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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Meta CEO Apologizes To Families At Child Online Safety Hearing; Big Tech CEOs Face Tough Questions At Child Online Safety Hearing; Rep. Mike Lawler, (R-NY), Is Interviewed About Iran Sanction; Rep. Jared Moskowitz, (D-FL), Is Interviewed About U.S. Military Response; Bipartisan Group Of House Members Demands More Sanctions Targeting Iran's Oil Trade After Deadly Attack On U.S. Troops; W.H. Formally Assigns Blame For Strike That Killed 3 U.S. Troops; House Speaker Slams Senate's Bipartisan Immigration Deal; FBI: China Seeks To "Wreck Havoc" Targeting U.S. Infrastructure; Dems Lean On Border Security As GOP Seems Likely To Kill Deal; Trump Co-Defendant Sues Fulton County DA's Office Says Info That Could Prove Alleged Affair Being Withheld; Dire Situation As Ukraine Runs Short Of U.S. Weapons. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired January 31, 2024 - 17:00   ET




SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Child sexual exploitation is a crisis in America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a collective. Your platforms really suck at policing themselves.

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): Your product is killing people. Will you personally commit to compensating the victims?

SEN. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN): Children are not your priority. Children are your product.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Even before the questioning started, my next guest predicted how this hearing would likely play out.


SARA FISCHER, SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER, AXIOS: I expect these senators to feel a little bit exasperated when they're probing some of these tech firms. Expect these tech CEOs to be pretty prepared. One of the interesting things is that because these bills have been around for so long, they have a pretty good sense of what they're going to get asked and what response they should have.


TAPPER: That was Sara Fischer, senior media reporter at Axios and CNN media analyst this morning joining us now. So Sara, the big moment from today's hearing was when Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg was kind of pushed by Senator Josh Hawley to turn around and apologize to the families of various victims of nefarious activities that happened on social media. Here's a little excerpt.


MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO META: I'm sorry for everything you have all been through. No one should have to go through the things that your families have suffered. And this is why we invested so much and are going to continue doing industry-leading efforts to make sure that no one has to go through the types of things that your families have had to suffer.


TAPPER: What was your reaction to that?

FISCHER: I thought it was very emotional, Jake. And it wasn't just him. It was also Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel who apologized to those families. You know, normally the tension is between the CEOs and the members of Congress. What made this testimony different was that you had those family members in the audience and they brought a different type of energy which then forced the CEOs into this place where they had to apologize and be very soft.

Typically in these hearings, they want to come out forceful in defense of their firms. But with the families right there, they were forced to take a position of being sorry and apologetic. And that really empowered the members of Congress to go after them even harder.

TAPPER: I want to play how South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham opened the hearing. Take a listen.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): These are bastards by any known definition. Mr. Zuckerberg, you and the companies before us, I know you don't mean it to be so, but you have blood on your hands. You have a product. You have a product that's killing people.


TAPPER: Lot of unanimity on that day among Democrats and Republicans. Was today a bad day for the tech CEOs? And do you think legislation is coming?

FISCHER: I do, Jake, and that's why it was a bad day for these tech CEOs. Senator Dick Durbin has introduced a package of bills and a lot of these bills have been introduced already. As I mentioned up top this morning, the senators knew what was coming to them, and the tech CEOs knew what was coming because these bills have been around a while. But what made today different was that you had such bipartisan support. I think it's going to be enough to possibly push this package forward. And so what does that mean for tech companies? It means that they might have to reroute their rules, might have to make less money in order to make sure that they adhere to these legislations that are meant to protect children online.

TAPPER: I want to play a different moment. This is from Minnesota Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): When a Boeing plane lost a door in mid- flight several weeks ago, nobody questioned the decision to ground a fleet of over 700 planes. So why aren't we taking the same type of decisive action on the danger of these platforms when we know these kids are dying?


TAPPER: I mean, it has been decades since the start of the Internet. Why do you think Congress hasn't been able to pass any sort of regulation on social media and the impact it has on kids?

FISCHER: Because doing so might upend the Internet as we know it. That one law that Senator Klobuchar was referring to that was passed in the mid-1990s hasn't been repealed because there's nothing we can replace it with, Jake. And at this point, if the Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act were the yanked, all of the businesses that are surrounding the Internet would fall. So what we're at is we need to try to find a way to either amend it or replace it with something better. But two Houses, two different parties have never been able to come together.

