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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Supreme Court Extends Access To Abortion Drug While Considering Case; Florida Gov. DeSantis Signs 6-Week Abortion Ban Into Law; Docs Suspect Jack Teixeira Charged With Violating Espionage Act; Russian Propagandists Say They Agree With Their "Colleague Tucker Carlson" When He Defended Leaker As Just A Truth Teller; Some Boo Former VP Mike Pence At NRA Convention; Protests In Paris After Court Approves Plan To Raise Retirement Age; California Atmospheric Rivers Bring Dead Lake Back To Life; Boeing Finds Manufacturing Issue With 737 Max, Says Jets Are Safe. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired April 14, 2023 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: This means girls, women and doctors will continue to have full access to mifepristone without any restrictions for now. But what is still uncertain, how long will full access remain? One year after sending the issue back to the states, will the Court eventually do a 180 and allow a national ban on this long FDA approved medicine?

Our coverage starts with CNN's Jessica Schneider who's been diving into what this new court order means and what could happen next.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Supreme Court now weighing into the fight over the abortion pill mifepristone. Justice Samuel Alito putting a temporary pause on any changes to the way the drug is currently administered, but only until Wednesday. The Court giving itself more time to decide if restrictions on the drug will go into effect.

If the full court doesn't choose to act after Wednesday, doctors will be instructed to only prescribe mifepristone up to seven weeks of a pregnancy instead of the 10s weeks now. However, doctors typically have discretion to ignore those instructions, and it will get harder to access the pill. Women will have to see a doctor in person and pick it up instead of talking to a doctor online and receiving it by mail.

According to a newly published study, nearly one in 10 abortions obtained last year after the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade used mifepristone subscribed during a telehealth visit with a doctor. And overall, the drug is used in more than half of all abortions. The Justice Department urged the Supreme Court to put all the changes on hold, writing, the FDA is trying to discern their legal duties and urgently demanding guidance.

DR. JENNIFER CONTI, PROFESSOR OB/GYN. STANFORD UNIVERSITY: Patients and providers shouldn't be panicking day to day trying to figure out what the law is today and how it's going to change tomorrow. And that's exactly what it's doing, it's causing a lot of confusion and chaos.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The Justice Department points out that mifepristone has been approved for more than 20 years, a scientific judgment that has spanned five presidential administrations, and mifepristone, DOJ argues, is a drug the World Health Organization has included on a list of essential medicines. The Justice Department also pointing out that mifepristone isn't only used in abortions, but also for women who have suffered miscarriages, writing that if any changes are made to the way the drug is dispensed, harms would be felt throughout the nation because mifepristone has lawful uses in every state, even those with restrictive abortion laws.

The case was filed by antiabortion doctors who contend they are trying to protect the health and safety of women and girls. It's a case the mainstream medical community argues should be thrown out, in part, because the doctors who sued aren't directly involved with mifepristone and didn't have the legal right to sue.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: There is a way for them, at least for now, to get out of this, and that is by simply saying the truth, which is the people that brought this case, a very small number of doctors, do not have what we call standing.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): So, at this point, the Supreme Court is only stepping in right now to keep the status quo for mifepristone until Wednesday night. That's when the Court would decide whether to step in again and keep those changes once again on hold.

In the meantime, Jake, the underlying appeal on the merits of this case, including whether those antiabortion doctors even had standing to sue, that is moving rapidly in the Fifth Circuit. The first briefs are due at the end of the month. And right now, oral arguments in the case are scheduled for May 17. So we'll see what the Supreme Court does midweek next week. Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jessica Schneider, thanks so much.

Mary Ziegler is here with me. She's a professor at UC Davis Law School.

Mary, the Supreme Court has paused on this issue, hit pause. But I wonder what you think is the likelihood that the U.S. Supreme Court might actually permit a national ban on mifepristone, even though it's been legal and approved by the FDA for decades and the American people, according to polling, do not want it banned, do you think it's possible that they will allow this ban to go through?

MARY ZIEGLER, PROFESSOR, UC DAVIS LAW SCHOOL: I do. I mean, I think this case was in some ways tailor made for a court that's both hostile to the administrative state and agencies like the FDA and hostile to abortion rights. But I think there are a lot of problems with this case as a vehicle standing, the fact that it took almost 25 years to bring this suit, the fact that it's based on science that the FDA largely considered and rejected, and I say science, loosely speaking.

