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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Right Now: Trump In Court For E. Jean Carroll Defamation Case; Biden Hosts Congressional Leaders At The White House, Urges Passage Of More Ukraine Funding As War Rages On; Ukraine: At Least 20 Injured After Overnight Russian Attacks; Death Toll Climbs In Gaza As Israeli Strikes Continue; CNN Obtains 911 Call For Secretary Austin To Be Taken To Hospital; DOJ To Release Findings About Police Response To 2022 Uvalde School Massacre Tomorrow. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired January 17, 2024 - 16:00   ET



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Just in to CNN, Attorney General Merrick Garland is touring murals of the Robb Elementary School shooting victims in Uvalde, Texas. Remember, this comes one day before the Justice Department is set to release its review of law enforcement's response to that massacre.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: That's right. These murals that he is there visiting, these are series that were made in memory of the 19 children and the two teachers who were killed by a gunman nearly two years ago.

And THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Donald Trump's response when a judge threatened to throw him out of court today, quote, I would love it.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Outbursts in court. What Donald Trump did as the woman whom the court concluded he sexually abused and defamed took the stand. E. Jean Carroll's shocking testimony today about threats and harassment.

Plus, at the White House right now, President Biden meeting with the four leaders of the House and Senate, as Senate Republicans urge their House Republican colleagues to take the deal on immigration and the border, and get something rather than nothing.

And, when schoolchildren stop tragedy. The sad reality of the world we're in. See just how often it is the students who are preventing planned classroom attacks.


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

And we start with our law and justice lead and a dramatic day in the New York court, where the jury is deciding how much Donald Trump must pay to a woman. He defamed as a jury previously decided. This afternoon, Judge Lewis Kaplan threatened to kick the former president out of the courtroom, claiming Mr. Trump was being disruptive during E. Jean Carroll's testimony to which Trump responded, quote, I would love it.

This was after the judge had already warned Trump to speak more quietly when talking with his lawyers during Ms. Carroll's testimony. Carroll told the court today that Trump, quote, shattered her reputation by publicly denying he sexually abused her and attacking her. She said she has gotten death threats and had to hire private security because of his comments. Last year, a jury found that Trump did sexually abused Carroll in a department store dressing room in 1996 and that he defamed her while publicly denying her claims and viciously attacking her credibility.

Carroll is asking now for more than $10 million in damages in addition to the $5 million the court previously awarded her. Donald Trump is expected to make remarks after court ends today, part of his continued strategy of trying to turn the myriad courtrooms into the campaign trail. The former president was in Iowa Monday night for the Iowa caucuses, which he won with more than 50 percent of Republicans support. He then flew to New York and sat in the same New York courtroom yesterday as part of this case before going to an event in New Hampshire last night, New Hampshire being the next state to vote in the Republican primary for president. That'll take place Tuesday.

Trump then flew back to New York and returned to his home at Trump Tower before returning to the Manhattan courtroom today. Tonight, back on the plane, expected to head back to New Hampshire for an event in the city of Portsmouth.

CNN's Paula Reid is in New York where we're hearing Trump is set to speak after court ramps today.

And, Paula, it's not only Trump being combative with a judge, right? It's also Trump's lawyers.

PAULA REID, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. This is a lot of contrived courtroom drama on the part of Trump and his attorneys. Look, when you walk into a federal courthouse and there are rules not being disruptive while a witnesses testifying is something that applies to everyone. It is unclear why Trump does not think he has to abide by this rule. Then when it comes to his lawyers, just a few moments ago, one of his lawyers tried to introduce some evidence that the judge was not aware of that he had to remind her that this is his courtroom.

I mean, that's pretty standard. There's a whole class in law school about evidence and how you introduce it. So, it appears that Trump is aware of the rules.

Alina Habba also clearly aware of the rules of evidence, but we're seeing this pattern where Trump voluntarily attends legal proceedings that he does not have to be present for, then refuses to follow the rules, spars with a judge and then throws his hands up and says, look, I'm the victim of an unfair system. Now, Jake, look, Trump and his lawyers and some of his other cases,

they are litigating some very legitimate constitutional questions. What we've seen in the courtroom today, I mean, it just appears to be political theater.

