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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Biden Says He Has Decided How To Respond To Drone Attack; Israel Special Forces Disguised As Civilians & Medical Staff Killed 3 Suspected Terrorists In West Bank Hospital; House GOP Moving Ahead With Effort To Impeach Mayorkas; Senators Push To Protect Kids On Social Media; Musk Startup Implants Brain Chip Into Human Patient; Dr. Sanjay Gupta Goes Inside Never-Before-Seen Research Facility Raising Pigs For Organ Transplant; DOJ Investigating Dem Rep. Cori Bush's Use Of Campaign Funds. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired January 30, 2024 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Like, for sure. I don't even have a dog, but I have had a dog, I think in retrospect I'd say, man, I wish I hadn't done that. But I might actually do that.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Oh, poor little Onyx.
KEILAR: They're like -- they're your little babies.
SANCHEZ: The only reason I wouldn't do it for my dog is because I feel like she would be driving the car trying to get away. She's got a criminal streak. We've got to -- we won't talk about that on the air, but --
KEILAR: Yeah, it would be a different kind of story. But also a good one to end the show it some day, I'm sure.
SANCHEZ: Yeah, hopefully.
KEILAR: THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Biden says he's decided how the U.S. will respond to that deadly drone strike.
THE LEAD starts right now.
President Biden pointing blame, holding Iran responsible at least in part for a deadly drone strike that killed three U.S. soldiers in Jordan. How to strike back against the enemy so as to deter further attacks while also avoiding a wider military conflict? A Pentagon spokesperson will be here.
Plus, undercover raid. Israeli forces in disguise dressed as medical staff, civilians, even a woman in a hijab, on a hunt for Hamas terrorists in a West Bank hospital. See the video CNN obtained showing the operation in action.
And, Democratic Congresswoman Cori Bush under federal investigation for allegedly misusing campaign funds and hiring her husband for security.
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
And we start today with our world lead. President Biden says he has decided how the U.S. will respond to the deadly drone attack on American troops, as fears grow on Capitol Hill that retaliating against Iran could lead to a wider war in the region. The White House has not publicly blamed any one specific group for the attack in Jordan that killed three soldiers, U.S. soldiers and wounded more than 40 others.
But President Biden did say today that Iran does deserve some of the blame.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do hold them responsible in the sense that they are supplying the weapons to the people who did it. I don't think we need a wider war in the Middle East. That's not what I'm looking for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Today, President Biden spoke with families of the three soldiers killed in action. Sergeant William Rivers, Specialist Kennedy Sanders, and Specialist Breonna Moffett, all of them from Georgia. Specialist Moffett was just 23 years old.
Her parents reflected on their daughter's life with Abby Philip on CNN last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANCINA MOFFETT, MOTTHER OF U.S. SOLDIER KILLED IN DRONE ATTACK: Breonna was always an amazing person. She would just light up her room whenever -- whenever she walks in. She was my first born. And she was always there for everybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: The attack on U.S. troops is just one part of the larger conflict happening in the region right now as the war between Israel and Hamas rages on.
President Biden has sent CIA Director Bill Burns to Europe as the sides try to hash out some kind of hostage deal and pause in fighting. But while a broad framework was agreed to in recent days, it may have hit another roadblock. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today rejecting one of Hamas's key demands that Israel remove its troops from Gaza.
Negotiations are complicated even further no doubt by scenes such as this. Israel special forces dressed as civilians and doctors, raiding a Palestinian hospital in Jenin, in the occupied West Bank earlier this morning, killing three men that they say were terrorists. One of whom had contact with Hamas. Another, an operative of Jenin battalion, a third link to Islamic jihad.
We're covering every angle of this major developing story today, starting with Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh, who joins us live now.
So, Sabrina, it's more than two days since this horrific attack on U.S. forces. You said yesterday that the attack has the footprints of Kataib Hezbollah, which is an Iraqi Shiite group designated a terrorist group in 2009 by the U.S.
