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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Source: U.S. Believes Russia Has Recovered Small Pieces From Drone; Rep. Darin LaHood, (R-IL), Is Interviewed About Downed U.S. Drone, U.S. Support To Ukraine, Expiring Surveillance Law; DeSantis' Ukraine Stance Exposes Republican Rift; Source: Recording Exists Of Trump Pressuring G.A. House Speaker; GOP New Hampshire Governor Considering White House Bid; Poll: Even Split On Biden's Ukraine Policy; Poll: Stark Partisan Divide On U.S. Support For Ukraine; Sen. Tina Smith Gets Candid On Her Battle With Depression; 5,000-Mile Seaweed Blob Heading Coast Of Florida; U.K. Bans TikTok On Government Devices In "Precautionary" Move; Forbes Report: FBI And DOJ Investigating ByteDance's Use Of TikTok To Spy On Journalist. Aired 5- 6p ET

Aired March 16, 2023 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: As National Security spokesperson John Kirby says this video shows that clearly Russia has been, quote, "flat out lying."


NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER (voice-over): This is the moment just before a Russian fighter jet collided with a U.S. drone over the Black Sea. The thick plumes of smoke jet fuel being vented by the Russian SU27 as it passes. We don't see the moment of impact, but here's the propeller of the MQ9 Reaper drone undamaged. And here it is later, clearly damaged.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: There had to have been some kind of an impact. I don't think, you know, well, the fuel spill on top of the -- on top of the aircraft on top of the MQ9 would have been as significant. I don't think it would have caused that damage.

BERTRAND (voice-over): The newly declassified footage appears to directly contradict Russia's claim that the aircraft did not make physical contact.

ANATOLY ANTOLOV, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: There was no collision. You see that the problem is that we didn't convict to this job.

JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: The Russians have been just flat out lying, flat out lied about their accounts.

BERTRAND (voice-over): The U.S. has not yet determined whether the pilots intended to directly hit the drone, forcing the U.S. military to crash the drone into the Black Sea some 80 nautical miles from land.

GEN. MARK MILLEY, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: We know that the intercept was intentional. We know that the aggressive behavior was intentional. We also know was very unprofessional and very unsafe. The actual contact of the fixed wing Russian fighter with our UAV, the physical contact with those two, not sure yet.

BERTRAND (voice-over): But CNN is learning that the Russian pilots did not go rogue. U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence say the pilots were ordered to harass the drone by senior officials in Russia's defense ministry.

NED PRICE, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: The fact that we've seen a pattern on the part of the forces of the Russian Federation suggests to us at least that there's at least some senior level approval of this kind of activity.

BERTRAND (voice-over): For now, the fate of the drones wreckage remains unclear. The U.S. has no naval assets in the Black Sea that can readily retrieve it. And the Russians have already reached the crash site and recovered some small pieces of debris. But the U.S. took steps to wipe the drone software officials tell CNN making it highly unlikely that Moscow will glean anything valuable from its remnants.

MILLEY: We did take mitigating measures. So we are quite confident that whatever was a value is no longer a value.


BERTRAND: Now, Jake, we are learning tonight that the U.S. is conducting an assessment of its drone operations over the Black Sea to try to figure out how to better deconflict with the Russians there. However, the drone operations have not stopped entirely. We are told that the U.S. actually sent the same model of drone up over the Black Sea and approximately the same area just hours after that incident with the Russian jet occurred largely in order to survey the site and see whether the Russians were trying to collect any of the debris there. Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Natasha Bertrand at the Pentagon for us, thank you so much.

Turning to our other world lead, Ukrainians are unwilling to let go of Bakhmut. The eastern city is now home to a population of just 3,000 Ukrainians after one spot posting a population of more than 70,000. As CNN's David McKenzie reports, Russian back leaders say Ukraine's grip on the city is becoming more difficult, as one of the city's main roads faces significant and constant fire.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is a moment Ukrainian soldier downs a Russian jet near Bakhmut according to Ukrainian authorities. As both sides are publicly confident in their battle to control the city. With fewer than 3,000 civilians remaining, Bakhmut has been effectively destroyed amid the ongoing Russian offensive. But Ukrainians are unwilling to let go despite their heavy losses.

PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE (through translator): There was a clear position of the entire command, strengthen the sector and destroy the occupiers to the maximum.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): To counter the onslaught, Ukraine needs equipment and ammunition. President Zelenskyy has long called for fighter jets. In a significant move today, Poland says it will provide several of its Soviet era MIG29 combat planes in the coming days.

