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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Idalia Near Category 2, On Track To Hit Florida As Cat 3; Idalia Near Category 2, On Track To Hit Florida As Cat 3; White House Responds To Multiple Lawsuits Challenging Medicare Negotiations; Sidney Powell Pleads Not Guilty In Georgia Election Case. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired August 29, 2023 - 16:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: We're going to have much more of our coverage of Hurricane Idalia. It's a strong category 1 storm already hitting Florida at this point, right?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Live pictures now from Key West, Florida. You can see the strong winds there, hitting the southern keys at the moment. You've got people are still taking photographs. I would suggest, get away from the coastline. There are a lot of mandatory evacuation orders from the coastline.

Do stay with CNN for our coverage of Hurricane Idalia.

THE LEAD with Jake Tapper starts right now.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

And we start today with breaking news in what could be a once in a lifetime weather event for parts of Florida and the United States.

Right now, Hurricane Idalia is barreling toward Florida's gulf coast and is expected to make landfall as a category 3 storm or stronger overnight. The storm is rapidly intensifying as it travels through a warmer than normal Gulf of Mexico.

The majority of Florida's counties are now under a state of emergency. Schools are closed, airports have been shuttered and hospitals are moving the patients that they can move to safer locations.

Cities around the eye of the hurricane are predicted to possibly see more than 12 feet of storm surge with winds more than 100 miles per hour. We are just getting in some new video. This is out of Key West, where residents are already starting to feel the storm's effects.

Moments ago, this dire warning from the mayor of Cedar Key, near where the storm is expected to make landfall. The mayor estimating around 100 people remain in his town. He's urging them, pleading with them to leave.


MAYOR HEATH DAVIS, CEDAR KEY, FLORIDA: We're here to beg our citizens to heed this warning. This storm is worse than we've ever seen. My family has been here for many generations. We haven't seen a storm this bad ever.


TAPPER: Our teams are positioned all along Florida's Gulf Coast as the storm approaches. Let's start with an update on the hurricane from meteorologist Chad Myers in the CNN weather center.

Chad, how strong is Idalia right now? What's the latest track?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right now, it is 90 miles per hour. We'll get a new update at 5:00. The hurricane center just took off now a hurricane hunter, I'm not sure it's going to make it there by 5:00, but it will be close.

So, we're still watching it really on satellite. And now, we can even see it on radar. You can see it from the Key West radar and the Tampa Bay radar if you want to play it at home.

But what we're seeing on the shore itself on land now are spinning thunderstorms. Even had a tornado warning near Marco island not that long ago, St. Petersburg, jut a gust of 31 miles per hour as all of these bands come on by, one closer to the eye than the next, the wind will begin to pick up one band after another.

There's your 90 mile-per-hour-storm and it is still like you said in this very, very warm water. And we are going to see surge. The surge is going to be 12 to 15 feet in places.

Now, the good news is there's not much many people there, not many people, that much land there. That's great news. But the people that are there need to leave right now. Cedar Key, Steinhatchee, those places are going to be mostly under water.

Here's what it looks like here, and this is what the radar is going to look like. This thing is only going to be in the water another 20 hours. Then it makes landfall. That's the good news. We don't want this thing in the water another 36 hours where it could get stronger and stronger and stronger, Jake.

TAPPER: And, Chad, there's going to be a super moon tonight. And that could actually make Idalia's storm surge even worse. Explain.

MYERS: Right now, today and tonight, the moon is 18,000 miles closer than normal, because the moon's orbit is in a circle. It's kind of a big egg. So because it's closer, you get a 5 percent higher pull because it's 5 percent closer than normal. So that is going to raise any of these storm surges that would have been, let's say, 14 feet would make it 15 feet. And you're going to see these tides worldwide higher than normal. But it affects, obviously, this storm because, as you push the water on shore, if the tide is going to be higher, you have to add that surge to the tide and that's what we're going to see tonight.

The models are in pretty good agreement right now. Don't think this moves left to right much. I think the forecast is right on. We'll see at 5:00 what kind of changes they make.

TAPPER: All right. Chad Myers, we'll come back to you. Thank you so much.

