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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Some Democrats Use Michigan Vote To Send Biden A Message On Gaza; Navalny Team: Prisoner Swap Was In The Works Before His Death; Student Killed While Jogging At UGA Honored As The Suspect's Immigration Status Fuels Debate; Supreme Court Hears Cases On Regulating Social Media; Ukraine Drone Squad Innovates To Kill Russian Soldiers; Scenes Of Chaos As Gaza Aid Drop Lands In the Sea. Aired 4- 5p ET

Aired February 26, 2024 - 16:00   ET


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Explain the spirit behind the self mocking.



PETE MELFI, HOST, FLORIDA MAN GAMES: I wanted to do an event where you could live a day in the life of a Florida man without going to jail for it. So this is it, the Florida Man Games.


SANCHEZ: Brilliant, of course, all the contestants were winners since there are still in Florida.

Sadly, I could not get my PTO approved in time to participate, but next year, next year, Brianna --

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Next year says this Florida man, who wants to win. I think you can do it, Boris.

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Some activists in Michigan want to show President Biden, they can cost him the election if they want.

THE LEAD starts right now.

The power of the vote in battleground Michigan. How a small but determined group of Democrats wants to seize this moment to send a message to President Biden. They are demanding an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza and military aid cut off to Israel. They want Democrats tomorrow to vote uncommitted instead for Biden. I'm going to talk about it with Congressman Dean Phillips, Biden's top Democratic challenger in the primary race.

Plus, was Alexei Navalny about to be released in a prisoner swap with two Americans, former marine Paul Whelan and "Wall Street Journal" reporter Evan Gershkovich. Aides of the anti-corruption activist revealing negotiations that were apparently in the final stages for a Russian hitman in German prison right before Navalny died under suspicious circumstances in that Arctic penal colony.

Plus, the landmark case before the U.S. Supreme Court that could theoretically drastically change what you see on your social media feeds. It would essentially discouraged content moderation, perhaps even allowing the most vile stuff under the banner of free speech onto your phone and laptop.


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

We start today with our 2024 lead because we're just hours away from the opening of polling sites in the very first battleground state primary. This is a state that delivered the White House to Joe Biden in 2020, is set to play a similarly important role this year. Tomorrow, voters in Michigan will head to the polls to cast their ballots in both the GOP and Democratic primaries.

On the Republican side, Donald Trump is hoping to continue to steamroll his way to the Republican nomination after trouncing Nikki Haley in her home state of South Carolina Saturday night. But the dynamics on the Democratic side will be something we have not seen so far this election cycle, with some Democratic officials and organizers asking Michigan voters to vote for uncommitted instead of president Joe Biden or anyone else. They are hoping enough protest votes will send a message to the White House that they are unhappy in Michigan with the president's handling of how Israel is conducting the war in Gaza.

The effort is headed by a group called Listen to Michigan, led by the sister of Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib. The group is calling on Biden to demand an immediate ceasefire and to stop sending military aid to Israel. Unclear what its position is on Hamas or Hamas releasing the hostages they've been holding.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher is on the ground in Michigan speaking to these organizers who say, while this uncommitted campaign is just about the primary as of right now, it should also learn the serve as a larger warning to President Biden about what could theoretically happen in November if he does not listen to them.


DEMONSTRATORS: Free, free Palestine!

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A pivotal November battleground.

LAVORA BARNES, CHAIR, MICHIGAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY: The road to the White House runs through Michigan. You don't win without Michigan.

GALLAGHER: But some Democrats are using Tuesday's primary to put President Joe Biden on notice. LEXI ZEIDAN, PALESTINIAN-AMERICAN ACTIVIST: A warning to Biden and his administration that they need to hear our calls and heed our demands and respond to what it is that were asking for, which is an immediate and permanent ceasefire.

GALLAGHER: Using their ballots to protest the president's handling the war in Gaza by voting uncommitted in the Democratic primary.

