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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Trump & Haley Now In Two-Person Race For GOP Nomination; New Hampshire Republicans Weigh In On Trump, Haley Ahead Of Primary; Toxic Train Derailment Upends Life In East Palestine, Ohio; Rail Transportation Safety Legislation Stalled In Congress As Ohio Residents Suffer Long-Term Effects Of Toxic Train Crash; Gaza Doctor: "Catastrophic" Situation At Southern Gaza Hospital; U.S. Supreme Court Takes Up Appeal Of Oklahoma Death Row Inmate. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired January 22, 2024 - 16:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Just the irony, if you make baby clothes in this day and age, and you're not going to be sort of baby family- friendly, it might come back to bite you.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: It seems counterintuitive that they would be more sensitive to someone who decided to adopt a baby that clearly has special needs that way. Nevertheless, we hope the best, as you mentioned for the baby.

And for you as well, thanks you for joining us today.

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, New Hampshire tomorrow -- THE LEAD starts right now.




That's the sound of a two-person race.



TAPPER: And then there were two. Nikki Haley hanging on as the lone major GOP candidate taking on Donald Trumps. She's facing an uphill battle going into tomorrow's critical primary.

Plus, CNN's John King with his "All Over the Map" series, asking Trump loyalists why they're so eager to vote for him again in 2024.

And nearly one year since a freight train crash in East Palestine, Ohio, CNN's back at the scene. How people there feel about promises to make sure they're not living amongst the dangerous toxic site. (MUSIC)

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

We start today with our 2024 lead. You hear the music. And the final hours before the first in the nation primary.

Tomorrow, New Hampshire voters head to the polls and the results could essentially set the ballot for November's presidential election. There are only two major Republican candidates left in the race. And today, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is making her last minute pitch and five campaign events. She's trying to sell herself as the most electable candidate in the general election. And she is, of course, rejecting calls to follow Republican Governor Ron DeSantis's lead. He dropped out of the race yesterday and immediately endorsed Donald Trump.


HALEY: I've watched the entire media elite yesterday and today say that I should drop out for the good of the country to support Donald Trump. America doesn't do coronations. We believe in choices. We believe in democracy, and we believe in freedom.


TAPPER: The latest CNN poll released yesterday finds without DeSantis in the race, 54 percent of likely Republican voters in New Hampshire preferred Trump, 41 percent support Haley. Donald Trump is making one last ditch effort tonight to try to widen that gap by having not one, not two, but three of his former rivals for the nomination campaigning with him in New Hampshire, those three are Tim Scott, Doug Burgum, and Vivek Ramaswamy -- all of them men who endorsed Trump after ending their own bids for the endorsement.

Now, despite the endorsement from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis do not hold your breath for a Trump-DeSantis ticket in November. The former president was asked, just today, might he consider the Florida governor as his running mate or to serve in a cabinet position if elected. Here is how Trump responded.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Well, it's probably unlikely, but, you know, I have to be honest, is everything's a possibility, but I think it's highly unlikely. I have a lot of great people.


TAPPER: Well, maybe it was the just in the last week alone.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: A lot of what Donald Trump promised to do, but didn't deliver. Whether that's the border wall, whether that's reducing debt, whether that's draining the swamp. You can be the most worthless Republican again in America, but if you kiss the ring, he'll say you're wonderful. You deserve a nominee that's going to put you first, not himself first.


TAPPER: Now, that was then and this is now. With New Hampshire on the line, Nikki Haley for her part is questioning whether Trump has the mental fitness to be president again. She has repeatedly made any example at a remarks Trump made Friday night when he clearly confused Haley and former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi when discussing, not honestly, the January 6 Capitol attack. Here's what Trump said.


TRUMP: Nikki Haley is in charge of security. We offered her 10,000 people, soldiers, National Guards, whatever they want. They turned it down.


TAPPER: That was Friday night. Nikki Haley -- none of that's true.

Haley responded Saturday reminding voters of this and other apparent Trump mix-ups.


HALEY: He went on and talked about how I kept the police from going into the Capitol on January 6, went on and repeated that I didn't do anything to secure the Capitol.


Let's be clear, I wasn't in the Capitol on January 6. I wasn't in office on January 6. He mentioned it three times. He got confused. He got confused and said he was running against Obama. He never ran against Obama.

