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The Lead with Jake Tapper

U.S. Accelerates Timeline Of Sending Patriots Systems To Ukraine; Japan's P.M.'s Visits Kyiv A Day After China's Pres. Landed In Moscow; New Legal Wrangling In $1.6 Billion Defamation Suit Against Fox; Fox Producer's Lawsuit Claims She Was Coerced Into Providing Misleading testimony In Dominion Case; NY & DC Ramp Up Security Ahead Of Potential Trump Indictment; Dominion: Fox "Knew Lindell Was Crazy", Put Him On TV To Make Money; CDC: Drug Resistant Fungus Can Enter The Bloodstream, Infect Various Parts Of The Body; Biden Honors 2021 National Medal Of Arts And Humanities Recipients. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 21, 2023 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: But we're going to start with CNN's Selina Wang who is in Beijing, where Chinese state media is in a frenzy to push positive propaganda about this China Russia partnership.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Russia's Vladimir Putin rolling out the red carpet for his, quote, "dear friend," Chinese leader Xi Jinping, greeting each other for their second day of meetings in Moscow. Despite skepticism from the West that the visit is more about supporting Russia and furthering Beijing's own self- interests, Putin and Chi signing an economic deal deepening their partnership and calling for an end to actions that increase tensions in the prolonged war in Ukraine.

PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): Of course, we did not ignore the situation around Ukraine. We believe that many of the points on the peace plan put forward by China are consistent with Russian approaches and can be taken as the basis of a peaceful settlement when the West and Kyiv are ready for it. But this readiness is not observed on that side.

WANG (voice-over): Since the war began, Russia has become far more dependent on China. China has been propping up Russia's economy amid Western sanctions by purchasing its energy, replacing Western suppliers and electronics, cars and aircraft and providing an alternative to the U.S. dollar. Xi is inviting Putin to China this year and told Putin they share similar goals.

Putin says Russia has closely studied Beijing's peace proposal for Ukraine. A plan that Washington says would solidify Russia's grip on occupied land.

STEVE TSANG, DIRECTOR OF SOAS CHINA INSTITUTE, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: China would not want to see Putin fail, it would set a terrible example for the Chinese system.

WANG (voice-over): China and Russia have a complicated history, but their shared adversarial relationship with Washington is driving them closer.

JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: This is a marriage of convenience not of affection.

WANG (voice-over): In Russia, there's some cynicism about Beijing's motives. On a Russian state T.V. talk show, this military pundit said, "China can have only one ally, China itself. China can only have one set of interests, pro Chinese ones. Chinese foreign policy is utterly devoid of altruism."

But Chinese the media is in overdrive touting the benefits of the Russia China relationship and it's all positive comments on China's heavily censored social media. This one says, "Cooperation and win- win." The next one says, "Long live China Russia friendship." Disagreements, if any, are censored.

By meeting with Putin, Xi wants to highlight his role as a global statesman that can offer an alternative to the current world order.


WANG: But, Jake, the real tangible outcome of this meeting is Beijing strengthening ties with Russia in ways that benefits itself. These economic agreements they've signed, it's likely going to increase Russia's reliance on China.

Now, China's policy is a bit contradictory, but it really boils down to supporting Putin while publicly declared neutrality, but also paid no price. That's why the experts I speak to say it's unlikely that China would provide the kind of lethal aid to Russia that would trigger secondary sanctions. Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Selina Wang in Beijing, thanks so much.

Meanwhile, Japan's Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, made a surprise trip to Ukraine, where he met with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and visited Bucha, the Kyiv suburbs synonymous with Russia's atrocities against the Ukrainian people. Kishida's trip marks the first time a Japanese Prime Minister has visited an area with ongoing fighting since World War II. CNN's Ivan Watson is live for us in the northeastern city of Kharkiv.

And, Ivan, the timing of this visit seems pretty, pretty important.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It does. And it does not seem like it's a coincidence that you had the leader of China visiting Moscow and then the same day, the Japanese Prime Minister visiting Russia's enemy, the capital of Ukraine. Kishida laying flowers in Bucha where there were discoveries of mass graves of people executed with their hands tied behind their backs after the Russian troops withdrew from that town on the outskirts of Kyiv. Japan signaling its commitment to Ukraine. Last month, it pledged some $5.5 billion in assistance to the Ukrainian government and has said that it speaks out strongly against Russia as it puts an aggression into Ukraine.

