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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Biden Announces Re-election Campaign: "Let's Finish The Job"; RNC Counters Biden Re-Election Bid With AI-Generated Ad; Nikki Haley Calls For "National Consensus" On Abortion; E. Jean Carroll's Battery And Defamation Trial Against Trump Begins; New Scathing Report Details Shortcomings In U.S. COVID Response. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired April 25, 2023 - 16:00   ET



BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN HOST: If he wins, Joe Biden will be 86 when he leaves the White House.

THE LEAD starts right now.

It's official. Joe Biden is running for reelection, releasing a highly produced campaign video that is a study in contrast as Republicans released their own video, one that uses AI, raising new questions about what is fair and real.

Then one state is trying to restrict hormone therapy and surgery for transgender minors and adults. But the state's Republican secretary of state says this goes too far. He'll be joining us live to explain.

Plus, two different songs by two different artists created decades apart.


GOLODRYGA: There's already talk about smoking gun in the Marvin Gaye versus Ed Sheeran trial. Whose argument will strike a chord with the jury?


GOLODRYGA: Welcome to THE LEAD, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga, in for Jake Tapper.

We start today with our politics lead. He is running. President Joe Biden officially entering the 2024 race today and immediately visited some of his most ardent supporters, union workers, to tout his administration's record. The president telling the crowd our economic plan is working. We now have to finish the job.

And tonight, Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to make the case for their reelection at an abortion rights rally, where sources say she'll attack Republicans for their, quote, extremism on the issue. People close to the White House believe abortion rights is a winning issue for the Biden-Harris ticket.

CNN's Phil Mattingly starts off our coverage today from the White House, where the Biden campaign strategy is coming into focus.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden is officially in.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is not a time to be complacent. That's why I'm running for reelection.

MATTINGLY: His short campaign style video timed four years to the day after this 2020 campaign launch.

BIDEN: We have to remember who we are. This is America.

MATTINGLY: The launch heavily and intentionally featuring Vice President Kamala Harris. And telegraphing a campaign strategy crafted to sharpen attacks on national Republicans.

BIDEN: Around the country, MAGA extremists are lining up to take on those bedrock freedoms.

MATTINGLY: The thread between Biden's 2020 and now 2024 runs is the animating force in Biden's decision to launch one final campaign, advisors say.

Punctuate Tuesday afternoon in his first public remarks as the 2024 candidate, to close union allies in Washington.

BIDEN: Our economic plan is working. We now have to finish the job, but there's more to do.

MATTINGLY: Biden's speech and his campaign video laying out the stakes and the roadmap for a 19-month clash that based on current polling appears headed toward a rematch with former President Donald Trump.

BIDEN: When I ran for president four years ago, I said, we're in a battle for the soul of America, and we still are.

MATTINGLY: Biden enters the race facing clear headwinds, already the oldest president in U.S. history, the 80-year-old commander-in-chief, facing widespread apathy about another run, even among Democrats. Trump and House Republicans have targeted Biden's family for investigations and a signal of no holds barred battle ahead with an incumbent GOP operatives see as particularly vulnerable.

But with national Democrats publicly united behind his run, Biden set to tout a sweeping two-year period of legislative success.

BIDEN: Under my predecessor, infrastructure week became a punch line. On my watch, infrastructures become a decade headline, a decade.

MATTINGLY: And launch a barrage of attacks on Republicans focused on an unmistakable theory of the case.

BIDEN: Every generation of Americans that face the moment when they have to defend democracy, stand up for a personal freedom, stand up for the right to vote and our civil rights.

And this is our moment.

MATTINGLY: All driving towards completing the task he launched four years ago.

BIDEN: Let's finish this job. I know we can.


MATTINGLY (on camera): And, Bianna, President Biden's advisers acknowledged that running as an incumbent will certainly be a new kind of balancing act for President Biden and to some degree that will apply to his staff as well.