Let's bring in CNN's John Berman and Bill Weir along the coast in Florida's Big Bend area. That's where the panhandle meets the west coast of Florida, that Bend area. That's where Idalia is expected to make landfall.

John, you're in Steinhatchee, and all of the coastal areas around you are currently under mandatory evacuation orders. Does it look as though people are following those evacuation orders?


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You know, Jake, we were just talking about that. We have seen a lot of people leaving, a lot of people driving in the other direction that we were coming in on, towing their boat. This is a fishing community here behind us, seasonal fishing community. Only about 500 people live here year round. I see more cars driving out that way. We saw boats headed in that way. So, yes, it seems as if many people are heeding the warnings I say.

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, we stopped at a couple stores there, emptied all the inventory out, you know, moving it to whatever passes as high ground. We were lucky enough to get a room.

And pretty much, the highest spot here, 58 feet above sea level. And that's lofty. That's alpine in this world part of the world. But that should be enough to keep us out of even a 12-foot storm surge, but they've had that in this place before.

BERMAN: You know, the point that Bill is making is so important because you drive in here and it's flat. It's flat for miles and miles and miles. So the concern is if there's this storm surge, Steinhatchee River, which is right here, rises 10 to 15 feet, it could send water very far inland.

And just for a point of reference, Hermine, which is what, 2016, they had a storm surge of six feet. And people were saying they were walking around the marina parking lots in water to their waist. So, six feet storm surge, water to your waist, 10 to 15 storm surge, it would be over our heads.

WEIR: So much of this is stick construction, historic construction, prefab mobile homes, so really the infrastructure of this area is most at risk. You've got to hope those die-hards who never leave are minimal this time, right?


TAPPER: Bill, how used to these strong hurricanes are residents of this region of Florida?

WEIR: These are storm-hardened folks here. You know, in addition to the one John was talking about a few years back, back in the '90s, they had the storm of the century, 11 foot storm surge. And so, you get folks who have the mentality that if it's not a category 4 or 5, it's not going to get my attention -- although historically, those rarely make landfall here. And so, it's a local's apathy about these things.

But we live in a different world now. Every one degree Fahrenheit of heating in the Gulf of Mexico, scientist tells us, means a storm could be 10 percent stronger. Right now, it's over 2 degrees above normal. It's way above record-breaking, 88 or 89 degree sea surface temperatures, which is just steroids. Like Soviet era steroids for these storms, and we'll see what that means later tonight.

TAPPER: All right. Bill Weir, John Berman, we'll come back to you. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Let's head down the coast now to CNN's Gloria Pazmino who's in Clearwater, which is outside Tampa, Florida.

And, Gloria, while that area is not predicted at least as of now to take a direct hit from the eye of the storm, officials are still warning about the potential for deadly flooding and storm surge.

GLORIA PAZMINO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Jake. And we are in Pinellas County, and as you said, no longer expected to take a direct hit from the storm, but that does not mean that we are out of the danger zone.

We are about 45 minutes to the west of Tampa Bay. And it's pretty desolate here. The beach behind me is empty, and that's how officials want it. This is a mandatory evacuation zone, zone A. And the reason for that is because the danger here is the storm surge, what Bill was just talking about, as that hurricane moves towards the coast, over those very warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the concern is that the storm will continue to gather more and more strength and storm surge will affect these low-lying areas, where we are right now.

I just want to show you, we have been watching all morning as some of the wars of this hotel were lining up these sand bags. As you can see, they are lined up all across the sidewalk here. The beach is over beyond us, but this area is expected to get at least 4 to 7 feet of water once that storm surge comes in, if it does come in tonight into tomorrow morning.

So these sandbags are here, but when we're talking about 4 to 7 feet of water, it really might not do a whole lot. Now, the area where we are, there are a lot of hotels, a lot of resorts, this is an area where a lot of tourism takes place, but the place is pretty empty. In fact, the hotel where we are staying, guests were told to evacuate by 11:00 this morning.

And even as we were coming into town late last night, you could see that it was pretty desolate. A lot of the stores, the restaurants had shut down. So it does look like people are heeding those warnings. That's a good thing because it does look like it's going to be dangerous here tonight -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Gloria Pazmino, thank you so much.

