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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Confusion And Fear At Southern Border As Title 42 Ends; Recession Fears Grow As U.S. Nears Debt Default Deadline; House Judiciary Committee Pushes Probe Of Manhattan D.A. Who Indicted Trump; U.S. Officials: Russia Tried To Destroy U.S. Patriot System In Ukraine; CNN Visits Ukrainian Troops On The Newest Eastern Front Lines. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired May 12, 2023 - 16:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Not the Carolinas. The Carolina Panthers, they suffered a little bit. By the way, no one had a problem with the New York Jets or Giants, just saying, as a New York --

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: I don't know about that.

SCIUTTO: It wasn't New York to be fair.

SANCHEZ: Alas, no one knew who the Jacksonville Jaguars logo was. Someone thought it was made up.

SCIUTTO: Exactly, yeah.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: That's not a thing.


Hey, thanks so much for joining us today.

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts in about 3 seconds. Have a good weekend.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Record numbers of migrants crossing the U.S. border, a dire humanitarian crisis.

THE LEAD starts right now.

With border crossings at an all-time high, the Biden administration warns times ahead will likely get even worse, now that a key immigration policy that had been used to turn away migrants has expired. The scenes at the U.S.-Mexico border today as we learned of two U.S. migrant children who died in U.S. custody. All this as the debt crisis intensifies.


LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We won't in some cases be able to pay our troops.


TAPPER: The impact as the nation gets closer to defaulting and not being able to pay its bills.

Plus, surrendered. A U.S. marine veteran turning himself in on manslaughter charges after holding a homeless street artist in a deadly chokehold on a New York City subway.


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We're going to start today in our world lead with the anxiety and uncertainty at the U.S.-Mexico border. The border is crowded and chaotic and overwhelmed. Record setting levels of migrants are entering the U.S. including nearly 10,000 yesterday and the day before.

For many migrants they have little access right now to food or water. The only clothes they have the ones on their back and according to U.S. officials many of them are falling victims to scams if not victims to worse than that. And, yes, well, right now, the scenes at the border crossings might not be quite as bad as some had predicted, Biden administration officials anticipate the situation will get much worse. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement more popularly known as ICE just announced it is adding 5,000 detention beds.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is warning that overcrowding will be get even worse, because the White House lost a court battle overnight that would have allowed some migrants to be released without court notices.


ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: It's a very harmful ruling and the Department of Justice is considering our options. You know, the practice that the court has prevented us from using is a practice that prior administrations have used to relieve overcrowding.


TAPPER: Today, we're also learning about the tragic deaths of two young migrants dying in the care of the U.S. government. One was 17 years old, the other just 4.

CNN's Ed Lavandera starts off our coverage from El Paso, Texas, with a closer look what migrants are going through as they reach the border.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Title 42, the border policy used to expel many migrants to Mexico and their home countries during the pandemic, is over. And so far today, this moment has not triggered the historic wave of migrants rushing to cross the border that was predicted.

Communities have been preparing the lifting of Title 42 for months, and so has the federal government.

MAYORKAS: We've been very, very clear that there are lawful, safe, and orderly pathways to seek relief in the United States. And if one arrives at our southern border, one is going to face tougher consequences.

LAVANDERA: In the days leading up to last night's deadline, border officials saw a surge of migrants. About 155,000 migrants were estimated to be in shelters and on streets in Mexico waiting to enter the U.S., a source familiar with federal estimates said. In El Paso, thousands were waiting to be processed outside a border gate.

CHIEF RAUL ORTIZ, U.S. BORDER PATROL: We're prioritizing those most vulnerable populations. We're doing this as quickly and as efficiently and as safely as we possibly can.

LAVANDERA: That number now down to a couple hundred says the city's mayor.

MAYOR OSCAR LEESER, EL PASO, TEXAS: Our goal was to make sure no one was on the street, children, women, young kids were not exploited and were taken care of.

LAVANDERA: Only about 150 migrants are currently in El Paso's city run shelters.