In the meantime, the Ukrainian still watching this meeting in Moscow closely. The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has come out with statements about the suggestion of a ceasefire made by Putin and Xi today saying that nobody would be satisfied with that right now. Going on to say that that would simply freeze the conflict and allow Russia to regroup and attack again sometime in the future. He says Ukraine has its own peace formula and that probably involves Russian troops withdrawing from Ukrainian territory, and he wants to share that directly with the Chinese leader. We don't know when these two leaders will talk. Jake.


TAPPER: And, Ivan, Ukraine and Russia are disputing the details of an attack in the Crimea and town of Dzhankoi, that's where a train carrying Russian caliber cruise missiles was destroyed. What are Ukrainian officials saying about this attack?

WATSON: Right. I mean, we have seen amateur video of some huge explosion last night. The Ukrainians claim that they hit a shipment of these caliber cruise missiles. We do not have independent confirmation of that. The Russian say, hey, our air defenses shot down some kind of an attack somebody was injured. They haven't said anything more about whether or not these missiles were hit.

In the meantime tonight within the last couple of hours we've heard about missile strikes on the southern Ukrainian port city of Odessa. The Ukrainians say that they shot down two of these KH59 missiles that were launched by Russian warplanes, but two more got through the air defenses and have injured people. We're still waiting to find out more about the extent of that damage. Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Ivan Watson in Kharkiv, Ukraine for us, thank you so much.

Now in the United States, U.S. defense officials say Patriot missile defense systems and Abrams tanks will be in Ukraine sooner than originally planned. CNN's Natasha Bertrand is it the Fort Sill army base in Oklahoma. That's the only place in the U.S. currently training Ukrainian soldiers.

And Natasha, what's behind this accelerated timeline for these powerful patriots?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, Jake. So essentially, the Ukrainians have just proven extremely good at learning this Patriot defense system. According to defense officials who we spoke to here all day, the Ukrainians were able to learn the system on an expedited timeline in a way that the U.S. did not necessarily anticipate. So for that reason, because they have been able to take full advantage of this 10 week training course, here at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, the U.S. now believes that it is prepared to actually deploy a Patriot system to Ukraine in the coming weeks.

Now, that is much sooner than we had anticipated. But again, it is because the Ukrainians, the 65 Ukrainian soldiers who have been training here at Fort Sill for the last 910 weeks have proven very capable because they are among the most experienced soldiers in Ukraine with regard to air defense systems. They are highly educated, many of them are engineers. And they have proven very capable of grasping the complex system according to defense officials. And so, they will be sending them back to Ukraine very competent, that not only will they be able to operate this complicated air defense system to help protect against the Russian missile barrages that have really become a day to day occurrence in Ukraine, but also that the Ukrainian soldiers will be able to train other Ukrainians on this very complex system, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Natasha Bertrand in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, thanks so much.

Let's bring in retired Lieutenant General and CNN Military Analyst Mark Hertling.

General, good to see you. Clearly U.S. military officials think Ukrainian troops are ready based on Natasha's reporting. Looking at the current Battlefield, where would the Abrams tanks and Patriot missile systems be served best?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), FORMER COMMANDING GENEERAL U.S. ARMY EUROPE AND SEVENTH ARMY: Well, I'm going to talk to patriots first, Jake, because Natasha's reporting on this issue shows two things. First of all, the Ukrainians were smart enough to pull their very best air defense soldiers out of units that send them back to Fort Sill to be trained. And this is the second part by a group of U.S. soldiers from the third of the sixth Air Defense Artillery Battalion. That's -- those are the folks that normally trained U.S. soldiers. What's made the difference is they have adapted that training because they're training folks who already understand air defense.

Now, to get to your question, where is this going to be deployed? You know, you're talking -- and what you're seeing on the screen right now is the launch from one Patriot launcher, there will be only two of those given by the United States as part of that battery. So it's a point defense system, it's got to be placed in a location that is defending a target like a capital city, Kyiv, or a port city like Odessa. So, it -- this is not a weapon system that can be moved around on the battlefield based on changing threats. It has to be placed somewhere to defend it.