White House officials are limited in their political activities by law, and that appeared to trip up White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre just a few moments ago with the White House briefing, she was asked if the president intended to serve a full eight years if he wins a second term. She said she wasn't going to get ahead of the president on that issue, something raised eyebrows in the briefing.

Just a few moments after the briefing, she tweeted out that yes, indeed, the president would serve a full eight years if reelected -- Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: We also know this kicks off the fundraising campaign time as well.

Phil Mattingly at the White House, thank you.

Well, Republicans immediately seized on the president's 2024 announcement, attacking his record on crime, immigration and the economy.

CNN's Kristen Holmes joins me now for more on this.

So, Kristen, what do we know about the GOP plan to run against Biden now that he has made his reelection campaign official?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bianna, look, this plan is still coming into focus as we know. They still have to get through their own nominating process to see who is actually going to run against Biden before they can come up with a deep strategy. However, we did start to see what that's going to look like today.

Shortly after Biden announced, the RNC put out their own AI-generated attack on Biden, essentially saying that if he were to be elected, again, that financial institutions would crumble, talking about open borders, and that's really what we've seen in a number of issues that Republicans have hit him on today.

It's not that surprising. It looks very similar to what they did in 2022 during those midterms, talking about open borders, crime, inflation, gas prices have started to hear from some of the potential candidates in the 2024 hopefuls as well. We heard from former president Trump, who essentially went after Biden

for what he was implying was bungled foreign policy, saying that Trump was the only way you could prevent World War Three. We heard from Asa Hutchinson who's obviously running for president, saying that the president was focused too much on the past and on divisiveness, and we also heard from Tim Scott, the senator of South Carolina, who launched his own exploratory committee who went after Trump -- Biden, excuse me, and went after what he called left wing liberals saying that they wanted to take away your religious freedoms and again talking about that border.

And just one thing to note here, again, before they can have any sort of cohesive strategy over what it's going to look like to take on President Biden. They're going to have to see who's actually going to be the candidate on the Republican side -- Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: So far, it looks like it is Donald Trump once again. Kristen Holmes, thank you.

Let's discuss with our panel here.

So, Kaitlan, this campaign video is officially out. We saw the president really focusing on preserving democracy and rights. But then it seems things went back to business, as usual. We don't know of any campaign rallies on his schedule today. What the strategy going forward?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, and they don't think that they need to do that. They're not ever going -- President Biden has never been the one to hold these major campaign rallies. That's not his style. He doesn't do the things that the way that you see the former president do them, so that's not expected.

We saw President Obama actually do something similar. I think he held his first rally until maybe 13 months after he had announced he was running again. So it's not completely atypical. But what did this does kick off? And what is important here that you noted with Phil earlier is the fundraising, and that is really going to be President Biden strength when you talk to his advisers about what that's going to look like.

His video in and of itself, though, did seem to set the tone for the argument he'll be making when he is on the campaign trail, when he is using these White House events to still put his message out there, because that's the power of the incumbency is you get to use that bully pulpit that the president has instead of just doing campaign events. But starting with January 6th, and starting by going after Republicans and as he's referred to them as the MAGA extremists, that is very clearly going to be the message he's using, saying, you know what he said in 2020 was, it's a battle for the soul of the nation, and that that is continuing in his view.

GOLODRYGA: And he's also saying it's a battle to keep the freedoms and democracy and the rights that you currently have. And what's interesting is the Republican national committee tweeted in response to this video, and here's what they said. They said: You think someone campaigning to finish the job would name at least one first term accomplishment in his announcement video, three minutes and not a single one.

Jamal, that is a credible. That is a point that many people are making and an honest assessment given that we didn't see really much specifics in this video from the president to tout some of his accomplishments. You can start with the economy. You can start with historic legislation. None of that was in this video. Do you think that was a missed opportunity?

JAMAL SIMMONS, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: So, the president talked a little bit about that today when he was at the building trades, 12 million new jobs, $35 insulin for, you know seniors, who are on Medicare, $60 billion for R&D and expansion, you know, the CHIPS act. I think there's a lot of accomplishment.