PRES. ANDRZEJ DUDA, POLAND (through translator): We will hand over four aircrafts to Ukraine, the remaining machines are being prepared and service for handover.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): A move Ukraine hopes will inspire others to speed up their support.

OLAF SCHOLZ, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): It's particularly important to quickly provide Ukraine with the necessary ammunition.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): For both sides, the situation on the frontline remains complicated. And troops from Russia's Wagner private military group have made very limited gains in the last week in Bakhmut. Gains that U.S. military officials say are coming at an enormous cost.

MILLEY: Right now there is intense fighting in and around Bakhmut, and the Russians are making small tactical advances, but at great cost.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): According to the American research group, the Institute for the Study of War, these small advancements and at the great expense of manpower artillery and equipment may hinder Wagner's ability to surround the city.


Its chief Yevgeny Prigozhin who has recruited as many as 40,000 prisoners for this fight. According to a White House official has repeatedly criticized Moscow over the lack of ammunition to supply his fighters. That is, mercenaries are holding firm persisting with the offensive, and then around Bakhmut, and so are the Ukrainian troops.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The enemy constantly attempts to attack us, and we defend our positions quite effectively. We've been standing here for quite long already, and brigade hasn't given up any positions.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): A show of defiance, as Ukraine hopes it will get more military support in time for a possible counter offense.


MCKENZIE: Now, those mags at least 30 years old, Jake, but certainly it could break a psychological barrier to get more attack weapons into this country. We spend time with volunteer forces here training today who are trying to get ready for some kind of counter offensive we believe may be coming. It's really those nuts and bolts, ammunition, soldiers to replace those who have been pulled off the front line, who had been lost tragically in the small to try to shore up a counter attack and not just defend against those endless onslaught from the Russian military and private military contractors. Jake.

TAPPER: All right, David McKenzie in Kyiv, Ukraine, thank you so much.

Joining us now to discuss, Republican Congressman Darin LaHood of Illinois. He's a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence.

Congressman, thanks for joining us. So, a source says that the U.S. government believes Russia may have actually recovered some of the pieces of the downed drone. How confident is the intelligence community that they're not going to get anything sensitive?

REP. DARIN LAHOOD (R-IL): Well, we don't know that yet. Obviously, that's something that will anxiously await what the intelligence community gets back to the House Intelligence Committee on. But I would say this, I think we've seen more provocative moves from Russia, we've seen an aggressiveness that maybe we haven't seen before. And obviously we're going to watch and see what if anything, they recover. But I think it's been alarming what the Russians have engaged in over the last couple of days. And it's raised, you know, a new awareness in Congress.

TAPPER: Is the presiding theory that this was the Russian jets being provocative with the American drone, but they didn't mean to hit it? Or is the theory that they actually did?

LAHOOD: I don't think we know that yet, Jake. That's something we'll have to learn from the Intelligence Committee.

TAPPER: Earlier this week, I wanted to ask you there's seems to be a division within the Republican Party about how important it is for the U.S. to support Ukraine during this conflict. As you know, Florida Governor DeSantis said that supporting Ukraine, in his view, was not a vital national interest for the US. What do you think?

LAHOOD: Well, I think there's broad support within the Republican conference for Ukraine. But I would just -- I would also with the caveat say that it can't be a blank check. We've had two significant votes in Congress on Ukraine military support. I supported the initial tranche, roughly $25 billion. I did not support the second round in December because it was part of a $1.8 trillion omnibus package that wasn't presented the right way.

But I will say this, the military weaponry that we've given Ukraine, the HIMARS, the javelins, the stingers, the Patriot defense apparatus has been extremely successful in terms of this war with Putin in Russia. And so, I still think there's broad support, but it has to be with an appropriate audit, making sure money is spent appropriately and that is not a blank check.

TAPPER: Last week, in a House Intelligence Committee hearing -- public hearing, you said that you believe the FBI searched your name multiple times in an intelligence database, you called it an egregious violation of your privacy. You are also leading a working group to reauthorize Section 702, which would allow the FBI to continue this type of surveillance. Help us understand that because it seems like there have been some FISA abuses including possibly with you.

