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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Biden: Putin "Making A Bad Bet" On Outlasting Ukraine; U.K.: NATO "Struggling" To Keep Ammo Flowing To Ukraine"; 11 NATO Members Agree On Plans To Train Ukrainian Pilots On F-16s Despite No Commitments To Give Ukraine Those Jets; White House: Biden Supports Sale Of F-16s To Turkey Without "Caveats Or Conditions"; Sen. Tuberville Sticks With Blocking Military Nominees; Unprecedented Heat In Florida Warms Ocean To Record Highs; Rep. Jared Moskowitz, (D-FL), Is Interviewed About Heat In Florida, Farmers Insurance; Farmers Insurance To Stop Offering Policies In Florida; Sen. Manchin To Headline Event In NH, Fueling Third-Party Bid Speculation; Sixth Day Of Search For Pennsylvania Prison Escapee; NASA Releases New Webb Telescope Image. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 12, 2023 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: After an hour long meeting with Zelenskyy today, President Biden verbally reassured Ukraine's leader that U.S. support is not going anywhere. Zelenskyy will keep pushing, of course, for support while his troops are in the midst of, as Biden puts it, a hard slog. CNN's Alex Marquardt is in Ukraine, where Russia has continued attacking its neighbor while world leaders were meeting in Lithuania.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Tonight. President Joe Biden delivering a rallying cry for Ukraine, now almost 17 months into its war with Russia.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our commitment to Ukraine will not weaken. We will stand for liberty and freedom today, tomorrow, and for as long as it takes.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): The speech in Lithuania's capital, Vilnius, coming at the end of a dramatic and sometimes heated two days of discussions over Ukraine's future within the NATO alliance.

BIDEN: It's going to happen. We're moving -- you all moving the right direction. I think it's just a matter of getting by the next few months here.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): Presidents Biden and Volodymyr Zelenskyy all praise and thanks closing out the NATO summit despite Ukraine coming away without the biggest ticket item it had hoped for, a concrete path to NATO membership. Zelenskyy had come into the summit blasting the lack of a membership timeline as unprecedented and absurd. On Wednesday, he took a softer tone, arguing the summit was a success because of the firm promise of an eventual invitation and security guarantees in the meantime.

PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE: The outcome of the NATO summit in Vilnius is a very much needed and meaningful success for Ukraine, and I'm grateful to all leaders in NATO countries for very practical and unpresented support.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): While the U.S. and others argue that NATO membership for Ukraine is impossible while a war is raging, the White House advertised a major announcement of long term pledges from G7 countries, including more security aid, economic support, help with recovering from the Russian onslaught, and with democratic reforms.

JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: It has made substantial progress along the reform path, and there are more steps to take. So what the alliance said with one voice last night was, we look forward to a future with Ukraine and NATO, we will work with Ukraine along the pathway to NATO, but we are not prepared to invite Ukraine today.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): In the short term, a slew of countries promised hundreds more millions of dollars in weapons, long range missiles from France, more Patriot missile launchers from Germany and armored vehicles from Australia and Great Britain, among many other items. Ukraine also celebrated a so called F-16 coalition of eleven NATO countries with pilot training beginning as soon as August, hoping to have U.S. made F-16 fighter jets in the skies by early next year, though no country has yet pledged the aircraft.

JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: We need to keep up and further expand our support to help Ukraine liberate its land and deter future Russian aggression.

MARQUARDT (voice-over): The war taking no pause as the leaders met. Ukrainian authorities say 18 people, including six children were injured Wednesday in the southern city of Zaporizhzhia by an unidentified hostile aerial object. While earlier in the day, Ukrainian air defenses repelled Russian bombardment on the capital, Kyiv for the second night in a row.


MARQUARDT: And Jake, as Russia continues to carry out attacks, or at least tries to, all across Ukraine, the Kremlin has responded angrily to what Ukraine got at this NATO conference, namely, those long term security guarantees saying that they would encroach on Russian security and could lead to what they called extremely dangerous consequences. Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Alex Marquardt in eastern Ukraine for us, thank you so much.

Joining us now to discuss this new military aid and much more, former Secretary of Defense and CIA Director under President Obama, Leon Panetta.

