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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Biden Lashes Out After Scathing Special Counsel Report; Biden: Israel's Conduct In Gaza Is "Over The Top"; U.N.: Haiti Sees Most Violent Month In More Than Two Years; Idaho's Strict Abortion Ban Impacting Reproductive Care. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired February 09, 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: Before we go, we would like to introduce you to the newest member of the CNN family. Meet baby Eleanor Marie. She arrived yesterday morning to dad Alex Fonseca and his wife. Alex is one of our senior producers here on "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" and he tells us that mama and Ely are doing great. And big sister Cecelia, Cece, is excited and can't wait to play and dance when her baby sibling is old enough.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: And both girls are named after classic songs. Their middle names are in honor of Alex's late mother, Maria.
So, welcome to the world Baby Eleanor and congratulations to the entire family. We are thrilled for you, and also to have another Dolphins and Heat fan in the world. Shot out to my boy, Alex.
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And THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Anger and defiance and denial. The Biden damage control strategy in the wake of that damning special counsel report.
THE LEAD starts right now.
Vice President Kamala Harris today leading the charge to defend President Biden, blasting the special counsel's report into Biden's mishandling of classified documents, the report that makes serious allegations about Biden's, quote, diminished faculties and faulty memory, unquote. A fiery President Biden went before cameras yesterday to disprove the point and ended up calling the president of Egypt, the president of Mexico. What is the plan to show that Biden is on the ball?
Plus, paging Nikki Haley. It's not as if former President Trump, three years younger than Biden is himself avoiding criticism on this front, he called the president of Hungary, the president of Turkey. He confused Haley with Nancy Pelosi. Does Governor Haley have a point about the likely matchup she calls grumpy old man? And fears grip citizens in another city in Gaza as Israel signals that is preparing for a new ground incursion. The action from Prime Minister Netanyahu today that is once again -- once again, out of step with what Biden and other allies are asking for.
Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
And we start today with our law and justice lead. Cleanup on aisle 46, and bring the good stuff because it is a damage control blitz for Democrats in the White House, on Capitol Hill, and frankly across the country today after a special counsel report painted President Biden as a frail old man with severe memory problems.
Special counsel Robert Hur decided to not charge President Biden for Biden's willful mishandling of classified documents, but Hur's partial explanation as to why he's not charging him lanes on descriptions of his encounters with President Biden that sent the White House spiraling and unleashed this response from Vice President Kamala Harris just a few hours ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The comments that were made by that prosecutor, gratuitous, inaccurate, and inappropriate. The way that the president's demeanor in that report was characterized could not be more wrong on the facts and clearly politically motivated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: The blistering report also sent President Biden rushing to the lectern last night at the White House to defend his mental abilities where he lashed out at the report's suggestion that he did not remember the year that his son, Beau, died from brain cancer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know there's some attention paid to some language and report about my recollection of events. There's even referenced that I don't remember when my son died. How the hell dare he raised that. Frankly, when I was asked a question, I thought to myself, it wasn't any of their damn business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: But last night's press conference may end up ultimately being best known for President Biden referring to the president of Egypt as the leader of Mexico, a slip-up that did not exactly put this story to rest.
CNN's Evan Perez joins me now.
Evan, Democrats are trying to paint this as a partisan report by a man who is, it's true, was originally appointed us attorney by President Donald Trump, but let me just ask you in the context of special counsel reports and a special counsel's role. Did Robert Hur do something inappropriate?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: I don't think so. I mean, I think if you look at special counsel report, this is what is contemplated the day they released these reports and in this case, the fact is, you appoint a special counsel to investigate a sitting president, which you know, you're not going to be able to charge. And so, you know, there's some specific things here that I think the White House is drawing attention to, including, obviously, the -- what they say is gratuitous language in the reference to Beau Biden. I think, you know, if you look at this, it's -- you could argue that it was not necessary to say this way.
You could pick different words, right? But if you're Robert Hur and you are faced with these facts, right, and you are deciding that you're not going to charge the president or that you cannot charge the president, you believe that there's not enough evidence to charge the president with a crime, you have to explain why it is you arrived at that opinion. And so, he lays out all of the various reasons.
