant because of the public safety concern for the people of eastern Pennsylvania. It also says what they collected at the home. Let's show everybody that.

They collected, first of all, a buccal swab, a DNA swab, they swabbed his cheek, four medical style gloves, a silver flashlight, black sweatshirt, black socks, and a pair of size 13 Nike shoes. Here's the significance here. First of all, we learned that the FBI was surveilling him, and they saw him take plastic -- trash bags, wearing plastic gloves, depositing them in neighbors trash cans before they arrested him.

We also know that the roommate saw a man all in black clothing on the night that these murders occurred. Also the fact that the shoes, there was a latent footprint at the scene, according to the probable cause affidavit. And the size 13 shoe could become significant. I looked back at what they got from his apartment in Pullman, Arizona. When they searched it, they didn't take any clothes at all. They didn't take any shoes at all. But here they took clothes, they took black clothes. Another thing they requested in this search warrant were all electronic devices, but there is not a return of any type of an iPhone or a cell phone or anything that is electronic. Jake?

TAPPER: Jean Casarez, thanks so much. Interesting.

Coming up, an unfulfilled promise that is just now starting to be somewhat fulfilled. Why it took the V.A. more than six years to build homes for homeless veterans on land that was always meant for them? Stay with us.



TAPPER: Time for our buried lead, that's what we call stories we feel are not getting enough attention. Today, a handful of homeless U.S. veterans got the keys to permanent homes in Los Angeles. More than six years ago, the Veterans Affairs Administration promised to house 1,200 homeless vets on hundreds of acres in Los Angeles land that was always supposed to be used for this purpose. Instead, the land ended up being leased out for a prep school, college, athletic facilities, parking lots and more.

CNN's Nick Watt has been following the story. He visited the new homes today and pushed to find out why hundreds of other veterans are still living out on the street.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two, three.

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is progress, a beautiful new home for veterans who did not have one.

(on-camera): Stainless steel appliances, (INAUDIBLE), full refrigerator, full bathroom. Again, this is for one person, maybe two, if they got a partner. It's about 600 square feet studios, about 450 on average.

WATT (voice-over): The goal?

STEVE PECK, FOUNDER & CEO, U.S. VETS: Is that any veteran who wants to come in out of the cold, there'll be a place for him or her.

WATT (voice-over): Their own room.

(on-camera): This is nicer than a lot of hotels. A lot nicer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The idea this is a forever home.

WATT (voice-over): Plus, all this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole concept is to create a healthy environment to move them forward.


WATT (voice-over): A half step in the right direction, one veteran told me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's great that they're opening one building, but they still owe us over 1,000 units of housing for all these veterans.

WATT (voice-over): In November, we met Joshua Pettit, an unhoused Iraq war vet.

JOSHUA PETTIT, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: Are build us housing. They can send us to war. We can get these problems and you're not going to deal with us? No. No.

WATT (on-camera): Are you moving in this week and why?


WATT (on-camera): Because for that building, you got to be, what, 62?


WATT (on-camera): So you make too much money on your disability benefits to be allowed to move --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the V.A. Yes. I make too much money from the V.A. to live at the V.A.

WATT (voice-over): He hopes to get a spot in another building soon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody's telling us nothing except oh, another delay, oh, another delay. Oh, not until next month.

WATT (voice-over): As of today, 57 veterans live here in permanent homes provided by the V.A. Once, there were thousands. This land, nearly 400 acres, was gifted in the 1880s largely by one of Christine Barrie's relatives.

CHRISTINE BARRIE, RELATIVES GIFTED LAND: It wasn't given to anybody but veterans for a home.

WATT (voice-over): But over the years, veterans were moved out. The V.A. focused on the hospital. Land was leased for parking lots, oil drilling, UCLA's baseball field.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's upsetting. They show more importance on baseball stadiums than us.

WATT (voice-over): And the exclusive Brentwood School's lovely sports facilities. This land was mismanaged.

(on-camera): Where did all that money go?


WATT (voice-over): In 2016, after settling a lawsuit, the V.A. agreed that 1,200 units would be built for homeless vets. By the best-case timeline, they should all be open by now. But just 113 are ready for moving.

(ON-CAMERA): Do we know when we're going to hit that 1,200?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're on track to be able to do this in 10 to 12 years.

ROB REYNOLDS, VETERAN & ACTIVIST: That's completely unacceptable to reach that 1,200 marker. You can go around L.A. high rise apartments go up all the time. Does not take 10 years to build 1,200 units of housing.

WATT (voice-over): But the developers have to raise the money. The V.A. only pays for the utilities. The Department of Veterans Affairs has failed miserably. Read in L.A. Times editorial in December after another lawsuit was filed demanding the V.A. house 3,500 homeless vets on or around this crumbling campus and obey the law and tear up the leases for the likes of Brentwood School.

(on-camera): And you're one of the plaintiffs in that lawsuit?


WATT (on-camera): Has anything happened?


WATT (voice-over): The V.A. has until Monday to respond. Told CNN, "During 2022, V.A. provided 1,301 permanent housing placements to formerly homeless veterans in Los Angeles. Despite that progress, there is still work to do."


There is. Those Brentwood school facilities are still here. And a few thousand vets are still living homeless on the streets of L.A. And people die on these streets.


WATT: But today, there was real progress. The V.A. boss (ph) admitted that this took just two long. They also agreed that guys like Joshua Pettit on disability, need to get into housing quick. They say they're working on it.

You know, two more buildings are supposed to open soon. They've broken ground on three more. All the federal money for the utilities is now in place. But that promise of 1,200 units, it could end up being 20 years between that promise being made and that promise being kept.

Jake, you told us to stay on this story. We did. We are, and we will. Jake? TAPPER: Keep doing it. Keep doing it. Nick, great stuff. Really appreciate it.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at JakeTapper. You can tweet the show at TheLeadCNN. I will see you tonight, hopefully, for our interview with Bill Maher. That's at 09:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN. Our coverage continues next with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM". I'll see you tonight.