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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Speaker McCarthy Directs GOP To Launch Biden Impeachment Inquiry; Sen. Dick Durbin, (D-IL), Is Interviewed About Kevin McCarthy, Biden Impeachment Inquiry, Govt. Shutdown; Congress Faces Sept. 30 Deadline To Prevent Govt. Shutdown; Kim Jong Un In Russia Ahead Of Meeting With Putin; Biden Admin Issues water To Release $6B In Restricted Iranian Funds, Advancing Deal To Free Five Americans Detained In Iran; Christiane Amanpour Celebrates 40 Years At CNN; Mark Meadows Escalates Bid To Move Georgia Election Subversion Case To Federal Court; U.N. Food Program Warns Funding Cuts Will Hit The Hungriest; NFL QB Aaron Rodgers Suffers Season-Ending Injury. Aired 5- 6p ET

Aired September 12, 2023 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: So McCarthy decided to skip the floor vote, he is instead sending the inquiry straight to House committees. Our coverage today starts with CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.

And, Manu, in terms of that floor vote, McCarthy is going back on what he said he would do. He said that just 11 days ago. How are Republicans responding to this all?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Conservative hardliners are fine with it, even someone like Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who had indicated she wanted a vote to open up an impeachment inquiry, but instead now signaling support for Kevin McCarthy going this route. Even though there are a number of Republicans, including some in some key swing diseases, who simply are not there and would not have voted to open up the impeachment inquiry, which is why McCarthy essentially said prior to that he would move forward without any such vote. And when I asked Speaker McCarthy about this earlier today, he blamed it on Nancy Pelosi's decision to not go forward with an impeachment inquiry during the second impeachment. Nevertheless, never mind what he said just less than two weeks ago.

But that is only one issue facing Kevin McCarthy. One more immediate issue how to avoid a government shutdown by the end of the month. He is facing pressure from a range of conservative hardliners demanding a number of spending cuts, including on the short term stopgap bill that is needed to keep the government open past September 30. And when I asked several of them about this, some of them warned they would try to push for McCarthy's ouster if he does not meet their demands.


REP. DAN BISHOP (R-NC): I certainly agree that the speaker has violated agreements that were made in January repeatedly. I'm prepared to support a change in leadership through the mechanism, the motion to vacate the chair if necessary.

REP. BOB GOOD (R-VA): I think Speaker McCarthy has a path to choose. Does he pass Republican legislation that advances our policies and cuts spending with Republican majority, Republican votes, or does he pass legislation with Democrat votes that allows -- that lets down the American people?

REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): We blew the hell out of that on Memorial Day weekend with that ridiculous deal. We've been very clear about that since Memorial Day. So now the job is to get it done here in September. That's the deal. Get it done or we'll see what happens.


RAJU: But the challenge for McCarthy is that Republicans only control half of Congress and the Senate Republicans are sharply divided from those. House conservative hardliners. In fact, it want to spend about $150 billion or more money. That is an agreement that McCarthy himself reached with the White House earlier this year, but backed away from that agreement in order to appease those concerns on the far right.

So, how they get past this, Jake, is an open question. And whether they can keep the government open just for a couple of months is a major question as Congress returns from its summer recess today.

TAPPER: So, one of the promises McCarthy made in order to get the speakership was to allow only one person could offer a motion to vacate, meaning only one person could come to the floor of the House and say, I want a motion to vacate and then it forces a floor vote on whether or not McCarthy is still speaker. Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz has been threatening a motion to vacate. Is he going to do it?

RAJU: Yes. This was the most direct threat that Gaetz made today. He, in fact, went to the House floor, detailed a list of demands that he says that McCarthy has failed to meet. He said that they reached an agreement on a whole host of issues on how to deal with spending legislation, on promises to have votes on things like term limits for members of Congress, and saying that if Kevin McCarthy moves forward with a short term bill simply to keep the government open for a couple more months. That will be enough for him to force a vote seeking McCarthy's ouster.

So that threat is real. He said that he would do that every single day if he had to. He can certainly do it under the rules, Jake. The question is, does he have the votes? It would require all Democrats and about five Republicans to vote to kick McCarthy out from the speakership.