TAPPER: And, Paula, we should note the day after a jury found Trump sexually abused and defamed Carroll last year, Donald Trump did that CNN town hall with Kaitlan Collins, where he said, among other things, this.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: They said he didn't rape her --


TRUMP: And they didn't I do anything else either. You know what? Because I have no idea who the hell she is.

COLLINS: Mr. President, can I -- can I ask --

TRUMP: I don't know who this woman is.

They said, sir, don't do it. This is a fake story and you don't want to give it credibility whatsoever.

COLLINS: One thing you did do in this --

TRUMP: And I swear and I've never done that and I swear to you -- I have no idea who to hell, she's a whack job.



TAPPER: Carroll testified today about how that specific rant by the former president and the fact that her. What did she have to say?

REID: Now, Jake, it was interesting. She said that after that verdict last spring, where a jury found Trump sexually abused her, defamed her, and awarded her $5 million, she thought herself. Okay. This is it, it's going to stop now, but less than 24 hours later, he said something very similar attacking her, but this time on television and she noticed how shocked she was that his comments drew laughs, considering he was talking about sexual abuse, and she said this sparked a whole new round of attacks.

TAPPER: All right. Paula Reid, stick around.

Now I want to bring in former federal prosecutor, Elliot Williams, as well as Elie Honig, who used to serve as the assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Elie, let's start with the drama we've seen today. At one point, the judge threatened to throw Trump out of the courtroom for making comments such as it's a witch-hunt, while Carroll was in the midst of testifying. One of Trump's lawyers has also sparred with the judge multiple times today. You've been in front of Judge Kaplan dozens of times. What do you think about him? What do you think about how he's handling this?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Jake, for any ordinary litigant to act this way in Judge Kaplan's courtroom or any courtroom is bizarre, outrageous, self-defeating. Of course, this is not your average litigant.

The physical distance for where Donald Trump is sitting in that courtroom at the defense table to the jury of nine New Yorkers who are going to decide how much he owes E. Jean Carroll is maybe 20 feet and anyone who has been in a courtroom knows that while you're in the well of the courtroom, if you're a lawyer or a party, that jury is watching everything you do, they're evaluating everything you do. And so this conduct could come welcome back to really haunt Donald Trump.

I will say there's an interesting showdown of personalities here, because Judge Kaplan controls his courtroom more tightly than I think any other judge. I've been in front of, and thus far, he seems to have a pretty low tolerance for the histrionics from Donald Trump. And it wouldn't surprise me if push comes to shove if Judge Kaplan outright shuts them down, or even perhaps makes good on his promise to have him removed.

TAPPER: Elliot, are you surprised by this approach by Trump and by his lawyers? Is there an actual strategy here?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the strategy is a political one, not a legal one, Jake. And, you know, to back up all the things Elie said, judges control their fiefdoms and at ones peril does one pick on a judge or get under a judge's skin. And so, starting with any number of things like the fact that the judge does not need to allow the former president to even be in the courtroom, the former president is skating on very thin ice here.

And, you know, as a broader point, one submit to the rules of the court. Even if you don't like them, if you don't -- if you think it's a witch hunt or whatever else. And so, this is an incredibly risky strategy for the former president. Now, again, it's probably whipping up his supporters, but it is not doing anything to curry favor number one with the jury that's going to have to decide his fate. Or number two, the judges who is making these rulings as of the future of the case.

TAPPER: Paula, this case already went to trial when a jury found liable for a lot, found him liable for defamation and sexual abuse. This is the first time, however, E. Jean Carroll has gotten to speak about her experience with Trump in the room.

Walk us through the significance of that, not just for her, but for other victims of sexual assault and rape as well.

REID: That's right, Jake. She testified in the trial in the spring when the jury found that Trump sexually abused her, but this is the first time she's talked about the impact that this has had on her with Trump sitting just feet away like yesterday, it was the first time that two of them had been in the same room in decades. Know for any survivors of sexual abuse or sexual assault, it is incredibly daunting to sit in a courtroom and tell your story. And it becomes even more so if you're alleged attacker is right there.

Now it appears that she was very well-prepared for this. She came out swinging, calling him a liar, calling out what she said were his lies over the past several days, months, and years. And it was likely that she was also prepared for him to react the way he did, both verbally and physically.