In January, U.S. Customs and Border Protection opened this massive tent processing facility in the El Paso area, about 20 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. It's designed to be able to hold about a thousand migrants at a time, and as you can see construction crews are working to expand. We're told by CBP officials in June, they'll have room for another 1,000 migrants to hold at this facility.

In Brownsville, the scene is similar. Dozens of buses line up near an intake facility, but a major humanitarian group in the area tells CNN they only had one bus of migrants arrive today. Migrants will still risk their lives to make it to the U.S., and from now people who cross the border illegally will face a tougher path to requesting asylum.


Many will be deported like this group who were shackled and led onto a repatriation flight like this one leaving for Guatemala on Thursday.


LAVANDERA (on camera): So, Jake, right now, everyone here on the border trying to figure out what is going to come next. This alley way in the days before Title 42 was lifted was filled with migrants sleeping in this alleyway behind a migrant shelter. You should look at live pictures from a drone shot that we have several miles away from here, you can see how empty that is. It's an area where some 2,500 migrants had gathered to turn themselves in with immigration authorities over the last few days.

And in our conversations with various advocates and people helping migrants here in El Paso, they think this is kind of people waiting and assessing this new landscape after title 42, and they're concerned that in the days and weeks ahead all of this could change dramatically once again -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Ed Lavandera in El Paso, Texas, for us. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Let's bring in CNN's Priscilla Alvarez.

So, Priscilla, you were part of a briefing from homeland security officials earlier today. Things not as bad as some people had predicted today, but they think it's definitely going to get worse.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: The challenge is still there. A senior homeland security official said there was, quote, no substantial increase overnight when Title 42 expired but they're still seeing an elevated pattern. So, this ends boiling down to logistics and the challenges there.

And when it comes to that high numbers and not facilities equipped to take care of them, and that's overcrowding. You mentioned this earlier, there was a ruling last night that blocks the administration from releasing migrants without a court date. Now, that is a mechanism they sometimes use when they're trying to alleviate overcrowding.

Without that, it gives them one less tool in their toolbox when they're trying to deal with all of these numbers. Now, I spoke to a source this morning, they told me, look, litigation was part of the planning. It was baked in to a degree. They knew that the administration has been hit with lawsuits when trying to rollout border policy.

Now, they're trying to see what the next steps are going to be, assessing and knowing that while migrant numbers might be low right now, they're also assessing what the next steps are as these new enforcement measures are put in place. So they know a challenge is still around the corner.

TAPPER: Yeah, it's rough. And today, we learned about two unaccompanied migrant children who died in U.S. custody. One was 17, one was 4. It's just awful.

What do we know about those?

ALVAREZ: This is rare. This happens in Health and Human Services Department custody. They're charged with the care of unaccompanied migrant children. So, kids who crossed the border on their own.

The 17-year-old died this week. He was at a shelter in Florida, he was found unconscious and he was taken to the hospital where after resuscitation, he was pronounced dead.

In reporting this, Jake, I learned of another death this year by a congressional notice in March, a 4-year-old died. In the congressional notice that I obtained, it said that she was, quote, medically fragile. She was taken to the hospital after cardiac arrest. She had her biological father by her side and was later pronounced dead.

So two cases that the administration says they're saddened by and look into and investigate, but, of course, just another development in all of this.

TAPPER: Is -- are they going to give us more information? Because that's not a lot of information. That's pretty opaque and these are children we're talking about.

ALVAREZ: They're going to give more details. As they do, I've covered inspector general reports before, and that is where we learn the most when it comes to the situation of these children.

TAPPER: Transparency is always important. Thank you so much, Priscilla. Appreciate it.

Joining us now to talk about this, Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas, a Democrat.

Congressman, thank you so much for joining us.

Do you think the Biden administration is prepared for how bad this humanitarian crisis could get? These facilities already seem massively overwhelmed, and without question is going to get worse.

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX): Yeah, I think that they have done a lot to prepare, and they are doing more to prepare. But I think it is also important, Jake, to acknowledge that you are right, there are more folks that are coming because Title 42 kept more people in Mexico for longer periods of time, but my Republican colleagues, the way they describe this is complete chaos. It's the end of the world.

