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The Lead with Jake Tapper
NYC's Air Among The World's Worst Due To Canada Fires; Grand Jury Hears From Former Trump Spokesman; Christie Kicks Off Campaign With Sharp Attacks On Trump; NYC's Air Among The World's Worst Due To Canada Fires; Pence Kicks Off White House Bid, Primary Clash With Trump. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired June 07, 2023 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You want irony? Today, June 7th is actually Clean Air Day in Canada. Look it up.
THE LEAD starts right now.
From Canada all the way down to the Carolinas, thick, hazy wildfires, smoke engulfing much of the East Coast. If wildfires have been burning for more than a month, why did it get so bad today, and how long this is going to last?
And, former President Donald Trump swears he's being attacked unfairly again and desperately wants you to hear his side of the story, and he's just released a new TV ad starring some wild animals to make sure you get the message.
All this while former Vice President Mike Pence jumps in the race against Trump and Chris Christie believes he can beat them both. I'm going to ask Governor Christie how ahead when he joins me live on THE LEAD.
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
We're going to begin today with our health lead. As much of the eastern United States is being choked right now by a dangerous haze of smoke caused by more than 400 raging wildfires in Canada. Air quality alert are out for more than 55 million people across the Northeast, Midwest and Mid-Atlantic. The air is so unhealthy in New York City right now that an actor stopped a Broadway matinee performance this afternoon because she had difficulty breathing.
Throughout the Eastern Coast, people's eyes, sinuses, throats irritated from the exposure, schools cancelling outdoor activities. Health experts urging those in affected parts of the country to wear masks if people have to be outside. If you've been checking your phone's weather app, you've been getting the alerts and seeing the unhealthy and in some cases hazardous, hazardous air quality numbers impacting cities from New England to North Carolina. The blanket of orange smoke swallowing up major cities such as New
York City, making high rises disappear in the haze. It looks like a "Star Wars" movie there.
Officials say yesterday's air quality in New York City was the worst since the 1960s before the EPA was created. Right now, it's currently among the worst in the world.
CNN's Athena Jones is in New York for us.
Athena, tell us what you're seeing and experiencing right now.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Jake.
Well, this is remarkable. We've about reporting on this all day and several hours ago, we were along the Hudson, on the west side of Manhattan. It didn't seem that bad. You can see the haze. Now, it feels as though we're living, breathing, working in a giant cloud of smoke.
Yes, you can see a few yards in front of you but not much beyond that. Let me just show you -- this is the southern direction. We're on the east side of Manhattan.
You can see some buildings a few hundred yards in front but see the big tall building on the right. Usually you can see a lot more skyscrapers beyond that. This is Manhattan. It's a city known for all of its tall buildings.
Moving over here, to east 57th Street, along East 57th Street, this street goes up to West 57th Street, it's something some people call billionaire's row, tons and tons of skyscrapers or more, can't see any of it.
And then, finally, I want to show you, one of the most dramatic scenes we have. We're right near the East River here, and you can still make out the 59th Street Bridge. Here's the East River. You can see Roosevelt Island, but just past that you can only see a few of the buildings in downtown Queens. Usually, you can see a lot more buildings than that.
And so, that gives you a sense of what New Yorkers are dealing with here, and if you -- you mentioned the phone. My phone shows me, that the air quality index is at 244. That is way higher than it was last night when officials were freaking out that this being the worst kind of air quality we've seen in decades in this city. And it is -- qualifies as very unhealthy, and that's very important, Jake.
Our own company, Warner Bros. Discovery, sent out an alert to any employees who may want to go outside to consider wearing a mask and that's because of the particulate matter in the air. This is among the tiniest, most dangerous kind of pollutants and it's the kind of thing found in these wildfires smoke. These particles are so small they can get into your lungs when you breathe them in. Get into the blood stream and cause all kinds of health issues. That is why we're seeing all the precautions taking place. In Chappaqua, that's in Westchester County, north of the city here, they just dismissed school early. So, those are the kinds of precautions we expect to see more of as we deal this over the next few days, potentially -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Athena Jones in New York City, thank you so much.
About 250 miles south of Athena, the Washington, D.C. region is also feeling and seeing the impact from these Canadian wildfires and their smoke.