Do we really want him throwing out names and getting things wrong when they're 80 and having to deal with Putin and Xi and Kim and North Korea? We can't do that.


TAPPER: Donald Trump will turn 78 in June. President Joe Biden turned 81 last November.

Haley often conflates their ages.


HALEY: I don't think we need to have to 80-year-olds sitting in the White House when we've basically got to make sure that we can handle the war situation that we're in. We need to know they're at the top of their game.


TAPPER: Donald Trump has taken note and is trying to shut down this talking point. He tried to do so at a weekend rally.


TRUMP: Sarcastic or like a lot of times ill say in President Obama is doing a lousy job, meaning that Obama is running the show. They'll say, Donald Trump doesn't know who our president is. No, no.

A few months ago, I took a cognitive test my doctor gave me. I say, give me a cognitive test just so we can because you know what the standards were. And I aced it.

Like Haley, she talks about, you know, we don't need 80-year-old. Well, I don't mind being 80, but I'm 77. That's a big difference


TAPPER: CNN's John King has been traveling across the country to see how people in the key early voting states feel about this race. And John joins me now.

John, you just checked in with some New Hampshire voters. Are they still all in for Trump or might any of them be looking for an alternative?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Just like an Iowa, roughly half of the party is looking for alternative, but even though Haley now has that two-person race, she wanted, we still found independents, undeclared voters who can vote in New Hampshire, in the primary because of the rules there, who are going to stay on the sidelines. We also found a few Chris Christie supporters. You think that would be a natural pool for her who say, no, she still says she pardon Trump. She's not as tough -- as tough as she should be on election denial. So they're still going to vote for Christie.

So her math is complicated, Jake. Trump's base is committed.


KING (voice-over): Late morning off the dock, gone maybe one day, maybe two or more.


KING: Andrew Konchek's job depends on the water and the weather.

KONCHEK: It's actually colder, definitely a little colder, but you get used to it.

KING: (INAUDIBLE) drops these gill nets overnight, pulls them out in the morning. Konchek was likely Trump, but looking at Ron DeSantis. KONCHEK: I'd have to look into it more.

KING: Now, time to choose.

KONCHEK: I'm with Trump because he supports fishermen you know? And this obviously is my livelihood.

KING: Loyal to Trump despite stuff that offends him.

KONCHEK: I don't like the way that he speaks sometimes, could be a little ignorant and rude.

KING: Loyal to Trump despite a wife who backs Nikki Haley.

When you hang your Trump flag, what does she say?

KONCHEK: She said I was ruining Christmas and wanted me to take it down. And she took it down and then I put it back up.

KING: Pete Burdett's Haley sign is surrounded by snow now, same spot as when we visited in September. Haley was a long shot that perhaps the only shot to stop Trump now.

She has Trump's attention.


I think there's a very real opportunity for Nikki to squeak out a percentage point on top of Trump. And wouldn't that shape the rafters.

KING: To Burdette, a no brainer.

BURDETT: Who really can beat Biden? Who lost to Biden last time? Trump did.

KING: The possibility is obvious, but so are the challenges. Trouble winning over Chris Christie voters because she says she would pardon Trump, trouble winning over independents like Stanley Tremblay.

Tremblay told us in September his disgust with both parties makes him a likely third party voter in November. He could stay Haley Tuesday, took a break from trivia night at his Nashua brewery to make clear he won't.

I know you're not a Trump fan, fair?


KING: If you came off the sidelines, you could help Nikki Haley.

TREMBLAY: I could I could.

KING: But you don't see it as worth it. Why?

TREMBLAY: Because I don't really -- I don't feel like I trust her enough yet to be able to give her my vote.

KING: Trump's resilience infuriates his critics. Yes, many supporters imitate his crewed tactics and repeat his lies. But it's not that simple.

Who won the 2020 election?


KING: Debbie Katsanos is an accountant, voted for Bill Clinton twice, but as a Trump Republican now.

What are the one or two things you want the federal government to do ASAP?

KATSANOS: Close the border, and get this economy going.