And you see, I think everybody acknowledges today, that that has not been the case. I understand that there could be surges, there could be more people later on, but it's 24/7, world gone wild, endless chaos, the world is ending. In fact, we are able as a country, and we have been for generations, to handle migration in a sane, and effective, and orderly way when we commit the resources to it, and we do it.

TAPPER: Yeah I mean the concern I'm expressing is, there are hundreds of thousands of people without food, without water, without clothing, many of them kept in these confined quarters. We just heard about these two children, one 17, one 4, who died in U.S. custody.

I'm not trying to scare anybody about it, I am worried about it in a humanitarian means.


CASTRO: Yeah, no, look, there's no question that the administration, like administrations before, needs to step up, and Congress needs to respond to provide the resources to make sure that these people are safe, that they are being taken care of temporarily while they are placed with relatives or others and wait for their asylum claims to be heard, and so there is a lot of work and there are a lot of resources that go into that. TAPPER: In recent days, thousands of federal agents and troops have

been surged to the U.S.-Mexico border. That despite knowing this day was coming for, frankly, two years. It doesn't seem as though the administration is fully prepared for how to handle this.

CASTRO: It's been a challenge, right? Like I said, I think Title 42, keeping Title 42 in place so long, I i think because the Biden administration did not move to end it as soon as they could've, but after that because Republicans went to court and got the court to force the administration to keep it going for longer, but that created a buildup of folks on the other side of the border who were being taken advantage of by cartels, and really were the victims and very brutal crimes from kidnapping, rape, murder, all of those things.

And so, so now, you've got a backlog of people who are trying to have their asylum claims here in the United States, and it is a challenge, no doubt about it.

TAPPER: After House Republicans pass or border security bill yesterday, you called the report cruel and counterproductive piece of legislation, unquote.

Do you think if you, and let's say, Congressman Tony Gonzalez, a Republican from a border district got in a room and just hash things out, that you could come up with some sort of bill that provided some humanitarian relief? Some sort of scene asylum process and also secure the border so we would not keep going through this issue? I mean, is there a bipartisan solution there?

I understand the parties don't have the interest in it right now, but is there a compromise that could theoretically be reached?

CASTRO: You know, I keep holding out hope. Because look, I don't think you should be in this job a few just completely given up hope on big issues like this. So I still believe that there is a possibility for people to come together of different parties, and come to an agreement.

And remember, in the not-too-distant past, that's exactly what happened 2013, 2014 when a bipartisan bill passed through the U.S. Senate with flying colors, 68 votes Republican and Democrat, and then John Boehner, who as you recall was speaker of the house of the time, refused to put it on the floor for a vote in the House of Representatives.

Now, part of the tough thing since then as you know is that both Ted Cruz after that, and Donald Trump, in an even more forceful way, made immigration the biggest bogeyman issue for the Republican Party, and it really brought it to the forefront among Republican primary voters in a way that it had not been for sometime. So that is the extra hurdle that exists today that did not exist, I think, in 2013, 2014.

But look, I respect Tony being outspoken within the Republican conference, that some of the bills that he has been proposed by fellow Republicans have been cruel, and been nonsensical. I respect him a lot for being able to stand up and say that, but you need more than one Tony Gonzalez in order to get a bipartisan agreement, and to do something productive.

TAPPER: I'm not thinking about locking you two in a room, that's just a plan of mine, my own personal plan.


TAPPER: Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas, thank you so much.

In the next hour, I'm going to ask National Security Council spokesman John Kirby about the criticism of the White House for its handling of the situation at the border.

Up next this hour, default feeling more real with time running out on the plan to raise the nation's debt ceiling, before we run out of cash to pay our bills that could affect you directly.

Plus, just in, word that Russia tried to destroy an American-made Patriot air defense missile in Ukraine.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Topping our money lead, time is running out to avoid what economists say would be an unequivocal financial catastrophe. I'm, of course, talking about the United States government defaulting on its national debt for the first time in history, a likely recession, a pause in Social Security and Medicare benefits, an overall decline in living standards Americans currently enjoy. Just to name a few facts of what would be a massive economic crisis despite what Donald Trump falsely said the other night.

CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich is here to explain the real world impact. I do want to start however with Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.

Manu, President Biden and congressional leaders are not going to meet today, as previously scheduled. We are told staff level talks are taking place. What's going on?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no deal yet, Jake. It happens to staff level talks that occurred for today for the past three days after the White House meeting that occurred earlier this week. I'm told by sources involved in the matter, that there has been some progress, that there is a significant way to go.

As one source indicated to me, this is a process that usually takes months to get hammered out. They're trying to do this in a matter of days because for some time, the White House has said no negotiations simply raise national debt limit without any conditions. And spending cuts attach.

Republicans have the opposite view, said there must be negotiations, there must be spending cuts. House Republicans passed a bill to do just that. The Senate Democrats said that that's dead on arrival. So, at the moment, those staff level talks are expected to continue through the weekend.

Now, yesterday, Kevin McCarthy, the speaker of the House, indicated that there is progress that they're talking about, the negotiators should have been in there in the room in February.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: If this were staff meetings happening on February 1st, I call them productive. When you're sitting there with a few 15 days to go, it really seems to me that the president felt the pressure for 100 days of not having a meeting with me.


RAJU: But there is just not much time here. The Congressional Budget Office today estimated that potentially a default could occur in the first two weeks of June. That means a deal must be reached in hand, probably by next week, drafting into legislative text, selling to both chambers, getting it through the very slow-moving United States Senate -- all very complicated hurdles ahead as the two sides are still discussing a range of different spending cuts, whether its caps on discretionary spending, calling back unused COVID relief money, new work requirements on social safety net programs like Medicaid, all issues that are on the table.


But can they get there and can they get the support from Congress, all huge questions with its economic calamity looming.

TAPPER: Vanessa, since January, the U.S. government has taken what it's described extraordinary measures to prevent default. But on June 1st, the treasury secretary says those will no longer be enough. What happens then?

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Well, this means self-inflicted pain on the U.S. economy and every day Americans. We're talking about a possible recession. We are looking at the potential for the stock market to tank, which then affects people's 401(k)s. You're talking about employment spiking, and you are most certainly talking about a pause on Social Security checks flowing out and Medicare checks.

You're also talking about an impact to veterans benefits and an impact on our military. Listen to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin who is also raising the alarm.


AUSTIN: What it would mean realistically for us is that we won't in some cases be able to pay our troops, with any degree of predictability, and that predictability is really, really important for us. But this would have a real impact on the pockets of our troops, and our civilians.


YURKEVICH: And the list goes on. This would have an impact on borrowing costs, so we're talking about student loans, auto loans, mortgage rates.

And, Jake, we actually don't know the full scope of the economic impact, because we have never been in this position before. The U.S. has never defaulted on its debt, that's why it's so critical for Washington to come up with a deal, Jake.

TAPPER: Vanessa, mortgage rates have already skyrocketed over the last year. How could a U.S. default make it even worse, do you think?

YURKEVICH: Well, as borrowing costs go up, mortgage rates go up. And according to Zillow, we could see 22 percent increase in housing cost if mortgage rates top 8 percent.

Shelter is the biggest cost of Americans pay right now, Jake. They certainly do not want to be paying anymore.

TAPPER: Vanessa Yurkevich and Manu Raju, thanks to both of you.

Coming up, the likely annoyance today for House Republicans from a witness who called their subpoena political theater.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our law and justice leads, that's a new lead we got for you guys, House Republicans are pushing forward in their investigation to determine if Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's felony charges against former President Trump were, quote, politically motivated.

And Bragg indicted Trump last month on 34 counts of falsifying business records for his alleged roles in the hush money payment to adult porn star and director, Stormy Daniels.

Today, one of Bragg's former top investigators, Marc Pomerantz, was forced to sit for a deposition with the House Judiciary Committee behind closed doors. Pomerantz, you might remember, quit Bragg's office after working there for about a year. And then he wrote a book criticizing Bragg for not bringing charges against Trump. This was last year.

CNN's Paula Reid and Larry Coates are with me.

So, Paula, let me start with you. I want to play Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, commenting on Pomerantz's testimony earlier today.