CNN's aviation correspondent Pete Muntean is at Reagan National Airport, just outside D.C., across the river.
Pete, the FAA, the Federal Aviation Administration, says this haze is causing low visibility. Is that going to cause flight delays across the East Coast? And potentially rippling across the country?
PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Low visibility and flight delays all the way from here at Reagan National Airport, Jake, all the way up to Boston. In fact, JFK could be added to the list soon of the next airport that will experience a ground stop. The ground stops have been lifted in the New York area. There was one earlier at LaGuardia.
But right now, at Newark, that is where the visibility is the worst, down to about a quarter of a mile. And the delays there, a ground delay program, put in place by the FAA, meaning that flights are held at their departing airport before going to New York, that is up to around an hour and 20 minutes for the delays on average.
Even worse at Newark, it's about two hours, or at LaGuardia, excuse me, it around two hours. Philadelphia just added to the list about a half hour delay on average. About a quarter of all flights have been delayed today into LaGuardia. In fact, the New York area is partly the hardest hit, just spoke to a passengers on a flight descending into Newark, he said it was almost apocalyptic as they descended into that thick, red smoke. He can actually smell it from his seat inside the plane.
The delays and cancellations just keep going up. We've seen around 2,300 delays, nationwide today, according to FlightAware.
So far, the cancellations are relatively low, under 200, but that number could go up. We see the deck of cards occasionally come tumbling down. When airplanes in cruise are put out of position when there's such a major weather event like this, the FAA has put in place these procedures to try to keep it so these planes simply don't get too close together, as they're going to some of these major airports, Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Pete Muntean, outside Reagan National Airport, thank you so much.
So, how concerning is this hazardous smoke for your lungs? For your nose? For your eyes? Can a trigger some serious health concerns.
CNN medical correspondent, Meg Tirrell, is joining us now to explain.
Meg, who's most at risk right now?
MIG TIRRELL, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, experts tell us it's kids, the elderly, people who are pregnant and those with heart or lung problems that are really the most vulnerable right now. This can trigger issues and people who are vulnerable, obviously, respiratory issues, things like asthma, COPD, also heart issues. We just got an alert from the American Heart Association, warning there can be cardiac events that are tied to inhalation of wildfire smoke.
I've been talking with doctors who say even healthy folks, depending on the dose that they get of the smoke, could be at risk for developing asthma and COPD. If they still have symptoms, even after the air quality is gotten better, that might suggest they have developed that as a result of this.
So, really, you know, this is something that people are extremely concerned about, there are also warnings for pregnant women, in terms of slightly raised risk of pre-term birth. So, they are really recommended to take precautions, Jake.
TAPPER: How can people protect themselves if they are in the area of this hazardous smoke?
TIRRELL: Yeah, you know, one piece of advice that seems obvious, is from the American Lung Association. They say if you can see or smell smoke, know that you are being exposed.
And so, they're saying stay inside, if at all possible. If you have to go outside, the recommendation is to wear a high quality mask, like an N95 or KN95, something were extremely familiar with from the COVID days, for indoor air quality, the recommendation is to run HEPA air filters in the home, if you can. Shut the windows, run the air conditioning if you don't have one of those.
And don't forget pets, Jake. A lot of these same precautions actually applied to our animal friends as well.
TAPPER: All right. Meg Tirrell, thanks so much.
Is there any relief in sight for the cities and areas shrouded in these plumes of smoke?
Meteorologist Jennifer Gray tracking it all for us from CNN's weather center.
Jennifer, how long is all this smoke expected to stick around?
JENNIFER GRAY, AMS CERTIFIED METEOROLOGIST: Well, it's really a hard question to answer because as long as we're stuck in this weather pattern, we're really going to get smoke across the east. Now, one day, it might be worse for New York, the next day it might be worse for summer across the Ohio Valley, but it's really going to stick around in this region for quite some time, at least for longer.
So, you can see where the worse of it right now. Of course, New York as far as visibility goes, only about (AUDIO GAP) Syracuse, around two miles. We've seen New York City down under one mile, visibility, over the afternoon. The current air quality index, you see all these dots and red, purple, even extending into Upstate New York. That's where we have the most unhealthy air, that's where we talk about where people are being urged to stay inside, wear masks.