So, I think the question really is whether the court will turn away any case that scales back access to abortion or if there are still bridges too far for this court. And I think that remains to be seen. I'm not sure what the answer will be.

TAPPER: The mainstream medical and scientific communities do not agree with these antiabortion doctors that brought this case. I'm wondering how much you think what we're seeing in the courts is because of individual judges and politicians who have theological objections to abortion. They were taught in church that it's murder, as opposed to scientific or medical evidence regarding fetal viability and the like.


ZIEGLER: Yes. I mean, it's hard to know what's in people's minds. But I know this strategy makes sense for people who are opposed to abortion, in part, because when they take their actual beliefs to voters, essentially the idea that a fetus is a rights holding person, that abortion is immoral, we've seen in 2022, we've seen in this recent Wisconsin Supreme Court election, we've seen in ballot initiative after ballot initiative that voters aren't buying it. And so, instead, making these quasi scientific arguments is a way of routing things away from voters back to conservative federal courts and in some ways asking questions that some voters may not feel competent to answer. You know, the average American doesn't have an opinion on how mifepristone works or if it's safe or not. And so I think it's an effort to kind of move to an area where people opposed to abortion think they can win when they know that voters are an area where they've been losing a lot lately.

TAPPER: So, John Roberts, the Chief Justice of the United States, seemed to be trying to steer the court towards something of a middle ground, I'll call it that for lack of a better term, which is allowing a ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy, but not before. But ultimately he was in a minority of one on that. Nobody else was with him.

And what we're seeing now is Governor DeSantis in Florida just signed a six week ban with exceptions for rape and incest and human trafficking, I think, this mifepristone is basically used up until 10 weeks. The pendulum is really swinging very, very far in one way. And I'm wondering what's the scientific argument that is being made here about fetal viability at five weeks?

ZIEGLER: Yes, I mean, there really isn't a scientific argument about viability. Essentially, what you're seeing is, again, a kind of moral or constitutional argument that abortion is wrong, whether pregnancy is viable or not, that these constitutional rights that antiabortion people believe in exist from the moment an egg is fertilized. And even in sometimes some of them would argue, even if that's not inside of anybody's body. Even if that that's as part of an in vitro fertilization process.

So part of what you're seeing is that the Overton window is shifting and what is passing for sort of a normal claim within the Republican Party is changing pretty rapidly too. And that means, I think, that even if the Supreme Court wants to sort of move in the direction of cooling things down, they may do something that still is pretty sweeping and extreme, in part, because the GOP and the antiabortion movement are demanding so much so fast.

TAPPER: Mary Ziegler, thanks so much.

Let's bring in CNN's Abby Phillip and Seung Min Kim of the Associated Press.

So, Abby, the legal battle over this is still ongoing. This was a not unrisky move by the Justice Department to push this onto the Supreme Court. This Supreme Court --


TAPPER: -- where I'm still struggling to find that fifth vote. Even if you think that John Roberts might side with the three liberals and say, mifepristone should be kept legal, I'm still trying to figure out who that fifth vote is with them.

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, I think anytime you take it to this court, even through the appeals process, as we saw what happened with the Fifth Circuit where they basically handed down a mixed ruling, it's a risk if you are on the left on this issue. But I think in this case, they really had no choice.

First of all, what is at risk here isn't just access to this abortion drug, which accounts for more than half of the abortions in this country. The other part that's at risk is the drug approval process in and of itself, which is now a target for potential political, you know, political purposes. Really, anyone could decide that they could challenge the FDA approval for any drug, any therapy, any vaccine. And I think that the administration really views this in both veins, both on the abortion issue and in terms of the kind of administrative law part of this. And maybe it is actually on that front, the administrative part, where they might have more sympathetic ears in -- at the Supreme Court level.

TAPPER: So, Seung Min, last night, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a six-week abortion ban with exceptions for rape, incest, and human trafficking. Plenty of women don't even find out they're pregnant until seven, eight, nine weeks. DeSantis released this photo of him signing the bill last night behind closed doors, surrounded by mostly women, saying he was, quote, "proud to sign it." How much do you think we're going to hear Governor DeSantis on the campaign trail during the Republican primaries, if he runs or if he becomes the nominee, talking about six week abortion bans?