Was it them?
SABRINA SINGH, DEPUTY PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Again, thanks, Jake, for having me on today. I really appreciate it.
This is something that we're still looking at. It does resemble attacks that we've seen from Kataib Hezbollah previously, but what we do know is whoever did attack and unfortunately killed three of our servicemembers, we know that they have a link to Iran through these IRGC backed proxy groups that Iran continues to equip and train and financially support throughout. And as you have heard the president say and the secretary say, we will respond and we will respond at a time and place of our choosing.
TAPPER: President Biden says he has decided how the U.S. will respond to the drone attack. A number of Republicans including presidential candidate Nikki Haley and Senator Lindsey Graham have called on the U.S. to strike targets, specifically targets inside Iran.
Has President Biden ruled that out?
SINGH: No, I'm not going to get ahead of the president or forecast what our decisions look like.
What I can tell you is that we are going to do everything possible to hold those who are responsible for the attack on our forces, not just the attack that we saw on January 28 that resulted in the death of three of our servicemembers, but the over 100 attacks that we've seen against our forces.
We're going to hold those people accountable but we're going to do so at a time and place of our choosing, and I'm certainly not going to forecast that here today.
TAPPER: So after the U.S. and its allies first struck the Houthi targets in Yemen, President Biden said, quote, I have already delivered the message to Iran. They know not to do anything, unquote. Well, clearly did not get that message, Sabrina.
SINGH: Yeah, and again, that's why you've seen is take subsequent action and subsequent strikes not only Houthi controlled areas in Yemen, but also within Iraq and Syria. We're going to continue to respond. One of the top priorities that the secretary is taking care of our people, making sure that our forces are protected who are there in Iraq and Syria, to ensure that ISIS never comes back and resurges to what we saw 10 years ago.
So, the secretary, the president are working closely with his national security team to make sure our forces are protected, they have what they need in the region, and, of course, to respond when we decide to.
TAPPER: It seems one of the problems with this attack was that the enemy drone was apparently following a U.S. drone, and that caused confusion and the delayed response.
What's the latest on that?
SINGH: Well, that's something Central Command is looking into right now. We're trying to figure out exactly how this drone was able to evade U.S. defenses around that military facility. It is something we are still looking into, again, there is no higher priority the Central Command, the commander there and the secretary have of taking care of our forces, making sure they are protected wherever they are serving, whether it'd be in Jordan, Iraq, or Syria, or all around the world. We want to make sure that our forces are protected and something like that attack was on January 28th can never be repeated and could never happen again.
TAPPER: But these Iranian-backed proxy sources have been shooting at Americans for months now, and they have not been deterred with anything the U.S. has done. Do we expect -- do you expect that whatever the U.S. does next will be more of a deterrent than what the U.S. has done in the last few months?
SINGH: Well, I'm not going to speculate or, again, forecast what we are going to do, but what I can say and what my boss always says is that we own the clock here. So, we are going to hold these IRGC-backed militias accountable for what they did, for what they have done, for what the injuries that they inflicted on over 40 of our servicemembers, for the death of three of our servicemembers who we tragically lost earlier this week. We are going to hold them accountable. How that looks, where that looks, and when that happens, I'm not going to get into those details as I'm sure you can appreciate why.
But we will be holding those groups accountable for their actions.
TAPPER: We believe at least six American hostages are still being held in Gaza. Does the U.S. have any guarantee that they're still alive?
SINGH: Well, I know that something we are working, through, through diplomatic channels trying to get these hostages released, I don't have an update on their condition, of course, right now, but, of course, top of mind here in this building across the administration is, of course, those hostages that remain in a terrorist organization's custody.
We want to see them released. We want to see all the hostages released. But I would have to agree to my State Department colleagues who are working that as we speak.
TAPPER: What's the plan of Israel and Hamas cannot reach an agreement on the latest hostage deal? Are these American hostages going to be left in captivity indefinitely?