Secretary Panetta, good to see you. So Russia was very likely listening to President Biden's speech to NATO today. How do you think Putin received interpreted what Biden had to say?

LEON PANETTA, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY, OBAMA ADMIN.: I think there's no other interpretation that Putin could come to, but that his whole idea that somehow he can prolong this war and break the will of the United States and our allies is going nowhere. That in fact, what he is doing is making NATO and the United States even more unified. It's actually empowering NATO. We're now adding both Finland and Sweden to their membership.

The bottom line is that Putin understands that he's losing this war. And this meeting in these last few days only confirmed why he's losing that war.

TAPPER: So today, the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, pledged to be there for Ukraine, even if this ends up being a drawn out, quote, "war of attrition." We should note the British Defense Minister Ben Wallace seemed to have a less positive outlook. He told CNN that NATO countries are right now struggling to keep up with the massive amount of ammunition that Ukraine is burning through and defending itself. How does NATO keep the weapons flowing for the long haul if that is NATO's goal?


PANETTA: That's a fundamental responsibility of NATO and the United States is to be able to maintain the supplies that Ukraine needs in order to ultimately win this war. And the fact is that I understand why the President made the decision with regards to the munitions that we're sending because frankly, they're firing artillery rounds thousands each day and they're running out of 155s. We have got to be able to develop an industrial base and a relationship with our allies that makes sure we're able to provide the necessary weapons. If there's any gap here, the Russians will take advantage of it. And that's something we cannot afford to allow to happen.

TAPPER: So, 11 NATO countries, not including the U.S., we should note, but 11 NATO countries just agreed on an F-16 fighter jet training program for Ukrainian pilots. But we need to note, no country has actually provided F-16 fighter jets for the Ukrainians. How close do you think the U.S. is when it comes to providing these fighter jets one way or another?

PANETTA: You know, Jake, I think we have to be realistic about this, so, with these F-16. So, this is not just a Piper Cub airplane. F-16 is a pretty sophisticated aircraft. You've got to train the pilots. They've got to understand what they're doing in these complicated systems that are part of the F-16.

We've got to be able to provide maintenance in order to keep these planes in the air. This is a long term affair. And so, it seems to me -- I know we've started the training process, but I don't see us being able to get Ukraine to put F-16s in the air until the latter part of this year.

TAPPER: And yet it seems that it was part of the deal to get Turkey to agree to let Sweden into NATO. The Biden administration has agreed to give Turkey F-16s, no, quote, "caveats or conditions," as the White House put it. And this is as lawmakers such as the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Menendez, raised concerns about Turkey's record when it comes to human rights abuses. What do you make of that?

PANETTA: Hey, you know, you got to look at results when it comes to foreign policy. And if you can make a deal that allows Sweden to be able to come into NATO, and I understand that it's going to involve probably F-16s, it may involve some other systems as well. But if you can cut that deal, the fact is it puts us in a much better position in terms of a unified NATO. You now have Finland and Sweden, two countries that almost to joined Russia.

Let me tell you, that sends one hell of a signal to Putin that NATO represents for him the kind of threat he was trying to avoid. So I don't blame the President for making that deal.

TAPPER: So, on a separate question, but put on your secretary of defense hat for us, if you would, we've been hearing from senators on both sides of the aisle today objecting to Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville's one man hold on all these military nominations and promotions, holding up all the promotions for flag officers and more. All of these, by the way, non-political positions. How does this affect military readiness?

PANETTA: It has a hell of an impact on military readiness because, you know, there's almost something like 200 positions that are being held up here, not to mention chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, not to mention the new chief for the Marines. The reality is, if we don't put key people in those positions, it's going to undermine our readiness. It's going to undermine our ability to be able to quickly respond. You can't have acting people in these positions because they don't carry the authority they need in order to make key decisions.

And so, what Tuberville is doing here is weakening the United States in terms of our military readiness. Doesn't make any sense. If he's got a policy complaint, take it up in the defense authorization bill, take it up in the appropriations process, but for goodness sakes, allow these people to be able to assume their responsible positions in our military.


TAPPER: Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, thanks so much to you. Really appreciate your time.