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYYST: I mean, the fact that he signed this bill behind closed doors and put out a very curated photo of the bill signing is an attempt to -- for him to control sort of the narrative. Because they know around him -- his advisors around him are aware that should he be the general election nominee, that this is going to be a very hard -- very, very difficult position to sell to a broader public.


But you do see how repeated questions about abortion, especially in light of these repeated legal rulings are really tripping up Republican candidates who are declared or considering a run. I did think it was interesting for DeSantis himself when he signed the 15- week abortion ban last year. He did that in front of cameras. He did that in public. He did this one in private.

You saw Senator Tim Scott who announced that he was exploring a bit earlier this week get asked, is it 15 weeks, 20 weeks, six weeks, and he's finally landed on I prefer 20, open to 15, would sign a six week ban. But all these positions, should they become the general election nominee are very unpopular with the public and it will be a very difficult pivot for these candidates to have to make.

TAPPER: And what's different about this, Abby? Is -- and then I'll give you the last word. What's different about this is that before Trump, right, it was all theoretical. And there are a bunch of Republicans who would say it's never going to happen, the Supreme Court's never going to overturn Roe v. Wade, this is the law of the land, don't worry about it, Mitt Romney, John McCain, George W. Bush, they can all just say whatever they want, nothing's ever going to change. That's done, like they're banning abortion coast to coast.

PHILLIP: Yes. And look, pay attention to the specificity or lack thereof in this conversation, there used to be a time when Democrats used to be the ones kind of, you know --

KIM: Right.

PHILLIP: -- dancing around this, tap dancing around it. Now it's Republicans who don't want to say, what's the week? What? Is it six, is it 15, is it 12, is it 20? They don't want to say because now it's not theoretical anymore.

I think voters have that front -- in front of mind. You know, when I, in the last cycle, 2022, out talking to voters, center right voters who basically said, I don't agree with abortion. I would never have an abortion myself. I think it's immoral, but I'm not comfortable with the idea of the government deciding when exactly women ought to be able to make that decision. I don't necessarily think it's the government's role to do that.

And Republicans are grappling with that reality right now. A lot of moderate center right voters just simply are not comfortable with the numbers here. They're not comfortable with six. Some of them are not even comfortable with 12. You start to see the comfort levels closer to 15 and 20 when you look at some of the polling.

TAPPER: Yes. Well, I don't think the Republicans are looking at the polling.

PHILLIP: And maybe it doesn't matter.


PHILLIP: Because they've got the majorities and the state legislatures, they've got the judges. They can do this, just like Ron DeSantis.

TAPPER: They can do it on a state by state, but the question is, can they do it nationally? Which is what is happening now with this mifepristone issue. Thanks to both of you. Appreciate it.

Be sure to tune into CNN when Abby hosts "Inside Politics Sunday." If you didn't get enough, Abby, just now, I didn't either. That's Sunday morning at 11:00 Eastern. You can get some more Abby Phillip.

The alleged leaker of U.S. secrets goes to court. Charged with violating the Espionage Act. What needs to be done to keep classified information safe going forward? A former secretary of Defense will join us.

Then, the new political ad poking fun of an alleged eating incident of Governor Ron DeSantis. We'll tell you more about that next.



TAPPER: And we are back with our world lead. Twenty-one-year-old Airman Jack Teixeira had his initial court appearance in Boston earlier today. He faces two charges, including a violation of the Espionage Act after he allegedly leaked troves of U.S. secrets apparently to impress his friends online. Let's get right to CNN's Chief Law Enforcement and Intelligence Analyst, John Miller.

John, how did the Massachusetts National Guard have access to this wealth of top secret information?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT WITH VIOLATING ESPIONAGE ACT: It's because of the mission that 102nd Intelligence Wing is basically the base where they fly drones from that are doing intelligence reconnaissance, surveillance, supporting warfighters special operators in places overseas targeting terrorists. So, almost everything they do in those rooms is classified. If you're working there, you have a secret clearance or a top secret clearance.

TAPPER: And you also have new information on how this case came together and how they ultimately identified Jack Teixeira, law enforcement.