So, where it we go, I don't know. I would suspect were the most important targets are, probably some of the cities that have been struck or some of the infrastructure facilities that have been struck by the Russians that Ukraine wants to protect.

In terms of the tank, the second part of your question, what has happened in the Defense Department is they have said hey, we are not going to send brand new, very best M1A2 tanks. Now, the difference between an M1A2 to an M1A1, which is now what we are going to send is probably meaningless to most people listening to your show right now but it's a huge difference. One is a very older tank, it was started be built in the 1980s. M1A2 is an upgraded tank with multiple new systems that is much more effective on the battlefield. And it's still going to take a while to get there just like some of the Bradley's that were announced in January will soon be seeing in the battlefield.


Where will it -- where will they be sent, eventually probably in the fall, the place where Ukraine has broken through with their offences. And I believe some of those offensive operations will start probably within the next couple of weeks using the Bradley and Stryker vehicle, some of the other vehicles that have been given from Europe. And that will be in a place that Ukrainian commander say this is where we can make the most difference in terms of attacking Russia.

TAPPER: And, General, we only have about a minute left, but I want to get your assessment of the big picture, seemingly a seismic geopolitical shift here with China attempting to flex its diplomatic muscle in Russia. Meanwhile, it appears Japan is responding by going to Ukraine, the Prime Minister going to Ukraine. "The New York Times," David Sanger, says the, quote, "division of the world is reforming." Do you agree?

HERTLING: I certainly do. You know, Xi is the new senior strategic partner in the Russia China relationship wants two things out of this visit. He wants to deepen support trade and cooperation with Russia. That's very hard to do. And he wants to do that in the shadows.

And at the same time in a more public facing way, he wants China to be perceived, especially in Europe as a peace broker. It's going to be hard for him to do both of those things. The very nature as Ivan reported that Japan was in Ukraine at the same time Xi was in Russia says everything.

They are working against each other, tensions are going to remain between China and the rest of the world. They are going to find it hard to do both of the things in their strategic kitbag that they want to accomplish. It's going to be very hard.

And the other thing that China 12-point plan for peace starts off with number one, respect the sovereignty of all countries and international law. Russia has not done that.

TAPPER: Right.

HERTLING: It's very difficult to get that word to Mr. Putin.

TAPPER: Yes. General Mark Hertling, thanks so much. Appreciate it. Coming up, the specific question the judge asked in that more than a billion dollar lawsuit against Fox brought by Dominion voting systems. Plus, the new warnings of a drug resistant fungus spreading at an alarming rates throughout hospitals and medical facilities in the U.S.



TAPPER: Returning to our politics lead, lawyers for Dominion voting systems and the right wing channel Fox that they're suing are back in court today wrangling over Dominions 1.6 billion, billion with a B dollar defamation lawsuit. Dominion claims that Fox personalities and executives, quote, "Recklessly disregarded the truth and knowingly promoted false claims about the company's voting machines rigging the 2020 presidential election," which of course they did not. As CNN's Jessica Schneider reports for us now, this comes as a Fox producer just filed separate lawsuits claiming among other things that she was forced, coerced into giving false and misleading testimony in this case.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX HOST: Fraud is something that is real that just took place two weeks ago --

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The On Air words of Tucker Carlson and other Fox News hosts at the center of a $1.6 billion defamation case brought by Dominion voting systems. Lawyers for the voting machine and software maker telling a Delaware judge today, "The fix was in," arguing that Fox producers and host new the claims that Dominion rigged the 2020 election were false. Even when they continually booked guests like Sidney Powell, who perpetuated the falsehoods.

SIDNEY POWELL, TRUMP ATTORNEY: The Dominion voting systems, the Smartmatic technology software, and the software that goes in other computerized voting systems here as well, not just Dominion, were created in Venezuela, at the direction of Hugo Chavez to make sure he never lost an election after one constitutional referendum came out the way he did not want it to come out.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Fox News maintains it is proud of its 2020 election coverage and that it is fully protected by the First Amendment, arguing it can't be held liable for airing newsworthy allegations from public figures.

RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP ATTORNEY: And there are other aspects of this fraud, that at this point, I really can't reveal. This is really enough. It's enough to overturn any election.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): A judge will now determine whether to decide the case on the claims already presented to him or if the case will go to a jury trial next month. The decision comes as a Fox news producer is suing the network for allegedly coercing her into giving misleading testimony during a deposition for the Dominion case. Abby Grossberg's lawyer saying Fox News had its lawyers, "misleadingly coach, manipulate and coerce Ms. Grossberg to deliver shaded and or incomplete answers during her sworn deposition testimony." Fox News responding that attorney client privilege prevents it from commenting on the claims, but the producer is now on administrative leave from the network.

If the defamation case goes to trial, Dominion wants to put Fox Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch on the stand as well as his CEO son, Lachlan, both have already given depositions in the case with Rupert Murdoch acknowledging Fox News hosts endorsed election conspiracy theories and then saying, "I would have liked us to be stronger and denouncing it in hindsight."


SCHNEIDER: And Fox News is resisting those efforts to put Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch on the stand. Fox News is saying that it would create a hardship or undue burden for both of them. They're also saying it would create a media circus.

A hearing in this case is expected to be continued tomorrow. And, Jake, if the judge in this case lets this case go to trial, a trial would likely begin at some point next month. Jake.


TAPPER: All right. Jessica Schneider in Wilmington, Delaware, thanks so much.

Let's get the insights of former federal prosecutor Elie Honig.

Elie, let's start with the defamation case. Today's court action is -- correct me if I'm wrong, it's just attempts by both sides to avoid a trial?

ELIE HONIG, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Exactly, Jake. This is what we call summary judgment. Both sides are asking the judge, essentially, we want you to rule in our favor now before the jury trial, just based on the evidence in the record, just based on the record that's uncontested, it's hard to win summary judgment.

I don't think Fox has any chance of winning summary judgment. I don't think it's likely Dominion wins on summary judgment, either. I think the judge is likely to let Fox defend itself, let this go to a jury.

TAPPER: So, it's not as though -- OK, let Fox defend itself. I certainly understand that. But based on what we've seen, it seems clear that Fox talent and Fox executives knew that what they were presenting to their viewers was false. And they were doing it because they were afraid of viewers abandoning them and going to other right wing channels.

So I mean, I know they deserve a trial. And you know, they get a defense and all that. But have you seen anything that would undermine what I just stated?

HONIG: So no, I mean, I think that the evidence is quite strong in Dominions favor here. We've seen inside Fox text where they call the election fraud claims BS, insane, you know, nuts, that kind of thing. I mean, it's pretty straightforward. But I think what Fox is going to argue in its defense is first of all, we were reporting on the news. The problem with that is they were doing more than reporting according to Rupert Murdoch, who said, we endorsed it. So I think Fox is going to make that argument. The other argument that Fox is going to make is Dominion can't just show that we lied about the election. They have to show it specifically that we defame Dominion voting systems, the company itself.

TAPPER: OK. So let's talk about this other lawsuit. I have read it, Abby Grossberg's lawsuit. I think she has a probably a decent claim of hostile work environment because of the rampant misogyny she alleges. But I don't know about this claim that she was coerced into providing misleading testimony. She is an adult. What did you make of it?

HONIG: Yes, I think the allegations in that lawsuit are a little hazy as to what it means that she was coerced. It's one thing if you are told you are to lie, you are to say you don't remember something that you do remember, you are to give false testimony, that is illegal, actually, that's overlying, but she doesn't quite allege that. But Jake, this witness is now a golden witness for Dominion, because she has important insight information about what was happening at Fox, for example, she has an example where in one case, Rudy Giuliani was going to be a guest and a producer at Fox texted her and said, well, there will be no fact checking today. That's a really good fact for Dominion in its defamation case.

TAPPER: Right. And she worked for Maria Bartiromo, who's one of the most brazen election liars at that entire place.

Do you think this case, the Dominion case, is going to go to trial? And do you think Fox personalities and the Murdochs are going to have to testify?

HONIG: Yes and yes, Jake. There's really only three ways this case comes out right now. At one, the judge can grant summary judgment, which I think is unlikely to the case could settle. But usually cases would settle by now precisely to avoid all this kind of information coming out. And if neither of those happen, it is going to trial.

And if it goes to trial, Jake, these high profile people the Murdochs, Sean Hannity on down the line are very likely going to be witnesses because they are obviously relevant. So this could be quite a show.