Gaetz thinks he has the votes. McCarthy's always thinks he doesn't. And if McCarthy's kicked out from that vote, Jake, that would be an unprecedented situation and would lead to another speakership election on the floor of the House.

TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju, thank you so much. And conservative Congressman Chip Roy, Republican of Texas, will be joining us on The Lead Tomorrow. I'd now like to bring in senior -- CNN Senior White House correspondent Kayla Tausche.

Kayla, how is the Biden White House responding to this all?

KAYLA TAUSCHE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Jake, the White House sees this as a stark about face from the speaker, whose own declaration just two weeks ago that he would seek that vote, piqued their interest and led them to start sniffing around to see whether or not he would have those votes. And they see the acknowledgement today or the change in position as an acknowledgement that McCarthy does not have the votes and does not have the evidence to get those votes. A statement earlier today from Ian Sams, who serves as the White House's spokesman on Oversight and Investigations, this was posted on social media and also sent around as well, he said, "House Republicans have been investigating the President for nine months, and they've turned up no evidence of wrongdoing." Sam's calling it "extreme politics at its worst."

A senior Biden aide had told me in recent weeks that the White House has been readying messaging playbook of sorts in coordination with Democratic allies on Capitol Hill if Republicans were to move forward with an impeachment inquiry. So you can expect that Democrats will be taking the wraps off of that. But Jake, later today we have seen statements from the Biden campaign as well calling McCarthy a Trump super surrogate. So certainly they're taking their own knives out as well.


TAPPER: All right, Kayla Tausche, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

With us now to discuss the Democratic senator from Illinois, Dick Durbin. He's the Senate majority whip.

Senator Durbin, good to see you. What's your take on Speaker McCarthy doing this and also not having a floor vote? He says he's just doing what Nancy Pelosi did in the first Trump impeachment.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), MAJORITY WHIP: It took 15 ballots for Mr. McCarthy to become the speaker of the House, it could take 15 minutes for him to be removed by his own supposedly loyal Republicans.

Here's the bottom line. The majority in the Republicans in the House of Representatives are out of control. That's it. Bottom line. And we look what's going on in the Senate, we are trying to pass critical bipartisan appropriation bills for the first time in five years. I just left the floor where Senator Murray, Democrats, Senator Collins, a Republican, have a design to put 12 bills before us for a vote.

We're doing our job. We're prepared to pass a continuing resolution and a supplemental appropriation if necessary. And look what's happened in the House. Incidentally, the Senate Republicans have said publicly, many of them already, that there is no evidence to back an impeachment, and I believe they're right. TAPPER: Are you comfortable with what Hunter Biden was doing? Obviously making money because his dad was, at the time, vice president? I mean, he didn't have any experience with Ukrainian gas companies and he was put on the board of Burisma. I mean, I know that he's not the first person to cash in on a connection to a powerful father, but doesn't that make you uncomfortable?

DURBIN: Yes, it does. And it does for Jared Kushner to have done the same thing under President Trump. We've got to establish some standards for members of family. I'm not saying that Hunter Biden broke the law or that there should be any punishment involved in it, but I don't feel good about the situation. If it looks like a son or a daughter is capitalizing on the public achievement of their parents, yes, that does raise some questions in my mind.

TAPPER: So, fast forward on this, if this House inquiry turns into a full blown impeachment, and I have to say it's hard to imagine it doesn't, I mean, they're not going to do an impeachment inquiry and then clear President Biden, right? I mean, is the bottom line, looking forward, there's no way impeachment supporters are going to get two thirds of the Senate, so, Biden will be acquitted?

DURBIN: This is just a diversion on the part of McCarthy. He cannot govern, he cannot get his majority in the House of Representatives to do the basics to keep the government's lights on, and so he's decided for a diversion. Let's talk about something else that they might agree on, an impeachment. What a waste of time and money and really a reckless strategy that endangers our economy and hurts innocent people.

TAPPER: Turning to the near term, the impeachment inquiry largely is seen as a concession to MAGA Republicans that Speaker McCarthy needs to pass a spending bill. Do you think any Republican spending bill is going to be dead on arrival in the Senate?