This gives the name Miami heat a whole new meaning, the ocean water around Florida is more than 90 degrees right now. That could be horrible news when it comes to hurricane season. And then, remember all those election lies told and promoted by Rudy Giuliani and Rudy Giuliani's allies? It turns out Rudy and his team skipped some important steps. I'll explain ahead.


TAPPER: In our national lead, more than 60 million Americans are under extreme heat alerts right now with soaring temperatures from coast to coast. Places such as Los Angeles in the high 80s, cities such as Phoenix and El Paso are reaching triple digits. In Florida, the heat is pushing water temperatures to unprecedented highs. CNN's Derek Van Dam is in Virginia Key, Florida, near Miami.

Derek, just how warm is the ocean water? And what does that mean when it comes to hurricane season?


DEREK VAN DAM, AMS CERTIFIED METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Good evening, Jake. You know, ocean temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico and off the Florida coast have never been this hot since satellites began keeping track of the data. One buoy approached 97 degrees. We actually visited a NOAA sea surface temperature monitoring station earlier today, and they broke a record today, but also yesterday as well.

Now, the problem is that it's occurring so early in the season, it's mid-July. The hottest months of the summer are still to come. That is obviously a concern for the habitats that surround this area.

Now, to answer your questions about the hurricanes, how does warm temperatures impact it? Well, Colorado State already upping the number of hurricanes they anticipate this season just due to the warm temperatures.

TAPPER: What kind of impact could these warm waters have on the crucial coral reef off the coast of Florida, which is so important to Florida and to marine wildlife?

VAN DAM: Yes, 100 percent. It's such a fragile ecosystem. And to help me answer that question, I actually have Dr. Liv Williamson. She is a reef restoration expert here. And we know that heat is bad for corals. But you guys are working on a strategy here. Can you explain what you've got?

DR. LIV WILLIAMSON, ASSISTANT SCIENTIST, UM ROSENSTIEL SCHOOL: Absolutely. So here at the Rosenstiel School at the University of Miami, we're working on lots of different strategies to try to increase the heat tolerance of our corals. There are different ways that you can do that. So one of the problems with corals, the reason that they bleach is because they have a symbiotic relationship with algae. And what we're doing is priming them with a more heat tolerant type of algae that actually raises their bleaching threshold, that is to say, allows them to withstand more and more heat stress while remaining relatively healthy.

And then another strategy that we're working on is actually doing lots of experiments to identify parents that are genetically more heat tolerant and using those parents to breed together and create new generations of corals that also have that heat tolerance and can survive, hopefully, these higher temperatures that we're seeing more frequently now.

VAN DAM: Yes, it's very fitting considering this marine heat wave that we have going on right now. Tell me how can this coral actually protect the Florida coastline from storm surge and hurricanes?

WILLIAMSON: Imagine it or not, coral reefs are actually really key for coastline protection. As you can see, they have this amazing three dimensional structure.


WILLIAMSON: And that structure is key for breaking wave energy. It actually creates a lot of friction as that water moves over it, and that protects whatever's behind it, whether that's our beaches, our coastal properties from flooding and erosion, especially in the case of these storms.

VAN DAM: Can I hold it?

WILLIAMSON: Absolutely.

VAN DAM: Jake, you may be looking at the next climate crisis solution right here.

TAPPER: That's very depressing. Derek Van Dam, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

With us now to discuss is Democratic Congressman Jared Moskowitz from Florida. He's also the former director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

Congressman Moskowitz, it's good to see you. So, when it comes to this pending hurricane season and the fact that it might be worse because of these warmer waters. You've teamed up with Florida Republican Senators, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, both Republicans on the Disaster Relief Fund Replenishment Act which will ensure that FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has all the resources it needs to continue providing disaster relief.

I want to ask you -- I mean, that's great for a bipartisan accomplishment there. Have you ever talked to them about legislative action to combat climate change?

REP. JARED MOSKOWITZ, (D-FL): Yes, thanks, Jake. I appreciate you talking about this. Well, first of all, the reason this is so important is because we're getting into a hurricane season and we're talking about the waters being warmer than ever, we're talking about, you know, record temperatures. And so I'm extremely worried about stronger storms, storms happening in areas perhaps that don't have the infrastructure or the ability to respond like some areas, like in Florida that are more used to it. And so, FEMA is going to run out of money, the Disaster Relief Fund is going to run out of money in August.