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

Security barriers are now in place in New York and D.C. as online chatter calls for violence if Donald Trump is indicted. What's happening behind courtroom doors and on the streets? That's next.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, the Trump indictment watch has led to a security watch and uptick in online violent rhetoric. Officials in New York and in D.C, are on high alert in case a potential indictment of former President Trump leads to violent protests. As of now no credible organized threats have been detected. It's unclear if the Manhattan district attorney will even indict Trump as part of its investigation into that hush money payment to adult film actress and director Stormy Daniels. CNN's Evan Perez is with us now.

And Evan, walk us through what we know about the timing of a potential indictment in this case.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the only thing we know is that the former president sent out a social media post over the weekend indicating that he believed he was going to get arrested today. And so, that is the reason why you see those barricades there in front of the Capitol Complex. You see all these new precautions being taken, surveillance cameras and so on being taken in Manhattan near the district attorney's office, near the courthouse in anticipation of what could happen with the district attorney.

Now we know that the grand jury is likely to come back tomorrow. That's the day they're scheduled to meet. So there could be an indictment as soon as tomorrow. But everything indicates that law enforcement is in -- is believes or at least is preparing for the former president to have to turn to himself over perhaps not till next week. So, the question is when does an indictment, if an indictment comes, when does he get notified about his -- the need for him to appear there in Manhattan.

Right now, Jake, the concern, obviously, for law enforcement is the fact that the former president had called for these protests. But as you can see, some of the pictures you saw today in Manhattan, today was the day he was said that he was expecting to be arrested.


And he had about fives of protester showing up there at one of these rallies. So, it's not clear that he has the draw that he had perhaps two years ago.

TAPPER: And Evan, what about the other legal cases Trump is facing criminal and civil?

PEREZ: Yes, he's got a lot of different -- there's many courthouses right now where different matters are being reconsidered, including here in Washington, of course, a federal investigators. I have two investigations on going into the classified documents that were found at Mar-a-Lago. And, of course, the former President's effort to overturn the election, Jake.

There's also the special Grand Jury down in Georgia where a decision they say is imminent, as to whether the former president other allies might be indicted for their role in trying to interfere in the election there in Georgia. And of course, there's also the civil lawsuits that he's involved in.

It's -- there's a lot of different legal cases, which is why you see so many different lawyers for the former president, who are involved in various courthouses this week, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Evan Perez, thanks so much. My panel joins us now. Let's talk about this. Sarah, were you -- when you saw Donald Trump calling for your former boss, calling for protests, were you worried? I know how shaken you were by January 6.

SARAH MATTHEWS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY, TRUMP ADMIN.: I've definitely worried. I think it goes to show he's learned nothing in the aftermath of January 6. The rhetoric he was using was similar to the rhetoric he used around January 6. I think in his Truth Social post, he said that they needed to protest to, quote, take back our nation.

And so it does concern me to see him using that kind of rhetoric that could lead to a violent uptick. But I do think at the same time, we're probably not going to see the same response from his supporters that we saw regarding January 6, I don't think it's going to be the same level.

TAPPER: Well, for one Truth Social just doesn't have the reach that Facebook and Twitter and the bully pulpit of the presidency have. One thing you don't hear from all these Republican members of Congress defending Donald Trump saying this is a political prosecution, et cetera. You don't hear any of them saying that he's innocent?



FINNEY: Instead, they're trying to downplay the charges. And you know, I take a slightly different view. I think what Donald Trump learned from January 6, is that I mean, he flexes that muscle, ever -- I mean, look, we were just watching cameras being put up and guard rows being put up.

I mean, everybody, all parts of our infrastructure kind of jumped. I think he sort of guaranteed he wouldn't be arrested today. But it also shows, I mean, look how quickly Republicans also move to defend him. They know that Trump still has a base of supporters who will come out if they think that he's not being treated fairly. We've seen that all over conservative media.

And so you've seen all the Republicans even some who are sort of moderate in the whole 15 rounds --

TAPPER: Right.

FINNEY: -- of voting with McCarthy kind of saying, echoing those talking points that he -- they think he's being mistreated and sort of, THAT this is just a liberal witch hunt.