That's why this hearing was historic. For the first time in a long time, I felt like the parties were aligned on something. It turns out that kids might be the thing that brings politics together.

TAPPER: We'll see. That Section 230, it gives immunity to social media companies for what other people post on their platforms. And that provision is alive for now.


Sara Fischer, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Turning to our world lead, expect multiple phases of a U.S. counterattack to that drone strike that killed three American soldiers in Jordan and wounded dozens others. Today, the White House is officially blaming the attack on the, quote, "Islamic resistance in Iraq," that is, they say, an umbrella group of Iranian backed militias and terrorist groups. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby today saying that U.S. intelligence is looking for signs of groups in the region moving resources to try to outmaneuver any U.S. counterstrike.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: We'll respond on our own time, on our own schedule. The first thing you see won't be the last thing.


TAPPER: This, as U.S. officials tell CNN that a cruise missile launched by the Houthis last night came within 1 mile of a U.S. warship in the Red Sea before that was shot down, the closest call yet. Let's bring in Democratic Congressman Jared Moskowitz of Florida and Republican Congressman Mike Lawler of New York. They wrote a bipartisan letter to President Biden demanding that he implement more sanctions on Iran, specifically targeting its oil trade, which the congressman say provides, quote, "A crucial lifeline to sustain and expand Tehran's sponsorship of terrorist groups," unquote.

Congressman Lawler, let me start with you. Today, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctions three foreign entities and one individual that provide critical financial support to the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the IRGC, as well as the Hezbollah financial network. You two say you want the administration to deliver a hammer blow to these Iranian backed proxies. Congressman Lawler, does this move go far enough?

REP. MIKE LAWLER (R-NY): Well, it's certainly a good step, Jake, but Jared and I introduced the SHIP Act last year and passed it through the House in the aftermath of the October 7 terrorist attack. And what it would do is implement secondary sanctions on the purchase of Iranian petroleum. The illicit Iranian petroleum sales. The oil trade is what is fueling the funding of terrorism in the Middle East right now.

Iran is the greatest state sponsor of terror. They use the proceeds from this oil trade to fund Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis, and others, including the terrorist attack that took the lives of three service members this past weekend. We need to act.

The Senate needs to pass this legislation. The White House needs to sign it, because if we are to stop and combat the terrorism that is occurring, we need to start with the funding source, and that is the illicit oil trade with Iranian petroleum.

TAPPER: Congressman Moskowitz, sanctions aside, we are all still waiting to see how the Biden administration will respond militarily to that attack that killed three U.S. soldiers and wounded at least 41 others. What sort of response do you want to see? We had John Bolton on the show a few minutes ago and he said he thinks there should be military strike in Iran.

REP. JARED MOSKOWITZ (D-FL): Well, look, obviously my heart goes out to the families of our brave U.S. soldiers who lost their lives and the families of those that are injured. I mean, there's a score of injured serviced men and women over at that base.

Listen, I think diplomacy is important. I think diplomatic actions are important. I think we should be denying the Iranian regime access to the U.N. We should be denying their visas. That's a diplomatic action.

And I think sanctions are important. I think what Representative Lawler and I are working on is more economic sanctions and there's a lot more we can do economically, but it's not enough. I do think there needs to be a hammer blow to the proxies. I agree with John Kirby that it should be at a point of our choosing. I also believe it should be sustained.

It shouldn't be one sort of target that we take out. It should be a multitude of targets. And we should be eliminating the proxy's capabilities. In fact, it should be such a blow to the proxies that we don't have to deal with them anymore because they have no capabilities. And Iran should see what it looks like to continue to mess with the United States.

They've not seen that in a while. We might need to remind people the capabilities of the United States and we should do that with the proxies. We shouldn't strike Iran proper. I don't think we are there. That would be playing into the hands of China and Russia, by the way, who would love for us to get bogged down again in the Middle East and turn our attention away from Ukraine and Taiwan.

But we cannot let this stand anymore. I think the President's going to make the right decision on this.

TAPPER: Speaking of Ukraine and Taiwan, aid to those two countries or one country in one territory are -- is on the line right now when it comes to this border deal that Senate Republicans have been trying to negotiate. Congressman Lawler, House Republicans are signaling they're going to kill this compromise coming from the Senate. Take a listen to what House Speaker Johnson said earlier today.



REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA), HOUSE SPEAKER: We should be asking what kind of enforcement authority kicks in at 5,000 illegal crossings a day. The number should be zero. Zero.

