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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Suspect In Chokehold Death Arraigned, Charged With Manslaughter; GOP Rep: Border Situation As "Chaotic As Afghanistan Withdrawal"; Two Migrant Children Die While Under Care Of The U.S. Government; Oklahoma Gov. Strips PBS Funding, Claims It's "Indoctrinating" Kids. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 12, 2023 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: CNN's Athena Jones reveals details from today's court hearing now.


ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Daniel Penny surrendering to face criminal charges in the death of homeless street performer Jordan Neely.

THOMAS KENNIFF, ATTORNEY FOR DANIEL PENNY: He did so voluntarily and with the dignity and integrity that is characteristic of his history of service to this grateful nation.

JONES (voice-over): The 24-year-old former Marine, seen in a widely circulated video holding Neely in a chokehold for several minutes on a New York subway on May 1, now stands accused of second-degree manslaughter for recklessly causing his death. The Manhattan District Attorney's office bringing the charge after numerous witness interviews, a review of photo and video footage and discussions with the medical examiner.

The prosecutor telling the court witnesses observed Neely making threats and scaring passengers, adding Penny approached Neely from behind and placed him in the chokehold, taking him down to the ground. When the train arrived at the next stop, Penny continued to hold Neely in the chokehold for several minutes, two other men helping to restrain his arms. At some point, Mr. Neely stopped moving. The defendant continued to hold Mr. Neely for a period and then released him.

Penny's lawyers argue he risked his own life and safety to protect himself and fellow New Yorkers, resulting in the unintended and unforeseen death of Mr. Neely. Adding they are confident Penny will be absolved of any wrongdoing once all the facts are known.

Lawyers for the Neely family hailing Penny's arrest.

LENNON EDWARDS, NEELY FAMILY ATTORNEY: We're closer now to justice than were a week ago because Daniel Penny has been arrested. JONES (voice-over): Even as they argued he should be charged with murder.

EDWARDS: There was no attack. Mr. Neely did not attack anyone. He did not touch anyone. He did not hit anyone, but he was choked to death. And that can't stand, that can't be what we represent.



JONES (voice-over): Neely's killing sparked days of demonstrations in New York City, with protesters demanding Penny's arrest. Meanwhile, a legal defense fund set up by Penny's supporters had raised more than $400,000 by Friday afternoon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Daniel, did you do it?

JONES (voice-over): Now, prosecutors must prove their case.


JONES: Before being released, Daniel Penny was ordered to hand over any passports he has, and he'll have to ask permission from New York State if he wants to leave the state. His next court date is set for July 17, and Penny faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted. This is going to be a very closely watched case. Jake.

TAPPER: Athena Jones, thanks so much.

Let's talk about this with Criminal Defense Attorney and CNN Legal Analyst Joey Jackson.

Joey, good to see you. So, Penny has been charged with second degree manslaughter. Based on the facts that we know so far, does that seem like an appropriate charge to you?

JOEY JACKSON, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: So I think it does, Jake, good to be with you, for the following reason. When you look at second degree manslaughter, what you're assessing is recklessness. Whenever you're looking at a homicide case, meaning someone is dead and they're dead for an unlawful purpose, prosecutors evaluate a number of things around intentions. If you want to charge murder as a prosecutor, you have to establish that, it was the specific intent of the actual person who was accused to kill someone. In the event you charge manslaughter in the second degree, what you have to establish is that you may not have intended to kill the person, but as we look at him, there the suspect, the Marine, the issue is that you did so recklessly.

What does recklessly mean under the law? It means you consciously disregarded the risk that your behavior could result in the death. And the argument here and I think the prosecution's evaluations of the facts rely upon the issue of the prolonged holding of the neck. The prosecutors will argue that you cannot tell me that if you hold someone's neck in such a prolonged way, in such a prolonged lock, that that's not reckless, that you should not have known that it could cause the result of death. And so that's why, under these circumstances, I think the prosecutors chose to pursue that charge as opposed to saying he intended to kill him under those facts and under those circumstances.

TAPPER: It seems like a very precise charge where, generally speaking, prosecutors often are more aggressive in their charges. Do you think that they are just trying to find something that they could probably get a conviction of? It would be difficult, I think, to prove that Mr. Penny wanted to kill him, but much easier to say it was reckless just to hold him in and chokehold for as long as he did and obviously, he died, and the facts speak for itself.