And so, that will impact our ability to respond, our ability to recover. It'll impact reimbursement to local governments that can't afford it. And that's why I teamed up with them to get ahead of this, to be proactive. We shouldn't have to do a supplemental after the event, we should be doing it before. So look, I've talked to Senator Rubio and Senator Scott, obviously, when I was the director of emergency management, talked to them, you know, about climate change. Obviously we have disagreements on that. And so, what I'm trying to focus on now is I'm trying to focus on ways in which we make sure that cities and counties have the resources to not just respond, life saving measures to respond, but then also recover because obviously, as those resources get held up, we elongate the period for these communities to recover.

TAPPER: Florida is one of the hardest hit states right now when it comes to climate change and the devastating impact we're seeing. We're getting away from Rubio and Scott specifically, but when you talk to Republican colleagues, whether you have disagreements with them. I mean, do they not believe what's going on right in front of their eyes?

MOSKOWITZ: Yes, sometimes, Jake. Obviously, what they'll believe when the cameras are off versus when the cameras are on are sometimes different. What I'm focused on is trying to not argue with them why it's happening, but I am trying to focus on to start working on fixing it. And so, you know, that's the point here, is to solve the problem and to help mitigate the issue.


Everything we do now, every investment we make helps with mitigation. And so, you know, that's what I'm trying to work with them on. And that's what we're doing here with -- we're trying to get the money back in the DRF. The idea that FEMA could run out of money in the middle of hurricane season in the greatest country in the world sounds kind of ridiculous. We should start being proactive and not just reactive.

And we should do that with climate change, Jake. We should be proactive.


MOSKOWITZ: We know we can --

TAPPER: Right.

MOSKOWITZ: -- harden structures, we can raise roads, we can build sea walls and we can change our behavior. And so we should be doing all of that all across the board.

TAPPER: Yes, don't tell me, tell your Republican friends.

Today, Farmers Insurance said it's going to stop offering insurance policies in Florida, home insurance, auto insurance, because of your state's proneness to hurricanes. What kind of impact is that going to have?

MOSKOWITZ: Well, here's a good example, right, so the insurance industry is abandoning Florida. Why is that happening? Because the algorithms are telling them that Florida is not a good investment. My own insurance company dropped me about a year ago and they sent me a letter saying the reason we're not renewing your insurance is because you're prone to hurricanes. And I said to myself, when they insured me, I was prone to hurricanes.

I mean, did they not hear of Hurricanes Wilma and Matthew and Andrew and Michael and all these other hurricanes when they insured me? But look, they've made a decision now that the algorithms, you know, the computers are blinking red and that Florida is not a good investment. I got to be honest, obviously, you know, the folks in Tallahassee in the legislature in the Senate, they passed some bills this year dealing with the lawyers and with legal changes but they did not do anything to really address the rising cost of insurance and housing prices in Florida.

TAPPER: Generation Z is never going to forgive us. Florida Congressman Jared Moskowitz, thank you so much.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin is paying a visit to New Hampshire. Should President Biden be worried?



TAPPER: In our law and justice lead, you know those examples of election fraud promoted by Rudy Giuliani and others in Trump orbit, the crazy ones, no facts? Brand new court documents show that Giuliani didn't even bother to vet the claims that he and his colleagues were touting. This is the same Rudy Giuliani who also apparently did not find it necessary to vet the venue where he spread those election fraud claims in 2020. Instead of ending up at the Four Seasons in Center City, Philadelphia, they of course, ended up at Four Seasons total landscaping right next to the porn shop across from the crematorium, just north of the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge. CNN's Evan Perez joins us now.

Evan, two Georgia election workers brought this defamation lawsuit against Mr. Giuliani. What exactly did these court documents reveal?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, not surprisingly, there was very little proof to these claims that there was vote fraud in Georgia. And it seems Giuliani and the team around him weren't interested in trying to vet any of these claims despite their effort to try to make sure everyone knew about them. And so, this is in a defamation lawsuit that was brought by two Georgia elections workers, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss. They're suing Rudy Giuliani and others for defamation, for essentially accusing them of committing crimes, in committing vote fraud after the election. And this is an example of exactly what you're talking about.