REP. DARRELL ISSA (R-CA): The witness has not cooperated in any way, shape or form. Simply appeared, and I would characterize as taking the Fifth on every single question. He's answered no substantive question whatsoever.


TAPPER: So, we obviously don't know what actually happened behind closed doors, I have no reason to believe that Congressman Issa is not being accurate in his description.

How do you think Republicans are responding to this?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're going to be frustrated, right? This is part of their investigation to look at whether the ongoing criminal case in New York against former President Trump is politically motivated.

Interesting, though, I was a little surprised, Congressman Jim Jordan came out. He was asked what they're going to do next. He said, I don't know, I'm going to consult with other members. I'm going to talk to lawyers. It was pretty restrained for him.

But Pomerantz is arguing that you can invoke the Fifth for several different reasons. He said the Manhattan district attorney's office has asked him not to discuss the case to protect what he says were claims of privilege and confidentiality. Many people may remember he's written a book where he discussed the case but he said now that there's been an indictment, things have changed, so I can no longer discuss it.

But I'm sure they're frustrated, and I'm curious to see what they'll do next.

TAPPER: So, this is, Laura, what Pomerantz said in his opening statement that we got a copy of, defending pleading the Fifth. He said, quote, this deposition is for show. We are gathered here because Donald Trump supporters would like to use these proceedings to attempt to obstruct and undermine the criminal case pending against him, and to harass, intimidate, and discredit anyone who investigates or charges him, unquote.

What do you make of the Pomerantz argument?

LAURA COATES, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, if you were to take out a few words here and there, it's the similar argument that made before, in the past, when there were subpoenas issued. Some of the same committee members on issues of January 6 and beyond, and that was one of the issues back then of what ground will you have to stand when one day you want to issue a subpoena and somebody retorts what this is politically motivated. You're seeing a little bit of, is the chicken coming home to roost.

But on a grander issue here, remember, if there is an ongoing investigation let alone ground jury testimony or otherwise, you cannot disclose that judicial order. And so, now that there's an active investigation, he has some pretty firm ground to stand on to say, listen, a judge ought to decide whether I can be forthcoming, and D.A. Bragg has already sued essentially saying, you cannot subpoena someone on this issue.

The waters have been muddied, though, because of the book that was written. But I would note, it was written at a time I believe when he thought there was not going to be any investigation.

TAPPER: Right. And then Bragg -- then Bragg did bring a case.

COATES: And he did. So, now, it's one of those conundrums that a court would have to look at and say, well, was the chicken now coming home to roost, or did you actually create an opportunity where this can now be allowed?

TAPPER: So, I want to turn E. Jean Carroll who successfully sued Donald Trump and is going to get $5 million from him if all goes through. She's now weighing whether or not to bring another defamation suit against Donald Trump after the verdict in which she won, after his comments in the CNN town hall.

Just to remind you, this is part of what he said when he was making fun of her sexual assault allegations.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: They said he didn't rape her.


TRUMP: And I didn't do anything else either, you know what? Because I have no idea who the hell she is.

COLLINS: But, Mr. President, can I -- can I ask --

TRUMP: I don't know who this woman is.

They said, sir, don't do it. This is fake story and you don't want to give it credibility.

COLLINS: One thing you did do in this --

TRUMP: And I swear, I've never done that. And I swear to yo, I have no idea who the hell -- she's a whack job.

COLLINS: Mr. President --


TAPPER: I mean, it's really remarkable. This is a day after he was found guilty of defamation, ordered to pay $5 million. He goes and defames her again.

REID: Yeah.

TAPPER: Does she have a case?

REID: Well, he's saying very similar to what she sued over. This would be her third defamation lawsuit against the former president. One has been lingering out because he made the comments against her in that case when he was president.

Look, the question is what are the damages, right? This has only been a day or two. It seems like perhaps her energy, her financial resources would be better spent focusing on actually getting that $5 million because that might be a little tricky.

We know the former president has filed an appeal. We don't expect that to be successful, but actually collecting the $5 million might be a better use for energy. So I'm skeptical that she would actually this particularly when it's not clear what her damages would be.