We've -- everybody has obviously fixated on this one, but he also says a number of other things, including that there are other examples where it appears that is -- well, he couldn't prove whether the president or then former vice president had this classified document at a home in Virginia, for instance, which would have been when he had that discussion with his -- with his ghost writer. So there are other problems that he confronted here. This is the one obviously that everyone is focusing on.
And the way special counsels work, you know, this is what you do. You produce a declination memo. They are not pretty. Usually, they're not -- they're not released, right. But because this is a special counsel, it has to be written for the attorney general. It gets sent to Congress and by the way, one thing that happened is when Merrick Garland received this report on February 5th, he could have said, hey, can you remove some of this language? That would have created new problems.
PEREZ: It would -- it would require him to report that to Congress and undermine the investigation. So, you know, it's just difficulty. I know they don't like the report, but this is what the way the rules work.
TAPPER: Yeah. I mean, I've read a lot of legal documents myself and I have to say prosecutors comments and prosecutor documents are often pretty rude.
TAPPER: I mean, they're not nice, they're not -- they're not polite. He did have a whole section in there also about why what Trump did was worse than what Biden did when it came to classified document. PEREZ: Right. And by the way, Democrats are not focusing on -- while
they're focusing on that and pointing that out, but they're not drawing how unusual that is. You could also argue -- Donald Trump's lawyers could certainly argue that Robert Hur has no reason to be commenting on an ongoing investigation that is -- that is, by the way, it has not even gone to trial yet. That is so unusual for Robert Hur to bring up another investigation that he has nothing to do with.
But Robert Hur goes out of his way to say, look, compared to what Trump did, which was so much worse, this is why I am not charging Joe Biden.
Now, I will say this, Jake, you know, I think the comparisons are very, very appropriate because you cannot -- you cannot equalize the two things.
PEREZ: Joe Biden sat down for an interview. Our understanding that it was a recorded interview with the special counsel and so, now, the pressure will be for us to get access to all of the materials --
PEREZ: -- from this investigation and we'll see whether the White House will allow all of that.
TAPPER: All right. Evan Perez, thanks so much.
This Sunday, President Biden will once again not sit for an interview that will air during Super Bowl coverage, a huge missed opportunity to show he's on the ball to tens of millions of viewers, including a bunch of Swifties last year.
Biden opted out as well. Fox was the broadcaster of the Super Bowl last year. So, the White House used Fox's iffy commitment to journalism as an excuse. But this year, it's CBS, and there's no excuse. I mean, Nora, Gayle, Scott Pelley? What's the problem?
CNN's Arlette Saenz reports now on the White House's evolving response to whether or not he should be out there more, especially amidst this glaring PR problem.
BIDEN: Hey, everybody.
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden defiant and lashing out after Special Counsel Robert Hur's explosive report.
BIDEN: I've seen the headlines since the report was released about my willful retention of documents. This assertion is not only misleading, they're just plain wrong.
SAENZ: And today, Vice President Kamala Harris came out slamming the special counsel, suggesting politics were involved.
HARRIS: The way that the president's demeanor in that report was characterized could not be more wrong on the facts, and clearly, politically motivated, gratuitous. We should expect that there would be a higher level of integrity than what we saw.
SAENZ: Biden's aides noting the president fully cooperated with the investigation, including two days of the interviews in the opening days of the Israel-Hamas war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He wanted to make sure he had everything you need and he didn't want to throw up roadblocks.
SAENZ: The special counsel's investigation ending without criminal charges. But Hur's assessment of Biden as a, quote, well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory, putting the 81-year-old president's age in the spotlight.
BIDEN: I'm well-meaning and I'm an elderly man and I know what the hell I'm doing.
SAENZ: The president fiery in the face of reporters' questions last night.
REPORTER: Mr. President, for months when you're asked about your age, you would respond with the words, "watch me".
Well, many American people have been watching, and they have expressed concerns about your age.
BIDEN: That is your judgment. I'm the most qualified person in this country to be president of the United States, and finish the job I started.