LAHOOD: Well, we had an open hearing with the FBI director and other members of the Intelligence Committee last week, I think it's important for the public to know what FISA is Jake. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is a program put in place post 9/11 to go after bad guys overseas and many of our adversaries overseas. It's not in place to spy on American citizens. And unfortunately, we've had too many instances where civil liberties have been violated or a privacy rights have been violated.

And as we look at reauthorization of FISA, that has to be done by the end this year, which is very important to our intelligence services, what we articulated to the FBI director last week is there has to be reformed.


I'm proud to be the chair of the 702 working group as a former federal prosecutor. I understand the importance, but it is not going to be a clean reauthorization. We're going to have to have reforms, safeguards put in place to make sure civil liberties and egregious cases and violations can no longer happen to American citizens.

TAPPER: Has anyone from the FBI reached out to explain how and why and FBI analyst searched your personal data?

LAHOOD: Well, what we heard from Director Wray last week was a number of apologies. I think they've recognized that they've put in new measures. You know, this apparently occurred back in '17 and '18. In 2021, they put in new measures, but we're going to continue to have conversations with the FBI and others in the intelligence community to make sure that we are putting in proper safeguards for the American people.

What I tell people Jake is 85 percent of the FISA Act works well. It's the 15 percent that involves issues like what happened with the Carter Page FISA application, what happened with Russia collusion, and what's happened with other wrongful queries. We hope to clean up those type of activities when we present it to the Congress later this year.

TAPPER: All right, Republican Congressman Darin LaHood of Illinois, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

LAHOOD: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Up next, there's a recording of a third call that Donald Trump made to Georgia officials to try to overturn the 2020 election. A third call. What does he say? And who's heard this tape?



TAPPER: In our politics lead, in Georgia, Fulton County investigators have another recording of a phone call that former President Donald Trump made to the then Georgia House Speaker to try to overturn based on election lies the state's 2020 election results, that's according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. In that phone call Trump asked the fellow Republican, quote, "to convene a special session of the legislature to overturn Democrat Joe Biden's narrow victory," unquote. This comes after five jurors on the special grand jury spoke exclusively to the newspaper.

Former Watergate prosecutor Nick Ackerman -- Akerman, rather, joins me now.

Nick, what do you think prosecutors are thinking about this third phone call? It doesn't sound as though he made an illegal request, a diluted one, perhaps, but not illegal?

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: Well, I think it's all part of the same picture. And I think it is illegal. What he was trying to do, based on a bunch of falsehoods about our convicts voting, people on registered voting, dead people voting, trying to get people to basically overturn the election and give it to him instead of Biden. And it was all based on lies.

You had the same lies view to Secretary of State Raffensperger, and the same lies that were spread by Rudy Giuliani, who showed up at the legislature to try and do the same thing. So, it's all part of the picture. And it's Donald Trump on tape.

You know, we don't know the exact date yet of that. We don't know exactly what the tape says. But based on everything else we know, it probably fits the same pattern of the kinds of calls that Donald Trump was making to people like Rusty Bowers in Arizona, where essentially he was spewing the same lies about the election to get it overturned.

So, to me, this is just more of the evidence against Donald Trump that the district attorney is going to use there in her indictment. And at the end of the day, the star witness against Donald Trump is going to be Donald Trump on tape.

TAPPER: So, we don't have the recording. I want to read you this quote from one of the Fulton County grand jurors to the Atlanta Journal Constitution in which the juror said, quote, "A lot is going to come out sooner or later and it's going to be massive. It's going to be massive," unquote. How do you interpret that quote?

AKERMAN: Oh, I think it means that there is going to be an indictment of all of the main players here, Donald Trump, John Eastman, Mark Meadows, and Rudy Giuliani, I think this is going to be a blockbuster indictment.

And like I say, the chief witness here is going to wind up being Donald Trump, who's on tape with Brad Raffensperger, on tape with the chief investigator for the secretary of state, and now is on -- we find out is on tape with the head of the main assembly in Georgia. And we also know that he had a conversation that was similar with Governor Kemp. So, there's -- the evidence is piling up here big time, basically.

TAPPER: All right, Nick Akerman, thank you so much. Appreciate it as always. Good to see you.

Coming up, a push to end the stigma around taking care of your mental health. Coming up next, the lawmaker coming forward with her story hoping it inspires others. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Returning to our politics lead, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that Fulton County investigators have an audio recording of a phone call that then President Trump made to the Georgia House speaker pushing for a special session of the legislature to convene so that the legislature could overturn the will of the voters, Joe Biden's 2020 victory in Georgia. Source tell CNN such a recording exists.