TAPPER: Let's turn to another Trump case. Elie, if we could, because today, a judge in Maine deferred the decision on whether Trump can be on Maine's ballot. This is based on the 14th Amendment and banning insurrectionists from running for higher office. The judge told state election officials they have to wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the similar case in Colorado early next month. How big of a decision is this?

HONIG: Well, to be -- it's a big decision, Jake, and I also think it's a fair and reasonable decision. And here's why -- this case that's going up to the U.S. Supreme Court relating to Colorado's decision to disqualify Donald Trump under the 14th Amendment insurrection clause. That case is being argued in the Supreme Court but a few weeks from today on February 8th. And it's fairly certain we'll get a decision from the Supreme Court within a couple of weeks of that, Super Tuesday, March 5th is when both Colorado and Maine vote.

And I think the wisdom of this Maine decision is, let's see what the Supreme Court says, because there's one of two things that could happen, if the Supreme Court strikes down what Colorado did and says not up to the states, sorry, this is up to the U.S. Congress, or the 14th Amendment does not apply to the president, game over, Maine's out of business.


This -- all these 14th Amendment challenges across the United States, they all fail.

On the other hand, it may be that the Supreme Court says Colorado, you're fine what you did and other states, you can do the same. You have to follow certain procedures, then Maine can go ahead with their attempt to disqualify Donald Trump, and they'll have more guidance from the court.

I think ultimately, these 14th Amendment challenges are doomed in the U.S. Supreme Court, but smart to wait and see.

WILLIAMS: And moreover, just to add that, look, going back to the original decision from the Maine secretary of state at the time that that decision and understand the disconnect here, at the time that decision was made, number one, the Supreme Court hadn't even been brought into this. And number two, I think the Colorado Supreme Court hadn't even ruled yet, if not, they had just ruled. It made sense for the secretary of state to issue the ruling when she

did, but it absolutely makes sense for the Maine Supreme Court, or the Maine trial court here to hold off, wait and see what the U.S. Supreme Court does. So, everybody's sort of did the right thing along the way, regardless what the outcomes of the decisions were.

TAPPER: Paula, what else is coming up on Trump's legal calendar?

REID: Well, tomorrow, we're waiting for their Supreme Court brief about that ballot eligibility question, that there were just talking about going to lay out their entire argument in that brief, we're also waiting for the court of appeals to weigh in on this larger question of immunity, because the decision that they make there would have an impact on what we expected was going to be the first federal trial Trump would face, the election subversion case.

Now, two other things we're also watching. One, we're looking for the decision that civil case. Remember, Trump's business here in the state of New York facing possibly hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties and the possibility of never being able to do business in the state again.

But also watching down in Georgia, accusations about Fani Willis and potentially improper relationship that she had with the lawyer she appointed to oversee the sprawling RICO case against Trump and other defendants, raising a lot of questions about her judgment. She is expected to reply to that in the coming weeks, but that's also something to watch.

TAPPER: And, Elie, we expect to hear Trump speak after court wraps up today, he's going to go before the cameras, talk about the procedure and probably a bunch of other things. Mr. Trump's also been posting on Truth Social, his social media site, not just about this case, but about other legal cases he's facing.

These comments can be used against him, right, when he goes to trial in those cases, public statements, whether before the cameras or on Truth Social?

REID: Yes. All of these statements, anything that any defendant in any criminal case says publicly, whether in front of a camera on Truth Social elsewhere, it is all usable admissible against him. And by the way, Donald Trump is already saying his own words used against him in this E. Jean Carroll trial as he continues to post about her post negative things. That is going in front of the jury and the jury can absolutely consider that specifically on the question of punitive damages, are they going to sort of add on to the damages award to send a message to him.

And, Jake, all of this is its admissible if it becomes relevant in any of those criminal cases in any of the civil cases. So he speaks at his own risk, but he will most assuredly continue to speak.

TAPPER: Elliott?

WILLIAMS: No, absolutely. And this is why defense attorneys overwhelmingly direct their clients not to speak. Now, look, we all know very well that the former president of the United States, one of the most famous people on the planet and known for bluster or puffery, whatever you wish to say, has a practice or habit of speaking out publicly. But any word that a defendant says, number one, can be used to impeach him, can be used as evidence against him, or in frankly can be used to hold him in contempt of court depending on the nature of the statement that has made. Defense attorneys all most never want their clients to give press conferences, comments publicly, and this as Elie said, is going to come back and bite the foreign president.