UNIDENTIIFED FEMALE: It's a humanitarian vote. It's a protest vote.

GALLAGHER: The grassroots Listen to Michigan campaign --

AD ANNOUNCER: Vote uncommitted.

GALLAGHER: -- launched by members of the state's large Arab community, just three weeks ago, has expanded to count progressive and young voters among its supporters, like Pontiac City Councilman Mikal Goodman.

MIKAL GOODMAN, PONTIAC CITY COUNCIL MEMBER: Because we are often told many times that the power that we have, the system in the U.S., is through the power of the ballot. And this is us using that power. No one who is voting uncommitted wants Trump. They want what's happening in Gaza to stop.

GALLAGHER: More than 30 state and local elected officials endorsed the campaign, as did Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian American woman to serve in Congress.

REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D-MI): If you want us to be louder, then come here and vote uncommitted.

GALLAGHER: Organizers say for most, today's message is about the primary, but there's a lingering warning.

ABBAS ALAWIEH, SPOKESPERSON, LISTEN TO MICHIGAN: You need to call for a ceasefire because it will save lives and because its the necessary thing to do politically.


Otherwise, you, President Biden will be handing the White House to Donald Trump.

GALLAGHER: The Biden campaign has acknowledged Michigan's importance in this election. But allies of the president aren't quite sounding alarms over the uncommitted primary strategy yet.

LAVORA BARNES, CHAIR, MICHIGAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY: I'm hoping and expecting that these folks will come vote for Joe Biden in November. But right now, they have an issue they want to -- brought attention to and it's working. That's why we have an early presidential primary.

GALLAGHER: The uncommitted campaign's goal is modest.

LAYLA ELABED, CAMPAIGN MANAGER, LISTEN TO MICHIGAN: Our threshold is 10,000 uncommitted votes because that strategy is based off of the numbers that Trump won in 2016 against Hillary Clinton.

GALLAGHER: In 2020, Biden won Michigan getting by more than 150,000 votes. But some Biden supporters like former Congressman Andy Levin say the president's prospects this November are uncertain.

ANDY LEVIN (D), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: I mean, I'm going to do everything I can to get him elected in November. All I'm saying is I don't know if we can succeed unless we change course, and by the way, it's the right thing to do.

GALLAGHER: He says he voted uncommitted in the primary, not because his support for the president is wavering.

LEVIN: Well, I think the great danger for Joe Biden here in the Michigan primary is that he would win with no indication that he has a problem with no visibility of how angry people are.


GALLAGHER (on camera): Now, their goal this primary maybe a nod to 2016, but the inspiration goes all the way back to 2008 when the uncommitted vote came in second to Hillary Clinton with 40 percent after then candidate Barack Obama and John Edwards remove their name from the ballot after the DNC punished Michigan for moving its primary up.

Now, Jake, organizers say that this is a warning shot also because, look, some of these voters, this is not political. This is personal for them. And that if they aren't going to vote for Joe Biden in November, they may just leave it blank or in their opinion, even worse, stay home altogether in November, the secretary of state announcing just a few moments ago, already over 1 million early and absentee votes have been cast in this primary here in Michigan.

TAPPER: All right. Dianne Gallagher, in Dearborn, Michigan, for us. Thanks so much.

Look for special coverage of tomorrow's primary races in Michigan as the polls close. We're going to have results and analysis. I'm going to lead coverage along with Anderson Cooper starting at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

Turning now to our world lead, the United States and Germany were in early discussions for a prisoner swap this month that would have traded Putin critic Alexei Navalny and two Americans detained in Russia for a convicted Russian assassin, currently imprisoned in Germany, according to a Western official. This proposal was apparently in the works just before Navalny's untimely demise, although that official tells CNN no formal offer had been made prior to Navalny's death. The two U.S. citizens were likely Evan Gershkovich of "The Wall Street Journal" and former Marine Paul Whelan.