Our political experts are here to discuss. And Sarah, let me start with you, the Georgia case, and then there's the New York case, the investigation of Trump's alleged hush money payments to stormy Daniels. They're guaranteed to stay in the headlines. But it actually could help him in some ways, I think.

SARAH LONGWELL, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: This is always a weird dynamic with Trump because there's oftentimes this rally round Trump effect, right, where it makes voters when he is being attacked, when he is aggrieved, this is kind of his sweet spot, and voters tend to rush to his defense. And even in the 2024 context, some of these other candidates will feel like they need to defend him and they'll rush to his defense and he loves it when everyone is talking about him, right? He's able to take the lemons of an indictment and turn it into PR lemonade for himself where, hey, hey, everyone's talking about me and that's what I -- that's what I like to be happening.

TAPPER: And yet, and yet, Congressman Chip Roy, very conservative, Republican from your home state of Texas, he has endorsed Ron DeSantis, who hasn't even officially declared that he's running. Two of Trump's first endorsers in 2016, Lou Barletta and a different congressmen.


TAPPER: They've come out in favor of DeSantis. Maybe there is a bit of fatigue because -- I'm talking about diehards now, a bit of fatigue.

BEGALA: There could be. But what I'm waiting to see is when is somebody going to take him on. It's fine if you think DeSantis is better, maybe he is for Congressman Roy or former congressman Barletta, but they have to reject Trump, they have to explain to voters why they need to reject Trump, a person who at least 30 or 40 percent of their party absolutely loves. [17:25:17]

And it may be the particular this Georgia case, I think Sarah is right about the New York case especially from what I've read in the papers. It doesn't seem like, frankly, a terribly problematic thing for Trump and may help him paying off somebody had an affair with. The Georgia case, this tape from the -- now we've just learned that president -- then president called the then speaker, David Ralston, that's the third different call that we have on tape. This was a multi front war in Georgia, not to pay off a mistress, but to turn over an election, to take the votes away from millions of Americans. But somebody in the Republican Party wants to take on Trump, has to take him on.


BEGALA: I don't understand what they just pussyfoot around.

TAPPER: Now you've interviewed the New Hampshire governor, right, Chris Sununu, who's thinking about running, at the gridiron last year he referred to Trump as, quote, "effing crazy," which he has not taken back or said he was joking about. Do you think he's going to run?

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, USA TODAY: And actually in a previous interview he told me that he didn't regret saying that actually. Like a lot of these other folks, he seems to be taking the steps and gearing up to running, we'll see what happens. You asked about other Republicans potentially taking him on though, in an interview over the weekend, Asa Hutchinson told me that if Trump is indicted, that he should drop out of the presidential race. They -- he sees it as a distraction, and that with Trump, it'll just be a circus.

TAPPER: What do you think? Is there any new Republican? We do see a lot of pussyfooting around after DeSantis came out, more inter -- isolationist on Ukraine, and I'm generalizing, that's not really wise --


TAPPER: -- but less enthusiastic about participation, and Trump said he was basically copying him. Nikki Haley weighed in to say, Trump's right.

KUCINICH: He is stopping it.

TAPPER: Right, yes.

KUCINICH: Well, yes, I mean, we're kind of at the juvenile stage of this, but you know, you had Mike Pence speaking of the grid iron, come out just last weekend and say, you know, that Trump was wrong about January 6, than he was at fault. And he also came out on the more establishment Republican side of Ukraine.

You are going to start to see these dividing lines. And the real question is, where are GOP voters going to go? Because let's not forget, yes, at this point, you do have congressman endorsing Ron DeSantis, Mike Pence endorsed Ted Cruz before he was Trump's vice presidential pick. So there's a lot of things that could move.

TAPPER: Yes, it was kind of -- if memory serves, it was kind of like, I'm with Cruz, but Trump would also be great, right? Isn't that right?

KUCINICH: Head for the best.

BEGALA: He praise Trump, praise Trump, praise Trump in the speech. And he said, and I'm for Cruz.


TAPPER: And I'm for Cruz.

Speaking of Ukraine for one sec, this this new Quinnipiac poll showing voters are evenly split over President Biden's Ukraine policy. Biden's Ukraine response 45 percent approve, 47 percent disapprove. Do you think that support is waning in general?

