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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Biden Defends Age, Memory After Searing Special Counsel Report; Rep. Robert Garcia, (D-CA), Is Interviewed About Joe Biden; Biden Mistakenly Calls Egyptian Leader "President Of Mexico"; Biden's Allies Can't Agree On How To Combat Age, Memory Questions; Former Polish President, Nobel Laureate's Urgent Plea To Aid Ukraine; Former Polish President, Nobel Laureate's Urgent Plea To Aid Ukraine; NYT: Witness Against Gaetz Cooperating With House Investigation; A.I. Revolutionizes Battle Against Fentanyl Dealers. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 09, 2024 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Former polish president and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Lech Walesa, joins me with an urgent warning for the world about the fight for democracy.

And leading this hour, the special counsel report may have legally exonerated President Biden, but it is creating a major political headache for him. The White House is in serious damage control mode today with Vice President Kamala Harris leading the fight against accusations in special counsel Robert Hur's report that Biden has, quote, "diminished faculties and a faulty memory," unquote. We're going to start our coverage with CNN's Paula Reid. Let me air that bite from Kamala Harris really quickly.


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.


TAPPER: So we're going to start our coverage with CNN's Paula Reid. And Paula, how is the White House responding to this report today beyond what we just heard from Vice President Harris? And what do we know about that interview between President Biden and special counsel Hur's team?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, the White House clearly in damage control mode today. They had the White House counsel spokesman Ian Sams come out and answer questions from the White House press corps. That's a good move because Sam's has been the one shepherding the press through this entire investigation. He knows it well. He fielded a lot of questions, including a lot of questions about the timing of this interview with the President and the special counsel.

Why did they do this? The day after the October 7 terrorist attack in Israel, wasn't he distracted? Now the way the White House is spinning this is, they're saying, no, we didn't want to delay it. We didn't want to, quote, "Put up roadblocks. We wanted to give the special counsel everything they needed."

But there's one way, Jake, very easily to clear up this confusion about whether the President was distracted, if he was being coy or if he really was showing signs of cognitive decline. Release the transcript. Well, the White House says that's something they're open to possibly doing, but they have to sift through classified information because, of course, that's what they're talking about.

And you said this earlier in the show, and I agree with you. I'm not sure this is the right route for the White House to take because the fact that they held this press conference that came out and litigated what was said on page three versus page 48, we're here talking about this again and we haven't heard the last from Rob Hur. I would expect that he will likely testify on the Hill eventually and he'll be able to speak to his side of all this at some point, as other special counsels have.

TAPPER: Yes, I mean, I thought the initial response from the White House was Biden saying, I've been exonerated. And the report points out that what Trump did is so much worse than what I did, and then end and then move on.

REID: But they couldn't.

TAPPER: But then he obviously got triggered. When Robert Hur released the report about Biden's handling of classified documents yesterday, it was reminiscent in many ways of when James Comey, former FBI director, scolded, expressed disapproval of then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in July 2016, months before that presidential election, she was the democratic nominee, about her handling of classified material. Can you walk us through similarities and differences between the two?

REID: Yes. Here's my big issue with this comparison. Rob Hur is a special counsel. According to the regulations, he is required to release a report detailing his findings. That is something a special counsel is legally required to do.

James Comey was the director of the FBI that was overseeing a traditional criminal investigation where there were no charges. It is not the custom of the Justice Department or most prosecutors to come out and discuss someone who is the subject of an investigation who was not charged. That was also done just days before an election. So for people to say, this is like what James Comey did, wait a second, Rob Hur was doing his job. He had to compile this report and turn it over to the attorney general.

And sometimes the things that you find in the course of an investigation, even if you don't charge, are ugly. They're not flattering, just like with the special counsel Robert Mueller's report, he didn't charge Trump, but he was highly critical of him. So do really take issue with that comparison. While politically the repercussions could be similar, the legality is very different. Rob Hur was doing something he was required to do. James Comey was breaking with precedent and arguably had an impact on the election.