Let's bring in Tom Knutson now. He's a senior scientist at NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Tom, what are you most worried about as Idalia nears landfall?


TOM KNUTSON, SENIOR SCIENTIST, NOAA: Well, I would be most concerned about the storm surge scenario. Again, the National Hurricane Center has put out some very good information on this, which I think residents really need to heed.

TAPPER: It seems as though this is really a confluence of horrible events. You have the super moon, which might be bringing tides to higher heights. Obviously, the affects of global warming, climate change on the Gulf of Mexico has made that hotter, which has made the storm stronger.

Are there any other x factors we should be keeping an eye on that could affect the strength of the track?

KNUTSON: No, those are the ones that you mentioned that I would be concerned about. I know you did mention climate change and the role that long-term warming is playing. We do find that in our climate models that you have hurricanes going over warmer sea surface temperatures. They are strengthened by warmer sea surface temperatures. For 2 degree Celsius, global warming scenario, we find about 3 percent increase in maximum wind speeds in the Atlantic basin, between 1 and 10 percent is centered around that.

TAPPER: You published a paper, in fact, earlier this year about how climate change will affect hurricane season. Based on your research, are you anticipating that we're going to see more hurricanes every year, more stronger hurricanes every year? What's the forecast?

KNUTSON: Well, most confident projection we can make is with the sea level rise, that will lead to greater storm inundation levels, everything else equal. We also are quite confident that global warming will have higher rainfall rates, something like 7 percent higher rainfall rates for every 1 degree Celsius of warming. Those are the things we're most confident about, was well as this rise in average wind speed intensity, 3 percent increase for 2 degree warming scenario.

In terms of the numbers of storms that are going to affect the U.S., that's very much an open question. There's no long-term trend by the way in U.S. land-falling hurricanes, and the models are somewhat divided on whether they are going to be fewer storms in the Atlantic basin. There's some indication from models of the storms that are out there in the Atlantic basin, the greater fraction of them will make landfall in the U.S. under a global warming scenario.

But that's something we don't have as much confidence in as the sea level rise and the greater maximum rainfall rates and greater average maximum wind speeds.

TAPPER: How does climate change affect the impacts of the hurricane, such as the storm surge or the flooding?

KNUTSON: Yes. Well, through the sea level rise, of course, if the hurricane is riding in on a higher background sea level, that will lead to these higher inundation levels, even if the storm is not changed due to climate change. So in some sense, sea level is a damage multiplier. So it is making for coastal regions more susceptible to the effects of storm surge.

TAPPER: All right. Tom Knutson, thank you so much for your expertise. Appreciate it.

New video shows hurricane Idalia hitting parts of south Florida. This is more than 300 mile was from where Idalia is expected to make landfall. We're going to go live to areas that could get a direct hit, next.



TAPPER: We're back with our breaking news coverage of hurricane Idalia. In just minutes, we're going to get an update on the storm as it's rapidly intensifying and headed towards Florida. The National Weather Service office in Tallahassee posted this morning today, quote, Hurricane Idalia will likely be an unprecedented event for many locations in the Florida Big Bend.

Looking back through recorded history, no major hurricanes have ever moved through the Apalachee bay. When you try to compare this storm to others, don't. No one has seen this, unquote.

The post goes on to warn, quote, this is your last day to get prepared. Conditions rapidly deteriorate tonight.

CNN's Brian Todd is standing by in St. Marks, Florida, that's just south of Tallahassee.

And, Brian, you're at the top of the so-called Big Bend. That's where the panhandle meets the peninsula, the west coast of the peninsula, where Idalia could make a direct hit.

Are people in the low-lying areas there, are they following the evacuation orders?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as always, Jake, when these hurricanes come, some do follow those orders, and some do not. We just spoke to officials at the Wakulla County sheriffs and emergency management agency. They have said this town is under a mandatory evacuation. They have sent deputies door to door, knocking on doors, asking people to leave the town.

But as you know, you have been through several hurricanes in this region before, a mandatory evacuation means they cannot physically pull you out of the house and take you away from your town. If you want to stay, you can stay, that is your choice. But a mandatory evacuation means they will come to your door or contact you in another way to strongly urge you to leave and not ride it out.