JACKSON: So, Jake, they could have done less, though, right? Just to be clear, to have a full discussion, how about criminally negligent homicide where you act in negligence, where your actions are careless, which is less than the manslaughter? So I think what prosecutors did is they evaluated the facts, evaluated the circumstances and felt that there was something amiss.


Like what? Yes, you can make the argument, for example, which we will hear made of this was justification under the law, he was attempting, that is the accused, to protect other passengers who were in fear immediately of serious physical injury or death. That argument will be made.

The prosecutors will argue, however, that where was the immediacy of fear of death by anyone, including you, number one. Number two was the force you use disproportionate to the threat posed, that's the chokehold. That's why I think they say it's reckless. We'll see whether or not they sustain that charge. That's what a jury is for. They'll make that determination.

TAPPER: I always learned something from you, Joey Jackson. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

JACKSON: I appreciate you, Jake. Thank you.

TAPPER: With me now, Jumaane Williams, New York City public advocate, elected to assist New Yorkers with complaints about government services and regulations. Thank you so much for being here, Jumaane. We appreciate it.

So you've complained that it took 10 days before charges were filed against Daniel Penny. He's now facing secondary manslaughter. Neely's family, that's the victim, the homeless gentleman who was killed, his family today said that they think Penny should be charged with murder. What do you think? And are you satisfied with the district attorney's charge today?

JUMAANE WILLIAMS, NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC ADVOCATE: Well, thanks so much for having me, Jake. It's always a pleasure. I think if you were Neely's family, you would still be rightfully upset as well. What I have been saying and have been saying along with a lot of folks is that what we want to make sure it doesn't happen is that someone could choke someone to death on camera, on video, everyone can see it, and they leave a police precinct without even a desk appearance ticket. That's something that we all should have been able to call for and say, there has to be charges against this person. Because I believe if it was reversed, Jordan would not have been able to get off of Rikers from the bail that was set for him, whereas Mr. Penny has raised over $400,000 and has posted $100,000 in bail.

This is about fairness. This is about recognizing that a life was taken. And even though he was black, homeless, and had mental illness, his life was worthy of someone being held accountable for taking it.

TAPPER: Have you talked to anybody who was on the subway park today -- that day?

WILLIAMS: I have not, but I have heard from the journalist who, as many have heard, taking the video and has made it clear that Jordan didn't attack anyone, didn't attempt to attack anyone. And I'm a New Yorker through and through, know the subway well, most people who are here do. And you know, sometimes there are feelings of uncomfort, and I get that, and I understand that. And we as a society have to figure out how we address that, how we deal with that, how we provide services to people in need.

What we have to all say is part of that response cannot be summarily choking someone to death. And then on top of that, having to wait eight -- 10 days for someone to be charged in that death.

TAPPER: So, there is this larger issue here about people with mental health crises who are experiencing homelessness. I mean, that is an issue in major metropolitan areas, certainly in New York City. Jordan Neely, and again his death is a tragedy, of course, but Jordan Neely was on the New York City Department of Homeless Services top 10 list, meaning he's -- I'm sorry, top 50 list, meaning he'd been on the radar of officials as somebody with some of the most serious needs. What are you -- what is New York doing right now about the other 49 people on that list to make sure that they don't hurt anybody or themselves and that nobody hurts them?

WILLIAMS: That's a very important question. As we mentioned, Mr. Penny has raised over $400,000 in bail. I wonder how much Jordan could have raised for the water and the food that he was saying that he needed. Unfortunately, probably not that much.

My office has put out several reports on how we actually can do exactly what you said. Unfortunately, we haven't seen a response that we want in the state budget in previous city. I'm hoping we can see it in the budget that's coming forward now. And that is a continuum of care for people who cannot afford to pay top dollar for that continuum of care. That's what's been missing.

And I want to be clear, this is not just about involuntary hospitalizing people, because we have the ability to do that right now. And Jordan had been in the hospital. Unfortunately, he'd also been in Rikers Island. Neither of those things was satisfactory. The question is, what happens after you leave the hospital? And that is a question that we have to spend time on.


WILLIAMS: Not just for Jordan Neely, but people like Michelle Go and others who have been paying the price for our failures.