LONGWELL: Yes, especially among Republicans. I mean, there was a sub question that found that it was actually, you know, almost half of Republicans thought Joe Biden was doing too much in Ukraine. I cannot tell you what a shift this is in the Republican Party. The Republican Party used to be the foreign policy party, the party that supported the war in Iraq. And now, it is a much more isolationist party.

There's a reason that Ron DeSantis decided to basically take Trump's line on Ukraine and say that, you know, this is just a territorial skirmish. It's not in America's, you know, key interest. And it's because, I do these focus groups with Republican voters all the time, and the way that they talk about it is, hey, we should be solving problems here at home, we should be focused on the border, we should not be focused on wars in Europe. And that is just such a shift in the Republican Party. And while the establishment is pushing back, these voters, they want that isolationist foreign policy.

TAPPER: And let's look deeper in those numbers. Here's the partisan divide over helping Ukraine when asked if the U.S. is doing too much to help Ukraine, 47 percent of Republicans say yes, only 11 percent of Democrats 30 percent of Independents. Do you see that when you're out there talking to voters? Because you know, we just interviewed Congressman Darin LaHood, he's a conservative Republican, and he did the whole thing no Blank Checks, needs to be accountability. But he's a supporter of help for Ukraine.

CHAMBERS: But you aren't consistently seeing what you're describing and polling among Republicans. But it's also important to remind people at home that Congress recently passed a big tranche of aid to Ukraine that's supposed to last the rest of the fiscal year. So there's not going to actually be a debate in Congress again about how much to spend on Ukraine until that money runs out, which could be way later in the year. This isn't something that's going to come up in the near future likely.

TAPPER: Is the White House worried about this? I mean, this --

BEGALA: They ought to be. TAPPER: Yes.

BEGALA: They ought to be. I think their policy has been spot on. I think the President has become the leader of the free world that Donald Trump never was. I think he's been fantastic, but he hasn't sold it enough to the American people.


It's not too late. The clock is ticking before anything he does will be seen as partisan. But he needs a by partisan national effort to adviser to explain the American people why this is a good deal.

Go back and look at what FDR said about Lendlease. I looked it up today. In March 1941, he gave a great speech actually at the Washington Correspondents dinner, the White House Correspondents Dinner, where he sold Lendlease, where he talked about freedom versus tyranny. And it's many of the same issues today.

And back then, Lendlease was just what we're doing now, which is, you -- we'll give you the tools, you finish the job, is FDR said. So he needs to build a bipartisan commitment to selling this to the American people. You can't just do it at the elite level and hope a few committee chairs go along.

CHAMBERS: But that is happening in Congress.


CHAMBERS: I mean, it is bipartisan --

BEGALA: In Congress.

CHAMBERS: -- generally in Congress, especially in the United States Senate.

BEGALA: Right.

CHAMBERS: And the Vice President. She talked about this in Munich.

KUCINICH: Zelenskyy himself came in --

CHAMBERS: Right, right.

KUCINICH: -- Congress and gave that speech.


CHAMBERS: I mean --

TAPPER: I don't know that that citing Lendlease is going to help us (INAUDIBLE).

BEGALA: Not to voters but it'll help with Joe Biden, who put the largest portrait --

TAPPER: Right.

BEGALA: -- in Oval Office is FDR.

TAPPER: But the whole argument from people like Trump is this is going to lead to World War III and I don't know if citing legislation that helped me get --

BEGALA: I would think it's a model, it's a model, not a mess.

TAPPER: You understand my point. Thanks, everyone for being here.

Turning to our health lead, today marks one month since Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman checked into Walter Reed Hospital to address his clinical depression. A source close to the senator tell CNN that he's doing, quote, extremely well and could be discharged within the next two weeks. His wife Gisele posted these photographs recently with a caption, "It gets better."

CNN's Lauren Fox sits down with Democratic Senator Tina Smith from Minnesota, who opens up about her own battle with depression and the power of sharing her story.


SEN. TINA SMITH (D), MINNESOTA: These millions of Americans deserve our help.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER (voice-over): Senator Tina Smith never expected to be on the Senate floor talking about her own experiences with depression.

SMITH: When it started for me, I thought I was just having a bad day or really a series of bad days.

FOX (voice-over): But in 2019, the then freshman senator was working on a bill aimed at expanding access to mental health. The more she worked, the more she thought about revealing what she wasn't saying

SMITH: I had my own experience with depression when I was in college and then when I was older, you know, young mom, and it started to feel just less than honest, to not just put it out there. I realized that there was power in me telling the story, me particularly, me being a United States Senator, somebody who supposedly has everything all together all the time.