But sort of getting back to what I talked about a little bit earlier, you have to submit to the rules of the court, even if you're a former president and don't like it, you can be held in contempt of court and you can lose a trial and lose millions of dollars if things he say gets you in trouble.

TAPPER: All right. Thanks to all three. Appreciate it.

We want to go next to that meeting President Biden's convened at the White House with top congressional leaders. The new signals today that some Republicans at least might be able to work with him on a border deal of some sort.

This just announced today, a new CNN town hall with Ambassador Nikki Haley will be tomorrow. He's going to take questions from voters in New Hampshire ahead of next week's primary. I'm going to fly up to New Hampshire and moderate that discussion tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN and streaming on Max.

We'll be right back.



TAPPER: You're looking at images today from Russia's continued war on the people of Ukraine, continuing to unleash death and destruction on civilians. This as President Biden is currently hosting bipartisan congressional leaders at the White House right now in an urgent effort to press them for more Ukraine aid ahead of Friday's deadline to fund the U.S. government. In addition to Ukraine, negotiations also include sending U.S. aid to Taiwan, Israel, and the U.S. southern border, along with major changes to border and immigration policies. That latter being one an issue that Democrats have shown some willingness to compromise with Republicans, which some Senate Republicans notice, a compromise House Republicans should not ignore.

CNN's MJ Lee is at the White House and Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill.

MJ, to you first. Some lawmakers say the White House waited too long to get House Speaker Mike Johnson involved in the negotiation talks. Does the White House believe they have any leverage in this fight or are they willing to bend even further for Republicans?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jake, there's quite a bit of finger-pointing going on right now, including the White House, blaming the House for breaking for the holidays before a deal could be strop, but obviously the fact that President Biden has invited these congressional leaders to physically come to the White House shows sort of the urgency that the White House is trying to inject into this national security supplemental package.

What is interesting to me, I just over the last two days is the White House's insistence that this meeting is going to be largely focused on Ukraine, that President Biden and his national security team they are in this meeting right now with members of Congress. They're going to lay out for these members sort of the battlefield ramifications for not getting additional U.S. aid, including potential setbacks in the war if they are not to get this additional security package cleared.


You know, the administration, of course, is, you know, has been warning that the last presidential drawdown authority was used at the end of last year and that there is no more money. So they're going to use in part classified information as well in this briefing that's going on right now to try to sway lawmakers the problem, of course, for the White House here is that House Speaker Johnson has made clear he's not really interested in talking about Ukraine until he has sorted out the border situation.

Now, I think White House and -- the White House and Democrats would say that they have paid up plenty of concessions on this issue. They say that on that front, things are moving in the right direction, well just have to see when this meeting wraps whether we get the sense that things will move more in the right direction. That's according to the White House. After the president himself has met face-to-face with these members of congress, Jake.

TAPPER: And, Manu, I have to say, this is really the furthest I've ever seen Democrats meet Republicans on what Republicans want to see in a border deal, whether or not it's enough for House Republicans. I don't know, but it is more conservative than previous legislation. I've seen on the border issue.

Are Republicans -- enough Republicans at least going to be willing to jump on this opportunity? Or are they trying to ring out more concessions still, or is it really just HR2, the conservative House Republican bill or nothing?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, there are a lot of calls from top Senate Republicans telling House Republicans that that plan HR2, the Republican plan that passed the House last year has no chance of passing the Democratic led Senate, and that they need to compromise and there's an embrace among top Republicans of these ongoing negotiations in the Senate, saying this is essentially the best deal that they could get.

New border restrictions, changes to asylum laws, and the like, even though there's deal has not yet finalized yet. There are calls from Senator John Cornyn one of the top Republicans, telling me that they should accept half-a-loaf. It's better than no loaf at all. And they can't wait until next year. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to expressing increased optimism that a deal could be reached, and it could be on the floor of the Senate by next week.