Anything higher is simply surrender. Anything higher than zero is surrendering our border, surrendering our sovereignty and our security.


TAPPER: A, there's never been zero. Even when Donald Trump was president and had pretty harsh border measures, the number has never been zero. But B, Congressman Lawler, Senator Kyrsten Sinema, the Independent from Arizona who's part of the three senator team writing the bill, says his description is not accurate. Lankford says that as well. She says the bill triggers a required shutting down of the border if there are 5,000 encounters, not admissions, and even then, those are encountered and not automatically allowed to stay and on and on.

Are you on board with the House Republican conference walking away from this compromise?

LAWLER: Well, first of all, Jake, nobody's actually seen the final details. And I think that it is necessary for everyone to actually see the details before making a definitive statement on it.

My objective is threefold. Secure the border, stop this massive influx of not only migrants, but human trafficking, drug trafficking. You know, in 2022, 70,000 Americans lost their lives to fentanyl overdose. Much of the fentanyl coming across our southern border. We have to secure the border.

What the speaker is saying and the point he is making is, yes, it's never been zero, but we have to enforce our laws. This administration has failed miserably in its responsibility to secure the border. Since Joe Biden took office, nearly 10 million migrants have crossed our southern border, many of them illegally, 90 percent of them are released into our country. Catch and release must stop as the official policy of this administration. Remain in Mexico should be reinstated.

So, there is a lot of work ahead. I am curious to see if the Senate can actually pass a deal. House Republicans passed H.R. 2 back in May of last year. We went through a long process. We negotiated that bill in our House.

The Senate has yet to actually produce a product. Yes, they are negotiating, yes, they are working through it, but let's see them actually pass a bill and then negotiate with the House. That is how this works. It is not just the House accepts what the Senate does. We have to negotiate, we should negotiate and we should get a final bill to secure our border.

TAPPER: Yes, but the speaker said no before -- you just said you haven't seen the legislation. The speaker is describing it and saying it's dead on arrival.

LAWLER: Well, with all due respect, Jake --

TAPPER: Do you see disconnect?

LAWLER: With all due respect, you haven't seen the bill. And interestingly, over the last few weeks, the media has been trying to pressure everyone to agree to a deal that hasn't actually been produced. Why don't we see what the final bill is and then let's see if they pass it and then we negotiate. The bottom line is we have to secure the border.

President Biden and the Biden administration actually have authority right now to start to enforce our laws, and they're choosing not to. And that is a big part of the problem here.

MOSKOWITZ: Yes. And Jake, by the way, the Speaker said no because Donald Trump said no. The speaker is Donald Trump's no boy, OK, on this subject.

Look, I'll give Republicans credit for a second. They have been highlighting the border for a long time. OK. And we were late -- we were late to start addressing it. But now that we want to address it, now that we want to lower the amount of fentanyl coming in, now that we want to deal with non-documented folks, now we want to deal with supposed terrorists potentially coming into the country, now the Republicans controlled by one man, are saying, no, no, we need this for the next 10 months.

We need more of it, in fact, for the next ten months so that we can use it in election. Both things are true here. This is why people hate Washington. Both things are true. The Biden administration --


MOSKOWITZ: -- and Democrats were slow. But now that we're here at the table, Republicans are like, no, no, let's walk away.

LAWLER: Again, the question is, what is in the actual bill?

TAPPER: So, you --

MOSKOWITZ: It doesn't matter, the bill is dead.

LAWLER: Nobody has actually seen the bill.

MOSKOWITZ: The bill is dead. Donald Trump --

LAWLER Nobody has seen it.

MOSKOWITZ: Donald Trump has said the bill is dead.

LAWLER: And the question to me --

MOSKOWITZ: The bill is dead.

LAWLER: The question to me --

TAPPER: But you're -- you know, as Congress --

LAWLER: -- is House Republicans -- House Republicans --

TAPPER: -- as Congressman Moskowitz just said, both can be true. Both can be true. We haven't seen the bill.

LAWLER: Well, for me, it is very -- Jake, for me, it's very simple. We have a responsibility to secure the border.

TAPPER: Right.

LAWLER: Congressman Moskowitz is 100 percent correct --


LAWLER: -- that House Republicans have been focused on this for a very long time. Senate Democrats chose not to do anything. Chuck Schumer, despite the fact that New York was being inundated, despite the fact that Eric Adams said it was destroying New York City, chose not to do anything. TAPPER: We got to go right now.