DURBIN: Well, we thought that his word was good when Speaker McCarthy reached an agreement with President Biden on how much money we could put in Appropriations. And we have, on a bipartisan basis, generated 12 appropriation bills in the Senate that are loyal to the figure that was agreed to between Biden and McCarthy. Now, McCarthy has thrown that out the window. I don't know what's going to come next, but I can tell you the proposals for budget cuts by the Republicans in the House are grossly unacceptable. To think that we would cut education, medical research, and public safety at this moment in our history is just irresponsible.

TAPPER: Do you think it's just definite that we're headed toward a government shutdown either at the end of this month or later this year or maybe both?

DURBIN: I hope not. I hope that cooler heads prevail. I know the Democrats want to do the right thing. We are five or six votes short in the House of Representatives. Perhaps enough of their members will have the good sense to join us in a bipartisan effort to keep the lights on in Washington.

TAPPER: Majority Whip Senator Dick Durbin from the land of Lincoln, thank you so much, sir. Good to see you.

DURBIN: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: The mysterious train trip to Russia and the even more mysterious face to face with Vladimir Putin, when will Kim Jong Un meet with Russia's president? Plus, any moment, the Fulton County DA could lay out her proposal to try all 19 defendants, including Donald Trump, at the same time in that 2020 election interference case. What we're learning about her plan, a plan that the judge is skeptical of. That's ahead.



TAPPER: At any moment, a high stakes deal could be made between North Korea and Russia, which the U.S. believes will involve weapons technology and cash for Kim Jong Un and fresh ammunition for Vladimir Putin. The North Korean leader arrived in Russia today via armored train, and he met with Russian officials, though both nations have remained mum on most details surrounding the highly anticipated tete- a-tete. Let's go right to CNN's Matthew Chance, who's live for us in St. Petersburg, Russia.

And Matthew, what are you hearing about this high stakes meeting?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, not lot. I mean, to give you the short answer. I mean, I'm thousands of kilometers away from where this meeting is expected to take place, which is probably somewhere in the far east of Russia. We know that Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, has, as you mentioned, made his way there in his armored train. He stopped off briefly in a provincial Russian train station where he was given a guard of honor type welcome.


But we don't know where he is right now. He's certainly not appearing next to Vladimir Putin yet. And the Kremlin, for their part, are not where the face to face meeting will take place. It will take place, they say, but they're not giving an exact location. So it just gives you an indication of, you know, just how secretive the planning for all this is.

By the way, there won't be a press conference we're told by the Kremlin either, after the meeting has taken place. And they won't tell us exactly what they're going to be talking about. But as U.S. officials have said and is broadly expected here, it's likely to be focusing on an arms deal. That's what lots of the speculation is about. Of course, Russia desperate for munitions to continue its campaign inside Ukraine.

And the big concern is, of course, what will North Korea get in exchange for those munitions if it agrees to send stockpiles of ammunition, for instance, to Russia, what will it get back? And so there's a lot of concerns about possibly a transfer of Russian military technology to North Korea that could further destabilize the Korean peninsula. In the past, Russia's been categorically against that, but now its overwhelming priority appears to be to win that Ukraine war at any cost, Jake.

TAPPER: Matthew, today Putin weighed in on American politics. Tell us what he said.

CHANCE: Yes, he did. I mean, in fairness, he was asked about it, about the prosecution of former President Donald Trump, and he came out against it. But you know, I suppose that's not surprising to those of us who remember the 2016 campaign and afterwards, where the talking points of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin were often overlapping, to say the least. This time, Vladimir Putin said the prosecution of Donald Trump was politically motivated. Take a listen.


PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): All that is happening with Trump is the persecution of a political rival for political reasons. And this is done in front of public of the United States and the whole world?


CHANCE: Yes, in front of the whole world. He also said he was glad it was happening because it showed how rotten, to paraphrase him, how rotten the United States was. And you know, and Putin has often sort of enjoyed the idea of the U.S. looking bad, so it makes Russia look less bad in comparison. Jake.

TAPPER: All right, CNN's Matthew Chance in St. Petersburg, Russia, thanks so much.

Who better to analyze this meeting between two notorious leaders than CNN's Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour.

Christiane, before we get to the news, we'd like to take a moment to celebrate you with our loyal Lead viewers. Forty years ago, you started at CNN as a foreign desk assistant. Since then, you have reported from dangerous conflict zones. You've held presidents and world leaders to account. You shaped this network into what it is today.

