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The Lead with Jake Tapper

75M Americans Breathing Unhealthy Air Due To Canada Fires; Grand Jury Hears From Former Trump Spokesman; Former Trump White House Aide Alyssa Farah Griffin Interviewed By Federal Prosecutors In Jan, 6 Probe; Mark Meadows Testifies Before Grand Jury; Pence Kicks Off White House Bid With Jabs At Trump; Vatican: Pope Awake After 3-Hour Abdominal Surgery; No House Votes Tonight As Freedom Caucus Meets With GOP leadership; Search For Survivors After Dam Breached. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired June 07, 2023 - 17:00   ET



BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: You're coming to me, Jake? Sorry about that, we missed your queue, if you are. But we're in Williamsburg, Brooklyn right now, and we've been watching the sky change in the most sort of eerie, apocalyptic ways since midday. We saw the sky turn from like a dirty yellow to this ominous orange at one point. It got so dark that the streetlights came on in Central Park automatically.

There are ground stops at La Guardia. We just received word it looks like they're going to cancel the Yankees game and the Phillies game tonight, as well as the New York Liberty as a result of this smoke right here.

But this is the worst air quality since they've been taking readings, I think, for the last 30 years or so. Anything above 300 on the air quality index is considered dangerous for everyone, regardless of your health, regardless of your age.

Officially, we've topped over 320 today. I saw some readings on some air quality weather maps that were north of 400, unofficial, but astounding when you think about what that means in terms of where this puts New York on the world's most polluted cities, we're up there with New Delhi. Right now in terms of air quality, this is a city with four times as many people and much less stringent air quality standards and regulations as well. And it's all a matter of those wildfires up north.

Right now, so far, this part in June, 15 times the average land in Canada has burned. And the height of the wildfire season up north really doesn't get kicked off until July or August. So, who knows if this is going to be a long term trend. We're hoping for some rain tonight, but in talking to doctors and folks from the American Lung Association, they're very concerned about folks staying inside, not being active in this. The more you are working your lungs and sort of inhaling those PM 2.5 particulate matters deep into your body, the worse it can be for folks, especially those maybe who survived COVID and were damaged by that and now have to worry about this exacerbating, those injuries as well.

But this is the latest from here. I'll send it back to you, Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Bill Weir in Brooklyn, thank you so much.

Let's go to West New York, New Jersey. That's the name of the city. West, New York. That's where CNN's Maria Santana is.

Maria, tell us what the air is like where you are.

MARIA SANTANA, CNN ESPANIOL ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: Yes, but it has been very, very bad throughout the day. Things have improved in the last hour or so. But like Governor Murphy, Phil Murphy of New Jersey said in your show earlier, it gets really bad depending on where you are.

And I want to show you what it looks like right now in West New York, New Jersey, and we are really west of New York, that is Midtown Manhattan across the Hudson River. Right now, you can kind of make out the buildings at this point. Earlier today, you couldn't see anything. It was so dense and so thick with smoke that it was completely white. It also got very dark hours earlier, to the point where the street lights, as Bill Weir said, turned on here. And the authorities in New Jersey are recommending that people stay indoors, that they limit their outdoor activities.

And here in this part of New Jersey, people seem to be heeding that advice. This is a very populous area, very popular area, because of the spectacular river views. And on a normal spring day, you would see people here walking around, taking pictures, hanging out at the parks and the plazas. But today it has been eerily empty here. No one really around.

Most people are coming by just to take pictures of what it looks like, because it does look like a very eerie movie scene. That's what it's been looking like throughout the day. People who have been working outdoors, we have seen construction workers leave the area because it has gotten so bad, it is very difficult to breathe. I myself have felt the scratchy throat, the dryness in my throat. And like the authority said, the best thing that you can do at this point is wear a very high quality mask if you do have to be outside. Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Maria Santana in the town of West New York in New Jersey, thank you so much.

We're tracking this dangerous smoke that's causing flight delays, it's canceling outdoor activities, it's sending people indoors. Meteorologist Jennifer Gray joins us now from CNN's Weather Center.