LAWLER: We said that weren't going to pass the supplemental without border security. That is where we are.

TAPPER: You two are invited back.

LAWLER: We need to negotiate a bill.


MOSKOWITZ: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: You two are invited back. Congressman Mike Lawler and Jared --

LAWLER: Thank you.

TAPPER: -- Moskowitz of New York and Florida, Republican and Democrat, thanks so much.

CNN learned this week that the Chinese president promised President Biden back in November that his country would not interfere in the 2024 election. The FBI director was asked about that today.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: China's promised a lot of things over the years, so I guess I'll believe it when I see it.


TAPPER: He also had a warning about what else the Chinese government might be up to. We're going to have that story next.


TAPPER: In our world lead, FBI Director Christopher Wray today downplayed a promise from the Chinese government that they will stay away from interfering in U.S. elections. Director Wray argues that the U.S. is facing continued very real threats from foreign adversaries, including China, to create chaos and so deep divisions in American society. But that was not the most concerning thing that Director Wray had to say about the People's Republic of China, or PRC, when he talked to lawmakers earlier today. Take a listen.


WRAY: PRC hackers are targeting our critical infrastructure, our water treatment plants, our electrical grid, our oil and natural gas pipelines, our transportation systems, and the risk that poses to every American requires our attention. Now China's hackers are positioning on American infrastructure in preparation to wreak havoc and cause real world harm to American citizens and communities if and when China decides the time has come to strike.

(END VIDEO CLIP) [17:20:30]

TAPPER: Here to help us understand the threat is Chris Krebs, former director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency during the Trump administration.

Chris, how serious is this threat that China poses to dismantle American critical infrastructures such as water and power? Help us understand it. I mean, in my brain, I'm thinking of this Netflix movie, "Leave the World Behind," where there's some sort of attack and society is completely -- it's pretty chilling, actually, is reduced into complete and utter chaos. Are we talking about that sort of thing?

CHRIS KREBS, FORMER DIRECTOR, CYBERSECURITY: Well, I know when I talk to those in the national security community, including in the intelligence community, it is a all hands on deck and fairly hair on fire sort of situation right now. As I understand it, there are two main prongs to the current campaign by the Chinese security services. One is to target directly U.S. military assets. And we heard last summer that they were going after military and transportation facilities in Guam and elsewhere in the Pacific region. And that would, I'd assume, include Honolulu and Indo-PACOM.

But there's a second, I think, more kind of insidious and more concerning aspect, and that's a more ad hoc, almost opportunistic and random sort of campaign that's targeting U.S infrastructure. I think that's what Director Wray was going after. That's what Director Easterly, my successor at CISA, was going after. And they're basically scouring the Internet for Internet connected devices that have not been patched, that are vulnerable to Chinese hackers who are quite good, and they have compromised those systems, and they are in position and just waiting, effectively, to pull the trigger. And unfortunately, at this point, other than just vulnerable systems, there's not particularly a rhyme or reason to what their campaign and their modus operandi might be.

TAPPER: Is the U.S. prepared to defend itself against these threats?

KREBS: Well, there were two or three kind of main themes from the hearing today. The first is that if there is a single bipartisan issue in the United States Congress, and that is the understanding the threat from the PRC, as you pointed out, and what we're doing to counter it. And the second theme that really came out clearly to me is that this is not something that we're going to attack our way out of. And yes, Cyber Command Director General Nakasone from Cyber command and director of the NSA, they are out there every day trying to dismantle Chinese operations and Russian operations and Iranian operations, but you're not going to be able to catch every arrow. And that's the third theme, is that the United States, our businesses, our critical infrastructure owners and operators, have to see the cyber risk as a business risk.

It's not something you can just wait till the next quarter or the next year. You have to take it seriously and invest in your cybersecurity programs and make sure that you're taking it seriously because you could be targeted if you have these vulnerable systems that the Chinese are going after.

TAPPER: Chris, does deterrence not work? In other words, China or Russia or Iran would have to know that if they launched such cyberattack attack on the United States that the U.S. would be able to respond with similar attacks. Does that is that not effective?

KREBS: Well, classically, there are two elements of deterrence. That's deterrence by cost imposition, which is, I think what you're going after here is where we're going to hit you hard. Unfortunately, we do live in fairly glassy houses here in the U.S. We have more Internet connected and cyber dependencies than just about anywhere else on the face of the earth.