TAPPER: Yes, exactly. Jumaane Williams we do need to spend time on it. Comeback, let's talk more about this because it's a very, very important conversation. It's obviously a much more complicated situation than this one incident because there are so many people experiencing crisis and they're slipping through the cracks. Thank you so much for being here.


WILLIAMS: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up, a live look at the U.S.-Mexico border crossing in El Paso, Texas, where they have seen a record number of crosses this week. We're talking to the White House about what they're expecting over the next couple of days. Then harnessing star power in order to power your home. We're going to go inside the nuclear fusion lab that just accomplished the impossible.


TAPPER: In our world lead, the Trump era health policy called Title 42, which had previously allowed border officials to expel migrants more quickly from the United States due to the pandemic, while that policy is gone, it's been replaced with a new stricter policy measures from the Biden administration. Part of the plan is to bar migrants from entering the U.S. for five years if they are found ineligible for asylum. CNN's David Culver is over the border in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

And David, Mexico's foreign minister says there are about 10,000 migrants in this city just south of El Paso. What are you seeing there?

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Certainly not 10,000 migrants at this part of the border, Jake. And if you compare what we saw yesterday with the scene behind me, I mean, let me first show you the drone. I mean, this is the images from 24 hours ago. Really a drastic change, OK?


This is what we saw, really, for the past several days. Hundreds, if not well over a thousand people who were camped out, that is technically on U.S. soil. It's just before the border wall, but right after the barbed wire that was put up by Texas National Guard today where they were camped out for some several hours, several days, some weeks, with limited access to food and water. And what we have seen in the past 24 hours, let me compare now those images with what we're seeing live right now, and that is, I would say, just a few dozen at most, maybe even less than that of migrants who have still remained up there and they're being processed as we speak. And so you'll probably see in the live images as well these three big dumpsters, and that's filled with a lot of the personal belongings that the migrants come with and they cannot bring with them into the processing facilities and detention center on the U.S. side, so they shed a lot of that, they're thrown into dumpsters and then they continue on usually into buses.

And what happened starting 24 hours ago was we saw big groups of migrants being segregated into families, into unaccompanied minors, and into single men. And up until really early this morning, the single men, and continuing now at this hour, are the last ones being processed, Jake. So you can see the numbers here, certainly on U.S. soil are not at that 10,000 number. Where those folks are mostly in the city center here in Ciudad Juarez on the Mexico side. And those are individuals who certainly have the intention of trying to get over at some point.

TAPPER: David Culver in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, thanks so much.

Here to discuss further is Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, who's the spokesman for the White House's National Security Council.

Admiral, good to see you. So, there's a lot of criticism from all quarters, Democrats, Republicans, left, right, center, about how the White House has been handling the border situation. Texas Republican Congressman Pete Sessions, just to grab one critic, summed it up this way on CNN this morning.


REP. PETE SESSIONS (R-TX): This is as chaotic as Afghanistan was, and the administration came back and said they were happy with it. There are over 80,000 children that this administration has brought in and released, and they have no clue where they are.


TAPPER: How do you respond to that, especially the comparison with the Afghanistan withdrawal?

JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMS AT THE WHITE HOUSE: I think it's just incorrigible to compare what we're trying to do with safe and effective pathways coming into the border to what happened with Afghanistan. It is not at all the same situation. And the footage that you just showed demonstrates that it's not chaos down there at the border, it is not right now. We're doing everything we can to strike a right balance here between providing legal pathways into the country, but enforcement of our border laws, of our need to have a safe and secure border there.

Jake, and if the congressman really cared that much about helping with the southern border situation, then he would enjoin his colleagues in the Congress to pass legislation, to pass immigration reform, to dust off and take a look at the immigration reform that the President put on Capitol Hill the day he took office, which has not yet been acted on. TAPPER: Well, but they did pass a border security bill yesterday. I understand that Democrats in the Senate aren't going to take it up, but they did pass a bill to try to solidify the border.

KIRBY: Yes, they waited until yesterday to put something forward. And it's obviously not going to go anywhere because it doesn't provide for the same sorts of safe legal pathways that the President's trying to provide for with the tools, the limited tools, that he has available to him. And you know, and doing it, you know, the night of the expiration of Title 42 just tells you all you need to know about who is actually ready for this change and who wasn't.

TAPPER: We've learned that an unaccompanied migrant teenager died Wednesday at a Florida shelter.