TAPPER: And this is something I discussed with Evan Perez, which is I started my career in journalism as a police reporter for Washington City paper. You read a lot of prosecutorial documents. This is what they read like, they're not nice. They're prosecutorial documents.

REID: Exactly. And look, I think the White House has enjoyed a year of this investigation without the day to day, breathless kind of coverage that the special counsel investigations into Trump have had, largely because those are more complicated, there's more people, there's more moving parts. They have tried very hard to control the narrative. As someone who's broken many stories on the Hur investigation, it's very unpleasant. They make it very unpleasant.


They wanted to control the narrative. So I'm sure they are irate that there are these critical passages in this report and intelligent minds can and have disagreed about whether Rob Hur went beyond the norms of what prosecutors would say when assessing whether to bring charges. But again, this was his responsibility, to issue this report. And no, it's not nice, but again, it's a long report and there is a lot to exonerate him in there.

TAPPER: All right, Paula Reid, thanks so much.

With us now to discuss, Democratic congressman from California, Congressman Robert Garcia.

Congressman, good to see you. So after yesterday's report from special counsel Hur, I presume, but maybe you don't, I don't know, do you still have confidence that President Biden is the best Democrat to run for president as your party's nominee this fall?

REP. ROBERT GARCIA (D-CA), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: Absolutely, 100 percent. I mean, Joe Biden is the one person that has beat Donald Trump. He has the experience as VP, as a senator. And I'm excited about this campaign moving forward. I mean, I think what's really cleared after yesterday is that there could not be one single charge that this special counsel could find to actually accuse the president of doing anything.

He's been completely cleared. That's the most important thing, completely exonerated. It's been a 15 month long investigation, numerous hours of testimony. He's produced all the documents that the special counsel asked for, and they have cleared him. And that is the most important thing.

We're moving forward. We had a huge campaign this fall, and we're united behind President Biden. TAPPER: Well, see, your response politically makes a lot more sense to me than President Biden going out last night to try to rebut what the special counsel claimed about his memory, a press conference in which he said this. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As you know, initially the president of Mexico, Sisi, did not want to open up the gate to allow humanitarian material to get in. I talked to him. I convinced him to open the gate.


TAPPER: Now, I don't need to tell you, and I certainly don't need to tell President Biden. President al-Sisi is the president of Egypt. He's not the president of Mexico. And that would just be like one comment, except this comes after Sunday where President Biden talked about a meeting he had in 2021 with French president Francois Mitterrand, who died in 1996. He was actually referring to the current French president, Emmanuel Macron. Take a listen.


BIDEN: Right after I was elected, I went to what they call a G-7 meeting, all the NATO leaders, it was in the south of England. And I sat down and I said, America's back. And Mitterrand from Germany -- I mean from France looked at me and said, you know, what -- why -- how long you back for?


TAPPER: And it doesn't end then. Not only did he confuse presidents, Macron, Mitterrand this week, at another event he mentioned having met in 2021 with Helmut Kohl when that was the chancellor of Germany in the 80s and 90s, and he was referring to former German chancellor Angela Merkel. Kohl died, I think in 2017.

Now, look, people misspeak. I get it. I misspeak. But part of the job of president is having the confidence of the American people and your faculties. Forget what Robert Hur said in the report, this is President Biden speaking publicly. Do you understand why some Democrats, according to polls, a majority of Democrats are concerned?

GARCIA: I mean, there should be no concern. Here's the reality, President Biden, who I've been around numerous times just in this last year, is sharp, he's focused, he's bright, he's experienced, and with age also comes incredible wisdom. This is the most prepared person ever to be president of the United States. He is looking at the big picture. Look at his accomplishments of what he has done.