FOX (voice-over): For Smith, the depression both times caught her by surprise, saying it felt like the color was draining out of her world. She lost interest in activities she loved and withdrew from friends and family.

SMITH: The thing that's so treacherous about depression in particular, is that you think that the thing that is wrong with you is you.

FOX (voice-over): Smith got help. In her 30s, her therapist gave her a diagnosis. SMITH: You're clinically depressed, that's my diagnosis. I think that you'd benefit from medication to help you. And I was like, I don't want to do that. Because then that's not going to be me inside my brain.

FOX (on-camera): Did it take time --


FOX (on-camera): -- for you to accept the idea of medication?

SMITH: Yes, it did. It did take time. And again, you know, medication works for some people, not for others. Everybody is in a different position. But the -- it did very much helped me to adjust my brain chemistry, so that I could rediscover the things that made me happy.

FOX (voice-over): Mental illness affects one in five Americans every year. But for politicians disclosing a battle with mental illness has long carried political risks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congratulations, Senator.

FOX (voice-over): It's why Senator John Fetterman's announcement in February he was seeking treatment for clinical depression has started to change the conversation.

SMITH: Every time a -- somebody like John or me is open about their own experiences with mental illness or, you know, mental health challenges. It just breaks down that wall a little bit more about people saying oh, it's possible to be open and honest and not have the whole world come crashing down on you.

It hasn't always been that way. In 1972, Thomas Eagleton dropped off George McGovern's presidential ticket, after it was revealed he'd undergone treatment for depression and received electroshock therapy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This decision is one of the most heart rending.

FOX (voice-over): Former Representative Patrick Kennedy, now a leading advocate on mental health struggled with addiction and bipolar disorder in Congress. For years, he said he worked to cover it up.

PATRICK KENNEDY, FORMER CONGRESSMAN & MENTAL HEALTH ADVOCATE: When I was in Congress, I did everything I could to keep everybody from five finding out that I needed help.


FOX (voice-over): Lawmakers are hopeful that the stigma around mental illness may finally be shifting.

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: There are consequences to the things you say and talk about but I think in a circumstance like this, that it's, you know, it helps the conversation. I think it helps people realize and understand the impact that this disease has on people all across the country. (END VIDEOTAPE)

FOX: And it's been decades since Tina Smith experienced depression since she used medication for her depression. But she says sharing her story back in 2019, it's really given her a dialogue with constituents, with voters, with colleagues who come up to her and share their own stories, Jake. So this really does have an impact in making people feel like they too can come forward.

TAPPER: Interesting stuff. Lauren Fox, thank you so much for that report.

Coming up, Florida beaches are about to be entangled in a giant blob of seaweed that smells. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our Earth matters lead, what's that smell? It's a giant blob of seaweed, and it's headed right for Florida. The 5,000 mile wide belt of Sargassum is expected to be the largest on record. And when it peaks in size in July, could be a serious damper on tourism in Florida.

Let's bring in CNN Chief Climate Correspondent Bill Weir. Bill what is behind these massive blooms?

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a natural occurring phenomenon. There's actually a Sargasso Sea in the middle of the Atlantic, but normally it is surrounded by ocean currents, a gyre that keeps it in place as it decomposes. This one broke off and has doubled in size in a month.

And scientists think maybe it has to do with warmer waters due to climate change, nutrient pollution, phosphorus nitrogen, we've seen that sort of triggered the red tide and the toxic algae blooms around Florida as well. It's hitting the Yucatan Peninsula now the beaches there and probably wouldn't hit Florida until July or so.

TAPPER: And what can be done to prevent this from the hitting the beaches?

WEIR: Well, I was talking to some experts actually up in Maine who worked with seaweed as a carbon capture tool. And they say there are plenty of guys with, you know, trawler rigs to boats, pull in a net that could get in front of it. So to corral it, and then they would chop it up and sink it in deep ocean, which actually would be a net benefit for the planet because it captures carbon and sends it locks it away deep on the ocean bed there as well.

But right now, there's no incentive to do that. As we get closer when you think about 6 foot drifts of rotting, you know, seaweed. Maybe some states like Florida might invest in and guys getting out there in front of it right now. But science says so they've been watching this, and it's gotten bigger and denser year to year, and it's actually 200 times bigger than the blob this time last year.