And then there's another aspect of deterrence by denial. And so, we're going to have that balance of, yes, we can hit you hard, but also we got to become a harder target. You really -- you know, we almost have to be faster than the next guy when the bear's chasing you. And again, this is what -- this is what Jen Easterly was going after. Director Easterly was going after cyber hygiene. Just taking your IT risks seriously and closing out avenues and opportunities for the bad guys.

TAPPER: Chris Krebs, always good to see you. Thank you so much.

KREBS: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Republicans are turning up their criticism of President Biden, blaming him for the situation at the U.S. Mexico border. Sources tell CNN the Democrats are going to try their own strategy for rebuttal, one that they hope pays off for them this election year. What is it? Stay tuned.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, President Biden hopes that threats by House Republicans to tank the bipartisan Senate border compromise can work to his advantage. Let's bring in CNN's Priscilla Alvarez.

Priscilla, how are Democrats and President Biden hoping to use this border crisis to their benefit?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Jake, this is an unusual and an interesting development for a party that has generally kept border security at a distance. But over the last few days, they now see an opportunity to go on the offensive on border security.

And sources I've talked to say that the reason for that is because the messaging here is quite simple. They can pin the blame on Republicans for not wanting to move forward with a tough deal. As one strategist told me, quote, "They chickened out." Now, generally, Democrats have framed immigration on the campaign trail as wanting to move forward with immigration reform but not having the opportunity because Republicans got in the way. This time, though, they can go a step further by saying that they wanted reform and they wanted tough reform and Republicans still got in the way. [17:30:10]

Notably, Jake, this deal that we know of so far doesn't include legalization for undocumented immigrants. That has been a top ask for Democrats for years. And by that being excluded and by these new authorities being added, it essentially puts Democrats in a position where they can take advantage of what has historically been a political liability.

Now, over the weekend, President Biden cited border security when talking to South Carolina Democrats, saying that if given the opportunity, he would shut down the border and do it quickly. All of that really a preview of what we might see from Democrats on the campaign trail moving forward.

TAPPER: Interesting. Priscilla Alvarez, thanks so much. Let's bring in our political panel to discuss this and much more. Nia-Malika Henderson, you have a new column out in Bloomberg today. It says, quote, Biden sounds like Trump on the border. It's good politics, unquote. Explain, what do you mean it's good politics?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, listen, Bloomberg's got a poll out today that looks at this issue and shows that six in 10 voters in swing states blame Biden for this issue. Place some blame with him, fewer, far fewer blame Republicans and Donald Trump. So you have in Joe Biden somebody who is taking up the mantle of really sounding like a hawk on immigration. This is entirely new for Democrats in so many ways, who usually tied border security to some sort of pathway to legalization, but that obviously is not happening. He has really got to get his arms around this.

Because what it also shows is that voters who are over 65 and we know how crucial those voters are in a place like Pennsylvania, Arizona, Michigan, those swing states, they see immigration, the problem of immigration as tied with the economy as the most important issue heading into November. So, you know, I think he has something of an opportunity here to use the bully pulpit, maybe give some sort of big speech about his vision for immigration, what he wants to do. It sounds like that's something that the White House is going to do, but I think they've got a really hard row to hoe on this because of the influx of migrants and all of these blue states that hadn't seen this in years past.

Now they are facing broken budgets and discontented residents who are also looking at Democrats and Biden to blame for this issue.

TAPPER: Yes. Ashley Allison, how does this play within the Democratic Party, especially as we see individuals in big cities, New York and Chicago and Denver? We had a great report from Shimon Prokupecz earlier in the show where Democrats, progressive voters are seeing the impact of this migrant crisis in their own cities.

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, two things can be true at the same time. And so what I think is important to point out is that there is a way to solve this problem. The question is who is going to get it solved and who is going to be obstructionists to stop it? And so I think what Democrats are going to be doing is saying exactly what Nia-Malika was saying, is that we want to solve it, but the Republicans are preventing us to get to a solution.

I also think, though, that these policies are coming to the front doors of cities that have typically not been having larger populations of migrants crossing the border because of the tactics that Abbot and the DeSantis do, busing them to the community. But there's also another component to this, is that we know immigrants are important to our economy. They do pay into Social Security.

And so there is a balance that the Biden campaign is going to have to play where the coalition is fragile because you don't want to go too far to the center when isolating your progressive base, but you also want a solution to the issue that everyone in the country knows is a problem right now.