MILLER: So the big break came Sunday going into Monday. Monday, the FBI goes to the home of an 18-year-old kid in California and he doesn't want to talk. They talk to the kid's mother, they get a lawyer. They sit down together, and this kid, we'll call him Sam, not his name, agrees to sit down and he says, I know Jack. We've done a video chat together. He explained to me that he was getting nervous about copying classified documents over at work so he could post them.

So, essentially, he just started bringing the documents home. That leads to yesterday when the FBI comes back after getting the billing address for the server and the address that matches Jack Teixeira's. And they say in a photo array of five people, which one of these is the person you know as Jack, he picks out to Teixeira. That gave them probable cause to make that arrest, which was coming at a time when others, including the press, were closing in.

TAPPER: All right. Fascinating stuff. John Miller, thanks so much.

Joining us now to discuss, the former defense secretary under President Trump, Mark Esper.

Secretary Esper, I want to get your thoughts on how Russia is framing this leak and Jack Teixeira on state run television. They played a clip from Fox in which he played a clip the host from CNN. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Are they going to turn him into a mini Trump? During his show on Fox News, Tucker Carlson is showing and quoting CNN reporting. He bust out into a big speech about what happened. He says mainstream media is turning Teixeira into the worst traitor. For what?

Carlson says it's because the guy told the truth about what is happening in Ukraine where they are sending money. It's difficult not to agree with colleague Tucker Carlson.


TAPPER: So, they approvingly cited Fox saying that Teixeira was only being punished for telling the truth. And the Russians also called Teixeira a heroic leaker. What's your reaction?


MARK ESPER, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY, TRUMO ADMINISTRATION: Well, Jack -- I mean, Jake, I couldn't see the clip that you showed, so -- and it's hard to follow. But look, the bottom line is this young airman broke the law, apparently, and -- under the Espionage Act. And it's very serious because he released highly classified information that was detrimental and has caused harm to the United States of America and to our allies. And that's the bottom line.

And look, he'll have his chance in court to defend himself. And he needs to be -- he's innocent till proven guilty. But clearly this was a major problem, and I applaud the FBI for rolling it up quickly. Now, we need to get to the bottom of it and find out was there anybody else involved and how did he do it and all those things necessary to kind of plug the gaps and fix the problems. But that's how I see it.

TAPPER: So there are -- there's obviously a group of Republicans conservatives, MAGA folk who are siding with Teixeira, a top ally of Trump, and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene wrote on Twitter, quote, "Jake," Jack actually, but I guess that's a mistake that a couple of people have made. "Jack Teixeira is white, male, Christian, and antiwar. That makes him an enemy to the Biden regime. And Teixeira told the truth about troops being on the ground in Ukraine and a lot more. Ask yourself, who is the real enemy? A young, low level National Guardsman? Or the administration that is waging war in Ukraine, a non- NATO nation against nuclear Russia without war powers?"

Now, to be clear, the only U.S. troops that are in Ukraine are guarding the U.S. embassy. But does it concern you how quickly Republicans, and look, Marjorie Taylor Greene, she might have fringe views, but she has direct access to Trump, direct access to Kevin McCarthy. They're coming to this guy's defense.

ESPER: Look, this issue should not be politicized in my view. It's a clear black and white issue with regard to the law being broken. If there are issues that some in Congress are alleging they were not informed about, then that's the role of congressional oversight of the executive branch to call them up and find out what was going on. But look, I think the vast majority, most Republicans and Democrats would agree with what I'm saying with regard to this being a case of espionage, that we'll go through the court process, legal process, and it will land where it lands.

I think the -- again, the important thing is right now is to find out the scope of the problem, what he released? Did he have others working for him? And how do we close up these holes in our classification system and limit access to people who clearly don't need it?

TAPPER: So obviously, the administration, the Biden administration is involved in a lot of damage control right now. The classified documents as, you know, revealed key information about Ukraine, revealed U.S. recruitment tactics for CIA operatives. The documents showed how deep the U.S. had infiltrated Russia's Wagner mercenary group and shows the advanced weaponry China has been developing. Which of all of that bothers you most? Which of all of that disclosure keeps you up at night?