We talked to several people in this town who are still going to stay. We're going to talk to you about what they could be in for in a second. But why is this such a dangerous spot? Look at how low we are to the river here. This is the St. Marks River right behind us. One local resident told us the river here is a little higher now than it normally is. And, of course, we're a few hours yet from the storm.

This river converges with the Wakulla River downstream and then it's the Apalachee Bay. As you just mentioned, Jake, Apalachee Bay, this whole area, never seen a category 3 hurricane in recorded history. Now taking you through this area here and where the water could push up.


Six feet of storm surge is what we're told to expect over here. That means according to my colleague in the weather center, the wind is going to look like a snowplow pushing this water up here. Residents fully expect this whole area here to be flooded.

Look at how people build in their preparations. This house here, 15 to 20 feet aboveground on concrete stilts, but, of course, not every house here is like that. Residents here fully expect this whole area to be flooded tomorrow.

When I asked one sheriff's deputy official about what he would tell people who are planning to stay here, he said he had one word as a response. He said, don't. They really need people to get out of here, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. CNN's Brian Todd in St. Marks, just south of Tallahassee, thanks so much.

Let's go back down the coast a little bit to Levy County.

Joining us is Lt. Scott Tummond who's with the Levy County Sheriff's Office.

Thanks so much for joining us, Lieutenant.

Levy County is in the northwest part of the Florida peninsula. A mandatory evacuation order has been ordered for residents and visitors in the coastal areas of the county. It's supposed to be completed by this hour, 4:00 p.m. Eastern. The Cedar Key mayor says about 100 people are not complying.

Tell us about what you are seeing and hearing.

LT. SCOTT TUMMOND, LEVY COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE SPOKESMAN: For the most part, we're seeing a lot of our citizens moving out of the way of this. We do have, like our other counties, hardened residents that aren't taking heed.

Don't stay. If there's any message I can send, don't stay. This is going to be an epic flood for our region.

TAPPER: Have things gone as smoothly as they could today?

TUMMOND: Unfortunately, this is not our first time to prep for a storm. So, as far as our operations and ramping up and guaranteeing the safety of our community, yeah, we are ready, as ready as we can be. We just don't want to have to go back in later on down the road after the storm passes and have to take people out that didn't heed the warnings. We would like them to be gone.

TAPPER: So the evacuation orders says residents and visitors on Cedar Key need to be off the island before the storm surge arrives because the bridges throughout the area are going to become impassable. The National Hurricane Center says Cedar Key could be completely cut off by an eight to 12-foot storm surge.

How quickly do you anticipate you'll be able to get to the island once the storm passes?

TUMMOND: Well, once the storm passes, that's when we're going to see the major water inundation come in. Prior to that, we're going to have to weather the storm winds of 120 miles per hour. That's not something we have seen in this area for a very, very long time.

Hurricane Hermine in 2016 put six feet of water on top of us. We're looking at double that. So, our buildings are going to be under water. Trying to get to the residents is going to be a huge challenge.

TAPPER: So, Governor DeSantis met with Levy County emergency management officials. What did he have to say?

TUMMOND: Evacuate. Get out. Get away from the water. Run from the water and hide from the wind.

We can't urge our residents enough. This is not the time to try to test Mother Nature. Mother Nature will win. So, get out and save yourself. Take ownership for yourself and your own safety.

TAPPER: Lieutenant Scott Tummond, thank you so much for what you do. Thank you for talking to us. Please keep safe.

TUMMOND: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up, why the path of Idalia could create such a dangerous storm surge. We're going to answer that.

Plus, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will be here. We're going to talk about the federal response to Idalia and the administration's new effort to lower Medicare drug prices.

We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


TAPPER: And we're back with a view of Hurricane Idalia from space. This image captured by the International Space Station around 11:30 this morning. The National Hurricane Center's next update is coming at the top of the hour. We'll find out then just how much the warm Gulf waters are fueling this system and whether the hurricane is getting stronger. We anticipate it is.

Meteorologist Chad Myers is back in the CNN weather center for us.

And, Chad, the storm surge could really be the main issue here.