And I asked Speaker -- Senator McConnell about Speaker Johnson's resistance to these Senate negotiations and Johnson's calls to pass the House plan. And McConnell made clear that the Senate was moving on its own track.


RAJU: Why it seems that you and Speaker Johnson are not in the same page about the border talks. You've been throwing cold water on these efforts to move off of HR2. Are you concerned about?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Well, it's unusual that the House and Senate to be in a different place, on lots of issues. The way this needs to go forward is for this -- one of the bodies to pass something that would actually get a signature.


RAJU: But the question is whether or not Speaker Johnson would agree to any bipartisan deal. That comes out of the Senate, given that it almost certainly will not go as far as what many House Republicans want.

So that is one of the major questions here. Mitch McConnell has been a staunch advocate of getting aid to Ukraine. He is urging his colleagues to accept any deal that has cut between a trio of senators, James Lankford, Kyrsten Sinema, and Chris Murphy, who are continued to meet with the administration to try to get a deal on border policy that could unlock aid to Ukraine, unlock aid to Israel, as well as to Taiwan.

But getting that to the Senate will be a big test, and a bigger test in the House as they tried to get it through in this campaign season, where immigration is the number one issue for Republicans and many Republicans simply don't want to compromise on that key issue, ahead of the fall.

TAPPER: It also seems a lot of whom don't want to give Biden any sort of a win, is something that they've -- some of them have said out loud.

MJ Lee at the White House, Manu Raju on Capitol Hill -- thank you -- thank you both.

Let's go to Ukraine now where at least 20 people in Kharkiv and Odessa were injured in overnight Russian attacks. Ukraine says that Russia launched a combination of Russian missiles and at least 20 drones courtesy of Iran, as Russian leader Putin continues to threaten Ukraine's very existence, warning its statehood, quote, will soon be questioned to which a top Ukrainian official responded, saying Russia's only aim is, quote, conquest, annihilation, destruction and murder.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen reports from the bitterly cold battlefield as Ukraine's future hangs in the balance. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The battle is already in full swing when the artillery unit gets their orders, their battle cat Sioma (ph) follows the commander to the U.S.-provided M777 gun and they get to work.

Soldiers have now been given in target and they're working as fast as possible to try and fire as many rounds as accurately towards the Russian positions.

Three rounds, that's it.


The commander tells me ammo shortages are a real problem here. There is more of a deficit, he says. When we were in Zaporizhzhia direction, we used 50 to 60 shells a day. Now, it's 20 to 30, maximum.

The resupply truck only brings a few more rounds. And with U.S. military aid ground to a halt, things could get even tougher for the Ukrainians soon.

We're near Marinka on the eastern front. The Russians recently managed to take Marinka after essentially annihilating the entire town with their artillery. Moscow's forces face no ammo shortages, the Ukrainian say, after getting around a million artillery rounds from North Korea in the past year. Even as we prepare to leave, the position is under Russian fire. We drive away constantly watching for Russian drones and possible artillery impacts.

Different day, different frontline, similar problems for Ukraine's forces, major shortages.

We're in the battle zone near Avdiivka with a Special Forces unit called Omega. It's 22 degrees below freezing. They want to fire artillery rockets that the Russians, but lacking western arms, they've mounted a Soviet era launcher on a us made pickup truck. They set up fast, but then this --


PLEITGEN: So one of the issues that the Ukrainians have using this very old technology is that sometimes its simply doesn't work. It's very cold right now. They think something's frozen and its just not working.

All they can do is de-rig and leave before the Russian see them.

We wanted to strike at the enemy's positions, but unfortunately, sometimes it happens the equipment does not work, he says. Technology does not stand still. And as we can see in this war, the technologies from the West are giving very good results.

The unit later did manage to fire three rockets after troubleshooting for several hours, delays that can be costly in a war where Ukraine is already badly outgunned.


PLEITGEN (on camera): So as you can see there, Jake, shortages of ammunition, shortages also of modern weapons as well. But one of the things that we did notice is that morale among the Ukrainians is actually still very high. They do say that they're stopping most of those Russian assaults, but they also say that its becoming more difficult as those ammo shortage become more pronounced. Of course, they also say that that in effect is going to lead to more casualties on the Ukrainian side -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Fred Pleitgen in Ukraine for us, thank you so much.