Jennifer, where is the smoke heaviest right now?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS CERTIFIED METEOROLOGIST: Well, really, the New York area is where it's at its worst. You can see visibility is at one and a half miles. We've seen it down to less than a mile. At some points during the afternoon, you can see Syracuse under a mile state college. So really, this area right here is where we're being the worst of it and the thickest smoke.

However, it all depends on the wind direction. So by tonight, I think some of the smoke is going to shift a little bit farther to the west and a little bit farther to the south. So when it clears up for one area, it's going to be bad for another. This is a time lapse progressively throughout the day, and you can just see it worsen with the hours that have gone by. And that's what we've seen, and that's what the reporters are saying.

And New York City now tops that map of the worst city in the world for air quality. And it's been on this top 10 list for the last couple of days. But for the last few hours has been sitting right at number one.


You can see those red and purple dots, that's where the worst air quality is, across that I 95 corridor up in upstate New York. Even back in the Ohio Valley, and that's where the worst quality air is going to move over the course of the next few days. For New York City, it is going to remain bad. Washington, D.C. it's going to stay really nasty as far as tomorrow goes. And then it looks like by Friday, the more of this will shift a little bit farther to the west, Jake, but it's going to stick around, I believe, for the long term.

TAPPER: All right, Jennifer Gray in the CNN Weather Center, thanks so much.

With me now is Dan Westervelt. He's an assistant research professor at Columbia University and an air pollution advisor to the U.S. State Department.

Dan, thanks for joining us. It's staggering what we're seeing today across the northeast. Put this in context for us. How bad is the air pollution right now in New York City and other parts of the eastern U.S.?

DAN WESTERVELT, LAMONT ASST. RESEARCH PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIV'S LAMONT DOHERTY EARTH OBSERVATORY: Yes, thanks for having me on, Jake. It's really hard almost to find words to describe what we're seeing with these levels of particulate matter. These levels are at least 10 times higher than what health guidelines mark as the healthy levels for exposure for particulate matter. So we're really seeing just unprecedented amounts of pollution in the New York area and in the Mid Atlantic in general.

TAPPER: And this is the worst it's ever been, I believe in Canada when it comes to wildfires, at least in modern history, how much of this can be attributed, if at all, quantifiable to climate change, and more specifically, the impact of man-made activities on climate change?

WESTERVELT: Yes, well, it's rather difficult right now to attribute individual events to climate change. That research is probably ongoing as we are speaking right now, and sure, people are working on that. What we do know is that hotter temperatures, drier conditions, worsening droughts, less precipitation, all of those things which are symptoms of climate change are happening, and those things do worsen wildfires.

TAPPER: How can people protect themselves when they, let's say, have to go outside, they have to get medicine, they have to pick up their kids at school, et cetera. What should they do?

WESTERVELT: The biggest thing that we can do right now if we're outside is wear a well-fitting mask. Talking about the N95s, the KN95s, the ones that we sort of got used to during the pandemic. So we need the high quality, high filtering masks, and they need to be well fitting, and that's the best thing you can do if you need to go outside.

TAPPER: All right, Dan Westervelt from Columbia University, thank you so much. Appreciate your time and expertise.

We're going to turn now to our law and justice lead because a grand jury in Florida today heard more testimony in the investigations by Special Counsel Jack Smith into Donald Trump. CNN's Paula Reid is joining us.

A former Trump spokesman who now runs a Super PAC supporting the former President testified today, Paula, what would that cover, this former Trump spokesman?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: So, Taylor Budowich, he was a spokesman for former President Trump and now he's a top adviser at a Super PAC supporting Trump's presidential run. It was interesting to see him come now in this final phase of the investigation. As it's expected, what they would be most interested in are statements that helped to draft, particularly one statement that was drafted after that initial batch of boxes. Those 15 boxes went to the National Archives early in 2022.

We're told that following the boxes being handed over, the former president wanted to issue a statement that said he had handed over all presidential records. They ended up not doing that. So I'm sure investigators would have had a lot of questions for him about why exactly that statement didn't go forward. What were the reservations? Why was it published?