KING (on camera): And, Jake, that's the -- you listen to Debbie Katsanos. You listen to Andrew Konchek. That's the code Trumps critics, Democrats and Republicans just been unable to crack, people who don't like the way he conducts himself, people who wish he would stop being so hard, stopping so coarse, but who think he's going to fix the border and improve the economy.


So they're with him on the policy even though they can't stand how he conducts them. No one's been able to break through and get those voters, which is why you have the MAGA base, then you have Trump policy voters, which means Trumps out a path that looks like to victory. We'll see what happens tomorrow.

TAPPER: Yeah. A Republican congressman who supports Trump says it's border, economy, crime, border, economy, crime. That's -- that's it. That's their platform.

You also visited with Iowa voters both during the summer and then right before the caucuses. Have you been surprised at all by Trump's resiliency through all of these indictments, courtroom appearances, et cetera?

KING: Well, we've seen it in a poll. So you're not surprised by it, but to hear it from people. DeSantis is right. You know, he didn't probably did have long -- he probably was a long shot anyway. But the indictments helped Trump. They rally his MAGA base around him.

I think the surprising part for me is the depth of the other people, to people like Konchek, the people like Debbie Katsanos there, who again, don't like Trump. So you think they would be open-minded to an alternative, but how did they get to Trump in the first place?

They didn't like traditional politicians. They think this town is broken. They think nobody here respects them, listens to them, understands what they do. So they think Joe Biden's one of those politicians. They think Nikki

Haley's one of those politicians. They weren't sure about DeSantis.

So what do they do? They stick with Trump because it looks like it would take another outsider, somebody different to maybe shake them out of their Trump loyalty because they don't trust this town. They don't trust people who wear suits like this.

TAPPER: Uh-huh, interesting. Even though Trump is the establishment.

KING: He wears suits like this, too.

TAPPER: And he does wear suits like us.

All right. John King, thanks so much.

My next guest has also done a lot of talking with Republican voters in New Hampshire. What's giving her the certainty to say that in her view, the race is over?

Plus, CNN will cover this primary however it plays out. Look for live coverage tomorrow starting at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. Watch it all live on CNN, streaming on CNN Max. We'll be right back.



TAPPER: This just in. In our money lead, the Dow and S&P 500 both just closed at record highs. The Dow finished above the 38,000 mark for the first time ever.

Turning to our 2024 lead, tomorrow's primary New Hampshire could be the final reckoning for never Trump Republicans who have spent the last few months and years working to try to stop Donald Trump. My next guest who told "Bloomberg" today, quote, if Trump wins in New Hampshire, its all over. But to be completely honest, I think it's all over.

Jennifer Horn joins me now. She's the former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party, founder of Republicans and Independents for Biden back in 2020, and the host of the podcast "Is it just me or have we all lost our minds?" Which is a question that I think answers itself.

Jennifer, why do you think that the Republican race is completely over? Is a strong showing by Nikki Haley tomorrow, not going to be enough to make this a competition?

JENNIFER HORN, FORMER CHAIRWOMAN, NEW HAMPSHIRE REPUBLICAN PARTY: Well, I'm not -- it depends on how you define a strong showing, I suppose to some pointed degree as well. But I just I think that it regardless of whether or not Governor Haley decides to stay in the race after New Hampshire, I just don't see a path for her.

South Carolina is going to go to Donald Trump. I believe that New Hampshire will go to Donald Trump. We already know Iowa went to Donald Trump at a certain point. It just becomes inevitable. And that's influences the voters as much as anything else.

It's just -- it's just like all those Republicans in the them, you know, Tim Scott and Marco Rubio and Mace, and all of the others. The party has clearly sort of -- the party leadership has decided he's the guy. And I think the party base decided that a long time ago.

TAPPER: Well, the establishment certainly behind him, no question about that. What is it about Donald Trump that you think has so many people in the Republican party in the base and also elected leaders falling in line?

HORN: Well, I always say that Donald Trump's success in politics is more a reflection on how the -- how the party has changed at this point than it is down -- a reflection on Donald Trump's actual success. There is clearly an element within the party and within our country. And I think it's something we have to be really concerned about, that is -- that loves his -- not just his anger and his energy, but they loved that he's willing to just throw aside the rules.