But when asked by CNN's Matthew Chance, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said he knew nothing about such an agreement.

Matthew Chance reports now for us from Russia as Navalny's family makes plans to finally put him to rest.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mourners still paying their respects at makeshift memorials across Russia. But now, another unexpected twist in Alexei Navalny's tragic saga according to his close aide negotiations for the release of the Russian opposition leader were reaching a conclusion. He was poised to be swapped, say his team, before he suddenly died

MARIA PEVCHIKH, HEAD OF INVESTIGATORS AT NAVALNY'S ANTI-CORRUPTION FOUNDATION: Navalny should have been free in the coming days because we achieved a decision on his exchange.

I received confirmation that negotiations were underway and were at the final stage on the evening of February 15. On February 16, Alexei was killed.

CHANCE: The Kremlin tells CNN it has no knowledge of any deal and had nothing to do with his death.

But Navalny's team insists the Russian opposition figure was killed to prevent him from being swapped.

You can see Evan Gershkovich in there. Hi. Matthew from CNN.

Swapped along with U.S. citizens in Russian jails like "Wall Street Journal" reporter Evan Gershkovich, accused of espionage.

Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, serving 16 years for spying.

PAUL WHELAN, FORMER U.S. MARINE: I am innocent of any charge.

CHANCE: The U.S. says both are unlawfully detained and has been negotiating for their release. Although there's no confirmation, Navalny was part of any talks.

But the Kremlin has regularly hinted it wants back this man, a former FSB agent, Vadim Krasikov, serving a life sentence in Germany for killing a Chechen dissident.


Navalny's team accuses the Kremlin of simply taking the opposition leader off the negotiating team table by killing him, allegations the Kremlin denies.

PEVCHIKH: He was clearly communicated to Putin are the only way to get Krasikov is to exchange him for Navalny. Hold on, thought Putin. I can't tolerate Navalny being free. And since they're willing to exchange Krasikov in principle, then I just need to get rid of the bargaining chip.

CHANCE: No person, in other words, no problem. The kind of ruthlessness that saw Alexei Navalny poisoned with nerve agent Novichok in 2020, recovering only to be arrested and imprisoned on his return to Russia the following year.

After news of his unexplained death, hundreds of mourners were detained while laying flowers. Now, Navalny's team says a public farewell, potential flashpoints will be held at the end of this week in death as in life, it seems Alexei Navalny continues to challenge the Kremlin's power.


CHANCE (on camera): Well, Jake, there's currently no exact time or place been given by Navalny's team for the funeral of the late opposition leader. His team saying they have yet to find a venue that is willing to host -- what promises, poses to be such an acutely political event.

TAPPER: All right. CNN's Matthew Chance in Moscow, Russia for us, thank you so much.

Turning to Ukraine now, now in its third already brutal year of war with Russia, today, Russia and Ukraine confirmed Ukrainian troops retreated from the village of Lastochkyne rather, just three miles northwest of Avdiivka, where Russia raised its flag last week.

Now, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is warning, quote, millions will be killed, millions, he said without U.S. aid.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins just sat down with Zelenskyy as he weighed in on a potential second Trump presidency.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST, "THE SOURCE": Donald Trump appears that he is on the verge of becoming the Republican nominee for president. The last time I interviewed him, he refused to say if he wanted Ukraine or Russia to win this war. Are you prepared for him to be reelected?

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: The decision who over the president decision of your society. But one moment, I hope it's not -- I hope it will not be so but -- this way, but anyway, if Donald Trump doesn't know who he will support, Ukraine or Russia, I think that's -- he will have challenges with his society because to support Russia, it means be against Americans.


TAPPER: And you can see more of Kaitlan's interview with President Zelenskyy tonight on "THE SOURCE", which airs at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

Coming up, Democratic presidential candidate, Congressman Dean Phillips, as he challenges Joe Biden for his seat in the White House.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: The tragedy in our national lead. A vigil in Athens, Georgia, this afternoon for Laken Hope Riley. She was the nursing student found dead after going for a jog on the campus of the University of Georgia. The suspect in her brutal killing is facing charges including felony murder and his status as an undocumented Venezuelan migrants is now renewing the debate over immigration policies.