This is a text message from Boris Epshteyn, who was an advisor to former President Trump, and this is what he says, urgent POTUS request need best examples of election fraud that we've alleged that's super easy to explain, this is what Epshteyn says. Doesn't necessarily have to be proven, but does need to be easy to understand. Is there any sort of greatest hits clearinghouse that anyone has four best examples? Again, this is a text message from Boris Epshteyn in which he's just asking for anything, anything that they can offer up. And it doesn't have to be true, it doesn't have to be proven, just something that they can easily put out. And that's exactly what they ended up doing in the aftermath of 2020 election, Jake, as they were trying to give some kind of proof that there was this fraud that they were claiming and why Congress needed to intervene, Jake.

TAPPER: Evan Perez, thank you so much.

In our politics lead, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee is warning that a key must pass defense policy bill could collapse amid infighting between hardliners and leadership in the House Republican Conference. This comes as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is scrambling to find a path forward to pass this critical legislation. CNN's Manu Raju is live for us on Capitol Hill.


Manu, not that long ago, passing this legislation would have been relatively easy, even bipartisan. What are you learning about where this bill stands now?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the Republican leadership is moving behind the scenes to try to fend up a range of hot button issues that members on their far right are trying to add to this bill on dealing with a wide range of social policy issues. One issue that is -- that they're grappling with right now is abortion. There's a Pentagon abortion policy that reimburses service members who travel out of state to have abortion procedures done. That is something that Republican hardliners are pushing to have an amendment to strike, but if they go that far, one Republican congresswoman is warning her party could face a political backlash.


REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): We're going to continue to have amendments and bills that are not going to be compassion to women, and we're going to lose seats, we're going to lose races because of this.

REP. MICHAEL WALTZ (R-FL): To dive the Pentagon into such a political issue, I think was wholly unnecessary. We asked the Pentagon not to do this because we warned them it would politicize the defense bill process.

REP. ADAM SMITH (D-WA): A small group of people isn't just saying we want to vote on things that we care about. They want to say, if we don't get what we want, we'll tear the whole thing down.

RAJU: Are you concerned this bill might not pass?

SMITH: Absolutely. I think it's more likely than not right now that it won't pass.

RAJU: All right.

(END VIDEO CLIP) RAJU: And that warning coming from Adam Smith, who is the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, someone who drafted the bipartisan bill that emerged from the committee, but warning there that Democratic support is at risk and Democratic support will be critical. But if the issues involving abortion and others get added to the bill, he's saying Democratic support won't be there, which means the bill may not pass. Jake?

TAPPER: Manu, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat, he's traveling to New Hampshire for an event with the group No Labels. That's a group that gained ballot access to run a candidate in next year's presidential election. So Manchin doing that is fueling speculation that he might run on this no labels ticket. You caught up with him earlier today. I'm sure you asked him about it. What did he say?

RAJU: Yes. He downplayed the idea that this is all about running for president or seeking a third party bid that could upset Joe Biden's effort to run for the White House. But as he has done from time and again, Jake, he would not rule it out.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): No, this is nothing about a third party. This is nothing about running about any office at all. It's about a dialogue for common sense, which is very hard to have here, finding a kind commonality.

RAJU: So you're not -- are you ruling out a third party bid?

MANCHIN: I've never ruled out anything or ruled in anything. I mean this is just strictly a conference that we're having common sense.


RAJU: And there's still a major question here in the Senate, Jake, about whether Joe Manchin will run for reelection for a seat in West Virginia. If he decides not to run, that would almost certainly give Republicans a major, major pickup opportunity. If he does run, Republicans could still potentially pick it up, although it would be much harder. So a lot of questions about Joe Manchin's future, The White House, of course, watching this very closely to see if that could upset the President's reelection bid. Jake?