When he gets -- you know, they loved that he doesn't care what the Constitution allows him to do something or not. They love that he keeps pushing forward regardless of the criminal charges against him, regardless of the fact that we know that he sexually assaulted a woman, regardless of the $10 million at his private business took him from China while he was in the Oval Office, and apparently regardless of the fact that he was perfectly willing to instigate an insurrection and steal a legitimate American election.

It is a very poor reflection on the voters and the party as much as it is on Donald Trump.

TAPPER: I'm just trying to think what Senator Warren Rodman would have made all this, the late, late great Republican senator. And I think he would have been absolutely horrified.

HORN: Yeah.

TAPPER: Donald Trump is holding --

HORN: I'm sure he is rolling as we speak.

TAPPER: Yeah, he's holding -- Donald Trump is holding a rally tonight in Laconia, New Hampshire. He's going to be joined by three former opponents, Tim Scott, Vivek Ramaswamy, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum.

Do you think that's about party loyalty, the fact that they're all running into place or about -- well, if I ever want to run for president again in 2028, or if I want to be in the Trump cabinet, then this is what I have to do?

HORN: I think it's about power and ambition and influence. You know that in Donald Trump's world, you must be loyal to him, not the party, not the principles, not the policy. You have to be loyal to this corrupt, narcissistic man in order to go anywhere.

And I think you're talking about people who have real ambition in the future for the future and they are willing and I've sort of gotten almost tired of saying it. It's so discouraging. They are willing to sell their souls, sell their principles in order to make sure that they are in flying to get some of that power in some of that influence.

TAPPER: Before we go any, any quick predictions for tomorrow night?


HORN: I think that Trump is going to win over 50 percent. And I think that, you know, DeSantis drops out, those votes go to Trump. Any votes that Ramaswamy had, they go to Trump. I think that as things really tighten up tomorrow, as people are out there and casting their ballots, I just don't think Nikki Haley is going to be where she needs to be.

TAPPER: Although it is up to the voters in the great state of New Hampshire. So we'll see if you're right. Jennifer Horn --

HORN: It is up to the voters.

TAPPER: Yes. Good to see you. Thank you so much.

And again, CNN's coverage of the New Hampshire primary begins tomorrow at 4:00 Eastern on CNN.

Up next on THE LEAD, living next to a disaster zone. CNN goes back to East Palestine, Ohio, the site of a Norfolk Southern train crash almost a year ago. Have promises of a cleanup and a safe place to live been kept? The secretary of transportation, Pete Buttigieg, will take our questions live.



TAPPER: In our national lead, it has been nearly one full year since life in East Palestine, Ohio, was turned upside down. The Norfolk Southern toxic train derailment that took place there, it's not just a thing of the past. It's still part of their present.

CNN's Jason Carroll to continue to suffer from health impacts and others who were too afraid to return.


EDMUND WANG, EAST PALESTINE, OHIO BUSINESS OWNER: Every time I saw the chain like this running behind of my building, I feel scared now.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Norfolk Southern's trains steadily running right behind Edmund Wang's plan that makes parts for steel mills in East Palestine, Ohio. The railcars got back on track days after the catastrophic derailment, nearly a year ago. The crash just feet from the back door of Wang's plant.

WANG: We're still living nightmare basically.

CARROLL: Even after all this time?

WANG: Yes.

CARROLL: We first interviewed Wang last March when he voiced concerns about his future.

WANG: And I'm not sure the impact will last for how long? That's the uncertainty.

This is a year later. We are still paralyzed, that we cannot do anything. This is a really frustrating for us.

CARROLL: Just last week, Wang's operation manager says there was another check for possible contaminants.

DAVID CHICK, EAST PALESTINIE FACTORY MANAGER: They're testing the soil that's underneath foundation. I'm not happy that its taken them this long to get to this stage of checking to see how things are.

CARROLL: Throughout the past year, Ohio's EPA says continued testing has shown the air, water, and soil in East Palestine is safe. And as of January 10th, more than 42 million gallons of liquid and 176,000 tons of soil waste have been removed. Norfolk Southern says it made a promise to make things right. And that under the oversight of the U.S. EPA, it has completed the majority of remediation work, as well as invested more than $103 million into the community.

Norfolk also announced long-term programs supporting home values and water monitoring and working toward a long-term health fund.