And so Democrats are actually very confident in this president and we're very united behind what he's going to do. And as far as, you know, folks getting things wrong, I mean, people do it all the time. Mike Johnson just compared -- was comparing Israel and Iran. Donald Trump compares Nikki Haley to Nancy Pelosi. We all misspeak sometimes. And so, I think the important thing here is we should not be so focused on this one issue around age. We should be focused on what the results look like. What do the accomplishments looks like? It's lowering insulin, it's infrastructure, it's access to more rights. And so that's what President Biden is focused on.

I think the bottom line here is he was not charged and we just need to move forward. President Biden is going to beat Donald Trump this fall and that's the focus.

TAPPER: So, do you think that President Biden, if he is as impressive behind the scenes as you say he is, and I've talked to him in off the record settings with reporters, and I - you know, I think he's aged since I started covering him in the year 2000, but I understand what you're saying, he is not the way that he is caricatured on Fox, for example, but he certainly has shown his age. He certainly shows his age in some instances. Do you think he needs to be out there more so people see him? For instance, he's not doing the traditional Super Bowl interview with the network that's hosting the Super Bowl, which this year is CBS. I understand not doing it last year with Fox.


This year it's CBS, and he's not doing that. That sends a signal to people. What is he afraid of when it comes to doing that interview?

GARCIA: He's not afraid of anything. I mean, first, the person's got a busy schedule. I mean, who cares if he's not doing the Super Bowl interview? He just yesterday did a primetime press conference. He spoke to House Democrats during the day.

He's traveling the country. He's working on legislation. We've got multiple international conflicts across the globe. And so, this idea that people are obsessed if we're doing the Super Bowl interview or not? He does plenty of interviews.

He will continue to do so all across the country. And he's an active, busy, bright person. And I think that's the important thing. And I think it's important to look at actually the accomplishments and the results of the Biden Harris administration, which are plenty. And so that's really the focus.

I don't think it's our job to schedule the president or to figure out what he's going to do or not do. And I'm glad that he's been completely dismissed of any charges. The report makes that clear. It's time to move forward.

TAPPER: So, it's not that people care about it whether or not it is a Super Bowl interview, it's a missed opportunity to speak to 10s of millions of Americans. And I have it under good authority that this year they're going to be a lot of Swifty watching. That's a lot of women and men who might not normally be watching football who all of a sudden would see them. So that's it.

Before you go, I think this is the first time I've interviewed you, did you get sworn into Congress on the first Superman comic book? Is that you?

GARCIA: That -- on both the Constitution and a copy of Superman number one. I know you're a fan, Jake, so.

TAPPER: Action comics. All right. No, that's pretty cool.

Congressman Robert Garcia of California, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Not all of President Biden's allies agree on how to combat questions about his age and memory. What we're learning on that from new CNN reporting. That's next.



TAPPER: And we're back with our politics lead. Can makeup and lighting fix President Joe Biden's age problem? Some Democratic operatives think so, and others say it's going to take a whole lot more than makeup and lighting, which, by the way, I don't want to badmouth makeup and lighting, especially after yesterday's report on Biden's mishandling of classified documents where the special counsel found Biden's, quote, "memory was significantly limited." The White House counsel today is denying that characterization. Let's bring in our panel.

Isaac, walk us through your reporting on the disagreement between Biden's allies on how to combat these questions about his age, his faculties, his memory.

ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: Well, it's not just allies, it's people inside the White House on the campaign, and it predates the report yesterday. What we see is some people feel, top aides of Biden feel they're doing this the right way. They limit the exposure that he has, doesn't do a lot of events, and that means that there are less opportunities for flubs or gas or those sorts of things. You have a lot of other people, though, who feel like he's at his best when he's just mixing it up with people, and that if he makes a mistake, OK, no big deal and it's not these high profile moments when it happens. You do see that even on Monday, the President was in Las Vegas.

He went and did a couple of stops that were much more casual. They're looking to do more of that, less interviews, less of those things. But this is an ongoing thing and it's also something that comes up, like you said about lighting and makeup. They've gotten advice of maybe have fewer events where you get the president walking into the room, have him already seated so that he doesn't have that shuffle. These are the sorts of things that happen with a candidate who's 81 and showing it in some ways.