One of my personal career highlights, including -- and one of my favorite moments at CNN, although it was obviously a sad moment, was covering journalistically the Charlie Hebdo protests with you in France. It's such an important story, such an honor to do it standing next to you.

You're known for your tough insightful questions and analysis. So let's start with this. Is this meeting, this desperate need for ammo going to Kim Jong Un or having him come to him, is this humiliating for Putin, do you think?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Yes, firstly, thank you so much. Thank you very much indeed, Jake. I really appreciate it.

And yes, that is what all the people who I've been talking to say and how they frame. Just you know, last week, when this was first mooted, I spoke to the U.S. ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, and he said the same thing. And then just today, I spoke to Ben Wallace, the just recently stepped down British Defense Secretary on the actual, you know, consequences militarily of this, and he too said it is just a sign of President Putin's desperation and weakness that he is going, you know, tin cup in hand to wear North Korea.

I mean, we -- you know, how many times have we reported, we've been there, we've seen it that North Korea is the most hermetically sealed nation. It is so far, you know, on the back foot in terms of any kind of development and it is so heavily sanctioned, so isolated, that this is where Putin is going. And as to the substance, Ben Wallace told me that, you know, it's potentially worrying that the Russians might get some artillery shells, for instance. They're running out of some ammunition, as are the Ukrainians, as are Europe and the United States. I mean, look, it's a long war and they're expending a huge amount of ammunition and the like.

But in terms of what he described to me as 1960s style and age military equipment or any kind of hardware that might be really useful, it's only -- it's old and it's probably not that useful. So he is not that concerned about that aspect of it.


TAPPER: Yes. Putin also praised Russia's relationship with China today saying that relations have reached a, quote, "unprecedented historical level." This comes after President Biden said over the weekend that he didn't want a relationship of animosity with China. He didn't want to contain China. What do you think President Xi Jinping is thinking right now?

AMANPOUR: Well, it's really interesting because as you know the two of them pledged undying friendship in the early days, just before the invasion of Russia. And -- but Xi seems to have been hedging his bets. He doesn't want to overwhelmingly support Russia. And certainly we understand he has laid down the red line to Putin about any threats of using weapons of mass destruction. And that, we understand, has been a clear message from Xi to Putin.

But again, talking to various officials, whether they be American or indeed the British Defense Secretary, China, you know, does not view North Korea as a rational, stable entity, does not view the North Korean leadership as rational. So the idea that his best friend for life, Vladimir Putin, is running over to Kim Jong Un is not going to be very encouraging to China. It's more sort of an axis developing between Russia, North Korea and Iran. And that's worrying, but it's still considered not as threatening and game changing to the situation in Ukraine.

TAPPER: I want to turn to Iran because the Biden administration has issued a waiver to allow banks to transfer $6 billion in previously restricted Iranian funds to Qatar without fear of sanctions. It's a key step in a deal to free five Americans who have been deemed wrongfully detained in Iran. The U.S. deeming them to be wrongfully detained.

You've been following these detained Americans closely. You even spoke to one of them from prison. How quickly do you expect the process to move from here?

AMANPOUR: Well, look, there's been a huge amount of conversation about that. The White House has told reporters that it won't happen this week. So, let's hope that it'll happen next week. Because if you remember, when they were first moved from Evin Prison to house arrest in Tehran, we were told that could last, you know, some six to seven to eight or so weeks while, what you mentioned, gets finally figured out, this deal, which is an absolute, you know, fact that the United States is going to allow South Korea, not American money, South Korean money, for the oil that it has taken from Iran to finally pay Iran for that purchase.

We understand that clearly, it needed U.S. to lift waivers because of the sanctions. And this money is going to Qatar special account, and will only be accessed no matter what the Iranian president tells NBC News that he can pay and spend it on however which way he wants. That is not the deal. The Qataris, the United States, the Europeans, everybody involved and the Iranians who signed onto this deal says that it's going to a special so called escrow account managed by Qatar overviewed by the U.S. Treasury Department and will only be able to be paid for very desperately needed humanitarian things like medicine and food and the like for the suffering Iranian people.

TAPPER: Before you go, Christiane, you've been at CNN for 40 years, a glorious career. How has your perspective changed from that first day on the job?