That's little comfort to Jessica and Chris Albright.

CHRIS ALBRIGHT, EAST PALESTINE, OHIO RESIDENT: I'm boiling with anger over the whole situation.

CARROLL: The Albrights evacuated in the days after the derailment and moved into a hotel for four months, that bill covered by Norfolk Southern. But since returning home, Albright says he was diagnosed with our heart disorder and has been unable to keep his job as a gas pipeliner.

C. ALBRIGHT: We're doing the best, but we're -- we're treading water right now.


C. ALBRIGHT: I mean, you know, we're barely paying the bills.

CARROLL: Like the Albrights, Zsuzsa Gyenes left home with her ten- year-old son, but a year out, they are still living in a hotel.

ZSUZSA GYENES, DISPLACED EAST PALESTINE RESIDENT: I still wake up every day and I'm in disbelief a year later.

CARROLL: Gyenes is afraid to go back to East Palestine, but says she has had a tough time finding permanent housing elsewhere.

GYENES: It's going to take me a long time as a single mom to rebuild everything.

CARROLL: There are signs, many others want to stay. The slogan "East Palestine Strong" is planted throughout town, including on Misti Allison's property.

MISTI ALLISON, EAST PALESTINE RESIDENT: Now, either you can have like a victim mentality or had like a victor mentality. You can't choose the cards that you're dealt.

CARROLL: Allison testified last March during Senate hearings on rail safety.

ALLISON: My 7-year-old has asked me if he is going to die from living in his own home.

CARROLL: Allison wants to see the Rail Safety Act become law. It calls for tougher regulations. And it's now stalled in Congress.

ALLISON: Just like with anything else, lets find a way, not an excuse. I think that we can make it happen because I want East Palestine to recover and thrive.

CARROLL: The Albrights aren't sure if it will ever be the same.

C. ALBRIGHT: Our middle daughter was getting nosebleeds as soon as she would come into this house. The youngest daughter there was getting rashes.

JESSICA ALBRIGHT, EAST PALESTINE RESIDENT: Worried about kids and their futures.

CARROLL: Jason Carroll, CNN, East Palestine, Ohio.


TAPPER: And our thanks to Jason Carroll for that report.

Let's talk about this now with the Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.

Mr. Secretary, so East Palestine residents, as you heard there, they say they're not getting enough help from Norfolk Southern that -- which caused all this misery. And that railway transportation safety legislation co-sponsored in the Senate by Republican Senator Vance and Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, it's stalled.

Why is it stalled? Who is behind stalling it?

[16:30:06] PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: Well, that's something that members of Congress need to answer. It's been almost a year, that clip that you just played of that resident speaking in the Senate about the need for this legislation. It was something like ten months ago and still there has been no action in Congress.

It's striking to me that you have this bipartisan legislation that's just been sitting there waiting its turn. We've taken a lot steps as a department with the authorities we have under the current law, but we need Congress to do more and Congress could be doing more, right now.

My question to anybody who is in a position to advance this, especially a number of House Republicans who have sought over the course of the last year to make a partisan issue out of the pain of what happened in East Palestine is what are you doing right now to make sure that we don't get to the one-year mark, which is just a few days away and still have no action. There is no excuse for it to be a year since that crash in East Palestine and have the Railway Safety Act still waiting its turn on Capitol Hill.

TAPPER: I know. But give me a little -- give some candor here. Why has it not been introduced? I mean, Senator Sherrod Brown, the Democrat from Ohio, says he's worried because the speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, he said, quote, is pretty close to the railroad lobby.

Is that the reason why it hasn't been introduced on the House? And what about the Senate where Democrats control the Senate? How come Chuck Schumer hasn't introduced this?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, I can't speak for Speaker Johnson, but I am concerned about the influence that the railroad industry lobby has here. Look, he pushed hard for this and the railroad industry lobby famously has had a lot of power. They helped in the last administration to weaken some railroad safety regulations. They've resisted some of the safety regulator patients that I and we at the Department of Transportation are continuing to advance.

Now, in the Senate, at least there was that movement in committee. I think there's some question about whether to bring it to the floor, whether basically whether they're the 60 votes that you need in the Senate in order to get that done, as well as whether the House is ready. But this shouldn't be a bipartisan issue.