In fact, the suspect had already been arrested first in 2022 after entering the U.S. illegally, then again last September, charged with acting in a manner to injure a child less than 17, and also a motor vehicle license violation. The suspect is released before a detainer could be issued according to U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement or ICE, all of which has prompted many in Georgia to wonder why this violent man was allowed to remain in the U.S. for so long after so many red flags.

CNN's Ryan Young is in Athens, Georgia.

Ryan, tell us about the atmosphere at these vigils.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, really wasn't a dry eye in the vicinity of where we were standing. Thousands of students showed up for this visual today, and I can tell you some of them were upset in real time. They were checking but people around them to make sure this was a focus on the two lives have been lost at this campus. I say two lives because one young man apparently took his life about a day before Ms. Riley died.

And obviously this whole campus is coming together around that sorrow. For a lot of the kids here, this really pierce their bubble. What's surrounded them in terms of this campus.

This is largest university in the state of Georgia, some 40,000 students attend this. And there hasn't been a murder on this campus in some 20 years. So you can understand why some of them or so emotionally connected to what happened here. We've talked to so many students who say they now don't feel safe walking across campus.

And let's not forget here, this was a young lady who apparently loved to run the trails, and as she was writing a trail in broad daylight, someone attacked her and used blunt force trauma to kill her. And that's something that stood out to so many people.

We know police use some of the video cameras in the area to track down the suspect, Jose Ibarra, he's 26. And as you said, an undocumented immigrant who had many field should have been kicked out of this country before this ever happened. But now, there are so many questions.

When you look at the visual, so many people were crying, so many young people went home this weekend because they said they did not feel safe on this campus. And as you expand that out there, asking questions about what will happen next. And as we remember, the young student who was 22, one of her friends stood up there and said, she loved sweets. She'd love to talk to her friends, and she loved jogging. [16:20:00]

And that's what she was doing, unfortunately, when someone took her life and as we've been told before, by that coroner, it was blunt force trauma. Now, the question is move forward in terms of what will happen next. There's a GoFundMe for the family that's set up for her foundation.

There's other her nursing compadres came out here to show their support for as well. But honestly, Jake, this is one of those emotional times I've seen from a student body in terms of how they came together, held hands, and cried for a good amount of time. This campus has been shaken to its core, Jake.

TAPPER: Yeah. Ryan Young, it's just not fair. Thank you so much

Coming up, more on the debate about immigration ignited by this tragic killing at UGA. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, the countdown to a partial government shutdown is on. The deadline is just five days away. And at this hour, lawmakers on Capitol Hill do not have any deal to avoid it. Republicans and Democrats are clashing over what are called policy riders. Yesterday in a letter to colleague, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer wrote that he hopes Republican House Speaker Johnson, quote, will step up to once again buck the extremists in his caucus and do the right thing. He wants to add the funding for Ukraine and funding for Israel into their continuing resolution.

The speaker fired back on Twitter or X, accusing Schumer of adding new Democrat demands into the negotiations, writing at a time of divided government, Senate Democrats are attempting at this late stage to spend on priorities that are farther left than what their chamber agreed on.

Let's bring in the political panel to discuss this and much, much more.

Doug, let me start with you. As Speaker Johnson want again -- once again, back in a box is going to have to choose whether or not he works with Democrats to avoid a shutdown or lose his job if he does so by the way, or stick with his coalition and there's a government shutdown.

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And whenever things are going bad for House Republicans seems to happen a lot. Patrick McHenry likes to quote the talking heads, same as it ever was same as it ever was. He knows that a lot because this happens a lot here we are again.