ESPER: Yes, look, there's that and more. It's clearly harmed our Ukrainian partners on the ground in terms of their conflict. We talked about their troop dispositions, readiness, ammunition, things like that. We can fix big chunks of that, if you will, by providing more ammunition and so forth and so on.

But what really concerns me is the fact that apparently some of that information contained details on how we've penetrated the Russian military, the Russian intelligence, and I assume Moscow is plugging those holes up. So we will, for some period of time, not have access to intelligence about what the Russians are doing on the ground in Ukraine, what they're planning so forth and so on. So that would be the top of mind for me.

Then, of course, there's the harm done to our allies, their trust in us, their confidence in our ability to keep secrets and not disclose sensitive information. So, but the Russian revelations are the most important right now.

TAPPER: All right. Former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, thank you so much. Good to see you, sir.

ESPER: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Who just got big booze at the NRA convention? I'll tell you next.



TAPPER: In our national lead, the United States has now surpassed more than 150 mass shootings this year. That's according to the Gun Violence Archive. CNN defines a mass shooting as one in which at least four people are shot, not including the shooter. Four such instances were reported yesterday in New York City, in Houston, Detroit and Bridgeport, Connecticut, with each of these incidents resulting in four victims. All told, more than 5,000 people have been killed from gun violence this year, including 73 children.

Relatedly in our politics lead, the National Rifle Association, which continues to successfully lobby against gun restrictions, ones that are supported in polling by most Americans, is beginning its annual convention in Indianapolis, Indiana today, drawing many Republican presidential hopefuls. The gathering is taking place just four days after the deadly bank shooting in Louisville, and less than three weeks after that other school shooting at the Covenant Christian School in Nashville. Today, convention attendees heard former Vice President Mike Pence and some gave him something of a chilly reception.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We love you, Mike.

PENCE: I love you, too.


TAPPER: CNN's Kristen Holmes is outside the NRA convention in Indianapolis.

Kristen, that is Vice President Pence's home state where he was the governor. He's still super pro-gun, pro-NRA. What was that?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake. It was actually very jarring. It was not the entire room. It was a handful of people, but it was loud, and it was very clear. And he played it off. The former vice president played it off. He said, I love you, too, and he continued on with his speech, but it wasn't just when he entered the room. It was also when he left a continual booing there.

And I talked to one attendee who said it was directly related to the break, the fracture between him and former President Trump over January 6. And I will note, this was a very Trump friendly crowd. When you walked into the convention center, and a huge billboard welcoming everybody was a picture of Trump with Wayne LaPierre, the CEO of the NRA. And then all the other speakers were in small little boxes next to it.

The entire crowd, almost everyone I spoke to was there to see the former president. He got a standing ovation. So not that surprising that Pence would not get the warmest reception, given their relationship. And it is interesting to know this is the first time that they were both at a public event, the same public event.

Now, they didn't overlap, but they haven't talked in over two years. And of course, we know this is a collision course, looks to be a collision course in 2024 that they're currently on.

TAPPER: All right, Kristen Holmes at the NRA Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. Mike Pence's home state, if I didn't mention that.

I want to bring in CNN Political Commentator Jonah Goldberg, along with former Deputy Assistant and President Biden Rohini Kosoglu. Thank you so much for being here. Are you surprised that there -- I mean, they were booing him because of his position in favor of democracy and the Constitution, not because of, you know, he hadn't come out in favor of new gun restrictions?


TAPPER: I mean, are you surprised that this is still so baked in?

GOLDBERG: Yes and no. I mean, like, I mean, NRA right now is essentially a very well-armed CPAC, and a lot of these guys are presumably from out of state coming here for the convention. I know people who go to the NRA Convention. And so if you were to take a random sample of very hardcore, very ideologically committed, base Republicans and put them anywhere, you could see Pence getting booze because you still have something like 60 percent, 70 percent of the Republican, you know, electorate saying that they don't want to let go completely on the stolen election stuff.

TAPPER: So I want to ask you, this is an issue. Some gun restrictions not all, not all of them, but some gun restrictions pull very, very well with the American public in general, with independent voters, some of them even with Republicans. And yet Democratic legislators can't get anything passed.

ROHINI KOSOGLU, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT AND PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, there's no question, having worked on multiple presidential campaigns. The -- you know, what's important to look at here, it's not that these Republican candidates don't know that the vast majority of Americans, we're talking about 90 percent approval ratings for things like universal background checks, keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, they don't care.