The point of this video, though, was to raise the stakes. He talked about more freedom versus less. Democrats have won the last couple of elections when they raised the stakes and talked about freedom, liberty, opportunity for people, not just small bit policy options.


So I think this video and the tone of the campaign from the president today we'll see. We'll hear it again from the vice president. She speaks at Howard University tonight, and she's talking about abortion and liberty and choice, right, that we saw it in the fall of 2022 during the midterms.

He talked about the economy more. She talked about more about freedom, liberty and choice and abortion and women's rights for healthcare. I think we'll see the same thing, and those big stakes are when people come home to Democrats because even people who may not agree with Democrats on all the small policy issues, they don't want crazy town to come back.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And it's really nice of the RNC to offer the Biden campaign some advice on how to do their campaign video, but I don't think he's going to, you know, take any of their advice.

I think when it comes to like, we don't know who's, you know, his opponent is going to be. We assume -- I assume it's going to be Trump.

And in terms of the strategy very little has changed. For one, he's the incumbent now. That's -- putting him actually in a better position I think to run. You haven't seen a sitting president not run for a second term in 50-plus years. So, of course.


CUPP: Two, he's old, but he's still old, right? He was old then. He was old in 2020. It's not like he was this young buck running in 2020, and now he's old. He was old, then. Still going to be old, and managed to beat Donald Trump even with that. GOLODRYGA: Who is also old.

CUPP: Who's also old.

And third, he's running against Trump again. He's the only person on the left or the right to ever beat Donald Trump in election. Why would you ever tell someone in that position to not try to repeat it?

So I think I would imagine will take a 2020 playbook. Add in some 2022 playbook stuff and run a very similar campaign that was successful, despite what Republicans say about him.

GOLODRYGA: And in the mix, a lot has changed then. Obviously, you've had January 6th in between. You have a former president and candidate who is now indicted the first time --

CUPP: All better for Biden.


CUPP: I mean, I would argue all the conditions that have changed actually helped Biden. And the stuff that's remained the same, Republicans have got to figure out how to tweak that. And if they're running with Trump, good luck.

GOLODRYGA: And yet he's still beating others in the polls.

COLLINS: And to be clear, the White House wants the nominee to be Trump, that is who -- it's a known (ph) known what that matchup would look like. They obviously feel confident in their chances.

They're a little more worried if it is someone who is like a DeSantis. That's what I think the age question would come into sharper review for them. They've actually been, you know, they've rebuffed a lot of the questions on age so far, Biden saying, watch me.

I do think they understand that if it's a Governor Ron DeSantis or someone like that, on stage with President Biden, it looks a lot different than a President Trump. And so I do think that's part of it as well.

The other thing that people are remembering today is, you know, Biden running in 2020 saying he wanted to be a bridge to other generations. And, of course, some assumed that that meant he might be a one term president. Obviously, that is not what he is seeking to do with this announcement today, but I do think that is part of the questions of the age and the generation of leadership.

GOLODRYGA: Which is perhaps, Jamal, why we counted. I believe 15 times that Kamala Harris made an appearance here. So this whole question over whether or whether or not she would be his running mate clearly has been answered and not only answered, but by this video, the president is once again reiterating that she is going to be his partner in many of these important issues, and especially the issue, I would argue of age going forward.

This is that younger generation I was talking about right here next to me.

SIMMONS: So as somebody who used to get paid to pay attention to that sort of thing, how many times come later showed up in the media? I was impressed to see that today. I think it showed that the president and the president's team recognized the importance of the vice president to the campaign they're waging. They've got to make sure she's front and center.

And you see it today in the events that they're doing. The president goes to union trades, right, and he's talked building trades, and he's talking to union members about the economy. The vice president of Howard University, she's talking to an African American audience about these big questions of freedom and liberty and women's health care.

So you see to see this dividing up of the electorate and then going out and talking to their respective bases, and now they can go back and make the case.