SINGH: Look, I don't want to get ahead of those negotiations. That's something that's ongoing. You've seen multiple people from this administration, from the NSC, from the State Department traveling to the region. Secretary Blinken also speaking out about this. So, I'm not going to get ahead of those negotiations and where that stands.
What I can tell you is what the department is doing. Of course, we want to make sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself in a fight against a terrorist organization, but we want to see those hostages released, we want to see humanitarian law upheld, and we want to make sure that our forces all across the region are protected.
TAPPER: Hamas killed Americans on October 7th and has taken American hostages. This other group, whatever it is, just killed three American soldiers and wounded dozens more, at least 30 or 40 more. Does the Biden administration have any concern that these terrorist groups in the Middle East think that they can do whatever they want to Americans and there won't be any serious repercussions?
SINGH: Well, we absolutely have concerns. And we have said publicly there will be repercussions. There will be accountability held. That is why you have seen the president and the secretary very forcefully say that we will respond and we will respond when we are ready to respond.
Again, I'm not going to detail or forecast what the response look like, but absolutely, these -- these acts, these horrific tragedies that happened earlier this week are not going to go unanswered. We are going to hold those responsible for that accountable.
TAPPER: Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh, thank you so much for your time.
SINGH: Thanks, Jake.
TAPPER: Now back to that gripping surveillance video of Israeli undercover forces infiltrating a Palestinian hospital in the occupied West Bank this morning. Israel says it killed three terrorists, and Hamas is claiming at least one of those men as a member.
CNN's Jeremy Diamond reports for us now from Israel where Israeli officials are praising the operation, though some experts say that it may have been a violation of international law. A warning, some of what you're about to see is graphic.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Israeli forces disguised as Israeli civilians and medical staff storming a hospital in the occupied West Bank, weapons drawn. As they move through a hospital corridor, one man is temporarily detained.
Shouts of "army, army" ring out through the hospital corridor. Several are wearing hijabs. Two of the operatives could even be mistaken for new parents, baby carrier in tow.
A dozen Israeli forces infiltrated the Ibn Sina Hospital in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, killing three Palestinian militants affiliated with Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The Israeli military claiming this man, Mohammad Jalamna, planned to carry out a terrorist attack in the immediate future, without providing any details. In a statement, the Israeli military said: For a long time, wanted suspects have been hiding in hospitals and using them as a base for planning terrorist activities and carrying out terror attacks. While they assume that the exploitation of hospitals will serve as protection against counterterrorism activities of Israeli security forces.
Legal experts say that the Israeli commandos may have violated international law by disguising themselves as civilians and medical personnel. One of the men targeted, Basil Al-Ghazawi, was being treated for injuries from a rocket explosion. The hospital said he was sleeping in his bed when he was killed. He and his brother, Mohammed, also killed by Israeli commandos in the same hospital room, where affiliated with Islamic Jihad. The Israeli military said one of the men carried this gun, but did not say their troops have been fired upon.
NAJI NAZZAL, IBN SINA HOSPITAL DIRECTOR: They killed the three youth, Basil and Mohammed al-Ghazawi and Mohammad Jalamna, in the room while they were sleeping on their beds in the room. They killed them with cold blood, with gun shots to the head.
DIAMOND: Fierce battle later broke out in Jenin where the Israeli military has been cracking down on Palestinian militant groups, killing at least 381 Palestinians in the West Bank since Hamas's October 7th attacks, according to the Palestinian ministry of health.
DIAMOND (on camera): And Jake, there are also now reports of Israeli forces at a hospital in Gaza. The Palestine Red Crescent Society says that Israeli tanks have now entered the front yard of al-Amal hospital in Khan Younis. They say that the Israeli military's firing live ammunition and smoke grenades at the hospital's front yard. Displaced people and staff are being evacuated at gunpoint, according to a hospital official. Now, the Israeli military hasn't commented on this yet, but in the past, they have said that Hamas uses these hospitals for their military purposes and they have been urging this hospital's evacuation.