And because what they're trying to do is to get the endorsement of the National Rifle Association. And what we're looking at is being able to signal for an endorsement that they will support their agenda if they become president.

TAPPER: Why do you think Democrats can't achieve something that is, according to polls, popular? I'm not talking about, you know, the stuff that does not poll well, like, you know, banning guns or whatever, but there is -- there are a number of measures preventing domestic abusers from being able to get guns, example, that's an issue that the NRA fights all the time and yet it's horrible.

GOLDBERG: Yes, I mean, it depends which Democrats and where you're talking about, right? Because on a national level, it's very hard to get any legislation passed that can get over a filibuster, for example. And on the state level, the states that are very -- that have, you know, what critics would call very lax gun laws, those laws are very popular.

And the states that have very strict gun control laws, they already have very strict gun control laws.

TAPPER: Right.

GOLDBERG: And so it's just -- it's sort of a distribution problem. There's also just -- the sort of -- not to get all Mancur Olson (ph), but there's sort of a concentrated benefits, diffuse costs thing. The people who care a lot about gun rights are very organized, just like the people who care about abortion rights are very organized.

They pay very close attention to politicians, and politicians pay very close attention to them. And so in the lead up, especially in a primary season, getting the endorsement is a big deal.

TAPPER: So let's talk about something a little bit more fun. The Super PAC aligned with Trump's presidential campaign has released a new ad that goes after Governor Ron DeSantis over entitlements, although it might be a little bit more memorable for reenacting and an allegation of one way that supposedly Mr. DeSantis wants a pudding when apparently there was no spoon to be found. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: DeSantis has his dirty fingers all over senior entitlements, like cutting Medicare, slashing Social Security, even raising our retirement age. Tell Ron DeSantis to keep his pudding fingers off our money. Oh, can someone get this man a spoon?



TAPPER: Very memorable.

KOSOGLU: There is -- it was an ad obviously meant to invoke disgust and --

TAPPER: It is disgusting, that ad.

KOSOGLU: But at the same time, the positions that the ad is putting forward about no cuts to Medicare and Social Security look far more similar to, you know, positions that President Biden just a few weeks ago was defending and saying, we will not take -- we will not cut Medicare and Social Security. So it's an interesting contrast, but certainly very creative.

TAPPER: Well, you know, it's also interesting, and I do want to get you to weigh in on the pudding part of this also. But Donald Trump, as the Washington Post, pointed out, every single budget that he sent to Congress had proposed cuts in Medicare and Social Security programs, every single one. And in 2020, he told CNBC that entitlements would be on the table.

GOLDBERG: Yes, but he lied, right? He also told voters that he wanted -- that he was never going to touch their Social Security. He's always been against it when it actually would matter. This is sort of a SOP to a wing of the Republican Party.

Look, I think the ad, you know, is kind of brilliant, right? I mean, you know, Churchill famously complained about puddings that have no theme. But to get shots about your entitlement position in with the theme of pudding is kind of clever. And it's going to stick -- not only is it going to stick in people's heads, it is going to get like it just did enormous free media because it's just so weird and gross and everyone's like, can you believe they're doing this? And so it's a smart play.

TAPPER: Putting sticks. That's the lesson I'm getting from this, putting sticks.

Thanks to both of you. Have a great weekend.

In France, the so called wise men have spoken. And the masses, they're not happy. The people are revolting. Stay with us.



TAPPER: We're back with more of our world lead. Take this job and stay in it. That's now the official order to the people of France after that country's Constitutional Council today fully approved a pension reform bill that raises the retirement age in France from 62 to 64 in order to keep the pension program in France solvent. The approval of that bill further set off more protests today.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in Paris with the fallout.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The green light for French President Emmanuel Macron's pension reform bill met with red flares by protesters.

(on-camera): As you can see, the people here voicing their anger after the decision of the Constitutional Council and many of them are saying they will continue to go out on the streets and protest even after this decision.

(voice-over): The ruling made by members of the French Constitutional Council known as the Wise Men gives Macron the go ahead to raise the age of retirement from 62 to 64.