TAPPER: And we also learned in the course of finding out more about that, Priscilla Alvarez found out that a four-year-old migrant child died in mid-March in U.S. custody after she suffered a cardiac arrest and was taken to a hospital in Michigan. Both of these children were under the U.S. governments, the Biden administration's care. Are there investigations going on so we find out what happened and make sure it doesn't happen again?

KIRBY: Yes, it's just tragic news. It's heartbreaking. And all of us are deeply saddened by this. I mean, you never want to see that happen to any child, Jake. I think you know that.

But obviously, HHS is looking into this. I can't speak for their processes and procedures, but clearly they're going to take a look at this, a hard look at this, to see if we can figure out what happened here with this young man. It's just tragic, and we do everything we can. HHS works really hard to take care of the unaccompanied children that are in their care.

Now, we don't want them to be in that care for very long. And HHS isn't -- is not designed to hold children for extended periods of time. We want to get them reunited with their families as fast as we can. But again, this is very sad and tragic and we're certainly look into this.


TAPPER: Admiral, while I have you before you go. Sources tell CNN that the Biden administration is working to get detained Americans Paul Whelan and Wall Street Journal Reporter Evan Gershkovich out of Russia, where they're being detained improperly, according to the White House, and that you are looking to other countries to try to find high value Russian prisoners to swap for Paul and Evan. Are you finding any success? Are there other countries that might be willing to allow such Russian spies, Russian prisoners, to be used in such a swap?

KIRBY: What I can tell you because we don't want to get into negotiations in public here, Jake, what I can tell you that we are working very hard to get both Evan and, of course, Paul back with their families where they belong. And we have, in fact, in Paul's case, we have a proposal we put forward to the Russians that we continue to urge them to accept so we can get Paul home. We are obviously working just as hard for Evan to get him home as well.

There are lots of different paths, lots of different options that we're looking at and trying to explore. And I think I probably need to leave it right there so we don't jeopardize those efforts by talking about them too publicly.

TAPPER: Is lessening sanctions on Russia on the table to get a prisoner swap?

KIRBY: We're going to make sure that whatever sanctions regime we have in Russia is perfectly applied and rightly applied to hold Mr. Putin accountable for his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and for the atrocities and the war crimes that his troops are conducting against the Ukrainian people. I don't see any change to that. This is about holding him accountable for this invasion, for this unprovoked war. We're going to continue to put that pressure on Mr. Putin. But I will tell you again, without negotiating in public, that we're working very, very hard to try to find solutions to get both Paul and Evan home.

TAPPER: Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, spokesman for the National Security Council, thank you so much.

KIRBY: Yes, sir.

TAPPER: Donald Trump's latest day got Governor Ron DeSantis. Plus, an inside look at the Florida governor's team and the current state of the 2024 Republican presidential race.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis are set to hold dueling rallies tomorrow in Iowa, site of the first in the nation caucuses for the Republican Party. A preview of the luck -- of the likely Republican presidential primary showdown, which has already developed into something of a bitter rivalry between the two men and their campaigns. Trump again slamming DeSantis in a brand new digital ad.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The problem with Ron DeSanctimonious is that he needs a personality transplant, and those are not yet available.

Ron's foreign trip was a total bomb. They didn't even know what he was doing there. What are you doing here, Ron? Why are you here? It was a mess.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: Don from Queens, you're on the air. That's what he always sounds like, right? You know, he always sounds like he just called into a radio show.

Here to discuss Democratic Strategist and CNN Political Commentary Karen Finney, along with former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh.

So, Joe, let me start with you, Trump's been pretty relentless as it attacks on DeSantis who is not even yet a declared candidate, and really, at this point, according to polls, is not much of a threat to him.

POLITICO's Jonathan Martin writes this about how DeSantis's team sees this, quote, "DeSantis' high command recognizes that the catnip-for- junkies national polling has shifted toward Trump this year, but they believe they retain a fundamental advantage." Quote, "Everyone knows the majority of the Republican Party wants to move on, said Generra Peck, DeSantis's gubernatorial campaign manager and closest aide."

Everyone knows the majority of the Republican Party wants to move on. Do you agree?

JOE WALSH, (R) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE, ILLINOIS: No. Jake, I love these quotes. Republican voters don't want to move on. Certainly a very sizable percentage of them.

TAPPER: You want to move on. You're a Republican who wants to move on.