MYERS: Yes, absolutely. The Florida Big Bend area is going to act like a catcher's mitt to catch all of the water that's now being blown along the shore of the west coast of Florida. Think about trying to cool off a cup of coffee, and as you blow on the coffee, you see the ripples and they all blow away and on to the other side of the cup.

Well, all of the ripples now are blowing up alongside the coast of Florida. In the Big Bend area, land is going to get in the way. And it's not going to let the water go any further.

So we are going to see the surge here. It's not a tidal wave. It comes in about 6 inches at a time. One wave just a little taller than the next wave, a little taller than the next wave, so it takes some time.

It doesn't give enough time to get out of the way once you're there, but it's still a slower process than people think of this big tidal wave coming their way. It's not going to happen like this. We are going to see the surge along with the landfall of the eye and on the right side of the eye.

On the left side of the eye, there will be an inverse surge. The wind will push the water away from land. You'll be able to see the beach for probably hundreds and thousands of feet here, hundreds or thousands of feet, and then here along the coast, that's where the rainfall is going to be.

So if you're going to evacuate the surge, where do you want to be? Not here where you're going to see flash flooding because of the freshwater rainfall. You have to be careful where you're going here.


TAPPER: All right. Chad Myers, thank you so much.

Just moments ago in the Oval Office, President Biden told reporters that he is worried about the storm surge from Hurricane Idalia as it approaches Florida. The president says he's spoken with Governor Ron DeSantis and other officials along the state's gulf coast to pledge full support from the White House.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre is with us now to talk about that and other issues.

Karine, what does that support look like? How is the federal government prepared to respond once the storm makes landfall?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: So, as you know, as the president mentioned, he spoke to Governor DeSantis yesterday. And as well, he approved an emergency -- emergency kind of preparedness declaration right away, which helps -- which helps the federal government move quickly to do stuff before it hits on land and also after -- also to prepare for the aftermath.

Look, what the FEMA administrator and the federal government has been able to do, they deployed more than 600 federal employees who are prepositioned to help. There are about nine search and rescue teams out there also pre -- pre-deployed. What we are telling people is to make sure that they go to to get any information that they need, preparedness tip, and also to make sure that you are -- that you are charging your technology equipment, also to make sure that you're getting food. Just be prepared for what's about to happen.

This is an all of government approach that this president is doing. This is what he has done. We've seen in this type of weather. We've seen this type of hurricane.

And so, we are there. The president is going to be there for them tomorrow until -- until that we are needed on the ground.

TAPPER: So, FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has nearly $3.5 billion in disaster relief for this hurricane and for the Maui wildfires and for any future extreme weather events to come.

We just heard from the FEMA director today, she is worried about running out of funding, understandably. She called on Congress to approve the request for another $12 billion in disaster funds, so emergency relief efforts are not impacted at all.

We should note, Karine, that request for relief is paired, combined, with requests for more aid for Ukraine, which is more controversial to many in Congress. It might be a sticking point for them.

Why not separate the FEMA dollars from Ukraine dollars so you don't have that problem for those who need this FEMA money as soon as possible?

JEAN-PIERRE: So, the administrator came into the briefing room. She laid that out for the reporters, for Americans who are watching. And she said she'll have more to say.

Look, as in regards to the supplemental funding that the president has asked for, I don't want to get into hypotheticals. The president put forward what he thinks is incredibly important that we need.

If you look at Ukraine, the president has been clear. We're going to help the brave people of Ukraine as they are fighting for -- fighting for their freedom, fighting for their democracy in this unprovoked war as we've seen from Russia, and we are going to be there. Our allies, our partners are going to be there for as long as it takes because it is that important, it is that critical.

And obviously, making sure that we have everything we need for folks not just in Florida, folks in Maui, any type of extreme weather, hurricanes that we see so that we are prepared. And those things, both of -- both of those things are incredibly important.

I'm not going to get into hypotheticals or what it looks like if Congress comes back and wants to split the two. These are incredibly important not just for the president, for the American people, right? We have to keep our commitments on both sides of these things.

TAPPER: The Biden administration has been negotiating prescription drug prices in Medicare, something that previous presidents, including Obama have promised to do, but President Biden did deliver on.