New York City right now, still tops the list. At this moment, with the worst air quality in the world, and it's been that way for the last hour or two.
Of course, over the last two days, we've seen New York City bounce around from 1 to 10. But, Jake, I think this is going to stick around for at least the next several days.
TAPPER: Jennifer Gray in the CNN weather center, thank you so much.
Let's bring in the governor of New Jersey, Democrat Phil Murphy.
Governor, thanks so much for joining us.
What are you being told about the air quality right now in your state?
GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D), NEW JERSEY: It's either bad or really bad, depending on where you were. We made the decision to close state offices at 3:30, we are encouraging, as your colleagues have said, young kids, seniors anybody with heart or lung issues, to stay inside. If you have to go out, consider wearing a good, snug fitting N95 masks.
We've encouraged all schools to suspend outdoor extracurricular activities. The Port Authority has -- our bridge traffic limited to 30 miles per hour, because of visibility. It's not good. There's no other way to put it.
TAPPER: What have you been told from either the Biden administration or the Trudeau administration, in Canada, about how long this might last?
MURPHY: Yeah, it's hard to tell. Last I checked, I'm actually, Jake, going to call with the Canadian authorities right after I get off with you, the ambassador and her consul general to get their perspective. But, as of a short while ago, of the many hundreds of fires in Canada, I think at least 200 were declared, quote/unquote, out of control.
So, my fear is, and obviously, this depends on the wind, which way it's blowing and all the other factors, my fear is that this could be with us for a while.
TAPPER: What is your advice to people in the state about dealing with this poor air quality beyond what you just said about N95 masks and kids in the elderly and people with health conditions staying indoors? What else are New Jersey residents supposed to do?
MURPHY: I mean, there's not a whole lot of other options, Jake. I mean, stay inside, keep the windows closed. We have a website which is constantly updating the monitoring, so if you're out there living in Jersey, DEP, as in the Department of Environmental Protection -- NJ.gov. I think it's a smart place to go.
Stay hydrated. As I say, stay indoors. If you have to go out, consider wearing a snug mask that's a quality one. But there aren't a lot of, unfortunately, this is one of these things where there's not a lot of options in the playbook.
TAPPER: Governor, last question before you go, has there been an uptick in your emergency rooms, in the hospitals across New Jersey?
MURPHY: We have not gotten word on that yet, but we are monitoring it, as you can imagine. We also have our own forest fires. Let's not forget the climate crisis, climate change, which is bringing all of this to us, in addition to sloppy behavior or malevolent behavior.
And so, we're monitoring all of the above, including most importantly, people's health.
TAPPER: All right. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, thank so much for your time today. And our best wishes, of course, to the residents of the Garden State.
Another view near the World Trade Center in New York, the smoke has gotten thicker here in New York. All day, much more to come as the thick smoke blankets the Northeast.
Also ahead, he specifically answered the Republican presidential race to take down Donald Trump, also to win. But he's going after Trump. Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, joins me live, next. As the field grows, how will he try to stand out?
And facing legal jeopardy on multiple fronts, what is Donald Trump preparing to do? What is he preparing for in terms of possible indictment?
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Now to our law and justice lead, as attorneys for former President Donald Trump brace for more possible indictments, the Trump campaign is hitting back with a new ad that is, as you might expect, a bit over the top.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AD ANNOUNCER: Like a pack of rabid wolves, they attack. So, let's impeach him. Let's get tainted radical left prosecutors to charge him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CNN's Kristen Holmes is here with more on the ad.
But let's start with one of the prosecutors that we saw in that clip. We're going to start with CNN's Katelyn Polantz, who's in Florida, where a grand jury special counsel Jack Smith's investigation heard testimony from a former Trump spokesman today.
Actually, we're going to go to Kristen Holmes first because we're having some issues there.
Kristen, tell us more about this ad, and actually let me start --let's me play a little bit more attention -- play a little more, another excerpt of the ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AD ANNOUNCER: Here's a question for you. Just how far are the radical left, and inside the Beltway bandits, willing to go to stop it? We all know they hate him for winning the fight to protect life, for exposing their deep state, for draining their precious swamp. And they already know he'll crush Biden.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So much there to fact check and dispute. But what are they trying to accomplish with that?