TAPPER: In addition to Jack Smith's investigation into the classified documents, there's also Jack Smith's investigation into Donald Trump's attempt to overturn the election and specifically the events of January 6. You have some new reporting that former Trump White House Communications Director Alyssa Farah Griffin, who's also a CNN political commentator, has been interviewed by prosecutors.

REID: That's right. Our colleague Zach Cohen and I broke this story today. This was described to us as a voluntary interview. She didn't go before the grand jury, but she sat down with investigators to talk about the events in and around January 6. Now, she was of course, a top adviser in the Trump White House.

She was actually brought in by the White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows. We know she testified in a House investigation. So again, it was a little surprising that she's coming in so late in the game. We learned that investigators really wanted to talk to her about Trump's state of mind and the extent to which he truly believed the lies that he was spreading about the election, whether he truly believed some of the things that he was trying to push around the time of January 6. So it's interesting that at this late phase of the investigation that their focused on still that question about to what extent did the former president believe what he was saying?


TAPPER: We've also learned more about former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who you just mentioned as having brought Alyssa Farah to the White House about his testimony to a grand jury. What do we know about that?

REID: It's all important because he's not just a witness. He is the witness right, for Special Counsel Jack Smith. And we know he could be of value in either the January 6 probe or the Mar-a-Lago documents investigation. We know that he was asked about both probes, but what's not clear, Jake, is how much he actually answered, how much he provided. But this has been one of the biggest mysteries swirling in the special counsel investigation. Even former President Trump's team has been in the dark. What exactly was going on with Mark Meadows?

But now that we know he has testified, that was really one of the last outstanding questions. This is clearly in its final phase, and it's possible that they could make a charging decision soon.

TAPPER: All right, Paula Reid, thanks so much. Really appreciate it.

With us now, Tom Dupree. He served in the George W. Bush administration's Justice Department as a principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General.

Tom, good to see you. So, Taylor Budowich, a former Trump spokesman who now runs a pro-Trump Super PAC, he testified before the Miami grand jury today. What might prosecutors be looking for?

TOM DUPREE, FORMER PRINCIPAL DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think what they're looking for there, Jake, is apparently a conversation Trump had with him where he basically suggested perhaps that he issue a public statement saying all the documents have been returned. Taylor refused to issue the statement. And so, potentially, the special prosecutor is looking at this as evidence that Trump was instructing his people to falsely represent that he had returned all the documents that the Justice Department was looking for. I suspect that's what they're focused on today.

TAPPER: So a source tells us that Mark Meadows, Trump's former White House Chief of staff, who has testified to a federal grand jury as part of the Special Counsel Jack Smith's investigation into both January 6 and the classified documents that he was asked about both topics, about the handling of classified documents, about the efforts to overturn the 2020 election. How significant is this? And does it mean anything if Meadows just pleaded the Fifth?

DUPREE: Well, if he pled the Fifth, obviously that's going to give the special counsel very limited evidentiary value. My guess is he didn't plead the Fifth. Meadows at least said publicly that he cooperated, he testified, that sort of thing. How forthcoming he was remains to be seen.

But, look, there's no question Meadows is a key player in all of this. He was central to the events leading up to January 6. We're now learning that he may well have been central to the whole Mar-a-Lago documents investigation. There's no question mark Meadows has a lot to say, but we still don't know whether he actually said it to the grand jury.

TAPPER: The government's been presenting evidence in both probes to grand juries in Washington, D.C. and also in Miami. How much longer is this going to go before there is a decision on charges based on A the meeting of the Trump team with Justice Department officials? You heard, I'm not sure if you heard it, but Chris Christie, former U.S. attorney, former New Jersey Governor, current presidential candidate he said that he guesses that is because the Justice Department sent a target for indictment letter to him. Based on everything you're hearing, what do you think in terms of timeline?

DUPREE: You know, when I heard about the meeting at DOJ, my first thought was an indictment is imminent because, look, former Governor Christie is right. Typically a meeting at DOJ is one of the last steps before an indictment drops. However, the news today that the special counsel is still eliciting testimony before witnesses, before a grand jury in Florida is intriguing. And one thing it may say is that, look, this investigation may not be quite as close to finished as we thought it was if he's still getting witness testimony. It also appears now, somewhat surprisingly, that an indictment, if and when it drops, may come in Florida rather than in D.C., which a lot of us had been anticipating up to this point.