But there are around 8,000 people believe to be sheltering at the hospital, and sometimes those evacuations when the Israeli military is surrounding that hospital can be easier said than done -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Jeremy Diamond in Tel Aviv for us, thanks so much.
Right now on Capitol Hill, House Republicans are moving closer to something not done in more than 100 years. They are trying to impeach a sitting cabinet official. The high crimes and misdemeanors they are alleging against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. That story is next.
TAPPER: House Republicans are preparing to do something today that has not been done in nearly 150 years, and has only been done that one time before. They are moving ahead with articles of impeachment against a sitting cabinet official. The last time this was done was against President Grant's secretary of war, William Belknap. This was for a kickback scheme.
In this case, it's Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Republicans are claiming that he committed high crimes and misdemeanors by his alleged mishandling of the crisis on the southern border.
CNN's Lauren Fox is live on Capitol Hill.
Lauren, this is a big step to impeach. What exactly are the high crimes and misdemeanors that are being alleged?
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a lot of constitutional experts would argue that there are not high crimes and misdemeanors here, but House Republicans are arguing that Mayorkas did not enforce border security laws that are on the books, specifically saying that he exceeded his parole authority, that he did not follow mandates on detention, and that he misled Congress when he said that the administration had operational control over the border. Now Democrats are arguing in this hour-long markup at this point that they can have legitimate disagreements over policy, that's normal. But that's not impeachable, and those aren't high crimes and misdemeanors in their eyes.
TAPPER: So, obviously, there are not the votes to convict him in the Democratic-controlled Senate. You need 66, and that is just not going to happen. But Republicans in the House have a majority, they only need a majority vote. They can only afford to lose two votes, though, because the majority is so narrow. Do they have the votes?
FOX: Well, that's something that they are still working on. In fact, I pressed Mark Green, who's the chairman of the committee, and here's what he said about the vote count right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARK GREEN (R-TN): You know, from my perspective I'm doing what is, I think, my duty. Votes will be what votes are. But I feel pretty good. But it doesn't matter, in the end.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOX: Of course, Jake, it does matter in the end what the votes are, because if House Republicans approve these articles of impeachment in committee and they are not able to bring them to the floor because they don't have the votes, obviously that would be a major political shot for Democrats to take it then in the election.
And certainly, that's something the Democrats are watching very closely. Now, Mark Green is having conversations with those who are on the fence, and you can expect that there's going to be a fulsome whip operation for Republican leadership if this passes today, which we expect that it will, and as the leadership is trying to get to the floor -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Lauren Fox on Capitol Hill for us, thanks so much. There are some issues where Republicans and Democrats do agree.
Coming up next, the bipartisan effort in the Senate to crackdown on the dangers of social media in an effort to protect your kids from what they are exposed to online.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Our tech lead now. It can be a matter of life and death. Teens in the U.S. are experiencing mental health crises, suffering from anxiety, stress, depression, and we are all witnessing all-time highs and suicides.
One major factor researchers, parents, and teens all see is social media.
Tomorrow, the heads of major tech companies will again be called in front of senators to explain how they plan to protect children from the algorithms that drive them to harmful topics, such as drugs or bullying, or content that promotes eating disorders.
This as lawmakers weigh, passing controversial legislation called the kids online safety act.
And two senators leading that charge, Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut join us now.
Senator Blackburn, you're -- you're going to have the CEOs of X, formerly known as Twitter, TikTok, Snap, Discord, and Mark Zuckerberg, whose Meta owns both Facebook and Instagram, among other platforms.
What do you want them to say? What are you looking for from them? SEN. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN): Well, Jake, what we want them to do is
lay out what their plan is to protect children online. And one of the things that Senator Blumenthal and I have learned through all of the hearings that we've done and the work on Kids Online Safety Act is that even though these platforms know there are harms that are happening to children every day, eating disorders, suicide, leading drug dealers, pedophiles, they have chosen not to do anything because children are the product when they are on their platforms.