One more point about something Kaitlan just said. When you think about what's happening with Trump from a campaign perspective, it means it's a two step if Donald Trump is not the nominee. That means you got to -- you got to educate the American public about whoever the nominee is, and then you've got to attack them.

With Donald Trump, there's no education required. Everybody knows exactly who Donald Trump is. He's 100 percent name ID, he'd just go out there and level the case and keep it moving.

GOLODRYGA: S.E., we talked about, just quickly, the former president's legal issues going into this race. What kind of a factor if any, will Hunter Biden's legal issues play and this is the GOP, obviously, holding their own investigations. DOJ perhaps as well.

So, where does that leave the president terms of any sort of weaknesses he may face?

CUPP: I think if Joe Biden were running in a vacuum, those things would be bad. There's certainly unseemly and distracting. But he's not. He's most likely running against Donald Trump, who out-does him on all the legal issues and distraction.


So I honestly think if it's Trump, it's not going to be that big a deal.

GOLODRYGA: All right. S.E., Jamal, Kaitlan, good to see you.

And coming up, why that RNC video responding to Biden's campaign announcement could signal a major shift in politics and raise new ethical questions.

Then the lessons learned from COVID. The scathing new report on what the government got right and very wrong, plus what it could mean for the next pandemic.

That's next.


GOLODRYGA: Back now, with our tech lead and a closer look at the Republican National Committee political ad created with artificial intelligence, here's a part of the new RNC ad.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This morning, an emboldened China invades Taiwan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Financial markets are in freefall as 500 regional banks have shuttered their doors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Border agents were overrun by a surge of 80,000 illegals yesterday evening.


GOLODRYGA: That rather Orwellian ad, a direct response to President Biden's reelection bid announcement video created the old fashioned way.


So let's bring in CNN producer Jon Sarlin. He's been tracking how AI is changing.

Well, John, just about everything. We've been talking about this in the break and how fast this technology is evolving. This is really the RNC's first entirely AI-generated ad. But it's likely not the last.

Do you think this is the future of political ads as we know them?

JON SARLIN, CNN PRODUCER: It seems like it is welcome to the age of political AI. So, as you mentioned, the RNC says that this is their 1st 100 percent generated AI ad, using this technology that has rapidly improved over the last year and now enables people at scale quickly to create images that are increasingly difficult to discern from real images.

And so for years, disinformation experts have caution. That the rise of AI in the hands of people with a political motivation could have serious consequences for spreading disinformation.

GOLODRYGA: And if you look closely this, as has a watermark and the upper right hand corner that states built entirely with AI imagery, but not everyone is required to disclose that, right? I mean, that's where things get a bit tricky.

SARLIN: That's right. So this ad says that it was AI generated. On the YouTube page, it says that it was AI generated.

But I talked to some former election officials and they said, look, political campaigns are allowed to lie. That is protected speech. You know, you can be sued for libel, but that is a really high bar. So when you look at this ad and you look at former President Trump

last month, posting on his true social page, AI generated image without any labels, you begin to see that now AI in the hand hands of people with political agendas is going to mean that AI images are going to be spread -- spreading like wildfire.

GOLODRYGA: And this comes as the popularity of AI has exploded just really in the last year alone. I may be a pessimist here. This really worries me. But there are legitimate downsides to this risk, right?

SARLIN: Yeah, I mean, look -- AI, there's so many different technologies associated with it. But just right now looking at images and audio that could be used by political operatives, when you think about how quickly the technology has evolved, it's reached the point now, where an image like the image of the pope in a cool jacket that spread a short time ago. That image spread, not because it was AI generated, but despite the fact that it was AI generated. That is an entirely fake image that fooled millions of people.

So the technology right now means that anyone with a laptop right and an Internet connection can make images that can be used, you know, that can show anything they want. So in the hands of someone with a political agenda, that means that you can create fake images, and it also means that you can degrade real images by dismissing them as AI generated.

GOLODRYGA: So, you're right, in that I'm right to be a little bit nervous, right? I'm not alone there.