And the reality is, there are no good options on the table here. Nobody knows exactly what's going to happen on this because of the very dynamics you laid out there, Republicans have put themselves between a rock and a hard place. And I think overestimated and this is what happened in 2013 when we had a shutdown, with a Republican House with not a big majority, a Democratic Senate, and a Democratic president.

We thought that we had all the chips and the reality is, we just didn't.

TAPPER: And, Adrienne, tomorrow, President Biden is going to meet with four top members of Congress, hoping to avoid the shutdown. Pretty important for him to show leadership at this moment, I would think.

ADRIENNE ELROD, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yeah, absolutely. I think he's doing the right thing and, you know, who knows what's going to happen. We I spent ten years working on the Hill. I think I live there to government shutdowns and we certainly didn't see it like we are now, which is, you know, every time we get to the end of the CR, it feels like this is going to happen.

TAPPER: That's the continuing resolution, the funding of the government.

ELROD: Right, exactly, exactly.

So I think President Biden is being very smart by coming in and trying to sort of perhaps broker a peace agreement between these two sides. But look, Speaker Johnson is in a challenging situation because if he does anything in terms of working with Democrats, we saw this happen on immigration, he will lose his speakership.

So I mean, I don't feel too sorry for the guy, but that is the situation he's in and we'll see what happens.

TAPPER: And Republicans are asking for things they've attached riders to, like, they want to like eliminate the salary for the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas. I mean, it doesn't really seem as though that's an attempt to find some sort of agreement.

HEYE: That's not the most substantive argument that we could be making right now for sure.

TAPPER: President Biden is set to make a rare trip to the U.S.-Mexico border on Thursday. He isn't alone. Former President Trump also plans to visit the border at Eagle Pass, Texas, a little more than 300 miles away from Biden, who will be in Brownsville, Texas. That will be the same day.

And, Adrienne, this will be the first time Biden has gone to the border since January of 2023. Do you think this is an acknowledgement that this issue is a much bigger deal than he wanted it to be?

HEYE: Yeah. I think certainly an acknowledgment. I think it's really smart that he's going down to the border, but I think it's also the White House playing offense on this. I mean, we had a historic bipartisan agreement between Democrats and Republicans that, you know, a bunch of people have been working on moderates in both on both sides of the aisle for a long time, and it just died because Republicans wouldn't let it get through.

So I think the administration is actually going to start leaning into this. I think the campaign is going to start leaning into this. Not being other defense, but by being on the offense and saying, we Democrats, we the Biden-Harris administration are the ones who want to find a compromise on dealing with the situation at the border, unlike Republicans who, you know, have said that this is their top priority, but when given the chance to actually get something constructive done, they failed to do so.

TAPPER: So, Republicans obviously seizing on this horrific tragedy at the University of Georgia. This girl, this nursing student, killed by an undocumented Venezuelan migrant, and they're seizing on this as an example of Biden's failure to protect the American people, and to secure the border.

Today, President Trump posted on his social media site Truth Social, quote, when I am your president, we will immediately seal the border, stop the invasion. And on day one, we will begin the largest deportation operation of illegal criminals in American history. May God bless Laken Riley and her family. That's the poor nursing student that was killed. Our prayers are with you.

What's your reaction to that?

HEYE: Well, first, obviously, it's a tragedy and we should -- we should recognize that before the politics enter this. But let's not be naive. Politics enter these things very quickly.

And Donald Trump knows how to take advantage of a situation like this and exploit it. That's true.

You know, Adrienne and I worked in the California delegation together in the House of Representatives, and I think if you would said to either of us back then that we could have gotten a deal between Republicans and Democrats of the likes that we got just a few weeks ago, that it would've been impossible.


No way could Republicans get so many concessions from Democrats, and then not end up with a deal. So we're still in this situation essentially because we have problems with what the presidents been able to do and problems with where Republicans are and being able to get anything through their own party. And that's -- that isn't changing.