TAPPER: And, Laura, the former president has faced allegations of sexual abuse and harassment and more from multiple women. This was a rare moment of accountability for him and also a moment of vindication for lots of women across the world who feel like their stories are not taken seriously.

But we should note, E. Jean Carroll was only able to bring her case after New York changed the law and opened a one time window for adults and survivors of sexual assault, so that they could file a civil case.

COATES: Right. Well, first, her litigiousness will be up to her, what her appetite is long term. But we were talking about defamation cases in particular. You have to accept opinion versus defamatory language. It's essentially is a false assertion of what you know to be a fact, you did it with actual malice, she is a public figure, and you have defamed in a way that undermines reputation, to your larger point of what has changed from day one to day two in that 24-hour window.

But overall to vindication it is a testament hearing that laughter in that crowd on the day of the town hall, which frankly evoked a visceral reaction for anyone who has appreciated the journey of a survivor. I've been a sexual assault prosecutor in the past. Delayed reporters are often not only defamed, they are disregarded and the idea coming forward is hard.

So hearing the laughter reinforces the long road ahead. So, as far as vindication, if that town hall particular moment is any indication how the public view her victory, we've got a long way to go before me too means something.

TAPPER: Yeah. I mean, the idea, like, why didn't she come forward sooner?

COATES: Why didn't you scream? All these sort of things he can say.

TAPPER: No, no, but just, why didn't you come forward sooner, listen to the laughter in that room. That's why -- that's why people don't come forward.

Paula Reid, Laura Coates, thanks to both of you have being here. Just in, what we're learning about a Russian attempt to destroy a

powerful piece of American weaponry.



TAPPER: And we're back with our world lead now.

U.S. officials say Russia tried but failed to destroy the U.S. made Patriot air defense system missile in Ukraine. It's arguably Ukraine's most prized piece of American military equipment. It's fitted with powerful radar to detect incoming targets at long-range.

Let's get right to CNN's Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon.

First of all, Oren, were they trying defend -- did they try to hit a defense system or a defense system missile? And what more can you tell us about the flub Russian attack?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, we know that the Russians were trying to shoot or target the Patriot battery itself. Likely it's emissions radar, and we'll get to that in one second.

Let's go to where this story started. Last week for the first time that we know about, Ukrainians successfully used the Patriot missile system provided by the U.S., Germany, and Holland to target an incoming Kinzhal or Killjoy missile, a powerful Russian hypersonic missile, essentially an air-launched ballistic missile. It's a significant event, the first known successful use of the Patriot system by Ukraine and crucially the first known interception of this hypersonic system, demonstrating the capability.

Now, we've learned from two U.S. officials what it is the Russians were targeting when this missile was intercepted. And Jake, we learned the Russians were targeting the Patriot system itself, trying to take out one of the most advanced pieces of equipment we've given to Ukraine.

TAPPER: Oren, how did the Russians detect the patriot system?

LIEBERMANN: It's likely, according to these officials, that the Russians were able to detect the emissions from the radar itself. To detect incoming threats a long range, the Patriot radar gives off a powerful emissions signal of radiation.

It's likely the Russians used this to get a general sense of where the Patriot battery was located, and then they could use satellites or other signal intelligence to try to zero in where the missile itself is to try to target it. That's what likely led to this targeting. Ukrainians able to intercept that incoming missile, one of the highest end missiles that Russia has.

TAPPER: All right. CNN's Oren Liebermann with breaking news at the Pentagon for us, thank you so much. In Ukraine, Zelenskyy's troops are gearing up according to a senior

U.S. military official, striking weapons depots, command centers and artillery systems, part of the expected preparations for Ukraine's big counteroffensive against Russia. As Russia says, Ukraine used long range missiles to strike in Russian occupied Luhansk. That's part of Ukraine, but it is occupied by Russia.

CNN's Nic Robertson is in Eastern Ukraine for us, up close to Ukraine's new front lines.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Amid shell-smashed trees, Ukrainian troops figure out how to get as close to the new hard won gains around Bakhmut.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go behind me, distance five meters. He's going last.