TAPPER: Paul, it does not appear that the Democrats have a plan B, meaning an alternative to Biden should the pressure just be too much and he decide that he isn't going to run or maybe something if some other reason. Would it be wise to at least have some sort of backup plan? PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. No, he's running. He's -- by the way, he's winning took an opposition. It was serious opposition. Dean Phillips is a good man.

TAPPER: He's losing in polls to Trump, though. I mean, all of them.

BEGALA: He is. And so, that's the alternative, right? He doesn't need lighting, he needs Henny Youngman, the old comedian. They ask him, how's your wife? He said, compared to what?

Every sentence out of his mouth for 269 days needs to be, and Trump's a threat at the end. It's got, happy birthday, Aunt Tilly, and Trump's a threat, right? Am I old? Yes, I'm old, but Trump's a threat. It's -- this is how Edwin Edwards, the corrupt governor of Louisiana, beat David Duke, the Klansman.

He had a slogan that said, vote for the crook, it's important.

TAPPER: Right.

BEGALA: So I say, win one for the geezer. Like, he just needs to say, Trump is worse. And most Americans, not just Democrats, think that's right. So nobody unites the people of earth like a threat from Mars. And that's what he needs.

He needs that external threat, which is existential. That will make people then say, OK, they're not going to say, he's young and vital. They're going to say, yes, he's old, but the other guy's a threat to my Social Security, to my abortion rights --


BEGALA: -- to my democracy.

TAPPER: Do you think that would be effective?

SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No, because people already think that, Jake.


SINGLETON: They already know, that the polling on this is baked in for the most part. They look at Donald Trump and he's made some mistakes, forgetting people's names, et cetera, Nikki Haley with Nancy Pelosi. But they see a far more vibrant individual. You see an individual if you -- let's just take out the veracity of many of his claims that we've talked about many times on your program, but they see someone who can go on the stage in front of thousands of people for two and three hours without scripted a piece of paper and some notes with a sharpie and can rift and rift and rift and energize his voters.

TAPPER: Right.

SINGLETON: President Biden, unfortunately, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for the President, Paul, he's not capable of doing this. And I'll just say this, you think about our country, we're a warrior society. We won this country by fighting, blood, sweat and tears. And we like leaders who are strong, showcase a level of strength. This guy has my back.


He can do the job on day one. I'm not convinced, Jake, that many people look at President Biden as much as we adore him and love him and say he can continue to do the job.

TAPPER: This is a fear that Democrats have, Democratic voters have, Democratic office holders had, Congressman Garcia notwithstanding. And it is a serious one. I think there are probably about five Democrats that were the decision made and I don't think that the decision is going to be made. But were the decision for him not to run happen. Vice President Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Governor Whitmer of Michigan and Gavin Newsom of California, they're -- but it's --

DOVERE: Like you left some names off there.

TAPPER: Well, those -- that's my top five. That's my top five. Who did I leave off?

DOVERE: There are a long list. Some might say Governor Pritzker in Illinois. There are some new governors, Josh Shapiro and Wes Moore get talked mean. I mean, it's all hypothetical though. Joe Biden is running for reelection. That's where we are.

TAPPER: All right. Thank you one and all. Appreciate it.

He won a Nobel Peace prize for freeing Poland from the grip of the Soviet Union. And now one of the world's leading living statesmen is in Washington, D.C. fighting for the future of democracy in Ukraine. And he is here on set with me next. You will not want to miss this.



TAPPER: In our world lead, Ukraine has a new military chief, and today he laid out a new strategy to beat back Putin's continued brutal assault. His key priorities implementing more advanced battlefield technologies and speeding up the delivery of supplies to troops on the front lines. One key to Ukraine's success, of course, is help from the United States. But we saw the next tranche of aid blown up by Republican senators this week.