TAPPER: So at its heart is still the January 6 lie. I mean, that's really like the idea that Donald Trump has been aggrieved. I mean, the stormy Daniels matter. People can debate it one way or another. But the reason everybody's worried about the protest is because of what we all saw happened January 6.

And right now in Delaware, Dominion is going after Fox for its role in spreading that lie. The Delaware judge today overseeing the case, was peppering the Fox News lawyer with questions at one point asking the Fox lawyer, how can you be fair if you are knowingly providing false information?

Fox argued that the network did not invent the allegations of the stolen election. She blamed that on Trump. But here's how the judge responded, quote, "It could have been a bigger story that a president who lost an election was making all these unsubstantiated false allegations." Now the judge later said, it's not my my job. I'm a judge, not a reporter.

But this really gets to the whole point of this, all right.


TAPPER: But they weren't behaving like journalists.

KUCINICH: Well, this is why the discovery throughout this whole process has been fascinating seeing all the hosts, saying flatly that they think this stuff is crazy. Now you have Maria Bartiromo's producer saying that she was coerced before testifying before the discovery process and Fox use some of her testimony to make their points and now she's saying that, you know, what she's saying wasn't true.

So this really -- this is not getting any less messy. It's not getting any less -- it seems like bad for Fox, but you know, we'll have to wait and see whether it goes to trial.

TAPPER: That really, it doesn't seem to have affected their ratings at all. Dominion lawyer today claimed that Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch gave implicit but clear instructions to Fox after the election to, quote, shut down the talk of fact checking and to, quote, let the hosts run wild with election conspiracies. And Dominion wants to put the Murdochs on the stand.

HEATHER CAYGLE, MANAGING EDITOR, PUNCHBOWL NEWS: Yes, I mean, and I think this is just a fascinating case, especially if you talk to even Republicans on the Hill quietly, they'll say, why did Fox let this get to discovery because all of this stuff is coming out now as Jackie said and we're just finding out all of this information that we wouldn't have known otherwise.


And whether the reporters who work for the network who actually do credible reporting, I mean, what did they do now knowing that all of this is out there?

TAPPER: How many of them are there left?

CAYGLE: I mean, they're are Hill reporters? I mean, how do you go up to the Hill and like do your job.

KUCINICH: One of them almost got fired because she decided to tweet the truth. TAPPER: Yes.


TAPPER: But others of them did get fired.


TAPPER: Others of them did get fired.


TAPPER: Chris Stirewalt and Bill Salman (ph) and a whole bunch of them, because they stood up for the truth, they did get fired. You know, what's interesting about this, so a lawyer for Fox today said that network is going to -- is not going to try to prove that Dominion did in fact, rigged the election, which is notable, notable because truth is an absolute defense. If they prove that, they would win their case, but they can't prove it, because it's not true.

MATTHEWS: Exactly. They know it's not true, but they willingly put people on air to spread those lies. They had Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell and others go on air and disseminate these lies to the American people. And there are now people who are Fox viewers that have only ever heard that and are never going to hear the actual truth that Dominion did not rigged the election that the 2020 election was not stolen from Donald Trump.

And as a result, there are people who don't trust our election system, which is a shame, and it's really at the -- Fox News.

TAPPER: And you know, the conservative media aren't even covering the suit.

FINNEY: Of course not because that's not how the conservative media infrastructure works. I mean, it is a --

TAPPER: But if this was going on, everything equal.


TAPPER: It was MSNBC, right? Everything equal MSNBC, everybody in the media would be covered.

FINNEY: Of course. But Fox News is part of an architecture that has been building for many years with, you know, radio shows and blogs, where they keep all of that misinformation and disinformation in that same circuitry, and decide what's reality. And guess what, we don't live in the same reality that they do.

TAPPER: Today, a Dominion lawyer argued that Fox knew exactly what it was doing. When it put election conspiracy theorists including Michael Lindell, the My Pillow CEO on air, quote, "They were putting Lindell on air for business purposes. They knew Lindell was crazy. But they also knew he was their highest advertiser, and they were trying to assuage him." Lindell, of course, claimed on here, the Dominion rigged the election against Trump. I mean, I just have to say like, this is like the biggest media scandal in the last 50 years. I can't think of anything even remotely close to this.