Today, the White House revealed the names of the first ten drugs subject to negotiations to bring the prices down. We're going to put their names on the screen. Two of them are primarily blood thinners, one is for blood cancer, four for diabetes, two for autoimmune disorders, one is for heart failure. And some of these can treat more than one thing.

How soon will Medicare recipients feel the impact of these negotiations, and how much do you think they should expect to see?

JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, so a couple things. This is so important. This critical provision that's coming out of the Inflation Reduction Act.

TAPPER: We're talking about it right now. That's what I --

JEAN-PIERRE: And I appreciate --

TAPPER: I agree.

JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you for giving thus opportunity because we're talking about 9 million Medicare beneficiaries who are going to really feel the relief of these ten drugs as far as costs. We're talking about $160 billion of savings that taxpayers are going to have when we look at what the health care benefits are coming out of the Inflation Reduction Act. This is huge.

You look at these ten -- these ten drugs. In 2022, they cost Americans who are -- who take these ten drugs, $3.2 billion. That's $6,000 out of pocket for just one drug.


TAPPER: Right.

JEAN-PIERRE: And so, this is a tremendous, tremendous thing. As you said, 33 years, it took 33 years to make this happen. And what the president has been able to do is beat big pharma, because now, Medicare is allowed to negotiate. It's going to take some time. We're going to, you know, Americans are going to see the effect of this in 2026, as it relates to these ten drugs. But the Inflation Reduction Act has already been working. About 15

million Americans are going -- are seeing $800 per year in savings in health care. You think about the insulin, 35 bucks for senior citizens when it's capped at 35 bucks for senior citizens. And that is incredibly important as well.

So, we're seeing the effects of Inflation Reduction Act that only Democrats voted for a year ago.

TAPPER: So you said the president beat big pharma, but big pharma said -- well, if it were up to them, they'll say not so fast, because several companies and industry groups have filed multiple lawsuits claiming that these negotiations are unconstitutional.


TAPPER: Some of the bigger names include pharma. That's the trade organization, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, the Chamber of Commerce.

Is the White House concerned at all about this pushback?

JEAN-PIERRE: Well, we're not concerned. Look, you talk about the Constitution, there's nothing in the Constitution, Jake, that says that Medicare cannot negotiate with pharmaceutical companies.

TAPPER: There's nothing in the Constitution about Medicare.

JEAN-PIERRE: Well, here's the thing, look, we believe that we have strong standing ground legally and we believe that we are -- we're going -- we're going to fight this and we're going to win this. We're going to leave that to the Department of Justice to do the -- to move this process along.

I do want to say one quick thing. Today, there was this gentleman named Steven who introduced the president. He's a senior citizen, Medicare benefactor.

He has a rare blood cancer and he also has type 2 diabetes. He pays $16,000 a month, $16,000 a month for his -- for his medication.

Nobody should have to live this way. He does not want to retire because he doesn't know how he would be able to afford this.

TAPPER: Right.

JEAN-PIERRE: One of the medications that we announced today of the 10 is on that list. And it's going to save him some money.

This is what we're talking about. And this is what the president has been very steadfast about, lowering costs, especially health care costs for Americans.

TAPPER: I have two more questions. Will you stick around so that I can pay some bills here and then come back and ask the questions?

JEAN-PIERRE: Pay some bills, absolutely. TAPPER: We'll be right back.

Thank you so much.



TAPPER: And we're back with Biden White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

Thank you for sticking around. I'm excited to ask you this next question, although you might wish that you hadn't stuck around.

So, a new "Associated Press" poll finds that most Americans believe that President Biden is too old to be president. The poll looked at 80-year-old President Biden versus 77-year-old Donald Trump. Seventy- seven percent of adults say Biden is too old to be president, 51 percent of adults say Trump is too old.

And if you look at the breakdown by party, Republicans generally don't think of Trump's age as an issue, but both Democrats and Republicans agree Biden is too old.

So here's the question: is the White House worried that questions about President Biden's stamina could ultimately impact whether or not voters will be able to support him for a second term?

JEAN-PIERRE: So, I'm going to be careful about 2024. I can't speak to that directly. But --

TAPPER: You can talk about the perception of the public with the president's stamina and his age.

JEAN-PIERRE: I'm happy to talk about that.


JEAN-PIERRE: I get asked that question a lot.