AMANPOUR: Well, I don't know whether it's changed. I always wanted to tell the stories of what was happening around the world and try to explain them to an American audience and try to put it in context. And so, that is still what I try to do.

So just -- let's just take Iran, you know, you can say, oh my gosh, this pariah state, how can we be, you know, allowing them to have money, you know, potentially helping their economy? Well, the fact is that it won't. And the fact is that it's being hugely managed. And the fact is that these are Americans who have been left behind for in Siamak Namazi's case, who I spoke to in the prison, eight and a half years. The fact is that Republican presidents have done this as well that never gets talked, you know, in the fighting over this.

President Trump did it. You know, before him, Obama, before him, you know, Bush and Clinton and all of them have done it because the Iranians take these people because they're Americans and that's the only reason, in order to get their own money back. So, I try to explain these complexities and that was what I set out to do and I hope I'm still doing it.

TAPPER: I hope you're doing it for another 40 years. And it's an honor -- AMANPOUR: I don't know about that.

TAPPER: It's an honor to have you as a colleague, Christiane. I hope we're on assignment again, together again soon. Thank you so much.

AMANPOUR: Thank you.

TAPPER: And again, congratulations on your legendary tenure here at CNN.

AMANPOUR: Thank you.

TAPPER: Joining us now to discuss, retired four star army general, former Director of the CIA, David Petraeus.

General, always good to see you. Back to the Kim Jong Un Putin meeting, Putin's been scouring other pariah nations for weapons and ammunition, Iran as well. In your view, is Putin successfully curating a new block of anti-west nations like a Legion of Doom or is this simple desperation?


GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I think it's probably a bit more desperation. He's gone to the Iranians for drones, of course, now he's going to the Hermit Kingdom, of all places, to try to get some basically dumb artillery and dumb rockets. In other words, not precise or anything like that, he's just running out of basic munitions. And the reports from Ukraine are that they're seeing a bit less use of Russia of artillery and of course, it's an artillery focused system. They've long been that way all the way back to the Soviet era, so this is a bit of an act of desperation.

And in return for that, North Korea, presumably is going to try to get energy, food, missile technology, spy satellites, perhaps even nuclear powered submarine technology in return. So, an interesting one also for Kim Jong Un that he doesn't travel outside the country all that often. And to see this meeting again, I think, is just a sign of how difficult the situation is in which Putin finds himself.

TAPPER: You were in Ukraine just last week. Tell us what you saw. Tell us what officials there told you.

PETRAEUS: Well, there was a difference in the mood from when I was just there three months ago. Certainly, there's still the absolute determination, the commitment unwavering to follow this through, a nation that's completely mobilized, as you know. But there was a bit more of a sober mood there. Obviously the counteroffensive, the original plan, no plan survives contact with the enemy they have adapted very impressively. But the adaptation requires them to go more slowly.

It's painstaking, it is costly, it's hard. They are making progress, it is accumulating. Slowly but surely, they supposedly even may have some breaches in the second line of defenses. Keep in mind that there's three, the first was the toughest. So that is good news, but again, it's difficult and it's hard.

There's also a degree of apprehension about the continued level of U.S. support. They follow our politics, in some cases, more closely than we do.


PETRAEUS: Western support continuing. But there's also a degree of hope that the U.S. could finally approve the longer range precision munitions, the Army Tactical Missile System that would double the range of what we have provided so far for the HIMARS system, rocket system, that the M1 tanks are going to arrive soon. The F-16s maybe will arrive a bit sooner than was expected as well. And perhaps approval of rocket cluster munitions in addition to the artillery cluster munitions, which, by the way, have been very, very helpful to them.

I think the sense now is they're just waiting to see if their efforts can start to crack the Russians. And they do see the Russians rushing reserves from the Russian Federation. They've used up most of the reserves that are actually in Ukraine to plug gaps. They're not well trained, they're not particularly well equipped. But can they somehow exploit that situation, degrade the Russian headquarters, logistical sites, lines of communication and so forth and achieve the objective that they have had all along, which is to interdict that line of communication that comes in from Russia along the southeastern coast to the fourth (INAUDIBLE) just north of Crimea.

TAPPER: All right, General David Petraeus, thank you as always, for your insights. Appreciate it.