Next to the dire scenes about 2,000 miles south of Ukraine. In Gaza right now, the longest stretch yet of an Internet blackout and making communication nearly impossible. And what a journalist managed to share about strikes next near a major hospital. That's next.



TAPPER: And we're back with our world lead today, a medicine will depart Qatar on route to hostages in Gaza -- Israeli hostages, and six Americans.

But the deal brokered by Qatar is dependent on medication getting to Palestinians in Gaza, and Hamas has been a stipulation means for every one box of medicine delivered to the Israeli hostages, 1,000 boxes must be provided for people in Gaza. This as the Israel Defense Forces continued to bombard the Gaza strip, including a cemetery in southern Gaza. Video geolocated by CNN shows severe damage and graves apparently disturbed.

CNN's Nada Bashir reports for us now, on the sheer desperation inside densely populated Gaza, as Israel goes after Hamas, now on its fifth day of a near total Internet blackout. We must warn some viewers, some of the images you're about to see are disturbing.


NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): Relentless strikes piercing the night sky over Khan Younis, Gaza once again plunged into eerie darkness. Endless tragedies on the ground, obscured by the longest communications blackout imposed on the strip thus far. What little video is still able to reach the world paints a troubling picture.

At the Al-Nasser Hospital in Gaza, south, not only one of the last still functioning here, but also where the World Health Organization says some 7,000 people were sheltering. Families yet again have been forced to flee. Civilians and patients seen here carrying their children and belongings, as Israeli forces who said they were targeting a Hamas rocket launched against the IDF from the hospital complex close in. AMR TABASH, JOURNALIST (through translator): There was heavy fire at the Al-Nasser Hospital and in the vicinity. We're seeing huge violent bombings here. We've been trying to share video of what is happening from the highest point at the hospital. But as you can see, the bombardment is severe.

BASHIR: Israel maintains it is targeting Hamas infrastructure and tunnels where hostages are said to have been held, which Hamas denies. As the sunrises in Gaza, the death toll also climbs. Families carrying the bodies of those who did not survive the night.

My life, my life, this mother cries over her child. Tiny bodies wrapped in shrouds, parried in the arms are for bereaved parents. Now amongst the more than 10,000 children said to have been killed in a war. They had new part in.

Those figures provided by the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza grew more shocking with each passing day, more than 24,000 people killed in just over three months.


Israel says that some 9,000 Hamas fighters were among the dead. The CNN is unable to independently verify this claim.

UMM MUHAMMAD ABU ODEH, DISPLACED PALESTINIAN (through translator): These were peaceful people. They were sleeping in their homes. The Israelis told us to go to the south, so we came. But there's no safe place in Gaza, not in the south, not in the north, not in the middle. Every area's being struck, everywhere is dangerous.

BASHIR: The vast majority of Gaza's 2.3 million population are now internally displaced, concentrated in the south where Israel's bombardment is only intensifying, the unfolding catastrophe in Gaza now characterized by the U.N.'s humanitarian office as a stain on the world's collective conscience.

A war they say conducted with almost no regard for the impact on civilian life and now with little aid getting into the strip, a war that is pushing Gaza past the brink of famine.


BASHIR (on camera): And look, Jake, as we continue to see the humanitarian situation deteriorates, we are still hearing those warnings from the U.N. agencies, some 15 out of 36 hospitals in Gaza are set to be the only ones left operational. Those are the only ones operational, but only partially operational according to the World Health Organization. There is, of course, still a dire need for aid to get into the Gaza Strip. And, of course, medical supplies as well. That deal coordinated by Qatar is set to see at medication being provided to those held hostage in Gaza.

But, of course, crushing we will also see some aid and some medication coming in for Palestinians in Gaza. The question of whether this will be enough remains to be seen. And, of course, there are questions around what is next, whether that agreement, whether that deal will be perhaps the foundations for further agreements between Israel and Hamas, that are suddenly the hope for many, particularly the U.N., which continues to call for a sustained humanitarian ceasefire.

TAPPER: Nada, we should note, you're in Lebanon and that U.N. is also stressing how crucial it is for the avoidance to avoid an all-out war and military confrontation there. What are you hearing from officials there?