Yes. You have Jayson Blair at the New York Times, and you have, you know, people in the Bush administration with the WMD and Judith Miller at the New York Times, et cetera. But I can't think of anything this size.

KUCINICH: Well, it's -- to jump off what Karen was saying, not only were they part of the ecosystem, they were desperate to stay there. Because we saw in that then -- and again, and those discovery transcripts, that they were worried about losing viewers to other pieces of newer pieces of that infrastructure.

And that's why they, you know, kept up with this lie. I mean, and it is right there in black and white in these transcripts. And in these emails.

FINNEY: Yes, it's sort of ironic, because some of these newer folks came around because of Trump. And yet you had the -- what was the trouble that Fox got itself into? They told the truth about the 2020 election and the --


FINNEY: Right. And may have upset Trump viewers, right? So it all, in so many ways, comes back to Trump in the way he is co-opted this infrastructure.

TAPPER: I think this is to me one of the biggest problems with the ideological media that exists out there. I'm not talking about honest ideological media, but dishonest ideological media. Is it like when you create an audience that is just about preaching to the choir, then that business model is based on dishonesty.

CAYGLE: Yes, and I think the problem we're seeing is still continuing today, right, with Tucker Carlson in the 41,000 hours of January 6 security tape and the way he's choosing to portray it as like a peaceful protest or some kind of nonsense. Obviously, it wasn't right. It was an interaction.

And yet, the people who are watching this, continue to buy into that, you know, and we have House Republicans who are releasing this tape to him. So --

TAPPER: And still refusing --


TAPPER: -- it to share it with anyone else, right?

CAYGLE: Yes. And so, it's -- where does this end? When does it stop? Right? That's the question.

TAPPER: Yes, thanks one and all. Appreciate it.

Fentanyl kills tens of thousands of Americans every year tragically. And now a new warning about the substance being mixed with animal tranquilizers. Fentanyl in an animal tranquilizer, the frightening details of that next. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our health lead now the CDC, Centers for Disease Control, is warning of a new urgent threat. A multi-drug resistant fungus that can enter your bloodstream, and infect your heart, your eyes and your brain. And this fungus is spreading at an alarming rate in health care facilities across the United States.

To make matters worse, the medicine commonly recommended to treat it is becoming increasingly ineffective. CNN's Elizabeth Cohen is here to explain Elizabeth, tell us more about this fungus and how it spreads.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, this fungus it's really scary when you see this happening in health care facilities and nursing homes because these are sometimes people with the most weak immune systems who really can't handle this.

So let's take a look at what this is. It's a fungus that's called Candida auris and cases have been resistant to first-line treatment often that number that have been resistant to first-line treatment, that number tripled in 2021. To make things even worse, it can be difficult to identify when someone has this fungus. That means it can get pretty advanced.

And more than one in three patients with invasive CRS infections die. So when this gets bad, it gets really bad. Let's take a look at the increase in the number of cases. If we look back to 2016, we see 53 cases reported. You look at 2021, more than 1,400 cases.


If we look at 2021, on its own cases nearly tripled in that one year. Jake?

TAPPER: How concerned should we be about this fungus?

COHEN: You know, I think if you're a healthy person, the CDC says, this really won't so much be an issue for you. The concern really is about people in the hospitals where catheters get infected, or central lines get infected. And, you know, unfortunately, that could be any of us at anytime, right? Or anyone in our family, any of our friends.

So you should be concerned, if you have a loved one in the hospital, and they're showing, you know, something's not going right, this is definitely something that you can bring up to the doctor and say, hey, I heard about this new infection. Should we test for this?

TAPPER: Why hasn't it been controlled yet? I mean, I know that's easier said than done. But does there need to be more of an effort by the government?

COHEN: You know, it's interesting, because hospital acquired infections were such a huge problem. And in the early 2000s, hospitals really did a good job at at getting better at controlling these infections, but they were infections that they knew about. Infections that they knew they needed to be more careful about.

I think hospitals really could get better at these new infections when something is newly emerging. And we can see this has been emerging, you know, slowly over the past couple of years, there needs to be quicker action. And yes, there has been criticism, especially if sort of state, you know, licensing state boards that govern this kind of thing to be more on top of this, and they get the hospitals to be more on top of it.