TAPPER: CNN previously reported that U.S. Secret Service agents assigned to protect Donald Trump have been called in to testify in the classified documents probe. Another source familiar with the matter tells CNN that every member of the Trump detail, more than 20 agents have testified. That's surprising to me. I wouldn't think that you would have anything like doctor patient confidentiality, but I would think that U.S. Secret Service agents are generally supposed to keep their mouth shut.

DUPREE: Well, you know, in some respects, yes, but when it comes to grand jury testimony, no. You may recall back in the Clinton era, there was a lot of discussion and legal debate about whether there was a Secret Service protective agent privilege. The courts basically said no, Secret Service agents can be called upon to give grand jury testimony. I think from the special counsel's perspective here, these are a lot of witnesses. As you know, it's close to two dozen people who have testified before the grand jury.

These are agents who were presumably on the ground, close at hand at Mar-a-Lago and are first hand eyewitnesses to what was going on behind the scenes during the days when the administer the Trump team was negotiating with the Justice Department. They may have a lot to contribute about what they saw and what they heard during those critical months.

TAPPER: All right. Tom Dupree, thanks so much. Appreciate it.


As former Vice President Mike Pence makes historic bid for the White House, I'm going to talk to two men who know him pretty well. One led his fundraising push, another ran against him for governor of Indiana. Plus, Pope Francis as a surprise surgery. It lasted hours. What might that say about the health of the pontiff? Stay with us.


TAPPER: Topping our 2024 lead, you are -- hear the election music there, very exciting. You're looking at live pictures from Grandview University in Des Moines, where, in just a few hours, former vice president Mike Pence is going to join CNN for a live town hall with Iowa voters, moderated by our own Dana Bash. Earlier today, Trump's former vice president officially announced his bid for the White House. Take a listen.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: January 6 was a tragic day. On that fateful day, President Trump's words were reckless. They endangered my family. But on that day, President Trump also demanded that I choose between him and the Constitution. Now voters will be faced with the same choice.

I chose the Constitution, and I always will.



TAPPER: Strong stuff. Pence is now the very first vice president to run against his former running mate in more than 80 years. Let's bring in two people who know Pence pretty well, John Gregg, the Democrat who narrowly lost to Pence Indiana's 2012 governor's race, and Jeb Hensarling, former Republican Congressman from Texas and co-chair of a pro-Pence Super PAC.

Congressman, let me start with you. The latest CNN poll shows Pence way behind Trump and DeSantis. He's only in single digits among Republican voters right now. And it's early, it's early, he just announced a few hours ago. But how does Pence unite this party fractured by his former boss?

JEB HENSARLING, CO-CHAIR, THE COMMITTED TO AMERICA PAC: Well, as you point out, Jake, it is early. And the last three winners of the Iowa caucus were polling in about single digits now. So the vice president has very high name identification, but a lot of Republicans simply don't know him beyond his role as vice president. I served alongside him in the House of Representatives, and I think he will obviously make the case. And in your sound bite, the lead in from earlier today, there's a huge contrast. Constitutional conservative. Those are revered words in the Republican Party. And what a contrast, we have the vice president, he put his life on the line to protect and defend the Constitution. And another candidate sat on his duff and watched the Capitol be attacked for the first time since the War of 1812.


HENSARLING: So he will take that. He will take that to the Republican primary voter. And he has a record, not just rhetoric, as a constitutional conservative, as a defense conservative, knowing that we must fight against what Russia is trying to do and China, a life conservative. He doesn't go when the going gets tough, an economic conservative. He understands if you don't reform entitlement spending, you bankrupt future generations.

TAPPER: Right.

HENSARLING: And so a man of record, a man of conviction, a man of courage, we're at the start of this, Jake, and I think the vice president's a very exciting day, and he gave a very inspiring speech today, and I'm just happy to be able to support it.

TAPPER: John, obviously you're a Democrat. Obviously you ran against Pence. You disagree with him on many issues. What do you think of his chances? What do you think of him as a candidate?