SAENZ: Hur's report highlighting a chief issue voters raised about the president, a recent NBC News poll found 3 in 4 voters have major or moderate concerns about whether he's fit to serve a second term.
REP. MAXWELL FROST (D-FL): Yes. Okay. We know President Biden is old. Okay? Yeah. But it doesn't sound like breaking news to me.
SAENZ: It comes amid a string of verbal slipups, including Thursday when Biden mixed up the leaders of Egypt and Mexico.
BIDEN: Initially, president of Mexico, Sisi, did not want to open up the gate to allow humanitarian material to get in.
SAENZ: Hur's report striking a personal nerve with Biden after saying the president could have remember when his son, Beau Biden, died from cancer.
BIDEN: How the hell dare he raised that?
SAENZ: In private, Biden's fury, even more direct, telling a group of Democratic lawmakers, quote, how would I f-ing forget that?
SAENZ (on camera): Now as the fallout over the special counsel's report swirls, President Biden today hosted German Chancellor Olaf Schulz for a meeting in the Oval Office to talk about Ukraine. The president in that meeting said that failing to pass aid for Ukraine by Congress would be, quote, close to criminal neglect. The president did not answer reporters' questions in the spray of that meeting, but we do anticipate seeing him in a little over an hour when he leaves here for a weekend in Wilmington, Delaware.
But one big question for the coming weeks is whether any transcript or audio of the president's interview with the special counsel could be released. Today, a spokesperson for the White House counsel's office would rule out that -- would not rule out that possibility, saying that it could be released potentially once it's redacted for classified information.
TAPPER: Yeah. Sure. I mean, if they think special counsel Hur is unfairly portraying these exchanges, let's -- let's hear it. Let's see it.
Arlette Saenz at the White House, thanks.
Joining us now to discuss, presidential historian Douglas Brinkley.
Douglas, so good to see you.
And one of the reasons I'm excited to talk to you about this is because you edited President Ronald Reagan's diaries, which are evoked in this report. Biden suggests that he didn't do anything different than what Reagan did. I think it's something like that. What's your take on how all of this is playing out
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, on that score, I think President Biden is mistaken. Ronald Reagan did not have any classified documents in the sense that Reagan had read something already marked are read by somebody else classified. It moved back to California with them.
What Ronald Reagan did and what I edited was every night when he went to bed with his wife, Nancy, he'd write a couple of lines, not drawing on reports, on just what he saw or felt that day. And that became the -- you know, the Reagan diaries.
Other presidents have different ways of doing these things. I mean, Bill Clinton had Taylor Branch come to the White House and -- a journalist, and they would tape -- make these tapes and Taylor would go off with them. It was all of these precedents after Watergate were trying to find a way to legacy spin, how do I keep some of my stuff?
But I think in regards to both Donald Trump and Joe Biden, there should never be classified documents being taken out of the White House, whether it's stuffed in a notebook or stuffed in a briefcase. TAPPER: You know, it's interesting. There's another section of the special counsel report that said that then Vice President Biden saw himself as a historical figure, and that's why he kept these documents. I suppose a lot of politicians view themselves in that way. But he also special counsel Hur, went out of his way to say that President Biden was more like previous presidents in how he handled or mishandled classified documents, then he was like Donald Trump, who Hur noted, refused to give the documents back, encouraged witnesses to lie about the documents and on and on.
What did you make of that?
BRINKLEY: Look, I think the White House made a mistake, not just celebrating the big headline we all should be talking about is Biden vindicated. Once these documents were found in his garage, he cooperated fully. He did the interview.
Yes, there are a couple of barbs that I know would get under Joe Biden's skin. And I think it was deeply the unfair to evoke Beau Biden. But otherwise, as you rightfully say, Jake, that's the way these special -- you've read many of them. That's the way the special counsel's reports' tend to be.
As for the legacy piece, you know, that's why we got Watergate. Nixon won't burn the tapes because he was going to bring them back to San Clemente (ph) and write a multiple volume like Winston Churchill did on World War II. That -- those will be the nest eggs (ph). And I would recommend any precedent in the future after seeing Biden and Trump get in trouble, don't bring classified documents to your house, put them in a garage, or put them in a bathroom.