For my next guest, this fight is one for the soul of democracy, and the stakes could not be higher. Lech Walesa is, of course, the former president of nearby Poland, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who helped lead his country out from under the tight, oppressive grip of the Soviet Union. A note to viewers, this interview is live. We're going to use a translator, so there might be some moments of pauses between the questions and the answers.

President Walesa, thank you for being here. You have said, if the U.S. does not act now, our grandchildren will never forgive us. Why are the stakes so high?

LECH WALESA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF POLAND (through translator): Because the world is very mobilized against Russia's actions right now. Never before was the world so motivated against Russia's actions. So this needs to be taken advantage of. We need to grab this opportunity. We have a historical opportunity, but it will never repeat again.

That is why I have a great request, let the U.S. lead this effort. But pay more attention to your information policy, because fighting by force really is old type of fight. Today, we need to fight with arguments. We have to fight politically.

When we were fighting in the Sardari movement, we had a more difficult situation because of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union, and yet we managed to get out of that yoke without firing a shot. There needs to be more political and argumentative struggle. Of course, people have to defend themselves with arms if they are being shot at. But more attention needs to be paid to arguments, to proper arguments so that people change the system.

TAPPER: How? How does the United States need to -- how can the United States help the Ukraine with this information war?

WALESA (through translator): As I said, what needs to happen, all the casualties, all the Russian casualties of that war need to be recorded and their neighbors need to be addressed directly. We need to be addressing the neighbors of casualties. Your neighbor has died and your other neighbor's son has died in the war. So, do you want that war? And maybe you'll be next.

Do you want to die? The head of state of your country shouldn't have more than two, five year terms in office. It's not about Putin or Stalin. It's about the system that causes these behaviors. We have to help Russia change politically.

I've been appealing for that. When Gorbachev was in power, I said Gorbachev was a smart politician, but he is a patriot of Russia. He wanted to make the west dependent on Russian resources, but he wasn't changing the system because he knew Russia would come back and restore its power. And at Putin or Stalin would come back and restore Russia's power as before, and this is what's happening.

In order for our grandchildren not to have to fight, we now have to exploit this opportunity that we have. The whole world has to work on it.

TAPPER: What is your message to any Americans who are listening to Putin's propaganda and Putin's interviews and find his arguments compelling and think this is the fault of NATO for backing Putin into a corner, which is his argument.

WALESA (through translator): You said yourself, what needs to be done. Putin doesn't really have an argument. He lies. He's lying, yet he's winning. And we say the truth and still can't win in terms of our information or propaganda. How come you have so many specialists from information technology? It needs to be used, utilized in useful ways. Right after World War II, people would drop leaflets from airplanes over enemy territory. This was a way of influencing other people.

So let's base our experiences on the past. There should be radio stations, televisions, and leaflets and other methods. These people will receive the arguments, but we need to address them. These arguments should be really simple. We should be telling them, look, your neighbor is already dead. Your neighbor's child is already dead. And if you get drafted, you'll be dead. Do you want to live or not?

If you want to live, listen to us. We are experienced. We are not against Russia. We want, you know, Russia is a wealthy country and could live in prosperity and peace. Russia doesn't have to disturb our peace. The core of the problem is the political system.

TAPPER: How worried are you that if Russia conquers Ukraine, Poland might be next?

WALESA (through translator): Sir, Russia would prefer to conquer America than Poland. And don't forget about that. But right now, Russia is simply too weak to do that. But Russia is hunting America more than it is hunting Poland. And let America remember about this. The courageous people of Ukraine who are fighting now, they are fighting on behalf of all people of the world.

TAPPER: You are a hero for democracy. I remember what you did with the Solidarnosc movement in Poland, and it's an honor to have you here.