TAPPER: Kristen Soltis Anderson, there's a new Quinnipiac poll out today with a head to head matchup between Biden and Trump, 50 percent of registered voters say they would vote for Biden, 44 percent would vote for Trump. That's registered voters, not likely voters. But that does give Biden a win outside the margin of error.

In a match between Biden and Nikki Haley, Biden polls 42 percent of registered voters. Haley gets 47 percent. That gives her the edge also outside the margin of error. Kristen, you're a Republican pollster. Nikki Haley's been making this electability argument for a long time now, and polls continue to support her. It doesn't seem to matter to Republican voters, though. Why not?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, for the last year, the polls have told a much more upbeat story about Donald Trump's potential for being elected President or reelected president. And so for a long time, Republican voters have been very dismissive of the idea that Donald Trump is going to lose to Joe Biden. They look at their two candidates, they like Donald Trump a lot, and they look at Joe Biden and think he's a very weak general election candidate. So while Nikki Haley and before her Ron DeSantis as well, have tried to make the case we shouldn't go with Donald Trump. He's going to be a general election disaster. Republican voters haven't found it credible.


Of course, it's going to be fascinating if Donald Trump all but locks up the Republican nomination. And then you start getting all of these polls telling what many of us have been concerned about for a while, which is, no, Donald Trump has a lot of liabilities. And as the general election candidate, voters are going to be reminded not just of the things they liked about his presidency, things like the economy, but a lot of the things they didn't like about Donald Trump being in charge.

TAPPER: Nikki Haley was on The Breakfast Club this morning, and she was asked by Charlamagne tha God, how Trump has changed politics. Take a listen to her response.


NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's made it chaotic. He's made it self-absorbed. He's made people dislike and judge each other. He's left that a president should have moral clarity, and know the difference between right or wrong, and he's just toxic.


TAPPER: Nia-Malika, this is one of Haley's starkest attacks on Trump since she lost to him in the New Hampshire primary. Do you think it's going to have an appeal to Republican voters in South Carolina, or is she just going out with a bang saying what she thinks?

HENDERSON: I think it's going out with a bang. She doesn't expect to win South Carolina. I'm actually headed down there in a couple of days, but her popularity there. She can probably get 40, maybe, you know, 47 percent or so, but she's not going to beat Donald Trump in South Carolina. She sounds a lot like the voters I've talked to who have switched from Donald Trump to Joe Biden from 2016 to 2020.

They, too, have a sort of discontent about him morally, the way he presents himself, some of the sort of bigotry that he often spouts. And so she sounds a lot like that. But there aren't enough of those kind of voters at this point in the Republican Party, certainly not in South Carolina. And certainly as you get sort of deeper into this primary, I think she's going to have a really hard time using South Carolina as a launching pad beyond that.

TAPPER: All right, thanks to all of you. Really appreciate it. This programming note, I'm going to speak one-on-one with Ambassador Nikki Haley. Look for that interview tomorrow afternoon right here on The Lead beginning at 4 o'clock Eastern, 1 o'clock Pacific.

Next up this hour on The Lead, the alleged affair between the Fulton County District Attorney and a top prosecutor on her staff. Why the allegations will be silenced in court, at least for now. And that isn't the only effort to tank the case that Willis brought on against Donald Trump. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our Law and Justice Lead, Fani Willis, the district attorney leading Georgia's 2020 election subversion case against former President Trump, is now being sued by one of Trump's co- defendants, a guy named Mike Roman. Mike Roman is a former Trump campaign official charged with racketeering and conspiracy. Roman is accusing the Fulton County DA of withholding information that he says could prove an alleged affair between Fani Willis and a top deputy on the case, Nathan Wade. Wade was expected to answer questions about those allegations in divorce court yesterday, but the hearing was canceled after he settled that dispute with his ex-wife. CNN's Nick Valencia is tracking how these allegations could impact George's case against Donald Trump.


FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I hope for you all this week I don't look like what I've been through. But today what he has brought you is his very flawed, hard headed and imperfect servant.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's been weeks since the Fulton County district attorney spoke at her home church, her first and only comments since allegations surfaced of an affair with her top deputy, Nathan Wade.

WILLIS: It starts with me.

VALENCIA (voice-over): The humble tone in stark contrast to the person who showed no fear in taking the former president head on with a historic indictment.

WILLIS: This is a criminal investigation. We're not here playing a game.