TAPPER: Meanwhile, in a separate story, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is warning of this deadly concoction that can make drug overdoses even deadlier. Tell us more about that.

COHEN: Yes, this is really horrible. So as if fentanyl and heroin weren't enough, now, there is another concern about a drug that's actually it's a legit veterinary drug. It's used to sedate large animals like horses and deer. And so let's take a look at what that one is and what's going on there.

So it's a sedative for veterinary use, it can be mixed with fentanyl, heroin, et cetera. There is no antidote. And so the issue here is that horribly dangerous drugs become even more dangerous. Now, Jake, our colleague, she interviewed some folks about this who were addicted to it. Let's take a look at what Elle Reeve found when she did these interviews.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It removes 7 pounds of flesh and a liter and a half pods (ph). It's been open for 21 months, that's horrible it was, trying to kill us. No, no, but it heal?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's killing us. Slow but it sure it's killing us. It's almost (INAUDIBLE) than others, but it's eventually going to kill you if you keep going. And I see it every day, death every day right next to you.


COHEN: So not only does xylazine cause heart rates to go down critically low, cause blood pressure to go down critically low. It can also cause these horrible skin sores and ulcers because it can cause blood vessels to dilate. So in addition to all of these other problems, people are getting these horrible skin sores, they're often being left untreated, which can lead to eventual amputation sometimes.

TAPPER: Is the government doing anything about this?

COHEN: So the FDA recently said, look, we're going to do more to try to keep this out of the country when it's coming in for illegitimate reasons, because there are legitimate veterinary reasons that they said we're going to do more so that it doesn't come in for illegitimate reasons. But Jake, we know how hard it is to keep illegitimate drugs from coming into the country.

TAPPER: All right, Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much.

What do the boss and Elaine from Seinfeld have in common? Well, they're both at the White House today getting very important awards. We'll tell you more next.



TAPPER: In our pop culture lead now, the president honoring the boss, Bruce Springsteen, among others just moments ago at the White House, Vera Wang, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Gladys Knight, Mindy Kaling, among those recognized by the president at the star studded event.

President Biden honored them with the 2021 National Medal of the Arts and 11 others with the National Humanities Medal. The overdue ceremony delayed because of the pandemic.

CNN's Phil Mattingly is at the White House for us. And Phil, this was the first arts and humanities ceremony for President Biden.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and quite a collection of celebrities or as the President said, masters of their craft from the arts from acting, painting, authors, Pulitzer Prize winners kind of across the board seated in the East Room as the president and it mostly lighthearted affair, handed out the metals of the humanities metals, the National Medals of the arts.

Now he did present a National Humanities Medal to Elton John in person last year, but as you noted, this was the first in person broader ceremonies are technically the 2021 Awards. And while it was mostly a lighthearted affair, the President did flicker a little bit of the political intrigue here talking about Colson Whitehead's back to back Pulitzer Prize victories.

He did note that he is also considering perhaps going back to back seems to be an illusion or the fact he still hasn't officially said he's going to run for reelection. I will note, Jake, doing this hit with you a Philly guy and a Dartmouth alum brings a lot of pressure to it, given the fact that the boss was officially awarded the Medal, as was Mindy Kaling. I hope Jake, I deliver.

TAPPER: Yes, you did great. You did great, Phil. Thank you so much.

And mark your calendars because I sat down with a different person from entertainment, America's favorite coach Ted Lasso this Friday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. CNN primetime, "The Ted Lasso Phenomenon: Jason Sudeikis one on one will air only on CNN until tomorrow of course.

[17:55:09] You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter at JakeTapper. You can tweet the show at TheLeadCNN. If you ever miss an episode of the show, you can listen to THE LEAD from whence you get your podcasts all sitting there like a giant corned beef sandwich.

Our coverage continues next with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM". I'll see you tomorrow.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, Donald Trump races for a potential indictment, as the Manhattan district attorney waives historic charges against the former president that could come at any time. The Republican defense of Trump now expanding to the U.S. Senate while law enforcement prepares for protests or worse if Trump is arrested.

Also tonight, the leaders of China and Russia wrap up their second day of high stakes talks with no evidence that Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin reached any major breakthroughs on the war in Ukraine. We'll have a live report coming up from Moscow.