Here's the thing -- you know, what this president brings to the administration is wisdom and experience. And you -- and that is just true with -- as senator, as vice president, and now as president. And we just talked about we had a really -- and I appreciate the conversation we had on Medicare.

The ten -- the first ten tranche of prescription drugs that we just introduced because of the Inflation Reduction Act, and that is the thing that the president is able to do is deliver. Really move forward historic pieces of legislation, change the lives of Americans for generations to come. And that is what we focus on. The president's record and what he's been able to do.

Look, people have come after the president about his age. They did in 2019. They did it in 2020 leading into the general election. And they did in 2022. And guess what? He beats them every time because he has his finger on the pulse of what it is that the American people need. He talks about issues that really matter to the American people. And he is delivering.

Is there more work to be done? There's always more work to be done, but we are happy to take that on. Certainly not going to talk about 2024, but what I can speak to is what the president has been able to deliver day after day for the American people.

TAPPER: Okay. So, you're part of the 23 percent of adults who is not -- who are not concerned about the president's ability to be president because of his age and stamina. I got it.

JEAN-PIERRE: That's because we got to do is watch him, watch him.

TAPPER: But 77 -- 77 percent of adults are worried. That includes Democrats, who are presumably will vote for him.

What did you make of it the other day when former ambassador and governor, Nikki Haley, said that President Biden is -- I'm paraphrasing here -- but something along the lines of degrading before our eyes, and that ultimately, Vice President Kamala Harris will be president in a second term?

JEAN-PIERRE: Look, again, I'm not going to respond directly to Nikki Haley. I'm not going to do that. Can't do that. Hatch Act, got to be really mindful and careful here.

What I can speak to is look at his record. Look what he has been able to do. We literally just talked about these ten drugs and Medicare being able to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies, which is something that no other -- no other politician has been able to do, 33 years that they've been trying to do it. This president made it -- made it get -- made it happen.

This is a president, again -- and you asked me about Ukraine, right? You asked me about the supplemental funding. He did -- he has done something internationally, right, around the world, which is bring our allies and our partners together, especially what we saw after the last administration.

This is a president that knows how to get the work done, who is focused on the American people, that's what I will speak to. I will speak to his record and his record stands alone.


And it is something that Americans should be proud of, something we all are proud of, on all of the historic amount of pieces of legislation he's been done.

TAPPER: Right. But I'm talking about his age and stamina, and his ability to do the job. And you're talking about the record. And I understand why you'd rather talk about the record.


TAPPER: But I'm talking about what Americans see when they turn on the TV and they see -- you know, Joe Biden has been in politics since before -- literally since before you were born. And like that he's -- he's aged --

JEAN-PIERRE: Well, let's talk -- let's talk about that.

TAPPER: -- as we all do.

JEAN-PIERRE: Let's talk about this, and you all talk about this back when we were -- when we are -- when we were marking the one year anniversary, right, of the war in Ukraine, the unprovoked by Russia.

TAPPER: Uh-huh.

JEAN-PIERRE: What did the president do? He went to Kyiv. And he was there with the alarms blaring in the back, and people were so impressed that he was able to be there and look strong and represent -- represent the American people in Kyiv in a war zone country. And that's what you saw, right?

TAPPER: I'm not saying he's not able to walk. I'm just saying --

JEAN-PIERRE: No, but you're saying -- you're talking about his strength, right? You're talking about how he's looking right now.


TAPPER: He's 80. I think the average male only lives to be 77 or so.

JEAN-PIERRE: But here's the thing, Jake, people saw him and were impressed that he was able to do that, that he was able to be there --


JEAN-PIERRE: -- and present the American people.

Look, the president says this all the time, watch him, right? Watch him, and he -- I've -- I've had conversations.


TAPPER: They are watching him. That's what I'm saying.

JEAN-PIERRE: No, no, no, no --

TAPPER: Seventy-seven percent are concerned.

JEAN-PIERRE: No, no, no, but I have had conversations with some of your colleagues in the White House press corps when we travel abroad how it is hard for us to keep up with this president who is constantly, constantly working every day to get things done and making sure that we are delivering for the American people. And that's what -- and I think that's what matters. I get it. I get what you're asking me. But the record matters, too,

Jake. What he's been able to do, no other president has been able to do if you look at his legislation record. And that matters.