They belong to the American people, leave them in Washington and go home. Your time's up.
TAPPER: And just quickly, if you could, having -- having known the Reagan presidency, so well, obviously, there were concerns about Reagan's faculties, Reagan's memory, Reagan's ability, he put those to rest to a degree in that presidential debate with Walter Mondale with humor.
What do you think Biden should do and do you think he's capable of doing it?
BRINKLEY: You just said the great word, humor. You cannot be like Jimmy Carter was over the killer rabbit and not (ph) talk about it. They're going to go after you every day.
Ronald Reagan used to keep a group of file cabinets, Jake he put jokes and them under, you know, A, B, C, D every topic under the sun. And he grabbed these jokes and unleashed them. There was a way to make -- make a joke about I'm the elderly, you know, guy. But I think because Beau was evoked, Biden kind of blew his top, said, I'll show those whippersnappers who's in charge? And did that hastily organized, strong sounding at first rebuttal to Hur. But in the end, when you start confusing and the same wrap, you know, you're confusing Egypt with Mexico at a time of crisis like this, it doesn't bode well for you. So it was a lost day for Biden and now, they're operating out of a deficit instead of a plus.
TAPPER: Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, always good to have you on. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.
We have some breaking news for you in our money lead. Undoubtedly, something President Biden would rather, we all focus on today, especially voters, the S&P 500 just closed above 5,000 for the first time in the history of the S&P 500. The landmark moment comes as economic growth is strong, earnings reports have been better than expected. The Federal Reserve is expected to start cutting interest rates. Maybe that would have been our lead if the White House hadn't been in such a tizzy about the report.
Coming up, President Biden says Israel's military response in Gaza has been, quote, over the top as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu directs his military to drop evacuation plans before it enters the last major population center in Gaza. And Haitians are once again rising up in protest, demanding elections they were promised, but never got, as killings and kidnappings in that troubled country soar. We're going to take a closer look.
TAPPER: We are back with the political fallout from President Joe Biden surprise news conference last night where his attempted damage control was not in fact under much control. He confused the president of Egypt with the president of Mexico.
Let's bring in our panel.
Paul Begala, let me head you off at the past because I know you're going to mention things that Trump has said that were similarly confused. So here are some of those.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All of the evidence, everything, deleted and destroyed all of it. All of it because of lots of things like Nikki Haley is in charge of security.
Viktor Orban, did anyone ever hear of him? He's probably like one of the strongest leaders anywhere in the world and he is the leader of, right, he's the leader of Turkey.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Okay, so Viktor Orban is the leader of Hungary, and Nancy Pelosi is who he was referring to, not Nikki Haley. Still the perception of him being doddering is not -- at least not equal to the perception of Biden.
So how does Biden deal with this?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. I don't think -- he is effectively as old, right, actuarially, Mr. Trump.
TAPPER: Seventy-seven versus 81, or something.
BEGALA: -- as Joe Biden, right. But I think the thing to do is what -- well, first off, what we ought to do is set aside Joe Biden. I think people ought to be committing journalism here. By which I mean, okay, this is one the things I hate about politics. Trump says a moon is made of green cheese. Joe Biden says, no, it's rock. And we say candidates clashed on lunar landscape. How about we call Buzz Aldrin? The man who'd been there.
In other words, I have talked to national security, the career people who overlap presidencies, who have worked for both Donald Trump and Joe Biden and to a person, they have said to me, and I'm not a reporter, okay? So they may be spinning me or something, but they say, we asked about Trump. They use the word crazy and unhinged and dangerous.
Yes. About Biden? They say, oh, he's all there, he's perfectly sharp. Now, maybe they're wrong, maybe they're right, but I think real journalists ought to be calling these people and report this out.
Now the perception is what it is, but the reality from everything I have heard, is that Biden is totally up to the job and these are from career people who are not Democrats. And we don't do that. We just say, oh, well, everybody thinks he's too old.
SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: But, Paul, as you know, perception is reality --
BEGALA: Yes, but we're not the cable perception network. I mean, journalists ought to be getting that.