JOHN GREGG, (D) RUN AGAINST PENCE IN 2012 INDIANA GUBERNATORIAL RACE: You know, I'm going to call him Mike, not out of disrespect, but went to law school. He actually hired me to take over his Saturday radio show, and I've known him for 40 years. People underestimate Mike Pence. Democrats underestimate him. You can't underestimate him. He's disciplined, he's focused.

My differences with Mike are political, not personal. I don't have to say anything unkind about Mike because President Trump will do all of that for the Democrat Party.

TAPPER: Congressman, obviously --

GREGG: I mean, he will. We don't have to say anything because we don't have to talk about his record in Indiana. We don't have to talk about how unpopular he was or anything about what he did Indiana as governor, because the former president is going to do that.

TAPPER: Right. I take your point.

Congressman, let me ask you, I mean, there are a lot of Republicans who thought after January 6 that was going to be it for Donald Trump, because of the insurrection, because of the mob that he incited, because of the chance of hang Mike Pence. That obviously isn't the case right now. A lot of Republicans, according to polls, are still an allegiance to Donald Trump. Why is that, do you think?

HENSARLING: Well, again, Jake, I would say that a lot of the other candidates, although they may have name identification, their stories aren't well known. Then with respect to President Trump, let's face it, 100 percent of the Republicans who are going to cast a vote in these primaries and caucuses, they voted for President Trump twice.

You know, the question people ought to be asking is, well, why is it that over 50 percent of the Republicans then and most polls aren't going to support him a third time? And if those who do support a big chunk of those are saying, you know, we're open to something else. So it is January 6, but it's also that President Trump told us at one point we would be tired of winning. Well, a lot of Republicans now are tired of losing. And so now he's cost us the election in 2018, 2020. 2022.

And a number of Republicans are saying, you know what, there are a lot of policies I liked, but I don't think he can get reelected. And I'm starting to question, is this the old Trump? I mean, he won't fight for a balanced budget, he won't fight for life, all of a sudden, he's becoming an apologist for Putin and doesn't understand that degrading the greatest ally to our opponent, China is in America's interest.


So, again, we're at the first part of the campaign. I think as this message gets out, more people focus. I think you're going to see even more erosion of President Trump's position.

TAPPER: John, in today's announcement video, Pence refers to, quote, "runaway inflation" and southern border, quote, '"under siege." Obviously, these are issues that Democrats would dispute. Janet Yellen, the Treasury Secretary said the U.S. economy is strong, she expects inflation to ease. The Department of Homeland Security says daily border encounters are actually down since the end of that pandemic era health rule known as Title 42. Will these issues, however, help Pence rally Republicans, do you think?

GREGG: You know, with all respect to the vice president, all he will really do is deal with social issues. I travel all around the state of Indiana, that's why we're only lost by two points, saying, look at his record, he passed nothing when he was in Congress, and all he ever introduced was legislation on social issues. I don't think Governor Pence will deal with economic issues, I don't think Governor Pence will deal with international relations. Everything he has always focused on in the past has been on social issues. And I have no reason to think he'll do anything different.

That's all he did in Congress, that's all he did as governor, and that was all he championed when he was vice president. So, I don't see any of those things coming.

TAPPER: All right. John Greg and former Congressman Jeb Hensarling, thank you so much to both of you. Appreciate it.

Tonight, Mike Pence is going to take questions from voters in Iowa in a CNN Republican presidential town hall at Grandview University. My colleague Dana Bash will be the moderator. That's tonight at 9:00 Eastern, right here on CNN. Coming up, Pope Francis in the hospital after an unexpected surgery. The new questions about the Pope's condition and what the Vatican is telling CNN about the pontiff's health.




TAPPER: In our Faith Lead today. Today, Pope Francis underwent an unannounced and unexplained abdominal surgery that lasted three hours in Rome, we're told, and it's raising some serious questions about the Pope's health. The Vatican says there were no complications, but all of the 86-year-old's events have been canceled until June 18th. CNN's Jim Bittermann has more now on the Pope's latest health concern.


JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A day after Pope Francis made a surprise trip to the Gemelli Hospital in Rome, he was back in, this time for surgery. And the man who performed the operation said it all went well.