TAPPER: Senator Blumenthal, we've seen the CEO of Snap be the first of this group to endorse the Kids Online Safety Act, not to mention anyone watching football this weekend likely saw an Instagram ad promoting parental controls.
Do you think the social media companies are finally getting serious about the need to address the problem when it comes to social media and children?
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTAL (D-CT): They are getting serious, Jake, only because support for the Kids Online Safety Act is mounting. We now have almost half the Senate cosponsoring it, evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. And in answer to your first question, what I want to hear from these CEOs is that they will support the Kids Online Safety Act, also known as KOSA.
BLUMENTHAL: And I'm going to put them on the spot, each of them. Snap has endorsed it. I want to see the same from the others.
TAPPER: Senator Blackburn, this is obviously not an easy space to regulate, as artificial intelligence -- AI enters this realm. Are your prescriptions looking ahead enough, or do you fear the law is going to continue to trail behind technology as it advances so rapidly?
BLACKBURN: Jake, one of the things we know is that technology is going to change before a law is written, and signed into law. So, therefore, what we are doing is putting in place the toolbox that kids and parents need to keep kids safe online, so that they can adjust those algorithms, opening -- opening up the algorithms, having these platforms submit to an audit each year, having a dedicated channel that parents can report the bullying, and then -- and eating disorder information, pedophiles, bad actors that are in this space, and requiring these platforms to do something about it.
TAPPER: Senator Blumenthal, kids are shockingly good with technology. My kids are much better with technology than I am.
Do you fear that they are going to easily find workarounds around any restrictions put in place?
BLUMENTHAL: There really is no possibility of kids outsmarting the restrictions in this law, because first of all, they will have tools if they want to disconnect from the algorithms. It's not about censorship, it's about giving parents and kids choices, and also holding them responsible, those big tech companies accountable, so that they are forced to mitigate and prevent harms.
We're taking the burden away from the parents, because kids are a lot smarter than parents, we know it, and putting that responsibility on the big tech companies themselves, transparency and accountability. And we're going to hear a lot of verbiage tomorrow. No question, a lot of empty promises.
We are in favor of regulation, just not that regulation. But we need this law, because it will keep pace with technology.
TAPPER: And, Senator Blackburn, how do you write a law that prevents bad actors from having sexual conversations that are inappropriate with kids, while also allowing, for example -- let's say there's a 13- year-old gay kid and he's just looking for verification that he has a right to live his life, and he's in a world right there where he doesn't feel like he can't go to his parents, he can't go to his teachers?
How do you draw that line so that kid can find places that are safe, that are welcoming, that are healthy and constructive while also having a line there so that predators can't take advantage?
BLACKBURN: That's exactly right, and that is why having safety by design, and his children being able to have visibility into those algorithms is so vitally important. And it's one of the reasons that Senator Blumenthal and I have spent so many years working on this and engaging so many different groups and listening to them, sitting down and hearing from them, so that we put in place these guardrails so that the internet is going to be a safer place, these platforms are going to be a safer place for all children.
TAPPER: Senators Marsha Blackburn and Richard Blumenthal, thank you for your time today. Appreciate it.
BLACKBURN: You got it. Thank you.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: Elon Musk, the second richest man in the world according to "Forbes" is behind Tesla, X, formerly known as Twitter, SpaceX, and much, much more. And now, one of his brands is behind a major medical achievement. The good and the controversial ahead.
TAPPER: In our health lead, billionaire Elon Musk's startup company, Neuralink, just implanted its first brain chip into a human patient. Neuralink says this chip would give patients the ability to control external devices such as a keyboard or a phone by using only their thoughts, which means, depending on how this trial goes, we could see an important milestone in improving the lives of those who have lost the ability to use their limbs, for example. But there is also, of course, concern over the ethics and safety of
this trial, and the reliability of Musk's company Neuralink itself.