Jon Sarlin, thank you.

SARLIN: Definitely not alone.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah, this technology is incredible.

Well, coming up, a Republican presidential candidate gives a major abortion policy speech but skips one key part. We'll tell you more, up next.



GOLODRYGA: In our health lead, North Dakota has signed one of the nation's strictest abortion bans into law. The law signed by Republican Governor Doug Burgum last night bans all abortions, with exceptions for rape and incest up to six weeks or to prevent serious health problems or death of the mother. This comes just one month after the state Supreme Court blocked North Dakota's trigger law while it hears challenges to its constitutionality. There are currently no abortion clinics in North Dakota.

And as a fight over abortion ripples across the nation, the issue also is creating a divide among Republicans as conservative lawmakers and candidates debate what kind of restrictions there should be on abortion. In a speech today, GOP presidential contender Nikki Haley stressed the importance of finding a national consensus on the issue.

But as CNN's Kylie Atwood reports, Haley says no Republican president will have the ability to ban abortion nationwide.



KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nikki Haley calling for national consensus on abortion.

HALEY: If we want to protect more moms and save more babies, we need more Americans to join with us.

ATWOOD: The sole female Republican presidential contender making a pitch aimed at attracting more moderate Republicans and swing voters and turning the issue personal.

HALEY: I am pro life, not because the Republican Party tells me to be, but for very personal reasons. My husband was adopted. And I am reminded of that blessing every single day.

ATWOOD: She also spoke about having troubles conceiving her own children, a friend who was raped and back to federal role on abortions, but her speech didn't define a specific national abortion limit that she would put forth as president.

HALEY: They've turned a sensitive issue that has long divided people into a kind of gotcha bidding war.

ATWOOD: Republicans secured a decade long goal last year when the Supreme Court overturned Roe, but the decision ultimately helped Democrats defy expectations in the midterm elections.

HALEY: Still many Republican led states have moved forward with new abortion restrictions, and GOP hopefuls have embraced those policies.


SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): I'm 100 percent pro-life.


ATWOOD: The president of the Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America Group, the anti-abortion group that hosted Haley on Tuesday, has drawn a clear line in the sand.


MARJORIE DANNENFESLER, PRESIDENT, SUSAN B. ANTHONY PRO-LIFE AMERICA: We can only support candidates that know that they have a role if they're in the Oval Office to advocate for a federal minimum standard of 15 weeks.

ATWOOD: The group told CNN that Haley had assured them that she will commit to 15 weeks, even though she didn't say that publicly. GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: We recently signed the heartbeat bill

to protect life.

ATWOOD: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a six-week ban in his state earlier this month, though he did so behind closed doors.

Senator Tim Scott voiced support for a 20-week ban only to say this a day later.

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): If I were president of the United States, I would literally sign the most conservative pro-life legislation that they can get through Congress.

ATWOOD: And former President Donald Trump wavering on whether or not the issue should be handled by states or the federal government.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: From my first day in office, I took historic action to protect the unborn.

ATWOOD: Former Vice President Mike Pence, who has said he would support a six week federal ban, drawing a contrast with Trump.

MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I don't agree with the former president who says this is the state's only issue. I mean, we've been given a new beginning for life in this country.


ATWOOD (on camera): Now it's important to note than when asked about those comments from the Susan B. Anthony president, saying that Nikki Haley assured them that she will back a national 15-week ban on abortions. A campaign spokesperson told me that Nikki Haley is looking for consensus on a ban on late term abortion, but gave no indication that she made any promises about what that consensus would end up looking like.

But it is worth noting that Nikki Haley is leaning into this controversial and sensitive topic, while other Republican candidates are answering questions about it, but they're necessarily looking for a forum to address the subject -- Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah, that is notable. Kylie Atwood, thank you.