TAPPER: Wow. All right. Well, Governor DeSantis you heard, Bill.

WEIR: Your move.

TAPPER: Thanks so much.

Staying with the environment, we turn from the waters of Florida to a mile high above the American West. There are growing concerns about the air quality over the great State of Colorado and today that state's Democratic governor announced a new plan to help clear the air above his state targeting one industry in particular.

In a letter released today, Governor Jared Polis writes, "It is estimated that oil and gas extraction activities are responsible for almost half of total ozone in the Denver Metro area. These emissions have not yet been subject to actions that require steady measurable emissions reductions on a schedule commensurate with meeting our air quality challenges, and today, that will change," unquote.

Governor Polis joins us now. Governor, thanks for joining us. What specifically are you demanding from the oil and gas industry? And do you have the legal standing to make that demand?

GOV. JARED POLIS (D), COLORADO: So yes, we do. And essentially, what we're requiring is that oil and gas activities in most of our state where they occur, the Denver Metro region will have to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. That's the main precursor to ozone. Ozone is the main pollutant and air that causes, you know, coughing, makes asthma worse, it's particularly bad in summer.

So we're going to reduce ozone emissions by about over 30 percent within just two years by 2025 in oil and gas industry. That technology exists today. Some oil and gas operators are ready to use it. They're all going to be using it by 2025 in our state, and it's going to make our air cleaner and our people healthier.

TAPPER: Have you heard any pushback from the oil and gas industry? Are they asking you about balancing the economic impact of this decision?

POLIS: You know what, this is available today. And the air crisis is very real in our state today. We're also requiring that there's a 50 percent reduction in ozone emissions within six and a half years by 2030. So again, this will be done in a way where we know this technology is here. We know that they can replace diesel engines that are very -- that caused a lot of pollution with electric and new technologies to do this in a better way.

I would add, they're not being singled out. We're also moving towards electric vehicles. We're also focused on industrial sources of pollution. But certainly when oil and gas is responsible for about 40 percent of the overall ozone, there needs to be an aggressive plan in that sector. And today, we laid it out and we're going to get it done.

TAPPER: There are a lot of threats that scientists say are exacerbated by climate change that are coming to your state in addition to what you just talked about there, there are fires, floods, droughts. How does a governor even begin to prepare for these looming crises?

POLIS: That's a great question, Jake, because what -- the sort of weather and related crises, these are happening more often than ever before. I've only been governor five years but in the five years I've been governor, we've had the three largest wildfires in the history of the state of Colorado. It was less than a decade ago, about a decade ago when we had a historic flood. We've had statewide drought.

So in many ways, this is the new normal. We're upping the bar on fire resiliency, we're getting an additional capacity for aerial interventions.


We're looking at how we do land use and develop in and around open space where there's potential fire risk. But we need to not only take action on climate change. We also need to make sure we have in place the way that we can survive with this new normal.

TAPPER: I want to ask you another question, not about the environment. There's a new poll from Gallup, suggesting that members of your party, Democrats, and now side with Palestinians over Israelis, when it comes to that conflict. 49 percent say their sympathies are with Palestinians. 38 percent Israelis, 13 percent neither both or no opinion.

That's an 11 point increase in sympathy for Palestinians in the last year moving to support Palestinians, for Democrats. As a supporter of Israel, as a Jewish American, as a Democrat, what do you think?

POLIS: I think Gallup's asking the wrong question. I think we're most Democrats are certainly where I am, is that of course, we believe in the existence of a democratic Jewish state of Israel. I also believe in a sovereign Palestinian state. I think that any solution that works needs to make sure that it honors both Israel and Palestine.

I evaluate lasting and enduring, peaceful coexistence in the area. I think the two state solution is the best one we have. So I think Gallup needs to update their question and talk about a solution that works for everybody.

TAPPER: All right, but that is their question. I mean, that's an interesting answer, but that is their question. And I'm wondering why you think it is that when asked with which group do you -- are your sympathies with, Democrats, for the first time in the history of this poll, are now siding more with Palestinians?

POLIS: Well, again, I think the Democrats by and large, absolutely overwhelming majorities value a Jewish democratic state of Israel, also value a sovereign Palestinian state, obviously, the difficulties and figuring out the borders, the transition, what happens to Jewish enclaves in Palestine, what happens with Palestinians in the state of Israel? Those are the details.