FLORIAN BRU, PROTESTER: Since his first election, he acted very badly. He acted always against us, against the people. He's not a Democrat, he's an autocrat.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The government is expected to enactly approve bill into law this weekend with an invitation for talks already extended to union leaders. Ahead of the ruling, police barricaded the country's highest constitutional authority after outbursts of violence on Thursday, the 12th day of demonstrations against this bill.

Following the ruling, the French Prime Minister said there is neither a winner nor a loser tonight. But opposition leaders are already urging Macron not to enact the law, with protesters also vowing to continue their fight.

BRU: Yes, we are going to keep protesting because we need to be respected.

JEAN BAPTISTE REDDE, PROTESTER: I don't see how people could just let it go and forget about it.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The discontent on the street a sign that despite this victory, Macron could still have a bumpy road ahead.


PLEITGEN: And that discontent, Jake, is being voiced on the streets of Paris tonight as well. In fact, we were on hand just a couple of hours ago as police faced off with the protesters that were still left. It's almost a cat and mouse game on the streets of Paris with people setting fire to trash people starting sort of small ad hoc protests and the police really coming in in full force and charging those protesters.

And it doesn't look as though that's going to end anytime soon. In fact, a lot of the people that we were speaking to today are saying they are vowing to continue to come out because they are so angry at the way that Emmanuel Macron has pushed through this reform. Jake?

TAPPER: Yes, politics is the art of persuasion. It looks like President Macron has some work to do there.

Fred Pleitgen in Paris, thank you so much.

Coming up, drought turned a critical patch of California bone-dry. Now rivers in the sky have brought a dead lake back to life. CNN's Bill Weir will take us there next.


[17:47:55] TAPPER: In our Earth Matters series, there is a clear picture emerging to see how the climate crisis is not a matter of getting warmer or colder, but the reality is that we now live with a series of extremes. CNN's Bill Weir shows us how one critical spot in California went from nearly bone-dry to awash in water.


BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In California's central valley, farmers have spent much of the last 20 years praying for rain. But then came this winter of relentless rivers in the sky, enough to bring a long dead lake back to life and drown over 150 square miles of farmland and counting. So now, they pray for the water to stop.

(on camera): It is mind blowing to realize that if you'd stood here for the last couple of generations, you'd be watching the sunset over dusty fields of cotton or alfalfa or pistachio trees. And now it is waterfront property.

I had no idea Tulare Lake was once the biggest freshwater body west of the Mississippi, but it was damned and diked and drained to build a $2 billion agriculture industry. And now it's back. It's proof that water never forgets. And this may just be the beginning because behind those clouds over there, the Sierra Nevada's are so packed with snow.

260 percent above normal, and sooner or later that's going to melt, which is only going to make this flooding worse and last longer.

(voice over): The last time it flooded this dramatically here was 1983, and it took two years to dry out.

(on camera): You were telling me about the effects in '83?


WEIR (on-camera): The town hollowed out pretty much.

PALMERIN: Yes. I was on the school board at that time, in 1983, and we lost half our school population, about one-third of our city population. And a lot of the people that were field workers lost their homes, their cars.

WEIR (voice over): And this time, in addition to the dripping time bomb in the mountains, Corcoran is many feet lower in elevation after years of over pumping groundwater to grow thirstier crops made this one of the fastest sinking areas in the nation.


DANIEL L. SWAIN, CLIMATE SCIENTIST, UCLA: So, the ground has literally sunk in some places by 10 or 15 feet over the past decade. That has literally changed the topography of the historical lakebed. Some places are lower even than they were the last time there was a big flood event. So, there's quite a few unknowns. WEIR (voice-over): That is UCLA scientist Daniel Swain. And last summer, he published a paper that found whether whiplash will become only more extreme on an overheating planet. And worse case, Tulare Lake could grow into a vast inland sea.

SWAIN: That as disruptive and as damaging as this year's flooding has been, it's still nowhere near close to what we foresee as the plausible worst case scenario.

SHERIFF DAVE ROBINSON, KINGS COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: The levy that we're standing on is called the Corcoran Levy. It's a 14.5 mile levee that protects the city of Corcoran, the two state prisons, the residents here. There's about 22,000 residents and about 8,000 inmates.

And so the work behind us that you'll see over here, with the tractor work in the distance, they're actually building the levee up another four to five feet. And God-willing, that will protect the city of Corcoran.