BASHIR: Well, absolutely. We continue to see that crossfire along Lebanon southern border between the Israeli military and Hezbollah. There are mounting concerns around the potential for that crossfire to escalate into a deeper conflict between Lebanon and Israel. We heard today from Israel's chief of general staff warning that the likelihood of war between Israel and Hezbollah has increased in comparison to previous ones that Israel is at a point of increased readiness.

Those comments were made during a visit to reservist stations along Israel's northern border that has been a point of concern for some time now, of course, we've heard just in the last week from Hezbollah's secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. He has a directly connected the situation along that border, with the situation in Gaza, saying that they can be no discussion around a potential cessation of violence between Hezbollah and Israel without a ceasefire in Gaza first -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. CNN's Nada Bashir in Lebanon, thanks for that report.

Coming up, hear part of the 911 calls on New Year's Day asking for an ambulance to be sent immediately to the home of secretary of defense, Lloyd Austin, along with efforts to not draw attention to the emergency response.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: New audio of a 911 call, the latest detail in the efforts to keep the health status of the U.S. secretary of defense secret, and a critical moment with multiple wars raging around the world.

Oren Liebermann reports on how this latest wrinkle adds to growing questions centered around personal privacy, as well as the public's right to know who is supervising the largest military and arsenal in the world.


DISPATCH: Fairfax County 911, where is your emergency?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's hospitalization was a secret from the start.

At 07:11 p.m. on New Year's Day, an aide to Austin called 911.

CALLER: My name is (AUDIO DELETED) and I work for (AUDIO DELETED).

LIEBERMANN: In a recording of the call obtained by CNN, the aide's name is redacted, so was Austin's. But the street matches the address of the defense secretary's home. The aide asks the 911 dispatcher for the ambulance remain silent, a request any caller can make.

CALLER: Can I ask ambulance not show up with lights and sirens? We're trying to remain a little subtle.

LIEBERMANN: The dispatcher acknowledges the request, but says the ambulance cannot fully comply.

DISPATCHER: Yeah. I understand. Yeah, usually when they turn into a residential neighborhood, they'll turn them off, but they are required by law to run with them with the main street.

LIEBERMANN: On Wednesday, the Pentagon wouldn't say why Austin's aide wanted the ambulance to be a subtle.

BRIG. GEN. PATRICK RYDER, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We're reviewing this. The secretary has again taken responsibility in terms of the need for transparency as it relates to his medical care.

LIEBERMANN: Austin was taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center with complications from a surgery to treat prostate cancer on December 22nd, a diagnosis that wasn't immediately disclosed to President Joe Biden or other senior national security officials.

DISPATCHER: Is he reporting any chest pain at all?


DISPATCHER: OK. Did he pass out or does he feel like he's going to pass out?


DISPATCHER: OK. And like you said, he's awake, he's alert and oriented. He's not confused or anything that, correct?

CALLER: Correct.

LIEBERMANN: One day later, Austin was admitted to the intensive care unit. It would be another 48 hours before the president knew Austin was in the hospital, one more day after that until Congress and the public were notified.

But Austin's initial diagnosis with prostate cancer, which occurred in early December, wasn't known until January 9th.

REPORTER: Do you have confidence in Secretary Austin?


I'm sorry.

REPORTER: Was it a lapse in judgment for him not to tell you earlier?


LIEBERMANN: Austin spent two weeks at Walter Reed Medical Center at a critical time for U.S. national security.


The war in Gaza raged into its fourth month. Iranian proxies attacked international shipping in the Red Sea and launched more attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria.

U.S. carried out strikes against the Houthis in Yemen, which Austin authorized from the hospital.


LIEBERMANN: Now, there are two reviews ongoing into the lack of notification, the lack of transparency here. One, from the office of the secretary of defense. And one from the DOD inspector general.

Meanwhile, at this point, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is doing his work from home where the Pentagon says he has the capabilities and the ability to access secure communications as needed by his job. At this point, Jake, no word on when we will see him back in the Pentagon full-time.

TAPPER: Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon for us, thanks so much.

Coming up, something so jarring to report. Just how often anonymous tips come in from students that help prevent tragedy at schools



TAPPER: In our national lead today, U.S. Attorney General in Merrick Garland is in Uvalde, Texas, right now touring murals of the 21 victims, 19 students and two teachers who were slaughtered by that lone gunman at Robb Elementary School in May 2023. Garland will meet with the victims' families later today.