SINGLETON: Most Americans will trust their eyes, and they see the president who is aging and they see the president struggling to remember certain phrases or appearing to be confused about certain cities. And this isn't a negative against the president, Jake, but the reality is by the end of his second term, he will almost be 90 years old.
Now, I have older individuals and my family, my great grandmother, Jake, lived to close to be a 90. A conversation with my grandmother last night about this, and she said, grandson, there is no way at 81 I should be an academia anymore, or leading an institution anymore. And we all know that to be true, most Americans know that to be true, Paul.
BEGALA: But the problem with that argument, Shermichael, is it applies equally to Mr. Trump. (CROSSTALK)
BEGALA: What I don't like -- you have a perfect right as a Republican to make that point, maybe you're right, maybe you're wrong people.
TAPPER: He said he doesn't disagree with the point about this applying to Trump, too.
BEGALA: No, no, I guess my problem is, I expect more than political talking points from independent counsel. He's not independent. He's a partisan, this guy who wrote this report.
Okay. He clerked for Chief Justice Rehnquist. Who led the fight against Rehnquist's confirmation? Senator Joe Biden. Oh, maybe he's biased, okay?
He worked for Donald Trump. Who defeated Donald Trump, which got this guy to lose his job as prosecutor in Maryland? Joe Biden.
SINGLETON: But he also -- he also --
BEGALA: This was a terrible choice by Merrick Garland, Joe Biden's attorney general, a terrible choice.
And this is a partisan part --
TAPPER: Evan Perez says it sounded -- he'd -- our Justice Department correspondent says, this is how special counsel reports and prosecutors write. This is -- I mean, he said --
BEGALA: That they shouldn't. This is how Ken Starr wrote, and he's disgraced to history.
SINGLETON: Wait a minute, Paul, as a matter of rebuttal here. This is also someone who gave financially to John McCain --
SINGLETON: So, we're not talking about some MAGA.
BEGALA: He'd never given to a Democrat.
SINGLETON: But we're not talking about a MAGA like individual.
BEGALA: He's a Rehnquist clerk.
TAPER: What do you make of the fact that Special Counsel Robert Hur went out of his way to say what Donald Trump did was far worse than what Joe Biden did?
BEGALA: That's also not in his purview. He has no right to be smashing or trashing Donald Trump. He was hired to investigate Joe Biden and he cleared him. But he clears him legally and he kneecaps politically. It's more proof that's a political document.
SINGLETON: Paul, it diminishes --
BEGALA: He just needs a disclaimer that says political ad for Joe -- for Donald Trump.
SINGLETON: It diminishes your argument, Paul, that he's a partisan hack to the very point that Jake just made, which is that there was a comparative to the former guy and he was very clear that what the former guy did was far worse than what president Biden did. So, clearly, this is was someone who attempted to be objective and if the point is, well, why didn't you --
SINGLETON: Why didn't you seek charges against the president? And he made the case because the president appears to be too old and his memory isn't quite there --
BEGALA: Because he's innocent.
SINGLETON: That's a legitimate point to make.
BEGALA: Because he's innocent and he'd been cleared.
TAPPER: He said he couldn't -- he said he couldn't prove in front of a jury that this was on purpose and willful, and then he gave the reasons as to why that was. Now --
BEGALA: That's not what I was taught in law school. I was taught prosecutors speak through their indictments.
BEGALA: And when they choose not to indict, it means you're innocent.
TAPPER: You two stick around. We're going to come back to you.
More than a million people have fled to Rafah in southern Gaza and now it is the target of Israel's next military assault as they pursue the terrorists of Hamas.
Coming up next, the fears that Rafah will soon become a zone of bloodshed.
[16:30:56] TAPPER: In our world lead, the leaders of the United States and Israel once again showing that they are not on the same page. President Biden said just last night that Israel's conduct in Gaza is, quote, over the top, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is directing Israel's military to draw up evacuation plans before the Israeli military enters the last major population center in Gaza, the southern city of Rafah, where 1.3 million mostly displaced Palestinians are currently sheltering, according to the United Nations.
CNN's Nada Bashir reports on the latest bloodshed in Gaza. And we must warn you, some of what you're about to see is difficult to watch.
NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): There are simply no words. This grandfather cradling the body of his seven year-old granddaughter Hadat (ph), beside the shallow grave where she will soon be buried.
I told her mother that Hadat is now aboard (ph) in heaven, Ahmed says, with her aunt, her cousin and her grandmother who were all waiting for her.
You see, we have many martyrs in our family.
Ahmed says his family had been taking shelter in a school in Khan Younis when an airstrike hit. It took hours, he says, to reach the nearest hospital, still able to treat little Hadat, but it was too late.
Across Gaza, more than 10,000 children have been killed since the war began, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, many more left orphaned while facing life changing injuries.
In the central city of Deir al Balah, the airstrikes are near daily. Those who survive left to dig through the rubble with their bare hands in search of their loved ones.
Meanwhile, in the Rafah, once deemed a safe zone, UNICEF estimates that there are now more than 600,000 children among the over a million people in the area, many taking shelter in the sprawling tent cities. The southern city has, for weeks, come under relentless airstrikes by the Israeli military who say they are targeting Hamas. But now, a looming ground operation is stoking fears that could become as one aid group has described it, a zone of bloodshed.
If by some misfortune as an invasion of Rafah, two-thirds of the population will die, Gabr says. We can't get out of Rafah. We have no other alternative.
Israel says it is now calling for a mass evacuation of civilians in the southern city ahead of a planned ground offensive. But it is almost impossible to fathom where else the civilians can turn to. But Rafah has not only become a vital lifeline for the displaced, it is also a crucial gateway for humanitarian aid crossing over from Egypt.
And many in the international community are now sounding alarm bells over Israel's warning.
ANTONIO GUTERRES, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: And I'm especially alarmed by reports that Israeli military intends to focus next on Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been squeezed in a desperate search for safety.
BASHIR: The U.S. State Department has warned that it cannot support and Israeli military operation in Rafah without serious planning for civilians there.
With U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday describing Israel's actions in Gaza as, quote, over the top. But Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already dismissed a proposal from Hamas for a prolonged truce, which would see a phased withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, and a gradual release of hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.
Netanyahu, who described the proposal as delusional, has vowed to push ahead until a, quote, complete victory over Hamas is achieved, leaving little hope for diplomacy as negotiations continue. And little hope for what lies ahead in Gaza.
BASHIR (on camera): Of course, Jake, behind the scenes, they are still intensive diplomatic efforts between the likes of Egypt, the United States, and Qatar. On Thursday, of course, we saw regional foreign ministers meeting in Riyadh to discuss a potential prolonged truce or cease-fire. And, of course, here in Cairo, we have seen a high level delegation of Hamas officials arriving for talks. They have now departed. They arrived early Thursday morning. The focus of those discussions on a potential cease-fire agreement or prolonged truce, as the current framework sounds.
But, of course, as we have seen at the Israeli government, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has so far dismissed Hamas's counter proposal. But still, mounting pressure from the international community, particularly as concerns loom over the situation in Rafah and a potential ground incursion by Israeli troops on this city -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Nada Bashir, in Cairo, Egypt, for us. Thank you so much for that report.
An outbreak of violence, fears of an escalating humanitarian crisis, a nation on the brink, we're not talking about the Middle East. This is a country that is a neighbor of the United States.
Stay with us.
[16:40:42] TAPPER: In our world lead, escalating political unrest in Haiti in the Caribbean is quickly sending the country further down the abyss of chaos. The United Nations says last month was the most violent month in more than two years in Haiti. There are reports of rapes, killings, gang violence, and of course, widespread poverty as anti-government protesters demand that the prime minister resigns.
CNN's Sara Sidner shows us now just how Haiti got to this volatile point.
SIDNER (voice-over): A state on the brink of collapse. Haitians are once again rising up in protests demanding presidential elections that were promised but never delivered. It's been nearly three years since Haiti's President Jovenel Moise was assassinated.
In the power vacuum, warring gangs asserted their control of Port-a- Prince, disrupting the supply chain of basic necessities and displacing scores of civilians, kidnappings, and shootouts on the streets have become routine hazards of life.