WEIR (on camera): There's a race against the melt basically happening, right?

ROBINSON: That's exactly right. So, we've been fortunate with a very slow, mild spring so far, but we know the heat's coming.

MARTINA SEALY, CORCORAN RESIDENT: All of the crops are completely flooded and ruined. So, that's -- it takes a lot of jobs from people. That's a lot of food that provide -- we provide for up and down California and all around the nation. It's pretty scary.

WEIR (on-camera): And, unfortunately, this is just the beginning, right, because --

SEALY: Very beginning.

WEIR (on-camera): -- the big melt hasn't even really begun.

SEALY: Yes. This is just from the rain. The snow melts, there's nowhere for it to go besides here and --

WEIR (on-camera): So Tulare Lake is back for a while?

SEALY: Yes, it's back and it may take over and put us out.


WEIR: And, Jake, while young families like that consider moving, leaving the area, I talked to retirees seniors who've lived in the same house their whole lives, trying to escape together the $1,000 it takes to buy flood insurance in a place where that would have seemed laughable not long ago.

But just over there, you can see the Earth movers trying to shore up that levee there that hopes to protect the prison and then the town beyond. Meanwhile, Southern California still bracing for cuts from the Colorado River because the mega drought continues. It is an era of extremes now, Jake.

TAPPER: An era of extremes indeed. Bill Weir in California, thank you so much for that.

Turning to our world lead and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, let's bring in Wolf Blitzer, who's getting ready in The Situation Room. Wolf, you're going to take a look at how NATO forces have been preparing for the worst.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: That's right, Jake. We're going to debut an exclusive report that takes viewers inside NATO's first line of defense against Russia on the eastern front of the war in Ukraine. CNN's Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto had an extraordinary ability to gain access to these NATO troops positioned in the Baltic Sea.

He wants them trained for Russian attacks by sea and by air, even as they were shadowed by Russian aircraft and ships. It's all coming up in the next hour right here in The Situation Room.

And one more note, Jake. Later tonight, at 09:00 p.m. Eastern, CNN is airing my special report, Never Again, a Tour of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Jake, as you well know, the museum is packed with information that is so vital for people to see, especially now with anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial on the rise. For me, all this is very, very personal as a son of Holocaust survivors.

TAPPER: Yes, and we're about to approach the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Thank you so much, Wolf. We'll see you in The Situation Room in a few minutes.

Coming up, new concerns for the same planes that were grounded in 2019 due to that technical glitch that caused those planes to fall out of the sky. Are they still safe to fly? Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our money lead, Boeing has found a manufacturing problem with some 737 Max aircraft. They're insisting it's still safe to fly in those jets, but they would not say how many planes are affected, beyond calling it a significant number.

CNN Aviation Correspondent Pete Muntean joins us now. Pete, how big of an impact will this 737 issue have on travel going forward?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the long term impact is still not clear yet. This is still another bad look, though, for Boeing, as it's rebuilding the reputation of the 737 Max right now, its best-selling jet. This new issue is very different than what led to the two Max disasters in 2018 and 2019.

Boeing says now there is a manufacturing defect with a fitting in the rear part of the fuselage. Boeing has not said exactly how many airplanes have this problem. Right now, there are about 1,000 Maxes flying worldwide, more than 300 in the U.S.

In a statement, Boeing says those airplanes are safe, calling this not an immediate safety of flight issue. Now, the FAA, which came down hard on Boeing after the Max crashes, says it has validated what Boeing says is true. But now the big question is about a fix.

Still not clear how intense this will be. Contractor Spirit AeroSystems, which builds the parts in question, says it's working on an inspection and repair plan. Right now, airlines are insisting this will not impact their schedules in the near term, but we still don't know how long this will take to rectify. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Pete Muntean, thank you so much.

I will see you this Sunday on State of the Union. I'm going to talk to the Republican Governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, plus Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand from New York. That's at 09:00 a.m. and noon Eastern on Sunday morning.

Until then, 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 know by now, you can listen to THE LEAD whence you get your podcast all two hours just sitting there like a big, delicious bowl of Fettuccine Alfredo.

Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in a place I like to call "THE SITUATION ROOM". I will see you Sunday morning.