TAPPER: So, you mentioned Ukraine, so let me bring in another topic having to do with Russia because Russia released rare video of detained American, former Marine Paul Whelan. You can see Whelan wearing a Russian prison uniform. The video includes shots of him using a sewing machine, eating in a cafeteria.

The video also shows him responding to a reporter asking him questions. Let's roll that.


PAUL WHELAN, AMERICAN DETAINED IN RUSSIA: So, you understand when I say that I can't do an interview which means I can't answer any questions.


TAPPER: So he's been in that Russian prison since 2018 accused of espionage falsely, the government says. Is the U.S. any closer to securing his release and bringing him home or Evan Gershkovich?

JEAN-PIERRE: So, here what I'm going to say. We are working very hard to bring them home to their families, Paul and Evan. I wish I had some ground-breaking announcement to make to you today, I do not.

What I can say is that U.S. officials have been in touch with Paul for the past several months. And I'll -- and I will repeat what his brother said today, is how looking at that footage, he looks unbowed and he has been courageous, Paul has been. And he has been incredibly impressive over these past several months, especially.

And it doesn't -- it will never deter us from say what we say at all times, right, when it relates to Paul Whelan, which is, it is unacceptable what Russia has done. And we will continue to say that he needs to be released immediately.

TAPPER: All right. Karine Jean-Pierre, thank you so much. Really appreciate it. Good to see you.

JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you, Jake. Hopefully, you'll have me back.

TAPPER: Yeah, anytime, anytime.

A live look at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in St. Petersburg, Florida. You can see the winds bouncing the camera there along the gulf coast as Hurricane Idalia moves in. Two major airports in Florida are now closed. This ripple effect could have a nationwide impact as airlines reroute flights ahead of a big holiday travel weekend, Labor Day.

Plus, a new not guilty plea from a key figure in the Fulton County case into efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia.

We'll be right back.



TAPPER: We have some live pictures for you from Key West now, which is starting to feel some of the outer bands of Hurricane Idalia. A new update on the storm is just minute away, and we'll see if the hurricane has been strengthening and is more dangerous than even before.

In our law and justice lead, the many legal problems facing former President Donald Trump and his allies.

Let's bring in CNN's Jessica Schneider monitoring developments in Georgia where a state court is preparing for next week's arraignments in the election interference case against Trump and his 18 codefendants accused of trying to steal Georgia, essentially, and its electoral votes.

Jessica, according to a new court filing, attorney Sidney Powell who even Donald Trump is said to have thought was a nut, I think was his term for it, she's entered a not guilty plea and said she'd waive her arraignment in the case in Fulton County. She's a major figure in Trump's post-election legal challenges. And another codefendant in the Georgia case, Ray Smith, also pleaded not guilty.

So of the 19, that's two. How many others are expected to enter pleas and waive the arraignments?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I think this is something that we're going to see throughout the next few days as we lead up to that scheduled arraignment date of September 6th which is next Wednesday. We've seen Sidney Powell, Ray Smith. He was a campaign attorney for Trump.

We've also seen one other, Trevian Kutti. She was that former publicist for Kanye West and she was involved allegedly in harassing an election worker. So, this is a definite option for these defendants.

They can waive their appearances, plead not guilty. That means they don't have to physically come to the courtroom. That's sort of what we're expecting from the former president, Mark Meadows, others, for them to waive this, not have to appear.


There's also the option to appear virtually. So, we're not expecting actually a lot of activity at the courthouse in the courtroom on September 6th.

TAPPER: Why would anyone not waive it? I don't understand.

SCHNEIDER: Well, good question. I mean, they've already had to go to the courthouse for bond hearing and to get processed, so you're right. So, you're right. They probably won't want to show up again if they can do this easily. Otherwise, the judge has to approve it, though.

TAPPER: Okay. Jessica Schneider, thanks so much.

Coming up next, the brand new forecast for Hurricane Idalia. That's just coming in. Stay with us.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: And welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We do indeed start this hour with some breaking news. The hurricane barreling towards the gulf coast of Florida.