What happens if the Fulton County DA cannot try Trump and his 18 co- defendants together in the Georgia election interference case? That's next.



TAPPER: In our Law and Justice Lead, so many defendants, so little time. Today is the deadline for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to explain how she plans to try former President Donald Trump and 18 co-defendants all together, starting in about 40 days. You might remember, Willis charged all 19 defendants in the Georgia 2020 election subversion case and said she wanted to try them all at the same time. CNN senior legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid is here now. And Paula, the judge in a hearing last week seemed quite skeptical that Fani Willis could pull this off. Take a listen.


SCOTT MCAFEE, FULTON COUNTY JUDGE: I don't know how many hearings we're going to need to have to sort through all those, but if we compress our timeline to 40 something days, our ability to even be able to really weigh those and think through these issues again, it just seems a bit unrealistic to think that we can handle all 19 and 40 something days.


TAPPER: So what happens if the judge is still not convinced after he reads Willis's plan?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It appears he is poised and ready to divide this up into subgroups. The question is, how many groups? He's not willing to do a trial, as we saw, for just one person. I mean, this is a trial that's expected to take four months. They want to call 150 witnesses. And he talks about just judicial economy. He's like, look, that'll tie up this court, the prosecutors. It's a lot for the witnesses to go through, too, for multiple trials. So that's really what we're watching.

All right, he's likely to divide this up into subgroups. How many and which group will former President Trump be in? Because if this first trial that begins October 23rd goes for the estimated four months, if you're looking at the calendar, Jake, it's hard to find another four month block before the 2024 presidential election when the former president and any other codefendants could be tried.


TAPPER: So last Friday, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows lost his bid to move his case to federal court in Fani Willis's case. He's appealing, other co-defendants are planning on trying to move their cases from Fani Willis's court, for that judge's court to federal court, including Donald Trump, theoretically, what would that, no, he actually put in his motion, right?

REID: He said he's going -- he filed notice that his motion is coming.

TAPPER: It's coming. So would that mean for this timeline?

REID: Well, the judge actually spoke directly to this. He said, look, I can't have a situation where we're in state court here trying someone and then the federal courts, most likely the court of appeals, weighs in and says, no, just kidding. That case is actually have to go to federal court. So it appears that at least one subgroup will be Mark Meadows, the other four defendants who have already filed to remove their cases to federal court, and likely the former president if he too tries to remove because all of those cases, even if they lose at the trial court level, they're going to appeal. And that takes time. And it just doesn't appear that he's willing to put those folks on trial at the state level before this larger federal question is resolved.

TAPPER: All right, Paula Reid, thanks so much.

In Libya right now, thousands of people are missing after extreme flooding. The images are devastating. We're going to bring you an update, next.



TAPPER: In our World Lead now, more than 5,000 people are presumed dead and 10,000 others are missing in Libya from floods that swallowed the eastern part of the country over the weekend, a storm dumped so much rain, it broke two dams. Officials say neighborhoods were literally swept away. Days later, rotting bodies still lay in the streets of Derna, the hardest hit city. Hospitals are out of service and the morgues are at full capacity. More than 200,000 are now homeless.

Libya's army says they are not prepared for such a scale of devastation. While Libya faces catastrophic flooding, another humanitarian emergency is unfolding in countries close by. Today, the United Nations World Food Programme issued a stark warning as it faces massive government funding cuts. Estimating for every 1 percent cut in food assistance, 400,000 people will be pushed to the brink of starvation, especially in hotspots in Africa, the Middle East and Haiti.

This year, in Afghanistan alone, the World Food Programme was forced to drop 10 million people from its roles. And U.N. World Food Programme Executive Director Cindy McCain joins us now. It's so good to see you again.

CINDY MCCAIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, U.N. WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME: Thank you. I'm glad to see you too. Thanks for covering this.

TAPPER: Of course. So you're here in D.C. to get more congressional support and you say the White House's supplemental proposal does not meet the needs of the World Food Programme. Just thinking about Afghanistan specifically, the women there increasingly depend upon food assistance because the Taliban are blocking women and girls from participating in society. Do the White House officials you've spoken with feel any particular duty to alleviating hunger in Afghanistan?