I don't know why Republicans would be or should be any less likely to vote for this than Democrats. It's got bipartisan sponsorship. I think the vast majority of Americans believe in ought to be done. And part of how Congress and in this country need to do right by people in East Palestine, like the people who were interviewed there in addition to work that's being done to hold Norfolk Southern accountable for cleaning up the mess they made is to make sure that the next community doesn't go through that.

Some of the provisions in this legislation include tougher penalties that could change the behavior of the railroad, accelerating the adoption of tank cars that would be stronger in many incidents and derailments that could lead to a hazardous materials release, making sure there are more requirements for letting emergency responders know when hazardous materials are coming through their community. We've already funded a lot of work to train first responders, but Congress could put way more teeth into those capabilities. It's long past time for there to be action.

TAPPER: Isn't it true that the punishment from airline for being like a half-hour late or an hour late is worse than the punishment that can be given to a railway for a crash that has a fatality?

BUTTIGIEG: It can be even. In an extreme situation with an egregious violation, the most that my department is able to penalize a railroad company is in the neighborhood of $200,000. I think we all know that when you have class one railroad freight companies, they're multibillion dollar corporations and very profitable ones at that.

The threat of a fine that's maybe a quarter of million dollars isn't enough to make them change their economics. We could change that. We could change that right now, if Congress allowed us to do, which is one of the many needed provisions that again, are just waiting their turn in this Railway Safety Act. And I'm just amazed that there are so many members of Congress who as of today, almost a year out on the record, whether they're for or against this bill because they sure as hell didn't mind going on the record when they thought they could score points off of this issue along the way in the last 11 months.

TAPPER: Well, it's not just Congress, right? Because some residents of East Palestine plus Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio are calling on FEMA to approve Governor DeWine's disaster declaration. That would unlock additional resources from the federal government, possibly providing ongoing health screenings and benefits to residents.

But the Biden administration refuses to do that. They say a disaster declaration does not apply because it's not a natural disaster. They say Norfolk Southern is responsible.

So is that disaster declaration is still just off the table for these residents who are clearly suffering?

BUTTIGIEG: Look, leaving aside, I don't know the legalities of the emergency management process.


I do know what we can do as a department to make sure that railroads are safer and we've been taking action on everything from focus inspection of railroads to making sure that there's better hazardous materials related regulation to just investing in better railroad infrastructure.

I know that the EPA has been acting to hold Norfolk Southern accountable and make sure that all of that cleanup takes place. Anything that can be done within the limits of the law, this administration is going to do because when I talked to people in East Palestine who I got to know when I visited in the aftermath of this crash, there's two things I hear. One is that they else, and another is that they don't want to be forgotten.

TAPPER: President Biden's bipartisan infrastructure law is one of his major achievements in office right now. You're in Florida, which has gotten billions of dollars in infrastructure funding. Still, the president is facing low approval ratings and tough reelection battle.

Why do you think he's in such a tough shape?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, what I know is that were responsible for telling a story that isn't exactly going to advertise itself. And I'm not going to speak to the campaign and election side because I'm here in an official capacity, but I'll say, this administration has a lot to be proud of and has done so much good for so many people in so many parts of the country, including right here in Florida, where billions of dollars have come directly because of President Biden, and that infrastructure package.

We're doing railroad safety in Broward County. We're doing truck parking along I4. We've improved the ports of Miami, the port of Tampa and were going to continue doing that even though Governor DeSantis has sent some of that money back to Washington, unspent. We're still delivering billions of dollars of value and need to make sure everybody understands that.

I know that it's our job to get that message across. I just spoke to people from the international union of operating engineers. Their national gathering here in Fort Lauderdale. They are over 400,000 members, record membership and record job creation, the construction, manufacturing, and there's much more where this came from, thanks to the president's leadership on infrastructure.

TAPPER: Speaking of the president, he still has not visited East Palestine, Ohio. I don't know why that is. It doesn't seem to make much sense to me.

But if Congress needs pressure to get this done, why wouldn't he just go to East Palestine and use the bully pulpit the way that, you know, Harry S. Truman would do, try to shame Congress into passing that? Why is that not even like an idea that the White House would contemplate?