TAPPER: So that's interesting because, Doug, the Republican at the table here are saying that the fact that Trump torpedoed this compromise actually undermines the Republican argument about the dangers posed by individuals like this undocumented immigrant from Venezuela.

ELROD: That's right. Yeah, Dough is exactly right. I mean, again, here is a historic deal that both sides that could have passed the House, could have easily passed the House with Democrats and Republican votes. But Republicans were caught in a situation where they didn't realize, I think that this actually this deal would come to fruition, would be so constructed in a way that both sides would agree. And they said, oh, my gosh, wait, it's an election years in 2024, presidential election, we can't show any sort of concession on the border. We can't give Democrats what we consider it would -- consider to be a win. So they struck it.

And now, they're coming back and saying, well, were not going to let this go through or this legislation got through unless a deal on the border, it's ridiculous. I think the American people see through this and by the way, Democrats are going to remind the American people every single day that we did have a deal on the border. And it was the Republicans are obstructed it, not the Democrats.

HEYE: Donald Trump's the great dealmaker he keeps telling us. This was a deal that he couldn't make and ultimately, House Republicans could have -- they got, they got the language Senate Republicans certainly, they just ultimately didn't want to because we have to bend to Donald Trump every time that he wants us to.

TAPPER: All right. Thanks to both. We really appreciate it.

Should your state leaders have any control over what you are able to see on your social media feed. Two states say yes, they should. Their argument today before the U.S. Supreme Court. That's next.



TAPPER: Our tech lead now. The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing two landmark cases that could theoretically drastically change what you see on your social media feeds. In the cases, the state of Florida and Texas are both arguing that social media companies wield too much power, too much political influence once, and that they, meaning their states, Texas and Florida, should be allowed to prevent Facebook and other sites from deleting or demoting the posts of users and their states. The states say the laws are necessary to keep social media platforms from discriminating against conservatives.

Matt Schruers is with us now in studio. He's the president of the computer and communications industry association that is involved in this case. He's lobbying for tech companies to be able to self- regulate as opposed to states being in charge.

So this would change the internet as we know it, if the state its get what they want.

MATT SCHRUERS, PRESIDENT & CEO, COMPUTER & COMMUNICATIONS INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION: That's right. This would dramatically change the landscape of the Internet. We brought this suit to vindicate the First Amendment rights of websites to make editorial choices about what kinds of content is appropriate for their communities. And that's because its through those decisions that websites deliver on the kind of experience and community that they've promised to us. And then along come Florida and Texas and say, no, were going to decide were going to dictate what kind of content is appropriate.

TAPPER: So people who watch this show know we've talked about this before, section 230, which is the federal immunity law for tech platforms engaging in content moderation. Texas as section 230 basically says that just to give an example, Facebook is not responsible for what Nazis post on a site or in a post and they cant be held liable for it. They tried to do some content moderation, but they can't be liable. Some people just want to get rid of 230, which would really end a lot of social media sites.

Now, today, Justice Amy Coney Barrett called section 230 a landmine mine. What's your take on it? You think you are and the social media companies, you're in favor of section 230.

SCHRUERS: So, Section 230 is a critical cornerstone to how websites moderate content. It gives them the flexibility to implement different policies and remove content and take action without the risk that those decisions will lead to liability.

But this case here, this is a First Amendment case. It's about whether website should have that discretion at all, and when Florida and Texas come along and say you have to disseminate all viewpoints what does that mean? "God bless America" and "death to America" are both viewpoints. Websites don't want to treat that kind of content equally and their users don't want that in their advertisers don't want that.

In fact, I would have thought Florida and Texas don't want that either, but today an argument, I heard Texas tell the highest court in this land that websites under its law would have to treat pro al-Qaeda content the same way as anti-terrorist content. And frankly that's madness.

TAPPER: So let's talk about some of the content that gets into these areas because I remember during the worst of the pandemic, sometimes people would post something about COVID. And, the government would be offended by it, or think it was wrong. Now sometimes it was wrong.