MCCAIN: Yes, they do. No, they've been very supportive of it. The truth of it is we just don't have the mean. And this is a worldwide problem, not just a U.S. problem, we're spread thin. And I think there's some donor fatigue out there as well with regards to more, you know, aid, more aid money, et cetera. People are a little -- countries are a little tired of it now. And so it's my job to elevate the conversation again.

TAPPER: You've recently traveled to Somalia, Haiti, Chad, and South Sudan, near the border of Sudan, which has experienced months of intense violence. Tell us what you saw there.

MCCAIN: Well, of Chad, for instance, Chad is receiving a huge amount of refugees that are coming across from Sudan. And so they were already spread thin. They already were hosting some 700,000 refugees from a previous conflict. And now there's what, 1.6 million that have come across the border? I believe that number is correct. We'll make sure we get that. But -- so what we're seeing is a country that's overwhelmed, our organization is overwhelmed because we don't have the kinds of funds that we can support an operation like that at this particular juncture. And so we're having to make tough decisions. I'm having to decide, you know, where do I take from the hungry and give to the starving? It's a monumental problem, and it's a national security issue as well.

TAPPER: How is it a national security issue?

MCCAIN: Well, when there's hunger and migration, especially what we're seeing, you know, seeing in Afghanistan, that's insecurity. Bad guys prey on that stuff, and the bad guys will wind up giving them food, which is even worse. That's where the mothers complain about how their sons who they're trying to, you know, recruit their sons into some of these organizations that are bad.


MCCAIN: And so it's a huge issue, and it's primarily, as always, women and children that take the brunt of it.

TAPPER: Yes. Your organization talks about the phenomenon called the world hunger quote, doom loop. Tell us about that.

MCCAIN: Well, we are in a doom loop. I mean, this issue is huge, and it's not just relegated to Europe or the Middle East because of where the locations are. It's a world issue. And so it's up to all of us. We can solve this problem if we work together. We can stop hunger. We can teach people and give people the tools to farm again, things about climate change. This is a huge issue that's causing some of these issues so that I don't have to go in and say, you got food last month, you can't have it this month, I don't have it.

TAPPER: Before you go, it's been five years since we lost your husband, who was a subject I covered quite a bit. I want to get your thoughts on President Biden's recent remarks about your late husband, Senator John McCain. Yesterday, during his five day Asia swing, he stopped by the McCain Memorial in Hanoi, which I visited with you back in 2000, 23 years ago. Here's what President Biden said after that stop.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One thing I always admired about John was how he put duty to country first. Above party, above politics, above his own person still reminds us we must never lose that sense of national unity. So let that be the common cause of our time.


TAPPER: How optimistic or pessimistic are you about politicians and common cause and duty before personal needs?

MCCAIN: Well, we've seen a big change in both parties, not just one party.

TAPPER: For the worse?

MCCAIN: For the worse, I think. I think this lack of compromise, this lack of listening and talking and not holding people, not saying they're bad people because they believe a certain way, we've got to get past that. I mean, that's for the good of the country and good of the world, too. So I'm worried about it. I worry certainly about my own party. And, you know, I'd like to see our younger politicians coming up do just that. Work together, compromise, put duty and country before themselves. I'd like to see more of that.

TAPPER: It's good to see you. Please say hi to Meghan, Jack, Jimmy and Bridget.

MCCAIN: Thank you. I will.

TAPPER: Good to see you.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

TAPPER: Aaron Rodgers is now out for the rest of the Jets season. Coming up next, we're going to talk to NFL quarterback Joe Theismann, who sure knows what it's like to get injured during Monday Night Football. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our Sports Lead, New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers is out for the rest of this season after tearing his left Achilles tendon during last night's game against the Buffalo Bills. The four time MVP was injured after getting sacked on just the fourth play for the Jets. Here's what the Jets head coach told the media just a short while ago.


ROBERT SALEH, HEAD COACH, NEW YORK JETS: I don't look at it like, what was me here for the organization? I think guys are excited about being able to step up and continue the things that we've been building, but a lot of hurt for Aaron.


TAPPER: Joining us now to discuss hall of famer, Joe Theismann, star quarterback for Washington, D.C. from the mid-70s and mid-80s. And, Joe, obviously you know what it's like to suffer a brutal injury during a Monday Night Football game. Your injury was a little worse than Mr. Rodgers. What was your reaction to the news last night?