In our national lead in Missouri, advocates are suing to block an emergency rule that restricts transgender medical treatments such as hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery for both children and adults. Now, the rule imposed by the state's Republican attorney general is expected to go into effect on Thursday. Some of the restrictions include prohibiting doctors from providing care to any patient that has not had 15 hourly therapy sessions over an 18 month period or been treated at least three years for gender dysphoria, which is the emotional harm caused by identifying as a different gender than the sex someone is born with.

The attorney general has said that he is, quote, standing up to make sure that patients have the information they need to make informed healthcare decisions.

Well, not every official in Missouri is on board with this emergency rule. That includes Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft who was running for governor as a Republican in the state secretary.

Ashcroft joins us now.

Thank you so much for your time.

You're in favor of this rule when it comes to children, but not adults. Why?

JAY ASHCROFT (R), MISSOURI SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, first of all, I think that the state has the responsibility to protect those that can't protect themselves. The state has a responsibility to protect those that have no voice and our children don't, and virtually every -- every other aspect of life. We see that they are too young to consent, too young to make decisions.

And yet, somehow just because some doctors want to earn extra money or allowing them to surgery, castrate or chemically castrate children. That's wrong. The idea that you can become a man if you're a woman or a woman if you're a man through surgery, it's just not true, and we need to help transgender individuals learn to agree with reality and be the best they can be.

You know, when you're doing something stupid, your enemy will affirm you. They will tell you you're doing a great job. Continue doing that. It's only your friends that will come up, maybe slap you upside the head in a friendly way and say, look, you can be better, you can do better. I think it's great that we're trying to protect these kids to actually get to their root concerns, the root problem and make sure that they can be the best that they can be for the rest of their life.

GOLODRYGA: So you're talking about what you agree with, with the attorney general in terms of this bill, and that is children. I'm asking you specifically why you say there shouldn't apply to adults.

ASHCROFT: Well, unfortunately, although I don't think anyone should go through this process because it's a lie to say that you can change from a man to a woman or a woman to a man to surgery, it just doesn't happen. It's like spray painting a brick of lead and saying, look, I have a brick of gold. You don't. You have a break of lead that's been scraping.

But I also believe that in our country, adults have a right to make their own decisions with what they're going to do with their own money. Now, if they want to use my money, if they want to use -- require me to say that it's the right thing or a good thing. That's different.

But if you have someone that's an adult that they can make their own decision as to what they want to do, and I support that.

GOLODRYGA: Do you think that state lawmakers have more expertise in this specific area than major medical associations and doctors? [16:35:04]

ASHCROFT: Well, I mean, we have major medical associations that are saying that you can change from a man to a woman based on surgery. So, clearly major medical associations don't know what they're talking about.

You cannot change from a man or to a woman or from a woman to a man through surgery. It's not a chemical process that transforms you. It -- put (ph) something onto you or cut something off of you. It does not change you between being a man or a woman.

Clearly, the legislature understands is better because they say that it isn't true, and it's not.

GOLODRYGA: But, Secretary, I know you, for example, have an engineering in legal background. I don't believe you have a medical background. So how can you say that with such affirmation that that you believe some lawmakers in the state know better than many doctors who believe that this care is actually crucial for some of these people that are going through this process right now, for their mental health and well being?

ASHCROFT: I would never say that every member of our legislature knows better than every doctor when it comes to every sort of potential medical practice there is, but it doesn't take a medical degree. It doesn't take an engineering degree to know the difference between men and women.

And the understanding that having someone cut off your genitalia does not change whether you're a man or a woman. That doesn't take a medical degree. Children know that.

GOLODRYGA: Again, I just want to ask you why you think this shouldn't be an issue left for parents and their doctors to decide in terms of their own children's care.

ASHCROFT: I think that when we're talking about irreversible life changing surgeries, we need to make sure that it is being done as correctly as possible and that we're truly getting consent from individuals. The idea -- I mean, what happens when a child decides later on that what they were forced into wasn't correct?

GOLODRYGA: What happens --

ASHCROFT: And the idea that -- go ahead.