Let's bring in Amy Webb. She's the CEO of Future Today Institute, and CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
Amy, to you first. Musk's startup is not the first company to do something like this, and to be frank, Musk himself has a mixed success record in terms of effectively leading companies and promising to dish out life-changing new technology. Is Neuralink worth the hype, do you think?
AMY WEBB, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, FUTURE TODAY INSTITUTE: Well, the curious thing that I found is that typically when you have groundbreaking, brand- new scientific breakers they are covered in academic, peer-reviewed journals. This study was published on Twitter, and what we got was a really compelling PR video and basically no detail to follow.
I only bring this up because this is a man who, yes, has definitely changed different industries, but have a knack for launching concepts before there has been concrete behind them. An automated car is one thing. When we are talking about challenging issues that are medically, you know, with medical devices, and people who need them, not to mention things like AI and ethics, privacy, I think we ought to be a little skeptical.
TAPPER: Well, let's talk about the skeptics who have ethical concerns, who worry about the societal consequences of enhancing cognitive ability of somebody who is healthy and does not need it, as opposed to somebody who is paralyzed, for example. What's your view of it?
WEBB: Well, look, in 2013, this is 11 years ago, some researchers at the University of Washington connected their brains, their heads together in a noninvasive way over the Internet to control the had motions of each other. So I think one person thought the F and another person typed it. There are definite benefits to having technology like this, but listen, on the last segment, we were talking about kids online, and whether or not we should allow them complete, unfettered access to networks and the content that is well above their age limits.
I think this is a case where we definitely want to improve the longevity and the lifespans and the health of everyday people, especially those who have mobility needs, but I think we need to talk about the next order consequences. We need strategic foresight here to think through what this all might look like in the future, especially given that we are talking about a founder who does not have a good track record when it comes to privacy and telling the truth, and being transparent.
TAPPER: Sanjay, you are a practicing neurosurgeon. For people who don't know, you are not just great on TV and an amazing journalist, you actually perform brain surgery every week.
How significant is this from a medical perspective, and how does the technology work?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, look, taking into account everything Amy just said, I think this is significant but very early. I think people automatically anticipate that this is going to be some sort of device that can quickly share cognition. It's nowhere close to that.
Let me show you first of all what the device looks like, and as Amy said, all we have is basically tweets at this point about this. But this is what the device looks like, and this is the device, then, that would sit in a certain area of the brain. So, that's the interface we are talking about, the brain computer interface. It's connected to something that sits in the chest, essentially via Bluetooth giving off signals to devices, a smart phone, a mouse, things like that.
So the idea is then to connect that particular part of the brain via the device we just showed you to the environment, specifically some of these devices around them.
It's not the first time. Maybe the first time for Neuralink, but these brain computer interfaces have been implanted before. I had a chance to talk to the CEO of Synchron, which is another company that have been implanting these devices, specifically to ask him about what these devices are.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GUPTA: What is a brain computer interface?
DR. TOM OXLEY, CEO, SYNCHRON: If you can get a device that can detect and interact with brain activity, which is all electrical signals, then you can potentially restore that component of the brain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GUPTA: So, what that basically means? Let me just show you, to your question, Jake. If you have a device that's sitting in a very specific part of the brain, this is a part of the brain that controls motor function. The device sits there, and basically overtime the device learns, what is the logical pattern in the brain when someone thinks to move the mouse forward or move it to the right? It starts to learn that.
After a while, the device knows enough that the person can simply think about this, a person with quadriplegia, for example, when the person thinks this, they can actually create movement on a computer screen. That is basically where we are right now. The brain does cognition, it does sensation, it hears, it sees.
This is motor -- motor function that could potentially be restored to some extent for someone who does not have it because of ALS or quadriplegia. TAPPER: All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, stay with us. Amy Webb, thank you
Sanjay is also getting a glance at what could be another major medical transformation. He went inside a research facility aiming to transplant organs from pigs into people, given the shortage there is. See it for yourself at this facility is so important.