WALESA (through translator): Yes. But that was about destroying the old order, and we destroyed the old order in order to build a new one. But in order to build a new one, there must be some leading nations, some nations that lead. And the United States should lead on global issues for the whole world. In our generation, we must transition from small nation states to globalization and continental issues. None of the states that we have now can handle individually by itself, some global issues, such as environmental or health issues.

I would like Poland to be that leading nation, but we don't have the resources. We don't have the money to handle that leading role. The United States has this role, happens to have this role. It's not about you fighting for everyone. It's not about you paying for everything. It's about proposing solutions that are good and encouraging the world to join in the effort. If we don't do this, we will finish our civilization. We see what's happening.

TAPPER: Do you not think that President Biden is doing enough? Or is the problem the fact that the Congress has decided or is struggling to fund Ukraine?


WALESA (through translator): The President does a lot, but in the old way. He is using force. You have to do more politically, more in terms of information warfare or information policy, because even if we defeat Russia now militarily, it will rise again in 20 years and will attack again. And our grandchildren will have to fight again, and they will blame us for not taking this opportunity. That's what I'm afraid of. I am afraid that the West will force Ukraine into some peace agreements. Some people will make money on the war and some people will make money on the reconstruction. But some people are only counting on making Russia weaker for only 20 years instead of solving the underlying problem in Russia. I tried to do that 40 years ago, but I was stopped. I was convinced by others that wasn't the time. But now it's 40 years later and we could finish the job that I couldn't do at the time because it was too dangerous at the time.

TAPPER: President Lech Walesa, thank you so much for being with us today, and best of luck with your mission.

Coming up, is the least trusted man in Washington now the key witness in the election subversion cases does what he tells his friends square with his testimony to prosecutors? That's next.



TAPPER: Back with our Law and Justice Lead, a key witness is cooperating in the House Ethics Committee's inquiry into Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz, according to the New York Times. The Justice Department closed its investigation into Gaetz last year without pressing any charges. But now a former Gaetz ally says, he saw Gaetz having sex with a 17-year-old girl. This story first reported by "The New York Times," Robert Draper and Michael Schmidt. And Robert Draper joins us now. Robert, so Joel Greenberg, Gaetz's former friend and political ally, who's currently serving an 11 months prison sentence for sex trafficking, apparently provided documents that detail these claims. Why is he cooperating now?

ROBERT DRAPER, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, the Ethics Committee just now reached out to him and so essentially his attorney's responding to the request that they made in a letter. And as you said, Jake, Greenberg has turned over. Greenberg, who was a former Seminole County tax collector, and as you say, a running buddy of Gaetz's back in the day, turned over hundreds of pages of documents that supposedly support his claim that he witnessed, and perhaps others witness Gaetz having sex with a 17-year-old woman who worked for an escort service.

TAPPER: So I mean obviously, accusations are not facts and allegations are not indictments and indictments are not convictions. And all that said, and Gaetz maintains his innocence. But how much trouble could Gaetz be in here legally and politically?

DRAPER: Well, a lot of trouble. I mean, as you mentioned, sex trafficking of a minor is a serious offense. It carries a minimum 10- year sentence. Greenberg is serving 11 years, and that's for pleading guilty. So that's serious in and of itself. It could result in the Ethics Committee recommending expulsion. If expulsion occurs, of course, that has political ramifications. That's one less Republican. I think the wafer thin majority would then be down to two Republicans. So there are a lot of ramifications, a real ripple effect that could ensue if this is what they're claiming it is. TAPPER: Yes. Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was talking just yesterday in Las Vegas about Gaetz maybe going to prison. Let's turn to another huge piece of reporting from, you have this great new profile in "The New York Times" magazine latest issue. It's titled how Mark Meadows became the least trusted man in Washington. As Meadows faces charges in this sprawling Georgia election interference case, and you quote, this quote from your reporting stood out, some, quote, some Trump affiliates suggested to me that Meadows had merely gotten by with the minimum in complying with a federal subpoena and that this by itself did not prove he was a rat, unquote. So what are your sources telling you about the extent of Meadows cooperation with Georgia prosecutors?