TAPPER: Not ruling it in. Not ruling it out. Interesting. Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks so much. Let's talk about all this with former South Carolina state Representative Bakari Sellers, along with former Trump campaign adviser in 2016, David Urban. They're both CNN political commentators. Bakari, Senator Manchin says this New Hampshire appearance is not necessarily about running as a third party candidate. But you heard the language. He's not ruling it in. He's not ruling it out. What do you think? How concerned should Biden be?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think the Democratic Party and Joe Biden should be extremely concerned, but this is really just an exercise in futility. This is an exercise in arrogance. This is an exercise in a false sense of self. Many of these individuals who are running in third parties, including Senator Manchin, I mean, we have a big tent. We want Senator Manchin to be the Senator from West Virginia, but actually teasing and wanting people to adore you or ridicule you or be a part of this discussion for President of the United States, that it's really only arrogance. Joe Biden had a successful or has a successful tenure going as President. I think everybody should get behind him and support him.

The Joe Manchins, the Robert F. Kennedy, Jrs, the Cornel Wests, they're all in the same bucket, and they are just running either to be here with David and I as political commentators or to try to find some exit realm.

TAPPER: David, Democrats have been worried for quite some time about the potential for this group, No Labels, to play a spoiler role in 2024, splitting the Democratic vote, even just enough of the Democratic vote. Let's say they take 5 percent of it for Manchin if he runs, and which would hand the election theoretically to Trump or DeSantis. Former Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, David, told the Washington Post that that concern is much ado about nothing.

He said, quote, the last thing that this group wants to be -- wants to do is be known as the group that elected Donald Trump. And I just scratched my head at the Democrats having their hair on fire about this. What do you think?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, listen, I don't think that Senator Corker may be underestimating the No Labels, the seriousness of their efforts and undertaking. If you listen to them talk and hear them, you know, they're out to get on every, you know, state in the union to have ballot access, which, as you know, is no mean feat. And if they do so, it will really impact this election. As you noted, you know, this is going to be an extremely close race.


Let's just assume that it's President Biden versus President Trump. It'll be an extremely close race, one point or two points either direction. And having a third party candidate in the race could affect the outcome either direction. Although with Senator Manchin getting in the race in Democrat, it would probably draw more votes from the Democratic side of the aisle. So it is a cause for concern if you're on the Democratic ticket. If you're President Trump or Ron DeSantis or Chris Christie or anybody else running, I think it'd be, you know, it kind of encouraging the run.

TAPPER: Bakari, speaking of Chris Christie, he's not backing down in directly going after Donald Trump, his former friend. He today responded to Trump calling him a, quote, total loser. Christie wrote, quote, Donny, you got so much to say, why don't you say it directly to my face on the debate stage? Or are you a coward? Unquote. He's seemingly trying to goad Trump here into showing up at the August Fox debate. Do you think there's any chance that will work?

SELLERS: I'm not sure it's going to work, because one of the things Donald Trump wants to do is win. And I'm not sure there's any reason for him really to debate. If I was advising Donald Trump, I would just be like, you know, tweet back at Chris Christie, make a funny meme about whatever, and don't debate. The fact is, Chris Christie is in this race for one reason, and he's in this race torpedo Donald Trump. And he's doing a good job at it. He's the only one.

Imagine if Ron DeSantis or Tim Scott or any of these other individuals who are running for President of the United States had the fortitude of Chris Christie in attacking Donald Trump and standing principally on whatever issues. I mean, the problem with Chris Christie is the fact, left the New Jersey, Governor's Manchin with a 12 percent approval rating thereabout, and so he's not going to be the nominee.

But if somebody else had his type of tack or as some people may say, lack thereof, or his ability to punch a bully in the mouth, then maybe this race would be different. But the fact is, on January 16th, the day after King Day, this is going to be Donald Trump versus Joe Biden right after the Iowa primary. This race is about over.

TAPPER: David, do you agree with that? Do you think that if Ron DeSantis, for example, who is, you know, second in the race, according to polls, although a very, very far behind second, do you think if he started aggressively going after Donald Trump on all the issues, that Republicans have concerns about when it comes to him, not the base, but other Republicans, such as, you know, his behavior aren't leading up to and on January 6th, the national, you know, the prosecution about the classified documents and on and on. Do you think that would help DeSantis?

URBAN: Look, I don't -- Governor DeSantis has obviously made a calculated judgment here that he's and you see this, he's trying to run to Donald trump's right. He's trying to run to the right and more conservative than Donald Trump. So, you know, attacking the former president on certain things, I think that a lot of these candidates fear that it's going to alienate the base, right, and then undercut their own ability to keep that 20, 30 percent moving forward.