TAPPER: And we're back with our health lead in CNN exclusive report on how pigs could save your life one day.
Let me explain. Right now in the United States, 17 people die each day waiting for new organs. The reality is there are just not enough donors.
CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta got some incredible rare access to a research farm that is raising pigs for the purpose of organ transplants in humans.
GUPTA (voice-over): These pigs could one day provide a nearly endless supply of organs to save humans. Kidneys, hearts, livers, it is called xenotransplantation, and what you're watching at this research facility has never been seen by the public before.
MIKE CURTIS, CEO, GENESIS: We usually try to limit this only to the staff that takes care of the animals. We rarely let other folks come in.
GUPTA: Mike Curtis is my guide today. He is CEO of eGenesis. That's a company devoted to raising pigs to try to solve the organ shortage crisis.
CURTIS: Everything is controlled. All the feed is clean, water is clean, as you can see, the staff is clean. We try to maintain a very clean environment.
GUPTA: And I should point out that I walked into a room, turned on a filter, essentially cleaned the air for five minutes before I could then go shower. That is why my hair is wet. I wash myself, I put on everything new here. Including underwear, socks, shoes, everything is different, just to be in this room. It gives you an idea of just how clean it is in here and how important.
It's more than I typically do to prep for the operating room. All of it to protect the pigs from us.
I've got to tell you, I did not know what to expect. It is powerful just to be here with these pigs.
CURTIS: These two, and those three, the little guy here, they are fully edited. All these piglets can total 69 added to the genome.
GUPTA: That makes them among the most genetically modified mammals on the planet.
How much change has happened to the pig genome for it to become more compatible with the human?
CURTIS: Our approach is really three- pronged, where we are trying to reduce the risk of disease transmission from the porcine donor to human. We're editing it in a way that reduces or eliminates rejection, and then we add genes to control rejection.
GUPTA: They do all of this with the help of CRISPR, the gene editing tool that allows scientists to manipulate the cell DNA, knocking out or adding in genes. In this case, to make a pig's organs more compatible with the human recipient.
CURTIS: To keep the consistency of the genetics, we establish the cell line and use cloning to produce consistent donors. It is akin to what was done with Dolly back in the '90s, cloning.
GUPTA: It is essentially a modern day assembly line of standardized, genetically modified pigs.
CURTIS: We have selected the Yucatan mini pig, because fully grown they are about 70 kilos, 150 pounds. So the organs are correctly sized for human recipients.
GUPTA: You know, it is kind of amazing. As much as we talk about the really intricate science of gene editing, ultimately you have to get the science right.
CURTIS: That's right.
DR. ROBERT MONTGOMERY, NYU LANGONE HEALTH: Less than 1 percent of the people who die every year die in a way that they could never even be considered as organ donors. So even if you optimize everything, there still would not be enough organs.
GUPTA: Dr. Robert Montgomery is the director of the transplant institute at NYU Langone Health. He is also the recipient of a heart transplant.
MONTGOMERY: I had a heart transplant five years ago. I had seven cardiac arrests, and I still wasn't sick enough to be able to draw on organ.
GUPTA: That experience became a rallying cry for him.
MONTGOMERY: We need a sustainable, renewable source of organs from something else other than humans dying.
GUPTA: Are animals the answer to that?
MONTGOMERY: I think animals are the answer to that.
GUPTA: Specifically pigs, besides the size similarities, pigs also have several piglets with each pregnancy, making them a quickly scalable source of organs. One day, you might even see facilities like this all over the country.
MONTGOMERY: We've been doing research on xenotransplantation for decades. Pig organs into monkeys and doing gene edits. And that work has progressed. But there was still this question of, are those results translatable to a human?
GUPTA: Have we learned everything there was to know about translating these organs into nonhuman primates?
MONTGOMERY: I think there were diminishing returns.