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in this ad, it's the first time we actually see them using this image of Jack Smith, who is the special counsel. It really seems to serve as a preemptive strike. I have been told, by sources close to Trump, he's been crowdsourcing opinions on whether not he is going to be indicted.
I have been told by Trump advisers that they are bracing for indictment, one specifically saying that they believe he will be indicted in this. This is the defense we're likely to see. They're not just calling it political and a witch hunt and a hoax this time. They're also calling it election interference.
That was something I was told, by these Trump officials, they were going to be going to the Department of Justice to talk about, the fact that this could be construed as election interference, as he runs for his third presidential term.
And one thing I do want to point out here, it's not just Trump that they're worried about being indicted.
We are also told that members of the team are very concerned that a low level staffer, as well as a maintenance worker at Mar-a-Lago, are going to be indicted in this documents case. We know this because witnesses have been asked about both of these individuals, their role at Mar-a-Lago, and they were seen on tape, moving the boxes at one point.
Again, this is a team right now that is bracing for yet another series of indictments, and yet another battle that Trump has, as he's trying to win the GOP nomination.
TAPPER: Okay, interesting. Comms are now back up at CNN's Katelyn Polantz is in Florida where a grand jury in special counsel Jack Smith's investigation heard from a former Trump spokesman today.
Katelyn, tell us about that.
KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, they heard from a spokesman who just wasn't working for Donald Trump's political empire, but was one of the people who was around the former president in a very crucial moment in February of 2022, Donald Trump had sent back 15 boxes of documents to the National Archives. The Archives found records with classified markings in them, kicking off this criminal investigation that we are so closely tracking right now.
At that moment, Donald Trump wanted to put it out a statement saying, he had turned over everything. And there were people around him who somehow made that statement not happen. They were warning him he should be consulting with his attorney, one of those people was Taylor Budowich, this person who is a close aide to him and was his spokesperson, now works for MAGA Inc., a super PAC.
And Taylor Budowich did come to the federal courthouse here today, this morning. We have learned through our reporting that he testified to the grand jury, a little under an hour and he released a statement, not disclosing exactly what he was asked about, or the extent of questioning or any indication he might have of where this investigation is right now, but he said that he fulfilled a legal obligation to testify in front of a grand jury. And I answered every question honestly.
We're still waiting to see exactly what that means for the investigation and what might still be to come -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Polantz and Kristen Holmes, thanks to both of you. Appreciate it.
Joining us now to discuss, much, much more than just that, Republican presidential candidate and former New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie.
It's New Jersey day here on THE LEAD.
FORMER GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is. Excellent.
TAPPER: So, let's start with the news that we just reported, it does appear that Donald Trump is likely to be, if not as likely to be, that is at least preparing to be indicted by special counsel Jack Smith, in this classified documents case. What's your reaction?
CHRISTIE: Well, look, I think that one of the biggest indications in this most recent meeting early in the week, that his attorneys had with Jack Smith, and people at DOJ.
TAPPER: You're a former U.S. attorney so you know what a meeting like that would be?
CHRISTIE: Yeah, my guess is that he probably got a target letter, where, at the end very end of the investigation, you typically go to the target and give them an opportunity to come to the grand jury themselves. If they want to testify, they almost never agreed to do that, but usually, an outgrowth of that is for lawyers to say, but we'd like to come in and argue to you where the case should not be brought.
My guess is that's probably much of what happened on Monday. So, it shows you you're at the near end, not at the absolute end, but nearly at the end of this portion of the investigation, I suspect.
TAPPER: You've already said that Donald Trump is disqualified himself to be president again. Do you think this is more fuel to the fire?
CHRISTIE: Well, sure. As I said, you know, a number of times, being under indictment is not good for a political candidate. And the fact is, with this one, we'll see what the evidence turned out to be. But some of the reporting that I've read leads you to conclude that they have some very system substantial evidence about his state of mind. That's always one of the difficult things when you prosecute one of these cases.
TAPPER: Meaning, he knew what to do it with what was wrong, and was afoul of the rules of the law?