VALENCIA (voice-over): It's been three years since the elected Democrat launched her sprawling investigation into Trump and his allies, accusing them of scheming to overturn the 2020 election.

VALENCIA: What made you show up here today, Mr. Chesebro?

VALENCIA (voice-over): The prosecution of Trump and 18 of his allies have already netted major results. Four of Trump's co-defendants have pleaded guilty so far, agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors and testify against the former president and the remaining co-defendants, who have all pleaded not guilty. Things seem to be moving fast, with Willis pushing for an August trial date for Trump and the remaining co-defendants. That is, until the bombshell filing accused her of profiting off a contract she gave as a public official to an alleged lover.

Nathan Wade's credit card charges revealed in his divorce case show, Willis was taken on two vacations by her top deputy. But beyond that, there has been no other evidence to support the allegations.

ROBERT JAMES, FORMER DEKALB COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: A lot of what I've read is more of a distraction and not legally substantive.

VALENCIA: So is this a nothing burger? Is that where we're at here?

JAMES: I think it's a nothing burger.

VALENCIA: Robert James is the former DeKalb County District Attorney.

JAMES: But it only has to be passable to put in a motion and file it. And then once that motion is filed, the entire world can see it's running on all of the news stations. And at that point, the sideshow has taken over the circus. As a prosecutor involved in a high profile case like this, you have to be aware that if there's anything that's lying around in the dark, it's going to come to the light.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Republican lawmakers, eager to undermine the credibility of Willis' case have zeroed in. Currently, there are at least three efforts in the Georgia legislature targeting Willis, including the launch of a special committee to investigate claims of wrongdoing.

ANTHONY MICHAEL KRIESS, LAW PROFESSOR, GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY: It's certainly symbolic. There may be some evidence that comes out of these processes that are unfolding in the Georgia legislature, which could be exceptionally damaging, or it could be a lot of just political fodder and hot air.

VALENCIA (voice-over): While legal experts say all this is unlikely to derail the criminal case against Trump, it has ratcheted up scrutiny of Willis. Critics, digging up this interview from when she was on the campaign trail in 2020.

WILLIS: I certainly will not be choosing people to date that work under me. Let me just say that.


VALENCIA (voice-over): The irony lost on no one, a distraction for sure, but one Willis hopes goes away.


VALENCIA: But the distractions aren't going away. The problems are only piling up for Fani Willis. We reported exclusively last week that she was expected to receive a subpoena to testify to respond to these claims for a hearing set for February 15th. We can now report she's officially received that subpoena along with nearly a dozen other members of her staff, setting the stage for what could potentially be a very dramatic hearing. We'll get a preview of her arguments by Friday, which is the deadline that the judge has ordered her to write her legal brief. Jake?

TAPPER: All right. Nick Valencia in Atlanta for us, thanks so much. Coming up, new and disturbing details about what happens to children thought to have been kidnapped from Ukraine. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Now for our Buried Lead, stories we think are not getting enough attention. In this case, tens of thousands of children whom Ukraine says were abducted and kidnapped essentially, and taken into Vladimir Putin's Russia forced assimilation. It's considered a war crime under the Geneva Conventions. Today, members of Congress listened as Ukrainian officials described what is happening to these children, some of them as young as one-year-old.



ANDRIY KOSTIN, PROSECUTOR GENERAL OF UKRAINE: Every day that passes is a list of more crimes against each individual, adoption, followed by indoctrination, the imposition of new culture and language, and children, stripping them of their family stories and history not only heightens their vulnerability, but explicitly deprives these children their identity and nationality.


TAPPER: The Ukrainian government is pleading for more help from the United States. CNN's Fred Pleitgen, spoke exclusively with a top Ukrainian intelligence official, who describes a dire but not yet hopeless situation.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): With Ukraine facing a Russian onslaught in many frontline areas, Kyiv says continued U.S. Military aid is more important than ever. Ukraine's military intel chief tells Budanov.

KYRYLO BUDANOV, HEAD OF UKRAINIAN DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE (through translator): Shells are one of the most decisive factors in this war. It's about quantity. Not so much the quality as the quantity. Next, there are assault aircraft. These are aircraft of the type that the United States has, like the A-10 Thunderbolt II and so on. This is what can really help inflict a military defeat.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): But further military aid to Ukraine hangs in the balance, as Democrats accuse former President Trump of derailing a possible compromise. Budanov says he's not concerned about Trump.