WALSH: I'm not -- but I left the party. So, I mean --


WALSH: I either became an Independent or there are former Republicans. But no, look, if DeSantis gets in, he's got the same problem every other Republican challenger has. They can't criticize the frontrunner. They can't -- they're afraid to criticize Donald Trump because they want his voters. I just think it's mission impossible, even for DeSantis.

TAPPER: Karen, do you think Democrats want to run against Trump? I mean, I do -- there is a sense of be careful what you wish for, just as we saw --


TAPPER: -- in 2016, right?

FINNEY: Thousand percent. I was there, I have the t-shirt to prove it.

But look, I actually think DeSantis will be tough to run against. But I think, again, his primary strategy, he's obviously not a declared candidate, but he's running so far to the right. And I think the question will be, can he consolidate Republican Party voters? Because I think one of the things in that story and that quote you mentioned, what the donors want is not what the grassroots want.


FINNEY: That's true in both parties.

TAPPER: How so? Explain.

FINNEY: So. I mean, donors are thinking more about electability, we want to win, we want to take back the White House. Grassroots tend to be more passion driven, this is the person we want, we love him. So if your grassroots is still with Team Trump and not ready yet to leave him, to break up with him, as it were --


FINNEY: -- I think that creates a real problem for the Republican Party.

WALSH: And Jake, maybe I shouldn't bring up the town hall, but I was a big --

TAPPER: You can bring up the town hall.

WALSH: Yes, I was a big fan of the town hall. CNN provided a public service. But look at the town hall, grassroots loved Trump's performance the other night. Republican fundraiser, scared to death.

TAPPER: Well, you know, it's interesting also, because there are so many things that Donald Trump did and said in that town hall that not only Democrats like Joe Biden, also Republicans like John Thune, number two Republican in the Senate, were saying, like, that's going to be used against Republicans.


That's going to be used against Trump by Democrats. Trump bragging about Roe v. Wade, which you can have that position. It's not going to help you win Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Trump, you know, all this stuff, pardoning January 6th people, et cetera. It was -- it really was.

WALSH: Who do you want to win Ukraine or Russia? He couldn't answer that, but the base agrees with him on that.

KAREN FINNEY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: But here's the thing, that's the same base that DeSantis is also trying to cultivate. And I think one of the ways that Democrats are looking at this is it's going to be very hard if you look at, you know, DeSantis wants to run on this ultra MAGA record that he's cultivating in Florida, how you then move to the center and take back the independent voters who switched from Republican to Democrat folks who've left the Republican Party. That is not clear because there are a lot of folks who don't agree with many of the things that DeSantis is trying to do in Florida.

TAPPER: What do you think of DeSantis? Let's pretend that, like, Donald Trump, just for whatever reason, was not a candidate anymore. What would you think of Ron DeSantis as a candidate, as a potential nominee? WALSH: I think he'd be the favorite because he's Trump -- he's the Trumpiest. The base wants a son of a bitch. They want a cruel bully, and that's DeSantis. But I think Karen knows this. DeSantis doesn't play well with people. I think if Trump were out of the picture, you'd see a number of other Republicans get in because they don't think DeSantis is likable, is nice enough.

FINNEY: Personable.

TAPPER: What do you think of the attack that Trump did today, that he needs a personality transplant? I mean, that's pretty nasty.

WALSH: It's pretty nasty, but that's what most Republicans believe. Republican donors who've met him have been on the record that he doesn't seem, he can't sit down at a table and have a conversation with you. There's real concerns as to whether he can relate to people.

TAPPER: And speaking of relating to people, different Republican candidate, Vivek Ramaswamy, he's proposing a constitutional amendment running for president as a Republican. He wants to raise the voting age from 18 to 25. Take a listen.


VIVEK RAMASWAMY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What we're proposing is a constitutional amendment to raise the voting age to 25. But to say that you still get to vote at age 18 so long as you either pass the civics test that immigrants have to pass in order to become naturalized citizens or you do some minimal service to the country.


TAPPER: I mean, I guess it's a way to take on the fact that Democrats do better with younger voters.

FINNEY: I was just going to say so basically he's saying, I'm going to try to again, slice and dice the electorate to get the people I want. Instead of, I don't know, trying to appeal to those voters, taking on issues that they actually care about. Let's just cut them out. I mean, think about the message that sends. We will send you to fight for your country, but you can't vote. You can buy a gun, but you can't vote. It's absurd, and it's pretty blatant on its face that this is a problem with young voters.