DRAPER: Sure. Well, with the Georgia prosecutors, we don't know. And I don't think that there's any cooperation taking place. On the federal level, however, Jake, that's where he received an immunity order, which means he got full immunity. And as a result of that, testified for six hours before the federal grand jury. They don't hand out immunity orders for free. You -- they do that expecting that, A, you will just plead the fifth otherwise, but B, if you don't plead the fifth, you'll actually have something to say.

And of course, as Trump's former chief of staff, he was the guy in the room. Now it's clear that Meadows doesn't want to, you know, he wants to supply a roadmap perhaps to Jack Smith's people without actually having to testify. But Smith may be insistent that he do so, that he is uniquely able to describe events relating to Trump's refusal to recognize that the election had been lawfully won by Biden.

TAPPER: Do you think Meadows would ever do that, actually testify against Donald Trump?

DRAPER: I mean if he's compelled to, sure. Of course, if that happens, then Jack Smith is buying himself a problem because as 6,800 words worth of my story indicate, Meadows has a long history of prevaricating, of telling people what they want to hear, not just because he's a people pleaser, but for his own advancement. And in this particular case, to get out of a jam, so he clearly would like to get by with a minimum. And Trump's people, though, are very fretful of this as my story details because it's quiet over there. And though Trump and his allies don't want to push Meadows over the edge by outright calling him a rat, they are privately fearful that that's exactly what he is.


TAPPER: Fascinating. Robert Draper with a great New York Times magazine story, thank you so much.

You might be using AI to help write e-mails or make funny pictures, but federal border agents are experimenting to see how AI might stop the flow of fentanyl into the United States. We're going to show you how, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TAPPER: In our Tech Lead, law enforcement is testing out a revolutionary new method to stop the rampant spread of fentanyl throughout the United States. They're using artificial intelligence, and as CNN's Josh Campbell reports for us now, they're hoping to use it at the U.S.-Mexico border and other critical ports of entry.



JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: In the short time we've been here, this packet of fentanyl was seized in the mail. The sender of this envelope, now under federal investigation.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): The deadly drug detected by artificial intelligence. Its street value --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About $100,000 worth of fentanyl.

CAMPBELL: Every piece of mail, every package entering the United States is scanned by CBP. Right now, that's done by x-ray with officers staring at images across their screen. And if they become suspicious, they open the package up to determine whether a threat inside.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): But AI could revolutionize the way U.S. Customs and Border protection does battle against smugglers.

CAMPBELL: We're here near Los Angeles International Airport, in a facility that processes over 240 million packages every single year. Officers seizing numerous items, including counterfeit merchandise, illegal food, as well as precursors to the deadly drug fentanyl. Now, in order to help stop America's fentanyl epidemic, officers are now relying on artificial intelligence, like this system. A package is sent through this main system, called IDSS. This is similar to what you might find in a hospital or at an airport. A 3D image is taken and then sent to what's called the student. This is the halo system, artificial intelligence at work. Unlike old technologies such as x- rays, this system is constantly learning and teaching itself.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): The mission of this AI system, part of a CBP pilot program, is to identify patterns, how smugglers are concealing fentanyl in order to evade detection.

CAMPBELL: At the end of the whole process, this system will get a grade. After scanning 10,000 images, an officer will look to determine how well the system actually did. Determine whether this is the type of machine that CBP might want to roll out to its multiple facilities across the nation.

TROY MILLER, ACTING COMMISSIONER, U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION: Imagine all the information that's coming at our officers and agents. They're the best in the world at what they do, but they need help distilling that information so you can make an informed decision.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something is going on here. Something is not right. CAMPBELL (voice-over): But there is another important byproduct of this sophisticated technology.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I, as the officer, can look at some kind of device and say, you know what, big red flag, red alert, yes, then I could actually follow the proper protocols, isolate, notify the proper people, and then take care of it without getting too close and endanger myself or others.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): This pilot program is currently being used for cargo arriving by air to LAX. CBP hopes to expand the use of AI to other critical points of entry into the United States, like the port of Los Angeles, the busiest port in the nation, and at the border, a major point of origin for fentanyl entering the U.S. drug supply, killing thousands.