CHRISTIE: Well, he know that he -- it sounds like they have evidence that he knew he had classified documents, and that he wasn't permitted to show them to people. Well, that undercuts the argument he's made, that everything was declassified, as soon as he walked out the door, because he said so.
So, there's some things there that are kind of interesting. And we'll see. You know, I never like to make a valuations of the stuff, having done it for seven years, to actually see the indictment see what they have, but I'm certainly, if you're the president, the former president, and his lawyers right now, you're not going to be very happy about what's developing.
TAPPER: I've had Republican, former Justice Department officials say to, me this is much worse than what Hillary Clinton did. And the theme of Donald Trump's convention, in 2016, was "lock her up". You prosecuted her, from the stage there, about all the things that allegedly she did wrong. This is worse.
CHRISTIE: Look, you know, classified documents that he had, that we now know he had, where things that should've never left the White House. If he, in fact, knew that he had these documents, was looking at them, utilizing them in some way after he left office, and it looks like maybe even two years after he left office, it's a big problem.
[16:25:01] TAPPER: So, you're running for president. You just declare last night.
CHRISTIE: That's right.
TAPPER: You're joining what a pretty crowded field, surprisingly considering a former president in it as well. Now, right now, you're pulling in the low single digits. I don't have a bit in the race for a day. But in 2016, you ran, you placed tenth in Iowa, sixth in New Hampshire, before getting out of the race.
What is going to make this year different?
CHRISTIE: Well, the whole atmosphere is different, Jake. You know, in 2015 and '16, when we ran the first time, you had a situation where Donald Trump had no record to speak of. He had been on a TV show, had been a developer, a property developer in New York. There is no way to really make the case against him.
We -- I think all of us, myself, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Ted Cruz, all found it very difficult to make the case because he can say whatever he wanted to say, there's no proof that he couldn't do it. I'm going to build a wall across the entire border of Mexico, Mexico's going to pay for.
Well, I don't think he's going to be able to do that, physically figured a way to do it. How can you prove that it wouldn't? This is different.
Today, we know he said he would build a wall across the entire board with Mexico. He didn't do it, about a quarter of the walls built. He said Mexico would pay for it, we haven't gotten a first peso.
And we know a lot of other things. He was going to repeal and replace Obamacare. He had a Republican Congress for two years, didn't get it done. Said he was going to balance the budget in four years, left with the greatest deficit of any president in modern history. Said he was going to get rid of the national debt, in eight years, and lifted trillions higher than when he walked in the door just for years.
There's a record here, Jake, of things both very, very significant in public policy, but even on the trivial. Remember, he used to go after Barack Obama, for playing golf. I remember standing on one of the debate stage is one time, he looked at the camera and said, I will not play golf a day, because I'll be so busy fixing all of America's problems. He wound up playing golf for 260 days.
So, on promises both big and small, he broke them, he disappointed our party. He disappointed the country. And that's going to be the focus of his campaign.
TAPPER: I have a lot more to ask you, but we're going t have to get up to squeeze in a quick break.
Stay with us. We'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [16:31:31]
TAPPER: And we're back with Republican presidential candidate and former New Jersey governor, Chris Christie.
So yesterday, Governor, when you announced you were running for president, you called Trump, a former friend --
CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Uh-huh.
TAPPER: -- a, quote, lonely, self-consumed, self-serving mirror hog. You've been rather unsparing in your criticism. We should note that you might have people out there who are skeptical of this because when you dropped out in the 2016, you endorsed him.
TAPPER: You ran his transition. You helped coach him for debates.
What do you say to people who say, you know, this guy has always been this way, you just enabled him and now you're changing your mind?
CHRISTIE: Now, look, you know, back in 2016, Jake, it was clear to me he was going to be nominee. I had had a long relationship with him over 15 years, and I thought I could help make him a better candidate and president if he won. And I didn't want Hillary Clinton to be president, and that's why I ran in the first place.
Turns out I was wrong. I couldn't make him a better candidate and I couldn't make him a better president and he disappointed me, and he disappointed a lot of people in my party and a lot of people in this country by the way he performed. And for me, the breaking point was election night 2020 when he was out there at 2:30 in the morning claiming the election was stolen and I knew he had no evidence to prove that.