SERGIO ALFIERI, SURGEON, GEMELLI HOSPITAL: The surgical operation and the general anesthesia were well tolerated by the Papal. Now he's awakened, he's fine, and he's already at work.

BITTERMANN (voice-over): It's the second time this year the 86-year- old pontiff has worried the faithful after spending four days in the hospital in March for bronchitis. And it's the second time he's had abdominal surgery in two years. This time, the Vatican says, he was placed under general anesthesia so doctors could repair a hernia the Vatican said was causing recurrent, painful and worsening symptoms. Medical sources say it's probably related to the surgery that the Pope had to remove half his colon in 2021.

The pontiff has been dogged with health issues for years. He often uses a cane or a wheelchair due to the pain in his right knee. He also suffers from chronic sciatica, which has caused him to cancel engagements. As the surgery went on, the faithful and even non- Catholic showed concern.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'm not Catholic, but he's an important person and he does a lot of good, and I hope he does well and that he recovers quickly.

BITTERMANN (voice-over): But the recovery period could be long. The Vatican has preventatively canceled the Pope's audiences and events until June 18th. Even so, afterwards, he'll need to be fully recovered because he has big summer plans. First to Portugal in August for World Youth Day, where he'll spend a grueling four days meeting with young Catholics from all over the world and visiting the Shrine of Fatima, and then to Mongolia at the end of August.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BITTERMANN: So for now, Jake, the Pope is resting and trying to recover at the Gemelli Hospital not far from the Vatican, a hospital he's gotten to know well given the various health problems he's had over recent years. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Jim Bittermann in Rome. Thanks so much. Appreciate it, sir. Let's get right to CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay, three hour surgery with general anesthesia for an 86-year-old with a long history of health issues, that sounds rather risky. It must have been a very necessary surgery.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, first of all, he's 86. He does have other health issues. The biggest risk of something like this is probably the anesthesia, to be quite honest. But he doesn't seem to have a history of cardiovascular problems, so that does decrease his risk overall. The way to think about this in terms of the urgency or necessity of the operation, to your question, Jake, he had this operation back in 2021 that was an incision in his abdomen. At some point -- at some time, those incisions, when they're closed, that closure can start to open up a bit as you can see in the diagram there.

Some people may just develop a pooching sort of their abdomen, but some cases, you can actually get a loop of intestine that's stuck in there, and that's what causes the pain, if there's enough pain. And it's usually just the symptoms, that's when an operation becomes necessary, so not emergent by any means, but increasingly necessary because of his pain. Since he's gotten through the anesthesia, because we know he's awake, he's even joking around, according to Jim Bittermann. That's obviously a good sign in terms of his overall, you know, recovery from this. Jake?


TAPPER: And Sanjay, we're told by the Vatican he's going to be hospitalized for several days. What does his discovery look like, I'm sorry, his recovery look like?

GUPTA: These types of operations usually you can go home pretty quickly, but it is an incision on your abdomen, and so it can be painful. I mean, just even coughing and sneezing, things like that can be painful. So you may need pain medications for a period of time. I think that's probably why they have canceled some of his more public meetings and things like that.

So if the recovery progresses, you're up, walking around, you're taking care of yourself. It's just the management of that pain from an operation like this, especially in the first couple of weeks, that can sometimes be the most challenging.

TAPPER: Turning to our other top health story today, Sanjay, the worsening air quality in the Northeast affecting 75 million Americans. What's your advice to those living in New York, Philadelphia, D.C., and any area where the air is thick with Canadian smoke?

GUPTA: Well, you almost have to think about this like a weather thing, you know, it's really bad weather outside, just stay inside. And so that's going to be the best advice as much as possible, staying inside and not breathing this in. If you think about this like a weather forecast, there are ways to check the weather here. There's a website called Go in there, put in your zip code. People should do this. They should do this on a regular basis, and it'll give you an idea of what the air quality is in your zip code.