I think that what Ron DeSantis and a bunch of other these folks that aren't attacking him as Bakari alludes to is they're hoping that somehow that the former president stumbles along the way between here and Iowa caucuses and they're kind of left there to take the torch and run across the finish line. And, you know, as often said in politics, you know, hope is not a strategy. And I think that's what they're pinning on right now is hope instead of some sort of tactical or strategic plan moving forward.

TAPPER: David Urban and Bakari Sellers, thanks to both of you. Appreciate it.


An update on the manhunt for the inmate in Pennsylvania who used gym equipment and bedsheets to escape from a Pennsylvania prison, details on new sightings next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TAPPER: In our National Lead now, day six of an urgent manhunt here in Pennsylvania for an escaped murder suspect. And now authorities say a drone was flying in the area prior to his escape, but it's unclear if that drone is connected to the jailbreak. Michael Burham allegedly climbed workout equipment at the Warren County, Pennsylvania prison gym to break out through a chain link fence on the roof before he shimmied down a rope of bedsheets.

Authorities say that Burham is a self-taught survivalist with military experience and that he also might be getting help from someone. CNN's Danny Freeman is at the Warren County prison from which Burham escaped. And Danny, you just heard from Pennsylvania State Police. What did they have to say?

DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, like you said, day six of this investigation and manhunt for Michael Burham and we're still learning new information. We got some from Pennsylvania State Police in just the past hour. So first, I want to say that the police have long said, as you mentioned, that they believed that Burham has been getting help from the outside.

Well, today police confirmed that they're actually interviewing possible accomplices either to this escape or to him being on the run since that escape. The second thing I also want to emphasize is I asked police if there have been any now confirmed sightings of Burham since he escaped. Well, police said out of a number of reported sightings, we believe that many are accurate at this point.

And Jake, that's why police say that they still believe that Burham is in this larger northwest Pennsylvania area. And then the final thing, as you mentioned, Jake, police said that a drone actually may have been flying near the jail during this escape. Take a listen to what one of the lieutenant colonels said specifically about this drone aspect.


LT. COL. GEORGE BIVENS, PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE: I'm not a big believer in coincidences, but what I would tell you is that just prior to the escape, there was a drone flying in that area. It could be that there is a perfectly innocent and reasonable explanation. It could also be that it was somehow connected to his escape. And we intend to find out more about that.



FREEMAN: Now, Jake, back out here live, I just want to show you. This is the court building behind me. It includes an actual court, includes admin offices, but it also has the county jail. And this alcove that you're looking at, this is the spot where Burham actually repelled down using that rope made of bed sheets. A source telling me that Burham then hit the ground here and ran straight past us into this neighborhood. And I'll further say that the county commissioner told us today in a press conference that the whole escape, Jake, took less than a minute, so again, this manhunt still going strong six days after that escape. Jake?

TAPPER: Danny, what are authorities saying to local residents? I don't know how dangerous this individual might be.

FREEMAN: Jake, authorities are saying unequivocally, they say that this man, Michael Burham, is armed and is dangerous. And I should say they're emphasizing even more today that they believe that he has obtained a weapon, though the police wouldn't go into more specific detail about that. But they're saying to the public, while the public should be alert and vigilant, lock their doors, monitor their ring cameras, they are saying that they will catch this man, whatever it takes through this investigation. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Danny Freeman in Warren, Pennsylvania, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, we're going to go out of this world, way out of this world, to get a one of a kind look at the birth of a star, 390 light years away. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Our Out of This World Lead is way out of this world, 390 light years away in fact, for context, one light year is equivalent to 6 trillion miles, one light year. This new image from NASA's James Webb Space Telescope shows about 50 young stars, many of them similar in mass to our sun. They are in the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex. That's a part of our universe where new stars are frequently born, ones that could be home to brand new solar systems.

Joining us now to discuss is NASA's Dr. Amber Straughn. She's a deputy project scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope program. Dr. Straughn, this is all just blowing my mind. Tell us more about what we're exactly seeing here. There's a lot of detail and some unusual colors.