And when you undercut democracy in that way, you have forfeited the trust in my view to hold that office that he's now trying to regain and so, yeah, I did all those things. I make know apologies for them, but when I make a misjudgment, I'll admit and I thought I could make him better and it wound up I couldn't. In fact, he was much worse.
TAPPER: So Trump last night in response to you running -- ran a rather mocking video on social media. There it is. It's you dish guess he's making fun of your weight. That's his --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: We're going to be small.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: What did you make of that? What was your response that?
CHRISTIE: When I saw, it Jake, it just renewed in my own mind when a child he is. He's a baby. Whenever you want to criticize him, I mean, in any way, that's the way he responds, and you and I are both lucky enough to be parents, and if we had a child who conducted themselves like that, we would send them to their room.
CHRISTIE: Not to the White House.
CHRISTIE: And I think character is destiny for this country, and we've got to make a decision about what the character of the person should be who sits behind the desk in the oval office, and if they are going do that kind of stuff, I mean, it -- it's so childish. It's so juvenile. He is such a spoiled baby that, you know, I -- beyond that, what can you even say about something like that that ridiculous, you know?
If we want to break news here today, I've struggled with my weight for about 20 years, like tens of millions of Americans.
TAPPER: The devil, you say.
CHRISTIE: Right, exactly. So he's breaking news there. He's telling people something they don't know. In the end, for me, it's about how you perform as a person.
CHRISTIE: What kind of heart you have, and I'll put mine up against his any day of the week.
TAPPER: So, on the subject of you admitting mistakes, you were pretty candid last night about some of those mistakes in your speech last night. I don't have time to play the excerpt, but one of the -- you talked about the bridge-gate scandal.
TAPPER: And trusting people you shouldn't have trusted and also -- you admit setting a tone that those people thought that that would be something that you would find acceptable?
CHRISTIE: No, I didn't admit that, Jake. And I --
TAPPER: I'm asking if you admit that.
CHRISTIE: No, I don't. I don't. I didn't set that tone. And, in fact, anybody who knew me and watched how I conducted myself as governor, I'm very straightforward, direct, blunt at times.
CHRISTIE: But I also did things regularly in a bipartisan basis, working with Democrats. I had a Democratic legislature as you know for eight years.
CHRISTIE: And so you couldn't do those kinds of things and think that that was consistent with the way I conducted myself as governor. I worked with the Senate president, the speaker. We passed significant legislation, got hundreds of judges appointed to the bench.
TAPPER: Pension reform.
CHRISTIE: Pension reform.
CHRISTIE: Property tax cap, things that people never thought could get done. That's not the tone.
TAPPER: So, what -- sorry to interrupt? What lesson do you think you learned then?
CHRISTIE: That personnel is policy.
CHRISTIE: That you have to be even more careful. There's no insignificant appointment. No insignificant hire because that person acts in your name every day, and, you know, when they are distant from you like these folks were, physically distant from you, I think there's times when you can think -- well, it will be fine and you don't see them every day. It was a mistake.
CHRISTIE: And they made a mistake in judgment, horrible mistake in judgment. They paid for it.
TAPPER: But it hurt you, too.
CHRISTIE: So did I.
TAPPER: Yeah. Let's move on because I know there's some issues you want to talk about and some of them I'm really curious about, the PGA Tour which had been hammering the Saudi governor and LIV Golf for allying and funded by the Saudi government because of 9/11 and its human rights record, et cetera, et cetera. You have a lot of 9/11 families in New Jersey.
PGA is now partnering with LIV Golf. What's your reaction to this?
CHRISTIE: I said this to you off air. I was stunned.
CHRISTIE: When I heard the news last night, I guess, after my town hall was over, I was absolutely stunned because all I've heard from the PGA is they were morally unprincipled opposed to what was going on, but I guess the Saudis came up with enough money to override the morality and the principle. And the people I feel really bad for are the golfers themselves who stood with the PGA on that principle and would not go to LIV Golf, did not accept nine-figure checks and now are going have to play with those same players again and those players saying, hey, we're back with you, and we've got the nine-figure checks.