GOLODRYGA: What happens if this happens to have saved a child's life that had been going through emotional trauma as a teen?

ASHCROFT: It doesn't save a child's life. It doesn't. When we see the tremendously horrific suicide rates among transgender kids, we see that before they go through surgical or chemical operations. We see that afterwards.

The -- one of the many problems with this is that this doesn't truly solve their distress. This doesn't truly solve their problems. And what I'm saying is, they don't need people that are just trying to take money from them with a medical operation. They need people that love them and are willing to meet them where they are and help them to understand reality.

We do not help people by convincing them that reality is not reality. Where does it stop? Where does it stop? When do we tell a child -- go ahead.

GOLODRYGA: Do you have -- do you have input? I'm just saying, do you have empirical evidence or data that shows that they aren't helped?

ASHCROFT: They don't become the other. They don't. You can't change a man to a woman or a woman to a man through this operation. Clearly, it doesn't.

And where does it stop? Are we going to and two or three years when a five year old child says I'm a bird, I can fly and they want to run off the roof, we just say you're right? I'm affirming you. You're a bird. You can fly.

No, we don't affirm people when they're denying reality. That's not loving. It's loving to help people live with their reality potentially change the reality. But you can't change someone from a man to a woman or vice versa with chemicals are surgery.

GOLODRYGA: Well, I'm not a medical expert, but I do know that several major medical associations agree that this process when it applies to a specific group of people can, in fact, change their lives. It is what they've gone on the record saying.

Unfortunately, we are out of time right now. I'd love to continue this conversation with you in the future, and I do appreciate your time so much.

Missouri Secretary of State John Ashcroft, thank you.

ASHCROFT: Thanks for having me.

GOLODRYGA: Thank you. Have a great afternoon. Thank you.

Well, coming up the newest case against Donald Trump heads to court. This one involves allegations of rape and a New York City advice columnist.



GOLODRYGA: In our politics lead, today is the first day in E. Jean Carroll's battery and defamation trial against Donald Trump. Carroll alleges Trump forcibly raped her in the New York City department store dressing room in the mid 1990s. Trump denies the charges.

CNN's Paula Reid was at the Manhattan courthouse today, where attorneys began delivering opening statements. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): E. Jean Carroll walking into the Manhattan federal courthouse this morning to chants from supporters for the first day of her battery and defamation case against former President Donald Trump, it took just a few hours to impanel a jury, to hear the civil case and opening arguments began this afternoon.

The trial comes after Carroll sued Trump, accusing him of raping her in a department store in the '90s.

E. JEAN CARROLL, SUING DONALD TRUMP: That was just a dumb thing to go into a dressing room with a man that I hardly know, and have him shut the door and then be unable to stop him. Sexual violence is in every country in every strata of society.

REID: Carroll first went public with her allegations against Trump in 2019, then President Trump fired back at Carroll denying the allegations and saying the two never even met.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: I have no idea who this woman is. This is a woman who is also accused other men of things as you know. It is a totally false accusation.

REID: Despite this photo from the 1990s, showing Carroll and Trump chatting, which Trump acknowledges.


TRUMP: There's some picture where we're shaking hands it looks like at some kind of event.

REID: Carroll's lawyers say they plan to call witnesses to back up her story, and the judge has ruled two other women who alleged Trump forced himself on them, can also take the stand.

Carroll's team could also play a clip from the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape that surfaced during the 2016 presidential election.

TRUMP: I'm automatically attracted to beautiful. I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

REID: The Trump camp has previously dismissed his comments on that tape as nothing more than, quote, locker room talk.

Trump is not expected to appear for this trial unless called to testify. But his spokesman released a statement Tuesday, saying this latest fake case has no merit or facts and is just another part of the witch hunt targeted to interfere and tamper with a presidential election.


REID (on camera): This trial is taking place just blocks away from where Trump was arraigned on criminal charges earlier this month, but this is a civil case, so he is not required to appear.