His visit comes a day ahead of the U.S. Department of Justice's report on the botched police response to the Uvalde school massacre. The long anticipated review comes more than a year and half after the mass shooting at Robb Elementary, the deadliest U.S. school shooting in almost a decade, even though there were numerous 911 calls made inside the classrooms.

As this deadly rampage was happening, the nearly 400 responding officers waited outside those rooms for more than an hour, 77 minutes, to intervene and to ultimately take out the shooter. To this day, there really has not been any serious accountability or even explanation for such a delayed response. Instead, there's been silence or contradictions from law enforcement, public officials, and school administrators, leaving grieving families haunted by the idea that their loved ones left trapped in those classrooms could have been saved that day.

Ending school shootings feels like such a daunting task given the degree and amount of gun violence in the United States and the unwillingness of so many officials to do anything about it. But there does appear to be some kind of hope. A new study published by the medical journal pediatrics shows an anonymous tips work in preventing school shootings and suicides.

Let's bring in CNN security correspondent Josh Campbell.

Josh, tell us about the results of the study published in pediatrics.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Jake. Well, this endless wave of mass shootings that you and I have continued to cover has been met by researchers stepping up efforts to look at ways of preventing such shootings. And one of those that has proven to be very effective according to this new study, pertains to these anonymous reporting platforms that are available to school children. Researchers in particular looked at the platform, see something anonymous reporting system that's run by the violence prevention group, Sandy Hook Promise, and what they found was that was very effective in one state looking at a few years of data.

I'll show you some of those results. They determined that this system allowed for over 1,000 mental health interventions over 100 prevented suicides and six averted school shootings. That's because a student called into this tip line or reported online saying that they saw something concerning. They wanted councilors or responders to take a look. You could see the impact of their work.

And what we're talking about kids, obviously anonymity is key because in so many instances, they might be talking about their own best friend who might be talking about harming themselves or harming others. In fact, law enforcement who has studied this issue, including the U.S. Secret Service, they have found or read you part of one of their recent reports, anonymous and confidential reporting options can broaden the appeal of reporting, especially for students who are concerned about being identified then ostracized by their peers after reporting, research finds that the fear of being ostracized are experiencing other forms of retaliation is a significant barrier to reporting.

So, again, as you mentioned, it seemed so daunting covering these shootings, but at least one possible glimmer of hope here. The kids themselves, picking up the phone or go into these apps, going online to report concerning behaviors to help save lives -- Jake.

TAPPER: Are there any efforts to make this preventative measure mandatory in schools?

CAMPBELL: There are, and they're in fact bipartisan. We know that when we talk about gun violence prevention, often that can be politically polarizing. But in this instance, where we're talking about anonymous platforms, we've seen both Republicans and Democrats come out and say that they want to see action.

I spoke with one legislator in Michigan who said that this was after that Oxford High School shooting, he said that they formed a task force and one of the key findings was they wanted to provide more resources to that state's online platform that they use to report tips. So, again, very important.

Finally, Jake, if you're an educator out there or if you're a parent wondering how I can find out more information, visit our story, You will find a wealth of resources in order to help educate kids about the ways that they can report concerning behavior, Jake.

TAPPER: And it's worth reminding our viewers that for about 25 years, the Congress banned the Center for Disease Control and Prevention from using federal funds to study the issue of gun -- gun violence because of an amendment called the Dickey Amendment from Republican congressman in Arkansas, that thankfully is no longer the case.

But just imagine that banning the study of gun violence.

Josh Campbell, thanks so much.

When you or anyone you love needs help, please call the crisis lifeline by calling or texting 988.


There is help for you. There is love for you, 988.

Coming up next, the apology today from the White House chief of staff after a rather flippant comment about a Republican presidential candidate in Monday's Iowa caucuses from the Democratic National Committee.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

This hour, showdown at the border again. It's the Biden administration versus the state of Texas, and the dispute over two-and-a-half miles of land this time. Texas has this part of their own state blocked off of fencing and razor wire, and even its own Texas National Guard. The feds want more access and the feds are threatening action that could play out any moment.