CHRISTIE: I mean, I think the PGA is going have an enormous morale problem on that tour just for openers and it's going to be interesting to see how they all try to manage it.
TAPPER: So, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin has launched this vicious invasion of Ukraine killing lots of civilians. As you know, two of your opponents have given some interesting signals, Donald Trump refused to the say in the town hall with Kaitlan Collins which side he wanted to win, Ukraine or Russia, refuses to call Vladimir Putin a war criminal even though he has been indicted by The Hague. Ron DeSantis calls it a territorial dispute.
Are they wrong? What's your position?
CHRISTIE: They are wrong. They are wrong. This is a proxy war with China. That's what it is. China is buying Russian oil like no one else in the world is doing.
They are funding the murder of Ukrainians by the Russian army. President Xi goes to Russia, stands with Putin and says there's no limits to the Chinese friendship with the Russians.
If you don't understand that this is a much bigger deal than just Ukrainian territory, it's a much bigger deal. Our friends around the world are going to see do we stick and stand with our friend and give them the tools that they need to protect themselves from authoritarian aggression.
And I don't know what President Trump is thinking about this except that he's been a puppet of Putin from the time he was president. And it's always been disturbing to me. We would argue regularly about Vladimir Putin during the time that he was president, and I think it's very clear what we need to do.
We need to give the Ukrainians every piece of military hardware they need to protect themselves against this aggression, and we need to continue to do it until they are ready to resolve the conflict in Russia.
TAPPER: So I have so many more questions, but we're out of time.
TAPPER: But I will say, as you know, I've wanted you to come and answer questions for a long, long time but you had a contract with ABC News.
TAPPER: You no longer do.
CHRISTIE: I do not.
TAPPER: So come back soon, will you.
CHRISTIE: I will come back, absolutely, Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Best to Mary Pat.
CHRISTIE: Thank you.
TAPPER: Appreciate it. Best of luck out there on the campaign trail.
CHRISTIE: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: Coming up, Chris Christie, we should note, is also going to participate in a CNN Republican town hall live from New York, and Anderson Cooper will be the moderator. That one, that's coming up Monday night at 8:00 Eastern, only here on CNN.
We're getting all these town halls. It's great.
Coming up, it's a title New York never wanted to capture, making the worst air quality in the world today. We're going to bring you the stunning pictures and the health warnings.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: We're back with our health lead and a live look at One World Trade Center in New York. The sky so smoky, it's almost the same color as the gray buildings.
Let's go to CNN's Miguel Marquez in Times Square for us.
Miguel, what's it like on the ground in New York, and how are people around you reacting to this sky?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It has gotten better in the last hour or so. There's a wind that's blown in and it's starting to blow some of that smoke out. That being said, health authorities say air quality is at the worst possible level right now, and if you don't have to be outside, you shouldn't be outside.
But this being New York, this being Times Square, people are outside. The world famous - we're right below the world famous ball that comes down on New Year's Eve at a theater here on Broadway, just one street south of where we are. There was an actor today that during the matinee, she had trouble breathing and had to cancel the show in the middle of the show. And I will say as I cough breathing this air in all day, it does have an effect. You can feel that scratch in your throat and you feel sort of the dryness. I've been in Los Angeles and San Francisco and other cities like that inundated by smoke like this.
The difference here is we're hundreds of miles away from where these fires are burning up in Canada, in L.A. or in other cities. Sometimes 10, 20, 30 miles away and it's understandable that you have so much smoke there. You can smell the camp fire smell in New York from fires burning hundreds of miles away in Canada. It gives you a sense of how big these fires are and how concerning they are.
I mean, when you look at the crowds here, some people are wearing masks. They -- they do say health authorities are saying if you're going to be outside wear an N95 or KN95. A lot of people are taking pictures as they do in Times Square but not of the buildings and not of the lights but of the sky itself because it looks so bizarre.
Somewhat less bizarre now than it did earlier, but if you are a fan of the movie "Blade Runner," you're going to love New York today -- Jake.
TAPPER: Well, that's the thing. It seems really dystopian. "Blade Runner" is not exactly the preview of a wonderful future.
What are you hearing from people around you, whether New Yorkers or tourists?