BUTTIGIEG: I don't have any updates on the scheduling front for the White House, but what I can tell you is it shouldn't take anything more than we've already seen happen for Congress to act. I don't know why we have to persuade anybody to do something that members in both parties claim to care about, which is to make our railroad safer.

President Biden's administration and our department, we're doing it with funding to improve infrastructure. We're doing it with the authorities we have on hazardous material. We're doing it with our rulemaking authorities, but Congress has to do its part. Why would they let it get to a year and still failed to act?

TAPPER: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, thank you so much.

Coming up, new details just in about a tragic mission involving two Navy SEALs. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


TAPPER: Topping our world lead, the United Nations says only a quarter of aid missions for Gaza have been given the greenlight by the Israeli government this month. That's a, quote, significant increase in denials, according to the U.N. That is only exacerbating the dire need for food, water, and medicine. As the World Health Organization says, quote, inhumane living conditions have led to a spike in hepatitis cases.

CNN's Ben Wedeman reports now on the catastrophic scenes in southern Gaza. And a warning to our viewers, some of this content its quite disturbing


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): By hand, they bury the white shrouded body of a young girl on the grounds of the Nasr hospital in Khan Younis. The soft sand at the hospital, one of places to put the dead to rest.

The girl suffocated. They couldn't save her, says her grandmother Saadia Abu Taima.

Khan Younis is now the focus of Israel's offensive in Gaza, where Israel believes some of the hostages, as well as some of Hamas's leaders are located. But after weeks of intense operations, they found neither.

The war is well into its fourth month. Israel leaders warn it could go on until years end. The prospect of an early halt to fighting brushed aside, by the White House.

JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: You don't believe a ceasefire is going to be to the benefit of anybody, but Hamas.

WEDEMAN: Some in Gaza might beg to differ.

Israeli forces have pulled out for now from parts of Central Gaza, in the Nuseirat refugee camp, people search for what's left of their shattered lives, but perhaps just scraps of firewood.

Hundreds of thousands have taken refuge in now overcrowded U.N. schools. Officials warn that lack of sanitation, clean water, medicine, and proper shelter is leading to the spread of disease.

Umm Mohamed fled here with her family only to find no space.

"Where is their shelter where we can stay?" she asks. We're not the Hamas people, they're talking about. We just want to live like everyone else.

By al-Bureij camp, at another U.N. shelter, schoolbooks keep the fire going to cook a meal.

It was a nightmare here while the fighting raged nearby, a nightmare that for some isn't over.


My father is gone. My father, the pillar of my life is gone, says 11- year-old Karam Hussein. How can I live without him after the war?

His father's body and others lies in Gaza's soft sand behind the school -- no gravestone, just names spray-painted on wall.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, reporting from Beirut.


TAPPER: And our thanks to Ben Wedeman for that report. Also in our world lead today, the U.S. military has identified two Navy SEALs who died in an operation off the coast of Somalia. Navy special warfare operator, First Class Christopher Chambers is 37 years old. Navy special warfare operator, Second Class Nathan Gage Ingram was 27 years old. The Navy says that on January 11, they were conducting a nighttime operations to seize lethal aid from Iran, going illegally to the Houthi rebels in Yemen. According to the military, the SEALs were boarding a vessel when one fell overboard into eight foot swells. The second jumped in after him. Their bodies have not been located.

They're both described as exceptional warriors, cherished teammates, and dear friends to so many. May their memories be a blessing.

For 26 years, Richard Glossip has denied he had anything to do with the murder of his boss. Today, a new glimmer of hope for the death row inmate from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our law and justice lead, another supreme lifeline for Oklahoma death row inmate Richard Glossip, who has spent 26 years behind bars, faced nine different execution dates and eaten three last meals.

The U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to take up Glossip's appeal and decide whether he deserves a new trial after newly discovered evidence raised serious doubts about his convictions. Glossip has rallied support from bipartisan state lawmakers, even Kim Kardashian, Oklahoma's Republican attorney general admitted mistakes were made in his case and that he should not be executed.

Glossip as you might recall, was convicted of murder in 1998 for hiring someone to kill his boss. The key witness prosecutors used to put him away was Justin Sneed, the person who actually killed Glossip's boss. And it turns out, according to a review you by the state attorney general, prosecutors never disclosed evidence related to Sneed's credibility and failed to correct his testimony that they knew to be false.