And that can give you a pretty clear indication of whether or not it's safe to go outside. For people who have asthma, and I know that's in your family as well, Jake, consider using a rescue inhaler 15 minutes before you're going to go out. Just sort of expand those airways so these particles that are in the air become less problematic. As a general rule, if you can see smoke, if you can smell it's there. Those are particles, and those tiny particles, Jake, they can get into your lungs. We know that they can cause irritation, but I think what people don't always realize is that they're small enough, they can also get into your bloodstream.

They can cause clotting problems, which is why people have underlying heart disease, vascular disease are most at risk. So hopefully it clears as quickly as possible. But for the time being, you got to treat it like a bad weather event.

TAPPER: All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Thanks so much.

More than 40,000 Ukrainians now grappling with floods in the midst of the war, CNN rides along with recovery workers and takes us there next.



TAPPER: Just into Our Politics lead, the House of Representatives will not be voting tonight as the standoff between some members of the House Freedom Caucus and Republican House leadership continues. CNN's Manu Raju is live for us on Capitol Hill. Manu, tell us what's going on. House leaders are meeting with the holdouts behind closed doors. What's going on? What are they voting on or not voting on? What are the issues here?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Jake this is a second straight date that the House has essentially been in a state of paralysis as a result of a standoff between conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus and the Republican leaders, stemming in part from the debt ceiling deal that Speaker McCarthy cut with President Biden to suspend the national debt limit until January 2025.

Some believe that this deal essentially undercut a separate agreement, one that Speaker McCarthy reached with these same holdouts in order to become speaker of the House in January. But there are some other issues at play, too. There's some frustration among some of these conservative holdouts that the leadership team did not move forward with a bill that would loosen gun regulations, a bill that was pushed by Congressman Andrew Clyde, Steve Scalise. And Mr. Clyde have been in a back and forth about that issue. And there are some other unrelated issues all tied up as part of this.

Now, Jake, they have the power to essentially scuttle legislation if they block a procedural vote called a rule in the House. That's the first step in the legislative process if they withhold their support, really, if more than four Republicans vote against it because all Democrats typically vote against a rule that's enough to essentially stall legislation on the floor. And they did just that yesterday on some Republican messaging bills.

One, to ban the prohibition of stove, of prohibition of banning stove ovens, something that the Republicans generally agree with, but they wanted to protest here, 12 members voted against that, Jake. And as a result, there have been all these negotiations behind the scenes, the Speaker trying to cut a deal with these holdouts, trying to figure out a way to get them back in the fold to allow the legislative process to go forward. They're not there yet. As the Speaker right now meeting with these holdouts, uncertain what he'll give them or whether the House can act at all amid the standoff.

TAPPER: Yes, gas stoves, I think, is what you're driving out there. Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Turning to our World Lead, Ukraine's prosecutor general is investigating the destruction of a critical dam in eastern Ukraine as a possible war crime. Ukraine says more than 40,000 people have been affected by the flooding. CNN's Fred Pleitgen, wrote along with a rescue crew today. Here's what Fred saw.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL (voice-over): Raging floodwater with whole town submerged. This Ukrainian military drone video purports to show a family trapped in a Russian controlled village pleading for help. But all the small drone can do is drop a bottle of water. We went on a rescue mission in Kherson where the water levels are still rising.

(on camera): So these guys tell us that they've been at work here since last night. They said the work during the night was extremely difficult and that they're really tired. But of course, they have to keep going.


(voice-over): They found this house abandoned, but rescued three kittens. Roman Skabdrakov tells me the volunteers face Russian shelling on nearly every sorty. Of course, it's extremely dangerous, he says, especially today it's very loud.

Russia and Ukraine continue to blame each other for the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka Dam and hydroelectric power plant. The Ukrainians say on their side alone, hundreds of thousands are without normal access to water, and nearly 2,000 homes are underwater. While the rescue efforts are hampered by the near constant artillery and mortar barrages. Look, we're working despite the possibility of us being shelled. We're taking risks every day, Ukraine's interior minister tells me. We understand that this is war, and it is very difficult to completely avoid a drone or incoming missile. And that dangerous work is far from over. The authorities here say they expect they'll be busy all night getting more people to safety.