BUDANOV (through translator): He is an experienced person. He has fallen many times and gotten back up again, and this is a very serious trait. To say that he and the Republican Party are lovers of the Russian Federation is complete nonsense.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): But the Russians are currently on the offensive. On the front lines, we've seen Kyiv's forces suffering a severe lack of ammunition, struggling to hold the line. Still, Budanov says he believes the tides will turn and Ukraine will attack.

BUDANOV (through translator): In my opinion, the main events on the battlefield will start happening sometime in the spring or early summer.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Vladimir Putin wants Kyrylo Budanov dead. The Ukrainians say Moscow tried to assassinate him at least 10 times. Recently, Budanov's wife and several bodyguards fell ill after what Kyiv says was poisoning by a, quote, heavy metal. But they survived.

The Military Intelligence Directorate is said to behind an increasing number of cross border attacks targeting key infrastructure inside Russia and the occupied territories. While never claiming responsibility, Budanov tells me, Russian can rest assured the war has come to them.

BUDANOV (through translator): I believe that the plan includes all major critical infrastructure facilities and military infrastructure facilities of the Russian Federation. PLEITGEN (voice-over): With Ukraine's offensive essentially stagnant, the Kremlin is currently feasting on rumors Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is close to firing his top general, Valerii Zaluzhnyi, and possibly installing Budanov as his successor. The spy chief, Koi.

PLEITGEN: Isn't that something that weakens the country if it appears as though the president and his top general are not on the same page?

BUDANOV (through translator): I am also the head of one of the military agencies. I personally have no conflict with anyone.

PLEITGEN: You know, people are talking about you possibly being the new general.

BUDANOV (through translator): If I was appointed yesterday, would we be meeting?

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Kyiv.


TAPPER: And our thanks to Fred Pleitgen for that report.


Coming up next, one states emergency action underscoring just how severe the fentanyl crisis has become in the United States. Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our Health Lead today, the city of Portland, Oregon, has declared a state of emergency in its fight against the drug fentanyl. Local and state officials say this step is necessary to combat rising overdoses and deaths. CNN's Josh Campbell is with us. Josh, what does this emergency declaration allow the city of Portland to do?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake. Well, the governor of Oregon has described this as a crisis as fentanyl has ravaged parts of the city of Oregon. She described the deadly drug as cheap, accessible, incredibly easy to overdose on. That's why we've seen this spike in overdoses. I'll show you here what this new emergency declaration does. There are many key points, chief among them, increased access to treatment for those who are addicted, behavioral and health resources, as well as holding drug dealers accountable. Using police in Oregon as well as the Oregon State Police -- and police in Portland, I should say, that's notable because we know that there's often been this contentious relationship between the police and some members of the Portland City Council and the mayor's office and members of the community.

It was that period of time where they had reduced millions of dollars from the budget, called for it, and then reversed course to add back police. Nevertheless, in this case, they're trying to get more resources for law enforcement on the street to try to go after these drug dealers. That's the pointy end of the spear. But all of this, Jake, is really about treatment. Listen here to how the governor described their plan.


GOV. TINA KOTEK (D-OR): We are in the process of analyzing the gaps in needed services across the state, not just in the region. And over the next couple of weeks, we'll be seeing the results of those and there'll be a clear plan of how we organize current resources.


CAMPBELL: So a 90-day emergency declaration, Jake, right now they're identifying their priorities. We'll see how successful they are.

TAPPER: And Josh, Oregon has seen this huge increase in opioid overdoses since fentanyl was among some hard drugs decriminalized in 2020?

CAMPBELL: No, that's right. This was in 2020. Voters in the state of Oregon had voted to decriminalize several hard drugs, including fentanyl that obviously caused a lot of criticism for those who predicted that something like we're seeing now might happen, where you would see people that are open using around the community.

Now, proponents of that measure said that the goal should have been on treatment and not on analyzing those who use the drug because that often prevents them from getting jobs, from, you know, making a living. But nevertheless, that measure coming under fire now, as we see this plaguing the city, this deadly drug, Jake.


TAPPER: All right. Josh Campbell, thanks so much.

Join me back here tomorrow. I'm going to speak one-on-one with Ambassador Nikki Haley. That's right here on The Lead beginning at 4 o'clock Eastern, 1 p.m. Pacific. If you ever miss an episode of the lead, you can listen to the show once you get your pod cast. I'll be on Jimmy Kimmel Live later this evening.

Our coverage continues now in The Situation Room.