ROBERTSON: How far from the Russian lines here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Close to 800 to 900.


What lessons here about a much anticipated bigger Ukraine counteroffensive.

You can see here how the ground is drying out, how wet it was before, how hard it would be for the armored vehicles to get through. The battlefield is changing. Now summers coming. And that's everything for the counteroffensive.

So, we have to go a bit faster here, because they take a lot of incoming fire here.

If not for the war, it would be a lovely walk. A little cover here from shelling.


ROBERTSON: We have a drone?


ROBERTSON: Just coming here, we've heard a drone above, we've got some cover in here, hopefully, they won't see us down here, getting closer and closer to the Russian lines.

This trench, one of several and a new minefield position to block Russian troops about 600 meters away from a counterattack out of sight. North and south of here, more Ukrainian troops advancing, building on the recent gains here.

Ukraine's Western allies say that shaping operations for the big counteroffensive are already underway. Commanders here won't say if this is part of that counteroffensive. But the gains they've had around Bakhmut are a huge morale boost for Ukrainian troops.

How does it feel to be in the battle now and to actually after all this time take more territory?

HONZA, COMBAT MEDIC: I love it actually. I love it because I'm with my family, with guys that are my family.

ROBERTSON: But success, not all that's binding appetite for victory. Mounting Russian atrocities fueling anger.

HONZA: We all just want to take our territory back, and kill maximum possible Russians we can.

ROBERTSON: Do you think the Russians understand that?

HONZA: No, I don't think so. They're going to get killed, all of them.

ROBERTSON: It's going to be a tough fight for you then.

HONZA: Yeah, also. But we're ready for this. It's our land.

ROBERTSON: As we leave, there are more explosions.

Then this --


ROBERTSON: We don't ask, we just run. And keep running.

We hear drones, so we're running.

They've got their armor troop transporter ready.

Yeah, getting back in now, drones overhead, more artillery coming.

It's ancient Soviet equipment. More modern NATO armor busy elsewhere on the battlefield.


ROBERTSON (on camera): So, right now, those other offensive, that's the air right siren going on. Those are from time to time. Right now those other offenses that are going off in parallel what that operation by the unit we saw. They are still underway, we just heard we can't say for reporting -- but certainly heard some action just about the past minute, perhaps related to that offensive.

But, interestingly today, for the first time, the Kremlin admitted that they've lost ground in and around Bakhmut. Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner mercenary boss, admitted the same, but still at odds with the Kremlin. It speaks to Russia being to lose some of its grip on Bakhmut. And who knows about other areas, too, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Nic Robertson in eastern Ukraine, thanks so much.

Coming up, an author who said no thanks to a major deal because the publisher had asked her to delete specific parts of her book.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Now it's time for today's buried lead, that's what we call stories that we feel are not getting enough attention.

Children's author Maggie Tokuda-Hall was excited when publishing giant Scholastic offered to license her book, which is called "Love in the Library", for use in classrooms. "Love in the Library" is a story of how her grandparents fell in love while in prison, at an incarceration camp for Japanese Americans, this one in Idaho during World War II. It's shameful part of our nation's history, but an important one.

However, Scholastic had a condition for the author. In order to license her book, they required that she removed the word racism from her author's note, and the insisted that she delete the sentence that contextualize her grandparents experience as part of, quote, the deeply American tradition of racism. Tokuda-Hall refused and she declines Scholastic's offer. She joins us now.


So, thanks so much for joining us.

So my understanding is after the story came to light and Scholastic apologized publicly, they said you could use your original author's note unchanged, but you still said no to the deal, is that right? And if so, why?

MAGGIE TOKUDA-HALL, AUTHOR: That's correct. Thank you for having me today.

It is correct, I did still say no. So after I went public with this, I had a meeting with scholastic, and in I had three concerns which was I wanted an honest, and transparent recounting of what had happened, because I was told that what had happened to me was against their own company policy. I wanted to know how they were going to make sure this did not happen to other marginalized authors going forward, because they did understand that I was also standing in proxy for a lot of other authors in this moment.