TAPPER: I mean, just to be clear, in terms of this, he did say if you serve in the military, you get to vote. I mean, he did say that, I mean.

FINNEY: I know. But if you're 20 years old --

TAPPER: Right. Theoretical, sorry, yes.


WALSH: Republicans have a horrible problem with young people. Something like that would make it a hell of a lot worse. TAPPER: I mean I just -- do you think it's a serious proposal?

WALSH: No, no.

TAPPER: It's just to get attention?

WALSH: It's to get -- he's third in the polls right now, Jake, so it's to get attention.

TAPPER: Well, so it's working.

FINNEY: Right. We're talking about it, and so it's working. But I think it also sorry. I think it also, though, further underscores that this is a challenge for the Republican Party. We also heard reported a couple of weeks ago, a donor was at a big Republican donor conference and said, we've got to make sure they can't vote on campus, right? Let's make it harder for young people to vote. Again --

TAPPER: Well, they've been doing that. The governors have been doing that for years.

FINNEY: For a very long time, and there's a movement among college kids to actually get the day off to go vote, which I think would be great. But point being, again, rather than let's deal with the fact that a lot of people don't know their social studies as well as they should, that would be one way to deal with this, and let's let them vote.

TAPPER: All right, Karen Finney and Joe Walsh, thank you so much. Appreciate it.


Crime ridden, full of homeless encampments, that's a reputation one of America's largest city currently has. So what's really going on in San Francisco? That's next.


TAPPER: In our National Lead, San Francisco, California, a city that's been in the headlines for crime, for unaffordability, for its street conditions. In one recent survey, San Francisco residents say they feel less safe now than at any point since 1996. That's according to the city's own controller's office. This week on the whole story with Anderson Cooper, our Sunday night magazine show, CNN's Sara Sidner heads to the bay area, a place she once called home, to find out what happened to San Francisco. Here's a little preview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The video of the guy wheeling his bicycle into the Walgreens in San Francisco, loading up and then bicycling out went worldwide. The mass swarm robberies went worldwide.

SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Even with some high profile videos going viral. Robberies in Larceny which is property theft without threat of violence, were both down in 2022 compared to pre pandemic levels, according to San Francisco police data. While the number of car break-ins was actually higher in 2017, auto theft, though, did rise in 2022, the highest it has been in seven years.

(on camera): I'll tell you, the number one that I hear.


SIDNER: The number one that I hear, it isn't necessarily violent. It isn't because those rates are, it's the car break-ins.

LONDON: Oh, the car break-ins.

SIDNER: By far the thing people always say is like, girl, if you go to the city, don't park your car here, there, you know, watch where you park.



SIDNER: How do you combat that?

LONDON: Most people, unfortunately, in some capacity feel like they either have been or know someone who has been, you know, a victim. I mean, my car got broken into right in front of my home, and then there was nothing in it. So that makes it even worse. It's like I don't even have anything to steal because I know better, right? But it's a tough thing, and we're going to keep working on that to combat it.


TAPPER: Joining us now to talk more about her whole story report on what happened to San Francisco is CNN anchor Sara Sidner. Sara, are crime rates actually higher in San Francisco, or is it just the perception of it?

SIDNER: It is a lot of perception, especially when it comes to violent crime and more particularly, homicides. If you look at San Francisco, which is a seven by seven square mile city, so a small city, they had 56 homicides in 2021 and 2022 respectively. If you look at other cities of the same size, like Indianapolis, Indiana, you will see that they had 271 homicides in 2021. We're talking four times as many, or Jacksonville, Florida had nearly three times as many with 156 homicides.

So when you look at it, compared to other cities, when it comes to violent crime, no, it doesn't stack up. San Francisco has far fewer. However, when it comes to things, and you heard the mayor herself say, yes, I have had my car broken into. So petty theft, car crimes, those things have really affected the citizenry there. And seeing people out on the streets in many, many places doing drugs just casually and calmly on the sidewalk where people are walking, that has set people off as well.

TAPPER: What about the homelessness problem in San Francisco? It's perceived to be worse than it's been in years. Is it actually worse?