DR. AMBER STRAUGHN, ASTROPHYSICIST: Sure, yes. I mean, this beautiful new image is really just the latest example of how the Webb Telescope is delivering on its promise to reveal the universe in whole new ways. And so what we're seeing here is essentially a stellar nursery, a place where baby stars are being born. Those beautiful red jets that you see there in the image are the telltale signs of these baby stars bursting forth from their cosmic cocoons.

And the dust that you see here is really reminiscent of how our own sun was born billions of years ago. And all the dust similar to what you see here eventually, of course, formed the planets, including the earth and us. And I think that's one of the most beautiful kind of concepts in astronomy. This idea that the iron in our blood and the calcium in our bones was forged inside of a star that exploded billions of years ago in a supernova. We're connected to the universe. And these beautiful images really show us that.

TAPPER: So the Webb Space Telescope is pretty significant for space exploration, even if we're not actually sending people to those places.

STRAUGHN: Absolutely, yes. This telescope has completely revolutionized already our understanding of the universe in just this first short year. And of course, yes, NASA does all these amazing things like sending people to space, sending rovers to Mars, and building these space telescopes is one of the crowning achievements of NASA, I think.

And, you know, we're here today, we're all celebrating this one year anniversary of science of these images. But we can't skip over the engineering that made this possible over two decades of work to build this telescope. That is one of the largest engineering challenges that NASA has ever faced.

This telescope was so big, it had to unfold in space, and it's been really just a huge, huge technical achievement to get this telescope out there to get it working, and it's working better than we ever expected or predicted.

TAPPER: And Dr. Straughn, I mean, as you noted, it's been an incredible year of findings confirming multiple clouds on Saturn's largest moon, Titan. What are some of your favorite findings so far?

STRAUGHN: Well, it's hard to pick because there have just been so many. But just in this first year, we've been able to look back in time over 13.5 billion years to see some of the very first galaxies that were born after the Big Bang. As you noted, we've seen these really incredible clouds on Titan. We've been able to look in detail at the atmospheres of exoplanets, planets orbiting other stars outside of our solar system.

And we're all along learning more about our universe in scales all the way from our sort of cosmic backyard to the Solar System, all the way out to the most distant reaches of space.

TAPPER: Dr. Amber Straughn, thank you so much for your expertise and your time today. I really appreciate it.

Coming up, CNN's Wolf Blitzer is live in Vilnius, Lithuania for President Biden's trip. And Wolf, obviously, this was a very important moment for President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Very important for both of these presidents, Jake, and they seem to have patched over some of the problems. Certainly, the Ukrainian president, President Zelenskyy, would have wanted a hard and fast commitment that Ukraine will become a member of NATO. Didn't necessarily get that, although there were some vague assurances that after the war, Ukraine would be able to apply and get into NATO, that's down the road, they would have liked to have done that.

Now the U.S., some of the other NATO allies were against that. It's got to be unanimous to get into NATO, because if one NATO country is attacked, all the NATO countries are attacked. Of course, President Biden was concerned that if the U.S. were to support Ukraine's getting into NATO right now, that could lead to a direct war between the U.S. and Russia, which obviously they want to avoid.


But they did patch up a lot of their differences. And what the Ukrainian president was really pleased about was the increased U.S. military assistance that the United States is going to be providing and some of the other NATO allies are going to be providing. So that was very significant.

TAPPER: And you've got some special guests joining you coming up in the Situation Room.

BLITZER: The Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova, she'll be joining us live in the Situation Room. We'll discuss what's going on as far as NATO is concerned and Ukraine and the offensive, what's happening in U.S.-Ukrainian relations. We also have Garry Kasparov, who's a really hardline Putin critic. He's going to be joining us. He's got some strong views on what's going on right now.

TAPPER: Kasparov, always a good interview. Thank you so much, Wolf. We'll see in a few minutes.

If you haven't heard, I have a brand new thriller. It just came out yesterday. All the Demons Are Here, a wild ride and a murder mystery through a bizarre era for the United States, 1970s. The book has Evel Knievel, the Death of Elvis, post-Watergate, mistrust of institutions, cults, disco, the Summer of Sam, UFO sightings, and much more. I would truly be honored if you would check it out. It's in bookstores now and you can order it online of course.

Wolf Blitzer is next in The Situation Room after this quick break. I'll see you tomorrow.