Richard Glossip has always maintained his innocence.

Joining us now, Glossip's attorney, Don Knight.

Don, we've been covering this horrific case for a long time now, not as long as you've been -- you've been working on it. Have you spoken to Richard since the U.S. Supreme Court decided to hear his case?

DON KNIGHT, LAWYER FOR RICHARD GLOSSIP: Yes. I talked to him this morning, Jake. Thank you for having us on and thank you for your concern about the case.

TAPPER: And what did have to say?

KNIGH: Well, you now, the opposite could have happened. A cert could have been denied and then an execution date would have been set. So he was very excited that the court it takes his case very seriously and recognizes the importance of this case and has agreed to hear the case. We are -- we're looking forward to the next phase.

TAPPER: I am constantly amazed at how much the justice system just defends itself, even when obvious mistakes -- and maybe not even mistakes, obstructions of justice, in a sense, were committed and yet it does all the time, except we do have the U.S. Supreme Court willing to take a listen.

How are you going to convince the U.S. Supreme Court justices to grant Richard a new trial?

KNIGHT: Well, I do have to say that while yes, much of the prosecutorial legal establishment in Oklahoma is simply backing this conviction blindly, Gentner Drummond, the attorney general, has very bravely stepped forward, sees where the injustice was committed and has committed himself to making sure that justice is done for Richard Glossip.

He's not saying that the attorney general is very clear. He doesn't think unnecessarily Rich is innocent. I think he is. I think if we get a new trial, it'll be easy to show that. But we have a situation here where an attorney general of the state, the highest law enforcement officer in the state, has said that Richard Glossip did not receive a fair trial, and that should be something that we think the Supreme Court should take very seriously.

TAPPER: Yeah, absolutely. I don't mean to suggest that the attorney general isn't a shining exception of what I'm talking about. Do you see a clear path for Richard's conviction to be overturned if he is given a new trial? You seem to suggest that. And what is it?

KNIGHT: Well, Justin Sneed from the first moment he opened his mouth has been lying. He lied through all of the police interrogation, through the first trial and through the second trial. We have all the transcripts. We have the receipts. He's a complete liar. And if we get are given a chance, he is the only witness against Richard Glossip. If given another trial, it'll be fairly easy to show that man is simply lying and Rich had nothing to do with this case at all. This is a poorly investigated case.

TAPPER: Poorly investigated and corruptly prosecuted. And I have to say my dad always used to say when I was growing up, we have a legal system in this country, we don't have a justice system.

Why is it with the exception of the Oklahoma attorney general, so few people in the Oklahoma legal system and they're not an exception to this general observation. Are so unconcerned with justice and what actually happened and what is just?

KNIGHT: I think, Jake, it has a lot to do with what confirmation bias, right? I mean, the prosecutors believed that they are right. And once they set their sights on something, they will not be deterred in their view that they are right. And if they can get a jury and its not that hard to get a jury to go ahead and convict someone, then they hang on to that. Despite any evidence for the contrary, we've been showing for a long time that the problems in this case to every prosecutor in the state that that would listen to us all the various problems in this case.

A reasonable person looking at this case would say, yes, there are serious problems and this man deserves a new trial.


We're just thankful that somebody finally was elected and Gentner Drummond to get that done.

TAPPER: Yeah. I'm worried about the U.S. Supreme Court though because they've made it tougher for people to file appeals based on incompetent representation and other factors.

Don Knight, thank you so much. Really appreciate your time.

KNIGHT: We have but --

TAPPER: Go ahead.

KNIGHT: I do want to say they're giving us this chance.

TAPPER: Yes, absolutely.

KNIGHT: That's agreed.

TAPPER: Absolutely, and let's see -- let's see what happens and we'll talk to you as soon as they make a decision one way or the other. Thanks so much. Good to see you.

KNIGHT: Thanks so much, Jake.

There is good reason for all the attention on the Republican side of tomorrow's primary in New Hampshire, but there is a story line to fall on the Democratic side as well. Coming up next, Congressman Dean Phillips will be here as he challenges President Biden for the Democratic nomination for the presidency.

Stay with us.


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