ARIEL HENRY, HAITIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): My interim government and the police were working hand-in-hand to restore normal life in the country. We are aware a lot of things have to change, but we need to make those changes together and calmly.
SIDNER: The current prime minister, Ariel Henry, has been urging calm. But swaths of the population are rising up against him.
Henry retook control the country after being chosen by President Moise shortly before his assassination. In a 2022 CNN investigation, a judge overseeing the assassination told CNN, Henry was a main suspect in Moise's assassination, something Henry has denied, often calling it a diversionary tactic to impede justice.
But Henry is largely seen as illegitimate leader by the Haitian public. The final straw, he failed to keep his promise to move forward with long-delayed elections citing terrible violence.
Now, amid desperation, some Haitians are rallying around a polarizing figure, Guy Philippe.
GUY PHILIPPE, HAITIAN OPPOSITION LEADER: We have government here in Haiti that has no legitimacy. No one knows him, his government, even one knows he is helping gangs, killing innocent people, kidnapping, and serving in realism interest.
SIDNER: Haiti's current government denies those allegations. Philippe took to the streets in Haiti this week to rally against Henry's government. Philippe brings a complicated history with them. The former high ranking Haitian national police officer rose to prominence after leading a coup that resulted in the ousting of the first democratically elected president, John Bertrand Aristide, followed by an unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 2007. He is only recently repatriated to Haiti after serving six years in a
U.S. federal prison after taking a plea deal, admitting to taking bribes from drug smugglers, Philippe was scheduled to do an on-camera interview with us, but says security concerns had him flee to an undisclosed location.
You did go to prison. You accepted a plea deal for taking bribes from drug smugglers. How do you respond to people to say, how can you possibly be trusted to run this country?
PHILIPPE: First of all, if you know the American justice system, you know they forced my lawyers to sign the plea deal.
SIDNER: But the DOJ says he accepted a plea deal and admitted wrongdoing
PHILIPPE: Ultimately, the Haitian position is clear. According to the laws of Haiti, I can go to elections. I can be president, prime minister, whatever I want. It's up to the people of Haiti. They will have to choose. If they wanted me to be their leader, I will be glad to be their leader.
SIDNER (on camera): Today, Philippe's words are still galvanizing a public frustrated by unabated gang violence, corruption, economic despair, humanitarian crises, and constant political unrest. And, Jake, just to give you some idea how bad the violence is now, in 2023, the U.N. has documented over 8,400 direct victims of gang violence. That's up 122 percent from 2022.
Philippe says he will continue to rally and he will continue to run, no matter what happens in his home country -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Sara Sidner, thank you so much for that report.
It is normally a joyous moment full of hope, but in Idaho, for a number of women learning they are pregnant, that act of learning about it now brings fear. We're going to show you how new abortion restrictions are changing the lives of patients and physicians. That's next
TAPPER: In our health lead, the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear its second major abortion case since it reversed Roe v. Wade in 2022, the court will decide if emergency room physicians can perform medically necessary abortions in states that prohibit them.
The case will focus on Idaho's so-called Defense of Life Act, which is a near total ban on abortion with narrow exceptions for rape, incest, and to prevent the death of the mother. The bill also criminalizes doctors who perform most abortions in that state.
CNN's Meg Tirrell brings us this look at how Idaho's ban is impacting both patients and physicians.
JENNIFER ADKINS, DENIED ABORTION IN IDAHO: As soon as that ultrasound technician put that warned on my stomach and I saw the baby on the screen. I knew something was wrong.
MEG TIRRELL, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Twelve weeks into Jen Adkins' pregnancy, she and her husband John got devastating news. Their baby had Turner Syndrome, a chromosomal disorder.
The longer the pregnancy continued, Jen's doctors told her the higher the risk she had for developing life-threatening high blood pressure.
JEN ADKINS: I wanted to be pregnant. I wanted to have this baby, but she wasn't going to live and my health was at risk, too.
TIRRELL: Jen and John are Idahoans through and through. Johns' family goes back six generations. They're raising their two-year-old son here along with 11 cats. They took in and ended up adopting.
So what happened next made them feel betrayed by the state they love.