Carroll is seeking unspecified monetary damages. She also wants a retraction of a social media post, where Trump claimed that she was not being truthful. Right now, here at court, Bianna, defense attorneys are making their opening statement.

GOLODRYGA: Paula Reid in Lower Manhattan for us, thank you so much.

Well, ahead, did Ed Sheeran rip off one of Marvin Gaye's biggest hits? Jurors hearing the first notes of a blockbuster music battle. That's next.



GOLODRYGA: In our health lead, a scathing new report called "Lessons from the COVID War". It's produced in a new book out today from a group of medical professionals called the COVID crisis group. The report points to shortcomings across government and the entire U.S. healthcare system.

Michael Osterholm is one of the report's authors. He's the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

Michael, thank you so much for coming on, a really important report, very alarming, too.


GOLODRYGA: And what I thought was perhaps the most alarming conclusion from this report is that over 1.1 million COVID deaths in the U.S. did not need to happen. In fact, American excess death during the pandemic was about 40 percent higher than the European death rate at the time.

What do you see as the biggest failure that led to that number?

OSTERHOLM: Well, I think one of the first things was is that we couldn't imagine that this would happen and therefore we denied that it was going to happen despite what data we had to support that it would.

I think the second thing was, is we really lacked humility. We need it as a scientific community to be able to say we're not certain about this. We don't know.

This virus continued to throw 210 mile an hour curve balls at us really from the very first days and in some ways is still continuing to do that. And so I think that would have helped us in turn to trying to get the public to understand what to do. And then third, I think is that it's got politicized.

You know, this virus didn't care if you're Republican or Democrat or if you're older, if you were young, it went at you, and what we needed to do was basically have a response that was based on the science and unfortunately with disinformation and misinformation, the science got almost used as a weapon as opposed to a tool.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah, your book says, quote, no countries, performances more disappointing than that of the United States. Given that and given what you've seen transpire with the Biden administration -- I know that when he was elected, you were on his advisory board for COVID, what are the chances of another pandemic and perhaps that the U.S being better prepared?

OSTERHOLM: Well, let me just give you some comparisons to what we've experienced today. Grant you 1918 had a different level of medical care available, but many of the people that died in the 1918 influenza pandemic died from conditions that they would have died from if they had them today. Had in fact, the same seriousness of illness and deaths occurred by population size today, using those 1918 numbers would have had four times as many deaths.

If you look at the coronavirus family, we got hit by SARS-CoV-2. But remember, SARS and MERS, two previous coronaviruses, which were not very infectious, but they killed anywhere from 15 to 35 percent of the people that got them. Imagine a coronavirus one day with the infectiousness of SARS-CoV-2, COVID, but now, instead of killing less than one half of 1 percent of people kills 15 to 35 percent of people.

So we have to understand we are obligated to learn from what happened here so that we can be better prepared in the future. And if we just choose not to do that it will be at our peril when one of these new pandemics does emerge, and that is a guarantee it will happen.

GOLODRYGA: A deadly wake up call and I'm talking about deadly, as we said over 1.1 million Americans excess death, right.

Michael Osterholm, thank you so much.

OSTERHOLM: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: Coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM, more trouble for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, the case that came before the court tied to the Republican megadonor who paid for Thomas's luxury family trips.

And still ahead on THE LEAD, the music battle between Ed Sheeran and Marvin Gaye playing out in court.


GOLODRYGA: Opening statements today in the copyright infringement case that pits British pop artist Ed Sheeran against the late R&B icon Marvin Gaye and his song "Let's Get It On". Ed Townsend co-wrote that hit. Heirs of Townsend said that Sheeran ripped it off with his song "Thinking Out Loud". Listen to both for yourself.


GOLODRYGA: Catch any similarities? Well, I'm not sure I do.

Sharon is expected to testify in this trial, which may last several weeks.

You can follow me on Twitter @biannagolodryga or tweet the show @TheLeadCNN. And if you ever miss an episode of THE LEAD, you can listen to the show wherever you get your podcast.

Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM". Thanks for watching.