MARQUEZ: I mean, look, it's -- it's a tough bunch. I mean, some folks are wearing masks. People have a lot of masks around because of the pandemic. A lot of people wearing those paper masks. It does help them a little bit they say but it's really the KN-95s that are better for the particulates that are in the air right now.
Most people are tourists here. They are new in New York or they are New Yorkers who have been through a lot. So they are not particularly concerned about the weather. They are happy to be here to see this bizarre phenomenon happening in New York City today -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Miguel Marquez in Times Square, thanks so much.
Coming up, he was once Donald Trump's loyal number two and now Mike Pence is making an historic bid to take down his old boss and win the nomination himself. What Pence had to say as he jumps into the race for the White House? That's next.
TAPPER: Former Vice President Mike Pence has officially thrown his hat into the ring making himself a candidate for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
As CNN's Kyung Lah reports for us from Des Moines, Iowa, Pence's entrance into the race sets up a clash between the former VP and his former boss, Donald Trump.
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mike Pence on his own.
MIKE PENCE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm running for president of the United States of America.
LAH: The former vice president taking Donald Trump head on.
PENCE: I believe that anyone who puts himself over the Constitution should never be president of the United States. And anyone who asked someone else to put them over the Constitution should never be president of the United States again.
LAH: It's a message resonating with Iowa Republicans tired of the Trump drama.
JOSH STEUTERMAN, IOWA REPUBLICAN VOTER: Many that I have spoken to don't need the distractions that came with other candidates, that they're looking forward to finding solutions.
LAH: It's here the Iowa that the Pence campaign begins the persuasion campaign, selling a familiar brand of the Republican Party to an electorate reshaped by the former president.
J.C. RUDDY, IOWA REPUBLICAN VOTER: I think there's one man's going to stand up for all of, us that's Donald Trump. Not that Mike Pence were to get elected could do a good job, I don't think you do it get's job is Donald Trump.
LAH: In his kickoff speech, Pence touted the successes of the Trump administration. Suggested that former president has moved away from conservative principles.
PENCE: When Donald Trump ran for president in 2016, he promised to govern as a conservative. Together, we did just that. But today, he makes no such promise.
LAH: Pence called out the former president's stances on entitlement programs, Russia's invasion of Ukraine and abortion policy.
PENCE: Sanctity of life has been our party's calling for half a century, long before Donald Trump was a part of it. Now he treats it as an inconvenience, even blaming our election losses in 2022 on overturning Roe v. Wade.
LAH: It will be a tight rope for Trump's former VP to walk once loyal lieutenant in his administration.
PENCE: I'm deeply humbled as your vice president.
LAH: A political tie broken on January 6 over election lies. When
PENCE: President Trump was wrong then. And he is wrong now. (END VIDEOTAPE)
LAH (on camera): And just underscoring the difficult course that lies ahead for Mike Pence, shortly after he did that entire rally where he essentially called Donald Trump unfit to serve as president, unfit for office. He was on asked on Fox News if you would sign the RNC pledge that requires that you support the nominee, Republican on many. Pence said that he would -- Jake.
TAPPER: Kind of a little disconnect there.
Kyung Lah in Des Moines, Iowa, thanks so much.
The images are stunning a summer haze not seen in decades. We're going to go back to the New York where smoky skies are making the iconic skyline unrecognizable. That's next.
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
This hour, new health concerns for the pope after surgery today that was not preplanned. What the Vatican is saying about his condition.
Plus, the new grand jury investigating Donald Trump, this one in Florida. What CNN is learning about testimony to say to a former spokesman for Trump and what that might indicate and a possible end to the special counsel's investigation.
And leading this hour, much of the East Coast of the United States blanketed by smoke, drifting down from wildfires, burning in Canada. Coincidentally, today happens to be Clean Air Day in Canada. For a second straight day, New York City is experiencing some of the worst air quality in the world. And those living in other major metropolitan areas including Philly, D.C. and even down to the Carolinas are also living with unhealthy, even in some cases hazardous conditions.
Let's go straight to CNN's Bill Weir who is in Brooklyn.
Bill, how bad is the air where you are right now?
BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You are coming to me, Jake? Sorry about that,, we missed your queue if you are.