I think that's a broad vision for peace in the Middle East that has the broad support of Democrats and hopefully many Republicans and independents as well, because frankly, it's the only way to end conflict in the region

TAPPER: Colorado Governor Jared Polis, thank you so much for your time, sir. Appreciate it.

POLIS: Thank you.

TAPPER: Still ahead, the warning to China that could result in TikTok being banned in the United States. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Topping our tech lead today, the Biden administration has an ultimatum for TikTok in the United States, either the Chinese owned parent company needs to sell its stake in the U.S. version of the very popular social media platform or TikTok will be banned. This comes after more than 20 states and the federal government banned the app from official government devices over concerns that the data collected from users phones would, could end up in the hands of the Chinese government.

Let's bring in Axios Senior Media Reporter and CNN Media Analyst Sara Fischer. Sara, always good to see you. So TikToks already on more than 100 million American phones, including my daughter's. Would China's divestment actually solve any of these data security issues?

SARA FISCHER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Well, of course, TikTok is arguing no, it wouldn't. But obviously, our government thinks that it would. And there's a couple reasons for that. One, if you're a Chinese company, you have an obligation to share the data with the Chinese government. And so if it's not owned by a Chinese company, our government clearly thinks that we would be able to solve that problem.

And then two, there's the issue of content, moderation oversight. If it's owned by a U.S. company, a U.S. company would have oversight over how the algorithms work, how it's filtering content, and that has been an issue with TikTok here in the U.S. in the past.

TAPPER: Yes, because there's all sorts of questions about what our kids are seeing versus the Chinese version of TikTok, which is -- has all sorts of educational instruction. Today, the U.K. also banned TikTok from government devices falling in line with the European Union's similar ban.

Take a listen to one Conservative Member of Parliament earlier today.


OLIVER DOWDEN, BRITAIN'S CHANCELLOR FOR THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER: Mr. Speaker, this is a precautionary move. We know that there is already limited use of TikTok across government, but it is also good cyber hygiene.


TAPPER: Is there any concrete evidence that TikTok is a threat to national security, whether in Europe or the United States?

FISCHER: Not on government devices. But there have been two examples where TikTok has used its app to look at private citizens' data. The first example which became timely today is that there was evidence and TikTok has conceded that employees have used access to U.S. users' data who are journalists.

Then the second example was that report from 2019, the Guardian said that TikTok was using its reach to what sort of filter out Chinese algorithm or Chinese hashtags and information about the CCP. So we do have two examples that they'd used the app to control something on a device, but nothing in the government so far.

TAPPER: Yes. And that's, of course, the only ones we know about, right. And Forbes has this new report, according to a source in a position to know that the FBI and the Justice Department are investigating ByteDance's use of TikTok to spy on journalists -- ByteDance is the parent company of Tiktok, right --


TAPPER: -- to use it, and a spokesperson for ByteDance told Forbes, "We have strongly condemned the actions of the individuals found to have been involved in they are no longer employed at ByteDance. Our internal investigation is still ongoing. We will cooperate with any official investigations when brought to us." So they're still doing this.

FISCHER: Yes, and both of those instances that we have just talked about the Guardian report where they were filtering out CCP stuff and with the spying on journalists, they've conceded in both times that things were true --

TAPPER: After they got caught.


FISCHER: -- after they got caught. And so that's why you can imagine why our regulators are nervous that there are other things going on behind the scenes. But I'm glad you mentioned that about ByteDance in the ownership. What's also weird to hear is that ByteDance is not just fully owned by Chinese people. It's 60 percent, owned by international investment firms.

Think about Tiger Global and SoftBank, those aren't Chinese companies that need to report data. So when CFIUS is saying the TikTok, you got to spin this thing out. You know, the question becomes who's spending what out? Is it the founders of the company that own 20 percent that are Chinese citizens? Is it the employees that are mostly Chinese citizens that own 20 percent? Or is it the 60 percent of investment firms? We don't really know and TikTok says they don't really.

TAPPER: Yes, I mean, all I'll say is I used to have TikTok, I used to post TikToks, and I deleted it from my phone. Too many national security people and smart people like you kept coming on the show, and making me think I really shouldn't have this on my phone. FISCHER: And you have alternatives. Facebook has reel, Snapchat has spotlight that wasn't the case in 2020 when Trump tried to ban TikTok.

TAPPER: Don't forget Instagram also.


TAPPER: Well, that's Facebook but, yes, I mean, they're all awful, but I hear you. Sara Fischer, thanks so much.

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