JOE THEISMANN, LONG-TIME NFL BROADCASTER: I was devastated, Jake. It's such a shame. I mean, the anticipation for the Jet fans and I think the anticipation for Aaron was very high. I mean, he was backed up with Nathaniel Hackett, somebody had in Green Bay. He knew the offense. He was probably coaching as much as any coach there and was excited about the young guys on his football team. The jets have a heck of a defense, and he was going to be the injection in the offense to get it going. And all of a sudden he's gone, and I just, you know, I feel horrible for him.

TAPPER: Today, the Jets head coach downplayed speculation on whether the artificial turf might have attributed or contributed to Rodgers injury. What do you think and do you think stadiums should be using real grass?

THEISMANN: Well, you know, I played on real grass most of the time, Jake, and to me, I happen to love real grass. I got hurt on real grass. So if you say it was turf or if it was grass, it's the way it's the awkwardness sometimes of which your feet get planted. And that's one of the most important things is, you know, can we come up with some type of a shoe, maybe, that doesn't stick in the ground so much and be able to give you that little bit of flexibility to be able to move your foot a little bit more? But I don't know, you know, guys have gotten hurt on both surfaces an awful lot.

TAPPER: Rodgers considered retiring before joining the Jets. He turns 40 in December. He still has another year in his contract, but he will be the one who gets to decide what comes next. Do you see him coming back or do you think the rehab might be too much?

THEISMANN: You know, I think if anything we've learned about Aaron Rodgers is don't say one thing because he's probably going to wind up doing the other. That's just his nature. I think at the age of 40, though, the rehabilitation process that he's going to have to go through with his leg, the fact that, you know, you can't operate at any position in sports without two good legs, and certainly I was aware of that.

I would be surprised if he does come back at this stage. And it's not just a comeback, but it's everything that he's going to have to go through this offseason to rehabilitate himself, to get himself in a position to be able to come back. And how much work will he be able to get? I mean, he'll miss the OTAs, which are the offseason trainings. He'll miss the minicamps, probably miss the training camp. So he'll missed an entire year and do it again.

I thought, Jake, be honest with you, I thought he was going to be like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning and Matthew Stafford, change teams all of a sudden win a championship, but that's not going to happen now.

TAPPER: The Jets still have confidence in Zach Wilson as the quarterback, the number two overall pick in the 2021 draft. Do you think he's someone who could keep the Jets in championship or playoff contention, or should the team seek out someone different? I mean, Colin Kaepernick comes to mind.

THEISMANN: I don't think they should seek anyone different because he's gone through all the offseason training and he's familiar with the offense. The last thing you want to do is bring someone in that doesn't know what's going on in the offense. I think this is a great opportunity for Zach. We all feel bad about Aaron Rodgers. We all feel bad about, you know, what this -- what happened to him.

But the bottom line is, is Zach has to look at this now as, OK, they took my job away a couple of times last year. This is my opportunity to be able to go out and prove that the number pick -- number two pick I was, I have a chance now to be able to be the quarterback of the Jets, not only for this year, but going forward.


I, you know, it's the nature of our business. It's next man up. They've got five days to get ready for their next football game against the Dallas Cowboys, who threw a big goose egg against the Giants just not too long ago. So all of a sudden, you're in a situation where the guys got familiar. Yes. I think you need to go get a veteran quarterback. Colt McCoy comes to mind as one individual I was thinking might be a good fit because he has played the role quite a bit. But I don't think you go get somebody and say, OK, you're now going to be our quarterback. This is Zach's job.

TAPPER: All right. I hear that. Joe Theismann, good to see you. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

THEISMANN: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Tomorrow on The Lead, I'm going to be talking to former Secret Service agent Paul Landis. His new book, "The Final Witness," contains some astonishing new revelations about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy 60 years ago this November. His book casts some new doubts on the conclusions of the Warren Commission's single bullet theory that a single bullet hit both President Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connolly. We'll ask him about that, whether he thinks there was another gunman, why he kept silent all these years, and we have some other questions for him, too.

Five Memphis police officers were indicted on federal charges for the beating deaths of Tyre Nichols, what that might mean for the state charges they're already facing. That's next, in The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer. I'll see you tomorrow.