Other times, it was just premature and a lot of times there were censorship of that. Some of the stuff, for example, like whether or not COVID came from a lab leak was just ahead of its time actually, but people were worried -- oh, well, that's again, you're encouraging racism against Asian Americans, et cetera.


That gets into some of the tricky areas that were talking about here, right? I mean, al Qaeda, that's easy enough to say no al-Qaeda. But what about stuff that like the government says like this actually is damaging to the nation's trust in our health institutions during a time of COVID.

SCHRUERS: Well, first, let me say if it was easy enough, it probably wouldn't have come up in oral argument today. But I think to your broader question, yeah, there's no question that websites have to make difficult decisions in real time about nearly infinite number of subjects. And when they're making billions of decisions like that, not everyone is going to agree with every decision on every time topic, but that's why we have a marketplace of ideas websites get to compete on the different kinds of policies they provide.

Some have very free flowing, loose policies about what kind of contents appropriate in their community. Others have very strict policies. Maybe they try and target one community for or another, but the solution to this, if we think those decisions aren't being made it right, isn't to have the state come in and say, we don't like your editorial choices. So now you have to host Nazism. That's just inappropriate.

TAPPER: Sure. I hear what you're saying. I think that as a user of social media, I have watched social media try to adapt and I recognize its challenging obviously, but also I think that the more social media companies shirk their responsibility, the more they're inviting intrusive government to step in. And right now, I see that Facebook and other organizations, Twitter certainly or X, whatever it is, are not taking a position when it comes to false information about the election, like in 2020.

But then also like Twitter or X as its called now as a cesspool of antisemitism and racism. Its under the banner of free speech, but I don't even know if there's barely any content moderation.

Do you see as somebody who represents the industry, do you see what I'm talking about?

SCHRUERS: There's certainly a broad diversity of viewpoints and policies online at different websites deal with this in different ways. And certainly, some folks are going to find that some policies aren't to their liking. They're going to vote with their mouse. They're going to click to a different site. There's always a competing service. A few clicks away. And that's how the marketplace will decide what kinds of content consumers want to see.

On the other side of that advertisers are making the same decision because it's not just our choice. It's advertising choices as well. And when and advertisers vote with their dollars, that also has an impact.

Now, none of this is to say that websites don't have broad policies and there is an entire community of practice to try and promote trust and safety online. There are best practices out there. And so there's a constant evolving process here, but the solution that Florida and Texas this is, is that the state gets to be the referee of what happens on these websites.

And I think that's a terrible idea. And I think the questions in today's arguments suggests that the court does as well.

TAPPER: Yeah. I mean, I just think that as somebody who is on the side of free speech, but also on the side of like, there shouldn't be death threats against individuals like social media companies seem to be going in the wrong direction in invading this government intrusion, which you don't want, which they don't want, which I personally don't think is appropriate for the government to be making these decisions. Anyway, we're not going to solve this problem right now.

Matt Schruers, these are difficult issues, thanks so much.

Coming up, the drone mission that waits on even the smallest mistake by Russian forces, then a strike. CNN has an up-close look at the operation by Ukrainian forces. That's next.



TAPPER: And we're back with our world lead as Russia's war on Ukraine enters its third year, Ukrainian forces are learning ways to work around advances by Russia's military and finding success with their teams of drone operators.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh caught up with a team of Ukrainian soldiers to see how they are watching and waiting to try to take advantage image of any Russian mistake, no matter how small.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: They flip it around fast, hiding each week in a new abandoned shell.

Drone operators have been Ukraine's secret weapon for months. But now, it is getting harder. We saw this unit in December, but their base back then has been bombed. Yet still, they hunt every day for a single mistake. A Russian who gets himself spotted.

They say the Russians are better at hiding themselves, although sometimes obviously not.