One looming question with well-funded drug cartels known to adopt advanced technology of their own, how long will AI provide U.S. authorities a cutting edge advantage to stay ahead of the threat?

MILLER: It's an incredibly challenging mission set, something that's probably the most challenging that I've seen in my 30 years in law enforcement. But as, you know, a father of an eight-year-old daughter, as a husband, it's incredibly important that we take it personally at Customs and Board Protection, and we're going to do everything we can to keep this poison off the streets.

CAMPBELL (voice-over): Josh Campbell, CNN, Los Angeles.


TAPPER: And our thanks to Josh Campbell for that report.


On Sunday, tens of millions of people will tune into the Super Bowl, Taylor's version. Tom Brady weighs in on this year's swift rise in attention for the game and how it's fueling fans wildest dreams.


TAPPER: We're just two days away from Super Bowl 58 in Vegas. It's a rematch between the reigning champ, the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers who are looking for revenge. CNN's Coy Wire is in Vegas for the game. Coy, who always has the best gig in the biz. You also got to talk Tom Brady. Did Mr. Brady weigh in on the reason why my daughter and so many other Swifties will be watching their very first Super Bowl this Sunday?

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: You know, I had to ask for my two daughters as well. Exclusive T.V. interview with the goat at Fontainebleau, Las Vegas unveiling the new hall of excellence, Jake, with Fontainebleau Chairman and CEO of Development Jeffrey Soffer and legendary broadcaster Jim Gray. Tom's given his seven Super Bowl rings to be stored, amongst other rare memorabilia, Muhammad Ali's boxing gloves, a treasure trove of legends. Tom says the hall is for the people to see the history and to inspire the next generation. Of course, I asked him about the big game as well.


TOM BRADY, FORMER NFL QUARTERBACK: Patrick has been a great player since he came to the league, and so has Brock. And they're leading two totally different teams and styles, both well coached. I think both organizations are doing it the right way. And I was a part of organizations that did it the right way. So I love when I see matchups like this in the Super Bowl, that it's truly the two best teams and one in each conference that are now competing for the championship. And one's going to get one of those rings and the other one's going to be looking for answers like the other 30 teams who aren't in this game. You know, I'm happy for them, and, you know, I think they should -- that's their personal journey. To me, this is really about a great football competition and the magic that's created on the field. And these players have all worked their entire lives to get to this moment.


WIRE: Brady, all business, Jake, locked in, focused on the game just like he was as a player. And seeing those seven Super Bowl rings, all these comparisons of Patrick Mahomes, maybe the next goat with his two titles and two rings, they don't understand how far that he has to go to become close to Brady.

TAPPER: And Coy, who you got in the game? You're picking one?

WIRE: Yes, I got usher for the win. Halftime show is going to be fired, Jake. And all these 49ers, they've been favored every game this season, favored once again, showed heart coming back against the Lions in the AFC championship game. They can tie, listen, Mahomes, Andy Reid are today's Brady and Bill Belichick. There's no way I'm betting against those two in this big game.


TAPPER: All right, Corey Wire in Vegas. Have fun, man.

Coming up Sunday on State of the Union, Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio talking about the immigration deal collapsing, I'll see you Sunday morning at 9:00 Eastern and again at noon here on CNN.

Until then, you can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Threads, X, formerly known as Twitter, and on the TikTok at JakeTapper. You can follow the show on X at TheLeadCNN. If you ever miss an episode of THE LEAD, you can listen to the show whence you get your podcast, all two hours sitting there like a big tray of Super Bowl nachos.

Our coverage continues now with "THE SITUATION ROOM." See you Sunday morning.