SIDNER: Yes, I think we can easily say that the combination of what happened with COVID the shutdowns, some of the residents leaving, people being locked up in their homes, and then you saw this explosion of tents that lined the sidewalks in many places, some of it right outside of City Hall. The mayor gave us a very candid interview about what's going on in her city. She used the word BS once during a press conference because she said, this has to stop. We have to fix this. We have to deal with these incidents.

But we also talked to people who were homeless themselves. We talked to people who used drugs themselves and talked about why they came to San Francisco. And not surprisingly, many of them were not from the area. But they told us, look, the drugs are cheap, they're easy to get, and you can use them on the street without worrying about being prosecuted. So there's a lot of things San Francisco is trying to fix and we get into all that in this hour. Jake?

TAPPER: I can't wait to watch. Sara Sidner, thanks so much. And be sure to tune in an all new episode of The Whole Story with Anderson Cooper, one whole story, one whole hour. It's a fantastic show, and Sara's episode airs this Sunday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific only on CNN.


The Oklahoma governor is trying to cancel Sesame Street, and Mr. Rogers why he is defunding the state's biggest PBS station. That's coming up.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want you to meet my brother Dave.






UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm so happy that you're all here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you kidding? We wouldn't have missed Family Day for anything.


TAPPER: Sweet moment, although maybe not everyone feels that way. Maybe Oklahoma's Republican Governor Kevin Stitt doesn't. He seems to think that LGBTQ inclusive programming on PBS, such as that example, is, quote, indoctrination for kids. And now he has vetoed a bill that would have provided crucial funding to the PBS network in his state. Let's get right to CNN's Oliver Darcy. Oliver, Oklahoma's PBS station per capita is the most watched in the nation. It is available in every county in Oklahoma. So this would be really devastating. What is PBS saying in response?

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Yes, Jake, this is part of a larger trend really playing out in Republican politics these days, where these GOP politicians take aim at children's programming, inclusive children's programming, and basically effectively frame it as grooming kids with radical gender ideology. And you've seen it play out in Florida with Ron DeSantis taking aim at Disney. And now it's spreading, of course, to Oklahoma, where the governor there is taking aim at PBS.

I'll read you a statement that PBS sent us last night when we asked them for comment. The company says the threat to funding puts Oklahoma families at risk of losing access to the local free content they trust to help kids reach their full potential. The fundamental goal of PBS KIDS remains supporting children as they learn and grow through programming they have come to know and love. Now is not the time to take that away from any child.

And Jake, I should also say that the local PBS station is stressing that they play a key role in civil politics. They have a news program that reaches all counties in Oklahoma and also the state uses them for emergency alerts. This is in Oklahoma, where it's known as Tornado Alley, and they use the emergency alert system quite a bit. And the PBS station plays a crucial role in that. So this is all at risk because the governor has vetoed funding. Unless the state legislature overrides that veto, they're going to have to make some really hard decisions over at that local PBS station.

TAPPER: Quickly, Oliver, if you could. Is there some obviously that Elmo clip is sweet and harmless. Is there some sort of like, is there something I'm missing here? Is there some like lewd lascivious PBS show about some community -- like the trans community that like outraged him? I don't understand.


DARCY: It's hard to understand. And he is just basically he did an interview with "Fox News" earlier this week where he said that the programming, the LGBTQ inclusive programming, doesn't align with Oklahoma values. And so it's baffling. But again, you're seeing this across GOP politics with Ron DeSantis, taking him at Disney, which is an intentionally unoffensive brand. And then he did that for them, speaking out against the don't say gay bill. And so this is a trend I think you can expect to see a lot more of.

TAPPER: Oliver Darcy, thanks so much.

And our Earth Matters series now we're going to go inside a laboratory, revolutionizing the way we generate electricity. Instead of traditional power plants that burn coal and produce gases that contribute to global warming, or nuclear power plants that produce radioactive waste that lasts practically forever, these scientists are working to harness a clean and unlimited source of power, just like stars in the sky do. Here's CNN's Bill Weir.


BILL WEIR, CNN CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Inside this building, some very smart people built a star on Earth. Not the Hollywood kind. That's easy. No, the burning ball of gas in the sky kind, one of the hardest things human humans have ever tried.

TAMMY MA, LEAD, INERTIAL FUSION ENERGY INITIATIVE: I was at the airport when my boss called me and I burst into tears.