Yeah, so they're just wanted Russian soldiers carrying groceries and the dog came out to greet. And so I think it's quite possible that's where some Russians are hiding.

So it begins the first strike on the window. One drone watching, the other flies into the target.

And quickly, they prepare another. The hunt is now game, but has the tools of one. They lose about quarter of their drones to Russian jamming.

TIMUR, 11TH NATIONAL GUARD (translated): The jamming got worse. It's affecting us more. We have to evade like snakes. Invent things. Experiment.


WALSH: They see the Russians running in to the blue house, its roof clearly hit before a while ago. He becomes the next target.

They go in again. It could be a mortar position. They think watch how small or explosions send fragments flying out. TIMUR: Not sure it's a kill. We'll see.

WALSH: The Russians often have to stay injured inside the damaged building to not draw in more drones

TIMUR: They usually wait. They don't run out immediately.

WALSH: They go in again. It could be a mortar position, they think. Then suddenly, the power goes out. The internet down and screens black. But remarkably, they barely miss a beat.

The commanders sparks up his cell phone 5G with the drone feed and a chat group directing the entire attack just from an iPhone.

The smoke grows in intensity they think they might have hit a weapons store.

They never see Russian faces or taste the smoke. The blast noise takes a few seconds to travel to them. But this is still killing up close, yet far away. Strike, launch, repeat all day.


WALSH: Sometimes its cheers here, screams there. Other times, the other way around.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Kherson, Ukraine.


TAPPER: And our thanks to Nick Paton Walsh for that report.

Now, sticking in our world lead, we go to Gaza where four aid drops were made today in an attempt to help an increasingly desperate population. One of those drops missed its mark, leading to a scene of chaos on the shores of the Mediterranean.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond offered this report.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today, Gaza's humanitarian crisis looks like this, Palestinians desperate for food, paddling and swimming out to sea, after at least one plane airdropping aid appeared to miss its target, sending pallets of food crashing into the sea.

I central and southern Gaza, hundreds crowding the beaches to try and secure their piece of the rations.

But this is the other side of desperation groups of men wielding whips and bats, steering crowds away from their precious cargo. Months of hunger and war, triggering fights for survival. And there is not enough for everyone.

This is what they are fighting over -- ration packs, a lifeline for the lucky few.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I was lucky and able to get one of these aids. What about all those other people who were not able to get this aid? Look, this one didn't get any. And this one didn't get any.

DIAMOND: But so much more is needed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I'm asking from the Arab nations. We are thankful for the aid through the parachutes, but we need more and we need it distributed in a better way. This will not stop our hunger. We don't need a capsule because when we eat this, we will eat it. And that's it. It's finished

DIAMOND: But nowhere are people more desperate for food aid than in northern Gaza, where women and children wait in long lines for what now passes for food. A cloudy soup mixture made with dirty water and whatever grains can be found.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): There was no food or drinking water, no flour or anything? There was no cooking oil, not even drinking water. Death is better than this.

DIAMOND: Humanitarian aid deliveries this month dropped by half compared to January, according to a United Nations relief agency, explained, Israeli military operations and the collapse of civil order in Gaza. In northern Gaza, aid groups suspending aid delivery amid looting and attacks on aid trucks, leaving many with few options to stay alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Look, we are eating animal feed against our will, but have to aid us.

DIAMOND: Without food or clean water. Their voices are all they have left.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The suffering of Gaza is extremely difficult. Where are the authorities? Where is the government? Israel made us hungry and our government made us hungry, and people are stealing. Shame on you, Arabs. Where are you?

DIAMOND: But after nearly five months of war, is the world listening?

Jeremy Diamond, CNN, Tel Aviv.


TAPPER: And our thanks to Jeremy Diamond for that report.


Coming up, a CNN exclusive investigation, a key figure in the 2020 fake electors plot tried to conceal damning posts and a secret Twitter account. What was posted and the legal problems this now pose, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

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Plus, behind the book bans in Florida.