And lastly, and most importantly, I wanted to know how they were going to be -- how they plan to combat the culture of book banning, since they said that the unequivocally stand against it, and that is ultimately what this comes down to, is that they wanted to be able to court the audience that promotes book banning, while still sharing my story under an initiative about sharing Asian-American and Pacific Islander voices.

And from that meeting, I did not get a sense of any of those things. I was not able to be giving an honest recounting of what had happened, the plan for how they would make sure this never happened again, did not seem terribly concrete, and their answer about how they plan to combat book banning included their curation in book collections like mine, and since we were there because of a curatorial problem, I was not heartened.


TOKUDA-HALL: And because I am standing in this place for a lot of people, I am not just standing here for myself, I did not feel okay except an apology that did not make clear how this would make it better going forward.

TAPPER: Well, shame on Scholastic.

And this was -- obviously, it's a personal story for you. This happened. The United States government rounded up Japanese Americans, and Japanese in the United States, and put them in incarceration camps. These camps are part of America's shameful past, we should note, the United States government did not do this to German Americans or German citizens, despite the fact that we were fighting them in World War II. Germany, rather not German Americans.

TOKUDA-HALL: Oh, we did it --


TOKUDA-HALL: We did it to about 10,000 Germans.

TAPPER: Oh, we did? That's news to me. Okay, I did not, I did not know that.

TOKUDA-HALL: We did. It's not great news, no matter which will be cut it. However, we didn't go down the entire East Coast and round of every single German-American family the way that we did to Japanese- American families down the West Coast.

TAPPER: Right. So --

TOKUDA-HALL: It was a different thing, and I would say, you know, it's still racist and bad.

TAPPER: Look at you educating me live on television.

But my point is that you say this is not just part of not just America's past, but America's present. Obviously, this nation, like many nations, had a history of racism. It aspires to be more, and that's one of the reasons why so many people of the United States.

But why do you think it's part of America's present?

TOKUDA-HALL: Well, I would point you toward the family separation policy on our border, that's why children put in cages, punish for the dream of wanting to be American. I would point towards the mass incarceration of Black and Latino citizens of our country, who are imprisoned and treated wildly differently than the police by than White citizens. And I would point towards the treatment of Muslim people on our

borders, who are still bearing the brunt of the scapegoats for 9/11. And so, the idea that we have stopped being racist, and our government has stopped enforcing state sanctioned racist policies is untrue.

And the way I talk about this with children often is, I tell them to imagine a bully. I say one day, the bully punches you, but the next day they apologize and say it was not fair, I should not have punched you. But then you see them punch someone else, and then they kick someone. Would you still accept that apology? Would you really believe that they had changed, that they were taking what they had done to you to hurt?

And that is largely how I feel about Japanese incarceration. Yes, we received an apology. We even received reparations, which is something that my own family personally benefited from. But our government has not changed in a fundamental way. And so, I don't accept an apology.

TAPPER: All right. Well, food for thought, and look, all of this is just to prompt conversation, and information, and growth, right?

Maggie Tokuda-Hall, thank you so much. Appreciate your time today.

TOKUDA-HALL: Thank you so much for having me.

TAPPER: Coming up, the next step for the U.S. marine veteran who turned self in today for the chokehold death of Jordan Neely, that houseless man on a New York City subway. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

This hour, Oklahoma's governor is trying to defund the state's PBS station which reaches every county in the state. Why, he says the network that's home to "Mr. Rogers," "Sesame Street," and "Masterpiece Theater" is not appropriate for children.

Plus, crowded confusion as a strict border policy ends. More than 10,000 migrants per day on average have crossed into the U.S. from Mexico this week. This as we learn about the deaths of two migrant children while in U.S. shelters. A top White House official is here.

And leading this hour, a marine veteran named Daniel Penny is in handcuffs today. He's been charged with second-degree manslaughter for that chokehold death of Jordan Neely on a New York subway train. Penny, as you might recall, restrained Neely after Neely began shouting that he was hungry, thirsty and had little to live for.

Penny's lawyer said he was trying to protect others. Neely's family thinks that he should have been charged with murder.

CNN's Athena Jones reveals details from today's court hearing now.