WEIR (voice-over): Tammy Ma is among the scientists who have been chasing nuclear fusion for generations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Countdown for a shot on my mark, three, two, one, mark.

WEIR (voice-over): And in the middle of a December night, they did it.

(on camera): And you only need a tiny little bit of fuel?

MA: That's right, yes. Because our little pellet that sits right in the middle, you can't even see on this target, is just two millimeters in diameter.

WEIR (voice-over): That target includes an abundant isotope found in seawater and goes into a chamber about the size of a beach ball in the 60s, but is now a round room, 30 feet across with 192 massive lasers aimed at the center.

MA: They're big laser beams, about 40 by 40 centimeters. Each one alone is one of the most energetic in the world. Every time we do a shot, it's a thousand times the power of the entire U.S. electrical grid.

WEIR (on camera): Wow.

MA: But your lights don't flicker at home when we take a shot, so we're doing is taking a huge amount of energy and compressing it down, just in 10 nanoseconds.

WEIR: Right.

MA: So it's about $14 of electricity.

WEIR (voice-over): The National Ignition Facility then amplifies all that concentrated energy on the target, and if they get it just right, more energy comes out than went in, with no risk of nuclear meltdown or radioactive waste.

MA: In a fusion power plant, you would shoot the same target over and over at about 10 times a second, dropping a target in and shooting it with laser.

WEIR (on camera): So you'd need a target loader like a machine gun or something, right?

MA: We need a target loader. Exactly. So there's still many, many technology jumps that we need to make, but that's what makes it so exciting, right?

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, ENERGY SECRETARY: A lot of people were saying, you've invested all this money, it's time to pull the plug, because you guys haven't achieved ignition. I mean, it's called the National Ignition Facility, right?

WEIR: At some point, you better get that --

GRANHOLM: At some point, you better ignite. Yes, exactly.

I mean, it's really hard to replicate the process that's happening on the sun on Earth. It's just really hard. And so when that happened in December, what it said is that this is actually possible. So it's no longer a question of whether, it's just a question of when that fusion is actually possible. Now let's get to work.


WEIR: Jake experts say we are decades away from most people being able to plug into fusion energy. But there is a startup called Helion, which has a machine that's shaped like a dumbbell they say can fire plasma rings at each other at a million miles an hour and will generate electricity by next year. In fact, Microsoft, in a first of its kind deal, has already purchased fusion electricity from them in 2028. The future is coming fast. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Bill Weir, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Growing questions and criticism for the White House about the situation at the border. Wolf Blitzer is going to be covering this next in The Situation Room, of course. And, Wolf, it's not just Republicans getting mad with the Biden administration for what's happening.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: That's right, Jake. Among my guest coming up in The Situation Room is Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar. He represents a border district in Texas, and he's one of the growing number of lawmakers in President Biden's own party who are critical of his migration policies. I'll ask the congressman about the end of Title 42 and what the administration needs to do now to get a handle on the crisis.

We'll also get into the political fallout from the border situation, which Congressman Cuellar warns could be driving Hispanic communities away from the Democratic Party. That and a lot more coming up next right here in The Situation Room.

TAPPER: We'll be watching. Wolf Blitzer, thanks so much.


Still ahead on The Lead, how a herd of cows became crime solvers. We are in utter disbelief.


TAPPER: In our National Lead, a herd of crime fighting cows helped North Carolina police officers find a suspect by leading authorities to the suspect's hiding spot. Police say the suspect, 34-year-old Joshua Russell Minton, ran from officers during a traffic stop. He ditched his car and sprinted into a field. The cows apparently felt behooved to help police by finding Minton's hiding spot and communicating with law enforcement as best they could, mooing until officers followed them to the suspect's location. Now, it's unclear if the cows had any specific beef with the suspect. I could make a few more cow puns here, but I don't want to milk it.

Be sure to tune in this Sunday to CNN State of the Union. My colleague Dana Bash will be talking to the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, plus Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, and the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Mark Green of Tennessee, then Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo. It is a packed show, 9:00 a.m. and noon Eastern, only here on CNN.


Until then, you can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter at JakeTapper, Bluesky. If you got an invite to the beta, you can tweet the show at TheLeadCNN. If you ever miss an episode of the show, you can listen to The Lead. Once you get your podcast, it's all two hours sitting there like a big, delicious hamburger. The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer continues right now. I'll see you Monday.