PLEITGEN: And, Jake, some pretty strong words coming from the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tonight. He accused the Russians of not doing anything to help the people who are still stranded in the flood zone on the Russian side, and he calls on the international community to step in. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Sam, I'm sorry, Fred Pleitgen in Ukraine. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

The PGA Tour has teed off its own players and fans. The rough reaction to getting into bed with Saudi Arabia's regime as the U.S. Secretary of state meets with the kingdom's controversial crown prince and prime minister, that's next.



TAPPER: In our World Lead, the PGA tour's shocking and contradictory and hypocritical alliance with Saudi-backed LIV Golf has left a foul taste in a lot of people's mouths. Not even the brutal killing of a Washington Post journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi stopped them for doing so. Or allegations of the Saudi government's complicity in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, or all the human rights abuses committed by the Saudi regime.

None of that could sway those at PGA who seem all too willing to cash in on what is expected to be, of course, massive sums of petrodollars. But as CNN's Nic Robertson reports, this latest so called sports washing by Saudi Arabia is just one way the country is trying to rebrand itself.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Whether it's gobbling up golf rights or signing yet another global soccer star, or setting oil price trends, Saudi cutting production by 1 million barrels a day or, in diplomacy. Secretary of State Antony Blinken's, three day visit, many, many roads now seem to lead to Riyadh. U.S. relations with the desert kingdom have been rocky. President Biden making democracy and human rights a core issue. But increasingly, Saudi's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman setting his own agenda. Blinken, hoping to thaw U.S. Saudi tensions and build on recent cooperation, helping both Yemen and Sudan end internal conflicts ahead of his arrival, Blinken putting Israel on his agenda, too. ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: The United States has a real national security interest in promoting normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Blinken's days long visit meeting not just Saudi officials, but regional and other diplomats, too, discussing ISIS in Africa and Asia and likely Iran's nuclear enrichment program, as well as Russia's war in Ukraine all point to Saudi's growing influence. Monday, the crown prince hosted Venezuela's president. Tuesday, Iran reopened its diplomatic mission in Riyadh, thanks in part to bin Salman's strengthening ties with China.

Last month, he hosted Ukraine's President Zelenskyy whether diplomacy or sport, MBS is thinking big, eye poppingly big. Listen to the Saudi private investment fund governor who bankrolled Saudi's LIV Golf tour, explain Saudi's growing influence in the world of golf.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The size of golf, monetary wise, is about 100 billion today. And I think the growth is

ROBERTSON (voice-over): From Formula 1 to boxing to music festivals. MBS is reimagining his kingdom, offering his population entertainment unimaginable a decade ago, when religious conservatives he banished, held sway. At home his rebranding of Saudi Arabia has gained traction, albeit detractors, risk jail if they speak out significantly, however, he has yet to persuade the world he can be trusted.

Nic Robertson, CNN, London.


TAPPER: And our thanks to Nic Robertson for that report. The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer's next. Wolf, what do you got coming up?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: Jake, we're going to have complete coverage, full coverage of the air quality crisis impacting tens of millions of Americans right now. Smoke from more than 400 Canadian wildfires blanketing major U.S. cities tonight, leading to some of the most dangerous air many of these places have seen in decades. We're standing by for a live update from the Mayor of hard hit New York City, Eric Adams. All of that much more right at the top of the hour here in the Situation Room. Jake?


TAPPER: All right, we'll be watching. Thanks so much.

Up next on The Lead, as the east coast of the U.S. struggles under the Canadian smoke, out in the Pacific Ocean, see the eruption that has residents of Hawaii trying to get a closer look.


TAPPER: In our National Lead, while the East Coast deals with wildfire smoke. Out west in the Pacific, Hawaii is dealing with a different kind of smoke, this one coming from a volcano. Hawaii's Kilauea volcano began erupting early this morning as live webcam footage spotted fissures at the base of the Halemaumau Crater. The Hawaii Volcano Observatory raised the alert level for Kilauea to red for warning. But officials assured on Twitter that, quote, at this time, there is no indication that populated areas are in any way threatened.


You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Bluesky, if you have an invite. I'm back on the TikTok at JakeTapper. 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, all two hours just sitting there like a delicious serving of poi. Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer. He is right next door, kind of in a place I like to call The Situation Room.