JEN ADKINS: They said, well, because you're in the state of Idaho, we cannot provide a termination for you. We cannot provide an abortion.
In 2020, lawmakers here in Idaho passed a trigger ban, which would essentially ban abortion it almost all circumstances if Roe v. Wade got overturned. Of course, that happened in June of 2022. So the abortion ban went into effect.
Now, it's illegal in Idaho to get an abortion in almost all circumstances. One of the few exceptions is to save the life of the person who's pregnant.
There's no exception for a circumstance like Jen's where her health was at risk, but her life was not immediately threatened.
How were you just weighing the risks to yourself and to -- you know, as to your family?
JEN ADKINS: I knew there was no question in my mind that I was going to travel and get an abortion one way or the other because I knew my son deserves a chance to have his mother here and healthy and non- viable pregnancy is not worth risking that comfort and safety to my living son.
TIRRELL: Jen and John ended up driving six hours from Caldwell, Idaho, to Portland, Oregon, for an abortion.
JOHN ADKINS, WIFE DENIED ABORTION IN IDAHO: We honestly felt like we were fleeing and had to do so under the cover of darkness. It was a really, really bizarre feeling, like we were going to get like were criminals that have to hide from the state. TIRRELL: Those kinds of drives are becoming more common.
This is one of the least densely populated states in the whole country. One doctor we spoke with said that in the rural area where she practices, the drives already before the abortion ban were 65 miles for her patients to get this kind of care. Now, with abortion banned in Idaho, she says those drives are more than 300 miles.
These laws are weighing on doctors, too. Dr. Julie Lyons has practiced family medicine in the rural community of Hailey, Idaho, near Sun Valley for 18 years.
DR. JULIE LYONS, FAMILY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN: That's a little bit terrifying to know that we can't practice our full scope. That we are now needing to manage and triage patients often outside of the state to get the reproductive health care that they need.
TIRRELL: She says the laws mean many of the colleagues she depends on for higher risk pregnant patients have left the state.
LYONS: We had ten perinatal of this taken care of women Idaho. That's down to five.
TIRRELL: And she says the laws or even changing how she talks to patients on their first visit in a healthy pregnancy.
LYONS: We more than ever are having that discussion like if you need to go out of state, you need to check with your insurance. You need to make sure you buy life flight insurance. Many of my patients are scared to be pregnant in Idaho. It's really tragic.
TIRRELL: When you expect to go into that appointment and talk about prenatal vitamin and what should I be eating?
LYONS: Exactly. It's supposed to be a really happy, wonderful visit. And yet then we have this whole other discussion of around how care looks now.
TIRRELL: Back across the state, Jen and John have recently had that conversation because they're pregnant again.
JOHN & JEN ADKINS: Thank you.
TIRRELL: Dow does this pregnancy feel, knowing what you went through your last pregnancy?
JEN ADKINS: Anxiety, nervousness, hoping that everything goes well. I have friends that are pregnant at the same time as me here in the state. And we all share the same sentiment. We all just hope that we get through this pregnancy unscathed.
TIRRELL (on camera): Both Jen and Dr. Lyons are plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the state of Idaho over its abortion laws and its lack of exemptions. Dr. Lyons's health care system isn't part of that same lawsuit.
CNN also reached out to the state attorney generals office in Idaho for comment. A spokesman told us Idaho's law, quote, safeguards the life of pregnant women and said the states health care system, quote, is stronger and better serves women and children when our doctors prioritize saving two lives rather than prioritizing abortion on demand, unquote -- Jake.
TAPPER: If they felt so confident about that, you'd think they'd given interview defending their law.
Meg Tirrell, thank you so much.
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TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
This hour, some of us at CNN are lucky enough to be in Las Vegas ahead to the Super Bowl, not me. Of course.
Some of us are lucky enough to sit down with the winningest Super Bowl quarterback of all time. Tom Brady gives his take on Sunday's QB battle. And yes, Taylor Swift.
Plus, one of the world's leading elder statesman on one of the most pressing issues of our time, former Polish president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa joins me with an urging -- urgent warning for the world about the fight for democracy.