GUPTA: The problem was the FDA still wasn't ready to give the green light to translating a pig organ into a human being. So, Montgomery proposed a provocative idea. What if the first human recipient was brain dead?
MONTGOMERY: The heart is beating, they can be maintained on the ventilator, and you can really see what the human response is going to be.
GUPTA: On September 25, 2001, Montgomery performed the first ever genetically modified pig kidney transplant into a brain dead human, and it worked for 54 hours. But each time they tried, the results got better and better.
MONTGOMERY: We've done this five times. The first four, two kidneys and two hearts were just for three days, but this last kidney was for two months.
GUPTA: He and his team share the findings from their last patient with me.
MONTGOMERY: You see that red?
MONTGOMERY: That's hemorrhage. We did have a model of rejection and we were able to test and make sure that we can treat that, you know, using sort of conventional anti-rejection drugs.
GUPTA: Then, on January 2022, for the first time in history, the team at the University of Maryland Medical Center transplanted a genetically modified pig heart into a living human being, someone who was not brain-dead. It was allowed by the FDA's compassionate use pathway for experimental treatments. Something used when a patient has no other options left.
CURTIS: When a patient imminently facing death, why wouldn't you try that?
GUPTA: But how far are we still to this becoming a reality? CURTIS: I think for the right patient, we're going to see in the next
couple of years.
GUPTA: Pigs that could save human lives.
CURTIS: So, these are the large whites. These are the size that we use for embryo transfers then.
GUPTA: You know, I never expected to feel like I was immersed in a really scientific sort of place in the middle of a pig barn.
CURTIS: It's the equivalent of five or six Nobel Prize discoveries, cloning is one of them. The discovery of CRISPR is another one. Allotransplantation, all Nobel Prize-winning discoveries. We're integrating all of those to make this a reality.
GUPTA: I've got to say, Jake, it's really remarkable science. And it could completely change the way we think about transplantation.
It doesn't come without some ethical challenges. What are the roles of animals in terms of protecting and preserving human life? And how much tinkering should be happening to an animal genome in order to make this happen?
Those are questions we're going to have to answer, but as you have heard, Jake, within the next couple of years, this could become a reality for a lot of patients.
TAPPER: Yeah, when you talk about the tinkering of the genomes, are there concerns about over editing the genomes of these pigs? How do they know when enough is enough?
GUPTA: Yeah. That's a great question. I mean, what they've been doing is sort of doing progressively more edits to try and figure at what point does this essentially become similar to what a human to human transplant would be. So, eGenesis, the company that just created that research facility, they settled on 69 gene edits, a little bit of an arbitrary number. But that's they -- what they think is the sweet spot.
Some have done as few as three gene edits. Some have done a lot more. So, they are going to figure that out. Somewhere in there it's going to be probably in that several dozen number.
TAPPER: All right. Fascinating stuff. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much.
Today, the top House Democrat, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, gave CNN a no comment when asked about Congresswoman Cori Bush, a Democrat from Missouri, and the federal investigation she now faces. What Congresswoman Bush herself is saying about the investigation, that's next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [16:59:05]
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
This hour, more U.S. funding on hold for UNRWA, or the United Nations Relief and Works Agency after several of its members were fired this week, accused of helping Hamas with its October 7th terrorist attacks on Israel. A hearing examining the group just wrapped up on Capitol Hill.
I'm going to talk with the leading United Nations critic who testified.
Plus, the seat that George Santos once held after months of lies and federal charges, Santos is long gone from Congress. Meet Democratic candidate trying to right the wrongs done in that New York district.
And leading this hour, Democratic Congresswoman Cori Bush denying claims of any wrongdoing as the Justice Department investigates her for allegedly misusing campaign funds to hire her husband as part of a security team.
CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill.
Manu, what do we know about the Justice Department investigation into Congresswoman Bush?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're told by multiple sources that she's actually the target of a corruption investigation.